The spring chinook salmon season is just starting on the Upper Rogue River, and I like to fish at the Hatchery Hole real early in the morning before work. But I hear we can't fish there super-early any more, when the bite is the best. What are the changes exactly and why did they ruin our morning fishing?
— Scott, by email
Consider this new change a combination of a slap on the wrist followed by a bone, Scott, for the anglers who fish the Upper Rogue River's popular Hatchery Hole along the dike that separates the Rogue from Cole Rivers Hatchery ponds.
First, the slap on the wrist.
The normal start of the fishing day is one hour before sunrise and that happens to be a good time to catch spring chinook in the Hatchery Hole. However, the Oregon State Police says it's also proven to be a prime time to illegally snag spring chinook by hooking them somewhere other than in the mouth and illegally keeping them under the cloak of darkness.
The change to 30 minutes before sunrise was set last fall by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission to give troopers a little more light to witness illegal snagging, which police say has been a chronic problem at the Hatchery Hole during the spring chinook season.
Now, the bone.
The stretch of water from the Hatchery Hole down to the Highway 62 bridge has been closed to fishing at 7 p.m. each evening from April 1 through July 31 to curb the subset of rowdy spring chinook bank anglers whose drunken brawls once ruined evening fishing experiences there. But legitimate anglers from the Medford area complained that the 7 p.m. closure shortened the after-work angling opportunity to a point where it wasn't worth making the 50-minute drive to the Hatchery Hole.
So the commission last fall extended the evening fishing time to 8 p.m.
Both rules are in place through the spring chinook season on that stretch, which is just getting started and will run through July.
And this year's run should be a pretty good one, Brett.
Last year's return of more than 10,000 spring chinook to the hatchery was the best in eight years, and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists are expecting similar returns this year.
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