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MailTribune.com
  • Lakes, creek ready to open

  • And then there were three.
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  • And then there were three. With the expansion of year-round fishing seasons at lakes in Southern Oregon, only three water bodies actually open Saturday during the traditional Opening Day of the spring trout-fishing season — and they are all east of Ashland.
    Hyatt and Howard Prairie lakes have been closed to anglers since the evening of Oct. 31, while the little-visited Jenny Creek system in southeastern Jackson County also opens Saturday after being closed since Halloween.
    These water bodies are all within the Klamath River Basin portion of Jackson County, which is dominated by land within the Rogue River Basin.
    The upper reaches of the Rogue and its tributaries upstream of Lost Creek Lake are now open year-round to angling, but they won't start getting their regular complement of stocked rainbow trout until just before Memorial Day.
    In previous years, Emigrant Creek and its tributaries upstream of Emigrant Lake were switched from seasonal to year-round fishing, and the valley's remaining reservoirs, including Lost Creek and Applegate lakes, are year-round waters.
    Hyatt and Howard Prairie lakes traditionally garner the lion's share of Opening Day anglers in Jackson County, and that should not be different this year. Both are ice-free and ready for boat and bank fishers.
    Don't expect either lake to open year-round like the other water bodies in Southern Oregon.
    Each lake has been illegally stocked with bass, causing the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to stock 6-inch fingerling trout in the fall to reduce predation from bass. A winter of ice fishing — like the past one at Diamond Lake — could have a negative impact on those fingerling trout, says Dan VanDyke, the ODFW's Rogue District fish biologist.
    "We're relying on those fish to reach legal size (8 inches) over the winter, so, no, I wouldn't be in favor of opening either one year-round," VanDyke says.
    Jenny Creek and its myriad tributaries are home to an isolated population of redband trout that a small but loyal band of anglers stalk annually with flies and small lures. Bait is banned there.
    Diamond Lake, which became a year-round lake this year, is ice-free, so trout anglers have one more option this weekend.
    One of the great ironies of opening day of trout fishing in Jackson County is that the Rogue Valley's signature waterway actually is closed to trout fishing.
    The Rogue River closes to trout fishing every March 31 and does not open again until May 25, when most other coastal streams open to trout fishing.
    The closure is because the vast majority of fish that pass for trout in the Rogue this time of year are actually salmon and steelhead smolts making their mad dash to the sea. Keeping anglers from targeting smolts in a trout-fishing scenario helps reduce hooking mortality and gives more salmon and steelhead the chance to return as mature adults.
    The exception to the trout rule occurs in the .8-mile stretch of tailwater between Cole Rivers Hatchery and Lost Creek Dam. This impoundment, referred to as the Holy Water by its disciples, is open year-round for catch-and-release fly-fishing only.
    The Applegate River also will remain closed until May 25 to protect spawning wild steelhead.
    The first seven spring chinook salmon finally have entered Cole Rivers Hatchery, unofficially launching the upper Rogue's most popular season.
    Five fin-clipped hatchery spring chinook plus two wild springers were counted Tuesday when hatchery technicians swept the fish trap, Manager David Pease says.
    That officially opened the chinook-counting season there, as well.
    Pease says technicians first noticed the big, broad-backed chinook in the trap Monday after a long weekend. Most hatchery workers were on furlough Friday.
    The first springer was caught in the Rogue on March 7, just downstream from the hatchery trap, but the early arrivals usually linger in the hole before finding the entry to the trap, Pease says.
    April 23 is pretty close to average for the arrival of the first springer, according to hatchery records.
    Over the past decade, the earliest springer to show up in the hatchery's trap appeared on March 30 in 2010. The latest was June 3 in 2008.
    Last year's first spring chinook in the trap was on May 9, and it was April 19 in 2011.
    Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com.
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