For 26 years, Expo Pond has hosted events during Oregon's annual Free Fishing Weekend. That streak will end in June because of scheduling conflicts at The Expo, caused by a switch in the dates of the popular fishing program.
During Free Fishing Weekend, anyone can fish, crab or dig shellfish without a license. The event this year falls on June 1-2 — the same weekend as the Wild Rogue Pro Rodeo, the Spring Fair and Lamb Show, and a team-roping event at the Central Point fairgrounds.
Here are the planned activities in the Rogue Valley on June 1 for Free Fishing Weekend.
Next to July's Jackson County Fair, the first Saturday in June is the fairground's busiest day — and Entrance 5 near the ponds is by far the most congested of the entrances those days, fair officials said.
Dave Koellermeier, the Expo's director, said he had serious safety concerns about adding more kids to the area during such high traffic periods.
"We'll have 5,000 people a day, easy," Koellermeier said. "I can see the congestion and I worry about congestion a lot.
"Kids and big trucks are not a good combination," he said.
Koellermeier said he learned only last week when the Expo and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife were due to sign their annual agreement for the pond's use that Free Fishing Weekend dates were changed.
He said he asked to have the dates shifted to June 8-9, but Free Fishing Weekend is set by Oregon Administrative Rules and fishing rules can't simply be waived at a public water-body for a weekend.
Koellermeier also offered to move the event to a pond near the amphitheater, but ODFW biologists don't have enough time to test the pond to see if trout stocked there would survive, said Dan VanDyke, the ODFW's Rogue District fish biologist.
Instead, the ODFW and its volunteers will shift to other Free Fishing Weekend events in Jackson County, said Chuck Fustish, the ODFW biologist in charge of the event.
Since the rodeo and Spring Fair are always set for the first Saturday in June, Koellermeier said he and Fustish will need to sit down and figure out how these events can coexist with a Free Fishing Weekend event.
"From here on out we have an inherent conflict, so we're going to need to figure it out," he said.
The Expo event was sponsored by the ODFW, which touts the pond off Penninger Road as perhaps the only urban angling opportunity in the Medford-Central Point-White City areas other than Denman Wildlife Area ponds.
The Expo Pond is stocked in the spring with rainbow trout before its gets too warm for good fish survival, and trout often are stocked there specifically for Free Fishing Weekend.
The even typically drew around 40 kids and 40 adults, with ODFW staff and volunteers helping kids catch trout with loaner rods and free bait.
For a quarter-century, Free Fishing Day and eventually Free Fishing Weekend were set based on the formula of the first Saturday after the first Monday in June, said Jessica Sall, the ODFW's Fish Division spokeswoman.
A proposal during the regular four-year review of the state's angling regulations called for moving it to the first Saturday in June to coincide with Free Camping Day at Oregon State Parks campgrounds, National Boating Weekend, National Trails days and other days set aside for outdoor lovers.
"The idea was to come up with some synergy in outdoor activity promotion," Sall said.
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.