Recycled chinook total is highest since 2004

A solid month and a half of trucking some of the excess Rogue River spring chinook salmon from Cole Rivers Hatchery down to Gold Hill for release has paid off, allowing hatchery workers to hit their recycling goal for this year's run.

With 209 spring chinook recycled Friday, the overall count came in at 4,004 recycled fish before Monday's deadline.

It's the highest recycle total since 2004, when hatchery technicians hauled and released 4,068 spring chinook during a stronger-than-average run that has been compared to this year's run.

Hatchery technicians started recycling springers on May 16 and continued almost weekly until Friday's last release, hatchery Manager David Pease says.

"We just stayed on top of it," Pease says. "We had a good shot of early fish, and that helped, too."

Agency biologists set a July 1 deadline for recycling of chinook to reduce the possibility of hatchery spring chinook straying onto wild springer spawning grounds.

The recycling program is widely popular among anglers, who would rather see excess hatchery spring chinook come their way instead of leaving in the backs of seafood company trucks.

Excess fish are those not needed to gather enough eggs to grow 1.62 million spring chinook smolts annually.

Some are given to Native Americans to settle some of the state's treaty obligations and most are sold, with the profits going into the ODFW's so-called "Carcass Fund," which pays for work at state-run hatcheries. Anglers hate to see these tough-to-catch and awesome-to-eat springers go anywhere but on their barbecues, so the agency installed its recycling program in 1999.

Adults are collected and sorted at the hatchery, then they get a paper-punch hole in a gill plate to denote their status so they are not counted twice and skew run numbers.

They used to be released at TouVelle State Park so they wouldn't be counted again traveling past the counting station at Gold Ray Dam. But the dam's removal in 2010 allowed the excess fish to be trucked to Gold Hill, adding 10 more miles of river where they can be caught by bank or boat anglers.

Spring chinook fishing upstream of Dodge Bridge — where Highway 234 crosses the upper Rogue — remains open through July. Water from Dodge Bridge to the Fishers Ferry boat ramp downstream of the old Gold Ray Dam site are open for chinook through August.

Fire restrictions affect Wild and Scenic Rogue

Hot weather has triggered fire restrictions for those rafting or floating the Wild and Scenic Section of the Rogue River.

Beginning Thursday, rafters are banned from building or maintaining a campfire or stove fire, with cooking now regulated to pressurized liquid or gas stoves and only in areas free of vegetation. Stove-operators also must have a bucket and shovel available when cooking.

Smoking now is banned except while in a boat, either at rest or underway, and on sand or gravel bars free of flammable vegetation.

The restrictions will remain in effect until the Oregon Department of Forestry declares an end to fire season in southwest Oregon.

Free fishing in California set for Saturday

California's version of Free Fishing Day is Saturday, giving Oregonians who travel south of the border a chance to angle without paying out-of-state license fees.

This is the first of two such free days for anglers in the Golden State. The other is Sept. 7, and it is set to coincide with Labor Day.

Under California law, all fishing regulations, size and bag limits remain in effect. Out-of-state anglers should consider checking regulations before fishing. They can be perused at

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or

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