What's up with the new Free Fishing Weekend stuff? It seems like it punishes us fishermen who buy licenses and our salmon-steelhead tags. So anybody can go out and kill two steelhead each day this weekend, but if I do, I have to log them on my tag. Sure doesn't do much of anything for us, except make the river more crowded.

— T.T., Medford

Free Fishing Weekend has been around for more than two decades after Medford native Mike Bickler got it started during his tenure at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife as a way to recruit new anglers into the fold.

It's since been expanded to include crabbing and clamming, so Free Fishing Weekend means just that — anyone can fish, crab or clam in Oregon without the need for licenses and tags, as long as they obey all other angling laws and restrictions.

Originally, there were some interpretations that salmon and steelhead anglers needed to log the fish they keep just like any other day, but that's not true, says Jessica Sall, ODFW's Fish Division spokeswoman.

"The law's pretty clear that they don't have to use" their salmon-steelhead tags, Sall says. "Of course, we'd like them to because that's how we collect data."

The next Free Fishing Weekend happens to be this weekend, a nod to Earth Day as well as what was traditionally the start of the trout-fishing season at waterways such as Hyatt and Howard Prairie lakes. But the vast majority of Oregon's lakes are now open year-round.

This will be the third new Free Fishing Weekend — in addition to the traditional one on the first weekend in June — since the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission added the six extra days last year. The commission was able to do so thanks to a law passed by the Oregon Legislature in 2015.

The other days are around Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve annually. This year, those dates are Nov. 25-26 and Dec. 31 to Jan. 1, 2018.

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