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End of the line

Steve Haskell of Ashland casts his line near the Cole Rivers Hatchery under sunny skies Thursday afternoon. A pilot project at Cole Rivers and other popular fishing holes to keep discarded fishing line out of streams may be expanded. / Bob Pennell — — — Hatchery Hole program to recycle line benefits anglers, environment —

The rock dike that separates the Rogue River from Cole Rivers Hatchery near Trail is the single most popular fishing hole on the Rogue River, and more than its share of discarded fishing gear winds up there.

But instead of strewn along the riverbank or tangled in the feet of an osprey, wads of monofilament line are collected here almost daily and stuffed into a white tube for recycling.

And it has added up over the past year.

If you put it all in one pile, it wouldn't fit in the back of a pickup, hatchery Manager Randy Robart says. That's a lot of line.

I'd think this is the No. — collection spot in the state.

— The Hatchery Hole may lose that distinction under plans by a local legislator to extend the pilot cleanup program, currently on the upper Rogue and four other rivers, throughout the state.

Sen. Jason Atkinson, R-Central Point, says he will introduce a bill in this year's legislative session to expand Keep Oregon Rivers Clean.

When we started this, I wanted to see if it can catch fire and it has, says Atkinson from his Salem office.

The whole thing for me was about changing a habit and creating an ethic, Atkinson says. I knew it would be popular, and people are really pleased with it.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, which operates the program along with various angling groups, has just finished a review and gives the project high marks.

In the beginning, there was some question of the need for this program and how it fit in our department, says Rine Messmer, the ODFW's recreational fisheries program manager. But very quickly, there was a lot of interest in it. ... People enjoyed participating in something that was positive for fishing and the environment.

The program's genesis stems from Atkinson's fishing trip to Alaska, where he saw anglers casting shoulder-to-shoulder on the famed Kenai River casting for chinook salmon. But one thing he didn't see was discarded fishing line. That's when he noticed the recycling bins and brought the idea home.

Atkinson proposed the program, which was modeled after a successful one in Florida, and it was adopted by the 2003 Oregon Legislature for the upper Rogue as well as the North Santiam, Alsea, Deschutes, Salmon and Sandy rivers.

At key angling sites on those rivers, ODFW biologists placed two large pipe bins ' one for monofilament line, the other for weights, hooks, swivels and other gear.

The ODFW is paying for the bins, which will cost about &

36;1,000 statewide. Volunteers check them once a week and are able to keep any gear or weights they collect.

The program was far more successful at collecting used monofilament than lead weights or used lures, Messmer says.

It's real common for an angler to see a used weight or lure and just keep it, Messmer says. That's what I do. It's a good day if you can break even on lures.

Atkinson says he envisions the ODFW expanding the program using more angling groups for help.

I want to keep that public-private partnership model that we used last time, Atkinson says.

Oregon's pilot program comes as more states and Canadian provinces are moving to restrict some angling equipment because of increased awareness of the environmental dangers when it's left in and around waterways.

Lead fishing weights are banned in all of New Hampshire as well as Yellowstone National Park and several provincial parks in Canada. Lead is toxic and is known to kill loons, raptors and other birds that ingest it. A 1992 study concluded that half the recorded loon deaths in New England were attributed to lead.

Ospreys and other birds also are known to become entangled in discarded monofilament line, which can be difficult to see. New fluorocarbon leaders take hundreds of years to decompose.

Under federal law, anyone whose discarded fishing line injures or kills a bird can be prosecuted, but the cases are rare in part because of the difficulty in tracing the lethal line to the angler.

Steve Haskell of Ashland casts his line near the Cole Rivers Hatchery under sunny skies Thursday afternoon. A pilot project at Cole Rivers and other popular fishing holes to keep discarded fishing line out of streams may be expanded. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell - Mail Tribune images