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Northwest anglers see steep cut in halibut quota for '09

Halibut anglers can expect a slash in the number of all-depth fishing days this year in response to a 22-percent drop in the 2009 poundage quota for the popular and tasty bottomfish.

The International Pacific Halibut Commission last week lowered the quota after a stock assessment concluded that halibut appear to have been over-fished here in recent years and that the Pacific Northwest has been getting a higher share of the quotas than the numbers warrant.

Coming off record catches in 2007 and only a slight drop in 2008, Oregon representatives had braced for a 10-percent cut in the quota for the upcoming year.

Overall, the quotas for the United States and Canada for Pacific halibut in 2009 were down about 10 percent. But the highest reductions were the far southeast parts of their range, which includes Oregon.

"Supposedly, we've been taking too much in the east range for decades," says Don Bodenmiller, who represented Oregon at the commission meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia. "In my mind, it's a little bit of a policy change."

Bodenmiller says he expects no change in bag limits for 2009.

"But, overall, our message is that our catches are going down," he says.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has scheduled a public meeting tonight at the Embarcadero Hotel in Newport to discuss quotas and possible open-season dates for Oregon's popular all-depth fishery between Cape Falcon and Humbug Mountain.

The public will be asked to suggest what fixed dates to set for the spring and summer all-depth fisheries and what back-up dates should the spring or summer quotas not be met.

Comments can be mailed electronically to Don.G.Bodenmiller@state.or.us or Lynn.Mattes@state.or.us.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's Salmon and Trout Enhancement Program Advisory Committee will hold its quarterly meeting Friday and Saturday in Grants Pass.

The committee will discuss upper Rogue River fish issues and review grant proposals from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday at La Quinta Inn and Suites, 243 N.E. Morgan Lane, Grants Pass.

The committee is scheduled Saturday to tour several sites along the middle and upper Rogue, including Savage Rapids Dam and the recently notched Elk Creek Dam.

The tour is scheduled to begin at 8:15 a.m. at the inn. The public is invited to join the tour, but they must provide their own transportation.

The committee's full agenda and future meeting dates can be found at www.dfw.state.or.us/STEP/STAC.asp.

Ticket packages are still available for the Rogue Valley Chapter of the Oregon Hunters Association annual fundraising dinner and auction set for Jan. 31 in Medford.

The banquet is at the Red Lion Hotel, 200 N. Riverside Ave., and is billed by chapter organizers as an opportunity to support hunting and wildlife conservation.

Ticket packages start at $125, which includes one dinner, one door prize, one special raffle ticket and 100 regular raffle tickets — a $190 value.

The $300 Benefactor Package includes one dinner, one benefactor raffle drawing, four door prizes, four special raffle tickets and $400 in regular raffle tickets, for a $640 value.

For non-OHA members, tickets are $25 per person or $35 per family, which includes a one-year membership in the organization, a subscription to Oregon Hunter magazine and other benefits.

Doors open at 4:30 p.m., and dinner, drawings and raffles start at 6:30 p.m. To buy tickets, telephone Patti Kaiser at 890-2029.

Funds raised at the banquet are dedicated to various local wildlife habitat conservation projects that the chapter conducts each year.

The OHA is the state's largest pro-hunting organization, with more than 10,000 members and 25 chapters statewide.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail mfreeman@mailtribune.com.