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Spring chinook run fosters hope for 2010

The Rogue River's spring chinook salmon run, which ended Aug. 15, will go on record as the best since 2005 — but it was still far below the running average. Even so, the numbers appear strong enough to put wild spring chinook back in anglers' coolers next year, biologists say.

Counts at Gold Ray Dam show that 13,563 spring chinook crossed the dam and hit the upper Rogue, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. That's higher than last year's return of 12,548 fish, but slightly more than half of the 10-year average of about 26,700 spring chinook.

However, an improved showing among wild spring chinook means the emergency bans on the killing of wild spring chinook over each of the past two years likely won't happen for a third consecutive year, biologists say.

"I don't expect emergency regulations in 2010," says Dan VanDyke, the ODFW's Rogue District fish biologist.

For the past two years, anglers had to release all the wild spring chinook they caught based on the Rogue River Spring Chinook Management Plan, which states that killing wild spring chinook would be banned in years when wild chinook returns over Gold Ray Dam numbered fewer than 3,500 fish, or when the three-year running total of wild springers averaged fewer than 5,000 fish.

This year's wild spring chinook total was 5,465 fish, which is 70 percent of the 10-year average, VanDyke says.

VanDyke estimates that a similar-sized run next year would be enough to boost the three-year running average above that 5,000-fish threshold next year.

"That's what the spring chinook plan is designed to do," VanDyke says.

This year's run also sported 8,098 hatchery-bred spring chinook, which is about 40 percent of the 10-year average, VanDyke says.

Northwest Nature Shop in Ashland will join with the Klamath Bird Observatory in hosting a free birding-by-boat trip Sept. 5 at Howard Prairie Lake east of Ashland.

Participants will glide past rafts of migratory waterfowl, shorebirds and raptors now present at the lake.

Birders should bring their own kayak or canoe, though three are available for rent at the Howard Prairie Resort.

Plans are to meet at 7:30 a.m. at Northwest Nature Shop, 154 Oak St., Ashland, and caravan to the lake. Bring your watercraft, lunch and binoculars.

The trip leader will be Harry Fuller. Space is limited. For reservations, telephone the shop at 541-482-3241.

Summer steelhead anglers along the North Umpqua River have access to a Glide-area campground and two nearby roads closed during a recent wildfire.

The Bureau of Land Management has reopened the Scaredman Campground off the Diamond Lake Highway in the Steamboat area 15 miles east of Glide.

The BLM this week also opened the Rock Creek and Canton Creek roads. The closures were all for the Williams Creek fire, which burned more than 6,500 acres in the area.

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