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Ocean crabbing delayed until Jan. 15 along south coast

The ocean Dungeness crab fishery will remain closed from the Gold Beach area down into Northern California until Jan. 15 to give crabs along this stretch of the coast more time to fill out with meat following their fall molting.

The rest of the coast opened to both sport and commercial crabbing in the ocean Thursday, so Oregonians who look forward to holiday crabs will be able to stock up shortly.

This marks the first time since the 2005-06 crabbing season that Oregon has been split into different zones, says Brandon Ford, the marine program spokesman for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in Newport.

The delayed season does not mean the crabs are in poor shape or that they are somehow of poor quality, Ford says. The delay simply allows the crabs enough chance to fill up with meat to keep Oregon Dungeness a top-drawer item for both recreational crabbers and consumers of the state's most profitable fishery.

The bays remain open to crabbing year-round.

The dividing line for ocean crabbers is north of Gold Beach (42°26'00" N. Lat.).

Visitors to the Oregon Coast again will have help spotting migrating whales during the week between Christmas and New Year's Day.

Volunteers will be on hand at 24 "Whale Watching Spoken Here" spots from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, to help visitors spot some of the roughly 18,000 whales expected to cruise past Oregon during their annual southern migration.

Volunteers will be on hand from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily to help visitors learn more about the whales' migration and feeding habits and to offer tips on how to spot whales.

South Coast viewpoints that will be staffed include Harris Beach State Park and the Cape Ferrelo Lookout, both of which are off Highway 101 north of Brookings.

The effort is managed by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.

For information about the program, see the website at www.whalespoken.org.

Anyone who bought a Juvenile Sports Pac collection of fishing and hunting licenses between Dec. 1, 2009 and May 26, 2011 is eligible for a $3 refund after state auditors discovered they were overcharged.

The law that created the Juvenile Sports Pac in 2009 did not grant the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife authority to charge a $5 agent fee. Since then, the agency has reduced the agent fee to $2, meaning the licenses cost $52 now instead of $55.

Those who qualify for the refund can fax or email their hunter/angler identification number, which is on all licenses and tags. Fax to 503-947-6117 or email to Deanna.M.Erickson@state.or.us.

Hunters and anglers who bought their Juvenile Sports Pac before June 30, 2010 have until Oct. 1, 2012 to seek the refund, according to Michelle Dennehy, the ODFW's Wildlife Division spokeswoman.

Those bought after July 1, 2010 have until Oct. 1, 2013 to get their refund, Dennehy says.

Refunds not claimed by those deadlines qualify as unclaimed property and go into the state's Common Schools Fund.

The Medford-based Rogue Flyfishers Association is planning two holiday events for club members and the general public.

The monthly meeting scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 21, will be a Christmas dinner billed as "Reflections," offering members a chance to look back on the events of the past year.

That meeting starts with a 6 p.m. "Wet Fly" social hour followed by a buffet dinner and raffle at 7 p.m.

The meeting is at the Red Lion Hotel, 200 N. Riverside Ave., Medford.

On Sunday, Jan. 1, the club will hold its annual Holy Water Chili Feed at the "Holy Water" impoundment along the Rogue River between Lost Creek Dam and Cole Rivers Hatchery.

Members of the club meet with members of the Grants Pass-based Southern Oregon Fly Fishers to fly-fish for rainbow trout and eat chili. The feed is scheduled for noon.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com.