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Fewer halibut on hooks means extra fishing days

NEWPORT — Pacific halibut anglers are in the midst of an extra three-day string of deep-water fishing off the central Oregon Coast as they bite into a hefty dose of their remaining spring quota.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife added three days to the region's all-depth fishery, allowing anglers to run past the 40-fathom line through Saturday in search of these tasty, deep-water denizens.

The extra all-depth time started Thursday. It's possible because anglers in that region have caught barely half of the 120,821-pound quota for the popular spring all-depth fishery by the June 2 end of the spring season. So ODFW marine managers added the current period.

Lynn Mattes, ODFW's halibut project leader, says fish managers will meet again next week to review the creel data and determine whether enough quota remains to add any other deep-water fishing dates.

If so, the open dates will be announced on the NOAA-Fisheries hotline at 1-800-662-9825 and posted on the ODFW Marine Resources Program website at www.dfw.state.or.us/MRP.

Potential dates for additional fishery openings include June 28-30, July 12-14 and July 26-28, until the quota is met.

Anglers so far have caught 52 percent of the spring quota, and the smaller-than-expected catch can be attributed to several factors, says Brandon Ford, the ODFW's Marine Program spokesman.

Poor weather shut down one fishing weekend early in the season, "but you kind of expect that," Ford says.

Another is that the fish are averaging about two pounds less than last year, Ford says.

Central coast halibut have averaged 15 pounds in the all-depth fishery and 22 pounds on near-shore days this year, Ford says. Last year, the average was 17 pounds for all-depth days and 23 pounds for near-shore days, he says.

Another reason is that ODFW started the spring season with fewer guaranteed three-day openers, largely because the popularity and efficiency of anglers enticed agency managers to plan fewer guaranteed days to ensure anglers didn't blow through the spring quota too quickly, Ford says.

The summer season for the central coast all-depth fishery opens Aug. 3 and is scheduled to be open every other Friday and Saturday until the combined spring and summer season all-depth quota of 168,786 pounds is taken. If the quota is not met, the fishery closes Oct. 27, but the popularity and success of the all-depth fishery makes that October closure a remote prospect.

From Humbug Mountain near Port Orford south to the California border, there are no depth restrictions for Pacific halibut.

The daily bag limit for Pacific halibut is one fish, and there is no minimum size requirement. The possession limit is one daily limit at sea and three daily limits on land. The annual limit per angler is six fish.

The Cove Palisades State Park in Central Oregon has reopened part of its Crooked River Campground to reservation customers beginning today after a major renovation to the 40-year-old campground.

Walk-in campers have been entering the north loop since last week, and by July 1, state parks managers expect to have the entire 91-site campground open.

Renovations included new paving, new water and sewer systems, upgraded electrical sites, three new restrooms/shower buildings, a new RV dump station and a larger amphitheater. Forty-two sites also were reconfigured for traffic flow, and four sites were upgraded for American with Disabilities Act levels of accessibility.

The Cove Palisades State Park sits along Lake Billy Chinook near Madras.

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