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Springer weighs in at 17 pounds, wins inaugural Rogue derby

A Klamath Falls man's 17-pound spring chinook salmon wasn't that big, but it was big enough Saturday to win $1,000 in an inaugural salmon-fishing derby on the Rogue River around Shady Cove.

Jose Mendez's springer was the tops among more than 70 entrants in the first Salmon Fever Fishing Derby, sponsored by the Shady Cove-Upper Rogue River Chamber of Commerce and the city of Shady Cove.

Robbie Biles of Grants Pass and Martin Madsen of Gold Hill each weighed-in spring chinook that weighed 16 pounds, 12 ounces. Derby rules gave Biles the $500 second-place check because his fish was weighed-in earlier, so Madsen took home $250 for third.

All three of the spring chinook were 3-year-old hatchery fish returning to Cole Rivers Hatchery on the upper Rogue.

Another 50 prizes were given out to participants.

Adults paid $25 apiece to enter the derby, in which anglers could fish from boats or the bank from the Hatchery Hole downstream to the Takelma boat ramp, which is the first public-access ramp downstream of Shady Cove city limits.

Organizers considered the event successful for an inaugural derby and plan to make it an annual affair, chamber secretary Sandra Marchand says.

Hunters will vie for 134,312 big-game tags in the upcoming controlled-hunt lottery used by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to mete out takes in limited-entry hunts for the rest of this year and early 2015.

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission on June 6 adopted the tag numbers for the controlled deer, elk, pronghorn, Rocky Mountain goat and bighorn sheep hunts.

When next year's spring bear tags are added to the tally, the commission approved 143,453 tags for the upcoming year of big-game hunting. That's up from 140,807 last year and 140,109 tags in 2012.

Tom Thornton, ODFW game program coordinator, said more than half of the new tags are for elk hunts, with about 800 for controlled deer hunts. Other increases are in spring bear tags, he says.

Controlled-hunt draw results will be available online by June 20 under the "hunting resources" header at www.dfw.state.or.us.

Hunters can also get their information by calling 1-800-708-1782.

For the first time this year, agency employees will not mail postcard notifications of tag draw results, instead requiring hunters to check for themselves.

While new hunts proposed for 2015 were discussed during the commission's meeting Friday, the seven-member body will not vote on the new hunt proposals until October. Those proposals include a 35-tag, late-season muzzleloader blacktail buck hunt proposed for the Chetco Unit.

ODFW biologists also have proposed a new "Siskiyou Plus" spring black bear hunt, with a proposed tag level of 250, designed to take pressure off the Siuslaw and Indigo units and entice more urban hunters to venture south for spring bear-hunting opportunities.

This hunt would be open for the remainder of the Southwest units except for the Siuslaw and Indigo units.

The commission Friday also reduced the price of the 2015 Habitat Conservation Stamp from $40 to $20. These are stamps people can purchase voluntarily to support the conservation of high-priority native species and habitats identified in the Oregon Conservation Strategy.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.