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Commission could adopt new Chetco chinook angling rules

Chinook salmon anglers on Southern Oregon's Chetco River could see more fall fishing opportunities but a slimmed down bag limit on wild chinook under new fishing rules up for consideration today by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission.The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has proposed rules that do away with the fall closure of all angling between Sept. 1 and Nov. 3 upstream of the power lines at river mile 2.2 — an area closed in recent years during that fall low-water period to protect chinook from over-harvest.Although that stretch is proposed to open this year, angling would be restricted to bait or lure fishing with bobbers and leaders no longer than 36 inches. Fly-fishers will be relegated to a single-point hook and a strike indicator.The intent is to see anglers return to the upper tidewater holes in October, where fall chinook can be abundant, while taking away some of the salmon-snagging techniques that have tarnished the fishery."Some of the worst snagging that has occurred in the past had to do with the fly-fishery in tidewater," says Todd Confer, ODFW's Gold Beach District fish biologist, who wrote the proposal.The new rules do not ban streamers, the most common type of chinook flies, but which have often been seen stuck in the backs of chinook there. It just requires that a strike indicator be used, Confer says.ODFW also has proposed to drop the bag limit on wild chinook to one a day and no more than five per season. Fin-clipped hatchery fish can be kept to round out the daily limit of two adult chinook and the annual limit of up to 20 chinook per season.Part of the reason for the change is biological, because wild chinook harvest rates have inched up annually to where they now account for 40 to 45 percent of the wild chinook entering the Chetco, Confer says."We feel we're about as high as we can safely go," Confer says.The change also takes into account a new, longer season on wild chinook, which have been off-limits above the powerlines in recent years until early November, Confer says.ODFW has proposed a similar "1-and-5" chinook limit for the nearby Winchuck River so tighter restrictions on the Chetco wouldn't increase pressure on the Winchuck, Confer says.But that new harvest rule won't go into effect this year on the Winchuck, where low estimated returns have triggered a proposed closure this fall.The Winchuck's new chinook conservation plan sets a minimum number of wild spawners at 300, Confer says. The preseason estimate has the Winchuck seeing a return of 325 chinook without any in-river harvest.

Duck, goose seasons to be set todayOregon's 44,000 waterfowl hunters will learn today whether they will enjoy an 18th consecutive season with the longest duck and goose seasons allowed by federal law.The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission today will review and adopt duck and goose seasons based on frameworks approved at the 11th hour by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.The actual frameworks and proposed seasons were not available from ODFW until today's meeting in Salem.Another year of solid but not spectacular duck and goose counts along the Pacific Flyway, as well as decent local duck production, means duck and goose hunters again are expecting to get the full complement of 107 days of hunting this fall and winter.The commission is also set to approve upland game bird seasons today from a slew of proposals.Among them, the Fee Pheasant Hunt at the Denman Wildlife Area is proposed to run from Sept. 22-Oct. 10, which is similar to last year. It is set to open just after the two-day Youth Pheasant Hunt at Denman on Sept. 21-22.<I>Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.</I>