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Hyatt and Howard Prairie lakes may open year round

Hyatt and Howard Prairie lakes are poised to become year-round fishing spots, and special rules for largemouth bass in Applegate Lake could disappear under state proposals to simplify Oregon's often confusing and inconsistent trout and warmwater fishing rules.

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission is scheduled today to vote in Seaside on a suite of statewide regulations changes for trout, warmwater bag limits and open fishing dates beginning in 2016.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife revamped these proposals with a big eye on simplification and consistency in order to take the guesswork out of figuring out what's open and what's legal out there.

An internal review by agency biologists showed about 500 trout and warmwater fish rules, with about 400 of them falling into distinctly similar categories.

The remaining 100 were special regulations that agency biologists took aim at to see whether they should remain.

The agency put together its final proposal after internal and public reviews this summer.

The department wants the simplified regulations in place for the 2016 season, with the new booklet to be printed every two years instead of annually.

The proposal includes eliminating the traditional April trout opener at lakes, including Hyatt and Howard Prairie, and adding them to the group of year-round lakes that includes most regional reservoirs.

Hyatt and Howard Prairie historically have been closed during the winter and opened on the fourth Saturday in April, except for a few years in the late 1970s when they were open year-round. Worries about safety on the reservoirs' thin ice and worries from resort owners and summer anglers that year-round fishing harmed the trout population led to ODFW going to the shorter season that has remained ever since.

Other individual lake rules that have hit the books over the years — which are also proposed to disappear — are a bass slot limit at Applegate Lake, crappie rules at Emigrant and the eight-fish daily trout limit at Diamond Lake, according to the latest proposal.

Another proposal is to eliminate bass limits in the Umpqua Basin and on the Columbia and John Day rivers.

The round of rule changes involve warmwater fisheries and trout but not salmon or steelhead angling rules.

Rogue River levels to drop

Flows from Lost Creek Lake into the upper Rogue River will begin to drop Saturday and continue to do so through Tuesday night to help corral spring chinook salmon spawning into the upper Rogue's main channel.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced the water-release plan following a request from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The agency typically seeks to drop flows in early September to ensure spring chinook salmon redds are dug in places not likely to dry out later in the season.

Flows out of the reservoir will drop at 8 p.m. Saturday from 1,750 cubic feet per second to 1,600 cfs, then again to 1,400 cfs by 11 p.m. Monday evening. The last release drop in this series is scheduled to be 1,200 cfs at 11 p.m. Tuesday, according to the Corps.

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