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Commission set to adopt ocean chinook seasons

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission is poised today to usher in a 100-day ocean-fishing season for Southern Oregon anglers that targets fall chinook salmon bound for the Rogue River.

One year after a crash in Klamath River salmon returns triggered a full-scale closure to sport and commercial fishing off Southern Oregon and Northern California, the Pacific Fishery Management Council adopted a framework that gives South Coast anglers an uninterrupted chinook season from May 19 through Aug. 26.

The season includes a two-chinook daily bag limit. However, the proposal calls for no coho salmon fishing south of Humbug Mountain near Port Orford this year.

The season framework, which includes Memorial Day weekend but not Labor Day weekend, was the most liberal on the table for the PFMC, whose framework must be formally approved by the federal Department of Commerce for federal waters.

The commission must approve the seasons for state-management ocean waters inside three miles from the coast.

The commission also will be asked to adopt fall recreational and commercial “bubble” fisheries off the mouth of the Chetco River, as well as the mouths of the Elk and Sixes rivers.

These fisheries are named after the small bubble-like open zone for anglers off the mouths of these rivers. They target in-bound salmon and provide an extra ocean recreational opportunity.

The Chetco bubble fishery is proposed to run the first two full weekends in October. They will be Oct. 6-7 and Oct. 13-14. The limit is proposed at one chinook per day.

The seasons were set similarly last year on weekends to give inland anglers a greater opportunity to participate.

The Elk bubble fishery is proposed for its traditional Nov. 1-30 season, with a limit of two chinook per day, but only one of those can be wild.

The two fisheries together are proposed to have a 28-inch minimum length and an aggregate limit of 10 salmon.

The ocean season was crafted around estimates that 462,800 Rogue fall chinook are now in the ocean, which is almost twice that of last year.

Those fish entered the ocean during the drought years of 2014 and 2015, but they largely escaped low and warm summer flows, thanks to supplemental water from Lost Creek and Applegate reservoirs.

By contrast, Sacramento-bound chinook smolts were hit hard by drought, triggering poor survival rates, with estimates of 229,400 Sacramento chinook in the ocean, down 1,300 from last year, PFMC statistics show.

That dip in Sacramento-bound chinook kept the season from opening earlier and closing later than the framework adopted by the PFMC.

Curry County meadow project delayed

State wildlife biologists have rescheduled to April 28 a volunteer project meant to help reclaim Coast Range meadows east of Gold Beach for Roosevelt elk and other wildlife.

The April 7 work party as part of an effort to reclaim 334 acres from encroaching fir trees was postponed because of unsafe weather, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The work party will focus on the Potato Patch meadows on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. They originally covered about 52 acres, but about 20 acres of open ground has been lost to encroaching conifers and brush.

The work is being done under a $70,000 Forest Service grant authorized in April 2017.

Volunteers will meet about 9 a.m. Saturday, April 28, in the parking lot across from the Lobster Creek Bridge over the Rogue off Jerry’s Flat Road about 20 minutes east of Gold Beach.

For more details and information on volunteering, call 541-247-7605 or email ODFW wildlife biologist Brehan Furfey at brehan.c.furfey@state.or.us.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.