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Fair compromise

Limiting hours at fishing hole is the best way to combat loutish behavior

To anglers upset at a state proposal to limit fishing hours at the popular Hatchery Hole, we offer this bit of advice: Be glad the hole isn't being closed down entirely.

In 2001, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife opened the hole to fishing as a way to thin excess hatchery salmon and steelhead and to give anglers a chance to more easily hook fish that usually are difficult to catch. Police opposed the move on the grounds that it would increase the incidence of illegally snagged fish, drunkenness and fights.

Anglers promised to behave themselves.

Two years later, problems have increased to the point that state fisheries officials are proposing a ban on fishing at the hole from 7 p.m. to sunrise. Current rules allow fishing from an hour before sunrise until an hour after sunset.

Police say most of the problem behavior at the hole occurs in those twilight hours, and it's fueled by too much alcohol. An alcohol ban also was considered, but the plan to be voted on Aug. 8 is just to limit hours.

— That makes sense to us for several reasons.

First, it's never fair to punish the well-behaved majority for the loutish behavior of a few. A complete closure would do just that.

An alcohol ban likewise would punish those who responsibly enjoy a cold beer while wetting a line. And enforcing an alcohol ban would be nearly impossible for understaffed law enforcement.

While the fishing may be best in those hours just before and after sunset, it's still possible to hook fish during the day. And closing the hole at 7 p.m. would mean those troublemakers who drive up after work to begin drinking and fishing would have less time to reach inebriation before they'd have to quit.

One issue not even mentioned in this debate is perhaps the strongest argument of all for this proposal. If anglers head to the river and get drunk while they fish until dark, how are they getting home? We somehow doubt the folks spurring this action are responsible enough to take along a designated driver.

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission will vote on the proposal to limit hours during its meeting Aug. 8 in Astoria. To comment on the proposal, write to ODFW Fish Division, Angling Regulations Coordinator, P.O. Box 59, Portland, OR 97207-0059; send a fax to the Angling Regulations Coordinator at 503-872-5632; or e-mail Rhine.T.Messmer@dfw.state. or.us.