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New steelhead fees among host of 2023 angling changes

A summer steelhead takes a plug on the Rogue River. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]

South Coast anglers will have to dig out some change from their sofa cushions beginning next year to fish for steelhead in the Rogue, Chetco and other nearby rivers.

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission enacted a new $2 validation atop the annual fishing license to cast for steelhead on the Rogue and other South Coast rivers.

Also, South Coast anglers who wish to take part in one of North America’s last opportunities to take home a wild steelhead must buy a new South Coast wild steelhead harvest card.

Those will cost $10 for residents and $20 for nonresidents. They were recommended by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists.

The new fees will help fund research and monitoring of wild steelhead populations and harvest on these rivers as outlined by ODFW’s new Rogue-South Coast Plan to govern steelhead management in these rivers.

The new fees take effect Jan. 1 and affect all streams from the Winchuck River north to Elk River north of Port Orford. These streams all are part of the new steelhead management plan that ODFW drafted under requirements by the Oregon Legislature.

The change, which was publicly vetted through the agency’s Rogue-South Coast planning process, is one of a suite of changes anglers will see beginning next year adopted by the commission as recommended by ODFW biologists.

Beginning in 2023, anglers statewide will see no limit for the size and number of bass they can keep. The change was eyed as a way to simplify regulations and open angling on a species often present in rivers like the Umpqua by illegal introductions.

Also in the Umpqua Basin, the commission adopted a new ban on angling in Fish Creek from its mouth to Forest Service Road 3701 to protect spawning summer steelhead, which are in decline in the basin.

Elsewhere, the commission adopted a ban on anglers keeping rainbow trout over 20 inches long on the Deschutes River from Lake Billy Chinook to Benham Falls. That came with a new companion ban on wild trout harvest in Fall River, a Deschutes tributary.

The commission also eased some restrictions on northeast Oregon’s John Day River to ensure some angling opportunities during fishing closures for hatchery steelhead.

The new rule will open angling year-round on the John Day for bass, catfish and other warmwater fish. Under previous rules, these fisheries have closed when the river closed to steelhead, salmon or trout fishing.

Mark Freeman covers the outdoors for the Mail Tribune. Reach him at 541-776-4470 or by email at mfreeman@rosebudmedia.com.