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Hyatt, Howard Prairie angling to go year-round

Every day will be opening day for anglers at Hyatt and Howard Prairie lakes, which will become year-round fishing destinations beginning next year.

As part of a movement to simplify Oregon's often-confusing and inconsistent fishing rules, the two reservoirs east of Ashland and a host of other Oregon water bodies will join sites such as Lost Creek and Applegate lakes in being open year-round.

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted the changes Friday during its meeting in Seaside as part of a suite of statewide regulation changes for trout and warmwater species such as bass and crappie.

Hyatt and Howard Prairie lakes will close to angling on Halloween this year as they have for decades. The lakes then usually would be off-limits until the traditional trout-fishing "opener" on the fourth Saturday of April.

Instead, they will reopen to anglers New Year's Day and stay that way.

While the lakes may be open, not much else will be available at the sites come New Year's Day — at least for now.

Jackson County Parks parks officials, who operate the Howard Prairie Resort and three other campgrounds and boat ramps at Howard Prairie, plan to close operations as usual Oct. 31, parks Manager Steve Lambert says.

That means only winter walk-in access will be available at Howard Prairie, which has shrunk to less than 20 percent of capacity from the recent drought. Lambert says he does not want to commit resources to clearing snow and maintaining boat ramp access if it's for just a handful of winter anglers.

"I want to see what kind of demand there is up there before we do anything," Lambert says.

At Hyatt Lake, federal Bureau of Land Management spokeswoman Jeanne Klein says it is "highly unlikely" that the BLM would leave open its campground and boat ramp, which currently does not reach the water at the drought-stricken reservoir. Access there historically has closed Oct. 31.

Dan VanDyke, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's Rogue District fish biologist, says he plans no change to the lakes' stocking regimes and also will take a wait-and-see approach there.

"I don't think we expect a huge amount of use," VanDyke says.

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' historically thin winter 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.

But times, and attitudes, have changed.

The ODFW this summer revamped the proposals with an eye toward taking the guesswork out of figuring out what's open and not open to anglers on any given day.

Along with the simplification, the new regulations booklet will be printed every two years instead of annually.

Other regulations dropped Friday in the name of consistency are size restrictions for bass that anglers can keep in Applegate Lake and crappie at Emigrant Lake. Also, the eight-trout daily limit for Diamond Lake was cut back to the standard five-trout daily limit.

The commission Friday also eliminated limits on non-native bass in the Umpqua River 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.

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