Cuts in bottomfishing would forestall any closures

Oregon fish managers are mulling cutbacks in recreational bottomfishing as early as the July Fourth weekend in hopes of helping the coastal fishery limp through the summer without a closure.

Catches this year of black and blue rockfish, cabezon and yelloweye rockfish have cut too deeply and too quickly into state-imposed fish quotas, leading to the plans for tighter limits. The pressure on the bottom fish population has been due, in part, to the closing of chinook salmon fishing off the Oregon Coast.

"We're not going to shut anything down," says Don Bodenmiller, who oversees groundfish management for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in Newport. "We're talking slowdown."

Options include shaving some days off the seven-day fishing week, cutting the black rockfish bag limit below the current six fish per day and moving fishing boundaries closer to shore to curb the yelloweye catch.

ODFW Director Roy Elicker was expected to sign some temporary limits to the season early next week, Bodenmiller says. Any changes could go into effect within 48 hours, but Bodenmiller expected new rules to go into effect perhaps as late as after the July Fourth weekend.

ODFW hopes the new limits will help keep the fishing season going at least through the summer.

"Particularly, we'd like to get through Labor Day and preferably, we'd like to get through the whole year," Bodenmiller says.

The recreational bottomfish seasons are managed under catch quotas established annually by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission, the seven-member panel that sets the state's fish and wildlife policies.

In 2004, anglers gobbled up those quotas so quickly that bottomfishing was, for the first time, stopped just before Labor Day, "and we don't want a repeat of 2004," Bodenmiller said.

In 2005, the quota lasted until mid-October, and the black rockfish season — the driver of the recreational fishery — went uninterrupted the past two calendar years.

But catches of all species are up compared to the past two years, ODFW statistics show.

Through May, anglers on private boats and charters had caught 28 percent of the black rockfish quota, 38 percent of the yelloweye quota and 53 percent of the cabezon quota.

Summer months, particularly August, bring the highest catches each season, Bodenmiller said.

"We're cruising along pretty quickly," Bodenmiller says. "That's why we're concerned."

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail

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