ODFW OKs season for ocean salmon

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission Friday adopted a 100-day ocean-fishing season for Southern Oregon 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 plan 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 still 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 adopted 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 will run the first two full weekends in October, Oct. 6-7 and Oct. 13-14. The limit is proposed at one chinook per day.

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

The Elk bubble fishery will run 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 have a 28-inch minimum length for chinook 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. These fish will be moving north up the coast from California.

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.

The inland Rogue return this fall is estimated to be 130,000 chinook in the Rogue this fall, up about 40,000 chinook from last year, according to ODFW.

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

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