Restrictions at Howard Prairie aimed at preventing wildfires, vandalism

ASHLAND — Local and federal land managers are banning vehicle traffic, overnight camping and campfires on the eastern shores of Howard Prairie Reservoir amid concerns over potential wildfires and vandalism.

The federal Bureau of Reclamation and Jackson County parks officials have posted the area around Hoxey Creek and other access points warning people they could face fines if they violate the new restrictions, which went into place last week.

"We've had a lot of illegal camping, fires and garbage accumulating there for years, and it's the whole east side of the lake," says Randy Hutton, parks program manager for the Jackson County Parks Department. "You get these large groups of campers around big fires, then all of a sudden they start discharging firearms and people get nervous."

Reclamation officials also are concerned about stopping damage to the lake's shoreline from vehicle traffic, as well as illegal tree-cutting.

"From Reclamation's standpoint, it's our obligation to provide health and safety to our visitors, as well as protecting the resource," says Kathy Cushman, Reclamation lands and water specialist.

The recreational area around the lake is owned by the bureau and the lands are administered by the county. Signs informing visitors of the closures have been erected, and Jackson County Sheriff Mike Winters has agreed to have patrols in the area and to issue citations to violators.

Another seven golden shiners were discovered early Wednesday in Diamond Lake, bringing to 19 the number of unwanted bait fish found since the lake was poisoned in September 2006 to rid it of millions of unwanted tui chubs.

The shiners were discovered by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife crews using an electro-shocking boat, says Meghan Collins, the ODFW spokeswoman at the agency's regional office in Roseburg.

The shiners were discovered along the lake's western shores and included two juvenile shiners, Collins says.

"At this point we don't know if they were from reproduction or part of somebody's box of bait fish," Collins says.

It is illegal to use live fish as bait in Oregon, though live bait fish are legal in the ocean.

Last week nets set in the lake turned up a dozen shiners. It remains unknown whether the fish were recently used as bait or if they survived 2006's rotenone application that was believed to have killed all the fish in the lake.

The electro-shocking done late Tuesday night and early Wednesday came as a follow-up to the shiners found in the net last week.

Golden shiners are perhaps the most-bred fish in American aquaculture and they are used commonly outside of Oregon as bait for trout, bass and panfish.

The Columbia River's popular fall chinook fishery at Buoy 10 opens Friday, and fish managers from Oregon and Washington are predicting an average run of salmon — a boost from last year.

Based on an available quota of 6,500 chinook, Buoy 10 anglers will have up to 31 days to catch chinook, which is up from 12 days in 2007 when the quota was 3,800 fish.

The Buoy 10 fishery — which is around the specific buoy on the lower Columbia between the buoy and Tongue Point — will be open through Sept. 1 or until the quota is met.

For the mainstem Columbia between Tongue Point and Bonneville Dam, the chinook season is limited to Sept. 1 through Sept. 16, the peak of the fall chinook runs. That fishery has a quota of 9,200 chinook.

Local hunters itching to start growing their beards for elk camp can get a jump-start on their fall season with a Sunday seminar on hunting and calling Oregon's largest game mammal.

Hunting author Scott Haugan will be at the Joe's Outdoor store, 2370 Poplar Drive, Medford, at 1 p.m. for a free seminar on elk calls and hunting tactics.

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