Almost 500 hatchery coho salmon that Rogue River anglers couldn't catch for their dinners will instead feed some of Oregon's hungrier residents during this holiday season.
For the first time in seven years, Cole Rivers Hatchery workers Tuesday killed and donated 477 excess hatchery coho to the Oregon Food Bank, which will distribute packaged fillets through its food-distribution network in the state.
The Oregon Food Bank is a nonprofit organization at the hub of a network of 20 regional food banks serving Oregon and Clark County, Washington. ACCESS Inc. is the local agency in Medford.
A glut of coho entered the hatchery's collection ponds this fall thanks in part to plenty of rain that helped these normally slow migrators to reach the hatchery earlier than normal. To date, 1,370 coho have reached the hatchery collection pond, including plenty of wild coho that will be spawned for this year's egg take.
On Tuesday, hatchery workers killed and turned over the coho to Bellingham-based American Canadian Fisheries.
American Canadian and Cole Rivers have an agreement under which American Canadian processes excess hatchery coho salmon and supplies the food bank with frozen, 4-ounce fillets that are individually vacuum-sealed for distribution.
The seafood company, in turn, keeps the carcasses and eggs for sale and processing in its seafood business.
This is the first donation of coho from Cole Rivers to the food bank since 2009, hatchery Manager David Pease says. In previous years, the hatchery returns have either been too low for a donation or they came in too late, so the fish were of lesser quality, he says.
In recent years, the food bank has received excess winter and summer steelhead through the same agreement.
Rockfish bag limit change adopted for 2017
Oregon's bottomfishing fleet will see changes in its seven-fish rockfish aggregate bag limit next year to help keep from experiencing the first in-season shutdown in 13 years while giving anglers a good chance of keeping seven fish for their day on the briny.
The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission last week adopted new limits that include a drop from seven to six black rockfish in the overall seven-fish marine limit to account for a 10-percent reduction in the federal recreation quota for next year.
However, to make up for not keeping that seventh black rockfish, the commission removed the sub-bag limit on canary rockfish and added China, quillback and copper rockfishes to the current limit on blue/Deacon rockfish and increased that sub-bag from three to four.
The result is that anglers who are used to releasing a few canaries before catching their seventh black rockfish can simply fill out their seven-fish limit with at least one fish of a different variety.
Also under the changes, all rockfish vessels will be required to carry descending devices, and they will be required when releasing all rockfish caught outside of the 30-fathom line.
The devices allow anglers to use their rods and reels to descend fish back into deep water before releasing them, which leads to better survival rates.
Road to Umpqua Hot Springs closed
Umpqua National Forest Service has closed a temporary gate to the Umpqua Hot Springs near Toketee just past the junction of Forest Roads 34 and 3401. Anyone wishing to visit the Umpqua Hot Springs must be prepared to hike, ski or snowshoe approximately 1.5 miles to the trailhead and then another steep quarter-mile of uncleared snowy trail to access the pools, according to a media release.
To find out whether the gate has been closed or reopened, as well as local weather and driving conditions, call the Toketee Ranger Station at 541-498-2531 or 541-496-4020 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.