The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission today set the upcoming coho and fall chinook salmon seasons for coastal rivers and streams.
The Commission meeting began yesterday with consideration of a number of wildlife issues, and continued today with Commissioners taking up a number of fish-related issues.
For the fourth year in a row, returns of coho salmon are strong enough for staff to propose opening 10 coastal rivers and one lake to the harvest of wild coho. Under the regulations adopted today, anglers will be able to keep one wild coho in the Nehalem, Tillamook, Nestucca, Siletz, Yaquina, Alsea, Siuslaw, Umpqua, Coos and Coquille rivers and Tenmile lakes. The season on most rivers begins on Sept. 15 and will continue through November, or until river-specific quotas have been met. All wild coho fisheries are also subject to NOAA approval.
The continued wild coho fisheries mark an important milestone in the recovery of coho salmon populations along the Oregon Coast, said Chris Kern, ODFW ocean salmon resources manager.
“Since coastal coho were listed as threatened in 1998, an enormous amount of work has been done to restore these populations,” he said. “Today we’re seeing the results of record returns in recent years in recreational fisheries that allow the harvest of a small number of those fish.
“As a result of restoration efforts by Oregonians and sustainable fish management, Oregon Coast coho are well on their way to recovery,” he added.
The Commission also approved the seasons for fall chinook, which have been rebounding since a significant downturn in 2008. For 2012, bag limits and area closures will return to permanent regulations for most South Coast rivers. Returns to North Coast rivers are improving but some continue to lag, so while the Commission did restore the historic two chinook daily bag limit on these rivers, the more recent 10 fish seasonal limit will continue.
A complete description of the 2012 coastal salmon seasons, including area closures and wild coho quotas, can be found on the ODFW website.
The Commission approved $767,010 in grants for 12 enhancement and 8 restoration projects through the Fish Restoration and Enhancement Program. Among the projects receiving funding are the addition of ADA fishing piers at St. Louis Ponds near Woodburn and enhancement of access at Vernonia Pond.
The Commission also approved a major re-organization of the commercial fishery regulations aimed at providing clarity and consistency to make them easier for user groups to navigate.
The Commission briefly took up trapping regulations, carrying over the agenda item from Thursday’s meeting. Today, the Commission made clear that new limits on trapping adopted yesterday apply only to state and federal land. The rules prohibit setting traps or snares on land within 300 feet of campgrounds, picnic areas and trailhead and within 50 feet of public trails. The restriction applies only to trails that are marked and maintained by state or federal agencies and are designated on agency maps. The rules were revised in response to a petition filed by the Humane Society of the United States, Predator Defense, Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club, Audubon Society of Portland and Cascadia Wildlands.
Finally, Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Division Senior Trooper Adam Turnbo of McMinnville was awarded the state’s top conservation enforcement honor when he was recognized with the Shikar Safari Club International Wildlife Officer of the Year. Shikar-Safari representative Lynn Loacker presented the award.
In making the award, Loaker cited Turnbo’s innovative use of social media to identify and monitor the actions of wildlife violators.
The Shikar-Safari Club International, founded in 1952, is a group of international hunters who formed first as a social group and then became motivated to make a meaningful difference in wildlife conservation.
The agenda item regarding the sale of treaty caught Columbia River steelhead and walleye was withdrawn and will be considered at the August Commission meeting.
The Commission is the policy-making body for fish and wildlife issues in the state and usually meets monthly. The next meeting is Aug. 3 at ODFW Headquarters in Salem.