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Offshore salmon season expanded



VANCOUVER -- With little fanfare and no discussion or debate, the Pacific Fishery Management Council approved the most liberal offshore salmon season in more than a decade for federal waters off the Oregon and Washington coastlines.

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission is expected to follow suit today for state waters within the three-mile limit.

Sport fishing off the mouth of the Columbia River could last all summer, and biologists say seasons might go through at least mid-August on the central Oregon Coast.

The barren El Nino years of 1996-98 are fading into memory as fish managers worked with the luxury of a productive ocean and a prediction -- this year's coupled with last year's rejuvenated return -- for the strongest sustained wild coho runs in 50 years.

"It's amazing what having fish runs rebound will do for the process," said Burnie Bohn, the council's Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife representative.

The seasons set Thursday to catch hatchery coho salmon fit 30 state, federal and tribal requirements to protect wild salmon, he said.

Ocean anglers out of central Oregon ports start uninterrupted fishing June 21 under a hatchery coho quota of 88,000 fish, nearly four times the limit of 22,500 in 2002. Fishing in the zone between Cape Falcon, near Manzanita, and Humbug Mountain at Port Orford, was closed last year on Aug. 2.

Fishing from Columbia River ports -- between Cape Falcon and Leadbetter Point at the northern end of Long Beach, Wash., begins June 29, under a quota of 112,500. Fishing will be allowed Sunday through Thursday until early August. Managers will then decide whether to expand to seven days.

In 2002, that quota was 55,700, and fishing lasted until mid-September.

South of Port Orford, out of Brookings and Gold Beach, fishing was approved from May 17 through Sept. 14. No coho are allowed in that zone, dominated by southern Oregon and northern California chinook runs.

In the coho zones, anglers may keep only coho missing an adipose fin, an insignificant appendage ahead of the dorsal that is clipped off before they're released from hatcheries.

All ocean fishing will be with barbless hooks, and anglers from Cape Falcon south may use only two to harness their bait. Three hooks -- but no trebles -- are allowed north of Cape Falcon.

Charter skippers and offices coastwide were as buoyed by longer seasons as biologists are happy about improved wild runs.

"That's great news," said Chris Olson of Newport Marina Store and Charters in Newport. "It'll be a heck of a year out there."

Frank Warrens of Portland, who operates a charter service out of Hammond and was chairman of the federal management council through some of its leanest salmon years, said he's booking trips from as far away as Hawaii.

"Watershed improvements have contributed, and we're taking better care of the habitat, but the fundamental reason is all that feed in the ocean," he said. "We've got a more friendly regime of food sources like there was back in the 1970s."

Hans Radtke, a Yachats economist and council chairman, said commercial and sport fishers will be repaid this year for sacrifices they made for many of the past several seasons.

"It's awfully nice to get some rewards for a change," he said. Bill Monroe: 503-221-8231; e-mail [email protected]

[ 04-12-2003, 07:04 AM: Message edited by: DepoeBayDan ]
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