Anglers may be Allowed to Keep More Salmonby Tomoko Hosaka, Oregonian staff
The Oregonian, February 18, 2001
Because of an anticipated record run, a House-passed bill
would increase the take by 10 fish -- for a price
SALEM -- More salmon in Oregon rivers this spring could mean more fish for sport anglers.
With projections of record salmon runs, lawmakers and sport fishing groups are supporting a bill that would allow anglers to take advantage of the masses of returning hatchery fish. House Bill 2601 would allow the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission to establish a second harvest tag to catch 10 additional fin-clipped hatchery salmon and steelhead. The current limit is 20.
Supporters say the proposal would increase recreational opportunities and benefit hatchery management efforts by reducing surplus fish returning to the state's 10 hatcheries.
The bill has sailed through the House. It passed unanimously out of the House Water and Environment Committee, and the House approved it 51-0 Friday without debate. The bill goes to the Senate, where it is expected to attract strong support.
Rep. Bob Jenson, R-Pendleton, the bill's sponsor, said the proposal would permit anglers to catch fish that "might otherwise be subject to clubbing," referring to the state's policy of killing excess hatchery fish.
"When those hatchery fish are not harvested, there are actions taken that can cause the public a great deal of concern," Jenson said.
State fisheries officials came under fire last year when a well-publicized home video made by a Philomath banker showed five state agency employees clubbing hundreds of hatchery coho salmon to death.
Officials defended the practice, saying excess hatchery fish must be destroyed to protect wild salmon, whose genes are considered genetically superior. Excess hatchery salmon could overwhelm wild populations, they say.
More than 365,000 hatchery spring chinook are expected to return to the Columbia River this spring, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife says. Supporters of HB2601 say most anglers who want to fish throughout the year will limit their spring fishing because they are allowed to catch only 20 fish the entire year.
Jim Myron of Oregon Trout supports the bill because it would give anglers greater freedom to reel in hatchery salmon and steelhead.
But he says he doesn't expect the proposal to significantly help native salmon runs. Not many people exceed their annual 20-fish limit, so demand for the second tag wouldn't be that high, he said.
"But for those folks who can afford to spend two months on the river, that's fine," Myron said. "Let them catch the hatchery fish."
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates it would sell about 2,000 of the new hatchery harvest tags. At $10.50 each, the tags would bring in about $21,000 a year. Only fishermen with annual angling licenses and annual tags for salmon and steelhead would be allowed to buy the second tag. About 200,000 fish tags were sold last year.
The bill would give the Fish and Wildlife Commission broad rule-making authority to adapt the hatchery harvest tag program to changing conditions and the number of returning fish.
Although there has been no opposition to the bill, there was some discussion about increasing the price of the new tag, said Roy Elicker, the fish and wildlife agency's lobbyist.
And senators probably will fine-tune some details, said Phil Donovan, a lobbyist for the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association. He expects them to direct where the money raised from tag sales should go.
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