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BOUNTY OF 3-YEAR-OLD HATCHERY-RETURN KINGS EXPECTED

Anglers should look for one of the ventral fins, or the adipose fin, to be clipped on the 3-year-old Chinook, and the adipose fin to be clipped on all the jacks (2-year-old Chinook). (Illustration courtesy of the Department of Fish and Wildlife ).
Anglers should look for one of the ventral fins, or the adipose fin, to be clipped on the 3-year-old Chinook, and the adipose fin to be clipped on all the jacks (2-year-old Chinook). (Illustration courtesy of the Department of Fish and Wildlife ).

By Larry Ellis

Pilot staff writer

Anglers fishing for Chinook salmon in the ocean bubble fishery Oct. 1 through Oct. 4, and the Chetco River which opens Nov. 1, have something to look forward to this fall besides catching wild fish and having to abide by the one-and-five non-fin clipped temporary regulation enacted this year.

There are also going to be a significant portion of hatchery kings as well.

"I think people are going to be amazed," says John Weber, STEP biologist for Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) regarding the 3-year-old hatchery-return adult fish. "A 3-year old can be anywhere from 24 to 30 inches, or anywhere from 8 to about 20 pounds."

According to Robin Crisler, manager of Elk River Hatchery, 100 percent of these 3-year-old fish were either ventral fin-clipped or adipose fin-clipped, which means anglers should definitely consider buying a hatchery harvest tag (HHT).

The cost of an HHT is $12 and can be used for up to 10 adipose or otherwise – ventral – fin-clipped salmon, and only adipose fin-clipped steelhead, and there is no limit to the amounts of tags a person can buy.

An Oregon fishing license is still required, as well as the standard combined angling tag.All hatchery harvest tags purchased this season must be retained and presented to the officer checking the tag.

The ventral fins are a paired set of fins located just forward of the vent of the fish, hence the name ‘ventral.' They are situated just forward of the anal fin.

Either an adipose fin or one of the ventral fins will be clipped, but Weber says a portion of those vent-clipped fish will have fins growing back, depending on how close the fish technician was able to clip the fin. So make sure that most of the ventral fin is missing before marking it down as a hatchery fish.

"Make sure it's a healed scar," said Steve Mazur, assistant district biologist for ODFW. "It's not going to be smooth but there's going to be a nub there."

Remember that the Chetco salmon season does not open until Nov. 1, including the estuary.

Weber also said that a significant population of jacks have already returned to the nets at Huntley Creek on the Rogue River and he also noticed a much more than usual population of smolts in the nets on the Chetco.

The fishing is definitely going to be improving over the next few years. It's not all doom-and-gloom as many folks have been thinking.

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