NEWPORT With sport catch of some rockfish higher than anticipated, fishery managers decided recently to reduce the marine fish bag limit for anglers from six to five and move the fishery inside of 20 fathoms.
Sport anglers may still retain two lingcod, but that fishery is also restricted inside of 20 fathoms. The regulation changes will take effect July 7, and are scheduled to continue through Dec. 31.
"The catch of numerous groundfish species is higher than last year," said Don Bodenmiller, sport groundfish project leader for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Marine Resources Program. "And restrictions on ocean salmon fishing have put increased pressure on sport groundfish this summer. If we take no action to slow things down, we project the groundfish fishery will close early."
Several groundfish species in Oregon waters are managed using state and federal harvest caps, including black rockfish and yelloweye rockfish. In 2004 the nearshore sport groundfish season closed just before Labor Day, when anglers reached the harvest cap for black rockfish. In 2005 the fishery for black rockfish was closed in mid-October.
Black rockfish make up the majority of an angler's marine bag, so reducing the marine fish bag limit should forestall reaching the harvest cap for that species. Yelloweye rockfish generally live in deeper waters, so bringing the fishery inside of 20 fathoms should reduce the number of that species anglers catch incidentally.
"Yelloweye rockfish catch is up coastwide off Oregon," reported Bodenmiller.
"We made this decision after careful consideration and consultation with our Sportfish Advisory Committee, which includes private anglers, charter boat operators and a port representative," Bodenmiller said.
"Further changes to the fishery may be needed in the event anglers approach or reach other state or federal harvest caps on species such as other nearshore rockfish, canary rockfish, cabezon or greenling."
The marine fish bag includes rockfish, greenling, cabezon and some other marine species. Anglers occasionally catch, but may not keep, yelloweye rockfish and canary rockfish. The two species are considered depleted by the National Marine Fisheries Service and a certain percentage of those incidentally caught must be reported as mortality.
Anglers may fish for flatfish, like sanddabs, flounder and sole, inside the 40-fathom line through Dec. 31, since anglers can generally avoid incidental catches of rockfish when targeting those species. In addition, anglers may continue to fish for Pacific halibut, salmon and species such as tuna under current regulations.
"Halibut fishing has been good and coho salmon fishing is improving coastwide, said Steve Williams, Marine and Columbia River Program Manager.
A list of groundfish and fish included in the five-fish marine bag limit and waypoints for the 40-fathom line can be found in the 2008 Oregon Sport Ocean Regulations for Salmon, Halibut and other Marine Fish Species.