This weekend, June 1 and 2, anyone fishing, crabbing or clamming in Oregon does not need to possess a fishing license, shellfish license or a tag. It's called Free Fishing Weekend, and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife really has their act together when it comes to introducing fishing to the public.
In Oregon, Free Fishing Weekend literally means "free." You don't even need to possess a tag to mark down salmon, Pacific halibut and sturgeon so, for two days, those fish are freebies. However, anglers are required to follow the fishing regulations for each zone.
There are several fishing events geared toward kids both today and tomorrow.
On Saturday, June 1, a free fishing derby will occur at Libby Pond between 8 a.m. and 12 p.m. for kids 13 and younger. Loaner fishing equipment and gear will be offered to the youths and there will also be a few prizes raffled off as well. This year, Libby is going to be well-stocked with both catchable- and trophy-size rainbow trout.
According to Todd Confer, ODFW district biologist for the area, 5,000 catchable-size rainbow trout averaging at least 8 inches long, and 150 trophy trout will be available for the kids.
"The trophy trout are between 2 and 5 pounds," Confer said. "They're pretty nice fish."
Confer says that Arizona Pond, just north of Gold Beach will also have plenty of trout available for the kids.
"There's still a lot of fish out there," said Confer. "The legal-size fish run about 8 inches and there's some pounders in there as well that are about 12 inches."
About mid-April, ODFW stocked around 200 trophy rainbows that range from 2 to 4 pounds, and most of those fish have not been caught, so the big boys will still be available for Free Fishing Weekend.
Arizona Pond is restricted to kids 17 and younger.
Elk River Hatchery in Port Orford will also be holding their own kid's fishing derby on June 1 and 2 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. for kids 10 and younger. Children may fish either Saturday or Sunday but not both days to ensure as many kids as possible can fish at the hatchery.
Fishing in the ocean was phenomenal on Saturday and Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend. Most anglers had no problem limiting out on rockfish, and near-limiting out on lingcod.
In addition to rockfish, some pretty hefty Pacific halibut were brought to the Port of Brookings Harbor fillet station. Around eight halibut were caught on Saturday, with approximately a dozen halibut caught on Sunday.
On both days, the ocean gave up at least one halibut up to or in excess of 50 pounds.
On Saturday, Gary Johnson from Central Point brought in a nice halibut that weighed close to 50 pounds. Then on Sunday, Debra Coyle of Brookings caught a barn door that bottomed out my 50 pound scale. Later weighed by a Port of Brookings Harbor employee, the fished tipped the scales at 54 1/2 pounds.
Because high winds and choppy swells are dominating the ocean right now, anglers who want to catch rockfish and lingcod have been hitting the ocean at daybreak, fishing close to port, and are squeezing in a window of fishing opportunity ranging between one and three hours.
Salmon fishing in the ocean has been slow, with most days only kicking out one Chinook. However, on Thursday morning there were six fresh salmon carcasses in the barrels at the Brookings fillet station, so one secretive angler managed to find a few fish. Ocean salmon fishing should break wide open any day now.
I'm also very excited about the rockfish recompression device seminar that will be put on by Lynn Mattess at the Chetco Community Public Library on this coming Wednesday at 7 p.m. Everybody is welcome to attend this meeting.
"I'm calling the presentation, Barotrauma - Why should I care - And what should I do?,'" said Mattess, ODFW's Sport Groundfish and Halibut project leader.
"We are so limited on our fisheries primarily because of yelloweye and canary impacts, that the council (PFMC) has approved some reduced mortality rates when yelloweye and canary rockfish are released using these devices," said Mattess. "If more people start using these devices to release rockfish, it will keep us from having to go to further restrictions."
Mattess also said that, by using recompression release devices, rockfish restrictions already in place might also be reduced, such as being able to go back to 40 fathoms. Mattess will be showing some amazing videos and will be demonstrating several different recompression devices.
In the past, all those fish with stomachs sticking out of their mouths, and eye bulging from their heads (including yelloweye, canary and black rockfish) were doomed. By using these release devices, those fish now have the ability to survive and continue breeding. The future of our rockfish fishery is now in our own hands.