Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Commissioners Considering Opening Lower Deschutes Trout Fishery to Kill for Fish Over 8 Inches

The Urgent Issue

On Friday, September 4, the ODFW Commissioners will be voting on a large package of angling rule changes created to “simplify” the Oregon fishing regulations.

One of the rule changes calls for opening up kill on redband trout in the lower Deschutes River.  Presently, there is a “slot limit” that only allows the take of 2 redband trout between 10 and 13 inches of length per day.  The new rule would allow the taking of any 2 redband trout over 8 inches per day.

Our position at the DRA is that if the Commission wishes to simplify the angling rules, the easiest thing would be to do away with any kill of redband trout on the lower Deschutes by making it a catch and release fishery with the required use of barbless hooks.  Now that would be simple!  Easy to understand, no measuring of fish would be necessary, and it would be easily enforceable.  Anything short of this deserves a deferral on decision-making to allow the public to provide input on rule changes.

You can support us in this by emailing the ODFW Commissioners at:

odfw.commission@state.or.us

We are hoping that the Commission will receive at least 1,000 emails from those of us who love the lower Deschutes River.  Everyone who reads this needs to send an email.  Help us meet a goal of 1000 emails by sending one today!  Do it now!

You can find a summary of the proposed rule changes via this link:

ODFW 2015 Statewide Proposed Regulation Changes

For more information on the Commission and the upcoming meeting:

ODFW Commission Meeting Agenda – September 3 and 4, 2015 

Redband trout, lower Deschutes River. Photo by Brian O'Keefe.

Redband trout, lower Deschutes River. Photo by Brian O’Keefe.

Why Does ODFW Want to Open Up Kill of Redband Trout?

Part of the justification for proposing opening up kill on fish over 8 inches on the lower river is that the river “already has a catch and release culture.”   So the question would be why does ODFW want to use that as a justification for opening up kill?  This makes no sense.

As a matter of fact, this change could very well change the catch and release “culture” of the lower river by inviting in a harvest mentality, which would have the opposite effect suggested as a consequence of the rule change.

This could also have a long-term impact on the economy that has grown around the catch and release “culture” of the lower river.  We’ve done some first order approximations of the value of the lower river fishery (and will be commissioning a formal economics study in the near future).  We’ve determined that the lower Deschutes fishery is worth roughly $135 million per year (using American Sportfishing Association guidelines).  Trout angling is only a part of that total dollar amount.  But why does ODFW want to punish the businesses dependent upon the current angling practices on the lower river?

No one has proposed a biological benefit of the new rule opening up kill for redband trout over 8 inches that is based on data.  As a matter of fact, ODFW recently completed a study in which they claim the lower river redband trout population is healthy.  So why do they want to change trout harvest management?

It would appear that the proposed change is a heavy-handed measure without biological benefit.  So why?

“Simplifying” Angling Rules and a Possible Larger Agenda

It’s not just the Deschutes that is potentially impacted by the current rule change proposals.  The new “simplified” rules would have statewide impacts on many rivers and lakes.  Some of the rule changes would be positive, some have negative consequences for established fisheries, and some are frankly meaningless.  Opening high lakes prior to the opening of the roads to access them each year would have little or no benefit to many anglers, or to the fish.

Certainly the angling rules need some simplification.  The language used in many of the rules is confusing and hard to understand.  Some improvements are needed.  Clearer writing would fix many of the problems.

The rule changes have apparently been in the works for months.  There has been little or no effective notification of the public of the nature of this rule making process.  The public meeting wherein the rules will be adopted is being held the Friday of Labor Day weekend in Seaside.  There is probably no more difficult location to travel to on that date than Seaside.  In case you are interested in going, there are presently no hotel/motel rooms and no campsites available in the Seaside area due to the holiday.

Anyone wishing to testify on the proposed rules will be allowed three minutes to testify.  No one can testify on all of the proposed rule changes in three minutes!

If you try to find the proposed rule changes on ODFW’s website without the link provided above, good luck.  You won’t find the proposed rule changes using Google or the ODFW website search engine.  You have to dig to find them.  Why are the proposed rule changes being posted in a way that makes them obscure and difficult to access?  Why are they not being publicized via public media?  Why hasn’t there been email notification of effected constituencies?

We ask the Commission, please, defer voting on the present proposals until adequate opportunities have been created to obtain public input.  The public deserves to be heard on these matters.

Fishing the lower Deschutes River. Photo by Brian O'Keefe.

Fishing the lower Deschutes River. Photo by Brian O’Keefe.

Deschutes River Alliance: Cooler, cleaner H2O for the lower Deschutes River. 

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