As I am writing my column, the trout stocking portion of the ODFW website is not available and hopefully will be available soon. Also of concern, IFISH.NET, possibly Oregon’s largest online fishing website, has not had any new posts in at least 10 days — hopefully this will also be corrected soon.

I’m picking this week to get some of the issues I have concerning the ODFW off my chest — and I am not even going to mention the agency’s very unpopular new licensing system. I’ll start by mentioning that for the last decade, or more, spring and summer all-depth halibut openers have been very unfair to anglers working a regular Monday through Friday work week.

I’m also less than pleased that the ODFW took the size and bag limit restrictions off striped bass. Their reasoning is that they are “simplifying the regulations,” but if that were truly the case, they should remove size restrictions on all of Oregon’s fish species — including salmon, steelhead, trout and sturgeon. After all, isn’t consistency supposed to be a “virtue.” In fact, one angler told me a major goal of his was to bag a striper with a bow and arrow and he felt the new regulation allowed him to do so. Fortunately, a biologist from the Charleston office was able to assure me that they have to be taken by rod and reel.

The closure of Soda Springs Reservoir on the North Umpqua also bothers me, but to be fair, they are still evaluating spawning usage of the North Umpqua River above the reservoir which is now accessible to salmonids because of recent renovations to the dam forming Soda Springs Reservoir. My take is that fishing pressure would be less of a problem for the smolts than a downstream migration through an increased number of sizable brown and rainbow trout that are currently protected by the fishing closure.

Perhaps my oldest ODFW “gripe” concerns the closure of Mill Creek, the outlet of Loon Lake — a closure that has never made any sense. The closure covers the entire stream from where it leaves Loon Lake to where it dumps into the Umpqua River 13 miles east of Reedsport.

The closure was supposedly enacted to stop illegal snagging of salmon, steelhead and searun cutthroat trout in the lowermost mile of the stream.

Some snagging was taking place in that section, but instead of trying to nab the actual culprits, the entire stream was closed to fishing, which means that there is now a safe haven for smallmouth bass in the lower portion of the stream and a sanctuary for largemouth bass in the upper portion of the stream — but especially between Mill Creek Road and Loon Lake, an area far above the reach of any salmon or steelhead.

As someone who is old enough to have fished the uppermost section of Mill Creek more than 45 years ago, I remember it being my favorite light tackle fishing spot with lots of 10- to 13-inch largemouth bass and fair numbers of planted rainbow trout that that dropped downstream the short distance from the lake.

This “overkill” response of closing Mill Creek in its entirety because of snagging taking place on the stream’s lowermost mile has gone uncorrected for at least 20 years. The creek is under the jurisdiction of the ODFW’s office on the North Umpqua Highway just east of Roseburg (also known as Diamond Lake Boulevard). Perhaps the fact that Mill Creek’s distance from from that ODFW office (about 80 miles by road) has kept Mill Creek ignored — and “uncorrected.”

I know this sounds ridiculous, but similar thinking would have the ODFW closing Tenmile Lake to all fishing upon discovering some anglers were catching and keeping coho smolts in Eel Lake.

I’d like to close with some good news regarding the ODFW and that’s regarding more liberal regulations on offshore bottomfish.

(1) The start of the seasonal restriction for waters beyond 30 fathoms has been moved from April 1st to May 1st.

(2) The 30-fathom restriction has been moved to 40 fathoms (240 feet).

(3) Blue rockfish and deacon rockfish can now be kept by anglers using long leader techniques. Lingcod are still offlimits when using this angling technique.

Dwayne Schwartz of Reedsport reported having fish bite two of the large Berkley Gulp worms in half while fishing for lingcod off Winchester Bay’s South Jetty. When he fished the same spot three days later, he caught a 22-inch ling that had both of his bitten-in-half worms in the back of its throat. The same thing happened a few minutes later when another fish ripped his Gulp worm off his hook. Dwayne quickly tied on an identical bait and recast and caught a legal-sized ling that spit up his “lost” Gulp worm as he was landing it.

Larger lingcod are currently present, as a 32-incher was caught from the South Jetty last Sunday.

Smaller waters in Jackson and Josephine counties have already graduated to decent topwater fishing for largemouth bass. Roseburg-area waters should offer similar fishing, but fisheries near the Oregon coast will most likely need a few more weeks of decent weather. A short fishing trip to Loon Lake last Sunday afternoon revealed good numbers of bluegills and a few crappies and largemouth bass near the old Ducketts Dock at the upper end of the lake. An Emerald Bass Club member fishing the lake with a large swimbait landed several large bass to nearly 7 pounds.

Something that southern Oregon’s outdoor enthusiasts should be aware of is that the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has recently seen an increased number of confirmed and suspect cases of canine distemper virus, especially in red foxes, in northern California.

Pete Heley works parttime at the Stockade Market & Tackle, across from A’ Dock, in Winchester Bay where he is more than happy to swap fishing info with anyone.

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