Oregon votes for barbless hooks in Columbia beginning in 2013

By Allen Thomas, Columbian outdoors reporter

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PORTLAND — The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission agreed Friday it wants to require the use of barbless hooks for salmon and steelhead fishing in the Columbia River beginning in 2013.

Washington officials also have voiced a desire to shift to barbless hooks.

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber gave the Oregon commission a letter on Friday suggesting the move to barbless hooks begin in two more years, but the panel agreed to implement the change sooner.

The Oregon commission also approved allowing a one-sturgeon annual bag limit in the lower Columbia and lower Willamette rivers in 2013, then no sturgeon retention beginning in 2014.

Sturgeon harvests have been cut each of the past several years, but the population of legal-size fish in the lower Columbia continues to dwindle.

The number of legal sturgeon went from 100,200 in 2010 to 80,500 in 2011 and was forecast to drop again to 65,100 in 2012.

State biologists now estimate the 2012 population to be 72,700 legal sturgeon, still about 10 percent less than 2011 and a continuation of the downward trend.

Several guides told the Oregon commission they already have sturgeon- fishing trips booked for 2013. Estuary sturgeon trips provide 30 percent to 60 percent of their annual income, the guides testified.

Oregon's commission took no formal action on a proposal to create a sport-fishing closure zone near Youngs Bay from August through mid-September. The zone would have been from Nygard's dock to the green buoy line and then to the Astoria Bridge.

Several sportsman testified the proposed closure zone is protected from the northwest winds that blow in the afternoon during the Buoy 10 season and provides a spot where small boats can fish safely.