Oregon court order does not change barbless hook requirement

By Allen Thomas, Columbian outdoors reporter

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Sportsmen in the Columbia River are required to use barbless hooks despite a stay ordered by the Oregon Court of Appeals regarding enforcement of new rules affecting commercial fishermen.

On Monday, the Oregon court ordered a stay of a plan adopted by the Oregon and Washington fish and wildlife commissions that phase gillnetters off the main stem of the lower Columbia and into off-channel waters.

A part of the bi-state overhaul of sport and commercial fishing rules was requiring sportsmen to use barbless hooks in the Columbia from the mouth to the state boundary upstream of McNary Dam.

The barbless hook rule was effective Jan. 1.

Guy Norman, regional director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the Oregon court stay has no effect on the barbless hook requirement in the Columbia.

In Washington, barbed hooks continue to be allowed in tributaries, but those regulations will be addressed on a stream-by-stream basis in March and April, he said.

The stay does result in a slight allocation change of spring chinook salmon in the early portion of the season.

Norman said the gillnetters will get 87 more spring chinook destined for waters upstream of Bonneville Dam. The numbers are now 4,935 upriver fish for sportsmen and 1,156 for the commercials.

Washington and Oregon continue to have different bag limits for sturgeon.

Oregon's commission adopted an annual bag limit of one sturgeon. Washington has taken no action. The Washington annual bag limit is five sturgeon.

"There's an interest in reconciling the difference and I think it will happen sooner rather than later,'' Norman said.

He did not say if Washington will shift to a one-sturgeon annual limit, if Oregon will change to five fish annually, or a compromise number might be reached.

Commercial fisherman Jim Wells and Steve Fick of Fishhawk Fisheries petitioned in January to stop the Columbia River reforms, developed between September and December at the request of Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber.

The plan moves the commercials into off-channel areas such as Youngs Bay by 2017 and calls for increased salmon production in those areas. It also increases the allocation of spring and summer chinook to sportsmen.

Norman said no legal action against the reforms have been filed in Washington.

Oregon issued a statement Thursday saying it remains committed to moving the gillnets off the main Columbia and developing alternative gear for commercial fishing.