Nature Notes by Dr. Frank Lang

For many Oregonians, spring officially begins the opening day of trout season. The poor souls along the northwest coast of Oregon must wait until the end of May to fish for trout in coastal streams and lakes, to enjoy one of the time-honored rites of spring.

You can enjoy the rites of spring in some Oregon waters any time of year, provided you are willing to fish for spiny-rayed, warm-water pan fish like yellow perch, bluegill, crappie, pumpkinseed and other sunfish, and bullheads, commonly, but incorrectly, called catfish. With some exceptions, there is no season or limit for these species and they may be fished for day or night.

There is good reason for such liberal regulations. Prolific reproducers, spiny-rays frequently increase to such numbers that they compete for a limited food supply. As a result, they become puny, stunted fish; puny, stunted fish that become sexually mature and produce more puny, stunted fish. Regulations are designed to reverse this trend by removing as many fish as possible so remaining fish, without fierce competition, will become larger, fatter fish and make the ole fishin’ hole much more attractive.

Waters with cold-water, soft-rayed fish like salmon, steelhead and trout require careful regulation because of their popularity as game fish and resulting fishing pressure. Restrictions have three objectives, designed to control time and rate of fish removal. Enough fish must survive to sustain the population from year to year. Fish must be large enough to reproduce and large enough for fishermen to brag about. Fish must be protected during vulnerable periods and places in their life histories, such as during breeding season or migration.

Attempts to open certain popular trout waters yearround take the edge off the excitement and economy of an official opening day. An official opening day gives anglers a sense of anticipation that adds to the excitement of the sport.

The fairly complicated fishing regulations cover what waters are open and when, size and limits for different species, and legal fishing gear and methods. So before heading out to your favorite fishing hole, pick up a copy of the latest edition of the Oregon Sport Fishing Regulations at your local sporting goods store. It contains a wealth of information, even for non-fishing folks, on Oregon’s fishing resource, including marine shellfish. Oh, by the way. If you are going fishing, don’t forget to buy a license when you pick up your copy of the regulations. It might save you considerable embarrassment and money. Besides, most of the cost helps support management of this valuable natural resource.

— Dr. Frank Lang

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