Storms may deter many as fishery sees an early startWhen the recreational ocean salmon season between Cape Falcon and Humbug Mountain opens Saturday, it will be the earliest the season has opened since 1955, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

However, strong storms forecast for the weekend could keep many anglers on shore.

Favorable ocean conditions have fisheries managers predicting a very good season for anglers targeting chinook salmon in the ocean.

"We're expecting a fair number of fish out there. It may not be as good as last year's great year, but it will be very good," said Eric Schindler, an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist who leads the ocean salmon monitoring project in Newport.

In a press release issued by the department, Schindler said anglers can expect to see the large chinook of last fall show up again. Many of the adult fish off the Oregon coast have spent the majority of their ocean life phase with good ocean productivity and feed availability.

But spring weather is unpredictable.

"Things can turn very quickly in the spring and in the fall. It's hit or miss. Last year, we had great weather in March," Schindler said. "We're going to have an ocean season that lasts well into October, so anglers can pick their days to go fishing."

The early salmon season was set earlier this year to last from March 15 to April 30. Additional sport seasons for chinook and coho salmon will be set in mid-April by the Pacific Fishery Management Council and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Current proposals call for ocean sport salmon seasons to be open through Oct. 31, 2003. If adopted, the 2003 season will be the longest ocean salmon season since 1955. In 2002, the season was open from April 1 to Oct. 31.

Schindler said many of the chinook swimming off Oregon's coast come from California rivers, the Klamath Basin and southern Oregon basins. California fish managers predict the California rivers will produce high fish numbers similar to last year, with the exception of the Klamath Basin, which is slightly down. Oregon biologists expect Oregon's rivers to produce an above-average number of fish.

The early ocean salmon season opens Saturday for all salmon except coho between Cape Falcon, near Manzanita, and Humbug Mountain near Port Orford.

The daily bag limit is two salmon and requires retained chinook and the occasional steelhead to be at least 20 inches long. No more than two single point, single shank, barbless hooks may be used. Anglers are advised that chinook harvested in the Tillamook Triangular Control Zone between March 15 and July 31 must have a healed fin clip. This regulation is to protect the wild Tillamook spring chinook population that is depressed.

The most up-to-date fishing regulations can be found on the Web at: http://www.dfw. state.or.us/ODFWhtml/Regulations/2003_reg_changes.htm

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