Small chinook salmon are being mistaken for jack salmonLarge numbers of small chinook salmon along the Oregon Coast are leading some anglers to inadvertently violate fishing regulations, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Oregon State Police. The agencies want to remind anglers of the various estuary and ocean angling regulations now in effect.

The problem is being caused by the small size of the fish, which meet the definition of jacks in estuaries and adults in parts of the ocean.

"The majority of these small, two-year-old chinook are now in the 21-to-24-inch range," said Eric Schindler, ODFW Ocean Salmon Project leader, "and they meet the minimum legal size in the ocean sport fishery south of Cape Falcon.

"Biologically, these are not jack salmon," said Schindler. "The vast majority of these chinook are fish that will remain in the ocean feeding and growing for at least another year."

Schindler said all salmon in the ocean that meet the minimum legal size are considered adults and must be recorded on the catch record. The minimum legal size for chinook from Cape Falcon south to the California border is 20 inches. North of Cape Falcon, chinook must be 26 inches or larger to be retained.

There are three exceptions to this size limit, said Schindler.

The first exception is in the ocean within the terminal area off the mouth of Tillamook Bay (Twin Rocks to Pyramid Rock and seaward 3 nautical miles), where chinook between 15 and 24 inches are considered by regulation to be jack salmon, and up to five jack salmon may be retained per day in addition to the daily adult limit. However, an angler may not continue to angle for jack salmon after keeping and retaining the bag limit of adult salmon.

The second exception is in coastal estuaries, where chinook between 15 and 24 inches are considered by regulation to be jack salmon, and up to five jack salmon may be retained per day in addition to the daily adult limit. However, an angler may not continue to angle for jack salmon after keeping and retaining the bag limit of adult salmon.

The third exception is in the Columbia River estuary within the area bounded on the west by the Buoy 10 line upstream to a line drawn from Rocky Point, Wash., to Red Buoy 44, to Tongue Point. In this area, only adult salmon may be retained from Aug. 1 to Sept. 30, with a minimum legal size of 24 inches for chinook and 16 inches for coho.

"Where anglers may get into trouble is when they catch jacks in an estuary or in the Tillamook terminal area and then cross the bar into the open ocean where the chinooks would be considered adult salmon," said Lt. David Cleary, Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Division. "If they have two fish in their possession and continue to angle in the ocean, they would be in violation."

OSP can and does ticket anglers for fishing in ocean waters with more than two salmon in their possession, noted Cleary.

A solution to being confused is to retain only those chinook that are at least 20 inches long south of Cape Falcon and only those chinook that are at least 26 inches long north of Cape Falcon.

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