June 5 and 6 is one of three annual Free Fishing weekends in Oregon.
And, this year especially, it’s one of the best ever.
No licenses or tags will be required to sport fish in Oregon, including two-rod endorsements, all salmon, steelhead, sturgeon and halibut tags and shellfish licenses (crab, clams, etc.).
That said, the caveat is that everyone must also know and abide by current regulations — it’s just fish for free, not a free-for-all.
The stars are lined up for a productive weekend.
If the weather cooperates (cloudy Saturday, nicer Sunday, according to the long-range outlook), the recent uptick in fishing license sales during the pandemic may get another boost from happy first-timers.
A few pointers:
• Free fishing community events are largely canceled because of COVID concerns. But no matter. Spend the week ahead with Dr. Google, discovering places to go, techniques and rules.
• While the trout stocking schedule is posted online, scheduling has been problematic and is more accurate each Wednesday on myodfw.com. Click on “Recreation Report” on the top bar, then “Fishing Reports” and follow the prompts to the zone you’re interested in.
• Holders of salmon, steelhead, sturgeon or halibut tags don’t have to record their catches, although biologists would like them to do so voluntarily.
• Also not required is the state’s two-rod endorsement, even if you already have a license without the endorsement. That means fishing two rods per angler will be legal for anyone next weekend on most lakes and reservoirs and on the entire Willamette River (including Multnomah Channel) and its tributaries.
• Razor clam digging is closed from the Columbia River to the north jetty of the Siuslaw River and open from the south jetty to the California border due to domoic acid levels, which are falling. All bay clamming is open. Clatsop beach razor closures may last into the seasonal closure July 15, but will hopefully reopen on schedule Oct. 1.
• Some rockfish (copper, quillback and China only) can no longer be kept when fishing from a boat.
That said, this year’s fishing bonus includes:
• The Columbia River will be open both days for hatchery salmon and hatchery steelhead from Tongue Point to the Oregon/Washington border. Only one of each can be kept in the two-fish daily limit.
• Sturgeon can be retained Saturday (only) in Oregon from Buoy 10 to the power lines crossing the Columbia River at Wauna. It’s the only retention season open for the weekend.
• Nearshore (40 fathoms or shallower) halibut fishing is open from Cape Falcon (Manzanita) south to Humbug Mountain (Port Orford). Check quota figures for nearshore fishing off the mouth of the Columbia.
• Timothy, Trillium and Harriet lakes will be accessible from Government Camp.
• Extensive trout stocking will occur in various local ponds, lakes and reservoirs.
Washington: Free Fishing Weekend occurs only once in Washington and this year’s observance will be June 12-13.
Like Oregon, the two-rod endorsement is also not needed.
Unlike Oregon, however, catch record cards are required to fish for steelhead, sturgeon, halibut, salmon and Dungeness crabs. However, those without cards can get one free (good for both days) from a license agent.
Optimists take heart: Counts of jack spring chinook salmon at both Bonneville Dam and Willamette Falls are trending two times higher than last year through May 25, although they’re still a bit short of the 10-year average.
Nevertheless, it’s a good sign for next year’s run because sexually precocious male jacks return a year prior to technical adulthood in somewhat predictable percentages, thus reflecting the strength of the following year’s adult run.
Sea lion season ends: The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife reports the end of spring trapping and euthanasia operations for sea lions at Willamette Falls and Bonneville Dam.
Male California and Steller sea lions are moving out to sea to find females.
At their seasonal peak, 14 Californias and five Stellers prowled Willamette Falls, far below past years when they jeopardized the river’s wild steelhead run. No peak numbers were given for Bonneville Dam.
Biologists said eight of the 14 Californias and one Steller were trapped at the falls and euthanized.
At Bonneville, where Stellers are also a major threat to sturgeon, 21 Californias and 13 Stellers were taken.
Trapping will likely resume there this fall for Stellers.
Bow hunting restrictions proposed: The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife wants to limit the number of bow hunters in several eastern Oregon units and is suggesting expanded controlled hunts and perhaps even require hunters to choose between east and west for general tags.
Its proposal to the state Fish and Wildlife Commission will be discussed in the commission’s monthly meeting June 18. A final decision is expected Aug. 6.
— Bill Monroe for The Oregonian/OregonLive