NORTH BEND — We want more opportunities, local fisherman told Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife on Tuesday night.
The agency’s meeting at the North Bend Public Library was intended to draw input on 2014 regulations for halibut and 2015-16 regulations for groundfish.
Patrick Mirick, ODFW’s assistant project leader for halibut, said that while the state regulates groundfish under a federal maximum, Oregon’s halibut take falls under a catch-sharing plan approved annually by the International Pacific Halibut Commission.
The bulk of the sport-fishing community’s requests revolved around the incidental take of nontarget species during a given season.
Bill Whitmer, who owns Betty Kay Charters in Charleston with his wife, Margery, said that halibut fishing should be expanded to allow anglers fishing for rockfish to retain incidental halibut.
“I think that should be pushed into whatever depth we’re allowed to fish rockfish,” Whitmer said.
Halibut and bottomfish seasons are currently separated by the state.
Darrell Pruden, a retired ODFW biologist and sport fisherman, asked about allowing incidental rockfish and lingcod take during the all-depth halibut season.
Mirick said the agency was concerned that targeting of lingcod and other species that live near rock piles could lead to greater incidental take of restricted yelloweye rockfish.
The state requires fishermen to immediately release any yelloweye they catch. But ODFW has to count many of those fish toward an incidental take quota since the deepwater fish often die shortly after being brought to the surface.
Mirick said ODFW is encouraging the use of descending devices, which lower fish back to their native depth and could allow the agency to count fewer yelloweye toward the incidental take quota.
Oregon State Police Lt. David Gifford, who supervises fish and wildlife enforcement in the southwest portion of the state, said that the only way to increase use of the devices would be to mandate their use.
The trooper said there’s currently little incentive to use them because of the way yelloweye restrictions are currently written.
“If a guy turns one back in and it dies, he’s still met with the letter of the law,” Gifford said.