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Ecology and salmon related articles

Relaxing Rule on Partially Clipped Fish Spares Anglers Much Anxiety

by Bill Monroe
The Oregonian, August 10, 2003

Most of our troopers use pretty good judgment on it, but a few adhere to the strict letter of the law. LT. DAVE CLEARY, FISH AND WILDLIFE DIVISION

It was the right thing to do.

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission took a burden off the shoulders of salmon and steelhead anglers Friday by removing a stringent state law that's often technically broken when it comes to telling the difference between wild and hatchery fish.

The change won't take effect until January, but most Oregon State Police troopers already use their judgment rather than strictly adhere to the letter of the law.

Anglers in most steelhead and numerous salmon seasons -- including the current excellent fishing for coho offshore and at Buoy 10 -- may keep only those fish missing their adipose fins.

The adipose is a small, unused fleshy fin between the dorsal and tail fins. It's about as useful to the fish as an appendix is to a human.

And a lot easier to clip in the hatchery, where machines and humans slice the fin off millions of baby fish annually before they're released to swim to sea.

The clip doesn't hurt the fish and heals quickly.

The fin doesn't grow back, and mass use of the rule has allowed anglers to contribute to the resurrection of wild salmon and steelhead runs.

When runs needing protection return to the coast and their native tributaries, anglers can easily tell whether the fish can be kept by simply looking at the fin.

Wild fish with a full, intact adipose are released.

Unfortunately, a percentage of hatchery fish end up with poor clips, called a "partial," ranging from tiny stems or stubs to sometimes as much as half of the fin or more still intact.

Statewide regulations currently define the adipose fin clip as, "A healed scar where the adipose fin has been removed in its entirety."

That's been tough on anglers who fish regularly for salmon and steelhead because most have either had to release a partially clipped fish or seen it happen.

Or, they have kept a fish not missing the fin in its entirety and been anxious about whether it would pass muster with a trooper.

The commission changed the law's language to define a fin clip only as "a healed scar where a fish fin has been clipped."

Oregon State Police wanted the law to stay as it was, leaving it up to their discretion in the field whether to cite anglers who blatantly keep the wrong fish.

"Most of our troopers use pretty good judgment on it, but a few adhere to the strict letter of the law," said Lt. Dave Cleary of the Fish and Wildlife Division. "All an angler has to do to relieve the anxiety is turn a fish loose if there's any question."

However, that also means hatchery fish going unused and, perhaps, maybe endangering some wild fish that might be caught and released as the angler continues fishing for hatchery salmon.

Rules in Washington and California side with the more liberal federal interpretation defining just a "healed fin clip."

And now so will Oregon, but not until Jan. 1, so be warned that until then the adipose fin must be entirely gone. Cleary said troopers would continue to use their judgment.

Steve King, salmon manager for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and an avid angler himself, said the change will be a relief on the water and foster better feelings.

"I sure don't want an angler to feel like he or she is gambling," King said. "We want them to feel good about their hatchery fish." A stickup? Oregon's bow and muzzleloader hunters will be allowed to carry firearms in the field this season because, as it turns out, the Fish and Wildlife Commission can't say no.

The long-standing law reading, "No firearms may be on your person while bow-hunting in a designated bow season" is not within the commission's power, commissioners were told Friday.

The law is meant to curb less-than-law abiding hunters tempted to pack pistols and use them to hunt instead of their bows. That is still illegal.

But while the commission has the authority to authorize which weapons and calibers may be used during hunting seasons, only the Legislature can tell citizens whether they can or cannot carry a gun.

And it hasn't done that for bow hunting or muzzleloader seasons.

State Police and the lawyers are scrambling to find out how many other regulations are affected, and all such restrictions will be dropped for this fall's hunt.

Unless, of course, the Legislature crafts something quickly.

It is, after all, still in session.

And, aside from a howl or two from the gun rights crowd, this ought to be a lot easier to decide than a new budget.

Bill Monroe
Anglers Reminded of Rules for the Sport Salmon Season
The Oregonian, August 10, 2003

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