Two regular venues for Free Fishing Weekend events in Jackson County won’t be hosting events this year. A potentially toxic blue-green algae bloom at Lost Creek Lake that led to a voluntary advisory against water contact there Tuesday convinced Oregon state parks officials to pull the plug at the popular event planned for Saturday at the Lost Creek Lake Marina…
Also, the Rogue Valley floor for the second year will not have a Free Fishing Weekend, and organizers are looking for either a new venue or a new spring event to take its place.
That leaves events at Fish and Hyatt lakes as the only ones in Jackson County, joining Lake Selmac as the only event in Josephine County.
The Lost Creek Lake cancellation was triggered by a bloom of anabaena flos-aquae that is 32 times higher than state public-health standards for that form of cyanobacteria, which has left Jackson County’s largest water body with a green glow.
But the Expo Pond non-event was something Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists saw coming.
When the ODFW two years ago changed Free Fishing Weekend to the first Saturday and Sunday of June, the event at Expo Pond near Central Point ran into scheduling conflicts with The Expo.
Future scheduling clashes are likely, so the agency does not plan to have a Free Fishing Weekend event at The Expo, says Chuck Fustish, the ODFW fish biologist who ran the event.
Anglers looking to test-drive fishing at these free events — where licenses are not required — instead will have to travel to Fish or Hyatt lakes.
Expo Pond was considered a good choice for Free Fishing Weekend because of its location in an urban area. However, the pond’s warm water makes stocking cold-water rainbow trout dicey at best.
“It’s marginal, temperature-wise, even now,” Fustish says.
During Free Fishing Weekend, participants can fish, crab or clam without a license as long as they adhere to all other angling rules and limitations. Also, the Forest Service and the Oregon State Parks Department all offer free camping Saturday, while the Bureau of Land Management waives day-use fees at places such as Hyatt Lake.
But ODFW pulled it off for 17 years, until the change from the second Saturday in June to the first Saturday in June, which conflicts with the Wild Rogue Pro Rodeo and the 4-H Spring Fair and Lamb Show set for that date each year.
There was no conflict this year because the rodeo and lamb show occurred last weekend.
Fustish says a likely change would have ODFW hosting a Youth Angling Enhancement Program event at The Expo, where ODFW and volunteers would provide loaner rods, bait and assistance at a family-oriented fishing event.
That event likely would occur earlier in the spring, when temperatures are more conducive to successful trout planting, and fishing, Fustish says.
The only difference is that participants age 14 and older would need a license that day, he says.
Here is a list of the Free Fishing Weekend events planned for the Rogue Valley on Saturday.
FISH LAKE – 9 a.m. to noon. The Forest Service-sponsored event is at the CCC shelter in the day-use area.
HYATT LAKE – BLM campground, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. This event includes no day-use fees for the weekend. There is a charge for camping, and reservations should be made through the Web at www.recreation.gov. The United Hunters and Sportsmen will offer free breakfast at the group shelter area Saturday and Sunday from 7 to 11 a.m. For more information, call 541-618-2281.
LAKE SELMAC – 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Josephine County’s only Free Fishing Weekend event is sponsored by the Middle Rogue Steelheaders. Rods and reels will be available for loan, and bait will be provided. For details, call 541-295-1682
Mark Freeman, Mail Tribune
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