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Bait and spearfishing for smallmouth allowed on Coquille River system

CHARLESTON, Ore – The use of bait, spears, and spear guns to harvest smallmouth bass is now allowed in the Coquille River system July 15 through October 31, 2020. The temporary rule aims to reduce impacts of illegally introduced smallmouth bass on native fall Chinook salmon.

Thetemporary regulation applies in the mainstem Coquille River and the East, Middle, North, and South forks of the Coquille River. In the South ForkCoquille River, the regulation applies from the mouth to the U.S. Forest Service boundary near Powers.

Coquille adult fall Chinook returns were extremely low in 2018 and 2019, and ODFW staff reviews showed the illegally introduced smallmouth bass are partly to blame for poor returns.

“Anglers have been asking for the option to use spears and spear guns to harvest smallmouth here, and now they not only have the opportunity to do that, they will also help our fall Chinook population,” said biologist Gary Vonderohe. “These invasive fish may also be impacting Pacific lamprey.”

Biologists first confirmed smallmouth bass in the Coquille in 2011 and discovered several age classes, meaning the fish had been in the river for several spawning cycles. Vonderohe said their range grows yearly because the Coquille is a small system with habitat and temperatures conducive to smallmouth bass reproduction.

In the Coquille Basin, there are no size or bag limits on invasive smallmouth bass and striped bass; anglers are encouraged to catch and remove as many smallmouth and striped bass as possible from the river. ODFW is developing plans to conduct other removal methods to reduce predation on juvenile Chinook salmon and other native species.

Although not native to the Coquille, smallmouth bass are considered a game fish and must not be wasted. Anglers can use them in many ways, including table fare, garden fertilizer, or as crab bait.