Oregon may be about to make a major fisheries management decision based on politics instead of science, Activist Angler has learned.
Sources reveal that unless loud public outcry forces it to reconsider, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) likely will remove limits on smallmouth bass in the Columbia River. In doing so, it will cave to pressure from the federal government, neighboring Washington state, and native species advocates, not only within the state but within the agency.
The announcement could come as early as June 19, when the state’s Warmwater Working Group (WWG) meets. Ostensibly, the WWG is a coalition of fisheries biologists and representatives of warmwater angling groups who meet to discuss issues related to management of bass and other non-native species. In reality, it is little more than window-dressing for a feeble attempt to hide the agency’s anti-bass bias.
That bias exists because of the continued demise of salmon fisheries in the Northwest. In reality, they are in decline because the rivers have been altered and degraded through dams, irrigation, and development. The water is warmer and slower than it would be if free-flowing, and the dams block salmon migrations.
But smallmouth bass are blamed because they thrive in this altered habitat and because they are predatory. No evidence exists, however, to show that they substantially harm salmon populations.
If ODFW does bow to political pressure and removes limits on smallmouth bass in the Columbia, it will alienate a large portion of its constituency, which pays for its operation through purchase of fishing licenses. And nearly all bass fishermen will continue to catch-and-release smallmouth bass in the Columbia as they have for decades.
All that will change is removal of the façade that ODFW manages fisheries based on science instead of politics and that it does so on behalf of all anglers.