Bass anglers caught 2,000-plus smallmouth during the first weekend of a new derby on the Coquille, but a specially tagged fish worth $1,000 escaped capture on the Oregon South Coast river where round two will occur on the Saturday and Sunday of Labor Day Weekend.
It’s part of a multipronged effort to reduce numbers of the nonnative species considered to be a strong predator of the system’s seriously struggling fall Chinook. Forty-six bass were microchipped earlier this month, with each fish corresponding to prizes that start at $50.
Photos showed a range of fish sizes, mostly smaller smallies. Some participants reportedly noted that their fish had recently eaten salmonid smolts.
“The catch put a welcome dent in the salmon-gobbling invasive predators,” organizers stated in a press release reported by KOIN. “No one expects the fishing derbies to eradicate bass from the river altogether. But each bass caught is one less month devouring native salmon smolts.”
Coquille Chinook runs have plummeted to extremely low levels and no salmon fishing will again occur on the system this summer and fall. As recently as 2015, anglers harvested 6,625 kings in the bay, mainstem and forks.
The problem was the subject of this magazine’s July “Big Pic” in which state fisheries biologist Mike Gray in Charleston says that the bass are a “major factor” in continued low returns of Coquille fall Chinook that are also not bouncing back like on other coastal rivers.
ODFW and tribal fishery managers electro-shocked 5,000 bass last summer, and more zapping was expected this month.
And for a third year in a row, spearfishing and use of bait has been OKed.
The derby’s second round will be held September 3-4. Anglers who fish for bass on the Coquille between now and then are advised to freeze their catch and bring them in over the Saturday and Sunday of Labor Day Weekend for scanning, according to KQEN.
POCR reported that besides the one $1,000 microchipped bass, there are five worth $500, 10 worth $200, 10 worth $100 and 20 worth $50. The smallmouth were collected in early July and distributed at county boat ramps and other locations. Thirty-nine of the tagged fish were reported to be still on the loose.
Entry into the derby is $20. Fishing areas include the Coquille from Riverton to Myrtle Point, and the North, East, Middle and South Forks, the latter tributary up to the Coquille Myrtle Grove State Recreation Area.
Donations were being requested, with POCR recognizing contributions from Roseburg Forest Products, Umpqua Bank, 3J Ranch, Timberline Tiago Taxidermy, along with several community members and others.