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South Yamhill stocked for trout opener

By PAUL DAQUILANTE

Of the News-Register



WILLAMINA — Ryan Hogan, an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife hatchery technician, parked a holding truck containing about 1,900 trout alongside the South Yamhill River, in the park-and-ride location at the junction of Highways 18 and 22.

Hogan began dipping a long-handled net into the tank, scooping out a load of fish measuring eight to 14 inches and handing it off to either biologist Tom Murtagh or assistant biologist Jeff Fulop. They began taking turns walking down an embankment to the river to release the fish.

After a while, the three headed up Yamhill River Road to another site and began the process all over again. In all, they made six stops Wednesday, all of them along the Yamhill River.

When they finished emptying the tank, they pronounced themselves prepared for today's opening of Oregon's late trout season, which continues through Oct. 31. They covered about three miles in all.

"This is one of the few places we have in the Willamette Valley where people have a chance to catch some nice hatchery fish in a free-flowing river," Murtagh said.

Hogan said he had driven the truck from the Roaring River Fish Hatchery, near the Linn County community of Scio. Murtagh said all of the fish looked healthy.

The South Yamhill is one of the few rivers in the state that is stocked with hatchery trout, thanks to a program now in its fourth year. Lakes and ponds in the North Willamette Watershed are regularly stocked, but stocking a free-flowing waterway is a lot less common these days.

"Through the 1980s and the early to the mid-'90s, a lot of rivers were stocked with trout," Murtagh said. "That practice faded when certain species became federally listed. To protect those fish, we pulled programs like this. But we are revisiting those programs when and where we can."

Depending on the weather conditions and the sites chosen for the stocking, it can be hard work. But Murtagh thoroughly enjoys it on days like this.

"It's great to know we're getting trout into a stream, where even kids can get out and fish," he said. "That's a different experience than fishing a lake or a pond. It's a whole different way of pursuing trout."

The job gets Murtagh out of the office, too. "Anytime I spend away from my computer is OK with me," he said.

There is a limit of five fish per day on the South Yamhill River.

Limits vary around the state, thought, so anglers are advised to check ODFW's 2012 Oregon Sport Fishing Regulations before heading to other rivers or streams. In addition, many waterways have restrictions on the use of bait or other special regulations.

More fish are on the way to the South Yamhill River, according to Murtagh. He said the same stretch of water will be stocked again in two weeks.
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