Simplifying the hunt

Oregon State Police fish and wildlife trooper Ryan Sharp checks the fishing license of Kyle Barthel, left, and Jessy Morton on June 14, 2018 at Hat Rock State Park northeast of Hermiston.

Every year for more than 15 years, I’ve made a trip to the sporting goods counter as close to New Year’s Day as possible with two goals: (1) buy a new fishing license and (2) pick up the latest copy of “the regs.”

License in hand, I tear into the regs with the same enthusiasm of a kid on Christmas morning, frantically looking for that latest toy under frustrating layers of wrapping paper.

But just as the now-belly-up Toys R Us no longer supplies those Christmas morning memories, a physical storefront no longer provides me with a fishing license.

For the first time since Kelly Clarkson became the first American Idol and those fortunate enough to have cell phones flipped them open to make a call, I didn’t buy my fishing license at a store.

Online licenses

This year, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) launched its online licensing system. The move means that many anglers (myself included) will no longer need to head to a physical store to buy necessary licenses, tags and endorsements, so long as they have internet access.

Though hunters and anglers can still buy licenses at a physical location (for now) if they choose to, they are encouraged to use the much more convenient online system instead.

To get started, head to https://odfw.huntfishoregon.com/login and either log in (if you’ve purchased any Oregon license in the past three years) or register for an account if you’re new to the state. If you can’t remember your login, click the “Verify/Lookup Account” option and fill in your information.

Once logged in, you’ll have a number of options, but to purchase a license, follow these steps:

1. Click “Purchase from Catalog.”

2. Notice there are two layers of tabs.

3. The top layer of tabs includes: “License,” “Angling,” “Big Game Hunting,” “Bird Hunting,” “General” and “Class/Workshop.”

4. The bottom layer of tabs includes options that vary depending on the top tab chosen.

5. While the “License” top-layer tab includes hunting, fishing and shellfish licenses, it does not include tags or endorsements, such as the “Columbia Basin Endorsement” or “Two-Rod Endorsement,” both of which can be found under “Angling” then “Endorsements.”

6. Simply add your choices to the cart and complete the purchase.

7. Since you may get stopped in an area with no service, it’s a good idea to save or screenshot the license on your phone for access offline, and the regs clearly state your license “must be accessible immediately upon request by department staff or law enforcement.”

For more information, check out the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Facebook page or navigate directly with this link, where ODFW has included step-by-step pictorial instructions: http://bit.ly/ovgardregs.

While the online licensing system is long overdue (I’ve fished in 17 states, and Oregon was the only that didn’t have an online licensing system), their system is one of the better ones. Just be sure to change the tab at the top of the screen if you can’t find what you’re looking for. I made that mistake the morning of a fishing trip that required a Two-Rod Endorsement.

Be prepared before you leave the house.

Regulation changes

That 12-year-old boy who started out reading the regulations, cover-to-cover, more than 15 years ago grew into the 28-year-old man doing it today, and that guy has noticed a lot of changes.

From the type of paper the booklets are printed on to the layout to the quality of printing, so much has changed.

Even the way ODFW indicates what has changed has changed. Regulation changes from one year to the next used to be printed in blue; today, they’re highlighted in yellow.

Despite all of the changes over the years, this year’s changes were minimal. Honestly, apart from the way licenses are purchased, there were fewer changes to the fishing regulations this year than any I can remember.

Statewide

The biggest statewide change is the definition of “Possession Limit,” which goes from two daily bag limits in possession to three in most waters. This doesn’t apply when fishing in the ocean or the Columbia River, so if you plan a big trip to the coast, you can still only have two days’ worth of limits with you for most species (see page 12 of the regulations for exceptions).

Other changes include:

•Bobber fishing for salmon and steelhead requires that your bobber actually float the entire rig so no part of it is touching the bottom.

•You don’t need a fishing license to target bullfrogs or crawfish. There’s no season, there’s no limit on bullfrogs (crawfish limit is 100 per day), and you can harvest them even in waters closed to fishing.

•Striped bass in freshwater and saltwater no longer have length or bag limits, so if you’re one of the handful of anglers who manages to catch one this year, keep it. They’re invasive, and they taste great.

Northeast Zone

Apart from the statewide changes mentioned above (namely, three daily limits allowed in possession when not fishing the Columbia), the Northeast Zone saw almost no changes.

The only major change is a 15-day extension to the winter steelhead season, which now extends from January 1 to April 30 (formerly April 15) in the following rivers and streams:

•Catherine Creek (mouth to Highway 203 bridge above Catherine Creek State Park).

•John Day River (North Fork to Indian Creek).

•John Day River, Middle Fork (mouth to Highway 395 Bridge).

•John Day River, North Fork (mouth to Highway 395 Bridge).

•Umatilla River (Highway 730 Bridge to Threemile Dam and Threemile Dam to Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation boundary).

Change is good, so embrace the new licensing system and use that time you would have spent waiting in line waiting with a line in the water instead.

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Read more at caughtovgard.com; Follow on Insta and Fishbrain @LukeOvgard; Contact luke.ovgard@gmail.com.

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