Shed Antler Poachers Busted

April 28, 2011

Several years ago now I decided to do a set of articles on shed antler hunting in my Washington and Rocky Mountain editions of F&H News.

It’s become an increasingly popular spring activity as folks head out onto state game ranges to collect deer, elk and moose racks.

I had counted on one particular writer to do some stories for it; he refused.

I did it myself … and ever since — as I’ve gained a better and better understanding of the critical needs of wildlife at this and other times of year — have regretted the focus.

Shed hunting can put us onto the same lands that winter-weary game — the bucks and bulls we hope to take this fall, and more importantly, the does and cows they’ve knocked up — are gathered on, needlessly moving them at a time when their energy reserves are severely drained.

Why do we do it?

We like to collect things, and to brag online about our finds, but it’s not always us.

Turns out there’s a big market for matched sets of antlers, some fetching up to $250 for furniture makers, reports The Missoulian in an article earlier this week. With this economy, who knows how many more people will head afield in search of dollars in the dirt.

To protect the animals, Northwest wildlife agencies prohibit entry onto winter ranges until fresh browse begins to appear. New this year, ODFW banned access to the 25,000-acre Phillip Schneider Wildlife Area from February 1 through mid-April, and it won’t be until May that some areas on the east slopes of Washington’s Cascades open up to the public.

Laws, of course, mean jack sh*t to some folks, like those who snuck onto Montana’s Blackfoot-Clearwater WMA a month before it opened for public access and stole perhaps 50 percent of all the elk antlers that had been dropped there.

They were caught, and charges are pending.

In a blog post yesterday afternoon, Rich Landers at the Spokane Spokesman-Review makes a damn good point about the issue:

Wolves rile elk hunters into a tizzy, but where’s the outrage over the increasing harassment of elk on their winter range by shed antler hunters?

We set hunting seasons to end in December to ensure that our big-game herds can tend to the rigors of surviving the winter. Letting people harass elk during the vulnerable winter-to-early spring period is like allowing another killing season.

You betcha, the wolves are chewing on our elk, and when they merely chase them to figure out which one to kill, that expends energy that wapiti would otherwise use to make it through the season AND sustain their pregnancies AND thus help rebuild herds.

But in light of the recent Congressional delisting of wolves, our arguments for reducing Canis lupus numbers in Idaho and Montana through hunting to limit their impact on big game would look a hell of a lot more cogent if we weren’t also out on the elk range hassling the very animals we aim to protect.

And besides, the coolest antlers I find are during the real hunting season — the ones on the big boys themselves, and the weather-worn, mouse-chewed ones I find tramping around the hills.

ALONG WITH A NICE BLUE MOUNTAINS BUCK, JOSH FITZHUGH OF GIG HARBOR, WASH., FOUND A WHOLE LOTTA SHED ANTLERS DURING LAST FALL'S DEER HUNT. (RUGER PHOTO CONTEST)

Kaufmann’s Fly Shops Close

April 28, 2011

UPDATE APRIL 28, 2011, 12:10 P.M. The Oregonian has a big story on the closure today. It states:

Lance Kaufmann, owner of Kaufmann’s Streamborn of Tigard, plans to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection for his 42-year-old fly fishing outfitter next week, according to the company’s lawyer.

Plans are to liquidate and permanently close the store, said Matthew Arbaugh of the Portland firm Field Jerger.

Arbaugh said that he expects to meet with the Tigard store’s landlord today to set a time to open the store so that customers may pick up gear that they had dropped off for repairs. Anyone who has merchandise at Kaufmann’s or has paid for gear or services they haven’t received should call Arbaugh at 503-228-9115.

Twenty years ago now a friend and I spent a fair amount of time rifling through the goods at Kaufmann’s Streamborn in Overlake.

We were flyrodders then, and we would putter over there to size up the sticks, ogle the waders and jackets, and dream about the fish we’d catch with their fine flies.

Greg was there primarily to buy tying supplies. He made Careys, Woolly Buggers and other patterns and we tried them out on the local trout.

If I correctly recall those bygone days, we both got on the fly kick at about the same time, in high school, right before the whole A River Runs Through It craze, and it lasted through college and a few years afterwards.

We hit the usual suspects — Lenore, Rocky Ford, Grimes and then some.

The biggest smallmouth I’ve ever caught actually bit a hopper pattern, fished a mile or so above The Narrows on the Ronde. It became the fodder for an epic fly fishing novel … that has slumbered for the past 10 years in a box.

Kaufmann’s was a cool store, though one time there was some stickiness with management when I tried to swap a pair of studded wading boots that didn’t fit afield as well as they did in the shop.

Since then I returned to gear fishing — though I still incorporate flies — and the Overlake shop (it’s at the south end of Bellevue, Wash.) closed a couple years ago.

Now it appears as if Kaufmann’s other two locations — Tigard and Seattle — have shuttered their doors as well, unexpectedly.

The mail’s said to be piling up at their store here in the Emerald City.

It’s being discussed on several fishing boards around the region before and since The Oregonian did a short blurb about it last Friday.

What happened? Good question. Kaufmann’s Web portals don’t yield any clues.

Their home page and Facebook page are disabled, and the latest posts on their Twitter and blog pages is April 8.

It reads “It’s Time to Get out & Go Fishing!”

As one of the 30 or so folks who lost their jobs when one longtime Northwest fishing and hunting icon went under in mid-2008, it’s a sad business to see the loss of another.

Mack’s Lure Co. Rolls Out New Site

April 28, 2011

(MACK’S LURE COMPANY PRESS RELEASE)

Mack’s Lure Company has rolled out a new website, http://www.mackslure.com, designed to enhance your online experience!

Mack’s Lure Company, a national fishing tackle manufacturer with headquarters in Washington State, has a variety of media platforms available on the new site designed to interest and educate you – the serious angler.

A SCREEN SHOT FROM MACK'S LURES NEW WEB SITE.

Highlights include The Mack Attack, a free e-newsletter full of fishing news and advice, a Photo Gallery featuring fish caught by fishermen and women using Mack’s Lure products, and Video Page featuring lures from Mack’s and tips on how to use them.

Finally, Mack’s is proud to continue its relationship with world famous angler and caster Stan Fagerstrom, who dishes out sage advice in his monthly column, Stan’s Corner.

In addition to the great tips and information now available, you will also find an online catalog full of Mack’s Lure fishing tackle and accessories to include the world famous Wedding Ring Spinner, patented Smile Blade and the new, innovative Double D Dodger.

Throw in an interactive forum, a listing of pro staff members and pro guides, updated news stories and a section full of “free” things for the consumer and there are all sorts of reasons to visit the new and improved site at http://www.mackslure.com!

Lead Gear, Bullet Exemption Bill Introduced In Congress

April 27, 2011

A pair of Inland Northwest Congressmen are among the more than 40 lawmakers cosponsoring a pair of bills in Congress that would protect fishing and hunting gear from environmental lawsuits.

The Hunting, Fishing, and Recreational Shooting Protection Act, introduced in mid-April, would modify the Toxic Substances Control Act to exempt bullets, shot, weights, lures and hooks, among other items, from EPA regulation.

Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, a Spokane Republican, joined 37 other House Reps in cosponsoring HR 1558 while Montana Senator Jon Tester, a Democrat, was one of four cosponsors of S 838 in the upper chamber.

The bill drop follows an otherwise little-noticed article in the online scientific journal PLoS ONE published earlier this month and which indicates that lead exposure spiked among California turkey vultures in a study area during and immediately after deer hunting season, and the birds’ blood levels were also elevated in areas with increased pig hunting activity.

In late 2007, the Golden State banned the use of lead bullets to protect condors in large parts of the San Joaquin Valley and Central Coast, but hunters are still able to chase deer with non-lead projectiles. They killed a minimum of 1,162 in six of seven affected condor-zone units in 2010, and as many as 1,780, according to initial estimates from the California Department of Fish & Game.

What’s Fishing In WA (4-27-11)

April 27, 2011

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This version corrects the original Weekender sent out by WDFW which stated that the lower Yakima opens for spring Chinook May 1. That was incorrect.)

No doubt about it, this coming weekend in Washington is all trout, all the time. The annual lowland lakes opener is Saturday, and, if the weather cooperates, 300,000 of us will be out there chasing millions of rainbow trout.

But Fishmas this year falls darned close to May, and the fifth month of the year brings its own host of fishing activities — everything from halibut, lingcod and shrimp in the Sound to sockeye and steelhead in the Lower Columbia to catfish and bass on both sides of the state.

For more on all the options, and in keeping with my brand-new policy of letting other people do all the hard work, here is WDFW’s Weekender report, in its entirety:

NORTH SOUND

The blackmouth salmon season comes to a close at the end of April, but openings for halibut, lingcod and shrimp fisheries are coming up. For freshwater anglers, one of the most anticipated fishing opportunities gets under way at the end of April with the lowland lakes trout season.

Beginning April 30, anglers can cast a line in many of the region’s lakes, where thousands of legal-sized trout have been planted. “This is the biggest fishing day of the year,” said Phil Anderson, director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “Lakes in every county are well-stocked, so fishing families can keep travel costs down by enjoying good angling close to home.”

Under statewide rules, anglers have a daily limit of five trout on most lakes. Released legal-sized trout, caught with bait, count toward the daily bag limit. Before heading out, anglers should check the Fishing in Washington pamphlet for all regulations.

Even after the opener, fishing should be good throughout the season as WDFW continues to stock lakes with trout. Information on stocking schedules for rainbow, cutthroat and triploid trout is available on WDFW’s website.

On saltwater, selective fisheries for hatchery blackmouth – resident chinook – are coming to a close. Marine areas 7 (San Juan Islands), 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay) and 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) close at the end of the day April 30. Marine areas 9 (Admiralty Inlet) and 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) are already closed to salmon fishing.

The halibut season, however, is just around the corner. The fishery is scheduled to run from May 5 through May 29 in marine areas 6-10. Marine Area 5 (Sekiu) will be open May 26 through June 18. These fisheries will be open three days a week (Thursday, Friday and Saturday) but are closed Sunday through Wednesday except for Memorial Day weekend when they will be open Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

All areas that will be open to halibut fishing have a one-fish daily catch limit, with no minimum size, a possession limit of one fish while on the vessel, and a possession limit of two fish in any form once the angler is on the shore.

Halibut fishing will remain closed in marine areas 11 (Tacoma) and 13 (southern Puget Sound) to protect three species of rockfish listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act. Marine Area 12 (Hood Canal) will remain closed due to low dissolved-oxygen conditions.

Fishing for lingcod and cabezon also gets under way in May. During the hook-and-line season (May 1-June 15), there’s a one-fish daily limit for lings, with a minimum size of 26 inches and a maximum size of 36 inches. The season for cabezon also opens May 1, when anglers will have a daily limit of two fish with no minimum size limit.

GABE MILLER OF SPORTCO WITH A VERY NICE PUGET SOUND LINGCOD. (TIM BUSH)

Don’t forget those shrimp pots. The shrimp season opens May 7 in Puget Sound. In all areas of Puget Sound, fishers are limited to 80 spot shrimp per day. Here are the fishing schedules for the Puget Sound region:

Hood Canal Shrimp District (Marine Area 12): Open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on May 7, 11, 14 and 25. Additional dates and times may be announced if sufficient quota remains.
Discovery Bay Shrimp District (Marine Area 6): Open May 7, 11 and 14 from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Additional dates and times will be announced if sufficient quota remains.
Marine areas 4 (east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line), 5, 6 and 13 (excluding shrimp districts): Open daily beginning May 7 at 7 a.m. The spot shrimp season closes when quota is attained or Sept 15, whichever comes first, except for Marine Area 13, which closes for spot shrimp May 31.
Marine Area 7: Opens May 7 at 7 a.m. and will be open May 11, 13, 14, 25 and 28. Additional dates and times will be announced if sufficient quota remains. The season for coonstripe and pink shrimp (with area and depth restrictions) runs daily from June 1 through Oct. 15.
Marine areas 8, 9, and 10: Open May 7 and May 11 from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Additional dates and times will be announced if sufficient quota remains.
Marine Area 11, extending from the northern tip of Vashon Island to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge: Open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 7 only.

More details on the shrimp fishery are available on WDFW’s recreational shrimp fishing website.

SOUTH SOUND/OLYPEN

More spring fishing opportunities begin in May, when shrimp and lingcod fisheries open in Puget Sound and the halibut season gets under way there and off the coast. But for freshwater anglers, one of the most anticipated fishing opportunities starts at the end of April with the lowland lakes trout season.

Beginning April 30, anglers can cast a line in many of the region’s lakes, where thousands of legal-sized trout have been planted. “This is the biggest fishing day of the year,” said Phil Anderson, director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “Lakes in every county are well-stocked, so fishing families can keep travel costs down by enjoying good angling close to home.”

Under statewide rules, anglers have a daily limit of five trout on most lakes. Released legal-sized trout, caught with bait, count toward the daily bag limit. Before heading out, anglers should check the Fishing in Washington pamphlet for all regulations.

Even after the opener, fishing should be good throughout the season as WDFW continues to stock lakes with trout. Information on stocking schedules for rainbow, cutthroat and triploid trout is available on WDFW’s website.

Meanwhile, lingcod fishing opportunities expand May 1, when the fishery opens in Puget Sound. Lingcod fisheries in marine areas 1 (Ilwaco), 2 (Westport-Ocean Shores), 3 (LaPush) and 4 (Neah Bay) are already under way. For more information on lingcod fishing regulations, check the Fishing in Washington pamphlet.

The halibut season also is just around the corner. The 2011 recreational halibut seasons approved for Washington’s marine areas are:

Columbia River (Ilwaco): Marine Area 1 will open May 5, three days a week, Thursday through Saturday until 70 percent of the quota is reached, or until July 17. The fishery will then reopen on Aug. 5 and continue three days a week (Friday through Sunday) until the remaining quota is reached, or Sept. 30, whichever occurs first. The 2011 catch quota is 15,418 pounds.
South Coast (Westport/Ocean Shores): Marine Area 2 will open on May 1, two days a week, Sundays and Tuesdays. During the fourth week in May the fishery will be open Sunday only (May 22). Beginning the following week the fishery will resume the Sunday, Tuesday structure until the quota is reached. The northern nearshore area will be open seven days per week, until the quota is reached. The 2011 catch quota is 43,500 pounds.
North Coast (La Push/Neah Bay): Marine areas 3 and 4 will open on May 12, two days per week, Thursdays and Saturdays, through May 21. If sufficient quota remains, the fishery will reopen the week of June 2. If sufficient quota remains after that opener, the fishery will reopen starting June 16. The 2011 catch quota is 108,792 pounds.
Strait of Juan de Fuca/Puget Sound: Marine areas 6 through 10 (Strait, Port Angeles, Admiralty Inlet and Everett) will be open May 5 through May 29. Marine Area 5 (Sekiu) will be open May 26 through June 18. These fisheries will be open three days a week, Thursday, Friday and Saturday closed Sunday through Wednesday except for Memorial Day weekend when they will be open Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The 2011 combined catch quota for these areas is 58,155 pounds.

All areas that will be open to halibut fishing have a one-fish daily catch limit, with no minimum size, a possession limit of one fish while on the vessel, and a possession limit of two fish in any form once the angler is on the shore.

Halibut fishing will remain closed in marine areas 11 (Tacoma-Vashon) and 13 (South Puget Sound) to protect three species of rockfish listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act. Marine Area 12 (Hood Canal) will remain closed due to low dissolved-oxygen conditions.

Don’t forget those shrimp pots. The shrimp season opens May 7 in Puget Sound. In all areas of Puget Sound, fishers are limited to 80 spot shrimp per day.

Here are the fishing schedules for the Puget Sound region:

Hood Canal Shrimp District (Marine Area 12): Open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on May 7, 11, 14 and 25. Additional dates and times may be announced if sufficient quota remains.
Discovery Bay Shrimp District (Marine Area 6): Open May 7, 11 and 14 from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Additional dates and times will be announced if sufficient quota remains.
Marine areas 4 (east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line), 5, 6 and 13 (excluding shrimp districts): Open daily beginning May 7 at 7 a.m. The spot shrimp season closes when quota is attained or Sept 15, whichever comes first, except for Marine Area 13, which closes for spot shrimp May 31.
Marine Area 7: Opens May 7 at 7 a.m. and will be open May 11, 13, 14, 25 and 28. Additional dates and times will be announced if sufficient quota remains. The season for coonstripe and pink shrimp (with area and depth restrictions) runs daily from June 1 through Oct. 15.
Marine areas 8, 9, and 10: Open May 7 and May 11 from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Additional dates and times will be announced if sufficient quota remains.
Marine Area 11, extending from the northern tip of Vashon Island to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge: Open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 7 only.

“Fishing prospects in many areas are looking even better than last year,” said Mark O’Toole, a shellfish biologist for the department, who noted that he expects a strong turnout by shrimp fishers – especially on opening day. “Some of the boat ramps can get pretty crowded, so we encourage fishers to be patient and wait their turn.”

That will be especially important at Twanoh State Park, a popular access site on Hood Canal where construction work will limit parking facilities for boaters through June. The State Parks and Recreation Commission encourages fishers to use an alternate launch site – especially during the season opener. More details on the shrimp fishery are available on WDFW’s recreational shrimp fishing website.

Anglers are reminded that salmon fishing in Marine areas 11, 12 and 13 closes at the end of the day April 30. In addition, wild steelhead retention closes at the same time on the Bogachiel, Calawah, Dickey, Quillayute and Sol Duc rivers.

However, a couple of rivers are open for salmon fishing, including the Quillayute and a portion of the Sol Duc. The Hoh River also opens for salmon May 14. For details on those and other fishing opportunities, check the Fishing in Washington pamphlet.

SOUTHWEST/LOWER COLUMBIA

Spring chinook and summer steelhead are moving into area rivers in increasing numbers, sturgeon retention is allowed on portions of the Columbia River and several popular trout lakes will open for fishing April 30.

As part of that lineup, anglers can catch and keep hatchery-reared spring chinook through May 1 on a section of the Columbia River stretching 163.5 miles above Bonneville Dam. But it remains to be seen whether that fishery – or the one that closed April 19 below the dam – will reopen later in the season.

That depends on the in-season update to the run forecast in early to mid-May, said Guy Norman, southwest regional director for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “We’re hopeful that the updated forecast will come in at least as strong as the pre-season forecast,” Norman said. “That would allow for additional fishing days both above and below Bonneville Dam.”

That’s because state harvest guidelines below McNary Dam include a 30 percent “buffer” in case returns of upriver spring chinook fall short of the pre-season forecast. If the in-season update equals or exceeds that number, the buffer will be converted into fishing time above and below the dam, Norman said.

“But nothing is certain at this point,” he said. “We really won’t know where we stand until more fish cross Bonneville Dam and we can get a clear idea of the run-size.”

Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist, said poor fishing conditions – specifically high, cold, turbid water – held catch levels below expectations, and also appear to have delayed the movement of spring chinook over Bonneville Dam. Yet, test fisheries using tangle nets found relatively high concentrations of spring chinook in the lower river.

In response, fishery managers from Washington and Oregon extended the season in the lower river by 12 days. By the time fishing closed April 19, anglers had kept or released an estimated 9,379 spring chinook, including 5,669 upriver fish that count toward the 7,700-fish pre-season harvest guideline for upriver fish.

Above Bonneville Dam, the season was extended six days though May 1 between the Tower Island powerlines below The Dalles Dam and the Washington/Oregon state line, 17 miles upriver from McNary Dam. Bank fishing is also allowed through May 1 from Bonneville Dam upriver to the powerlines located about 6 miles below The Dalles Dam.

Anglers fishing above Bonneville Dam can retain up to two marked, hatchery-reared adult chinook salmon or hatchery steelhead as part of their daily limit. All wild chinook and wild steelhead must be release unharmed.

That is also true of area tributaries, where the daily limit is two spring chinook, two steelhead, or one of each. The Wind River and Drano Lake are traditional hotspots for spring chinook in May, although anglers should be aware that all sport fishing will be closed at Drano Lake on Wednesdays through June. Other prospects include the White Salmon River as well as the lower Klickitat River, the later which is open for fishing Mondays, Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

WITH SPRINGERS NOW STREAMING OVER BONNEVILLE, IT'S TIME TO CONSIDER A TRIP TO DRANO LAKE, OPEN DAILY EXCEPT FOR WEDNESDAYS. AMONG GUIDE BOB BARTHLOW'S THREE FAVORITE RIGS ARE CUTPLUG HERRING, A MAG LIP AND A PRAWN AND A BLADE.

Below Bonneville, anglers can find hatchery spring chinook and steelhead in several rivers, including the Cowlitz, Lewis, and Kalama. The Cowlitz River is usually the best bet for spring chinook, and also offers good fishing for winter and summer run steelhead.

Starting May 16, fishing is also scheduled to open for hatchery steelhead – as well as sockeye and hatchery chinook jacks – from the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line to the Interstate 5 Bridge. Fishing for shad from Bonneville Dam downstream also opens the same day.

Other fishing opportunities in May include:

Trout: Several popular trout-fishing lakes are scheduled to open April 30, including Mineral Lake in Lewis County, Rowland Lake in Klickitat County and Swift Reservoir in Skamania County. All were freshly planted for opening day, and will likely draw a big crowd. Plenty of year-round lakes will also be open for trout, and many are scheduled to be planted with catchable-size fish in May.  (See the southwest Washington Trout Stocking Schedule for details.) Starting May 1, anglers may use two poles on Swift Reservoir from the dam to markers below the Eagle Cliff Bridge. Those looking to catch kokanee are advised to try Merwin Reservoir, which has been hot for the landlocked salmon in recent weeks.
Warmwater fish: Fishing for walleye tapers off in May when the fish turn their attention to spawn, but bass fishing should pick up as water temperatures rise. Bonneville, The Dalles, and John Day pools should be good bets for both species.
Sturgeon: The retention fishery below the Wauna powerlines on the Columbia River closes May 1, but reopens May 14 seven days a week with a one-fish daily limit, fork-length requirement of 41 to 54 inches. The retention fishery above the powerlines is open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays with a fork-length requirement of 38 to 54 inches. Starting May 1, fishing is prohibited in spawning sanctuaries below Bonneville, John Day, McNary and Priest Rapids dams. See the Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet for details.

FAR EASTERN WASHINGTON

The month of May is full of fishing promise throughout the region, with the lowland lakes trout season getting under way April 30 and spring chinook salmon coming into the Snake River.

“Fishing is great all month in all of our open waters,” said Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Central District Fish Biologist Chris Donley. “If you can’t catch a fish anywhere that is open in the month of May you should take up needlepoint.”

Among the region’s many lakes that open April 30, Donley says the traditional best bets include Badger, Williams, West Medical, Fish, and Clear lakes in southwest Spokane County and Fishtrap Lake in Lincoln County.  Anglers usually average about two trout each at all of these waters. Most have rainbow trout, but some also have cutthroat and tiger trout.

Bill Baker, WDFW northeast district fish biologist, said a couple of Stevens County lakes that open in late April are often among the state’s top 10 in catch rates. Cedar Lake, near the Canada border, and Rocky Lake, just south of Colville, last year provided limits of five rainbow trout for every angler out on the opener. “The month of May this year could be colder, maybe even snowier, than usual,” Baker said. “But the fish are here for anglers willing to brave the weather.”

Other good trout fishing in Stevens County can be found at Waitts, Loon, Deep, the Little Pend Oreille chain of lakes, and Potter’s Pond. Selective gear fisheries like Bayley, Rocky and Starvation lakes are also good through May.

Pend Oreille County’s Big Meadow and Yocum lakes usually provide anglers an average of two to three trout each. Other good producers include Diamond, Frater, North and South Skookum, Marshall and Sacheen lakes.

New this fishing season, and effective May 1, is a ban on the use of lead weights or lead jigs measuring 1 ½ inches or less along the longest axis at Big Meadow, Yocum and South Skookum lakes where loons are known to breed and rear young. The ban is intended to improve loon survival by keeping the birds from being poisoned by ingesting small lead fishing gear lost by anglers. For more information on this new rule, check WDFW’s website.

The lead restriction is also in effect at three other northeast lakes that host nesting loons: Ferry County’s Swan and Ferry lakes, and Stevens County’s year-round-open Pierre Lake. No fishing flies containing lead are allowed at fly-fishing-only Long Lake, another loon-nesting water in Ferry County.

ANGLERS SHOULD BE AWARE OF NEW PARTIAL LEAD-TACKLE RESTRICTIONS AT 13 LAKES ACROSS THE STATE'S NORTHERN TIER AND WHICH TAKE EFFECT MAY 1. (WDFW)

In the south end of the region, where many lakes and ponds are either open year-round or have been open since the first of March, WDFW hatchery trout stocking continues to keep fishing productive through May.  Excessive rain and snow this spring has delayed some fish stocking in some of the Tucannon River impoundments, said WDFW Wooten Wildlife Area Manager Kari Dingman.

“But now all of the lakes have been stocked again and Big Four Lake, our fly-fishing only lake, was finally stocked for the first time this season, now that the river level is back down,” Dingman said.

Check the complete trout stocking plan for details. The latest weekly stocking reports are available here.

The Snake River spring chinook salmon fisheries that recently opened in three sections have been slow but should be picking up this month. “I expect that with the late run and fewer fish than last year over McNary Dam by late April, the catch won’t pick up until early May,” said Glen Mendel, WDFW southeast district fish biologist. “These chinook should be very good quality and there is expected to be a higher proportion of the larger five-year-old fish this year.”

WDFW Regional Fish Program Manager John Whalen noted that an update on the run in the first week of May will likely give a better picture of how long the fisheries can continue. “The Snake River chinook fishery is scheduled to go through May 31,” Whalen said. “But I suspect we will see a run size downgrade in early May, which could force us to close earlier.”

Emergency fishing rule changes are distributed through self-subscribing e-mail services and posted on WDFW’s website.

All salmon and steelhead anglers are reminded to turn in 2010-11 catch record cards as soon as possible, whether or not you harvested anything or even fished at all. The cards help contribute to a data base that supports season setting.

WDFW officials also remind anglers to clean boats thoroughly before transporting them between fishing waters this season.  WDFW’s eastside Aquatic Invasive Species biologist Mike Wilkinson said that mandatory boat inspections at various water access sites throughout the state begin this month to try to prevent the illegal transport or spread of everything from milfoil to zebra mussels. For more information, see WDFW’s Aquatic Invasive Species website.

NORTH CENTRAL

Although many regional lakes have been open for trout fishing since early March or April, anglers can look forward to more options – and rising catch rates – during the month of May.

In Okanogan County, the traditional king of catch rates at this time is Pearrygin Lake, near Winthrop. Pearrygin usually produces a daily limit of five rainbow trout – most 10 to 12 inches, some up to 15 inches, with a few one to pound triploids — for most anglers early in the season, said Bob Jateff, a district fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

Fish Lake, northeast of Conconully, and Alta Lake, southwest of Pateros, are also good producers of rainbow catches through May. Last year, both averaged three trout per angler on the opener. Conconully Reservoir, south of Conconully, and Conconully Lake, east of town, are also good bets, giving up an average of two trout per angler per day.

Other newly opened lakes in Okanogan County that fish well include some with special rules: Big Twin Lake, near Winthrop, is under selective gear rules and a one-fish daily catch limit; Chopaka Lake, near Loomis, is fly-fishing only with no boat motors allowed. Aeneas Lake, near Tonasket, is also fly-fishing only with no boat motors allowed, but has some brown trout up to 18 inches.

Blue Lake, located within WDFW’s Sinlahekin Wildlife Area, also has some brown trout as well as rainbows, and is under selective gear and electric motors only rules. Blue is also one of three Okanogan County lakes with a new restriction this season to protect loons that breed and rear young there.

Effective May 1, there is a ban on the use of lead weights or lead jigs measuring 1 ½ inches or less along the longest axis at Blue Lake, and on Bonaparte and Lost lakes, northeast of Tonasket, where loons also occur. The restriction is intended to improve loon survival by keeping the birds from being poisoned by ingesting small lead fishing gear lost by anglers. (For more information on this new rule, see /conservation/loons/.)

In Chelan County, top trout producing lakes include Clear Lake, south of Wenatchee, and Wapato Lake, north of Manson. In Douglas County, Jameson Lake, south of Mansfield, usually provides good fishing and is well-stocked. In Grant County, Blue and Park lakes near the town of Soap Lake, and Warden Lake east of O’Sullivan Dam on Potholes Reservoir are also well-stocked and traditionally fish well through May and beyond.

For the complete trout stocking plan for fishing waters throughout the region, see /fishing/plants/statewide/ . For the latest weekly stocking reports, see  /fishing/plants/weekly/.

All salmon and steelhead anglers are reminded to turn in 2010-11 catch record cards as soon as possible, whether or not you harvested anything or even fished at all. The cards help contribute to a data base that supports season setting.

No matter where in the region or what kind of fishing you pursue, WDFW officials are reminding anglers to clean their boats thoroughly before transporting them between fishing waters. WDFW’s eastside Aquatic Invasive Species biologist Mike Wilkinson notes that mandatory boat inspections at various water access sites throughout the state begin this month to try to prevent the illegal transport or spread of everything from milfoil to zebra mussels. For more information, see /ais/.

SOUTHCENTRAL

Anglers have through May 1 to fish for spring chinook salmon in the Columbia River from Bonneville Dam upstream to the Washington-Oregon border, 17 miles upstream of McNary Dam. Whether that fishery will be extended will largely depend on an in-season run update in early to mid-May, said Paul Hoffarth, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) based in Pasco.

“The run has been slow to move upriver, making fishing tough in this area,” Hoffarth said. “But we’re still hopeful the pace will pick up in the weeks ahead.”

Hoffarth said fishery managers are predicting a moderate return of 10,300 springers to the Yakima River, and advises anglers to watch for news of possible openings further upstream. Information about any additional openings will be posted on WDFW’s website, included on the department’s Fishing Hotline (360-902-2500) and circulated to local media.

Meanwhile, crews from WDFW continue to stock lakes with catchable-size and jumbo trout throughout the region. In Yakima County, Clear Lake is in line to receive 10,800 catchables in May, Dog Lake 3,500 and Lost Lake 2,000. Dog Lake will also get more than 400 jumbo trout weighing up to 1½ pounds apiece, with another 1,000 jumbos going to Lost Lake in Kittitas County and 500 to Columbia Park Pond, a popular fishing hole in Kennewick reserved for anglers under age 15 and people with disabilities. A complete trout-planting schedule for southcentral lakes and ponds is available on the WDFW website.

On May 7, Columbia Park Pond will host a Kids Fishing Day, limited to 1,200 youths between the ages of 5 and 14. All anglers must register with Kennewick Parks and Recreation before May 5. Anglers can register online at http://go2kennewick.com.  Registration is $10 and includes a rod and reel and everything you need to fish. Lots of volunteers will be on hand to help.

Hoping to catch a legal-size sturgeon?  John Day Pool (Lake Umatilla) is now catch-and-release only, but Lake Wallula remains open through July for retention of sturgeon measuring 34 inches to 43 inches from snout to fork. Anglers should be aware that sanctuary areas described in the Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet are closed to fishing – including catch-and-release – from May 1 through July 31.

For a different experience, try hooking one of the large catfish now showing up at the mouths of rivers including the Yakima, Walla Walla, and Palouse. “Bring a good rod and strong line and expect a fight if you hook into one of these monsters,” Hoffarth said.

A MEATY COCKTAIL OF 'CRAWLERS AND SHRIMP DID SAM STUART OF MOSES LAKE WELL ON THE SNAKE AT LYONS FERRY LAST MAY. (WRIGHT & McGILL/EAGLE CLAW PHOTO CONTEST)

Walleye fishing is also picking up at Scooteney Reservoir, with fair catches reported. Bass fishing should also improve as soon as the water warms a bit.

FOR MORE ON MAY'S FISHING OPPORTUNITIES, CHECK OUT OUR BRAND-NEW ISSUE! (NORTHWEST SPORTSMAN)

What’s Fishin’ In Oregon (4-27-11)

April 27, 2011

And suddenly the dam counts blasted off.

Yesterday, 4,787 spring Chinook went over Bonneville, more than doubling the tally for the year so far, and three-quarters of all the salmon that have gone over Willamette Falls in 2011 did so on Tuesday as well.

An eastside angler with his eyes on the fish cam at Bonnie emailed me in early afternoon to say, “There are fish streaming over the dam right now. I just saw three in the frame at once, and here’s a screen shot of two in the ladder at once. I have seen a dozen or so in the last few minutes, and those are just the ones caught in the still frame image!”

“They’re here right now,” reports Portland salmon angler Andy Schneider about the Willamette this morning. “Monday: on fire! Tuesday: decent. Today: slow!”

Columbia outflows have dropped from a high of 375,000 cubic feet per second earlier this month into the 250,000 cfs range at the dam, and the river has warmed by several degrees to over 48 — though it’s still several degrees below the 10-year average. Biologists have also been telling me there’s just more fish in the lower river now.

Tuesday’s big count followed the year’s first four-digit day, 1,019 fish on Monday.

So far, 9,632 have gone over the dam 144 miles above the mouth of the mighty crick.

Salmon fishing is closed below there but remains open from there to the Washington-Oregon line east of McNary Dam through this weekend — see ODFW’s regs for more — and at Drano Lake (closed today) where guide Bob Barthlow was picking some up earlier this week and at Wind River.

The lower Willamette is open, anglers are posting nice catches on their Facebook pages and the count at the falls has gone from single- and low-double-digit days through most of the “spring” to 109 on Monday and 764 yesterday, for a total of 1,052 for the year.

Yesterday, water temps had risen to 51 degrees, visibility was at 4 feet and flows were at 30,400 cfs. A week before, those readings were at 48, 1.5 and 61,000, respectively.

KIRBY CANNON WITH A WILLAMETTE SPRINGER FROM THIS PAST WEEKEND. (WRIGHT & McGILL/EAGLE CLAW PHOTO CONTEST)

But what else is fishing in Oregon for this weekend?

Here are highlights ripped straight from ODFW’s weekly Recreation Report:

SOUTHWEST ZONE

  • Despite some snowy, slushy conditions, trout fishing at Diamond Lake was good on opening weekend with some fish over 20-inches long.
  • Fishing for hatchery winter steelhead has been very good on the South Umpqua. The South is open through April 30.
  • Spring chinook fishing has been good on lower Roque River and should improve as temperatures increase and flows decrease.
  • Anglers are still catching winter steelhead on the upper Rogue river, and the first spring chinook has arrived at Cole Rivers Hatchery.
  • Now is a great time to fish many of the lakes, ponds and reservoirs throughout the area – many have been recently stocked and are fishing well.

NORTHWEST ZONE

  • North Coast lakes: Sunset, Lost and Coffenbury lakes, and Vernonia Pond are scheduled to be stocked the week of May 2. North Lake was stocked last week, and South Lake was stocked with all remaining fish that had not been made up yet. Fishing should be very good at these lakes.
  • Tillamook Bay: Sturgeon fishing is fair. Effort was relatively light on the last tide series. A good low tide series in early may should provide good fishing conditions. Fish sand shrimp on the bottom near the channel edges during the outgoing tide, especially during low tide series. Move often to find fish if you are not getting bites. Spring chinook angling should begin to pick up soon, but angling is very slow at this time. Trolling Herring in the lower bay or near shore ocean generally produces the first fish of the year.
  • Wilson River: Fishing for winter steelhead has been good when the river is in shape. The first summer steelhead of the year was reported caught recently. Fishing should continue to be good this week depending on water conditions. Good numbers of fish are in the system throughout the open fishing areas, but fewer bright winter steelhead are still showing up. Boaters need to use extreme caution around MP 6 due or avoid that section of river due to a large tree partially blocking the river. Spring chinook are not expected to show up in any numbers until May.

WILLAMETTE ZONE

  • The North Willamette trout stocking program gets into full swing this weekend with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife releases more than 65,000 trout at more than 30 locations around the Willamette Valley for the traditional opening of early trout season.
  • The Willamette River below Willamette Falls is shaping up after the extended period of spring rain and should be in good condition for chinook salmon fishing by the end of the week. Chinook are starting to cross the falls in increasing numbers, with a couple of triple digit days last week.
  • While sturgeon retention on the Willamette River closed March 17, the river remains open to catch-and-release fishing.

CENTRAL ZONE

  • There have been several angler reports of good kokanee fishing on Haystack Reservoir.
  • Spring chinook seasons are open on both the Deschutes and Hood rivers.
  • Several lakes and reservoirs in the areas, including South Twin, Odell, Crane Prairie and Wickiup, are accessible and open to fishing.

SOUTHEAST ZONE

  • Trout fishing in Klamath and Agency Lakes has improved with the warmer temperatures. Target the spring areas and shorelines.
  • Several area lakes and streams are now open for trout fishing including Burnt River, Wood River, Crooked Creek, Upper Williamson, Upper Williamson, Eagle Creek and Krumbo and Pilcher reservoirs.

NORTHEAST ZONE

  • Fishing for holdover trout has been fair on Wallowa Lake.
  • There will be a family fishing event at Peach Pond (Ladd Marsh) on May 7 from 8:00am-1:00pm. Fishing rods, gear and instruction will be provided.
  • Several area water bodies have been stocked and have been offering some good fishing.

BROWNLEE ZONE

COLUMBIA ZONE

  • Angling is CLOSED for salmon, steelhead, and shad in the lower Columbia from the Buoy 10 line upstream to Bonneville Dam.
  • Spring chinook angling is open Monday April 25 – Sunday May 1, between Tower Island and the Oregon/Washington border above McNary Dam plus the Oregon and Washington banks between Bonneville Dam and Tower Island.
  • Walleye fishing is excellent in The Dalles Pool.
  • Sturgeon anglers are catching a few keepers between Portland and Bonneville Dam.

MARINE ZONE

  • Last week provided several good days where anglers could pursue bottom fish. Lingcod are still on the bite and both private and charter boats returned with good catches of rockfish and limits or near limits of lingcod.
  • While fishing in the ocean for chinook salmon (and other non-coho salmon) opened March 15 so far there are no recorded sport catches. Some commercial boats are finding fish, however. Fishing will continue until April 30 from Cape Falcon just north of Manzanita to Humbug Mountain near Port Orford.

Diamond Lake Opener (Ice) Fishing Report

April 26, 2011

(DIAMOND LAKE RESORT PRESS RELEASE)

To say the fishing was good at Diamond Lake on opening morning is an understatement.

ODFW predictions of hundreds of thousands of hungry trout have proven to be very true so far. Over 150 anglers made the trip to a frozen Diamond Lake on Saturday morning, April 23rd. Nearly all were rewarded with nice catches of rainbow trout.

(DIAMOND LAKE RESORT)

Rainbow, chartreuse, fluorescent orange and red PowerBait were the best choices to tempt trout from the frigid lake waters.

The best area was right out in front of Diamond Lake Lodge in 20 to 30 feet of water. Anglers dropped their baits down very slowly to avoid tangling the floating PowerBait in their main lines.

Good catches were also reported using white and chartreuse jigs at the “Cheese Hole” ½ mile north of the resort.

Three feet of snow still covers Road 4795 leading from the resort to the south end of the lake where anglers will find some open water.

(DIAMOND LAKE RESORT)

All USFS campgrounds and boat ramps are still closed due to late season snow fall. Dry camping is available at Diamond Lake Resort.

When venturing out on the ice please wear a life jacket. The ice is not all the same thickness everywhere on the lake. There are thin spots left over from the warm weather in late January.

You can call our marina (800-733-7593 x 238) for up to the minute reports or check out our website at diamondlake.net and click on the fishing report.

The Tale Of Four Bassers

April 26, 2011

My guy over in Spokane tells me it’s snowing there this morning and that a car just went by with 3 inches of snow on its hood.

Yet for one magical day it was anything but late-late winter around the Northwest.

Saturday saw highs into the 70s, and that put more than a couple bass anglers out on the water.

Glen and Cami Bayers of Gamefishin and Team F24 fishing fame and Chris and Jamison Spencer all headed afield with their jigs, worms and spinnerbaits.

The former duo dunked their little jonboat into Long Lake in Kitsap County, Wash., while the latter father-and-son fishermen tramped around the shores of Lake Sacajawea in Longview during morning and afternoon sessions.

The Bayers again videotaped their escapade, including the catch, kiss and release of one very nice largie.

WHO LOVES BASS FISHIN'? THE BAYERS OF TACOMA! (GLEN BAYER)

You can see it here on their YouTube channel:

Meanwhile, here are highlights from Chris’ adventure with his young son — a trip that (as usual for Spencer) somehow managed to find him catching more stray dogs and ears than actual fish.

So this morning the thermometer I bought at Safeway told me the temperature of the lake was “low.”

Evidently the digital thermometers you buy these days only register the actual temperature over 90 degrees…

So after taking some photos of wood ducks and watching the thousands of cormorants flock in a tree we moved up the lake to another spot.  Jamison proceeded to get the mother of all bird nests and I spent a good hour unraveling it.  I didn’t have any line with me and as we had lots more water to cover I had to make his reel function again.

There was some cursing on my part and some begging for forgiveness on his part, but it got fixed and we moved on.

Of course my second cast after that fiasco caught me a giant ball of line someone left in the lake.  Although I could see my red eye shad just feet away from me, the inevitable line break — as well as heart break — occurred.

It was tough but I couldn’t bring myself to jumping into 5 feet of water at the time so we moved on again.

Now as we reached the most southeastern end of the lake we discussed the absolute lake of vegetation and the completely dead bottom.  It was dirty water but clear by Silver Lake standards and you could see the bottom was dead.  The majority of the stuff coming up from the deep on my hooks was dead leaves, no green water plants as you’d expect to find.  Right on cue a group of about 50 carp all well over 10 pounds cruised by us…

By the time we got headed in the other direction on a different shore we’d spotted a few little rainbows that enjoyed chasing ye old spinner baits but never managed to get one in their mouths.  Beautiful morning, though, and as we took a little break under a tree, a “wolf” pup came loping up to us.

Evidently it had nowhere else to go, so she followed us the rest of the way back to the Jeep.  No one wanted to claim her and after stopping by the Humane Society and leaving my number in case someone misses her, she sits in the kitchen lounging on the floor as if she hadn’t eaten or slept in days.

So to recap the day:  Absolutely no bites, strikes, or indication of a spinnerbait- or red eye shad-eating bass…Lots of trout and predatory birds on the prowl.  Of course lots of carp cruising around.

I’m not done with the lake just yet, but I’m absolutely positive that one of the spinnerbaits we used, as well as my Rat-L-Traps would have inspired at least one bass to hit it had they been there.  The fact trout were going after them attests to there predatory appeal. I truly find it hard to believe I’m that bad at bassing to not even have a strike.  In fact I’m extremely confidant in my ability to pick up at least dinks doing what we did today.

….

There are no ****** bass in Lake Sacajawea…After a bite to eat and establishing the “wolf” pup we’ve named Lady was of no threat to my house, Jamison talked me into going back.

We hit the north end and all the water we missed this morning.  There’s actually one more stretch where I caught the two, only two, dinks a couple years ago that I will hit sometime next week.  But it’s safe to say we covered 90 percent of the lake today.

Jamison was desperate to try his soft plastics.  He got an assortment of worms at our open’s raffle a couple weeks ago.  So I set him up with likely worms he could pitch.  I have to say the kid can read water and pitch with a spinning rod.  He worked it hard for four hours.  I changed up my red eye shad to a spinnerbait combo after an hour or so.

At the north end fish fry appeared.  I couldn’t get close enough to get a really good idea (what they were), but they were recent hatched.  It is possible there could have been a bass spawn the last full moon, but that was last Sunday and I don’t believe they were bass because:

A) Timing not quite right.

B) There was no male anywhere to be seen guarding them.

I’m almost positive the fish fry we saw were ******* carp…

I must give my son even more props now.  About halfway around the north end I told him to quit coming up behind me while I was casting.

“I know, DAD!”

Thunk!!!!!

Perfect timing — right as he was popping off to me he stepped behind me as I cast and I sunk a mustad triple grip treble right through the top of his ear.

Now it’s a good thing there’s not a lot of feeling in there because that thing went right through it. I cut the barb end off to yank it back through as he sat still on the ground asking me if it went through or not.

After the quick surgery, the blood began to spill and that’s when panic set in…

Once he knew it was out, though, he pulled himself together and started pitching again.

I highly recommend replacing all your factory trebles with triple grips — they not only hold fish better, they’re ****** sharp!

Well, Andy, I’m done with any fantasies of pulling an 8-pound pig out of that lake. We covered the water and it should have produced something.  There are quite a few turtles  though….and carp……

SW WA, Columbia Fishing Report (4-25-11)

April 25, 2011

(REPORT COURTESY BIOLOGIST JOE HYMER)

SALMON AND STEELHEAD

Cowlitz River – Steelhead are mainly being caught around the trout hatchery while spring Chinook are being caught in the lower river.

Last week, Tacoma Power recovered 913 winter-run steelhead, four summer-run steelhead, 17 spring Chinook adults and five mini-jacks during five days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.
During the past week Tacoma Power employees released 39 steelhead into the Cispus River above the mouth of Yellow Jacket Creek, 12 winter-run steelhead into Lake Scanewa above Cowlitz Falls Dam, and seven winter-run steelhead into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 10,100 cubic feet per second on Monday, April 25. Water visibility is seven feet.

Anglers should note the south side of the river from Mill Creek to the Barrier Dam is closed to all fishing from May 1 through June 15 per permanent regulations.

Kalama River – Winter and summer run steelhead are being caught.  Some spring Chinook are reported being caught in the lower river.

Lewis River – Effort and catches are light.  A few spring Chinook are being reported caught.  A half dozen spring Chinook returned to the Merwin Dam trap last week.

Washougal River (April 16-19) — 9 bank anglers released 1 wild steelhead.  4 boats kept 2 hatchery steelhead and released 2 wild fish.  Most of the anglers were fishing from Hathaway Park downstream.

Wind River – The few anglers sampled at the mouth had no catch.  Eight boats observed here last Saturday morning.

The upper river from 100′ feet above Shipherd Falls upstream to 800 yards below Carson National Fish Hatchery (except closed 400′ below and 100′ above the Coffer Dam) opens to fishing for salmon and hatchery steelhead beginning May 1. Any chinook, adipose fin clipped or not, may be kept from this section of river. A night closure will be in effect in this section of river.  In addition, the anti-snagging rule will be in effect from the Burlington-Northern Railroad Bridge upstream beginning May 1.  When the anti-snagging rule is in effect, only fish hooked inside the mouth may be retained.

Drano Lake – Boat anglers are catching some spring Chinook.  28 boats were counted here last Saturday morning.

Klickitat River – A few summer run steelhead are being caught but no spring Chinook yet.

Bonneville Pool – Bank anglers sampled just outside Drano had no catch.

The Dalles Pool – Bank anglers are catching some spring Chinook and steelhead.  Through April 24, there have been an estimated 903 angler trips with 34 chinook kept  and 27 released.

John Day Pool – An estimated 14 adult hatchery spring Chinook were harvested in the John Day Pool (Lake Umatilla) this past week by anglers.  WDFW staff interviewed 56 anglers and sampled one hatchery spring Chinook. No wild Chinook or any other species were reported. Very few boat anglers are targeting on Chinook but several bank anglers are currently fishing the Oregon shore line below McNary.

Bonneville Dam to the WA/OR border  – Open to fishing for hatchery chinook and hatchery steelhead through May 1.

STURGEON

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – Fishing was slow.  Effort increased slightly with just over 100 boats and just under 50 bank anglers counted during the Saturday April 23rd effort flight count.

Mainstem Columbia and its tributaries from Buoy 10 to the Wauna powerlines (including all adjacent Washington tributaries) – Catch-and-release only May 1-13.  From May 14-June 26 and July 1-4, the daily limit is 1fish.  Minimum size will be 41” fork length and maximum size 54” fork length.  Catch-and-release fishing is permitted on non-retention days.

Bonneville Dam downstream 9 miles to a line crossing the Columbia from Navigation Marker 82 on the Oregon shore through the upstream exposed end of Skamania Island, continuing in a straight line to a boundary marker on the Washington shore – To protect spawning fish, closed to fishing for sturgeon May 1-Aug. 31 under permanent rules.

The Dalles Pool – Bank anglers are catching some legals.  Slow for legal size fish for boat anglers.

Under permanent rules to protect spawning fish, closed to fishing for sturgeon from John Day Dam downstream 5.4 miles to the west end of the grain silo at Rufus, Oregon May 1-July 31.

John Day Pool – 4 boats/8 anglers released 1 sturgeon in the current catch-and-release only fishery.

Under permanent rules to protect spawning fish, closed to fishing for sturgeon from McNary Dam downstream 1.5 miles to Hwy. 82 (Hwy. 395) Bridge May 1-July 31.

WALLEYE AND BASS
The Dalles Pool – Including fish released, boat anglers averaged 4 walleye per rod.  Bank and boat anglers are catching some bass.

John Day Pool – 7 boats/12 anglers had 8 walleye.  3 boats/6 anglers had 5 bass.

TROUT

South Lewis County Park Pond near Toledo – Planted with 580 rainbows averaging 1.6 pounds each April 18.

Sacajawea Lake in Longview – Planted with 3,097 catchable size brown trout April 19.

Horseshoe Lake in Woodland – Planted with 4,041 catchable size rainbows April 20.

Battleground Lake – Planted with 2,040 catchable size rainbows April 19.

What’s In The May 2011 Issue!

April 25, 2011

April 25, 2011

April 30 is the opening day of lowland lakes fishing season in Washington.

BRENNON HART, THEN 6, SHOWS OFF HE AND HIS PA'S OPENING DAY CATCH AT STAR LAKE NEAR FEDERAL WAY, WASH. (WRIGHT McGILL/EAGLE CLAW PHOTO CONTEST)

Outdoor Calendar

April 25, 2011

April 30: Opening day of fishing season on numerous lowland lakes in Washington; last day for steelheading on Idaho’s Clearwater system, lower and upper Salmon and Snake rivers

May 1: Washington’s Marine Area 2 opens for Sun., Tues. halibut fishing; Oregon waters south of Humbug Mtn. and nearshore seven-day-a-week halibut seasons open. Start of pikeminnow reward fishery on lower Columbia, Snake; info: pikeminnow.org

May 1-13: Columbia sturgeon retention closed below Wauna

May 5: Oregon waters north of Cape Falcon and Washington’s Areas 1 and 6-10 open for halibut Thurs.-Sat. (except Thurs.-Sun. on Memorial Day Weekend)

May 7: Family fishing events at Commonwealth Lake, Rhinehart Park, Camp Baldwin, Vernonia Ponds, etc. Info: dfw.state.or.us

May 7-8: Rod Meseberg Spring Walleye Classic on Potholes Reservoir; info: Mar Don Resort (509) 346-2651

May 12: Halibut opens in Areas 3, 4 Thurs., Sat. through 21st

May 12-14, 26-28, June 2-4, 9-11: Oregon all-depth halibut fishery dates between Cape Falcon and Humbug

May 14: Columbia sturgeon reopens below Wauna seven days a week; family fishing events at Oregon ponds; info: dfw.state.or.us

May 15: Oregon controlled hunt application deadline

May 18 (midnight):Washington special hunt ap deadline

May 21: Tentative date for Lake Stevens Kokanee Derby

May 21-22: South Olympic Peninsula Outdoor Recreation & Adventure Show, Grays Harbor Co. Fairgrounds; info: ghcfairgrounds.com. Clamming workshops at Fort Stevens SP, Ore.; info: Mark Newell (503) 947-6018; Big Wally’s/Valley Marine Spring Walleye Classic on Banks Lake; info: (866) 888-1021

May 22: Youth angling events at West Salish, Middle Fork Irrigation ponds; Youth Oregon Hunters Day at Denman WA

May 26: Area 5 opens for Thurs.-Sat. (except Thurs.-Sun. on Memorial Day Weekend) halibut fishing through June 18

May 28: General Oregon fishing opener

New WA Fish Regs Out

April 25, 2011

The 2011-12 fishing regulations for Washington have now been posted.

They’re available at wdfw.wa.gov.

With this year’s cover going unsold (previous issues’ have had ads for Pavati Marine and Alumaweld), the regs feature “Heartbreaker,” a painting of a leaping rainbow by Fred W. Thomas, a Shoreline artist whose Web site says he’s the guy who came up with the Eskimo on the tail of all those Alaska Airlines jets.

In addition to new rules for lead fishing tackle on 13 lakes in the state’s northern tier, here’s what else is new or tweaked for this season:

Statewide Closure for Columbia River

Smelt (eulachon) – Fishing for Columbia River Smelt (eulachon) is closed in both fresh and saltwater statewide. In 2010, the federal government declared that Columbia River smelt (also called eulachon) warranted protection as a Threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. This statewide closure is necessary to conserve this species.

Samish River Fishery Changes

Major changes were made to the Samish River this year. To help reduce snagging, anglers will be required to release any salmon that is not hooked inside the mouth. Anglers will also be required to retain the first 2 salmon, if legal to do so, and stop fishing. These regulations were implemented to promote an orderly fishery and reduce crowding on the river while maintaining recreational opportunity.

Elliott Bay and Green River Chinook Closure

Naturally spawning Chinook salmon bound for the Green River are projected to return in numbers well below the spawning goal. As a result, neither the State nor Tribes are planning recreational or commercial Chinook fisheries in Elliott Bay and the Green River. State and Tribal biologists will evaluate the run size in-season to determine whether Chinook abundance is greater than the pre-season forecast. Fisheries may be announced if the in-season information clearly indicates that spawning goals will be achieved.

Puyallup River Changes

The area downstream of Freeman Road will open beginning August 16 and be closed on August 28, 29, and September 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13.

Skokomish River Fishery

As of the time of printing, recreational salmon fishing seasons during the August and September time period had not been determined for the Skokomish River. Recreational salmon fishing seasons during this time period will be announced as soon as possible.

Willapa Bay Tributaries

Salmon seasons have been added to South Fork Willapa River and the middle section of North River from Salmon Creek to Falls River. North Nemah River will open for Salmon fishing September 1. Please be aware of mark selective requirements for Chinook in the Naselle River; also WDFW will be jaw tagging Chinook as part of ongoing studies, please report tag color and number if available to: (360) 249-1205.

New Columbia River Catch Record Card Code

Area 535, from the Highway 395 Bridge in Pasco to Priest Rapids Dam, has been split into two catch reporting areas. Continue to use 535 for the river from the Highway 395 Bridge to the Old Hanford townsite wooden powerline towers. This area includes the Ringold Area Bank Fishery. Use the new catch code, 536, for the river from the Old Hanford townsite wooden powerline towers up to Priest Rapids Dam. These codes are to be entered on catch record cards for all retention of salmon, steelhead, and sturgeon.

Reduced daily bottomfish limits are in place in Marine Catch Areas 1-4

In Marine Catch Areas 1-3 and Marine Catch Area 4 west of the Bonilla-Tatoosh the new combined bottomfish limit is 12 per day and now includes a sub-limit of 2 cabezon in addition to sub-limits for rockfish (10) and lingcod (2). In Marine Catch Area 4 east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line the new combined daily bottomfish limit is 10 which includes sub-limits for cabezon (2)
lingcod (2) and black and blue rockfish (6).

Killer Whale Vessel Rules

The Federal Government (NOAA) recently released new protective regulations for Endangered Species Act (ESA) listed Killer Whales (Orcas). For a complete summary of these new rules please visit the NOAA web page at: http://www.nwr.noaa.gov/Marine-Mammals/Whales-Dolphins-Porpoise/Killer-Whales/Recovery-Implement/Orca-Vessel-Regs.cfm. These new rules prohibit vessels from approaching any killer whale closer than 200 yards and forbid vessels from intercepting a whale or positioning the vessel in its path. WDFW also encourages boaters to “GO SLOW” in the vicinity of killer whales. For more information on how to avoid disturbing killer whales, visit wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/orca.

Oregon FWC Sets Ocean Salmon Seasons, Other Biz

April 25, 2011

(OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission today adopted 2011 ocean salmon seasons for sport and commercial fisheries that include some of the most significant chinook salmon fisheries since 2007 as well as opportunities to retain wild coho thanks to healthy runs forecasted this year.

The salmon seasons adopted by the Commission are for Oregon’s territorial waters that extend three miles from the state’s shoreline. They mirror the regulations adopted by the Pacific Fishery Management Council on April 13 that cover ocean waters from three to 200 miles from the state’s shore. The regulations must also be approved by the National Marine Fishery Service and the Secretary of Commerce.

Details of the upcoming sport seasons include:

From Cape Falcon just north of Manzanita to Humbug Mountain near Port Orford:

Chinook season runs from March 15 through Sept. 30 with a bag limit of two salmon, closed to the retention of coho except during the selective coho and non- selective coho seasons.
Selective coho season open July 2 through the earlier of Aug. 13 or 15,000 selective coho quota with a bag limit of two salmon, all coho must have a healed adipose fin clip.
Non-selective coho season open each Thursday through Saturday from Sept. 1 through earlier of Sept. 10 or 3,000 selective coho quota with a limit of two salmon.

The Columbia River area, from Leadbetter Point, Wash., to Cape Falcon:

Selective chinook season open June 18 through June 25 or the catch quota of 4,800 marked chinook. The daily bag limit is two chinook with a healed adipose fin clip. No coho may be retained.
Non-selective chinook and selective coho season open June 26 through Sept. 30 or until a 7,400 chinook and 33,600 selective coho quota is reached. The bag limit is two salmon per day, but no more than one chinook, and all coho must have a healed adipose fin clip.

South of Humbug Mountain to the Oregon/California border the chinook season is open May 14 through Sept. 5. The daily bag limit is two salmon. No coho may be retained.

Ocean chinook salmon seasons South of Cape Falcon have been relatively restrictive in the last three years due to concerns about poor returns to California’s Sacramento River – home to most of the chinook caught off Oregon’s central and south coasts. Managers are predicting significantly stronger returns to the Sacramento this year, allowing for more liberal commercial and recreational ocean salmon seasons.

The Commission approved the Oregon Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation Assessment and Strategy and adopted new rule language regarding population and habitat objectives and core area mapping criteria. The plan will be reviewed in one year.

The Commission ended the five-year mandatory review requirement for the wildlife management plans of several game species (Elk, Black Bear, Cougar, Mule Deer, Black-Tailed Deer, Bighorn Sheep and Rocky Mtn Goat, and Wild Turkey). Plan revisions can tie up significant staff time and in some cases, habitat and species conditions may not have not changed enough in five years to warrant revising a plan.

ODFW staff intends to update the Commission on three wildlife management plans annually with information on research results, accomplishments and any new issues for the particular species.

The Commission approved new rule language that clarifies the authority of law enforcement officers to take or harass wildlife while performing their duties.

The Commission is the policy-making body for fish and wildlife issues in the state. It usually meets monthly. The next meeting is scheduled for June 2-3 in Salem. http://www.dfw.state.or.us/agency/commission/minutes/

Potholes Terns Like Upper Columbia Steelie, Springer Smolts

April 22, 2011

Betcha a buck that Sammie the Salmon ends up as fish dinner for a tern on Potholes Reservoir.

Sammie is a spring Chinook that was released on Monday night from the Winthrop National Fish Hatchery on the upper Methow. So far she’s made it to the Columbia and down through Wells Dam — the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service created a Google Map to track her progress — but the colony of Caspian terns on Goose Island have a taste for young spring Chinook from these parts.

The birds fly the 30 or so miles from Potholes to the river to annually eat 3.6 percent of the spring smolt run, a percentage “significantly higher than all other Chinook stocks available to this colony,” according to a half-decade-long study of what certain birds eat along the Columbia and Snake Rivers.

That was over just two years of record, but the same flock also likes Upper Columbia steelhead, eating 10.0 percent of the summer-run smolts coming downriver. And a colony on Crescent Island south of Tri-Cities ate 7.7 percent of those coming down the Snake.

“That has been a shocker to us,” Oregon State University’s Dan Roby told the Columbia Basin Bulletin in a story out today. “It looks like the primary reason for going there is to work on salmonids, and in particular steelhead.”

It’s a worry because numerous stocks of Columbia Basin salmonids are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

The executive summary of the study — done by Bird Research Northwest for the Army Corps of Engineers — suggests that “the greatest potential for increasing survival of smolts from ESA-listed salmonid stocks by managing inland avian predators would be realized by focusing management efforts on Caspian terns nesting at colonies on Crescent Island, Goose Island, and the Blalock Islands. Reductions in the size of these tern colonies would enhance survival of upper Columbia River and Snake River steelhead stocks in particular.”

Blalock Islands are below McNary Dam.

The overall study looked at nine flocks and numerous other listed salmonid runs and concludes:

This system-wide evaluation of avian predation indicated that, among the nine piscivorous waterbird colonies investigated, Caspian terns and double-crested cormorants nesting on East Sand Island in the Columbia River estuary were consuming the highest proportions of available PIT-tagged smolts, with combined losses ranging from a low of 2.6% for Willamette spring Chinook to a high of 18.2% for Snake River summer steelhead during 2004-2009. Estimated predation rates associated with the tern and cormorant colonies in the estuary were generally 2-5 times greater than for inland bird colonies. Due to the relatively high observed predation rates in the estuary, and because all anadromous salmonids must migrate through the estuary, our results indicate that the management of terns and cormorants nesting on East Sand Island near the mouth of the Columbia River has the greatest potential to enhance survival of juvenile salmonids from all Columbia Basin stocks combined.

Interestingly, ESA-listed game fish aren’t the only species getting eaten. When researchers poked around the Snake from Clarkston down over three winters to see if double-crested cormorants were impacting listed fall Chinook, they found that the birds primarily chew on a whole lot of bass and panfish.

“The most prevalent prey types in the foregut samples were centrarchids (sunfishes and bass; 34.3% by mass), followed by shad (15.0%), cyprinids (11.7%), and salmonids (11.7%). Fall Chinook salmon comprised an average of 3.4% by mass of the cormorant diet,” says the study.

Smallies and panfish made up 66.7 percent of their diet in October but by December they depended on shad for 59.1 percent of their diet. Salmon and steelhead were most prevalent in November when they comprised 24.2 percent of foregut content.

For your Easter Weekend reading enjoyment, the entire 239-page study can be downloaded here.

Wolverines Spotted In Wallowas, For The First Time

April 22, 2011

UPDATED 8:50 A.M., APRIL 26, 2011: ODFW trail cameras captured what agency biologists believe to be two different wolverines.

(ODFW)

Here’s ODFW’s latest press release:

Five days after discovering wolverine tracks in the Wallowa Mountains of Northeast Oregon, researcher Audrey Magoun downloaded photos of two wolverines from a bait station camera.

“They are clearly photos of two different individuals,” Magoun said.

The photos were taken on April 2 and 13 and downloaded on April 22, 2011.

After viewing the photos, Magoun and research assistant Pat Valkenburg redesigned the camera site so that when the wolverines return—and Magoun believes they will—they will be able to get photos of the wolverines’ abdomens which will help determine the sex of the animals.

The set of tracks discovered on April 17 was the first confirmation of a wolverine in Wallowa County, according to Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Vic Coggins. Read the April 22, 2011 news release: Wolverine tracks confirmed in Wallowa County for first time

Magoun and Valkenburg have been surveying for wolverine in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest within and adjacent to the Eagle Cap Wilderness since January of this year. Funding and logistical support for the wolverine survey comes from an Oregon Conservation Strategy Implementation Grant(federal State Wildlife Grant), The Wolverine Foundation, Inc., the Wildlife Conservation Society, The Seattle Foundation and private individuals including Magoun and Valkenburg, Alaska residents, who use their own plane for aerial surveys.

The wolverine was listed as threatened by the Oregon Game Commission in 1975, grandfathered as a state threatened species (May 1987) and reaffirmed by rule in 1989. It became a federal candidate species on Dec. 14, 2010.

Dudes and dudettes, I’m just going to admit something to ya’ll: I like wolverines.

First, there’s the movie Red Dawn and its famous battle cry that has echoed through the years between my friends and I, and then there are some who have said that my somewhat grouchy personality resembles Gulo gulo in the morning.

Whatever it is, I’m following news out of Oregon that, for the first time in recorded history, the tracks of one have been spotted in the Wallowas.

That follows the capture of a handful in Washington’s North Cascades in recent years.

Here’s ODFW’s press release:

ENTERPRISE, Ore.—For the first time in recorded history, biologists have confirmed that tracks found in the Wallowa Mountains of Northeast Oregon are those of a North American wolverine.

Researcher Dr. Audrey Magoun found the wolverine tracks in the snow on April 17 while hiking to a remote camera site set up to detect wolverines. She followed the tracks for about a mile until they left the river bottom headed into the high country.

“From the size of the track, it is probably a male,” said Magoun who has dedicated her career to studying wolverine since she received her Ph.D. in 1978.

“This is the first confirmation of a wolverine in Wallowa County,” said Vic Coggins, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife district wildlife biologist. “We’ve always thought it was good habitat, and we’ve had reports but nothing we could verify until now.”

Magoun also believed the habitat conditions were right, which was why she and research assistant, pilot and husband, Pat Valkenburg, undertook this winter’s survey in the Eagle Cap Wilderness.

“There is a breeding population in the Payette Forest in Idaho and a breeding population in the North Cascades in Washington,” she said. “In fact, we couldn’t believe wolverine wouldn’t be here. They travel large distances.”

As part of the survey, 14 baited field camera sites were set up and several aerial flights made. None of the cameras have yet yielded a photo of a wolverine, but 80 percent of the cameras had photos of American marten and a few native red fox were detected. Biologists believe these animals are probably the native foxes that were once common in the Wallowa Mountains.

Coggins is interested in the data on marten and red fox in the higher elevations. “It’s great to know what species are using these areas—it’s indicative of the health of the habitat and helps with management decisions,” he said.

According to Magoun, the next question is: Is this a lone wolverine or is the area occupied? She hopes to be back next winter field season to try and answer that question.

Funding and logistical support for the survey comes from an Oregon Conservation Strategy Implementation Grant (federal State Wildlife Grant), The Wolverine Foundation, Inc., the Wildlife Conservation Society and private individuals including Magoun and Valkenburg, Alaska residents, who use their own plane for aerial surveys.

The wolverine was listed as threatened by the Oregon Game Commission in 1975, grandfathered as a state threatened species (May 1987) and reaffirmed by rule in 1989. It became a federal candidate species on Dec. 14, 2010.

In 1936, the wolverine was thought to have been extirpated from Oregon. In 1965, a male was killed on Three Fingered Jack in Linn County. In 1973, a wolverine was trapped and released on Steens Mountain, Harney County. In 1986, a wolverine was trapped in Wheeler County. In 1990, a dead wolverine was picked up on I-84 in Hood River County. In 1992, a partial skeleton was recovered in Grant County.

Oly, Salem Legislative Update (4-22-11)

April 22, 2011

Yesterday, legislators in Olympia passed two wildlife-related revenue bills to the governor and a tweaked gillnet ban on the Columbia got out of a Senate committee in Salem.

On the north side of the Columbia, bills that will increase fishing and hunting licenses for the first time in over a decade and require those who use state recreational lands to buy a $30 pass are on their way to Governor Gregoire for her signature.

SB 5385, the license bill, and SB 5622, the Discover Pass, were both passed on the exact same 55-42 House vote.

Representatives lined up almost entirely along party lines, with all Democrats except Rep. Tim Probst of east Vancouver voting for it and all Republicans voting against it, save for Rep. Larry Crouse of northeast Spokane County who was excused.

Both bills had been passed out of the Senate with bipartisan support.

WDFW officials have been pinning a lot of hope on passage of the bills to offset lost General Fund dollars.

In Salem, the Senate’s Environment & Natural Resources Committee moved SB 736, which would shift gillnetting off the mainstem Columbia and into lower river bays, forward on a 3-2 vote.

However, Senators amended it to only affect commercial fisheries during the spring Chinook run from March through May, excluding summer and fall salmon runs, according to a press release from one sponsor group, Northwest Steelheaders.

The lower river bays already provide netters with salmon which return directly to release sites there.

Supporters still heralded it as a “watershed moment” for all “Northwest sport anglers.”

“This progress is an indication that in working together towards a common goal we can move mountains. This is the first step towards positive change that will expand Columbia River salmon seasons, enhance conservation efforts, preserve jobs, provide fish to the public and generate tens of millions of dollars of economic benefit and jobs,” said Liz Hamilton of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association.

She thanked those who weighed in on the issue as well as members of the Association of N.W. Steelheaders, Coastal Conservation Association, N.W. Guides and Anglers, Trout Unlimited and the Oregon Conservation Network for support, but said there’s still work ahead.

The new Washington fishing and hunting license fees would go into effect starting Sept. 1, 2011. To view how much more you’ll be paying, see the bill as passed legislation which details changes in base prices — figures that do not include the two-year, 10 percent surcharge (which stays in effect an extra two months) or dealer fees.

If there’s a problem with the Discover Pass, it’s that the lion’s share of the revenue collected from it will go to the State Parks and Recreation Commission — even if wildlife watchers and others are using the pass to access game department lands. The bill dictates that 84 percent of fees go to Parks, 8 percent to WDFW and 8 percent to DNR.

We hunters and anglers will continue to get complimentary vehicle passes for WDFW lands when we buy our big and small game, freshwater and other licenses.

And finally, what would a legislative update these days be without some sort of predator tie-in?

That’s right, a howling shame.

In Oregon, HB Bill 2337, which would allow a new limited hound hunt for cougars for the first time since voters banned the practice, leapt out of the House on a 45-14vote on Wednesday. It’s now prowling around the Senate.

It was followed yesterday by Bill 3562 which would allow people to kill wolves that are threatening them.

According to The Oregonian‘s Jeff Mapes, “Supporters said the bill would end any ambiguity about whether it is OK to shoot a wolf – which has received protection as an endangered species – in defense of one’s own life or another person.”

It passed on a 51-7 vote and it too is hunting for votes in the Senate.

In Washington, which has a similar population of wolves as Oregon, Canis lupus bills didn’t get very far — and an extension of a pilot program that has allowed for limited cougar chases with hounds since 2004 also died.

It sparked an angry statement from Rep. Joel Kretz, a Republican who ranches way out in the boonies of eastern Okanogan County and whose herd has been hit by several cougar attacks.

“It died because of pure politics and the culture wars without regard for the issues, the science or the merits of the bill,” he told the Spokane Spokesman-Review‘s Rich Landers.

Landers quotes state Senator Mark Schoesler, a Ritzville Republican, as adding:

“Seattle animal rights activists have the Speaker in their pocket,” he said …

It had appeared that HB 5356 had renewed life in early April after Kretz and Conservation Northwest came to an agreement that led CNW to switch from opposing to supporting it.

But even though the bill is dead for now, it appears to have at least sparked continued discussion about the role of hunters, hounds and how cougars should be managed.

CNW executive director Mitch Friedman says that he and Kretz are noodling some kind of forum that will bring together boot hunters and biologists, cougar lovers and legislators.

Friedman blogs that the boot hunt “is having a terrible impact on cougar populations.”

“Research indicates that heavy and/or nonselective hunting leads to a younger overall population, with fewer females and lower kitten survival. Some researchers and stakeholders believe conflicts are most commonly associated with younger cats, and that overhunting can therefore actually increase problems. If we can reach broader agreement on this and other key issues, better cougar policy and more public acceptance will follow,” he blogs.

Cougar harvest has never exceeded more than 300 animals a season in 75 years of record keeping, but complaints spiked following 1996’s passage of I-655, which outlawed dog hunts and led to tens of thousands more hunters afield with cougar tags in their pocket, according to WDFW documents.

In the years since, harvest and complaints have declined. In 2009, the latest year statistics are available, 142 cougars were killed statewide by all hunters — boot, hound, depredation permit — and complaints were down to post-I-655 levels, according to WDFW.

Friedman notes that “there will always be pressure for cougars to be killed” because of our relationship with predators, and given that, “it’s essential that researchers, managers and elected leaders be closer to agreement on what sound cougar policy looks like. Otherwise we are set up for polarization and backlash that hurts not just cougars, but also wolves and other wildlife.”

Excellent! Oregon Spring Fishing Forecast (2011) Out

April 21, 2011

Note to self: Time next flame run to the inlaws in Newport a wee bit later, say June-July. That’s the peak of the summer steelhead fishery on the Siletz.

THE BLOGGER IN CHIEF WELL ABOVE MOONSHINE PARK. (JUERGEN ECKSTEIN)

That’s what the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s 72-page fresh-off-the-err-desktop spring fishing forecast PDF tells me.

Also available as a word doc, it talks up fisheries from the state’s Central Coast to its Snake Coast, and everywhere in between.

High-grading my way through, ODFW says Diamond Lake should offer “excellent” fishing for more than 400,000 holdovers this season, Arizona Pond is an “excellent place to take kids,” Coos and Coquille Bays offer “excellent” fall crabbing, and streams in the nearby Elliott State Forest offer “excellent cutthroat trout fishing away from the crowds.”

All in all, an excellent little download!

What Wolf Delisting Means (So Far) In WA, OR

April 21, 2011

If you’ve read any of the myriad of news accounts about wolves, the national budget battle and delisting that have come out over the past week or so, you may be wondering what it all means for management of Canis lupus in Washington and Oregon.

Though both states have relatively small populations — a minimum of 18 and maybe up to 25 in the former, and at least 23 in the latter — they have large chunks of real estate that are part of the Northern Rocky Mountains distinct population segment, or DPS, where wolves will be taken off the list of endangered species when the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service resubmits its April 2009 delisting on the Federal Register, as ordered by Congress.

On the south side of the Columbia, Oregon Public Broadcasting posted a segment with a quote from an ODFW spokeswoman:

Beth Hyams: …  Is Oregon ready to take over wolf management?

Cassandra Profita: Actually, the state is pretty well prepared for this transition. U.S. Fish and WIldlife Service delisted the wolves in 2009, and before the court threw that decision out, Oregon got a chance to put its own wolf management plan to the test for a about a year. I spoke with Michelle Dennehy. She’s a spokeswoman for Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. She said state management won’t be much different from what the feds have been doing because Oregon’s wolves are still protected as a state endangered species, and those protections aren’t going to be lifted anytime soon.

Michelle Dennehy: “Right now we can account for 23 wolves in Oregon. We have low numbers of wolves in Oregon. We’re not going to be looking at a delisting of wolves from the state Endangered Species Act until we get four breeding pairs for three consecutive years, and we haven’t even reached four breeding pairs yet.”

In Washington, the effect is to split the state into two wolf management zones, a western and an eastern. They’re divided by Highways 97, 17 and 395 through Okanogan, Douglas, Grant, Adams, Franklin and Benton Counties.

To the east of that line, where there are at least two different groups of wolves in the Northeast corner and probably another in the Blues, the animals will still be under state protection as an endangered species, says Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife spokeswoman Madonna Luers in Spokane.

WDFW will also have “management authority” over them, where before USFWS did, she says.

So, when someone reports wolf tracks or a dead calf in that zone, it will be Luers and others at the state agency who pick up the phone and take the lead in figuring out what to do, based on a 14-page PDF known as the “Wolf Response Guidelines.”

However, when it comes to livestock depredations, she says that WDFW will continue to work with USDA Wildlife Services. She notes that some state staffers have received training on telltale signs of wolf kills from experts like now-retired federal biologist Carter Niemeyer and others. So far there has been only one confirmed stock death tied to wolves in Washington.

Luers says that to the west of the three highways, wolves “remain both state and federally listed as endangered.” So, in the Cascades and Western Washington, USFWS remains the lead response agency.

She says delisting “will not be an impact to the timeline or content of the Wolf Conservation and Management Plan/EIS” that her agency and its Wolf Working Group have spent the past few years on and will meet in Ellensburg in June to discuss before sending to the Fish & Wildlife Commission.

One thing it does do, however, is decrease the penalties for poaching in now-state-managed areas. There, under RCW 77.15.120, it’s a $5,000 fine and a year in jail for first-time offenders who kill state endangered species while those with previous convictions for doing so face up to $10,000 in fines and a year in jail.

That said, Doug Zimmer, a USFWS spokesman says that he definitely wouldn’t want to be the first to test delisting out on the 509 side of the state.

“This hasn’t been done before. This will be interesting,” he says.

In the western two-thirds of the state, killing a wolf remains a Federal crime and is punishable by up to a $100,000 criminal fine, a $25,000 civil fine and up to a year in jail.

As for any wolf hunt in Washington, Luers told the Spokesman-Review‘s Becky Kramer that that’s a long, long ways off.

First, the agency and the WWG have to finalize a management plan which will set a goal for what constitutes a recovered population. Right now, that’s 15 breeding pairs over three years with certain numbers in three subregions of the state, though a minority on the WWG want half that and during public comment others called for twice that and for a fourth subregion.

Then the FWC has to sign off on the plan.

And then the Wildlife Program would have to figure out a season structure and have the FWC sign off on that.

But as with the rest of the state’s game, to hold a season, first you must have a huntable/fishable population. At this point, how successful wolves will be in Washington remains an open question.

Both Oregon and Washington maintain wolf management pages online. ODFW’s features monthly wolf activity reports (March’s just came out earlier this week) while WDFW sources tell me they will be trying to post something similar this year.

Peachy Keen! New Trout Pond Near Chiloquin

April 21, 2011

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. — Young anglers in Chiloquin will have a new fishing hole thanks to a cooperative effort between the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and landowner Peachy Thomas.

Thomas will be opening Peachy Pond to fishing for young anglers (age 17 and younger), senior anglers (age 65 and over) and anglers with an Oregon Disabilities Fishing Permit beginning April 23.

According to Bill Tinniswood, ODFW fish biologist in Klamath Falls, ODFW will be stocking the pond with legal-sized rainbow trout in anticipation of the opener.

The ponds will be stocked regularly through the Fourth of July, Tinniswood added. Check the ODFW website for a complete stocking schedule. ODFW staff will be at Peachy Ponds on April 23 to help introduce anglers to this new fishing opportunity.

The pond is located off Modoc Point Road near Chiloquin. From Modoc Point Road turn east on Rivers Drive at the Williamson River Store.

Wildlife Bills Active In Oly, Salem

April 21, 2011

I’ve been trying to put together a legislative bill update this week, but, well, sometimes it’s just best to let other people do the work for you.

Doing the heavy lifting in this case is the Seattle Times, The Oregonian, Spokane Spokesman Review and Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association all out with news from Oly and Salem.

Among the big items, a bill that would have extended Washington’s hound-hunting-for-cougars pilot program is said to be dead — “because of pure politics and the culture wars without regard for the issues,” its prime sponsor told Rich Landers of the SSR — while the Oregon House yesterday passed a bill that would, for the first time since a ban there, allow dog chases for the big cats in counties opting into the the program.

“The bill now goes to the Senate, where it faces an uncertain fate,” reports Jeff Mapes of The Oregonian.

The players and arguments for and against the bill will be familiar to Washingtonians, where the pilot program has been running in several Eastern Washington counties since the mid-2000s, but Mapes reports that the difficulty in getting it to Governor Kitzhaber will be because:

The bill needs a two-thirds vote in each House. (Rep. Brian) Clem (D-Salem) said he thinks it will be difficult for supporters to get 20 votes in the Senate, which has a narrow Democratic majority.

The two-thirds vote is needed because of a separate tough-on-crime ballot measure, also passed in 1994, that says the Legislature can only reduce voter imposed crime sentences on a two-thirds vote. The ballot measure regarding cougars made it a crime for sport hunters to use dogs in hunting cougars.

That was yesterday. This afternoon at 3 p.m. in Salem the Senate’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee will hold a work session and vote on a bill that would ban gillnetting in the Columbia except for off-channel areas in the lower river.

Backers believe that they have the votes to get an amended version of SB 736 out of the committee and Senate and over to the House, but are asking sport anglers to email several lawmakers they consider undecided or against, including Sens. Alan Olsen and Chuck Thomsen, to back it.

The committee will meet in Capital Hearing Room C; media will be available here.

Meanwhile, Landers reports that the $30 Discover Pass has been passed by both houses.

The fishing and hunting license increase package that WDFW Director Phil Anderson is pinning a lot of revenue hopes on — SSB 5385 — has made it out of Washington’s Senate and has been placed on second reading in the lower chamber as well.

Pardon the lengthy quote, but Landers reports that Ritzville Republican Senator Mark Schoesler said of the fee hike:

“Most sportsmen realize the state is digging itself out of a $5 billion hole and they’re begrudgingly going along to avoid losing essential functions.

“I fear the end of the session when I have to go back and tell my dad that I voted to increase his license fees.

“Some people might not buy a license because of the increase, but we’ll lose people quicker (if) we don’t stock fish in lakes or have the biologists setting hunting seasons.”

Landers also reports more on natural resource agency consolidations — not mergers — being discussed in the Senate. As I reported earlier this week, that may mean that WDFW has to reduce the number of its regional offices from six to four.

There are three offices on the Eastside, in Spokane, Yakima and Ephrata, and three on the Westside, Vancouver, Montesano and Mill Creek.

And finally, among the dozens of bills that have made it to Governor Gregoire’s desk this session — and one I’ve been obsessively reporting on — she put her signature on HB 1340 yesterday, increasing penalties for spree shooting of wildlife.

To quote myself:

Basically, House Bill 1340 expands what can be considered unlawful hunting in the first degree, a class C felony. Previously, offenders had to have a previous wildlife misdemeanor within the past five years to get hit with that charge. But now someone who poaches three or more deer, elk, moose, mountain goat, caribou, cougars, black bears or grizzly bears within 24 hours or “course of events” can be charged straight away in the first degree.

“I’m sure we’ll have a number of times to apply it this year, unfortunately,” said WDFW Deputy Chief of Enforcement Mike Cenci.

The bill flew through the lower chamber on a 97-0 vote (with one member excused), and cleared the upper, 49-0.

It comes after at least four spree wildlife poachings in the past year and a half and with the recent jailing of a man who game wardens suspect has illegally killed over 100 animals.

Big tip of the cap to the Legislature and Governor Gregoire for that one.

Now, to figure out how to get the rest of the work done by Friday’s end of the session or in overtime.

ODFW To Talk Fall Hunts At 21 May Meetings

April 20, 2011

(OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

ODFW will host a series of public meetings around the state to provide information about big game herd health and numbers, propose the number of controlled big game hunting tags to issue this fall and review concepts for any 2012 big game regulation changes.

The information to be presented at the meetings will be available online in early May.

Oregon offers both general seasons and controlled hunts for big game (deer, elk, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, Rocky Mtn goat, cougar, and black bear). The number of tags for controlled hunts is limited and hunters must apply for them by May 15 each year.

Hunters can also offer input on game bird hunting regulations at the meetings, which the Commission will set at their Aug. 5 meeting in Salem.

Written comments about any of the above topics can also be sent to ODFW Wildlife Division, 3406 Cherry Ave NE, Salem, OR 97303 or e-mailed to odfw.comments@state.or.us. Members of the public may also testify in person at Commission meetings.

Table 1. Location, date, and time for 2011 Oregon big game public meetings.
City Date Time Location

Lakeview

May 3

6 – 8 pm

Eagle’s Lodge – 27 South “E” Street

Baker City

May 4

4 – 6 pm

ODFW Baker City District Office
2995 Hughes Lane

Roseburg

May 4

6 pm

ODFW Roseburg Regional Office
Conference Rm, 4192 N Umpqua Hwy

John Day

May 4

5:30 – 7 pm

Grant County Health Dept. Johnny Titus Rm
528 E Main St

Heppner

May 4

6 pm

ODFW Heppner District Office
54173 Highway 74

Condon

May 5

6 pm

USDA Conference Room
333 S. Main St

Ontario

May 5

6 pm MDT

Malheur County Extension Office
710 SW 5th St

Springfield

May 5

7 – 9 pm

Oregon Dept. of Forestry
3150 East Main St

Enterprise

May 6

3 – 6 pm

ODFW Enterprise District Office

Klamath Falls

May 10

6 – 8 pm

OSU Extension Service
3328 Vandenberg Rd Klamath Falls

Charleston

May 10

6:30 – 8:30 pm

North Bend Public Library
1800 Sherman Ave North Bend

La Grande

May 11

4 – 7 pm

ODFW NE Region Office – 107 20th St

Burns

May 11

7 – 9 pm

Glory Days Pizza
960 Oregon Ave

Salem

May 11

7 – 9 pm

ODFW Headquarters Office
3406 Cherry Ave NE

Seaside

May 11

4 – 7 pm

Seaside Convention Center – Seamist Rm
415 First Avenue

Redmond

May 11

7 – 9 pm

Redmond High School Rm 37
675 SW Rimrock Dr Redmond

Pendleton

May 11

3 – 7 pm

Pendleton Convention Center
1601 Westgate

Newport

May 11

6 – 8 pm

Hatfield Marine Science Center, 2030 SE Marine
Science Dr. Bldg. 904 Rooms 30 – 32

The Dalles

May 12

6 pm

The Dalles Screen Shop – 3561 Klindt Dr

Clackamas

May 12

7 – 9 pm

ODFW NW Region Office. Bldg. 16
17330 SE Evelyn St

Medford

May 12

7 pm

The Eagles Lodge
1170 Table Rock Rd

What’s Fishin’ In Oregon (4-20-11)

April 20, 2011

Diamond Lake Resort sent out their first fishing report of the season today.

Well, preseason.

The famed Oregon Cascades trout lake opens this Saturday, April 23, but it’s on the doubtful side that anyone will be trolling around for those 400,000 holdovers.

Diamond is still covered by 24 inches of snow and ice, reports the resort.

A stake they’ve set up just above the lake reads 4 feet of the white stuff.

And the forecast calls for chances of more through the weekend.

But in the meanwhile, let’s give you a little taste of what’s to come:

JANET HALME SHOWS OFF HER THEN-BIGGEST TROUT, A DIAMOND LAKE RAINBOW THAT WENT 21 INCHES. IT WAS CAUGHT LATE IN THE 2009 SEASON. (WRIGHT & McGILL/EAGLE CLAW PHOTO CONTEST)

Starting May 1, the limit jumps from five to eight trout a day (only one over 20 inches) too.

Until the ice melts and May 1, here are some other fishing opportunities to be had around the Beaver State:

SOUTHWEST ZONE

  • Several lakes and reservoirs in the upper Rogue watershed are being stocked this week in anticipation of the traditional opening of the early trout season. For a complete list, see the ODFW stocking schedules.
  • Fishing for hatchery winter steelhead has been very good on the South Umpqua. The South is open through April 30.
  • Spring chinook fishing continues to be good on the lower Roque River.
  • Anglers are still catching winter steelhead on the middle and upper Rogue river, and spring chinook are on their way.

NORTHWEST ZONE

  • North Coast lakes: Coffenbury Lake, Lost Lake, and Vernonia Pond were stocked the week of April 11. South Lake was finally stocked last week also, as access to the lake improved.
  • ODFW will host a family fishing event at Hebo Lake on Saturday, April 23. The event runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Angling instructors and fishing gear will be available. The lake will be stocked prior to the event, so fishing should be good.
  • Tillamook Bay: Sturgeon fishing is fair, but a good tide series this week combined with higher flows could improve the prospects. Fish sand shrimp on the bottom near the channel edges during the outgoing tide, especially during low tide series. Move often to find fish if you are not getting bites. Spring chinook angling will be very slow. Generally fishing will begin to pick up near the end of the month.

WILLAMETTE ZONE

  • The North Willamette trout stocking program gets into full swing this weekend with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife releases more than 65,000 trout at more than 30 locations around the Willamette Valley for the traditional opening of early trout season.
  • The Willamette River below Willamette Falls is shaping up after the extended period of spring rain and should be in good condition for chinook salmon fishing by the end of the week. Chinook are starting to cross the falls in increasing numbers, with a couple of triple digit days last week.
  • While sturgeon retention on the Willamette River closed March 17, the river remains open to catch-and-release fishing.

CENTRAL ZONE

  • There have been several angler reports of good kokanee fishing on Haystack Reservoir.
  • Spring chinook seasons are open on both the Deschutes and Hood rivers.
  • South Twin and Odell lakes, and Crane Prairie and Wickiup reservoirs are accessible and open to fishing this Saturday (April 23).

SOUTHEAST ZONE

  • Trout fishing in Klamath and Agency Lakes has been good at the spring areas as well as along shorelines. Wild redband trout from 4 to 10 pounds have been reported caught.
  • Unity Reservoir was producing 12 to 16-inch rainbow trout the first weekend of April.
  • Haines, Hwy 203 and North Powder ponds have all been stocked with rainbow trout.
  • Several area lakes and streams open for trout fishing on April 23 including Burnt River, Eagle Creek and Krumbo and Pilcher reservoirs.

NORTHEAST ZONE

  • There will be an Opening Day (April 23) youth fishing derby on Morgan Lake from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Fishing for holdover trout has been fair on Wallowa Lake.

BROWNLEE ZONE

  • A few crappie, perch, and bass are being caught if you can get to them. Water levels are extremely low as of Monday, April 18 (64 feet below full). Sweed’s landing is the only place to get in right now. Call Idaho Power Company’s recording at 1-800-422-3143 to get information on access at recreational sites or visit their website.

COLUMBIA ZONE

    • Angling is CLOSED for salmon, steelhead, and shad in the lower Columbia from the Buoy 10 line upstream to Bonneville Dam.
    • Spring chinook angling is open March 16 – April 24, between Tower Island and the Oregon/Washington border above McNary Dam plus the Oregon and Washington banks between Bonneville Dam and Tower Island.
    • Walleye angling is excellent in The Dalles Pool.
    • Sturgeon anglers are catching a few keepers between Portland and Bonneville Dam.

Oregon Spring Bear Hunting Forecast (2011)

April 20, 2011

(OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE)

Last year, about 460 bears were checked in by hunters for the spring season, a harvest similar to highs in 2009 and 2007.

Spring bear success is usually dependent on weather. Warmer weather will get forage growing faster, put bears on the move earlier and open up access to high-elevation areas sooner.

So it should be a mixed bag for hunters during the early season. Green-up is slow in some areas while others experienced a mild winter.

If you are new to spring bear hunting, follow these tips:

Look for open areas where bears will be moving through or foraging, including clear-cuts, meadows and open slopes that have cleared of snow.
Earlier in the season, focus on south-facing slopes with rapid spring growth and open canyon slopes, where bears can be seen feeding on grass and digging roots.
Predator calls are recommended later in the season when elk begin calving. Use calls near open meadows in forested areas.
Find good vantage points and use optics to locate bears; early morning and late afternoon to evening are the best times to glass.
Know your target—remember it is unlawful to take cubs less than one year old or sows with cubs less than one year old.

Hunters should always be prepared for snow and limited access, especially early in the season. Visit ODFW’s online Hunting Access Map for hunting locations.

Almost all spring bear seasons are controlled and require application by Feb. 10 each year. The exception is the SW Oregon hunt, where 4,000 tags are offered on a first-come, first-serve basis. Hunters that apply for a controlled spring bear hunt may not purchase a SW Oregon tag until after the draw. SW Oregon tags sold out on Feb. 14 this year, before draw results were available.

Northwest Region Hunts

Scappoose-Saddle Mountain units (Hunt 710A, season April 1-May 31)

Damage information indicates that bears are well-distributed throughout Saddle Mt Unit and areas are greening up. ODFW staff had not received any reports of bear damage or sightings in the Scappoose Unit prior to the opening day of the spring season. Bear densities are slowly improving in the Scappoose Unit but remain low compared to other big game units in the Coast Range. To find bears, hunters need to concentrate their scouting and hunting efforts near early season food sources like skunk cabbage, typically found along riparian zones and south and southeast facing slopes. Bear activity should improve towards the middle of the season.

Locations: In the Saddle Mtn Unit, road access is available to most lands in the Clatsop State Forest. Non-motorized access is available to many private industrial forestlands. Bears are very wary of vehicle noise and tend to move away from well-traveled roads so quietly moving hunters on foot or bike may have the advantage. Expect Hampton Affiliates land in Clatsop County to be closed to entry.

Hunters in the Scappoose Unit will find limited public lands. Check each landowner’s access policy before entering private lands, including on industrial timberland.

Wilson-Trask units (Hunt 712A, season April 1-May 31)

2010: 9 bears harvested, 3.93% success rate
Green-up looks to be a little slower this year, with plenty of snow hanging on in the higher elevations of the Coast Range. Plant life springs back more quickly closer to the coast, so expect more bear activity further west during the early part of the season. With current weather conditions, hunters should concentrate in river and creek bottoms and south-facing grassy slopes with new plant growth.

CARL LLEWALLEN PACKS OUT THE BLACK BEAR THAT FRIEND RON GARDNER SHOT IN THE SIUSLAW UNIT RECENTLY. (RUGER PHOTO CONTEST)

Locations: State and federal lands in these units include the Tillamook and Clatsop State Forests and Siuslaw National Forest. Some industrial forest landowners allow spring bear hunting as well, usually on a walk-in or mountain bike-in basis. Private forest and agriculture lands dominate the eastern side of the Trask Unit; access is by permission only.

N. Cascades (Hunt 716A, season April 1 – May 31)

2010: 18 bears harvested, 8.33% success rate
Usually, spring bear hunting in the Cascades gets better towards the end of the season. That will happen again this year as current snow levels and weather patterns are typical. Hunters with limited time to spend in the field should concentrate their efforts in the last three weeks of the season. If you want to get out early, start along riparian corridors at lower elevations where some of the early grasses and skunk cabbage are growing. Watch weather forecasts to help predict snowmelt; warmer weather will be key for vegetation growth and increased bear activity. Snow in higher elevations will restrict access.

Locations: Remember the Marion and Linn County portions outside of the Mt. Hood and Willamette National Forests are not included within the hunt boundary and are closed. The McKenzie Unit is open only on the Willamette National Forest. The Clackamas and Collawash River drainages in the Mt. Hood National Forest have a high concentration of open south facing slopes and some good areas for glassing. Hillsides burned during last year’s forest fire in the Bull of the Woods Wilderness Area should have an abundance of new plant growth once the snow pack melts. Hunters can also find good concentrations of bears in the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness Area.

Alsea-Stott Mt. (Hunt 717A, season April 1 – May 31)

2010: 14 bears harvested, 8.86% success rate
Active bears began to be reported in early March, and nuisance bear reports began the week of March 21. February and March weather has been very wet and colder than normal, snow was still present at higher elevations near the end of March. Despite the cold rainy weather, vegetation is growing especially on south slopes at lower elevations. Hunters should look for bears at lower elevations along streams or open areas with a south or southeast aspect.

Location: Access is fair on mainline forest roads but expect some roads to be impassible in April due to landslides and fallen trees. Siuslaw National Forest lands on the central coast south of Waldport have well-maintained roads.

Southwest Region Hunts

SW Oregon (Season April 1 – May 31)

Tags for this hunt are provided on a first-come, first-serve basis and sold out on Feb. 14, 2011 this year.

The bear hunting season is expected to start slow and improve as the snow melts. Bear numbers in the entire region have been increasing for several years. In general, bear density is greatest closer to the coast. Good spots to check are skid roads and side roads that are untraveled with lots of grassy margins and bear sign.

Locations: Hunters have access to plenty of public land including national forestland (Siuslaw, Rogue-Siskiyou, and Umpqua), BLM land and state-managed property like Elliot State Forest. Hunters should do their homework and call private timberland companies as some offer access. Local landowners include Weyerhaeuser, Plum Creek, Menasha/Campbell Group, Roseburg Forest Products, and Lone Rock Timber Co. Hunters can access public land and some private timberland through the Jackson Cooperative Travel Management Area (JACTMA). JACTMA restricts use of certain roads through April 30; for a map contact an ODFW office. Remember lands within one mile of the Rogue River between Grave and Lobster creeks are closed.

Northeast Region

W. Blue Mountains (Hunt 749A, season April 1 – May 31)

2010: 30 bears harvested, 16.57% success rate
This year’s long winter combined with heavy snow pack will have the bears out as much as 10-20 days later than usual (so in late April or early May). Since a large percentage of the public road system is at higher elevation, lingering snow drifts may limit access until late May in some areas. Bear density is highest in the northern portion (north of Interstate 84) and lower as one goes south and west in the hunt area. Early season bear activity is concentrated along the lower elevation fringes of national forestland. Bears follow the green-up elevation band; concentrate on timbered slopes with small openings with lush green moss, sedge, or grassy areas. If the spring is wet, bears will be out on open slopes foraging on wild onions and sedges.

Starkey (Hunt 752A, season April 15 – May 31)

2010: 2 bears harvested, 1.35% success rate
Bear numbers are strong in the Starkey Unit. Hunters should focus efforts on mid-elevation south aspects for best results. Walking in on closed roads is a great way to access bear habitat within this hunt area. The Dry Beaver Ladd Canyon road closure area offers diverse habitat and is off limits to motorized travel. Other areas that have good bear densities are Spring Creek and USFS property around Fly Valley. Be sure to check access and road conditions before hunting.

Wallowa District Hunts (Season April 15- May 31)

Access is expected to be limited until early May in most units, with mid- to high- elevation roads blocked by snow. There has been little bear activity so hunters are safe in waiting until later in the season. Bear numbers should be about the same as last year. Bear activity generally improves by the first week of May.

Remember the Noregaard, Whiskey Creek and Shamrock Travel Management Areas will be in effect in the Sled Springs Unit through May 31; maps are available at entrance points or at ODFW’s Enterprise office. The road to the Freezeout trailhead in the Snake River unit is closed to vehicles and horses. Contact the Wallowa Whitman National Forest for further information.

756 Wenaha Unit: 14 bears, 8.75% success rate
756T (youth hunt): 4 bears, 12.5% success rate

757A Sled Springs and Chesnimnus Units: 42 bears, 19.18% success rate
757T (youth hunt): 8 bears, 14.81% success rate

Hunt 759A Snake River Unit: 24 bears, 8.86% success rate

Hunt 760A Minam and Imnaha Units: 18 bears and 11.92% success rate

Pine Creek-Keating-Catherine Creek (Hunt 762A)

2010: 44 bears harvested, 14.33% success rate
Baker County has received no damage complaints or sightings yet but boars should start coming out soon. The district experienced a harsh winter with heavy snowfall early in the year so hunters should expect more snow than last year. But due to a lack of significant snow lately and recent rain, conditions are open at low and mid elevations. Higher elevations near Pine Creek and McGraw Overlook still have deep snow. In the Keating Unit, hunters will find snow-free areas in some of the lowest portions of the national forest. Many of the mid- and high-elevation roads in all units are still impassible. Contact local offices of USFS or ODFW for a report on conditions before heading out.

The Catherine Creek Unit will produce good bear numbers this year although early season access will be limited by snow. Much of the unit’s lower elevations are on privately-owned land. The higher elevations of the Catherine Creek Unit are mostly within the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest and contain excellent bear habitat.

Lookout Mt. Unit (764)

Moderate snow at high elevations will limit access in the early season. Low-to mid-elevation areas of the Lookout Mtn Unit are snow free. Try south-facing slopes near the treeline above Brownlee Reservoir. Private lands limit access; make sure you obtain landowner permission before hunting private land.

South Blue Mtns (Hunt 746A, season April 15-May 31)

The hunt area experienced a light winter. Snow levels are high and should not have much effect on hunter access. Bear populations are stable or increasing but this hunt is still challenging due to the heavy forested terrain which makes it difficult to spot bears. Observations from an ongoing statewide bear study suggest that the northwest section of the Murderers Creek, Beulah, and Northside units have higher bear densities. Hunters often use this tag as an opportunity to scout new hunting areas for next fall’s deer and elk seasons, turkey hunt, or collect shed antlers. Remember it is legal to take naturally shed antlers, but not skulls with antlers attached.

High Desert Region

South Central (Hunt 731A, season April 15 – May 31)

2010: 8 bears harvested, a 10.9% success rate
Bear populations are stable to slightly increasing but low compared to other areas of the state. The highest bear densities are in the Cascade Mountains with lower densities in the drier, semi-desert portions of the hunt area. Areas for hunters to check include the Keno Unit, western portion of the Sprague Unit, and the Gearhart Mountain area in the Interstate Unit. Focus on the unburned fringes around 2002 fires (Grizzly Fire in the Interstate Unit and the Toolbox/Winter Fire in the Silver Lake Unit) and in riparian areas. In the northern portion of Fort Rock unit bear populations are low and hunters should expect low success. Bear activity is most common west of Highway 97 in the vicinity of riparian vegetation.

Locations: Public access is good within the Fremont-Winema and Deschutes National Forests and on open private timberland. Access for the opener will be poor due to snow drifts on north slopes and muddy road conditions at lower elevations. Access should improve by later in the season. Please respect private property and avoid driving on soft or muddy roads.

White River (Hunt 741, season April 15- May 31)

2010: 2 bears harvested, 8.70% success rate
Bear densities are good in the White River, especially within forested areas. Like other spring hunts, effort should be focused within clearcuts and meadows early and late in the day. The edges of the major drainages, such as the White River, Badger and Tygh Creeks, should be good places to find bears in the eastern edge of the unit.

Locations: The majority of bear habitat is found on public lands so access is good. The western edge of the unit has a good amount of county and private timberlands. Be sure to get permission if hunting on private lands.

Hood Unit (Hunt 742, season April 15-May 31)

2010: 3 bears harvested, 6.98% success rate
Winter snowpack has been below average this year, allowing bears to come out of hibernation early and in good shape. Look for open south-facing slopes or decommissioned forest roads with good grasses and forbs. Later in the season, when beehives are out in orchards for pollination, hunt forestland near the beehives or seek permission to hunt on private orchard ground that borders the timber.

Locations: Both public lands (Mt. Hood National Forest and Hood River County land) and some private industrial forestland are open to hunting; check with private landowners for access rules and permission.

Bear Plan to be reworked

Oregon’s Black Bear Management Plan dates back to the 1990s. ODFW is currently updating the plan to reflect changes in the management and science of bears.

“This will be an extensive public process,” said Tim Hiller, ODFW carnivore-furbearer coordinator. “We want to hear from hunters and the rest of the public about their thoughts and concerns about bears.”

ODFW will announce public meetings and other opportunity for public input on the new Bear Plan later this year.

Mandatory check-in of bears:

For the last three years, successful bear hunters have been required to check-in their bear’s skull at an ODFW office within 10 days of the harvest so biologists can collect a tooth and other biological information.

Bear skulls must be unfrozen when presented for check-in; it is very difficult to collect data (such as tooth measurements) from a frozen skull. ODFW also recommends hunters prop the bear’s mouth open with a stick after it is harvested, again to make data collection a quick and easy process.

This data collection is a critical part of the method ODFW uses to monitor Oregon’s bear population. See page 34 of the Oregon Big Game Regulations for more information.

Mandatory reporting

Separate from the check-in requirement, all hunters who purchased a spring bear tag are required to report their hunt results online or by phone (1-866-947-6339). Reporting is required even for those that did not go hunting or were unsuccessful. ODFW uses this information to monitor bear populations and determine hunting seasons.

As of March 14, 2011, 57 percent of 2010 SW Oregon spring bear tag holders and 77 percent of controlled spring bear tag holders had reported last year’s hunt results. This is better than the overall average of 40 percent for all big game and turkey tags.

On A Strange Page At wdfw.wa.gov

April 20, 2011

I’m inside an unfamiliar tab at wdfw.wa.gov — Wildlife Viewing.

As obsessively as I click through the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife’s angling and hunting pages on a daily — hourly — basis,  I’ve never been inside this section.

It feels a little like I’m peeking behind their camo curtain and seeing a bunch of butterfly-net-waving biologists.

“What is Watchable Wildlife?” a header on the page asks me rhetorically. Next to it is a big list of where and how to go to see critters.

The latter one seems silly — ummm, go to the freakin’ woods, down to the water or out in the sage and open your eyes, duh.

But then again, maybe not everyone in Washington is as familiar with the state as I (think) I am.

The reason I’m on this page is that Amy just called. She whipped out plastic again this morning and bought 70 bucks worth of stuff at the local Audubon store and now wants me to find instructions on how to build things.

“It’s on Fish and Wildlife’s site,” she prods.

Spring has sprung — that’s what the dandelions tell me, never mind snow in the forecast — and Amy’s got an itch to turn our breadbox of a backyard into certified wildlife habitat.

With moose a no-go, that means tweety birds (which our son, Kiran, will love) are in, and Roundup to battle the weeds sprouting between the paving stones is out.

“Spray them with white vinegar instead,” Amy says.

So far we’ve tacked up a couple nesting boxes for chickadees, hung some suet and dropped a ridiculously expensive bird bath in the ground by the plum tree.

Never thought I’d spend $50-plus on a glorified spa for starlings.

But I go along with it because A) it gives me credits for hunting and fishing gear down the road and B) it, of course, makes meine Frau happy.

To give Haus Walgamott a Bavarian look, we’ve also made planter boxes for our windows.

Well, I should say Amy made the boxes.

Turns out she’s a far, far more competent carpenter than I.

All her boxes turned out beautiful and straight.

The one I screwed together was warped — and it wasn’t because I got bad cedar over at Dunn Lumber or something.

I don’t know, but maybe German engineering isn’t just in the cars, but the genes too, you know?

Amy also asks me to email Dad about how to make hummingbird nectar, and when he gets back to me, it comes in a flurry of emails that demand attention so that when she calls back at the same moment I tell her that the recipe is simple — “Four cups of sugar and one cup of water.”

“You’re going to kill the hummingbirds, babe!” she exclaims.

Huh? I recheck Dad’s email — make that four cups water to one cup sugar.

I haven’t made much progress on the Wildlife Viewing page for what she needs, however.

It’s just so … I could literally close my eyes and talk you through exactly how to find what percent of riflemen were successful in the 2009 Pasayten general season mule deer hunt, or get you to a PDF for 2008 fish stocking totals for Thurston County lakes, but finding plans for building bat and flicker nests?

But that’s what Amy wants, so I press on.

I actually like northern flickers, but I don’t think they’re gonna come through our yard anytime soon because it has a noticeable lack of dead, bug-bearing trees, and my suggestion on how we could create one earned a sharp look last night. We’ve got a two-trunked cedar of Lebanon that is a colossal litterer — dropping dead needles all summer and these sharp-spined chunks of pinecone in late winter and spring — so I say how about we girdle one of the mothers and kill it so juicy ants infest it?

No, she says.

Back to WDFW’s Wildlife Viewing page.

Below the info on the whats, wheres and hows of spying on birds and mammals and whatnot is something that actually catches my eye: WildWatch Cams — game or trail cams, except none, of course, is focused on animals with antlers.

But there is a Loon Cam.

In my book, there are few cooler critters on Earth than loons.

I first heard their crazy chuckle-howl in Maine 10 years ago, then at Lost and Bonaparte Lakes in Okanogan County a couple years afterwards. One of the approximately 10,000 stuffed animals that our boys have is a loon that, when you squeeze it, produces the call.

Nobody’s home at the Loon Cam, but eventually I find a link to “Attracting wildlife to your backyard, Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary, projects, plans, and more…”

And after a bit of fumbling inside that, I find what I’m looking for — “Woodworking projects for Backyard Wildlife.”

Setting myself up for another chance to do battle with cedar and our screwermajiggy, I print out plans for economy bat condos and flicker town homes and back out of the site.

I know for fact that some Evergreen State sportsmen are uncomfortable with WDFW’s softer side, I certainly would like to see folks who access the agency’s lands for viewing purposes pay more for their upkeep, and it’s not like bird house plans aren’t posted anywhere else on the world wide web.

But, for what it’s worth, their wildlife viewing page was worth something.

AW/NWS

Columbia Springer Update (4-20-11)

April 20, 2011

UPDATED: 4:40 p.m., APRIL 20, 2011: Salmon managers extended the spring Chinook fishery on the Columbia River above Bonneville to the Washington-Oregon line east of McNary for seven days.

Fishing will be open through May 1 from the Tower Island power lines (approximately 6 miles below The Dalles Dam) upstream to Oregon/Washington border plus the Oregon and Washington banks between Bonneville Dam and the Tower Island power lines.

State managers had initially recommended keeping it open through May 5.

“Catch and effort to date has been minimal, reflective of the low Bonneville Dam counts. Catch estimates through April 17 total 39 Chinook kept and 24 released. Upriver Chinook mortalities total 41 fish, compared to the 1,032 available pre-update (4%),” says a fact sheet distributed today.

Season also opened today on parts of the Snake River.

As for a lower Columbia fishery, despite signs that more fish are now in and moving, if there is any extension, it would be put on on the “back side” of the run after a run-size update rather than on the front side of its peak.

“Right now we’re in a holding pattern for springs,” says fisheries biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver.

Fishing ended Tuesday after eight-day and then four-day extensions following the April 5 closure.

Through yesterday, all of 1,803 springers have gone over Bonneville. The river has been higher and colder than usual.

Revised numbers released this afternoon say that from Feb. 1 through April 19, anglers made 109,180 springer trips, keeping 7,440 and releasing 1,939. Of that, 5,669 were upriver-bound salmon, roughly 75 percent of the prerun-size update guideline.

“Oregon bank anglers enjoyed their best season in years,” Hymer says.

In April, they caught 1,168 while their Washington-side counterparts managed, err, 107.

Nontribal commercial anglers have taken 2,039 springers, 1,915 of which were bound for tribs above Bonneville.

While steelheading on the Lower Columbia is now closed through May 15, anglers did pick up over 1,500, keeping two-thirds, again primarily on the Oregon shore.

Garage Plus, NW Sportsman Man Cave Photo Contest

April 19, 2011

Garage Plus and Northwest Sportsman magazine announce the Show Us Your Man Cave Photo Contest!

Last time we wanted to see your hunting camps; this time we want to see how and where you store your toys.

So if you think you have the “Garage Mahal” of Northwest man caves, send us pics and a short write-up on why your man cave is your favorite place in the whole wide world, and we’ll enter you in the contest to win a fully guided salmon or steelhead trip for two and a bunch of other goodies.

MAN CAVE PHOTO CONTEST AD APPEARING IN THE APRIL 2011 ISSUE OF NORTHWEST SPORTSMAN MAGAZINE.

Send your pictures to awalgamott@nwsportsmanmag.com.

The contest ends June 31st , 2011.

Trout, Chinook, Poachers And More

April 19, 2011

My apologies for a lack of blogging lately — was wrapped up in that other thing we do here, producing a magazine to pay the bills that keep this page perking.

And now that the May issue’s been “put to bed,” as we say in the publishing biz — and with a little time before I dive into two more projects that MUST GET OUT THIS WEEK! — here are a few things that have crossed my desk that Northwest sportsmen may be interested in.

To wit:

Trout Limit Upped At Oregon’s Diamond Lake (ODFW PR)

Starting May 1, anglers can keep more trout from Diamond Lake for the 2011 season. An ODFW temporary rule May 1 – Oct. 27 lets anglers keep eight legal-sized trout per day instead of five. The rule still allows just one trout over 20 inches.

“This is going to be a great year to fish Diamond Lake,” said Laura Jackson, district fish biologist. “We’re starting the season with over 400,000 holdover trout – more than half of those are 16-plus inches, and the rest are in the 10 to 12-inch range. But with the lake’s productivity, even those smaller trout will be over 14 inches soon.”

The temporary harvest increase will help ODFW manage the Diamond Lake fishery to meet its ecological goals.

According to Jackson, forest fires and high gas prices interrupted the fishery in 2008 and 2009, leaving more trout in the lake. In response, ODFW reduced fingerling stocking in 2010 and is reducing it again this year. And although fishing was excellent in 2010, anglers released more than 76,000 fish.

YOU WILL BE ABLE TO KEEP MORE RAINBOWS IN THE UPPER TEENS AT DIAMOND LAKE THIS YEAR -- LIKE THIS PAIR CAUGHT THERE BY JAYCE WILDER A COUPLE SEASONS BACK -- THANKS TO A MASSIVE CROP OF HOLDOVERS AND A RECENT RULE CHANGE. (WRIGHT & McGILL/EAGLE CLAW PHOTO CONTEST)

“We’re working hard to meet the fishing and ecological needs of the lake – people keeping more fish this year will be a great help,” Jackson said. “We don’t want more fish left in the lake at the end of this season than what’s called for in our management plan. With gas prices rising again, we hope people make the most of their trip to Diamond Lake and keep the trout they catch.”

ODFW, the Forest Service, Portland State University and MaxDepth Aquatics are still actively monitoring Diamond Lake through creel surveys, benthic and water quality sampling. Jackson said factors, such as dissolved oxygen, benthics, zooplankton, fish growth and fish condition all met or exceeded desired levels in 2010.

“We’re hopeful the daily limit increase encourages people to keep more fish this year,” said Jackson.

Anglers are reminded that the Diamond Lake trout fishery opens this Saturday, April 23 with a limit of five fish per day until May 1 when it jumps to eight fish. Most of the lake is still under snow, ice and slush. Check with the Diamond Lake Resort for current conditions.

Swann Song For Fruitland Gobbler

Most of the year, Bill Swann can be found guiding the Columbia, Satsop and other rivers for salmon and steelhead, but come mid-April, he hangs up the rods and pulls down the shotguns and heads to Northeast Washington for turkeys.

Here’s a picture of the gobbler his son, Gabe, shot near Fruitland at 10 yards after Bill called it in.

GABE SWANN WITH HIS STEVENS COUNTY GOBBLER. (RUGER PHOTO CONTEST)

Lower Columbia/Southwest Washington Fishing Report (Courtesy biologist Joe Hymer)

SALMON AND STEELHEAD

Cowlitz River – 104 bank anglers kept 27 steelhead and released 2 fish.  43 boat anglers kept 18 steelhead and 1 adult spring Chinook and released 2 steelhead.  All the fish were sampled around the trout hatchery.

Last week, Tacoma Power recovered 700 winter-run steelhead, one summer-run steelhead and ten spring Chinook adults during five days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.
During the past week Tacoma Power employees released 57 steelhead into the Cispus River above the mouth of Yellow Jacket Creek, and seven winter-run steelhead into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 10,500 cubic feet per second on Monday, April 18. Water visibility is five feet.

Mainstem Lewis River – 4 boat anglers released 1 wild adult spring Chinook.

North Fork Lewis River – 19 bank anglers kept 1 steelhead.  2 boat anglers had no catch.

Wind River – At the mouth 4 boat anglers kept 1 adult spring chinook.  1 bank angler had no catch as did 3 bank anglers in the gorge.

Drano Lake – 5 boat anglers kept 1 adult spring Chinook.  2 bank anglers had no catch.  Closed Wednesdays through June.

Klickitat River – 3 bank anglers had no catch.

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – In general – catches are increasing in the Cathlamet area where anglers on some days averaged an adult chinook kept/released per boat.  Boat anglers in the Woodland area averaged over ½ fish per boat when including fish released.  Fishing from the Washington shore remains slow.   Tomorrow (Tuesday 19) is the last scheduled day to fish for spring Chinook on the lower Columbia.

Effort remains largely unchanged from the previous week but is still substantially less than the same time last year.

From April 14-17 we sampled 1,669 anglers (including 565 boats) with 205 adult and 2 jack chinook and 8 steelhead.  Overall boat anglers averaged an adult Chinook kept/released per every 6.5 rods while bank anglers averaged one per every 44.6 rods based on mainly completed and incomplete trips, respectively.

One hundred eighty-one (88%) of the adult Chinook caught were kept.  We sampled 132 (73%) of the fish kept.  One hundred fourteen (86%) of the fish sampled were upriver stock based on Visual Stock Identification (VSI).    All eight of the steelhead caught were kept.

A total of 673 salmonid boats and just over 700 bank anglers (including 9 sampled just below Bonneville Dam but unable to count during the flight) were found during the Saturday April 16 effort flight count.  On the April 9th flight, just over 700 boats and nearly 850 bank anglers were counted.

On Saturday April 17, 2010, a total of 2,585 salmonid boats and over 1,500 bank anglers were counted.

Bonneville Pool – No report.

The Dalles Pool – Bank anglers are catching some spring Chinook.  From March 16-April 17, there have been an estimated 656 angler trips with 24 chinook kept  and 24 released.

John Day Pool – An estimated 15 adult hatchery spring Chinook were harvested in the John Day pool (Lake Umatilla) this past week by anglers.  WDFW staff interviewed 93 anglers and sampled two hatchery spring Chinook. No wild Chinook or any other species were reported. Very few boat anglers are targeting on Chinook but several bank anglers are currently fishing the Oregon shore line below McNary.

A Joint State hearing via telephone conference has been scheduled for 2 PM Wednesday April 20 to review the above Bonneville (Zone 6) recreational spring Chinook fishery.  Currently the fishery is scheduled to remain open through April 24th.

STURGEON

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – Boat anglers are catching some legals.  Slow from the bank.

The Dalles Pool – Bank anglers are catching some legals.

WALLEYE AND BASS

The Dalles pool – Boat anglers averaged 2.7 walleye kept/released per rod.

TROUT

Silver Lake near Castle Rock – 32 anglers had 2 bass.  A lot of hours fishing but not much luck.  Water temp 51F.

Kress Lake near Kalama – 31 anglers with 2 rainbows kept (14” and 15”) and 16 released.  Lots of effort, very slow fishing.  Water temp 50F.

Horseshoe Lake in Woodland – 13 anglers with 1 rainbow (15”).  A lot of effort, low harvest.  Water temp 51F.

Merwin  Reservoir – 37 anglers with 136 kokanee kept and 20 kokanee.  Water temp 48F.  Fish the top 6-9 feet of water.

Klineline Pond – 110 bank anglers kept 103 rainbows and 3 brood stock rainbows plus released 23 rainbows.

San Juan Islands Blackmouth Fishing Report (Courtesy Kevin Klein, Friday Harbor, PSA San Juan Islands, CCA Northsound)

The 7th Annual Frank Wilson Memorial Blackmouth Derby ended with a big shot of fish on Friday, April 15th.

I headed to Salmon Bank at first light, and a flotilla of boats soon followed. We were all looking for that “last day fish” to unseat one of the money placings. After three hours of trolling, no fish. I had, however, lost two entire downrigger set-ups, 12lb. ball, snubber, rudder, cable and all. I was fishing solo, and down to one last 10 lb. ball

Debating whether to run in and go shopping I figured I might as well make a pass on the west side of Lopez Island while heading in the direction of the tackle shop. I got the gear down and started marking fish. A lot of bait and birds showed up, and the place was looking a little more interesting. My rod soon yanked down, and I had a hold of something pretty big. After a good fight I scooped it one handed with the net, dropped the rod, closed the purse and hauled her aboard. Beautiful, about 19 and clean shaven.

That was the one I had been looking for all year. I got back in the water, released two more and then finally tagged out on a nice 10 lb.er. All on the Irish Cream Hootchie Hooker. More boats showed up, along with the Orcas, as I was running for the scales. Turns out I should have run a little sooner, as my fish knocked Rich Warin out of third, but weighed two-hundredths of an ounce less than Marty Cevalier Jr.s second place fish. 19.23 lb.s vs. 19.25 lb.s, just a few drops of blood.

That wasn’t the only excitement for the day, as Carol Davis weighed in not one, but two fish bigger than Karen Rhineharts 12.70 lb.er in the final hours. The 13.48 lb. fish gave Carol the win in the Women’s division.

CAROL DAVIS A PAIR OF BLACKIES IN THE LOW TEENS WHICH WON HER TOP PRIZE IN THE WOMENS DIVISION AT THE FRANK WILSON MEMORIAL BLACKMOUTH DERBY IN THE SAN JUANS LAST WEEKEND. (KEVIN KLEIN)

Marshall Clarke caught a 7.74 lb. fish to win the kids top prize on the last day as well.

What an ending for a derby that saw adverse weather conditions, and scattered fish for most of the event. In all, 56 anglers weighed in 72 blackmouth. The first annual women’s division saw 10 participants in a heated race.

Thanks to Kings Marine and their vendors for the donations of the weekly prizes and some great door prizes for the awards ceremony. Sharon and her crew put in alot of hard work for this tournament, and raised $2500 for San Juan Island Emergency Services.

The final top placings are:
1st.  Raymond Ploghoft, 20.70 lbs, $1000
2nd. Marty Chevalier Jr.  19.25 lbs, $500
3rd.  Kevin Klein             19.23 lbs, $250
Women’s: Carol Davis     13.48 lbs $250
Kids: Marshall Clarke      7.74  lb.s $250
Mystery: Jerry Greene     6.74 lb.s  $250

Turns out the ending of the derby was just the beginning of the good fishing. A lot of fish were hooked throughout the weekend, with limits and multiple releases being the norm. Saturday and Sunday saw the “Draggin’ Ladies”, Carol Davis and Karen Rhinehart put on a show. The first day, Karen and her husband Lance put a nice 18 lb. blackmouth in the boat. Carol, fishing with life-skipper Andy Holman then caught a 15 lber.

Sunday saw a reversal as Karen and Lance caught a 15lber. Then, proving the family that stays together slays together, Carol decked a beautiful 18. Both these women are accomplished anglers in ther own right, with good fishing partners. Look out for these teams on the Northwest Salmon Derby series in the future.

The last two weeks of the season may be red hot in the San Juans, with what looks like some better weather.

More About Potential WDFW Consolidations In Senate Budget (AW)

As I reported last week, the Washington Senate’s operating budget would not do a wholesale merger of WDFW with State Parks, as SB 5669 had it, but it does contain back-office consolidations for a number of natural resource agencies.

When I blogged about it, WDFW officials were just digging into the document. Deputy Director Joe Stohr told me yesterday that it may mean that WDFW, DNR, etc, would share facilities and have no more than four regional offices.

Right now, WDFW has six and a handful of branch locations (Colville, Wenatchee, Pasco, La Conner, etc.).

“We’re looking at it, trying to understand what it contemplates,” says Stohr.

The Senate budget must be reconciled with the House budget before it goes to the governor.

Update on HB 1340: Up For Gregoire’s Signature Tomorrow (AW)

Speaking of the guv’nah, legislation that would increase penalties for spree poaching of wildlife is slated to be signed by Christine Gregoire tomorrow, April 20.

Basically, House Bill 1340 expands what can be considered unlawful hunting in the first degree, a class C felony. Previously, offenders had to have a previous wildlife misdemeanor within the past five years to get hit with that charge. But now someone who poaches three or more deer, elk, moose, mountain goat, caribou, cougars, black bears or grizzly bears within 24 hours or “course of events” can be charged straight away in the first degree.

“I’m sure we’ll have a number of times to apply it this year, unfortunately,” said WDFW Deputy Chief of Enforcement Mike Cenci.

The bill flew through the lower chamber on a 97-0 vote (with one member excused), and cleared the upper, 49-0.

It comes after at least four spree wildlife poachings in the past year and a half and with the recent jailing of a man who game wardens suspect has illegally killed over 100 animals.

The May Cover

Well, since I brought it up, I might as well show you what’s on the way for May:

Springer Season Extended 4 Days

April 15, 2011

(OREGON, WASHINGTON DEPARTMENTS OF FISH AND WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASES)

ODFW

Last week’s high flows and poor water conditions continued to hamper spring chinook fishing success on the lower Columbia River, prompting fishery managers to extend the current season four more days.

The spring chinook season was scheduled to close tomorrow, but Oregon and Washington fishery managers meeting today decided to keep the fishery open through Tuesday, April 19 to give anglers a chance to harvest more of the 3,100 upriver spring chinook remaining on the harvest quota. The two states also indicated that further extensions in the lower river would be unlikely prior to a formal run update sometime in May.

“It’s been a difficult year so far for both fishers and managers,” said Chris Kern, ODFW assistant Columbia River fisheries manager. “Poor water conditions are keeping catch rates low, while fish passage at Bonneville Dam is well behind expectations, meaning we need to be cautious going forward.”

As of April 13, 864 adult spring chinook have been counted at Bonneville Dam. The fish count at Bonneville Dam is one of the pieces of information used by managers to monitor and estimate the final run size.

The river will remain open through Tuesday, April 19 from Buoy 10 to Rooster Rock State park for both bank and boat anglers and from Roster Rock to Bonneville Dam for bank fishing only. The daily bag limit continues to be 2 adult salmon/steelhead in combination, of which only 1 may be an adult chinook.

WDFW

Columbia River anglers will have four more days to catch hatchery-reared spring chinook salmon below Bonneville Dam, where tough fishing conditions have held this year’s catch below expected levels since late last month.

Fishery managers from Washington and Oregon agreed Thursday to extend the season through April 19 to give anglers more time to reach the initial harvest guideline set at the beginning of the season.

The additional four days of fishing will follow on the heels of an eight-day extension previously approved through April 15.

Cindy LeFleur, Columbia River policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), said test fisheries have found relatively high concentrations of spring chinook salmon in the lower river, but water conditions have slowed their passage over Bonneville Dam and made them hard to catch with a hook and line.

“Anglers have been catching fish in some areas of the lower river, but turbid, high-water conditions have put a damper on overall catch rates,” LeFleur said. “Visibility underwater is about two feet, so the fish have a hard time seeing anglers’ lures.”

Through April 15, lower-river anglers are projected to have caught and kept a total of 5,900 spring chinook, including 4,600 upriver fish that count toward the 7,700-fish  harvest guideline.

This year’s harvest guideline for the lower river fisheries is based on a projected return of 198,400 upriver fish, minus a 30 percent “buffer” to guard against overestimating the run. Based on the estimated catch through April 19, the fishery will close with a buffer of approximately 43 percent, said Guy Norman, WDFW southwest regional director.

“After this extension, we don’t anticipate making any changes in the season until more fish pass over the dam and we can update the run-size forecast,” Norman said. “We want to give lower-river anglers a chance to catch some more fish, but we also have to make sure we can meet our conservation objectives and our obligations to upriver fisheries.”

The fishery affected by the extension ranges from Buoy 10 upriver to Rooster Rock for boat and bank anglers, and to the fishing boundary below Bonneville Dam for bank anglers only. When the fishery is open, anglers can retain one marked, hatchery-reared adult chinook salmon as part of their daily limit.

Anglers may also retain shad and hatchery-reared steelhead when the spring chinook fishery is open. However, all wild salmon and steelhead not marked as a hatchery fish by a clipped adipose fin must be released unharmed.

The fishing extension does not affect the spring chinook season above Bonneville Dam, which will be reviewed at a joint-state hearing April 20. That fishery is open seven days a week through April 24 between the Tower Island powerlines below The Dalles Dam and the Washington/Oregon state line, 17 miles upriver from McNary Dam. Bank fishing is also allowed from Bonneville Dam upriver to the powerlines located about 6 miles below The Dalles Dam through April 24.

Anglers fishing above Bonneville Dam can retain up to two marked, hatchery-reared adult chinook salmon or hatchery steelhead as part of their daily limit.

Seven More Days For Columbia Springers Possible

April 14, 2011

Columbia salmon managers may extend the lower river’s spring Chinook season for another seven days.

That after the ongoing eight-day extension on through tomorrow was expected to yield only 1,362 kings, including 767 of the upriver fish.

That brings the catch tally for above-Bonneville-bound springers since February to 4,587, nearly 3,000 below the guideline managers are using.

AMONG THE LUCKY ANGLERS FINDING SPRINGERS AFTER THE REOPENER, JYL DOUGHERTY. (WRIGHT & MCGILL/EAGLE CLAW PHOTO CONTEST)

If approved in its current form, the season would be extended from Saturday, April 16, through Friday, April 22.

Managers are puzzled by what the river is telling them. A fact sheet out early this afternoon says:

Bonneville Dam passage of Chinook through April 13 totals 864 adults.  Based on the recent 5-year average, which includes four late-timed years, passage is typically about 2% (range 0.1% to 4%) complete on April 13.  The 10-year average completion percentage is 8% (range 0.1% to 32%).

The 5-year average 50% passage date is May 8; therefore it is difficult to make accurate conclusions regarding run size at this time.

Indicators for the upriver run strength are mixed; negative indicators include the low cumulative Bonneville Dam count and low catch rates in the lower river sport fishery to date.  Positive indicators include a high proportion of upriver fish in non-Indian catch since early February and the improved catch rate from test fishing and ongoing research activities.

Then there’s the Columbia’s water conditions:

During April 1-12, discharge at Bonneville Dam averaged 338 kcfs, including about 111 kcfs in spill.  The discharge peaked at 390 kcfs on April 5 and dropped to 303 kcfs by April 13.  The 5-year average discharge for April 14 is 217 kcfs.  River stage is currently at 10.0 feet with a predicted rise to 11.4 feet by April 18.

Bonneville Dam discharge is predicted to average 266 kcfs from April 16-22 and 274 kcfs from April 23-30. Water visibility is 2.0 feet compared to 4.0 feet on April 1.  The 5-year average visibility for this date is 4.7 feet.

Water temperature was 47° F on April 12.  Spring water temperatures have been colder than both the 5- and 10-year averages.

WA Hunt Regs Out

April 13, 2011

WDFW has posted their 2011 big game hunting regulations, a pamphlet that includes a cover shot of a large bull elk by Douglas Kikendall, a Yakima-area hunter whose wildlife photographs have turned heads on Hunting-Washington.

Inside, you’ll find a “significant” increase in Mt. St. Helens and Yakima elk tags to apply for before the midnight, May 18, deadline, as well as the new four-point minimum for whitetail bucks in two units in the Northeast corner of the state.

To download the 100-plus-page document, go here.

WA, OR Summer Salt, Columbia Salmon Seasons Set

April 13, 2011

Press releases just out from WDFW and the Pacific Fishery Management Council detail this summer’s salmon seasons on the Washington and Oregon saltwater and Columbia River.

First, WDFW’s:

Puget Sound

Anglers will have an opportunity to take advantage of an abundant return of pink salmon this year. Nearly 6 million pink salmon are expected to return to Puget Sound, where “bonus” bag limits for pink salmon will be established in marine areas 5 through 11.The majority of pink salmon – the smallest of the Pacific salmon species – return to Washington’s waters in odd-numbered years.

Most chinook and coho fisheries will be similar to last year’s seasons. However, the sport fishery for chinook in inner Elliott Bay will be closed to protect Green River naturally spawning chinook, which are expected to return in low numbers this year. Also, salmon fisheries on the Skokomish River have not yet been settled and state and tribal co-managers plan to continue negotiations over the next several weeks.

Washington’s ocean waters

Despite an expected increase in chinook abundance, the PFMC today adopted a chinook catch quota of 33,700 for the recreational ocean fishery, 27,300 less than last year’s quota. The lower chinook quota is necessary to further protect wild salmon stocks and meet conservation goals, said Anderson, who represents WDFW on the management council.

“The chinook quota is down from last year, but the number of fish available for this summer’s ocean fishery should still provide good fishing opportunities for anglers,” Anderson said.

The PFMC also adopted a quota of 67,200 coho for this year’s recreational ocean fishery, the same number as last year’s quota.

This year’s ocean fishery will begin June 18 with a mark-selective fishery for hatchery chinook in all ocean areas. The fishery will run seven days a week, with a daily limit of two salmon, through June 25 or until 4,800 hatchery chinook are retained.

Recreational ocean salmon fisheries for chinook and hatchery coho will continue June 26 in marine areas 1, 2, 3 and 4. Anglers fishing those marine areas will be allowed to retain one chinook as part of a two-salmon daily limit. Anglers also are allowed one additional pink salmon each day in marine areas 3 and 4.

WESTPORT'S CHINOOK QUOTA IS DOWN FROM LAST YEAR, WHEN GARY LUNDQUIST CAUGHT THIS BEAUT, THOUGH KING ABUNDANCE IS EXPECTED TO BE UP. (WRIGHT & MCGILL/EAGLE CLAW PHOTO CONTEST)

Columbia River

The Buoy 10 fishery will be open for chinook and hatchery coho Aug. 1-28.  Anglers will have a two-salmon daily limit, only one of which may be a chinook. From Aug. 29 through Dec. 31, anglers will have a daily limit of two hatchery coho, but must release chinook.

The mainstem Columbia River from the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line upstream to Bonneville Dam will be open for chinook and hatchery coho Aug. 1 through Dec. 31. Anglers will be allowed to retain one adult chinook as part of their two-fish daily bag limit through Sept. 9. Beginning Sept. 10, chinook retention will only be allowed upstream of the Lewis River, but up to two adult chinook may be retained.

Specific fishing seasons and regulations for marine areas in Washington and a portion of the Columbia River will be available next week on WDFW’s North of Falcon website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon/.

Here’s the nitty-gritty from the PFMC release:

Oregon South of Cape Falcon

Greatly improved abundance of Sacramento River fall Chinook will fuel the first substantial ocean salmon fisheries off California and Oregon since 2007. Fisheries south of Cape Falcon are supported by Sacramento River fall Chinook. In 2008 and 2009, poor Sacramento returns led to the largest ocean salmon fishery closure on record.  The abundance forecast of Sacramento River fall Chinook in 2011 is 730,000, far above the number needed for optimum spawning this fall (122,000‐180,000 fish).

The Klamath River fall Chinook forecast for 2011 is near normal. The Oregon Coast natural coho forecast in 2011 is about 250,000, well above the 15 year average.

Recreational fisheries in southern Oregon and California are for Chinook only and run from May 14 through Labor Day weekend in the Brookings/Eureka/Crescent City area, and from April 2 to October 30 or September 18 in areas further south.  The minimum size limit will be 24 inches for Chinook coastwide.

Central Oregon

Recreational fisheries in central Oregon will allow Chinook retention and run from March 15 through September 30.  Coho fisheries consist of a mark‐selective coho quota fishery that will open in early July and a non‐mark selective coho quota fishery in early September.

Northern Oregon (North of Cape Falcon)

Fisheries north of Cape Falcon (near Nehalem in northern Oregon) depend largely on Columbia River stocks. Columbia River fall Chinook returns in 2010 were above average, and 2011 forecasts are similar.

North of Cape Falcon, there is an overall non‐Indian total allowable catch of 64,600 Chinook and 80,000 marked hatchery coho.

A mark‐selective Chinook season north of Cape Falcon begins June 18 and ends June 25 or when 4,800 marked Chinook are caught.  The Chinook season will be open seven days per week, two fish per day, with a 24‐inch total length minimum size limit.

All salmon seasons are divided into four sub‐areas. Seasons begin June 26 and end in mid‐ to late‐September.  For details, please see the season descriptions on the Council website at http://www.pcouncil.org.

Here’s the top half of WDFW’s press release, about how things came together over the past month and a half of wrangling:

State and tribal co-managers today agreed on a package of salmon fisheries that meets conservation goals for wild salmon populations, while providing a variety of fishing opportunities on abundant stocks.

Washington’s 2011 salmon fishing seasons, developed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and treaty Indian co-managers, were finalized today during the Pacific Fishery Management Council’s (PFMC) meeting in San Mateo, Calif. The fishing package defines regulations for salmon fisheries in Puget Sound, Washington’s ocean and coastal areas and the Columbia River.

“Salmon fisheries developed for this year meet conservation objectives for wild salmon while providing meaningful fishing opportunities throughout Washington’s waters,” said Phil Anderson, director of WDFW. “Developing these fisheries wouldn’t be possible without strong cooperation between the state, the tribes and our constituents.”

While state and tribal fishers will have a variety of salmon-fishing opportunities this year, many fisheries will be constrained to protect wild salmon listed under the federal Endangered Species Act.

“Conservative fisheries must go hand-in-hand with habitat restoration and protection so that we can continue toward our goal of salmon recovery,” said Lorraine Loomis, fisheries manager for the Swinomish Tribe. “State and tribal cooperation is the key to addressing one of the most pressing needs of salmon – more high quality spawning and rearing habitat.”

OR Spring Turkey Forecast (2011)

April 13, 2011

Eleven-year-old Alex Wildman got his gobbler last weekend, and now Oregon’s older turkey gunners get their chance. The general hunt starts this weekend.

ALEX WILDMAN'S MENTORED YOUTH TURKEY HUNT GOBBLER, SHOT LAST WEEKEND WITH HIS FATHER, MATHEW. ALEX SHOT THE BIG BIRD AT 6:30 A.M. NEAR CROW AT 15 YARDS WITH A 20 GAUGE AFTER IT RESPONDED TO A BOX CALL AND JAKE DECOY. IT WAS THE SPRINGFIELD LAD'S FIRST BIRD; "I'M SO PROUD OF HIM," WRITES MATHEW. (RUGER PHOTO CONTEST)

And just in case gas prices or honey-dos have kept you from spring scouting, here’s what ODFW wildlife biologists are saying about this season’s forecast, courtesy of ODFW’s weekly Recreation Report.

NORTHWEST

TURKEYS are minimal in the north coast.

SOUTHWEST

Coos County: SPRING TURKEY opens April 15. While concentrations are not as high as Douglas County, coast populations are doing well. Remember to get permission to hunt on private lands.

Douglas County: SPRING TURKEY season begins April 15th so start practicing your calling. Last years chick/poult counts showed slightly below average production but hunters can expect the spring gobbler hunt this year to be excellent. Over the last 10 years all indicators point to a healthy and increasing turkey population in Douglas County. While the hens are off nesting the first part of the season most toms are found on private land sometimes adjacent to public lands. In general, most turkeys are found on or adjacent to low-mid elevation private lands associated with oak savannah habitat. Hunters are reminded to obtain permission before hunting on private lands.

Jackson, Josephine and Curry Counties: TURKEY spring season opens April 15. Wet springs for the last few years have reduced our chick production. This has only reduced the number of birds within the flocks. We still have a large number of flocks throughout our area and we still expect average success. Most turkeys are found in low-mid elevation of oak and conifer mix forests with there associated meadows and clearings. Turkeys will be feeding on green grasses and insects. Use locator calls before light or after dark to locate roosting trees then set up in an area of their travel and begin call as light approaches. Private lands hold a considerable amount of turkeys, ask for permission to hunt.

WILLAMETTE ZONE

Spring TURKEY season opens statewide on April 15. Season dates and bag limits can be found on page 15 of the 2010-2011 Oregon Game Bird Regulations. Turkeys in the Willamette area are mostly found on private lands. There are good hunting opportunities for hunters that have completed their early season scouting and obtained permission to hunt on private lands. Please remember to respect private property.

Private timber company lands can be productive places to hunt if the landowner is allowing hunting access. Check out ODFW’s Access & Habitat Program for a list of participants: http://www.dfw.state.or.us/AH/hunting

CENTRAL ZONE

PRINEVILLE/OCHOCO WILDLIFE DISTRICT TURKEY: The district experienced an extended winter and late spring so turkeys may be slower to come off private land and head for higher elevation public land Remember to ask for permission to hunt.

THE DALLES WILDLIFE DISTRICT: TURKEYS tend to be found in the oak-conifer transition zone and much of this is on private land. Remember to ask permission to hunt private land.

WHITE RIVER WILDLIFE AREA: GENERAL SPRING TURKEY: General spring turkey season opens April 15-31.  Turkeys can be found throughout WRWA and higher on the National Forest. Look for turkeys along ridges and in areas that have oak trees and openings. For best results scout before the season to locate birds.

SOUTHEAST ZONE

HARNEY COUNTY: TURKEYS can be found in the northern portion of the county on or near national forestland.

NORTHEAST ZONE

BAKER COUNT: General spring turkey season runs April 15 through May 31. Hunters should concentrate their efforts around lower elevation levels where there has been some early spring green up. There are still heavy snow levels in the higher elevations. Public land hunting opportunities exist on BLM and the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest as well as the ODFW managed Elkhorn Wildlife Area. Remember to ask for permission before hunting on private properties.

GRANT COUNTY: TURKEYS are scattered throughout the district. The middle fork of the John Day River and Murderers Creek are good areas to start looking.

MORROW, GILLIAM and WHEELER COUNTIES: TURKEY opens on the 15th across the state. Turkey numbers appear to be steady across the District. The southern portion of the forest has the highest numbers of turkeys as they move up from their wintering areas. As the season continues, turkeys will move up slope with the snow melt. Turkeys can be found in most areas of the forest in both the Heppner and Fossil Unit. Hunter success should be about average this year.

Union County: TURKEY season opens April 15. Toms have been sighted strutting all over the county. The highest densities of birds are in the north end of Union County; however turkeys are well distributed throughout. Snow will limit vehicle access to higher elevations but walk-in hunters may find birds on open south slopes that are surrounded by snow.

LADD MARSH WILDLIFE AREA: TURKEY hunting is allowed in the Glass Hill Unit (west of Foothill Rd) of Ladd Marsh. There is a small resident population on this part of Glass Hill. Birds often move between ODFW and adjacent private property. Some adjacent land owners participate in the Access and Habitat Program and allow public access. A kiosk at the Foothill access point shows public access areas. There are also maps available at the kiosk as well as the Northeast Region Office.

WALLOWA DISTRICT: TURKEY: Most turkeys wintered well and hunters should find birds well scattered in the Wenaha, Sled Springs, and Chesnimnus units. Vehicle access will be difficult until early May due to deep snow drifts.

Northern Rockies Wolves To Be Removed From ESA Coverage

April 13, 2011

Run a Google News search for “Wolves Congress” this morning and you’ll come up with 767 results.

Oh, yeah, wolves in the Northern Rockies and now in the halls of Washington DC are a hot topic.

The gist of many of today’s headlines is that federal protections for Canis lupus were removed through a rider passed in last weekend’s budget battle and which is expected to be approved later this week.

The language prevents judicial review.

Now, management will be handed over to the states of Montana and Idaho, which in all likelihood will hold hunts this year.

It also delists wolves in eastern sections of Washington and Oregon, though those populations remain under state protections — at least that’s how some news accounts have it.

Others state more nebulously that wolves have been delisted in both states, not recognizing that the Northern Rockies population is basically east of Highways 97/17/395.

“We don’t know yet, we honest to god don’t know yet” what it means for Washington, says WDFW spokeswoman Madonna Luers in Spokane.

Wolf advocates, however, are crushed. There’s also worry about the precedent of removing ESA-listed species through budgets and lawmakers instead of scientific review.

State game management plans, approved by federal scientists, will now be put to the test.

Wrote the LA Times:

Yet (Montana Democratic Senator Jon) Tester said the proposed legislation will provide a way forward where none previously existed.

“This wolf fix isn’t about one party’s agenda,” the congressman said in a statement. “It’s about what’s right for Montana and the West, which is why I’ve been working so hard to get this solution passed, and why it has support from all sides.”

Perhaps some of the thunderhead that’s been gathered over the region will begin to dissipate.

“I think hunting is going to reduce the hysteria going on,” author and retired federal biologist Carter Niemeyer told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. “More and more people somewhat believe the fear mongering (about wolves) and feel like they have no control over it. There is a combination of frustration and anger and fear that even sensible sportsmen have gotten drawn in.”

Or perhaps the thunderhead has just moved west into Washington and Oregon.

WA Senate Budget Wouldn’t Merge WDFW; Does Reduce ‘Back Office’ Funding

April 13, 2011

The state Senate’s 2011-13 proposed budget would not merge the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife with the State Parks and Recreation Commission and Recreation and Conservation Office, as Governor Gregoire had requested last December, but parts of the plan do look like consolidation.

Details from the operating budget that Senate Ways and Means Committee leaders Sen. Ed Murray and Sen. Joseph Zarelli released this morning reduce expenditures at the headquarters level and encourage WDFW, Parks, DNR, DOE and the Department of Agriculture “to work together to achieve efficiencies in managing the natural resources of the state.”

“There are some aspects of consolidation in administrative functions — what we call back office — so we’re trying to understand that more,” says WDFW deputy director Joe Stohr in Olympia.

“Our staff is still trying to interpret and figure out what it means for State Parks,” adds Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Sandy Maeling.

Previously, Senate Bill 5669 would have merged WDFW, Parks and RCO into a Department of Fish, Wildlife and Recreation.

The House’s budget bill, approved last weekend, left out consolidation.

Gregoire had called for merging the agencies as one way to deal with the state’s multi-billion-dollar revenue shortfall. It and a host of other mergers would have saved $30 million over the next two years. She also wanted to cut out the Fish & Wildlife Commission and other boards to save $7.4 million.

The Senate’s budget must first be passed and then reconciled with the House’s version before going to the governor.

“I’m happy to see inclusion of our four revenue proposals,” Stohr added. “They’re in all three budgets, the governor’s, House and Senate.”

He says the Discover Pass and license fee increase package are slated for discussion this afternoon by the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Stohr noted the lateness of the budgetary hour — the session ends April 24 — and the differences still to be hashed out.

“So we’ll be working with staff and legislators,” he said.

An overview of Zarelli and Murray’s plan states:

The 2011-13 biennial budget for natural resources is approximately $1.3 billion and represents approximately 2.6 percent of the overall budget. Of this $1.3 billion, the general fund accounts for less than 21 percent or approximately $319 million. Some of the primary activities funded with these resources include environmental protection; water quality; fish, shellfish, and game harvest; food safety and commodity control; land and resource management; operation and maintenance of camp sites; and forest fire protection.

Given the current economic forecast, the General Fund-State appropriations for the natural resource agencies were reduced and crafted with the following goals:

1. Protect and preserve the health of the state’s natural resources,

2. Continue to provide public access to the state’s natural resources; and

3. Transition as much as possible to a user-supported funding structure

INCREASES

PROTECT AND RESTORE PUGET SOUND – $18MILLION GENERAL FUND-FEDERAL

The Department of Fish and Wildlife is entering into agreement with the US Environmental Protection Agency for $18 million in funds to protect and restore near shore habitats in the Puget Sound. Funding will be distributed to improve the efficiency of existing stewardship programs.

MAJOR SAVINGS

MAKING NATURAL RESOURCES AGENCIES USER-SUPPORTED – $49MILLION GENERAL FUND-STATE SAVINGS

The Parks and Recreation Commission, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Department of Natural Resources will all transition to a more user-supported funding structure. The agencies will issue annual passes that cost $30 and will allow purchasers to access all state parks and DFW and DNR recreational areas. The agencies will also offer $10 passes that will afford purchasers the same access for a single day. Campers, hunters, and fishers, off-road vehicle owners, and recreational boaters who already pay for access to specific recreation areas through existing permit and registration fees will not be required to purchase either the annual or day-use permits for those specific recreation areas.

HUNTING AND FISHING LICENSES – $4MILLION GENERAL FUND-STATE SAVINGS, $6 MILLION STATE WILDLIFE ACCOUNT

The Department of Fish and Wildlife will be changing its hunting and fishing license fees. The department has reviewed its fee structure as compared to other states and in consultation with stakeholders. Forty percent of current fees will either decrease in value or be eliminated. The remaining 60 percent will increase. On average, the fees will increase by 16 percent for residents; 12 percent for non-residents, 2 percent for youths; and decrease by 4 percent for persons with disabilities and veterans.

ADMINISTRATIVE SAVINGS AND CONSOLIDATION – $5MILLION GENERAL FUND-STATE SAVINGS

Back-office functions will be reduced in the Parks and Recreation Commission, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Ecology. Agency General Fund-State appropriations for administration will be reduced by approximately 12 percent and executive administration will be reduced by approximately 15 percent. The agencies are encouraged to work together to achieve efficiencies in managing the natural resources of the state.

Wolf War Front Update

April 12, 2011

Fast-moving developments on the national wolf front in the past four days, and if you believe the AP story filed today, Congressional delisting is all but a done deal — and it would include parts of eastern Washington and Oregon.

First, over the weekend, U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy ruled against last month’s proposed settlement between the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and 10 plaintiffs on the status of wolves at the same time as a pair of U.S. Congressmen said Canis lupus would be delisted under a pending budget bill.

The Congressmen, Idaho U.S. House Rep. Mike Simpson (R) and Montana Senator Jon Tester (D), sent out statements today on HR 1473, a continuing resolution, which inserts a clause known as 1713 overturning last August’s federal court ruling in Missoula and directs the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to reissue its spring 2009 delisting ruling.

This morning, Rocky Barker of the Idaho Statesmen wrote a blog entitled “Wolf delisting rider adds final insult to environmentalists’ end game on recovery.”

And now, Matthew Brown of the Associated Press reports, “Wildlife advocates conceded Tuesday the wolf provision was all but certain to remain in the spending bill after efforts to remove it failed. Congress faces a tight deadline on a budget plan already months overdue, and the rider has bipartisan support.”

It orders the Interior Department to lift protections for wolves within 60 days in five Western states. A federal judge in Montana has turned back three prior attempts by Interior officials to declare wolves recovered, under both the Bush and Obama administrations.

Protections would remain intact in Wyoming, at least for now. But wolf hunting would resume this fall in Idaho and Montana, where an estimated 1,250 of the animals have been blamed in hundreds of livestock attacks and for declines seen in some big game herds. Wolves also would be returned to state management in Washington, Oregon and Utah.

A Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife wolf biologist indicates the agency was somewhat surprised to learn that the eastern third of the state, where the Diamond and Salmo Packs live, would be part of the delisting.

Sweet Home Man’s Hunt Privileges Suspended For Life

April 12, 2011

(OREGON STATE POLICE FISH & WILDLIFE DIVISION PRESS RELEASE)

A Sweet Home-area man was sentenced last Thursday following a conviction related to an investigation by Oregon State Police (OSP) Fish & Wildlife Division troopers into the unlawful taking and possession of a bighorn sheep.  Troopers from the Albany and Springfield OSP offices were involved in the investigation.

ONE MUG OREGON'S WILDLIFE WON'T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT ANYMORE -- ENOCH RAY ROBERTSON'S HUNTING PRIVILEGES WERE SUSPENDED FOR LIFE FOLLOWING A RECENT CONVICTION. (OSP)

On April 7, 2011, ENOCH RAY ROBERTSON, age 30, was sentenced in Linn County Circuit Court on five counts of wildlife crimes.  Sentencing included fines and restitution of $16,910, a lifetime hunting suspension, 40 months bench probation, six days in jail, and 10 days of compensatory service.  The court also ordered the seizure of all property obtained during execution of a search warrant at his Sweet Home residence.  This property included but was not limited to the bighorn sheep, two rifles, antlers and meat.

RIFLES, HORNS, MEAT AND OTHER ITEMS SEIZED IN THE ROBERTSON CASE. (OSP)

The trophy sized bighorn sheep was thought to be approximately 7 years old, had a gross score of over 173 Boone and Crocket points, and is believed to have been taken illegally in May 2010 near Richland, Oregon.  The investigation also revealed two blacktail deer were killed out of season in the spring of 2010, and a cougar was killed without a cougar tag during the fall of 2009.

Columbia Springer Update (4-12-11)

April 12, 2011

A pair of updates on Lower Columbia springer fishing are out today.

The first, from biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver, details the overall estimated weekend catch and effort, while the second, from ODFW, details creel sampling done on the Oregon side last weekend.

Hymer:

From April 8-10 there were an estimated 7,400 angler trips w/ 665 chinook (513 kept and 152 released) and 201 steelhead handled.

For the season thru April 10  there have been an estimated 90,000 angler trips with 5,023 adult spring kept and 1,485 released.

Still pretty low salmonid effort for the first week of April – just over 700 boats and nearly 850 bank anglers counted during the Saturday April 9 effort flight count.  Last year at this time (Saturday April 10) there were 2,300 salmonid boats.

A Joint State hearing is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. on April 14 via teleconference.

ODFW:

Salmonid catch rates improved on the lower Columbia this past weekend.  Boat anglers fishing the Portland to Longview area averaged 0.26 spring chinook caught per boat, while boat anglers fishing the estuary averaged 0.17 spring chinook caught per boat.  In Troutdale boat anglers averaged 0.13 spring chinook caught per boat.  Bank anglers fishing in the estuary averaged 0.17 spring chinook and 0.17 steelhead caught per bank angler, while bank anglers fishing the Portland to Longview area averaged 0.06 spring chinook and 0.07 steelhead caught per bank angler.  On Saturday’s (4/9) flight, 721 boats and 618 Oregon bank anglers were counted.

Gorge Bank:

Weekend checking showed no catch for nine bank anglers.

Gorge Boats:

No report.

Troutdale Boats:

Weekend checking showed 10 adipose fin-clipped spring chinook kept, plus two unclipped spring chinook released for 94 boats (218 anglers).

Portland to Longview Bank:

Weekend checking showed 20 adipose fin-clipped spring chinook adults, one adipose fin-clipped spring chinook jack and 23 adipose fin-clipped steelhead kept, plus six unclipped spring chinook and seven unclipped steelhead released for 453 bank anglers.

Portland to Longview Boats:

Weekend checking showed 30 adipose fin-clipped spring chinook adults, one adipose fin-clipped spring chinook jack and two adipose fin-clipped steelhead kept, plus 10 unclipped spring chinook released for 153 boats (388 anglers).

Estuary Bank: (Clatsop Spit to Wauna Powerlines):

Weekend checking showed two adipose fin-clipped spring chinook adults, one adipose fin-clipped spring chinook jack and two adipose fin-clipped steelhead kept for 12 bank anglers.

Estuary Boats (Tongue Point to Wauna Powerlines):

Weekend checking showed one adipose fin-clipped spring chinook kept, plus one unclipped spring chinook released for 12 boats (26 anglers).

Bonneville Pool:

No report.

The Dalles Pool:

Weekly checking showed one adipose fin-clipped spring chinook kept for 74 bank anglers.

John Day Pool:

No report.

Fishing Holes Become Gang Turf

April 12, 2011

Last year I reported on how Mexican drug cartels have invaded Washington’s woods to grow marijuana, and now Austin Jenkins has the story about the “collision of outdoor recreation and gang culture” at some Eastside fishin’ holes.

(WDFW) Officer Chad McGary pulls his state-issue pick-up into a public boat ramp. We’re near Potholes Reservoir in Grant County in Central Washington.

“I have three kids myself and I don’t come down here unless I’m armed and I know where I’m going to be going fishing.,” McGary says.

This fishing spot is gang turf.

“Every single sign that we have here is tagged up.”

So are the public bathrooms, even the large rocks and boulders. Everywhere you look there’s gang graffiti on top of gang graffiti – giant spray painted letters in blue. Red for Norteno. Blue for Soreno. These are the main rival gangs around here.

“And then crossed out in red saying blue came in and tagged it up and red says ‘no this is our area, not your area.'”

The story talks about how McGary, who came over to WDFW from a local police department and who was held at gunpoint and knifepoint by illegal aliens during a fishing license check last summer, “thought he was signing on to chase poachers. And he does. But he can’t escape the gangs.”

This is not to say that you’ll run into pot plantations wandering around the woods or gangbangers at every fishing access point. Far from it. But it again details how this ain’t 1955 anymore.

Jenkins’ radio report is available as text on KPLU’s Web site.

Columbia Springer/SW WA Fishing Update (4-11-11)

April 11, 2011

In what should be the thick of the hottest spring Chinook fishing of the year on the Columbia, last weekend saw the lowest catch rate since Y2K.

Here’s hoping that the run forecast of 198,000 upriver springers and 100K back to the Willamette doesn’t fizzle as bad as … wait a minute, I think I’m screwing up my metaphors here.

For what it’s worth, creel sampling indicates just one springer kept or released for every 10.5 boat rods on the lower river.

“Boat anglers averaged an adult chinook kept/released per every 2.9 rods in 2010, 5.9 rods in 2009, 2.5 rods in 2008, 4.1 rods in 2007, 7.2 rods in 2006, 6.4 rods in 2005, 3.0 rods in 2004, 5.6 rods in 2003, 4.9 rods in 2002, and 4.6 rods in 2001,” reports a certain Mr. Doom & Gloom in Vancouver this afternoon.

That after last Wednesday’s four-hour commercial fishery yielded 776 springers, around two-thirds of the available fish for netters. They could only retain the first six hatchery adult Chinook.

So what’s going on? Well, the dam count sucks, and the river blows.

“After reaching 400,000 cfs at Bonneville Dam on April 6th, flows are expected to average just under 300,000 cfs for at least the next week and a half.  The 10-year average for this time of year is 183,000 cfs,” reports fisheries biologist Joe Hymer. “In addition to high flows, water visibility is also reduced at Bonneville Dam with less than 3 feet each day during the past week.”

A total of 659 springers have gone over the dam through yesterday, or 4 percent of the 10-year average. That’s better than some recent late-timed runs, worse than others.

All of it has me swearing off any more spring Chinook covers. NWS ad guys: You’re going to have to sell around a burbot cover next March.

But should you want to hit it again, the river below Bonneville, which closed April 5, reopened to fishing April 8-15. Managers will also take a look at the catch this Thursday to figure out if we can have more time on the river.

In the meanwhile, here’s more from Hymer weekly roundup of fishing around Southwest Washington — may we suggest taking advantage of some of those fine trout stockings?

SALMON/STEELHEAD

Cowlitz River – No report on angling success.  Last week, Tacoma Power recovered 743 winter-run steelhead and four spring Chinook adults during five days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week Tacoma Power employees released 57 steelhead and one spring Chinook adult into the Cispus River above the mouth of Yellow Jacket Creek and 20 winter-run steelhead into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 11,700 cubic feet per second on Monday, April 11. Water visibility is four feet.

East Fork Lewis from mouth to top boat ramp at Lewisville Park and Washougal River from mouth to Mt. Norway Bridge open to fishing for hatchery steelhead Saturday April 16. Selective gear rules will be in effect; no bait may be used.

Drano Lake – 3 bank anglers had no catch.  Beginning this week, closed to all fishing on Wednesdays through at least May.

Klickitat River – Light effort and no catch was observed.  1 bank angler had no catch.

Lower Columbia mainstem  below Bonneville Dam – Kind of a quiet re-opener on the lower Columbia mainstem – only 400 salmonid boats and 500 bank anglers were observed during the Friday April 8 effort flight count.

From April 8-10 we sampled 1,436 anglers (including 440 boats) with 108 adult and 1 jack chinook and 11 steelhead.  Boat anglers averaged an adult Chinook kept/released per every 10.5 rods while bank anglers averaged one per every 32.3 rods based on mainly completed and incomplete trips, respectively.

Eighty-eight (81%) of the adult Chinook caught were kept.  85% were upriver stock based on Visual Stock Identification (VSI).  Six (55%) of the steelhead caught were kept.

In comparison to previous years during this period, this year’s catch rate is the lowest since at least 2000. Boat anglers averaged an adult chinook kept/released per every 2.9 rods in 2010, 5.9 rods in 2009, 2.5 rods in 2008, 4.1 rods in 2007, 7.2 rods in 2006, 6.4 rods in 2005, 3.0 rods in 2004, 5.6 rods in 2003, 4.9 rods in 2002, and 4.6 rods in 2001.

Through April 10, just 659 adult chinook had been counted at Bonneville Dam.  Last year 7,148 fish had been counted at this time.  The recent 10-year average is 16,764.

Bonneville Pool – Light effort and no catch was observed.  1 bank angler had no catch.The Dalles Pool – Bank anglers are catching a few spring chinook.

John Day Pool – No salmonid anglers were sampled.

STURGEON

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – A few legals were caught by boat anglers from Vancouver to Kalama.

The Dalles Pool – Bank anglers are catching some legals.  An estimated 87 (29%) of the 300 fish guideline had been taken through March.

John Day Pool – Closed for sturgeon retention through the remainder of the year.

WALLEYE AND BASS

The Dalles Pool – Including fish released, boat anglers averaged 3.2 walleye per rod.  Bank anglers are catching some bass.

John Day Pool – Boat anglers averaged just under ½ walleye kept per rod.

TROUT

Silver Lake near Castle Rock – The water continues to be fairly cold (50F) for warm water fish.  Rainbow trout are being caught however.  5 anglers kept 4 rainbows and released 1.

Siler Mill Pond in Lewis County – Planted with 1,103 catchable size rainbows April 4.  No report on angling success.

South Lewis County Park Pond near Toledo – Planted with 2,976 catchable size rainbows April 5.  No report on angling success.

Lake Sacajawea in Longview – Planted with 3,010 catchable size rainbows April 4.   No report on angling success.

Kress Lake near Kalama – Planted with 2,000 catchable size rainbows April 5.  Producing good catches.  13 anglers kept 7 rainbows and released 15 rainbows and 1 brown.  Water temp 50F.  Cormorants are very active on the lake right now.

Horseshoe Lake in Woodland – Planted with 8,005 browns April 4-6.  Little to no effort and no fish caught during creel surveys. 2 anglers had no catch. Water temp 48F.

Merwin Reservoir –  Fishing continues to be great. Anglers are catching kokanee near the surface.  42 anglers kept 130 kokanee and released 9 plus 5 rainbows. Water temperature was 45F and there were 31 boat trailers.

Battleground Lake – Planted with 6,800 rainbows averaging over ½ pound each April 6. No report on angling success.

Lacamas Lake near Camas – Planted with 6,864 browns weighing almost ½ pound each April 4. No report on angling success.

Gut Check On Riffe

April 11, 2011

There was a 19-way tie for fourth place at a bass tournament on Riffe Lake yesterday — 19 of 23 anglers came in with zero smallies or largies.

But at least one boat figured out what to do in the upper Cowlitz River reservoir’s 43-degree waters: Trap ‘em.

That according to my friend Chris Spencer of Longview.

I’ve written about him here and in the magazine in the past. You may recall his antics as the springer angler on the shore at Drano Lake stabbing his baitcaster reel to death, and his attempts to catch walleye during a heckuva coho run a couple falls ago.

Last year Spencer wasn’t doing so good on the springer front, so he said to hell with it. Hung up his salmon gear, picked up his bass stuff.

Pretty soon he’d joined a bass club and was raving about everything he was learning. Just last month he fished a tournament all the way down in Florence, Oregon.

In typical Spencerian fashion, that trip was a massive clunterfunkle from the get go, but the kid’s resilient, and so on Sunday, he found himself driving up to Riffe through mixed rain and snow for the 7 a.m. blast-off of the Mt. St. Helens Bassmasters’ fourth tourney of the year.

Launching was the easy part. The catching was a different story.

Spencer and partner tried “virtually everything in my bag of tricks fishing from 10 feet of water to 50 feet (but) was unable to put the puzzle together.”

Something in his gut was telling him to try cranks and big white spinnerbaits, but instead they stuck with dragging drop shots and Carolina rigs around creek beds near spawning flats — areas you might find staging bass.

So did most other teams, but not the winners.

“First place went to two young kids who fished crawdad-red Rat-L-Traps (lipless cranks) between 4 and 8 feet of water.  They landed 22 smallmouth, culled I don’t know how many times, but ended up with a five-fish bag weighing just under 15 pounds,” Spencer reports. “That is an impressive bag for ideal conditions — it’s a freaking awesome bag for today. They puzzled it right and the fish were suspended, not on the bottom.”

Second place went to an angler who brought in three largemouth weighing a total of 7 pounds, “all caught on a white 1/2-ounce spinnerbait that he tossed into the mouth of creeks.”

At least one bass was caught on bottom, a 1-pound, 7-ouncer good for third place, reports Spencer.

“Today I learned that my gut feeling along with all the homework and reading I do comes into play in figuring out the puzzle.  I’m actually feeling very good about the day … Now not only do I know the lake a lot better, I know a few more patterns that will work in ‘cold’ conditions despite what most people take for the gospel.  Crankbaits and spinnerbaits catch fish in cold water,” he says.

Keep at it, Spencer, you’re on your way.

‘Compelling’ Local Arguments Bend FWC Ear On 4-pt Whitetail Restrictions

April 11, 2011

Will the new four-point-minimum rebuild whitetail numbers in two Northeast Washington hunting units?

Will fewer deer hunters head there this fall?

Will more now-illegal three-point bucks be left to rot in the brush?

Will hunters one day forget that it was the Fish & Wildlife Commission — spurred on by a group of local sportsmen and politicians — that passed the new restrictions and instead blame WDFW biologists who did not support the change?

Well, you can count on that last one, but the rest remain to be seen.

Last Friday, five of the seven members on the citizen panel found local residents’ arguments in favor of the change “compelling” enough to approve the new restrictions for a pair of the state’s “whitetail factories,” the Huckleberry and 49 Degrees North units, starting this fall.

“After reviewing the broad range of public input received over the past nine months, the commission found the input received from area residents and local governments favoring this proposal to be compelling in making this decision,” said chairwoman Miranda Wecker in a press release this afternoon.

It will be for the columnists and arm-chair biologists to come up with snarky counter arguments — I’ve got to attend to the May issue — but as it stands, the proposal stems from genuine local concerns over the resource: the Northeast’s whitetail herd is not what it once was.

WDFW staffers say the decline stems from long-term habitat changes — namely decreased logging and agricultural production — horrible back-to-back winters, and big antlerless deer harvests earlier this decade.

The difference in opinions is how to bring the herd back.

“I just don’t think the science is there, and it’s not a conservation issue,” said Commissioner Brad Smith of Bellingham on why he was one of two votes against the new restriction.

He worries that it reduces the opportunities for young and new sportsmen to get into hunting in Washington.

During the 2009 season, the latest year harvest stats were available by antler type, Huckleberry and 49 Degrees North yielded 222 spikes, 281 forked horns and 405 three-points — 33, 36 and 25 percent of all the whitetails of those sizes killed during general season hunts in the state that year.

(WDFW)

The restriction should allow more of those young bucks to become four-points — some can reach that size in as little as two and a half years — but the fear is that in this thicker, brushier country, it’ll be tougher to count antler points, and some undersized animals will end up being shot and left.

That still happens on occasion with Eastern Washington mule deer bucks, governed under a three-point minimum since 1997.

That change also came out of the Fish & Wildlife Commission and wasn’t necessarily supported by WDFW biologists.

It came at a time of worry about mule deer health across the West, a moment when antler restrictions were “in vogue” as one way to build up buck counts.

We’ve got a call in to WDFW’s deer guru for the long-term affect on Washington’s big-eared bounders, but one thing is for certain: It and a shorter nine-day season have helped more muleys make it past hunters.

Reads WDFW’s 1998 game status report, “In central Washington, buck escapement went from historic levels of 2 to 4 bucks per 100 does to 8-11 bucks per 100 does in many units. This is still below management goals, but a dramatic improvement in one year.”

In the Southeast corner’s Blue Mountains, for every 100 does, only three to five bucks made it through September, October and November’s seasons before the restrictions, according to now-retired biologist Pat Fowler. Last December his successor Paul Wik counted 16 per 100 does.

Muley and whitetail ranges overlap in some areas, but muleys have yet to evolve a better defense against the .30-06 than to take a few leaps, turn broadside and look at you (well, all except the ones I bump into, of course). They also tend to occupy more open country than flagtails, although that’s not a hard rule.

The whitetail proposal came out of a nine-month review that included at least four meetings and public comment before the commission. In general, the restriction was not favored outside the region, and inside it, there were mixed signals.

“The commission carefully considered the science surrounding white-tailed deer management,” said Wecker. “Based on those considerations, it was clear that a four-point restriction would not create a conservation issue or adversely affect the area deer population.”

At the same time, the commission voted to reduce antlerless hunts as another way to help recover the whitetail herd.

Other rule changes approved last weekend include:

Increase permit hunting for antlerless elk in the Yakima area and for bulls and antlerless elk in the Mount St. Helens area, where elk populations are exceeding management objectives.

Increase spring black bear hunting seasons and permits in western and northeast Washington to help reduce timber damage, address bear nuisance activity and expand hunting opportunities within population management guidelines.

Authorize certain landowners in Asotin County to issue hunting permits to increase access to deer and elk hunting on private lands. Hunting permits for those properties also would be available to the public through WDFW’s special permit drawing.

Clarify public-conduct rules on private lands open for hunting under cooperative agreements with WDFW.

 

House Budget Bill Keeps WDFW Its Own Agency

April 11, 2011

I had to call up WDFW’s legislative analyst to make sure mine own eyes weren’t deceiving me when I downloaded the ins and outs of HB 1087, but the state House budget bill passed last weekend does not call for consolidating the fish and game agency with State Parks.

“It looks like it’s off the table as far as the House budget,” says Ann Larson, WDFW’s legislative liason.

She quickly notes that we’ll see what the state Senate’s appropriations bill proposes when it’s rolled out this week.

The Senate is the chamber where SB 5669 was filed at Governor Gregoire’s request. It merges WDFW, State Parks and the Recreation and Conservation Office into a Department of Fish, Wildlife & Recreation. We’ve written a wee bit about it.

The House and Senate budgets have to be reconciled before being sent to Gregoire.

As it stands, the House budget — which identifies $4.4 billion in cuts to address a $5-plus billion revenue shortfall — would provide $370 million for WDFW over the next two years, including $36 million from the General Fund in fiscal year 2012 and $34 million in fiscal year 2013. That tallies about $6 million less from the General Fund than the 2009-11 budget provided.

The budget bill was passed on a 53-43 vote.

Stay tuned.

No Dice On Wolf Deal, Judge Says

April 10, 2011

That wolf deal pitched last month — it’s a no-go, a Federal judge has ruled.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and 10 plaintiffs had proposed a settlement on the status of wolves in Montana and Idaho, but U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy said he couldn’t buy off on it for various reasons — they’re detailed in an Associated Press story here.

Wolves in the Northern Rockies will remain on the endangered species list — for now. A budget bill in Congress would delist them if passed, according to AP.

 

Commission Approves 4-pt Rule For 2 NE WA Whitetail Units

April 8, 2011

Washington Fish & Wildlife Commissioners today approved a four-point-minimum antler restriction for whitetail deer hunting in a pair of units northwest of Spokane.

According to WDFW spokesman Darren Friedel, the vote was 5-2, with commissioners David Jennings and Brad Smith voting against.

The rule affects hunting in Game Management Units 117, 49 Degrees North, and GMU 121, Huckleberry, in central Stevens and Pend Oreille Counties.

Not much more information was immediately available.

The change was proposed by a stakeholder group from Stevens County, but was not widely supported outside of that.

A local outdoors columnist, scratching his head about how the proposal had made it so far (there were at least four public meetings), wondered if one of its proponents, Fish & Wildlife Commission vice chair Gary Douvia, had compromising pictures of the rest of the commission, a theme he followed up on last week with an unusually harsh article.

“The record provides a clear answer on how the vote should go,” wrote Rich Landers of the Spokane Spokesman-Review — and it wasn’t the way it went.

Another reporter who’d followed the issue emailed me just now to say, “Well, it’s  not biologically sound, but at least they didn’t take in two or more counties, like the 4 pt. fanatics wanted. Now wait ’til the local restaurants, gun shops, motels, bars, etc., start getting way less hunter traffic. Suddenly, those pro-4 pointers will get lots of flack. “

The antler restriction was requested in spring 2010 by the Stevens County Fish and Wildlife Advisory Committee in a petition to the commission which requested that WDFW staffers get additional public input before considering it for this coming hunting season.

Northeast Washington has seen a decline in whitetail in recent years, blamed largely on a pair of severe winters in the late 2000s that also took a big bite out of turkey populations. Local hunters have been looking at ways to bring the deer back. This past February, they held a coyote hunting derby that took 227 animals, an estimated 90 of which were female.

“Hopefully this will give our whitetail deer population a shot in the arm,” wrote Freddie Giannecchini of the Stevens County committee in a derby wrap-up. “Their numbers have been going down for years with very little positive and proactive management from (WDFW). Yes the WDFW has restricted the taking of does recently in 2009 and 2010, and have restricted the youth, senior and disabled hunters in a time when our buck to doe ratios are very low. Without proactively adding bucks to the population, by point restrictions or shortening the late portion of the season, to help the low buck to doe ratio, the dept is going to flood the area with more does making breeding for what bucks are out there even tougher allowing many more does not to breed when nature intends them to be bred, causing later and later fawn births. This is the only hope we have at this time to try to help the Whitetail Deer herd in this area.”

According to WDFW’s 2010 game status report, however, today’s buck ratio for Northeast Washington is better than where it was at in the late 1990s.

“In the late 1990s there was unprecedented low representation of mature white-tail bucks in the harvest,” writes Colville-based district wildlife biologist Dana Base. “This concern was addressed by maintaining conservative late buck seasons that did not extend beyond the middle of the rut. From 1999 until 2005 there was consistent improvement in the percentage of older bucks based on monitoring antlers. Improvement in the general trend toward more bucks 4 years or older was also supported by cementum analysis of deer teeth. Since 2005 this trend leveled out at least for 5+ antler point bucks. We are currently at a level that has reasonably good representation of mature bucks in the white-tail population. At least 1 in 5 white-tail bucks harvested is 5 point or better.”

Stay tuned. I’m sure Landers will have something on this, and have no doubt that WDFW will fire off a press release about 10 minutes after quitting time.

4 Cited In Alleged Illegal OR Guiding

April 8, 2011

(OREGON STATE POLICE FISH AND WILDLIFE DIVISION PRESS RELEASE)

Oregon State Police (OSP) Fish & Wildlife Division troopers from the Albany, Burns, McMinnville, Portland, Salem and Tillamook offices completed a five month investigation into unlawful hunting and guiding activities, which resulted in four people being cited on numerous wildlife crimes and related offenses involving Northwest Hunting Adventures guide service.  The four people cited included the guide service owner, an employee, and two acquaintances.

ANTLERS AND FURS SEIZED DURING OSP'S INVESTIGATION. (OSP)

According to OSP Senior Trooper Adam Turnbo (McMinnville), OSP was assisted during the investigation by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and Washington Department of Fish & Game.  Multiple search warrants were served in Oregon and Indiana to gather evidence related to the investigation and alleged crimes.

The four suspects identified and cited to appear for multiple crimes were:

* BRIAN MILLER, age 27, from Lake Oswego (owner of Northwest Hunting Adventures)
* NATHAN HOSTETTER, age 37, from Lebanon (guide for Northwest Hunting Adventures)
* LOREN KELLER, age 28, from Vancouver, Washington
* CASEY JONES, age 31, from Bargersville, Indiana

The offenses allegedly occurred during a two-year period between February 2009 and February 2011 in Clatsop, Tillamook, Washington, Multnomah, Linn, Gilliam, Douglas and Harney counties.  Wildlife unlawfully taken and/or possessed included Blacktail and Mule Deer, Elk, Antelope, Bear, Raccoon, Beaver, and a Hawk.

Examples of the alleged illegal activity included:

* During the 2009 archery season, MILLER and HOSTETTER unlawfully killed four large Mule deer bucks.  All four sets of antlers were recovered.

* During a September 2010 hunting trip involving MILLER, HOSTETTER, and JONES, an antelope was unlawfully killed by JONES during a closed season. Parts of the antelope were recovered in Indiana during the execution of a search warrant. JONES has been charged in the State of Indiana with misdemeanor crime of Unlawful Possession of Wildlife Unlawfully Taken in Another State.

* In January of 2011, MILLER and JONES unlawfully killed two cow elk without valid tags. A few weeks later MILLER also killed a spike bull elk.

* KELLER, a Washington State resident, purchased an Oregon 2011 Resident Sport Pac license (combination hunting/angling/shellfish license with associated tags for fish, big game and birds). By making a false application for the Resident Sport Pac license, KELLER saved over $1300 on non-resident license fees. KELLER, a convicted felon, also shot a cow elk in January of 2011 with a rifle. The rifle used in this crime was subsequently located and seized.

The four listed individuals were cited to appear in the above listed counties on multiple crimes which may include:

* Unlawful Taking and/or Possessing Wildlife
* Taking Wildlife Closed Season – Exceeding the Bag Limit of Deer
* Waste of Game Mammal
* Theft in the First Degree
* Falsely Applying for a Resident Sport Pac
* Felon in Possession of a Firearm
* Aiding or Counseling in a Wildlife Violation

Spree Poacher Bill Sent To Guv

April 8, 2011

A tip of the cap to the Washington Legislature. Every single state Representative and Senator voted for a bill that stiffens penalties for big-game spree killers.

HB 1340 flew through the lower chamber on a 97-0 vote (with one member excused), and yesterday cleared the upper, 49-0.

“It’s looking good,” said WDFW Deputy Chief of Enforcement Mike Cenci. “It should be off to the governor’s office soon. And I’m sure we’ll have a number of times to apply it this year, unfortunately.”

Basically, 1340 expands what can be considered unlawful hunting in the first degree, a class C felony. Previously, offenders had to have a previous wildlife misdemeanor within the past five years to get hit with that charge.

But now someone who poaches three or more deer, elk, moose, mountain goat, caribou, cougars, black bears or grizzly bears within 24 hours or “course of events” could be charged straight away in the first degree.

Cenci used a KIRO 7 report on convicted poacher James Cody Stearns, “The Headhunter,” to educate lawmakers on the need to pass the bill.

SCREEN SHOT FROM KIRO 7 SHOWING JAMES CODY STEARNS.

“I think some lawmakers were surprised that that kind of thing was occurring,” he says. “I think they were all offended by it, and I think the vote in both houses demonstrates that.”

The 20-year-old Hoquiam man — labeled the “poster child” for spree killings in this state —  is now serving a five-month sentence in the Grays Harbor County jail after pleading guilty in district court last November to five misdemeanors of illegally killing five deer. That after finishing up a 10-month sentence last April for other wildlife offenses.

He’s also suspected of killing more than 100 animals illegally.

Stearns’ license has been revoked for life. Others found guilty of unlawful hunting in the first degree have their license suspended for 10 years.

Several other young miscreants have been busted in other mass poachings over the past year or so. Recent cases include:

four deer slain alongside I-82 in one go last December

four elk killed in Pacific County last November

four bucks killed in western Walla Walla County over two nights last summer by a local boy.

six bucks wasted in Southeast Washington over five weeks last winter, including four trophy-caliber animals, by two local boys.

“As the state becomes more populated, opportunities aren’t what they once were. Concerned citizens will be glad to know that offenders will be punished,” Cenci says.

He anticipates that Governor Gregoire will sign the bill. If she does, it will go into effect 90 days after the close of the legislative session.

The bill is cosponsored by Representatives Joel Kretz, Jim McCune, Norm Johnson and Judy Warnick, all Republicans.

Meanwhile, the front page of the latest newsletter from the Oregon State Police Fish & Wildlife Division illustrates that “poaching occurs with more than just big game.”

When discussing or reading the word “poaching,” some people may picture large bulls, bucks, bear, or big horn sheep taken illegally; however, poaching involves hunting and/or angling for, killing, and/or taking any wildlife illegally—no matter how small the creature is. Troopers routinely investigate incidents that involve suspects taking and/or attempting to take game birds, protected species, cougar, shellfish, furbearers, and fish illegally. When caught, violators may lose more than the wildlife taken. The following are various poaching cases troopers investigated in February:

Sr. Tpr. Niehus (Klamath Falls) watched through a spotting scope as a subject hunted geese near the Klamath Wildlife Area. After a short period of time, the subject appeared to have reached his daily bag limit of white-fronted geese. Niehus called Sgt. Hand (Klamath Falls) to assist. He proceeded to watch the subject continue to shoot geese as Hand worked his way closer to the subject. Hand snuck to within 100 yards of the subject when he encountered a ditch that prevented further progress. He maintained surveillance on the subject while Niehus made contact. Once contacted, Niehus discovered the subject shot a total of 13 white-fronted geese, nine over the daily bag limit. Niehus cited the subject for Exceeding the Daily Bag Limit of Geese and seized his shotgun and nine geese.

(OSP)

Sr. Tpr. Guerra (Tillamook) was working clammers on Netarts Bay when he contacted a subject clamming there. Upon inspection of the subject’s clams, Guerra found the subject was 21 clams over his daily bag limit. He seized the clams and returned them to the bay and cited the subject for Exceeding the Daily Bag limit of Bay Clams.

Sr. Tpr. Duncan (Baker City) contacted some subjects near Austin Junction within the Sumpter Unit who recently treed and killed a cougar using dogs. Duncan cited one subject for Taking Cougar Prohibited Method—Use of Dogs and Hunting without a Valid License and another subject for Aiding in a Wildlife Violation—Taking Cougar Prohibited Method—Use of Dogs. Tpr. Ritter (John Day) and Sr. Tpr. McNeil (Baker City) assisted Duncan with the investigation.

Tpr. Freitag (Salem) responded to a trespass complaint on Windsor Island. Upon arrival, he located two subjects goose hunting. The subjects had also driven an ATV across the island past No Trespassing signs. While watching the subjects, Freitag observed one of them shoot at a flock of seagulls that flew overhead. Freitag cited both subjects for Hunting on the Enclosed Lands of Another and one subject for Hunting Protected Species—Seagull and seized both subjects’ shotguns.

Sr. Tpr. Collom (Central Point) watched four anglers fishing the mouth of the hatchery outflow, a closed area. Several steelhead were spawning just up from the mouth in the closed area, creating temptation for some. Two subjects were targeting the spawning steelhead in a snagging-type method using lures, and the other two legally fished in the open area. Collom did not note any fish caught in the 1 1/2 hours he watched them. When contacted, the subjects stated that four other anglers were snagging steelhead earlier, so they shooed them off. When Collom advised them he observed them snagging, the subjects admitted to fishing in the closed area and trying to snag. Collom cited both anglers for Angling Prohibited Area—Outflow and warned them for Attempting to Snag.

Bend and Gilchrist Division troopers executed a search warrant in Silver Lake as the result of Sr. Tpr. Hayes’ (Bend) investigation into the illegal take of bobcats using prohibited methods. Troopers photographed a suspect tending to an illegal bobcat trap set and later identified the suspect. Troopers interviewed the main suspect who admitted to killing the cats in April 2010. While conducting the search, another subject arrived at the scene and Sr. Tpr. Bean (Gilchrist) interviewed this subject. The troopers located evidence involving illegal trapping and taking of bobcats during a closed season from that subject as well. The troopers cited the main suspect for Taking Bobcat Prohibited Method, Borrowing a Bobcat Record Card, and Aiding in a Game Violation and the other subject for Taking Bobcat Closed Season x 3 and seized 10 pelts and numerous instruments and weapons.

(OSP)

Hunters, Anglers Support NE WA Wilderness, Logging Plan

April 8, 2011

Earlier this week I got a press release about how “overwhelming majorities of hunters, anglers” and others polled in Northeast Washington support a proposal for more wilderness, logging and recreation areas in the Colville National Forest.

True, as an editor, I’m in favor of it, but as a reporter I noticed that the release didn’t provide any actual figures to support the statement, so I asked around for hard numbers.

What I received came from a poll of 400 likely voters in Ferry, Pend Oreille and Stevens Counties and 112 in Spokane County. It was performed in late February for the Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition and the Pew Environment Group by Moore Information and the Mellman Group, generally Republican- and Democratic-oriented pollsters, and has a margin of error of +/- 4.9 percent.

The stats broke us into three categories, and we could either say we were strongly in favor, favored it but not so strongly, were undecided or didn’t know, opposed it but not strongly, or strongly opposed it.

It showed that 59.7 percent of self-identified anglers and hunters who head out “several times per year” favor the plan while 23.4 oppose it. Another 12.7 percent were undecided, 4.1 percent didn’t know.

Sixty-three-point-two percent of occasional sportsmen favored it while 20.4 percent opposed; 11.2 percent were undecided and 5.2 percent didn’t know.

And 53.2 percent of fishermen and hunters who “seldom or never” get afield supported it while 26.4 opposed; 16.8 percent were undecided and 3.7 percent didn’t know.

Their responses came in answer to this question:

Now let me tell you a little more about this proposal. The Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition is made up of five timber companies, two Washington state conservation groups, recreation interests and businesses. For eight years, this partnership has worked to end the gridlock over managing the Colville National Forest and has successfully completed over two dozen forestry projects.

The coalition’s overall proposal identifies some acres in the Colville National Forest to be used for forestry work, some areas for forest restoration, some areas for recreation, and protects some roadless lands as wilderness. Within the places proposed for wilderness protection, hiking, hunting, livestock grazing, fishing, horse-packing, and camping would all continue without change.

However other uses would be prohibited in the lands designated for wilderness protection—namely mining, commercial logging, oil and gas drilling, new roads and mechanized recreation such as with Jeeps, snowmobiles, quads and mountain bikes.

Overall, this proposal would provide for increased logging, expanded recreation and more protected areas. Would you favor or oppose this entire proposal?

Poll results showed that backers of the proposal have a ways to go in getting word out to the public.

I blogged about it last fall, and we had a huge story on it in our November issue (see below). Basically it would set aside 215,000 acres in the Kettle Crest and Selkirk Mountains as new wilderness, keep logging going on another 400,000 acres while another 400,000 acres would be managed for restorative timber harvest, with the balance of the forest, some 200,000 acres, falling under recreation and conservation area statuses.

An act of Congress would be required for the wilderness, recreation and conservation areas.

PROPOSED PLAN FOR THE COLVILLE NATIONAL FOREST.

While the Cascades, Olympics and Blues are chock-full of wilderness — over 4 million acres worth — the only one in the northeastern quadrant of the state is the 41,335-acre Salmo-Priest, tucked up where the WA-ID-BC borders converge.

The Colville also had approximately 180,000 acres of roadless areas during an early-2000s inventory.

Among all respondents, after the forestry plan was explained, 57 percent favored it while 24 percent opposed it. Results also show that support crosses party lines and the urban-rural divide.

“The Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition is taking the right approach,” Russ Vaagen of Vaagen Brothers Lumber, and coalition vice president, said in a press release. “People want a balanced approach and wise use of our forest that creates jobs, provides access and takes care of wildlife and our special places.”

LOG YARD AT THE VAAGEN BROTHERS MILL, COLVILLE, WASH. (JAMES JOHNSTON)

After pro and con arguments were presented, pollsters did record a shift against the proposal by moderate independents, less-educated men, frequent ORV users and 15 percent of frequent hunters and anglers.

Below is the article we ran in the November 2010 issue of Northwest Sportsman magazine:

By Leroy Ledeboer

COLVILLE, Wash.—Propose significant changes on any of Washington’s big game lands, and hunters want to know why. More precisely, they want to know what these changes will do to improve or perhaps degrade the habitat of their favorite species and what will become of their traditional access points. In a nutshell, hunters want to know, will the hunts of tomorrow be as good, better or worse than they were yesterday?

Recently, the Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition, a broad spectrum of conservationists, loggers, ranchers and local business leaders have come together to try to hammer out the details on a sweeping new land-use plan, the Columbia Highlands Initiative. It takes in all of the Colville National Forest, from the Kettle Crest to nearly the Idaho, border and from Canada south to the Colville and Spokane Indian Reservations.

If this initiative were to be adopted in its present form, it would create 214,000 acres of new wilderness. Another 145,000 acres would be set aside in a “national conservation area,” where tree thinning for fuel reduction and wildlife habitat improvement would be allowed, while an even large block, a “forest restoration area” covering 417,000 acres, would be open to controlled commercial logging, cattle grazing and existing recreational opportunities. Sound environmental practices, such as streamside buffer zones and tight regs on logging roads and no major clearcuts would be paramount.

Essentially, the coalition has been trying to work with a broad array of diverse interests, ranging from conservationists who, among other things, want to see g reater protection for endangered species such as the Canadian lynx and the grizzly bear, to timber companies who want assurances that their log supply will be sufficient to keep their mills running, and cattle ranchers, some of whom are running spreads that go back to the turn of the last century and are trying hard to carry on family traditions.

It’s a new approach, a sharp turn away from the old antagonism of the past. Now it’s a matter of sitting down at a bargaining table, then trying to come up with solutions that are more or less equitable for everyone and still leave us with a healthy national forest.

BUT THE QUESTION for this magazine has to be, where will all this leave hunters, the hundreds of avid locals and the hordes of outsiders who annually make these hills part of their fall migration?
The Colville National Forest is a major stomping ground for muleys and whitetail deer, a healthy and expanding elk herd, furnishes pretty good black bear hunts and represents a golden opportunity for anyone lucky enough to draw a moose permit, so major land management changes have to be scrutinized.

Let’s start with that 214,000 acres of wilderness, by far the most sweeping management change on the docket and the one that could have the biggest impact. The major chunk of this would run along the Kettle Crest, with another big block around Abercrombie and Hooknose Mountains, west of the Pend Oreille not far from the Canadian border. Hunters and wildlife managers I spoke to came out on both sides of this issue.

“Ultimately, it doesn’t make for that healthy a big game habitat,” says longtime outdoorsman Tim Nizech at Clark’s All Sports in Colville, “because you don’t have any logging, even any tree thinning, nothing to revive the underbrush our deer depend on.”

“Plus, it’s going to be so inaccessible.  Now, I’m all for some roadless areas and locked gates because I hate being out there and having four-runners running over me when I’m trying to hunt.

“Yes, we need lots of hike-in-only country, but when you designate a big section of real estate as wilderness, you pretty much make it inaccessible for most hunters, except those few who can hire packers or are able to keep their own stock year-round.”

On the other side, avid hunter Tommie Petrie of Newport, who has worked with the coalition, says at first he was opposed, but now supports this initiative.

“As a sportsman I’m really excited about it, but I can also see other hunter’s concerns,” he says. “I grew up in the Le Clerc Creek area of Pend Oreille County, and in the ’80s, when they closed off so many roads for grizzly bear protection, I felt violated, really hurting for the people around there who’d always hunted those backcountry areas and now couldn’t reach them. I knew what they’d lost.

“But that’s one reason why I like this proposal’s three-pronged approach, one part wilderness, then a middle ground, sort of a transitional phase, and a third for more timber harvest, grazing and recreational opportunities like ATV riding.

“And that wilderness area will be major.  We already have plenty of areas where we can hunt on four-wheelers, but this will be for guys willing to pack in, and there’s no greater experience than the real backcountry experience.  With today’s population, our wilderness areas are essential to that. Once they’re destroyed, we’ll never get them back.”

The proposal has also drawn support from the Spokane-based Washington Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and Inland Northwest Wildlife Council, among others.

A STRONG VOICE that definitely takes exception to the wilderness designation is Chuck McCombs, a former Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife forester who for 39 years managed the Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge, but also worked on the Sherman Creek Wildlife Area and other public lands across the state.

“After a clear-cut or fire, when the grasses and shrubs start coming back, you have your big animals – deer, elk, moose – thriving, and you also the most variety, everything from rodents to song birds,” McCombs explains. “But finally the trees take over again, often lodgepole pine first, later deer and elk habitat is gone.

“That’s what happens in any wilderness.  Eventually it all goes to large trees, and the only thing that will help is a large fire. If they’re going to have true wilderness areas, then they should go all the way, and let fires burn the way they once did.

“The way it is, a wilderness designation simply hamstrings an area, creating poor habitat, especially for deer and elk. What animals love is an edge, an area where they can easily move between grass and shrub zones for feed, timber stands for cover.

“Whenever we did clear-cuts, we did it with a purpose, knowing we weren’t managing timber, we were managing wildlife, so we kept them small, did them in irregular shapes, not squares, giving the animals more edge.

“The same thing with our controlled burns. We did simple two-man burns, using flame throwers, and always did relatively small plots, our biggest around 30 acres, again in irregular patterns.

“In a wilderness you get none of this, but you do get bug infestations, dead timber and a heavy cover of pine needles under the canopy. Then when fire breaks out, it’s often a crown fire, burning way too hot and way too many acres in one swath, leaving large blackened areas for years to come.

“Why not manage every acre? Your timber sales will pay for a lot of it, and you’ll end up with far more big game.  When you designate an area wilderness, you’re not managing it at all.”

ALTHOUGH HE ACKNOWLEDGES that a well thought out hands-on approach, including having those creature-friendly timber harvests and controlled burns, will produce more suitable habitat and consequently more big game per square mile, state wildlife biologist Dana Base in Colville says a wilderness designation is a legitimate management strategy.

“Nonmanagement – letting nature run its course – is actually a legitimate management scheme, and it works quite well in certain terrains,” he says. “Now, if we look at the proposed wilderness areas in this plan strictly from a hunter’s standpoint, well, it’s kind of a mixed bag.

“On the one hand, it will make it harder for the average hunter, simply because gaining access to so much of that land is going to be very demanding. Anyone who isn’t in excellent physical condition or doesn’t have access to pack animals, maybe the finances to hire an outfitter, will simply be left out.

“On the other, big game animals that inhabit this wilderness will no doubt be higher quality, primarily because they’ll get less hunting pressure and have better escapement than animals in the lower regions.  Anyone who can get in there and do it right could have the hunt of a lifetime.

“But basically this means hunting mule deer. Whitetails tend to stay at lower elevations and definitely respond best to managed habitats.

“And no matter what we do, we won’t have the kind of wilderness terrains you see in the Montana Rockies, where lots of elk have their summer range in super-high mountain meadows, at 10,000 feet or more. That gives the bulls a tremendous advantage for survival, compared to some of their lower elevations where 4-wheelers crisscross everything.

“Before every hunting season I get calls from elk hunters asking me about prospects in the Salmo-Priest Wilderness.  I have to tell them, they’re slim to none.  Our elk stay lower, maybe as many as 90 percent within 3 miles on either side of the Pend Oreille River, particularly where you find clear-cuts.”

So for muley hunters with enough fortitude or horse flesh, these wilderness areas could be real go-to spots for trophy bucks, as well as that outdoor ideal, a solitary hunt in a vast mountainous landscape.

Throw in those other critters that could have a safer home, a better chance of survival in a wilderness – lynx, grizzlies, maybe additional plants of bighorns – and do we have a good enough reason to take this much land away from the Jeep-and-quad crowd, who in many cases don’t have the finances for that horse or mule pack-it-in option, nor the youth or stamina to do a boot leather and pack-frame high-country foray?

“I’m all for choices and in any plan I really like seeing something for everyone,” Base adds, “places where four-wheelers can go and hunt, locked gate areas where hike-in hunters can hunt undisturbed, and wilderness that creates even greater solitude. The problem is, the pie is only so big, we have a lot of outdoors types to accommodate, so we have to make compromises.”

Yes, and if the Columbia Highlands Initiative is to move from the drawing board to reality, compromise will have to be a real cornerstone, giving something to everyone from loggers to passionate preservationists.  Again, though, our question is, what piece of this pie do hunters get? How will the big game animals and the men and women who pursue them fare?

“Maybe the best thing about this will be the landscape mosaic that should emerge,” Base states. “Start with that core wilderness area, your nonmanaged control zone, surrounded by various management intensities, which will give us a variety of carrying capacities, but also more varied recreational opportunities. Each component should be complimentary to the rest and we’ll have something for everyone, from loggers to real wilderness types, high-country hunters to weekend ATV users. And we’ll still have added protection for endangered species, such as wolverines.”

“Of course, logging won’t mean largescale clearcuts on any of this land. But a lot of that forest is in desperate need of thinning, with big stands of dog-hair trees, mainly lodgepole pine growing so thick it can’t mature decently. And unlike what we’re seeing on too many big timber company holdings now, you won’t have any wholesale spraying of herbicides to wipe out the grasses and brush, which may be good for tree growth but are absolutely deadly for deer and elk.”

So, just maybe, if the national conservation and forest restoration areas get logged with wildlife in mind, maybe even have some controlled burns where appropriate, those streamside brush and tree buffers are kept intact, and cattle grazing is regulated, at least some of tomorrow’s hunts will be even better than today’s.

That wilderness area? Maybe we accept that as a necessary part of this mosaic, a place most of us will never hunt but might  feel good just knowing it’s there, home to wild critters that need lots of isolation. NS

Meetings To Be Held On PO Pike

April 7, 2011

We’ll have a big article on Pend Oreille River northern pike in our May issue, but if you want to dive into the hot topic now, set aside the evening of April 19 or 20 and head for Newport or Spokane.

Biologists from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Kalispel Tribe of Indians’ Natural Resources Department will discuss the non-native predator’s expansion into the Northeast Washington river as well as other Eastside waters.

An early March article in the Newport Miner says they’ve turned up in two Spokane County lakes. A WDFW manager in Olympia would not reveal either waters’ name except to say that the fish could not have arrived without a little help.

“It’s a really, really horrific thing to do,” Warmwater Program manager Bruce Bolding told reporter Janelle Atyeo.

The pike meetings will also be held to take public input on control options — a sport reward fishery is on the table — to minimize their impacts on native fish.

STOMACH CONTENTS OF A PEND OREILLE RIVER PIKE. KALISPEL TRIBAL FISHERIES BIOLOGIST JASON CONNOR TELLS OUR REPORTER LEROY LEDEBOER, “EVEN AN 8-INCH JUVENILE PIKE CAN EAT THE FINGERLINGS OF OTHER FISH, AND THEY GROW FAST. BY 15 INCHES IT CAN EAT ADULT PERCH, AND A 24-INCH PIKE CAN EASILY CONSUME 15-INCH TROUT. PLUS, THEIR APPETITES ARE INCREDIBLE. WE’VE CAUGHT PIKE WITH UP TO 15 FISH IN THEIR BELLIES. (JASON CONNOR, KNRD)

The Miner‘s article sparked a whole lot of talk on WashingtonLakes.com, and its statement that  control methods wouldn’t be up for public comment got the attention of local state Senator Bob Morton, who got the attention of WDFW honchoes, who got the attention of the warmwater program.

While the Pend Oreille River’s fishery does not appear to produce the trophies it once did, it does have an increasing following. One blog we did on it last June is the 16th most requested article on our WordPress site over the past year.

“Asking the tribe, or the state, to ‘manage’ pike would be similar to asking the State of Florida to manage Steelhead. I don’t care how much they were taught in school, they simply don’t have the experience or temperament to do it right,” wrote a poster going as Anglinarcher. “I propose the following signs: Hell no, the pike won’t go! Can you hear us now?”

There are echoes of the supposed illicit release of wolves in the Methow Valley in another person’s post. He talks about rumors that the tribe itself put the pike in the river 10 years ago to control pikeminnows.

KNRD Fisheries and Water Resources Director Joe Maroney has heard all that and more.

“We’ve been getting calls — I won’t say off the hook –about what’s going on,” he says. “There are some people who are pro pike and others are like, ‘How do we get rid of these things?'”

Maroney says that the pike are thought to have come down Montana’s Clark Fork River (which becomes the Pend Oreille River) through Lake Pend Oreille.

Biologists first captured a northern in 2004, although locals have known about them since the 1980s. One of my old roommates at Wazzu went on to be a USFS-Newport and Kalispell bio in the 1990s and early 2000s, and he mentioned them to me on occasion.

The first wandering pike found great feeding and little competition — and then they found love. With the “really good” spawning habitat in Box Canyon Reservoir, the population has increased sharply in recent years, says Maroney.

“It’s just amazing the number we got,” he says of netting within the past week. “The majority were between 20 and 24 inches.”

The big catch at a recent pike tournament was all of 24 inches, Maroney adds.

“It’s somewhat alarming — the shift to smaller fish,” he says.

WDFW and KNRD surveys have also documented a reduction in forage fish such as native minnows, whitefish and suckers, as well as non-native sportfish such as largemouth bass, according to a press release from WDFW.

Left unchecked, pike could severely impact other fish — including native westslope cutthroat and bull trout — and undermine efforts to restore native fish populations in the river system, WDFW says.

Control options that WDFW and KNRD are looking at include netting fish and donating them to local food banks, sport-reward fisheries, and fishing tournaments targeting pike.

“We included it (sport reward fisheries) to tell the locals that we’re not set on one control option,” controlled netting,” says Bill Baker, a WDFW district fish biologist in Colville.

How a reward program would be funded, however, is an open question.

“That we don’t know yet,” says Maroney.

Rather, he says, “It’s one of the tools or options that we want to talk with the public about.”

It could be modeled after programs on the Columbia for pikeminnow and Lake Pend Oreille for lake trout, but questions remain.

“How much do you give the anglers per fish, or is it for every tagged fish?” Maroney wonders.

With WDFW’s cash register empty, he says the tribe may have to explore grants.

If one thing is certain, it’s that managers are determined to prevent the spread and further illegal introduction of pike in Washington.

The fish can now be found “throughout” the Pend Oreille River and in Box Canyon and Boundary Reservoirs.

Beyond Boundary, the river takes a hard left, is plugged by a pair of BC dams, and then dumps into the Columbia just north of the international border.

“Our immediate concern is predation on native westslope cutthroat and bull trout,” said Baker, “but native salmon, steelhead and other species also could be at risk if pike migrate downstream and establish populations in the Columbia River. We’re also concerned about northern pike populations establishing in other Washington waters.”

Biologists will conduct population-assessment surveys in late April through May to determine the abundance of northern pike and other fish species in Box Canyon.

One survey will be a repeat of 2004’s reservoir-wide netting. It could be yield very important data about the direction all of Box Canyon’s fish stocks are headed.

“Once we get that information back, we’ll know a lot more,” says Bolding.

The meetings are slated for:

6-8 p.m., Tuesday, April 19, at Create Arts Center, 900 W. 4th St., in Newport
6-8 p.m., Wednesday, April 20, at Center Place, 2426 N. Discovery Place, in Spokane Valley

New Elk Science

April 7, 2011

It may not be popular among some sportsmen to seriously consider global warming/climate change — especially in parts of Pugetropolis where snow fell yesterday, the 6th of April (ahem, Jack Frost, time to skedaddle) — but there’s an interesting piece in this month’s National Parks Traveler that talks about how spring green-up in Yellowstone has been reduced by 40 percent and how that may be affecting elk there.

“This is evolving research, but there is an interesting study going on east of the park by a graduate student at the University of Wyoming. We’re looking at the same trends, but we’re a little bit behind him,” National Park Service biologist Doug Smith tells writer Beth Pratt. “What we are both finding is that the annual “green-up” [when snowmelt gives way to vegetation] is starting earlier and it’s also burning up the mountainside a lot quicker.”

Forgive me for copying and pasting at length, but Smith — who is also a battle-scarred lightning rod of the Wolf Wars — continues:

The link to elk is this—when new vegetation is growing it’s the most nutritious for elk. At the start of spring elk are existing on fumes. To restore their fat they need quality vegetation for a sustained period. In the past the green-up would extend until August and the elk had a lengthy period to restore their condition. Now that time period is being reduced by up to 40 percent.

Winter is just tough for an elk. I sometimes wonder why evolution made it so tough—it’s bizarre. Elk head into winter with a fat content that will vary from 10 to 20 percent. If it’s less than 10 percent they can’t even conceive a pregnancy and they probably are not going to make it through the winter. If they are at 20 percent they will probably burn through all of that fat during a long winter like this one. They are eating, but it’s maintenance eating—to survive they are really relying on reduced activity and fat reserves. And if they have a calf on top of that, their energy reserves really get depleted, and it takes a long time to build back up.

So global warming is altering this green up, and they can’t recharge as well. Now this is all in the hazy phase of research, but what they are finding east of the park is the elk are adapting by not reproducing annually. Typically older elk would switch off, but 90 to 95 percent of younger elk in the past reproduced every year. Now we are seeing rates of only 60 percent of young migratory elk being pregnant.

Elk well to the west and northwest of Yellowstone were the topic in Portland earlier this week during a two-day symposium titled “Elk Habitat Selection in Western Oregon and Washington: Final Models and Management Applications.”

In our December issue I wrote about what new things federal, state and tribal biologists are learning about elk here. While there isn’t a climate tie-in, their work goes “a long way in explaining where in Western Oregon and Washington elk populations are most likely to thrive,” and turns some older theories on their head.

As with Doug Smith and Yellowstone, there’s a growing sense that in the Northwest for elk it’s not about the winter habitat, but making hay while the sun shines in spring and summer.

“Do you want higher pregnancy rates? Do you want bigger, healthier calves? Do you want yearlings to grow rapidly? That all happens on the summer range,” researcher John Cook told me.

Here’s my piece in its entirety:

Four factors determine what spots wapiti like best in Western Oregon and Washington.

By Andy Walgamott

SPRINGFIELD, Ore.—Whenever the subject of hunting arose, Jack Walgamott would go on and on about the elk he shot in 1965.

“Best venison I ever had,” Grandpa would say, crediting the salal in the clearcut where he shot the animal.

He’s gone now, so I can’t confirm whether or not he found a juicy wad of the ubiquitous native plant in the elk’s cheeks, but as it turns out, wapiti actually turn their nose up at it.

They also curl their lips at Oregon grape and sword fern, which together with salal can sometimes comprise 90 percent – even 95 percent – of Western Washington and Oregon forests’ understory, according to John Cook, a longtime ungulate researcher.

“All three provide extremely low levels of nutrients, and tend to produce toxic compounds,” he says.

Not good if you’re a nursing cow or bull trying to add a thick layer of fat for winter.

Maybe Grandpa’s elk was chowing down on something else in that Mt. St. Helens-area cut, but biologists are learning other interesting new things about Cervus canadensis as well.

Earlier this fall, the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station announced it had put together a model that “identifies characteristics of high elk-use areas” in the western portions of both states during summer, now believed to be the key time of year for the prized game animals.

In a nutshell, it’s where the best grub is in forage patches – but close to trees. Even in June, July and August, when there aren’t really any hunts going on, wapiti don’t like to be far from that edge between shelter and supermarket.

Researcher Mary Rowland points out that the value of the model to Northwest sportsmen is a potentially more productive elk herd.

“Findings from our modeling go a long way in explaining where in Western Oregon and Washington elk populations are most likely to thrive,” says the biologist based at the station’s La Grande, Ore., lab.

Rowland says that current management is “based on decades-old research.”

“We knew these management approaches were deficient in a number of ways – they were built on small data sets and expert opinions,” she says.

Biologists thought winter forage was key and assumed that summer feed was all good. But with “hundreds of thousands of locations” from GPS-collared animals, a better understanding of elk has begun to emerge.

OVER THREE SUMMERS in the early 2000s, had you wandered around Northwest Washington’s upper Nooksack River watershed, the Willapa Hills above the Lower Columbia or Cascade foothills east of Springfield, Ore., you might have come across an unusual sight. A herd of 15 to 20 elk grazed inside enclosures while being watched over by people scrutinizing what the cowcalf pairs were gobbling up.

The elk were on loan from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to Cook and his wife and fellow researcher Rachel Cook, both with the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement and also based in La Grande. John says that previous studies show tame elk eat what wild elk would.

What they discovered was that the elk really tore into deciduous shrubs like big leaf maple, hazelnut and cascara as well as forbs like false Solomon’s seal. They tolerated most types of grass as well as alder and salmonberry, but avoided not only salal, Oregon grape and sword fern, but also deer fern and most conifers.

The work helped develop a nutrition model that predicts “dietary digestible energy,” or DDE. It varies by ecosystem that elk are grazing in, but is a measure of the quality of forage in summer, a key time for bulls, cows and calves to put on the weight that makes them more reproductively fit and better able to shiver through winter.

Researchers then used DDE predictions with 50-plus additional factors to check out actual elk habitat use in the Evergreen and Beaver States. That included information from radio- and GPS-collared animals in the White, Green and Cedar River basins of Washington’s Central Cascades, and the lower Elwha River on the northern Olympic Peninsula.

Four variables that “consistently provided the most support for observed habitat selection patterns of elk” bubbled up.

Any guesses?

The best grocery stores, for starters, as well as proximity to the nearest open public roads and slope steepness.

“Gentler slopes are preferred,” notes Rowland, adding that distance to the nearest cover is a “very strong” consideration.

GOVERNMENT AND TRIBAL biologists are testing the habitat model this fall to see how easy it is to apply with their own data.

Rowland’s fellow PNW researcher and project initiator Mike Wisdom says there were “close matches seen between predicted elk use from the model and locations of elk in the study areas.” In other words, they say, the model is performing well across much of the region.

“It’s not perfect everywhere, but it works,” Rowland adds.

Potentially, the model could be used by federal and state forest managers. There are 3 million acres of Bureau of Land Management and state Department of Forestry land in Western Oregon and 1.45 million acres of Department of Natural Resources land in Western Washington. There’s another 10 million acres of national forest in both states, but logging has dropped off sharply on that land.

Biologists will be able to make maps that show which areas of the woods offer the most forage and what logging or thinning does for that feed.

“This information can help set goals for changing elk use in certain areas and guiding management prescriptions for elk habitat,” says Wisdom.

The Cooks have found that Westside elk tend to have higher body fat and pregnancy rates the further north you go in the Cascades (13 percent and 95 percent in the Nooksack herd), but those drop sharply as you head towards the coast. Animals around Forks, Wash., and in the Willapa Hills average just 6 percent body fat while pregnancy rates in the Siuslaw and Wynoochee Basins were only 50 and 53 percent.

It’s unclear why that is. An easy answer would be herbicide spraying, but much of the elk-grazing data came from private timberlands that had been dosed to give Doug firs a head start against deciduous shrubs and showed that there was still plenty of good stuff to eat. A better understanding of how chemical applications affect elk and deer browse is needed.

Asked their works’ importance to hunters, John Cook responds, “Do you want higher pregnancy rates? Do you want bigger, healthier calves? Do you want yearlings to grow rapidly? That all happens on the summer range.”

Several Western Washington tribes provided elk location data. Oregon State University is collaborating too.

“The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has been a huge supporter of this work,” adds Rowland.

Other sportsman groups as well as the Oregon and Washington Departments of Fish and Wildlife have also assisted.

ROWLAND NEXT HOPES to round up enough money to send the Cooks and ODFW’s herd to Southwest Oregon for another nutrition study. Pointing to differences in the region’s vegetation, she says, “We don’t think our model is appropriate there.”

She also wants to publish the work in peer-reviewed journals next spring, and the modeling team has already begun a similar study in the Blue Mountains of Oregon and Washington.

As for the all-important question of where the critters go when we’re chasing after them …

“If we had more time and money, it would be interesting to continue this with hunting season data,” Rowland says, “but that’s not in the cards right now.”


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