Archive for January, 2011

King In The Ladder, But Was It A Springer

January 31, 2011

Think you can tell the difference between spring, summer, fall and winter Chinook?

Here, take a look at this fish which appeared in the Bonneville ladder last Wednesday and tell us what you think.

“More likely a springer but still not sure,” says biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver, who last week sent reporters into a frenzy with reports of the first spring Chinook of the year landed during an overnight commercial sturgeon fishery.

Whatever it is, with those downriver reports, springer season has officially begun!

 

 

Wolf Pack Confirmed On West Side Of Blues: Paper

January 31, 2011

ODFW is today confirming a wolf pack in the upper Walla Walla River basin in Umatilla County just south of the Washington state line, though not much else is know about it, according to a Pendleton paper.

The East Oregonian reports:

Mark Kirsch is the Umatilla District wildlife biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. He said more than one Northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf has settled in the Walla Walla River/Mill Creek system.

“When we say more than one wolf, I think we’re pretty confident we have no less than three,” Kirsch said.

But it’s too early to say just what kind of “social formation” these wolves are in, he said,

“We know so little at this point,” Kirsch said. “The source of our current efforts is to try and understand that.”

The area was the scene of wolf reports earlier in January.

SW WA Fishing Report (1-31-11)

January 31, 2011

(REPORT COURTESY JOE HYMER)

SALMON STEELHEAD

Cowlitz River – The Cowlitz remains high and turbid.  Blue Creek boats – 4 boats with 12 anglers with no catch.  Blue Creek bank – 27 anglers with 2 steelhead kept and 1 released.  Barrier Dam – No effort

Last week Tacoma Power recovered 38 coho adults, one jack and 54 winter-run steelhead during five days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week Tacoma Power employees released 21 coho adults, one jack and seven winter-run steelhead into the Cispus River above the mouth of Yellow Jacket Creek, five coho adults and 13 steelhead into the upper Cowlitz River at the Skate Creek Bridge in Packwood and two coho adults and eight winter-run steelhead into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton.

River flows at Mayfield Dam will rise to approximately 17,200 cubic feet per second on Monday, January 31. Water visibility is two feet.

Lower Columbia mainstem from the I-5 Bridge downstream – 9 bank and 1 boat angler had no catch.

Bonneville Pool – No effort.

The Dalles Pool – Anglers are catching some steelhead.

John Day Pool – The few anglers sampled had no catch.

STURGEON

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – 3 boats/10 anglers released 10 sublegals while 3 bank anglers had no catch.

Bonneville Pool – Boat anglers averaged just over a legal kept/released per boat.  Including fish released, bank anglers averaged a legal per about every 13 rods.

The Dalles Pool – Boat anglers kept some legals.  Slow for legals from the bank.

John Day Pool – Boat anglers averaged a legal per about every 6.5 rods when including fish released.  Slower for legal size fish from the bank.

WALLEYE AND BASS

Bonneville, The Dalles, and John Day pools –  Boat anglers were catching some walleye from all three pools.  No effort observed for bass.

TROUT

Klineline Pond – 98 bank anglers with 100 catchable size rainbows kept and 6 released plus 1 brood stock rainbow kept.  Planted with 2,000 half-pound rainbows.

Kress Lake near Kalama – Planted with 3,014 catchable size rainbows Jan. 24.

Battleground Lake – Planted with 2,910 catchable size rainbows Jan. 20.

Icehouse Lake near Bridge of the Gods and Little Ash Lake just west of Stevenson – Each were planted with 1,007 catchable size rainbows Jan. 21.

 

Drano, Wind, More Springer Forecasts Out

January 31, 2011

Columbia River salmon managers are forecasting “another strong return” of spring Chinook back to Drano Lake this season.

BRIAN HAWKINS SHOWS OFF A PRAWN-CAUGHT SPRINGER FROM DRANO LAKE, LANDED ON A BLUSTERY DAY LAST APRIL. (ANDY SCHNEIDER)

In a document released by ODFW and WDFW this morning, they say 12,600 will run back to Little White Salmon River, which flows into the lake.

That’s above the 10-year average of 10,300, they report, but just around half of what came back last year. Managers had forecast a bumper run of 28,800 while 24,000 actually made it back, “the largest return observed since at least 1970.”

The nearby Wind River is predicted to see 4,900, “about half of the 2010 return.”

The Klickitat will get 2,100, just above the 10-year average.

The Yakima is predicted to see 10,300 adult springers, 600 fish above the 10-year average.

The Drano, Wind, Klick and Yak stocks are included in the forecast of 198,400 above-Bonneville-bound springers back to the mouth of the Columbia.

And managers say 13,300 will return to the Select Area Fisheries at the mouth of the Columbia, including 11,000 to Youngs Bay and 1,900 to Blind/Knappa Slough. That’s about 54 percent of how many were caught in the commercial fishery here last year. The waters do provide a small recreational fishery.

Another 104,000 are forecast for the Willamette River.

Monday Morning Reads

January 31, 2011

I’ve got to get to editing and writing and reporting if we’re gonna pull off a March issue, but here are a handful of articles that deserve a look-see this Monday morning.

Bill Monroe, freelancer for The Oregonian, reports that ODFW has its eyes on 100 bills introduced in Salem this session, including:

SB 169: Establishes a task force to meet before next year and make recommendations about consolidating the state’s natural resource agencies (ODFW, parks, agriculture, state lands, water resources, forestry, etc.). It’s one of a number of bills in both houses aimed in the same direction (that’s often a sure sign of traction). Other bills include SB 521 (abolishes all commissions, boards and departments and establishes a Department of Natural Resources) and HB 2496 (establishes an identical task force).

HB 2125: Allows up to a $50 surcharge for hunters failing to report their big-game hunting and turkey-tag results.

HB 2338: Prohibits the sale and use of felt-soled waders and boots, starting Jan. 1, 2015.

HB 2632: Prohibits the Fish and Wildlife Commission from setting bag and size limits for or enhancing and protecting non-native fish (bass, most panfish, walleye, etc.)

In September 2009, I reported on what the illegal introduction of perch in Phillips Reservoir has done to a once solid trout fishery. The local biologist, Tim Bailey, was trying to figure out how to bring it back, and it looks like he’s come up with a plan. He’s going to stock 10,000 tiger trout this fall, and may put tiger muskies in too, reports the La Grande Observer.

The Roseburg News-Review has a piece on another ODFW bio, Tod Lum, who found his true love “cutting open pigs taking out tissue samples … It was love at first blood.”

And finally, what does a sportsman’s show look like to a non-sportsman? Tri-Cities Herald sports editor Jeff Morrow, who has fished all of twice in his life and never fired anything more powerful than a paintgun, shares his thoughts.

Thanks!

January 31, 2011

A huge thank you to all you hunters and anglers who stopped by our booth at the Puyallup sportsman’s show — you helped make it our best show yet!

It was great to meet readers who’ve sent us photos as well as see in person some of the folks holding fish and game in those shots, talk story ideas and share yarns or BS, catch up with old friends, chat face to face with guides I’ve only ever spoken with over the phone — and see Ed Iman walking around without the limp that slowed him down last winter.

Felt a little like old home week.

I remember doing Northwest Sportsman‘s first show in January 2009. Stepping into our one-table booth, I was nervous — I am in no way a public person, I prefer being in the background. And there was some anger, because the boys and I had come from the recently defunct Fishing & Hunting News and a lot of you had lost your subscriptions. We had lost our jobs.

That show was a tougher sell and we did a whole lot of explaining, but by January 2010’s shindig, there were fewer concerns about us also going under.

And over the past five days, it was truly astonishing the number of sportsmen who walked up to our booth with wallets open.

Maybe it’s our content, maybe it’s our dagger deal, maybe it’s another sign that Americans are willing to spend again.

Probably it’s a combination of all of them that had folks from as far-flung addresses as Bellingham and Ferndale, Leavenworth and Wilson Creek (!), Castle Rock and Port Angeles signing up.

We really and truly appreciate the support you’re giving us through multi-year subscriptions. It’s an awesome responsibility, but one we’re glad you’ve invested in us.

In February, we hit the Eugene, Portland, Roseburg, Yakima and Medford shows, while in March we’ll be in Boise and Spokane. We hope to see you there.

Thanks again.

Tag Report Deadline Coming Up Fast

January 28, 2011

Report your tags yet?

Both Oregon and Washington‘s deadline for turning in info on last fall’s big game and turkey hunts is this Monday, Jan. 31.

GOOD THINGS HAPPEN TO HUNTERS WHO REPORT ON TIME -- JOSH SCHMALENBERGER, FOR INSTANCE. (ODFW)

The carrot: If you report before the end of that day, ODFW will put your name into a drawing for three tags to hunt deer, elk and pronghorn. WDFW offers hunters five deer and four elk tags, though the deadline for that was Jan. 10.

The stick: In Washington, those who report on their season after Jan. 31 may face paying a $10 fine before being allowed to buy 2011 licenses.

Reporting is mandatory in both states, whether you’re successful or not. The

Two E. WA Coyote Derbies Coming Up

January 28, 2011

A pair of coyote hunting derbies, one held as a fundraiser and both to reduce wildlife and livestock losses, will be held next month.

Vincent Bator, a Grant County, Wash., sportsmen, details a competitive Feb. 4-5 event that will be held across a wide swath of Eastern Washington and benefit the Warden Lions Club. Entry is $100 per two-man team.

And this morning we received a PDF detailing a 27-day derby to be held in Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille Counties next month.

Sponsored by the Northeast Washington Wildlife Group and the Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association, the “Balance For Wildlife Coyote Derby” aims to reduce predation on fawns of the region’s winter-weakened whitetail herd.

“This derby is being held to ensure a better outdoor experience for the next generation,” the PDF also states.

It runs Feb. 1-27 with a drawing for prizes such as a .223 Weatherby Nikko with Stirling scope and 8×42 binoculars and more held at 2 p.m., March 6 at the Pizza Factory on Main in Colville.

Check stations include Northwest Sportsman advertiser Clark’s All Sports in Colville during store hours, the Camo’d Arrow on Highway 395 in Chewelah Wednesday through Saturday during store hours, the Deer Park Weigh Station on 395 and Suncrest Zips at Highway 291 and Lakeside Drive from 2 to 4 p.m. on Sundays, and the Springdale Store on Sundays from 6 to 7 p.m.

For more info, call Freddie Giannecchini at (509) 680-1059.

Dave Workman also writes about the event in his Seattle Gun Rights Examiner column today.

First Springer Over B. Dam?

January 27, 2011

A second spring Chinook has been hauled out of the Lower Columbia, but this fish was much higher up the big river than yesterday’s.

According to biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver, the 24.5-pounder was caught between the mouth of the Lewis River and the Clark-Skamania County line east of Washougal during the same overnight non-tribal commercial white sturgeon fishing period as the first.

That one, a 16-pounder, was caught somewhere near Cathlamet.

That upstream movement sent me off to the UW’s Columbia River Data Access in Real Time site where I discovered that, holy smokes!, it appears as if the season’s first springer went over Bonneville Dam yesterday as well.

The Fish Passage Center reports the same information on its daily log.

Hymer’s checking to confirm that it was indeed a spring Chinook.

Previous years, such as 2010 and the early 2000s, have seen pilot springers over Bonneville in January, though it was not until March 2 that the first of the delectable fish poked its head over the dam in 2009.

Fish managers forecast that somewhere around 100,000 5-year-old springers will return to the Willamette and Eastern Washington, Eastern Oregon and Central Idaho tribs this season, and they tend to come in earlier than the 4-year-olds.

 

First Springer

January 26, 2011

The first confirmed spring Chinook of the 2011 run was caught today in the lower Columbia.

“They’re here!” reported that springer-news monger, biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver, at 3:34 PST this afternoon.

“ODFW sampled an 18-pound lower river stock spring Chinook from the lower river commercial fishery today,” he said in an email sent out to all sorts of fishheads.

About a half hour later, Hymer followed up with more info on the first fish: “It was caught in Zone 2 (between Pacific/Wahkiakum County line and Wahkiakum/Cowlitz county line).  It’s a commercial white sturgeon fishery but adipose-fin-clipped salmon may be sold.  The salmon sold for $16 a pound” to a licensed buyer.

Hymer says there have been rumors of other early catches this year.

Managers are forecasting 198,400 above-Bonneville-bound springers, 104,000 to the Willamette, 6,600 to the Cowlitz, 600 to the Kalama and 3,400 to the North Fork Lewis.

“(It’s) early, but there have been fish caught earlier in past years,” he says. “Remember – (the) Willamette return is expected to be 60 percent 5-year-olds this year, and those fish tend to return earlier.”

You’ll want to grab a copy of the February Northwest Sportsman for tips on catching those über-early kings.

Last year’s first confirmed sport-caught Columbia springer was landed Feb. 1 by Jesse Eveland. He was fishing with guide Larry Kesch below the mouth of the Willamette while trolling a cutplug herring downstream.

JESSE EVELAND AND GUIDE LARRY KESCH WITH 2010’S FIRST CONFIRMED SPORT SPRINGER. (HOOK EM UP GUIDE SERVICE)

What’s Fishin’ In OR (1-26-11)

January 26, 2011

Dear Jason Harris’ Boss,

I, Dr. Steelhead, have excused Mr. Harris from work this week. I have determined that he suffers from a kind of symptom which I’d rather not get into detail about at the moment, but in my expert opinion, I think it would be best to keep him out of the office.

In fact, I have quarantined Mr. Harris at a remote location on the Oregon coast — in the vicinity of Hebo if you must know — until a later date.

It is my hope that the salt air and dairy fumes the region is known for helps keep his symptoms at bay and the rest of us safe from his perilous condition.

This has absolutely nothing to do with the 31 1/2-inch, near-12-pound winter-run he landed last weekend, the other steelhead he lost, or the fact that the Nestucca has dropped to 6 feet and greened up.

I repeat, nothing at all.

Sincerely,

Dr. Steelhead

Feel free to copy and paste this note and present it to your boss, because there’s a wee bit of fishing to be done this weekend around the Beaver State, according to ODFW’s weekly Recreation Report. To wit:

SOUTHWEST ZONE

  • With dropping water levels, steelhead fishing conditions have improved on several rivers in the Southwest Zone including the Umpqua, Lower Rogue, Coos, Coquille and Chetco.
  • Trout anglers should take advantage of the good weather and visit Applegate Reservoir, Garrison Lake and Lost Creek Reservoir where fishing has been good.
  • Young anglers (age 17 and younger) have been enjoying the warm sunny days and good trout fishing at Arizona Pond.

NORTHWEST ZONE

  • Alsea River: Winter steelhead fishing should be good by late in the week. Recent high flows will likely move fish upstream through the week. Look to fish the upper river when river flows are high. As conditions improve, fish should be spread throughout the basin with good returns expected for the month. The river offers multiple drifting and bank fishing locations.
  • Siletz River: Winter steelhead fishing should pick up by this weekend as river conditions improve following the recent flood event. Fish the upper river during higher murky flows or try plunking mid to lower river when flows are at 8 feet and lower. Bobber and jig or side drifting can be effective steelhead angling tactics. The steelhead run is expected to steadily improve through January.

JASON HARRIS WITH A NICE NESTUCCA RIVER STEELHEAD, CAUGHT LAST WEEKEND. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

  • Wilson River: Angling for winter steelhead should be fair to good when conditions allow. Good numbers of fish are in the system. The slide at MP 6 on Hwy 6 has been keeping the lower river dirty. Above that point the river was clearing up nicely last weekend. Until the slide stabilizes, the best fishing conditions and the best fishing will likely be the upper river.

WILLAMETTE ZONE

  • Seventy-five large brood trout will be released at EE Wilson for its fishing season opener on Feb. 1. Additionally, three other Willamette Valley lakes and ponds received similarly sized rainbow trout this last week. The big rainbows were released Jan. 21 at St. Louis Pond #6, Sheridan Pond and Walter Wirth Lake. These fish average about three pounds apiece.
  • The recent heavy rainfall could prove to be the catalyst that gets steelhead to move upstream in larger numbers. Anglers could potentially find some pretty good winter steelheading in the offing as soon as rivers return to normal flows.

CENTRAL ZONE

  • Trout fishing has been fair to good in Haystack and Prineville reservoirs.
  • Water levels remain high on the Deschutes River, but anglers fishing close to the bank have been having some success.
  • The Fall, Metolius and Crooked rivers offer some great winter fly fishing.

NORTHEAST ZONE

  • Steelhead fishing has improved as river flows have declined. Anglers report good fishing on the Wallowa and Imnaha rivers, and look for conditions to be good this weekend on the lower Grande Ronde and Umatilla this weekend.

COLUMBIA ZONE

  • Sturgeon angling is excellent for boat and bank anglers in the Bonneville Pool.  Sturgeon anglers in The Dalles and John Day Pools are also catching some fish.  Anglers should be mindful of large woody debris after the recent flooding when anchored for sturgeon.
  • Steelhead angling was fair and effort was light in the Bonneville, The Dalles and John Day pools. Some winter steelhead should be available from beaches on the lower Columbia for anglers willing to brave the elements.

 

What’s Fishin’ In WA (1-26-11)

January 26, 2011

What’s there to do in Washington on a midwinter weekend?

Well, there is that sportsman’s show in Puyallup that starts tomorrow.

Or, you can be like the Northwest Sportsman sales rep who plans on steelheading a certain Olympia-area stream while the rest of us are manning our booth on the craziest days.

That’s not too skookum, Chuck.

Then there’s jigging for squid, fishing for blackmouth, trolling for trout and cutthroat, breaking up a burbot orgy.

Err, maybe skip that last one.

Anyway, for more ideas, we turn to WDFW’s just-released Weekender:

NORTH PUGET SOUND

With fishing for steelhead and other game fish scheduled to close early on several rivers in the region, the focus is shifting on the marine areas where blackmouth salmon fisheries are under way.

“The San Juan Islands are the best bet for salmon anglers as we head into February,” said Steve Thiesfeld, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “Fishing has been good for blackmouth in the San Juans, and hopefully that will continue throughout the month.”

CLAY SCHURMANN AND FRIEND WITH A JEFFERSON HEAD BLACKMOUTH, CAUGHT LAST WEEKEND. SEASON ENDS JAN. 31. (CLAY SCHURMAN)

Anglers fishing Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands) – as well as marine areas 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) and 9 (Admiralty Inlet) – have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook salmon. Marine Area 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) is only open for salmon through Jan. 31.

Thiesfeld said there also have been reports of some nice-size blackmouth caught in Marine Area 9, especially around Possession Bar off the southern tip of Whidbey Island.

Another option is jigging for squid . Winter is prime time to fish for squid in Puget Sound. Good spots include the Elliott Bay Pier in Seattle and the Edmonds Pier. More information on squid fishing is available on the department’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/squid/ . Information on fishing piers is available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/piers/ .

Fishing for steelhead and other game fish is closing early in several river systems in Puget Sound and along the Strait of Juan de Fuca to protect wild steelhead. The early closures will affect the Nooksack, Snohomish, Stillaguamish and Skagit river systems, as well as several streams along the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

JACOB MANDELLA LIMITED AT REITER PONDS ON THE SKYKOMISH LAST SATURDAY. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

Most rivers will close Feb. 1, although some waters near WDFW fish hatcheries will remain open through Feb. 15 to provide anglers an opportunity to catch and keep hatchery steelhead. “We’re closing these rivers early because of conservation concerns,” said Jim Scott, assistant director for WDFW’s Fish Program. “With low numbers of wild steelhead expected back, we need to take this action to protect those wild fish that do return.”

Anglers are reminded that the lower Green River (King County) and the White, Carbon and upper Puyallup rivers closed to fishing for steelhead and other game fish Jan. 16. The upper Green River closes Feb. 1. For more information on all the closures, check the emergency rule changes on WDFW’s website at http://bit.ly/eWIYg3 .

With several of the region’s rivers scheduled to close, freshwater anglers might turn their attention to local lakes. Lake Washington and Lake Sammamish are good spots to fish for perch, cutthroat and smallmouth bass , said WDFW fisheries biologist Danny Garrett.

“Lake Sammamish has been producing consistent angling action for cutthroat trout that range from 14-18 inches,” he said.

Before heading out, anglers should check the rules and regulations for all fisheries on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ .

The Puget Sound crab fishery is now closed, and crabbers are reminded that they are required to report their winter catch to WDFW by Feb. 1. Reports are due for the season running Sept. 7 to Jan. 2, whether or not crabbers actually fished or caught crab. To submit catch reports, crabbers may send their catch record card to WDFW by mail or file their report on the department’s licensing website. The mailing address is WDFW CRC Unit, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA 98501-1091. The online reporting system is available Jan. 3-Feb. 1 at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/wdfw/puget_sound_crab_catch.html .

SOUTH SOUND/OLYMPIC PENINSULA

Several areas of Puget Sound open to blackmouth salmon fishing in February, more wild steelhead are moving into coastal rivers and another razor clam dig is tentatively scheduled for mid-month.

If tests are favorable, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will proceed with an evening razor clam dig at Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks and Kalaloch. Tentative opening dates and evening low tides are:

* Feb. 17, Thursday – 5:53 p.m. (-0.9 ft.); Twin Harbors
* Feb. 18, Friday – 6:33 p.m. (-0.9 ft.); Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks and Kalaloch
* Feb. 19, Saturday – 7:13 p.m. (-0.5 ft.); Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks and Kalaloch

Clam diggers are reminded that they should take lights or lanterns for the nighttime digs and to check weather and surf forecasts before heading out. No digging will be allowed before noon on any of the five razor-clam beaches. Harvesters are allowed to take no more than 15 razor clams and must keep the first 15 they dig, regardless of size or condition. Each digger’s clams must be kept in a separate container.

All diggers age 15 or older must have an applicable 2010-11 fishing license to harvest razor clams on any beach. Licenses, ranging from a three-day razor clam license to an annual combination fishing license, are available on WDFW’s website at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov and from license vendors around the state.

Meanwhile, anglers can find hatchery steelhead at some of the region’s rivers. “Fishing for hatchery steelhead is winding down in the north coast streams, but anglers should continue to find fish in the Chehalis River Basin,” said Kirt Hughes, regional fishery manager for WDFW, who recommends the Satsop, Skookumchuck and Wynoochee rivers.

BLAKE ANDERSON FORWARDED SEVERAL SHOTS OF A GOOD DAY ON THE SATSOP FOR HE AND HIS FAMILY LAST FRIDAY. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

Beginning Feb. 16, wild steelhead-retention rules go into effect on the Bogachiel, Calawah, Clearwater, Dickey, Hoh, Quillayute, Quinault and Sol Duc rivers. Those eight rivers are the only waters in Washington where wild steelhead retention is allowed. Anglers will be allowed to retain one wild steelhead per license year on one of the eight rivers.

For more information on steelhead fishing regulations, check the Fishing in Washington pamphlet at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ .

Elsewhere, fishing for steelhead and other game fish will close early in several river systems in Puget Sound and along the Strait of Juan de Fuca to protect wild steelhead. The early closures will affect the Nooksack, Snohomish, Stillaguamish and Skagit river systems, as well as several streams along the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Most rivers will close Feb. 1, although some waters near WDFW fish hatcheries will remain open through Feb. 15 to provide anglers an opportunity to catch and keep hatchery steelhead. “We’re closing these rivers early because of conservation concerns,” said Jim Scott, assistant director for WDFW’s Fish Program. “With low numbers of wild steelhead expected back, we need to take this action to protect those wild fish that do return.”

Anglers are reminded that the lower Green River (King County) and the White, Carbon and upper Puyallup rivers closed to fishing for steelhead and other game fish Jan. 16. The upper Green River closes Feb. 1. For more information on the closures, check the emergency rule changes on WDFW’s website at http://bit.ly/eWIYg3 .

On the other hand, saltwater salmon fishing opportunities will expand Feb. 1, with the opening of marine areas 11 (Tacoma-Vashon) and 12 (Hood Canal). In addition, salmon fisheries also get under way in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, where marine areas 5 (Sekiu) and 6 (eastern Strait) open Feb. 16.

Steve Thiesfeld, WDFW fish biologist, recommends trolling Coyote Bank, located about 13 miles north of the Washington shore between Port Angeles and Dungeness Spit. “Coyote was one of the more consistent producers last year, and hopefully that will continue this season,” he said. “But make sure you keep your eye on the weather if you’re heading out that way.”

Salmon fishing is already under way in Marine Area 13 (South Puget Sound), where anglers have had some success hooking resident coho. Best bets include the Tacoma Narrows, the Squaxin Island area and in Eld Inlet off Evergreen Beach, said Larry Phillips, regional fish biologist for WDFW.

Anglers should check the regulations for salmon fisheries on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ .

Looking for some competition? Anglers can take part in the Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby over Presidents’ Day Weekend near Sequim. Prizes include $10,000 for the largest fish, $5,000 for second place and $1,500 for third place. Details are available at http://gardinersalmonderby.org/ .

Puget Sound crabbers are reminded that they are required to report their winter catch to WDFW by Feb. 1. Reports are due for the season running Sept. 7 to Jan. 2, whether or not crabbers actually fished or caught Dungeness crab. To submit catch reports, crabbers may send their catch record card to WDFW by mail or file their report on the department’s licensing website. The mailing address is WDFW CRC Unit, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA 98501-1091. The online reporting system is available Jan. 3-Feb. 1 at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/wdfw/puget_sound_crab_catch.html .

SOUTHWEST WASHINGTON

Ocean bright spring chinook salmon will be moving into the Columbia River in increasing numbers in the weeks ahead, setting the stage for one of the state’s most popular fisheries. Anglers typically start landing early-returning “springers” in early February, but the fishery usually doesn’t catch fire until March.

“This is a good time to dust off your gear, prepare your boat and maybe do a little prospecting,” said Joe Hymer, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “You want to be ready to go when the bulk of the run arrives.”

According to the pre-season forecast, a total of 198,400 upriver spring chinook will return to the Columbia River Basin this year – well below last year’s run of 315,345, but close to the 10-year average. Then again, 40,000 of this year’s fish are expected to be five-year-olds, compared to 7,855 last year. In addition, 62,400 of the 104,000 fish headed back to the Willamette River are projected to be five-year-olds.

“We’re definitely expecting more big fish this year,” Hymer said. “Five-year-olds can run from 18 to 30 pounds apiece.”

Fishery managers from Washington and Oregon are scheduled to meet Feb. 8 to work out fishing seasons and regulations for both the spring chinook fishery and white sturgeon fishery below Bonneville Dam. In the meantime, seasons and regulations listed in the 2010-11 Fishing in Washington pamphlet ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ ) will remain in effect.

As in previous years, only hatchery-reared fish marked with a clipped adipose fin and a healed scar may be retained. All wild spring chinook, identifiable by an intact adipose fin, must be released unharmed.

Fishing for spring chinook is currently open on the Columbia River below the Interstate 5 Bridge, where the limit is two adult fish per day. Anglers may also retain two adult springers per day on the Cowlitz and Deep rivers, but are limited to one adult fish a day on the Lewis and Kalama rivers.

“The Cowlitz River and waters near the Willamette River are probably the best bets early in the season, because spring chinook usually start showing up there first,” Hymer said.

Meanwhile, anglers continue to reel in hatchery steelhead from waters ranging from the Cowlitz River to the John Day Pool and beyond. In general, the steelhead in the lower tributaries are winter-run fish, while those above Bonneville Dam are left over from last year’s summer run, Hymer said.

“Hatchery-reared late-run winter steelhead are still moving up the Cowlitz and Kalama rivers and should be available to anglers for weeks to come,” he said.

Columbia River anglers can also retain one sturgeon per day in the lower Columbia below the Wauna powerlines or in the Bonneville, The Dalles or John Day pools. Anglers can also retain a fish per day Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from the Wauna powerlines to Bonneville Dam.

Fishing strategies vary from area to area. Hymer said boat anglers fishing the Bonneville Pool have done well by anchoring above the deeper holes and plunking with smelt, squid, sand shrimp, or roll-top herring. In the lower river, anglers have had some success fishing for sturgeon that gravitate toward the warmer waters flowing from the Willamette River. Fishing for smelt (eulachon) is closed to humans, but sturgeon still follow them up the Cowlitz River as far as Castle Rock, where anglers are waiting for them.

Fishery managers are scheduled to set new seasons for sturgeon Feb. 8. Until then, most seasons and regulations listed in the 2010-11 Fishing in Washington pamphlet will remain in effect until then. The exception is that angling is closed on the mainstem Columbia at Sand Island near Rooster Rock State Park through April 30.   Until then, all angling is prohibited from a line between the upstream end of Sand Island to a marker on the Oregon shore, downstream to a line between the lower end of Sand Island and a marker on the Oregon shore.

Trout anglers should be aware that Battle Ground Lake and Klineline Pond are both scheduled to be stocked with 2,000 half-pound rainbows from Vancouver Hatchery in February. But fishing could be just as good on 13 other regional lakes that were stocked with tens of thousands of trout in January.

“Those fish – particularly the bigger ones – tend to stick around for a while when the weather is cold and anglers don’t spend as much time on the water,” Hymer said. “That will change once the weather breaks and fishing picks up.”

The weekly trout-stocking schedule is available on the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/ .

EASTERN WASHINGTON

Of all the mid-winter fishing opportunities now available in the region, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) fish biologist Chris Donley recommends fishing Lake Roosevelt – the huge Columbia River reservoir off Grand Coulee Dam.

“Lake Roosevelt’s kokanee fishery is usually pretty good at this time of year,” Donley said. “Large kokanee, measuring 20 inches and more, are caught near the surface by trolling small flies and plugs in four-to-six feet of water. It’s also the start of the lake’s fishing season for walleye , which are starting to stage at the mouth of the Spokane River to make their annual spawning run up the river.”

Anglers also continue to pull rainbow trout out of Lake Roosevelt, Donley said. Night fishing for Roosevelt’s three-to-five-pound burbot should be productive, too.

Even bigger burbot, up to 10 pounds, can be caught in Sullivan Lake in Pend Oreille County. Burbot are nocturnal predators, so night fishing is most effective, said Donley, noting that burbot are now gathering to spawn. “If you find one you usually find others,” he said.

Depending on temperature fluctuations, ice fishing should remain good at several winter-season or year-round fisheries in the region. Spokane County’s Hog Canyon Lake and Stevens County’s Hatch and Williams lakes should continue to provide rainbow trout catches through the ice. Action at Lincoln County’s Fourth of July Lake seems to have slowed, and ice conditions may be questionable.

Yellow perch fishing through the ice should continue to be good at Spokane County’s year-round Eloika and Silver lakes and Stevens County’s Waitts Lake, which closes Feb. 28.

Sprague Lake might be a good bet for rainbows, but reported “iffy” ice conditions in late January are a reminder that anglers need to be cautious. Look for ice-fishing safety tips at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/ice_fishing/ . Whitman County’s Rock Lake provides open water fishing on rainbow and brown trout for the hearty angler who can brave the wind chill.

Snake River tributaries, like the Grand Ronde, Tucannon, and Touchet rivers, are usually the place to target steelhead in February. Joe Bumgarner, WDFW fish biologist, said the Grand Ronde in particular is improving, although more creel checks will just be getting under way during the month of February to determine actual catch rates.

WDFW fish hatchery crews are gearing up to get catchable rainbow trout stocked this month in waters that open March 1, mostly in the southeast corner of the region.

NORTH-CENTRAL WASHINGTON

With warming air and water temperatures, steelhead fishing picks up a bit at this time of year on the upper Columbia River, said Bob Jateff, a district fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).  Most of that action is above Wells Dam on the mainstem Columbia River and in sections of the Methow River.

"BEEN KILLIN' EM, TWO HATCHERIES OVER 10 POUNDS LAST FEW DAYS," REPORTS JEFF WITKOWSKI ABOUT STEELHEAD ACTION IN NORTH-CENTRAL WASHINGTON. (JEFF WITKOWSKI)

Steelheading also picks up with warming trends on the Entiat River, where a few fish are usually caught at the mouth. The Wenatchee River has been slow, but fish can still be caught in the mainstem Columbia River between Rock Island and Rocky Reach dams.

Fishing for whitefish on both the Similkameen and Methow rivers also can be good, said Jateff, noting that fly anglers using small weighted nymphs under a strike indicator seem to do best. The whitefish daily limit is 15 with no minimum size requirement.  Selective gear rules are in effect for whitefish in areas that are currently open for steelhead.

Ice fishing for rainbow trout has been good at several Okanogan County lakes, including Big and Little Green, Davis, Rat, and Sidley.

Sidley Lake, near Molson and the Canada border, is the scene of the 7th annual Northwest Ice Fishing Festival on Feb. 19. The day-long event is hosted by Molson Grange and sponsored by the Oroville Chamber of Commerce. Ice fishing is conducted from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., with registration fees of $20 per adult and $10 for youth 14 years of age and under. Prizes are awarded for biggest and heaviest fish caught. Food, music, skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and dog sledding are also available. For more information contact Robin Stice at Eden Valley Guest Ranch, (509) 485-4002, or info@edenvalleyranch.net .

Another popular ice-fishing spot in Okanogan County is Patterson Lake near Winthrop, where anglers can hook rainbow trout and yellow perch . In Chelan County, ice fishing for rainbows, perch and other fish at Roses Lake near Manson was good earlier in the winter but warming trends have reduced ice thickness and safety.

THE TRIP FROM TRI-CITIES TO RUFUS WOODS LAST WEEKEND WAS A SUCCESSFUL ONE FOR JERRY HAN, WHO HOLDS UP A 10-POUND TRIPLOID. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

Chad Jackson, WDFW Columbia Basin district fish biologist, said most lakes in the south end of the region that are open were either treated last fall and have no fish in them yet, or are covered with unsafe ice. “Stay tuned for more fishing coming to the Basin in March,” Jackson said.

SOUTH-CENTRAL WASHINGTON

Anglers continue to reel in hatchery steelhead from portions of the Columbia and Snake Rivers, although the prospect of catching sturgeon close to home will undoubtedly prompt some to switch gears. Starting Feb. 1, the McNary Pool – also known as Lake Wallula – will reopen for retention of white sturgeon that measure 43 to 54 inches from their snout to the fork in their tail.

Centered near the Tri-Cities, it draws anglers from throughout the region, said Paul Hoffarth, a regional fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). Open waters extend from McNary Dam to Priest Rapids Dam, and into the lower Snake River upstream to Ice Harbor Dam.

“From the Tri-Cities, you can reach the fishery in 20 minutes in either direction,” he said.

Hoffarth said the opening at Lake Wallula should take some pressure off the fishery under way at Lake Umatilla (John Day Pool), where anglers have been chiseling away at a 165-fish annual quota. “That quota has been reached very early in recent years, so anglers should go soon – and keep an eye out for updates – if they plan to fish Lake Umatilla.”

For additional information, see the 2010-11 Fishing in Washington pamphlet, available online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ .

Meanwhile, steelhead fishing has been up and down, typical of the winter fishery, with some of the best catches reported in the Ringold area, Hoffarth said. In the Tri-Cities area, the fishery is open through March for retention of hatchery steelhead from John Day Dam upstream to the wooden power line towers at the old Hanford town site.

Another section of the Hanford Reach is open to fishing for hatchery steelhead from the Highway 24 bridge (Vernita Bridge) upstream to Priest Rapids Dam. Fishing in that area is one of a number of angling opportunities funded by the Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement Fee.

The lower Snake River is also open for the retention of hatchery steelhead through March 31. The daily limit in the Snake River is three hatchery steelhead and barbless hooks are required.

Walleye fishing can get slow in winter, but there’s always a chance of catching a lunker. Hoffarth said some of the largest walleye of the year are boated during the winter months near the Tri-Cities – including the 19.3-pound state record taken in Lake Wallula in 2007.

Federal Salmon Agencies, They’re What To Merge?

January 26, 2011

With Washington and Oregon legislators introducing bills that would merge wildlife agencies with other state departments due to budget issues as well as trying to make government more efficient, President Obama hinted at reforming fish management at the federal level.

And used salmon as the butt of a joke.

Last night, in the 49th minute of his State of the Union address, he pointed out the redundancy of having two different bureaus manage Chinook, coho, chum, sockeye and humpies.

“The Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they’re in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them in when they’re in saltwater,” he said. “And I hear it gets even more complicated once they’re smoked.”

During the slow-to-build laughter and applause that followed the quip, the TV version cut to Commerce secretary Gary Locke, former Washington governor, who appeared to chortle.

Bestweekever.com pointed out that, unseen to TV viewers, the White House’s streaming version of the speech included a graphic that split a salmon in half to illustrate what agency manages the genus Oncorhynchus during its different life stages.

(WHITEHOUSE.GOV)

Interior does so through the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Commerce through the National Marine Fisheries Service.

But, as Politifact notes, “Obama might even have been underselling the complexity.”

“A major effort in the Pacific Northwest to protect and conserve salmon in the Columbia River Basin involves a “federal caucus” of 10 agencies working together for that purpose, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Geological Survey, to name a few.

And while the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service claims jurisdiction over salmon, freshwater fishing is also regulated heavily by state agencies.

“It is a stretch to say that salmon in freshwater are regulated by the Interior Department,” said Ray Hilborn, a professor at the University of Washington’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. “Harvest in freshwater is almost totally regulated by states, and in some case tribes,” he said in an e-mail. “In salt water the ocean harvest beyond 3 miles is federally regulated, but almost all the catch in the U.S. takes place in Alaska, and the state of Alaska regulates that fishery.”

“In reality, most of the things that affect salmon in freshwater are managed by dozens of agencies,” he added.

Politifact noted the statement as “mostly true”

A poster on Piscatorial Pursuits pointed out that another federal agency, the State Department, is involved with salmon management as well, negotiating with Canada on fisheries.

The full context of the salmon remark was:

So now is the time to act.  Now is the time for both sides and both houses of Congress –- Democrats and Republicans -– to forge a principled compromise that gets the job done.  If we make the hard choices now to rein in our deficits, we can make the investments we need to win the future.

Let me take this one step further.  We shouldn’t just give our people a government that’s more affordable.  We should give them a government that’s more competent and more efficient.  We can’t win the future with a government of the past.

We live and do business in the Information Age, but the last major reorganization of the government happened in the age of black-and-white TV.  There are 12 different agencies that deal with exports.  There are at least five different agencies that deal with housing policy.  Then there’s my favorite example:  The Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they’re in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them when they’re in saltwater.  I hear it gets even more complicated once they’re smoked.

According to the Washington Post, the joke came from former Secretary of Commerce William M. Daley, currently serving as the new White House Chief of Staff. In his previous position, he offered $3.5 million in aid to Washington state following a fishery failure in 1998.

While Obama’s speech was about the future, those who watched or listened to it appear to have remembered it for the fish.

Afterwards, NPR asked listeners to describe the speech in three words, then generated four different “word clouds” from the 4,000 responses. The more responses, the bigger the word was.

In all four versions — a cumulative, and three that broke responses out by political affiliation, Independent, Republican and Democrat — a Chinook-sized “salmon” muscled out coho-sized words such as “inspiring” and “hopeful,” chum-sized words such as “future” and “education,” sockeye-sized words such as “optimistic” and “innovation,” and humpy-sized words such as “intelligent” and “smoked.”

A SCREEN GRAB FROM NPR SHOWS, AT TOP, A WORD CLOUD WITH CUMULATIVE SINGLE-WORD RESPONSES TO PRESIDENT OBAMA'S SPEECH. THE SECOND SHOWS INDEPENDENT'S TAKE, THIRD REPUBLICANS AND FOURTH DEMOCRATS. (NPR/WORDLE.COM)

A word cloud of the actual speech shows that “people,” “new,” “jobs,” “years” and “make” were actually the most uttered words, according to New York Magazine.

According to the Washington Post, Commerce and Interior “are now working more closely to coordinate their efforts.”

WDFW Announces Sound, Strait Steelheading Closures

January 25, 2011

Terminal fisheries will remain open into mid-February, but steelheading and fishing for other game fish in many Puget Sound rivers will be done by this time next week.

The reg tweaks, announced today by WDFW, were not unexpected given low forecasted returns of wild steelhead this winter. Typically, Puget Sound’s natives, which were listed as threatened in 2007, begin returning in larger numbers to river systems such as the Nooksack, Skagit, Stillaguamish, Snohomish and elsewhere in early February.

THE SNOQUALMIE AT TOKUL CREEK IS ONE OF THE AREAS THAT WILL REMAIN OPEN FOR STEELHEADING TO GIVE ANGLERS A CHANCE TO CATCH AS MANY HATCHERY FISH AS POSSIBLE, AN EFFORT TO LIMIT THEM FROM BREEDING WITH WILD FISH. DAMIEN MCBRIDE OF NEARBY SNOQUALMIE CAUGHT THIS ONE IN LATE DECEMBER ON A HOMEMADE JIG. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

According to WDFW, waters closing to fishing Feb. 1 include:

Nooksack River System

* Nooksack River mainstem from the Lummi Indian Reservation boundary to the confluence of North and South forks.
* North Fork Nooksack River from Maple Creek to Nooksack Falls.
* Middle Fork Nooksack River from the mouth to the City of Bellingham diversion Dam.
* South Fork Nooksack River from the mouth to Skookum Creek.

Snohomish River System

* Snohomish River from the mouth (Burlington Northern railroad bridge) upstream to the confluence of the Skykomish and Snoqualmie rivers.
* Skykomish River from the mouth to the Highway 2 Bridge at the Big Eddy Access.
* Pilchuck River from the mouth to 500 feet downstream of the Snohomish city diversion dam.
* Sultan River from the mouth to 400 feet downstream of diversion dam (river mile 9.7).
* Wallace River from 200 feet upstream of water intake of salmon hatchery to Wallace Falls.
* North Fork Skykomish River from the mouth to 1,000 feet downstream of Bear Creek Falls.
* South Fork Skykomish River from the mouth to 600 feet downstream of Sunset Falls fishway.
* Snoqualmie River from the mouth to the boat ramp at Plumb access.
* Tolt River from the mouth to the USGS trolley cable near confluence of North and South forks.
* Raging River from the mouth to Highway 18 Bridge.

Stillaguamish River System

* Stillaguamish River from Marine Drive upstream to forks.
* Pilchuck Creek from the mouth to the Highway 9 Bridge.
* North Fork Stillaguamish River from the mouth to the mouth of French Creek.
* South Fork Stillaguamish River from the mouth to 400 feet below the Granite Falls fishway outlet.
* Canyon Creek from the mouth upstream.

Skagit River System

* Skagit River mainstem from the mouth to the Highway 530 Bridge at Rockport.
* Skagit River from the mouth of the Cascade River to the Gorge powerhouse at Newhalem.
* Sauk River from the mouth to the Whitechuck River.
* Cascade River from the Rockport-Cascade Road Bridge upstream to headwaters.

Strait of Juan de Fuca

* Dungeness River from the mouth upstream to the forks at Dungeness Forks Campground.
* Morse Creek from the mouth to the Port Angeles Dam.
* Salt Creek from the mouth to the bridge on Highway 112.
* Deep Creek from the mouth upstream.
* Pysht River from the mouth upstream.
* Clallam River from the mouth upstream.
* Sekiu River from the mouth to forks.

Waters closing to fishing Feb. 16 include:

* North Fork Nooksack River from the mouth to Maple Creek.
* Skykomish River from the Highway 2 Bridge at the Big Eddy Access to the confluence of North and South forks.
* Wallace River from the mouth (farthest downstream railroad bridge) to 200 feet upstream of the water intake of salmon hatchery.
* Snoqualmie River from the boat ramp at Plumb access to Snoqualmie Falls.
* Tokul Creek from the mouth to the posted cable boundary marker.
* North Fork Stillaguamish River from the mouth of French Creek to the Swede Heaven Bridge.
* Skagit River from the Highway 530 Bridge at Rockport to the mouth of the Cascade River.
* Cascade River from the mouth to Rockport-Cascade Road Bridge.

The lower Green River and the White, Carbon and upper Puyallup Rivers closed to fishing for steelhead and other game fish Jan. 16.

The upper Green River closes Feb. 1.

The Samish, which has no hatchery return anymore, closed Dec. 1 to protect its wild fish.

Additionally, WDFW also announced today that a number of Strait of Juan de Fuca streams that had otherwise been slated to remain open through the end of February would also close Feb. 1 to protect, err, an unknown number of wild steelhead. They include:

* Dungeness River: From mouth upstream to the forks at Dungeness Forks Campground.
* Morse Creek: From mouth to Port Angeles Dam.
* Salt Creek: From mouth to bridge on Highway 112.
* Deep Creek: From mouth upstream.
* Pysht River: From mouth upstream.
* Clallam River: From mouth upstream.
* Sekiu River: From mouth to forks.

Surveyors Say

January 25, 2011

Biologists find good posthunt muley buck numbers in many areas – but winter’s only half over.

Guess we didn’t get ’em all, and that could be a good thing for this coming fall’s hunts – provided this winter doesn’t kill too many bucks.

Wildlife biologists running aerial surveys of Northwest deer herds in the weeks after seasons were largely closed to hunting found antlered muleys at or near management goals in most units, and well above in at least two cases – northeastern Baker County, Ore., and central and western Okanogan County, Wash.

(NICK MYATT/ODFW)

In the former, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Nick Myatt says he found 27 bucks per 100 does on the Pine Creek Unit in early December – “one of the highest counts we’ve had.”

Late spring flooding knocked out the Wallowa Mountain Loop Road in places, and that kept some tagholders at bay, he says.

In the latter county, a very respectable ratio of 24 bucks per 100 does was counted, the highest it’s been since the early 2000s, and nine above the target.

“I for one am very glad to see it,” says wildlife biologist Jeff Heinlen in Omak. “It’s a nice number to have.”

It tops last year’s 20:100 and is the fourth highest since 1997. Only 2000 (27), 2002 (26) and 1999 (25) are higher. Low marks include 2004’s 14 – which followed a stellar hunt – and 2007’s 16, stats from WDFW’s 2009 game trends report show.

Interestingly, the ratio of bucks was the same in both the Methow and Okanogan Valleys.

“Usually, there is a difference between them when it comes to bucks and fawns,” says Heinlen, who has counted deer from helicopters in these parts since 2003.

The Okanogan side is warmer, lower and further away from the Cascade crest, while the Methow is higher, colder and snowier. It’s all good hunting with copious amounts of public land.

Heinlein points to a year and a half of beneficial weather on the deer’s summer and winter range, including a moist summer in 2009, a mild winter in 2009-10 and more moisture producing good forage conditions this past summer. The huge Tripod burn area on the hydrological divide between both valleys is also beginning to grow good grits for the herd.

Heinlen also counted 82 fawns for every 100 does, the fourth straight year it has increased, though it’s about average since 1996-97, when a murderous winter led to the three-point minimum that’s been in effect ever since.

IN EASTERN WASHINGTON’S other corner, surveyors found 16 mule deer bucks per 100 does in Blue Mountains counties.

That’s smack in the middle of the five-year average and what biologists hope to have after hunting season, according to Paul Wik in Clarkston.

It’s also five times as many as made it through some hunting seasons before antler restrictions, according to fellow bio Pat Fowler, who retired last month.

“I will expect similar hunting (this fall) to recent years,” Wik adds.

While the number of muleys counted in the Okanogan (2,800) was just 80 percent of the previous year, the tally in the Blues was up (3,700) thanks to expanded surveying. Wik says that this winter’s included Columbia and Garfield Counties to evaluate their populations as wind farms come on line.

He says there were an additional 543 whitetails seen.

The mule deer fawn count was 49 per 100 does.

VIC COGGINS tallied the same ratio of young’ns to mamas across the state line in Wallowa County, but his buck proportion was slightly lower.

The longtime Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist reports 13 antlered muleys for every 100 does, up one buck from 2009’s count.

The overall mule deer count, 3,087, was lower than last year, “but we flew that first week of December when we had a lot of snow. That can push deer into the timber where it’s hard to count them,” Coggins says.

Winterkill isn’t generally a problem on Wik’s side of the Blues, except in the Grande Ronde, but Coggin’s district is higher.

“It can be very serious for us. We can lose quite a lot of our mature bucks,” he says. “We’ve had more snow and several zero-degree periods, but those haven’t lasted too long.”

NORTH-CENTRAL OREGON has seen slightly milder conditions, and Steven George in Bend hopes the weather holds.

“The deer appear to be in real good shape still,” he said in mid-January.

George hadn’t finished all the math on posthunt surveys, but offered up an assessment of what was on the range.

“Generally speaking – and I’ve got the Metolius, upper Deschutes, Paulina and North Wagon Tire Units – buck ratios are up and fawn ratios are down just a little,” he says. “Some are above management objectives, some are below, but the trend is an increase.”

THAT’S WHAT Myatt has to say about his other Baker County deer herds. He says Keating, Pine Creek and Lookout Mountain all had buck ratios above goals while the Sumpter unit was below.

However, Sumpter’s fawn numbers were five to seven animals better than the other three. The districtwide average was 48 per 100 does.

“That’s not absolutely horrible, but I was expecting higher,” Myatt says, pointing to a moist summer that produced “a lot of groceries.”

IN NORTHEAST WASHINGTON, where whitetails rule, Dana Base doesn’t usually do a winter count, but this go-around has tried to survey the herd.

As part of the debate on whether Stevens County game units should come under more restrictive 4-point-minimum rules for flagtails, he’s trying to get a grip on just how many deer are there. His first method – driving the summer survey routes – didn’t work for a variety of good reasons, but he’s since gotten his hands on a $4,000 night-vision “instrument” from headquarters.

In the meanwhile, Base continues to call the herd “depressed” compared to its heydays of the 1980s, ’90s and even up until the mid-2000s. Very tough back-to-back winters, including one with snow and freezes into April 2008, hit the flagtails hard, and that’s reflected in data from a voluntary hunter check station on Highway 395 the past three falls. As many as 146 bucks came through before those winters; in 2010, only 52 did.

The snow and cold hit turkey populations too, but Base says he’s also seen the numbers of spring hunters wane since the early 2000s when it was The Thing To Do.

Still, birds should be available come April.

“The way things are looking, we’re going to have similar numbers to last year,” Base says.

A CHANGE IN counting techniques makes it hard to compare this winter’s data to the past in Ryan Torland’s upper John Day River basin units. Previous years were based on ground surveys, but this time he says ODFW counters took to the air.

Torland says they found buck:doe:fawn ratios of 15:100:60, 11:100:55 and 11:100:63 in the Murderers Creek, Northside and Heppner Units.

He terms the buck count in the Northside unit “a little lower than we’d like.”

A ground check in the rougher, higher Desolation Unit found 19:100:74, but that was based on a smaller sample, Torland says.

His district is not exactly prime winter range, but going into mid-January, he was pleased with conditions for deer. The area had avoided the cold temps and heavier snows of elsewhere, and fall rains triggered a nice little green-up, he says.

WELL TOWARDS CALIFORNIA, Craig “Fozz”  Foster in Lakeview is seeing a slow rebuilding of the deer herd in the northern Warner Unit from recent ratios as low as 12:100.

“It’s my own fault. I was not careful four or five years ago with my tag numbers and shot myself into a hole with a larger population than I actually had,” says the biologist.

The miscalculation was compounded by a couple years of miserable fawn numbers, but the latest survey found 60:100 as well as 18:100 bucks in the northern part of the unit.

The number of antlers is under the management objective of 25 bucks. But in Warner’s southern end, where a separate hunt with more tags takes place, the ratio of 19:100 is four above the goal, Foster notes.

How much mixing there is between the groups of deer – “They don’t come with an ‘N’ or an ‘S’ on their side,” he jokes – is hard to say, so he’s not entirely happy with the data, but the fawn numbers are good.

“We’re going to be extremely careful with our tags until we (meet the objective) numbers three years in a row,” Foster says of the northern area’s bucks.

BACK IN WASHINGTON, Chelan County bio David Volsen reports slight declines in the Mission, Swakane and Entiat Units along the Columbia. Three days of flying found 25 bucks and 74 fawns per 100 does, down from 27 and 86 in 2008, but the antler count is dead on for the posthunt goal.

“Overall, we have seen a slight declining trend in the population since its peak in 2003-04,” Volsen says.

Winter 2009-10 was weak across the region, and followed by good spring, summer and even fall foraging, most Northwest muley herds went into the cold months in good condition. But winter 2010-11 is a different story so far.

“If the current weather trends continue, we can expect to see greater overwinter mortality this year than last,” says Volsen.

“It’s one of the more significant winters we’ve had in awhile,” adds Myatt.

As we went to press, a mini Chinook was swimming through his district, melting snow off south-facing slopes, but there’s still a month and a half or so of winter ahead. Biologists will head out again in early spring to figure out how many deer made it through.

Song Dogs And Supper

January 25, 2011

Close of hunting got you down? Spice up midwinter with an Eastern Washington predator shoot.

By Vincent Bator

WARDEN, Wash.—Deer season: Over. Elk and bear: Ended. Ditto with pheasant, quail, duck and dove.

So now what’s left for a Northwest sportsman to hunt? Predators, of course.

If you’re up to a competitive challenge in both shooting and hunting skills, join the over 100 other teams in making the pilgrimage to this Grant County town Feb. 4-5, 2011, where a bit of flavor is added by the local Lions Club for their 5th Annual “Spaghetti Feed.”

So what’s Italian chow got to do with hunting, you might ask? Well, umm, camouflage is usually worn to conceal what’s really behind it.

“Many think of Warden – if they’ve even heard of it – as a sleepy little hamlet tucked away in Central Washington’s Columbia Basin,” says Lions Club organizer Shawn Clausen (509-750-9822), “but it’s also Dog Central when it comes to coyote hunting.”

And predator hunters appear to be waking up to this event as evidenced by increasing attendance as well as proportionally greater harvest brought in.

“We began this fundraiser with only a handful of mainly local participants bringing in about one coyote per team. The tally last year was 77 teams and 134 dogs. That generates a lot of money for scholarships and funding for our charitable programs.”

Says his brother, Boe, “We’ve got varminteers from all over the state coming to participate in this 24-hour hunt that spans nine Eastern Washington counties. So more than likely, many a contestant’s own backyard is within our (state) permit so they don’t necessarily have to try and find their way around in an entirely new area.”

LIONS AREN’T THE ONLY BENEFICIARY of this event. Cattle are too. According to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service Cattle Death Loss report, cattle and calf losses from animal predators totaled 190,000 head in 2006. This represented 4.7 percent of the total losses from all causes and resulted in a loss of $92.7 million to farmers and ranchers. Coyotes and dogs caused the majority of cattle and calf losses, accounting for 51.1 percent and 11.5 percent, respectively.

Jack Field, executive vice president for the Washington Cattlemen’s Association, indicates that animal predation may reduce any given year’s calving by upwards of 3 percent for their 1,500-strong membership base.

“With an inventory of about 250,000 mother cows, cattlemen sustain losses of about $1.5 million annually attributed to animal predation that they must absorb since there is no compensation vehicle available from the state Legislature. That’s a pretty significant hit to the bottom line considering operational costs have skyrocketed,” says Field, who also sits on the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife’s Wolf Working Group.

AT LEAST 50,000 COYOTES are believed to be living in Washington according to WDFW’s Web site, though that number may be low.

“I’d say that was a very conservative estimate,” says wildlife biologist Rick Singer at WDFW’s Ephrata office. “Since our focus is primarily engaged in the study of waterfowl, upland birds and big game species, we can’t ignore animals as visible as coyotes as having their place in the ecosystem.”

With the state encompassing 66,582 square miles, this amounts to an estimated .75 coyotes per square mile, but we sure as heck know they’re not living on top of Mount Rainier. And though they’re documented as being there, not too many inhabit the state’s urban metropolitan areas either. It’s no wonder we see so many east of the mountains.

So who’s a cattleman to call when a coyote problem arises?

“Us, but it isn’t a giveaway,” says Ken Gruver, assistant director of the USDA’s Wildlife Services for Washington and Alaska.

Now maintaining an aircraft, aptly nicknamed Dog Fighter, at the Othello, Wash., airport, the agency finally has a means of combating the problematic Canis latrans.

“Our agency was initially established for the purpose of livestock protection on a cooperatively funded basis, but has since evolved into the much broader scope of preventing and resolving human-wildlife conflicts,” states Gruver with a trace of Texas accent. “With the implementation of aerial predator control, our agents finally have an expedited method in fulfilling the requests of our applicants. We’re not out there looking over the whole country, just specific areas where the problem exists.”

A MODEST ENTRY FEE of $100 per team, er, I mean $50 per plate, provides participants with “tags”  for their coyotes, a hot dinner on return Saturday and raffle tickets for the many prizes provided at the awards banquet. Registration begins at 4 p.m. Feb. 4 at the Warden Municipal Airport off Highway 170 with the dinner bell signaling the conclusion at 6 p.m. the next day.

For those wishing to display their shooting prowess, a 300-yard, three-shot target is awaiting early arrivals on Saturday. Incidentally, to accommodate the working crowd, only one of a two-man team needs to be present to register. Make certain to have your small- or big-game license in your pocket.

Alongside Cougar football, with the Lions Club as hosts, you might say this is again the case where the cats get to chase the dogs.

SW WA Fishing Report (1-24-11)

January 24, 2011

If they weren’t digging razor clams this past weekend, Kevin and Colin Medved were patrolling a trio of extreme Southwest Washington steelhead streams.

Kevin, a resident of Colorado who on occasion flies out to a Long Beach property, reports that the Grays, Naselle and Elochoman Rivers were in fishable shape, good news after the spate of weather we’ve had, but that the fishing was, well, fishing.

Which is to say, they mainly saw some caught and swimming around, though Colin managed to salvage the Medved family pride with a hatchery fish from the Grays this morning.

COLIN MEDVED WITH A 26-INCH WINTER-RUN CAUGHT IN THE GRAYS THIS MORNING. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

For more on what’s fishing around Southwest Washington, here’s biologist Joe Hymer’s weekly report:

SALMON/STEELHEAD

Cowlitz RiverLast week Tacoma Power recovered 601 coho adults, five jacks and 120 winter-run steelhead during four days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week Tacoma Power employees released 370 coho adults, two jacks and 21 winter-run steelhead into the Cispus River above the mouth of Yellow Jacket Creek and 52 coho adults, one jack and nine winter-run steelhead into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton.

River flows at Mayfield Dam will rise to approximately 16,900 cubic feet per second on Monday, January 24. Water visibility is one foot.

Bonneville, The Dalles, and John Day pools – Light effort and no steelhead were found in the creel.

From Paul Hoffarth, Washington Dept of Fish & Wildlife District 4 Fish Biologist:

Lower Reach (Hwy. 395 Bridge at Pasco to old Hanford town site): An estimated 118 steelhead were caught and 96 steelhead were harvested in January.  Anglers are averaging 1 steelhead for each 17 hours of fishing. Boat anglers have fared just slightly better than the shore anglers. A total of 1,128 steelhead have been caught this season and 785 steelhead have been harvested. WDFW staff has sampled 26% of the estimated angler effort in this fishery. Catch and harvest numbers are well below the 2008 and 2009 fisheries but similar to those of 2004-07.

Upper Reach (Vernita Bridge to Priest Rapids Dam): On December 8, WDFW opened the Columbia River from the Hwy. 24 Bridge (Vernita Bridge) to Priest Rapids Dam for the retention of hatchery steelhead. This is the first time this area has been open in the winter for steelhead in many years.  For the month of January, 90 steelhead have been caught and 46 hatchery steelhead have been harvested.  Angler effort has been relatively light.  Very few anglers are fishing from shore for steelhead. For those who venture out fishing has been very good with boat anglers averaging 1 steelhead for each 5 hours of fishing.  An estimated 236 steelhead have been caught in this fishery with 50 hatchery steelhead harvested through January 23.

STURGEON

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – We sampled 3 bank anglers just below Bonneville Dam that had no catch.

Bonneville Pool – Including fish released, boat anglers averaged a legal per every 2 rods while bank anglers averaged one per every 5.8 rods.

The Dalles Pool – Boat anglers averaged a legal per every 4 rods.  Slow for legal size fish from the bank.

John Day Pool – Boat and bank anglers averaged a legal per about every 10 rods.

WALLEYE AND BASS

Bonneville and The Dalles pools – No walleye or bass anglers were found in the creel.

John Day Pool – Boat anglers averaged almost a walleye per rod.  Light effort and no catch observed for bass.

TROUT

Klineline Pond – 13 bank anglers kept 3 rainbows.

Carlisle Lake near Onalaska – Planted with 60 eight pounders Jan. 19.

Silver Lake near Castle Rock – Planted with 3,001 catchable size rainbows Jan. 18.

More On Pronghorn Capture

January 24, 2011

A pair of news articles on the Jan. 15 capture of 100 Nevada pronghorns and shipment back to Washington’s Yakama reservation hit the Internet this weekend — as did killer videos of actual capture moments.

While tribal officials remain mum on the whole situation, Rich Landers of the Spokane Spokesman-Review and Scott Sandsberry of the Yakima Herald-Republic pieced together articles after talking with a variety of sources, including Glenn Rasmussen of Safari Club International’s Central Washington Chapter, and to whom we spoke to for our piece last Monday.

Part of Rich’s article and four pics can be found at the paper’s Web site. All of the words have been posted at Hunting Washington, and the Seattle PI picked up the story.

It appears that all of Scott’s piece plus two images from Nevada Department of Wildlife are available online.

For video, check out these two links posted by mrmaddiesdad on YouTube.

SCREEN GRAB FROM SECOND VIDEO OF NEVADA ANTELOPE CAPTURE. (MRMADDIESDAD/YOUTUBE)

The second video captures the amazing fluidity of the pronghorns moving through the sage — like tawny water.

Calling BS On A Wolf Story

January 20, 2011

Wolves!

They’re driving me nuts!!

Actually, it’s not so much the wolves as it is wolf people.

Specifically those who want to have assloads of them to romp in the daisies with and to hell with how the locals feel about it; and those who come up with utter bullshit stories about ravening 250-pound Canadian werebeasts being released willy-nilly around Washington.

As a hunter, I’m more worried about the latter camp, however.

As wolf populations continue to grow, our rabidly howling fringe has the potential to drag the reputation of sportsmen as a whole down with it and break bridges with wildlife-oriented groups that we otherwise share common goals with, namely protecting habitat and having lots of critters in the woods.

Since reading it in the preface to E. Donnall Thomas’ fantastic book, How Sportsmen Saved The World, my motto has become, “When wildlife advocates work together, wildlife wins; when they bicker, they lose.”

If we let those of us who spout lies about wolves, threaten to shoot legislators because the state can’t do anything about federal protections, or allegedly poach elk while preaching that Canis lupus is the enemy, control the campfire, it’s going to go out in the future for want of company.

AND NOW FOR THE OBLIGATORY I-ain’t-a-wolf-lover/hugger/apologist statement to assure the foaming folks that, although I’m a defender of wildlife, I am most definitely not a member of Defenders of Wildlife.

I am not a wolf lover, wolf hugger or wolf apologist.

I wish wolves had remained north of the 49th Parallel.

I wish they weren’t in the same valley that I’ve hunted deer in for the past decade and a half.

But they are, and that’s how it is.

Just like moose showing up all over Eastern Washington and Northeast Oregon from their Idaho strongholds, mountain goats wandering from the Beaver State’s Elkhorns clear across the Columbia to the Mt. Adams area, wolves have legs too and they like to wander, and what the hell can you do to stop them from crossing lines on a map?

Legally.

And since I am a law-abiding sportsman — as are the vast majority of us — you won’t even hear me telling the very stale joke, “Those aren’t wolves, boys, those are just real big coyotes, and coyote season’s open, yuck, yuck, yuck.”

FOR WHATEVER REASON, we in the media gravitate like flies to poop to the loudest, shrillest voices in the tiniest of minorities, overlooking the quiet, moderate middle ground.

Guilty. As. Charged.

Some of it is to “stand up for the little guy” — a good idea in many instances — but how long before guys like “Wolfbait” at a popular hunting board pop up as “Concerned Local Hunter” on the evening news spewing their factless stories?

Because it really is only a matter of time that one of the reporters from the revolving door that is KOMO News drives over the pass and knocks on Wolfbait’s door and sticks a mic in his face and thinks he/she has the scoop of his/her life — and then all of us hunters suddenly look like kooks?

This week Wolfbait is continuing to peddle his illicit Twisp wolf release tale.

(You can replace the word “malamute” with “wolves” below because someone in the thread above Wolfbait’s post suggested that canids seen in cages elsewhere in the state might actually have been, say, sled dogs.)

In 09 when the WDFW released malamutes in the Methow Valley, less than a mile from down town Twisp I might add, we had malamutes sightings and malamute problems all summer long. The malamutes were killing chickens and a cow and her calf, we even have pictures of these malamutes in town. Funny after winter came the malamutes disappeared, and we haven’t seen any malamutes around town since. Some who know wolves, er malamutes say that after these critters were released they didn’t know where to go so they hung around where they were released and then when winter came they dispersed.

Wolfbait and his story first began to pop up in May 2009, which wasn’t too long after a dead cow was discovered on the Golden Doe Wildlife Area above Twisp. A local rancher says he saw two wolves by the carcass. Tracks of coyotes, ravens and dogs were also around it, but a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service agent couldn’t tell what had killed it. Then, by July, someone going by the name of Longshot — who may or may not be Wolfbait by a different name — was spreading the wolf-release story on a Methow Valley community bulletin board.

Wolfy made his latest malamute/wolf allegations in a thread asking about releases near Mt. St. Helens.

Since a June 2010 article in a Lewis County paper about WDFW’s wolf management plan and one man’s comments in that piece that, if it’s ever approved, wolves could theoretically be translocated to the flanks of the volcano, the land of Bigfoot has apparently also become the land of sneaky state biologists trucking in wolves to reduce the elk herd.

Never mind that we hunters have been providing that service for free to the cash-strapped agency the past several years since WDFW began giving us more opportunities to help trim the St. Helens herd to better match the available habitat.

And the agency’s been working with Weyerhaueser to open up hundreds of thousands of acres of their woods to us.

AND making money off of us through general and permit hunting license fees.

Talk about crafty bastards!

As the St. Helens wolf story goes, a guy’s buddy heard something on a local talk radio station a few days before and … well, pretty soon someone with “credible” sources inside WDFW reported that the agency is indeed gonna turn loose hordes of packs inside Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument to eat up the elk.

Of … course.

As if there is some sort of holding facility somewhere stocked with wolves that Harriett Allen or Ed Bangs can call up and place an order any ol’ time.

“And will you be paying for your two large Canadian wolf packs, one medium-sized pack plus four loners with a credit or debit card?”

Never mind all that red tape that actually keeps government from doing anything that fast.

Like doing a study to make sure that the habitat is suitable for wolves and they’re not compounding one wildlife problem with another.

Or holding public meetings in the area.

Or writing up a draft management plan.

And then having a public comment period on the plan.

And then rewriting it.

And then getting the Fish & Wildlife Commission to sign off on it.

Hell, WDFW’s been working on their wolf plan since 2007, and it’s STILL three-quarters of a year away before the commission looks at it.

And even then state environmental policy act, or SEPA, studies will have to be done before any wolves are loaded into crates and actually released.

Never mind all that, because it just doesn’t fit into the narrative of sneaky/greenie biologists hell-bent on killing hunting as we know it.

BUT TWO MORE LUDICROUS STORIES of the big bad wolf being loosed in Southwest Washington sure do.

One has it that 25 were parachuted into Weyerhaueser lands west of I-5 “to help eliminate elk and deer which were feeding on young trees the timber companies planted.”

Never mind that liberalizing deer and elk seasons would have accomplished the same thing for the timber company.

And Weyco wouldn’t have had to pay a penny for chopper pilot time.

Another story, related to me via email last year, is of 10 wolves spotted in the woods outside Pe Ell in 1995.

I don’t know what the emailer really saw, but I don’t think that two wolves somehow managed to find their way to the Willapa Hills, discovered true love, raised a litter and then completely disappeared off the face of the earth without being seen by anyone else except the emailer. It just doesn’t pass the smell test.

The Willapa Hills are not deepest darkest Central Idaho.

They are not close to the Canadian border whatsoever.

They are a low mountain range shot through with logging roads on the other side of a major metropolitan area as well as at least two interstates and several U.S. highways.

A story that fantastic would surely have caught the attention of even the laziest reporter at the Aberdeen, Centralia or Longview papers, and then made it into the Seattle Times where it could be dredged out of its much-searched-for-wolf-news archives as proof that the Lookout Pack wasn’t the first pack in the state in 70 years.

When I tried to jar the longtime Willapa Hills wildlife biologist’s memory about the episode, he hadn’t the foggiest idea of what the hell I was talking about.

He probably now has my work number on call block.

His counterpart to the east of I-5 did have a very cloudy recollection that at some point in the 1990s there was a group of animals that were hanging out in the Mt. Adams area one fall and winter. Two or three were shot, one or two died. He figures they were dog-wolf hybrids because of the way they hung around a campground.

Do wild wolves hang around campgrounds?

I’m no expert, but maybe if they did, Idaho hunters would have had a better wolf hunt last winter instead of failing to meet the quota by a couple dozen animals.

And did wild wolves hang around Twisp hassling chickens in summer 2009, like Wolfbait asserts?

I’m no expert, but if they did, maybe a search of the Methow Valley News‘ Web site for “chickens Twisp wolf” would have turned up more than one result — a dead-of-winter 2010 interview with the owner of the Red Cedar Bar whose grandparents lived up Wolf Creek and had a mess of hens.

I was once a weekly news reporter and for the life of me, I cannot imagine that the folks at the paper — which is based in Twisp — would not have been all over the story of a clandestine wolf release gone horribly awry …

“TWISP–The bloody mauling of a Rhode Island red nicknamed ‘Henny’ behind the Antlers Tavern at Twisp and Glover last Tuesday evening has revealed a state plot to seed Okanogan County with hundreds — maybe even thousands — of gray wolves.

“Bloody paw prints from the scene of the attack lead straight back to the headquarters of the Methow Wildlife Area, where reporters for this newspaper surprised a half-dozen WDFW employees bottle-feeding wolf cubs …”

SOME SPORTSMEN HAVE HAD ENOUGH of Wolfbait’s claim that he has proof wolves have been released all over the state. They’ve been demanding factual evidence, but Wolfy hasn’t produced any so far.

He instead promises some sort of documentary that’s coming out sometime soon and we’ll all just have to wait to see the mountain of evidence that’s been amassed.

Since it apparently will talk about the Methow Valley, where I hunt deer and obsessively report on, I’ll watch it.

Will it gel with what the biologists tell me?

I doubt it, because the biologists aren’t to be trusted, after all.

That’s because in the back of many hunters’ minds is Lynxgate.

As the first act of the story goes, in the late 1990s WDFW, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Forest Service folks hell bent on locking up the woods for the little kitties slipped some bobcat and tame lynx hair into samples sent to a lab for DNA tests. An alert reporter at the Washington Times caught wind and the rascals were caught red-handed.

Eco-fraud exposed!

However, Act two, which hardly anyone sticks around for, shows that the bios actually were suspicious that lab workers couldn’t tell lynx fur from Lulu-Belle hair, and they were right.

End. Of. Story.

But never mind that, because it doesn’t fit the narrative.

Nor will coming news that WDFW actually wasn’t trying to block the return of Nevada antelope to Washington.

UNASKED FOR, I GOT SOME ADVICE earlier this week from someone who has read almost everything that’s been reported on wolves the past few years.

He said:

“What I see is a lot of time spent debating wolves as a surrogate for states’ rights and animal rights (fringe issues). There is a lot of survey data that suggests most people are happy to have wolves managed like other species; the problem is that the folks in the middle are silent on the issue while those on the extremes of the debate drive the rhetoric, polarizing what should be a non-issue. From a practical standpoint, wolves have been extremely divisive in the West, which doesn’t serve conservation well at all.

I hope you folks in Washington have a better go of it than your friends to the East.”

I also hope that.

And as hunters, I hope that we continue to pay attention, inform ourselves and participate in all things wolfish. We have a lot of valid concerns that need to be addressed.

But wild tales of wolves illicitly released at the doorstep is not one of them.

WA Wolf Bills ‘Spectacular In Their Awfulness’

January 19, 2011

A spokeswoman for an organization working on wolf, wildlife and wildland issues in Washington is panning a trio of Canis lupus-related bills introduced in Olympia last week.

“They are spectacular in their awfulness and in the way they distort the truth,” says Jasmine Minbashian of Bellingham-based Conservation Northwest about House Bills 1107, 1108 and 1109, which we reported on yesterday.

She predicts a quick death for them.

One of her coworkers, Derrick Knowles, a Spokane hunter, is among the 17 members on the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife Wolf Working Group which since 2007 has helped shape the state’s draft wolf management plan.

It is expected to be finalized this year, but under HB 1109, would first have to come to the Legislature for approval. If lawmakers give it a thumbs down, it would have to go back to WDFW for revisions.

“Never in history has the state legislature been required to approve a recovery plan for an endangered species,” says Minbashian. “Eleven-oh-nine would allow politics to interfere with science and collaborative decision-making – making the problem worse not solving it.”

In a sense, the bill echoes what happened at the national level last fall when several Congressmen introduced legislation to remove wolves from the endangered species list after the animals were put back under federal protections throughout the Northern Rockies in August, and in Idaho in the early 2000s when the Legislature washed the Department of Fish & Game’s hands of wolves. Management was then turned over to the Nez Perce tribe.

HB 1107 would require the state Department of Health to work with WDFW and the state vet to “implement a program to detect, interdict, and assess the epidemiological consequences of diseases that may afflict or may be carried by wolves and the actual and potential impact of wolves’ role in such diseases upon human health in the state,” as well as identify people whose jobs or lifestyles might put them at higher risk to the illnesses.

Minbashian says it “unnecessarily stirs up fears about wolves and disease, not to mention wasting money.”

Fears of one that 1107 would screen for, hydatid disease, have been fanned in the past but seem to have calmed down of late. Ed Bangs, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s lead for wolves in the region, has told me you basically have to eat the poo of infected animals to catch it.

“Good hygiene and simple precautions will greatly reduce or even eliminate the risk,” says Minbashian. “But creating a big government program is overkill and, frankly, a tactic to scare people.”

As for 1108, in Minbashian’s reading, it would:

“Circumvent a four-year, collaborative process to develop a balanced, scientifically based wolf management plan for Washington;

“Challenge the authority of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect wolves in Washington and make it virtually impossible for the state to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on wolf recovery;

“Support wolf poaching by prohibiting the citation or arrest of anyone who illegally kills a wolf.”

The bill sets the wolf population bar at 150 and would also tie Washington’s management to how successful deer and elk hunters are over three-year periods.

“It makes the entirely false and outrageous claim that wolves are having a negative impact on deer and elk populations in Washington without any factual evidence to back it up,” Minbashian says. “According to recent reports it seems like big game populations (and hunter success rates) in Washington are as high as ever – especially in Northeast Washington where we know we have wolves.”

Wolves have also been in the Methow Valley since at least 2008, but preliminary data from a voluntary hunter checkpoint and state stats show that hunters here have also enjoyed the best seasons since 2005 in recent years.

However, in some parts of Montana and Idaho, elk hunter success rates have plummeted since wolves were reintroduced in the mid-1990s, though many herds also remain at or above management goals.

“Overall, I think these bills will die a quick death in the legislature. There’s just not the public support out there for this kind of radicalism,” Minbashian says.

She points to a 2009 mail survey of 4,183 Washington residents that, according to a draft posted on WDFW’s site, found 74.5 percent were in favor of allowing wolves to recolonize on their own, 65.9 percent were in favor of killing wolves that kill livestock, 69.8 percent were in favor of limiting wolves in areas where they were heavily impacting game herds, and 63.5 percent were in favor of wolf hunts once state recovery goals were met.

However, over 50 percent were against compensating ranchers for cow, sheep and other animal losses.

“The sad thing is that the sponsors don’t realize how good our wolf plan really is for hunters and ranchers,” Minbashian says. “It has provisions for managing wolves in areas where they may be having a problematic impact on deer and elk populations. It has probably the best compensation package in the West.”

After Rep. David Taylor, who cosponsored 1107, 1108 and 1109, filed a request last year for any and all things wolfish at WDFW, the amount of email traffic between Conservation Northwest and the agency raised his eyebrows.

“If you’re putting in time and money, there is some sort of payback – influence in the [wolf] plan or something,” he told me last fall.

But unlike some wildlife advocacy groups, Conservation Northwest’s tack appears to be to work towards common solutions that benefit, among others, hunters.

Though the organization opposed WDFW’s pitch to introduce turkeys into Whatcom County a couple years ago, it’s also working on the Columbia Highlands Initiative, a big-tent effort to get Congress to aside around 215,000 acres in the Colville National Forest as new wilderness as well as keep local mills in business with a guaranteed supply of saw logs from an area at least twice that size.

It has drawn support from loggers, ranchers, outdoor recreationists as well as hunters such as Tony Heckard and Gregg Bafundo of Washington Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Leonard Wolf of the Spokane chapter of the Mule Deer Foundation, Richard Mathieson of the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council and John Campbell of Pend Oreille Valley Sportsman in Newport. The effort is being led by the Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition.

What’s Fishin’ In Oregon (1-19-11)

January 19, 2011

Postcard from Junction City received at NWS HQ Monday:

Howdy Andy,

Hope you had a good weekend!  Hit the ol’ reliable J.C. Pond this weekend since most creeks, rivers etc…were blown out.  Caught a few hold-over rainbows 1-12″ and my buddy landed this nice brooder bow.

 

ROB HARRIS OF HALSEY HAULED A MIGHTY RAINBOW OUT OF JUNCTION CITY POND LAST SATURDAY. (TROY RODAKOWSKI)

Just had to share.  Later man.

Troy

Indeed, there was a wee bit of flooding around the Beaver State this past weekend — I must’ve received between a half dozen and a dozen landslide images from the Oregon State Police — but guys in the know can still make a go of things under those conditions with two items:

1) An internet connection

2) A bookmark on ODFW’s 2011 stocking schedule.

Whopper and stocker rainbows aren’t the only action to be had, of course.

As rivers slide back into shape, steelheading is expected to be good. Our own Larry Ellis of Brookings phoned in yesterday from — oh, damnit, which river was it? — and reported releasing a 10- to 12-pound wild steelhead just a while before.

ODFW’s weekly Recreation Report has a few other ideas as well. To wit:

WILLAMETTE

  • Three Willamette Valley lakes and ponds are scheduled to receive trophy-sized rainbow trout this week from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s brood program at Roaring River fish hatchery. The big rainbows will be released Friday, Jan. 21 at St. Louis Pond #6, Sheridan Pond and Walter Wirth Lake. These fish will average about three pounds apiece.
  • The recent heavy rainfall could prove to be the catalyst that gets steelhead to move upstream in larger numbers. Anglers could potentially find some pretty good winter steelheading in the offing as soon as rivers return to normal flows.

SOUTHWEST

  • There have been some reports of succesful surfperch fishing in the Coos Bay area.

COLUMBIA

  • Sturgeon angling is good for boat anglers in the Bonneville Pool.  Anglers should be mindful of large woody debris after the recent flooding when anchored for sturgeon.
  • Steelhead angling is fair to good in the Bonneville, The Dalles and John Day pools.  Some winter steelhead should be available from beaches on the lower Columbia for anglers willing to brave the elements.

NORTHWEST

  • Alsea River: Winter steelhead fishing should be good by late in the week. Recent high flows will likely move fish upstream through the week. Look to fish the upper river when river flows are high. As conditions improve, fish should be spread throughout the basin with good returns expected for the month. The river offers multiple drifting and bank fishing locations.
  • Kilchis River: Winter steelhead angling was fair to good early last week, but high waters slowed the fishery. This river drops and clears quickly, and will be fishable several days sooner than larger streams nearby. Look for fish to be holding in softer seams out of the high flows. Use bright colored lures or baits fished slowly along the bottom for best results.
  • Siletz River: Winter steelhead fishing should pick up by this weekend as river conditions improve following the recent flood event. Fish the upper river during higher murky flows or try plunking mid to lower river when flows are at 8 feet and lower. Bobber and jig or side drifting can be effective steelhead angling tactics. The steelhead run is expected to steadily improve through January.
  • Siuslaw River: Winter steelhead angling is expected to improve through the weekend.  The recent high flow event should stimulate fish movement over the next week.  During higher flows focus on the upper river near release locations or try plunking slower side waters in the lower river.  Side drifting or pulling plugs should be effective as the river level drops this week.
  • Tillamook Bay: Sturgeon fishing is fair. Recent high flows muddied the bay, and should attract more fish into the bay. Effort remains light. Fish sand shrimp on the bottom near the channel edges during the outgoing tide. Move often to find fish if you are not getting bites.
  • Wilson River:Angling for winter steelhead is slow and the river is off color. Good numbers of fish are in the system. Best fishing over the next several days will be in the upper river, from Lee’s Camp to the south fork. The south fork is open for 1 mile upstream, and some hatchery steelhead will be present. Fishing conditions should improve fairly quickly in the south fork compared the mainstem. Anglers should be aware that an active slide is affecting a tributary to the Wilson River around milepost 20. Another slide is active in the Ben Smith Creek drainage. Water clarity may be impacted by runoff after rain events. Check river conditions before you fish.

SW WA Fishing Report (1-18-11), Or, At Least The Water’s Dropping

January 18, 2011

Postcards from Lyle, Wash., received today at NWS HQ:

A WHOLE LOTTA WATER UNDER THE BRIDGE. (TRACY ZOLLER, ADVENTURE FISHING)

Here is a today shot of the bridge above my place at mile ten,” writes Tracy Zoller of Adventure Fishing. “The river is now starting to drop. My big island in front of my house is half covered and the small island in front of the cabins is totally under. Standing next to the river bank watching logs float by makes me hypnotized. Hearing the sound of underwater boulders tumble, knowing I will have some new shallow’s and depths, this excites me.”

Adds Buzz Ramsey, the famed salmon-steelhead angler, Yakima Bait rep and Northwest Sportsman columnist, “The Klickitat’s the highest it’s been since 1996,” a reference to a whopper flood that killed at least eight and led President Clinton to tour the region. “They’ll be back out fishing though, and it should be good.”

And it’s been one of those winters in the Northwest.

“Every time I turn around, the rivers are out of shape,” says Ramsey.

He took his steelheading show on the road recently, catching seven out of the Brewster Pool near Pateros by noon on naked jigs.

“We tipped them with shrimp, but didn’t get any,” Ramsey says. “Just plain jigs worked.”

He was fishing below the mouth of the Methow with guide Shane Magnuson.

But if your gas card won’t let you get so far afield, here’s the most recent Southwest Washington fishing report roundup by biologist Joe Hymer:

SALMON/STEELHEAD

Cowlitz River – 38 bank anglers kept 11 steelhead and released one.  27 boat anglers (10 boats) kept 10 steelhead and released two.  All the fish were sampled at the trout and salmon hatcheries.

Last week, Tacoma Power recovered 678 coho adults, four jacks and 58 winter-run steelhead during four days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week Tacoma Power employees released 222 coho adults and eight winter-run steelhead into Lake Scanewa behind Cowlitz Falls Dam, 152 coho adults, two jacks and two winter-run steelhead into the Cispus River above the mouth of Yellow Jacket Creek, and 49 coho adults, one jack and nine winter-run steelhead into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton.

River flows at Mayfield Dam will rise to approximately 16,200 cubic feet per second on Tuesday, January 18. Water visibility is less than one feet.

Lewis River – No report on angling success.  Flows below Merwin Dam are currently 22,000 cfs, significantly higher than the long-term mean of 8,200 cfs but lower than the record 38,800 cfs in 1953 for this date.

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – We sampled 1 bank angler in the Longview area with no catch.

Bonneville Pool – No anglers sampled.

The Dalles Pool – Boat anglers are catching some steelhead though all the fish in the sample were wild fish that were released.

John Day Pool – Boat anglers are catching some steelhead.  Slow for bank anglers.

STURGEON

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – We sampled 7 bank anglers from Longview to Bonneville Dam with no catch and 3 boat anglers (1 boat) at Camas/Washougal with 3 sublegals released.

Bonneville, The Dalles, and John Day pools – Boat anglers are catching some legals.  Slow for legal size fish from the bank.

WALLEYE

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – We sampled 2 anglers (1 boat) at Camas/Washougal with no catch.

Bonneville and The Dalles pools – The few boat anglers sampled had no catch.

John Day Pool – Boat anglers had kept some walleye.

TROUT

Klineline Pond – 77 bank anglers kept 77 catchable size and 2 brood stock rainbows plus released 19 catchable size rainbows. Planted with 1,500 catchable size rainbows Jan. 10.

Other plants of rainbows into SW Washington waters since Jan. 6:

Fort Borst Park Pond near Centralia – 3,000 catchables Jan. 6;

Lake Sacajawea in Longview – 97 eight pounders and 75 four-and-a-half pounders Jan. 11;

Horseshoe Lake in Woodland – 3,000 catchables and 20 eight pounders Jan. 10;

Kidney Lake in North Bonneville – 1,500 catchables Jan. 10;

Spearfish Lake near Dallesport – 2,011 catchables Jan. 7;

Rowland Lake near Lyle – 4,000 catchables Jan.7;

Maryhill Pond in Klickitat County – 511 catchables Jan. 7

3 Wolf Bills In WA Legislature

January 18, 2011

Bills introduced in Olympia last week would insert the state Legislature into wolf management.

They are not unexpected. Last fall, Rep. David Taylor, R-Moxee, told this magazine that he was working on a draft that sounds like HB 1109. It would require WDFW’s final wolf plan to come to legislators for approval. The plan is otherwise currently slated for Fish & Wildlife Commission sign-off this coming fall.

He was joined by Reps. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley and Jim McCune, R-Graham, in introducing two other Canis lupus-related bills, 1107 and 1108.

Taylor, a mid-Yakima Valley rancher, terms 1107 the “most interesting of the three.”

It would require the Department of Health to work with WDFW and the state vet to “implement a program to detect, interdict, and assess the epidemiological consequences of diseases that may afflict or may be carried by wolves and the actual and potential impact of wolves’ role in such diseases upon human health in the state,” as well as identify people whose jobs or lifestyles might put them at higher risk to the illnesses.

It is also cosponsored by Reps. Kretz, Short and Condotta.

“Of the three, 1108 is the most comprehensive,” Taylor says. “It takes a different tack. It requires the state to actually manage wolf populations without Endangered Species Act considerations.”

Known as the “Washington wolf recovery act,” it would void existing state-federal agreements and require the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to, among other things, agree that 150 wolves is enough to sustain a population in the state, and ties state wolf management to how successful deer and elk hunters are over three-year periods as well as low livestock predation rates.

Eleven-oh-eight would also give the state attorney general the go-ahead to file damage claims for big game losses and makes those “responsible for inflicting wolves on Washington or preventing state management of wolves … civilly liable for any damages related to the serious physical injury or death of a human as the result of an attack by a wolf during any period of noncompliance with the provisions of this chapter.”

If such an attack were to occur, all wolves within 100 miles of it could be killed by anyone by any means.

And the bill would prohibit citing or arresting anyone for shooting a wolf on private or state land.

All three were referred to the House Agriculture and Natural Resources committee, chaired by Rep. Brian Blake, an Aberdeen Democrat who has bristled at part of WDFW’s draft management plan that would use “translocation” as a tool to move wolves from elsewhere inside the state to the Olympic Peninsula to aid recovery of the species.

“I’m fairly optimistic one of the three will get out of committee,” says Taylor, pointing to 1107 as the most likely candidate.

Other WDFW-related bills circulating in Olympia include HB 1087 and SB 5094 which merge the agency with the State Parks and Recreation Commission and the Recreation and Conservation Office.

“I think it needs some more work,” says Taylor of Governor Gregoire’s bid to reduce the number of natural resource agencies from 11 to five. “We need to look at the budget implications. The merger would only save $2.45 million.”

Last year, a state Senate bill tried to fold WDFW into the Department of Natural Resources.

Anderson Heading To Tri-Cities To Talk Shop

January 18, 2011

Phil Anderson and crew will hold a roundtable-style meeting in the Tri-Cities early next month to talk fish, wildlife, budget and other resource-management issues.

WDFW says it will occur Feb. 9 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Benton PUD auditorium, 2721 W. 10th Ave. in Kennewick.

It’s the latest in a series of meetings the director and staffers have held around the state over the past half year or so, including one in Spokane last week that produced good dialogue as well as one incredibly stupid and inconsiderate comment.

Sound Fishing Groups Announces $2K Marine Scholarship

January 18, 2011

(SOUTH KING COUNTY PUGET SOUND ANGLERS PRESS RELEASE)

South King County Puget Sound Anglers announces the availability of a Marine Science Scholarship for graduates of the Puget Sound Skills Center Marine Technology program.

The scholarship will be awarded to a 2011 graduating high school senior that plans to pursue a career in the field of Marine Science or Fisheries.

One of the key elements in improving fisheries in the Pacific Northwest is through educating a new generation of youth dedicated to the resource.

The scholarship will provide $1000 for the student’s first year and the availability of an additional $1000 for their second year.

The scholarship may be applied for online at TheWashBoard.org.

South King County Puget Sound Anglers is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving quality fisheries.  Meetings are held the third Wednesday of each month to discuss resource conservation and how, when and where to fish for Salmon, all saltwater species and steelhead.

Winter 2011 Sportsmen’s Show Schedule

January 18, 2011

Pick a weekend, any weekend between now and mid-March and some town around the Northwest will be hosting a sportsmen’s or boat show.

This weekend it’s Pasco and Seattle. The following it’s Puyallup and Bozeman. The next, Eugene and Great Falls.

Here’s the full slate of upcoming shows:

JANUARY

Jan. 21-23: Tri-Cities Sportsmen Show, TRAC Center, Pasco, Wash; shuylerproductions.com

Jan. 21-30: Seattle Boat Show, Qwest Field Event Center/South Lake Union, Seattle; seattleboatshow.com

Jan. 26-30: Washington Sportsmen’s Show, Western Washington Fairgrounds, Puyallup; otshows.com

Jan. 28-30: Great Rockies Sport Show, Gallatin Co. Fairgrounds, Bozeman; greatrockiesshow.com

(O'LOUGHLIN TRADE SHOWS)

FEBRUARY

Feb. 4-6: Eugene Boat & Sportsmen’s Show, Lane County Fairgrounds, Eugene; exposureshows.com

Feb. 4-6: Great Rockies Sport Show, Montana ExpoPark, Great Falls; greatrockiesshow.com

Feb. 9-13: Pacific Northwest Sportsmen’s Show, Expo Center, Portland; otshows.com

Feb. 18-19: Seattle Sportsmen’s Convention fundraiser, Meydenbauer Center, Bellevue, Wash.; working4wildlife.com

Feb. 18-20: Sportsmen’s & Outdoor Recreation Show, Douglas County Fairgrounds, Roseburg, Ore.;
exposureshows.com

Feb. 18-20: Central Washington Sportsmen Show, SunDome, Yakima; shuylerproductions.com

Feb. 25-27: Jackson County Sportsmen’s & Outdoor Recreation Show, Jackson County Expo, Medford;
exposureshows.com

MARCH

March 3-6: Idaho Sportsmen’s Show, Expo Idaho, Boise; idahosportsmanshow.com

March 4-6: BC Boat & Sportsmen’s Show, and BC Hunting Show, TRADEX, Abbotsford, B.C.; squarefeetevents.ca

March 10-13: Central Oregon Sportsmen’s Show, Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center, Redmond; otshows.com

March 11-13: Great Rockies Sport Show, Flathead County Fairgrounds, Kalispell, Mont.;
greatrockiesshow.com

March 12-13: Northwest Fly Tyer and Fly Fishing Expo, Linn County Expo Center, Albany, Ore.; nwflytyerexpo.com

March 17-20: Big Horn Outdoor Adventure Show, Interstate Fairgrounds, Spokane

MAY
May 21-22: South Olympic Peninsula Outdoor Recreation & Adventure Expo, Grays Harbor County Fairgrounds, Elma, Wash.

Antelope Arrive In WA Over Weekend

January 17, 2011

Last week, they were racing across the northeast Nevada sage. Today, they’re learning about their new digs 450 miles to the north-northwest in South-central Washington.

In a lightning-fast move, 100 antelope were captured Saturday by the Nevada Department of Wildlife and dozens of volunteers, and 99 were driven in livestock trailers to the Mabton area of the Yakama Nation’s reservation and released.

“I had the last load, and unloaded them at 12:45 a.m.” Sunday morning, says Glenn Rasmussen of the Central Washington Chapter of Safari Club International.  “Oh, yeah (it’s exciting). This is something we’ve been working on for a long time.”

VOLUNTEERS AND OTHERS AWAIT THE ARRIVAL OF THE ANTELOPE HERD. (COURTESY SCI-CENTRAL WASHINGTON CHAPTER)

He says his organization had first tried to work with the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife on reintroduction, including doing studies of potential release sites. But when that didn’t pan out, they found that the Yakamas were interested in bringing the so-called “speed goats” back to the reservation.

“It’s their project, we just arranged the financing,” says Rasmussen.

A HELICOPTER IS USED TO HERD THE ANIMALS TOWARDS NET TRAPS. (COURTESY SCI-CENTRAL WASHINGTON CHAPTER)

He says that nine or ten bucks rode back in crates on a flatbed driven by tribal representatives.

Due to the federal holiday, Yakama wildlife officials were unavailable for comment.

TEAMS WORK TO SUBDUE AND CALM THE ANIMALS. (COURTESY SCI-CENTRAL WASHINGTON CHAPTER)

Antelope were gone from Washington by the mid-1800s, but four releases were made between the Great Depression and the Vietnam War era, according to a 2008 article by the Seattle PI. The animals hung on on the Yakima Training Center, but over time the population waned and disappeared.

“We don’t know if it was soldiers shooting them or what,” says Rasmussen.

The idea for reintroducing the species came when the club was looking for a conservation project.

“My son, Eric, made the suggestion, ‘Why don’t we reintroduce antelope into Washington?” he says.

WORKERS HOLD UP AN IV DRIP BAG FOR AN OVERHEATED ANTELOPE. (COURTESY SCI-CENTRAL WASHINGTON CHAPTER)

A year ago, it looked as if it was on, but a helicopter crash scrapped plans to trade live buffalo from the Yakamas for antelope from the Duck Valley Reservation on the Nevada-Idaho line, Rasmussen says.

He has high praise for NDOW: “Boy, that Nevada game department is efficient.”

They were assisted by Nevada Bighorns Unlimited.

A DOE IS JUST ABOUT TO BE LOADED INTO A LIVESTOCK TRAILER FOR TRANSPORTATION TO WASHINGTON. (COURTESY SCI-CENTRAL WASHINGTON CHAPTER)

After the animals were netted, they were blindfolded and hobbled and taken to a staging area where a veterinarian drew blood samples and gave them shots, Rasmussen says.

Then they were moved into waiting trailers.

“That was the rodeo part — loading them in,” he says. “Every time you opened the door, the others were jumping to get out.”

CAPTURED AND TAGGED ANTELOPE AWAIT THE BEGINNING OF THEIR JOURNEY NORTH TO WASHINGTON. (COURTESY SCI-CENTRAL WASHINGTON CHAPTER)

Ironically, the one radio-collared antelope in the bunch escaped.

Rasmussen says they were given drugs for the ride back, a rainy slog north up U.S. Highway 93 then west on I-84. He drove a couple dozen animals to Washington.

“Releasing them was real simple, and was almost an anticlimax,” he says.

One in Rasmussen’s trailer had a broken leg and had to be put down, however.

THE BUCKS WERE TRANSPORTED IN CRATES. (COURTESY SCI-CENTRAL WASHINGTON CHAPTER)

The tribe identified 40,000 acres of the reservation that would make “fair to good” habitat for the species, although there’s currently also an overpopulation of mustangs on its 1.2 million acres.

A grad student may follow the herd around, Rasmussen says.

“If there’s a huntable population, that’s fine,” he says, “but I don’t think anyone’s concerned about that. When you travel through Wyoming, it’s just nice to see them. I don’t expect to go shoot them.”

A NEW HOME, A NEW RANGE FOR A NEVADA DOE RELEASED ONTO THE YAKAMA RESERVATION SOUTH OF MABTON. (COURTESY SCI-CENTRAL WASHINGTON CHAPTER)

In other tribal wildlife releases news, last year saw the introduction of 170 turkeys onto the Tulalip Reservation north of Everett, Wash.

Workman’s Thoughts On WDFW-Parks Merger

January 14, 2011

Dave Workman, a longtime Washington hook-and-bullet world observer and journalist, and current Northwest Sportsman columnist and senior editor at Gun Week, has fired off his thoughts on how to prevent a merger of WDFW and State Parks, as proposed by Gov. Gregoire last month.

Reacting to word of agency Director Phil Anderson’s meeting this week with Spokane sportsmen, he says it starts with making WDFW “better able to sustain itself,” and in part that means “rolling back” the hunting regulations several decades to when the agency had far more customers than it currently does.

With a drop from 360,000 licensed hunters in 1980 to 209,000 in 2010, Workman throws out 10 ideas on how the agency could raise more revenue, re-establish itself as a game-providing department, and increase herd numbers and buck and bull harvest.

Workman calls on WDFW to “lobby hard” for a restoration of hound hunting for cougars and bears — kiboshed in the 1990s by voter initiative — and he would negate the license requirement for hunting coyotes and open their season year-round, in an effort to reduce predation on game herds.

He suggests increasing the length of deer and elk seasons and shifting them later in the season, which is when herds are more actively migrating and bucks are rutting.

“If the state wants to seriously encourage hunters to purchase licenses and tags, it must provide them serious opportunities to fill those tags. Hunting seasons that merely translate to ‘camping with guns’ drive our hunters – and their money – to other states. Money talks loudest at home,” Workman writes on Examiner.com.

He would do away with most buck and bull antler restrictions and allow hunters who don’t bag an animal during the rifle season to be able to buy muzzleloader and archery licenses for, say $10 or $15 apiece, to attempt fill their tag during later hunts.

“More opportunity to score, more time enjoyed afield, more reason to buy a license and more income for the agency,” he says.

Workman says to shed all non-game-related species management and jobs to the Department of Natural Resources, including wolves.

“And perhaps this is most important. Drop this attitude that ‘These are the good old days.’ That’s a defeatist philosophy. Compare Washington with Ohio, where hunters take more than 100,000 deer during their seven-day general season, and in Washington we take between 40,000 and 45,000 in all of their seasons combined. Ohio is about 20,000 square miles smaller than Washington, it has a fraction of our public land, it has one species of deer (we have three huntable species). Ohio has more than 11 million residents, and Washington has about 6.5 million. Let’s swap Ohio two non-game biologists for one of their game biologists,” he writes.

What’s Fishin’ In Oregon (1-13-11)

January 13, 2011

Sometimes the term “steelheading” just doesn’t match the conventional definition of steelheading: i.e., side-drifting/plugging/drift-fishing a fair-sized, cobble-bottomed stream.

Take steelheading on the concrete at Cascade Locks on the Columbia, for example.

That’s where you would have found Kirby Cannon recently.

Coming back from a little sturgeon angling between Hood River and Moser, he stopped off and caught himself a nice winter fish.

KIRBY CANNON WITH A WINTER STEELIE CAUGHT AT CASCADE LOCKS. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

Cannon regulates summer-runs at the locks in June, July and August with the deadly “Kirby Blade,” a spinner in very limited release, but apparently winter fish hit it too.

Elsewhere in Oregon, you’ll find fresh stocker trout, lings moving in close, sturgeon on the prowl and the start of the big Portland Boat Show this weekend.

Here are highlights from ODFW’s weekly Recreation Report:

SOUTHWEST ZONE

  • Good numbers of steelhead are available in many area rivers but low, clear water has prompted many anglers to switch to lighter leaders and smaller lures.
  • Winter trout fishing continues to be good on the Applegate and Lost Creek reservoirs.
  • At the beach, lingcod are moving in closer to shore in anticipation of spawning. Anglers without a boat can target jetties and other rocky structure.

NORTHWEST ZONE

  • Coffenbury Lake. Lost lake, Vernonia Pond, and Town Lake have been stocked with surplus hatchery winter steelhead at various times over the last month or so.

WILLAMETTE ZONE

  • Winter steelhead are now widely distributed through the Clackamas and Sandy Rivers, where some good catches are being reported. Crossings over Willamette Falls into the upper Willamette and its tributaries have been increasing and means improved prospects for anglers in these areas.
  • The trout stocking program for 2011 is now underway, with the first batches of fish going to Huddleston Pond, Junction City Pond, Walling Pond and Walter Wirth Lake, which were all stocked the week of Jan. 10.

CENTRAL ZONE

  • Anglers are catching winter steelhead on the Hood River.
  • Summer steelhead can still be found in good numbers in the Deschutes River from the Columbia upstream to the reservation boundary.

NORTHEAST ZONE

  • Cold weather has put the damper on winter steelhead fishing, but there are fish available when the weather and water conditions cooperate.
  • For those willing to brave the weather, trout fishing on Wallowa Lake has been fair, and a few kokanee have been caught as well. Think deep.

COLUMBIA ZONE

  • Sturgeon angling is good for boat anglers in the Bonneville Pool.
  • Steelhead angling is fair to good in the Bonneville, The Dalles and John Day pools.  Some winter steelhead should be available from beaches on the lower Columbia for anglers willing to brave the elements.

Blanca Bear Poop, Hair Neg For Griz

January 13, 2011

Poop and hair gathered in Washington’s North Cascades near where a possible grizzly bear was photographed last summer turned up … regular old Ursus americanus.

That’s the word from expedited DNA tests on eight samples taken from a bait and barbed wire “corral” and the woods around tiny Virgin Lake in eastern Snohomish County.

“All of the bears that were attracted to the site … were kind enough to leave hair, and all poop in the area came from black bears (despite their coat color),” reported Donald Gay, a wildlife biologist for the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, by email this morning.

Trail cameras captured at least two black bears hanging around the bait station, but one of the animals decided to play with the camera so that the next series of shots are messed up, though show a large eyeball and some brown fur.

(USFS)

Brown was the color of the top half of a large bear seen foraging along the shores of the lake the month before. At least two photos of it were taken on an iPhone by hiker Sue Warga who was passing by.

In one, there’s an apparent hump behind the neck of the animal. When Gay sent the image to other bios, two-thirds thought it could be a grizzly.

VIRGIN LAKE BEAR. (SUE WARGA VIA USFS)

But when he obtained a second image that showed a better facial profile and a less pronounced hump, the experts were far less sure.

Biologists have been running bait corrals elsewhere in the Cascades, so roughly two weeks after the photographs turned up, one was placed a kilometer south of Virgin Lake, according to Gay. They did so because the lake is along the arduous but popular hiking trail to Blanca Lake in the headwaters of the North Fork Skykomish River. It was baited with a “lure that’s really effective at drawing in animals,” Gay says.

“I don’t know all of the items or their ratios, but I believe that I’ve heard that its most active ingredients are fish blood and fermented road-killed deer. In the presentations I’ve heard, the field crews have vomited more than once after opening a bottle, and take serious precautions about getting the stuff on their clothing,” says Gay.

Researchers ultimately collected two hair samples from the trap as well as six poop samples from around the lake, and sent them off to a lab in Nelson, British Columbia.

All eight turned up as black bear.

Gay says there still is a remote chance that the bear Warga photographed was a griz.

“It is possible that the bear made a long-distance movement and was not in the vicinity by the time the trap was installed,” he says.

But “in all likelihood, (the poop samples at the lake) came from that bear,” he says.

Which would make it one of Smokey’s distant relatives.

The search for Ursus arctos horriblis in the Cascades continues, though. Gay says another animal from the Cascade River area was said to have “exceptionally long claws, but other signs of being a black bear.”

The current population estimate of grizzlies in the North Cascades is from zero to 20 animals

“It’s real possible there are none on the U.S. side,” Gay told me last September. “We do know that in April, there was one on the Canadian side.”

The last confirmed mortality occurred 44 years ago. I wrote about that one in F&H News. It was shot by a hunter in the Thunder Creek area in fall 1966 and reported on in the Skagit Valley Herald.

Anderson Meets With Spokane Sportsmen

January 12, 2011

UPDATE: JAN. 13, 2010: Rich Landers of the Spokesman-Review has a good piece on the meeting.

Don’t like the proposal to merge WDFW and State Parks?

Contact your legislator.

Have something to say about fishing and hunting license fee increases we hope legislators pass?

Contact your legislator.

That’s the gist of what Phil Anderson told an audience in Spokane several times last night.

Doing so will help lawmakers hear the sporting public’s feelings as they work on a two-year budget that has a $4.6 billion hole in it.

In the latest of numerous meetings around the state, WDFW’s director and a handful of agency staffers from the local and Olympia offices descended on the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council’s headquarters to discuss Gov. Christine Gregoire’s budget plan to merge a number of natural resource bureaus as part of dealing with the revenue shortfall and their own pitch for hiking the price to hunt and fish for the first time in a decade.

The confab went from 6:30 p.m. to 9:15 p.m., according to Jim Nelson, who took notes on the proceedings for Northwest Sportsman. He called it “a great meeting and very well attended,” estimating that around 100 were there, including many hunters and fishermen including the Spokesman-Review‘s outdoor reporter Rich Landers. He said that Anderson stood and talked the entire time, only taking occasional gulps of water. He answered most questions, calling on his staffers to answer others.

The meeting began with a Power Point presentation on “budgets past and present, and future license increases and in a couple of cases decreases,” according to Nelson.

He says that WDFW’s proposed fee increase for elk tags — from $45.20 to $57.00, a 26 percent increase — “drew the most comments from the floor, mostly all negative, but positive comments on the other increases.”

Other hikes include 71 percent for a bear or cougar tag (from $14 to $24), 18 percent for the deer, elk, cougar and bear combo license ($81.20 to $91.50) and 24 percent for saltwater licenses ($24.20 to $30.05).

“Anderson pointed out we have not had an increase in 10 years and these increases are comparable, if not lower, than our neighboring states and Wyoming. Anderson certainly feels these increases are necessary to maintain any stability in personnel … and department morale as so many personnel have been laid off, and the ones who are left are working longer hours to cover the staff loss,” Nelson says.

In the past, Anderson — citing possible cuts of up to $20 million from his General Fund on top of $37 million the past two years, and another $6 million if a two-year 10 percent license surcharge which expires this coming June isn’t extended — has said that, if approved the suite of tag and license increases could raise $14.3 million and “help maintain fishing and hunting opportunities as well as support important conservation efforts now under way throughout the state.”

It would also help wean WDFW slightly from the embattled General Fund as most fishing and hunting license money goes into the more protected Wildlife Account.

Some licenses would decrease or stay the same, including deer ($45.20 to $44.90), second-pole endorsement ($24.50 to $14.80), Columbia River endorsement (no change from $8.75), and numerous permits for youth, senior and disabled vet sportsmen.

Nelson says that Anderson said budgetary woes show no signs of bottoming out soon, and urged the audience to contact their representatives and senators to support the fee increases.

INWC’s executive director Wanda Clifford, who also took notes for this magazine, says the director also spoke about the new proposed access pass to use some state lands.

“If you purchase hunting or fishing license, the access fee would be dramatically reduced. This would be a opt in or out fee. If you are fishing and do not need to use a launch or park area, you would not need the access permit,” she explains.

When it was proposed, the “Explore Washington” pass was set at $40 for general users age 19 and older, or $5 for those purchasing WDFW fishing or hunting licenses or a watchable-wildlife package. Sales were expected to raise $5.5 million a year, which would be split between WDFW and DNR to manage, police and maintain the lands.

Nelson says the gist of the director’s talk on the merger proposal was that it “is in the governor’s eyes the only way to help balance the state budget.”

“I asked from the floor what his gut feeling [on which way it would go] after talking to legislators and groups across the state,” says Nelson, “and he answered, ‘I believe this proposal of combining agencies will get some serious discussion in this legislative session. Do I have an idea which way it will go? No. Again, I urge you to contact your legislator.'”

Clifford says it’s unclear how a merger would shake out, but in the short term, if passed, it would go into effect in mid-2012.

“The merger would dissolve the game, parks and recreation (and conservation office) departments,” she says. “They would reform under a new agency [the Department of Conservation and Recreation] run by one director. They would still retain their [essences]: parks would be parks, game would be game, and so on. They would not blend the individual departments together, just run them under one new agency … The [Fish & Wildlife] commission would be advisory only, no power. New rules would be decided by the director.”

The DCR director would sit under the governor.

For WDFW, talk of folding the agency with others is nothing new — it is itself a product of the 1994 merger between the old Departments of Fisheries and Wildlife. Last session, a state Senate subcommittee’s proposed budget would have put WDFW under the wing of the Department of Natural Resources, but that was headed off partly by sportsman opposition. Gregoire also previously convened natural resource agency department heads to figure out better efficiencies.

Under the governor’s current budget proposal, combining WDFW with the State Parks and Recreation Commission, Recreation and Conservation Office and the Department of Natural Resources’ law enforcement arm — along with reducing the number of other natural resource agencies from 21 to nine — would save around $2.5 million and cut 14 jobs in the short term.

“From my perspective,” says Nelson, “it seemed a large majority in the crowd were receptive to his proposals. From the floor I told him I had conducted a little survey myself with hunting friends and landowners I know (10), and all were receptive to the increase and nonreceptive to the planned merger.”

“To which he replied, ‘Contact your legislator,'” Nelson notes.

Anderson’s been doing his own talking with lawmakers about the importance of fishing and hunting in Washington. In a guest column published in the January issue of Northwest Sportsman magazine, he notes:

What’s good for fishers and hunters is also good for the state as a whole. According to federal estimates, fishing and hunting generates nearly $5.3 billion in economic activity in Washington each year. Add the economic activity generated by wildlife viewing and the annual economic benefits grows to $6.8 billion.

As director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, I want to make sure that every state legislator recognizes the benefits – economical, cultural and ecological – of effective resource management. But I know lawmakers will also have other things in mind when they convene this month to develop a new state budget for 2011-13.

“Do I know more this morning than I did yesterday morning?” Clifford asks rhetorically. “I suppose so. I have a much better vision of the budget and how it is working, not a lot more on the merger … Was the evening worthwhile? Most definitely.”

At the end of the meeting, Anderson took a moment to update the gathering about Washington’s wolves. Workers are now putting together locational information for the state’s Diamond and Lookout Packs based on collar data from several of the animals, and WDFW will publish its first annual statewide wolf activity summary soon.

Northwest Sportsman has also learned this week that a contract pilot recently spotted a third wolf running with the two from the little-known Salmo Pack in extreme northern Pend Oreille County. One of the two, a then-50-pound pup, was captured and radio-collared near the end of last summer.

According to Nelson, other WDFW staffers attending the meeting included deputy director Joe Stohr and assistant director fish program Jim Scott, both from headquarters; Eastern Washington regional director Steve Pozzanghera and his lieutenants, John Whalen, the fish program manager, and Kevin Robinette, the wildlife program manager; Woody Myers, a deer/elk research specialist and biologist, and Madonna Luers, the local information officer.

Fish & Wildlife Commissioner Gary Douvia of Kettle Falls also attended, as did retired regional directors John Andrews and Ray Duff.

Anderson was to meet with staff in the region all day today.

WDFW HQ has also prepared a Web page with information on the upcoming legislative session. It has links to PDFs with more information on the proposed license increases and more.

Nelson is a former INWC president and has stayed active in the club. He has written several articles for this magazine, and authored the book The way it was and the way it is.

How To Tell If Your Desk Is Too Messy

January 11, 2011

How to tell if your desk is too messy:

You decide it would be easier to do a google search for the forgotten title of a book on poaching you were mailed because it’s simpler than looking for the screed under all the:

notepads (dozens)

map books (three for two states)

reader photos (dozens)

stray sheets of papers (hundreds)

scientific studies (many)

galley proofs of the Feb issue (several dozen)

coffee cups (four, but I swear a fifth is hidden somewhere)

fishing and hunting regs (dozens of copies back thru 2009)

Northwest Sportsman back issues (hundreds)

apples (four shiny red ones)

stray knives (including new fillet blade from Kershaw)

fishing gear (including Big Bro’s Bloodworm from Northland)

pit stick (one stick, 9/10ths used up)

Frangos wrappers

pens (wow sweet, more than I thought I had)

etc.

etc.

etc

Sound Steelhead River Closures Begin

January 11, 2011

By the end of the day — if not by the end of the week — Puget Sound steelheaders will see news that most of their open waters will be closing early.

It is not unexpected, though.

No thanks to poor forecasted returns of wild steelhead, a host of streams will be shut down early — some as soon as the end of this week — to protect the threatened stocks.

However, several terminal fisheries will remain open into mid-February to hoover up as many hatchery fish as possible.

Already this afternoon, WDFW has emailed out e-reg notices for the Puyallup system and Green, and more for the Nooksack, Skagit, Stillaguamish and Snohomish systems are on the way.

“Everything east of the Elwha that isn’t already closed will be,” says fisheries biologist Brett Barkdull in La Conner. “Every river is predicted to be below escapement goals in Puget Sound.”

This winter managers have a new allowable “impact rate” on wild steelhead – how many fish can be incidentally killed by hook-and-release mortality, net drop-out, etc.

“It’s 4 percent averaged over the ‘Big Five’ rivers – Skagit, Snohomish, Green, Puyallup and Nisqually,” Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife spokesman Craig Bartlett told us late in 2010.

He said it would “tighten” seasons when natives show up. They typically arrive in numbers in late January and early February.

Previously, steelheading on most Puget Sound rivers ended at the end of February, but the Fish & Wildlife Commission passed new rules last year that shut down the season at midmonth.

Most of the northern stream closures go into effect Feb. 1, but the North Fork Nooksack from its mouth up to Maple Creek, the Skagit from Rockport up to the Cascade, the Cascade from its mouth up to the Rockport-Cascade Bridge and North Fork Stillaguamish from French Creek up to Swede Heaven will remain open through Feb. 15, according to Barkdull.

The Green up to the South 277th Bridge is closed as of Jan. 16 while the stretch from the bridge up to the Tacoma Headworks Dam closes Feb. 1.

The Puyallup system — including the open areas of the White, Carbon and “upper” Puyallup — will be shut down as of Jan. 16.

The Samish, which hasn’t received hatchery steelhead smolts since spring 2008, was closed at the end of December to protect its wild fish.

Tickets On Sale Now For $10K Disco Bay Salmon Derby

January 11, 2011

(DISCOVERY BAY SALMON DERBY PRESS RELEASE)

It’s just five weeks until the 2011 Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby, on Presidents Day Weekend, February 19-21 2011. This huge fishing competition is for Winter Blackmouth Chinook salmon, and boasts 500 square miles of water, five weigh stations, and a great prize list – including $10,000 and $5,000 top prizes, plus a $1,000 “mystery fish prize” that any submitted fish can win. Great donations are starting to appear, and organizers expect a final list of 40-50 prizes, many in cash. Tickets are limited, so get yours early!

This fishing derby, formerly the Discovery Bay Salmon Derby, is part of the NMTA’s Northwest Salmon Derby Series. It is hosted by the Gardiner Salmon Derby Association, a Washington State Nonprofit Corporation supporting local emergency services and other community needs in the Gardiner and Diamond Point areas.

Derby president Dan Tatum is excited: “Early signs look promising, and everybody should have a good chance to land some fish, especially with so many good spots to hit.”

Despite its size, Tatum expects a smooth event.

“We won’t be cleaning and collecting fish, and with five weigh stations we can handle many boats and lots of salmon.”

The event’s five launch ramps are at Freshwater Bay, Port Angeles, Sequim, Gardiner, and Port Townsend, and all have weigh stations. The awards ceremony is at 2:00PM Monday the 21st at the Gardiner Boat Ramp. (Note that for legal reasons, some prizes will be distributed by mail shortly after the derby.)

Tickets for the event cost $40 for one day or all three days; tickets went on sale during the first week of January, and can be found at many area merchants (see website for details).

Advance tickets are also available on-line at www.SwainsInc.com.

Tickets will be available at the five launch ramps but ONLY on Saturday 2/19 and ONLY as long as they last. This event uses selective fishery – clipped-fin hatchery fish only.

For more information and event rules, visit www.GardinerSalmonDerby.org. And good luck!

Solid Post-hunt Buck Count In Okanogan

January 10, 2011

Helicopter surveys last month found the highest ratio of mule deer bucks to does seen in western and central Okanogan County since the early 2000s, an early sign of potentially good hunting this coming fall.

The Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife’s annual December posthunting season tally found a very respectable 24 bucks to every 100 does in the Methow Valley and west side of the Okanogan Valley, according to wildlife biologist Jeff Heinlen in Omak.

“I for one am very glad to see it,” he says. “It’s a nice number to have.”

It tops last year’s 20:100 and is the fourth highest since the killer year of 1997. Only 2000 (27), 2002 (26) and 1999 (25) are higher.  Low marks include 2004’s 14 and 2007’s 16, stats from WDFW’s 2009 game trends report show.

Interestingly, the ratio of bucks was the same in both valleys.

“Usually, there is a difference between them when it comes to bucks and fawns,” says Heinlen, who has counted deer from helicopters in these parts since 2003.

The Okanogan side is warmer, lower and further away from the Cascade crest, while the Methow is higher, colder and snowier.

Heinlein points to a year and a half of beneficial weather on the deer’s summer and winter range, including a moist summer in 2009, a mild winter in 2009-10 and more moisture producing good forage conditions this past summer. The huge Tripod burn area on the hydrological divide between both valleys is also beginning to grow good grits for the herd.

We hunters had a good October, with at least 77 deer coming through the voluntary game check over the rifle hunt’s two weekends, two more animals than the previous season, though the station was in a different location.

ROBERT "RUPP" CUNNINGHAM SCORED BIG IN THE OKANOGAN LAST SEASON, DOWNING THIS STUD ON PUBLIC LAND DURING THE RIFLE HUNT. (ROBERT CUNNINGHAM)

Heinlen counted 82 fawns for every 100 does, the fourth straight year it has increased.

The total number of mule deer in both valleys, 2,800, is below last year’s count, however, and is the third lowest since 1997.

That may have been due to poorer weather, including fog in some surveyed areas, says Heinlen.

We hunters will now hold our collective breath hoping that the snows don’t continue to pile up.

“We’re looking pretty good,” said Heinlen about the relatively light cover in the Okanogan Valley where he says some areas are barren of snow while others have just 5 or 6 inches.

It’s a different story to the west.

“The Methow, they got a very strong storm in mid-December, but it hasn’t accumulated much since,” Heinlen says.

But the valley and most all of Eastern Washington are under a winter storm warning this week. Four to 8 inches are possible in the Methow Tuesday, but that will turn to rain by the end of the week, according to the National Weather Service.

Utility, RMEF Conserve SW WA Elk Habitat

January 10, 2011

(ROCKY MOUNTAIN ELK FOUNDATION PRESS RELEASE)

Nearly a thousand acres of elk habitat near Mt. St. Helens have been protected from development, secured for public access and will be managed for wildlife thanks to a partnership between a utility company, PacifiCorp, and a conservation organization, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

PacifiCorp purchased the land from Longview Timber to help fulfill terms of the Lewis River Hydroelectric Relicensing Settlement Agreement. RMEF identified the lands as an important acquisition and then negotiated the purchase.

LAND INCLUDED IN THE ELK HABITAT DEAL. (RMEF)

The transaction closed and all documents were officially recorded Dec. 23, 2010.

Two tracts, both just under 500 acres and southwest of Mt. St. Helens, are involved. The first, north of PacifiCorp’s Swift Reservoir and west of Marble Mountain, adjoins Gifford Pinchot National Forest. The second lies along the Lewis River between Yale Reservoir and Lake Merwin in an area of extensive state lands and other PacifiCorp holdings.

(RMEF)

Both tracts also are in areas of high-end residential and recreational development. The recent purchase ensures that these areas remain open space for the future.

Additionally, both tracts are used year-round by a significant number of elk – crucial habitat in a region where Mt. St. Helens’ national monument designation, attendant management restrictions and overgrown forests are causing the decline of a once-productive elk herd. PacifiCorp will manage both tracts, with input from RMEF, to emphasize intermediate-succession habitat and increased forage for elk and black-tailed deer. Black bears and cougars, along with species of concern such as bald eagles, bats, salamanders and turtles, also inhabit the area.

“Very seldom does RMEF help acquire lands that we can also help manage,” said Bill Richardson, RMEF lands program manager for Oregon and Washington. “Conserving and managing this habitat on the southwest slopes of Mt. St. Helens, where elk are threatened by forage loss from forest succession and habitat loss to development – all within 50 miles of Portland and Vancouver – is a major accomplishment.”

Kirk S. Naylor, principle scientist of wildlife and forestry for PacifiCorp, said, “RMEF not only helped make this transaction happen, but its staff and volunteers have been collaborating with us for years to enhance habitat for fish and wildlife. In fact, RMEF volunteer Bob Nelson attended one of the very first Lewis River relicensing meetings back in 1999. I have witnessed the energy and counted on the objectivity of RMEF folks ever since.”

Naylor added, “In my 24 years of working as a wildlife biologist for PacifiCorp, I have developed a keen interest in one of the properties that we just acquired. The tract near Yale Reservoir is only 490 acres of mostly second growth timber, but it lies adjacent to one of our most heavily used and well established elk foraging areas within the Lewis River wildlife habitat management area, which now totals over 11,000 acres. Had these 490 acres been developed or even logged aggressively as private timberland can sometimes be, it would have been a loss to a far greater area.”

PacifiCorp and RMEF worked together in 2009 to acquire and conserve 52 acres in the same area. The land is meadow habitat that also helps support elk from the Mt. St. Helens herd.

The Lewis River Hydroelectric Relicensing Settlement Agreement was approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission which granted new hydroelectric operation licenses in 2008. The licenses provide for 50 years of continued operation of four dams and hydroelectric facilities along the Lewis River. Included are plans to re-open up to 174 miles of potential salmon habitat, improve local flood management and boost recreational opportunities. Negotiators representing PacifiCorp, Native American tribes, federal and state resource agencies, three counties, RMEF and other conservation groups signed the agreement.

SW WA Fishing Report (1-10-11)

January 10, 2011

(REPORT COURTESY BIOLOGIST JOE HYMER)

SALMON/STEELHEAD

Cowlitz River –

Blue Creek boats: 18 boats interviewed…..47 anglers….12 Steelhead retained; 1 released

Blue Creek bank anglers: 53 anglers interviewed……15 Steelhead retained; 1 released

Barrier Dam bank anglers: 3 anglers…..0 retention

Last week, Tacoma Power recovered 416 coho adults and 72 winter-run steelhead during five days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week Tacoma Power employees released 190 coho adults and seven winter-run steelhead into Lake Scanewa and 22 coho adults and 10 winter-run steelhead into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 10,300 cubic feet per second on Monday, January 10. Water visibility is seven feet.

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – Little to no effort.

Bonneville Pool – The few boat anglers sampled did well on steelhead.

The Dalles Pool – Bank anglers are catching some steelhead.

John Day Pool – Boat anglers are catching some steelhead.

Hwy. 395 to old Hanford town site – From Paul Hoffarth Washington Dept of Fish & Wildlife District 4 Fish Biologist in Pasco WA – An estimated 69 steelhead were caught in the first nine days of January.  Anglers are averaging 1 steelhead for each 15 hours of fishing. Bank anglers fared slightly better than the boat anglers so far this month. A total of 1,079 steelhead have been caught this season and 781 steelhead have been harvested. WDFW staff has sampled 26% of the estimated angler effort in this fishery. Catch and harvest numbers are well below the 2008 and 2009 fisheries but similar to those of 2004-07.

Hatchery winter steelhead returns – comparison between returns through the first week of January 2010 and 2011.  In general, hatchery returns are similar to last year.  In specific:

Station                                 2011                       2010

Grays                                    234                         0

Elochoman                          198                         260

Cowlitz                                 1,150                     1,128

Kalama                                 452                         451

Lewis                                     1,891                     1,918

Washougal                          390                         582

STURGEON

Lower Columbia from the Wauna powerlines to Bonneville Dam – We sampled 19 bank anglers from Camas/Washougal to Bonneville Dam with no catch and 4 boat anglers (2 boats) with 1 legal kept and 4 sublegals released.

Bonneville and The Dalles pools – Boat anglers are catching some legals.  Slow for legals from the bank.

John Day pool – Slow for legal size fish.

WALLEYE AND BASS

Bonneville and The Dalles pools – The few boat anglers sampled had no catch.

John Day Pool – No effort observed for either specie.

TROUT

Battleground Lake – Planted with 3,000 half pound rainbows Jan. 3.  No report on angling success.

Southwest Washington waters planted with broodstock rainbows Jan. 3-5:

Water                   8-pounders                        4.5 pounders                     Comment

Klineline Pond                   74                                           116

Kidney Lake                        28                                           35                           Near North Bonneville

Icehouse Lake                   14                                           35                           At the foot of the Bridge of the Gods

Little Ash Lake                   14                                           35                           Just west of Stevenson

Tunnel Lake                        13                                           35                           Just east of Drano Lake

Northwestern Lake         13                                           35                           Reservoir on the (Big) White Salmon River

Rowland Lake                    20                                           40                           Near Lyle

Spearfish Lake                   24                                           100                         Near Dallesport

WDFW Game Warden Newsletter Out

January 7, 2011

Need some more game wardenning news to tide you over the weekend?

WDFW recently posted the Enforcement Division’s summer 2010 newsletter.

Among the highlights:

My Pop, The Outstanding Role Model!

Officers Treser and Scherzinger were called out after receiving information from Police Dispatch of a convicted felon spotlighting and shooting deer from a vehicle.

With the assistance of Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office, Twisp Police, and Winthrop Police, the vehicle was stopped and the driver found with a .44 magnum pistol lying beside him. His 17-year-old son was sporting a .45 on his hip.

Our officers also found a bow, two rifles, and a very strong odor of marijuana. Marijuana and methamphetamine were found along with paraphernalia.

No deer found or any evidence of deer poaching located. The driver was high on meth and marijuana. Numerous arrests were made.

So Glad To See You, Thought You Were In Eastern Washington, Let’s Talk About How Those Deer Died, Shall We?

There’s no such thing as the dog days of summer for Officers like Justin Maschhoff. He uses spare time between pro-active summer patrols to work through active investigations. In this case, he was able to interview the main suspect in a serial deer poaching case from last fall and tie it up for good.

The elusive main suspect had been avoiding contact with Officer Maschhoff for the past four months. After the subject told the officer that he was in Eastern Washington (and therefore unavailable), Officer Maschhoff decided to go interview a minor player in the case at his home.

As luck would have it, the main suspect and his three buddies were all standing in the front yard. Upon seeing the patrol truck pull into the drive, the fellow looked like he had just swallowed a centipede. He finally gave a full confession to spotlighting four deer with his accomplice.

In all, six deer were killed last October and November at night with an artificial light.

It’s A Shooting Range, Not A Hunting Range

No less than six witnesses observed a none-too-smart subject shoot and illegally kill a doe that wandered onto a popular shooting range on the Lewis/Thurston county line.

The suspect shot at the deer with an assault rifle. After missing the animal several times he retrieved another rifle with a very large scope on it and after a couple more shots the deer went down. The man walked to the deer and returned to the group saying that the deer was too sick to salvage.

Sergeant Holden took the initial call and contacted witnesses, took statements, and located the dead doe. Then the hunt was on for the suspect and his vehicle as witnesses gave a very good description, including a license plate. Sergeant Holden and Officer Martin found the suspect’s residence and watched it while waiting for the vehicle to show up. When the vehicle did appear the next day, it was hidden behind an outbuilding.

Officers Schroeder and Moats immediately responded. They obtained confessions from the shooter and his partner and seized a very expensive rifle for forfeiture.

And, Finally, A Good Story For A Change

A group of local citizens volunteered to clean up the large amounts of garbage at Blue Stilly Park. A family, new to the Arlington area, had visited the park and was disgusted by its appearance and coordinated this effort. Arlington Hardware and Garden Treasures donated gloves and garbage bags.

Officer Maurstad and Sergeant Lambert stopped by and thanked the group.

Officer Maurstad wrote several access decal violations at Blue Stilly and also seized cases of beer from underage drinkers.

Officer Maurstad met with the folks who live near Blue Stilly Park who obtained a license plate from a young man who drove his vehicle through the Little League field and proceeded to tear up the grass.

If you haven’t already seen ’em, two blogs from earlier this week detail incidents that occurred in Oregon this past October.

Everyone Must Have Parking Permits At State Wildlife Areas, Oregon Commission Decides

January 7, 2011

(OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission approved an expanded parking permit program for state wildlife areas starting Jan. 1, 2012.

The program, which requires either a $7 daily parking permit or a $22 annual permit, will be phased in on the following schedule:

Jan. 1, 2012: Ken Denman, E.E. Wilson, Ladd Marsh, Summer Lake
Jan. 1, 2013: Klamath, Fern Ridge, White River, Phillip W. Schneider
Jan. 1, 2014: Elkhorn, Columbia Basin, JewellMeadows

Sauvie Island Wildlife Area near Portland has had a parking permit program since 1990.

A free annual parking permit will be included with the purchase of an annual hunting, Combination, Pioneer and Sports Pac license (adult and juvenile). All other wildlife area users will be required to purchase a permit—operation and maintenance of the areas is primarily funded by hunters through federal excise taxes on sporting arms and ammunition and hunting license fees.

Revenue from the parking permit program will support habitat restoration, provide for infrastructure maintenance and enhance wildlife viewing opportunities.

“The expanded permit program allows wildlife viewers, anglers and other users to support the state’s wildlife areas,” said Nancy Breuner, ODFW Wildlife Area Operations coordinator. “These areas have become increasingly popular as viewing and outdoor recreation sites over the past decade and the increase in visitors has put a strain on our infrastructure and resources.”

ODFW staff updated the Commission on management activities under the Mule Deer Initiative. The initiative is an effort to increase mule deer populations focused in five wildlife management units.

Finally, the Commission approved rules regarding the average market price per pound of each species of food fish commercially-harvested in Oregon. These values are adopted every January and are used to set damages in lawsuits associated with the illegal harvest and sale of fish.

Winter Turning Rosier Around Chelan For Anglers

January 7, 2011

I, Andy Walgamott, was wrong to question covering ice fishing in the Northwest this winter.

Back in early December, I said, “You can stick your ice auger up your a**, Jack Frost!”

The weather was all screwy, OK, and maybe I had too much caffeine that morning, plus I have a bad history with ice fishing coverage.

Today, however, I’m extending my humblest apologies to J. Frost, M. Nature, F. the Snowman, and all ya’ll of the frozen-fingered clan.

What’s prompting my change of heart? Anglers being able to get out and ice fish, of course.

“My dad hit Roses Lake yesterday and got a limit of nice pan-frying-size rainbows,” reports Northwest Sportsman contributor Jason Brooks this morning.

Roses is in northern Chelan County just outside Manson and can be pretty good in the winter for trout.

Brooks says his pa, Al, was using Pautzke’s Fire Corn.

AL BROOKS AND HIS LIMIT OF RAINBOWS FROM ROSES LAKE ON JAN. 6, 2011. (AL BROOKS)

“When I talked to him yesterday he had only been there about a half hour and had two on the ice and about 10 missed bites,” he emailed.

Perch are also available at the lake. WDFW provides directions on how to get there on its site.

The extended forecast calls for continued cold, with temps even dipping down to the single digits across Eastern Washington, though there’s a bit of crud to make it through first.

“Right now they’re catching some spinyrays, perch, crappie, walleyes, just south of the I-90 bridge” on Moses Lake, reports Leroy Ledeboer in the Columbia Basin town of the same name. “And if the cold snap we’re expecting this weekend and early next week materializes, ice conditions should be pretty good.  I’m ready to try either Long Lake, the one in the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge,  or Banks, but today we have freezing rain, making the roads too treacherous.  Schools were canceled.”

South of the Columbia, a number of Southeast Oregon lakes are beginning to ice up or already serving up winter fish, including Unity Reservoir the hell and gone southeast of Baker City.

We previously reported on a mess more ideas for where to go ice fishing, and our January issue has tips as well.

Just use caution. Though WDFW isn’t sending its biologists and game wardens around to the ice caps with measuring sticks, the agency advises among other things:

* While ice safety can never be assured, no one should venture onto the ice unless it is at least 4 inches thick, clear and solid, according to U.S. Coast Guard guidelines. As much as 9 inches may be needed to safely support snowmobiles or other vehicles. Such ice depths can form after at least a week of below freezing temperatures, day and night.

* Don’t fish alone. Let others know exactly where you and your fishing partners are going and when you plan to return.

* Keep fishing holes small and few. When drilling fishing holes with an ice auger, keep the diameter under 8 inches. Bigger holes are not necessary to land fish and can create a safety hazard for others.

* Watch your step. Avoid ice fishing near feeder streams or known springs; brush, logs, plants or docks; multiple ice cracks or ice that is popping or otherwise audible; and dark-colored ice that may be weak.

* Spread out. Too many people congregated in one area may be more than the ice can safely support. Disperse weight and fishing holes.

* Be prepared for weather conditions. Dress in layers and wear thermal underwear, fleece or wool, and wind and waterproof outerwear, especially for feet, hands and head. Take extra clothes, food, water, sand for on-ice traction, and a sled for easy on-ice transport of all equipment.

* Be prepared for emergencies. Carry equipment such as ice picks or awls, rope, and personal flotation devices. Also pack a first-aid kit and matches for starting a fire.

UPDATE 12:55 P.M., JAN. 7, 2011: Jason Brooks just emailed and said, “Just got off of the phone with my dad…he’s back at roses with 4 fish already (less than an hour).”

UPDATE 2:58 P.M., JAN. 7, 2011: Ernie Buchanan, an Okanogan ice angler, reports 6 inches of ice at Rat Lake where the rainbows are running 12 inches. He says they’re on the “slender” side, but “lots of fishermen” are there anyway.

And here’s an uber-fresh pic from Fish Lake near Leavenworth.

ANGLER BRANDON BOREN WITH A FAIR MESS OF PERCH CAUGHT TODAY.

Be careful here, however. The report from Cove Resort is that it was 41 degrees around midday and someone fell through the ice recently.

Two More Clam Digs Coming Up, Pending Tox Tests

January 7, 2011

(WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has announced plans for another razor-clam dig this month and one in February, so long as marine toxin tests continue to show the clams are safe to eat.

Provided that upcoming tests are favorable, clam diggers will get their next chance to hit the beach Jan. 20-22 at Twin Harbors and Long Beach. The National Park Service has also scheduled a dig Jan. 21-22 at Kalaloch, located inside the Olympic National Park, to coincide with those at the other two beaches.

Digging at all three beaches will be restricted to the hours between noon and midnight.

In addition, fishery managers have tentatively scheduled a dig starting Feb. 17 at Twin Harbors and continuing Feb. 18-19 there and at Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks and Kalaloch. Again, no digging will be allowed before noon at any of those days.

Tentative digging days and tides for the two proposed openings are:

* Jan. 20, Thursday – 6:59 p.m. (-1.3 ft.); Long Beach, Twin Harbors
* Jan. 21, Friday – 7:38 p.m. (-1.1 ft.); Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Kalaloch
* Jan. 22, Saturday – 8:19 p.m. (-0.6 ft.); Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Kalaloch

* Feb. 17, Thursday – 5:53 p.m. (-0.9 ft.); Twin Harbors
* Feb. 18, Friday – 6:33 p.m. (-0.9 ft.); Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks and Kalaloch
* Feb. 19, Saturday – 7:13 p.m. (-0.5 ft.); Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks and Kalaloch

Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager, said the agency will announce spring clam-digging opportunities after assessing how many clams are still available for harvest after the next two digs.

“We want to make sure we still have clams available for spring digs, when we can schedule openings on morning tides,” Ayres said. “A lot of people look forward to digging clams on morning tides.”

Even so, Ayres noted that 19,000 diggers turned out to harvest razor clams on New Year’s Eve, the first day of the last three-day opening. Despite cold, windy conditions, diggers harvested more clams than on any day this season, he said.

Under WDFW rules, harvesters may take no more than 15 razor clams and must keep the first 15 taken, regardless of size or condition. Each digger’s limit must be kept in a separate container. All diggers must have an applicable 2010-11 fishing license to dig razor clams on any beach. A license is required for anyone age 15 or older.

Anglers can buy a combination license or an annual shellfish/seaweed license. Also available are razor-clam only licenses in annual or three-day only versions. Descriptions of the various licensing options are available on the WDFW website at fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov. A list of state license vendors is available at wdfw.wa.gov/lic/vendors/vendors.htm.

Olympic National Park Superintendent Karen Gustin urged diggers to take safety precautions during night digs, especially at Kalaloch.

“Kalaloch is considerably more remote than the other clamming beaches, and visitors should be prepared for primitive conditions,” she said. “With no streetlights or lighted buildings in the area, flashlights or lanterns are a necessity.”

Beaches in Washington with razor-clam fisheries include:

* Long Beach , which extends from the Columbia River to Leadbetter Point.
* Twin Harbors Beach , which extends from the mouth of Willapa Bay north to the south jetty at the mouth of Grays Harbor.
* Copalis Beach , which extends from the Grays Harbor north jetty to the Copalis River, and includes the Copalis, Ocean Shores, Oyhut, Ocean City and Copalis areas.
* Mocrocks Beach , which extends from the Copalis River to the southern boundary of the Quinault Reservation near the Moclips River, including Iron Springs, Roosevelt Beach, Pacific Beach and Moclips.
* Kalaloch Beach , which extends from the South Beach Campground to Brown’s Point (just south of Beach Trail 3) in the Olympic National Park.

‘Some (Wolf) Activity’ In Umatilla Co., ODFW Official Says

January 7, 2011

Umatilla County stretches well into the Blue Mountains near where Oregon’s Wenaha Pack resides, but members of it or other groups of wolves could be moving out of the timber into more open areas this winter.

Or maybe it’s just coyotes.

A driver photographed three apparent canids off Highway 11 between Pendleton and Milton-Freewater last weekend. A video he took shows dark shapes at some distance moving across a snow-covered field.

A number of wolf reports have come from the area recently.

“We know there’s some activity in Umatilla County,” Russ Morgan, ODFW’s wolf coordinator, told the East Oregonian. “We’re trying to get a handle on it, trying to determine how many and where they all are. It’s unreasonable to think there aren’t any wolves in Umatilla County.”

The paper reports that other reports have come from the Indian Lake as well as Starkey areas too.

Earlier this year, the Wenaha Pack numbered six individuals. The Imnaha Pack had “15 or 16” members, a December aerial survey found.

In 2009, reports came from much further west, Crater Lake, Sisters and Santiam Pass.

In other, possibly related, Oregon wildlife news, the Argus Observer today reports more than 100 antelope have gathered in the lowlands on either side of I-84 just north of Ontario “after heavy snows have forced them closer to town seeking food for survival.” Locals are being asked to restrain their dogs after at least two pronghorns were killed.

Moose Permit To Be Raffled Off

January 6, 2011

Have a good, strong heart?

Good, you may need it if you’re lucky enough to get drawn in the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council’s raffle to hunt moose in Northeast Washington next fall.

Not just for the pack out either.

Last year’s winner, Harry Williamson of Chattaroy, found himself “surrounded by moose!” before finally taking a 49-inch-wide bull at just 8 to 10 yards after it came right at he and his makeshift cow call.

It was the first moose hunt raffled off by the Spokane organization.

Tickets for a chance to win this year’s hunt, which stretches Sept. 1-Dec. 31 and includes all the state’s open moose units, are now on sale.

They are $10 and are available at the INWC’s office, 6116 N. Market St., Spokane, WA, 99208, or by calling (509) 487-8552

The winner can use any legal weapon and can take any moose.

If you win, you’ll still be eligible to get drawn for WDFW’s once-in-a-lifetime special permits, according to INWC executive director Wanda Clifford.

Five thousand tickets are available. Proceeds go to WDFW and help fund the club’s big game, upland bird, hunter ed and other projects.

Sales will continue up until 3 p.m. March 20 when a winner will be drawn at the Big Horn Outdoor Adventure Show.

Andy, Jim said you wanted the information on our moose hunt,

Ticket price $10.00 – 5,000 tickets to be sold

The tag is for any open moose unit in Eastern – Region 1

One moose of either sex

September 1 – December 31, 2011

Any legal weapon

Department will provide hunting license (including out of state ) and tag.

This hunt will not take away from future draws for department moose hunts.

Ticket will be drawn at the Big Horn Outdoor Adventure Show March 20 ,2011 , 3:00pm

Tickets can be purchased at the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council office or call:

509-487-8552

6116 N. Market St

Spokane, Wa

99208

We have been selling these over the phone and mailing out to

Those out of town.

Let me know if you have any questions.

More From OSP’s October Poacher Files

January 5, 2011

Damnit, despite swearing I wouldn’t continue leering at all the poacher follies, I couldn’t help but get sucked back into OSP’s October newsletter, released today.

There are some real prizes in this one — plus proof that justice prevails.

Hey, Let’s Go Snaggin For The Fun Of It!

Rct. Herman (Astoria) watched as two anglers snagged multiple salmon at Youngs River Falls, but they threw all of the salmon back into the water. As Herman approached to contact the anglers, one of the anglers saw him coming and threw his fishing rod into the brush. Herman retrieved the rod and found the anglers were using an extremely large bare treble hook with no bait or lure, and they had a large amount of lead weight wrapped around the hook shank.

Upon a frisk for weapons, Herman found one angler in possession of less than an ounce of marijuana. The anglers stated they were just snagging the salmon for fun, and they were not planning on keeping the fish. In addition, neither had a harvest card, and only one had an angling license.

Herman cited the anglers for multiple offenses including Angling Prohibited Method—Snagging, No Valid 2010 Combined Angling Harvest Card, and UPCS—Marijuana.

Not The Brightest Corky In The Display Rack, If You Get Our Drift

Rct. King (Tillamook) finished a case involving a subject who has been catching wild Chinook on the Nestucca River and not validating them on his angling harvest card. He would have his picture taken with the wild fish and display these photographs at a local sporting goods store.

The Nestucca Basin has a bag limit this year of two wild (nonadipose fin-clipped ) Chinook per year due to poor return estimates in the river system. King cited the subject for Exceeding Bag Limit Fall Chinook.

Hey, Let’s Go Snaggin For The Fun Of It, Episode 2!

While checking anglers at Big Creek, Rct. Herman (Astoria) observed an angler he cited at Youngs River Falls two days earlier for illegal salmon angling. When checking his license and tag during this patrol, Herman found the angler still did not have a harvest card. In addition, Herman discovered the second angler with him foul-hooked and retained a coho.

Although the second angler did have a harvest card, he had not validated any fish. Herman cited the first subject again for No Valid 2010 Combined Angling Harvest Card and the second for Unlawful Possession of a Foul-Hooked Salmon and Failure to Immediately Validate Angling Harvest Card.

Herman’s subsequent investigation revealed the second subject was also driving with a suspended driver license. Herman additionally cited him for DWS as well.

The Woods Are This Person’s Safeway Meat Market

Tpr. Boyd (Springfield) and Tpr. Cutsforth (Patrol) responded to a poaching complaint in the Springfield area. The complaint indicated one individual killed at least five buck deer this year. The suspect was contacted and interviewed about the alleged violations that occurred in Lane County.

At the conclusion of the contact, the troopers cited the suspect for Exceeding the Bag Limit of General Season Blacktail Buck Deer x 4, Unlawful Take of Buck Deer—No 2010 Bow Tag, and Failure to Immediately Validate Big Game Tag—2010 Western Oregon Buck Deer Tag and seized 57 large packages of deer meat, a scoped centerfire rifle, five deer buck heads, one elk skull, and an arrow shaft as evidence.

Deer Hunter Fail

Tpr. Mayer (Heppner) responded to a report of two deer hunters who shot and killed two bull elk near the Penland Lake area.

The witness stated he walked up on two young men who were very excited to have just shot and killed their deer. As the suspects were congratulating each other on their kills, the witness informed them the two animals were both bull elk, not mule deer.

Sr. Tpr. Klepp (Astoria) and Tpr. Davis (Patrol) responded to assist. The troopers seized and salvaged both elk, citing both suspects for Taking Elk Closed Season.

Belted, Deep In Left Field

Sr. Tpr. Urbigkeit (Newport) received a complaint from Toledo PD of a four-point buck shot inside the city limits the night before and left to waste. Sgt. Thompson, Sr. Tpr. Kehr, and Tpr. Van Meter (Newport) responded.

The investigation led to a subject who had seen the buck in the baseball field across from his house. He went inside and grabbed a 22 rimfire rifle and opened the top window that faced the ball field. He fired one time hitting the buck in the head and killing it.

He was going to retrieve it after dark, but when Toledo PD showed up asking questions about gunfire, he decided to leave the buck in the field. He was interviewed and eventually admitted to shooting the buck. He said he just wanted to fill his tag.

The troopers cited him for Hunting Prohibited Method—22 Rimfire, Hunting Prohibited Area—Inside City Limits, and Waste of a Game Mammal Buck Deer and seized his rifle, tag, and the deer as evidence.

Not Funny, But Notable — Case Closed: Astoria High Schoolers Sentenced For Poaching Elk

Clatsop County Circuit Court Judge Phil Nelson sentenced three 16-year-old boys for their involvement in the unlawful take and waste of four elk in April 2010. Two of the defendants shot the four elk, one of which was pregnant. Additionally, one of these two defendants led Tpr. O’Connor (Astoria) to a false location of where the incident took place.

Defendant #1 admitted to Unlawful Take of Elk—Closed Season (4 counts) and Wasting Wildlife (4 counts). The judge imposed the following sentence:
• 10 days detention at Oregon Youth Authority, served up front, and 22 additional days, used at counselor’s discretion (2 of the 10 days are for taking trooper to wrong location)
• $6,000 restitution to ODFW
• $200 restitution to OHA TIP program
• 160 hours community service at the Gnat Creek Fish Hatchery
• 2 years suspension of hunting privileges
• 5 years probation stipulating defendant write an apology letter to trooper

Defendant #2 admitted to Unlawful Take of Elk—Closed Season (2 counts) and Wasting Wildlife (2 counts). The judge imposed the following sentence:
• 4 days detention at Oregon Youth Authority with 12 days used at counselor’s discretion
• $3,000 restitution to ODFW
• $200 restitution to OHA TIP program
• 80 hours community service at the Big Creek Fish Hatchery
• 2 years suspension of hunting privileges

Defendant #3 admitted to Aiding in a Wildlife Offense. The judge imposed the following:
• $500 restitution
• $299 fine
• 2 years suspension of hunting privileges

Deer Decoy Follies

January 5, 2011

Ugh, I made it all the way to the second story in the OSP Fish & Wildlife Division’s October 2010 newsletter before I was simultaneously shocked at a father’s poor judgment and laughing at his stupidity.

To wit:

Sr. Tpr. Kipper, Sr. Tpr. Vanderwerf, and Sr. Tpr. Pearson (The Dalles) conducted a night deer [Wildlife Enforcement Decoy] operation near Dufur. A vehicle drove into the set, and the driver canted his vehicle toward the decoy to illuminate it with his headlights, parked, leaned over his 12-year-old son seated in the passenger seat, and fired a round out the passenger side window from a .300 magnum rifle.

The operator then jumped out of the vehicle, went through a ditch, grabbed the decoy, and then pulled it partway down the hill towards the road before being contacted and stopped. The troopers cited the man for Taking Deer (WED) with Aid of Artificial Light.

The eye rolls began with the third story:

Sr. Tpr. Merritt, Tpr. Stone, and Tpr. Baimbridge (Roseburg) conducted a closed season deer WED operation during the Cascade bull elk season. The first vehicle to observe the WED stopped, and the female passenger fired once using the truck window as a rest.

Upon contact, both the driver and passenger were laughing and explained that they knew it was a decoy, so the passenger shot over its back just to see what the officers would do; however, upon inspection, the brand new decoy had one well-placed bullet hole right through the ribcage.

Troopers cited the female for Unlawful Taking Deer (WED) Closed Season and the male driver for Aiding in a Wildlife Offense and seized the female’s rifle. Both admitted to knowing deer season was closed during the elk hunt.

The disgust with the fourth:

Sr. Tpr. Knapp (Enterprise) was off duty in the Sled Springs Unit when he saw a group of subjects driving the roads with rifles. Concerned there  may be illegal activities occurring in the area, he put together an operation using the 1 x 2 bull elk decoy.

The next morning, Knapp, Sr. Tpr. Coggins (Enterprise), and Sgt. Hawkins (La Grande) performed a WED operation on a well-traveled gravel road in the Sled Springs Unit. At about 7:40 a.m., a pickup drove by the decoy set, and the driver slammed on the brakes. Two occupants were in the vehicle, one adult passenger and one juvenile driver. The passenger put a rifle out the passenger side window and began shooting at the decoy. The driver jumped out, climbed in the back of the pickup, and began shooting at the decoy.

Seven shots where fired at the decoy before troopers could get them stopped. Knapp cited the passenger for Hunting from a Motor Vehicle, Aiding in a Game Violation (Hunting from a Motor Vehicle), and Open Container. The juvenile was warned for Hunting from a Motor Vehicle. They were also given several warnings on other miscellaneous violations.

And amazement at people’s idiocy with the fifth:

Sr. Tpr. Turnbo and Sr. Tpr. Reid (McMinnville) worked a deer WED operation near Timber. Two vehicles entered the set, and the drivers stopped and turned off their headlights. After about four minutes, two subjects got out with flashlights and located the decoy. Both subjects got back in their vehicles and left.

Turnbo then heard something; and, using night vision, he located a subject with a firearm walking toward the decoy. As he neared the decoy, the subject turned on a light and fired one shot with a shotgun at the decoy, causing the decoy to fall.

The subject celebrated his “victory” and walked over to the decoy. He picked up the decoy, threw it down, and took off running.

Reid arrived and announced over the PA for the subject to stop and he was under arrest. The subject ran down the trail that led right to Turnbo who told the subject he was under arrest and to stop. Turnbo saw the subject try to reload, but the subject could not find any rounds. The subject ran into the bushes. The troopers convinced him to come out, and he surrendered.

The troopers cited the subject for Taking Deer with the Aid of Artificial Light and Escape in the Third Degree.

Seriously, you go back and shoot a freakin’ deer decoy?

They don’t just wander around the woods by themselves, you know?

There’s usually a game warden or two or three nearby.

(OREGON STATE POLICE)

And that was just page 1 of the 14-page PDF.

Haysoos, I could probably spend another hour shaking my head at all the (alleged) ijits!

But in this case, I must actually get some work done today instead of blogging it all up.

(Turns out, I couldn’t look away.)

If you have time to burn, however, I heartily recommend downloading OSP game wardens’ October issue.

The November is expected to be posted fairly soon as well.

AW

NWS

NW WA Permit Brant Hunt A Go

January 4, 2011

That big “phew” you just heard in Pugetropolis?

The editor of Northwest Sportsman after getting word that there are enough brant in Skagit County to hold a hunt this month.

In our January issue, we have a three-page feature on the history, tradition and rarity of the hunt, which only occurs when there are at least 6,000 of the geese back on bays of the North Puget Sound county.

Last year, only 6,002 showed.

There are more than enough, however, this year. According to WDFW, a Monday morning aerial count found 8,519 brant on Fidalgo, Padilla and Samish bays.

“Significant” numbers were also seen elsewhere in the North Sound, including 6,877 birds in Whatcom County to the north, WDFW reports.

Hunting is scheduled Jan. 15, 16, 19, 22, 23, 26, 29 and 30 with a bag limit of two geese per day.

To participate in the Skagit County brant season, hunters must have written authorization and a harvest record card from WDFW. After taking a brant, hunters are required to record their harvest information immediately, and report their harvest to WDFW by Feb. 15. Hunters who fail to report by Feb. 15 will be ineligible to hunt brant in the 2011-2012 season.

Our feature on the hunt included some great photos courtesy of longtime brant hunter Maynard Axelson:

For more on the traditions and history of Washington brant hunting, see our January issue, on sale at newsstands now.

WDFW Chief To Discuss Merger In Spokane

January 4, 2011

With the start of what’s sure to be a bruising legislative session dead ahead, WDFW Director Phil Anderson’s schedule is fast filling up, but right now he is expected to be in Spokane early next week to talk about the proposed merger of his agency with State Parks, and other topics.

The get-together will occur at the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council‘s headquarters, 6116 N. Market St., at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, January 11.

According to Wanda Clifford, INWC executive director, it will be open to club members and the general public.

Anderson is expected to take questions.

A WDFW spokesman says that the director as well as Deputy Director Joe Stohr often meet with Washington’s outdoor clubs. INWC is among the state’s oldest sportsman’s groups; it was founded in 1951.

$1,000 Reward Offered For Info On Nehalem Elk Poaching

January 4, 2011

A pair of vehicles from the Portland area may be key to figuring out whomever illegally slaying a 3×3 bull elk near Nehalem just before Thanksgiving.

Oregon State Police Trooper Clint Galusha believes that four Hispanic male adults associated with a dark blue full-sized Hummer and a newer model gray or silver Ford three-quarter ton crew cab pickup were involved in killing and wasting the animal off of Lost Creek Road.

It was found near the bottom of a clearcut.

POACHED ELK, LOST CREEK ROAD NEAR NEHALEM, ORE. (OSP)

Though the incident occurred during the second Coast rifle elk season, the hunt in that area was only open for spike bulls.

OSP was unable to salvage any meat from the carcass.

The Oregon Hunter’s Association in is offering a $1,000.00 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for this crime.

Anyone with information on the case is being urged to call the OSP Turn in Poacher (TIP) line at 1-800-452-7888 or Galusha at (503) 815-3314.

November saw several other elk-poaching incidents on the North Coast, including the deaths of three near the Clatsop and Columbia County line and three more along the Trask River as well as the shooting of a spike in the Wilson River drainage.

The WDFW Merger Files: Power Grab, Says TDN

January 4, 2011

The Daily News of Longview has an editorial today that says Gov. Christine Gregoire’s proposal to merge WDFW and State Parks isn’t just about dealing with the massive budget shortfall, but is an attempt to “enhance and consolidate gubernatorial power.”

The paper says that the realignment would strip the voter-approved Fish & Wildlife Commission of its power to hire and fire WDFW’s director and put it under the governor’s office, a move which would “likely will draw strenuous objections from fishermen and hunters, who tend to want commissioners drawn from their ranks and a commission sympathetic to their agendas.”

It also notes that the merger would save just $2.5 million in 2011-13, “which amounts to only one-twentieth of 1 percent of the state’s $4.6 billion revenue gap.”

All of 13 1/2 full-time positions would be eliminated as a result of merging WDFW, Parks, the Recreation and Conservation Office and Department of Natural Resources’ law-enforcement wing.

“Trying to change the Olympia power structure for fish and parks at the same time would only distract legislators’ attention from their sobering task,” The Daily News writes.

But there is one benefit to a merger, the paper says: With DNR’s cops coming into the “Department of Conservation and Recreation,” Cowlitz County might at least have a game warden based in the county in the future.

As of late 2010, there was none.

WDFW Director Phil Anderson is scheduled to speak to Spokane’s Inland Northwest Wildlife Council about the proposed merger soon. He will also be taking questions. The meeting will be open to the general public.

For more reaction to Gregoire’s proposal, see these links:

More Reaction To WDFW-Parks Merger

Early Reaction To WDFW-Parks Merger

So Far, Not Much of a Buzz About Proposed Wildlife Merger

2010 Best Year Yet For WA Tuna: Early Stats

January 4, 2011

UPDATED 10:10 A.M., JAN. 4, 2011 WITH REVISED NUMBERS THAT SHOW THE ALBACORE CATCH WAS EVEN HIGHER THAN FIRST REPORTED.

Preliminary data obtained by Northwest Sportsman shows that 2010 may have been the best year yet for recreational albacore fishing off Washington’s coast.

A total of 31,508 tuna were landed last year, according to the state Department of Fish & Wildlife.

That’s at least 6,400-plus albies above previous high marks seen in 2007 (25,083) and 2006 (just under 25,000).

WASHINGTON ANGLER JARED DAVIS SHOWS OFF AN ALBACORE FROM THE 2009 SEASON. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

The figures, which are still being worked on though aren’t expected to change much, show that private boats brought in 12,358 while those aboard charters accounted for 19,150.

Both are apparent records back through at least 2007 and likely beyond.

Part of last year’s bump may be due to the two albacore derbies held on the coast, one out of Ilwaco, the other out of Westport.

Washington’s 2010 albie catch was still nowhere close to Oregon’s. Last week, we learned that the Beaver State’s fleet brought an estimated 37,743 tuna back to Newport, Coos Bay, Garibaldi and other ports there, according to preliminary stats from ODFW’s Eric Schindler.

That puts 2010 behind only 2007 (58,922) and 2009 (42,055).

DAVID BRENEMAN THROWS A KUNG-FU-STYLE GRIP ON AN ALBIE CAUGHT OUT OF DEPOE BAY IN MID-AUGUST 2010, ONE OF THE 37,000-PLUS TUNA BROUGHT BACK TO SHORE IN OREGON LAST YEAR. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

Final numbers for Washington come out in early February.

The state’s primary albacore ports are Westport and Ilwaco, though some tuna are brought back to La Push and Neah Bay.