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Outdoors blog

Archive for May 2011

Video: Lochsa River delivers whitewater thrills

RIVER RUNNING — People lined up along Highway 12 over the Memorial Day weekend for a whitewater thrill show as rafters and kayakers challenged the big runoff waves on Idaho's Lochsa River.

This YouTube video captures the action, and believe me, there's plenty to see… ejected guides, bad breaks, you name it. 

There's a reason the specators in the background are hooting and hollering.

Rafter dies in Lochsa River whitewater

RIVER RUNNING — A Wisconsin man drowned while rafting on the Lochsa River on Saturday, according to a report filed today by S-R reporter Alison Boggs.

This is the second rafting fatality in the region this spring, following the death of a Hauser, Idaho, man last week on the Owyhee River in Oregon.

In the Lochsa incident, Randy A. Eroen, 35, of Sun Prairie, Wis., drowned after his raft hit a rapid and all four occupants fell out. Two were able to get back in, a third made it to shore, but Eroen was swept down river, a news release from the Idaho County Sheriff’s Office said. The sheriff’s office received the call at 1:41 p.m.

Eroen was unable to reach the life rope thrown to him by two kayakers accompanying the group, the release said. The kayakers went after Eroen, pulled him from the river and started CPR. They were joined by the rest of the rafting party, who continued CPR until medical assistance arrived.

For experienced rafters, the river is big with spring runoff but not what they would consider “huge.” 

Read on for the rest of Boggs' story:

Clearwater River angler sets bar high for springers

SALMON FISHING — Chuck Thompson of Lewiston battled a fish for 30 minutes before netting an icon of the 2011 spring chinook run up the Snake River System.

His 36-pounder caught May 22 on the Clearwater River is a glimpse at the run's heavily weighted component of fish that spent three or more years in saltwater before making the long return up the Columbia and Snake systems to Idaho hatcheries or spawning areas.

Thompson's fish measured 40 inches long. Girth was 27.5 inches at its pectoral fins, 26 inches at its dorsal fin and 20 inches at its scarred-over adipose fin, according to a Lewiston Tribune story by Eric Barker. 

The salmon weighed 35 pounds and 15 ounces— after it had been bled and stored in the boat four hours.

“It's not a state record, not even close,” Barker points out. “That belongs to Merrold Gold, who caught a 54-pounder from the Salmon River in 1954.

But it's as big a fish as most people can recall coming from the Clearwater River in the past decade or so.

“I've been salmon fishing for 20 years in this area and it's the biggest fish I ever caught,” Thompson said.

The fillets alone were 14 pounds each.

Fish and Game officials are seeing some large fish in this year's run. Chinook in the 25- to 30-pound range have spent three years in the ocean and are well represented in this year's run. Ed Schriever, the department's fisheries chief, said all of the fish are in good condition this year.

“These fish obviously are heavy for their length. They are in good condition. They are plump. They are well fed,” he told the Tribune.

Salmon River spring chinook fishing report

SALMON FISHING — Here's today's Salmon River spring chinook salmon fishing report from  Amy Sinclair of Exodus Wilderness Adventures in Riggins:

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game have documented a total of 21 Chinook harvested from the Salmon River; 16 adult and 5 jacks with the bulk of these fish caught in the Hammer Creek to Rice Creek area. While this is great news, overall the fishing in Riggins is still very slow; 51 hours per fish.

Continuous high flows are slowing the migration of the Chinook and keeping many fishermen from being able to go fishing.

Read on for more details from Amy:

Cougars, wolves on Washington commission’s agenda

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT —  Cougar management and the state Endangered Species Program are on the agenda for the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting Friday and Saturday in Olympia. 

During the two-day meeting, the commission is scheduled to hear a briefing on cougar management, including research projects, population objectives, hunting seasons and outreach and education.

Another briefing will cover the recent release of the state's revised draft Wolf Conservation and Management Plan.

Population trends of other predators – such as black bear and coyote – and predator-prey management also will be covered.

A complete meeting agenda is available on the commission’s website.

Other agenda topics include discussion of: 

  • Efforts to protect and rebuild weak salmon and steelhead stocks. 
  • Management of coastal forage fish.
  • The state fish hatchery system.

A public hearing on proposed amendments to the list of game reserves is scheduled. The proposed amendments would clarify and update the boundary description for Swinomish Spit Game Reserve and eliminate the Ellensburg Game Farm Reserve and South Tacoma Game Farm Reserve.

The commission also is scheduled to take action on several proposed land transactions.
  

Fish Lake Trail mural marred by vandals

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TRAILS — Vandalism has marred a mural in the Fish Lake Trail tunnel less than two weeks after volunteers had put all but the finishing touches on the colorful farm-to-rail scenes.

Apparently on Friday night, a paint roller was used to write graffiti and ruin every panel on both sides of the tunnel near Marshall, said Dan Schaffer, who heads the friends group that stewards the trail.

Eastern Washington University art students had worked for weeks to design and outline the farm-and-railroad-themed mural. Volunteers ranging from kids to retired helpers showed up on May 14-15 to add color to the outline.

 The popular paved railroad right of way starts near Sunset Boulevard and Government Way and runs 7.4 miles to Scribner Road near Marshall.

Email tips that might lead to the perpetrator to the Fish Lake Trail friends group at traildan@comcast.net.

Tax-deductible contributions for repairing the mural can be sent to Inland Northwest Trails Coalition, PO Box 3331, Spokane WA 99220-3331.  (Dan Schaffer funded most of the first round, including artist fees, by himself.)

Info: traildan@comcast.net

Hikers negotiating Lake Chelan Trail washout

BACKPACKING — The big lingering snowpack and advent of warmer, wet weather is raising the pucker factor for any backpackers heading out on routes that cross streams.

A point I missed in my Sunday story about hiking the Lake Chelan Shoreline Trail is  that rising creeks have caused some trail damage. Over the May 14-15 weekend, rainwater flowed through the Meadow Creek drainage, washing out a section of the Lakeshore Trail.

Experienced hikers can still get through this area by hiking down close to the lake, crossing the creek and hiking back up to the trail, the Forest Service reports.  But the difficulty could change daily with the weather and the amount of runnoff coming down the creek.

Hikers looking for easier access to the Lakeshore Trail can plan trips between Stehekin and Moore Point to avoid the Meadow Creek area.

Updates: Chelan Ranger Station, (509) 682-4900.


  

Check status before hiking Kirkwood Ranch Trail in Hells Canyon

HIKING — After reading my series of stories on early spring hikng in Sunday's Outdoors section, several readers have emailed reports aboout rockslides and closures on Snake River Trail 102 between Pittsburg Landing to Kirkwood Ranch in Hells Canyon. 

But according to an advisory posted May 25 on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest Snake River website, the Snake River Trail is closed about 3/4 mile south of Kirkwood Ranch. 

That means the trail is still open for the 5.2-mile stretch between Pittsburg Landing and the ranch site and then 3/4-mile  farther.

A reader who recently talked to a Hells Canyon staffer said he reported the forest will need a blasting crew to fix the trail.  That might not happen until later in the summer.

 Watch the advisory website or call this number on weekdays for updates: (208) 628-3916.

Sunday outdoors was wildlife Rich

WILDLIFE — My day has been crawling with wildlife.

6 a.m.: Going out to get the newspaper, I see a robin chick has just broken out of its egg in the nest behind the house. Naked pink and squirming with a little shell still on its shoulder.  It's only 43 degrees.

8 a.m.: While running the dogs near Airway Heights, my young English setter locked on point and then looked back at me as if to seek advice. He was 20 yards from a pack of milk chocolate brown fur-ball coyote pups just big enough to run away through the tall grass.  We went the other direction.

5 p.m.  I'm back from a waterfowl viewing trek through the Slavin Conservation Area wetlands south of Spokane. Turns out my wife and I and the two dogs brought some wildlife home with us.

A quick comb and brush job on the dogs fetched at least 20 ticks.

Meredith and I have each plucked a couple off ourselves. I found one crawling up the bathroom wall.  I think I flicked one off accidentally into the wild turkey and Thai stir-fry I prepared for dinner.

I'm thinking we'll open a nice bottle of Merlot for the final tick check of the day.

Photos capture Spokane River kayakers in HydroTherapy

PADDLING — Conditions were cold and wet and the Spokane River was running big for Thursday's HydroTherapy session at Dead Dog Wave and Cyclops.

The Stateline play spots attracted a hearty group of paddlers learning and practicing tricks. 

Photographer Michael Kinney captured the action with his camera in a series of shots you can view on his Facebook page

Outdoor news trends from the past week

OUTDOORS TRENDS — Compiled by Headwaters, here are a few of the past week's outdoors and environmental news stories to ponder while relaxing this weekend:

USFWS study tracks lead's effect on songbirds in Idaho basin
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is studying the effects of lead in mine waste on songbirds in Idaho's Coeur D'Alene River basin.
Spokane Spokesman-Review; May 27


Senate bill would release 43M acres of public lands from wilderness designation

Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch is among the members of the Senate Western Caucus that introduced legislation Thursday to remove 43 million acres of public lands from wilderness designation and would terminate Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's “wildlands” executive order issued last December.
Deseret News; May 27

Grizzly bear recovery efforts may take them off the endangered list
Efforts to recover the grizzly bear population in the United States have been ongoing since 1983, and the number of bears in the Northern Continental Divide recovery zone, one of five such zones, may have reached the point where they can be removed from the endangered species list, but those involved in the recovery effort wonder how the route wolf delisting took will affect the bear's path off the endangered species list.
Missoula Independent; May 27

Right-click here to download pictures. To help protect your privacy, Outlook prevented automatic download of this picture from the Internet.
Washington state fish farmers say dam releases into Columbia River killing fish

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation officials said they have no option other than to release massive amounts of water from the Grand Coulee Dam into the Columbia River in Washington state, as they need to make room for run-off from snowmelt, but the releases thus far have resulted in the buildup of dissolved nitrogen and other gases that are killing fish.
Seattle Times; May 27

Alaska officials warn folks not to mess with moose after spate of attacks
There are an estimated 1,500 moose living in and around Anchorage, and after a number of recent attacks, Alaska wildlife officials warned folks to try to avoid the large animals.
Denver Post (AP); May 27



Montana officials say flooding may be worst in decades

The U.S. Geological Survey said record flows were reported in many Montana rivers, and communities such as Roundup and Joliet reported widespread flooding.
Helena Independent Record (AP); May 27

  

 

New manager takes reins of BLM’s Spokane District

PUBLIC LANDS — The U.S. Bureau of Land Management will swear in its new Spokane District manager on Tuesday at the district office,1103 North Fancher Rd.

 Daniel Picard has been the Superintendent for the Uintah and Ouray Agency of the Bureau of Indian Affairs since 2007. Picard has two decades of service with the Nez Perce Tribe and the Bureau of Indian Affairs working on water rights, dam safety, FERC relicensing, cultural resource protection, fisheries management, and oil and gas leasing.

Lake Roosevelt water levels continue to rise

RESERVOIRS — The Lake Roosevelt water elevation was 1,234.1 at noon today and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation predicts the level will continue to rise 1-2 feet a day through the Memorial Day weekend.

The agency predicted today that the lake will be about 1,250 by the end of next week.  However, conditions continue to change rapidly which will influence the rate of rise next week. 

According to the Lake Roosvelt minimum levels for boat lauching chart, the current water elevation of 1,234 feet meets the minimun needed for five of the lake's 22 boat lauches.

Oregon burg hands out $4K in tickets to bicyclists

CYCLING — Police in the town of Amity, Ore., wrote more than $4,000 in traffic tickets Saturday during an annual charity bicycle ride that passed through the community, the Associated Press reports.

Some riders told KGW-TV they thought police were at the intersection to allow riders through since it was an organized event.

Not so.

Police Chief Dan Brown told the TV reporter his officers have tried for years to get the bicyclists to comply with traffic laws and says “we had to take it a step further.”

About 3,000 people paid to participate in the organized “Reach the Beach” tour from Portland to the Oregon coast.

KGW says that at one corner in Amity, 14 bicyclists received traffic tickets for $317 each. Amity police say riders were not stopping at the stop sign.

Reach the Beach organizers say they warned riders in brochures that they must follow all traffic laws.

Iller Creek trail project needs volunteers

COUNTY PARKS — The National Trails Day weekend work project scheduled for Liberty Lake County Park has been changed to put more muscle to Spokane County’s popular Iller Creek Conservation Area up from Dishman-Mica Road.

Volunteers are needed June 4 or 5 to improve the popular trail in the Conservation Futures area that sweeps up to the Rocks of Sharon. loop trail at Liberty Lake County Park.

Washington Trails Association trail crew leader Jane Baker already has organized several work parties for the Iller Creek and Liberty Lake trails this season.

The  effort to re-route portions of the Iller Creek trail is among seven volunteer trail work parties WTA is sponsoring June 4-5 in recognition of  National Trails Day.

No prior experience is necessary, just a desire to help out and have fun. Helpers must wear proper boots and clothing and bring water and food.  Tools are provided

Work parties begin at the trailhead around 8:30 a.m. and end at 3:30 p.m.

Pre-registration is required, or call (206) 625-1367.

Nature’s runoff driving fish kill at Rufus Woods

FISHERIES —  Commercial net-pen-raised rainbows are dying by the hundreds of thousands from the impact of the huge runoff pouring down the Columbia River through Grand Coulee Dam — and federal water managers say there's little they can do to help the Pacific Seafood operators.

This year's spring snow melt is forcing the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to increase water flows through the dam. The turbulent water is releasing gases, including nitrogen, which inflicts on fish a condition similar to the bends in scuba divers when they surface too quickly. Gas levels have been more than 130% of normal recently, the Seattle Times reports.

“We've easily got hundreds of thousands of dead fish,” Bill Clark told the Seattle paper. He works for Pacific Aquaculture, which farms big rainbows, marketed as steelhead.

Pacific Aquaculture's parent company, Pacific Seafood, says it is losing 100,000 fish a day from the 2.7 million still living on the farm in the river 20 miles south of the Grand Coulee, according to a report on SeattlePI.com.

Washington Fish and Wildlife Department fisheries biologists say wild fish are not likely to suffer serious impacts from they increased flows, since they are not bound by nets and can move deeper to more favorable water conditions.

However, this years' big drawdown and outflow from the dam likely is flushing man rainbows and kokanee downstream and out of the Lake Roosevelt system, they say.

This year's net pen crop of sport fish in Lake Roosevelt are scheduled for release after the runoff to help assure they'll stay in the reservoir.

Pacific Aquaculture manager John Bielka doesn't agree with state fisheries biologists regarding the impacts of the flows on fisheries.

“They're basically sterilizing this entire stretch of river,” Bielka told the Times. “That's going to wipe out not only the fish in our farm, but also the bull trout, the lamprey, the sturgeon and every other wild thing.”

Bureau officials told the Times they have no alternative - there's simply too much melting snow that would cause flooding if the dam flow were lessened.

Scotchman Peaks Wilderness friends leading group hikes

HIKING — The annual summer series of group hikes organized by the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness will begin June 4 with a trek into Thunder Creek northeast of Lake Pend Oreille.

The moderately difficult hike is just the first of 15 hikes the group is offering this summer along with three cooperative trail work projects coordinated with the Forest Service.

In addition, the friends group is offering two hiking workshops with author, naturalist and historian Jack Nisbet.

The group hikes are geared to exposing the public to the rugged and scenic 88,000-acre roadless area the group is proposing for wilderness designation. The area straddles the Idaho-Montana border northeast of Clark Fork, Idaho, and ranges into Montana.

“We have some great hikes, as usual, but we are expanding our focus to include more stewardship and education,” said FSPW program coordinator Sandy Compton.

ICL group hikes range from Lake Pend Oreille to high Selkirks

HIKING — A June 4 hike along the proposed Pend Oreille Bay Trail kicks of the summer-long series of free guided North Idaho dayhikes organized by The Idaho Conservation League.

The hike series, which overlaps with a series of hikes offered by the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness, is geared to introducing people to the wealth of backcountry trail attractions in the Selkirk and Cabinet Mountains.

Read on to see the list of hikes currently scheduled or go to the ICL North Idaho Hikes website to register for trips and see if more trips have been added to the season schedule.

Trombetta Canyon boundary proposed by DNR in Colville

PUBLIC LANDS — The Washington State Department of Natural Resources  will hold a public hearing in Colville regarding a proposed boundary to limit access to the Trombetta Canyon Natural Area Preserve.

Trombetta Canyon, 2 miles southeast of Northport in Stevens County, is a striking geological feature, consisting of a dry cliff-sided canyon incised in a raised limestone formation, with no apparent source of flowing water to have formed it.

The public hearing is set for 6 p.m., Tuesday, May 24, at the DNR Armory Building, 225 S. Silke Rd. in Colville. 

See a fact sheet onthe proposal at the DNR’s website.

Read on for more details.

Rescued hiker not feeling the love from Glacier Park officials

BACKPACKING — Glacier National Park officials breathed a sigh of relief this week after an aerial search fairly quickly turned up an overdue backpacker who'd set out on an overambitious spring itinerary.

But after returning the Helena man safely to civilization, ark officials issued a press release making it clear they are not impressed with people who set out on solo adventures that have a high probability of putting rescuers in harm's way.

Read on for the details.

Massive fish kill reported at Lake Rufus Woods

FISHERIES — Owners of Pacific Seafood say the dissolved gasses resulting from increased flows out of Grand Coulee Dam are killing up to 100,000 large rainbow trout a day in the commercial net pens downstream.

The fish are raised in the Lake Rufus Woods net pens for sale and for stocking the Colville Indian Reservation lakes.   The fish also help nurture a popular rainbow trout sport fishery.

Pacific Seafood officials called on the Bureau of Reclamation to alter the way it’s coping with flood-stage flows out of Grand Coulee, although the resolution isn't clear since the Columbia River is flooding in its lower reaches.

 “If this practice isn’t stopped immediately, it will result in more than $30 million in economic damage to our company alone,” Craig Urness, Pacific Seafood spokesman said today.

“There are currently 2.7 million fish still living on the fish farm that are being threatened by this environmental and economic catastrophe.”

Washington Fish and Wildlife Department fisheries biologists had not investigated the fish kill.  They said wild fish outside the net pens would likely have the opportunity to detect poor water conditions and move to safer waters.  However, they couldn't say for certain today.

River rangers say rafters on their own in Cataract Canyon

RIVER RUNNING — The National Park Service is abandoning its normal practice of stationing rangers at a rescue camp near the most dangerous stretch of the world-renowned rapids of Utah's Cataract Canyon on the Colorado River.

A story in the Deseret News explains that with high water everywhere this year, the Park Service said it won't be setting up the rescue camp and notified river-running companies to be prepared to self rescue.
  

Gear up for weekend reopening of spring chinook fishing

SALMON FISHING — Anglers in Washington will get another chance to catch spring chinook from the lower Snake River starting Saturday.

Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune delved into the details in the following story published today.

Read on.

Crews trying to clear mountain passes

OUTDOOR ACCESS — Highway crews are making headway on clearing snow from mountain passes that give outdoor enthusiasts quick access to the high country.

North Cascades Highway was cleared on Wednesday and another Cascades route, Cayuse Pass, is supposed to be clear today, but many other passes, such as Chinook Pass, are still clogged with snow.

You can follow progress in plowing the passes online, although the work on some popular passes is covered in great detail, such as the video above from this week's work on the Beartooth Highway out of Red Lodge, Mont.

Plowing on the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park also is a popular project to watch because hikers and cyclists have motor-vehicle-free access to the famous road while the plows are working to open the route over Logan Pass.

Join local experts on nature hikes

NATURE —  Get more out of a walk in the woods by joining a group hike with a nature-related group.  Here are two good upcoming options:

Saturday, Bird Walk with Friends of Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.

Join Marian Frobe, 8 a.m.-noon, for a walk around the Pine Lakes and Headquarters Pond areas to look for and listen to the spring migrants, as well as singing resident birds.  All the birds are in their breeding plumage now.  The local trumpeter swan family might even be around.

Pre-register: 328-0621 to get directions.  Bring water, binoculars and lunch in case you want to extend your stay.

June 4,  Liberty Lake Park walk with Native Plant Society.

Join John McCormick, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., in a walk into a cedar forest with ferns, shade-loving wildflowers, and possibly some interesting mushrooms. Bring lunch and dress for weather and hiking.

Contacts: Email Darcy Varona darcy.varona@gmail.com or James Earl james.earl@ihs.gov.

Lawsuit postpones sea lion removal plan

FISHING — The Humane Society of the United States says it has reached an agreement with the states of Oregon and Washington and a federal agency to temporarily halt plans to kill California sea lions at Bonneville Dam this year, the Associated Press reports.

The agreement with the states and NOAA Fisheries Service suspends plans to kill as many as 85 sea lions at the dam, where they feed on federally protected salmon and steelhead migrating up the Columbia River.

Earlier this month, the fisheries service had authorized the states to resume killing some sea lions after a federal appeals court struck down the previous authorization last year.

HSUS argues that overfishing, hatchery practices and dam operations are a much bigger threat to fish.

But angling groups point out that the dam creates an unnatural ambush situation that must be dealt with.

Length does matter for fly casters

FLY FISHING — Distance casting isn’t necessary for most fly fishers working small trout streams.

“But there are times, if you can cast an extra 10-13 feet, it will increase your success, especially for salmon and steelhead,” said Steve Rajeff, of G.Loomis Rods.

Rajeff is a bit of an expert on this subject. The nternational casting champion, featured in my recent Sunday Outdoors feature story, holds the American Casting Association one-hand rod record cast of 243 feet.

“If you cast a little farther when fishing a lake, you get a longer retrieve and therefore you cover more water. Saltwater anglers definitely benefit when they can lengthen their cast.”

Bear Aware websites offer tips on bear sprays and more

BACKPACKING — The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee stresses the importance of following proper bear avoidance safety techniques and recommends bear spray as an effective tool for personal safety when recreating in bear country.

Bear spray has the potential to reduce human injuries and the number of bears that are killed as a result of conflicts with humans. The active ingredient in bear spray is an extremely strong irritant that turns the tables on an aggressive bear.

IGBC bear spray recommendations and other useful information can be found on the IGBC Website or read on for tips on buying and using bear spray.

Snake River spring chinook fishing reopens Saturday

SALMON FISHING  – Several new fishing opportunities for hatchery-reared spring chinook salmon are opening on the Columbia and Snake rivers for the holiday weekend as the season enters its final leg.

Fishery managers from Washington and Oregon today agreed to expand or reopen fisheries in the several areas, including the Little Goose and Clarkston areas of the Snake River starting Saturday.

Read on for details from the announcement released at 5:30 p.m.

Snow, runoff impact some Panhandle forest roads, campgrounds

PUBLIC LANDS — Flooding and a lingering winter snow pack will keep several popular campgrounds and recreation sites in the Idaho Panhandle National Forests closed for the Memorial Day weekend, forest officials announced today.

For updates on recreational opportunities and road conditions, visit the “Alerts and Notices” section of the IPNF website

Read on for tthe list of recreation sites forest officials said would be closed at least through this holiday weekend:

East Slope Cascades roads impacted by runoff

PUBLIC LANDS — Numerous roads on the East Slope of the North Cascades are impacted or closed by snow and runoff, the Washington Department of Natural Resources said today.

Portions of some roads in the Colockum and L.T. Murray wildlife areas are closed, as well as some in the Naneum Ridge State Forest and a few in Yakima County.

See a detailed list of the road closures.

High water closes Lake CdA boat access sites

LAKE ACCESS – The Blackwell Island public boat launch and others on Lake Coeur d’Alene will remain closed until the high water subsides, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced today.

“The launch facility is currently under 2 feet of water, with the lake level expected to rise another foot by Friday,” said BLM Park Ranger Glenn Bailey.

Other Coeur d'Alene Lake facilities affected by the high water conditions include BLM’s Windy Bay site, which is currently under about 18 inches of water. 

If the water comes up as high as expected, the walk-in access into Mica Bay Boater Park will be under water as well.

“These three sites are expected to have the greatest impact from the high water situation in the Coeur d'Alene Field Office area,” Bailey said.

Killarney Lake boat launch and Huckleberry Campground facilities may see some impacts as well.”

BLM officials say they will reassess the high water situation for the Coeur d’Alene Lake sites after June 1. 

Silver Mountain to be open for skiing Saturday AND Sunday

SPRING SKIINGSilver Mountain officials have just announced that the resort will open its lifts for skiing and snowboarding on Saturday AND Sunday from 8 a.m.-1:30 p.m.

An announcement earlier this week suggested the resort would be open for only one day.

Operators report 102 inches of snow at Kellogg Peak and 54 inches at mid-mountain.  A whopping 448 inchs of snow fell on the mountain this season.

Elsewhere, Steve Reynolds of Spokane skinned up to climb Mount Spokane on Friday to get the corn-snow skiing shot above.

Farther west,  Crystal Mountain is planning to ski into June and perhaps even July.

Paradise, on the south side of Mount Rainier, is still blanketed with more than 18 feet of snow.

In other words, the epic winter that produced such a spectacular ski season will also certainly mean a late start to hiking season on higher elevation mountain trails.

18 tickets remain for Aldo Leopold documentary at IMAX

CONSERVATION — Due to cancellations, more free tickets are coming available for the Thursday showing of Greenfire, the story of Aldo Leopld. The Forest Service encourages you to check back often at the Spokane event registration website. As of this posting there are 18 tickets available.

Green Fire, the first full-length, high-definition documentary film about legendary conservationist Aldo Leopold is coming to Spokane's Riverfront IMAX Theater Thursday, 7 p.m.  The show was sold out Monday morning but the FREE tickets have re-emerged. 

The late Leopold, known as the father of modern wildlife management, shares highlights from his extraordinary career, explaining how he shaped conservation and the modern environmental movement.

Leopold is the author of A Sand County Almanac, which should be required reading for everyone who steps foot outdoors.

Flooding closes access to Montana rivers

FISHING — Flooding on the Bitterroot and Clark Fork rivers has forced Montana officials to close many fishing access sites this week.

Bitterroot River sites closed today include, from south to north: Hannon Memorial, WW White, Darby Bridge, Wally Crawford, Woodside Bridge, Tucker Crossing, Bell Crossing, Poker Joe and Florence Bridge.

Clark Fork sites closed near Missoula include Turah, Schwartz Creek, Kona and Kelly Island (Mullan Road access only).

Blackfoot River closed sites include Monture. 

Closures will continue until flood conditions subside.  Additional fishing access site closures are possible as conditions change.

The closures basically are a moot issue for anglers, since the rivers are blown out.  Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks is advising boaters to stay off the rivers until flows subside and the abundance of dangerous logs and debris filter out.

Rock Creek is not closed but FWP officials say it's flowing dangerously high and carrying a lot of debris. A log jam has been reported at river mile 27 (upstream from the microburst site). Another log jam is reported near river mile 30 near the Hog Back

Cougar stalks men on Olympic Peninsula

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — Two men kept their cool and successfully retreated from an aggressive cougar near Hoquiam, Wash., on Sunday.

According to a KING 5 report, Puget Sound salmon manager Steve Thiesfeld said the two men were completing a habitat survey on the Little Hoquiam River when they spotted the cougar following them, with ears back and hissing.
  
The two faced the animal, waved their arms and inched toward the road for about 20 minutes.
  
Theisfeld told reporters the cat came within striking distance several times before they made it to the roadway, where they climbed into their truck.

See Spokane River roar while hiking city’s 17-bridges

HIKING – Spectacular runoff pouring down the Spokane River will highlight the third annual Spokane Bridge Walk organized June 4 by Spokane Parks and Recreation.

Sign up for the event, get a map and walk at your own pace with friends 9:30 a.m. -10:30 a.m.  to cover the 4.5-mile loop that crosses 17 bridges in the heart of Spokane.  The walk starts at Monroe Street Bridge and ends at Rotary Riverfront Fountain.

A check-in table will be staffed at Veteran’s Court on the north bank of the Spokane River between Post and Monroe streets.  Pay a fee ($19 adults, $12 youths 5-16) to help support city parks recreation programs and get a map and bridges pin.
 
Register online
.
 
Read on for more event details:

Tetons search and rescue costs soar

NATIONAL PARKS — Search and rescue operations are costing Grand Teton National Park millions of dollars topped by last month's $115,000 search for missing backcountry skiers.

In 2009, the last year figures were available, the National Park Service spent about $5 million performing search and rescue operations. The recent search for Walker Kuhl of Utah and Gregory Seftick of Montana, who went missing on a backcountry ski trip, cost the park $115,000, nearly double of any previous search and rescue operation.

The debate over who should pay for such operations increases along with the costs, according to this story on Wyofile.com.


  

Grande Ronde tributary opening for chinook

SALMON FISHING — For the first time in a decade, Lookingglass Creek, a tributary to the Grande Ronde River, will open to fishing for hatchery spring chinook salmon on Saturday.

“We’ve revamped the hatchery program for Lookingglass Creek in order to provide more consistent fishing opportunity,” said Tim Bailey, ODFW district fish biologist. This year’s return is predicted to be about 1,000 chinook, most of them hatchery fish.

Read on for details from Oregon Fish and Wildlife.

New Northwest region forester takes helm

PULBIC LANDS— Kent Connaughton, 64, is almost a month into his new job as the U.S. Forest Service's Northwest Regional forester based in Portland.

He's a veteran who seem to have the right temperament for the times.

Read a Vancouver Columbian profile of the man who will lead the national forests in Washington and Oregon, along with this thoughts on the most controversial current issue facing the Forest Service: The Obama administration’s proposal to change the rule under which the agency develops individual forest plans.

Two tips for initiating a better fly cast

FLY FISHING — In a Sunday Outdoors feature story on the art of fly casting, Joe Roope of Castaway Fly Shop in Coeur d'Alene offered  two tips anglers should keep in mind on the front end of initiating a good fly cast:

1. Start the cast with the rod tip at the water.

The idea is to load the rod with the weight of the line and the friction of the water on the line on the pickup and back cast.

That’s where the energy is generated. It’s like archery: The bow is what releases all the energy and delivers the arrow.

2. Pick up the perfect amount of line.

Every line-rod combination has a different optimum place to start the cast. It could be 10, 15, 20 feet or whatever, depending on the stiffness of the rod and the weight and taper of the line.

Experiment by putting out different lengths of line in front of you and picking it up for a back cast. Pretty soon you find the right swing weight of line so the rod loads perfectly on the pickup and the cast is effortless.”

Some anglers use a permanent ink pen to mark the “sweet spot” on the line where it meets the rod tip. Just strip in to that point and cast.

Boat carrying zebra mussels intercepted at Washington border

INVASIVE SPECIES — Washington officials found invasive zebra mussels on a boat coming into Washington Saturday at the stateline port of entry near the Idaho border.

Both Idaho and Washington are ramping up their surveillance for these invasives with horrible consequences to our waterways.

Read on for more about this particular case as well as about Idaho's mandatory boat check stations.

Colville Forest OHV project out for public comment

PUBLIC LANDS — The Colville National Forest on Tuesday announced a 30-day public comment period on a long-awaied motor vehicle access plan for the south end of the 1.1 million acre northeastern Washington forest.

The South End Motor Vehicle Management Project involves the area between the Colville and Pend Oreille Rivers and between the towns of Cusick and Chewelah.

Read on for details.

850 riders signed up for 24 Hours bike race

MOUNTAIN BIKING — A record 850 racers — solo and team relay riders — have signed up so far for this weekend's 24 Hours Round the Clock mountain bike race in the Seven Mile airstrip area of Riverside State Park.

That means three or four times that many people will be camping out for the fat-tire overnight feast, party and spectacle, says organizer Wendy Zupan-Bailey of Round and Round Productions.

Participant Joe Geigle of the Spokane Mountaineers said it's difficult to sleep even for the relay team riders who have 4.5 hours of rest between laps. 

I”t’s not just a race, it’s an event, a party, a sleepover,” said co-organizer Gino Lisiecki in a story I wrote earlier this month. “You have all of those racers, and they bring 3,000 of their friends for the campout. It’s a staycation for a lot of people.

“It’s huge,” Zupan-Bailey said.

“It’s the Woodstock of mountain biking,” Lisiecki said.

Who would go on Spokane River now without a lifejacket?

RIVERS — Perhaps, for the long-term benefit of the human race, there are occasions when we should NOT call 911 in an apparent emergency.  Case in point comes from a reader who lives along the runoff-raging Spokane River near Flora Road – near Flora Rapids and Sullivan Rapids.

”Three  Darwin Award candidates came down near our house this evening in a small rubber raft with no life jackets and one paddle.

Hell, we had our life jackets on fishing the flat water of Badger Lake a couple of hours earlier.”

For the record, It's illegal to be on the Spokane River without a lifejacket anytime, even in sane summer river flows and warmer water temperatures.

Spokane angler’s prized Westport halibut survives challenge

FISHING — Don Engle of Spokane survived a close call Sunday in maintaining his lead to win the $1,000 season prize in the Westport halibut derby.

Fishing aboard the Tequila Too, he landed a 64-pound halibut on May 10 that won the weekly Westport derby prize of $500 and has been the derby leader ever since.

On Sunday an angler landed a 133 pounder, but he had neglected to by a derby ticket before going fishing.

So Engle has to hold on until Sunday to see if he remains the leand and claims the season prize.

Westport charterboats are booking for the for this week's final halibut fishing as well as bottomfishing trips and the soon to open salmon seasons.

North Cascades Highway likely to open Wednesday

NATIONAL PARKS — The Washington Transportation Department says road crews expect to reopen the North Cascades Highway at noon Wednesday, the Associated Press reports.

That would be the second-latest opening since travelers began using the highway 39 years ago, said spokesman Jeff Adamson. The latest was June 14, 1974.

Crews started clearing winter snow from the section of Highway 20 on April 11.

The opening is later than usual this year because of the heavy snowpack. When crews began their work, they found the highway segment buried in snow as deep as 75 feet.

Last year the North Cascades Highway opened on April 16. It was closed by snow on Dec. 1.

Lead for hunting, fishing getting heavily criticized

HUNTING/FISHING — Editorials by leaders in the hunting and fishing community, findings from several new studies, and action by the U.S. military are prompting conservation groups to press Congress to re-evaluate proposed legislation that would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating lead in ammunition used for hunting.

The American Bird Conservancy compiled the following list of recent endorsements, editorials and research summaries to consider.

Discounts offered on sea kayak whale-waters trips

PADDLING — If a guided sea-kayaking trip to the Vancouver Island area or southeast Alaska has been on your back burner, maybe now's the time to act.

Coeur d'Alene-based Sea Kayak Adventures has just announced discounts on their summer trips oriented to seeing orcas in Canada's Johnstone Strait area ($100 off) or a whales, glaciers and hotsprings trip based out of a mother ship near Sitka (25 percent off).

Offers available through Monday. 

Scientists debate ‘magic number’ for wolf popultion

PREDATORS — How many wolves are enough? That's the million-dollar quesiton, and one of the biggest arguments left unresolved by last year's wolf lawsuit:

Reporter Rob Chaney of the Missoulian has the latest on the scientific debate over the question. Click here for the Missoulian story, or read on for the report.

Expert advice leads angler to 18.4-pound walleye

FISHING — Wayne Heinz wrote a story for Northwest Sportsman magazine recently about the anglers who've caught whopper pre-spawn walleyes — including the state record — out of the Columbia River and its sloughs in McNary Pool.

Then he went out, practiced what he'd professed — and caught a near-record walleye, according to Andy Walgamott's NWS Editor's Blog

Heinz points out he was fishing just a mile from where Mike Hepper of the Tri-Cities caught his state record 19.3-pounder in February 2007.

Barely able to land the egg-stuffed female — cold water has postponed the spawn, perhaps — Heinz's Berkley scale showed the fish at 19.6 pounds — a potential state record if the scale was close.

Turns out the scale wasn't too accurate.  A certified Albertson's scale pegged it at 18.4 pounds after it had lost a lot of eggs and blood in the boat.

“Looking back, I regret killing it,” Heinz told Walgamott. “There’s no glory in runner-up.”

But he pointed out that it's at least another indicator of the the quality of the Columbia's fishery.

Hunters can revise applications for altered Idaho deer hunts

DEER HUNTING — Hunters affected by the Idaho Fish and Game Commission's recent decision to reduce the number of tags in several southern Idaho mule deer controlled hunts have options even though they may have submitted their controlled hunt applications.

Hunters who applied for controlled mule deer hunts reduced by commission action may:

  1. Apply for a different hunt.
  2. Request a refund of their application fee.
  3. Leave their application in place.

Read on for details.

Death on the lower CdA River is annual spring disgrace

ENVIRONMENT – Some people in the Inland Northwest would like to think we live in a pristine area without need for strict environmental regulations or Superfund help.

But 150 or so tundra swans each year tell us something to the contrary as they slowly die during their migration stopover on the Lower Coeur d’Alene River.

It’s not a pretty sight, but your head's in the sand if you don’t see the carnage and the reasons for it. 

Read on.

High flows restrict access to Montana rivers

RIVERS — High river flows have forced closures to any kind of rafting or boating on portions of two Montana rivers — The Smith and Belt Creek — plus access restrictions for the Missouri River.

Read on for details.

Lake Roosevelt water-level-raising stalls

COLUMBIA RIVER — Concerns about a major Columbia River runoff event that still might come from the headwaters, the Bureau of Reclamation is pushing water through Grand Coulee Dam without signifcantly raising levels from this spring's deep drawdown.

The reservoir elevation was down to a low of 1,217 feet this month and it's come up to 1,225 feet.

“There's a little concern about the space in the reservoir for what's coming,” said Lynne Brougher, bureau spokeswoman in Grand Coulee.

“We're taking it day by day right now,” she said.

According to the Lake Roosvelt minimum levels for boat lauching chart, the current water elevation of 1,225 feet meets the minimun needed for only one of the lake's 22 boat lauches:

  • Spring Canyon (minimum water level for coverage is 1,222 feet)

Seven Bays ramp minimum level is 1,227 followed by Keller Ferry at 1,229.

Idaho reduces deer controlled hunt tags

BIG GAME HUNTING — Bad news for the growth of southern Idaho mule deer herds: 

Fish and Game Department big-game managers said  last week the overall over-winter fawn survival among 15 study areas is the lowest since the agency began monitoring:

69 percent of radio-collared fawns had died by April 30.

Mule deer fawn survival was lowest in the McCall-Weiser, at 9 percent, and the Island Park, at 18 percent.

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission has reduced the number of mule deer controlled hunt tags based on these over-winter survival surveys.

Read on for the details of the permit reductions by hunting unit.

Fishing made easy for kids in Lewiston

 

> FISHING — Idaho Fish and Game will be wheeling out “Take Me Fishing Trailers“ packed with fishing rods and tackle for Idaho Panhandle kids to use free at trout-stocked ponds in June.

 

The “Take Me Fishing” trailer debuts this season:

  • June 2, 4 p.m.-7 p.m., at Fernan Lake.
  • June 4, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at Post Falls Park.

See other dates in June below.

Fishing equipment can be checked out for free on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations are not needed.  Participants who register will be granted a permit to fish without a license.  If they get hooked on fishing after the event, parents will have to purchase a license. 

However, Idaho children UNDER the age of 14 can fish for free.

Stocked with basic fishing equipment and information, the trailer wrapped with vibrant fish illustrations is hard to miss.  The waters where the fishing trailer parks are stocked with fish.

Read on for other scheduled fishing trailer stops in June:

Escure Ranch, Rock Creek waterfall in top spring form

PUBLIC LANDS – This is prime time to visit the BLM’s Escure Ranch area south of Sprague. The scabland area is green, Rock Creek is flowing nicely over Towell Falls, wildflowers are blooming and the cheatgrass hasn’t turned brown and full of spears.

Read on for details from my weekend reconnaissance.

Rattlesnake response: much ado about nothing

WILDLIFE — A rattlesnake that slithered near a Kennewick playground on Thursday was quickly dispatched by a police officer and tossed in the Columbia River.

According to the Associated Press, a Seattle couple called 911 when they spotted the snake moving in the grass near the playground. Families cowered in their cars until the police arrived.

My God, was the snake toting an AK-47?  Was it chasing people? No.

Read on for the rest of the AP report. Sheesh.

Male rattlers risk only pride for right to breed

NOT QUITE RAGING REPTILES — Despite the fear and loathing rattlesnakes provoke, they fight like gentlemen among themselves.

Ray Sasser of the Dallas Morning News described; a spring battle between two male western rattlers vying for mating rights to a nearby female.

The snakes were about the same size – each about 4 feet long ­– and engaged in a bout that lasted about 20 minutes.

“The rattlers are not immune to their own venom,” Sasser points out. “Out of professional courtesy, they don’t bite one another. They instead perform what amounts to an arm wrestling bout, which sounds weird for an animal that doesn’t have arms.

“Rattlers make up for the lack of appendages by substituting their bodies for arms, rearing as high as possible off the ground and trying to force their opponent into submission.”

Blackwell Island rec site reopens Wednesday

LAKES — The main gate at the Bureau of Land Management’s Blackwell Island Recreation Site will reopen on Wednesday ( May 25).  Both the day use and boat launch will be open. 

The daily parking fee is$4. The area is checked daily.


BLM staff will be selling $30 season passes at  Blackwell Island for the rec site and nearby Mineral Ridge boat launch during weekends from Memorial Day through mid-July.  

Info: Kurt Pindel, (208) 769-5015.


  

Yakima River salmon anglers face triple whammy

SALMON FISHING — The 2011 Yakima River spring chinook season had great potential.

The fish took their sweet time heading upriver, but about two weeks ago, some of the fish that had climbed over McNary Dam arrived in the Yakima and started running over Prosser Dam by the hundreds.

But their arrive coincided with rain on snow that sent the river into a torrent.

The Yakima River is so swollen with runoff that it’s “going to be pretty much blown for the next few weeks,” sighed Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife enforcement officer Alan Baird in a story written by Scott Sandsberry of the Yakima Herald-Republic.

“Now, even when the rain stops we’ll warm up,” Baird said, “and we’re going to have all that snowmelt coming down.”

The third and final body blow: That stretch just downriver from the closed area just below Roza Dam — which has become oh-so-popular with bank anglers in recent years — is now virtually unreachable on foot, at least legally, Sandberry reports.

Read on for the details.

Native Plant Society hiking Hog Canyon Sunday

HIKING — Members of the Northeastern Washington Native Plant Society are leading a nifty native plant walk on Sunday into Hog Canyon Lake area of the BLM Fishtrap Lake management area west of Spokane.

They will explore this lovely shrub-steppe pronounced scabland terrain with mima mounds and rock in part, adjoining a shrubby pine forest around secluded large pond with aspens and short palisades
and a wide variety of plant life and wildlife.

If you're interested in  meeting up with this group at 8:45 a.m. for departure from Spokane on Sunday, contact the leaders for details:

Michael or Michelle at (509)-951-9225 or (509)-951-9226.

  

Native plants focus of Dishman Hills guided hike

NATURE — Sylvia Eberspecher of the Northeastern Washington Native Plant Society is leading a native plant hike in the Iller Creek Conservation Area of the  Dishman Hills on Saturday.

 
Learn about native plants during a leisurely hike through a semiarid ponderosa pine forest with lovely wildflowers, a wetter forest habitat that includes hemlock, grand fir and Pacific yew, and a very special creek corridor.
 
If you take half the walk (2.5 hours), bring water and a snack. If you take the entire walk (about 5 hours), bring plenty of water and a lunch.
 
The route involves some steep stretches — wear sturdy shoes or boots. 
 
The outing is free, but pre-register with Eberspecher, (209) 379-5881, for details and car-pooling instructions.

Humane Society challenges NW sea lion killing

SALMON PREDATORS —  The Humane Society of the United States has gone back to federal court to block the killing of California sea lions that eat endangered or threatened salmon at Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River east of Portland, the Associated Press reports.

The Humane Society said it filed a lawsuit Friday in Washington, D.C., seeking to stop the National Marine Fisheries Service from authorizing the killing of as many as 255 sea lions over the next three years.

The agency last week said it had complied with a previous federal court ruling and authorized Oregon and Washington to resume trapping sea lions for removal.

The Humane Society has argued the sea lions do not seriously damage fish runs and killing them does nothing to improve them.

Fisheries officials disagree.

Oregon kills second of two targeted Imnaha wolves

 PREDATORS — A second wolf has been killed by northeastern Oregon authorities attempting to stop attacks on cattle, but not before another calf was found killed by wolves this week, the Associated Press reports.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife says a young female from the Imnaha pack was shot on private land Wednesday night. The first wolf was trapped and killed on Tuesday.

The department says the second wolf was with four other wolves from the Imnaha pack, including one fitted with a radio-tracking collar, in an area that has seen wolf attacks on livestock.

It comes after another calf was found killed by a wolf this week.

Oregon has taken over management of wolves moving into the state since Congress lifted U.S. Endangered Species Act protections for packs introduced in Idaho starting in the 1990s.

Tolerance for wolves lacking at Fish-Game hearing

PREDATORS — Angry hunters pressed the Idaho Fish and Game Commission Wednesday to act boldly and swiftly to reduce the state’s wolf population, currently at more than 700, down to the 150-wolf minimum allowed by law.

“Collar 150 of them, keep track of them and kill every other one,” said Mike Popp, a hunting outfitter from Kooskia and spokesman for the Committee for a Safe and Wolf Free Idaho.

Read on for the rest of a report on the commission hearing by Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune.

Higher water boosts hiking, allows Lake Chelan ferry to sail

BOATING — The recent rain and increased snow melt brought good news for boat users and Lake Chelan recreationists.  The Lake Chelan water level is now rising which will make public docks more accessible in and allow the Lady of the Lake to shuttle hikers to lakeshore trailheads.

Read on for details just released by the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.

What to do with so little time left?

OUTDOOR PURSUITS — With the deadline close and the pressure on, I must admit I'm having a difficult time deciding whether to go hiking or fishing on Saturday before the world ends.

What would other outdoor enthusiasts  do?

It will tell me a lot if you answer, “Go tot he REI sale.”

Spokane Retriever Club trials flush with water

HUNTING DOGS — The Spokane Retriever Club has had to cancel its spring AKC retriever trails at Espanola training grounds near Medical Lake for the past three years.

But today more than 160 dogs will start competing in three days of trials in a landscape one might describe as Labrador heaven.

“We even have water up on the roads in some places,” said organizer Ray Bly.  “We are thrilled to have this much water, finally.”

From nope to hope for Clearwater springers

SALMON FISHING — Flows in the Clearwater and Salmon rivers are receding and Idaho Fish
and Game officials predict fishing conditions should vastly improve by the weekend.

Regional fisheries manager Joe DuPont said hot weather Saturday followed by rain on Sunday and Monday caused rivers to spike, turn brown and fill with logs and other debris. The high water made fishing nearly impossible just as the numbers of chinook passing Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River hit levels that make most anglers drool, writes Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune.

DuPont said the department will not propose increasing bag limits on the Clearwater River and its tributaries this week and instead will monitor the run strength and fishing conditions.

Read on for the rest of Barker's report.

Priest Lake’s Indian Creek Unit temporarily closed

STATE PARKS — Severe storm damage has forced a temporary closure at the Indian Creek Unit of Priest Lake State Park, officials said Thursday.

The campground and day use facilities including the boat launch are closed until May 25.

Meantime, the Lionhead Unit and Dickensheet Unit are open. 

Info: Priest Lake State Park, (208) 443-2200.

Anglers defy drawdown at Koocanusa Derby

FISHING — Despite the extremely low water level of 121 feet below full pool and only 3 ramps accessible for anglers, 373 contestants in 192 boats competed in the 9th annual Trout and Salmon Derby out of Lake  Koocanusa Resort last weekend.

Doug Florey of Bonners Ferry won the event’s top Trout Division prize of $2,088 with 11 pounds of fish.

Second Place, $1,492, went to Max Schnader of Troy, Mont., with 9.4 pounds.

Very few Kokanee were caught, owing to the cool weather and layr development of nutrients in the lake, according to Randie and Randy Burch,  the resort’s owners and contest sponsors.

The competition, however, was incredibly close.

Bobby George of Priest River won first place prize of $746 in the Salmon Division with 20 kokanee weighing  3.8 pounds.

Second place, $448, went to Neil Norman of Kellogg  with 3.6 pounds.  Third place,  $299, went to Vern Gregg of Potlatch with 3.5 pounds.

Mt. Spokane ski area can expand, parks panel says

STATE PARKS — Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park will be allowed to expand into pristine terrain on the mountain’s northwest face.

The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission voted 4-0 Thursday afternoon to allow the expansion to move forward, after hours of discussion about recreational desires versus the need to protect old-growth forest, meadows and wetlands at Mount Spokane, the state’s largest park.

Click here to read all of SR reporter Becky Kramer's story.

Lake Spokane DNR boat ramp open; state park ramps, too

BOATING —  The Lake Spokane (Long Lake) Campground boat launch is temporarily open this weekend through Sunday, 6 a.m.-8 p.m., Department of Natural Resources officials announced this afternoon.

The facility is 18 miles northeast of Reardan off U.S. Highway 291.

But for some reason the DNR, in announcing the opening, said the Riverside State Park launches are closed.  Not so, said Brian Frahm, park ranger.

Here's what Frahm said in an email to the S-R:

I am one of the Park Rangers at Riverside State Park and am wondering where you got the information that our launches are closed? I would ask that there be a correction print please. We are open for business but however recommend caution when launching. The 291 launch has some swift currents and the Nine Mile Recreation Launch has fluctuating levels.

Idaho spells out wolf management goals

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — The Idaho Fish and Game Commission today established a framework for state wolf management and directed the state Fish and Game Department to:

— Manage wolves in a manner that will ensure wolves remain under responsible state management in conjunction with the rest of Idaho’s wildlife.

—Manage wolves as big game animals consistent with the goals and objectives of the 2002 Idaho Wolf Conservation and Management plan approved by the Idaho Legislature and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to keep wolves off the Endangered Species List.

—Control wolves where they depredate on livestock and other domestic animals or threaten human safety.

—Control the population of wolves and other predators as needed to address areas where elk or other prey populations are below management objectives.

—Develop wolf hunting season recommendations for consideration at the Commission’s July 2011 meeting and develop trapping recommendations.

— Conduct additional species management planning as appropriate.

Commissioners also agreed to support Idaho’s legal defense of challenges to state management, such as those lawsuits challenging the 2011 congressional action for wolf delisting.

The commission will urge Congress to continue to provide funding for monitoring, control and depredation compensation related to the wolf population introduced by the federal government into Idaho.

Paddlers: keep eye out for thirsty trees at Barker Bridge

SPOKANE RIVER — With a $3,500 boost from the Spokane Canoe and Kayak Club's “access fund,” the City of Spokane Valley has made improvements to the boater access area on the north side of the new Barker Road Bridge, as our S-R staffer Nina Culver reported last week

Club members have left a few buckets at the site and they encourage river visitors to scoop water from the river occasionally and irrigate the trees and shrubs planted at the site. The new plantings will need some nursing to help them get started and keep growing when the summer weather heats up.

New fishing map book might be slightly stale

FISHING — Portland-based Frank Amato Publications recently released a new booklet, “Washngton's Top Fishing Maps.”

The large format booklet compiles many color maps and stories previoiusly published in the defunct Fishing & Hunting News tabloids.

But while he notes the publication is worth having, Scott Sandsberry of the Yakima Herald-Republic notes the maps and info in many cases are more than a decade old.

Read on for the rest of his column.

Birdwatcher goes on snipe hunt — seriously

WILDLIFE WATCHING — “Remember the goofy snipe hunts you were encouraged to partake in at summer camps?” asks birding guide Woody Wheeler, in his Conservation Catalyst blog

“Often they took place at night and involved a large sack, a club and a flashlight,” he reminds us, and the “victim” wasn't a snipe, but rather the gullible 'snipe hunter.'

Wheeler recommends a different sort of snipe hunt that involves sleeping during the night. Then leave the bags, clubs and flashlights home and head out in daylight to a marsh or moist field with a good pair of binoculars. 

While their camouflage makes them diffuclt to see, the high-pitched “whoop, whoop, whoop,” sound of a male in its courtship flight often gives it away during April and May in the scabland areas west of Spokane. It sounds a little like Curly's call to action in the Three Stooges movies.

“During breeding season (now), Wilson’s Snipe make a haunting winnowing sound, often heard at dawn and dusk,” explain's Wheeler, who lives in Seattle. “This sound helps them establish territory and attract potential mates.  It is made by the wind whistling past their outstretched tail feathers after they first fly up and then descend rapidly.”

Source:  Cornell Lab of Ornithology: http://www.allaboutbirds.org;

Sign up: Free ‘Fishing 101’ class for adults

FISHING – Recognizing that entering the sport of fishing is difficult without the mentoring of friends or family, a five-hour Fishing 101 class for adults is being organized by the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council and the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department.

The free class starts at 10 a.m. on June 11 at Bunker's Resort on Williams Lake southwest of Cheney.

The event, with classroom and on-the-water instruction, coincides with Washington’s Free Fishing Weekend, so no fishing license will be required.

Volunteer anglers will teach students age 16 and older basic gear rigging, fishing methods, where to go – and even how to clean and cook the catch.

Pre-register for limited space to be filled first come, first served. Email teamspokane@dfw.wa.gov or call the WDFW Spokane Region Office, 892-1001.

Registration requires name, address, phone number and e-mail address if available.

Local Angling RESOURCES

See The Spokesman-Review's special Go Fishing 2011 reports and regional fishing waters map.

For basic fishing information from the WDFW, click here.

For a county-by-county guide to fishing in Washington, click here.

Elk City wolf pack targeted by deputies

PREDATORS — Deputies deep in north-central Idaho’s forests are getting the go-ahead from state wildlife officials to take aim at wolves suspected in attacks on dogs and livestock in Elk City, the Associated Press reports.

The state Department of Fish and Game is authorizing Idaho County sheriff’s deputies to kill a pack of about seven wolves frequenting the tiny mountain town in the Nez Perce National Forest, according to The Lewiston Tribune.

Read on for details from the AP and Lewiston Tribune.

New four-salmon limit isn’t all good news

SALMON FISHINGTuesday's announcement from Olympia that the daily catch limit for spring chinook will soon be raised to four a day at Drano Lake and Wind River is great news for some anglers, but it's not universally a good thing on those typically crowded waters.

“A four-fish limit just means that guys stay longer in one spot and crowds build up bigger as people try to find spots to fish,” one salmon angler pointed out.

When an angler catches a two-fish limit and moves on, that's a new opportunity for somebody else, and the turnover is much quicker with a two-fish limit.

“A four-fish limit tends to promote the game-hog mentality,” he said.

Mount St. Helens calm on anniversary of eruption

VOLCANOES — No rumblings from Mount St. Helens today, the 31st anniversary of the volcano’s explosive eruption that killed 57 people — and created a fascinating new landscape to explore.

The jagged snow-covered crater has been mostly quiet since the most-recent dome building eruption ended in 2008, leaving a mound in the crater.

Scientists at the Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver say Mount St. Helens probably will have another dome-building eruption within the next several decades.

U. S. Geological Survey scientist Cynthia Gardner says the volcano has a history of destroying and rebuilding itself.

The Columbian reports scientists believe the magma under the mountain is more likely to cause dome-building eruptions rather than another explosive blast.

Endangered species summarized coast to coast

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Following the federal government's recent announcement of plans to act on 250 endangered species and Washington state's plan to release 100 endangered pygmy rabbits in special habitats in Douglas County,  The New York Times has published a good overview of endangered species from coast to coast.

Better yet, in observance of Endangered Species Day (Sunday) the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has set up a good Endangered Species website with quizes, podcasts and other info about critters struggling for survival.

That website is in addition to the federal agency's excellent Endangered Species program site.

A fowl family moment in the sunshine

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Canada geese are in the full swing of raising their families around the region.

S-R photographer Dan Pelle captured his family unit basking in the sun along the banks of the Spokane River on Upriver Drive and Crestline this week.

Three goose pairs were seen with at least 17 young birds in this area.

Oregon wolf kill lawsuit dropped; wolf killed

PREDATORS — Environmental groups have dropped a legal fight to keep state wildlife officials from killing two wolves in northeastern Oregon, according to a report on Northwest Public Radio. The wolves are blamed for recent livestock deaths in that area.

When wildlife managers first announced they would go after two wolves in the Imnaha Pack, four conservation groups went to court. But the NWPR story points out that at that point gray wolves were still on the federal endangered species list.

Things are different now, the story explains.

Meanwhile, Oregon wildlife biologists trapped and killed a gray wolf early Tuesday on an eastern Oregon ranch near Joseph, where wolves had killed livestock last month.

The young uncollared male wolf was part of the Imnaha pack, which has killed at least four domestic animals so far this year on private grazing land near Wallowa Lake, the Oregonian reports. Numbering about 14 now, the pack killed domestic livestock in the same area in May 2010

Osprey nest has NOAA shipping for answers

WILDLIFE —  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration usually is in the business of defending sea creatures, but last week it was asking for advice about getting rid of some, according to a KING 5 TV report.

Washington state law allows for the destruction or relocation of osprey nests under certain circumstances, as long as there are no eggs involved.

That gives NOAA oficials precious little time to deal with a nest an osprey pair is building in the upper structure of a NOAA ship that's scheduled to set sail in a few weeks.

Spring chinook limit increased at Drano Lake, Wind River

SALMON FISHING —  The daily limit for hatchery spring chinook salmon off the Columbia River at Drano Lake and in the Wind River will be increased on Thursday, the Wasington Fish and Wildlife Department has just announced.

Read on for the specifics for each water.

Washington big-game hunt permit applications due May 18

BIG-GAME HUNTING — Well, a few of you hunters have done it again…put it off until the last day.

Wednesday (May 18) is the deadline for hunters to apply for Washington's special hunting permits  for the fall deer, elk, moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat and turkey seasons.

This is the second year for Washington's revamped limited hunt drawing system in which opportunities for individual and party applicants have been vastly expanded.
 
To help make informed decisions, check out the 2010 harvest data reports.
 
Carefully scope out the options in Washington's 2011 big-game hunting regulations.
 
Submit your application by telephone at (877) 945-3492 or through the internet.
 
The Bellingham Herald has published a detailed guide to submitting an informed application.

Cabela’s can’t confirm CdA fish tagged for sweepstakes

FISHING — A day of fishing is never wasted, but perhaps there was no reason for anglers to get their hopes too high for catching a $1 million fish since the weekend in Lake Coeur d'Alene. At least not yet.

On Friday, Cabela's announced the Saturday opening of a “Wanna Go Fishing for Millions?” promotion involving tagged fish in 19 states including Lake Coeur d'Alene in North Idaho and Sprague and Potholes in Eastern Washington.

However, Cabela's officials would not confirm this afternoon that any fish had been caught, tagged and released in Lake Coeur d'Alene.

“I can assure you a number of fish are going to be tagged now or in the next day or two,” said Ron Brekhus, general manager of the Post Falls store.

Jim Fredericks, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional fisheries manager, said he could not confirm that any fish had been tagged. However, he said the agency had received a request this week to help Cabela's tag some smallmouth bass.

John Whalen, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department regional fisheries manager said state fisheries biologists had inserted Cabela's tags into rainbows and largemouth bass last week in Sprague Lake and Potholes Reservoir.

More than 60,000 people have registered online to participate in trying to catch about 1,000 tagged fish in 67 waters in 19 states for prizes.

The goal is to encourage more people to enjoy the great outdoors, Cabela's officials said.

Register online to qualify for the prizes should you catch a tagged fish. Read on for more details.

Meantime, Cabela's officials said they would contact me to let you know when they could confirm that tagged fish have been released in Lake Coeur d'Alene.

Icicle River fishing to open, Ringold fishery to close

SALMON FISHING — The Washington Fish and Wildlife Department has just announced the following bulletin on spring chinook salmon seasons:

The Icicle River will open to spring chinook salmon fishing on Saturday with a season that could run through July 31.

Ringold bank fishing for spring chinook on the Columbia River will close Friday at 9 p.m.

Read on for the details of each announcement.

Apps making birdwatchers foes of their feathered friends

WILDLIFE WATCHING — As a hunter and conservationist, I could see this coming. 

I've written stories about the impact of elk bugle calls on bull elk behavior and stories about the regulation of electronic devices and calls for hunting in Washington. There's reason for concern.

When I starting seeing wildlife photographers and birdwatchers giddy with the proliferation of recorded bird songs and electronic devices and then the advanced technology of smartphone apps — an eventual train wreck seemed like an obvious possibility.

The Seattle Times has published a good report on the growing use of the smartphone's field access to the internet  and recordings to flush out species for better viewing and photography.

The technique is controversial among some experts who say it can stress male birds that believe a recorded song signals a rival invading their territory.

Spokane fire lookout curator Ray Kresek wins national award

FORESTS — Two northeastern Washington firefighters recently were presented National Smokey Bear awards for their outstanding leadership in wildfire prevention efforts.

Their work fills a niche that preserves state and national forests as a place for the rest of us to work and play.

Ray Kresek, curator, author and retired firefighter, received a 2011 Silver Smokey Bear Award; and John Foster Fanning, a DNR fire control forester and fire prevention specialist, received a 2011 Bronze Smokey Bear Award.

Kresek, author of Fire Lookouts of the Northwest, lives in Spokane where he maintains a Fire Lookout Museum available to the public by appointment. Kresek also led the effort to preserve the Salmo-Priest Wilderness.

The National Smokey Bear awards are presented annually by the Ad Council, the National Association of State Foresters, and the U. S. Forest Service to individuals for sustained excellence in wildland fire prevention.

View more photos on DNR’s Flickr page.

Even moose enjoy creature comforts

WILDLIFE WATCHING — This female moose wandered into Spokesman-Review photographer J. Bart Rayniak's yard in Otis Orchards, Saturday morning and made herself comfortable for the day, resting in the shade and foraging on flowering cherry blossoms and bushes.

Looks like humans aren't the only ones who enjoy a nap on a carpet of green grass.

Although they're quite docile, moose also are unpredictable, said Paul Mosman, Washington Fish and Wildlife police officer.

It's best to put your dogs inside, and keep your distance until they wander away, which this young moose lady did at dusk.

Washington biologists ahead of feds in concern for wolves

 PREDATORS — Although the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced it will review the status of Pacific Northwest wolves, Washington biologists already are trying to get a handle on what's happened to the state's first documented breeding pack

The Lookout Pack in the Methow Valley has been decimated in the past year, apparently by poachers,  state and federal biologists say.
 
Since the wolves were discovered in 2008, the pack has gone from as many as 10 animals to only a couple of wolves.
 
“I’m guessing two… based on some of the photos we’ve gotten” from motion-sensor cameras, John Rohrer, a biologist with the U.S. Forest Service, told the Methow Valley News last week.
 
One of the survivors is the pack’s alpha male, Rohrer said, but biologists don’t know whether the other wolf is a female who might be able to breed and keep the pack alive.
 
Conservation Northwest is offering a $7,500 reward for information that leads to a conviction of wolf poaching in Washington.

Last chance to enter Mount Spokane ski area expansion debate

STATE PARKS — The Washington Parks and Recreation Commission will meet in Spokane this week to consider a long-debated proposal to expand the downhill ski area footprint in Mount Spokane State Park — but not before the public gets one more chance to chime in on the issue:

  • A public meeting for public comment on the proposed action is set for Wednesday, 7 p.m.-9 p.m. at Spokane Falls Community College in the Student Union Building Lounge.
  • On Thursday, the commission will consider the proposal during a meeting starting at  9 a.m. at Center Place,  2426 N. Discovery Pl. in Spokane Valley.

Brad McQuarrie, Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park general manager, has been making the case for the expansion for nearly a year.

A coalition of outdoor and conservation groups has been presenting the opposition view of the expansion proposal.

Here's a story by SR reporter Becky Kramer regarding compromise proposals from state parks staff.

Read on for more details — and the observation of one backcountry skier who hasn't joined the ranks of conservationists who have automatically opposed a new lift on the west side of the mountain.

See peregrine chicks hatching in downtown Boise nest

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Just over four weeks after a peregrine falcon layed her eggs in a nest box overlooking downtown Boise, three chicks hatched over the weekend. 

Today, all area bird-loving eyes have been on the peregrine cam  awaiting the hatching of the fourth egg.

The nest box is a project of The Peregrine Fund.

Spring chinook spreading through Snake into Salmon River

FISHING — The first spring chinook salmon of the season swam through the fish trap at the Rapid River Fish Hatchery near Riggins on Friday. That's an indicator the season's run is maturing, with fish starting to spread out from the lower Columbia all the way upstream to where they originate at some of Idaho's spawning streams and hatcheries.

The Rapid River fish was recorded as a 5-year fish (lived in the ocean for five years before migrating back to Idaho) and measured longer than 40 inches!    A keeper that ran the gauntlet and survived.

As of Sunday, a total of 149,313 adult chinook had crossed Bonneville Dam. More than 12,250 adult chinook had crossed Lower Granite Dam, the last Snake River dam before the fish reach Idaho waters.

“We associate the fish as being in the Salmon River system about 5-6 weeks after they have crossed Bonneville and about 10-14 days after they cross Lower Granite,” said Amy Sinclair of Exodus Wilderness Adventures and fishing guides in Riggins.

“But keep in mind with Salmon River and Snake River flows above 40,000 CFS, the chinook will hold up at the confluence of the Snake and Salmon Rivers (near Lewiston) for flows to come back down.”

This morning, the Salmon River wa running at 62,500 CFS and the Snake River was at 54,800 CFS.

“Keep your fingers crossed that the high water season does not prove problematic for this fishery; especially since this region is still sitting with about 131% of its average snow pack,” Sinclair said.

Families encouraged to paint Fish Lake Trail mural

RAIL-TRAILS— Families chipped in for a kid-friendly event on Saturday and Sunday to add a splash of color to a tunnel on the Fish Lake Trail near Marshall and Scribner Road.

Families helped paint a mural designed by art students from Eastern Washington University and led by Tina Johnson, a senior in art history and studio painting.

Volunteer Dan Schaffer, working with the Inland Northwest Trails Coalition, organized the painting party as he continues to be a major influence in the development and enjoyment of this paved rail-trail.

The major trailhead in Spokane is at near the intersection of Sunset Highway and Government Way, behind the church on Milton Ave.

For information on volunteering for other Fish Lake Tail projects, contact Schaffer by email,  traildan@comcast.net.

Montana ups wolf quota to make up for lost season

PREDATORS — Hunters would be able to remove up to 220 gray wolves from Montana’s landscape this fall under a tentative quota and seasons adopted Thursday by the state Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission and reported in the Helena Independent Record.

The proposed quota is nearly triple the state’s only previous hunting season allowed in 2009, but models used by the state indicated the overall reduction of wolves would be modest. Biologists say the hunt likely would decrease wolf numbers from the current known 566 wolves in 108 verified packs to between 425 to 526 wolves.

The modeling takes into account wolves removed for livestock depredation and other causes, as well as the pups born this year, according to Ken McDonald, FWP fish and wildlife bureau chief.

Read on for more details from the IR report.

Black bear study vindicates mama bears, surprises experts

WILDLIFE — The results of a new study published last week in the Journal of Wildlife Management found that black bears have killed 63 people in the United States and Canada over the last 109 years.

That light toll on humanity didn't surprise the experts, but wildlife biologists were taken back by the analysis of which black bears killed people.

We're not talking about grizzlies. Just their smaller more-common cousins.

The study of lethal bear attacks across Canada and the United States found, contrary to popular perception, that the black bears most likely to kill are not mothers protecting cubs. Most attacks, 88 percent, involved a bear on the prowl, likely hunting for food. And most of those predators, 92 percent, were male.

Read a good report on the study by the Toronto Globe and Mail along with tips for hiking, camping and living in bear country.

Click here for a New York Times report on the study.

Click here for a video interview with University of Calgary research Stephen Herrero, who's written the most acclaimed research on  bears attacks.

Idaho Fish and Game Commission meets in Lewiston

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — The Idaho Fish and Game Commission will meet Wednesday through Friday in Lewiston.

A public hearing will be at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Clearwater Region office, 3316 16th St., Lewiston.

Click here for a complete agenda.

Thursday morning commissioners will consider a Chinook salmon fishery on the upper Salmon and South Fork Salmon rivers. Later in the day, commissioners will hear an update on wolf management.

Commissioners also will consider an adjustment to deer controlled hunt tag numbers; and they will consider a hunter education live fire exemption rule. They also will elect a new commission chairman and vice-chairman, and appoint a commission liaison to the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Licensing Board.

The day will end with an executive session to discuss land acquisitions and pendinglitigation.

Friday morning commissioners will meet for a workshop about off-highway vehicle restrictions for hunting.

Times on the agenda are approximate and subject to change.

Idaho wastes no time with wolf management

PREDATORS — Since resuming wolf management earlier this month, Idaho Fish and Game already has initiated several actions across the state, including aerial wolf hunting to help take pressure off a struggling elk herd in the Lolo Zone.

Six control actions have been authorized in response to livestock depredations.

Read on for the details from the agency's press release.

Guess how many miles of trails below High Drive?

TRAILS — When I biked and hiked the Spokane South Hill bluff trails one day with a GPS unit, I was a bit startled to see the final tally of more than 23 miles on the unit's odometer.

This trail system of old roads and routes hand-built by volunteers just over the hill and out of site of a city neighbornood is a treasure for hiker, bikers and nature lovers, as my Sunday outdoors story explains.

The story includes a contact for getting involved with stewardship of the trails and the bluff, from trail maintenance to weed control.

Any bluff trails users should consider joining the Doo-Crew, either by taking a day of the month to tend the doggy doo plastic bag stations — or simply by picking up after your dog!

FYI, there were a few connector trails I did not log on the map above, either because I could not  map them without a lot of backtracking or because they are ill advised.

If you haven't been to the bluff for a walk or mountain bike ride, you own it to yourself to check out the map above and give the area a look — perfect for after-work summer visits.

Readers comment on death of 82-year-old Everest climber

MOUNTAINEERING — After reporting last week's death of an 82-year-old Nepalese man attempting to become the oldest to climb Mount Everest, my post read: “I could go either way on this: What the hell was he doing up there? - OR - What a great way to go!”

Readers were less likely to straddle the divide:

“Beats lying in a hospital bed dying of nothing!” said George, with apologies to Redd Fox.

“I think people should consider the risks to the rescuers, porters, and fellow team members,” said Eric. “They suffer a harsh burden when tragedies like this occur…. The choice affected the lives of others.”

“Keep reaching for the stars,” said Von.

“A very sad story,” said Tracy. ” Not only did he lose his life, but the loss of his life negates the goal he was after, “to raise awareness about the capabilities of elderly people by scaling Everest”. At 82, and in good enough health to attempt the climb, he had a lot of life in him that he can no longer experience or share.”

“There are many, many exciting and stimulating wilderness sport activities that challenge me and make me feel alive without risking death,” said Alison.

‘Spokane Bikes’ organizing Bike to Work Week

CYCLING — Bike to Work Week — a May celebration of getting around on two wheels — starts Monday under the larger umbrella of “Spokane Bikes” to help promote all things bicycling.

Other dates to remember once you've signed up for Bike to Work Week at www.spokanebikes.org:

May 1-31: Commute Challenge – How many people can you inspire to ride during May? Prizes are available to whoever gets the most friends/co-workers/family to register.

May 15-21: Bike to Work Week.

May 16: Bike to Work Week Kickoff Breakfast, Riverfront Park.

May 18: Morning Energizer Stations: Locations to be announced (another reason to sign up—so you'll know where to get the goodies!)

May 18: Ride of Silence at 6 p.m.

May 20: Bike FROM Work Wrap-Up Party!

For info and to volunteer, email spokanebikemonth@gmail.com

Nature groups offer educational outings

NATURE — The May 22 walk through the McKenzie Conservation Area sponsored by the Inland Northwest Land Trust and led by Spokane author and naturalist Jack Nisbet has quickly filled its quota.

But there are other options for people who want to get outdoors with experts “in their fields.”

Check out the upcoming hikes with the Northeast Washington Chapter of the Native Plant Society and the Spokane Audubon Society as well as the Coeur d'Alene Audubon Society.

Fish for $2.2 million Cabela’s prize at Sprague or CdA lakes

FISHING — Starting Saturday and running through July 14, registered anglers have a chance to win valuable prizes by catching tagged fish in designated waters in 19 states, including Washington and Idaho.

Cabela's, partnering with the Outdoor Channel, has just announced that Sprague Lake and Potholes Reservoir in Washington and Lake Coeur d'Alene in Idaho will be among the waters that might have tagged fish anglers can turn in for valuable prizes — including a grand prize of up to $2.2 million — in the company's “Wanna Go Fishing for Millions?' promotion.

Nearly 1,000 fish that have been caught, tagged and released in 67 lakes or reservoirs, company officials say. The goal is to encourage more people to enjoy the great outdoors, they said.

Register online to qualify for the prizes should you catch a tagged fish.

At least one fish is worth $1 million, but an angler can more than double the prize by catching the fish while using gear from contest sponsors including an Abu Garcia reel spooled with Berkley line, Costa sunglasses and Sperry Top-Sider shoes.

Cabela’s is celebrating its 50th anniversary by offering a $10,000 shopping spree to the angler who redeems the 50th tag.

Additional prizes are designated for the first tag redeemed in each participating state.

Read on for a list of all the waters involved in the contest:

Can’t catch a salmon? Buy from the tribes

SALMON FISHING — The late surge if spring chinook salmon in the Columbia River is good news for salmon lovers.

Fish managers today announced the reopening of fishing season on a stretch of the lower river — and tribal fishermen have been given the nod to sell their fresh-caught fish at certain sites along the river from Cascade Locks to The Dalles.

The Columbia River Compact on Tuesday approved, effective that evening, the sale or retention of chinook, steelhead, sockeye, coho, walleye, shad, yellow perch, catfish, bass, and carp caught by tribal fishermen from traditional river side platforms with hook and line or dip or hoop nets. The fishery in Zone 6 reservoirs between Bonneville and where Columbia wanders north from the Oregon-Washington state line is open until further notice.

Just minutes ago, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department announced that with the upper Columbia spring chinook forecast upgraded from the initial prediction of 198,400 to 210,000, a stretch of the Lower Columbia will be reopened to sport fishing. Check here for the emergency rules.

It's not clear whether the Snake River will be reopened following the closures to take effect this weekend.

Meanwhile, tribal fishers may be found selling fish at a number of locations along the river at:

  • Marine Park at Cascade Locks,
  • Lone Pine at The Dalles,
  • Boat launch near Roosevelt, Wash.

Information on where the day’s catch is being sold is online or call (888) 289-1855.

Price is determined at the point of sale and sales are cash only.

Lethal sea lion remove can resume on Columbia River, NOAA says

MARINE MAMMALS — State's once again have a license to kill a few of the California sea lions that have learned to swim inland from the Pacific Ocean to ambush migrating salmon near Bonneville Dam.

NOAA’s Fisheries Service said today it is re-authorizing the states of Washington and Oregon to lethally remove specific California sea lions that congregate inland from  the Pacific Ocean just below the first dam on the Columbia River to eat adult salmon and steelhead swimming upriver to spawn.

Among those fish are salmon stocks that are listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

“This is not an easy decision for our agency to make, but a thorough analysis shows that a small number of California sea lions preying on salmon and steelhead are having a significant effect on the ability of the fish stocks to recover,” said William W. Stelle Jr., Northwest regional administrator for NOAA’s Fisheries Service.

“Today’s authorization allows state fisheries and natural resource agencies to carefully remove California sea lions to reduce their effect on vulnerable fish species.” 

Landscaping nears completion at Barker Bridge river access site

SPOKANE RIVER — When the spring runoff subsides and more paddlers turn their attention to the Spokane River, they'll be pleasantly surprised to see the improvements the City of Spokane Valley has been making to the Spokane River access site on north side of the new Barker Bridge.
 
The site has been regraded, erosion measures taken, trees and shrubs planted.
 
“All that's left is to have it seeded and put up signs,” said Terry Miller of the Spokane Canoe and Kayak Club, which donated $3,500 to the access project.

Washington hunting, fishing license fees increase Sept. 1

 

HUNTING/FISHING — Gov. Chris Gregoire signed legislation on Thursday boosting Washington's hunting and fishing license fees by an average of 16 percent, but not across the board.

Youth fees will go up 2 percent while disabled person/veteran documents will drop 4 percent.
 
Gregoire’s signature on Senate Bill 5385 authorizes the fees effective Sept. 1.
 
  • A resident freshwater fishing license will increase from $26 to $29.50.
  • A combo freshwater-saltwater-shellfish license will jump from $48.20 to $54.25.
  • Big Game License (deer, elk, bear and cougar): now $81.20, goes to $95.
  • Small Game License (with big game license): now $21.20, goes to $24.
  • State Migratory Bird Permit: now $12.50, goes to $17.
The increases are estimated to produce $16.1 million in new revenue for the Department of Fish and Wildlife in 2011-13.

Kettle debris spilled into Lake Roosvelt

BOATING – The debris boom at the mouth of the Kettle River was breached recently, causing logs and other floating debris to flow downstream into Lake Roosevelt, state officials say.

The debris can be hazardous to boaters.
 
A temporary boom is installed a mile south of the U.S. 395 Bridge near Kettle Falls, forcing boats to pass on the east side of an anchored barge.
 
Info: Columbia Navigation Inc. @ 509-684-4335 or email colnav@centurytel.net.
 

Chimney camp stove: boil water with sticks and grass

CAMPING — “Fire. Air. Wood. Water. Those are the essential ingredients for the Backcountry Boiler, an esoteric stove-type product called 'the world’s first ultralight chimney kettle.' “ says The Gear Junkie Stephen Regenold.

The product is made in Pittsburgh, and the stove is marketed to ultra-light backpackers and other wilderness types in need of hot water in the backcountry with little fuss.

Check out The Gear Junkie's review.

Note: The Backcountry Boiler is featured on Kickstarter, a fundraising website. The company has a goal to raise $20,000 to fund a redesign and to expand distribution to needy countries where use of the stove can reduce deforestation. More than $13,000 has been raised at this writing. See here for more details.

Fly fishing gear to be swapped this weekend

FLY FISHING — The annual Fly Fishing Gear Swap will run Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., at Silver Bow Fly Shop, 13210 E. Indiana Ave. in Spokane Valley.

Sellers get 100 percent in-store credit or 75 percent of the sale price

Call ahead to sell gear, 924-9998.

Free hot dogs and drinks.

Governor signs Discover Pass into law

STATE LANDS — Gov. Chris Gregoire today signed legislation authorizing the Discover Pass, a $30 annual vehicle permit ($10 daily) that soon will be required for access to Washington state parks and other state lands.

Starting July 1, the Discover Pass will be required for vehicle access to recreation lands and water-access sites managed by the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), and Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

State recreation lands include state parks, boat launches, campgrounds, heritage sites, wildlife and natural areas, trails and trailheads.

Holders of certain types of fishing and hunting licenses, registered campers in state parks and other users are exempt from some Discover Pass requirements. For details, see the Discover Pass website

The pass will be available to purchase in mid-June.

Read on for details from today's signing.

Two Everest record setters: one celebrates, one dead

MOUNTAINEERING — Two records were set on Mount Everest this week:

On Wednesday, Nepalese veteran mountaineer Apa Sherpa broke his own record for most climbs of Mount Everest by scaling the world's tallest peak for the 21st time.

The Nepalese sherpa, who lives in Utah, is leading an environmental expedition that plans to carry down tons of garbage left behind by past climbers. He took advantage of good weather to reach the 29,035-foot (8,850-meter) summit with a group of other climbers, said Tilak Pandey, a government mountaineering official stationed at the base camp.

On Monday, 82-year-old former Nepalese Foreign Minister Shailendra Kumar Upadhyay, collapsed and died on the slopes of Mount Everest while attempting to become the oldest person to climb the world's highest mountain. 

Instead, he became the oldest Everest summit seeker to die on the mountain.

Spokane River’s Dead Dog Hole better than ever, kayakers say

PADDLING — The wet word from Stateline, Idaho, is that Dead Dog Hole has been paddling better than ever in the past two months, dispelling worries that Stateline bridge construction might alter the legendary kayaker play feature.

It's not only better than ever but also easier to access, said Travis Nichols.

“I was using the Stateline exit but the cool kids let me know that its easier to take the first Post Falls Exit and drive around Seltice way to the North side of the bridge.From there the quick walk down to the hole seems like a luxury!

The hole Is also a bit more aesthetically pleasing this year with the closet piling being removed.

Get out to Dead Dog and enjoy the Spring flows before it bumps up again!

REI Adventures offers big trips or local weekenders

OUTDOOR TRAVEL — REI Adventures has a good reputation for leading outdoor vacations to exceptional outdoor destinations in many countries.

But the Seattle-based group also offers a long list of Weekend Getaways, shorter adventures within an easy drive of Spokane. For example:

  • North Cascades Climbing (3 days) - Known for its dramatic jagged peaks, towering waterfalls and deep river valleys, North Cascades National Park is adorned by more glaciers than any other park outside of Alaska.  Climbing adventurers will learn and practice basic climbing techniques before attempting the group’s remote summit ascent. 
  • Whistler Backpacking (4 days) – Whistler Mountain in western British Columbia offers a scenic venue for adventure trekking along the alpine trails that overlook the valley below.  Backpackers will cross the rolling Musical Bumps and alpine ridgelines en route to Russet Lake where they will be immersed in the area’s cultural history and learn about the natural forces that shaped the landscape.      

REI Weekend Getaways allow travelers to experience the great outdoors, polish their skills (or learn some new ones) and meet other fun outdoor enthusiasts — all without taking a lot of time off or breaking the bank account.  visit:

Rig heavy or get thrashed by Sprague Lake trout

FISHING — How huge are the trout at Sprague Lake?

I witnessed three violent breakoffs on 10 pound leader on Wednesday, including one fish that ripped off the trailing hook on a fly rig.

Here's the toll after Jim Kujala and Dave Ross finished a morning and short afternoon of trolling on Wednesday.

The biggest rainbow was 4.5 pounds, although Scott Haugen at Four Seasons Campground had weighed a 7.5 pounder earlier in the week. 

Two Lahontan cutthroats were 21 and 17 inches long. 

But all of the fish fought hard, especially the aerial and acrobatic 'bows, which felt like salmon-munching sea lions whacking the flies behind our dodgers.

Sprague water temperatures were 54 degrees on Wednesday.  Chris Donley, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department fisheries biologist, says 55 degrees is the point that kicks rainbows into their most active feeding behavior. The Sprague fish also are in a prime eating condition that tends to deteriorate later in the season.

Rig heavy, and get out there now!

 

Snake River chinook fishing closes this weekend

SALMON FISHING — Spring chinook salmon fishing has been good on the Washington portion of the Snake River — too good.

The Fish and Wildlife Department has just announced the Snake spring chinook season will close this weekend because of high catch rates over the past week that have pushed the total harvest near the limit for the season.

Spring chinook fishing on the Snake River will close Saturday below Ice Harbor Dam and Monday in the Little Goose and Clarkston areas. 

All three areas were originally scheduled to remain open through the month, but a review of the harvest to date indicates the allowable catch will be reached sooner than expected, said John Whalen, WDFW eastern regional fish program manager.

Read on for details.

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Summer season begins for boating through river locks

BOATING — The summer schedule for recreational boaters using navigation locks to travel past U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers begins Sunday.

Lockage outside the scheduled times will be considered for flotillas or other organized events sponsored by yacht clubs, marinas and other groups, provided 24-hour advance arrangements are made with the appropriate location. 

Check information for each dam on the  Walla Walla District’s recreational vessel schedule.

The Corps also has a useful brochure, “How To Lock Through.” 

Following are phone numbers for operators at each dam.

Angler criticizes locked gate at Lenice Lake

FLY FISHING — In a letter to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department's Ephrata office, a Spokane angler leaves the barb unclipped in his criticism of the access barrier at Lenice Lake, a Grant County selective fishery popular with fly fishermen.

“On a recent trip to Lake Lenice we were again confronted by the total lack of reasonable access due to the placement of a locked gate and the horizontal welded pipe which everyone must somehow get his fishing tackle and floating craft across to go fishing.

“The gate is too high to step over and too low to get most equipment under. Lifting equipment over the horizontal bars is the only solution but it takes two or more people.

“And then there is the recently installed Handicapped Accessible toilet 40 yards inside the gate which no handicapped person could ever reach. What kind of thinking goes into the placement of a Handicapped Accessible toilet 40 yards beyond the locked gate and 4 strand barbed wire fence? Every fisherman I talked with feels the same as I do but probably won’t write and complain.”

Feral pigs invading Oregon; Washington wary

INVASIVE SPECIES — Washington state is keeping a close eye on the feral pig populations in Oregon, where the fish and wildlife department has ordered farmers to determine the size of the destructive pig populations on their land and get rid of them.

An Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife official says the feral pig populations are likely moving north from groups in California, where they are hunted as game.

The Capital Press reports a group of between 50 and 100 feral pigs in southwestern Idaho was culled to 20 through surveillance and tracking in the area, and Oregon hopes to duplicate that success.

States in the Midwest and Southeast suffer from massive feral pig populations that wreak havoc on valuable crop land.

Oregon officials hope to eradicate them before that happens.

Goshawk flies through tight spots in slo-mo

BIRDWATCHING — The BBC captured some revealing footage of a captive goshawk demonstrating how the raptor can fly injury-free at high speeds through tight squeezes in the woods.  Very cool.

Lower CdA River area fishing report

FISHING — Mark Bowen, Idaho Fish and Game Department conservation officer, just posted this fishing report from his recent observations on the Lower Coeur d'Alene River area:

Chain Lakes  -

Water levels are a little high but fishable.

Pike fishing seems to be picking up – I checked a few people fishing for pike and they all had some. I didn’t see any that were extra large in size though.

Bass fishing seems to be picking up. One bass boat – caught a few Smallies.

Rose Lake– checked one fishermen at dark. He was cat fishing and had one.

CDA River– fly fishermen are doing well. One fishermen said he had caught 25 Cutthroats and Hybrids. Watch out for Redds (spawning beds) right now.

Water levels are a little high but fishable.

Pike fishing seems to be picking up – I checked a few people fishing for pike and they all had some. I didn’t see any that were extra large in size though.

Bass fishing seems to be picking up. One bass boat – caught a few Smallies.

Rose Lake– checked one fishermen at dark. He was cat fishing and had one.

CDA River– fly fishermen are doing well. One fishermen said he had caught 25 Cutthroats and Hybrids. Watch out for Redds (spawning beds) right now.

Hiking tip: Get the right fit

OUTDOORS TRAVEL — Properly fitted backpacks and hiking boots are key to comfort and safety, preventing back injuries, blisters and potentially nasty falls.

The National Outdoor Leadership school has a mantra: snug around the waist, loose in the toe.

For more tips on selecting and adjusting packs and sizing boots, check out NOLS instructional videos, including on fitting a backpack by NOLS Teton Valley gear gurus and fitting boots by NOLS Rocky Mountain boot expert Kevin McGowan.

Founded in 1965 by mountaineer Paul Petzoldt, NOLS is a wilderness education leader, providing transformative experiences to more than 15,000 students each year. These students, ages 14 to 70, learn in the wildest and most remote classrooms worldwide—from the Amazon rain forest, to rugged peaks in the Himalaya, to Alaskan glaciers and Arctic tundra — but also with offerings closer to home, from the Washington Coast to the Rocky Mountains.

Info: (800) 710-NOLS (6657) or visit www.nols.edu.

Idaho nonresident elk tags slow to sell

BIG-GAME HUNTING — Idaho's non-resident elk tags are selling like Ted Nugent posters at a PETA convention.

The Dworshak Zone - B Tag is the only offering that's even half sold out of its quota.

Check  out the complete list.

Feds announce plans to process 250 imperiled species

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The Obama administration announced today that it intends to work through a backlog of more than 250 imperiled animal and plant species over the next six years to decide if they need protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Interior Department officials said the proposal stems from a court agreement with an environmental group, WildEarth Guardians. The agency has been sued numerous times over its handling of species as diverse as greater sage grouse and Canada lynx.

Those are included on a long list of fish, birds, mammals, plants and even snails that scientists say need greater protections.

Read on for the rest of the Associated Press report that moved out of Montana this morning.

Mussel-infested boats stopped at Idaho checkpoint

WATERWAYS — Two boats infested with invasive mussels were intercepted at a North Idaho checkpoint, state officials said Monday.

Idaho Department of Agriculture said in a press release the boats were stopped at a station on Interstate 90 near Wallace on Thursday. The Coeur d’Alene Press reports one of the boats was headed to Lake Coeur d’Alene in Idaho, while the other was destined for Gig Harbor in western Washington.

The mussels have many western states taking preventative steps because they can destroy food chains, threaten waterways and fisheries. So far, Idaho waters are free of the invasive species, but two years ago the state Legislature passed laws requiring that all boats be tested.

Post Falls Mayor Clay Larkin says last week’s incident underscores the threat that invasive mussels pose to Idaho.

What’s the limit for boat docks on lower St. Joe River?

BOATING — An application to build 28 commercial boat docks on the lower St. Joe River – the second large-scale application in recent months – will be presented to the Idaho Department of Lands Wednesday, 6 p.m., at the Federal Building in St. Maries.

The agency approved an application in February to build 21 docks on the river just below the St. Joe City bridge about 13 miles upstream from St. Maries.

Landowner Peter Nemeth is seeking permission Wednesday to build 28 docks about three miles upstream from St. Maries. Area property owners said 13 docks already have been built in advance of getting permission.

Public hearings are not normally scheduled, but Wednesday hearing was requested by area property owners, said Jim Bennett, state lands resource specialist in St. Maries.

“Public hearings are very important in determining the decisions,” he said, noting that nor formal quotas on docks or boating congestion have been established.

The 15-mile stretch of river upstream from St. Maries already has more than 100 docks, he estimated.

The director of Idaho Lands will decide whether to approve the new application within 30 days.

Janet Lake of Kellogg, who’s owned a camper lot on the lower St. Joe since 1991, said she’s concerned about the congestion, safety and erosion issues arising with continued dock development.

“There are no restrictions at this point,” she said. “Without input from the community, neither the Department of Lands nor Benewah County is doing anything to get a handle on development.”

Rafters learn how to flip off — and get back on

RIVER RUNNING —The mountains are groaning under the weight of near record snowpack.

Now that spring finally does appear to be arriving, river rafters are expecting the runoff to be epic.

The local Northwest Whitewater Association will prepare rafters for the invevitable carnage in this whitewater bliss by holding a pre-season “flip clinic” on Sunday, 5:30 p.m., at the Spokane Valley YWCA pool.

Preregister by Friday by contacting Paul Delaney, spokanerafterguy@q.com or call 509-220-8018. If you're not a member, you'll need to join the association.
 
As this video shows, many rafters have little trouble flipping their boats upside down in big rapids.

But most all river runners need a little practice in learning how to flip the boats upright so they can continue the journey.

Check out the highlights captured at an outdoor “flip clinic” and produced by Dave and Shelly Becker.

Climber, 82, dies attempting to be oldest on Everest

MOUNTAINEERING — In a quest to become the oldest man to scale Mount Everest, 82-year-old Shailendra Kumar Upadhyay instead became the oldest man to die climbing the world's highest peak.

According to the Associated Press, the retired Nepalese foreign minister collapsed and died on the slopes of Mount Everest while returning to base camp Monday evening.

High-altitude sickness, a common cause of death among mountain climbers, is thought to be a factor, Nepalese authorities said.

Upadhyay had said he wanted to raise awareness about the capabilities of elderly people by scaling Everest. The Himalayan peak has claimed the lives of hundreds of more youthful mountaineers, including last week's death of a 55-year-old California man seeking to complete the last of his “seven summits” quest.

If he had succeeded, Upadhyay would have become the oldest person to reach the top of Everest, beating current record holder Min Bahadur Sherchan, who scaled the mountain at the age of 76 three years ago.

About 3,000 people have climbed Everest since Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first people to conquer the 29,035-foot  peak in 1953.

May is considered the optimum time for climbing in the Nepal Himalayas and about half a dozen people, most of them Nepalese, have reached the top so far this year.

Hundreds more are on the mountain waiting for the right conditions to launch their attempt on the summit.

Book highlights elk hunting history, records

BIG-GAME HUNTING – Hunting history is being served by a wave of hunters and publishers compiling information on big-game records and the stories behind them.  Among the latest of the well-appointed books is An American Elk Retrospective,  published by the Boone and Crockett Club.

The lavishly illustrated 275 page book traces the evolution of elk hunting and records keeping from the late 1880s through the 1970s. Amont other things, the pages hold correspondence and portraits of some of the most significant elk taken by hunters, including:

  • The famous Dark Canyon bull taken in 1899 by John Plute, which stood for decades as the world record.
  • Fred Mercer’s typical American elk harvested in Montana during the 1950s that resulted in a Sagamore Hill Award from Boone and Crockett Club.
  • William D. DeWeese’s non-typical giant taken over 120 years ago in Colorado.
  • Many other outstanding but lesser-known trophies

Check out the book here or call (888) 840-4868.

Hear sage advice about restoring scablands

CONSERVATION — The Nature Conservancy’s Arid Lands Program will shed some light on the importance Eastern Washington shrub-steppe habitats during a slide program on Wednesday, 7 p.m., sponsored by Spokane Audubon Society.

The free program will be presented at the Riverview Community Building, 2117 E. North Crescent Ave.

See a map for directions.

Wolverines, fishers featured in Sandpoint program

WILDLIFE - Two researches will present what they learned from studies on fishers and wolverines in the Cabinet and Selkirk mountains in a free program Thursday, 6 p.m., at the East Bonner County Library in Sandpoint.

Idaho Fish and Game Department biologists Lacy Robinson and Michael Lucid, along with area volunteers on snowshoes and snowmobiles have been setting bait stations and cameras in remote areas to survey for the elusive members of the weasel family.

The photographs tell much of the story.

The researchers got help from snowmobilers where the machines are allowed, but when they ventured into more remote areas, they were helped by snowshoers from the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness to help install, monitor and remove bait sets designed to catch wolverines - on film.

“We didn't photograph any wolverines,” says FSPW program coordinator Sandy Compton, ” at least not in the Cabinets, but we did catch a lot of their cousins.” In both ranges, cameras caught portraits of fishers, pine martens and weasels, as well as the occasional surprise visitor. In the Selkirks, they also caught a wolverine.

In 12 study stations, remote cameras were trained on trees baited with beaver carcasses and household sponges soaked with smelly concoctions designed to attract mustelids and be hard enough to get to that the critters would have to leave a little something behind to get a bite of the beaver.

Gun brushes and double-sided sticky tape placed below the beaver gathered hair samples from each animal that went for the bait. This was collected and is being analyzed for DNA, which will give Robinson and Lucid an idea of how many individual animals visited the bait stations.
  

Wilderness advocates present case for Columbia Highlands at REI

CONSERVATION — Exploring Northwest Washington's Columbia Highlands, a multi-media program, will be presented Wednesday, 7 p.m., at the Spokane REI store by Conservation Northwest and several related groups.

Explore portions of the Colville National Forest that make up some of the most wildlife rich and uncrowded recreational destinations in the state, and learn why some groups are working to protect them as wilderness.

Sign-up online to reserve a seat in the limited space available for this free presentation.

Wind River, Drano Lake chinook hot spots

SALMON FISHING — Creel reports are just out for Columbia River spring chinook salmon fishing over the weekend.  Here are the hot spots:

Wind River – Including fish released, boat anglers averaged nearly 2/3 fish per rod, an outstanding catch rate for spring chinook.  Effort has been heavy.  A sea lion has been reported at the mouth of the Wind. 

Drano Lake – Boat anglers are averaging nearly 2/3 spring chinook kept/released per rod here too.  Bank anglers are averaging a fish per about every 3 rods.  Effort has been heavy with 160 boats counted here last Saturday May 7.  

This, of course, is reason for anglers farther upstream to be excited, as I mentioned in an earlier post

Volunteers to spruce up Turnbull Refuge Saturday

WILDLIFE REFUGES — Volunteers are encouraged to sign up for the annual community work party Saturday at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.

The event is sponsored by Spokane Audubon Society and The Friends of Turnbull in the continuing effort to restore native riparian habitat to benefit birds and other wildlife species.

Helpers will be planting native saplings and installing fence to protect the trees from deer, elk and moose browsing.

The refuge will also be host to a “potluck” lunch. Discovery School will be providing hamburgers.

Please call in advance to register, (509) 235-4723. Ask for Sandy.

Read on for more details.

Spring chinook surge has Idaho anglers on call

SALMON FISHING — The numbers of chinook moving up the Columbia River and heading toward the Snake have roused the anticipation of Idaho anglers.

“It’s hard not to get excited when you see the numbers at Bonneville Dam,” said Amy Sinclair of Exodus Wilderness Adventures based in Riggins, Idaho.

“The last nine days have showed a flourish of fish crossing the first dam on their big swim for the Idaho river systems,” she said. As of Sunday, a total of 106,585 adult chinook had crossed Bonneville following spikes of more than15,000 fish on May 1 and 10,000 on May 6.

The Technical Advisory Committee of state and federal fish scientists met today and issued a release saying they are comfortable that the spring chinook upriver run size will be at least at the preseason forecast of 198,400 at the Columbia River mouth.

“These are awesome numbers, but when we really get excited is when we see those BIG numbers and impressive days at Lower Granite,” she said. As of Sunday, 1,571 spring chinook had crossed Lower Granite, the last Snake River Dam before the fish enter Idaho near Lewiston.

“On average when we look at these numbers we associate the fish as being in the Salmon River system  about 5-6 weeks after they have crossed Bonneville and about 10-14 days after they cross Lower Granite,” Sinclair said in her weekly fishing and river forecast. “We are anticipating seeing chinook in the Riggins area June 5-12 and hope that the high water season does not prove problematic for this fishery.”

The fish are probably at least two weeks out from reaching the Riggins area of the Salmon River, but they could be showing in good numbers in the lower Clearwater River by this weekend.

Salmon angler challenges sea lion for salmon, loses

SALMON FISHINGAfter netting his son's spring chinook salmon, a Portland angler was yanked into the Willamette River when a pinniped made a move to steal his catch, according to a report from The Oregonian

The sea lion yanked the 62-year-old retired pharmaceutical company manager out of the boat and into the 51-degree water.

Clinging to the gunwale with his right hand, Jan Christopherson held fast to the net with his left but was no match for what likely was a male California sea lion, a species that can grow to 8 feet long and 850 pounds.

Christopherson wasn’t wearing a life jacket. His boots filled with water. He had to let the $150 net and the fish go.

Also gone: His son’s G. Loomis rod and Penn reel, valued at about $500.

But salmon must have seemed like child's play after that.

Best in the West kayakers converging on Clark Fork

PADDLING — Top paddlers are zeroing in on Montana's Clark Fork River this weekend for the Best in the West kayak competition, one of the longest standing kayak events in the U.S.

Every year in the middle of May, kayakers converge in Missoula to surf Brennan’s Wave and the “Comp Hole” on the Alberton Gorge —one of the best playspots in North America (10,000-15,000 cfs, USGS Clark Fork below Missoula gage).  Paddlers say this venue provides the canvas for the best of what the true freestyle kayaking lifestyle has to offer.

Contact: Zoo Town Surfers, 1001 E Broadway #2-401, Missoula, MT 59802, (406) 546-0370 or emal waves@zootownsurfers.com

Read on for details.

Fishing for dollars: Northern pikeminnow reward program underway

FISHING — The Northern Pikeminnow Sport Reward Fishery Program in the Columbia and Snake Rivers is underway for 2011, offering cash to anglers who catch the predatory fish.

Some anglers take this seriously, earning thousands of dollars by the season's end in September.

The top earner banked more than $80,000 last year.

The program also pays registered anglers $4 to $8 per fish, nine inches or longer. Once again, state fish and wildlife workers have specially tagged and released about 1,000 northern pikeminnow into the rivers worth $500 each.

 Click here for information on the program, how to sign up and tips on the best techniques  for catching the species, which owes the bounty on its head to it's voracious appetite to salmon and steelhead smolts.  

A free pikeminnow fishing clinic will be offered at 6 p.m. on June 9, at the Tri-Cities Wholesale Sports Store, 6603 W. Canal Dr. in Kennewick; telephone (509) 736-2200
  

Experience Riverside State Park event set for Sunday

STATE PARKS - Although Riverside State Park is a stunning gem of recreational opportunity along the Spokane River on the west side of Spokane, most people don't know half of what if offers.

That's why the Riverside State Park Foundation  and park staff are inviting the public to sample more than a dozen organized activities at seven park venues during an ambitious free Experience Riverside State Park event Sunday from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

The list of activities includes horse and pony rides, orienteering, fun run, guided bike rides and hikes, kayak and canoe rides, ATV rides, kids activities and fur-trader encampment tours.

Venues are the equestrian area, Bowl & Pitcher, military runway, ORV park, Spokane House, park headquarters and the Nine Mile Recreation Site.

Check out a map and complete list of activities.

If you're game for it all, you can get a punch card stamped at each site and be eligible for prizes.

The sites also will have educational opportunities, such as water safety tips, Centennial Tail information, and a look at proposed park renovation plans. 

Fish and river runners are loving the abundance of water

RIVERS/LAKES —  This year's glut of precipitation — 180-192 percent of normal through out the region — is going a long way to recharge lakes, and the heavy snowpack — averaging more than 125 percent of normal throughout the region — has barely even started toward a serious runoff.

We're flush, so to speak. 

A cool, wet April left the snowpack in Much of Idaho virtually untouched, leaving the prospect of huge runoff in the Snake River basin and elswhere, according to the Twin Falls Times.

A Montana meteorologist is predicting “sensational runoff” and flooding favorite fishing streams such as the Bighole, according to the Great Falls Tribune.

However, big water years usually translate into big returns of salmon and steelhead when the young getting a boost downtream during spring return in a few years as adults.

Northwest salmon plan presented to Judge Redden today

FISHERIES — U.S. District Judge James A. Redden is hearing  from parties today on how restoration efforts along the Columbia River have bolstered survival rates of seven threatened runs of wild salmon and steelhead.

See the Oregonian story.
  

Idaho wolf tags not such a hot item this time

HUNTINGWhen Idaho offered tags in August 2009 for the state's first-ever wolf hunt, about 1,200 were sold the first half hour, a pace not repeated last week, when tags went on sale for the state's second-ever wolf hunt.

About 275 Idaho wolf tags were sold on Thursday and Friday.  Of course, there's still plenty of time before the fall seasons, which haven't yet been set.

See the Twin Falls Times story.
  

Free ‘Kayaking 101’ program tonight at REI

PADDLING — Kayak 101: An Introduction to Kayaks and Kayaking will be presented tonight, 7 p.m., by The Spokane Mountaineers paddling group.
  

The program will over types, styles and materials for kayaks, difference between flatwater (sea and lake kayaking) and river kayaking.  Learn what to look for when choosing to rent or purchase a kayak and related gear.


Sign-up online
 to reserve a seat in the limited space available for this free presentation.
  

Pygmy rabbits get another shot at revival

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Up to 100 pygmy rabbits—from captive-breeding facilities and from the wild in Oregon—will be released in Washington's Douglas county in the continued effort to reestablish the rare species in Washington.

State Fish and Wildlife Department biologists say the releases will be done in a controlled manner on the agency's Sagebrush Flat Wildlife Area beginning this month.

Read on for details on the diminutive bunny, the effort, and how biologists hope they have learned from past failures to revive the species in the Columbia Basin.

Coleman resumes Kettle Range role after Conservation NW layoff

CONSERVATION GROUPS — Tim Coleman of Republic, who's been leading conservation efforts for the Columbia Highlands area for more than two decades, has been laid off by Conservation Northwest.

“I've resumed my old role as executive director at Kettle Range Conservation Group,” he said. 

The KRCG had essentially merged with Conservation Northwest years ago to combine efforts for promoting wilderness designation on portions of the Kettle Range and Selkirk Mountains.

Those aren’t tennis balls near the golf course water hazard

WATERFOWL — Happy Mother's Day from the nearest pond or water hazard!

After 25-30 days of tending their nests, Canada geese have been hatching broods all over the Spokane area this past week.

The little yellow goslings stand out especially vividly on the green grass of golf courses, such as Qualchan, where they are tolerated by course managers.

Reasearch has shown that many of these goslings will fledge and migrate north this fall, where a high percentage will fall to goose hunters in Canada, never to fowl, or foul, a Spokane golf course again.

Video: flying carp could get old, fast

INVASIVE SPECIES — You've probably heard about the dangerous investations of “flying” silver carp in the Midwest. Trust me:  we don't want them.

Check out this video and consider whether it would be any fun to take a kid fishing and boating in Indiana's Wabash River.

Boundary Dam campground closed during dam repairs

CAMPING/BOATING – A second season of maintenance at Boundary Dam has forced the closure of the dam’s forebay campground, possibly through August.  But the work also brings the prospect of another major draw down of the Pend Oreille River reservoir that could once again expose Metaline Falls in August or September.

Click here for my slide show of last summer's drawdown and the rapids it exposed.

Meantime, Seattle City Light expects to keep access to the boat launch open Seattle City Light expects to keep access to the boat launch open throughout the work this summer, though some short restrictions might be needed.

Specially designated parking areas will be available within the recreation area, but parking spaces closest to the boat launch and construction area will be closed.

 Read on for more details.

Priest Lake’s Outlet Campground closed for season

CAMPING – Renovation work at Outlet Campground on Priest Lake likely keep the facility closed throughout the 2011 camping season, the Idaho Panhandle National Forests announced today.

“Renovations will give the entire campground a facelift and will include new rest rooms, water and sewer lines, pavement, extended camping spurs, picnic tables and fire rings,” said Priest Lake District Ranger Glenn Klingler.

“I think when people pitch their tents at Outlet Campground in 2012 they will agree that the renovations were worth the wait.”

Construction activities in the campground are expected to begin this spring and will last throughout the summer.

Alternative camping opportunities at Priest Lake are available at Lower Luby and Reeder Bay campgrounds, which open May 13, and at Upper Luby, Osprey and Beaver Creek campgrounds, which open May 27.

Info: Priest Lake Ranger District, (208) 443-6845.

Snow still delaying activities at Glacier Park

NATIONAL PARKS — Record or near record snowpack in the Glacier Park region is delaying the opening of some facilities, although the conditions keep the crowd away for people who like to have choice natural real estate to themselves.

Click here for photos, video clips and plowing status.

Information on current park road conditions is available on the park’s road status website.

Read on for this morning's update on snow, facilities and roads from Glacier Park officials.

Wolves still protected in Washington

ENDANGERED SPECIES — All the recent headlines about delisting gray wolves and Idaho's planning for a fall hunting season and even aerial hunting in the Lolo zone have prompted the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department to issue a press release with a warning that wolves are still protected in Washington.

Indeed, wolves still have protections everywhere in the Lower 48.  Idaho has started selling wolf tags this week, but the season hasn't started, and even when it does it will be controlled.

Read on for wolf details and updates spelled out in the WDFW release.

Also, check out this Seattle Times story on how delisting technically affects the status of some wolves in Washington.

Fiddling around with wild edibles

NATIVE PLANTS — The wild asparagus has been popping up, and morel mushroom gatherers have been striking gold for weeks.

Next up:  Fern fiddleheads.   

Tip: Do your homework before eating any wild plant or mushroom.

Elk Foundation honors Colville Forest habitat efforts

PUBLIC LANDS — The Colville National Forest’s Newport and Sullivan Lake ranger districts have received an Elk Country Habitat Enhancement Award from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

The two districts have pursued partnerships with RMEF and other groups for 20 years to fund projects that improve habitat and forage for elk and other wildlife in the Pend Oreille River Watershed.  

Their efforts have paid off in funding 44 cooperative projects designed to maintain and improve conditions that support a local elk herd of about 1,500 animals.

Read on for more details.

Free intro to kayaking basics

PADDLING — The Spokane Mountaineers paddling group will present a free program, “Kayak 101 - An Introduction to Kayaks and Kayaking,” on May 9 starting at 7 p.m. at REI.

This seminar is designed for people new to the sport. Learn about the different types, styles and materials for kayaks.  Learn about the difference between flatwater (sea and lake kayaking) and river kayaking.  Learn what to look for when choosing to rent or purchase a kayak. 

See the various accessories (paddles, dry bags, floats, PFDs, etc.) available for paddling safety and convenience. Talk to paddlers who love the exercise and the camaraderie of paddling together.  Bring your questions.

Lawsuit challenges federal budget bill wolf delisting rider

WILDLIFE IN THE COURTS — Environmental groups are challenging as unconstitutional Congressional legislation that took gray wolves off the endangered species list, according to the Associated Press.

Two lawsuits were filed in U.S. District Court on Thursday, as control over more than 1,300 wolves was turned over to state authorities in Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Utah.

A federal budget bill rider in April mandated the lifting of wolf protections.

Western lawmakers said they wanted to go around a federal judge who blocked prior efforts to hunt the animals.

But environmentalists say that violated the separation of powers required under the Constitution.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuits are the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Friends of the Clearwater and WildEarth Guardians.

Montana and Idaho are planning to resume regulated wolf hunting seasons this fall.

Lake Roosevelt drawdown reveals hint of Kettle Falls

FISHING/BOATING — The water level in Lake Roosevelt (behind Grand Coulee Dam) today is elevation 1,218 feet. 

That's 72 feet below full pool.

Anglers say fishing is spotty.  Boaters say launching is difficult to impossible because the water level is below all of the reservoir's boat ramps.

“Upstream of the two bridges (Highway 20), most of Hayes Island and the beginning of the historic Kettle Falls is just starting to show,” said local resident and Facebook friend J. Foster Fanning, who snapped the photo above this morning.

Idaho begins selling wolf tags

HUNTING — Idaho Fish and Game has started selling wolf tags – $11.50 for resident hunters and $186 for nonresidents, vendor fees included.

Tags are available at license vendors and Fish and Game offices. A valid 2011 Idaho hunting license is required to buy a tag.

Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published the rule that removed wolves in Idaho from the endangered species list. The rule took effect upon publishing.

Gray wolves are now under state management and considered a big game animal.

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission will set seasons, rules and limits later in the summer.

Idaho aims to act quickly on its plan to kill up to 60 wolves in a northcentral Idaho hunting area after the Obama Administration moved to delist the predators from Endangered Species Act protections. Aerial shooting likely will be employed.

Although official estimates put Idaho’s wolf population at 705, Idaho Fish and Game officials say the number after this year’s crop of pups emerges may exceed 1,000.

Hunt for most wanted turkey ends with shot to head

HUNTING — After much scouting and several disappointing close calls, my spring wild turkey hunting season ended this morning at 6:10 a.m.

A head shot.

No photos will be posted.  I don't want to take the chance of offending anyone or inciting violence against hunters. 

It was unarmed, but I'm proud of a job well done. I feel no need to high-five, cheer or pump my fists.

The celebration will be quiet and respectful, enhanced with a garlic lime sauce.

No DNA testing is required. It had a long beard. 

If you need more proof, ask my wife, or show up for dinner to see for yourself. Bring a bottle of wine.

Video: Snowmobiler has fast ride up, even faster down


Motoneige 0 - Montagne 1

SNOWMOBILING — I always wondered about the fascination with high marking.  Now I get it.

Volunteer for trail work from Liberty Lake to Salmo-Priest

PUBLIC LANDS – The Washington Trails Association once again is organizing projects to build or maintain popular non-motorized trails in northeastern Washington, from Spokane Valley to the Salmo-Priest Wilderness.

The group projects range from one-day stints to week-long volunteer vacation projects that culminate in great accomplishments in spectacular areas.

Liberty Lake hiking trails are getting attention this month, starting with session on Saturday, followed by sessions May 12, 14 and 28.

Colville National Forest volunteer vacations to consider include:

Get information and sign up for these projects at www.wta.org


  

Work at dams and water spills boost salmon

FISHERIES — The rush of chinook salmon and steelhead running up the Columbia and Snake rivers this season is a product of a rush of water flowing down the river systems a few years ago.

A groupof federal agencies is pointing out that wild young Snake River steelhead migrated safely through federal dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers to the ocean last year at the second-highest rate on record. Recently released research indicates about 21 percent more steelhead passed safely through the dams in 2010 compared to the average since the late 1990s.

Young chinook and sockeye salmon also made it safely through the eight federal dams at higher-than-average rates, NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center found.

Researchers said the higher survival rates likely reflected two factors: the spill of water to help carry young fish past dams and recently installed surface passage systems that let fish slide through spillways near the water’s surface, where they naturally migrate.

Read on for more details  from the Federal Caucus of 10 agencies.

Condor chick hatches in Arizona

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The number 13 is lucky and worth celebrating in Arizona, where a California condor chick has hatched in the wild at a new nest site near Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, northeast of the Grand Canyon.

This is the 13th chick hatched in the wild since condors were first released in Arizona in 1996. Nine remain a part of the wild population. The new chick is expected to take its first flight and join the rest of the wild flock in six months. It will remain dependent on its parents for approximately 18 months.

Wildlife biologists began monitoring the site several months ago after discovering the parents engaged in courtship and nesting behaviors.

The newest member of the species brings the total number of California Condors in the world to 375. Of those, 194 are in the wild, with 74 in the Arizona-Utah population.

In the 1980s, the population had plunged to just 22. 

Read on for more details.

Bass club’s tournament schedule gets in gear

COMPETITIVE FISHING — Idle since the April event at Potholes Reservoir, the Inland Empire Bass Club's tournament schedule is ready to kick into gear.  Here's what's coming up:

Long Lake, May 21-22, based out of Nine Mile Resort.
  
Demaris Invitational PDO, June 4-5, on the Pend Oreille River, based out of Outpost Resort.
  
Pend Oreille River, June 18-19, based out of  Outpost Resort.
 
Lake Coeur d'Alene (tentatively) July 9-10, based out of Harrison.
  
Snake River, Sept. 24-25, based out of Boyer Park and Marina.
  
Lake Roosevelt, Oct. 8-9, based out of Coulee Playland Resort. 

Silver Mountain skiing continues Saturday, plus golf

WINTER SPORTS — The Silver Saturdays of skiing and snowboarding continue this week — and Silver Mountain Resort is offering a ski-and golf package with a freebie for moms to help visitors make the transition to spring.

 Snow riding is set to continue Saturday unless some unexpected weather event occurs.

Lift tickets are $35 for adults, $25 for youths, and free for children 6 and younger.

Season pass holders from other resorts save $5.

Galena Ridge Golf Course opens on Saturday with this deal:  ski and golf for $50 and mom's golf for free on Sunday.

Details at www.silvermt.com.

BLM closes Killarney Lake boat launch

BOATING – The Bureau of Land Management Coeur d’Alene Field Office has just announced the closure of the Killarney Lake boat launch for the season in order to deal with needed repairs.

The boat launch, on the northwest section of Killarney Lake, is located about 20 miles east of Coeur d’Alene near Rose Lake. The camping and picnic facilities at the Killarney Lake boat launch site will remain open.

Alternative facilities in the area include the Cataldo Mission, Rose Lake and Medimont boat launches.

Kurt Pindel, recreation specialist for the Coeur d’Alene Field Office, said BLM is improving the old boat launch to include a new concrete ramp.

Construction had been scheduled for January during low water, but seasonally characteristic low water never came this year, he said.

“The probability that water levels will drop enough for construction to begin this summer or fall is low due to the high spring rains and mountain snowpack,” Pindel said.

“We will begin final repairs on the boat launch as soon as the water levels allow installation of the new concrete pads, which unfortunately we anticipate will be sometime next winter.”

Info: Kurt Pindel, (208) 769-5015.

Chinook salmon run making up for late start

FISHING — Here's the latest on Columbia River spring chinook, just passed on minutes ago by Joe Hymer of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department:

Bonneville Dam passage of chinook through May 3 totals 68,752 adult fish.  Daily counts have dramatically increased, with the counts for the past three days accounting for nearly half the total passage. 

Based on the recent five-year average, which includes four late-timed years, passage is typically about 35 percent complete by May 3 and the average 50 percent passage date is May 8.

The chart above shows how the spring chinook salmon run is making up for its late start in migrating up the Columbia River over Bonneville Dam. Nearly 16,000 springers climbed past the dam in one day!

Fishing effort is picking up at Drano Lake and other tribs and hot spots up the river.

Time to get in gear.

‘Take Me Fishing’ trailers debut in North Idaho

NOVICE FISHING — May is prime time to be introduced to the sport of fishing in North Idaho.

Bring your family and friends to Idaho Fish and Game's Take Me Fishing Trailer program. It's free and open to everyone.

Equipment, bait and instruction provided. Participants do not need a fishing license. Just show up.

  • Thursday - 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. - Cocolalla Lake
  • Saturday - 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. - Fernan Lake
  • Tuesday - 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. - Hayden Lake, Sportsman’s Park
  • May 12 - 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. - Cocolalla Lake
  • May 14 - 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. - Fernan Lake
  • May 17 - 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. - Post Falls Park Pond
  • May 19 - 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. - Hayden Lake, Sportsman’s Park
  • May 21 - 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. - Fernan Lake
  • May 24 - 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. - Day Rock Pond
  • May 26 - 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. - Day Rock Pond
  • May 28 - 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. - Steamboat Pond
      

KOA’s are more than campgrounds

CAMPINGCommercial campgrounds are upgrading to accommodate people who don't necessarily like camping.

KOA campgrounds, for instance, are featuring cabins and lodges at many of their facilities. Two KOAs around the outside of Glacier National Park offer cute little cabins and even high-end lodges with air conditioning.

The West Glacier KOA invites a local photographer to present wildlife slide shows and other programs twice a week.

If camping bores you, the facility has a game room and a large log lodge with a pool table, television and fireplace.

No camp stove? No problem. Eat breakfast and dinner in the campground restaurant that's open all summer. Get a treat from the ice cream shop. Lounge in the heated swimming pool and two hot tubs or head to the state's largest water park in nearby Columbia Falls.

Across the Going to the Sun Road on the east side of the Park, the St. Mary KOA hosts will day-sit your dog while you hike the trails inside the park.  You don't have to return to a smoky fire. Instead you an improve your putting skills, play bocce or enjoy the new swimming pool and hot tub complex. Rent a kayak and explore the wilds of Lower St. Mary Lake and River.

No wonder KOA spells campgrounds with a “K.”

Idaho Fish and Game Commission meets in Lewiston

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — Chinook salmon and wolves are on the agenda for the Idaho Fish and Game Commission meeting May 18-20 in Lewiston.

A public hearing will be May 18 at 7 p.m. at the Clearwater Region office, 3316 16th St..

On Thursday morning, the panel will consider a chinook salmon fishery on the upper Salmon and South Fork Salmon rivers. Later in the day, commissioners will hear an update on wolf management.

Other actions they will consider include:

  • Adjustment to deer controlled hunt tag numbers is likely.
  • Hunter education live fire exemption rule.
  • Election of new commission chairman and vice-chairman.
  • Appointment of  commission liaison to the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Licensing Board.

On Friday morning the commission will meet for a workshop on off-highway vehicles.

Groups sue to stop Oregon wolf kill

PREDATORS — A plan announced Monday to kill two Oregon wolves from a pack that killed livestock near Joseph, Ore., was quickly challenged in court Tuesday by conservation groups.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife authorities want to capture and kill two young wolves from the Imnaha pack in northeastern Oregon after the latest in a series of livestock kills. The federal biologists say killing two wolves might preclude the need to kill more of the pack and disrupt their breeding and social network.

However, the conservation groups filed a lawsuit in in U.S. District Court in Portland to block the killings, saying the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had not done the formal environmental review called for by law before making the decision.

Read on for more of the story from the Associated Press.

Salmon: Running the Gauntlet film event tonight at Spokane winery

Watch the full episode. See more Nature.

FISHERIES — Columbia and Snake river salmon are the focus of a free film documentary and book event tonight in Spokane:

 Salmon: Running the Gauntlet. — featuring a personal appearance by the film's maker, Steven Norton of Boise — will show at  an event starting at 7 p.m., at the Caterina Winery, 905 N. Washington St.  The Nature series documentary just aired last weekend on PBS.

Also speaking at the event is Steven Hawley, author of Recovering a Lost River, which examines dam removal on the Klamath River.

The event is free but RSVPs appreciated.  Contact Sam Mace, 747-2030 or sam@wildsalmon.org.

On Thursday, the two men will speak at the Kootenai Environmental Alliance monthly noon meeting at the Iron Horse in downtown Coeur d'Alene.

Are the fish safe to eat? Find out here

FISHING — Advisories for how much fish should be consumed from area waters that may be affected by mercury, PCBs or other contaminants are available in:

Idaho online or  (866) 240-3553.

Washington online or   (877) 485-7316.

These advisories are especially important for children and pregnant women.

Website has animated directions for tying 350 knots

OUTDOOR SKILLS — This Australia-based MariNews website offers excellent animated instructions for tying 350 knots useful to anglers, boaters, campers, climbers and virtually any other outdoorsmen who find them short a roll of duct tape.

Expert angler recommends productive lake patterns

FLY FISHING — Central Washington fly fishing guide and industry rep George Cook steeps in fly fishing 12 months a year.  When he speaks, people listen.   I'm no exception.  

I wrote down his recommendations for fishing Central Washington stillwater trout fisheries this time of year:

 HOT FLIES

  •  Snowcone Chronoimids,  black #12 and #14, motor oil, same sizes.
  • Thin Mint  #8 (The Heisman Trophy of Lake Flies - a killer bugger).
  • Bead Head Carey Bugger, Claret/burgandy  #8.
  • Super Fly (damsel) #12 and -#14

LINES  

  • Clear Intermediate
  • Type #3 full sink
  • And of course, a Weight-forward floater.

Yakima River spring chinook fishing to open Saturday

FISHING — Fishing seasons for hatchery spring chinook salmon were set today on two sections of the Yakima River, the first of which will open Saturday.

Read on for all the details released this afternoon by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department

Rock Lake browns surrendered to veteran fly fishers

FLY FISHING — Going through some old emails, I found the following timely bit of inspiration received a few years ago from Fenton Roskelley, former Spokane Chronicle outdoors writer and fly-fishing enthusiast.

He was referring to late-April fishing expeditions south of Cheney to Rock Lake with angling friend Lowell Mills:

“He and I fished Rock Lake at a time when the rainbows and brown trout were prowling the shoreline to eat young crayfish. We cast crayfish imitations with floating and sink-tip lines against the rocks and caught trout on nearly every cast. We hooked and released at least 30 each when we fished crayfish imitations.”

PIT tags enable anyone to follow steelhead, salmon migrations

FISHERIES RESEARCH - A tiny transponder inserted in a random sample of hatchery and wild salmon and steelhead enables scientists and the public to track the fish migrations up and down the Columbia and Snake rivers.

The PIT (passive integrated transponder) tag is an electronic tag the size of a tiny piece of spaghetti, measuring 12 mm long by 2.1 mm in diameter.

Click here for details on how the tags are used for tracking fish as well as the website the public can tap to find out where the fish are in their migration.

Incidentally, juvenile spring chinook salmon collectively dubbed Sammie the Salmon are being followed on their 600-mile downstream migration by combining PIT tag technology with a Facebook page in an educational project launched by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The young salmon were tagged and released recently at the Winthrop National Fish Hatchery and are being tracked with images, video and updates as they head down the Methow and Columbia rivers to the ocean.

The first spring chinook from WNFH arrived at Rocky Reach Dam on April 21 at 8:30 p.m. The PIT tag showed that it had covered 100 river miles in 3.2 days! Since then, more than 600 PIT tagged chinook have reached that milestone.

Read on for more info about Sammie Salmon.

State’s longest serving employee retires from Fish and Wildlife

OUTDOOR JOBS — Fisheries biologist Tony Eldred, 77, of Wenatchee reluctantly let a medical condition push him into retirement last month just shy of 60 years after he landed his first summer job with the state of Washington.

He was honored in Olympia as the longest-serving state employee of all time — serving 53 consecutive years, not including summer jobs and a two-year stint in the Navy.

A story in the Wenatchee World explains how he worked for fish and fishermen in recent years as a liason with utilities.

Asked how he avoided retirement for so long, even with deep state budget cuts in recent years, Eldred quickly quips, “By not sticking my head out of the foxhole!”

As it turns out, Eldred had a niche job for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. For much of his career, he served as a liaison between the agency and public utilities — primarily those that operate the hydroelectric dams along the Columbia River.

Two Oregon wolves to be targeted after another livestock death

PREDATORS — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that it has authorized the killing of two young wolves from the Imnaha pack in northeastern Oregon after another livestock kill was confirmed.

An investigation determined a calf carcass found Saturday near Joseph was the product of a wolf kill.

Nonlethal measures such as electric fences have not kept the pack from livestock, so lethal controls are in order, officials said.

The plan is to capture and kill two sub-adults from the pack, which numbers 10 to 14 wolves. That could be enough to discourage the pack from attacking livestock without affecting breeding.

Two wolves from the same pack were under a state kill order last summer, but that was lifted after conservation groups challenged it.

Read on for details from the just-issued press release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

While Dworshak drawdown continues, recreation still available

BOATING — With snowpack levels more than 130 percent of normal for the Dworshak Dam and Reservoir watershed area, regional water-management officials continue to hold Dworshak lake levels at 1,451 feet,  which is 149 feet below full pool (1,600 feet).

That leaves a lot of shoreline to tramp up to the lake's many mini-camps.

But  U.S.Corps of Engineers manaers say there's still plenty of recreation available at the reservoir untilthe runoff flows and enables them to bring levels back up.

Read on for details.

Getting one-up on Smith River misery

RIVER RUNNING — Last week I posted an item and photo  to illustrate how this year's wintery spring made it tough on anglers launching to float Montana's Smith River on April 22.

So a friend reminds me, with the photo above, that April 30, 2010, on the Smith River wasn't like a tropical vacation, either.

Facebook friend Todd Hoffman says Montana doesn't have a corner on the cold spring weather:

“I ran the Jarbidge River this weekend (on Idaho's south border). There was 4 inches of snow at the put in, and it got down to 27 degrees at night.”

  

St. Joe River Road snow-free to milepost 62

RIVER RUNNING — Terry Miller of the Spokane Canoe & Kayak Club just posted this report on roads and stream conditions for the St. Joe, North Fork St. Joe and  Marble Creek:

The main St. Joe River Road is open to Mile Marker 62. That makes Skookum Canyon good to go but not Tumbledown Rapid.

Note: The mountain goats are hanging out on the cliffs above Skookum Canyon.

You can drive up Marble Creek until you cross the bridge at Mile 7+ —  then snow gets thick. There is little left on the road up to that point. There are two logs in the creek. The usual one where we usually put in and run the left chanel and another one a couple hundred yards down. This one is easy to see and walk on river left. There is no new wood in the creek below “the corner” and has been at a fun level for two weeks.

We also ran the North Fork (St. Joe) Sunday, from “No Sweat” down. Not sure why but they plowed the upper road to the sixth bridge and then stopped? This leaves you 200' above the entrance to No Sweat. It took about 1/2 hour to get down to the water. Was pretty easy to lower boats in 2 drops. River was free of any new wood and at a fun level. Lower road was snowed in 30 feet after you turned onto it. 

Count salmon instead of sheep, and sleep tight

FISHING — With spring chinook salmon booming up the Columbia River system, some anglers find it particularly exciting to go online and feast their eyes on the fish viewing window at the top of the Bonneville Dam fish ladder to see what's headed upstream our way — by the thousands.

Weather chilly for fishing opener; could be worse

FISHING — Behold, spring fishing in Minnesota.  Anglers in photo above look warmer than many of the people I saw at Spokane County lakes during Saturday's lowland lakes fishing season opener.

Hunting, fishing fee-increase bill on Gregoire’s desk

HUNTING/FISHING — Washington's hunting and fishing license fees will be increased by an average of 9.9 percent, according to Senate Bill 5385, passed last week by the Washington Legislature and sent to Gov. Chris Gregoire for her signature.
 
The new fees, which include a few that have been reduced, will be effective Sept. 1.
 
Read on for details on the new fees in a report from Allen Thomas of the Vancouver Columbian.

Biologist investigates how to improve CRP for pheasants

UPLAND BIRDS — The Conservation Reserve Program has been a boost for wildlife in many areas, but everyone agrees that the type of vegetation planted in the retired farmlands is critical to its subsequent value to wildlife.  Some plantings have left cover, but little food value for birds such as pheasants.

On Tuesday, Joey McCanna, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department upland game bird specialist, will present information from his research project “Invertebrate Population Response to Native and Non-Native Forb and Legume Improvements to Existing Conservation Reserve Program Lands.” 

In other words, will a different mix of plants in CRP improve the production of bugs that will boost the nutrition and survival of upland birds, such as pheasants?

Check it out:  Tuesday, 7 p.m., at the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council’s general meeting, 6116 N. Market St.

Mount St. Helens observatory opens May 15

VOLCANOES — The Johnston Ridge Observatory — the major facility attraction in the 110,000-acre  Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument — will reopen for the season on Sunday, May 15 — three days before the anniversary of the 1980 eruption.

The center closes each winter because snow makes the road impassable. It will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through October. Admission to JRO and Coldwater Lake is $8 per person, kids 15 and younger free.

As usual, admission is free on the day of the eruption anniversary, which falls on a Wednesday this year.

In addition to a stunning view into the volcano's crater, the Johnston Ridge center also has live seismographs, geologic exhibits, an eruption movie, ranger talks and a bookstore. Several of the exhibits have been enhanced or refurbished for this season using donations and federal stimulus funds.

Improvements include a newly modeled high definition theater with surround sound, interactive touch screens, audio translation devices and new interpretive signs and facilities.

Road info: (360) 449-7800.

Skier helmet cam records giant leap in the Alps

EXTREME SKIING —  Free skier Matthias Giraud and his skiing partner Stefan Laude used skill, guts and high-definition GoPro helmet-cams recently to film a carefully planned stunt that lets us soar with them through the French Alps.

On his website, Giraud says he and Laude — both expert skiers and skydivers — wore avalanche location devices and had a helicopter rescue team on standby.

Laude parasailed and filmed from overhead as Giraud skied the ridge line leading to the cliff..

Giraud said, “It was probably the best run of my life.” If you've followed his career, that's saying something.

Boatering anglers checked out by marine patrols

FISHING — The opening day of the lowland lake fishing season is a good opportunity for sheriff deputies to contact a large number of boaters to be sure their vessels are up to snuff.

Spokane County Sheriff Deputy Jay Bailey was checking boaters before they launched at West Medical Lake on Saturday.

He said about half of the boaters he checked were missing one or more of the state or county boating requirements.

High on the list of oversights was the requirement to have an onboard sounding devise — a boat horn, air horn or whistle.

Other requirements include:

  • Current registration on board.
  • Registration numbers properly shown.
  • Boat drivers 35 and under need boater education certificate.
  • Life jackets for everyone in the boat.
  • Functioning fire extinguisher.

Idaho set out goals for managing wolves

WILDLIFE — Idaho Fish and Game Department biologists have wasted no time gearing up for their renewed chance to begin managing wolves on the state level, even though some federal guidelines still apply.

The federal budget bill passed by Congress included a rider that removes wolves from many endangered species protections and once again put the re-introduced species under state management under the provisions of the 2002 Idaho Wolf Management Plan. 

Read on for updates from Jim Hayden, Idaho Fish and Game's Panhandle Region wildlife manager:

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About this blog

News, field reports and insights on the Great Outdoors.

Rich Landers – hunter, animal lover, hiker, paddler, angler, naturalist and conservationist – has been covering the outdoors beat for more than three decades. His versatility and field research as a trails and waterways guidebook author help him connect issues to a wide range of interests.

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Rich Landers Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.

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