ADVERTISEMENT
Advertise Here

Outdoors blog

Archive for September 2013

Government shutdown leaves options for outdoors enthusiasts

PUBLIC LANDS — As the House and Senate continue to battle over a budget compromise, the impact of a potential government shutdown on Washington state would be a pain for some people, but it wouldn't necessarily be earth-shattering to the short-term plans of outdoors enthusiasts.

If Congress fails to reach an agreement by midnight, all national parks and refuges would be closed, as well as national monuments like Mount St. Helens, and Forest Service ranger stations would be closed.

Visitors using overnight campgrounds or other park facilities would be given 48 hours to make alternate arrangements and leave the park. 

However, access would still be allowed to national forests and state lands would not be affected.

Teanaway purchase becomes Washington’s first state forest

PUBLIC LANDS — The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), and Forterra today announced the purchase of 50,272 acres in the headwaters of the Yakima Basin watershed.

The area, with benefits ranging from the watershed's importance to irrigators to the outdoor recreation opportunities, is being designated the Teanaway Community Forest.

The $97 million Teanaway acquisition is the largest single land transaction in Washington State in 45 years and reflects more than a decade of collaboration involving many organizations and individuals, state officials said in a media release. 

The property will become Washington's first Community Forest, a model designed to empower communities to partner with DNR to purchase forests that support local economies and public recreation, said Peter Goldmark, Commissioner of Public Lands. 

The forest will be managed through a partnership between DNR and WDFW, with input from the local community and interested stakeholders.

Acquisition of the property is a key step in implementing the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan, an initiative developed by a coalition of public and private organizations to safeguard the basin's water supply, restore fisheries, conserve habitat, preserve working lands, and enhance recreational opportunities. 

Read on for details on how this came to be.

Snow closes Glacier Park’s Logan Pass temporarily

PARKS — The first serious bout of winter-like weather has temporarily closed Glacier National Park's Going-to-the-Sun Road today at The Loop on the west side of the park.  

Weather conditions along the higher elevations of the Going-to-the-Sun Road today have included very windy conditions — 30-40 mph at Big Bend — slush and icy conditions on the road, cloudy and limited visibility, and snow accumulations of more than 8 inches at Logan Pass.

Camping conditions suck.

Feds defend plan to drop gray wolf protections

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Federal officials offered a staunch defense today of a proposal to drop legal protections for the gray wolf in most of the country, as opponents rallied in the nation’s capital before the first in a series of public hearings on the plan. 

Read the latest in this story from the Associated Press.

Snake River hot for pikeminnow bounty anglers; season closes today

FISHING — The area of the Snake River upstream from Lower Granite Dam has been the hottest September spot in the Columbia River system for bounty angers targeting northern pikeminnows for cash rewards.

The 2013 season for the Northern Pikeminnow Sport Reward Program, funded by the Bonneville Power Administration, ends today.

Angers who report to any of 21 check stations along the Snake and Columbia rivers have been earning $4-$8 per fish in the program to suppress predators that prey on young endangered salmon. Bonuses of up to $500 can be collected from fish that are tagged as incentive to attract more anglers.

In the most recent week of reports, Sept. 16-22, the Greenbelt's 54 anglers fishing out of the Clarkston area caught 1,051 pikeminnows. The next closest total was reported by the Boyer Park check station, with 74 anglers catching 890 fish. 

Overall for the season that started in May, Boyer Park's 1,913 registered anglers have turned in 24,145 pikeminnows, second only to The Dalles Boat Basin, where 3,368 anglers have turned in 26,265 fish.

The harvest total from Sept. 16-22 — the latest data available — was 6,363 pikeminnows (compared with 6,327 the week before) from 517 anglers (579). The catch average was 12.3 fish per angler up from 10.9 the previous week with three tags recovered (two).

One tagged fish was caught for every 2,121 pikeminnow caught (one for every 3,163 the week before).

The harvest season total is 155,245 pikeminnow from 19,622 anglers for a catch average of 7.9 fish per angler with 158 tags recovered.

The best catch rates this past week occurred at PortCo (Marine Park) with 29.0 fish per rod; Washougal with 28.5; Ridgefield with 23.7; Gleason with 20.4; and Greenbelt with 19.5.

Studis have shown that northern pikeminnow, a large member of the minnow family, eat millions of young salmon and steelhead, and other fish like bass, walleye and shad in the Columbia and Snake rivers each year.

The more northern pikeminnow an angler catches, the more the fish are worth. The first 100 are worth $4 each; the next 300 are worth $5 each, and after 400 fish are caught and turned in, they are worth $8 each. 

Only fish caught from the Columbia mouth to Priest Rapids Dam, and from the Snake mouth to Hells Canyon Dam are eligible.

Info: (800) 858-9015.

Lawsuit challenges lack of habitat protection for mountain caribou

ENDANGERED SPECIES — A coalition of six conservation groups, including The Lands Council based in Spokane, filed a lawsuit today challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to cut more than 93 percent of protected critical habitat for the endangered mountain caribou — from a proposed 375,562 acres to a mere 30,010 acres. 

The November decision was a major setback for the struggling animals, which in recent decades have only survived in the lower 48 states in a small area in North Idaho and northeastern Washington.

Caribou numbers have dwindled due to logging of old-growth forests, road construction and growing recreational use of snowmobiles, the groups say.

The groups warned in January they would file the lawsuit.

“This reduction in protected habitat is a death sentence for mountain caribou. They will not survive in the United States if we don’t protect their habitat,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision ignored the science and caved to political pressure.” 

Caribou once ranged across much of the northern lower 48 states, including the northern Rocky Mountains, upper Midwest and Northeast. The southern Selkirks mountain caribou, the last remaining population in the northern Rocky Mountains was protected under the Endangered Species Act in 1984.

The Fish and Wildlife Service, however, never designated critical habitat for the caribou, and in 2002 the groups filing today’s notice petitioned, and eventually litigated, to obtain a designation.

In keeping with a scientific recovery plan for the caribou, the proposed critical habitat issued in 2011 included more than 375,000 acres, which encompassed a majority of the area specified in the scientists’ plan as necessary for the animals’ recovery.

Organized business groups in north Idaho and state leaders opposed designating a large area of critical habitat.

In cutting this proposed acreage by more than 90 percent, the Fish and Wildlife Service appears to have abandoned the goal of recovering caribou in the contiguous United States, the conservation groups contend in the lawsuit.   

“The Fish and Wildlife Service’s cut in critical habitat will greatly increase the caribou’s risk of extinction in the lower 48 states,” said Mike Petersen, executive director at the Lands Council. “It will be a sad day if we have to tell our children and grandchildren that we once had our own reindeer, but that we allowed them — like the passenger pigeon, Carolina parakeet and so many others — to be wiped out.”

In 2005 conservation groups sued the Forest Service and obtained a closure to snowmobile use for most of the caribou’s critical habitat included in the proposed rule. The final designation, however, only includes a fraction of this area, and the Forest Service is already considering lifting the closure.

With new technologies allowing snowmobiles to get ever farther into the backcountry, these machines are a major threat to the shy, easily spooked animals, the conservation groups say.

“Now is not the time to back away from nearly 30 years of effort to recover the mountain caribou,” said Tim Layser, a wildlife biologist with the Selkirk Conservation Alliance. “With adequate protection from snowmobiles and other threats, caribou can once again thrive in the United States.”

Mountain caribou are a unique form of woodland caribou adapted to surviving winters of deep snow, with dinner-plate-sized hooves that work like snowshoes and an ability to subsist for three to four months on nothing but arboreal lichens found on old-growth trees. The caribou are part of a population that straddles the border with British Columbia and consists of fewer than 30 animals.     

“Habitat loss and fragmentation is the top reason for the decline of mountain caribou,” said Brad Smith, a conservation associate with the Idaho Conservation League. “If we are going to recover the last herd of caribou in the lower 48, then we must protect the habitat they need to survive.”       

The groups on the lawsuit include the Center for Biological Diversity, Conservation Northwest, Defenders of Wildlife, Idaho Conservation League, The Lands Council and Selkirk Conservation Alliance. They are represented by Laurie Rule of Advocates for the West.  

Steelhead still moving over Lower Granite

FISHING — It's not necessarily a year for celebration, but it isn't one of despair, either.

The steelhead counts over Lower Granite Dam continue to mount and put fish in the sights of anglers in the Snake, Clearwater and Grande Ronde river areas of Washington and Idaho.

Feds investigate wolf kill in Okanogan County

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Federal wildlife agents are investigating the death of an endangered gray wolf in Okanogan County.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife spokesman Doug Zimmer says the adult female wolf was shot and killed on Sept. 20 during a big game hunt in the area. He says hunters were in the field hunting elk or deer in the Pasayten Wilderness out of Harts Pass, and reported to state wildlife officials that they had shot and killed a wolf.

Zimmer says federal wildlife officers are working to determine whether the shooting was a legitimate accident, or killed under other circumstances.

It’s not legal to hunt wolves in Washington state. Gray wolves are federally listed as endangered in the western two-thirds of Washington.

He says the gray wolf is an un-collared female but it’s unclear which pack she belonged to

Wilderness first aid course offered at NIC

OUTDOORS — A two-day Wilderness First Aid course is being offered this weekend, Oct. 5-6, by North Idaho College Outdoor Pursuits.

The course is intended for the outdoor enthusiast who wants more than an urban first aid course provides.

The emphasis of the class is on recognizing and treating life-threatening traumatic and medical emergencies, common wilderness injuries, bandaging and splinting, and environmental injuries. American Heart Association CPR is included in the curriculum.

Register online for the clinics at www.nic.edu/wft.

Information: (208) 769-7809.

Idaho’s largest rainbow won’t be official record

FISHING — A monster trout caught below Dworshak Dam in July has been deemed a rainbow following DNA analysis. That makes the 28-pound, 9-ounce fish the largest rainbow trout legally caught in Idaho, according to a story by Eric Barker of the Lewiston Morning Tribune.

However, Tui Moliga of Lapwai won't land his name in the state record books for the fish.

Moliga, a member of the Nez Perce Tribe, legally caught the fish below Dworshak Dam at a time the river wasn't open under state rules to harvest of rainbow trout longer than 20 inches. But the area was open under tribal rules.

After he caught the fish, Idaho Department of Fish and Game officials faced a pair of dilemmas regarding his request to have it considered as a state record.

Read on for the rest of Barker's story explaining this unusual circumstance:

Pend Oreille Bay Trail group reaches funding goal

TRAILS – A non-profit group has raised $400,000 to secure a key piece of Lake Pend Oreille waterfront for a trail near Sandpoint.

Friends of the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail president Jon Sayler said a couple of large donations helped raise the required money a year ahead of schedule.

The City of Sandpoint already as purchased two parcels of four parcels needed to secure the trail corridor.

The City of Ponderay has agreed to purchase the third parcel in October and the Friends group has pledged to by the fourth parcel next year, he said.

Sayler said the purchases, opening more than a mile and a half of shoreline trail to the public, are the first phase of the trail project.

Future plans call for securing portions of railroad right-of-way to complete the trail into Ponderay, an underpass under the railroad from the shoreline to Ponderay and master trail planning for future trail construction and amenities.

The Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail Concept Plan, developed by the community in 2010, also calls for the trail to extend into Kootenai and Ponder Point, which will also require cooperation of the railroad and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

A celebration event is set for Nov. 21 at the Pend d’Oreille Winery.

Lynx critical habitat could be protected; reaction varies

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed a revision in the critical habitat designation the Canada lynx, which is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

The proposal would designate more than 41,000 square miles within the states of Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Idaho, Washington and Wyoming as critical habitat for the Canada lynx.

  • See reaction from U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., House Natural Resources Committee chairman.

The federal government is asking for public comment on aspects of the proposal, including whether areas where the lynx have recently moved into, including parts of New Hampshire and Vermont, should be added to the critical habitat.

The proposed revision comes after several snowmobiling groups launched unsuccessful legal challenges of the previously designated critical habitat.

As part of the proposal announced Wednesday, federal officials said they considering excluding more than 1,900 square miles of tribal lands within the states of Maine, Montana and Washington.

The new critical habitat adds some land as well, including some private timber lands in northern Maine, as well as Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service land in northeastern Wyoming. The lynx have been protected since 2000.

The Center for Biological Diversity applauded the Fish and Wildlife proposal, saying the extra space could help the rare wildcat whose population has been reduced by trapping and habitat loss.

“Like many animals, Canada lynx need quiet places free of disturbance from snowmobiles and other human activities to survive, so we’re thrilled the Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed expanding their critical habitat,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity.

The federal government has also asked the public to consider whether some lands in Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming and Washington should be considered essential habitat, in part because they connect the places where lynx live.

AP-WF-09-26-13 0031GMT

Plan ahead for free entry to refuges Oct. 13

 

PUBLIC LANDS — Federal land managers offer free entry to parks, forests, U.S. Bureau of Land management lands, refuges and other national interest lands where fees are charged on certain holidays scattered through the year.

  • The next freebie is Oct.13 — National Wildlife Refuge Day — which is honored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service areas such as Turnbull and the Little Pend Oreille national wildlife refuges. 

The 13 Fee-Free Days in 2013 include three  holidays that involve ALL federal lands such as national parks, forests, BLM lands and wildlife refuges — Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Jan. 21), National Public Lands Day (Sept. 28), and Veterans Day Weekend (Nov. 9-11).

A list of other dates and participating agencies is listed below. The fee waiver does not cover expanded amenity or user fees for things such as camping, boat launches, transportation, or special tours.

Nov. 9-11, Veterans Day Weekend — National Park Service, Fish & wildlfie Service, BLM, Bureau of Reclamation, Forest Service.

Additionally, active duty military members and their dependents are eligible for a free annual pass that provides entrance to lands managed by the National Park Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and the U.S. Forest Service.

The America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass Program also offers a free lifetime pass for people with disabilities, a $10 lifetime senior pass for those age 62 and over, and an $80 annual pass for the general public.

Abercrombie area roads to be repaired

PUBLIC LANDS — Good news/bad news for hikers who enjoy the trails to Abercrombie and Sherlock Peaks in Pend Oreille County:  

The Colville National Forest will begin road maintenance and reconstruction on Oct. 1 on the following roads.

  • Forest Service Road 7078000 (Sherlock Peak Road)
  • Forest Service Road 7078300 (Abercrombie Road)
  • Forest Service Road 7078070 (Silver Creek Road)
  • Forest Service Road 7078075 (Windy Ridge Road)
  • Forest Service Road 7078109 (Gladstone from Windy Ridge)

These roads access the Abercrombie and Sherlock Peak areas and the Silver Creek Trail Head.  Expect delays and temporary closures due to road construction until December 01, 2013

Info: Three Rivers Ranger Station at (509) 738-7700.  

Clearwater steelhead forecast reduced — again

FISHING – The forecast for B-run steelhead — the bigger steelhead bound primarily for Idaho's Clearwater River — has been downgraded for the second consecutive week, prompting fisheries officials to consider reducing bag limits for the Clearwater catch-and-keep season, which begins Oct. 15.

Fisheries managers from the federal government and Northwest states and tribes say only 15,000 B-run steelhead, including 3,700 wild fish, will return at least as far as Bonneville Dam.  About 70 percent of the run typically makes it to the Clearwater.

Roman Nose access blocked for road repairs

PUBLIC LANDS – The Bonners Ferry Ranger District will close the access road to the Roman Nose trailhead this week for repairs, according to the Idaho Panhandle National Forests.

Forest Service Road 1007 over Caribou Pass will be closed Tuesday-Friday so culverts can be replaced. It will be open next weekend, but will be closed again Oct. 7-11.

Info: (208) 267-5561.

When campers leave, yellowjackets still have to bug something

CAMPING — Most of the campgrounds are empty, but streams around Lake Pend Oreille are ripe with “new meat” for this year's infestation of yellowjackets to gnaw at.

I'll have a Kokanee with that, sir.

Sign up: youth steelhead fishing clinic in Lewiston

FISHING — It's time to sign-up young anglers ages 8-14 for the limited spaces in the annual Youth Steelhead Clinic set for Oct. 24 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Oct. 26 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Both events will be held at the Idaho Fish and Game regional office in Lewiston. 

To learn more or to register for this free clinic, contact the Lewiston Parks & Recreation office at (208) 746-2313.

Read on for details.

Landers verifies Columbia River’s record run of chinook salmon

FISHING — Four people, including me, reeled 13 chinook salmon to the boat today in the Hanford Reach and got eight of them INTO the boat.

That's a good indication that the record run of chinook salmon heading up the Columbia and Snake Rivers is the real deal.

We were fishing with Toby Wyatt and Jim Havener of Reel Time Fishing on Wyatt's 27-foot boat, which he built with his dad in Clarkston.

Gone fishing

SALMON FISHING — I've headed to the Hanford Reach of the Columbia River to see first hand what this record run of chinook salmon is all about.

Photo above shows a 50-pounder I landed there a few years ago.

Think big!

Stay tuned.

Sandpoint mom top 4 finalist for Extreme Huntress

HUNTING — Amanda Lowrey, 25, a Sandpoint mother of two girls, is among the top four finalists in the final rounds of the 2014 Extreme Huntress Competition filmed in July in Texas. Episodes will run online starting next month and then will be televised next year. 

See the S-R story about Amanda as she went into the competition in June.

The competitors are being judged based on physical fitness, shooting, tracking, and hunting. The competitor with the highest daily score determines the daily activities.

In addition, the competitors will need the votes of fans.

Ten episodes will be released every two weeks online at ExtremeHuntress.com and their partner sites. Episode voting will begin on Oct. 1, 2013, through early next year.

Says Lowrey on her Facebook page:

It's the last leg of the race for the 2014 Extreme Huntress Competition. I'm gonna need help from all of YOU to win this part of the race! Online voting begins again on Oct.1. Please take a moment of your time and vote for me and share the heck out of the contest with everyone you know. I've only made it this far because of all of you, so lets go all the way and win this thing!

To vote, visit www.extremehuntress.com.

See a KREM 2 News report here.

8 outboards ought to get you a big fish

BOATING — “But officer, we're just out fishing…”

I've seen boat set up something like this for federal drug enforcement being transported on I-90 near Seattle.  Seems the feds have to keep up with the speed-boating criminals. 

But outboards totaling 2,000 hp? Can you imaging the fuel bill?

The photo above has been going around the Internet for a while, with this explanation, verified by Snopes:

2,000 hp drug runner boat from Europe.
 
Used to run cross the English Channel three times a week, it was a blure on British Coast Guard radar.
 
Enforcement called in a  brought in a special high speed helicopter to chase it. Drugs were found on board. You'd need a good cash flow just to run it. 
 
  • Yamaha Vx250 outboard engines list price: $23,000 EACH!
  • $23,000 X 8 = $184,000.00 just for the motors!

Discover Pass revenues increase, but still short of projections

STATE LANDS — Revenue collected from sales of the Discover Pass was nearly $1 million higher than the previous year, according to a report prepared for the Washington Parks and Recreation Commission.

But it still falls short of funding the needs of state parks.

Sales in the second full year of the program generated almost $16.7 million, compared with $15.7 million in the first year.  The majority went to state parks, with the rest going to the Department of Natural Resources and Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Even with the increase, the Discover Pass revenues fall short of the Washington Legislature's projections when it enacted the pass program.

The program was created to offset the loss of state funding through budget cuts. A $30 annual pass or $10 daily pass is required in motor vehicles accessing state parks and other state-managed recreation lands.

The Discover Pass program was projected to bring in $23.4 million in the first year. It managed only $13.2 million.

A report prepared for the state Parks and Recreation Commission says the state took in $32.4 million in the two-year budget cycle that ended June 30.

Parks officials hope that the trend of accepting the Discover Pass continues, boosted by legislative changes to allow families to use on more than one vehicle.

Small fish leads to big catch on Life Care Center outing

FISHING — Even small fish have the potential for big results.

Ask the residents at Life Care Center of Post Falls, Idaho, who enjoyed four fishing trips this summer to Falls Park.

On Sept. 5, the last trip of the season, Resident Jim Blake caught a few laughs from the four residents at the pond by catching a fish that was barely bigger than the hook at the end of his line.

He handed the fishing rod to activity director Terrie Robinson, who left the pole idle and the small fish dangling in the water just long enough to lure in a prize-size bass that engulfed the first fish and stayed on the line while Robinson reeled in the catch of the day.

One hook; two fish.

Big things start small.

“We were all laughing and couldn’t believe what just happened,” Robinson said. 

“It was a wonderful day,” said Blake. “It was a blast with Terrie catching the fish with about five minutes left!”

(Click “continue reading” to see the source of the excitement.)

Moose hunter makes once-in-a-lifetime tag count

HUNTING — Alex Harris of Coeur d'Alene has been putting in for Idaho's once-in-a-lifetime bull moose tag for 10 years and even at that he was lucky to draw a 2013 tag.  

Some hunters have applied for decades and are still coming up zip.

So the 37-year-old hunter made his opportunity count.

“I have hunted the St. Joe River drainage in Unit 6 for elk, deer, bear, grouse and turkey since the fall of 1996 and have seen many nice moose in the area where I was lucky enough to spot this monster,” he said in an email with the photo above.

“It is also in the same area that my Aunt and Uncle (my hunting mentors) have taken two 40-plus-inch moose in the past.” 

This season was different on all counts, since it was Harris who had the moose tag in his pocket.

He said he'd passed up a few smaller bulls during the early stages of his hunt last week, but couldn’t resist the chance to take this bull — the rack measures 52 inches wide — on Sept 19,  the evening of the fifth day of moose season. 

“I will be doing a European mount of the head and (wife willing) will be hanging it in our living room,” he said.  “I had to go out and purchase a new freezer in anticipation of the meat returning from the butcher. Enjoyed fresh moose tenderloin last night and probably liver and onions by the end of the week.”

Harris's moose-chasing companion found adventure simply by being WITH the holder of a coveted Idaho moose tag:

Hunting partner, heavy lifter, and expert knot tier Jacob Rothrock snapped the photo just before a smaller bull moose charged him trying to get to the newly single cow who had bedded down above us.

Liberty Lake man honored for elk habitat conservation

CONSERVATION — Rance Block of Liberty Lake was honored today for decades of work to protect wildlife habitat and sportsmen's access to the outdoors across the West, especially in Eastern Washington. 

Block was presented the Joan Thomas Award at the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition's annual breakfast this morning at the Seattle Westin Hotel.

Block left a 15-year career at Boeing to join the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and dedicate his negotiation talents to conservation. Block recently retired from RMEF after 20 years during which he had a direct hand in protecting more than 130,000 acres of wildlife habitat in six western states.

“One would think that I have great anecdotes about kicking the dirt with Rance and a land-owner or dawn hikes to spot wildlife … I don't,” said Peter Dykstra, Coalition board president who presented the award. “I know him from countless hours in community rooms working with communities to overcome differences, find common ground, and build dreams protecting vital wildlife habitat. The reality of conservation work is that you spend a lot of times indoors and not a lot of time outdoors.”

In his address, Block highlighted his work on the Rock Creek project as an example of how unconventional community partnerships and grants from sources like the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program can help preserve access for all outdoor enthusiasts.

The project near Naches protected more than 10,000 acres of wildlife habitat, addressing the problem of checker-board ownership that put access to the area in jeopardy.

The project, which closed in late 2012, garnered broad support from elected and business leaders in the community in addition to recreationists.

He was involved in several similar efforts to block up checkerboarded land that will boost efforts to maintain the big-game habitat as well as assure public access.

Block offered some advice to conservationists looking to expand partnerships: 

“It's important to have a cup of coffee and listen to the needs of elected officials … potential partners … of outdoor users,” Block said. “In conservation work, there are a lot of potential partners that often go ignored when you're looking for supporters. It is important to recognize that people utilize our public lands differently and it's important to find ways to incorporate their support.”

He also noted that many of the breakfast's almost 700 attendees, most of them were over the age of 35. Block encouraged everyone in the room to take time to listen to the younger generation and craft programs that appeal to future conservationists.

Incidentally, the WWRC knows a few things about partnerships and conservation. Since it was founded 24 years ago, WWRC has leveraged $1.1 billion in government grants and appropriations and private donations to fund over 1,000 projects across the state. The money has used to create playgrounds for disabled kids, build urban and rural trails, buy wildlife habitat, secure farmland from development, provide new water access and more.

Read on for details about the Joan Thomas Award:

Good news, bad news for Snake fish runs, biologist says

FISHING — Some anglers are catching 10 chinook salmon a day in the Lewiston area this week in the best chinook salmon fishing season fish managers can remember.   Steelheading for keepers is so-so.

The chinook salmon returns to the Snake River this fall are huge, but the steelhead returns — notably for hatchery steelhead — are sub-par.

The exception is a near-record post-dams return of small wild steelhead, according to Joe DuPont, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional fisheries manager in Lewiston.

Click “continue reading” for a detailed analysis of the two fisheries DuPont has just posted.

Free-entry offered for state and federal parks, refuges on Saturday

PUBLIC LANDS — Saturday is a big day of freebies and stewardship on public lands throughout the region.

It's National Public Lands Day as well as National Hunting and Fishing Day.

Here are some opportunities to consider:

Washington State Parks are offering free vehicle access on Saturday — no Discover Pass is required.

Federal lands, including all National Parks and National Wildlife Refuges such as Turnbull are offering free entry on Saturday, one of 13 national lands Fee-Free Days in 2013.  The next will be Veterans Day Weekend (Nov. 9-11).

Hunting and fishing activities and information for newcomers to the sports will be offered by sportsmen's groups, 1 p.m.- 5 p.m. at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife regional office grounds, 2315 N. Discovery Pl. in Spokane Valley.   See story for more details. 

Spokane River Clean-Up, an annual event that attracts around 800 volunteers from individuals, families and groups, will spiff up sections of the river from 9 a.m.-noon followed by a barbecue. Get details and register online at friendsofthefalls.com.

Groups seek to protect fishers from trapping

Groups petition USFWS to protect fishers in Montana, Idaho

Six environmental groups have petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect fishers, weasel-like predators found in old-growth forests in Idaho and Montana, as a threatened or endangered species. A similar petition filed in 2009 was rejected in 2011.

Groups submitting the petition are the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Friends of the Bitterroot, Friends of the Clearwater, Friends of the Wild Swan and Western Watersheds Project.

Read on to see the media release the groups posted today.

Hunting, fishing options could expand on 26 national wildlife refuges

HUNTING — The Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge in North Idaho and the Willapa Refuge in Western Washington are among 20 federal refuges that could see hunting opportunities expanded under a proposal released today by Interior Sally Jewell.

In addition, six refuges in four states would be opened to hunting for the first time.

While waterfowl hunting already is allowed at the Kootenai Refuge near Bonners Ferrry, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department plans to also allow limited upland bird hunting.

“Sportsmen and women were a major driving force behind the creation and expansion of the National Wildlife Refuge System more than a century ago and continue to be some of its strongest supporters, especially through their volunteer work and financial contributions,” Jewell said in a statement released today. “Keeping our hunting and angling heritage strong by providing more opportunities on our refuges will not only help raise up a new generation of conservationists, but also support local businesses and create jobs in local communities.”

Under the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, the Service can permit hunting and fishing along with four other types of wildlife-dependent recreation where they are compatible with the refuge’s purpose and mission.

Controlled elk hunts debuted in 2010 at Turnbull Wildlife Refuge south of Cheney geared primarily to reducing the habitat damage being caused by the growing herd. The refuge also hosts a limited number of youth hunters in designated blinds for Washington's special two-day youth waterfowl hunting season in September.

Hunting, within specified limits, is permitted on more than 329 national wildlife refuges. Fishing is permitted on more than 271 wildlife refuges. Find specifics for each refuge here.

“After careful consideration and review from the Service, this proposal represents one of the largest expansions of hunting and fishing opportunities on wildlife refuges in recent years,” said Dan Ashe, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director.

Read on for details on the 26 refuges involved in the proposal.

WDFW details hunting prospects

HUNTING — Get the skinny on hunting prospects for deer and elk as well as upland birds and other species in the 2013 hunting forecasts posted by The Washington Fish and Wildlife Department.

Area wildlife biologists have posted notes on their observatins of eveything from pheasant crow counds to big-game population trends by district. 

Volunteers building hut for snowshoers, skiers at Mount Spokane

WINTER SPORTS — Work is progressing on a hut to serve as a Smith Gap warming shelter for snowshoers and backcountry skiers at Mount Spokane State Park.

  • Park staff constructed most of the foundation. A contractor is coming in to build the enclosure, hopefully before winter. Volunteers will be needed to help with finishing the inside next season, according to Park Manager Steve Christensen. 

It's no surprise that Cris Currie, long-time leader of the Friends of Mount Spokane State Park, is in the thick of the volunteer action. The friends group is looking for a wood stove to install in the hut.

Here's a weekend update with these photos from Currie's wife, Nora Searing:

Cris working this afternoon underneath the floor of the new snowshoe hut at Smith Gap on Mt. Spokane. There might even be walls and a roof finished by this winter season!

Heller Bar boat ramp closed two days for repairs

FISHING — As reported earlier, the Snake River boat ramp at Heller Bar upstream from Asotin is being repaired this week, just as the chinook salmon and steelhead runs are spiking over Lower Granite Dam.  

While restricted access is being allowed most of the week, the boat ramp will be totally closed for use on Tuesday and Wednesday,the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife says.

Here are more details in a story by Eric Barker at the Lewiston Tribune:


ROGERSBURG — The busy Heller Bar boat ramp will be closed Tuesday and
Wednesday as work crews from the Washington Department of Fish and
Wildlife make repairs to the concrete there.

The work will start on Monday and last through next Friday on the
two-lane ramp. One lane will be open on most days, allowing boaters to
use it. However, the ramp will close entirely for the two days in the
middle of the week.

“Broken concrete sections underwater at the bottom of the ramps could
cause severe damage to boat trailers,” said Bob Dice, manager for the
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Blue Mountains wildlife
areas. “Fixing this now during very low water allows our work crew
access and gets the problem fixed before water levels and the steelhead
season pick up.”

The Snake River has eroded the lower portion of the ramp and caused the
chunks to break off. Trailers can be damaged if their wheels drop off
the broken portion of the ramp when people back down it to launch or
retrieve their boats. The construction crew will remove broken sections
and replace them with 11 feet of cabled concrete blocks that will extend
across the bottom of the entire ramp.

“The ramp repair is part of a larger effort to improve overall safety
and general conditions at the Heller Bar water access area,” said Steve
Sherlock, statewide access coordinator for the department. “Other future
improvements planned for this site include expansion of boat launching
opportunities, new signs, and an information kiosk.”
Heller Bar, at the northern end of Hells Canyon, is the starting point
for jet boat trips into the canyon and the take-out point for people who
raft the Lower Salmon and Snake rivers.

It can develop into a tent and camper city when steelhead begin to pulse
upriver and collect at the mouth of the Grande Ronde River.

The ramp area is owned by the state of Washington and managed by the
department.

Rainbow Family gathering cost Forest Service $575K

PUBLIC LANDS — My last family outing to a national forest was not this expensive…

USFS tab for Rainbow Family gathering in Montana was $575,000

The U.S. Forest Service spent approximately $400,000 providing law enforcement at the Rainbow Family gathering in July in Montana, and another $175,000 in administrative tasks.
— Montana Standard

Where’s Landers been? The answer is wild as the weather

BACKPACKING — My blog posts subsided to a trickle last week while I was saying goodby to summer by exploring the mountains, lakes, wildlife and fly-fishing opportunities in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness of Montana.

It was a trip of extremes, from the weather to the lung-searing altitude.

Details and photos to come.

Surprise! Disagreement on new plan for dams, salmon

USFWS releases new plan for NW dams to save salmon

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Fisheries Service is again opposing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's plan to increase releases of water from eight dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers to help salmon make the trek to the Pacific Ocean because the agency disagrees with the goal of the plan and the basic science on which it is premised.
—Idaho Statesman

Bull elk in full concert

WILDLIFE WATCHING — I've heard stories about bowhunters who've been having many close, exciting encounters with bull elk during their September season that coincides with the rut.

Just in case the brush was too thick to get a clear shot at what might have been bugling at you in the woods last week, here's a good look from Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson.

Fishing: Chinook, steelhead surge in Snake River

FISHING — Oh, what a difference a little rain and cooler water temperatures have made to erase the thermal barrier that had been keeping steelhead and chinook salmon from progressing up the Snake River.

Graphs show the surge of each species booming up over Lower Granite Dam in the past few days en route to the Snake, Clearwater and Salmon river fisheries in Idaho.

Fish on!

Centennial Trail section to close for repairs

TRAILS — Repairs to the asphalt will require the Spokane River Centennial Trail to be closed on Wednesday and Thursday (Sept. 25-26) from Miles 26.5 to Mile 28 from the south side T.J. Meenach Bridge to the Equestrian Area in Riverside State Park, says Loreen McFaul, executive director of the Friends of the Centennial Trail.

Video: How hummingbird tongues function

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Like little jewels in the sky, hummingbirds capture everyone's attention when they “hum” by.

But only recently have scientists been able to study them closely enough to understand how their tongues function while feeding on flower nectar.

The hummer's tongue is about twice as long as it s beak.  The tongue is a unique “nectar trap” with two tubes and rows of flaps attached to a supporting rod that extends and then retracts compactly into the beak.

See how it works!

Groups offer newcomers intro to fishing, hunting

HUNTING — Hunting, fishing and where to go to participate in these outdoor activies will be the focus of a free “fair” of information and activities presented by sportmen's groups and state fish and wildlife staffers Saturday, Sept. 28, in Spokane Valley.

The fair will feature:

  • Inland Northwest Wildlife Council’s “virtual reality” fishing and hunting games,
  • Eastern Washington University Sportsman Club student members demonstrating fishing equipment rigging and line casting,
  • WDFW information about Hunter Education, Fish Washington, and Wildlife Area and Water Access Site programs.
  • Plus, introductions to archery, bird-hunting dogs, and other outdoor skills, along with fish cleaning and preparation demonstrations, will also be available.

The activities are set for 1 p.m.- 5 p.m. at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife regional office grounds, 2315 N. Discovery Pl. in Spokane Valley.

The events also are celebration of National Hunting and Fishing Day  and National Public Lands Day.

 “This is a chance for people who don’t already fish or hunt, or who are unaware of eastern Washington’s many public lands, to learn new outdoor recreation opportunities,” said Landree Mathisen, an EWU Outdoor Recreation Management student coordinating the fair as a summer intern with WDFW. 

2013 Reel Rock films at Mountain Gear Sept. 27

CLIMBING – Spokane is one of the first stops for the 2013 Reel Rock 8 Film Tour, a gripping collection of climbing films that will show Friday (Sept. 27) starting at  7 p.m. at Mountain Gear’s retail store, 2002 N. Division St.

The films, which debuted in a Boulder, Colo., festival on Sept. 19, include “High Tension: Ueli Steck and the Clash on Everest.”

All proceeds go to the Access Fund, a national advocacy organization founded in 1991 to conserve and keep U.S. climbing areas open.

 Buy tickets online.

Canada may release bison into Banff National Park

Parks Canada pitches plan to return bison back to Banff
On Monday, Parks Canada released its 5-year plan to return 50 bison to the backcountry of Banff National Park, and expand the herd to more visible areas of the Alberta park after that time period.
—Calgary Herald

Girl, 13, youngest to complete triple crown of long-distance hiking

HIKING – Reed “Sunshine” Gjonnes, 13, hiking with her father, Eric “Balls” Gjonnes, has become the youngest person to complete the triple crown of long-distance hiking.

The pair from Salem, Ore., through-hiked the 2,652 mile Pacific Crest Trail in 2011, the 2,181 mile Appalachian Trail in 2012, and this month they finished the 3,100 mile Continental Divide Trail.

Sunshine turned 13 years old one month into this year’s trek.

They finished the CDT on Sept. 6 with what Sunshine blogged was “an easy” 27 miles” in Glacier National Park to the U.S.-Canada border at Waterton Lakes National Park.

She said their pace picked up a bit with the sight of a grizzly bear, and she mentioned that:

“Our tent smelled so bad last night from three days of wet socks (mostly Dad's). I could hardly breathe it was so bad. 

Trail cam photos capture grizzly bear hoedown

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Enjoy an intimate family moment with grizzly bears attracted to a scratching pole by some sort of powerful lure, a bruin's equivalent of ecstasy.  

The video starts slow and builds to a frenzy of rubbing. Fun.

According to PetaPixel.com, the trail cam photos were compled by Glenn Naylor, a Park Ranger, photography enthusiast and founding member of Bow Valley WildSmart who lives and works in Alberta. 

Compiled into a video called “What goes on when you are not there!” this camera wound up snapping a bonanza of photos.

Naylor says he doesn’t want the photos to give people the wrong impression about bears in general. Although the footage is cute and humorous, he says, “bears are not cuddly and friendly, they are wild animals that should be treated with caution and respect.”

See Naylor's YouTube channel.

Sea kayakers paddle at night where the plankton shines

PADDLING — Sea kayak outfitters are leading paddlers out of the San Juan Islands as well as Bellingham Bay on night-time excursions to see one of the bright little wonders of the sea.

When conditions are right, the stroke of a paddle paints a swath of bioluminescent light that resembles a swish of Tinkerbell's wand.

“When we accidentally paddled over a school of startled juvenile herring, they jumped out of the water looking like kamikaze lightning bugs,” writes Tan Vinh in a story for The Seattle Times.

The natural spectacle of bioluminescence is caused by single-celled planktons that emit light.  

Outfitters offering bioluminescent night tours include:

• Community Boating Center in Bellingham will hold its next tours on Sept 5 and 6. $50 per person. 360-714-8891 orboatingcenter.org.

 Salmon Bay Paddle in Ballard leads stand-up paddleboard tours at Shilshole Bay. $85 for one person or $65 per person at group rate. 206-465-7167 or salmonbaypaddle.com.

• Discovery Sea Kayaks in Friday Harbor, San Juan Island, does tours around Griffin Bay. $99 per person. 866-461-2559 or discoveryseakayak.com.

Read on for Vinh's first-person experience.

Meeting set on changes to Lake Roosevelt boat launches

BOATING — Proposed changes at the Kettle Falls and Fort Spokane boat launches are detailed in the 2013 Boat Launch Development Concept Plan released for public by the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area.

The plan evaluates the effects of expanding and reconfiguring the two existing boat launches and the associated facilities within recreation area.

National Park Service staff will hold an open house to discuss this plan, 5:30 p.m.-7 p.m., on Thursday, Sept. 19, at the Kettle Falls Visitors Center, 425 W. Third Ave.  Written comments will also be accepted at this meeting.

Comments on the plan are due by Sept. 30.

Rattlesnakes common in Selway drainage; why not Lochsa?

WILDLIFE — River rafters, hikers and hunters are keenly aware that rattlesnakes are common on portions of the Selway River.

But why are there virtually now rattlesnakes on the Lochsa River, which joins the Lochsa near Lowell, Idaho, to form the Middle Fork Clearwater River?

Eric Barker, outdoor writer for the Lewiston Tribune made a strike at answering that question in a recent story that pegged on the scene in a Norman Maclean story noting a rattle snake between Grave Peak and Elk Summit.

The Selway is lousy with rattlers and the snakes can be found at some unexpected places, said retired outfitter and packer Jim Renshaw of Kooskia, noting that he killed a rattlesnake on top of Fog Mountain at an elevation of  5,000-6,000 feet.

Chuck Peterson, a herpetologist at Idaho State University, told Barker that rattlers can be found at elevations that would surprise many people. He said it is possible they can survive at Elk Summit, which sits above 6,000 feet.

“Every now and then you get some snakes in some elevations you wouldn’t expect them,” he said. “I don’t know about up there but further south, I think the highest elevations (where rattlers have been found) are near 7,000 feet around Challis.”

Some rattlesnakes will climb a few thousand feet to hunt in the warm summer months, he said. But they generally can’t survive long term at such heights. The seasons there are too short for the females to build up enough energy reserves to reproduce.

“We found out in areas that have less than 58 frost-free days, that seems to be the cut off point.”

But aspect and exposure are important to consider. He said snakes can survive at higher elevations if they are on sun-rich southern exposures.

Sometimes it’s difficult to know why rattlers are in one spot and not another. The Lochsa and Selway rivers are a prime example. The Selway is known for its abundant rattlesnake population and the Lochsa is all but free of them.

Marty Smith of Three Rivers Rafting at Lowell has often wondered why. He has spent much of his life at Lowell where the two rivers join to form the Middle Fork of the Clearwater. He’s never seen one on the Lochsa and has rarely seen them less than 10 miles from the mouth of the Selway.

But starting at the falls and proceeding up stream they are common in some. When Smith is on the river he thinks carefully about where he places his hands and feet. On the Lochsa, he is much more relaxed.

“I’m always surprised I have never ran across any on the Lochsa and on the Selway of course I have seen hundreds of them, if not thousands,” he said. “It’s the same terrain. You walk around on the (Lochsa’s) river bank on a pile of driftwood or bark and I always say, ‘I’m glad I’m not on the Selway right now or I’d be more on my toes, I would probably walk around that.’ ” 

In other words, nobody Barker contacted has yet figure out why rattlers draw the line at the Lochsa.

Oregon a mecca for bicyclists

BICYCLING — Already the only state in the nation with a Scenic Bikeways program, Oregon continues to prove why it’s a top cycling destination with new developments that make it easier to explore the state on two wheels.

Whether it’s car-free biking around the deepest lake in the U.S., gravel grinding down the Oregon Coast or mountain biking inside and out, Oregon has the trails and bike paths to suit your cycling desires.

Click “continue reading” and check out the latest headlines on cycling in Oregon from Traveloregon.com.

Hunters can zero-in rifles at Farragut, other ranges

SHOOTING — Hunters preparing their firearms for upcoming big-game seasons have a new option this year — the revamped range at Farragut State Park near Athol, Idaho.

The 100-yard Farragut Shooting Range reopened on June 1 after several years of closure while Idaho Fish and Game rebuilt the facility to increase safety and reduce noise at the 70-year-old range.

With big game hunting seasons fast approaching, the range will be open every Saturday for the rest of September through October, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., staffed by trained volunteers.  Cost $5 per shooter.

On Sept. 21, The Farragut Range will have a special Grand Opening. Shooters can check out the new and improved facility and sight-in rifles for free.  

Firearms are limited this year to rimfire and centerfire rifles of less than .50 caliber; and, shoulder-fired muzzle-loaded rifles.

Access to the range is through Farragut State Park, and participants must either be in possession of an annual Idaho State Park pass or pay the $5 daily use fee upon entering the park.  

The original range was built by the military and turned over to civilian use after WW2.

Info:  769-1414.

Area rifle clubs also open their ranges so non-member sportsmen can zero in rifles before the general hunting seasons.

  • Spokane Rifle Club  along the Spokane River downstream from the Bowl and Pitcher is open to nonmembers Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Cost: $20. 

The annual Sight-In Days are set for Oct. 2-5 from 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m.  This is a great deal. For $20 for one rifle (cash or check) plus $5 for each additional rifle, the club offers a scope and firearm checkup before you hit the range plus assistance from a helper/spotter on the range, targets provided.   

Club rules require that all firearms should be unloaded when arriving at the range.

Ear and eye protection is required and available at the club if needed.

Info: 327-9632

The club is open daily to non-members, with shooting allowed from 8 a.m. to around 7 p.m. The fee is $10.

Info: (208) 666-8803.

Norman Maclean had high perspective on lightning

MOUNTAIN STORMS — If you haven’t read Norman Maclean’s “USFS 1919: The Ranger, the Cook and a Hole in the Sky,” Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune recommends it, and so do I.

It is one of the “other stories” in his book “A River Runs Through It and Other Stories.” 

Recently I wrote a story about a backpacking trek in the Glacier Peak Wilderness during which thunder storms pounded my camp with the shock and awe of the bombing of Bahgdad.

Maclean says this about thunderstorms from the perspective of a forest fire lookout staffer at  Elk Summit near Powell, Idaho:

“In the late afternoon, of course, the mountains meant all business for the lookouts. The big winds were veering from the valleys toward the peaks, and smoke from little fires that had been secretly burning for several days might show up for the first time. New fires sprang out of thunder before it sounded. By three-thirty or four, the lightning would be flexing itself on the distant ridges like a fancy prizefighter, skipping sideways, ducking, showing off but not hitting anything. But four-thirty or five, it was another game. You could feel the difference in the air that had become hard to breath. The lightning now came walking into you, delivering short smashing punches.”

Plan ahead for free entry to federal lands Sept. 28

 

PUBLIC LANDS — Federal land managers offer free entry to parks, forests, U.S. Bureau of Land management lands, refuges and other national interest lands where fees are charged on certain holidays scattered through the year.

  • The next freebie is Sept. 28 — National Public Lands Day — which is honored by the National Park Service, Fish & wildlfie Service, BLM, Bureau of Reclamation and Forest Service.

The 13 Fee-Free Days in 2013 include three other holidays that involve ALL federal lands such as national parks, forests, BLM lands and wildlife refuges — Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Jan. 21), National Public Lands Day (Sept. 28), and Veterans Day Weekend (Nov. 9-11).

A list of other dates and participating agencies is listed below. The fee waiver does not cover expanded amenity or user fees for things such as camping, boat launches, transportation, or special tours.

Oct. 13, National Wildlfie Refuge Day — Fish and Wildlife Service

Nov. 9-11, Veterans Day Weekend — National Park Service, Fish & wildlfie Service, BLM, Bureau of Reclamation, Forest Service.

Additionally, active duty military members and their dependents are eligible for a free annual pass that provides entrance to lands managed by the National Park Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and the U.S. Forest Service.

The America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass Program also offers a free lifetime pass for people with disabilities, a $10 lifetime senior pass for those age 62 and over, and an $80 annual pass for the general public.

It’s official: Columbia chinook run largest in 75 years

SALMON FISHING — The 2013 fall chinook salmon run heading up the Columbia has been setting daily records for the past 10 days, and today it surpassed the overall record for the biggest run of salmon or steelhead to head upstream since counting began at Bonneville Dam in 1938.

By 1 p.m. today the fall chinook run had eclipsed the record of 610,700 fish counted in 2003, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists say.

And more chinook are still coming, headed for the Hanford Reach, upper Columbia, Snake, Clearwater and Salmon rivers.

On Tuesday, regional fish managers predicted the run could go as high as 835,000 adult chinook.

Ask question before helping hunting buddy pack out game

HUNTING — “Is it dead, yet?”

Maybe that's a question you need to ask if your hunting buddy calls and asks for  help packing out his bear.   From the Associated Press:

KALISPELL, Mont. — Montana wildlife officials say a black bear wounded by a bow hunter bit the arm of the hunter’s companion before succumbing to its injuries.

State Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman John Fraley says a man was hunting Tuesday near Thompson Falls when he shot the 150-pound female black bear with a bow and arrow.

The hunter waited for several hours to try to make sure the bear was dead before he started tracking it.

The hunter located the wounded bear and shot it twice more with his bow. The bear then ran down a hill and encountered a man who had arrived to assist the hunter. The bear bit the second man’s arm before it died.

The injured man was treated at the hospital in Plains and released.

Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials say the hunter legally tagged the bear. 

Orienteering classes, event offered in Spokane

NAVIGATION – A day of orienteering classes and activities geared to novices is set for Sept. 21 to celebrate National Orienteering Week at the Gonzaga  University campus.

Orienteering is a wild-land navigation race in which participants  use a map and a compass to complete a course.

“This is an easy sport to learn, a great team building activity, and ideal for families who enjoy the outdoors,” said John Beck of the Eastern Washington Orienteering Club.

The group is among 61 clubs across the country organizing activities to introduce people to this active sport that requires the mind to be fully engaged.

The free portion of the event runs from 11 a.m.-noon outdoors on the Gonzaga campus.

To get the most out of the day, participants should register with Spokane Parks and Recreation for the Introduction to Orienteering class that begins at 9:30 a.m. and-or the  Orienteering Skills class that starts after the public activity at 1 p.m.

Preregister for the formal classes by Wednesday, Sept. 18.

  • The orienteering classes are listed under “adults: outdoor – hiking.” Preregistration is required for those classes but not for the outdoor event.

Contact: John Beck – (509) 838-7078 or beck@jepson.gonzaga.edu

Sign up for disabled hunting access on CdA District

HUNTING — Disabled hunters can sign up through Sept. 30 for a lottery to access roads otherwise closed to the public on the Coeur d'Alene River Ranger District.

Applicants must come to the Smelterville or Fernan offices in person with a Handicapped Person's Motor Vehicle Hunting Permit (orange card), Idaho Disabled Hunting License and an Idaho deer or elk tag to be elligible for the drawing.

The Forest Service is allowing motorized access for hunters with disabilities during the General Elk Season (Oct. 10 – Oct. 31) in the following two areas:

  • Clover-Haystack Mt. Area (Roads 6544, 6545 and 944),
  • Idaho Gulch Area (Road 1505).

A random drawing will be held at the District's Silver Valley Office on Oct. 1, after which all applicants chosen will be notified with the dates for which they were selected.

Selected hunters will be allowed two consecutive days to hunt within one of the two disabled hunting areas.

Those not chosen will be placed on a waiting list, and thus given a chance to hunt if there are cancellations.

Both District Offices are open Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

  • Silver Valley office, (208) 783-2363.
  • Fernan office, (208) 664-2318. 

Agreement reached on Spokane River boat access at Convention Center

BOATING — The Spokane Parks and Recreation Board apparently has reached an agreement with the Spokane Public Facilities District that may assure maintaining a viable boat take-out point under the Division Street Bridge after the voter-approved $55 million Convention Center expansion project is finished.

The outlook wasn't so good when I wrote today's Outdoors column on the subject or when I wrote about the state of the issue in April as final Convention Center plans were being approved.

But here's a message received tonight from Parks Board member Andy Dunau of the Spokane River Forum:

I’m pleased to be able to share what I believe is good news. Today, the Spokane Parks and Recreation Board passed a resolution that the PFD has agreed to. The resolution addresses items needed to move forward this fall with development activities on Centennial Trail and Spokane River shoreline that are part of the convention center expansion. The section of the resolution that is essential to a put-in/take-out for the water trail reads as follows:

“The Park Board approves the Access in principle and subject to further review and approval design of the Park Board, and further authorizes the Spokane Parks and Recreation Department to be the lead agency in getting the Access permitted, conditioned on the District’s acknowledgement that it will bear all costs and expenses associated with permitting and construction of the Access, including any expenses ordinarily assigned to the City as lead agency for any permitting and/or construction of the Access, up to an amount not exceeding $47,000.”

The PFD verbally agreed to the resolution at the Park Board meeting, and will memorialize their agreement to it in a letter being sent to the Park Board.

We now have in writing a commitment of funds from the PFD, a design that has received broad support (also funded over the summer by the PFD), and Parks and Recreation agreeing to be the lead agency to develop the access. We can now get to the fun part: creating the Spokane River Water Trail Division Street Bridge Access.

Over the past week, intensive hours were committed by both PFD and Parks and Recreation staff and Boards to take this critical step forward. We are very appreciative of their time, effort and support. The Forum would also like to thank Spokane City Council for amending the municipal code last spring to allow this site location to move forward; Avista for their support in developing the design; Spokane Riverkeeper for providing important policy and regulatory guidance; and the many individuals and user groups who are the lifeblood of helping make good things happen.

Idaho legislator goes from hike to bike

TRAILS – Idaho state Rep. Mat Erpelding, D-Boise, hasn’t given up his plan to travel the length of Idaho this fall by muscle power to promote trails, experience rural areas and raise funds for the Redside Foundation that supports the health of Idaho guides.

But he said a leg injury has forced him to change his plan from hiking the 950-mile Idaho Centennial Trail to continuing on a bicycle. 

He’d hiked 220 miles in 10 days from Upper Priest River Falls to Mullan, but a few days later on the stateline trail along the Bitterroot Mountains, the leg injury got too him.

His Facebook posts show him biking down the old Lewiston Grade and advancing to Riggins and the Mountain Time Zone.

On Wednesday, the outdoor educator and climbing guide said, “Left the bike up north, caught a ride Boise, put on a suit and am headed to interim Energy, Technology and Environment Committee meeting.

“However,” he added, vowing to finish his Idaho end-to-ender, “I am not shaving my face until I get to Nevada!” 

Record-breaking chinook run prompts season changes

SALMON FISHING — With more upriver fall chinook salmon returning to the Columbia River than any time in the past 75 years, Washington and Oregon fishery managers are expanding sport fishing options below Bonneville Dam beginning Friday, Sept. 13.

“This will be a fishing season to remember,” said Guy Norman, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife southwest regional director. “This year’s run of upriver fall chinook is through the roof, and a positive sign that regional efforts to rebuild this salmon population are making a difference.”

About 92,000 fall chinook have already crossed McNary Dam south of the Tri-Cities and 26,000 have been counted at Ice Harbor Dam on the Snake River.

Read on for the details on the lower Columbia rule change announced this afternoon:

Snake steelhead still stalled below Lower Granite Dam

FISHING — Meanwhile in the Snake River — anglers are praying for cooler weather and rain to break the apparent thermal block that's keeping steelhead from moving up through the Snake River past Lower Granite Dam.

Fall chinook run smashing all records on Columbia

SALMON FISHING — It's not a run of fall chinook coming up the Columbia River this season, it's a stampede.

On Tuesday, regional fish managers upped their forecast for this year's fall chinook returns to 835,000 adult upriver brights reaching Bonneville Dam, which would smash the record of 610,436 set in 2003.

The count over Bonneville Dam Wednesday night totaled 573,567 with 42,506 fish coming up on Wednesday alone. That's the sixth highest single-day count since record-keeping started in 1938, and it's probably the DOWNSIDE of the run's peak.

This year's run set three single-day record numbers over Bonneville Dam in the past week, peaking with 63,870 on Monday.

“It’s a string that is mind-boggling, historic — Chin-pocalypse in the words of one angler who stands to reap the benefits, king-ageddon,” exclaims Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman magazine. “It’s not just the Columbia. There are signs that Puget Sound pink salmon were hugely underforecast, and the Oregon and California Coasts’ Chinook season was bonkers.”

The largest percentage of the upriver chinooks crossing Bonneville Dam is headed for the Hanford Reach of the Columbia as well as to the Snake, Clearwater and Salmon rivers in Idaho.

I'll make the easy forecast and predict that thousands of anglers will be there to greet them this season.

Steelhead forecasts

Columbia-Snake fish managers adjusted the forecast for A-run steelhead to 205,000 fish, including 86,000 wild steelhead.  That's an increase from the previous week's forecast, but still below the preseason forecast of 291,000.  The A-run fish provide the fisheries for Snake River tributaries including the Grande Ronde as well as the Upper Columbia and tributaries.

The size of the B-run steelhead bound mostly for Idaho's Clearwater River has not been updated, yet, but it continues to track behind expectations.

$55 million Convention Center project should give voters more, not less river access

UPDATE: Sept. 12 at 8 p.m.: Tentative agreement reached on Spokane River boat access at Division Street.

RIVERS — Plans for the voter funded $55-$65 million expansion of the Spokane Convention Center are advancing to the construction stage, but Public Facilities District officials continue to suggest that maintaining viable public river access at Division Street Bridge for rafts, kayaks, paddle boards and outfitters is not their priority.

I wrote about this in April when the designs were being approved.

I wrote about it again today as the PFD readies to begin digging without giving a commitment to a viable boat access when the construction is complete.

Unbelievable.

One-fly fishing tournament on Bitterroot set for charity

FLY FISHING — Put some purpose in your fishing by joining a field of 30 anglers for the Bitterroot Valley Cast One for Hope single fly fishing competition.

The Oct. 4-5 event is a fundraiser to benefit Casting for Recovery, a non-profit organization offering support and educational retreats for women with breast cancer.  

It's not for everyone — entry fee is $1,000 — but the fee includes a kickoff party at a stunning Bitterroot riverside home, a full day guided drift boat outing, lunch and a celebration dinner at the Stock Farm Club.

·Cast One for Hope –Bitterroot Valley Single-Fly Fishing Event

·Oct. 4-5, 2013

·Hamilton, Mont.

·Fundraiser for Casting for Recovery

·Registration is open!

Spring canyon busy with triathlon on Sept. 21

FISHING — Lake Roosevelt anglers should note a potential conflict for fishing out of Spring Canyon Campground area on Sept. 21, the day of the 10th annual Grand Columbian Triathlon Super Tri.

Triathletes and supporters will be camping at the site on Friday.

Swim events start at 6:45 a.m. followed by running and cycling portions of the event.

Field report: St. Joe River no secret among fly fishers

FISHING — Weather's good and the word's out about fly fishing for cutthroat trout on Idaho's St. Joe River.

An angler at the Inland Empire Fly Fishing Club's monthly meeting last night said that upon returning to the Spokane area Tuesday from a few days of fishing on The Joe:

“Every turnout and every run I could see was occupied by fishermen, and that was on a Tuesday in mid September!”

Preventing invasive mussels worth cost, study says

INVASIVE SPECIES — An Independent Economic Advisory Board update released last week indicates that the money spent – an estimated $5 million per year from a variety of sources — in attempts to ward off an invasion of non-native zebra and quagga mussels into the Columbia River basin is money well spent.

However, the report acknowledges there's still a probability the damaging species will eventually get into the Columbia and Snake River systems and raise havoc for irrigators, municipalities and hydropower managers, not to mention boaters and anglers.

See the story from the Columbia Basin Bulletin.

Rathdrum angler a ‘fan favorite’ for all-star bass tournament

TOURNAMENT FISHING — Brandon Palaniuk of Rathdrum, Idaho, is one of four anglers selected by fan voting to compete among 14 anglers in the Bassmaster Toyota All-Star Week starting Sept. 27 on Muskegon Lake, Mich.

Not only that, he's the favorite of the favorites.

This tournament is the first post-season event for the Elite Series and offers cash prizes to all 14 anglers competing, with first place taking home $50,000.

Palaniuk, 25, has already secured his spot in the 2014 Bassmaster Classic from his win on the St. Lawrence River in Waddington, N.Y.

The championship is an Elite Series postseason competition among the top performers from the 2013 tour, along with four pros whose avid fan support catapulted them into the postseason battle on Muskegon and White lakes.

The other three Fan Favorites are Gerald Swindle of Warrior, Ala. Michael Iaconelli of Pittsgrove, N.J.; and Skeet Reese of Auburn, Calif.

It hasn’t taken long for Palaniuk, an Elite rookie in 2011, to find a place in the hearts of bass fans. Last year, the young pro was in fifth place in voting, but this year, Palaniuk earned the most votes during the campaign on Bassmaster.com.

“It’s kind of humbling, and I feel honored,” said Palaniuk. “I think being voted in to All-Star as the top guy is the biggest honor you can receive from the fans. Without the fans, we have nothing — no sponsors, no sport. The fans are everything to bass fishing in that respect.”

Palaniuk’s career to date has been the sort to draw fan recognition. This year, he won the Bassmaster Elite Series tournament on the St. Lawrence River, taking home a trophy, $100,000 and a berth in the 2014 Bassmaster Classic. In 2012, he won the Bassmaster Elites Series event on Bull Shoals Lake.

Read on for more details about the All-Star Week tournament and the field of anglers.

Moose population gaining in Oregon

WILDLIFE —  The only moose herd in Oregon appears to have doubled in size in recent years, despite deaths in recent years from a parasite.

The Oregonian says the herd numbers about 60 animals today, compared to 30 in 2006.

The carotid worm problem was discovered in about 2010 when biologists captured a moose in Wallowa County to fit it with a radio collar.

The moose died as it was being captured. The worms were found during a necropsy.

The moose are the smallest subspecies in North America, with females weighing up to 800 pounds and males weighing up to 1,000 pounds.

Alaska and Yukon moose are the largest subspecies in North America, weighing about 1500 pounds.

Striped bass netted near The Dalles

FISHING — A Native American treaty gillnetter caught a striped bass above The Dalles Dam on Sept. 6, the farthest up the Columbia River the species has been documented.

A striper was photographed moving uptream at Bonneville Dam in mid-June.  Perhaps it's the same one?

Striped bass are extremely rare in Washington waters, but occasionally turn up in the Columbia around this time of year, notes Northwest Sportsman magazine. They were introduced to San Francisco Bay waters in the late 1800s and migrated up to Coos Bay and environs, but in recent years, with changing salinity, haven’t fared as well as they once did.

DU plans treat for youth waterfowlers Sept. 21

HUNTING — Ducks Unlimited is offering a barbecue lunch for youth waterfowl hunters and their parents/chaperones at Mar Don Resort, Potholes Reservoir, on Youth Waterfowl Hunt Day, Saturday, Sept. 21, from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Each of the first 48 youth, who is registered online ($5 fee) on or before Sept. 19 – will receive a bbq lunch,  a “duck hunter’s bucket”, Haydel duck call and lanyard, and a gun tool, all donated by Colonel Tom O’Dell, of Moses Lake.  DU has donated a duck identification poster, DU duck call and cap for each young hunter, as well, while Kraft Foods has donated a snack pack for each youth.

Please visit the DU website,  , or, the specific address is: to

Sign up here.

The fee is $10 for the parent/chaperone, who accompany the youth, and they will be fed, too!

An anonymous donor is buying a Greenwing (youth) membership for each of the first 48 who sign up.

Mike Nilsen, WA State DU Chairman-Elect is coordinating the event.  Mike is a career Navy NCO, who is working with Col. O’Dell to make this happen for our young hunters.

Sept. 21-22 is the special youth only waterfowl and upland game bird hunting season, which gives hunters under 16 years of age a jump start on the general seasons that open later this fall. Non-hunting adults at least 18 years of age must accompany young hunters. Check WDFW’s Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game Seasons pamphlet for details.

Surge of fall chinook smashes daily record over Bonneville Dam

UPDATED at 11:35 a.m.

SALMON FISHING — In case you haven't been paying attention, a huge run of fall chinook is heading up the Columbia and Snake Rivers.

If you need more evidence, here it is:  63,870 adult fall chinook were counted at Bonneville Dam Monday, smashing the record of 48,710 set just last Saturday.  

The record before that was 45,884 fish on Sept. 11, 2003. 

“As far as I can tell going back through the annual counts since 1938, the 63,870 adult chinook counted yesterday at Bonneville Dam may be a RECORD DAILY COUNT FOR ALL SALMONIDS, not just fall chinook,” said Joe Hymper, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife fisheries biologist in Vancouver. 

“The 475,000 adult fall chinook counted at Bonneville Dam to date is the 3rd highest on record for the entire run (August through December).  Only 2003 (610,000) and 2004 (584,000) are larger.”  

Watch today’s parade of fish.

They'll be showing up on the hooks of anglers in the Handford Reach of the Columbia and the Clearwater River in Idaho soon.

Lead ammunition ban awaits California governor’s signature

HUNTING — The California Senate on Monday passed legislation to protect the state’s condors, eagles and other wildlife from lead poisoning by requiring the use of nonlead ammunition for all hunting by 2019.
 
Assembly Bill 711 passed by a vote of 23-15 after being approved by the state Assembly in May.
 
If the bill is signed by the governor, California would be the first state in the country to require the use of nontoxic bullets and shot for all hunting.
 
The legislation would require the state Fish and Game Commission to issue regulations by July 1, 2015, that phase in use of nonlead ammunition for hunting of all kinds, including game mammals, game birds, nongame birds and nongame mammals. These requirements would be fully implemented statewide by July 1, 2019.
 
 
Nontarget birds and other wildlife are poisoned from scavenging carcasses containing lead-bullet fragments, eating lead-poisoned prey, or ingesting spent lead-shot pellets, mistaking them for food or grit. 

Slides block North Cascades Highway; may reopen Thursday

OUTDOOR TRAVEL — It's been a rough summer for the North Cascades Highway, and travelers visiting the many trailheads and scenic attractions the route accesses through North Cascades National Park.  

A short stretch of the prized stretch of Highway 20 near Rainy Pass is closed by mudslides for the second time in six weeks.

  • Specifically, the route is closed between milepost 147 (10 miles west of Rainy Pass) and milepost 157 at Rainy Pass. 

This closure blocks through traffic from the East Side to the West Side of the state.

The Washington Transportation Department says it hopes to reopen the North Cascades Highway at noon on Thursday.

Late last week, rain-caused mudslides in several locations closed a stretch of the highway, also known as State Highway 20.

Transportation officials say crews are making good progress in clearing a half dozen slides.

The highway is the northernmost route across Washington’s Cascade Mountains.

Fly fishing guide pegs technique for local waters

FLY FISHING — Sean Visintainer of Silver Bow Fly Shop will detail fishing methods for local waters, including the St. Joe, Coeur d’Alene and Spokane rivers, in a free program, 7 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 11,. at St. Francis School, 1104 W. Heroy.

The event is sponsored by the Spokane Fly Fishers.

Idaho Conservation League celebrates 40 years at Sandpoint

CONSERVATION — A group that formed over a spaghetti dinner is celebrating four decades of creating a voice for conservation in the Idaho State Legislature and beyond.

The Idaho Conservation League is inviting the public to its 40th Anniversary Celebration, at 6 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 14, on the shores of Lake Pend Oreille at Trinity by the Beach Restaurant in Sandpoint.

Since 1973, ICL has grown beyond being a legislative lobbying group to taking on issues ranging from air pollution to protecting state and federal wild lands in Idaho.

“There is much to celebrate after 40 years of dedicated work,” says Susan Drumheller, ICL’s Community Conservation associate in Sandpoint. “A few of our accomplishments over the years include protecting the Frank Church - River of No Return Wilderness Area, passage of new national rules to reduce mercury pollution, and recently, protecting Idaho’s rivers and streams from suction dredge mining.”

ICL has also enjoyed major accomplishments locally. The group helped protect Long Canyon, the last unroaded drainage in the Selkirk Mountains, and has spearheaded a campaign to permanently protect open space along the shores of Lake Pend Oreille, with the creation of the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail.

The group has 18 staff members working across the state, more than 25,000 supporters and working relationships with organizations, businesses and community leaders.

“Our work is always about personal connection, credibility and trust. We work to build bridges and get things done. That can be hard in Idaho, but it’s always worth the effort,” said Rick Johnson, ICL’s Executive Director for over 18 years. “Mary Lou Reed, an ICL founder, gave our first director a sign that says ‘Remember North Idaho.’  Forty years later we are proud of our three-person Sandpoint office and our work in the Panhandle.”

The festivities will include a full hearty dinner, no-host bar, live music by the Monarch Mountain Band, and fun raffle items including ski and stay packages, fishing trips, original artwork and a one-of-a-kind quilt made from vintage ICL t-shirts. The evening also includes a pictorial time-line of ICL over the last 40 years, a showing of ICL’s 40th anniversary movie, and a short presentation by ICL Executive Director, Rick Johnson.

Tickets for the event are $30 each and can be purchase on-line, www.idahoconservation.org, by calling (208) 345-6933 or at the door as supplies last.

Prescribed burns planned on Idaho Panhandle forests

PUBLIC LANDS — The fire-fighting season is winding down, and now, as burning conditions are controllable, the planned use of fire is about to begin for the benefit of forests health and wildlife habitat.

Here the plan from the Idaho Pandhandle National Forests:

National forest visitors this fall can expect to see occasional smoke and short term area closures due to planned prescribed fires in various locations across the Idaho Panhandle.

Hunters, hikers, campers and other forest visitors should check the Idaho Panhandle National Forest (IPNF) website for prescribed fire locations and updates before venturing into the woods this fall. Not all planned locations will be ignited this fall, but when conditions are right the forest website will be updated and fire crews will post signs in the area and visit nearby campsites prior to ignition.

For a full listing of potential prescribed fire sites, including maps, visit the IPNF Prescribed Fire web page or www.northidahorxfire.com.

“Our prescribed fires complement local community wildfire protection plans, and provide great benefits to forest health,” said District Ranger Chad Hudson. “The end result will be reduced wildfire risks for local communities, improved wildlife habitat and a large step toward restoring the forest’s resiliency to threats such as uncharacteristic fires, insects and disease.”

Active burning will occur at each site for a period of 2-3 days, with smoldering fire afterward until rain or snow extinguishes the fires. Burn areas can pose very hazardous conditions such as rapid and unpredictable spreading of flames, falling trees, heavy smoke and limited visibility, and rolling rocks and logs. Members of the public are urged to stay away from these areas during burning operations and for a few days afterward. If you plan on recreating or hunting in these project areas make sure you understand your location relative to the burn units. If you find yourself in an active burn area, you should travel downslope or away from the predominant path of flames, because fire typically burns fastest upslope. When burn dates or date ranges are forecasted, signs will be posted along access roads and near affected trailheads and trail junctions. Temporary access restrictions or closures may be utilized if deemed necessary for public safety.

Contact your local US Forest Service office.

Shellfishers happy as a clam about season prospects

SHELLFISHING — The strongest year of razor clam digging in more than a decade is predicted this fall based on summer surveys on ocean beaches, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department reports.

Barring issues with marine toxins, clammers could enjoy some of the best harvests in 15 years.

  • During the 2012-13 season, diggers harvested 6.1 million razor clams, the highest number in 15 years. Diggers averaged 14.5 clams per day, just shy of the 15-clam legal limit.

“The test show an even higher density of razor clams on most beaches than last year, when diggers enjoyed a banner season,” said Dan Ayres, coastal shellfish manager. “That will translate into more days of digging at popular beaches such as Long Beach and Twin Harbors, so long as we don't have any marine toxin issues.”

State shellfish managers will present an update on coastal razor clam stocks and discuss options for structuring this year's season at a public meeting Sept. 19 in Long Beach.

The seasons could start in October. The lowest tides are the first and third weekends of the month. A season could be set for either or both.

Razor clam seasons are also an economic boon for small coastal communities, according to a study conducted by the University of Washington. Last year's season generated approximately $37 million in economic benefits, based on the model used in the study.  

Yellowstone reports first gun-related death in 35 years

PARKS — A 3-year-old girl camping with her family in Yellowstone National Park died after shooting herself with a handgun on Saturday, the first gun-related death in park since 1978, according to the Associated Press.

The shooting, reported by the Casper Star Tribune, occurred four years after Congress approved the possession of handguns in National Parks and federal wildlife areas. The law, which was attached as an amendment to a credit card bill, allows concealed and loaded weapons in parks provided they are allowed by state law.

Related stories:

Fire closures causing hassles for Idaho hunters

HUNTING — Check ahead before heading out hiking or hunting in central and southern Idaho.

Closure of federal lands in Idaho snarls hunting plans
The U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management have closed public access to thousands of acres in Idaho burned by this summer's wildfires, and now the state is scrambling to notify hunters that their hunts won't take place as planned.

—Twin Falls Times-News

Outdoors groups revive free monthly outdoor program schedule

OUTDOORS — After a summer hiatus, Inland Northwest outdoors groups are reviving monthly free programs. Among this week’s offerings are:

Bicycling programs of the Spokane Regional Transportation Council explained by Ryan Stewart, senior planner, 6:30 p.m., Monday, at Riverview Retirement Center, for Spokane Bicycle Club.

  • See map and directions to Riverview Retirement Center auditorium, which is  used by several groups for free monthly programs.
Birding on the Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge, by refuge manger Diane Ellis, 7 p.m., Tuesday (Sept. 10) at Lutheran Church of the Master, 4800 N. Ramsey Road in Coeur d’Alene, for Coeur d’Alene Audubon.
 
Fly fishing local streams, by Sean Visintainer of Silver Bow Fly Shop, 7 p.m., Wednesday, at St. Francis School, 1104 W. Heroy, for Spokane Fly Fishers.
 
Gardening for wildlife, by master gardener Eva Lusk, 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, at Riverview Retirement Center, for Spokane Audubon.

Sign up for Idaho youth waterfowl hunting day

HUNTING — Three mentored waterfowl hunting opportunities for youth aged 10-15 are being organized for Sept. 28, the opening day of Idaho's youth-only waterfowl hunting season. 

The mentored hunting clinics, sponsored by the Idaho Fish and Game Department and sportsmens groups, take advantage of this special season, before the birds become scattered and wary, to teach youngsters basic hunting skills and giving them a shot at their first ducks.

Clinics will be held at the Boundary Creek Wildlife Management Area west of Bonners Ferry, Heyburn State Park west of St. Maries, and the Clark Fork River delta.

Clinics are free, but space is limited and pre-registration is required:

  • For the Boundary Creek and Heyburn hunts, contact Dave Leptich or JJ Teare, (208) 769-1414.
  • For the Clark Fork hunt contact Ray Millard, (208) 264-5252.

Read on for more details:

Canoe journey spotlights plight of Columbia salmon

Episode 1: The Fish Ladder from Voyages of Rediscovery on Vimeo.

RIVERS — An expedition of canoeists and Native American students is leading an upstream effort to advocate construction of a fish ladder to reintroduce chinook salmon runs in the Columbia River above Grand Coulee Dam.

On Aug. 2, five salmon-inspired dugout canoes started their journey up the Columbia River to pay tribute to the salmon no longer able to reach their historic spawning grounds of the Upper Columbia River since the construction of Grand Coulee Dam.

The boats have made it past Chief Joseph Dam last week, paddled up Lake Rufus Woods and completed the portage around Grand Coulee Dam on Saturday. They expected to paddle up Lake Roosevelt to Keller Ferry by Saturday night and then leave there today, headed for Two Rivers at the mouth of the Spokane River by Monday night.

From the confluence of the Spokane and Columbia Rivers, the paddlers will head up the Spokane River to Little Falls — the first dam that blocked salmon from migrating up to Spokane Falls in 1910.  Spokane Tribe schoolkids (who helped build one of the dugout canoes) will join the paddle. A public event of some sort is planned at the end of the week. See blog updates here.

The “Sea to the Source” expedition left Astoria, Ore., in an upstream voyage toward Canal Flats, the source of the Columbia River in British Columbia. 

The crew consists of five river guides who oversee a river-based environmental education program called Voyages of Rediscovery. They are enlisting the muscle power of Indian Tribes, youths and other supporters along the way.

“The idea behind the canoes and the river expedition is to bring the salmon back to the upper reaches of the Columbia River,” said Adam Wicks-Arshack a guide with Voyages of Rediscovery and environmental educator.  “We carved these canoes with thousands of students who’ve had the salmon removed from their culture by Grand Coulee Dam.”

The five dugout canoes were carved at various schools over the past year.  For most of the trip they have been paddling two canoes, the “Salmon Savior” a 21-foot ponderosa pine, carved at the Wellpinit Middle and High School on the Spokane Reservation and a larger 33-foot cedar canoe, the “Crying Salmon,” which was carved by the students of Inchelium School on the Colville Reservation.


As the expedition arrives at each school that carved a canoe, Inchelium, Wellpinit, Kettle Falls, and Medicine Wheel Academy of the Community School in Spokane, the canoes will be gifted back to the school and young people who carved them. 

“These canoes represent the Salmon,” said Xander Demetrios, a river guide with the expedition. “They have traveled through many hardships from the Pacific Ocean and are nearing their former Spawning Grounds.  These will be the first salmon to pass Chief Joe and Grand Coulee in a long time.”

The expedition has canoed more than 545 miles up the Columbia River to Chief Joseph Dam, the first dam without a fish ladder and is approaching Grand Coulee Dam. 

The river guides and environmental educators anticipate another 1-2 weeks of paddling to reach the international border between the United States and Canada.

John Zinser,  boat builder and river guide, proudly praises the young carvers (see video above). “The students worked every day on these canoes and it is an honor to paddle these salmon canoes which were created with so much energy from so many young people,” he said.  

When the expedition arrives at each school the crew is giving presentations about their journey and the importance of salmon and the Columbia River.  Most importantly each student will have the opportunity to paddle in the canoes they carved.

This expedition comes in the midst of preparations by the United States and Canada to renegotiate the Columbia River Treaty that governs one of the great rivers of the world.  The 1964 Treaty failed to consult with Tribes, First Nations, and the residents of southern British Columbia.  The Treaty built 3 treaty dams in British Columbia and the Libby Dam in northwestern Montana, forcing 2000 people from their homes.  The Treaty contains only the two purposes of hydropower and flood control.  

Tribes and conservationists want a third purpose added to the Treaty:  restoring the Columbia River to ecological health including bringing salmon home to waters blocked by dams.

“The Grand Coulee Dam was once considered to be the greatest engineering project the world had ever seen,” noted Wicks-Arshack. “Now let's get started with the greatest eco-engineering project—a fish ladder at the Grand Coulee Dam.”

Voyages of Rediscovery is a program of The River School, a non-profit river based environmental education not for profit.  They have been offering educational canoe trips and canoe building opportunities on the Columbia River for the past five years. If you would like to follow the Sea2Source expedition, you can follow their blog and/or facebook page.

Chinook run stalls at Lower Granite

FISHING — An unusually lengthy warm season in the interior Columbia Basin, combined with low water volumes, has apparently given, first sockeye salmon and then fall chinook salmon, reason to pause before they jump an eighth and final hydro hurdle — the lower Snake River’s Lower Granite Dam— on their spawning journey.

Read a detailed update on the sistuation from the Columbia Basin Bulletin.

In a nutshell, if you don't hold the dam at fault, it's the weather's fault.

Field report: Clark Fork back in action for anglers

FLY FISHING — My friend David Moershel and I drove over Lookout Pass on Thursday, dodged lightning storms and endured weather ranging from cool to hot over two days to check out Montana's Clark Fork River a week after fishing restrictions were lifted after weeks of water too warm for the health of the trout.

The verdict:  The Clark Fork is back in action, when it's not being cruel.

The three photos with this post (click continue reading) show the thick 14- to 16-inch cutthroat, rainbow and cuttbow I caught on dry flies and nymphs in a two-hour period on Friday morning.  They were among five other fish I caught including a whitefish in three hours of walkng and wading.

Not bad for a guy who casts like a zombie and was trying to train his English setter to stay on a rock and NOT retrieve the fish as they were reeled in.

But while we had periods of good fishing, we also had stretches when we couldn't buy a trout.  On Thursday evening we drove to several spots that have been good to us in the past and we couldn't find a rising fish.

The moral: When it's hot, it's hot; when it's not, it's not.

Idaho dedicates hatchery to wild sockeye revival

FISHERIES — State and federal officials are gathering today just outside of Springfield, Idaho, near American Falls Reservoir to mark the completion of a new hatchery that will take the recovery of Snake River sockeye to a higher level.

The $13.5 million facility will be capable of producing up to 1 million juvenile sockeye annually for release in the Sawtooth Basin of central Idaho, the headwaters of the Salmon River.

This additional incubation and rearing space will move the sockeye recovery effort from the conservation phase to a re-colonization phase where emphasis will be on returning increasing numbers of ocean-run adults to use in hatchery spawning and to release to the habitat for natural spawning.

The increase may eventually lead to recreational and tribal fishing seasons.

The hatchery will be operated by Idaho Fish and Game. It was was funded by the Bonneville Power Administration as part of its obligation to mitigate the impact of hydropower dams on salmon and steelhead.

Read on for more details about the hatchery and the history of the remarkable fish that, despite the formidable barriers of dams and reservoirs, make a 900-mile return up the Columbia and Snake River systems to their spawning areas in the Sawtoon Mountains.

Idaho Fish and Game updates sportsmen at breakfast meetings

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — Idaho Fish and Game staffers are gearing up to update sportsmen on current topics at breakfast meeting sin Lewiston and Coeur d'Alene on the second Tuesay of the month from late summer through spring.

That means the next meetings are Sept. 10.

In Lewiston, coffee, doughnuts and juice will be provide as IFG staffers report on on fall fishing season updates, youth hunting clinics, enforcement challenges and other related activities.

  • Time: 6:30 a.m.
  • Place: Clearwater Region office 3316 16th St. in Lewiston.
  • Info: 208-799-5010

In Coeur d'Alene, this month's topic is still pending.

Bucks are polishing up their act

WILDLIFE WATCHING — It's time for this whitetail buck to peel off the velvet and get ready for action.

Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson documented this late-summer stage of antler development last weekend with this photo.

Destructive shooters leave their mark

PUBLIC LANDS — After reading yesterday's blog post regarding the frustration of Idaho Panhandle National Forests officals over destructive shooting activity near Hayden Creek, reader George Barlow emailed me the photo above.

No, it's not from Iraq.

It shows the outhouse at the BLM's Hog Canyon Lake boat access site after semi-automatic weapons shooters had their way with it.

The scene explains the gunpowder vandalism that pushed BLM officials to ban shooting in the core area of the Fishtrap management area a few years ago.  

 

Bear awareness needed during early season hunt

HUNTING — After several recent human-bear encounters in Idaho and Wyoming, wildlife managers are reminding hunters and others heading into the region’s backwoods to properly store their food and garbage to keep conflicts with the curious and ravenous predators to a minimum.

Idaho Department of Fish and Game officials say anyone who leaves food out is baiting bears.

The animals have a tremendous sense of smell and become habituated to humans if they discover people are associated with easy meals.

The agency urges hunters to keep a clean camp, store garbage in bear-resistant containers or high in trees — out of reach of black bears and grizzlies.

In mid-August, four people in and near Yellowstone National Park were injured in separate bear encounters, though all escaped with minor bite and scratch wounds. 

Montana closing Blackfoot River to fishing

FISHING — In an effort to protect fish from the stress of low stream flows, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks will impose a complete closure to fishing on the Blackfoot River and its important bull trout tributaries effective Thursday, Sept. 5.

The “Blackfoot Drought Response Plan” calls for a 24-hour a day fishing closure on the main stem Blackfoot and important bull trout tributaries once river flows dip below 500 cfs at the Bonner USGS river flow gauge.  Flows were at 467 Tuesday, an unusually low discharge. Based upon 80 years of record, past stream flows condition exceeded this level 88 percent of the time.
 
The all-day closure applies to the entire main stem Blackfoot River; Morrell, Gold, Belmont, Cottonwood, Copper, and Monture Creeks; the North Fork of the Blackfoot River; and Landers Fork.  
 
As water reaches flow and temperature triggers, the plan also calls for reductions in water use from water right holders as part of a “shared sacrifice” approach to improve stream flow and reduce stress on the trout fishery. Many irrigators have been contributing flows to the fishery for more than a month.
 
The drought plan was developed by the Blackfoot Drought Committee, a group of irrigators, local landowners, anglers, fishing outfitters, state and federal agents including FWP, and members of various conservation organizations including Trout Unlimited, and is coordinated by the Blackfoot Challenge.
 
The committee will monitor flows daily and lift the fishing closure as soon as conditions improve.
 
Closures on the Bitterroot and Clark Fork Rivers were lifted last week, but river restrictions are in place in other parts of the state.  Anglers can check for details on fishing restrictions or closures on the FWP home page. Select Drought & Fire under the Hot Topics heading, or check the FWP online fishing guide.

Storm kills 10,000 Koocanusa kokanee

FISHING — News about the impacts of that huge thunderstorm system that rumbled through the region on Aug. 25 keep rolling in.

An algae bloom combined with the fast-moving storm killed at least 10,000 kokanee salmon in Lake Koocanusa in northwestern Montana.

State fisheries biologist Mike Hensler tells the Missoulian that previous hot, calm weather caused the water on the top of the lake to warm, allowing algae to bloom.

The Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks says the Aug. 25 storm brought strong winds that moved the algae deeper into the water, where it was ingested by salmon.

FWP spokesman John Fraley says the fish became disoriented after ingesting toxic blue-green algae and came to the surface. They were unable to dive back into cooler water and were killed by the warm surface water.

Fraley says the die-off of the 8- to 10-inch salmon affected a small portion of what will be next year’s adults.

Other impacts of that big storm system include:

Camper killed by falling tree near Priest Lake

Forest Service closes Beaver Creek Campground because of hazardous trees

Free firewood available at campgrounds as crews drop hazardous trees

Shooters trash Forest Service signs at Hayden site

SHOOTING — The small but formidable percentage of pigs who wallow anonymously in the freedoms afforded by the Second Amendment continue to make a bad name for the sport of target shooting.

Worse, they are at an alarming rate reducing the number of places responsible gun owners can shoot. 

A site on the Coeur d'Alene National Forest near Hayden Creek that's been used by shooters for decades is on the verge of being shut down by people who trash the place with target garbage, shell casings and litter, while blasting to pieces any sign posted to plead for responsibility.

Photos with this post show signs that had been posted for less than three months at the Hayden Creek site. This is the response to Forest Service emphasis patrols at the site and efforts by volunteers to get voluntary compliance with basic littering rules and shooting etiquette.

“Needless to say, we are beyond disgusted with this type of behavior, and I imagine every responsible shooter who uses the area is, too,” said Jason Kirchner, Idaho Panhandle National Forests spokesman in Coeur d'Alene. “We really don’t want to shut down shooting in the area, but behavior like this moves us closer to that decision every day.

Two Washington Department of Natural Resources parcels were declared no-shooting zones by the Spokane County Commissioners this year following a petition by fed up landowners.

Regarding the Hayden Creek site, a clearly frustrated Kirchner added:

We've had abuse in the area going back decades, but it seems to be getting worse every year. You might recall that this spring, and the previous spring, we sent out pictures and a news release begging the public to report slobs at the shooting sites. We've gotten volunteers that have started helping to clean it up, but the slobs who trash these places and shoot up everything in sight have been relentless.

I don't think it's any secret that if the trend continues there will come a time when we will have to decide that the only way to clean it up is to close it to shooting, barricade the sites, and issue citations to anybody we find shooting in the area. It's a shame that a bunch of slobs will ruin it for the responsible sportsmen who use the area.

Sacheen Lake boat launch closing for repairs

FISHING — The public boat access site on the northeast shore of Sacheen Lake, 11 miles southwest of Newport along Hwy. 211 in Pend Oreille County, will be closed Sept. 9-30 to reconstruct the boat ramp, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife says.

Sacheen Lake, which has rainbow, tiger, and eastern brook trout, remains open to fishing through Oct. 31. 

Steelhead counts poised to boom at Lower Granite Dam

FISHING —  The bulk of this year's lower than average steelhead run has climbed over Bonneville Dam, the first dam they reach on the Columbia River, and all eyes are upstream.

As you can see from the charts, the fish are making their way upstream and good things are about to happen in the Lewiston-Clarkston area.

If Clearwater-Snake water temperatures cool a bit  more, the  number of steelhead climbing over Lower Granite should spike any day. Lower Granite is the last dam on the Snake before the fish reach Idaho waters. 

Are you ready? 

Fall chinook stampeding up Columbia system

SALMON FISHING — The huge run of fall chinook forecast for the Columbia and Snake rivers got a booming start last week.

In a three-day stretch last week, nearly 85,000 fall chinook moved up over Bonneville, with almost 34,000 of those coming up river on Friday tapering to a rush of 27,000 on Monday.

Steelhead and coho also are in the mix, boosting the counts of quality fishing potential even higher.

Fishing writer Rob Phillips says anglers already have been nailing these fish at the mouth of the Klickitat and the mouth of the Deschutes rivers.

The bulk of the fishery is headed for the Hanford Reach of the Columbia, but Phillips details other hot spots up through the Tri-Cities in the upper Columbia in his Yakima Herald—Republic column.

Utah snubs Forest Service with mountain goat plan

Utah to proceed with mountain goat plan despite USFS's objections
Mountain goats have never resided in Utah's La Sal Mountains, and for that reason the U.S. Forest Service is objecting to Utah's decision to put the animals in the small island range near Moab to eventually allow trophy hunting of the goats.
—Salt Lake Tribune

Montana streams cooling; more fishing restrictions lifted

FISHING — Things are getting back to normal for anglers in Montana, as Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks lifted fishing restrictions for the Bitterroot River on Friday.

HOWEVER, the Blackfoot River system is being closed to fishing completely starting Thursday because of low, warm stream flows.

The Ravalli Republic reports the agency lifted the restrictions on the Bitterroot after water temperatures held below the 70-degree restriction trigger for three days.

The entire main stem of the Bitterroot since July 25 had been closed to fishing from 2 p.m. to midnight in an effort to reduce stress on fish.

Clark Fork River restrictions were lifted on Wednesday.

Hunter death investigated as homicide in Okanogan County

HUNTING — Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers says the shooting death of a grouse hunter in a remote area of central Washington near Chesaw is being investigated as a homicide.  

 
The Wenatchee World reports a man in his 60s from western Washington was killed Monday northeast of Tonasket. The man’s name is being withheld until his family is notified.  
 
Rogers says a hunting partner, also from western Washington, called for help from a nearby home at about 7:15 p.m.  
 
He says the hunting partner is currently not a suspect, and no suspects have been identified. But investigators do have “people of interest” they’d like to interview.

Lake Coeur d’Alene fall drawdown begins today

LAKES — The slow annual fall drawdown of Lake Coeur d’Alene is beginning today.

The lake level will be gradually lowered through Post Falls Dam about a foot by the end of September, giving property owners time to secure boats and docks for the winter season, Avista officials said today in a media release.

After September, the drawdown rate will increase to about 1.5 feet a month until reaching the winter elevation of 2,122 feet. The summer level of the lake behind Post Falls Dam is about 2,128 feet.

The drawdown will increase flows in the Spokane River, giving anglers a boost by perking up the fishery, but dam operators do not plan to open the dam’s spill gates. 

The river above Post Falls Dam should remain open to boating until November, Avista said.

WDFW names new enforcement chief

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife on Friday announced that Steve Crown, a lieutenant in the (WDFW) Enforcement Program, had been promoted today to serve as the agency's Chief of enforcement.

The selection process has been kept low-key for months.

Crown is replacing Bruce Bjork, who is retiring after 43 years of state service, including 15 as the leader of the WDFW Enforcement Program.

Crown graduated from the University of Idaho and spent 11 years with the Wenatchee Police Department before joining WDFW in 2002. He was selected after a national recruitment and interview process and transitioned into his new role by working alongside Chief Bjork for the past month.

When I requested information about the selection on June 24, Mike Cenci, program deputy chief, responded:

“It is a public process………will provide info today.”

Not hearing back, I contacted Cenci again on July 22 after finding nothing online regarding the national search for a new chief.  Here's his reply:

Sorry Rich. I can't find a posting. I know that the agency solicited the Washington Assoc. of Sheriff's and Police Chiefs to conduct a nationwide search. They are down to a finalist, who will face a forum of labor and other agency personnel for a Q&A session. The appointment will occur depending on that outcome. If your interested in the minimum qualifications, I will dig.

I responded with a query for more information regarding the Q&A session Cenci mentioned and names of finalists, and got his final response:

I am not authorized to provide any detail yet, Rich. 

Here's the rest of the info from the WDFW media release issued Friday at 4 p.m. as most people were turning their attention to a holiday weekend:

“Steve brings a well-rounded law enforcement background to his new position, as well as a passion for the state's natural resources,” said WDFW Director Phil Anderson.  “The Enforcement Program plays a key role in helping the department achieve our mission and meet our legal responsibilities. I am confident Steve will maintain and enhance the consistent and professional approach that has been a hallmark of Chief Bjork's tenure.”

“Bruce Bjork is one of this state's most highly respected law enforcement leaders,” said Crown. “I am honored and excited to lead the Enforcement Program and to build upon his accomplishments.”

Under Bjork's leadership, WDFW made significant investments in cutting-edge law enforcement technology that increased officers' efficiency and improved their ability to apprehend violators. He also helped establish the department as a general authority police agency and was instrumental in the passage of legislation that increased penalties for egregious violations such as spree killing and poaching trophy-class big-game animals.  

Elk group gives Idaho $50,000 for wolf management

PREDATORS — Idaho Fish and Game has accepted a $50,000 grant from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to assist with its wolf management plan.

The funds will increase IDFG's knowledge of interactions between wolves and elk, and expand the radio collar program to help managers gain a better understanding of pack and territory size, home range, and other biological traits and actions of the wolf in order to better implement effective management technique, according to an RMEF media release.

“To properly and effectively carry out science-based management practices, it is critical that state agencies recognize and understand predator-prey relationships and wolf populations,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO.

“This grant will help IDFG gain a more thorough knowledge of wolves and wolf behavior so it can better implement its approved predator management plan.” “This grant is another example of the outstanding support we've received from RMEF and elk hunters for nearly 30 years”, said Brad Compton, IDFG assistant chief of wildlife. “This grant is particularly important because it comes at a time when federal funding is being incrementally eliminated, thus allowing us to continue to maintain our active wolf monitoring and management program. Idaho's program is designed to reduce conflict, including addressing unacceptable levels of predation on elk populations.”

In keeping with the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, RMEF supports state-regulated hunting and trapping as the preferred tools of wolf management. RMEF staunchly supports management to balance and control wolf populations.

“We maintain our longstanding commitment to and support of the goal of state management which is to sustain all wildlife species in balance with the available habitat and the local communities where so many of us live,” Allen said.

Since 1989, RMEF officials say they have invested nearly $664,000 in research grants to advance scientific understanding of wolves, wolf interactions with other species, and overall wolf management. The total includes more than $200,000 in science grants in just the past five years. Most of the contributions paid for independent research by leading universities, state and federal wildlife conservation agencies and tribes.

“A key part of RMEF's mission is to ensure the future of elk and other wildlife,” said Allen. “This grant helps Idaho managers do that by helping them determine how many wolves are out there, where they travel and what effect they have on elk, deer and other ungulates.”

RMEF previously awarded 2013 grants to Montana and Wyoming to assist with wolf management in those states.

RMEF will allocate nearly $2.9 million for elk and wildlife-related conservation projects in 27 states with wild, free-ranging elk populations in 2013. Additionally $570,000 will also be allocated to hunting heritage programs in 49 states.

Day hiking the Salmo-Priest loop; de-trashing the wilderness

HIKING — Holly Weiler of the Spokane Mountaineers led a 20-mile day hike on the Salmo Loop in the Salmo-Priest Wilderness on Saturday to bring her August Hike-A-Thon mileage close to 300 miles as she raised donations for the Washinton Trails Association.

Photo shows Holly and Ed Bowers about 12 miles into their day hiking down off Little Snowy Top Mountain. In the background is Crowell Ridge and Gypsy Peak, highest point in Eastern Washington.

Why is Holly carrying such a big pack for a day hike, you ask?

Because, as usual, she's been picking up garbage along the way as she cruised through the wilderness, including lots of plastic stuff, plus empty butane fuel canisters and full freeze-dried food packages that were being chewed through by rodents in the Little Snowy Top lookout.

Note to the uninformed:

  • Fire pits are not garbage disposals.
  • Aluminum does not burn in a campfire.
  • If you can pack it in, pack it out.

Wilderness found:  The Salmo-Priest is getting plenty of attention.  We counted 36 hikers including our group of three had signed in on 8-31-13 at the two Salmo Basin Trailsheads at the end of Colville National Forest Road 2220.

Forest Service safety measures create firewood at campgrounds

CAMPING — Campers are finding a windfall of sorts at campgrounds around the region — plenty of firewood available on the ground, ready to scavenge, cut, split and use.

Forest Service crews worked overtime before the holiday weekend to identify and cut down potentially dangerous trees at developed camping sites after a man was killed in his tent during an intense Aug. 25 storm toppled a huge tree in the Stagger Inn Campground northwest of Priest Lake.

The crews moved quickly, often leaving the wood for campers to use. This tree, for example, was conveniently dropped on the border of a campsite in Gypsy Meadows on the Colville National Forest northeast of Sullivan Lake.

Tonight: biologists explain walleye limit for Sanpoil Arm

FISHING – Sportfishing rule changes proposed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife will be explained in a public meeting starting at 6 p.m. tonight at the agency’s regional office, 2315 N. Discovery Pl. in Spokane Valley.

Public comments will be accepted through Oct. 31.

One proposal calls for liberalizing the daily limit for walleye to 16 fish on the waters of the San Poil River inundated by Lake Roosevelt (the San Poil Arm) to decrease the overabundant walleye population and to align regulations with those for Lake Roosevelt.

The proposals will be made to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission’s during its November meeting in Olympia.

 

The commission, which sets policy for WDFW, is scheduled to vote on the final sportfishing rules package during a meeting in December.

Learn basics of fly fishing and steelheading

FISHING — Silver Bow Fly Shop is offering two classes this month at 13210 E Indiana Ave. in Spokane Valley:

  • Beginner Fly Fishing, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Sept. 7. $30.
  • Fly Fishing for Steelhead, 6 p.m.-8 p.m. on Sept. 16. $20.

Preregister: 924-9998.

New steelheading rule for Tucannon River

FISHING — Starting toaday, Sept. 1, a new fishing rule designed to protect critically low levels of wild steelhead and reduce the number of hatchery fish on the spawning grounds will take effect on the Tucannon River.

An emergency rule approved today by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will:

  • Close the river to steelhead fishing upstream from Marengo at Turner Road Bridge and define the downstream boundary of the fishery where the Tucannon flows into the Snake River.
  • Reduce the daily catch limit from three to two hatchery steelhead in the area open to fishing.
  • Require anglers to keep any hatchery steelhead they intercept, and stop fishing once they catch their daily limit of two hatchery steelhead or two trout.

Glen Mendel, WDFW southeast district fish biologist, said returns of natural origin steelhead to the Tucannon River are falling short of meeting conservation goals, which could potentially affect the department's ability to open future recreational fisheries. Anglers can help by retaining every hatchery steelhead they catch, he said.

“Stray hatchery steelhead that primarily enter the Tucannon in late summer and fall need to be removed to prevent them from spawning naturally,” Mendel said. “At the same time, we need to provide a refuge area above Marengo for early returning wild steelhead, and close the fishery before March when most of the wild steelhead return to the Tucannon River.”

In addition, barbless hooks are required when fishing for steelhead. Anglers must release any steelhead not marked as a hatchery fish by a clipped adipose fin and a healed scar at the location of the missing fin.

Anglers cannot remove any steelhead from the water unless it is retained as part of the daily catch limit. Chinook and coho salmon, as well as bull trout, are also present in the Tucannon River during the steelhead fishery and must be released immediately if caught, Mendel said. 

The new fishing rule defines the mouth of the Tucannon River as waters “lying south of a line of sight from an orange diamond-shaped sign attached to the Hwy. 261 guard rail (northwest of the Tucannon River and adjacent to the highway rest area turn off), running southeast across to the eastern, un-submerged shoreline of the river (point of land spit).”

The large embayment between the eastern shoreline of the Tucannon River and the rock bluff to the east along the south shore of the Snake River is considered part of the Snake River, Mendel said.

Anglers fishing for salmon or steelhead on the Tucannon River and all other tributaries and mainstem of the Snake River are required to have the Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsement, which helps pay for monitoring the fisheries. Anglers should check the fishing regulation pamphlet for all details.  

Get blog updates by email

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.

Follow Rich on Twitter

Send Rich an email

Latest comments »

Read all the posts from recent conversations on Outdoors blog.

About Rich

Rich Landers (@SRoutside) 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.

Recent work by Rich

Search this blog
Subscribe to this blog
ADVERTISEMENT
Advertise Here