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Outdoors blog

Archive for March 2014

Ringold bank fishing restriction to start for steelheaders

FISHING — Fishing for steelhead has been pretty darn good in the Hanford Reach of the Columbia recently.  Here's a report from Paul Hoffarth, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife fisheries biologist.  Note the change that starts April 1:

Steelhead fishing picked up in March in the Hanford Reach after a slow winter.  Anglers caught 512 steelhead and retained 398 hatchery steelhead.  Anglers donated 111 hatchery steelhead to WDFW to support the Ringold Springs and Wells Hatcheries Programs.  Anglers averaged 13 hours per steelhead from the bank and just over 6 hours per steelhead by boat.

Effective April 1-April 15, this fishery will only be open for bank angling at the WDFW Ringold Access area.

For the fishery, October-March, 1,197 steelhead have been caught and 723 hatchery steelhead harvested. 

New Kootenai Forest supervisor coming from Idaho Panhandle

PUBLIC LANDS — This is an unusually local transfer.  Usually new national forest supervisors come from some distance rather than from adjoining forests.  

Will familiarity be a boon?

USFS names new supervisor of Kootenai NF in Montana
Chris Savage, the new supervisor of the Kootenai National Forest in Montana, has a degree in watershed science from the University of Utah and spent five years of his Forest Service career as a hydrologist on the nearby Idaho Panhandle National Forest.
— Flathead Beacon

Steelheaders protest Skagit spring fishing closure

FISHING — A row of anglers cast their lines into the Skagit River at Rockport on Saturday to protest regulations that prevent them from catching steelhead.  

Since no hooks were involved, no fish were caught in protest — an no laws were broken.  
 
The Skagit Valley Herald reports the group also carried signs that said, “Catch and release is not a crime” and “Let the people fish.”  
The anglers want the state to allow the return of a spring catch-and-release season. They say it would not hurt the recovery of wild winter steelhead.  
 
The Skagit and Sauk rivers have been closed to wild steelhead fishing in the late winter and early spring season since 2010. Anglers can fish in December and January when the hatchery fish come through, but many prefer the wild steelhead for their aggressiveness.  

Tacoma Bass Pro Shop to be first in Northwest

FISHING — A Bass Pro Shop Outdoor World store scheduled to open this fall in Tacoma will be the first in the Northwest.

Judging from the experience of other stores in the Springfield, Mo., based chain, the Tacoma store is likely to become a tourist attraction.

The News Tribune reports the Tacoma store could surpass other civic attractions in drawing power.  

Not only selling fishing, hunting and camping gear and clothing, Bass Pro Shops are one of the pioneers of “entertainment retail.” Stores are considered to be part museum, part art gallery and antique store with huge aquariums stocked with native fish and dioramas of trophy game.  
 
The Tacoma store will include a restaurant and bowling alley. It’s expected to hire nearly 300 full- and part-time workers.  
Bass Pro Shop is a competitor to Cabela’s, which has outdoor stores at Lacey and Tulalip.  

Roosevelt bite still on despite drawdown

FISHING — Fishing for trout remains good in Lake Roosevelt — for kokanee, too, on occasion —  despite the deeper than previously predicted drawdown that's underway. 

In mid March, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation had predicted the lake level would drop from the full pool level of 1290 feet at the end of February to about 1266 feet by the end of March.

But on Sunday evening, the level was already down to 1259 feet and the downward trend is predicted to continue.

It's important at this point to compare the lake level with the levels at which boat ramps are dewatered.  Spring Canyon near Grand Coulee and Seven Bays downstream on the Columbia from the Spokane Arm are the deepest launches on the 125-mile long reservoir.

Get daily Lake Roosevelt level forecast by phone, updated daily at 3 p.m: (800) 824-4916.

Check out this NOAA site with Roosevelt levels and a list of boat launching elevations on the same page.

North Cascades Highway clearing starts today

PARKS – Crews are scheduled to begin clearing snow from the North Cascades Highway today, March 31, Washington Transportation Department officials say. The mountainous stretch of Highway 20 could reopen by early May.

The highway closed for the winter on Dec. 3.

Avalanche control and maintenance workers took a tracked vehicle from Mazama to Washington Pass two weeks ago. They found snow at Washington Pass 10 feet deep and the snow in the avalanche chutes below Liberty Bell 35 feet deep. 

Iditarod snowmobile Diary: Day 21

SNOWMOBILING — Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane have repeated their effort to follow Alaska's Iditarod Sled Dog Race by snowmobile in starting in February and finishing on March 21, 2014.

They endured bitter cold, treacherous ice, whiteout conditions and a hill so steep they needed a winch.

“It’s not a wildly popular thing to do,” said Jones, 74, noting that only one other snowmobiler did the entire route this year. “But it’s one of the greatest pleasures I’ve had in my life for two reasons: the land and the people.”

ALSO:

  • Click “continue reading” below to see Jones's last diary post from Day 21 of their 22-day 1,400-mile adventure in 2014.

Below are links to each of the other diary posts and photos of their trip on the Iditarod Trail.

Roskelley receives Golden Ice Axe Award in France

CORRECTION: In 1962, John Harlin was the first American to climb the North Face of the Eiger, along with a German climber.  in 1974, Roskelley and Kopczynski were the first U.S. team to make the ascent.  That point was wrong in my initial post.

CLIMBING — John Roskelley has climbed to very elite international status today as he accepted the Golden Ice Axe Award in presentations at Chamonix, France, and Courmayeur, Italy. The mountain towns are connected by a tunnel through the base of Mont Blanc.

Roskelley, 65, is the first American and sixth recipient of the Golden Ice Axe. He built his climbing reputation with first ascents in the Canadian Rockies before heading farther afield to achieve first ascents and notable ascents of 7,000 and 8,000 meter peaks in Nepal, India and Pakistan.

Attending the events, Chris Kopczynski of Spokane said Roskelley received a standing ovation and lots of press.  Kop and Roskelley launched celebrated climbing careers onto the international stage in their mid-20s when they became the first all American team to climb the North Face of the Eiger.

He’s also an author and former Spokane County commissioner. He was named to the Northwest Sports Hall of Fame in 2007. He got his start as a climber as a teenager in the Spokane Mountaineers club

Trout TV to feature Project Healing Waters on Crab Creek

FLY FISHING – Spokane anglers treating disabled veterans with fly fishing therapy will be featured on Trout TV on Sunday, March 30 at 4 p.m. on KAYU Fox 28.

Trout TV host Hilary Hutcheson teams with Crab Creek fishing guide G.L. Britton and volunteers from Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing to help vets catch fish and cast away their anxieties from injuries sustained in Vietnam and Iraq.

Project Healing Waters has 140 chapters in 50 states where fly-fishing volunteers reach out to veterans, said Norm Scott, organizer of the chapter serving the Inland Northwest.

And the vets weren't disappointed with the fishing on Crab Creek last spring.

Filming of the show was featured in The Spokesman-Review Outdoors section on May 12, 2013.

See a photo gallery of the filming.

See a video trailer for the Crab Creek program.

  • Trout TV will feature Yakima River fly fishing on April 6 at 5 p.m.

Schweitzer 24-hour skiers rack up $100,000 for cystinosis research

WINTERSPORTS — Rudis Kadzejs of Valleyford, Wash., with 210 solo runs, and another 109 skiers going solo or in teams last weekend, skied their hearts out in the 24 Hours of Schweitzer and raised more than $100,000 for cystinosis research.

The annual marathon downhill event and auction is one of the largest cystinosis fundraisers in the country, bringing the 24 Hours for Hank Foundation’s fundraising total to more than $725,000 in six years.

More than 110 skiers and snowboarders ages 5 to 73 from Sandpoint, Coeur d’Alene, Spokane, Moscow, Tri-Cities and around the region, and as far away as Washington, D.C., Arkansas, Iowa, California, Oregon and Colorado took to the slopes for the round-the-clock relay. The ride a chair up and ski down, over and over.

Young skiers took center stage at the March 21-22 benefit, setting four new records at the sixth-annual event.  Leading the charge in the “Endurance” division was Team Gnar Gnar Norwhals of Sandpoint, who took first place in the four-person team category with 699 runs, besting their performance last year by 108 runs.  The team, whose members are all under age 15, is the youngest ever to earn the top award in the four-person team category.

Sandpoint's Catherine Brenner, who turned 14 the day of the finish, tied for second in the solo division with 208 runs. She is the youngest participant ever to place among the top three in the solo categor. 

Read on for more details and ALL the results:

Washington anglers need new licenses April 1

FISHING —   $29.50.

If that number doesn't jingle a bell, maybe you haven't renewed your 2014-15 Washington resident season fishing license.

Your 2013-14 license will expire on April 1.  Get a new one here or from a license dealers or your favorite fishing retailer.

Idaho's new license year began Jan. 1

Montana's new license year began Feb. 1.

Dishman Hills trail project needs volunteers

TRAILS — There's still time to join group that's reworking a trail in the Dishman Hills Natural Area on Sunday, March 30.

The Washington Trails Association is teaming with the Dishman Hills Conservancy to get the job done

Get details and sign-up here.  

WTA will provide guidance and tools to the volunteers.

Workers will establish a designated trail between Camp Caro and Deep Ravine to the east of the Camp Caro Lodge. 

More WTA trail projects are planned for the Rocks of Sharon area in April and later at Mount Spokane and the Salmo-Priest Wilderness.  

Read on for details about the projects and how you can be involved.

Anglers clamor for a springer season near Clarkston

FISHING — Although fisheries officials aren't making a commitment until run size is confirmed, anglers made it clear Wednesday night that they want to be able to catch spring chinook in the Snake River when they move upstream past Clarkston this year.

Biologists listed to their desires and even pointed out the possibility of a short fishing opportunity in the Grande Ronde River.

Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune was at the meeting.   Read on for his report:

Bighorn sheep gain ground in grazing lawsuit

PUBLIC LANDS — Good news for bighorn sheep, which have been squeezed and put at risk even on public lands in Idaho.

Judge upholds USFS's plan to reduce grazing to save bighorn
On Tuesday, Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge A. Wallace Tashima, sitting by designation for the District of Idaho, issued a decision that upholds the U.S. Forest Service's plan to reduce grazing by 70 percent in the Payette National Forest in Idaho to protect bighorn sheep from contracting diseases from domestic sheep.
— Idaho Statesman 

Cyclists rule, briefly, on 49 miles of Yellowstone roads

BICYCLING — This is a premier annual opportunity for cyclists to savor Yellowstone National Park before the RVs hit the road.

Yellowstone Park opens 49 miles of road to bicycles today
Bicyclists can enter Yellowstone National Park's West Entrance and ride 49 miles of highway to Mammoth Hot Springs as road crews continue clearing other park roads for the general opening in late April.

Cyclists can call (307) 344-2107 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays for updated road access information.

Weather info: (307) 344-2113.

Get more details on spring biking in the park here

Bird dog club invites public to training day

HUNTING — The Spokane Bird Dog Association is inviting hunters to bring their dogs to a training day, which includes expert help for all breeds, starting Saturday at 8 a.m., at the Espanola training grounds managed by the club west of Medical Lake. 

This session will be geared more to pointers, but retrievers are welcome. Pointers and retrievers will be split into separate groups.

The public is invited to bring hunting dogs of any age or level of training. Cost: $5.

Unleashed dogs pose threat to winter-weary wildlife

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Deer and elk will need another few months to regain their strength from the rigors of surviving the winter, and they don't need any setbacks from loose-running dogs.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game is reminding pet owners that dogs must be on a leash in Idaho wildlife management areas.   

A recent check found 80 percent of visitors to the 53-square-mile Boise River Wildlife Management Area violate a 4-year-old law requiring dogs to be on leashes while in the state's wildlife management areas.  
 
Agency spokeswoman Krista Mueller says now is a critical time for mule deer, elk, pronghorn and their young to survive to the end of the winter and early spring.  
 
She says wildlife forced to move out of the area because of roaming pets use up fat reserves needed to get them through the next several weeks.
 
  • Shed hunters also pose a threat of disturbance to deer still on their winter ranges.

Native plants highlighted in Moscow program

NATIVE PLANTS — Learn about native plans, with emphasis on the penstemon family, at a free illustrated program by Nancy Miller on Thursday, March 27, at 1912 Center, Fiske Room (412 E. 3rd St.), Moscow, Idaho.

Experience the rocky beauty, plants and animals seen in Leslie Gulch, Succor Creek, Mores Mountain, Hells Canyon, and more in this program for the White Pine Chapter of the Idaho Native Plant Society.

Landers hiking program featured at county libraries

TRAILS — I'll be at Spokane County Libraries tonight and Thursday night to present free programs on “Hiking, the Perfect Sport” based on my latest trail guidebook, “Day Hiking Eastern Washington.” 

I'll be sharing tips from the trails and, while I'll cover some great places to go hiking, I'll also explain why I can't easily answer the question “What's your favorite hike?” 

The programs start at 7 p.m. as follows:

Street cleaners making roads safer for bicyclists

CYCLING — Note to South Hill bicyclists:  Spring cleanup street crew trucks washed gravel and traction sand off the Hatch Road hill last night.

Now you can see the potholes better.

Campground hosts sought for choice locations

PUBLIC LANDS — Being a fly fisherman and if I were looking for a place to be a campground host this summer, I'd jump at this announcement from the Clearwater National Forest in Idaho.  Although the Clearwater offers many great camping options, I'll let you figure out the site that especially catches my attention.

Read on for the details and the contacts.

Whitefish reconsidering uphill skiing policy after incident

WINTERSPORTS — The U.S. Forest Service and Whitefish Mountain Resort are considering changes to the resort’s policy of allowing skiers to travel uphill after two people entered an area with active avalanche control.

The Flathead Beacon reports the officials with the federal agency and the resort met Friday to discuss options.

  • Many resorts across the country are taking up the issue of uphill skiing, including Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park.  See story here.

The resort is one of the few that allows people to ascend ski runs and ski down for free, an activity that’s becoming more popular.But ski patrollers say a male and female on Feb. 19 disregarded warnings from ski patrollers and descended a closed slope.

Ski patrollers say they had to extinguish explosives in the area that were about to be deployed.

Flathead National Forest officials say another meeting on the uphill ski policy is planned before next season.

Group seeks official status for Canada’s Great Divide Trail

TRAILS — It's hard to imagine why Alberta wouldn't want to promote one of the world's great trails through unmatched scenery.  Some Canadians have stopped wondering why and are regrouping to get the Great Divide Trail officially on the map.

Alberta seeks official recognition for Great Divide Trail
The nearly 746-mile Great Divide Trail runs from Waterton Lakes National Park on the Canada-United States border, follows the continental divide north and ends at Kakwa Lake Provincial Park in British Columbia, and Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resources Development is seeking a consultant to help get the entire length of the trail officially designated.
—Calgary Herald

Steelheading to close on upper Columbia

FISHING — Steelhead fishing will close on Monday, March 31, on the Columbia River and tributaries above Rock Island Dam, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department has announced.

Most steelhead will be spawning beginning in April, the agency said in a release, and the closure is governed by federal endangered species agreements. The closure officially begins one hour after sunset on March 31.

Areas closed to steelhead fishing include:

  • Mainstem Columbia River:  From Rock Island Dam to 400 feet below Chief Joseph Dam.
  • Wenatchee River:  From the mouth to 400 feet below Tumwater Dam, including the Icicle River from the mouth to 500 feet downstream of the Leavenworth Fish Hatchery Barrier Dam.
  • Methow River:  From the mouth to the confluence with the Chewuch River in Winthrop.
  • Okanogan River:  From the mouth to the Highway 97 Bridge in Oroville.
  • Similkameen River:  From the mouth to 400 feet below Enloe Dam.

Spokane Tribe official to discuss Lake Roosevelt walleye fishery

FISHING — Brent Nichols, Lake Roosevelt fisheries program manager for the Spokane Tribe, will discuss the walleye fishery on Lake Roosevelt and detail a new walleye tagging program for the Spokane Arm in a program for the Spokane Walleye Club at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 26 at the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council auditorium, 6116 N. Market St.

Some anglers blame state and tribal fish management for the demise of the lake's walleye fishery, but biologists say the walleye have been overpopulated.

Clearwater National Forest proposes fee increases

PUBLIC LANDS — Anyone who'd been paying attention to the federal budget and cutbacks in recreation funding shouldn't be surprised at today's announcement from the Clearwater National Forest. Officials propose to raise fees at 29 campgrounds and cabin/lookout rentals.

Nez Perce–Clearwater National Forests Propose Recreation Fee Increases

Recreation managers at the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests have struggled over the past ten years to keep campgrounds, cabins and lookout rentals open without raising fees during a time when budgets have significantly declined resulting in staff and service reductions.  Over the last two years those managers completed a Recreation Facilities Analysis (RFA) to determine how the forest can maintain a sustainable program during severely declining budgets, while still providing the high quality recreation experiences our visitors’ desire. 

Read on for the options, and the inevitable fee increases they propose:

Salmon fishing boats banned from Clearwater’s Big Eddy

FISHING — Idaho Fish and Game explains a new rule that will greet Clearwater River chinook salmon anglers this season:

Ask Fish and Game: 2014 Spring Chinook Salmon Rules

Q: I noticed boaters will not be allowed to fish the Big Eddy hole on the Clearwater River for salmon this year. Why are boat anglers being excluded?

A: Spring Chinook salmon seem to congregate in the Big Eddy hole in very large numbers. This makes them especially vulnerable to anglers who are able to target them from boats. Success rates have been so high in this area, that a small number of anglers are able to take a large portion of the quota allowed on the Clearwater. Fishery managers feel that closing this hole to boaters will allow for a longer season which will give all interested anglers more opportunity to participate in the spring Chinook fishery.

Collectively speaking, ‘herd’ of curlews begs for revision

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Timing of the Othello Sandhill Crane Festival for this weekend once again appears well-timed for seeing a variety of bird species migrating through the Columbia River Basin.

Here's a report posted today by a language-building birder from Electric City, Roy A. Myers:

There were 37 long-billed curlews in the alfalfa field in the SE corner of the US Hwy 2/ WA Hwy 155 intersection north of Coulee City, Grant County yesterday at 11:45. That's 7 more birds and eight days earlier than the flock I saw in the same spot about this time last year.

By the way, I think something needs to be done about the collective noun for these birds. The traditional “herd” lacks flavor and style. I did find “a salon of curlew” in one New Zealand reference, which is better.

How about “a ridiculous” or “a schnoz?”

I vote for “salon.”

Is Idaho wolf policy inviting court challenges?

PREDATORS — Last week, on the last day of the 2014 Idaho legislative session, lawmakers passed a bill to create a state Wolf Depredation Board that will work to control the growth of wolf populations in the state.

The bill creates a $400,000 fund and establishes a five-member board that will authorize the killing of wolves that come into conflict with wildlife or livestock. The money comes from the state's general fund, and will be augmented by fees on sportsmen and the livestock industry.

Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter is expected to sign the bill into law. Otter had sought $2 million in the wolf fund.

“We are of one mind, that Idaho wants to manage our wolves and we want to manage them to a reasonable number so that the species don't get endangered again and the feds don't come in and take it over again,” Otter said Friday.

Conservation groups opposed the bill, saying it will lead to the killing of hundreds of wolves.

The board will be appointed by Otter and will include representatives of the agricultural, livestock and hunting communities. The bill does not require any members of the board to represent the wolf conservation community, noted said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer at the Center for Biological Diversity.

Idaho Statesman columnist Rocky Barker covered the first court-related setbacks to wolf management in Idaho a few years ago, and he's wondering if the state's tough-guy actions regarding wolves might trigger another confrontation with a federal judge that's tough on the law: 

Idaho's recent actions provide basis for groups' request to again protect wolves
Recent actions of the Idaho Legislature and Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter appear to put the state on the path to a goal of 10 breeding pairs or 150 wolves, and national groups are gearing up for a court challenge to get wolves put back on the federal protected list. A column —Idaho Statesman

Time to start locating a gobbler

HUNTING — The 2014 spring gobbler seasons are coming up:

WASHINGTON

  • Youth turkey season — April 5-6
  • General spring gobbler season — April 15-May 31

IDAHO

  • Youth turkey season — April 8-14.
  • General spring gobbler season — April 15-May 25.

Annual Spokane backpacking school starts March 28

HIKING — The highly regarded annual Backpacking School presented by the Spokane Mountaineers starts March 28 — and there may still be a few openings.

  • Two of the instructors, Holly Weiler and Samantha Journot, are pictured above on a 2013 club backpacking trip in the Glacier Peak Wilderness

The weekly evening sessions are on Fridays starting at  6:30 p.m. running through May, when the school concludes with a three day “graduation” backpacking trip in Idaho over the Memorial Day weekend. The classroom sessions are held at Mountain Gear Corporate Headquarters, 6021 E. Mansfield in Spokane Valley.

This course covers clothing and boots, map and compass skills, trip planning, major equipment, first-aid, meal preparation and leave-no-trace practices. By the time the class ends, participants should have the knowledge and skills to plan and execute backpacking adventures safely and thoughtfully.

Additionally, the club offers weekday evening hikes and weekend club outings to help hikers get in shape for the season and connect with other backpackers.

Info: David Sorg, (509) 924-6593.

Wild chicken from hell once roamed Dakotas

WILDLIFE — Looks like hunters missed out on some impressive big game by being latecomers to North America.

Chicken from hell once roamed the Dakotas

For nearly a decade, scientists have been trying to piece together bones discovered in a sedimentary rock layer known as the Hell Creek Formation in three locations in North and South Dakota, and the oviraptorosaur they've discovered, was an 11-feet-long, 500-pound, beaked, clawed, feathery beast nicknamed the “Chicken from Hell.”

—Washington Post

Calm before runoff beckons fly fishers

FISHING — Skies are clearing, river flows are down — we're entering the window of opportunity to fish hatches that flourish before runoff.   Here's a post from Sean Visintainer, a Spokane Valley guide who was on the local favorite North Idaho cutthroat stream on Thursday (photo above).

Quick walk and wade today on the North Fork of the Coeur d'Alene. River has come down nicely and there are some soft pockets to fish right now. Oh… and the fish were cooperative too!

Used darker, heavy colored streamers on sink-tips… not too picky on which one. Hot pink San Juan, too, for nymphing. We weren't up for too long so we didn't change up much.

We drove up to Shoshone Work Center where they stop plowing. Caught fish all the way up.
Full report on the Silver Bow Fly Shop website.
 

Wolves biting Twisp dog not considered ‘attack’

ENDANGERED SPECIES —  A pet bulldog was injured by two wolves Tuesday morning outside a home at Twisp.

A resident heard her dogs barking, went outside and saw the two wolves on her bulldog. They ran away when she yelled.

State Fish and Wildlife Sgt. Dan Christensen tells The Wenatchee World the dog suffered bite marks to its neck and back.

Christensen says the wolves were forcing the bulldog to submit. If it had been an attack over food or territory, the wolves could have easily killed the dog.

Seven Summits climber speaks Friday at REI

CLIMBING — Looking for a diversion from basketball?  Check this out:

Friday (March 21): John Mauro, the 65th American to climb the highest peak on all seven continents, will recount his expeditions, including his 2013 ascent of Everest, 7 p.m., at REI,1125 N. Monroe.

He requests a $5 donation for the Climbing for Kids charity. 

28-inch steelhead restriction dropped on Clearwater

FISHING — The Idaho Fish and Game Commission has voted to rescind the 28-inch length restriction on the Clearwater River.

This rule change became effective at 10 a.m. today (March 20, 2014).  As such, the steelhead rules for the entire Clearwater River basin (where open) are now:

  • A daily limit of 1 steelhead
  • A possession limit of 2 steelhead
  • No length restriction are in effect in any of the open waters.
  • Refer to the Steelhead rules for specific area closures and restriction to steelhead fishing (these have not changed).

According to Joe Dupont, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional fisheries manager in Lewiston, the Commission last fall approved a restriction on the length of Steelhead (none > 28 inches) that could be harvested in the Clearwater River downstream of Orofino Bridge and in the North Fork Clearwater River. 

“The length restriction was implemented to protect larger 2-ocean fish that are needed for hatchery brood stock,” he said. “Run-size updates at that time indicated a very poor return of 2-ocean Steelhead to the Clearwater River.  A reduction in the limit (daily limit of 1 fish) was also implemented in all waters in the Clearwater River basin that were open to Steelhead fishing.”

“Steelhead spawning is now mostly complete at Dworshak National Fish Hatchery and managers there believe that Steelhead in excess of those needed to meet egg-take objectives are available for harvest. For this reason, the Commission decided to remove the length restriction on Steelhead that can be harvested in the Clearwater River downstream of Orofino Bridge and the North Fork Clearwater River.  The one fish daily limit still applies.”

The commission also is adopting fishing seasons, which will be reported on Friday.

 

 

 

Lawmakers pressure Jewell to keep wolf protections

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Federal lawmakers pressed Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on Wednesday to drop the administration’s plan to end federal protections for gray wolves across most of the Lower 48 states.

Seventy-four House members signed onto a Wednesday letter to Jewell that cited a peer-review panel’s recent conclusion the government relied on unsettled science to make its case that the wolves have sufficiently recovered.

Gray wolves were added to the endangered-species list in 1975 after being widely exterminated in the last century. The wolves repopulated the Yellowstone Park region as well as into Idaho, Wyoming and Montana faster and in greater numbers that federal biologists had predicted.

 Protections already have been lifted for rebounding populations of the predators in the northern Rockies and Great Lakes regions.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials have said wolf recovery is complete and turned over management of the wolves to states, such as Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. These states have begun “managing” the wolves by allowing hunting and trapping seasons to reduce wolf numbers and balance them with the amount of available prey.

Read on for a version of the story coming from the Associated Press.

Spring has sprung!

Spring has officially sprung!

Today, March 20, is the spring equinox. See more about it here.

Top 10 ways to help birds this spring

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Spring migration is kicking into high gear as birds move, sometimes for thousands of miles, from wintering areas to settle into their breeding territory.

Birders know the beauty and excitement of the migrations also must be balanced with concern for the birds during this vulnerable period. Dr. George Fenwick, President of American Bird Conservancy, says, “Spring is a deadly time for birds for three big reasons. Scientists estimate that 300 million to one billion birds die each year from collisions with buildings, many during arduous migrations in unfamiliar environments. Up to 50 million die from encounters with communication towers and up to six million may die each day from attacks by cats left outdoors. These deaths occur year-round, but many occur during spring and fall migration.” 

“Some studies suggest that perhaps as many as half of all migrating birds do not make it back home,” he said, “succumbing to various threats on either end of the journey.”

One in five Americans engage in bird watching.  That's enough people-power to have an impact in reducing the fatalities.

Read on for ABC's list of 10 ways to hep birds this spring.

Fish and wildlife enforcement tall order for sparse staff

WILDLIFE ENFORCEMENT — In today's Outdoors column, a veteran hunter laments at the amount of poaching he says goes on where he grew up in Pend Oreille County.

“It's a crazy deal,” he said. “The losers up here are the winners.”

Is it realistic to expect the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department to get a handle on poaching?

Most of the 10 easternmost counties have just one Fish and Wildlife cop, except Spokane County has four and Stevens County has three. Plus, one sergeant helps cover the field as needed for Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille County. There’s also sergeant overseeing Spokane and Lincoln counties and one for Whitman, Asotin, Garfield, Columbia  and Walla Walla counties.

Add the captain that supervises enforcement for all 10 counties in Region 1 and you have a total of 18 fish and wildlife cops covering or supervising the 15,800 square miles from Oregon to Canada and from Idaho to a line roughly north and south of Ritzville.

That averages out to one field enforcement officer per 929 square miles.

And two positions currently need to be filled.

Iditarod snowmobile Diary: Day 20

SNOWMOBILING — Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane are repeating their effort to follow Alaska's Iditarod Sled Dog Race by snowmobile in February and March 2014.  

  • See the complete diary and photos from their 2012 trip — which marked Jones's 14th time on the Iditarod.
  • Click “continue reading” to see Jones's diary from Day 20 of their 22-day 1,400-mile adventure in 2014.

Below are links to each of the other diary posts and photos of their trip on the Iditarod Trail.

Lake Roosevelt rainbows worth the effort

FISHING — The bite was scattered and the fish ranged greatly — from 15 to 70 feet deep — but putting in the time and effort today netted a fine harvest of beefy rainbows from Lake Roosevelt.

Fishing with Jim Kujala and Dave Ross.  Most fish caught trolling pink flies on 4 colors of leaded line.

Liberal hunting rules barely boost Montana wolf kill

PREDATORS — Here's a Montana wolf hunting status report:

Montana's changes to wolf hunting season don't raise success rate
Despite higher limits for wolf hunters and an extended hunting season in Montana this winter, hunters and trappers in the Big Sky State took just five more wolves this past season than the year before, with hunters bagging 144 wolves, trappers taking 86, and federal wildlife officials and private landowners killing 70 wolves.
— Billings Gazette 

Jewell lends ear to Boulder-White Cloud monument proposal

PUBLIC LANDS — This is promising in an era of deadlock:

Interior secretary seeks invite from Idaho on Boulder-White Clouds plan
While visiting Stanley on Monday, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said she'd welcome an opportunity to discuss the proposal to designate the Boulder-White Clouds area as a national monument, an invite that's more likely to come from local officials rather than the state's federal delegation of lawmakers given that all four have said they would oppose President Barack Obama's use of the 1906 Antiquities Act to create the national monument.
— Idaho Statesman

Iditarod snowmobile Diary: Day 19

SNOWMOBILING — Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane are repeating their effort to follow Alaska's Iditarod Sled Dog Race by snowmobile in February and March 2014.  

  • See the complete diary and photos from their 2012 trip — which marked Jones's 14th time on the Iditarod.
  • Click “continue reading” to see Jones's diary from Day 19 of their 22-day 1,400-mile adventure in 2014.

Below are links to each of the other diary posts and photos of their trip on the Iditarod Trail.

Burrill to detail chinook fishing at Mark’s Marine

FISHING – Seth Burrill, Spokane Valley fishing guide and former Angler's Experience TV fishing show host, will give a program on fishing for chinook salmon at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 20. It's the third in the weekly spring fishing seminar series at Mark's Marine, 14355 N. Government Way in Hayden.

With a record-smashing 1.6 million chinook forecast into the Columbia River this year, the record is well-timed. 

The other free seminars in the series to be held on Thursdays through April 10 will cover topics such as walleye, steelhead, Coeur d’Alene salmon, bass and Lowrance electronics.

  • Info: (208) 772-9038.

Idaho approves scaled back wolf-control measure

PREDATORS — Although it's down from the initially proposed $2 million plan to protect livestock and reduce the number of wolves on Idaho's landscape, the state legislature has just voted to earmark $400,000 to the cause.  

See The S-R's Eye on Boise blog by Betsy Russell.

Colville Hatchery site a natural jewel

CONSERVATION — My Sunday Outdoors feature story focused on the Colville Fish Hatchery and how it's been transformed into a science classroom for the area's high school students.

But it can't be overemphasized that the hatchery Stevens County acquired from the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department came with 19.4 acres surrounding the springs that form the headwaters of Colville Creek — another natural laboratory for the students.

They've barely scratched the surface of the area's potential, sampling variety of aquatic insects that trout need when they're weened off the fish feed and putting out trail cams to monitor the deer — and cougars — that wander through the little preserve that's nestled in a Colville neighborhood.

Kathy Ahlenslager, Colville national Forest botanist, had this observation of the property:

The site has patiently waited for a group to care for it.  For 19 acres in town it's diverse with at least 142 plant species in 42 families, including two rare ones:  giant helliborine orchid (Epipactis gigantea) and bristly sedge (Carex comosa).  And every weed from this area!  First on the list will be to tame the Virginia creeper on the cedars and the rampant hounds tongue!

Indeed, Jono Esvelt, forestry and wildlife instructor and hatchery manager for the school district, will be having students clip and bag the hounds tongue plants in a long-term plan to reduce the amount of seed they scatter on the landscape.

You say you don't know what hounds tongue is?  

I guess you don't have a long-haired bird dog.

Reward in Stevens County wolf poaching case jumps to $22,500

POACHING — The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is seeking the public's help to identify the person or persons responsible for shooting and killing a gray wolf last month in Stevens County.

A 2-year-old black female wolf from the Smackout Pack was found dead Feb. 9 near Cedar Lake in northeast Stevens County. The condition of the carcass indicated it had died between Feb. 5 and Feb. 7, and a veterinarian's examination confirmed it had been shot.

Wildlife managers had captured the wolf about a year ago and fitted it with a radio collar so they could track its movements and those of her pack members.

WDFW, with the help of three non-profit organizations, is offering a reward of up to $22,500 for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case. Conservation Northwest, the Center for Biological Diversity, and The Humane Society of the United States, have each pledged $7,500 to create the reward.

Gray wolves are protected throughout the state. WDFW is responsible for management of wolves and enforcement of laws to protect them. The illegal killing of a wolf or other endangered fish or wildlife species is a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.

Sergeant Pam Taylor of the WDFW Northeast Washington Region is leading the investigation. She urged people with knowledge of the crime to report it confidentially by calling WDFW's poaching hotline, 877-933-9847, or by texting a tip to 847411.

Canada reels from rash of avalanche fatalities

WINTER SPORTS — Five avalanche deaths in a week — the first in Banff National Park since 2008 — have prompted a plea from safety officials for backcountry users to be cautious in tricky snow conditions.

It has also sparked a discussion about how to better raise awareness about dangerous conditions.

See the story:

Parks Canada to review warning process after avalanches kill 7

Iditarod snowmobile Diary: Day 18

SNOWMOBILING — Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane are repeating their effort to follow Alaska's Iditarod Sled Dog Race by snowmobile in February and March 2014.  

Click “continue reading” to see Jones's diary from Day 18 of their 22-day 1,400-mile adventure in 2014.

‘Tis the season for ticks

HIKING — If you're heading out to explore the lowland natural areas around Eastern Washington, be warned that it's time to be using some DEET insect repellent on your neck and cuffs of shirt and pants, and going “nerdy” by tucking those pant-legs into your socks.

Tick season is in full bloom.

I've plucked off a few while hiking with my dog near Fishtrap Lake and while strolling the soggy trails at Slavin Conservation Area.

Here's another outside report from Sunday:

Don’t know how many tick reports you’ve gotten, yet, but they’re definitely out at Saltese Uplands Conservation Area.

— Paul Knowles, Spokane County Parks planner

Click here to read my detailed primer on hiking and recreating in tick country.

What are these Spokane River rafters so happy about?

RIVER RAFTING — Talk about self-sacrifice.

Above you see some of the two-dozen people who selflessly volunteered to play the role of “clients” in a Peak 7 Adventures rafting guide training course on the Spokane River on Sunday.

The student guides (not shown) had less than two weeks of training, but as you can see, these “subjects” had nearly total faith on a dim, cloudy day that the fledgling skippers had just enough expertise to get them down the Spokane River — which was roaring at about 25,000 cfs — without any mishaps or frightening immersion in the frigid water.

They were right.

Bring on the real clients!

Conservation banquets set for Ducks Unlimited, Mule Deer Foundation

CONSERVATION — Members of two important wildlife conservation groups have set their annual fundraisers in Spokane:

Mule Deer Foundation, April 5, Lincoln Center, 1316 N. Lincoln St. Dinner, auction, games.

Ducks Unlimited, April 10, Lincoln Center, 1316 N. Lincoln St. Dinner, auction, shotgun raffle.

  • Sign-up: ducks.org.
  • Info: (509) 435-6450. 

Feds work to keep sage grouse off endangered species list

WILDLIFE — There's great potential here:

NRCS program hopes to bridge public-private divide to protect sage grouse
Next year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will make a decision on whether the sage grouse should be protected under the federal Endangered Species Act, and as part of an effort to protect habitat for the species in 11 western states, the Natural Resources and Conservation Service is working with private landowners who own 25 million of sage grouse habitat in those states, including in Idaho.
— Idaho Statesman

Iditarod snowmobile Diary: Day 17

SNOWMOBILING — Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane are repeating their effort to follow Alaska's Iditarod Sled Dog Race by snowmobile in February and March 2014.  

  • See the complete diary and photos from their 2012 trip — which marked Jones's 14th time on the Iditarod.
  • Click “continue reading” to see Jones's diary from Day 17 of their 22-day 1,400-mile adventure in 2014.

Below are links to each of the other diary posts and photos of their trip on the Iditarod Trail.

Hunting, fishing seminars set at Big Horn Show

HUNTING/FISHING — A good lineup of hunting and fishing seminars is scheduled in the background of 250 exhibitors at the Big Horn Outdoor Adventure Show that runs Thursday-Sunday (March 20-23) at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center.

 

Programs cover elk calling and archery techniques, bowhunting for whitetails, spring turkey hunting, fly fishing the Clark Fork River, fishing for sturgeon and chinook, Bass Fishing 101, trout and warmwater fishing and angling in the Columbia Basin. 

New this year, several key programs will be presented by Washington Fish and Wildlife Department fisheries and wildlife biologists, all of whom also are hunter and anglers:

  • Randy Osborne is the fish biologists who does pre-season sampling and decides how many fish re stocked in the area's trout lakes.
  • Joey McCanna is a wildlife biologist in charge of dealing with private landowners and habitat improvement. He's worked on numerous projects, including a study to improve the benefits of CRP for pheasants and other upland birds.  He's a hunter, and also one of the WDFW's key men for hanging outside a helicopter to shoot nets or tranquilizer darts into game animals for research.
  • Curt Wood is the Fish and Wildlife Police officer for Lincoln County and an avid turkey hunting enthusiast.
  • Marc Divens is the WDFW warmwater fisheries biologist, who surveys the region's lakes from Newman to Sprague to monitor fisheries such as bass, panfish, tiger musky and walleye. See Divens explain the growth of the largemouth bass fishery on Sprague Lake in the video above.  
  • Woody Myers is the big game research biologist who's conducted major studies on mule deer in Eastern Washington, elk survival in the Blue Mountains and is currently conducting a major study of white-tailed deer in northeastern Washington.

Click “continue reading” for details and the full seminar schedule:

Iditarod snowmobile Diary: Day 16

SNOWMOBILING — Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane are repeating their effort to follow Alaska's Iditarod Sled Dog Race by snowmobile in February and March 2014.  

  • See the complete diary and photos from their 2012 trip — which marked Jones's 14th time on the Iditarod.
  • Click “continue reading” to see Jones's diary from Day 16 of their 22-day 1,400-mile adventure in 2014.

Below are links to each of the other diary posts and photos of their trip on the Iditarod Trail.

Iditarod snowmobile Diary: Day 15

SNOWMOBILING — Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane are repeating their effort to follow Alaska's Iditarod Sled Dog Race by snowmobile in February and March 2014.  

  • See the complete diary and photos from their 2012 trip — which marked Jones's 14th time on the Iditarod.
  • Click “continue reading” to see Jones's diary from Day 15 of their 22-day 1,400-mile adventure in 2014.

Below are links to each of the other diary posts and photos of their trip on the Iditarod Trail.

Wolves hot topics, targets this week

PREDATORS — Wolves are in the news and on the agenda this week

In Idaho today:

Idaho’s Senate Resources and Environment Committee scheduled a hearing of House Bill 470, legislation authorizing Gov. Otter’s “Wolf Control Board,”  today, March 14, at 1:30 p.m. (MDT).  Today, the committee will vote on whether to send HB 470 to the Senate Floor.  Stream the hearing LIVE Here.

In Montana:

The state Fish and Wildlife Commission on Thursday adopted regulations to implement a law that allows landowners to shoot threatening wolves on sight, without a hunting license. Senate Bill 200, which passed last year, allowed landowners to kill wolves that threaten their property without having to buy a permit or hunting license. Commissioners determined wolves were a “potential threat” when they were threatening people, pets, or livestock on private property. Landowners have 72 hours to report such kills to the agency. 

In Idaho/Oregon

Collared wolf OR-17 leaves Oregon, where it was protected, crossed into Idaho and was legally shot by a hunter. See story

In Washington

State biologists spays wild wolf after romp with loose dog. See story.

Lawmakers leave 3 unconfirmed on wildlife panel

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — The Washington Senate's Natural Resources and Parks Committee took the time to hold confirmation hearings on three Fish and Wildlife Commission members, but they never bothered to vote yea or nay.

But the way the commission operates, members appointed a governor can continue serving until they quit or are asked to leave by another governor if the legislature doesn't act. 

 Chairwoman Miranda Wecker, appointed by a previous governor, and Bob Kehoe and Jay Holzmiller, appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee, will continue to serve on the commission at the same status as Larry Carpenter, Conrad Mahnken and Jay Kehne, who were approved by the House last year. 

Gov. Inslee has not said whether he plans to fill the remaining open position on the nine-member panel.

Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman blogged, “I figured, criminy, if Kehne can make it through the Senate, anybody can.”

 

Photos: River otters thriving in Kettle River

WILDLIFE WATCHING — “I had a rare treat today (March 13),” says J. Foster Fanning of Curlew. “Came across a family of four river otters enjoying the warm, late winter's afternoon and nearly ice-free Kettle River upstream from Curlew, Wash.

“While they were curious about the photographer, they were also shy. Took a bit to get a few good images.”

Click “continue reading” to see his treat multiply. 

Clearwater forest releases over-snow vehicle use maps

UPDATE, March 14, noon:  The Forest Service just announced that all of its systems are not up to speed and the over-snow maps mentioned in the following announcement will not be available until Monday, March 17.

WINTER SPORTS — Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests announced today that the Clearwater Over Snow Vehicle Use Maps (OSVUMs) are available to the public at Forest offices and online.  A

At this time full implementation of the closures will begin.  OSVUMs are the winter travel map for the Clearwater National Forest. The Clearwater Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM) designating forest roads, trails and areas open to motor vehicle use has been available since November. 

Read on for more details.

Should the state buy fishing access to Chapman Lake?

FISHING — Washington Fish and Wildlife officials are taking public comment on a proposal to buy 80 acres of land to establish a public fishing access at Chapman Lake in Spokane County.

Once a popular fishing destination, the 128-acre lake near Cheney has been inaccessible to the public since 2011, when the private resort that provided access was closed.

The state has helped maintain the kokanee fishery on the prospect that public access could someday be restored, said John Whalen, regional fisheries manager.

The property owner has offered to sell 80 acres for an access, he said.

The property is bordered on three sides by Washington Department of Natural Resources land.

Submit public comments by March 21 by email to  teamspokane@dfw.wa.gov

Iditarod snowmobile Diary: Day 14

SNOWMOBILING — Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane are repeating their effort to follow Alaska's Iditarod Sled Dog Race by snowmobile in February and March 2014.  

  • See the complete diary and photos from their 2012 trip — which marked Jones's 14th time on the Iditarod.
  • Click “continue reading” to see Jones's diary from Day 14 of their 22-day 1,400-mile adventure in 2014.

Below are links to each of the other diary posts and photos of their trip on the Iditarod Trail.

Google launches ‘River View’ virtual tour of Grand Canyon

Google Maps is making a splash today with another innovation in the way the service continues to revolutionize the way we see the world.

Google's pioneering Street View cameras have taken users to narrow cobblestone alleys in Spain using a tricycle, inside the Smithsonian with a push cart and to British Columbia’s snow-covered slopes by snowmobile.

In 2012, they put the technology in a backpack to showcase through the Internet the most popular hiking trails in Grand Canyon National Park.

Today, Google Maps has launched a new “river view” version of Street View that takes viewers through 286 miles of the Colorado River, including stunning views of the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, as seen from aboard a raft.

American Rivers staff joined Google Maps on an eight-day rafting trip through the Grand Canyon last August to take photos of the river. The Street View camera, on a special mount built for the raft, captured a full 360-degree photo sphere every few seconds.

The project was launched in partnership with American Rivers, a Washington D.C.-based environmental group. This marks the first time Google Maps has used its street view technology on a major whitewater river in the USA, but the cameras already have been mounted on jet boats for use on other rivers.

“Making Street View imagery available of the Colorado River is a tremendous opportunity for us to drive interest for this historical and natural landmark,” said Google's Karin Tuxen-Bettman. “We hope this inspires viewers to take an active interest in preserving it.”

The 1,450-mile Colorado River, which passes through seven states, is the main river of the Southwest.

American Rivers named the Colorado River America’s Most Endangered River in 2013 because of the threat of outdated water management, over-allocation and persistent drought.

Idaho checks first quagga-mussel infested boat of season

BOATING — Mandatory watercraft inspection stations have barely opened for the season in Idaho, and they already have reported finding the year's first boat fouled with quagga mussels, a potentially devastating invasive species.

The boat was checked at the Cotterell Port of Entry station on Interstate 84 near Burley. 

The program aims to inspect boats that are entering the region from mussel-infested states. The boat intercepted at the Cotterell inspection station recently spent time in Lake Powell in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.  Lake Powell, operated by the National Park Service, recently was identified as infested with quagga and zebra mussels. 

The National Park Service still does not require decontamination of watercraft leaving its facilities with mussel infestations, even though it means possible introduction of these invasive species to the clean waters of the Pacific Northwest. This also indicates that potentially infested boats are being transported outside of the traditional boating season, which is a concern for Pacific Northwest states.

Since Idaho initiated its watercraft inspection program in 2009, nearly 200,000 boats have been inspected. About 100 mussel-fouled boats have been intercepted and decontaminated before they launched into Pacific Northwest waters, the Idaho Department of Agriculture reports.

“Idaho’s watercraft inspection program underscores the importance of preventing these mussels from becoming established in Idaho’s waters,” Agriculture Director Celia Gould said. “All of Idaho’s waterbodies have tested negative for these species, but they have been found in waters of other western states, and are causing severe economic and environmental harm in other regions of the country. We continue to work with our regional partners to prevent these fouled boats from launching in Pacific Northwest waters.

“Catching mussel-fouled boats so early in the season is a real wake up call. The more the public is educated about these invaders, the more enthusiastic and vigilant they are in joining efforts to keep them out of the Pacific Northwest.”

Idaho law requires all boaters must stop at the stations, such as the one on Interstate 90 near Fourth of July Pass.

Watercraft inspectors are looking for high-risk boats that have been in quagga- and zebra-mussel impacted waters such as Lake Powell, Lake Mead, Lake Havasu and Lake Pleasant.

If you have launched in a mussel-infested waterbody in the last 30 days, you must have an inspection before you launch in Idaho. For a complete list of infested waters, a five-year summary of inspection efforts, and a list of Idaho inspection stations, see: www.invasivespecies.idaho.gov

  • To schedule a free inspection, call (877) 336-8676 .

Read on for recommendations for boaters:

Washington to offer free entry at state parks

PUBLIC LANDS — Washington State Parks have a fee-free access day coming up. 

Here's the list of 11 days in which the Discover Pass is not needed for vehicle entry in 2014:

  • Jan. 19 and 20 – Martin Luther King holiday.
  • March 19 – Washington State Parks birthday.
  • April 19 – Spring Saturday Free Day.
  • April 22 – Earth Day.
  • May 11 – Spring Sunday Free Day.
  • June 7 and 8 – National Trails Day and WDFW Free Fishing Weekend.
  • June 14 – National Get Outdoors Day.
  • Aug. 25 – In honor of National Park Service’s birthday.
  • Sept. 27 –National Public Lands Day.
  • Nov. 11 – Veterans Day holiday.

Remember, Mount Spokane is a notable exception during winter season, when the Discover Pass is not valid. Until April 1, visitors are required to have a Sno-Park vehicle permit at Mount Spokane unless you are a patron of the alpine ski area on days the ski area is open.

Federal land fee-free entry days also are scheduled in 2014 to parks, forests, U.S. Bureau of Land management lands, refuges and other national interest lands where fees are charged. 

Iditarod snowmobile Diary: Day 13

SNOWMOBILING — Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane are repeating their effort to follow Alaska's Iditarod Sled Dog Race by snowmobile in February and March 2014.  

  • See the complete diary and photos from their 2012 trip — which marked Jones's 14th time on the Iditarod.
  • Click “continue reading” to see Jones's diary from Day 13 of their 22-day 1,400-mile adventure in 2014.

Below are links to each of the other diary posts and photos of their trip on the Iditarod Trail.

Lake Roosevelt levels holding, but deep drawdown forecast

BOATING — The level of Lake Roosevelt is near the elevation of 1,272 feet today, March 12, and lake levels are expected to remain between 1,270-1,273 for the next week., according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

However, a significant drawdown is expected based on current snowpack levels, and that's not great news to anglers who enjoy the trout and kokanee fishing at Lake Roosevelt.  The amount of carryover fish — the beauties anglers have been catching this winter — can be sharply reduced by big drawdowns that flush fish over Grand Coulee Dam and out of the reservoir.

 Grand Coulee Dam is being operated to meet power demand and the minimum tail water requirement of 11.5 feet below Bonneville Dam for chum and the 65 kcfs minimum Hanford Reach protection flows below Priest Rapids Dam.

The March Water Supply Forecasts show the inflow forecast for Lake Roosevelt is 98% of average. The forecast for the Dalles is 102% of average.  This forecast reflects the significant precipitation that was received during the month of February.
The following are flood control elevations for Lake Roosevelt:

  • January 31 - 1290 feet
  • February 31 - 1290 feet
  • March 31 – 1266.8 feet
  • April 31 – 1236.7 feet

The next Water Supply Forecast will be updated the week of April 7 and flood control elevations may change.

Get links to river flows in this region at The Spokesman-Review Outdoors topics page.

Get daily Lake Roosevelt level forecast by phone, updated daily at 3 p.m: (800) 824-4916.

Check out this NOAA site with Roosevelt levels and a list of boat launching elevations on the same page.

Volunteers sought to evaluate grants for parks, trails, boating, farm preservation

CONSERVATION — The Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) is looking for volunteers to evaluate grant applications and help decide where the next parks, trails and boat launches will go in the state, as well as help prioritize farmlands to conserve.

Volunteers will serve on advisory committees that will rank grant proposals in the spring and summer for farmland preservation and all types of recreation around the state.

“This is a great opportunity for people interested in the outdoors,” said Kaleen Cottingham, RCO director. “The volunteers get to see firsthand what will be happening around the state – what great new parks and trails will be proposed – and help the state decide the wisest places to invest state and federal dollars.”

Volunteers with expertise in project design or project management, landscape architecture, planning or engineering, permitting or property acquisition especially are encouraged to apply. Volunteers serve 4 years. Applications for the advisory committees will be accepted until the positions are filled.

Parks: Seven volunteers are needed to evaluate grant proposals in two different park grant programs.

  • Two volunteers are needed to evaluate grant requests in the Aquatic Lands Enhancement Account program, which provides money to buy, improve and protect tidelands and shorelines for the public. The volunteers should be familiar with aquatic lands protection and restoration. Learn more about this committee.
  • Five volunteers are needed to evaluate grant proposals in the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program’s State Parks Category, which provides money to buy, develop and protect lands for state parks. Volunteers should have a statewide perspective on parks and recreation and come from nonprofit organizations, government agencies or be unaffiliated. The volunteers will evaluate grant requests from Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission and will serve on the State Parks Advisory Committee. Fill out the online application.

Farmlands: Two volunteers are needed to evaluate grant proposals to preserve working farms in the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program’s Farmland Preservation category. Volunteers should be farmers actively managing farms or rangeland. They will serve on the Farmlands Preservation Advisory Committee. Learn more about this committee.

Trails: Three volunteers are needed to evaluate grant requests in two different trail grant programs.

Boating: Four volunteers are needed to evaluate grant requests in two programs that provide money to acquire or develop land for boating facilities. The volunteers should be active in motorized recreational boating. The volunteers are needed to evaluate grant proposals in the Boating Facilities Program and the Boating Infrastructure Grant program. Learn more about this committee.

To Apply: Submit a completed application and support materials to RCO by April 11. Online applications are available at www.rco.wa.gov/grants/advisory_cmte.shtml.

Information: Lorinda Anderson at 360-902-3009 

Arriving bluebirds search for housing; you can help

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Birders are spreading word daily of spring arrivals to the Inland Northwest and bluebirds are some of the most  delightful to the eye.

The Idaho Fish and Game Department says the public can help make up for the loss of dead trees bluebirds and other cavity nesting birds need for pulling off broods this season by putting up bird nesting boxes in appropriate areas.

The department and offers volunteer-built bluebird houses for a donation of $5 at the Coeur d'Alene office, 2885 W. Kathleen Ave., as well as detailed plans for people who'd like to build their own bluebird boxes to the specific dimensions that have been found to be best for the birds.

  • Any nest boxes that already have been put up in a previous year should be cleaned out now in preparation of this year's arrivals.

Studies have shown that bluebirds are already looking for nest sites and are most likely to adopt a nest box that's in place by late March.  However, some of the birds will be looking for nest sites as late as mid-May, says Phil Cooper, IFG spokesman for the Panhandle.

Two species of bluebirds live in Idaho: the western bluebird and the mountain bluebird, which is Idaho's state bird.  Both are slightly smaller than robins.

Thoreau said, “the bluebird carries the sky on his back,”  Cooper said, noting that  the males of all the North American bluebird species sport brilliant blue backs. 

  • The mountain bluebird male has a very bright blue back and is pale blue below.  The female is mostly gray with a trace of blue on the wings and tail.  Mountain bluebirds are larger than western bluebirds.
  • The western bluebird is less brightly colored.  Males and females both have rust on the breast.

Read on for more details about bluebirds and bluebird nest boxes in this region:

State spays wild wolf after it’s bred by loose dog

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The saga of wolf recovery in Washington has taken a strange tryst.

A large domestic guard dog that took a month-long romp on the wild side in Pend Oreille County forced Washington Fish and Wildlife officials to capture and spay an endangered female gray wolf on Saturday.

“Our goal is restoration of a native wolf population not in producing a generation of hybrids we'd have to take care of in another way later,” said Donny Martorello, the department's carnivore manager in Olympia.

The wolf was one of two females in the new Ruby Creek Pack that biologists have been tracking with GPS collars since July.

The unusual action came after biologists learned that an Akbosh sheep dog climbed a 7-foot-tall fence from its yard near Ione and disappeared with the two female wolves for more than a month during February when wolves go into heat.

“If there had been a male wolf in the group, the dog would have been killed instantly,” Martorello said. But the two females tolerated  him and breeding occurred, he said.

Biologists easily tracked the GPS signal and used a helicopter to shoot tranquilizers and capture the wolves. One female was pregnant; the other was not, he said. Both were released in the Pend Oreille River area.

“Spaying (the pregnant wolf) was a better alternative than trying to go out and kill all the pups after they're born,” he said.

The dog had run off with the wolves for about a week in early January, but biologists were able to monitor the wolves and tell the dog's owner when they were back near the home.  The homeowner was able to call the dog in.

“We were already suspicious,” Martorello said. “Dogs and wolves usually don't mix.”

Wildlife officials advised the dog owner to restrain the dog for the rest of the winter.  While dogs can come into heat throughout the year, wolves generally come into estrus only in January and February, Martorello said.

“But when those females came back in a few days, one must have been in estrus because that big, intact dog climbed a seven-foot orchard fence and took off with them from mid-January through February,” he said.

  • Maybe this is the start of the new, more gentle guard dog: Keep the big bad wolves away from the sheep with a little love.

 

Iditarod snowmobile Diary: Day 12

SNOWMOBILING — Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane are repeating their effort to follow Alaska's Iditarod Sled Dog Race by snowmobile in February and March 2014.  

Here's a tidbit Jones filed from the trail: 

We just got into Nulato after a very nice 100-mile run down the Yukon from Ruby. I had made arrangements for a couple of cots in the city building:  It's a back room they call “the apartment”.  Two giant bare Cabela's cots are the bunks.  But it's perfect.  The gal who lined me up is having Josh and I for a moose stew dinner tonight, so I didn't bring the stove in! 

One note:  There is a bathroom across the hall from our room.  A quick check shows that this is the
first once since Skwentna!  Not big deal, but we have stayed in cabins and tents with no toilets in them for 8 straight nights.

  • See the complete diary and photos from their 2012 trip — which marked Jones's 14th time on the Iditarod.
  • Click “continue reading” to see Jones's diary from Day 12 of their 22-day 1,400-mile adventure in 2014.

Below are links to each of the other diary posts and photos of their trip on the Iditarod Trail.

State restricts access to beach and water near Wanapum Dam

BOATING — The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has closed five water access sites along the Columbia River behind Wanapum Dam, where the water level has been drawn down in response to a cracked spillway.

The closures affect the Yo Yo, Old Vantage Highway, Sunland Estates, Buckshot and Frenchman Coulee/Climbing Rocks water access sites plus roads from nearby wildlife areas.

WDFW officials said they closed the sites and are preventing access to the beach and exposed riverbed in WDFW wildlife areas along the river to protect public safety, fish habitat, and archeological and cultural resources. 

The reservoir behind the dam was lowered by about 26 feet after divers discovered a 65-foot-long fracture Feb. 27 along one of the dam's spillways. As a result, the water level behind the dam is at its lowest point since the Grant County Public Utility District facility began operating in 1964.

Jim Brown, WDFW regional director for north-central Washington, said the reservoir level is so low that boaters can't reach the water with their trailers, and some newly uncovered areas near the shoreline present quicksand-like conditions.

WDFW also has closed the lower ends of roads that lead into the reservoir at the Colockum and L.T. Murray wildlife areas in Kittitas and Chelan counties, and at the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area in Grant County.  The upland portions of the wildlife areas above the ordinary high-water level remain open to the public, Brown said.

“For their own safety, we're asking people to please stay off the beaches and any other areas that were under water before the drawdown,” he said.

Brown said the closures will be in effect until further notice and are being coordinated with the Grant County PUD. He said signs are being installed to inform the public, and WDFW law enforcement officers will be enforcing the closures in cooperation with local sheriff's offices.  Grant County PUD is restricting access to the river on other nearby lands.

When the closures are lifted, information will be posted on the WDFW website:  wdfw.wa.gov .  Further information about the incident is available from the Grant County PUD at www.grantpud.org/your-pud/media-room/news .  

Oregon releases wolf status report: numbers up, packs down

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has documented a minimum of 64 wolves in eight packs, including four breeding pairs for 2013, compared with 46 wolves in six packs with six breeding pairs in 2012.

The survey results are in the just-released final 2013 Oregon Wolf Conservation and Management Annual Report , which includes the 2013 update for Oregon’s Wolf Population

Oregon has added a research section to the wolf webpages. Wolf photos from 2013 and 2014 have been added to Oregon's wolf photo gallery.

  • On Saturday, Washington's 2013 wolf status report was released citing a minimum of 52 wolves in 13 wolf packs with five successful breeding pairs. 
  • Idaho has not yet released its annual report.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service requires the state reports to be filed on the recovery of the endangered species by the first week of April.

 

Wind River springer fishing seasons set to start

FISHING — The fish are still on their way, but the Washington is announcing spring chinook and steelhead seasons on the Wind River, a popular Columbia River tributary.  Here are details from the Department of Fish and Wildlife:

Action:  The daily catch limit will be 2 chinook or 2 hatchery steelhead or one of each at various times and locations on the Wind River. 

  • Wind River from the mouth (boundary line markers) upstream to the

Burlington Northern Railroad Bridge:  Open March 16 through July 31.   

Anglers with a two-pole endorsement may fish with two poles for salmon 

and steelhead May 1 through June 30.  

  • Wind River from Burlington Northern Railroad Bridge upstream to 400 feet

below Shipherd Falls:  Open April 1 through July 31;

  • Wind River from 100 feet above Shipherd Falls to 800 yards downstream of

Carson National Fish Hatchery (except closed waters from 400 feet below to

100 feet above coffer dam):  Open May 1 through June 30.

Species affected:  Chinook and steelhead

Other information:  Release wild chinook downstream from Shipherd Falls. Release all trout other than hatchery steelhead. Minimum size 12 inches for salmon and 20 inches for steelhead.

When fishing for sturgeon or other species, only one pole per angler may be used.

The area from the railroad bridge upstream to Shipherd Falls will be closed to all fishing from March 16-31 to protect wild steelhead when salmon abundance is low. 

Reason for action:  The 2014 Wind River spring chinook returns are expected to be slightly higher than the recent 5 year average and more than twice last year’s actual return.  Surplus hatchery origin fish are available for harvest.

Cyclists, wilderness groups agree on Boulder-White Clouds monument

PUBLIC LANDS — Progress!

Groups reach agreement on protecting Idaho area as national monument
The Idaho Conservation League, Wood River Bicycle Coalition, International Mountain Bicycling Association and The Wilderness Society have hammered out a proposal to submit to President Obama on designating the Boulder-White Clouds as a national monument in Idaho.
— Idaho Statesman

Hatchery fish are slow pokes, WSU study finds

FISHERIES — This isn't the first study to find that hatchery-reared salmonids tend to be inferior in one way or another to wild trout, steelhead and salmon, but it's the latest.

The report is released a day after Washington designated three steelhead rivers to be sanctuaries for wild fish by ending hatchery releases.

 Following is the just-released story by Washington State University science writer Eric Sorenson regarding the latest research:

Washington State University researchers have documented dramatic differences in the swimming ability of domesticated trout and their wilder relatives. The study calls into question the ability of hatcheries to mitigate more than a century of disturbances to wild fish populations.

Kristy Bellinger, who did the study for her work on a Ph.D. in zoology, said traditional hatcheries commonly breed for large fish at the cost of the speed they need to escape predators in the wild.

  • See Bellinger discussing her research in this YouTube video

“The use of hatcheries to support declining wild salmon and steelhead is controversial,” said Bellinger. “They have a role as being both a part of the solution in supplementing depleted stocks and as being a hindrance to boosting natural populations, as they often produce fish that look and behave differently from their wild relatives.”

Bellinger conducted the study with Gary Thorgaard, a nationally recognized fish geneticist and professor in WSU’s School of Biological Sciences, and her advisor, Associate Professor Patrick Carter. Their work is published in the journal Aquaculture.

The study used a sort of speed trap for fish, a meter-long plastic tank filled with water and fitted with electronic sensors. Over 10 weeks, Bellinger repeatedly ran 100 clonal (genetically similar) hatchery-raised and semi-wild rainbow trout through the tank, clocking their speed and monitoring their growth from week to week.  The clonal rainbow trout were propagated on the WSU campus.

The domesticated fish tended to grow faster. But while increased size is generally seen as a sign of fitness, the researchers saw that wasn’t the case as far as speed is concerned. “The highly domesticated fish have bigger body sizes but slower swim speeds compared to the more wild lines that are smaller,” said Bellinger. “It is intuitive to think that the more you feed them, the more they’re going to grow, the faster they’re going to be, and that’s what we see within each clonal line.  However, between the lines, the domesticated fish were larger but slower sprinters.”

Over the past century, hatcheries have become a mainstay of recreational fishing, providing millions of trout and other salmonids to lakes and streams. More recently, hatcheries have come to be seen as tools in conserving native stocks. The state of Washington has more than 200 hatcheries, with most producing salmon and steelhead, an ocean-running trout, and about one-fourth producing trout and other game fish.

Hatchery managers, said Bellinger, tend to select for large fish.

“Fish managers want the biggest bang for their buck,” she said. “But if increased size is a tradeoff of sprint speed, as our data show, then we assume hatchery fish are being picked off by predators due to their slower speed, which makes the process of supplementing native fish with hatchery fish an inefficient tool for conservation and a waste of money.”

The research was funded in part by grants from the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Noxious weeds workshop March 22 at Usk

HABITAT — Weed control on private lands is important to everyone with an interest in wildlife and wild lands.

Property owners can find out how to manage weeds and sign up for neighborhood cost-share assistance on Saturday, March 22, at a workshop offered by WSU Pend Oreille County Extension and the Pend Oreille County Weed Board. 

This annual event, the Weeds, Neighbors and Cinnamon Rolls Workshop, will be held at Camas Center for Community Wellness, 1821 N. LeClerc Rd, Usk, WA from 8:30 am-2:30 pm.  Thanks to sponsorship by Kalispel Tribe Department of Natural Resources, Centaurea, Inc, and Wilber-Ellis Company there is no admission charge, but participants are asked to pre-register by phoning 447-2401 or emailing lnichols@pendoreille.org  to reserve handouts, lunch, and their share of locally-produced refreshments.

Speakers for the workshop include Jon Paul Driver of WSU Western Risk Management Education on composting and weed management; Joel Fields of Wilber Ellis Company on pasture and hay weeds;  Matt Berger with Kalispel Department of Natural Resources on herbicide resistance and new aquatic weeds;  Aaron Brown of Washington State Department of Agriculture on pesticide licensing: and Sharon Sorby, Jan Rice and Loretta Nichols, Pend Oreille County Weed Board staff on tools and strategies for noxious weed management.

Class participants will receive their 2014 Neighborhood Cost Share application early. Four recertification credits are available for both Washington and Idaho pesticide applicator license holders. 

See program information and a full agenda.

NYT op-ed writer pleads for balance on assessing impact of wolves

WILDLIFE WATCHING — In the past week, readers have forwarded me several stories and videos, such as the one above, glamorizing the benefits gray wolves have provided in restoring the ecosystem of Yellowstone National Park since the species was reintroduced in 1995.

The information has been well reported for years and the video is basically correct, according to scientists. And for the record, I am fascinated by wolves, too.

But when the glorification of the wolf is digested alone without the salad and the side dishes of other research and realities, it can lead to indigestion, regurgitation and a less than healthy oversimplification in the public arena.

So let's thank the New York Times for giving another scientist a chance this week to call time out and feed all of us who are interested in wolves from one angle or another some food for thought

Neighbors discuss development that threatens South Hill Bluff trails

TRAILS – A public meeting to discuss potential real estate development that could impact the popular trail system in High Drive Bluff Park is set for Wednesday, March 12, 6:30 p.m., at St. Stephens Episcopal Church, 5720 S. Perry.

The Friends of the Bluff group is looking for a conservation solution to possible changes to the 22-acre Tuscan Ridge property, which is zoned for condo development.

Info: Diana Roberts, robertsd@wsu.edu, 477-2167.

Iditarod snowmobile Diary: Day 11

SNOWMOBILING — Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane are repeating their effort to follow Alaska's Iditarod Sled Dog Race by snowmobile in February and March 2014.  

  • See the complete diary and photos from their 2012 trip — which marked Jones's 14th time on the Iditarod.
  • Click “continue reading” to see Jones's diary from Day 11 of their 22-day 1,400-mile adventure in 2014.

Below are links to each of the other diary posts and photos of their trip on the Iditarod Trail.

Avalanche danger continues to be high in Cascades

WINTER SPORTS — Massive avalanches have been triggered at Crystal Mountain Resort near Mount Rainier as ski patrollers try to mitigate the huge unstable snowpack and make the area safe. The slides are damaging facilities at the mountain. 

See more photos and details here.

Everyone should have a friend with a fishing boat

FISHING —  A good day of fishing at Lake Roosevelt will be followed by an even better week of eating.

The world would be a better place if everyone had a friend with a fishing boat.

Three West Side rivers labeled “wild steelhead gene banks;” hatchery fish excluded

FISHERIES – Three tributaries of the lower Columbia River have been designated as “wild steelhead gene banks,” where it will no longer release steelhead raised in fish hatcheries, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department has announced.

Starting this year, WDFW will no longer plant hatchery steelhead in the East Fork Lewis River or the North Fork Toutle/Green River

The Wind River, which has not been stocked with steelhead since 1997, will also be off-limits to any future releases.

Read on for the details from the WDFW:

Columbia steelhead fishing improves at Ringold

FISHING — Here's encouraging news for Columbia River steelhead anglers in the Ringold area of the Hanford Reach in today's creel report from Paul Hoffarth, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department biologist in the Tri-Cities:

Fishing has finally improved in the Ringold area steelhead sport fishery.  This past week WDFW staff interviewed 26 anglers (14 bank, 12 boat) with 18 steelhead (all hatchery).  Bank anglers averaged 16 hours per fish and bank anglers did much better at <6 hours per fish.

Associated Press gets C-minus grade for wolf status reporting

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The Seattle Bureau of the Associated Press copied a line from a Defenders of Wildlife news release into the lead of a Saturday story that robbed the public of balanced reporting on wolf recovery  — a hot topic — in Washington.

Shortly after Washington Fish and Wildlife Department officials announced on Saturday that they'd confirmed “four new wolf packs” and “steady growth” of the state's wolf population, the Defenders of Wildlife issued a press release referring to the WDFW announcement. The Defenders twisted the state's survey and called Washington's wolf population “stable.”  

The animal rights group correctly pointed out that the wildlife officials had CONFIRMED 52 individual wolves in the state.

But then the Defenders invented the phrase, “an increase of one individual wolf,” which the WDFW officials did not say, but the Associated Press used in the story lead as though it were a fact from the state.

What wildlife officials DID say is that they cannot count every wolf in the wild so they're no longer going to try, as they did last year when they estimated the population at 50-100 wolves.  

The number 52 is a minimum figure they could confirm at the end of 2013.   But to say 52 is “an increase of one” from last year's estimate is fabricated by the Defenders, an organization that benefits politically and financially from convincing the public that wolf recovery is slow or not happening.

AP Seattle Bureau writer Phuong Le further confuses the issue later in the story by pointing out CORRECTLY that WDFW in 2013 had estimated the wolf population at 50-100 individuals.

So why did she say this year's estimate is an increase of 1?  Because Defenders did.

God only knows why the reporter used the material from a special interest group in her lead rather than the information from the WDFW. There was PLENTY of information the state biologists released regarding the status of wolves in Washington to make an good story — which The Spokesman-Review published, but the AP ignored.

Perhaps the worst part about the story is that it goes on to quote reactions from two out-of-state-based pro-wolf groups — Defenders and the Center for Biological Diversity — without a single mention of in-state livestock or sportsmen's groups that might have balanced the story a bit.

The reason:  The two pro-wolf groups sent press releases (I got them, too).  

In my view, the reporter of a news story on the event at hand either should have sought more than one side of the wolf recovery story, or she should have stuck with the info coming from the scientists and worked to get the broader reaction later.

Groups that weigh in heavily regarding the impacts of wolf management did not send out press releases and thus were left out — as if they're not there.  That's a poor service to the readers of the many news outlets throughout the Pacific Northwest that had access to that story on the AP wire.

Read on for the full AP story.

Map shows wide range of wolves radio-collared in Washington

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The map graphic above shows how some Washington wolves range far while others keep fairly small home ranges.

I detailed the the relevance of Ruby Creek Wolf 47, which was captured in Pend Oreille County and fitted with a GPS collar last year by Washington Fish and Wildlife Department biologists to monitor its movements.

The wolf was one of 11 wolves with active transmitters that were followed by state researchers in 2013 and provided the travel information summarized in the map graphic above.

The collared wolves, among other things, helped the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife confirm four new wolf packs in the state, bringing the total number to at least 13.

Wolves are protected in Washington by state endangered species rules. But several of the wolves that have taken off from Washington to range widely into Canada have been legally shot during hunting seasons authorized in British Columbia.

Recent outdoors stories in the Spokesman-Review

Free cross-country ski day in Methow Valley

WINTER SPORTS — The Methow Valley Sport Trails Association and community partners are sponsoring a free cross-country ski day on Friday, March 14 for people to explore the region's most expansive and varied system of groomed nordic trails.

Trail passes will not be required on Backyard Ski Day and the event even includes free ski rentals and free ski lessons.

Details of the event include:

  • Free trail access all day on all the MVSTA ski trails. 
  • Free ski rentals can be obtained from Winthrop Mountain Sports, Methow Cycle & Sport, and the Mazama Ski School.  Reservations recommended. 
  • Free, one hour cross-country ski lesson courtesy of Methow Valley Ski School will begin at 10:00am at the Corral Trailhead in Mazama.
  • Free snow cat rides from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Corral Trailhead in Mazama
  • Free beverages and s'mores at the Corral Trailhead in Mazama from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Dogs also enjoy complementary trail access (with free deer carcasses here and there.)  

Video: Wolf attacks and packs away pet dog from yard in B.C.

PREDATORS — If you've ever wondered what it looks like when a wolf decides somebody's pet dog is going to be dinner, here you go.

Warning: While its not gory, the video is unsettling.

Question:  Are you comfortable with the modern world of videoing, posting and “sharing” tragedies rather than picking up a rock and trying to help the world's underdogs?

Photo: Owls blend into the woodwork

WILDLIFE WATCHING — You say you've never seen a Western screech owl in the wild?

No wonder, says Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson.

Pend Oreille Valley Tundra Swan Festival booking tour seats

WILDLIFE WATCHING —  The 2014 Tundra Swan Festival is set for March 22 in the Pend Oreille River Valley and the main attraction is already flocking in.

Bus tours hosted by the Kalispell Tribe are planned to Calispell Lake to view some of the thousands of swans resting in the area’s open waters as their spring migration kicks into high gear.

Participants will re-gather at the Camas Wellness Center in Usk for lunch and a presentation on the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act by Forest Service District Ranger Gayne Sears.

Cost: $10 or $5 for kids under 13.

Sign up by Friday, March 14. Info: 509 447 5286

Iditarod snowmobile Diary: Day 10

SNOWMOBILING — Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane are repeating their effort to follow Alaska's Iditarod Sled Dog Race by snowmobile in February and March 2014.  

  • See the complete diary and photos from their 2012 trip — which marked Jones's 14th time on the Iditarod.
  • Click “continue reading” to see Jones's diary from Day 10 of their 22-day 1,400-mile adventure in 2014.

Below are links to each of the other diary posts and photos of their trip on the Iditarod Trail.

Iditarod snowmobile Diary: Day 9

SNOWMOBILING — Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane are repeating their effort to follow Alaska's Iditarod Sled Dog Race by snowmobile in February and March 2014.  

  • See the complete diary and photos from their 2012 trip — which marked Jones's 14th time on the Iditarod.
  • Click “continue reading” to see Jones's diary from Day 9 of their 22-day 1,400-mile adventure in 2014.

Below are links to each of the other diary posts and photos of their trip on the Iditarod Trail.

Pro-wolf group puts spin on Washington state wolf status sport

ENDANGERED SPECIES — It's instructive to notice the spin the Defenders of Wildlife is putting on the report on gray wolf recovery status in Washington, released today by state wildlife officials.

Compare:

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife just reported that gray wolves established four new packs and expanded their territory in the state over the past year. The headline on the media release said, ”State's wolf population kept expanding last year, according to a WDFW survey.”

Defenders of Wildlife responded within two hours to its constituents with its own media release, headlined: “Washington's gray wolf population remains stable.” 

Who are the experts on this report and who has their hands out for donations?

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife carnivore specialist Donny Martorello said the state confirmed the presence of 13 wolf packs, five successful breeding pairs and at least 52 individual wolves in 2013. “While we can't count every wolf in the state, the formation of four new packs is clear evidence of steady growth in Washington's wolf population. More packs mean more breeding females, which produce more pups.” 

Defenders said: “This year’s count tallied 52 wolves, an increase of one individual from the 2012 year-end population.” 

Clarification:  Last year's report estimated the wolf population in the state as ranging from a minimum of 51 wolves up to about 100 wolves.  So for Defenders to say this year's estimate is “an increase of one individual” is propaganda.

I asked Martorello personally why the agency did not give a population range this year as it has in the past. He repeated that there's no way to accurately estimate the high end of population “so we're not even going to try.”  Wildlife managers also emphasize that while 52 is what they can document, there are surely more.  

Good cases can be made for the populations of wolves in Washington at any one time could be more than 100.

And surely the number will be considerably higher after mid-April when this year's crop of pups emerges from their dens.

Wolves are a cash cow for animal rights-type groups as long as the species is threatened or endangered.  

While I take in all sides of the debate on wolf reintroduction, it's important to realize that for some interests there's no money in declaring a species recovered.

Status report: Wolves continue expansion in Washington

ENDANGERED SPECIES —  Gray wolves established four new packs and expanded their territory in Washington over the past year, state wildlife managers told the state Fish and Wildlife Commission at a public meeting in Moses Lake today.

Coming Sunday, March 9, in The Spokesman-Review's Sunday Outdoors section:  A package of stories about Washington wolf status and monitoring.

Click “continue reading” to see the media release the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife issued today, March 8, 2013, regarding the updated satus of wolves in Washington:

Iditarod snowmobile Diary: Day 8

SNOWMOBILING — Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane are repeating their effort to follow Alaska's Iditarod Sled Dog Race by snowmobile in February and March 2014.  

  • See the complete diary and photos from their 2012 trip — which marked Jones's 14th time on the Iditarod.
  • Click “continue reading” to see Jones's diary from Day 8 of their 22-day 1,400-mile adventure in 2014.

Below are links to each of the other diary posts and photos of their trip on the Iditarod Trail.

Another sign of spring: Grizzlies emerging

WILDLIFE WATCHING — If you need more reassurance that spring has sprung, Yellowstone National Park officials have reported that grizzly bears are beginning to emerge from their dens.

First bears out of the hatch usually are males.  Females with cubs born in the den during winter usually are last out, giving the cubs more chance to develop.

Grizzly bears are emerging from hibernation in the Greater Yellowstone Area, so hikers, skiers and snowshoers are advised to stay in groups of three of more, make noise on the trail and carry bear spray.

The first confirmed reports of grizzly bear activity in the Park were reported on March 4. Guides and visitors observed and photographed a grizzly bear along the road in the Hayden Valley area. The first black bear of the year was observed on February 11 near the south end of the park.

Bears begin looking for food soon after they emerge from their dens. They are attracted to elk and bison that have died during the winter. Carcasses are an important enough food source that bears will sometimes react aggressively when surprised while feeding on them.

Updated bear safety information is available on the Yellowstone bear safety Web page.

While firearms are allowed in the park, the discharge of a firearm is a violation of park regulations. The park’s law enforcement rangers who carry firearms on duty rely on bear spray, rather than their weapons, as the most effective means to deal with a bear encounter.

Visitors are also reminded to keep food, garbage, barbecue grills and other attractants stored in hard-sided vehicles or bear-proof food storage boxes. This helps keep bears from becoming conditioned to human foods, and helps keep park visitors and their property safe.

UI writers signing up for Semester in the Wild

WILDERNESS — Enrollment is open for University of Idaho students up for spending a semester living and learning in Idaho’s beautiful and rugged mountains through the College of Natural Resource’s Semester in the Wild.

What better way for a college writer to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act?

Here are the details from UI:

Semester in the Wild combines upper-division science learning, leadership, environmental literature and writing while living in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. Students learn the ecological and social relationships in nature through hands-on investigation and writing, while building leadership skills and personal understanding. This limited-enrollment experience unites students from across the country to live, learn and grow together in America’s Wildest Classroom. 

Preferential enrollment is open through April 11. To enroll, go to uidaho.edu/wild.

Semester in the Wild is in its second year, having touched the lives of 11 undergraduates in 2013. The program is possible because of the college’s ownership of the Taylor Wilderness Research Station, which is used for year-round research and education.

“This experience was amazing, it changed my perspective on life and I loved it,” said Susie Everly, a UI student in the inaugural class.

The students live at Taylor with the station managers. Faculty from the college and from the UI English Department fly in on a rotation to teach classes in blocks.

“We knew this was a perfect setting to teach things like river ecology and wilderness management, but it is equally ideal for classes like environmental writing and western literature,” said Tom Gorman, professor and associate dean of the College of Natural Resources. 

Skiers, boarders gear up for 24-Hours of Schweitzer

WINTER SPORTS – Die-hard soloists and teams on skis and snowboards will be riding the lifts through the night on March 21-22 for the annual 24 Hours of Schweitzer.

The all-day, all-night fundraiser benefits cystinosis research.

Video cam captures spectrum of critters in Stevens County

WILDLIFE WATCHING — How many species of critters will pass the lens of a trail camera positioned at one spot in Stevens County, Wash.?

You'll be surprised.

Keep your eye open for the bobcat.

Iditarod snowmobile Diary: Day 7

SNOWMOBILING — Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane are repeating their effort to follow Alaska's Iditarod Sled Dog Race by snowmobile in February and March 2014.  

  • See the complete diary and photos from their 2012 trip — which marked Jones's 14th time on the Iditarod.
  • Click “continue reading” to see Jones's diary from Day 7 of their 22-day, 1,400-mile adventure in 2014.

Below are links to each of the other diary posts and photos of their trip on the Iditarod Trail.

Video: buck survives horror story to be rescued by hunter

WILDLIFE WATCHING — You think you had a bad night?  How would you like to be tied to one of your rivals while coyotes chewed him up?

I've seen quite a few fascinating videos of hunters rescuing bucks or even bull elk after their antlers had been locked in a battle.

This one isn't the most exciting of those available on YouTube, but it just boggles your mind to think about what the buck went through during the night.

Check it out if you want to see a whitetail buck being rescued after it locked horns with another buck that wasn't nearly so lucky.

Weather change: birds shifting gears from survival to procreation

WILDLIFE WATCHING —  This morning's sunshine — capping the past week of weather extremes —  seems to be bringing on an epidemic of spring fever.

A Mount Spokane landowner said he noticed the first bluebird of the season flying past his window this morning.

Within an hour, he emailed the photo (above) of wild turkeys that have been frequenting his yard for weeks. But today, love was in the air.

Just snapped this pic, first time this season I’ve seen them spread their feathers. There were 13 of them feeding and all of a sudden they started chasing one another in circles and back and forth, finally one stopped long enough to get a pic. Guess spring is really here!!!

Also, Melissa Rose in Ferry County reports:

We could sure tell the difference going out side this morning up here. While there had been very little bird sound/activity all winter this morning we experienced a riot of both!”

And this just came in from Spokane Audubon member Kim Thorburn

Yesterday morning when feeding the chickens, I caught a glimpse of an unusual bird hop up from the ground.  Expecting western bluebirds any moment, I went to inspect and found a lovely male spotted towhee.  While they breed in Riverside State Park nearby, I've only seen one previously in my yard during a fall migration.  He's also a bit early.  He spent the day foraging with the ga-zillion dark-eyed juncos underneath the feeder, escaping to our slash piles when necessary.  This morning, he's sunning himself atop our Colorado blue spruce, a favored songbird roost tree.
 
The western bluebirds (a pair) did arrive yesterday at 4:00 PM.  There was also a killdeer along the 9-Mile Reservoir in Riverside State Park.

Tundra swans are pouring into the region, hitting all of the open water from Lake Spokane to the Colville Valley and Pend Oreille River.

And this report just in from Ron Dexter, also in the Mount Spokane foothills:

This morning as I returned from getting our morning paper, I found a male Western Bluebird perched upon our 7 ft tall carved bear. I looked around and found the female on the TV antenna. I went into the house and walked over to the front window where I read the paper, and there on a Serviceberry bush just outside the window was our first of the year Say's Phoebe. The mate usually shows up in the next week or two.
Spring has sprung, I guess.

Photograph has eye for great gray owl

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The eyes of the great gray owl are haunting, as you can see in the photo made this week by Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson, who reports, poetically:

We spent the day again today with the Great Grays near Great Falls – wonderful birds.
 
They are very social birds, they actually fly and land near us when we are watching them.
 
They sit low in trees and listen intently for mice moving under the snow (waste deep).
 
When the time is right, they dive into the snow and grab the mice. They then crawl out
 
Of the hole and sit on the snow while they eat their prize. Once it is gone, it’s back to the
 
Low branch to do it all over again.

Would you criticize an angler for keeping a record-setting walleye?

FISHING — Some people are criticizing John Grubenhoff of Pasco for not releasing the 20.32-pound Washington state record walleye he caught Friday in the Columbia River.

Experts say he did the right thing, without even getting around to the argument that walleye are a non-native species.

Hangman Creek flows spike; rafters gearing up

RIVER RUNNING — Every local veteran rafter, kayaker and canoeist knows the recipe: Snow followed by warm temperatures and rain are the ingredients for the brief surge of flows needed for whitewater action on Hangman Creek.

Brownwater action, I mean.

The river spiked from under 200 cfs yesterday to more than 6,000 cfs this morning after last night's downpour on the snowy landscape.

Rafters love these conditions.

Canoeists would be safer to let the flows settle.  I personally like paddling the level around 1,200 cfs (see photo).

But it won't be long before Hangman settles down and once again becomes too low to float.

Backcountry skier details efficiency: getting skins off and on

WINTER SPORTS — In a group of backcountry skiers and splitboarders who don't regularly get out together, it seems as though somebody's always slow at the top and bottom of the run, leaving others to freeze as they wait.

In this video, mountain guide Martin Volken shares his wisdom on how to efficiently transition from ski-to-skin and back again, along with tips on keeping the system simple to stay better organized in the backcountry. 

Iditarod snowmobile Diary: Day 6

SNOWMOBILING — Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane are repeating their effort to follow Alaska's Iditarod Sled Dog Race by snowmobile in February and March 2014.  

  • See the complete diary and photos from their 2012 trip — which marked Jones's 14th time on the Iditarod.
  • Click “continue reading” to see Jones's diary from Day 6 of their 22-day, 1,400-mile adventure in 2014.

Below are links to each of the other diary posts and photos of their trip on the Iditarod Trail.

Out-of-staters rally against coyote hunting derby

PREDATORS — An out-of-state group has triggered more than 500 emails to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife protesting the annual Save our Fawns coyote hunting derby underway in northeastern Washington.

See the story by Northwest Sportsman editor Andy Walgamott.

Organizers say the derby is a way to give struggling deer herds a better chance to recover.

It’s official: 20.32-pound walleye is Washington record

FISHING — The whopper walleye caught in the Columbia River on Friday — see today's story —  has been officially declared a state record by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Following is the official announcement, just posted:

New State Fishing Record:  Walleye (Sander vitrius)

Caught by John Grubenhoff of Pasco, WA, in Lake Wallula (Columbia River), Benton County, on Feb. 28, 2014

Weight:            20.32 lbs

Total Length: 35.50 inches (90 cm)

Girth:                22.75 inches (57.5 cm)

Fishing method/gear: Trolling in 22 feet of water upstream along a current break at 0.8 mph and using a Rapala® J-13 lure 6 feet behind a 2 oz. “bottom walker” weight. 

Conditions: Sunny, but with a cold front coming in the next day. Water temperature: 37.2 degrees; air temperature: upper 40s.

Species description:  Walleye are extremely popular sport fish everywhere they occur, and are known for their exquisite flavor. They are native to the Midwest United States and were first identified in Washington about 1960 in Banks Lake. They have since spread throughout the Columbia Basin and the Columbia River from Lake Roosevelt, downstream to near Longview. Washington is known nationwide for its walleye fishing.

Previous record: Taken Feb. 5, 2007 in Lake Wallula (Columbia River) by Mike Hepper of Richland, WA

Weight:            19.3 lbs

Total Length:   33.7 inches

Girth:                22.2 inches

Stevens Pass road clearing still underway after avalanche

DRIVING — Snow conditions are still dicey out there. 

U.S. 2 over Stevens Pass has been blocked since this morning after an avalanche blocked four lanes of traffic at least four-feet deep with snow.

The Washington Department of Transportation estimated it could reopen the Highway by 1 p.m., but the latest report says crews are still working and gives no estimate on a time for reopening.

Highway 2 across Stevens Pass closed this morning due to a landslide that occurred just west of the pass.

The Washington State Department of Transportation closed the highway between mile post 58, near Scenic, to mile post 64.5 while workers clear the road of snow and debris and perform avalanche control work. They estimate reopening of the highway by 1 p.m. today.

Highway 2 is open between Leavenworth and Stevens Pass. Stevens Pass Ski Resort closed for the day due to the road closure, weather and avalanche conditions.

Dog that survived wolf attack mauled by cougar

PREDATORS — You may remember the story about Shelby, the dog that went with its owner to a committee hearing at the Washington Legislature last year (above) all scarred up after being attacked by a wolf as it slept on the porch of its Twisp-area home.

This week, Shelby is back in the news after being attacked again in its yard — this time by a mountain lion.

It's just the latest in this winter's spree of confrontations involving mountain lions in the Methow Valley.

Read on for the Wenatchee World story about Shelby that's been moved by the Associated Press.

Congress comes together, finally, for Michigan wilderness bill

PUBLIC LANDS — The House of Representatives voted Tuesday to pass the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Conservation and Recreation Act, sending the measure to President Barack Obama to be signed into law.

The bill, which passed in the Senate in June, will protect more than 32,500 acres in Michigan, including pristine shoreline and forests on the coast of Lake Michigan.

It will be the first new wilderness designated during the 113th Congress. 

Meanwhile the wilderness debate is going on across the country.  Here are examples from publications in Montana and Utah:

USFS chief discusses divide on wilderness debate
As part of the “Room to Roam” Wilderness Issues Lecture Series hosted by the Wilderness Institute at the University of Montana in Missoula, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell talked about the need for untrammeled wild areas, provided his agency's perspective on current wilderness proposals before Congress and the agency's ability to respond to change.
— Missoulian;

Quote of the day:
“It's hard for me to say the 'w' word, but I believe the state can do a better job and there are areas that need to be protected. They are special areas for people.”

Rep. Mike Noel, the chair of the Utah House Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee, about the Utah Wilderness Act the panel approved on Tuesday.
- Salt Lake Tribune

Wanapum pool drawdown leaves boat ramps high, dry

FISHING — It isn't a hot spot for fishing this time of year, but if you're thinking of launching a boat in the Columbia River's reservoir behind Wanapum Dam, think again.

The 20-foot drawdown resulting from precautions after a crack was found in the dam have left boat ramps far from the water, as you'll see in the photos with this story from the Yakima Herald.

Turkey poaching least of crimes for bagged Okanogan felons

WILDLIFE ENFORCEMENT — Some creepy wild life is going on in remote areas of Okanogan County, although it's been thinned out in recent months by Fish and Wildlife cops.

Felons and a sex offender illegally possession firearms, running a still, whacking turkeys out of season — oh, my! — and they had the balls to get in the face of an undercover officer who was just out “minding his own business” on a public road?  

Law-abiding sportsmen will enjoy the following report on a satisfying bust by the WDFW.  Click continue reading….

Fish-game cops need help with poaching cases

HUNTING/FISHING — Poaching is a live and well in the region's mountains and streams, and state fish and wildlife officers in Washington and Idaho are looking for help making cases.   Two in particular include:

Entiat bucks:  A $2,000 reward is being offered by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife  for substantial information leading to charges filed against the person(s) involved in poaching trophy class deer.

Two mule deer bucks were shot from Mud Creek Road in the Entiat Valley during the first two weeks of January 2014. The poacher(s) attempted to hide the deer, leaving the antlers and meat to waste (though they likely planned to return later to retrieve the antlers).

  • Contact Officer Oswald, (509) 630.0536, or email eric.oswald@dfw.wa.gov.  All reports will be confidential and the reporting party's identity will be protected.

Clearwater steelhead: On Friday, Feb. 28, poachers left their mark at the Ahsahka boat ramp on the North Fork of the Clearwater River, according to Idaho Fish and Game oficials. 

A call to the Citizens Against Poaching (CAP) hotline led an Idaho Fish and Game officer to the scene where six steelhead had been left to waste.  Six female fish were all over the 28 inch length limit and one still had an adipose fin indicating it was most likely a wild fish. All fish had been gutted and thrown alongside the boat ramp near the water’s edge.  The persons reporting the crime said they had been fishing earlier in the day at that same location and the fish were not there.  They returned to go fishing in the afternoon and found the fish that had been left to waste. 

One of the people reporting the crime stated, “Those fish could have feed my family for quite a while…  but instead someone saw it fit to catch and kill illegal fish and then waste the meat.”  Someone knows who did this.  It was likely more than one person.  Without the help of a responsible honest person, these dishonest violators will get away with stealing the wildlife resource that belongs to the people of Idaho.

  • Contact CAP hotline, (800) 632-5999 or Officer Dave Beaver, (208) 791-5118.  Anyone providing information can remain anonymous.  

Invasive mussels knocking on Idaho’s door, official says

INVASIVE SPECIES — Having the invasive quagga mussels booming in Utah's Lake Powell is like having a deadly contagious disease at a major national airport with folks coming and going in all directions — including Idaho, a federal biologist says.

He's trying to get the word out before boaters flood out of Idaho to Utah for spring break.

Here's the story from Rob Thornberry of the Idaho Falls Post Register:

With Utah finding more quagga mussels in Lake Powell, the likelihood they will find their way to Idaho is increasing, said Lee Mabey, a forest fisheries biologist with the Caribou-Targhee National Forest.

Having the mussels in Lake Powell is like having a deadly contagious disease at a major national airport with folks coming and going in all directions, including Idaho, Mabey said. The rate of spread of the mussels could be very rapid now that Lake Powell is infected.

Mabey is trying to raise awareness of the problem before people travel south for spring break.

Data from the Idaho Department of Agriculture’s five years of boat inspections indicates Lake Powell is the most frequently visited mussel-fouled water body by Idaho boaters. Many of these vessels have been out of the water less than 30 days at the time they are inspected, posing a significant risk of transporting larval or adult mussels to the Gem State.

In 2013, Idaho inspected 568 boats that had recently come from Mead, Powell, Mohave, Havasu or Pleasant lakes. All those waters have mussels.

Idaho does not, and officials are keen on keeping it that way.

If quagga or zebra mussels take hold in Idaho, the state’s lake fisheries will be forever changed and the irrigation and hydropower industry could face millions of dollars in added expenses. Undoubtedly these expenses will be passed on to the consumer, Mabey said.

Quagga mussels are prolific breeders and attach themselves to hard and soft surfaces. Once in a lake, they filter plankton from the water, robbing fish of food.

“If we get these mussels in our lakes, it is going to turn the ecology upside down,” Mabey said. “Our fish populations would crash. It is simple biology — a lake only supports so much biomass. You can have plankton and fish or you can have plankton and mussels.”

Mabey encourages all anglers and boaters to take the threat seriously and learn about proper precautions to keep the marauders out of Idaho.

  • Click here for more information on steps boaters can take to prevent spread of invasive mussels. 

“We need everybody to take part in prevention,” he said. “We can’t rely on just inspection stations. We need to have a change in mentality of all users. Just like anglers have adopted catch-and-release regulation, we need boaters and all water users to adopt clean, drain and dry after each excursion.”

Jordan Nielson, a Madison High School graduate, is the aquatic invasive species coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. He said government agencies are doing well to slow the spread of mussels, but those efforts will be wasted if boaters don’t change their habits.

“We need a paradigm shift,” he said. “The state agency can only do so much. People have to realize they have a responsibility when they go boating to make sure they aren’t moving things around. It is essential.”

Okanogan River steelhead fishing to close Friday

FISHING — Two sections of the Okanogan River will close to fishing for steelhead one hour before official sunrise on Friday, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife says.

  • Okanogan River: From the first power line crossing downstream of the Highway 155 Bridge in Omak (Coulee Dam Credit Union Building) to the mouth of Omak Creek.
  • Okanogan River: From the Tonasket Bridge (4th Street) downstream to the Tonasket Lagoons Park boat launch.

Reason for action: Sections of the Okanogan River around the mouth of Omak and Tonasket Creeks will close early to protect natural origin steelhead staging prior to spawning within those tributaries.

General rules in areas open to steelhead fishing;

  • Mandatory retention of adipose-fin-clipped steelhead, daily limit two (2) hatchery steelhead, 20 inch minimum size. Hatchery steelhead are identified by a missing adipose fin with a healed scar in its location.
  • Adipose present steelhead must be released unharmed and cannot be removed from the water prior to release.
  • Night closure and selective gear rules remain in effect.
  • Whitefish anglers must follow selective gear rules in areas open to steelhead fishing. No bait is allowed.

Other information:

All other areas currently open to steelhead fishing on the Columbia, Okanogan, Methow, Wenatchee, and Similkameen rivers remain open.

Anglers are required to possess a Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsement as part of their valid fishing license.

Check for other emergency rules on the fishing hotline at 360-902-2500 or the webpage.

Lessons from rafting the Canyon: pee bottle

CAMPING — Urine management is required on rivers, but it's also worth consideration on virtually any camping trip where a vault toilet isn't close by camp.

I thought about this several times a day — not to mention a few more times at night — during my recent rafting-hiking adventure in Grand Canyon National Park.

Rafters on heavily used rivers such as the Colorado through the Grand Canyon, as well as on Idaho's wilderness rivers such as the Salmon and Selway, are asked to pee in the river rather on shores.  

Dilution is the solution to pollution.

Peeing on shore ultimately stinks and makes the campsite less appealing to those who follow.  Urine also attracts critters who crave the salt. This can be cute at first but menacing to those who follow.

The pee bottle for men or a pee bucket with a lid for women is a highly recommended item I've used for years — during snow storms climbing Mount McKinley, during late night nature calls while sleeping in the back of my pickup at hunting camp, in my tent in campgrounds…. you get the idea.   

On river trips especially, you can store the pee in the bottle for an entire evening and through the night and make one trip to a flowing section of the current to dispose of the urine rather than making numerous trips during the course of a camp.

The best bottles are wide-mouth plastic bottles with tight-sealing lids.

My time-tested favorite is the 48-ounce (bigger is better)  Nalgene Canteen — a flexible wide-mouth container that collapses flat for storage while traveling. 

 There, I'm relieved to have shared this with you.

Iditarod snowmobile Diary: Day 5

SNOWMOBILING — Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane are repeating their effort to follow Alaska's Iditarod Sled Dog Race by snowmobile in February and March 2014.  

  • See the complete diary and photos from their 2012 trip — which marked Jones's 14th time on the Iditarod.
  • Click “continue reading” to see Jones's diary from Day 5 of their 22-day, 1,400-mile adventure in 2014.

Below are links to each of the other diary posts and photos of their trip on the Iditarod Trail.

Pasco angler catches 20-pound Washington record walleye in Columbia

UPDATE March 5, 2014, 3:15 p.m.:  It's official! The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has just confirmed Grubenhoff's walleye as a state record.

FISHING — A walleye weighing 20.32 pounds caught in the Columbia River on Friday is a pending Washington record.

John Grubenhoff, 57, of Pasco was fishing in the McNary Pool near the Tri Cities when he caught the egg-heavy female measuring 35 1/2 inches long and 22 3/4 inches in girth.

A state biologist witnessed the weighing on a certified scale on Friday. State biologist Paul Hoffarth measured the fish on Saturday and said he doesn't foresee and issues that would prevent the record from being confirmed.

Grubenhoff's walleye would top the current record of 19.3 pounds caught by Tri-Cities angler Mike Hepper in February 2007.

Oregon's record, also from the Columbia, is 19 pounds, 15 ounces caught in 1990.

The world record listed by the International Game Fish Association is 25 pounds caught in Old Hickory Lake, Tenn., in 1960.

Grubenhoff, who's pursued walleyes for 29 years, said he rushed home from his job at Sandvik Special Metals on Friday afternoon to get in some fishing before dark. Winter is prime time for catching trophy walleyes while the hens are still full of eggs.

“A cold front was forecast to come in that evening so I figured that fishing would be good,” he said, noting the water temperature was 37.2 degrees. “Boy was it. My first fish came within about 10 minutes, a nice hen around 14 pounds. I released her as usual and went back at it.”

Within 10 minutes, he caught and released a 6-pound male. He said he hooked the record fish about a half hour later “fishing a current break adjacent to a windswept, rocky shoreline in about 22 feet of water.”

He was trolling upstream at about 0.8 mph with a Rapala J-13 – a 6-inch-long minnow lure in silver and black – about 6 feet behind a 2-ounce bottom walker.

“The largest walleye I've caught up until now was around 18 pounds,” he said. “She was released after a few photos.”

But he said he knew Friday’s fish was a possible record and took it - almost - immediately to be weighed on a certified scale.

“I have been tournament fishing for about 25 years, mostly with my son Jacob, who is my best buddy,” he said. “We've won nine tournaments and placed in the money dozens of times.”

Ranch & Home, a Tri-Cities sporting goods store, has offered to pay for the taxidermist and a reproduction to display in the store, he said.

Pasco angler catches 20-pound state record walleye in Columbia

4 p.m. — See updated post and photo here.

FISHING — A Columbia River walleye weighing 20.32 pounds was caught in the Columbia River on Friday and is likely to be confirmed as a Washington record, state Fish and Wildlife Department biologists say

John Grubenhoff of Pasco was fishing in the McNary Pool near the Tri-Cities when caught the fish measuring 35 1/2 inches long and 22 3/4 inches in girth. 

A state biologist witnessed the weighing on a certified scale on Friday. Paul Hoffarth, area district biologist, measured the fish on Saturday and said he doesn't forsee and issues that would prevent the record from being confirmed.

Grubenhoff's walleye would top the current record of 19.3 pounds caught by Mike Hepper in February 2007.

Winter is prime time to catch record walleyes while the females are heavy with eggs.

Oregon's walleye record is 19 pounds, 15 ounces caught in 1990.

The world record listed by the International Game Fish Association is 25 pounds caught in Old Hickory Lake, Tenn., in 1960.

Woes continue for Kenai king salmon fishing

FISHING — The famous huge king salmon of Alaska's Kenai River continue to be in jeopardy.   Here's the latest.

Associated Press  
KENAI, Alaska — For the first time since 1965, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has announced a preseason closure of fishing for early run king salmon in the Kenai River.

The Peninsula Clarion reported that the early run sport fishery for kings will be closed beginning May 1 through June 30 from the Kenai River mouth upstream to Skilak Lake and the Moose River from its confluence with the Kenai river upstream to the northern edge of the Sterling Highway bridge.

Kings may not be targeted or retained.

The emergency order announcing the king fishing closure was released Thursday — well in advance of mid-May when angler pressure begins to pick up on the king salmon.

In 2013, the early run was restricted to catch-and-release, but that drew criticism.

Weather put chill on March 1 fishing opener

FISHING — “Brrrrrrr….” That's how Washington Fish and Wildlife Department regional fisheries biologist Chad Jackson starts his report on the March 1 opening of fishing seasons for numerous lakes in the Columbia Basin.

Although the number of anglers braving the cold weather was surprisingly high, it's safe to say that none of the lakes in the region has been fished out and that the best fishing is yet to come.

Here's the rest of Jackson's report, including some promising news about Lenice Lake:

Angler participation was “good” considering how poor the weather was on the opener.  On Saturday, anglers were greeted with temperatures in the low teens (with wind chill), a damp and bone chilling wind blowing constantly at 10-25mph, and light snow.  Had the weather been nicer I wouldn’t be surprised to have seen twice the crowds on the opener, especially considering it finally fell on a weekend.  In spite of the weather though, anglers were generally happy to be out fishing and spending time with family and friends. 

Angler harvest was very good on Upper Caliche and Martha lakes averaging 3 trout/person.  Burke Lake was lower at 2 trout/person.  However, if you only include the interviews of anglers who braved the elements and fished for two or more hours, harvest rates increased significantly to 4 or slightly over 4 trout/angler.  Trout were a smidgen on the small side (10.5-11.5 inches), but very hearty and robust.  The slightly smaller trout size is not too surprising because they’re 1-2 months from a full year of growing.  These same trout will be 12-13 inches in length by April.  Anglers should continue to fish these lakes through the spring.  A few carryovers measuring 14-18 inches were recorded by creelers. 

Lenice Lake also fished very well on the opener, although effort was way down from the previous couple years.  Between 10-12 anglers fished Lenice Lake over the weekend.  Most anglers caught between 12-15 trout ranging in size from 12-20+ inches in length.  Most trout were 14-16 inches.  The trout were very robust and hard fighting.                   

Video: how to release pet dog from trap

WILDLIFE —  A new instructional video – Releasing your Dog from a Trap - is available on Idaho Fish and Game’s website and YouTube.

The video doesn't come a day too soon, as several dogs in North Idaho already have been caught in traps intended for critters such as beavers and wolves.

Intended to aid dog owners, the video shows and explains the variety of traps and snares you may encounter, as well as methods and simple tools you may need to safely release your dog should it get caught.  The IFG biologist introducing the video explains that even wildlife researchers use traps as part of their work to study wildlife.  

Here's the explanation from IFG:

Fish and Game does not know exactly how many dogs were caught in traps each year and not reported.  However, trapper harvest reports have identified an increasing trend in incidental dog catches – from two in 2000 to 32 in 2013.  Two dogs were also reported killed in body grip traps this year. 

These increasing trends and recent incidents, coupled with a heightened concern voiced by dog owners, prompted Fish and Game to develop this instructional video.

Kennel clubs, gun dog and sportsmen groups, neighborhood associations and dog training clubs are encouraged to post the video on their websites.

Fish and Game has also developed working groups throughout the state, comprised of members of the public and trappers, to help identify ways to reduce the incidental capture of dogs in traps. If you have any questions, please contact your local Fish and Game office.

Local job openings: land trust, trails association looking to hire

OUTDOORS — Two outdoors/conservation groups — Inland Northwest Land Trust and Washington Trails Association — are advertising this week for job openings in the Spokane area.

Inland NW Land Trust: Executive Director Chris DeForest will transition into the role of Conservation Director by June. During the interim, our Board will conduct a search for his successor and Chris will occupy both positions until the right candidate is hired. Chris was hired in 1997 as the Land Trust’s first full-time staff member and he has been our sole Executive Director.

Staff transition will not affect the conservation work of the Land Trust or its responsibilities to monitor the 47 easements entrusted to it. The Board and staff are poised for a future as successful as its rich history with a transition team ready to invite the next Executive Director’s vision.
More information will be available by the end of March. Questions:  Chris at cdeforest@inlandnwlandtrust.org or  (509) 328-2939.

Washington Trails Association is hiring its first staff position in Spokane.  WTA’s Eastern Washington Regional Coordinator is a temporary, part-time position focused on growing WTA’s presence in the Spokane area. The coordinator will create regional content for WTA publications, develop partnerships, lead outreach and engagement efforts within communities and on the trails and oversee a high quality trail maintenance program in the region.

See the full job description here.
  

Idaho hunting proposals posted online

HUNTING — The Idaho Department of Fish and Game's proposed changes for the 2014 big game hunting seasons are available online for public review and comment.

The proposals are listed by region.

Panhandle hunters will see proposals to increase opportunity for hunting antlerless whitetails as well as proposed increases in antlerless elk controlled hunts. 

Other proposals would turn up the heat on Panhandle predators, with increases in opportunity for bears and mountain lions to reduce impacts on elk.  In Unit 4A, for example, IFG proposes letting hunters take up to two bears and use electronic calls in the process.

Only those seasons and hunts for which changes are proposed are listed.  All others will remain the same as they were during the 2013 hunting season.

Public comments received by March 9 will be summarized and presented to the Idaho Fish and Game Commission at their March 20th meeting in Boise where big game seasons will be set.

Photo contest focuses on fishing, climate change

ENVIRONMENT — A photo contest sponsored by Conservation Hawks is seeking photos of fish as well as shots related to climate change.  The reward for entering: a shot at $5,000 worth of cool gear from Patagonia that will be awarded to four winners.

Share your best outdoor photos! Every picture with at least 25 Likes goes to the judges, who will pick 1st & 2nd Place Winners for two different categories: “Fishing” and “Climate Change.” Angling photos should show your passion for fishing. Climate photos should focus on storms, wildfires, floods, droughts, etc. Four different prize packages include Patagonia waders, jackets, boots & packs. 

Idaho wolf control: 23 wolves for $30K

PREDATORS —  Idaho Fish and Game estimates that last month’s wolf control action in the Lolo elk zone cost approximately $30,000 resulting in the taking of 23 wolves in an effort to bring back the struggling elk herd. 

The entire cost will be paid using license dollars paid by sportsmen and women.  Fish and Game receives no state general tax dollars.

I have a problem with much of the news coverage of this event, including the story moved by the Associated Press out of Boise. A longer version of the story that ran in the S-R ran in the Missoulian. You'll notice that the story goes right from saying 23 wolves were killed to quoting the Defenders of Wildlife saying they are disappointed. OK. But where's the quote from sportsmen and outfitters who are saying thanks for trying to bring some balance?  No such quote. No balance there, either.

Here's the explanation from IFG:

Fish and Game announced late last week that the agency, working in cooperation with the USDA Wildlife Services, had completed another wolf control action in northern Idaho’s Lolo elk zone near the Idaho/Montana border to improve poor elk survival in the area.

In February, Wildlife Services agents killed 23 wolves from a helicopter.  The action is consistent with Idaho’s predation management plan for the Lolo elk zone, where predation is the major reason elk population numbers are considerably below management objectives.

The Lolo predation management plan is posted on the Fish and Game website

This is the sixth agency control action taken in Lolo zone during the last four years.  25 wolves were taken in the previous five actions.

Fish and Game authorizes control actions where wolves are causing conflicts with people or domestic animals, or are a significant factor in prey population declines.  Such control actions are consistent with Idaho’s 2002 Wolf Conservation and Management Plan approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Idaho Legislature.

Fish and Game prefers to manage wolf populations using hunters and trappers and only authorizes control actions where harvest has been insufficient to meet management goals.  The Lolo zone is steep, rugged country that is difficult to access, especially in winter.

In addition to the animals killed in this control action, 17 wolves have been taken by hunters and trappers in the Lolo zone during the 2013-14 season – 7 by hunting and 10 by trapping.  The trapping season ends March 31, the hunting season ends June 30.

Fish and Game estimates there were 75 -100 wolves in the Lolo zone at the start of the 2013 hunting season with additional animals crossing back and forth between Idaho and Montana and from other Idaho elk zones.  Fish and Game’s goal is to reduce that Lolo zone wolf population by 70 percent.

The Lolo elk population has declined drastically from 16,000 elk in 1989 to roughly 2,100 elk in 2010, when Fish and Game last surveyed the zone. Restoring the Lolo elk population will require liberal bear, mountain lion, and wolf harvest through hunting and trapping (in the case of wolves), and control actions in addition to improving elk habitat.  The short-term goals in Fish and Game’s 2014 Elk Plan are to stabilize the elk population and begin to help it grow.

Helicopter crews are now capturing and placing radio collars on elk, moose, and wolves in the Lolo zone in order to continue monitoring to see whether prey populations increase in response to regulated wolf hunting, trapping and control actions.

Iditarod snowmobile Diary: Day 4

SNOWMOBILING — Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane are repeating their effort to follow Alaska's Iditarod Sled Dog Race by snowmobile in February and March 2014.  

  • See the complete diary and photos from their 2012 trip — which marked Jones's 14th time on the Iditarod.
  • Click “continue reading” to see Jones's diary from Day 4 of their 22-day, 1,400-mile adventure in 2014.

Below are links to each of the other diary posts and photos of their trip on the Iditarod Trail.

More looks at EPA stand on Alaska’s Pebble Mine

FISHING — The EPA announcement last week that it will be a force against the proposed Pebble Mine that threatens salmon stocks in Alaska's Bristol Bay shook some ground last week.

Here are some more looks at the situation.

EPA to fight proposed copper mine in Alaska's Bristol Bay watershed
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy said the proposed open-pit copper mine in the Bristol Bay watershed in Alaska posed too much of a threat to the water and the salmon spawning grounds in one of the world's best fisheries.
—New York Times; February 28

Alaska's Bristol Bay through the lens of a National Geographic photographer
Photographer Michael Melford's photographs taken for a 2010 National Geographic feature on the dispute about the Pebble Mine project in the watershed for Alaska's Bristol Bay, an important salmon spawning area and fishery.
National Geographic Daily News; March 2

Jess Roskelley climbs chilling ice route near Banff

CLIMBING — Jess Roskelley of Spokane has been taking advantage of the recent cold weather to scale some difficult ice falls in the Banff, Alberta, area. His latest adventure was on the Rainbow Serpent.

Oh, Canada! You’re missing your great outdoors

Quote of the day:
“It's truly amazing to think that in a country as beautiful as Canada — renowned the world over as Canada is for its natural beauty and world-class parks system and green space in abundance — that we would ever house a population that spends 90 percent of their time indoors, but that's exactly what the numbers are telling us.”

Richard Starke, Alberta's minister of tourism, parks and recreation, discussing a recent report from the Canadian Parks Council that said 80 percent of Canadians now live in urban areas, and that they spent just 10 percent of their time outside.
- Calgary Herald

Video: Idaho man leads expedition to Myanmar peak

Myanmar Bridges to Change from Fisher Creative on Vimeo.

MOUNTAINEERING — An Idaho man is at the forefront of this soon-to-be released video (see just-posted trailer above) about the American-Burmese mountaineering expedition to summit what the group is calling the highest peak in Southeast Asia — remote Myanmar’s Mount Gamlang Razi .

The footage appears to be extraordinary, including a 175-mile jungle approach trek that offers a rare glimpse of a culture generally hidden from public view.

Read on for the media release and all the currently available details.  The film will be released in June. 

Today is prime for off-trail nordic ski route at Mount Spokane

WINTER SPORTS — If I weren't forced at knife-point to be here in the office today, I'd be taking advantage of the prime conditions presented by the weekend's dump of 10 inches of new snow to be skiing Art's Boogie and other off-trail routes at Mount Spokane State Park.

See Sunday's story (also click the Photos button for photos) about Art Bookstrom, who helped blaze an off-the-groomed-trails route for people who sometimes long for a peaceful trek through the woods.

Extension:  Art's Boogie is about 3Ks one-way from the Selkirk Lodge area to the Nova Hut.  Extend your pleasure by continuing up the access road to the Quartz Mountain Lookout (see photo).

On the other hand, there's freezing rain in the area, so driving would be tricky and the temperatures will be warming as the day advances.

Maybe the office isn't such a bad place to be?

Hi-tech biologists learning Snake River steelhead migration secrets

FISHING — Matt Corsi, Idaho Fish and Game fisheries researcher based in Lewiston, put together the article above regarding a telemetry study in the Clearwater River drainage in collaboration with the Nez Perce Tribe. 

Click “continue reading” to see the rest of the story.

Pike fishing kicks off Mark’s Marine seminar series

FISHING – Jeff Smith of Fins and Feathers Tackle Shop in Coeur d'Alene will discuss fishing tactics for northern pike to kick off the 8th annual Mark's Marine spring fishing seminar series Thursday, 6:30 p.m., at 14355 N. Government Way in Hayden.

The other five free seminars to be held on Thursdays through April 10 will cover topics such as walleye, steelhead, Coeur d'Alene salmon, bass and Lowrance electronics.

  • Info: (208) 772-9038.

Smith has been a fixture on Lake Coeur d'Alene since 1984. He's been fishing our local lakes for more than 30 years and his Guide Service is one of the best respected and most versatile in the area. Unlike many guides, Jeff is a multi species fisherman. He is well versed in fishing for Salmon, Pike, or Bass.

His seminar is well-timed to help our Pike enthusiasts get ready for the fantastic spring pike fishing and of course the local Fins and Feathers Pike Tournament, April 26-27. Pike should begin moving as the water levels come up and Jeff will share his secrets for how to present bait to them and land those big catches. Several of the last 5 state records have been caught fishing during this period.

Nasty parasite recently found it cats is common in wildlife

WILDLIFE — Each your breakfast first, they check out this Science Daily report about a nasty parasitic worm that's common in wildlife but recently discovered to be infecting domestic cats in the USA.

It's life cycle is the making for a great gore movie.

Some groups are vehemently opposing the reintroduction of gray wolves on the unfounded basis that they could transmit parasites to humans. (Wolves and other creatures have had these parasites for many generations with no harm to humans, who'd have to eat the feces of the animals to be infected. (See a report by the Idaho state wildlife veterinarian.)

But I'm wondering:  Will these anti-wolf groups now target your kitty on their websites?

 

 

Banff Park to close road at night to protect wildlife

WILDLIFE — Canada is taking a bold step to protect Banff National Park wildlife from the most common killer of critters:

Parks Canada to implement overnight travel restriction in Banff NP
As first recommended in the two-year, $2-million Banff Bow Valley Study in 1997, Parks Canada has announced that it will implement seasonal travel restrictions on the Bow Valley Parkway in Banff National Park in Alberta that will close 10.5 miles of the nearly 30-mile highway from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. between March 1 and June 25 to give wildlife undisturbed space in the spring.
Rocky Mountain Outlook;

Iditarod snowmobile Diary: Day 3

SNOWMOBILING — Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane are repeating their effort to follow Alaska's Iditarod Sled Dog Race by snowmobile in February and March 2014.  

  • See the complete diary and photos from their 2012 trip — which marked Jones's 14th time on the Iditarod.
  • Click “continue reading” to see Jones's diary from Day 3 of their 22-day, 1,400-mile adventure in 2014.

Below are links to each of the other diary posts and photos of their trip on the Iditarod Trail.

Angler pulls huge mack through ice at Priest Lake

FISHING — Micah Smith caught this huge mackinaw while ice fishing at Priest Lake on Saturday, says lakeside reporter Pecky Cox in her As the Lake Churns blog.  No other details, however.

Most lake trout caught by ice fishermen are in the 3- to 6-pound range.  This one looks 20-plus.

Frigid fat tire race extends to 10-hour epic

WINTER SPORTS — Spokane wide-tire mountain biker Dan DeRuyter traveled to Island Park, Idaho, for the annual ultramarathon race called Jay's Backyard Fat Pursuit. Riders chose from 60K and 200K snow-covered routes.

Hours after this starting photo was shot at minus-zero temperatures, DeRuyter logged another photo of himself on the 60K route with this caption:

Here's a 'selfie' at around 11 AM. GPS, Water Bottle, Camel-pack and Bike-chiladas, already long since frozen solid. Never would have guessed I'd have another eight hours to go.

Then, when his body had sufficiently thawed, he filed this report after the race:


 Finished, Crashed twice, and wasn't last (but, in truth, last wasn't far away), in what became a very tough, ten hour/60 k effort. Here are shots before (thinking I'd finish around 3 PM), and at the Finish (at 7 PM) . A brutally long, cold (-5 F to 15 F), and windy day. All my water, and most of my food, were frozen solid long before the first check point. My finger tips are all still numb today. My Race diary's entry for yesterday will be filled with the many, many things I'll do better next time. This Race deeply rewards those who properly prepare.

 The highlights of my day were having the one and only Jay Petervary periodically checking my (all Racers') progress on his show machine, and my Exposure Maxx D that strobed for nine hours and then had enough juice left to light me to the Finish.

 Lastly, 'awe' is the only word I can think of that comes close to describing the 19 who opted to Race the 200 k, and what will be a 24 + hour effort for them - completely unsupported. Truly the very best & gifted endurance athletes there could be.

Iditarod snowmobile Diary: Day 2

SNOWMOBILING — Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane are “150 miles up the trail and all is well” as they repeat their effort to follow Alaska's Iditarod Sled Dog Race by snowmobile.  “We're hearing constant horror stories about things ahead,” reports Jones by email. “All in all the trail has been very good. The cold nighttime temperatures of the last couple of nights have really saved our bacon. Wireless is weak here… no photos until McGrath….”

  • See the complete diary and photos from their 2012 trip — which marked Jones's 14th time on the Iditarod.
  • Click “continue reading” to see Jones' diary from Day 2 of their 22-day, 1,400-mile adventure underway this winter.

Below are links to each of the other diary posts and photos of their trip on the Iditarod Trail.

Iditarod snowmobile Diary: Day 1

SNOWMOBILING — Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane are repeating their effort to follow Alaska's Iditarod Sled Dog Race by snowmobile.  

  • See the complete diary and photos from their 2012 trip — which marked Jones's 14th time on the Iditarod.
  • Click “continue reading” to see Jones's diary from Day 1 of their 22-day, 1,400-mile adventure underway this winter.

Below are links to each of the other diary posts and photos of their trip on the Iditarod Trail.

Devastating Missoula avalanche was human-triggered

WINTER SPORTS — The avalanche that came down off Mount Jumbo on Friday and crushed a house in Missoula was human triggered, according to the Missoula Avalanche Center.  This is an eye opener.

Anglers: it’s prime time for Liberty Lake browns

FISHING – Liberty Lake, one of the select lakes in Eastern Washington that opens for fishing today, is known for providing a special opportunity in the first weeks of the season.

Brown trout that hunker in deep water most of the year move into the shallows for warmer water and feed. This weekend's cold snap may be setting things back, but this is one of the best times of the year to catch them.

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About this blog

News, field reports and insights on the Great Outdoors.

Rich Landers – hunter, animal lover, hiker, paddler, angler, naturalist and conservationist – has been covering the outdoors beat for more than three decades. His versatility and field research as a trails and waterways guidebook author help him connect issues to a wide range of interests.

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Rich Landers Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.

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