Field Reports: Fishing rule changes on commission agenda

WILDLIFE – Updates on proposed fishing rules changes will be presented by state fish managers at the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting Feb. 8-9 in Olympia.

Proposals affecting Eastern Washington angling include:

• Liberalizing limits for bass, walleye and channel catfish in the main stem and tributaries of the Snake and Columbia rivers, including Lake Roosevelt.

• Changing rules on motorized boats on the Yakima and lower Grande Ronde rivers.

• Prohibiting use of internal combustion motors at Yocum Lake in Pend Oreille County.

• Converting North Silver Lake in Spokane County to a year-round fishery for warmwater species.

• Prohibiting trout fishing in some Methow River stretches to protect steelhead.

Public comments on the proposals are being accepted on the agency’s website through Tuesday.

The panel will meet March 1-2 to vote on the options.

Fewer moose tags offered in Clearwater

HUNTING – While the number of moose-hunting tags for 2013 will increase slightly in the Idaho Panhandle, a significant reduction of bull tags has been approved for the Clearwater region.

Fish and Game officials say the moose population has remained steady in the Panhandle despite overall declines in Idaho and Montana.

The Fish and Game Commission added two moose-bull tags and five antlerless tags to the Panhandle region and four antlerless tags to the Clearwater. But 51 fewer bull tags will be offered in the Clearwater.

Success rates for hunters who draw a once-in-a-lifetime Idaho moose tag are about 90 percent.

Recovery plan OKed for pygmy rabbits

ENDANGERED – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Wednesday issued its plan for bringing Columbia Basin pygmy rabbits back from extinction in Douglas County (Wash.) sage lands.

The plan has been in draft form for several years as state and federal agencies struggled to find a workable strategy. Captive breeding and cross-breeding programs failed to produce enough rabbits.

A field program started two years ago to breed rabbits in enclosures with imported rabbits from surrounding states appears to be working.

Since the last pure Columbia Basin rabbit died years ago, the goal is to preserve as much of the original genetics as possible, said Chris Warren, an endangered species biologist for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The field project will continue for at least three years.

Snowmobile route closed for logging

FORESTS – The popular Kings Lake groomed snowmobile route in Pend Oreille County is being closed for the rest of the 2013 season because of a logging operation.

The Colville National Forest and Stimson Lumber Co. closed the roads this week.

The snowmobile route provides access to the north shore of Browns Lake.

“While this closure along with the two other we have in the valley this winter will be an impact to the groomed snowmobile routes the area has to offer, there are still a number of options for snowmobiling,” forest officials said.

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