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South Fork flows to jump next week, for post-fire fish habitat restoration

Flows in the South Fork of the Boise River will jump next week as part of a project to recover fish habitat in areas impacted by heavy sedimentation after last year's Elk and Pony Complex fires. Idaho Fish & Game reports that the river's volume from Anderson Ranch Reservoir will rise by 400 cubic feet per second on Monday, and another 300 cfs Tuesday, then remain at 2,400 cfs for eight days; by Aug. 29, the flows will drop back to 1,700 cfs.

A multi-agency team developed the project to mimic spring runoff, which normally would help clear out sediment and debris after fires; flows in the South Fork of the Boise are regulated by dams that store water for irrigation and flood control, so that didn't just naturally happen. The idea is to do it now at a time when water is available; Fish & Game, the Forest Service, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the University of Idaho and Trout Unlimited all are cooperating in the project. Click below for a full announcement from Fish & Game.

Study: mercury contamination affects even fish in national parks

FISHING — National parks in the Western United States and Alaska are some of the most pristine landscapes and waters on the planet, yet results of a four year study indicate that mercury contamination affects fish even in these protected areas.

It's important to note that 96 percent of the affected fish had low levels of contamination and are considered safe for human consumption.

However, the National Park Service says:

Mercury has been discovered in fish in some of the most remote national park lakes and streams in the western United States and Alaska. Mercury levels in some fish exceeded U.S. Environmental Protection Agency health thresholds for potential impacts to fish, birds, and humans.

The information about mercury, and its appearance in 21 protected areas considered to be relatively pristine and removed from environmental contaminants, is in a recently published scientific report from the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Park Service.

Read on for more details from the NPS.

Migrations Part 3: Birds can’t fly away from habitat issues

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Yesterday, in the Idaho Fish and Game Department's 75th anniversary series of "reminders" on wildlife topics, I featured the second of a three-part post on migrations — Part 2: Fish.  The first installment was on Tuesday, Part 1: Roadkill and how the carnage along highways pegs critter movements.

Today, we look at Part 3: Birds.


Mammals do it. Birds and fish do it. Even insects do it.

They migrate as part of their inborn strategy for survival, and the arrival of winter triggers a massive migration of all kinds of wildlife.

They may travel a thousand miles or a few feet. The distance is not what defines migration; it’s that animals move between habitats during the year to survive. They may move for many reasons – to find food, breed or raise their young. Migration is a tool they use when a habitat no longer meets their needs.

Migration patterns and routes are ancient and have been influenced by the natural features of the land, water and air. The same natural features that foster wildlife movement are also attractive to human activities. Roads bisect open spaces. Wind turbines pop up on ridgelines. Dams block rivers. Communication towers light up the night sky. Houses are built in key habitat. And human structures frequently become problems for migrating wildlife.


All types of birds migrate. Some travel huge distances and while others simply move up and down a mountainside.

In Idaho, we often associate migration with waterfowl. They migrate by the thousands and noisily announce their coming and goings. Idaho is part of the migratory route called the Pacific Flyway.

Structures, such as power lines, wind farms and offshore oil-rigs, have been known to affect migratory birds. Habitat destruction by land use changes is the biggest threat, and shallow wetlands that are stopover and wintering sites for migratory birds are particularly threatened by draining and reclamation for human use.

Migrations Part 2: Fish can’t always go with flow

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Yesterday, in the Idaho Fish and Game Department's 75th anniversary series of "reminders"  on wildlife topics, I featured the first of a three-part post on migrations — Part 1:Mammals.

Today, we look at Part 2: Fish.

Mammals do it. Birds and fish do it. Even insects do it.

They migrate as part of their inborn strategy for survival, and the arrival of winter triggers a massive migration of all kinds of wildlife.

They may travel a thousand miles or a few feet. The distance is not what defines migration; it’s that animals move between habitats during the year to survive. They may move for many reasons – to find food, breed or raise their young. Migration is a tool they use when a habitat no longer meets their needs.

Migration patterns and routes are ancient and have been influenced by the natural features of the land, water and air. The same natural features that foster wildlife movement are also attractive to human activities. Roads bisect open spaces. Wind turbines pop up on ridgelines. Dams block rivers. Communication towers light up the night sky. Houses are built in key habitat. And human structures frequently become problems for migrating wildlife.


One of Idaho’s most dramatic wildlife migrations is its anadromous fish runs.

Salmon and steelhead travel from Idaho’s mountain streams to the ocean as juveniles, then return as adults to their home waters in Idaho to spawn. For sockeye and Chinook salmon this adds up to 1,800 river miles round trip.

Fish biologists have discovered that many other kinds of fish migrate as well, including bull trout, cutthroat and rainbow trout, suckers, to name a few. The three of the biggest obstacles to fish when they migrate are:

  • Culverts that allow a stream to flow under a road. They can become obstacles for fish passage if the water‘s energy lowers the downside river bed, creating an impassable barrier to fish going upstream. In other northwestern states, surveys have documented that the majority of road culverts may be partial or complete fish passage barriers.   
  • Unscreened water diversions that direct water into irrigation canals. They can also direct fish into the canals and onto farmers’ fields. This is called entrainment and in some instances can result in significant losses to native fish populations.
  • Dams installed for irrigation and power production. Many also block fish migrations.

Idaho Fish and Game works with private and public partners to reduce the impacts of these barriers for migrating fish. For water diversions, fish screens are installed to keep fish out of the canals. Problem culverts can be replaced with newer designs or replaced with bridges to allow fish passage.  

Although difficult and expensive, many dams can be retrofitted with fish ladders to allow safe passage of native fishes to spawning and rearing grounds. Some dams are too high for conventional fish ladders so alternative methods of providing passage must be explored like trapping and moving fish above the blockage.

Tomorrow, Part 3: Birds.


Video: Sullivan Lake kokanee spawning in Harvey Creek

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Spawning kokanee provide vivid autumn wildlife viewing opportunities at several classic sites in the Inland Northwest.

Edward Cairns employed his Go-Pro video camera on Monday and took advantage of the easy-access viewing at the south end of Sullivan Lake near Metaline Falls, Wash., where kokanee move out of the lake to spawn in Harvey Creek.

Thanks for sharing the footage (above), Edward.

This is a great place to bring kids for a wildlife viewing adventure, with excellent fall hiking opportunities all around, including the Sullivan Lake Shoreline Trail. This weekend should be prime time for seeing the most kokanee packed under the road bridge at the south end of the lake.

The run typically lasts until the middle of December.

 The run of the land-locked sockeye salmon is comprised of three-year-old fish leaving Sullivan Lake and swimming up Harvey Creek to find suitable spawning sites.  From Harvey Creek’s banks or the bridge, the fish are visible as they separate from the schools and pair up with mates. 

Females dig a redd (deposit site) to lay eggs and within a few days die.  Their decaying bodies provide nutrients to the creek and Sullivan Lake vital to the growth of plankton and insect life that will feed next year’s young.  The dying salmon also feed animals like bald eagles, raccoons, and mink.  Kokanee eggs hatch in February and remain in the gravel until spring where they are swept away into Sullivan Lake to start another cycle.

DIRECTIONS:  From Highway 31 south of Ione, turn east on County Road 9345 toward the Sullivan Lake Ranger Station and Sullivan Lake.  The bridge is at the south end of the lake.

Updates: Sullivan Lake Ranger District, (509) 446-7500 or stop in at the ranger station on the northwest end of the lake for a brochure on the Kokanee. 

Harvey Creek is closed to fishing from the mouth to the second county bridge, and open above the second county bridge from the first Saturday in June through Oct. 31. 

Click here for complete fishing regulations.


TU offers $10K reward to fight illegal fish planting

FISHING —  Montana Trout Unlimited is working with the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks to supplement rewards in cases where people illegally plant non-native fish into important trout waters.

The organization has said it would add up to $10,000 to a reward for information leading to the prosecution and conviction of a so-called “bucket biologist.”

Montana TU Conservation Director Mark Aagenes tells the Independent Record that $10,000 is a lot of money, but it would be well spent to deter illegal introductions when you consider the cost of lost fishing opportunities and the cost of removing an invasive species.

Introduced fish can compete with, breed with or prey on established species; spread disease and impair water quality.

Montana TU and FWP are still discussing how to create the reward program.

When campers leave, yellowjackets still have to bug something

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

I'll have a Kokanee with that, sir.

How mercury ends up on your plate

Check out this report about fish and mercury from the Blue Ocean Institute. The conclusion: "The answer isn’t to avoid seafood, it’s to avoid mercury. Particularly for pregnant or nursing women, as well as young children, the risks of mercury are significant enough to cut out high-mercury fish from their diet." Read more from Ecocentric.

7-foot sturgeon surfaces belly up in Lake Washington

FISHING — Despite being 7 feet long, an old-timer has been living peacefully unbeknownst to the masses outside of Seattle, until last weekend.  

Check it out in this report from KING 5 TV.

And this initial report in the Seattle Times.

BPA paid $644 million for fish-wildlife in 2012

RIVERS — In Fiscal Year 2012, the Bonneville Power Administration reported $644.1 million in total costs for its federally mandated actions to mitigate the impacts Columbia River Basin hydroelectric development has had on fish and wildlife.

The costs are listed an annual report released last week by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council to the governors of Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington. 

The Northwest Power passed by Congress in 1980 requires BPA, which markets power generated at federal dams in the region, to fund the NPCC programs undertaken by state and federal agencies and some tribes.

Bonneville estimates the grand total expended since 1978, when the costs began, through 2012, is about $13 billion, not including $2.27 billion in capital investments for fish hatcheries and fish passage facilities at dams.

Read on for a summary of the 2012 costs, compiled by the Columbia Basin Bulletin:

Free sticker: show your pride in Washington fishing

FISHING — Act now and get a free sticker with the image above for your vehicle, boat or tacklebox.

The "Fish Washington" logo is the new symbol of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife statewide recreational fishing opportunities.

The logo is available free in a 6-by-4 inch oval sticker. Their available free while supplies last by filing out the online form on the agency's website.

Fishing’s fair, but angler catches limit of ticks

FISHING — Spring-like conditions are advancing in leaps and bounds, as indicated by the experience of a friend who went fly fishing on Crab Creek in Lincoln County twice in the past 10 days.

On the first trip he hit a hatch, caught and released quite a few fish and encountered no ticks.

Buoyed by that experience, he returned to the creek on Monday.

"I caught four fish, and plucked off 25 ticks," he said.  "The tick season has arrived. I'll be fishing elsewhere."

Slick advertising can’t make us forget Gulf oil spill

ENVIRONMENT — Working up to the high-stakes trial that began this week, British Petroleum has been spending a lot of time and money advertising that the oil spill from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster has been cleaned up and everything is cool. Yeah, sure.

Meanwhile, hundreds of coastal wetlands remain contaminated and every major storm stirs up more oil mats from the ocean bottom and spreads them out on Gulf beaches.

Wildlife and people took a terrible beating from this mess and it was relatively accessible compared with the oil development and potential disaster brewing in the Arctic Ocean.

This is serious business with profound potential impacts to life in the water and on the coastlines.

TV catches fish footage at Spokane Hatchery

FISHING — KHQ-TV paid a visit to the Spokane Fish Hatchery this week to produce this segment on winter operations that are vital to the region's anglers.

The cameraman was a bit late for the peak December spawning action described in this story by North Central High School student volunteer.

Here's a story about the "egg sucking" that goes into removing the dead eggs from the trays, as hatchery manager Ace Trump mentions in the TV video.

Clean Water Act exemption for logging roads appealed

WATER QUALITY — Should runoff from logging roads be considered pollution and subject to permitting requirements?

The question has been the basis of a long-standing court battle that continues this week despite a recent court decision in favor of the timber industry.

Certainly the matter is of interest to fishermen, who know that erosion from roads can have major impacts on fish spawning and holding habitat.

The Capital Press has this story on the latest appeal.

Trout Unlimited wary of genetically engineered salmon

FISHERIES — Trout Unlimited officials are disturbed by this week's news that the federal Food and Drug Adminstration finds no danger in raising or eating farmed salmon genetically engineered to grow twice as fast as natural salmon.
Here's the statement from TU:
Trout Unlimited is concerned that the Food and Drug Administration’s ‘finding of no significant impact’ is a premature ‘green light’ for the eventual production of genetically engineered salmon for human consumption. First, we want to ensure that threats to wild salmon populations from genetically engineered salmon are understood and completely prevented, both for the protection of economically vital commercial salmon fishing industry and the growing recreational salmon fishing sector.
Second, we want to ensure that a more detailed environmental impact review isn’t the more appropriate process for this issue rather than a simple FDA environmental assessment, which is far less thorough (and, frankly, is the FDA the correct agency to analyze environmental impact?).
Third, prior to permit approval it must be clear that an effective regulatory framework exists so that impacts to wild fisheries and aquatic ecosystems are prevented, and future permit applications receive an appropriate level of scientific analysis and public scrutiny to understand and avoid environmental risk.
Trout Unlimited will be reviewing the environmental assessment and finding of no significant impact to see whether an adequate analysis of potential threats has been completed by the agencies with expertise in aquatic ecosystems.

Bird dog is angler’s best friend

FISHING/HUNTING — Having trouble finding birds to shoot during the upland bird hunting season?

No worries. Put that bird dog to use retrieving a fish dinner.  Video shows how easy it is.

Priest Lake fisherman finds wakeboarder’s missing finger inside large lake trout

S-R reporter Scott Maben has a rather amazing story today: A fisherman on Priest Lake hauled in a large lake trout on Sept. 11, and when he began cleaning it, he found what looked like a human finger. It's since been positively identified - it's one of four digits a Colbert, Wash. software developer lost in a wakeboarding accident on the lake back in June, when a looped line sheared off part of two fingers and all of two others. A sheriff's detective reported that the finger was in remarkably good condition; you can read Maben's full story here at spokesman.com.

Priest Lake Fish Yields Human Finger

A fisherman cleaning a large lake trout he caught at Priest Lake found a human finger inside. Detectives were able to get a fingerprint off the severed digit and track it back to the owner: a 31-year-old wakeboarder who lost four fingers from his left hand during an accident on the lake more than two months earlier. On Sept. 11, Nolan Calvin reported that while fishing on the west side of Priest Lake, he caught a large lake trout, the Bonner County Sheriff’s Office said. Calvin began to clean the fish and discovered what he believed to be a human finger inside the fish. He put the finger on ice and reported the incident to the sheriff’s office. Detectives confirmed the finger was human and discovered there was sufficient ridge detail to obtain a latent fingerprint. Detectives began to search for a possible victim/Scott Maben, SR. More here. (Wikipedia photo of a mackinaw/lake trout)


Washington agents, SWAT team sting wildlife traffickers

WILDLIFE CRIMES — In a major crackdown on alleged illegal wildlife traffickers today, Washington Fish and Wildlife police served 14 search warrants on businesses — including Walla Walla County restaurants selling illegal elk meat. 

 A SWAT team was called in to arrest one West Side man officers say provided “two to three big game animals a week” at times to undercover officers.

See the report by Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman.

Here's  report by KING 5 TV.

Fish suffering from Forest Service road neglect

PUBLIC LANDS — Shrinking budgets at national forests are putting the squeeze on native fisheries.

Cutbacks in maintaning mountain roads have left a backlog of work totalling more than $1 billion in the national forests of Washington and Oregon alone, the Forest Service officials report.

The result is erosion, clogged culverts, road blowouts, blocked fish passage, and spawning areas smothered in silt.

Northwest Public Radio has an excellent report on the situation.

Piranhas, alligator seized on South Hill

Piranhas and a small alligator were seized from a South Hill apartment on Friday. (submitted photos)

Piranhas offered for trade on Craigslist led state fish and game agents to seize several of the exotic, human-eating fish from an apartment on Spokane’s lower South Hill.

 The rare find took another surprising twist when agents also found a small alligator in Christopher Ryan Harper’s apartment at 1206 W. 6th Ave. on Friday, as well as a suspected marijuana-selling operation, police say.

The alligator is being cared for at SpokAnimal, the piranhas were killed and taken as evidence, said Madonna Luers, spokeswoman for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. Luers said she couldn’t confirm the number of piranhas seized. Police said 20, but Harper said he only had six.

Read the rest of my story here.

Wind River springer limit boosted to 6

SALMON FISHING — Up to six hatchery origin spring chinook salmon may be retained on the Wind River from the railroad bridge upstream starting Saturday, the Washington Fish and Wildlife has just announced.

Up to four of the fish can be adult chinook.

Similar limit increases were announced for Drano Lake. The rules will extend to June 30 unless revoked earlier.

Read on for details

Salmon season closing in Snake today

SALMON FISHING  – Fishing for spring chinook salmon will close on the last two sections of the Snake River at an hour past sunset Today (May 22).

By then, the catch of Snake River spring chinook salmon is expected to reach harvest guidelines based on the most recent estimate of the run size, according to fishery managers at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“The majority of the fish were taken in the lower Snake River, but the catch guidelines apply to the river as a whole,” said Cindy LeFleur, WDFW Columbia River policy coordinator. “For that reason, we had to close the upriver fisheries sooner than expected.”

The two sections of the river set to close Tuesday are:

  • Below Lower Granite Dam – From the Casey Creek Canyon Road on the Garfield County shore (approximately six miles downstream of Lower Granite Dam) to the fishing restriction boundary downstream of Lower Granite Dam.
  • The Clarkston area – From the intersection of the Steptoe Canyon Road with Wawawai Road on the north shore upriver about 12 miles to the Idaho state line.

The state line runs from the east levee of the Greenbelt boat launch in Clarkston northwest across the Snake River to the boundary marker on the Whitman County shore.

Two other areas of the Snake River below Ice Harbor Dam and Little Goose Dam closed for spring chinook fishing May 18.

“Unless there is a major change in the run forecast, this closure will likely mark the end of the season for spring chinook fishing on the Snake River,” LeFleur said.

Zoologist turned artist paints the real deal

FISHING — A friend, who loves fishing and the outdoors, was asked by the company what he wanted for a retirement gift, he thought long an hard about the choice for such a momentous occasion.

His decision:   An acrylic painting by Spokane artist (and zoologist) Melissa Cole, who specializes in fish and other creatures from the water.

Check out Cole's online gallery.

Cole graduated from Oregon State University with a degree in Zoology. She has spent time working in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic in environmental education, as a dive guide in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands, and as a naturalist guide in Baja, Mexico. She has written more than 30 children's natural history books and travels with her husband, Brandon, a wildlife photographer specializing in marine life.

How much fish do you eat?

Here's a question for readers:How much fish do you eat out of state waters? The answer is very important and your response to the Department Of Ecology's survey will go a great deal in strengthening water quality standards in our state and for our Spokane River as they work to reducing toxic chemicals in fish to better protect public health.

 OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) wants Washingtonians to take part in a statewide effort to update environmental standards that will safeguard people who eat fish and shellfish from the state’s waters. The step follows progress Washington has made to prevent sources of toxic chemicals that contaminate our air, water, soil, food, and our bodies.

Fly fishing the Spokane River Washington has reduced mercury pollution and is phasing out persistent chemicals that build up in the food chain, such as toxic flame retardants. The state has taken steps to reduce and phase out the use of copper brake pads, lead wheel weights, copper boat paints, and chemicals in children’s products.

“Ensuring that the state’s environmental standards accurately reflect our citizens’ exposure is the next step needed to reduce toxics in our environment and protect public health for Washington’s fish and shellfish consumers,” said Ecology Director Ted Sturdevant.

To get at the problem of toxics in fish and shellfish, Ecology is developing a more accurate view of how much fish and shellfish Washington residents eat. Ecology is asking for comments on a newly released technical support document, which focuses on fish consumption in Washington and existing environmental and human health information.

The draft document is called “Fish Consumption Rates Technical Support Document: A Review of Data and Information About Fish Consumption in Washington.” Washington uses fish consumption rates as a basis for environmental cleanup and pollution control. Washington currently uses two rates based on assumptions about how much fish and shellfish residents eat: 6.5 grams per day incorporated into water quality standards, and 54 grams per day, which is used in setting sediment and water cleanup standards. The rates were developed in the early 1980s and 1990s.

Current science indicates that the current fish consumption rates do not accurately reflect how much of our state’s fish and shellfish Washingtonians actually eat each day. In fact, the available information indicates that some of us consume much larger amounts. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least two times per week as part of a healthy diet. Fish is not only an important source of nutrition, but catching, preparing and eating fish are important cultural and family practices as well. Consequently it’s vital to have environmental standards that protect people who eat fish from exposure to harmful chemicals. As Washington moves toward developing new, more accurate fish consumption rates, Ecology welcomes – and needs – involvement by many people and interests, including tribal nations, industries, municipalities, and residents.

Clark: PETA-philes Dumber Than Fish

Kooky members of PETA want us to stop fishing because fish can feel pain and are intelligent. Yeah? Well I’ve never heard of a fish passing the Mensa entrance exam. And if fish are such geniuses why haven’t they figured out how to avoid all the nets, hooks and tuna cans? True, a blowfish could fill in for our county prosecutor without anyone noticing. But the same could be said for a hand puppet or a peanut shell. Fish IQ aside, there’s no question about the three shirtless actors who pretended to be dead fish in a Wednesday PETA protest in Spokane. They’re dumber than a box of bait/Doug Clark, SR. More here.

Question: Who's smarter — a crappie or your average, topless PETA protester?

One more reason to catch your own salmon

FISHERIES —  Wild-caught Pacific salmon is more myth than reality on some Puget Sound restaurant menus, a study at the University of Washington Tacoma has found.

About 38 percent of samples from Tacoma-area restaurants showed a menu was promoting farm-raised Atlantic salmon as wild-caught Pacific salmon, or calling a coho a king, the Associated Press reports. 

Grocery stores and fish markets got better scores, with only about 7 percent of store samples mislabeled.

“I’m shocked at the number of substitutions that we encountered,” said Erica Cline, an assistant professor in the university’s environmental program who was one of two biology instructors leading the study.

Cline said, but she hopes her study and others like it could lead to stronger enforcement of federal laws that prohibit false labeling of fish and other animals.

Kings Lake proposed for rotenone treatment

FISHING – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is holding meetings this month to discuss proposed treatment projects at four Eastern Washington Lakes, including a project at Kings Lake in Pend Oreille County.

Using rotenone to remove existing fisheries and restocking with desired species  would improve trout broodstock production and trout fishing, officials said.

At Kings Lake, which is not open to sport fishing, biologists would remove rainbow trout that are hybridizing with westslope cutthroat trout.

The treatment is needed to maintain the genetic integrity of Kings Lake cutthroat trout, which are the source of hatchery production for fish stocked throughout the eastern region, said Bill Baker, district fish biologist.

After treatment, Kings Lake would be re-stocked with cutthroat. As a broodstock source, the lake will remain closed to fishing, Baker said.

Other rehabilitation projects are proposed for Alta and Fish lakes and Schallow Pond In Okanogan County.

Public meetings in the Spokane region are:

  • July 13 in Newport, at Create Art Center, 900 W. 4th St.
  • July 14 in Spokane Valley, at the WDFW Eastern Region office, 2315  N. Discovery Place (in Mirabeau Point, between Evergreen and Pines streets)

Lead for hunting, fishing getting heavily criticized

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

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