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Feds release plan for bull trout conservation in 5 states

FISHING — Stemming from a lawsuit won by environmental groups, a federal agency is proposing revisions to his protections for by bull trout. Here's a peak at the proposals from the Associated Press.  (The draft plan was released Monday and will be posted in the Federal Register on Thursday.)

BOISE, Idaho — Federal officials are releasing a plan Thursday to recover struggling bull trout populations in five Western states with the goal of lifting Endangered Species Act protections for the fish.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes lifting protections individually in six recovery units spread over Idaho, western Montana, Washington, Oregon and a tiny portion of northern Nevada when specific requirements are met. The agency said the areas contain distinct populations of bull trout with unique characteristics.

“We think the approach is tactical and appropriate,” said Steve Duke, bull trout recovery planning coordinator for the agency. “We think it focuses on what still needs to be done, and it lets local agencies and those with managerial oversight focus on those areas without having to look at the larger distribution of bull trout.”

Bull trout are a cold water species listed as threatened in the Lower 48 states in 1999. Experts say cold, clean water is essential for the fish.

The plan doesn’t dictate actions but looks at ways to keep water in streams habitable for bull trout. It considers warming waters due to climate change that force some populations into upper regions of river systems, Duke said.

“We expect that to continue into the future,” he said.

The draft plan stems from the agency’s settlement last year of a lawsuit by two environmental groups — the Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Friends of the Wild Swan.

Michael Garrity of Alliance for the Wild Rockies said he’s concerned the agency is looking to define bull trout differently in different regions so federal protections could be removed in some areas while fish are still in trouble in other areas. He said his organization would be against that plan.

“We’re optimistic they’ll listen to us,” Garrity said. “But we’re optimistic because we’ve sued them on bull trout about a dozen times and won each time. If they don’t follow the best available science, we won’t hesitate to sue again.”

Besides warming waters, the bull trout’s survival is threatened by non-native brook trout. If the species mate, it creates a hybrid fish.

Bull trout occupy about 60 percent of their former range, which has remained steady since the fish received federal protection in 1999, Duke said.

Their presence is often a sign of a healthy river system because of the high water quality the fish requires, Duke said. Water quality can decline for various reasons, including logging, he said.

The agency doesn’t believe logging is still occurring in a way that harms bull trout habitat, Duke said. But the plan identifies some areas harmed long ago by logging when it was done with little regard for stream health.

Public comments will be taken through July 20, which the agency plans to use to prepare a final plan by Sept. 30.

Snake River spring chinook fisheries to reopen

FISHING — Spring chinook salmon fishing will reopen on three locations in the Snake River on a rotating schedule.  Here's the scoop just announced by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife:

Locations:

A)  Below Ice Harbor:  Snake River from the South Bound Highway 12 Bridge near Pasco upstream about 7 miles to the fishing restriction boundary below Ice Harbor Dam;

B)  Below Little Goose:  Snake River from Texas Rapids boat launch (south side of the river upstream of the mouth of Tucannon River) to the fishing restriction boundary below Little Goose Dam.  This zone includes the rock and concrete area between the juvenile bypass return pipe and Little Goose Dam along the south shoreline of the facility (includes the walkway area locally known as “the wall” in front of the juvenile collection facility);

C) Clarkston:  Snake River from the downstream edge of the large power lines crossing the Snake River (just upstream from West Evans Road on the south shore) upstream about 3.5 miles to the Washington state line (from the east levee of the Greenbelt boat launch in Clarkston northwest across the Snake River to the WA/ID boundary waters marker on the Whitman County shore).

Dates:  Each area is open three days per week until further notice.

  • Areas B and C (Below Little Goose Dam and near Clarkston) open Thursday, June 4, and will be open only Thursday through Saturday each week.
  • Area A (Below Ice Harbor Dam) open Sunday, June 7, and will be open only Sunday through Tuesday each week.

Daily Limits: 6 hatchery chinook (adipose fin clipped), of which no more than two may be adult chinook salmon.  For all areas open for chinook salmon harvest, anglers must cease fishing for chinook when the hatchery adult limit has been retained for the day.

Possession Limits:  During these fisheries possession limits for spring chinook salmon will be increased to allow three daily limits in fresh form.

Reason for action: 

1) Based on a May 26 in-season run update, and a recent upstream shift of harvest allocation from the lower Columbia River, spring chinook fisheries can reopen in the Snake River on a 3-day rotating schedule (three days per week per location). 

2)  An enhanced daily bag limit for chinook will be in place for this fishery to allow anglers opportunity to harvest available hatchery fish prior to warmer water temperatures anticipated by mid-June.  Chinook possession limits for this fishery have been increased to three daily limits in fresh form, in an effort to promote this fishery as a destination-based opportunity.  This action will allow anglers to possess a reasonable amount of fish during their stay.

Other Information:  The minimum size of any retained chinook salmon is 12 inches.  Jacks are less than 24 inches long.  The adipose fin-clipped chinook salmon that can be retained must have a healed scar at the location of the missing fin.  All chinook salmon with the adipose fin intact must be immediately released unharmed.  All adult steelhead must be released unharmed through June 15.  Beginning June 16 up to 3 hatchery (adipose fin clipped) steelhead may be retained on the Snake River.

In addition:  Anglers fishing for all species, in the locations open for chinook salmon, during the days of the week the salmon fishery is open in that area, must use barbless hooks.  Only single point barbless hooks are allowed when fishing for sturgeon.

A night closure is in effect for salmon and sturgeon.  It is unlawful to use any hook larger than 5/8 inch (point of hook to shank) when fishing for all species except sturgeon.  Anglers cannot remove any chinook salmon or steelhead from the water unless it is retained as part of the daily bag limit.

Refer to the 2014-2015 Fishing in Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet for other regulations, including safety closures, CLOSED WATERS, etc.

Spring chinook limit boosted on Columbia

FISHING — With a surplus of spring chinook still in the Columbia system, Washington and Oregon fish managers are raisin the daily catch limit to two a day.  Following are details just released from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Starting Wednesday (June 3), the catch limit for spring chinook salmon will increase to two adult fish per day for Columbia River anglers fishing from the estuary to a point 300 miles upstream.

With two weeks remaining in the popular fishery, resource managers from Washington and Oregon today agreed to increase the daily catch limit for hatchery adult spring chinook from one to two.

The new rule will allow anglers to catch and keep up to two hatchery chinook salmon, or two hatchery steelhead, or one of each per day from the Tongue Point/Rocky Point line in the lower river up to the Washington/Oregon state line, 17 miles upriver from McNary Dam.

As before, all wild chinook salmon and steelhead with intact adipose fins must be released unharmed.

Fishery managers based the new catch limit on an updated run forecast that projects a return of 271,000 spring chinook salmon to the Columbia River this year, said Ron Roler, Columbia River policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

That number is up from the 241,000 fish projected in early May.

“Daily fish counts at Bonneville Dam are still in the thousands, which allows us to increase catch levels for hatchery fish,” Roler said. “It’s a strong finish to a great run.”

The spring chinook season ends June 15, but the fishery for summer chinook and sockeye salmon begins the next day from the Astoria-Megler Bridge upstream to Priest Rapids Dam.

The pre-season forecast anticipates strong runs of 73,000 summer chinook and 394,000 sockeye this year.

“The sockeye forecast is the fourth highest on record, and we’re also expecting a strong summer chinook run this year,” Roler said.

Info: WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/.

States offer free fishing days: no license required

FISHING – General fishing license requirements are being waived in the Inland Northwest on upcoming days as state fish and wildlife agencies offer the public a chance to check out the sport.

Free fishing days are scheduled:

  • June 6-7 in Washington and Oregon.
  • June 13 in Idaho.
  • June 20-21 in Montana.

In Washington, no license will be required to fish or gather shellfish in any waters open to fishing.

Also, no vehicle access pass or Discover Pass will be required during Free Fishing Weekend to park at any of the nearly 700 water-access sites maintained by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

All other limits and rules still apply. Get state fishing rules pamphlets online or where licenses are sold.

  • See Washington regulations here.

Events may be scheduled in some local area during the free fishing days.

In Washington, a fishing derby is set for 8 a.m.-noon next Sunday at Rainbow Lake 14 miles south of Pomeroy along the Tucannon River. Info: (509) 843-1891.

At Newman Lake, a pancake breakfast will be served on Saturday, 6 a.m.-11 a.m. at Tri-Community Grange, 25025 E Heather Lane.

Here's more info about Washington's Free Fishing Weekend from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife:

Anglers will not need a Two Pole Endorsement to fish with two poles on selected waters where two pole fishing is permitted. Anglers will also not need a Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement, otherwise required to fish for salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River and its tributaries. 

Anglers have been catching daily limits of trout at lakes for the past month, and many rivers will open to trout fishing June 6 throughout the state. Other options available on Free Fishing Weekend include:

  • Hatchery chinook salmon in Washington’s ocean waters.
  • Lingcod on the coast and Puget Sound.
  • Bass, crappie, perch and other warmwater fish biting in lakes throughout eastern Washington.
  • Shad on the Columbia River.
  • Spring chinook salmon on the Columbia River.
  • Hatchery steelhead on the mainstem Columbia River and on rivers on the Olympic Peninsula.

 The Fish Washington video page provides “how to” fishing videos designed to introduce techniques to both new and seasoned anglers.

While no licenses are required on Free Fishing Weekend, other rules such as size limits, bag limits and closures will still be in effect. Anglers will also be required to complete a catch record card for any salmon or steelhead they catch.

Catch record cards are available free at hundreds of sporting goods stores and other license dealers throughout the state.

Bowhunting for northern pike illegal in Washington

UPDATED 5:50 p.m.

FISHING — Warning: It's illegal to take northern pike with bow and arrow in Washington and Idaho.

In a post yesterday about northern pike suppression planned for Lake Roosevelt, I reported that a few bowhunters were targeting northern pike where the predators are showing up in notable numbers and sizes near Kettle Falls.

That's true, but I should have said that it's illegal, as Marc Divens, WDFW warmwater fisheries biologist pointed out by email.

While Washington fish managers don't want northern pike in the Columbia system — and there's no minimum size limit and no daily limit on them — pike are still not totally open to annihilation in Washington.

It's pretty much illegal to use bow and arrow for anything other than CARP in Washington. 

Page 12 of the 2015 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet says:

You May Not …fish for Game Fish, salmon, shad,
sturgeon or shellfish with bow and arrow or spear.

However, a devil can always be lurking in the details. Reading the fine print of the regs specific to Lake Roosevelt (page 93), it's unlawful to fish for CARP with bow and arrow in Lake Roosevelt.

Northern pike were recently reclassified from "Game Fish" to "Prohibited Species" status in Washington by the Fish and Wildlife Commission after pike numbers increased in the Pend Orielle, Divens said.

"Basically, this was a decision at the policy level to indicate that Washington State was not interested in welcoming northern pike into the state, mostly due to concerns with the possibility of moving downstream into the Columbia River where they could pose a threat to salmon and steelhead recovery efforts."

The WDFW Webpage for northern pike says:

In April 2011, public meetings were conducted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and the Kalispel Tribe Natural Resources Department (KNRD) to solicit feedback on the findings to that point and the plan going forward. Also, as a result of the numbers of Northern Pike captured, plus their spawning and predatory habits, the WDFW Commission voted to reclassify Northern Pike as a Prohibited Species in Washington.

Under this designation:

  • anglers may harvest pike under WDFW sport fishing rules, with no minimum size and no daily or possession limit;
  • pike must be killed before leaving the water in which they are caught;
  • the release of live Northern Pike into other waters is strictly prohibited.

"We want people to catch them, kill them and not move them around," Divens said.

Steelhead to be released again at inland lakes

FISHING — Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife fish managers will release "early winter" hatchery steelhead into inland lakes again this year, now that federal fisheries officials have decided to conduct a full-scale environmental impact analysis of all Puget Sound hatchery steelhead programs.

No word yet on whether steelhead will once again be stocked in Sprague Lake, but some anglers hope so. They blossomed to nice proportions (see photo) since being stocked last year.

Here are details about the plan from WDFW:

WDFW leaders announced the action Thursday after learning that the National Marine Fisheries Service has decided to develop an environmental impact statement to evaluate the effects of early winter steelhead hatchery programs on the survival and recovery of wild Puget Sound steelhead and chinook salmon, which are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. The decision was based, in part, on more than 2,000 public comments to NMFS that expressed a wide range of questions and concerns about the environmental impact of hatchery steelhead programs.

In March, NMFS (also known as NOAA Fisheries) published a draft environmental assessment of hatchery steelhead programs in three river basins. WDFW officials had hoped NMFS' completion of the assessment would lead to approval of WDFW steelhead hatchery operations and clear the way for the release of steelhead into several Puget Sound rivers under terms of a federal court settlement last year. However, the additional time needed to complete a more detailed EIS means that a decision on approval of these hatchery programs will come after the release window for 2015.

"We support the conservation and recovery of wild salmon and steelhead, but we are disappointed that NMFS has been unable to complete the review of these programs," said WDFW Director Jim Unsworth. "The decision by NMFS to conduct a full and potentially lengthy EIS process will delay approval of these hatchery programs and have serious impacts on recreational fishing on several Puget Sound rivers."

However, Unsworth said WDFW understands the controversial nature of the subject, as well as the federal government's desire to analyze hatchery programs within a full-scale EIS that stands up to potential legal challenges and clears the way for hatcheries to stay in operation for the long-term.

Last year the Wild Fish Conservancy of Duvall sued WDFW, alleging that the department's Puget Sound hatchery steelhead programs violated the Endangered Species Act by impairing the recovery of wild steelhead, salmon, and bull trout. In settling that case, the department agreed to refrain from planting early winter (Chambers Creek) steelhead into most rivers in the Puget Sound region until NMFS completed its environmental review.

Until recently, WDFW officials believed the federal agency's timetable would allow the release of juvenile steelhead into several rivers this spring, but those plans have now been canceled. One exception is the release of 180,000 early winter steelhead into the Skykomish River, which is permitted under the federal court order approving the settlement.

Jim Scott, head of the WDFW Fish Program, said rivers that will not receive steelhead in 2015 include the Nooksack, Stillaguamish and Dungeness, which would have received 150,000, 130,000, and 10,000 steelhead, respectively. Earlier this year, NMFS announced it would conduct a full EIS for hatcheries that release steelhead into the Snoqualmie and Green rivers, which were slated to receive 74,000 and 70,000 fish, Scott said.

Instead of releasing juvenile steelhead into those five rivers, WDFW will plant them into inland waters that have no connection with Puget Sound, he said. WDFW will announce its fish planting schedule as soon as possible on the department's website: http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/reports_plants.html.

Northern pike: Get ‘em while they last in Lake Roosevelt

UPDATED 5/28/15 with details about bowhunting ban.

FISHING — While anglers have reported catching the occasional northern pike in Lake Roosevelt for about six years, the trickle of pike from Montana, through the Pend Oreille River to the Columbia has become more than a stream. 

State and tribal fish managers are hoping to jump on the expanding pike fishery and keep it from being anything significant.

Meanwhile, look for pike lurking in the shallows. This may be the peak year for pike in Roosevelt if fish managers have their way.

Even bowhunters are reporting pike kills from their boats in the Kettle Falls area.

HOWEVER, it's illegal to use bow and arrow for fish in Lake Roosevelt.   While Washington fish managers don't want northern pike in the Columbia system — and there's no minimum size limit or daily limit on them — pike are still considered "game fish" in Washington.

Page 12 of the 2015 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet says:

You May Not …fish for Game Fish, salmon, shad,
sturgeon or shellfish with bow and arrow or spear.

Holiday weekenders gamble on springer fishing

FISHING — James Keeling and his wife Mary Anderson-Keeling of Reardan didn't go for the sure thing for their recreation getaway over the Memorial Day weekend.   They took a chance on fishing a new spot for spring chinook. You gotta like like their attitude.

Said James:

No complaints here. It was lots of fun & nice to cover new water. We have been down here before but fished the little Salmon River. This time I wanted to fish the main.

The chinook didn't come easy though lol! I spent all day Friday exploring & observing. I wanted to try to stay out of the combat zone as much as possible but still wanted to catch fish (people everywhere).

I ended up finding a nice little back Eddie where I'd seen a couple fish roll & decided this would be good for in the morning.

Morning came early, 4:30 AM there (3:30 AM Spokane time). Fished 14 hours Saturday. Hooked 3 landed 2. My wife banged a nice one that evening also.

Sunday morning was a repeat of Saturday,  with the exception that I only had a few hours to fish before needing to break camp & head back home. I hooked one & got him almost to net before he snapped me off.

All of the sweet spots were packed with fishermen. Guys were getting down in there spots @ 3AM.

With some knowledge, persistence & a little luck we got it done! That's fishing in the great NW!

Newman Lake access to close June 2-4 for aquatic weed control

WATERSPORTS — The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife  public access site at Newman Lake will be closed June 2-4 to allow treatment of the lake with herbicide to control Eurasian milfoil and other aquatic invasive weeds.

The Newman Lake Flood Control Zone District, under permit from the Washington Department of Ecology, has hired Aqua Technex to treat milfoil infestations on about 25 acres throughout the 1,200-acre Spokane County lake with 2-4-D (dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, dimethylamine salt).  

A swimming restriction will be in force during treatment and for 24 hours after treatment. Signs will be posted discouraging swimming and boating the day of treatment and for two days afterward.

The boating restriction is needed because wave action reduces the herbicide's effectiveness, Fish and Wildlife officials say.

Karen Kruger, Spokane County water resources technician, said aquatic weed treatments at Newman Lake during the past two summers have reduced the original infestation tremendously, thanks in part to volunteer efforts to help keep boaters out of the herbicide application areas.

Aquatic herbicide application permits authorized by Ecology include requirements and restrictions to protect fish and wildlife.

Scott Young, Fish and Wildlife access manager, said the gates to the area will be closed early on Tuesday, June 2, and re-opened early on Friday, June 5.

Newman Lake is about 20 miles northeast of Spokane, about two miles west of the Idaho border, and is open year-round for fishing.

Government hunters prepare to kill salmon-eating birds

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Not since the market hunting days have waterfowl gunners set their sights so high.

Government hunters reportedly are scouting an island at the mouth of the Columbia River as they prepare to shoot thousands of hungry seabirds to reduce the numbers of baby salmon they eat.

Biologists blame the cormorants for eating millions of baby salmon as they migrate down the Columbia to the ocean. Some of the fish are federally protected species.

Hunters from Wildlife Services went to East Sand Island on Thursday to look over the lay of the land before starting to carry out plans to reduce the population of double crested cormorants from about 14,000 breeding pairs to 5,600 by 2018, said U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokeswoman Diana Fredlund. 

An environmental impact statement calls for them to shoot adult birds, spray eggs with oil so they won’t hatch, and to destroy nests.  

  

Memorial Day 2015 holiday offers choice conditions for fly fishing

FISHING — Although fish managers and anglers are a puckered about this year's low snowpack and how that will play out for our trout fisheries through the summer, conditions are generally GREAT for the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

In the 37 years I've written about the prospects for Memorial Day, I recall that the norm for most years was to report that area rivers were too high for good fishing.

Not this year.

Sean Visintainer of Silver Bow Fly Shop in Spokane Valley has been on all the area rivers recently and he agrees.  Here are some tidbits from his full blog post on the holiday weekend fishing forecast:

  • North Fork Coeur d'Alene — "Wow, looks like late June or July up here!"   River's in great shape for this weekend. Many riffles are already skinny — wade fishing or pontoons will be best options, since drift boats and larger rafts would have to be dragged in many cases. Recommended patterns: PMD's, caddis, March browns, yellow sallies and brown drakes. Expect to have company on the river.
  • St. Joe River — In great shape for Memorial Day weekend, but avoid the river downstream from Calder, where fishing will and access within 50 feet of the river will be prohibited Saturday and Sunday for the Race the Joe! jet boat races.  Above Calder, the river is at a late June level and great for wading or floating. "The river near Spruce Tree Campground is on the colder side; fish are there, but will be lethargic in the morning. Best fishing will be below Gold Creek. Recommended patterns: Stoneflies, brown drakes, March Browns, caddis, PMD's and yellow sallies.
  • Spokane River — Closed until June.
  • Clark Fork — "Big, but on the drop." Clarity already is good enough to fish. If it stays course, flows should be a suitable for fishing, although the possibility of rain could change that. Recommended patterns: Skwala with a drake or March brown should get fish up, but also consider a San Juan dropper.
  • Local Lakes — Fishing has been good overall, and competition is light now that most anglers are heading to streams. Amber, Medical, West Medical are all good options now. Recommended patterns: Damselfly nymphs or similar patterns fished on intermediate or sink-tips; Chironomid and callibaetis nymphs for still fishing well in less than 15 feet of water; balanced leech.

Emphasize fun while fishing with kids

FISHING — Fishing is a time-tested, generations-approved way to have quality time with kids.

But keep it cool.  Going fishing is a way to get away from the pressure kids feel in mainstream sports and school.

Idaho Fish and Game staffers have assembled some kid-fishing tips worth reviewing.

“Be positive, make it fun and remember it’s not just your fishing trip – it’s theirs too,” said Adare Evans, Wildlife Educator for Fish and Game in Boise. “Consider it as an investment — do it right and payback time will come years later when they take you fishing.”

To help ensure your youngster’s fishing trips are not their last, Fish and Game provides the following suggestions:

  • The younger the child, the shorter the attention span.  If the fish aren’t biting, don’t keep them chained to their fishing poles or held hostage in a boat.  Allow some breaks for rock skipping, swimming, enjoying some beach time, catching frogs – whatever keeps them happy and lets them enjoy the outdoors.
  • Be patient. Accept that they may not keep quiet and they probably will get a few tangles. Keeping the outing short (under an hour for beginners) and ending on a cheerful note before anyone gets crabby will set you on course for cultivating a lifelong fishing buddy.
  • Keep it Simple - Short poles and closed-face reels are good choices. A small tackle box with a few small hooks, a few 1-inch bobbers and sinkers is all you need to get started.
  • If bait is used, encourage them to bait their own hooks. Let them practice with plastic worms. Eventually, they’ll get used to the idea of doing it themselves.
  • Pack a cooler with sandwiches, some cookies and water. Remember to take garbage bags to pack out your trash, and encourage the kids to pick up too.  
  • Essentials - Be sure to take sunscreen, a few Band-Aids and a fishing license if required.
  • Quantity not Quality - Your kids will have a lot more fun reeling in several easy to catch stocked trout rather than waiting for a 5-pound lunker to bite. Finding a well-stocked pond or lake is essential to hooking youngsters to fishing.  

Fish and Game’s “Take Me Fishing" trailers are making appearances at well-stocked fishing holes across the state.  The trailers are full of basic fishing equipment that can be checked out for free on a first-come, first-served basis. Fish and Game staff will also be available to answer questions and help those new to the sport. 

St. Joe National Forest Avery Office reopening for season

PUBLIC LANDS — The Avery office on the St. Joe Ranger District of the Idaho Panhandle National Forests is opening Monday, May 18 after being closed for the winter.  The office has a range of information and resources available for visitors.

The office is along the scenic St. Joe River, a popular fishing and camping destination upstream from St. Maries, Idaho.

Firewood permits are available for $5 a cord (minimum purchase is 4 cords and maximum is 12 cords) and are valid on all public lands managed by the Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management. 

Interagency Annual Access and Senior Passes are also available.  These passes cover entrance and standard amenity fees at a variety of Federal recreation sites.  Persons 62 years or older can purchase a Senior Pass for $10 and persons with a permanent disability can acquire an Access Pass with proof of required documentation.

Brochures detailing recreation opportunities on the St. Joe Ranger District are available, covering hiking, horseback riding, or riding a motorcycle on the district's trail system. 

Access is nearby for the world-famous 15 mile long Route of the Hiawatha Trail and the Emerald Creek Garnet Area. 

A cabin rental program includes the Arid Peak or Surveyors Ridge historic fire lookout towers. 

The Avery office is open Monday – Friday 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is closed from noon to 12:30. 

Info: St. Joe Ranger District Avery Office, 208-245-4517 or the St. Maries office,208-245-2531.

Video helps anglers connect with North Idaho pike study

FISHING — A northern pike monitoring project on Idaho Panhandle waters helps biologists work to strike a balance between the species popularity with anglers as well as the toothy predator's potential to impact other fish species if its numbers are not kept in balance.

Fish and Game biologists keep regular tabs on northern pike populations in various North Idaho lakes.

A new video posted on the Fish and Game website shows how anglers help with northern pike population surveys through Fish and Game’s “Tag You’re It” program.

The video, filmed at Killarney Lake, also includes a demonstration on how to fillet a pike, which makes excellent table fare.

Spring chinook harvest ends Sunday in lower Clearwater

FISHING —  A section of the lower Clearwater River will close to salmon fishing at the end of fishing hours (8:30 p.m.) on Sunday, May 17, the Idaho Fish and Game Department has announced.

The Clearwater River will close to all chinook fishing from the Camas Prairie Railroad Bridge near Lewiston upstream to the Cherry Lane Bridge.

Says Idaho Fish and Game:

This Idaho closure is being implemented because the harvest quota for adult Chinook salmon has been met in this river section. Harvest quotas in different reaches within the Clearwater River drainage were developed using public input. Those quotas help ensure all communities throughout the watershed have opportunities to harvest salmon.

Chinook salmon seasons continue on the Clearwater River upstream from the Cherry Lane Bridge and the North Fork Clearwater; as well as the South Fork Clearwater, Middle Fork Clearwater, Lower Salmon River, the Little Salmon River, Lochsa River, and Snake River.

Joe DuPont says chinook are well distributed where fishing will remain open.

"It looks like our harvest share will be between about 5,800 and 6,500 adult fish for the Clearwater basin; for the Rapid River run it will be around 9,000 to 9,800 fish; and for Hells Canyon it will be around 1,300 to 1,500 fish," he said, noting that this year's harvest share will be the highest in the Clearwater River basin since 2004. 

"If you like to salmon fish, you better get out this year as it may be a few years before we see numbers like this again."

Court won’t block salmon-saving plan to kill cormorants

WILDLIFE —  A judge has refused to block a plan to shoot more than 10,000 double-crested cormorants in the Columbia River estuary, the Associated Press reports.

The plan was released earlier this year by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It wants to stop cormorants from eating millions of baby salmon.

Conservation groups sought a preliminary injunction. They say hydroelectric dams — not cormorants — are the main threat to salmon. The groups filed suit in April against the Corps, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Wildlife Services agency in the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Corps said Wildlife Services will manage the killing.

The plan also calls for destroying 26,000 nests on East Sand Island.

The decision came Friday from U.S. District Judge Michael Simon.

Washington sets ocean salmon fishing seasons

FISHING — The 2015 recreational ocean salmon fishing seasons have been announced by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife as follows:

Effective dates and Locations:

Marine Area 1 (Ilwaco)

May 30-June 12 - Open seven days per week, 2 salmon daily limit.  Release wild chinook and all coho. Minimum size for chinook is 24 inches. 

June 13 until further notice: Daily limit of 2 salmon, of which not more than one may be a chinook salmon, release wild coho.

Marine Area 2 (Westport-Ocean Shores)

May 30-June 12 - Open seven days per week, 2 salmon daily limit. Release wild chinook and all coho. Minimum size for chinook is 24 inches. 

June 13 until further notice: Daily limit of 2 salmon, of which not more than one may be a chinook salmon, release wild coho.

Marine Area 2-1 (Willapa Bay)

Open concurrent with Area 2 when Area 2 is open for salmon angling. Area 2 rules apply.

Marine Area 2-2, west of the Buoy 13 line, (Grays Harbor)

Open concurrent with Area 2 when Area 2 is open for salmon angling. Area 2 rules apply.

Marine Areas 3 (LaPush) and 4 (Neah Bay)

May 15-16, May 22-23, and May 30- June 12 - Open seven days per week, 2 salmon daily limit plus 2 additional pink salmon. Release wild chinook and all coho. Minimum size for chinook is 24 inches. In Area 4, Closed east of a true north/south line running through Sail Rock.

Closed to salmon angling inside the area bounded by a line from Kydaka Point to Shipwreck Point.

      June 13 until further notice: daily limit of 2 salmon, release wild coho.

Species affected: Chinook salmon

Reason for action:  Opens ocean recreational salmon seasons that were previously announced following the Pacific Fishery Management Council meetings in April.

Washington closing Snake River chinook fishery today

FISHING — The spring chinook fishery on the Snake River in the Lower Granite Dam and Clarkston areas closed for the season tonight, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department says.  Here's the official announcement:

Action: Chinook salmon fishing to close on the Snake River.

Species affected: Chinook salmon.

Effective date: May 12, 2015, one hour after official sunset.

Locations:

C)  Below Lower Granite Dam:  Snake River from the south shore boat launch (Ilia Boat Launch) across to the mouth of Almota Creek upstream about four miles to the restricted fishing area below Lower Granite Dam.

D) Clarkston:  Snake River from the downstream edge of the large power lines crossing the Snake River (just upstream from West Evans Road on the south shore) upstream about 3.5 miles to the Washington state line (from the east levee of the Greenbelt boat launch in Clarkston northwest across the Snake River to the WA/ID boundary waters marker on the Whitman County shore).

Reason for action:  Based on the most current harvest estimates and anticipated harvest through Tuesday of this week, for the Lower Granite Dam area, the Snake harvest allocation will have been met.

Clark Fork Delta replanting volunteers needed

HABITAT —   April 21-23, May 6, 7, 13, 14, 19, 27, 28, June 1, 2, 2015: Volunteers have been chipping in on shoring up the Clark Fork River Delta to massive erosion that's been wiping out habitat by the acre. 

You can help by being part of "Delta Force" - the superhero-style volunteer crew that's taking on one of the largest environmental restoration projects in our region.

One hundred thousand native plants need to be planted in the delta this spring.

  • No experience needed.
  • Boat ride aboard the “Delta Queen” to work site provided.

Upcoming volunteer events are set for May 13, 14, 19, 27, 28, June 1, 2.

Sign up to help at www.clarkforkdelta.org.

Contact: Nancy Dooley at the Idaho Conservation League in Sandpoint, ndooley@idahoconservation.org, (208) 265-9565

Williams Lake fishing derby benefits Shriners Hospital

FISHING — The 12th annual Klink's Resort Charity Fishing Derby to benefit Shriners Hospital for Children is set for Saturday, May 17, at Williams Lake south of Cheney.

In 11 years, the event has raised about $60,000 for kids in need of skilled medical attention.

The derby based out of Klink's Resort will start at 6 a.m. with weigh-in at 1 p.m.

Prizes will be awarded in Adult and Children's divisions. Entry: $10.

Pikeminnow reward season kicks off with higher bounties

FISHING — Anglers can help save salmon and get paid to do it by going fishing.

The Northern Pikeminnow Sport-Reward Program kicked off its 2015 season on the Snake and Columbia rivers this week, and anglers already are cashing in on a more lucrative pay-out tier system.

The program pays anglers handsomely to remove pikeminnows that ambush salmon and steelhead smolts near dams. Anglers must report to one of 20 check-in stations along the two rivers from Cathlamet upstream to the Greenbelt at Clarkston.

Anglers in the The Dalles area were the high producers in the first week, catching and turning in 1,924 pikeminnows in the first three days of the season.

Anglers are paid for each northern pikeminnow that they catch that is nine inches or larger, and the more fish you catch, the higher the reward.

Rewards begin at $5 each for the first 25 northern pikeminnow caught during the season.  Anglers earn $6 each for fish No. 26-200, and $8 each for every fish caught above 200.  That tier system gets anglers to the higher pay offs sooner.  An angler who caught 400 pikeminnows last season would have been paid $1,900. This season 400 fish will $2775 — an increase of $875.

Specially tagged northern pikeminnows continue to be worth $500. 

The program is funded by the Bonneville Power Administration and administered by the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, is annually in effect on the Columbia and Snake rivers from May 1-Sept. 30. 

How fast can a salmon swim upstream to Idaho waters?

FISHING — How long it takes for salmon to travel from Bonneville Dam to Idaho?

Joe DuPont, Idaho Fish and Game regional fisheries manager in Lewiston looked at data and came up with answers to that often-asked question from curious anglers.

On average, an adult spring chinook takes about 18 days to swim 253 river miles from Bonneville Dam to Lower Granite dam, including passage over a total of four Columbia River dams and four more on the Snake River.  

After crossing Lower Granite Dam, the salmon need another day or two up the Snake to reach Idaho, for a total of about 19-20 days in average flows, DuPont said. 

This year, with lower than normal flows, spring chinook are making it faster to Idaho —about 13 days. 

Considering the fish counts at dams, "the majority of the chinook salmon destined for the Clearwater Region will all be in Idaho in two weeks," he said Tuesday.

Salmon River anglers wonder how long it takes their share of the Snake River salmon run to travel farther upstream, from Lower Granite Dam to Riggins. 

This journey varies more widely depending upon flows and water clarity, DuPont said. 

"When flows are high and dirty it can cause chinook to stop migrating.  In fact there is evidence that the Slide Rapid in the lower Salmon River can greatly delay migrations in higher flows."

However, on a year like this, when river flows are low, the fish will get there fast, he said:

  • 5-13 days to run 90 miles from the Idaho state line to Rice Creek Bridge.
  • 7-20 days to run 135 miles from the Idaho state line to Little Salmon River.

"I suspect on a year like this it will be closer to the lower end of the range," DuPont said.

Faster travel times tend to translate into slower fishing, he said.

"With these lower flows, fish are moving faster and more up the middle of the river making fishing more difficult," he said. 

"Fish are already showing up at Kooskia Hatchery, and PIT tagged fish are passing the array in the lower South Fork Clearwater River.  I suspect by next week we will have documented harvest all the way upstream to around Kooskia."

Springer fishing to reopen Thursday on Snake at Little Goose

FISHING — Salmon fishermen in the Little Goose Dam area of the Snake River will get another shot at spring chinook for three days starting Thursday, May 7, thanks to an unexpected bounty of fish headed upstream.

The 2015 spring chinook salmon forecast was updated last week to 220,000 into the Columbia River.

It was upgraded again on Monday to 241,000, said John Whalen, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife regional fisheries manager in Spokane.

"The Little Goose area will open Thursday for its three-day rotation through Saturday," he said Monday night, noting that the department will be posting a clarification on the fishing season updates portion of its website sometime today, May 5.

That means all four of Washington's Snake River spring chinook zones will be in the action this week as announced in April.

  • Ice Harbor and Lower Granite areas are open through today.
  • Little Goose and Clarkston stretches will be open Thursday through Saturday.

 

 

 

Low flows, slow fishing mark Yakima springer opener

FISHING — Wishing was slow for lower Yakima River anglers out last weekend for the May 2 opening of spring chinook fishing.

Flows averaged 1,800cfs and fishing was slow for both salmon and bass, said Paul Hoffarth, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife fisheries biologist. 

Here's the rest of his Yakima River report:

WDFW staff interviewed 79 anglers fishing for salmon in the lower Yakima River that reported one hatchery adult chinook harvested and one wild adult chinook released.  An additional 24 anglers were interviewed that were fishing for smallmouth bass and channel catfish that reported 15 smallmouth bass caught. 

The lower Yakima River from the Highway 240 bridge in Richland (river mile 2.1) to the Grant Avenue bridge in Prosser (river mile 47.0) opened to fishing for hatchery spring Chinook on May 2.  The fishery will remain open through June 15.

A second section of the Yakima River from the Interstate 82 bridge at Union Gap (river mile 107.1) to the BNSF railroad bridge approximately 600 feet downstream of Roza Dam (river mile 127.8) will open on May 9.  Daily limit is two hatchery chinook, minimum size of 12 inches.  Terminal gear is restricted to two, single-point, barbless hooks when fishing for salmon. Use of bait is allowed. Anglers must have the Columbia River salmon/steelhead endorsement in addition to a freshwater fishing license to fish for salmon in the Yakima River.  The use of two fishing poles is permitted during the salmon fishery provided the participating angler has purchased a “Two-Pole Endorsement.” 

Hatchery salmon are identified by a missing adipose fin and a healed scar in the location of the missing fin.  Wild salmon (adipose fin intact) must be immediately released unharmed and cannot be removed from the water prior to release.

Bassers catch load of lunkers in Lake Spokane charity event

FISHING — Anyone with doubts about the lunker bass fishing potential of Lake Spokane (a.k.a. Long Lake) should note the eye-opening stats from the May 2-3 tournament organized by the Spokane Bass Club.

Justin Cox and Ben Schilling weighed in a first-day, five-fish total of 29.05 pounds in the third annual Long Lake Classic presented by Spokane Valley Marine.  That remarkable one-day take included a 7.68-pound largemouth that won the big-fish award .

Cox and Schilling went on to win the tournament with a two-day total of 39.16 pounds. They took home $1,584 plus $360 for the Big Bass prize.

The top eight angling teams weighed-in two-day totals of more than 30 pounds with the top four exceeding 35 pounds.

The tournament had no restrictions on the number of largemouth each team could bring to the scales. Judges credited teams with their five heaviest fish after weigh-in. Three first-day bags weighed more than 20 pounds with multiple weights in the high teens.

The contest raises funds for a different charity each year. This year it raised $540 for Baskets for Babies.

Saturday was perfect fishing day for 700 kids

FISHING — The cheerful squealing of kids catching their first fish was all the reward dozens of sportsmen and sportswomen needed for their hours of work organizing the annual Kids Fishing Day, May 2, at Clear Lake.

More than 700 kids took part in the event this year. For $10, they got to take home rod and reel rigged for fishing plus their limit of trout and memories of a great time on the water with their families.

About 11,000 rainbow trout were delivered in five truckloads from three hatcheries to be put in net pens around the docks and shoreline of the Fairchild Air Force Base recreation site on the lake, said Randy Osborne, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife district fisheries biologist who coordinated the effort.

"Anything the kids don't catch, we release into the lake for anglers after the last kid leaves," he said.

Volunteers rigged rods, baited hooks and helped handle the fish hauled in by the kids.  Volunteers even cleaned the fish families took home.  If they didn't want the fish, other volunteers cleaned them and packed them on ice for distribution to area food banks.

"We've had over 300 pounds of fish donated from this event in the past," said Jim Kujala, who opened a cooler full of fish on ice ready for the food banks to distribute. "This year we had only 154 pounds donated, which means more families were keeping the fish they caught.  That's a good thing because it means they're taking the experience home."

 

 

Prescribed burns to start in Upper CdA River area

PUBLIC LANDS — Hikers and anglers need to be aware that the Forest Service will begin prescribed burning in the Upper Coeur d'Alene River area starting Sunday, May 3.  Here's the notice from the Idaho Panhandle National Forests:

Beginning on Sunday, May 3, 2015 firefighters from the Idaho Panhandle National forest plan to conduct a series of prescribed fires totaling 500 to 1,000 acres. The prescribed fires will be located in the upper reaches of the North Fork Coeur d’Alene River near Tee Pee Creek, the Coeur d’Alene River Trail, Spion Kop and Pond Peak. Depending on weather conditions, ignitions are expected to begin on Sunday and continue through Monday with lingering smoke and hot spots likely to remain in the area for several additional days. Signs will be posted along local roads and members of the public are urged to avoid the burn areas as ignition will take place very quickly using a helicopter . Forest Service firefighters will continue to monitor the burned areas until the fires are completely out.

The purpose of these prescribed fires is to reduce the risk of significant wildfire and to improve the quality, quantity and distribution of big game browse. Specific locations for the burn units include West Elk, Spion Kop, Cinnamon, Taft, Wilson and Gold Creeks.

See more info at Idaho Panhandle National Forest Website.

Sportfishing groups oppose Oregon appointment of gillnetter advocate

FISHING — Organizations representing Oregon’s recreational fishing community met with Gov. Kate Brown this week and requested that she withdraw her recent appointment of Bruce Buckmaster to serve on the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission. 

For the past decade Buckmaster has served as a lobbyist, spokesman and chief strategist for the commercial gillnet industry.  The groups delivered a letter from five organizations representing anglers, guides and conservationists outlining the reasons their opposition to the appointment

The groups are trying to block the appointment in the Oregon State Senate. In the letter, they say:

While we don’t question Mr. Buckmaster’s knowledge and expertise in fish and wildlife issues, we do have serious concerns about his ability to effectively represent the public interest of the state as required by ORS 496.090(6), particularly on the highly-charged Columbia River fishery issues that dominate much of the Commission’s time,.  There are legitimate questions about his ability to take an objective, open-minded approach to dealing with these issues and the recreational fishing community that represents a key constituency – and primary source of revenue – for the Department of Fish and Wildlife.”

Buckmaster has been outspoken in his efforts to reverse the Columbia River gillnet reforms that were adopted by the Oregon and Washington fish and wildlife commissions in 2012 to transition away from the use of gillnets in the river’s mainstem:

His appointment comes as ODFW is seeking legislative approval of recreational fishing license fee increases of 33%-93% to balance the agency's budget.  Any fee increase would only exacerbate the funding inequities that currently exist between the recreational and commercial sectors:

Fly fishing guide offers North Idaho stream seminar

FISHING — A clinic specifically tailored to fly fishing two of the region's top cutthroat trout streams will be presented next week at Silver Bow Fly Shop in Spokane Valley.

Sean Visintainer, owner and guide will present his two-hour  North Idaho Stream Seminar at 6 p.m. on May 6 at the shop, 13210 E. Indiana Ave.

"In this clinic I cover basics from where to go, insect hatches, patterns, tactics, and so on," he said.

The clinic is especially useful to kick-start the season for new fly fishers or experienced anglers who are new to the waters of the  Coeur d'Alene and St. Joe.

Pre-register: (509) 924-9998. Cost in advance: $20.

Heads up Clearwater anglers: spring chinook parading into Idaho

FISHING — There's not a discouraging word to be found in the forecast, starting with this weekend, for spring chinook fishing in Idaho.

Here are highlights from today's spring chinook update by Joe DuPont, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional fisheries manager in Lewiston:

  •  As expected, catch rates were low for last weeks salmon opener in Idaho, as the fish were just getting here.
  • All the fish we documented being caught were around Lewiston; about 16 adult fish.
  • One fish measured 40 inches long and we heard of another that was pushing 30 pounds. 
  • By this weekend there should be 10 times as many fish in Idaho as we saw during the opener; fishing should be much better. 
  • It wouldn’t surprise me if this weekend people catch salmon in the Clearwater River upstream to Orofino and in the Snake River below Hells Canyon Dam. 
  • Those of you who like to fish the Rapid River run may have to wait another week or two before the fish start arriving in catchable numbers. 
  • Clearwater river sections have been given harvest quotas developed by anglers in an effort to fairly distribute harvest throughout the different communities in the Clearwater basin. Sections can close as quotas are taken.
  • I hope you are all getting as excited as I am about this Chinook run.  My excitement certainly got the best of me as I went out and bought a new rod and have started loading up on tackle. 

Toby Wyatt of Reel Time Fishing is based out of Clarkston, but heads to the lower Columbia River to fish for springers before they run upstream to Idaho.

"We have finished up our Columbia River spring chinook season and will be moving onto the Snake and Clearwater Rivers for this weekend," he said today. "We expect to start seeing catch rates on the Clearwater to pick up this weekend and continue to get better throughout May," 

Here's more for Wyatt's report:

"These fish were hard to catch on the Columbia this year due to the low and clear water, as they were screaming up river past our baits. Our best days we were hooking eight-nine fish.

"Salmon are piling over Bonneville Dam in great numbers and we are above our 10-year average. To date we have seen 114,000 cross Bonneville, most of these early fish are bound for the Clearwater and Salmon Rivers and their tributaries.

"Lower Granite Dam, the last dam before they reach the Clearwater has seen more than 7,300 fish. 

"The Clearwater is going to fish awesome this year with the low water."

To put the 2015 springer run into perspective from the beginning — that is from Bonneville Dam, the first dam the fish encounter as they head up from the ocean into the Columbia 'River —  here are today's "factoids" from Joe Hymer, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife salmon specialist in Vancouver.

Spring Chinook counts at Bonneville Dam through April 28:

  • The 114,163 adults are the 9th highest total since at least 1939.  The record is 301,293 fish in 2001.
  • If the dam counts continue to remain strong like the 17,045 adults counted yesterday, all but the record is within reach. 
  • The 1,085 jacks are the 6th highest total since at least 1980.  The record is 5,114 fish in 2000.
  • Based on the 24 four-year-old PIT tags detected at Bonneville Dam yesterday, nearly 950 of the 17,045 adults counted were originated from Carson National Fish Hatchery (on Washington's Wind River).