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Father thankful for youth pheasant hunt at release site

HUNTING — Washington's youth-only upland bird season was a success for Robert Estuar and his son, and the family Lab.

“Took 14 year old Diego and dog Bella out Sunday to Fishtrap Lake for the youth pheasant hunt,” the happy father reported. “Didn't take long to find the birds. So grateful to live in a region with so many recreational opportunities for our youth!”

The Estuars hunted at one of 27 pheasant release sites in Eastern Washington

  • Hint:  The youngsters didn't kill all the pheasants released prior to the youth season. The release sites present a bird dog training opportunity before the general season opens.

Also, some of the remaining pen-raised birds likely survived the coyotes and hawks long enough to seed the field for the Geezer Pheasant Season — Sept. 22-26  — for licensed hunters age 65 and older.

Pheasants will be stocked at the site about three more times during the fall, including the week of Thanksgiving.

  • Non-toxic shot must be used for hunting on pheasant release sites.

Rescuers save climber pinned by boulder at Chimney Rock

MOUNTAIN RESCUES — Sandpoint rock climber Ammi Midstokke, 36, battered from head to toe from a bout with a 1.5-ton granite boulder, wasted no time being thankful to her friend and two teams of rescuers. 

“Bottom line- everyone is safe, I'm pretty banged up, and spending the night under a rock sucks. I'll update more as the morphine wears off!”

As soon a she came clear from the medications, she posted this summary of her Sept. 19-20 ordeal in the Idaho Selkirk Mountains.

A brief explanation: after a successful summit of (the west side of) Chimney Rock, a boulder came down on me while crossing the talus fields, pinning me in its path. Jason Luthy attempted self-rescue but it was both too heavy and too dangerous.

We called Search and Rescue and they tried to stabilize me with heat and good stories. Eight hours later, well past midnight, they were able to hoist the boulder and extract a very deformed, very dead looking foot. There was much drama on my end as blood began to flow into the foot and the team transported me to safe ground. It was apparent that hiking out wasn't an option, so we hunkered down until the Air Force could lift me out after daylight.

Initial X rays show tarsal breakage but a remarkably whole foot. We'll know more later this week. I couldn't have hoped for a more competent adventuring partner or a better group of rescuers. You guys are all my heroes!!!

Midstokke suffered injuries to her face, lower leg and foot.

According to a report from Fairchild Air Force Base, Luthy was able to call 911 at 5:30 p.m. prompting rescue efforts. An eight-person Priest Lake Search and Rescue ground party began a hike at 8:20 p.m. negotiating steep, narrow and rocky terrain finally reaching Midstokke at 12:49 a.m.

The PLSAR ground party used a web and pulley system to free her from the boulder in less than one hour. Her injuries were stabilized and she was kept comfortable as the situation was assessed.

It was determined that hiking her out would be too dangerous in the night time hours considering the remote location and the unforgiving nature of the terrain. Efforts went underway to contact the 36th Rescue Flight at Fairchild.   

At 7:10 a.m., a four-member crew from the 36th RQF and the 336th Training Support Squadron 'Rescue 13' was dispatched to the area in a UH-1N Iroquois helicopter.

They arrived on-scene at 7:45 a.m.

“A hover was the only possible way of extraction as the terrain was far too treacherous to land,” said Capt. Josiah Hart, 36th RQF co-pilot. “We made our initial approach, but the aircraft started to sink due to excess fuel. To get more power, we burned off some fuel for 25 minutes and reengaged to a 30-foot hover over the scene.

The crew then lowered Maj. David Oldham, 336th TRSS flight surgeon, down to Midstokke and the ground party delivering water and preparing her for extraction on a Stokes Litter. At 8:35 a.m., Oldham signaled to 'Rescue 13' in the skies above that she was ready for extraction. Due to favorable winds, the approach was made to an 80-foot hover over the scene. Midstokke was hoisted out followed by Oldham. Rescue 13 then transported her to Sandpoint, Idaho where she was transferred via-ambulance to Bonner General Hospital.

“Having this training and capability to perform rescue missions provides a valuable service to Inland Northwest residents,” Oldham said. “All the pieces fit together for this rescue. The ground team worked very hard through the night and when we arrived it was a seamless transfer from ground to air - the whole experience was very humbling.”

“Overall, our crew for this mission was well practiced in this kind of scenario and they all performed extremely well during the extraction,” said Capt. Erik Greendyke, 36th RQF aircraft commander.

“There are always people who will need help, and if we have the ability to help, we should,” Hart said. “Without our capabilities, Ms. Midstokke may have had a difficult time being rescued. It was truly a team effort to rescue her on Saturday.

Recovering from her injuries at home today, Midstokke is extremely thankful for the Fairchild crew.

“I feel extremely grateful for the Air Force crew rescuing me,” she told Scott King of Fairchild public affairs. “They were all very competent and compassionate in a traumatic situation. The rescue itself was technically very challenging and the fact that the Air Force was able and willing to do this is testament to the professionalism of our U.S. military — thank you for your commitment to service and everything you did to keep me safe and well!”

This was the 36th RQF's 688th rescue.

Should wolves be treated with less respect than other wildlife?

PREDATORS — Whether on purpose or an accident, a self-professed champion for the eradication of wolves comes off looking like an animal.

Read the story below… and decide for yourself.

Montana FWP investigates Missoula man's wolf-killing claims
Missoula resident Toby Bridges' Facebook post telling his story of running down wolves in Interstate 90 and killing them, along with photos of the dead wolves, has drawn the interest of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks investigators. The episode likely will attract attention elsewhere, too.
—Great Falls Tribune

Long-range shooters to fire at Rock Lake range

SHOOTING — The last in a four-event long-range shooting series is set for this weekend, Sept 27-28, at the Rock Lake Rifle Range, 2356 Glorfield Rd., St. John, Washington

Check in 7:30-8 a.m.

The Northwest Precision Steel Series Challenge has divisions for tactical and hunting class shooters, says organizer Doug Glorfield.

Tactical competitors engage targets at distances of 175-1,250 yards in seven stations.  Hunting and youth shooters do five stations at 150-600 yards.

 “I am expecting a lot of shooters,” said Doug Glorfield, who built the range with his dad on their farm land and opened it to the public shoots this summer. “I had 32 shooters at the last series shoot. This thing is growing!”

Steelhead fly fishing seminars at Silver Bow

FLY FISHING — Two seminars on the basics of fly fishing for steelhead, including where to go and what tactics to use at different times of year, are scheduled Sept. 29 or Sept. 30 from 6 p.m.-8 p.m. by Sean Visintainer of Silver Bow Fly Shop in Spokane Valley.

  • Cost: $20, (509) 924-9998

Visintainer already has been out practicing what he preaches, catching steelhead in the Grande Ronde and Snake Rivers this month.  In his September blog post, he says anglers who have been sitting home waiting for more fish to migrate up from the Columbia are missing out on the pleasures of early-season action:

Why nobody steelheads the Grande Ronde in September has perplexed me over the last handful of years. Now when I say “nobody” that doesn't mean literally zero humans in sight, because there are a few in the know down there fishing. What I mean is that the majority of anglers don't show up until October, like there is some magical date that all of a sudden October 1st hits and BAM the steelhead are here. Obviously, the bulk of steelhead coming into the Grande Ronde show up the 2nd week of October, however, there are enough fish coming in early to make it a feasible trip during mid-late September and have a realistic shot at catching chrome.

Why I think steelheading in September on the Grande Ronde is feasible - Let's think about this… steelhead start showing up on the Columbia River Steelhead Return Reports in June correct? Ok, so, we know steelhead enter the Columbia during the early summer and really start pouring in late summer. Well, those early fish are on a mission. They are going to swim until they get to their final destination which for a lot of them is the upper tribs to the Columbia like the Grande Ronde. Now, if that fish enters the Columbia during the summer months the water is pretty warm correct? Yes. So why would that fish that just swam through hundreds of miles of warm water stop before the Grande Ronde or just at the mouth of Grande Ronde where it dumps into the Snake and wait for cooler water. They don't!

Now that I went on that rant, I do agree colder areas of water do attract steelhead (ie the Clearwater), but I don't think those fish that get side tracked by the cooler water of the Clearwater are going to stay in there for very long. I also agree that a fresh shot of rain that causes the river levels to rise a little really gets the masses of fish moving around, 100% agree.

My theory is that there always are those early arrival fish that are aggressive, fast swimmers, and have a long ways to travel so they are going to go into the Grande Ronde no matter what the conditions until they get to their final stopping point.

It seems to be that lots of the early steelhead are fish that are Oregon bound, tend to be on the larger side, and are wild. They are fully of energy and highly aggressive.


Leave it to beavers to be ecology teachers

ENVIRONMENT – “Picnic with the Beavers,” a hands-on environmental field learning day, complete with beavers and geared to families, is set for next Sunday, 1 p.m.-4 p.m. at Liberty Lake State Park.

The event is coordinated by The Lands Council.

Read an S-R story about one local effort to put beavers to work on the region's landscape.

Sign up for the Picnic with the Beavers: (509) 209-2851.

Riverside State Park to dedicate new equestrian area

PARKS —On Saturday, Sept. 27, the Riverside State Park Foundation, in conjunction with many equestrian groups and supporters, will introduce the new equestrian area with an open house from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  

Sept. 27 is a FREE day at Washington State Parks: the Discover Pass is not required. 

The event will kick off with a 10 a.m. Grand Entry by the Tough Enough Drill Team, followed by prize drawings and a spaghetti feed by foundation volunteers.

Groups and individuals will perform in the 140- by 240-foot arena and the 60-foot round pen. Groups and vendors will have booths.

Some of the scheduled events include:

  •          Jousting on horseback by the Jousting Alliance of Washington State
  •          Mounted shooting by the Northwest Mounted Shooters
  •          Drill team by Mt. Spokane High School Equestrian Team
  •          Drill team by Tough Enough
  •          Drill team by 4-H
  •          Veterinary seminar by McKinlay & Peters Equine Veterinary Hospital
  •          Pattern riding by the Northwest Pattern Riding Association
  •          Trainer Ann Kirk
  •          Trainer Jason Hicks
  •          Trainer Craig Volosing
  •          Dressage riding by the Inland Northwest Dressage Association
  •          Equestrian massage therapy by Kahla Noel
  •          Compass & map reading by Trail Meister Robert Eversole
  •          Packing & knot tying demonstration and hands on practice by Back Country Horsemen
  •          Therapeutic riding by Free Rein
  •          Shoeing information by farrier Nolan Tobler
  •          Orienteering course by Selkirk Competitive Mounted Orienteering
  •          Renaissance period dress and equestrian games by Spokane Entertainers Guild
  •          Roping with the 4-H Ranch Ropers
  •          Covered wagon rides by Pacific Northwest Fjord Promotional Group
  •          Music by T Scot Wiburn and the Shut-Up-N-Playboys
  •          Cowboy poetry by Dick Warwick

The event will help visitor learn the attractions the park has for equestrians, including more than 80 miles of trails and six equestrian trailheads. 

LOCATION: The equestrian area is off Government Way between Old Trails Rd and Fort George Wright.  From Government Way turn north on Equestrian Lane (NEW NAME for the old Aubrey White Parkway), go about 0.2  mile and turn right into the equestrian area.

Contact Ken Carmichael 509-466-2225 or kcarmichael2225@gmail.com.


Orienteering event for public at Mirabeau Park

NAVIGATION —The Eastern Washington Orienteering Club will be celebrating National Orienteering Week on Saturday, Sept. 27, at Mirabeau Point in Spokane Valley. 

In addition to the outdoor event, there will be two classes on orienteering, an introductory class and an advanced skills class, offered through the City of Spokane Valley Parks & Recreation Department.

Introduction to Orienteering, 9:30 a.m.-noon: Discover the sport of orienteering, navigating over unfamiliar trails and terrain using a map and compass.  Classroom instruction from 9:30 am to 11 am followed by an opportunity to test your new skills on the outdoor course.

Orienteering Skills, 1 p.m.-3:30 p.m: Classroom instruction and outdoor practice of map and compass skills for intermediate and advanced orienteering courses.  This class is intended for people who are already familiar with topographic maps and the use of the compass or who are also taking the Introduction to Orienteering Class.

The $14 fee for each class includes the outdoor courses.  Preregistration by Thursday, Sept. 25, is required for the classes but not for the outdoor event.

Both classes will meet in Center Place, 2426 N. Discovery Place, Spokane Valley.   Note that parking for the orienteering event is at the Center Place parking lot; the Mirabeau Meadows parking lot in the north part of the park will be full due to another event that day.

Hunter’s lament: So many turkeys, so few grouse

HUNTING — I was out at at dawn this morning for a quick grouse hunt with my English setter, Scout, before the heat set in.

We found two ruffed grouse, but mostly we found wild turkeys. To flocks of them.

Drove my dog wild.

No shots fired.

Roskelley talk to detail Columbia River paddling

WATERSPORTS — John Roskelley, best know for his mountaineering achievements, is giving a free program on his new guidebook to Paddling the Columbia River at 7 p.m. on Sept.30 at the Spokane REI store.

Here's more info:

The Columbia River is a water trail to adventure. Thousands of miles of rugged shoreline, countless sandy bays, and long stretches of remote wilderness make this great river an explorer's dream, whether just for an afternoon on a reservoir behind one of its 13 main stem dams or being swept along by over 100,000 cfs of swift current on one of the Columbia's free-flowing sections. Paddling the Columbia from source to mouth is the extreme edge, a challenge not unlike climbing Everest or hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Fortunately, the river is a resource that can be enjoyed in short sections on a weekend or holiday for a few hours to a long day throughout its 1200 mile length. The new “Paddling the Columbia: A Guide to all 1200 Miles of our Scenic & Historical River” by Spokane's John Roskelley provides the paddler with knowledge - the fundamental element needed to take action and enjoy an adventure.

Yakima river section closed to float fishing

FISHING Starting Saturday, Sept. 20, a 1.25-mile section of the lower Yakima River in Prosser will be closed to fishing from any floating device, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife says.

The river from the Grant Ave. Bridge in Prosser downstream approximately 1.25 miles to the downstream side of the westbound Interstate 82 Bridge will be closed until Oct. 22.

Reason for action:  This section of the Yakima River is adjacent to the Yakama Nation’s Prosser Fish Hatchery where over 2 million fall chinook smolts are released annually.  Returning adult salmon congregate in this terminal area and attract many anglers during the Yakima River fall salmon season that is open through October 22. During the peak fishing period (late Sept. through Oct. 22), as many as 75 bank anglers may be fishing at one time from the north (left) and south (right) shoreline. The river at this location is narrow (50 – 100 feet wide) and will not accommodate bank anglers casting from shore and boat anglers who anchor in mid-channel. Limiting fishing in this reach to bank angling prevents conflicts between boat and bank anglers.

Other information:

  • Daily limit of six salmon (hatchery or wild); up to two adults.  Minimum size - 12 inches.
  • Night Closure is in effect. Barbless hooks are required.
  • Fishing for steelhead remains closed.  All steelhead (rainbow trout greater than 20” in total length) must be immediately released unharmed and cannot be removed from the water prior to release.
  • A Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsement is required to participate in this fishery.

Curlew Lake taps food, fishing, music Sept. 25-26

FISHING – Business in the Republic, Wash., area are creating what may be the closest thing in the region to a complete fishing tournament weekend.  Bass/Blues/BBQ & Brews will debut Sept. 25-26 at Curlew Lake based out of  Black Beach Resort.

Bass fishing in the Ferry County lake can range from good to shockingly good if a tiger musky attacks your lure.

Music from four blues bands will be free. The brew pub in Republic is involved and the resort is offering discounts on cabins, camping and RV hookups, said spokeswoman Mary Masingale.

Bass teams of two anglers a $60 entry.

These and other anglers can compete for prizes in contests for tiger musky and pike minnow.

Kids attending will be encouraged to join the lake associations “perch purge” to reduce numbers of the illegally introduced species.

“We’ll have some special contests for kids – mostly focusing on Sunday, with some prizes like rods and tackles,” Masingale said.

  • Info: (509) 775-3989.

Stevens County Commission condemns state wolf management

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Stevens County Commissioners have unanimously passed a resolution that hammers Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife managers for failing to protect people, wildlife and livestock from wolves that are naturally recolonizing the region.

The resolution (attached) stems from the Huckleberry Pack attacks on sheep grazing on Hancock timber company land, officially killing at least 24 sheep from mid-August to early September, when the rancher rounded up the flock that started at about 1,800 sheep and moved them to distant pasture.

The resolution says more than 200 of the sheep are still missing and attacks that might be attributed to wolves have been reported by other livestock owners in the area. The commissioners are particularly upset that a livestock grower was forced off private land by wolf attacks.

Meanwhile the Stevens County Commission contends the WDFW “failed to honor its obligation and an imminent threat to life and property still exists.”

The resolution says the commission “will consider all available option to protect the residents” and declared that “the wolves of the Huckleberry Pack are subject to whatever Constitutional means necessary to secure our public in their lives, liberty and property.”

No specific actions were listed.

Stay tuned.





Still a record, but fall chinook run downgraded to 1.2 MIL

FISHING — Although it's clearly a gigantic run — and still likely to be a record — the size of the 2014 run of fall chinook heading up the Columbia River was officially downgraded from its earlier forecast today.

Washington and Oregon fish managers issued a report that downgraded the forecast from 1.51 million adult fall chinook to 1.26 million — or slightly above last year's record run.

Officially, the Columbia River Compact reported:

Passage of adult fall Chinook at Bonneville Dam since August 1 totals 630,800 fish. Daily
counts reached over 67,000 fish (September 7 and 8) and have slowly declined to 21,000 fish
per day (September 17). Based on the 10-year average, passage is 76% complete by September
17. The most recent in-season runsize estimates from TAC (9/15) include a Columbia River
return of 723,500 Upriver Bright (URB) and 110,000 Bonneville Pool Hatchery (BPH) adult
Chinook. The 2014 Columbia River return is projected to reach nearly 1,258,000 adult fall
Chinook (83% of preseason forecast of 1,510,600 adult fall Chinook)

Forget the change and go fishing.

Life’s good! Wet wading, fly casting for Ronde steelhead

FLY FISHING — I've heard some people say the water's still too warm in the Grande Ronde River to attract steelhead upstream from the Snake.

Fly fishing guide Sean Visintainer of Silver Bow Fly Shop is putting that myth to bed this week, as you can see in the photo above.

New Mexico pronghorn buck is world record

HUNTING — A pronghorn killed by New Mexico trophy hunter Mike Gallo’s has been certified  this month by the Boone and Crockett Club as the new world record.

Gallo shot the animal, often called an antelope, in Socorro County, New Mexico, in September 2013. It's official score is 96 4/8 Boone and Crockett points

The buck surpassed the existing record — which was a tie of 95 points held for more than a decade ago by two pronghorns taken in Arizona — by 1 1/2 inches. That's a huge margin. In fact, it's the widest margin between any of B&C’s 3,400 entries for trophy pronghorn.

The left horn of the new record antelope measures 18 4/8 inches, and the right horn measures 18 3/8 inches. The prongs measure 7 inches on the right and 6 5/8 inches on the left.

“Records reflect success in big game conservation,” said Richard Hale, chairman of the Club’s Records of North American Big Game Committee, in a press release. “Remember, the pronghorn was once nearly lost, much like the bison, until sportsmen led an era of wildlife recovery. Now the species is flourishing. And the fact that such incredible specimens exist today says a lot about how far we have come, and how bright the future might be.”

Gallo isn't a stranger to the record books. In addition to the world record, he has killed the top three pronghorns in New Mexico.

New Mexico is second in pronghorn entries in Boone and Crockett records, with 627. Wyoming is first, with 1,154.

Plan ahead for free entry at federal, state lands

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

  • Washington State Parks also sets dates for fee-free entry. 

The first freebie date of the year is National Public Lands Day.

Following is a list of other free-entry dates and participating federal agencies, which vary by holiday: 

  • Presidents Day weekend, Feb. 15-17 — National Park Service, National wildlife refuges, national forests. 
  • National Park Week opening weekend, April 19-20 — National Park Service.
  • National Get Outdoors Day, June 14 — national forests.
  • National Park Service Birthday, Aug. 25 — National Park Service.
  • National Public Lands Day, Sept. 27 — National Park Service, National wildlife refuges, national forests. 
  • National Wildlife Refuge Week, first day, Oct 12 — National wildlife refuges. 
  • Veterans Day, Nov. 11 — National Park Service, National wildlife refuges, national forests.

Washington State Parks also offer 11 days in which the Discover Pass is not needed for 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.

Read on for details about year-round free or discounted passes for military, disabled and seniors.

Ketchum wants Idaho to use nonlethal wolf control

PREDATORS  — City leaders in the central Idaho resort town of Ketchum have passed a resolution requesting state officials use nonlethal methods to manage wolf conflicts with livestock in Blaine County.

The city council in the resolution passed Monday said guard dogs, strobe lights and electric fencing are preferable to aerial gunning, hunting and trapping, according to the Associated Press.

Councilors in the resolution say tourism and wildlife are important to local citizens and the economy.

Councilors are also asking state leaders to reconsider what is considered a viable wolf population.

Idaho lawmakers earlier this year approved creating a $400,000 fund and a five-member board to authorize the killing of wolves.

Conservation groups say that will drive down the Idaho wolf population to about 150 animals. There are about 650 wolves in the state now.

Fall chinook hitting at Snake-Clearwater confluence

UPDATED 11:25 with photo of the big steelhead Shawn Barron caught on Clearwater River (inset) shortly after his son, Tyler, caught the big fall chinook (above). That's what I call a good day of fishing!

FISHING — The nice thing about fishing in the lower Clearwater River this time of year is that the fish you catch are either big or bigger.

Steelhead have been attracting anglers to the waters near Lewiston since July, when the fish started trickling over Lower Granite Dam in decent numbers and up the Snake River toward Idaho.To date, more than 22,000 steelhead have passed over Lower Granite Dam (since June 1) and the fish continue to swim over their last Snake River hurdle at the rate of about 1,300 a day.

But now fall chinook are showing in bigger numbers as a forecast record run pushes into the Columbia River system. Indeed, the numbers of fall chinook over Lower Granite is higher than the number of steelhead.

“We are anticipating that the fall chinook salmon returning run to Idaho will be the second largest we have seen in quite some time last year was the largest,” said Joe DuPont, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional fisheries manager in Lewiston.

“We are expecting around 50,000 adults to pass over Lower Granite Dam and what is even more exciting is this year the majority of the adult fish are three-ocean fish that typically range from 18-22 pounds. 

“On average, more than 2,000 adult chinook a day have been passing over Lower Granite Dam for the past week.  Soon we should exceed 3,000 adult chinook a day.  Catch rates for Chinook have been quite slow, but they should pick up with all these fish starting to move in.”

Steelhead fishing also has been fairly slow, he said, noting that surveys pegged success at 20 hours per fish in the Snake River and Clearwater River downstream of Memorial Bridge where fish can be harvested. 

But expect these catch rates to improve as more fish move into Idaho. 

“Steelhead fishing in the catch-and-release area of the Clearwater River (upstream of Memorial Bridge) has been fairly good with catch rates around 5 to 6 hours a fish,” DuPont said. 

“One interesting this about this year’s A run is that over half the fish that have passed over Lower Granite Dam are two-ocean fish running 9-13 pounds,” he said. The A run is the term used for the earlier arriving steelhead that are typically dominated by one-ocean fish and are mainly destined for the Salmon and Grande Ronde rivers and up the Snake to Hells Canyon Dam.

“So, although the catch rates haven’t been all that great, people have been pleased with the size of the fish they are catching.  Now that the B run (later arriving and generally larger two-ocean steelhead bound mostly for the Clearwater River Basin) is just starting to reach Idaho, the size of the fish should just get bigger.

Fall chinook anglers in Idaho often wonder why “wild” fish are protected when they seem to catch more “unclipped” salmon than “clipped” salmon produced at hatcheries. DuPont explains:

  • Only about 30% of the chinook passing over Lower Granite Dam are fin-clipped.  That is because a lot of wild fish are returning and because around half the hatchery fall chinook released in Idaho are clipped. This was done to help build the run when numbers were low.   Thus, anglers will have to catch around four unmarked fish for every clipped fish that can be harvested. 

Another question commonly asked: “Why can't anglers harvest fall chinook upstream of Memorial Bridge?”   DuPont explains:

  • First, only about 25 percent  of the hatchery fish released into the Clearwater River are clipped. Thus, when you mix in the wild fish only about 15 percent of the fish are clipped.  That doesn’t leave a lot of fish to be harvested.  This clip rate is set until 2017.  Discussion will occur to decide what the new clip rate will be starting in 2018.
  • Second, the Clearwater River is a very popular place to catch-and-release steelhead, and has been for many years.  Anglers come from all over the nation to fish this unique fishery.  Opening a fall chinook season at the same time as this catch-and-release steelhead season occurs would cause significant changes in the dynamics of this fishery (more anglers and more boats).  Many steelhead anglers say they are not in support of this.
  • Finally, the Nez Perce Tribe is largely responsible for rebuilding the fall chinook run in Idaho.  Because most of the Clearwater River is in the Nez Perce Tribal Reservation, we need to be considerate of their concerns and interests before moving forward with a fishery that targets fall chinook in this area.  We will have discussions with the Tribe about this when we feel the time is appropriate. 

National Geographic underwater photographers offer program in Spokane

OUTDOOR PHOTOGRAPHY — A pair of National Geographic underwater photographers will present a program, Coral Kingdoms & Empires of Ice at 7 p.m. on Oct. 7 at the INB Performing Arts Center in Spokane.  Expect the best.

Explore undersea worlds with photographic legend David Doubilet and his wife and underwater partner, photojournalist Jennifer Hayes. From the coral reefs of Papua New Guinea to the icebergs of Antarctica and the harp seals of Canada’s Gulf of St. Lawrence, they’ll go beyond the published stories to share their behind-the-camera adventures.

The program is the first of a four-part Spokane speaker series running into 2014 featuring award-winning photographers, filmmakers, scientists, and explorers . From the untamed landscape of Antarctica to the surface of Mars, discover what it means to explore the world’s most beautiful places and animals.

Tickets for the Doubilet-Hayes program cost $41.50 through TicketsWest.  Tickets for the entire series can be purchased for $150.

Mountain biking skills classes set at Sekani

CYCLING — A basic mountain biking skills class, taught by Evergreen East, is set for 10 a.m. Sept. 27 at Camp Sekani.

An intermediate skills class will follow on Oct. 25.

Details:  Evergreen East.

Agency posts saltwater fishing tips on new webpage

FISHING — A new Washington Fish and Wildlife Department web page features tips and tactics for catching fish over 3,800 square miles of marine areas off the coast, Grays Harbor, Willapa Bay, Strait of Juan de Fuca, San Juan Islands, Hood Canal, and Puget Sound.

The Marine Fishing web page features:

  • Species calendars showing when to fish by area and species, including salmon, halibut, lingcod, rockfish, flounder, tuna and other marine species.
  • Mapping tools that enable anglers to plan their trips and gain information on shore and boat access.
  • Fishing tips that include YouTube instructional videos, Fishing 101 lessons, fish preparation tips, and information on public clam and oyster beaches.
  • Great Getaways vacation planning section with information about family-friendly fishing vacations.
  • Fishing reports to help guide anglers to where the fish are biting.

The marine web page is one of several fishing information pages the agency has added or enhanced this year, including pages for lowland fishing lakes and high lakes.

Salmon catch surges in Hanford Reach, survey shows

UPDATED 9:15 a.m. with report from guide.

FISHING — What a difference a week makes when there's a big upstream surge of fall chinook into the Columbia River

Fishing success in the Hanford Reach is mushrooming as expected, according to creel surveys taken last week and reported today by Paul Hoffarth, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department fisheries biologist in the Tri-Cities.

Here's the latest report, for Sept. 8-14:

An estimated 1,385 boats fished for salmon in the Hanford Reach (Hwy 395 and Priest Rapids Dam) this past week.  WDFW staff interviewed anglers from 543 boats (1,351 anglers:7,790 pole hours).  An estimated 972 adult chinook and 125 jacks were harvested this past week.   Boats averaged just under a chinook per boat.  Harvest in most of the mid to upstream areas is better than a fish per boat.  Aquatic vegetation in the water in the downstream areas of the Reach is making fishing difficult.

Staff also interviewed 100 bank anglers (379 hours) fishing for salmon at Ringold with seven chinook harvested.

There were an estimated 3,448 angler trips for fall Chinook in the Tri-cities this past week.  Fall Chinook counts at Bonneville Dam have been holding steady at ~ 30,000 adult chinook per day.

Compare that with last week's report, for Sept. 1-7:

An estimated 583 boats fished for salmon in the Hanford Reach (Hwy 395 and Priest Rapids Dam) this past week.  WDFW staff interviewed anglers from 216 boats (412 anglers:2,422 pole hours).  An estimated 170 adult chinook and 5 jacks were harvested this past week.   Boats averaged roughly 1/3 of a chinook per boat.  Harvest began picking up at all area launches over the weekend.

Staff also interviewed 63 bank anglers (183 hours) fishing for salmon at Ringold with one chinook harvested.

Keep in mind that the two consecutive one-day record surges over Bonneville dam were just getting settled into Hanford Reach below Priest Rapids Dam this weekend.

It's game on.

  • Spokane fishing guide Dave Grove of Captain Dave's Guide Service just sent me a photo with a client holding a big chinook. Grove said it's the 27th chinook netted into his boat since he started fishing the Hanford Reach this weekend.

Another Washington wolf pack targets livestock

ENDANGERED SPECIES — A northeastern Washington wolf pack so new it hasn't been formally recognized has been confirmed in a livestock attack in Ferry County, state wildlife officials announced today.

The Profanity Pack, which apparently was documented sometime this year by a biologist working with the Colville Confederated Tribes, has been related to a wolf attack on cattle reported Sept. 12 on a Colville National Forest grazing allotment.

The pack, which doesn't yet show on state wolf recovery maps, was named for its proximity to Profanity Peak, elevation 6,428 feet, along the crest of the Kettle River Range east of Curlew, and north of Sherman Pass.

“Remote cameras show the pack includes at least three adults and three pups,” said Nate Pamplin, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department wildlife program director.

“WDFW is coordinating with the Colville Confederated Tribe on camera monitoring and future trapping efforts to place a radio collar on members of the pack.”

The Diamond M livestock operation, grazing on a U.S. Forest Service (USFS) allotment, reported finding a wolf-killed cow and calf in the vicinity of the Profanity Peak pack, Pamplin said.

Diamond M Ranch also had problems with wolf attacks mostly on private land in northern Stevens County in 2012. Those attacks affecting 17 cattle, led the state to put helicopter gunners in the air and kill eight members of the Wedge Pack.

“WDFW staff and deputies from the Stevens County and Ferry County sheriff’s offices responded and went to the site on Friday,” Pamplin said. “The area was remote, about four miles by trail from the nearest road.  WDFW staff confirmed that the cattle had been killed by wolves approximately a week before the necropsy.”

The Forest Service grazing allotment has 210 cow-calf pairs, Pamplin said:

The operators indicated that they believe that they have had more depredations than what has been located.  Operators also indicated that they are moving the cattle down (to a lower elevation) on the allotment to get to better forage and to initiate the move of cattle toward the area from which they will moved off the range in about a month (these actions were discussed independent of this depredation event).  

WDFW staff are completing the depredation investigation report and also reviewing/completing a current checklist of preventive measures that have been used to this point.

WDFW will coordinate with the USFS and the operator to continue discussions on options for avoiding/minimizing further depredations.

The cattle attacks were reported a month after another pack, the Huckleberry Pack, was confirmed in attacks on sheep a rancher was running on a private timber company grazing lease in Stevens County.  At least 24 sheep were killed as state officers went in and killed one of the pack's wolves, the alpha female.  The 1,800 sheep have been moved to other pasture.

Illia Dunes reopened after clean-up of college party trash

PUBLIC LANDS — Illia Dunes recreation area on the Snake River is in the process of being reopened today after U.S. Corps of engineers staff and select volunteers cleaned-up trash from an unexpected party that attracted 1,800 partiers on Sept. 6. The area was closed for safety and a reservoir drawdown was required to clean up glass and debris.

The Corps of Engineers, which manages the riverside recreation area along Almota Ferry Road, says the future use of the area is in the hands of visitors.  More damaging use could force restrictions, such a ban on alcohol.

“The popular beach and shallow water area downstream from Lower Granite Lock and Dam had been closed to public use on Sunday, Sept. 7, due to environmental damage, and potential public health and safety concerns after an unexpected crowd of about 1,800 people on Saturday, Sept. 6, left significant amounts of trash and human waste,” says the press release just issued by the Corps Walla Walla District.

The Corps' Natural Resources Management staff coordinated with two organized groups of volunteers — the Associated Students of Washington State University (ASWSU) and WSU's Center for Civic Engagement —  who offered to help in today's cleanup.

Recreation is allowed at the area, but it's primary function is for wildlife habitat,  Corps officials said.

“The Corps has the option of banning alcohol consumption on Corps lands at any time, and such bans are in place at several locations in the region.” officials said. “While alcohol consumption at Illia Dunes is not banned at this time, underage drinking is not allowed.”

State laws prohibit driving or boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs and drugs such as marijuana are prohibited on federal lands, even if state law allows it.

Conducting special events on Corps property is prohibited without a special-use permit.

Glass containers are banned on the Dunes, and the Corps provides free trash bags for visitors to use for “pack it in, pack it out” trash removal.

Dogs aren’t fussy about how they get exercise

PADDLING — Walking the dog, Priest Lake style.

Thanks to Pecky Cox and her “As the Lake Churns“ posts.

Activists shadowing wolf hunters in Montana

HUNTING — Activists opposed to killing wolves outside Yellowstone National Park said Monday they are shadowing outfitters outside the park during wolf hunting seasons.

Montana’s six-month general hunting season for gray wolves is underway after just one of the predators was reported taken during an early-season archery hunt.

It’s the fourth annual hunt since Congress revoked the animals’ endangered species protections in 2011. Yet it continues to stir debate.

Rod Coronado with the recently-formed Yellowstone Wolf Patrol says the group’s members will use a video camera to document any wolves killed to raise public awareness, according to the Associated Press.

Coronado told the reporter there is no intention to directly interfere, which would be illegal.

Hunting units north of Yellowstone are subject to a six-wolf quota. Montana does not limit how many wolves can be killed statewide.

Missoula man dies BASE jumping in Glacier Park

PARKS — A 22-year-old Missoula man has died, possibly after attempting an illegal base jump in Glacier National Park.

The National Park Service was notified at 8 p.m. Saturday that Beau Weiher was overdue from a solo day hike in the Many Glacier Area, Park officials said in a release.

Family and friends said he likely planned a hike in the Piegan (PEE’-gun) Pass and Mount Siyeh (sy-EE’) areas and may have planned a base jump.

Searchers began looking for Weiher on Sunday morning and eventually found tracks in the snow that indicated he may have been in an area below the summit of Mount Siyeh.

At about 6 p.m. searchers on a helicopter spotted what they believed to be a parachute. Weiher’s body was found at the base of Mount Siyeh at about 7 p.m. Sunday.

First salmon in 102 years return to Elwha River

FISHING — The Elwha River dams removal is one of the great “return-to-nature” stories to follow into the next decade….

“When dam removal began three years ago, chinook salmon were blocked far downstream by the Elwha Dam,” said Olympic National Park Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum.

“Today, we celebrate the return of chinook to the upper Elwha River for the first time in over a century. Thanks to the persistence and hard work of many National Park Service employees, the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe and many other partners, salmon can once again reach the pristine Elwha watershed within Olympic National Park.”

Good fires: Prescribed burns set to boost wildlife habitat

WILDLIFE — A highly visible prescribed fire is scheduled to be ignited on a portion of the Colville National Forest today, reminding the public that this is the “good fire” season in national forests throughout the Northwest.

  • Fire and smoke will be highly visible from Kettle Falls, WA and those traveling over Sherman Pass or recreating on Lake Roosevelt .  The Paradise Peak Project is located approximately 7 miles west of Kettle Falls. 

Although their budgets are limited and the window of safe opportunity is small, managers of forests around the region are setting fires carefully planned to sweep up hillsides and burn away thick understory fuels. The burns reduce the chance that fires in future years will grow big and destructive.  

At the same time, because they don't burn extremely hot like a summer wildfire, the controlled burns quickly rejuvenate forage for big-game species.

The Methow Valley Ranger District recently cancelled a planned controlled burn near Winthrop after hearing concerns from local residents weary and wary after Washington's largest wildfires on record raged through their region this summer.

Understood.   But let's hope residents soon realize that well-timed controlled fires are the best prescription for minimizing fire danger in the future as well as bringing back habitat for the region's fire-troubled mule deer herd.

Says the Colville National Forest in a release today:

The objective of these prescribed fires is to reduce the accumulation of dense undergrowth to reduce fire danger and to improve wildlife and big game wildlife habitat. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation supports these prescribed fire objectives and provides grant funding to the Forest Service to help fund these efforts.  This project is also part of the larger Paradise Peak Big Game Improvement Project, which also includes other large prescribed fire units and thinning units.