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EWU angling team places 4th in college bass tournament

COMPETITIVE FISHING — The Oregon State University team of Zach MacDonald, of Willits, Calif. and William Sparks, of Corvallis, Ore. won the National Guard FLW College Fishing West Conference event on Lake Shasta near Redding, Calif., Saturday.

An Eastern Washington University team of local anglers was in the top five, winning a berth to the  West Conference Regional Championship.

The Oregon team, with five fish totaling 9 pounds, 4 ounces, won the first place prize of $5,000.

Rounding out the top five teams advancing to the West Regional Championship are:

  •  2nd: University of California-Santa Cruz – Chris Rhoden and Sam Sayad, both of Santa Cruz, Calif.(five bass, 9-00, $1,500)
  • 3rd: Humboldt State University – Hideaki Kubo, Arcata, Calif., and Ben Smith, Samoa, Calif. (five bass, 8-7, $1,000)
  • 4th: Eastern Washington University – Jarred Walker, Cheney, Wash., and Robert Trukositz, Spokane, Wash. (five bass, 8-5, $1,000)
  • 5th: California State University-Long Beach – Alex Cox and Justin Gangel, both of Long Beach, Calif. (five bass, 8-1, $1,000)

The EWU team of Jake Ponce and Nick Barr placed 11 with 6 pounds, 3 ounces of fish.

The top five teams from each tournament qualify for the regional championship where the first-place team will win a bass boat with a 90-horsepower outboard wrapped in school colors for their fishing club. The top five teams from each regional tournament advance to the national championship.

College Fishing is free to enter and FLW provides boats and drivers for each competing team along with travel allowances. All participants must be registered, full-time undergraduate students at a four-year college or university and members of a fishing club recognized by their college or university.

The next National Guard FLW College West Conference tournament is scheduled for Feb. 25 at Lake Havasu in Lake Havasu City, Ariz.

Studs required for city hiking

TRAILS — South Hill trailmaster Jim Kershner said he didn't see anyone while hiking the South Hill Bluff trails this morning.

His photo explains why.

He managed to get home without any broken bones.

Anyone for luge?

Idaho expands wolf trapping near Dworshak

PREDATORS — The Idaho Fish and Game Commission on Thursday expanded the wolf trapping season to include Unit 10A in the Dworshak-Elk City wolf management zone starting Feb. 1.

The season in Unit 10A opens Wednesday and runs through March 31.

Commissioner Fred Trevey, of the Clearwater Region, said the expanded trapping would reduce wolf numbers and help local rural residents, such as in the Elk City area, who have penned livestock or other domestic livestock.

The rest of the Dworshak-Elk City zone (units 14, 15, 16) already is open for wolf trapping through the end of March.

Rural residents, however, don’t need a license or wolf tag to shoot at wolves attacking their livestock. But they must report any wolves they kill to Idaho Fish and Game within 72 hours, and the wolf would remain the property of the state.

Trappers must have a valid trapping license and complete a mandatory wolf trapping course.

 See details on wolf trapping rules and seasons here.

First chinook of the year swims over Bonneville Dam

SALMON FISHING — Here they come!

The first chinook samon of 2012 to swim up the Columbia and over Bonneville Dam were counted on Wednesday. 

That's the start of a strong run of 314,200 spring chinook  forecast to enter the Columbia destined to waters upstream of Bonneville Dam. If the springer forecast isn't downgraded later, it would be the fourth largest return since 1979 and second largest of the past five years.

A good run of 83,400 is predicted for Oregon's Willamette River. An additional 25,600 chinook are expected at other lower Columbia tributaries.

About 168,000 springers are expected to be headed farther upstream, into the Snake River, over Lower Granite Dam and into Idaho. That would be up from 127,500 counted over Lower Granite last year.

A record 91,200 summer chinook are forecast for the Columbia and tributaries in northcentral Washington and elsewhere. If that holds, it would be the highest number since 1980. The current record is 89,500 in 2002.

Fish managers from area states also predict 462,000 sockeye could move up the Columbia, a potential windfall record by a wide margin, up from the 387,800  that entered the Columbia in 2010..

Spring chinook fishing will open on the lower Columbia starting March 1 and March 16 in the mid-Columbia, according to rules set on Thursday.

Complicated allocation schemes involving the Endangered Species Act, catch balancing between the Columbia treaty tribes and non-Indians, along with sport-commercial sharing arrangements all interact to determine available harvest, reports Allen Thomas of the Vancouver Columbian

Pete Hassemer of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game asked Washington and Oregon not to frontload the sport fishery, but to stretch it out until early May, Thomas reported.

Fifty percent to 60 percent of the harvest downstream of Bonneville Dam comes from spring chinook headed to four Idaho hatcheries, Hassemer said. Idaho would like to see the harvest not so concentrated on four stocks.

Guy Norman, regional director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the sport fishery would have to be limited to about a day per week to meet Idaho's request..

Wash. revised elk hunting proposals to be released Feb. 1

HUNTING — Washington's revised elk hunting season proposals are scheduled to be posted on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website on Wednesday (Feb. 1), the day a meeting is set in Spokane to discuss the different but related revision of the elk management plan for northeastern Washington.

The revised elk hunting season proposals will include formalized options for changing the Master Hunter late hunting seasons on lands outside of Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.

Revised elk season proposals also will suggest ending either-sex elk general season hunts in northeastern Washikngton.

The WDFW has set two meetings next week, starting at 7 p.m., to present the draft plan for public comment:

  • Feb. 1, at Center Place, 2426 N. Discovery Place, in Spokane Valley.
  • Feb. 2, at the Northeast Washington Fairgrounds, 317 W. Astor Ave. in Colville.

The draft plan is available for review here, where a link provides opportunity to submit comments through Feb. 10.

The public comment period on the hunting rules revisions will begin Wednesday when the package is released on the WDFW hunt rules revision web page.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission is scheduled to review proposed new hunt rules during its March meeting in Moses Lake. The commission would vote on adopting the 2012-2014 rules in April.

Avalanche class for snowmobilers starts tonight at Sandpoint

WINTER SPORTS — An avalanche class geared to snowmobilers starts tonight, 7 p.m., at the Sandpoint Forest Service office, conducted by the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center

The class continues in the field on Saturday, meeting at the Trestle Creek trailhead at 9 a.m.

Avalanche advisory: where to go, what to avoid

WINTER SPORTS — Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center technicians found great riding and sliding conditions in the mountains during their Thursday survey, but they also found areas to avoid, according to the report posted this morning.

The snow was lighter on top and firmer down toward the crust buried about 4 feet deep.  Slopes in sheltered areas showed some weak layers that have not bonded in the upper 1-2 feet but they are moderately stable. 

Steeper exposed windloaded slopes, N-E-SE, will be the areas to avoid today where slabs will be firmer and under some stress.  Watch the weather Saturday night into Sunday for snowfall amounts, increasing winds, and warming temperatures. 

Read on for the complete advisory issued today for the Selkirks and Lookout Pass regions.

Kayaker puts new boat to the Spokane River test

PADDLING — Some people were content to be inside where it was warm on Thursday.

Blake  Sommers was on the Spokane River test-driving his new kayak for the first time.

He got a little swimming practice, too. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. But he didn't let go of his boat.

VIDEO: Snowshoer captures scene at Mount Spokane

Bald Knob Snowshoe, Mount Spokane State Park from Tanner Grant on Vimeo.

WINTER SPORTS — Tanner Grant of Spokane video's his recent snowshoe trek at Mount Spokane State Park to give the uninitiated a glimpse of one oft the more popular routes from the main road up to the Bald Knob Picnic area. 

We parked on the road near the snowmobile parking lot (Discover Pass required) and made the short trip to the picnic shelter. With all the new snow in the last week the conditions were great, and lucky for us the weather couldnt have been better. Music by Jack Johnson, "All At Once."

Grant also features a recommendation on how to come back down the mountain on the well-traveled route.

New fishing rules on commission agenda

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — Allowing bait fishing on the Kettle River and other proposals debated in 2011 will be considered by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission next week in a package of sportfishing rules for 2012-13.

The meeting is set for Feb. 3-4 in Olympia.

The commission also will vote on a proposed increase in the number of multiple season hunting permits issued each year

See the Fish and Wildlife Commision's complete meeting agenda.

See details of all the fishing rule proposals on the WDFW 2012 fishing proposals web page.

Here are details of the specific proposal to allow bait fishing on the Kettle River:

During the two-day meeting, the commission will consider adopting 18 sportfishing rules, which were developed with public input and discussed at the commission’s December and January meetings.

The proposals range from closing steelhead fisheries earlier in a number of rivers in the Puget Sound area to allowing anglers to fish with two poles on the Pend Oreille River and the lower Spokane River.

In other business the commission is set to:

  • Consider a 165-acre land acquisition in Okanogan County for fish and wildlife habitat.
  • Rreceive briefings on the 2011 Puget Sound recreational and commercial crab fishing seasons, changes to the recreational clam and oyster seasons on Puget Sound beaches, the Wildlife Program, the Colockum elk herd, sanitary shellfish enforcement, and the inland fish stocking strategy and marketing plan.

N. Idaho locals hammer feds on proposed caribou habitat

PUBLIC LANDS — Some North Idahol residents are upset by a proposal to designate an area half the size of Rhode Island in a remote part of the Panhandle and Washington as critical habitat for endangered woodland caribou.

They blasted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at a meeting on Tuesday, saying the federal plans amounted to a land grab that would devastate the local economy, according to an Associated Press story by Nicholas K. Geranios.

But federal officials said the designation was required to help save the last remaining caribou herd in the Lower 48 states. They said the average person should not be impacted by a critical habitat designation.

That didn’t satisfy many of the estimated 200 people who showed up at the so-called “coordination” meeting requested by the Bonner County commissioners, who are seeking to provide input to federal regulators.

“Our goal in this coordination is to stop this closure,” county Commissioner Cornel Rasor admitted.

Read on for details from the AP report.

Video captures snowmobiler rescue from avalanche


WINTER SPORTS — In a dramatic event caught on video, a snowmobiler coming down a hill at Stampede Pass in the Cascades was buried by an avalanche but, luckily for him, friends were nearby and quickly responded to dig him out in time to save his life, according the TV news report (above).

The snowmobiler, John Swanson, said in an TV interview Tuesday he was enjoying a weekend with his friends at Stampede pass, which is just south of Snoqualmie Pass.

He said he was roaring down a hill on his snowmobile Sunday when the "hillside broke free … I was running down the hill and I could hear Russ yelling … he was saying, ’Get out of the way!’"

But Swanson said he could not longer steer as "the whole hillside gave way."

He was buried in seconds. It was caught on video by one of his friends who had a camera attached to his helmet.

"It’s like being in concrete," he said of being buried under the snow. "I guess I always figured you could move somewhat, wiggle here, wiggle there and create yourself an air pocket but there was nothing. The snow filled totally in, filled my mask."

Swanson was suffocating.

"Every time I tried to inhale, just inhaling ice balls," he said.

New forest rules stress science, Obama officials say

PUBLIC LANDS — The Obama administration says new rules to manage nearly 200 million acres of national forests will protect watersheds and wildlife while promoting uses ranging from recreation to logging, according to story that just moved over the Associated Press wire.

The new rules, to replace guidelines thrown out by a federal court in 2009, are set to take effect in early March. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the rule change today.

Vilsack said in an interview that the rules reflect more than 300,000 comments received since a draft plan was released last year. The new rules strengthen a requirement that decisions be based on the best available science and recognize that forests are used for a variety of purposes, Vilsack said.

Read on for the rest of the AP story by Matthew Daly

Photos show rescued dog getting TLC

SEARCH AND RESCUE — Readers following the story of the lost dog rescued high in the Kettle Range yesterday will enjoy these followup photos.

The pix, just sent to me by Mariann Crooks, show Rebel, a 7-month-old bluetick coonhound, still wiped out from the two nights he endured in the winter wilds north of Sherman Pass after being lost during a snowshoeing trek to Columbia Mountain.

But Rebel's home now, getting plenty of comfort and attention from Mariann's daughter, Sabrina Crooks.

And a few hearts will justifiably melt to see one of the other family dogs nursing Rebel's feet, which were raw and sore from the snow, cold and ice high in the Colville National Forest.

Crooks said Rebel slept pretty much nonstop for 36 hours after he got home.

Rebel was rescued by a group of forestry students from the Curlew Job Corps Center.

See photos of the rescue in this blog post

Dog rescuers went the extra mile

WINTER SPORTS — Today's story about students rescuing a snowshoer's bluetick coonhound lost in the Kettle Range for two nights offers a life lesson to all of us.

Helping other people can be remarkably easy and productive if we just make the effort to try.

Think about what we could accomplish if everyone looked for a way to contribute every day rather than leaving it to somebody else.

See post-rescue photos here.

Good spring chinook run headed for Wind, Drano

SALMON FISHING — State biologists are forecasting good returns of spring chinook salmon this year to Wind River and Drano Lake, popular sport-fishing spots in the Columbia River Gorge.

The prediction is for 8,400 adult spring chinook to enter the Columbia destined for the Wind River and 9,500 headed to Drano Lake, a large backwater at the mouth of the Little White Salmon River, reports By Allen Thomas of The Vancouver Columbian.

While not records, the returns would be more than enough salmon to provide robust fishing success if weather and water conditions are favorable.

Read on for more of the report:

Distinguishing swans from snow geese is black and white

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Should a hunter ever be excused for killing a trumpeter swan he misidentified as a snow goose?

Probably not.

Here are three notable reasons from Rich Myhre of the Everett Herald:

  1. Because of their white color, trumpeter swans look a little bit like snow geese. But trumpeter swans are entirely white, while snow geese have black wing tips.
  2. Trumpeter swans measure 6-8 feet from wing tip to wing tip, while snow geese measure only about 3 feet.
  3. Most important, snow geese can be hunted during waterfowl season, but there is never a legal time to shoot trumpeter swans.

For additional information about identifying swans, go to www.trumpeterswansociety.org.

QUIZ: What’s the term for a group of snowy owls?

BIRDWATCHING — You've heard of a murder of crows, a pride of lions and a exhaltation of larks, right?

What is the term for a group of snowy owls?

A. Blizzard.

B. Parliament

C. Congress

D. Hoot

E. Forum

Click "continue reading" for the answer.

Take an idyllic time-lapse outdoor tour of Oregon

<a href='http://www.bing.com/videos/browse?mkt=en-us&vid=11fb7d43-c4a3-43ab-9adb-1ffd15358300&from=en-us_msnhp&src=v5:embed::' _cke_saved_href='http://www.bing.com/videos/browse?mkt=en-us&vid=11fb7d43-c4a3-43ab-9adb-1ffd15358300&from=en-us_msnhp&src=v5:embed::' target='_new' title='Finding Oregon Time-Lapse'>Video: Finding Oregon Time-Lapse</a>

OUTDOOR PHOTOGRAPHY — Many of Oregon's iconic natural features are captured in this soothing production of time-lapse photography.

It's called "Finding Oregon, by Uncage the Soul Productions.

The clip involves six months of photography across the state. It highlights spots that beckon outdoors enthusiasts, such as: Columbia River Gorge, Mount Hood, Mount Jefferson, the Southwestern Coast, the Alvord Desert, Leslie Gulch, Blue Mountains, Crater Lake, Eagle Cap Wilderness, Deschutes River, and more!
Although you see no people in these photos, they've been discovered, for good reason.

Kettle Range avalanche conditions in a word: Nasty

WINTER SPORTS — The avalanche forecast for the Idaho Panhandle won't be updated until Friday, but forecaster Keith Wakefield of Curlew tramped high into the Kettle Range TODAY and got some unsettling results from his snow pits and sheer tests.   Here's the scoop from a report he just filed:

Out snow geeking on Sherman Pass today, verifying the Canadians forecast for this region. Those Canucks nailed it! They had it at HIGH for today and tomorrow, and trending down to Considerable for the weekend.

Its the most complex the snowpack has been this season, and very upside down in the top 20-24" of the snowpack.

Two sensitive slabs in the uper two thirds of the pack totaling 20+ inches on the leeward N-NE aspects was a #3 ETC test down thru both slabs to a clean shear (q-1)

Wind has created nasty surface styro-crusts on windward S-SW-W aspects as well… Nasty.

Windy 10-15 today with rising temps. Good day for a trail ski. Going to be an interesting weekend in the region's backcountry. Heads up.

Wildlife area closing temporarily to protect Colockum elk

WILDLIFE — For the fifth consecutive year, about 44,000 acres of state wildlife land east of Ellensburg will be closed to motor vehicles Feb. 1-April 30 to protect wintering elk from disturbance.

Keeping the elk on the state wildlife areas should keep more elk from moving to private lands where they can cause crop damage, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The agency will temporarily close the Whiskey Dick Wildlife Area and a portion of the Quilomene Wildlife Area in Kittitas County. The area to be closed is north of the Vantage Highway, south of Quilomene Ridge Road, east of the Wild Horse Wind Farm and west of the Columbia River.

Read on for details from the WDFW:

Warm up to ice fishing at Hauser Lake event

ICE FISHING — Nobody will be left out in the cold on Saturday during a free ice-fishing event at Hauser Lake, 11 a.m.-2 p.m., sponsored by the Idaho Fish and Game Department.

The agency will loan free fishing gear from the Take Me Fishing trailer on the fishing access site at the south end of the lake off Hauser Lake Road.

Volunteers will drill holes in the ice for participants and help new anglers get started, said Phil Cooper, IFG spokesman. Free hot dogs and hot chocolate will be served.

The parking area is scheduled to be plowed and the restrooms will be open.

 Youths under 14 years never need a fishing license to wet a line in Idaho, but during the hours of the event, older anglers also can fish without a license, Cooper said.

”These events give their parents, older siblings and friends the opportunity to try fishing without purchasing a license,” he said, noting that the agency held 28 Take Me Fishing events across the state last spring. Saturday’s event will be the Panhandle Region’s first session on ice-fishing.

Enter your best shot of Scotchman Peaks during winter

OUTDOOR PHOTOGRAPHY — The Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness are taking entries in their annual winter outdoor photography contest.

If you are in or around the Scotchman Peaks this winter (you have to be able to see the wilderness), and you take a picture you think is really cool, attach it to an e-mail telling where you took it, when you took it, and maybe even why you took it and send to sandy@scotchmanpeaks.org.

The grand prize: a night’s stay for two next summer at the Huckleberry Tent and Breakfast near Clark Fork, in the shadow of the Scotchman Peaks.

Snowshoers find dog that spent two nights out near Sherman Pass

MISSING PETS — A young, energetic family dog lost from its owners during a snowshoe hike on Sunday has been found after two days out in the high country near Sherman Pass.

A Job Corps forestry crew heard about the lost dog and the despair of the family through an email network, so they decided to go out for a snowshoe hike today and see what they could see.

Lo! They found Rebel, a seven month old male bluetick coonhound that had been lost since mid-day Sunday in the vicinity of Columbia Mountain near Sherman Pass in Colville National Forest in northeast Washington.

He survived the ordeal wearing an orange collar, a red head halter and a small blue pack.

His owners are being notified.  The dog reportedly was dehydrated but otherwise in good shape.

Credit a close network of locals in the Republic-Curlew area who have the skills to get out in the backcountry and the generosity to look out after others.

More on this later…

Solar storms will turn on northern lights

SKYWATCHING — Tonight might be prime time, if you can swing it, to go high away from city lights and above the clouds to watch the expected light show in the northern sky.

A massive explosion on the sun's surface has triggered the largest solar radiation storm since 2005, unleashing a torrent of charged plasma particles toward Earth.

The bad news:  Could cause trouble with satellites and GPS navigation, power grids and other high-tech hardware.

The good news:  Likely will trigger displays of aurora borealis, a.k.a the northern lights.

Predicting shows of northern lights is much the same for scientists as predicting the weather, since the aurora is a result of space weather.

While this week is special, scientists expect higher than normal solar activity to persist through the year. Scientists say there's been a minimum rate of solar and aurora activity since 2007.

Northern lights info and forecasts

Find a wealth of info, links, photos and forecasts at this website maintained by the Geophysical Institute at the Unviversity of Alaska Fairbanks.

Snowshoers lose family hound near Sherman Pass

MISSING PETS — During a snowshoe hike on Sunday (Jan. 22), a seven month  old male Bluetick Coonhound who answers to the name Rebel was lost in the vicinity of Columbia Mountain near Sherman Pass in Colville National Forest in northeast Washington.  

Anyone living in the area or out playing in the backcountry in the vicinity of Sherman Pass, please keep your eye out for him!

His owners say Rebel is super friendly and should approach anyone that calls him. 

Last seen, he was wearing an orange collar, a red head halter and a small blue pack. 

The dog has tags on to identify where he belongs. 

His owners are very worried for him. If found, please contact Mariann at (509) 496-9370 (cell) or via email at mendenhall_mini_farm@yahoo.com   


Pygmy owl catches nordic skier’s eye

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The diminutive pygmy owl stands less than 7 inches tall, and it's easy to miss.

Birder Teri Pieper of Twisp used her eagle eyes to spot this little guy as she skinny-skied behind friends who had swooshed past the owl in the brush just above their heads without seeing it. She was skiing near Sun Mountain Lodge on the Methow Valley Sport Trails Association trails.

The pygmy owl is an aggressive little bird that preys on rodents and other birds as large as a mourning dove.

Spirit Lake kokanee bonanza going untapped

WINTER FISHING — Ice anglers in North Idaho should be cleaning upon the record number of mature kokanee in Spirit Lake this winter – except they can’t get to the fish.

Idaho Fish and Game Department reports from August trawling surveys say “the most abundant year class of kokanee ever documented for this lake” is swimming around virtually unscathed.

“The strong year class of one year old kokanee last year is now a record high year class of two year old kokanee,” the report said, estimating there would be more than 382,000 kokanee averaging at least 8.25 inches waiting for anglers when the ice fishing opportunities began this winter.

That pencils out to about 260 catchable-sized fish for each acre of water, or about four times as many kokanee as last year!

But the ice-fishing hasn’t happened.

“It’s a shame for ice fishermen,” said Jim Fredericks, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional fisheries manager. “The east end of the lake has had enough ice for fishing on a couple of occasions, but that’s not really where the kokanee fishing is.”

The bulk of the lake has remained ice-free.  Sure, the season’s open year-round and you could fish from a boat, except there’s just enough ice around the edges to thwart boat-launching.

“Maybe we still have a chance for a good cold snap to get ice fishermen out off Silver Beach or Bronze Bay – the best winter kokanee fishing places,” he said.

“If not, there will be a great kokanee fishery waiting for handliners and jiggers off the cliff at the east end this spring,” he said.

Video: Where sharptails feast during winter

WILDLIFE WATCHING — This short video clip shows sharp-tailed grouse feeding recently in Okanogan County. 

Grouse species are well adapted to feeding on nutritious buds and berries in trees of the ground, as you can see by these birds clinging effortlessly to flimsy brush as they eat.

The video was shot by Khanh Tran of Portland.

Wife uses shovel to defend husband against attacking moose

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — This just in from Alaska:  A woman used a shovel to scare away a moose that was stomping on her husband. 

Maybe this would be no big deal — she probably did make the "for better or worse" vow at the altar — but consider this:  The woman is 85 years old — and Alaska moose are even bigger than those found in Washington and Idaho.

See the Anchorage Daily News story and photos.