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Idaho sets fall waterfowl hunting seasons

HUNTING — The Idaho Fish and Game Commission adopted a 107-day waterfowl season for 2011-2012 during its meeting Wednesday.

A youth hunt was set for Sept. 24-25.

Read on for other details of bag limits and other seasons that begin in October.

Discover Pass sales net (only) $2.9 million so far

STATE LANDS — During the first six weeks of sales, Washington’s new Discover Pass raised $2,914,434 to support state parks and other state recreation lands, the state Parks and Recreation Commission reported Wednesday.

That leaves much to be desired in making up for the $65 million loss in general fund support to state recreation lands.

Sales include $1,008,469 during July collected by state parks and another $1,905,965 made through the Washington Interactive Licensing Database (WILD) managed by Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) through a private business vendor.

Don Hoch, Washington State Parks director, said those sales are critical to the future of state parks, which must now rely on user fees and donations to cover costs. WDFW and the state Department of Natural Resources also receive a percentage of those fees to maintain public access to lands they manage.

“And we are optimistic that sales will continue to grow to help fund our state recreation lands,” he said.

Read on for more details and comments.

Oregon gets fishing bait makers to limit use of harmful chemical

FISHING — Should the manufacturers of artificial fishing baits and egg cures use a chemical that kills small fish?

Seems like a no-brainer, but Oregon is the first state in the region to deal with the issue

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife reached an agreement last week with fish bait manufacturers to limit, but not end, their use of sodium sulfite, a popular preservative that's been found to be lethal to small fish in high doses.
Upon final approval, all cures manufactured for sale in Oregon after Oct. 1 must have a reduced level of sodium sulfite. Products will be labeled “meets Oregon guidelines.”
Read on for the rest of the story by Bill Monroe of the Oregonian.

Scotchman Friends educating hikers about mountain goats

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Mountain goat watching has become an attraction luring hikers up the significantly steep 7-mile round trip to the top of Scotchman Peak northeast of Lake Pend Oreille.

Unfortunately, some hikers are urinating on the mountain top and making food available to the goats. Goats are attracted to the salt in urine and can become aggressive in defending their “salt licks.” They also can become dangerous with their sharp horns if they become addicted to human food. 

Considering the number of hikers climbing up the peak nowadays, the cumulative effect of these actions could lead to a goat's demise.

NOTE:  An aggressive mountain goat gored and killed a hiker in Olympic National Park last fall. The goat as killed by rangers. The family has just filed a $10 million wrongful death suit against the park…. you can see how serious this gets.

The Friends of of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness recognize the threat to their iconic goats, so they're posting signs — see pdf document with this post — and asking Scotchman visitors to act in the best interest of the goats.

“There is an increase in the number of goats, mostly younger, who are hanging around the top of Scotchman Peak,” said Phil Hough of the Friends group. “We're not sure if it's been a successfull couple years for goat reproduction, or if word has gotten out in the goat “social circles” that there are “yahoos” willing to do stupid things like feed them.

“We're trying to get the word out to leave them alone.  Just this week, our summer intern, Lauren Mitchell, finished a Goat Education Poster. We'll be displaying it at trail heads and events. 

Read on for some of the tips the poster offers for mountain goat encounters.


Grizzly bear case good political stage for Idaho politicians

ENDANGERED SPECIES — An Idaho state senator from Sandpoint and now Gov. Butch Otter have stepped up to chastise the feds for prosecuting a Porthill-area man for illegally shooting a grizzly bear.

This is about as politically risky in Idaho as saying American citizens have the right to bear arms.

But the facts of the case have not been disclosed. There might be a few other details to consider.

S-R reporter Becky Kramer covered Monday's hearing in which Jeremy Hill, 33, pleaded not guilty to the charges, backed by a lot of community support.

The S-R's Boise reporter, Betsy Russell, has filed this report on Otter's request that the U.S. Secretary of Interior step in and have the charges dropped.

See my Thursday Outdoors column for less politically popular thoughts on the case from the grizzly bear's side of the story.

Federal wildlife agents probably couldn’t win a popularity contest in hell, but the jury’s still out on whether they should be condemned for doing their job.

Monster chinook caught, released off Vancouver Island

SALMON FISHING — A salmon big enough to feed the Seattle Seahawks was caught and released off the Queen Charlotte Islands last weekend.

Chris Lewis broke the Queen Charlotte Lodge's 10-year-old record with a king that topped 84 pounds on Saturday.

Lewis was fishing with lodge guide Derek Poitras along the kelp beds just east of Klashwun Point when both rods went off in a matter of seconds, according to the lodge's website.

While Lewis played his fish, fishing partner Stephen Mason played and boated a hefty 31 pound king.

After a half-hour battle — the guides recognized quickly by the “shoulders” that the fish as extraordinary — the chinook was measured at 51.5-inches long, 35-inches in girth for a for a score of 84.12 pounds.

It was photographed, appreciated, and released.

Anglers set all-time record steelhead harvest on lower Columbia

FISHING — The estimated 9,800 hatchery summer steelhead kept on the lower Columbia River so far this month — through Aug. 22 — is an all time record not just for August but for any month since at least 1969, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department has just reported. 

The previous record of 8,549 steelhead was set last month. 

A good run along with river flows that are higher and cooler than normal appear to be favoring the anglers.

MEANTIME, about 30,000 steelhead have run up the Snake River and climbed over Lower Granite Dam. They're coming at the rate of about a thousand a day.  Anglers are enjoying good catches of steelhead in Idaho's Clearwater River.

And, as the graph above shows, the big numbers are yet to come.

Volunteers tackle weeds on South Hill bluff trails tonight

TRAILS — Hikers and bikers are attracted to the trails on the South Hill bluff below High Drive — and so are noxious weeds!

Consider joining the group of volunteers donating some time to help manage the weed problem with a little muscle power.

The group met last week and the project continues TONIGHT.

Meet at 6:30 pm at Polly Judd Park at 1732 West 14th Ave. At 8 pm we will adjourn to the Rocket Market (or somewhere you suggest) for a beverage and to socialize!

“This week we will cut spotted knapweed plants away from sections of the trail where they are impeding trail use,” said facilitator Diana Roberts of the WSU County Extension. “We will create a demonstration area that will be sprayed with herbicide next spring to impede weed growth along the trail.”

Bring work gloves, sturdy garden clippers, and water to drink. Long pants, long sleeved shirts, and hiking boots are the recommended attire.
Info: Diana Roberts, (509) 477-2167 or email robertsd@wsu.edu.

Washington wolf plan hearing Aug. 29 in Ellensburg

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Planning that started in 2007 for dealing with the movement of gray wolves into Washington is inching closer to a conclusion.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission has scheduled a special meeting to will hold a special meeting to continue its review of the the state's Final Environmental Impact Statement/Recommended Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, and the public is invited to comment.

According to the agenda released yesterday, the wolf briefing by Fish and Wildlife Department staffers will begin at 9 a.m., Aug. 29, at the Quality Inn & Conference Center, 1700 Canyon Rd. in  Ellensburg on Monday, August 29, followed by a public input opportunity.

The public comment opportunity will come at the end of the afternoon portion of the meeting, which begins at 1 p.m.

The Commission plans to hold additional special meetings on Oct. 6 and Nov. 3 in Olympia to continue discussing the FEIS/Plan and hear public comment.

Commission meeting agendas, background materials and additional information will be available for viewing on the Commission’s web page.

Click here to see the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website dedicated to the plan for dealing with wolves in Washington.

Trees to be cut off McDowell Lake levy

PUBLIC LANDS —  The dikes and levies along the Coeur d'Alene River near North Idaho College and along Lewiston aren't the only areas where trees are scheduled to be cut by order of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The trees and woody vegetation is scheduled to be cut along the dike at McDowell Lake starting this fall, said officials at the Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge.

The corps said the trees and brush must be cut to protect the integrity of the levies and reduce the possibility of major failures.

New elk bowhunting rules cost Montana millions of dollars

BIG-GAME HUNTING — The 2011 archery elk permit drawing results are in, and for some it was a day of reward and excitement. For others there was disappointment in not drawing a permit for this year. For Montana it was an economic bloodletting.

The details are spelled out in an op-ed piece published in the Missoulian by Mac Minard, executive director of the Montana Outfitters and Guides Association.

“More than $16 million in economic activity has been lost due to residents and nonresidents who wanted to archery hunt in Montana but could not draw the permit. Limitations on permits are not based on conservation concerns, as all of the hunting districts involved are either at or over published population objectives for elk.

“In 2008, in a very controversial decision, the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission decided to move from unlimited to limited archery elk permits for the Missouri Breaks. The rationale given included a number of factors, none of which had to do with abundance (or lack) of elk as populations are larger than desired. This action spurred a furious debate, but in the end it passed with no one really knowing what the impact would be.

“Then in 2010 the commission further reduced archery hunting opportunity in 22 additional hunting districts where elk were at or over the management objective. Taken together, 29 hunting districts, or 36 percent of the land mass of Montana, are now managed under a limited permit system. All of them enjoy an abundance of elk.

“Now, in 2011, we find that 1,854 resident hunters and 1,989 nonresidents, who had already obtained hunting licenses, put in for archery permits but were not drawn. These 3,843 hunters would have come to rural Montana to hunt and would have spent money on motels, restaurants, travel and incidentals that provides desperately needed economic activity and benefits families in communities that are struggling financially.”

Read on for more of Minard's commentary.

Going wild: A chat with biologists is never dull

WILDLIFE WATCHING — I had a chance to soak in some of the conversation recently when a handful of wildlife biologists gathered around a picnic table for dinner at the Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge.

And I was all ears.

The “bat lady” told of how she was installing new equipment to monitor bat sounds at night and help determine what species are flying around parts of the refuge in the night.

Bird talk dominated the session. 

Did you know that mountain quail stand out among western birds because the female lays eggs in two nests? The male incubates one nest of eggs while the female incubates the other. If they're both successful, they bring their broods together.

Most of the woodpeckers, however, share the job of incubation. The female deposits the eggs in the nest and she and the male trade off shifts every eight hours or so.

Across the bird world, males are more likely to assume the job of incubating the eggs, as in penguins.

Fly fisher had two chances to catch two-face fish in CdA River

FLY FISHING — Jay Kirchner was fly fishing on the North Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River Saturday morning when he hooked a scrappy cutthroat trout.

It hit an Elk Hair Caddis on the surface,” he said. “There was nothing odd about the strike or the fight except that when I could see it during the fight it looked odd. It wasn't until I got it in the net that I saw the fish had two mouths,” he added, swearing he wasn't fishing up in the Selkirk Mountains at Two Mouth Lakes. 

“I laid it out on the shore for a quick picture, then set it loose again. The cutthroat happily swam off.

“Apparently the fish are so aggressive that some have decided to grow a second mouth to aid in their insect attacks!”

Although the photo is sharp, it's not clear whether the lower mouth is a deformity from the egg or whether it's the healed result of suffering hooking damage as a young fish.   Any ideas out there?

Kirchner is the public information officer for the Idaho Panhandle National Forest in Coeur d'Alene.

Forest Service to sell maps, permits at North Idaho Fair

PUBLIC LANDS — Visitors to the North Idaho Fair, which opens Wednesday at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds, will enjoy one-stop shopping for national forest items such as maps and permits.

The Idaho Panhandle National Forests’ booth, located in Building 1, will sell the following items from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday through Saturday:

  • Visitor maps providing recreation information for the Coeur d’Alene, St. Joe, and Kaniksu National Forests ($10 each)
  • Personal firewood permits, allowing individuals to gather firewood from National Forest System lands ($5/cord with a $20/4 cord minimum)
  • Interagency Senior Recreation Passes, providing lifetime entry to federal sites ($10)

In addition, copies of the Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUMs) for all districts on the Idaho Panhandle National Forests will be available free of charge. These MVUMs display the National Forest System roads, trails and areas designated for public motor vehicle use. The maps also display the types of vehicles allowed on each route, and any seasonal restrictions that apply, but do not display the same recreation site information provided by the visitor maps.

Grebe gives angler a lesson in raising a family

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Thanks to local angler Tom Turnbull for sharing this rare moment as he put down his own rod for a moment to watch as a red-necked grebe taught her brood to catch their food.  In his words:

I was fishing on Hauser lake a couple of weeks ago when I saw a red-necked grebe teaching her chicks to fish. She had caught a small fish, and she put it in front of her chicks. When they failed to catch it, she would dive, retrieve the fish and present it to her chicks again. Finally, one of the chicks caught the fish in its beak. I was fascinated.

Last days for Condit Dam; White Salmon to flow free

FREE-FLOWING RIVERS — After a dozen years of planning, the White Salmon River, dammed 3.3 miles upstream from its confluence with the Columbia River since 1913, is on its way to becoming a free-flowing river again.

Dam operators are letting the water pour out of Northwestern Lake, the 92-acre reservoir behind Condit Dam.

White-water rafters who put in at Husum and BZ Corners have been using a new takeout point upstream from the reservoir.

Workers will divert water around the dam. Fish in the pool, mainly trout and steelhead at this time of year, will be caught and released downstream. The dam will be removed in pieces.

Breaching is scheduled for mid- to late October, after all wild fall chinook entering the lower river have been captured, transported and released above the dam.

Read on for more information on this historic effort.

Video: Hawaii snorkeler chronicles grace of sea turtle

Untitled from Tom Delanoy on Vimeo.

OCEAN CREATURES — Many people have had the pleasure to swim with sea turtles, but since most of us have not, here's a feeling for what it's like.

Tom Delanoy, grandson of Medical Lake area resident Kenneth Delanoy, shot this video in Hawaii. It's fun to watch. 

Of the seven species of sea turtles, six are found in U.S. waters: Green Sea Turtles, Hawksbill Turtles, Kemp's Ridley Turtles, Leatherback Sea Turtles, Loggerhead Sea Turtles, and Olive Ridley Turtles. All Six species of sea turtles occurring in the U.S. are protected under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

It is illegal to touch sea turtles, as it can cause them to drown or subject them to disease.

Under the U.S. Endangered Species Act of 1973, the Hawkbill and Leatherback are listed as endangered. The Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle, a distinct population of Green Sea Turtles, is listed as “threatened.” This means that the species is likely to be in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range in the foreseeable future. The Olive Ridley Turtles are listed as endangered in Mexico and threatened elsewhere. Loggerhead turtles are listed as threatened.

Multi-sport race to debut at Plante’s Ferry

EVENTS — A new multi-sport race in the Spokane Valley will put three-person teams to the test of paddling on the Spokane River, mountain biking on Beacon Hill and running on the Centennial Trail.

The Plante’s Ferry Adventure Race is set for Sept. 18, sponsored by the Spokane Valley Junior Soccer Association.

PFAR is open to teams of three or individuals. Participants must be age 14 or older. Categories include Youth (14-18),

Friends, Family, Ladies and Corporate. Cost: $99 per team or $49 individual.

Register and get more online.

West Nile virus found in Yakima mosquito

OUTDOOR HAZARDS — The state Health Department says the West Nile virus was found in a mosquito collected Tuesday in Yakima County — the first sign of the disease this year in Washington.

No human cases have been identified this year, but there were two last year, and a 38 people in the state were sickened in 2009 by the virus, which is carried by birds and mosquitoes.

Most people bitten by a mosquito with the virus won't become ill, but some people with weak immune systems risk serious illness.

The department recommends wearing bug repellant and long pants and long sleeves when outdoors.

Learn about bear spray and more at “Be Bear Aware” exhibit

WILDLIFE — A “Be Bear Aware” educational trailer – and a chance to be trained on using bear spray – will be open Monday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m., at the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department office, 2315 N. Discovery Pl. in Spokane Valley.

Blue-green aglae warnings for Rufus Woods, Potholes

WATER SPORTS — Campers and boaters must be aware of toxic alage warnings for a portion of Potholes reservoir and Lake Rufus Woods.

The Washington Department of Health is warning people not to swim in Rufus Woods, but officials say the problems does not affect fish or fishing.

However, pets and livestock should be kept away from the water.

The Department of Ecology has a website devoted to algae issues

Read on for a details story from the Grand Coulee Star Online plus links to

No Lake Wenatchee sockeye fishery this year

SALMON FISHING — The return of sockeye salmon to Lake Wenatchee is not strong enough to allow a recreational fishery in the lake this year, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife just announced.

Although more than 185,000 sockeye have passed Bonneville Dam this year, only about 14,000 of them are expected to enter Lake Wenatchee, said Jeff Korth, WDFW regional fish manager in Ephrata.

That is well short of the 23,000-fish goal for spawning escapement in the lake, Korth said.

“We know this is disappointing news for anglers, especially since the lake has opened for sockeye fishing for the past three years,” Korth said. “But the number of sockeye counted between Rock Island and Rocky Reach dams is low, and very few are entering the Wenatchee River.”

While the overall run of sockeye to the Columbia River has been relatively high, most of these fish appear to be headed for the Okanogan River and on into Canada, Korth said.

“The four- and five-year old sockeye that make up the bulk of this year’s run to Lake Wenatchee were spawned in years with very low sockeye abundance,” Korth said. “So there’s good reason to believe returns will improve in the years ahead.”

Commission boosts cougar hunting opportunity in six counties

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission today voted to increase cougar hunting opportunities in six counties.

Meeting via telephone, the commission amended cougar hunting regulations for a pilot project that authorizes cougar hunting with the aid of dogs. The project had expired and was not extended this year by the Legislature.

The commission increased cougar hunting opportunities without the aid of dogs in Klickitat, Chelan, Okanogan, Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties to continue to meet management objectives in those areas.

In addition, the commission modified the criteria for determining when cougars are removed to address public concerns about pet and livestock depredation and personal safety. The change allows for cougar removals when complaints confirmed by WDFW staff in a given game management unit exceed the five-year average.

WDFW game managers recommended the amendments to cougar hunting regulations as an interim measure until the 2012-14 hunting season package is developed.

Public discussion of the 2012-14 hunting seasons is scheduled to begin this month, including a Spokane meeting on Wednesday. 

Click here for more information about future commission meetings.

Expedition Idaho survivors headed for finish at Silver Mountain

ADVENTURE RACING — The end is in sight, at least figuratively for competitors in Expedition Idaho, the 6-day adventure race — 528 miles, 137,000 vertical feet – night and day through North Idaho.

“After an unbelievable week, where at times, we never thought we could pull everyone back together, the race has come together perfectly,” said organizer David Adlard of Athol. “And it looks like our grand scheme for the Blues and Brews finish (which many told me wouldn’t work/you’re crazy) is going to work perfectly, despite the forest fire near the Silver Mountain Resort which almost got to the gondola!”

Read on for Adlards just posted in-the-field report.

Lake Roosevelt water levels trending down

COLUMBIA RIVER — The level of Lake Roosevelt was 1286 feet this morning. High pool is 1290.

For the next week, the level of Lake Roosevelt is anticipated to continuing dropping  gradually, the Bureau of Reclamation reports.

The predicted level of the lake by the end of next week should be about 1283.  The target elevation for the end of August is 1279 – 1280. Grand Coulee Dam is operating to meet power demand and target flows on the Columbia River at McNary.

For a daily forecast call 1-800-824-4916. This forecast is updated at 3 p.m. each day

It’s official: Steelheaders set catch record on lower Columbia

FISHING —  Record and near record steelhead catches from the Lower Columbia mainstem sport fishery last month have just been reported by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife: 

New record steelhead harvest for the month of July.  An estimated 8,549 steelhead were kept last month.  The old record was 8,200 steelhead taken home in 2009.     

Last month’s 15,897 total steelhead handled (kept and released) missed the record by just 37 fish (15,934 in 2009). 

MEANTIME, more than 23,000 steelhead have run up the Snake River and climbed over Lower Granite Dam. And they're coming at the rate of about a thousand a day.

Little controversy over wolf control in Idaho?

Quote of the week:

“There's a lot of people who support wolf recovery and wolves in Idaho, but I really believe that the pro-wolf part of Idaho has kind of shut up.”
Carter Niemeyer, who spent decades working as a wolf management specialist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, discussing Idahoans' attitude toward wolves.
- Missoula Independent


June a bust for Montana fly fishers; September could be sensational

FLY FISHING — High water and prolonged runoff fouled Montana fly fishing plans and forced cancelation of guided trips well into July this year.

But that's history. Many experts say that setback should translate into sensational fall fishing.

For an update, check out Swollen Rivers, but Great Fly Fishing In Montana, by Desmond Butler.

The operative quote: “Rebook for September, it's going to be epic.” October should be off the charts as well.

Project returns bluebirds to San Juan Islands

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A five-year project has succeeded in returning the Western bluebird to Washington’s San Juan Islands. The bird had historically inhabited the islands, but changing land use practices and a paucity of nesting sites meant the species had not nested there for over 40 years.

Biologists with the Western Bluebird Reintroduction Project captured and translocated 45 breeding pairs of Western Bluebirds from an expanding population at Fort Lewis Military installation, Washington, and another four pairs from the Willamette Valley in Oregon. The birds were kept in aviaries on San Juan Island prior to release to acclimate them to their new surroundings.

Read on for details about the project and the several cooperating groups from the American Bird Conservancy.

Redband trout net-rescued at Spokane Falls

FISHING — The Spokane River's struggling native redband trout are in the news for more reasons that one this week.

As stream flows hit their seasonal lows in the Spokane River, Avista Utilities begins a to-do list of work on their dams and on the bed of the river. Many of the jobs are part of their 50-year relicensing agreement compiled by several stakeholder groups, including Indian tribes and environmental groups. On Wednesday surveyors and environmental consultants planned and prepared for the construction of weirs to direct river flows in a more aesthetically pleasing way.

The project included netting trout stranded in the basalt pools of the dewatered falls and releasing them safely in the river.

The effort — and a glimpse at the size of redband trout living in the Spokane Falls area — are captured in a picture story by Spokesman-Review photographer Jesse Tinsley.

The other news story this week, detailed in my column today, is the legal challenge to the docks proposed on the river by the Coyote Rock development near Plantes Ferry Park.