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Coast remains hot destination for salmon fishing

SALMON FISHING — The Washington Coast remains the highlight of early summer salmon fishing, as two other popular inner-marine areas open today.

"Ilwaco had the highest catch with 1.14 fish per person (25 percent was chinook, and the rest was hatchery coho)," Wendy Beeghly, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist, told Ron Yuasa of the Seattle Times. "Neah Bay was the other hot spot with 1.2 fish per person. We also saw pinks caught all the way down to Westport, and hardly ever see them this early."

At Westport, the catch was 0.7 fish per rod, and fish seemed to be more scattered than they'd been early last week, Yuasa said.  At La Push they averaged one fish per rod, with almost all hatchery coho.

Read on for more details from Yuasa's report.

Sun Valley Bike Festival features 400 miles of single track

CYCLING — Sun Valley is unveiling a new cycling event this summer — the Ride Sun Valley Bike Festival with events running July 11-17.  

The festival showcases the area’s 400-plus miles of continuous single track trail and 32 miles of multi-use paved bike paths.

Watch the USA Cycling’s Olympic Mountain Bike Cross County National Championships on the slopes of Sun Valley’s rugged Baldy Mountain. Other activities include the Avett Brothers in concert, Fat Tire Criterium and “Geared: the Culture of Bicycles” exhibit at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts.

At the lower River Run parking areas, a technical Expo will be open daily, featuring top cycling vendors from around the world displaying the newest and latest in cycling gear and equipment.

Another rafter dies on Lochsa River

RIVER RUNNING — The Idaho County sheriff's office says a Missoula man died Wednesday in a rafting accident on the Lochsa River in north-central Idaho, according to the Lewiston Tribune.

Keegan Seth Ginther, 29, died after three or four people had been thrown from a raft around 2:30 p.m. CPR was performed on the river.

The accident reportedly happened in Lochsa Falls Rapid near milepost 112.5 off U.S. Highway 12.

The investigation revealed that Ginther was rafting with four friends from Missoula when the raft flipped in the Lochsa Falls Rapids and spilled all the occupants into the water.  Ginther was unable to get to shore and was swept downriver.  One of the rafters,  Bradley Applegate, 30, was able to get to shore and flagged down a passing vehicle to transport him down river where he pulled Ginther from the water. An EMT started CPR, the report said. 

All parties in the raft were wearing life jackets. 

This is the second drowning in the Lochsa this season and the third drowning in Idaho County in the past seven weeks. 

In addition to Wednesday's drowning, Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, resident Randy Eroen drowned while kayaking on the Lochsa River May 28, and on May 11, Jerry Nelson of Kamiah drowned in Lolo Creek while trying to save his dog.

The river was running at about 15,000 cubic feet per second on Wednesday - high for this time of year, but not an unusual flow for the early rafting season.

The Lochsa is well-known for its continuous string of class III and IV rapids.

Read on for the reaction of a Lochsa rafting outfitter as quoted in a Missoulian online report.

Long-distance lady finds life lessons on trail

BACKPACKING — Women (especially) looking for hiking inspiration can score big with a book by an iron-woman who worked her way up the hiking status ranks before setting the supported Appalachian Trail women's record of 57 days to cover 2,175 miles.

That's a brisk average pace of 38 miles per day every day for two months from Georgia to Maine.

Jennifer Pharr (now Pharr-Davis) has captured that epic and the trail leading to it in her book "Becoming Odyssa-Epic Adventures On the Appalachian Trail."  Blisters and body odor were among the least of her foes.

She'd already hiked the AT plus 9,000 miles on trails across six continents before she worked up to the record-setting effort. All the way she was hiking toward her dreams and goals from "over-confident college graduate" to the owner and operator of Blue Ridge Hiking Company in Asheville, North Carolina.

She makes the case for the long-distance hiker's mantra: Living with less, on the trail and in everyday life, is living free.

And her story reaffirms that wilderness can hold many unexpected life lessons, whether it's at the hand of shocking electric storms or in the tight quarters of a trail shelter with disagreeable companions.


Lame birdwatching joke of the day

CRITTER WATCHING — I take no responsibility for this:

Two robins were sitting in a tree. "I'm really hungry," the first one said.

"Me, too," said the second. "Let's fly down and find some lunch."

They swooped to the ground and found a plot of plowed ground full of worms. They ate and ate and ate and ate until they could eat no more.

"I'm so full I don't think I can fly back up to the tree," the first robin said.

"Me either. Let's just lie here and bask in the warm sun," said the second.

"OK," said the first.

They plopped down, relaxed and soaked in the rays.

But as they dozed, a big fat tom cat sneaked in and gobbled them up.

As he sat satisfied and licking his lips, he thought, "I love baskin' robins."

Infected steelhead killed at Dworshak Hatchery

FISHERIES — Managers at Dworshak National Fish Hatchery say they have destroyed 332,000 juvenile summer steelhead since April to protect the rest of the hatchery’s fish from a deadly virus.

In April, 240,000 steelhead were destroyed after IHNV was confirmed in some rearing tanks by the Idaho Fish Health Center.

Officials say they still expect to have enough fish to meet their requirements for mitigating the impacts of Dworshak Dam on wild fisheries.

Read on for details.

Tagged salmon must be released on upper Columbia

FISHING — Starting Friday, all chinook and sockeye salmon with external floy (anchor) tags attached must be immediatly released if caught by anglers in the upper Columbia River system, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department announced Wednessday.

The rule will be in effect through Oct. 15 on the mainstem Columbia River from Priest Rapids Dam upstream to the Highway17 Bridge in Bridgeport, including the Similkameen and Okanogan Rivers.

Read on for details.

Fish scientists cite Snake River dams as threat to fisheries

 FISHERIES — The Western Division of American Fisheries Society says four lower Snake River dams and reservoirs present a significant threat to existence of wild fish.
The group approved a resolution making that point Wednesday during its meeting in Portland.
The group says that based on the best available science, the dams threatened fish populations including wild salmon and steelhead, as well as Pacific lamprey and white sturgeon.
Saving and restoring these imperiled species will require returning a significant portion of the lower Snake River to a free-flowing condition by breaching the four lower Snake River dams, the resolution says.
A federal judge is expected to issue a verdict on the Obama Administration's salmon plan any day.  
Read on for more details.

Does salmonfly signal Spokane River’s revival?

FLY FISHING — Okay, so I made a little fun in my column last week of a colleague's excitement over finding a single salmonfly in downtown Spokane.

The discovery pales to the days when clouds of salmonflies fed a Spokane River teeming with trout.

But here's an encouragng response from Mike LaScuola of the Spokane Regional Health District's
Environmental Resources Program:

I had to respond to your column today about Jim Kershner finding a salmon fly. I just thought I would let you know that on the roof of the Health District building I routinely check an air monitor and I have found two salmon flies on recent occasions…
Maybe the river is cleaning up a bit.
So there you go, anglers. Soon we'll be tying on a big one.

Eye is on sport crabbers and new larger share of harvest

SHELLFISHING — After a five-year struggle lost by commercial harvesters, recreational crab fishers in Puget Sound have been offered a much-desired fixed season from July 1 until Labor Day, with no quotas for total take.

Commercial crab harvesters must now take a back seat to the recreational crabbers, harvesting from the remainder of the nontribal quota in the fall, according to a story by Christopher Dunagan of the Kitsap Sun.

The new season, approved in October by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, could increase the recreational harvest of Dungeness crabs by 40 percent, according to state estimates. Commercial harvesters could see their share drop from 67 percent to about half the nontribal quota.

Read on for the rest of the story from the Associated Press.

Unbelievable wildlife spectacle bruin at Yellowstone

NATIONAL PARKS — Yellowstone National Park still delivers for wildlife watchers. 

A Spokane family just back from several days in the great Montana-Wyoming park said that among all the wildlife they saw, they were blessed with 24 bears sightings, half of them grizzlies.

To top it off, they also witnessed the sobering drama of wolves taking down an elk calf.

This is better than reality TV.

Avalanches rock and roll on Rainier

NATIONAL PARKS — Some of the biggest rock avalanches in years have been roaring off Mount Rainier the past several days, kicking up billowing clouds of dust and propelling rivers of muddy debris nearly two miles down the volcano’s flanks, according to an Associated Press report.

No one's been hurt, but climbers have had to flee certain areas.

Check out this video of a major slide this week.

Read on for details.

Two-seater bikes stoke rally in Spokane

BICYCLING — More than 600 tandem cycling enthusiasts are freewheeling to Spokane Friday through Sunday to celebrate the holiday weekend in the 26th annual Northwest Tandem Rally.

The Spokane Regional Sports Commission is helping organize the event. Based out of Mukogawa Ft. Wright Institute, the rally includes organized rides of up to 94 miles through the West Plains and through the small towns of the Palouse before they loop back to social events in Spokane.

The "it takes two to tandem" pedalers will head west out of Fort Wright in a mass start for their first ride starting at t 8:30 a.m. on Saturday.

 Read on for more details.

Idaho seeks comment on proposed fishing rules

FISHING — Idaho Fish and Game Department officials are taking public comments through July 8 on proposed changes to fishing rules.

All proposed rules are available on the Fish and Game website .  Comments may be submitted at the links on the web page.

Highlights of Fish and Game’s recommendations include:

  • Allowing filleting of hatchery salmon and steelhead harvested and recorded on a salmon or steelhead permit when certain conditions are met.
  • Allowing use of a gaff hook while archery fishing for nongame fish.
  • Modifying the definition of a “steelhead” in the Salmon, Snake and Clearwater River drainages.
  • A new definition for when a fishing contest permit is needed.
  • New definitions used in the 2011-2012 fishing rules booklet.
  • Making it illegal to mark and release fish.

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission will act on these proposed rules at the July 28 meeting in Salmon. Adopted rules would not take effect until April 2012.

Some national forests can’t keep up with runoff road damage

PUBLIC LANDS — Reports are coming in this week from national forests in central Montana and northcentral Washington, where officials say they have staggering road damage from spring runoff this year. 

Word to the wise outdoorsman:  Call ahead to for forest road conditions.

The Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest says that more than $3.75 million in damages to its 8,000-mile road system aren't likely to be fully repaired this summer.

Read on for details.

One bad egg fowls nest for birdwatchers near Colville

WILDLIFE WATCHING — While it might seem to harbor a different sort of foul to the uninitiated, the Colville Sewage Treatment Plant has been a hot spot for birders looking for passing waterfowl and shorebirds.

But some birders who recently violated the no-driving rule at the plant apparently have made the plant operators reluctant to allow ANY further birdwatching at the site.

“Recently, a group of birders asked to be let in the gate and were told to walk in,” reports Tim Durnell, a serious birder from Rice, Wash. “A short while later they were seen driving inside the gate around the ponds, a huge liability issue with the folks who manage the STP.

“Apparently these birders were probably not from this area because they asked for directions to the mouth of the Colville River. Still, according to the guy in the STP office, because of the actions of a few, the rest of us could lose our privilege of birding inside the gate.”

The Colville STP is a shorebird treasure and it would be a travesty to lose access to this resource, he said.

If birders can regain the confidence of plant officials, he requests that other birders be sure to park outside the gate, walk in and stay near the gate while birding.

By the way, the ponds were showing no mud yet and there were the usual geese, ring-billed gulls, ruddy ducks, and coots, Durnell said Thursday.

Beware of marijuana sites in the woods

PUBLIC LANDS — Outdoor recreationists have stumbled into illegal backwoods marijuana growing sites on several occasions already this year.

That's prompted a warning from Forest Service officials: 

Marijuana operations pose significant threats to forest visitors, so it is very important for all national forest users to be aware of their surroundings and any suspicious activities that may be occurring.

Read on for what to look out for and what to do should you encounter a growing site on your next hiking, camping, fishing or hunting trip.

Montana FWP offers Internet fishng guide

FISHING — Anglers planning to fish Montana waters can get useful information  from the revised  Montana Fishing Guide organized online by  the Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks Department.

Althought he site lacks some of the immediacy and detail of some fishing shop sites, it has info about far more waters, including family-oriented lakes and streams and high-mountain lakes.

Search by location or by fish species, show all the records or only those that offer favorite fish species. The site also offers reports and maps.

Fly fishers put muscle into reviving Sherman Creek

CONSERVATION — Here's a tip o' the hat to a volunteer crew of 14 members of the Spokane Fly Fishers who idled their fishing rods Saturday.

Instead, they took up shovels to boost the future of fish in a northeastern Washington trout stream.

The club's conservation committee, headed by Mike Keegan, worked with Colville National Forest fisheries biologist Karen Honeycutt in an ongoing restoration project on Sherman Creek, about 14 miles west of Kettle Falls.

The group reports planting more than 1,000 trees and shrubs that eventually will curb erosion and provide streamside fish habitat.

Honeycutt said that forest crews and volunteers that also include the Colville Tribe and Kettle Falls third graders will plant a total of 7,800 trees and cuttings along the stream this year.

Sign up for watersports demo at Newman Lake

WATER SPORTS — Wintersport Ski Bike & Board is organizing a huge water sports demo day at Newman Lake Resort on Friday.

Liquid Force pros Arron Reed & Bob Soven will be on hand as well as Liberty Lake Mastercraft.

Visitors can try new 2011 products from HO, Hyperlite, and Liquid force.

To liven it up,  there'll be a DJ, live music, raffle shwag and free pizza.

 Space is limited; pre-registration required. Call for more details 509-328-2030

Dam advocates oppose Interior nominee

PUBLIC LANDS — The Obama administration's nomination of former American Rivers CEO Rebecca Wodder for assistant Interior secretary of fish, wildlife and parks is being opposed by a coalition of industry and agricultural groups, as well as the Idaho Water Users Association.

American Rivers has been a leading proponent of removing dams, such as those on the Snake River, to restore free-flowing rivers for the benefit of wild salmon and steelhead.

Read the details in this column by Rocky Barker of the Idaho Statesman.

Look who got the Best (outdoor) Internship on Earth

OUTDOOR JOBS — A few months ago, I wrote a story for college-age students who might be interested in what the Sierra Club calls The Best Intership on Earth.

The key: You had to make a video application. 

Check out the vide above to see how Kokei Otosi responded and landed the job.

Click here to see the intern's website and follow her job in words and videos as she participats in an annual summer program uniting young adults with a passion for the environment with community outreach programs that focus on outdoor experiences.  

Kokei will travel around the country, documenting these experiences in video blogs for the Sierra Club and www.PlanetExplore.com.

Kokei will also march in the Puerto Rican Day Parade, mobilize youth at Outdoor Nation, camp with Military Family Outdoors and rock climb on the Great Lawn at the White House.

Applications for 2012 internshiip will open in the winter. Check here for info.

Washington abandons all state tourism marketing

OUTDOORS — Spokane is Near Nature, Near Perfect, and the Evergreen state has some of the most diverse outdoor recreation opportunities in the nation — the foundation for a vital outdoor tourism industry.

Yet state officials are shuttering the official tourism agency that unifies its marketing message and abandoning all public support for one of its largest industries, according to a Seattle PI online story.

By the end of next week, Washington will be the only state in the nation without any money to spend on self-promotion.

Says the PI:

The transition is the most extreme example of the widely varying strategies among states trying to balance budget cuts with ways to spur economic growth. Some are pouring millions of dollars into fresh marketing, while others like New York and Arizona are slashing their promotional spending to help shore up state budgets.

Steelhead run building in lower Columbia, headed this way

STEELHEAD FISHING — It's not even a trickle yet coming up over Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River — just a couple a day — but this year's steelhead run continues to pick up steam into the Columbia.

Late for sure, but they're coming.

Montana will not extend Rock Creek float-fishing season

FISHING — Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks has decided against extending the float-fishing season on Rock Creek east of Missoula.

Rock Creek closes to fishing from boats beginning July 1, but this year FWP considered a three-week float fishing extension because unusually high river flows have prevented most spring floating opportunities.

However, after a seven-day public comment period that yielded more than 150 comments, FWP decided not to move forward with the extension.
Patt Saffel, regional fisheries manager in Missoula, said  public sentiment on the issue was diverse.  There was a lot of appreciation for considering the extension but also a lot of concern. 
FWP decided that changing an established regulation was not warranted.

Montana works out wolf hunt in polarized atmosphere

HUNTING — Public opinion on gray wolves remains sharply split as Montana and Idaho prepare to resume hunts for the predators after Congress removed their endangered species protections.

Montana wildlife commissioners meet July 14 to adopt a quota of 220 wolves to be killed during fall rifle and archery hunts.

Final details still are being worked out on Idaho’s wolf season.

More than 450 comments were submitted on the Montana proposal, the Asociated Press reports. They ranged from calls to sharply increase the quota, to pleas for a less-aggressive approach that would allow the wolf population to further expand.

There were an estimated 566 wolves in Montana at the end of 2010. Once this year’s pups are factored in, wildlife officials say the proposed hunt would reduce that number 25 percent to about 425 wolves.

Kayaker seriously injured in plunge of Bridal Veil Falls

EXTREME KAYAKING — Oregon's Multnomah County sheriff’s office says it took 14 emergency responders more than an hour to rescue a kayaker injured Sunday at the base of Bridal Veil Falls, according to an Associated Press report.

Robert McKenzie,19, of Eugene suffered a back injury and was taken to Oregon Health and Science University Hospital in Portland.

He was with a group of kayakers who took turns running the falls as they recorded video in the state park in the Columbia River Gorge. Two other kayakers from Eugene apparently suffered broken noses navigating the 120-foot, two-step drop.

All wore helmets and life vests. 

City headed wrong direction on bike route

BICYCLING — City of Spokane, keeping bicyclist safe one poorly executed step at a time…

Salmon fishing excellent as ocean seasons open

SALMON FISHING — Washington's coastal hatchery chinook salmon season kicked into high gear last week with good fishing reports coming in from Puget Sound to Ilwaco.

Read on for the update by Mark Yuasa of the Seattle Times.

Local paddlers offer canoe-kayak clinics

Sea kayaking, July 13 evening indoor class followed by July 16-17 session at Medical Lake, for beginners as well as seasoned paddlers.

Whitewater kayaking, July 16-17 on Spokane River.

• Cost for all clinics: $55 per person per class, plus $20 club membership.

• Preregistration required: Diane Adams, 448-9214 or email dianecadams@asisna.com