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Chinook fishing still hot at Hanford Reach

FISHING — "Fishing for fall chinook in the Hanford Reach of the Columbia River continues to be excellent," says Paul Hoffarth, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife regional wildlife biologist in the Tri-Cities.  Here's the rest of his report with numbers from the past week.

Harvest for the week was estimated at 5,958 fall chinook (5,680 adults and 278 jacks).  WDFW estimates there were 6,838 anglers fishing in the Hanford Reach this past week. To date, 25,631 adult chinook and 1,306 jacks have been harvested in the Hanford Reach by the 40,235 anglers.

Effort dropped off a bit this past week with the opening of the hunting seasons.  Fish were harvested throughout the Hanford Reach with the best catch per boat at White Bluffs, Ringold, and Vernita at 2.8 fish per boat.  Anglers fishing in the Tri-cities averaged 1.3 chinook per boat.  Overall, anglers fishing in the Hanford Reach average 2.4 chinook per boat, 7.4 angler hours per fish, slightly better than the week prior. Bank anglers are picking up a few fall chinook each day at the Ringold Springs Access area.  This past week 63 chinook were harvested off the bank.

WDFW staff interviewed 2,412 anglers from 856 boats and 198 bank anglers fishing for fall chinook in the Hanford Reach.   

The in-season run update (Oct 7) for the Hanford Reach continues to predict a record escapement of over 200,000 adult chinook.

Steelhead, rainbow fishing to open in upper Columbia, tribs

FISHING — Anglers will be able to keep fin-clipped steelhead in the upper Columba and tribs such as the Methow and Okanogan starting Thursday.   Following are details from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Action: Allow anglers to retain hatchery-origin steelhead and rainbow trout marked with a clipped adipose fin on the Columbia River below Wells Dam to Chief Joseph Dam and the Methow and Okanogan rivers on Oct. 15, 2015, and the Similkameen River on Nov.1, 2015.

Species affected: Hatchery steelhead and rainbow trout

General rules:

  1. Mandatory retention of hatchery steelhead, identified by a missing adipose fin with a healed scar at the location of the clipped fin.
  2. Daily limit of two (2) hatchery steelhead; 20 inch minimum size.
  3. Daily limit of five (5) hatchery rainbow trout of less than 20 inches in total length, identified by a missing adipose fin with a healed scar at the location of the clipped fin.
  4. Anglers must stop fishing when a daily limit of two (2) hatchery steelhead are obtained, regardless of the number of hatchery rainbow trout obtained.
  5. Selective gear rules and night closure are in effect for all steelhead fishery areas, except the use of bait is allowed on the mainstem Columbia River.
  6. Steelhead with an intact adipose fin must be released unharmed and cannot be removed from the water prior to release.
  7. Release all steelhead with a floy (anchor) tag attached and/or one or more round ¼ inch in diameter holes punched in the caudal (tail) fin.

Locations and effective dates:

1) The mainstem Columbia River from the powerlines crossing the Columbia River approximately ¾ mile downstream of Wells Dam to 400 feet below Chief Joseph Dam; Oct. 15, 2015, until further notice.
2) The Methow River from the mouth to the confluence with the Chewuch River in Winthrop; Oct. 15, 2015, until further notice. Fishing from a floating device is prohibited from the second powerline crossing (1 mile upstream from the mouth) to the first Hwy 153 Bridge (4 miles upstream from the mouth).
3) The Okanogan River from the mouth to the Highway 97 Bridge in Oroville; Oct. 15, 2015, until further notice.
4) The Similkameen River, from its mouth to 400 feet below Enloe Dam; Nov. 1, 2015, until further notice.

Reason for action: Hatchery-origin steelhead in excess of desired escapement are forecast to return to the upper Columbia River. The fishery will reduce the number of excess hatchery-origin steelhead and consequently increase the proportion of natural-origin steelhead on the spawning grounds.

Other information: Anglers should be aware that fishing rules are subject to change and that rivers can close at any time due to impacts on natural-origin steelhead. Adhering to the mandatory retention of adipose clipped steelhead is vital in allowing the fishery to continue and to provide the maximum benefit to natural origin fish.

Montana to expand elk hunting with shoulder seasons

HUNTING — New rules have been approved to help guide elk hunts before and after Montana’s general archery and rifle seasons.

The Billings Gazette reports the Fish and Wildlife Commission approved the so-called “shoulder season” guidelines Thursday that would allow hunting to start as early as August in approved areas, with a late season extending until February. 

The early season would be only on private lands and for antlerless elk. The late seasons would have options to include hunting for bulls.

The commission also agreed to allow late hunts using the new rules this winter on private lands in certain districts. The hunts would be permissible for this season only.

Landowners in support of the extended hunting season say it will help control the growing population of elk. But others say the new rules don’t address an important issue – the harboring of elk where public hunting is limited or not allowed.

Razor clam digs postponed; toxin levels high

SHELLFISHING — Washington shellfish managers have postponed the fall start of razor clam digging on ocean beaches. They say toxin levels in the clams are too high.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife says it won’t schedule razor clam digs on the coast until tests show the bivalves are safe to eat.

The problem is the level of domoic acid, a natural toxin produced by certain types of marine algae. It can be harmful or even fatal if consumed in sufficient quantities. Cooking or freezing does not destroy domoic acid in shellfish.

Toxin levels have dropped since May and June, when several digs were canceled, but concentrations still exceed state health guidelines.

Washington’s coastal shellfish manager, Dan Ayres, says if levels continue to decline some clam digs may be scheduled in mid or late November.

Dead or dying deer in the neighborhood? Here are your options

UPDATED 11:25 a.m. with comment from WDFW on  carcasses attracting wolves.

WILDLIFE — The drought-related outbreak of bluetongue that’s killing white-tailed deer in the region by the hundreds, is adding urgency to a commonly asked problem:

“What do we do with the dead or dying animal in our neighborhood?”

Here are some guidelines:

Inland Northwest Wildlife Council members (487-8552) licensed for big-game recovery will respond in the Spokane region (with the exception of the city of Spokane Valley) to salvage meat from freshly road-killed animals for the needy. They also are state-certified to euthanize dying game.

“Beyond that, it’s a case-by-case scenario for us,” said Wanda Clifford, council executive director.

“We can put an animal down if it’s suffering, but we’re not going to salvage one with spoiled meat or one that’s obviously sick. We don’t just collect roadkill. That’s the job of the road or highway crews. And nobody picks up carcasses off private property.”

County Sheriff’s deputies may respond to euthanize dying animals in some cases, but they do not collect the carcasses.

Department of Transportation crews (324-6000) pick up on state highways.

Spokane County road crews (477-3600) pick up on county roads.

City of Spokane (755-2489) will pick up carcasses in a city road right of way within 24 hours, weekends excluded. The hotline for reporting illegal garbage dumping in the city also can be called, 625-6083.

City of Spokane Valley (921-1000) takes reports of dead big game by phone or online at spokanevalley.org/cares

State Fish and Wildlife officers respond to poaching-related cases (call 911 or the county sheriff dispatch). The agency asks the public to report sick or dead big game (892-1001), but staff normally won’t pick up carcasses.

Animals that die on private property generally are the responsibility of the property owner, although exceptions may be made for large animals such as moose.

“If it's on private property in a rural area where natural scavengers like coyotes, ravens, etc. will clean up the carcass, it can remain there,” said Madonna Luers, Fish and Wildlife department spokeswoman. “If the carcass is too close to a residence, it can be moved to a more remote part of the property but we advise using protective gear like gloves before handling.

“If the carcass is on private property in an urban area, it can be transported to a dump, or to other rural property where permission has been obtained to leave it.”

Before transporting an game animal, call the department regional office so enforcement officers can be notified to avoid any misunderstandings, she said.

It’s illegal for the public to collect dead wildlife along roads for personal use.

  • Dead domestic animals found in the city or county should be reported to SCRAPS, 477-2532.

A note regarding carcasses attracting wolves:

Some readers have suggested the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department is saying one thing about leaving deer to scavengers in rural areas while telling other guidelines to ranchers about properly disposing of livestock carcasses to avoid attracting wolves near sheep and cattle.

Here's a clarification from Luers:

Wolves, coyotes, cougars, bears and many other wildlife species normally feed on deer, including carcasses they scavenge.  As wildlife managers, we WANT them to feed on other wildlife, and NOT on domestic livestock.  We DO discourage disposal of multiple deer carcasses near livestock herds or flocks.  We work with producers to prevent wild carnivores from preying on their livestock in a number of ways, including secure confinement of sick animals and burying animal carcasses.

Hunters, anglers required to stop at Idaho check stations

Ask Idaho Fish and Game:  Stopping at check stations

Q:  Do I need to stop at an Idaho hunting/fishing check station even if I’m unsuccessful?

A:  Yes.  Idaho Code requires that "all anglers, hunters or trappers must stop and report at a wildlife check station encountered on his route of travel.”  This includes those with or without game.  All those who are fishing, hunting or trapping that day, or are returning from an overnight outing, are required to stop and follow directions of the road-side signs.  Those with fish or game are also required by law to produce all wildlife in possession for inspection.   

At a check station, you will be asked a series of questions about how many occupants of the vehicle were fishing, hunting or trapping, which hunt unit they were in, and how many animals of which species have been harvested.  All of the information collected, including information on unsuccessful trips, is recorded and compared with information from prior seasons.  This information serves both as an immediate measure of how the season is going and is used, in part, to help determine final season success and harvest figures. 

In Washington, stopping at a check station is not mandatory — but it's much appreciated for the wildlife data that's collected.

Duck hunters fouled by newspaper editing error

HUNTING — The waterfowlers featured in a story originating in Duluth, Minnesota, may have had to do a lot of explaining to their significant others when an altered version of the photo caption came out in the Bismarck Tribune.

Just what were they hunting for?

Either way, it looks like they may have been screwed by a copy editor.

The Tribune later posted the following:

An apology to our readers

The Tribune inadvertently printed an inappropriate word in a cutline in Thursday’s Tribune, we sincerely apologize for the error. We take these matters very seriously, and are taking necessary steps to ensure they don’t occur in the future.

We expect to provide a higher quality product and again, apologize for the mistake. We appreciate those who have reached out to us regarding the matter, we will strive to do better in the future.

—The Bismarck Tribune

The hunters likely will quickly forgive, but not forget.  I'm betting a copy of that paper hangs around in family lore for a long time.

House panel OKs lifting ban on paddling Yellowstone streams

PARKS — The U.S. House Natural Resources Committee voted today to approve a controversial measure that would lift longstanding restrictions and allow kayaks, rafts and other “hand-propelled” vessels to be used on hundreds of miles of rivers and streams in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks.

The Associated Press reports that the committee passed the measure from Wyoming Republican U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis on a vote of 23 to 15, sending the bill to the full House.

Conservation and angling groups opposed the changes. They said existing restrictions preserve the solitude and wildness of the parks’ waterways, while still allowing boats on many lakes and some rivers. For example, paddlers have always been able to float the Lewis River, which allows boat access to Shoshone Lake, but the Yellowstone and Firehole rivers are off limits to vessels.

In response to those concerns, committee members approved an amendment that Lummis says would reduce the number of miles of streams and rivers that would have to be analyzed for future use by paddlers.

“This would reduce by over 90 percent the amount of analysis and the river miles that would be subject to being analyzed for allowing kayaking in the park,” Lummis said.

But the National Parks Conservation Association said park officials still would have to analyze some 6,500 miles of waterways.

“We hope that Congress will not move this problematic legislation forward,” said Stephanie Adams, Yellowstone program manager for the conservation group. She warned of “far-reaching, negative impacts” on parks that are “two of our country’s crown jewels.”

Thousands of paddlers annually already visit areas in Yellowstone and Grand Teton where non-motorized vessels are not banned, officials said. That includes 60,000 paddlers each year using the Snake River through Grand Teton, and more than 2,000 permits a year for non-motorized boating in Yellowstone, according to prior testimony from U.S. Interior Department officials.

Lummis’ amendment would exclude the use of inner-tubes and other unconventional watercraft. The bill also calls for federal officials to coordinate the recreational use of hand-propelled vessels on the Gros Ventre River within the National Elk Refuge.

An earlier attempt by Lummis to lift restrictions on watercraft in the two parks was approved last year by the full House but not the Senate.

National Park Service officials said at the time that the bill would prevent park administrators from using their professional judgment to decide where vessels should be allowed.

Park officials could not be immediately reached for comment Thursday.

Diseased bighorn herd in Montana cropped 50 percent by hunters

HUNTING — In a state-endorsed effort to eliminate disease-prone wild sheep, hunters in Montana have harvested about half of a bighorn herd in the Tendoy Mountains.

The wild sheep in the Tendoys southeast of Dillon have experienced major die-offs due to pneumonia twice in the last 25 years.

Attempts to augment the population by bringing in healthy sheep have been unsuccessful.

The intentions to use hunters to kill off the herd were proposed in June.

The Independent Record reports that Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has approved a plan calling for total elimination of the herd to end the illnesses. So far hunters have harvested 18 bighorn sheep since hunting began Sept. 5 for bow hunters and Sept. 15 for the general season.

There are between 30 and 40 animals in the herd.

Once the population is removed, officials plan to restock the area with about 50 healthy animals.

Shaggy mane imposter could ruin mushroomer’s day

WILD EDIBLES — Out for a walk the other day, Rick and Terry Itami were excited to see a bonanza of wild mushrooms near Liberty Lake.

"I was sure it was a group of shaggy mane mushrooms on a side slope under some trees," he said. 

"Terry didn't want me to take a chance by eating them without being sure, so I sent photos to the local mushroom club. 

"They told me that these mushrooms are inky caps, which are in the same family as shaggy manes, but which can cause respiratory problems if you drink any kind of alcohol within three days of eating them.


See a more detailed explanation of shaggy mane and inky cap mushrooms.

Hunter survival tips offered before major seasons open

HUNTING — With general big-game rifle hunting seasons set to open soon in Idaho and Washington, it's worth your time to review this list of "Hunter Survival Tips" prepared by Idaho Fish and Game. Even veteran hunters need a reminder now and then, and there's no time like now.

Every fall, hunters get lost in the woods, and while most escape no worse than tired, chilled and hungry, the hazards of being turned around shouldn’t be underestimated.

 Hunters should prepare for an unexpected stay in the woods.

  • Don’t rely only on electronics. Items like GPS receivers, cell phones and two-way radios are handy, but dead batteries or other malfunctions render them useless. A map and compass are low tech and less likely to fail, but you also have to know how to use them.
  • Know the area you’re hunting. Always be conscious of your surroundings, prominent points, river or creek drainages, and occasionally turn around and look behind you so you will remember what it looks like when you’re coming back. If you’re on a trail, don’t hesitate to put a temporary marker at intersections. Things can look different on your return, especially if you return in the dark.
  • Let someone at home know where you will be hunting and when you expect to return. Often hunters are out longer than expected, especially when they are pursuing big game animals far from a road. You may want to set an absolute deadline and have someone who can alert the authorities if you haven’t returned, or contacted someone by that time.
  • Ditto for your hunting partner. Hunters often get separated, so set up a rendezvous time and place and decide in advance when a third party will seek help if you or your partners do not return in time.
  • Watch the weather. You’re more likely to get lost or turned around in poor visibility when it’s raining, foggy or snowing, which are also conditions under which you don’t want to be lost in the woods.
  • Avoid cotton clothing. It provides no warmth when wet. Many hunters wear denim jeans, but there are better alternatives. Look for synthetic, breathable fabrics like modern “softshells.” They are more comfortable in nearly all conditions than traditional denim. Old-school wool is also better than cotton, and modern wool is comfortable and excellent insulation.
  • Have a fire-starting kit. Whether matches, lighter or other devices, it should be weatherproof, and it never hurts to have more than one device, as well as tinder or fire starter. Know how to start a fire in all weather conditions.
  • Bring a headlamp and extra batteries. They’re valuable for navigating in early mornings or after dark.
  • If you get lost, warmth, shelter and water should be your priorities. You can go days without food, but you have to stay warm and hydrated. But it’s never a bad idea to carry extra food with you.
  • Dress in layers and be prepared for the worst weather. Temperatures can drop 30 or 40 degrees between day and night in the mountains. The weather can also change quickly during fall, and it’s not uncommon to go from warm and sunny to snowing within hours. A light, packable insulated jacket and a waterproof shell don’t weigh much or take up much space, and they provide good insulation in cold and wet weather. Keep them in a daypack and carry it with you.
  • Survival kits are all the rage these days, but many are overkill. Think about the essentials you would need for an unplanned night in the woods.
  • Have your vehicle ready for the backcountry and prepared for minor breakdowns, such as flat tires or dead batteries.  A separate survival kit for your vehicle is a good idea because space and weight are less of an issue than when items must be carried on your person.
  • If you get lost, admit it to yourself and prepare to spend the night out.  Build a fire for warmth and companionship, and set up a shelter.  Wandering around will make it harder for search and rescue personnel to find you.  It also fuels your anxiety, preventing you from thinking clearly and making safe choices.  This increases the chance that you could become injured or worse.  
  • If you take medication daily for a chronic condition, pack several days’ supply and take it with you.  Tell your hunting partners of your medical condition and where in your pack your medication is located.  This can make the difference between a minor incident and a life-threatening medical emergency. 

Maintaining herd bull status is no walk in the park for elk

WILDLIFE —  Ow!  That's the first word that comes to mind in seeing the elk antler impaled in the skull of this seemingly unfazed bull elk in Utah.

Then wow!

The rut is a rough time as nature sorts out the fittest big game for breeding.  Utah Division of Wildlife Resources staffers say this bull was still fighting off challengers for his harem despite the head wound.

If he's not the toughest bull on the block, who is?

Or do you thing Utah DWR would stoop to Photoshop?

Volunteer teams brush out Mount Spokane ski runs

WINTERSPORTS — Skiers are thinking ahead, looking to the slopes and ski trails and imagining what fun they'll have when they're covered with snow.

Volunteers are showing up for work parties to clear brush to improve early season ski conditions.

Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park had more than 80 volunteers on the mountain last weekend cutting brush, painting, and doing other chores.  The resort says volunteers donate more than 2,550 man (and woman)-hours every fall.

"We couldn't get the mountain open without you!"  resort owners said today on Facebook.

Spokane Nordic members also are looking ahead.

The group has been working on the Mount Spokane Cross-Country Ski Park trails, clearing brush and blowdowns and stacking firewood since July.

The next work party is Saturday, Oct. 10.

  • Meet the group at 9 a.m. at  Selkirk lodge for another effort to clear the trails of obstructions and split wood for winter warming stoves until 3 p.m.
  • Volunteers with open bed trucks for moving firewood are needed.
  • Parking passes are provided for all the volunteers who don't have a current Discover Pass.

Contact: Brian Hawkins at brianthawkins@hotmail.com or (509) 710-5701.

Cheatgrass foe found; who doesn’t believe in miracles?

INVASIVES — In the most convincing proof to date that there IS a God — scientists say they've found a super hero capable of turning the tide against cheatgrass.

USDA researcher finds soil bacteria that is the scourge of cheatgrass
Cheatgrass is the single worse invasive species in the American West, colonizing so many acres that it can be seen from space, but a U.S. Department of Agriculture researcher has found a way to take on the intruder. After three decades of research,  a soil bacteria that can attack cheatgrass at its roots has been detected. Now the challenge is finding a delivery system of the live bacteria that works for the hundreds of millions of acres where cheatgrass rules.
—New York Times

Hunters, anglers required to stop at Idaho check stations

HUNTING — Throughout the fall deer and elk seasons, Idaho Fish and Game Department staff  will be running check stations to collect data on hunter and angler success. 

Idaho Code requires that "all sportsmen, with or without game, must stop at Fish & Game check stations." All those who are hunting or fishing that day, as well as those returning from an overnight hunting or fishing outing, are required to stop if they encounter a check station on their route of travel. This includes people who are returning from hunting or fishing in Idaho or another state.

Phil Cooper, department spokesman in Coeur d'Alene offers these insights into the procedures and need for check stations.

  • Hunters and anglers are asked a short series of questions and required to show harvested fish or game for inspection..
  • Information about a trip in which no game or fish are harvested is useful, hence the requirement for all sportsmen to stop.
  • Citations can be issued to those who do not stop because check station data is only accurate and meaningful when all hunters and anglers comply.
  • Final season success and harvest figures are derived from hunter harvest reports, mandatory checks (for bear, lion, moose, sheep, wolf, goat), check station data and telephone surveys.
  • Species that require mandatory checks is required can be processed, saving a trip to to a Fish and Game office.
  • Harvest reports can be filed out and filed if a hunter is finished with the hunting season.
  • The information you provide at a station is important to successful management of the wildlife resources.
  • Hunters can  ask questions and get information about how the seasons are progressing. 
  • Often the coffee pot is on! Just ask for a splash to keep you alert on the drive home.

Info: IDFG Panhandle Region Office, (208) 769-1414.

Idaho Forest Group endorses proposed Scotchman Peaks Wilderness

WILDERNESS — The Idaho Forest Group based in Coeur d'Alene has joined local governments in calling on Congress to designate the Scotchman Peaks area as wilderness.

The roadless area includes 80,000 acres north and east of Lake Pend Oreille straddling the Montana-Idaho border and including the Kootenai and Idaho Panhandle national forests.

“It’s time to get it designated,” said Bob Boeh, Idaho Forest Group vice president of government affairs and strategic outreach, who met with the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness on Monday in Sandpoint.

"Idaho Forest Group's endorsement is a testament to their leadership and balanced approach to working together for the best land management options for our region," said Phil Hough, friends group executive director.

The Bonner County commissioners adopted a resolution in March calling for the wilderness designation.

Timber company officials say they are sending a letter to Idaho’s federal delegation supporting the wilderness designation.  Idaho Forest Group was formed in 2008 in the merger of two regional timber interests – Riley Creek Lumber and Bennett Forest Industries.

“Idaho Forest Group is dedicated and committed to good stewardship of our forests, and works within the community to increase the timber production from our national forests and to advance the preservation of certain locally-supported wilderness areas,” Idaho Forest Group owner and Chairman Marc Brinkmeyer wrote in the letter.

Idaho Forest Group joins the governor of Montana, the Greater Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce, the Missoulian, The Spokesman-Review, the Sanders County Ledger and the Bonner County Daily Bee in endorsing the resolution.

The resolution notes  that the area offers outstanding views, recreation opportunities, and contributes to the economic vitality of the region.

The 7,009-foot Scotchman Peak, the signature mountain int he wilderness, overlooks Clark Fork and is the highest point in Bonner County.

Steelhead counts steady over Lower Granite Dam; expect good fishing

FISHING — The number of steelhead heading up the Snake River toward Idaho waters isn't as large as it's been in the past, but savvy anglers know that doesn't necessarily mean they'll catch fewer fish.

With thousands of fish climbing over Lower Granite Dam, the number of steelhead migrating into Idaho is increasing..

During the four day period ending on Sunday, the average count at Lower Granite was over 2,700 fish per day.

 “Although this run won’t be as large as most runs we’ve seen in the last five years, it is important to realize that in these situations fewer people will often fish which reduces competition and keeps catch rates high,” said Joe DuPont, fisheries manager based in Lewiston. 

“In fact, during the run of 2013, when the run was down in the Clearwater, I had several people commenting how they had some of their best steelhead fishing, as they had the river to themselves and caught a bunch of fish.” 

Harvest season for steelhead opened Aug. 1 on the Lower Clearwater downstream of the U.S. Highway 12 Memorial Bridge and on Sept. 1 and in the Snake and Salmon rivers. 

The Clearwater River upstream of the U.S. Highway 12 Memorial Bridge, the Middle Fork, North Fork and South Fork Clearwater rivers are catch-and-release only until Oct. 15, when the harvest season in those sections opens.

See more information on steelhead fishing in Idaho

Fall chinook fishing continues hot in Hanford Reach

FISHING — Not a discouraging word comes from the Hanford Reach salmon fishery this week, according the Paul Hoffarth, Washington Department of Fish Wildlife fisheries biologist in the Tri Cities.

Fishing for fall chinook in the Hanford Reach continues to be excellent.  Harvest for the week was estimated at 6,419 fall chinook (6,107 adults and 312 jacks).  WDFW estimates there were 8,168 anglers fishing in the Hanford Reach this past week (3,000+ boats). To date, 19,950 adult chinook and 1,029 jacks have been harvested in the Hanford Reach by the 33,398 anglers.

Fish were harvested throughout the Hanford Reach with the best catch per boat at White Bluffs, Ringold, and Vernita at 2.4 fish per boat.  Anglers fishing in the Tri-Cities averaged 1.4 chinook per boat. 

Overall, anglers fishing in the Hanford Reach average 2.0 chinook per boat, 7.8 angler hours per fish. Bank anglers are picking up a few fall chinook each day at the Ringold Springs Access area.  This past week 97 chinook were harvested off the bank.

WDFW staff interviewed 2,297 anglers from 1,025 boats and 220 bank anglers fishing for fall chinook in the Hanford Reach.   

The in-season run update (Sept 30) for the Hanford Reach continues to predict a large return of Upriver brights - 200,567 adult chinook based on the long term mean, (195,523 based on the 2014 return).

Video: Kayak angler goes 1-on-1 with 29-pound king salmon

FISHING — Hooking a chinook salmon from a kayak is one thing; landing it is another.

Here's a video from Spilt Milt Productions from a day of fishing on the lower Columbia River that gives a little flavor to the task. 

But any kayaker know that this angler is making it look easy as he maneuvers his kayak while being pulled backward by the salmon.  It would be easy to turn the rudder the wrong way and broach the boat (sideway), which could be a recipe for capsize.

Nicely done, and big rewards, as the end of the video illustrates.

Here's the post Uplandsandpiper made on iFish:

Bar none this has been one of my best kayak King Salmon years on the Columbia. Rather than spending a lot of time driving down to B10 this year I opted to save some time to target these fish closer to home where the limits are more generous and I am really glad I did. I've always wanted to catch a 30 lb King from my kayak and although I've failed to do that so far I came really close with this 29 lb King caught a few weeks ago. Its not uncommon for a big sturgeon to pull you around the kayak but in general even a 15 lb King won't do much more than turn your kayak a few times. Shortly after hooking this fish I knew I was in to a larger fish as the fish ran behind me pull me backwards then forwards dragging me into a neighboring boats gear (no reverse on a Hobie is a bummer!). That fish really handed it to me but in the end I still won.

Whitewater club takes load off upper Spokane River

RIVERS — About 70 volunteers picked up tons of junk along the upper Spokane River on Saturday during the annual UpRiver Scrub organized by the Northwest Whitewater Association.

"We picked up our usual strange array of garbage and trash," said club co-organizer Paul Delaney. "Notable items included an old wagon wheel rim, a tire and rim from probably a 1940s truck and the coin mechanism from a laundromat washer or dryer just to name a few."

Members in rafts worked the shallows of the river and collected junk gathered by shore-based volunteers including students from the West Valley School District's City School. Johnson Controls backed the event with a funding grant.

"It's a great way to offer a little payback to the river that offers us so much beauty and especially enjoyment," Delaney said.

"To those who missed it we would REALLY love to see you part of UpRiver Scrub 2016."


Grandma’s advice helps hunter ward off grizzly bear attack

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — In the past two months, I've written about hikers and hunters who have defended themselves in a grizzly bear attack by using bear spray as well as by using a handgun.

The latest case involves an alternative that's even more creative if not more desperate.

Hunter escapes attack by shoving arm down bear’s throat

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — A bow hunter in Teton County is recovering after he survived a grizzly bear mauling by remembering a tip from his grandmother and shoving his arm down the animal’s throat. 

Chase Dellwo, 26, was hunting with his brother northwest of Choteau on Saturday when he came face to face with a 350 to 400 pound male grizzly, the Great Falls Tribune reports

Dellwo went to walk up a creek bed, hoping to drive a group of elk to a ridge where his brother was waiting. 

He was about three feet away before he realized he was near a bear that had been sleeping. With 30 to 40 mph winds with snow and rain, the bear hadn’t known Dellwo was coming. He said he only had time to take a few steps back before the bear knocked him off his feet and bit his head. 

“He let go, but he was still on top of me roaring the loudest roar I have ever heard,” Dellwo said. 

The bear then bit Dellwo’s leg and shook him, tossing him through the air. As the bear came at the man again, Dellwo remembered a magazine article his grandmother had given him. 

“I remembered an article that my grandmother gave me a long time ago that said large animals have bad gag reflexes,” Dellwo said. “So I shoved my right arm down his throat.” 

The advice worked and the bear left. 

Dellwo started to walk out, bloodied and disoriented.

"I saw a six point elk on the way out, that was disappointing," he said with a laugh.

He wasn't laughing at the time however.

"I forced myself to calm down and not to panic," he said. "I was lost. I cleared the blood out of my eyes. If I had allowed myself to panic I would still be in there."

Dellwo rejoined his brother who drove him to a hospital. He received stitches and staples in his head, some on his face, a swollen eye and deep puncture wounds on his leg. 

“I want everyone to know that it wasn’t the bear’s fault, he was as scared as I was,” Dellwo said

Image of bluetongue-inflicted deer worth 1,000 words, but explanation still needed

WILDLIFE — My Saturday front-page story about the drought-stoked outbreak of bluetongue that's killing hundreds of deer in the region caught some attention on Saturday, and so did the accompanying photo of a dying white-tailed deer.

Some people are criticizing The Spokesman-Review for publishing the photo (above) of a diseased deer in its last hours of life.   One email I received from a concerned woman says in part:

I am reacting quite adversely to the front page photo of a deer hanging onto "Deer Life".  The cause of such suffering was explained within the article but does not translate to me as humane in the depiction of its demise….

Certainly whoever made this macabre decision should be told how disturbing the image is to anyone within our humane society.

I appreciate that she and others took time to write their notes.  It keeps the media aware.

Newspaper editors carefully consider the photos we use, especially when they deal with graphic material.  We don't use many photos like the one of the dying deer. The situation in this case caused us to make an exception.

The story is serious:  The most widespread outbreak of deer-killing disease in the memory of area wildlife professionals. The disease has been confirmed in Eastern Washington, northcentral Idaho and northeastern Oregon.

We were planning to use a file photo of a live white-tailed deer.  But as I was finishing the story at about 4 p.m. on Friday, we received a call from a homeowner distraught that a deer was dying in his driveway. Photographer Dan Pelle rushed out and documented the case. That's what newspapers do.

We know some people will be offended by just about anything we run, whether it's a photo of the president or Sunday's front page photo, and moving story, of the elderly woman who fell and bruised her head and face, a tough blow to her will to help her dying husband.  Sometimes we have to make difficult calls.

We also know that most of our readers appreciate our attempt to tell it like it is within limits.  We don't show graphic photos of crime victims, for example, but the parameters broaden in the cases of war.

When we've done stories about the bloody carnage and high toll of road-killed animals we have been very careful in how we illustrate the story. Our readers aren't big on seeing blood, and neither are we.

The white-tailed deer Pelle photographed Friday was dying, bleating and graphically playing out its last hours. It was gut-wrenching for him and for the homeowner. This wasn't happening out in the country but rather in a Spokane neighborhood where kids walk the sidewalks.

This is news the public should know. More than 70 deer dead from bluetongue have been picked up from the city streets of Colville alone in the past six weeks.

Pelle's photo is not bloody, but it's real. When in doubt, newspapers are best off to tell it like it is. 

People who want to go farther in learning how ugly bluetongue is in killing whitetails can Google it on the Internet and get some VERY graphic images.  We didn't go that far.

I've also heard from readers who say the photo will traumatize kids. I don't buy that.

Kids are capable of understanding the ways of nature.  Kids routinely see road-killed animals, including flattened squirrels on the city streets as they walk to school.

Savvy adults would see that photo — or a dead deer in the neighborhood — as a teaching moment.

Nature taking its course in a disease outbreak and the survival of the fittest — and perhaps the related issues of drought and climate change — are topics that make good lessons for all of us.

Free the Snake event lures flotilla to protest dams

Updated with fix to quote attribution

RIVERS — Up to 300 paddlers advocated removal of the lower four dams on the Snake River on Saturday with a peaceful Free the Snake protest that staged near Lower Granite Dam.

The conservationists converged on the lower Snake to protest what they call four "do-nothing dams that consume taxpayer dollars while inflicting an extreme toll on Idaho’s endangered salmon," according to Idaho Rivers United, one of the groups involved.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has a different view point, which is posted below.

The Free the Snake Flotilla protesters contend the dams cause costly harm to Snake River salmon and steelhead. They say the relatively little power generated by the dams doesn't cover the losses to fisheries and the outfitting that could be done on the river if it were returned to free-flowing condition.

The barging industry is heavily subsidized and could be replaced by rail, they say, adding that the energy produced by the dams could be made up by green alternatives.

Save Our wild Salmon, another group involved in the protest, says it is committed to working with farmers and others to further support the shift to rail and other transportation that is already occurring.  

"We look forward to working with other stakeholders to bring back the tremendous fish and wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities, orchards, free-flowing waterfront (instead of the Lewiston levies) and other values now lost under stagnant reservoirs," said Sam Mace, SOS spokeswoman in Spokane.

Participants in the flotilla gathered at Wawawai Landing on the north bank of Lower Granite Lake, the farthest upstream of the four lower Snake River reservoirs and 3 miles from Lower Granite Dam. The flotilla headed toward Lower Granite Dam where the main rally in support of a free-flowing lower Snake River was held before paddling back.

Meanwhile, here's a statement from Lt. Col. Tim Vail, Commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Walla Walla District, who contends that Snake River dams provide outstanding value.

We've heard a lot of discussion about the Corps' four dams on the lower Snake River. I'd like to take a few minutes and tell you why they provide outstanding value to the Nation.

The four lower Snake River dams provide a great return on investment.  These dams cost $62 million per year to operate, an investment that generates more than $200 million per year of clean, renewable electricity, enough to power 675,000 residences. This investment also provides a marine transportation corridor that helps move 3.5 million tons of cargo, worth $1.5 billion a year, to regional markets, which improves the region's economic competitiveness.  And this investment provides recreation facilities that host 2.8 million visitors per year.  These four dams also benefit the environment by allowing us to avoid the 7,300 kilotons of carbon dioxide pollution that a coal-fired power plant would emit to generate the same amount of electrical power.     

Snake River dams also are able to meet peak power loads using turbines that can be adjusted in seconds. The flexibility of hydropower dams makes it possible to integrate highly-variable wind energy into the power grid.  When the wind speed changes, some power source has to be immediately ready to add or reduce power to keep the grid stable; hydropower provides that capability. Coal and nuclear power plants require hours for their power output to be adjusted.

As for our fish recovery efforts, the lower Snake River dams are equipped with the most advanced fish passage systems in the world and our fish program is one of the largest fish conservation efforts in the Nation.  Fish passage systems like spillway weirs are in place on all our Snake River dams. Survival rates for juvenile fish through spillway weirs range from 95-100%. The investments in fish recovery are paying dividends. Last year brought some of the highest Fall Chinook, Coho and Sockeye salmon returns to the Lower Snake River since Snake River dam construction began in 1962.  Corps scientists and engineers team with our many partners to prove dams and fish can co-exist.

This year hot weather and drought conditions presented challenges to fish passage and survival. However, working with numerous regional partners to maximize fish survival we still observed the 3rd highest fall Chinook salmon returns over Lower Granite Dam and the 10th highest Snake River Sockeye salmon return since the dam was constructed.  Conditions were unfavorable throughout the Pacific Northwest, but in the Lower Snake River fish managers were able to improve conditions by modifying spill patterns and by releasing cool water from Dworshak Reservoir to moderate temperatures affecting fish in the lower Snake River.

As we face future challenges with optimizing fish recovery, ensuring the efficient flow of goods through the Snake River navigation channel and providing low cost energy, I am confident that, with the support of the American people, we will continue to ensure the Snake River dams provide outstanding value to the Nation.

Fishermen have a way of telling the truth

FISHING — It was thhhhis long! Honest.

Mountain biking festival kicks off at Silver Mountain

MOUNTAIN BIKING — Three days and 13 events kicked off today at the Silveroxx mountain biking festival at Silver Mountain's Mountain Bike Park.

It's not too late to head over to Kellogg to get the gondola ride up for the Moon Snuggle Night Ride tonight!

The featured events are Saturday and Sunday with Silver Race Series events plus the Steeziest Steeze Off, Bunny Hop Comp, Beer Keg Kids Bike Dual Slalom, Outdoor Movies, Super D, Silver Kids Race and the Idaho State Mini Bike Champs.


Ladies Day Out hunting, fishing seminars Oct. 10 at Cabela’s

HUNTING/FISHING — Free hunting, fishing and shooting activities for women  — taught by women — are being lined up for the Ladies Day Out promotion at the Post Falls Cabela's on Oct. 10.

 "These events are geared for ladies of all skill levels," said Kristi Blaver, Cabela's spokeswoman.

The event will feature  guest appearances, giveaways, sales, seminars and workshops.

Among the offerings are:

  • Bows are for Ladies- Archery 101.
  • Handgun Safety and Selection.
  • Preparing Your Summer Catch.
  • Refuse to be a Victim Course.
  • Mother/Daughter Archery Contest.
  • Longevity for the Outdoors Woman. 


Guests include Idaho State Bowhunters Region 1 Director Sara Lamson, Fishing pro Benita Galland and members of The Well Armed Woman of Spokane.

The first 100 women to check into the store will receive a free gift bag. Discounts will be offered to all women participants.

lnfo: (208) 777-6326.

Hunter kills well-publicized collared grizzly bear near Wallace

HUNTING — The well-publicized Montana grizzly bear caught, radio-collared and released to near Idaho on Aug. 4 has been shot and killed by a hunter near Wallace, the Shoshone County Sheriff’s Office has confirmed.

The bear was shot Wednesday evening, said Phil Cooper, Idaho Fish and Game spokesman in Coeur d'Alene.

The bear was killed at the bottom of Kings Pass and Beaver Creek Road about 6 air miles north of Wallace, Idaho, the Sheriff reports.

An Idaho Fish and Game officer and a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officer are on the scene, Cooper said, noting that he did not know more details, including who reported the shooting.

Grizzlies are federally protected by the Endangered Species Act.

Black bear hunters are supposed to know the difference between legal black bears and grizzly bears before shooting.

Legal baiting for black bear hunting was going in in the area, Cooper confirmed.

The 2-year-old male grizzly had been relocated by Montana and federal biologists as part of a periodic program to boost the Cabinet Mountains grizzly population.

Like many bears trying to survive the record-dry year, the bear appeared to be on the search for food, a task hampered by dodging fires, said Wayne Wakkinen, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional wildlife manager in Coeur d’Alene.

The bear had been captured on video in recent weeks checking out rural residences and old bear bait barrels that lured him with scent even if they were empty of animal fat and other bait.

"We knew it was bear season," Cooper said. "We'd been putting out a trap to try to catch him and  move him to an area where he'd be safer and not so accessible to people, but we didn't make it."

More on this unfortunate development as soon as details are available.


Woman sentenced to community service for killing falcon

WILDLIFE — A North Idaho woman who was found guilty in connection to the death of a hunter's trained gyrfalcon has been sentenced to community service.

Kootenai County District Court Judge James Stow on Monday ordered 60-year-old Patti MacDonald, of Hauser, to complete 20 hours of community service before the end of the year and pay $500 in court fees, The Coeur d’Alene Press reports. She was found guilty of pursuing a protected bird.

Stow said a letter from the falcon’s owner Scott Dinger asking that MacDonald not receive jail time was taken into consideration.

Contacted by The Spokesman-Review today, Dinger said, "I have a lot of emotions, but I'd rather keep my feelings to myself. It's time for me to get on with my life."

“It’s appropriate that there is some punishment,” Stow said, adding that it was also important to recognize that MacDonald’s actions were, “not something she instigated.”

Here's more from the CdA Press/AP story:

Prosecutors said MacDonald fractured the skull of the 8-year-old gyrfalcon named Hornet on Jan. 7 trying to save a mallard. Both birds died that day.

“Any reasonable person should see that’s not a situation you interfere with,” said prosecutor Art Verharen. MacDonald stopped her car to break up the fight when she saw the falcon wrestling with the mallard.

Verharen had recommended a jail sentence that MacDonald could have served in the Sheriff’s Labor Program.

“She showed no empathy to Mr. Dinger when it became clear that she was dealing with someone’s pet,” Verharen said. “She took a stance without remorse or respect for that. In her mind, it’s justified. In her mind, it’s OK. And I guess I see that as arrogance.”

MacDonald’s attorney Michael Palmer asked for a more lenient sentence, saying MacDonald’s actions were motivated by good.

“She tried to break up that fight,” Palmer said. “While they’re saying there’s no empathy, it would take a great deal of empathy to attempt to save that duck.”

Officials get earful on John Wayne Trail closure proposal

TRAILS — It was weeds versus we the people at a special meeting Wednesday called in response to an under-the-public-view attempt to close a portion of the John Wayne rail trail that runs from the Columbia River to the Idaho state line at Tekoa, Washington.

Here's an update on the meeting at Tekoa moved by the Associated Press.

By Josh Babcock/Moscow-Pullman Daily News

Landowners, trail advocates and elected officials packed the Tekoa City Hall on Wednesday morning to express concerns regarding the recently proposed closure of part of the cross-state John Wayne Trail.

The meeting prompted 9th District Rep. Joe Schmick and Ted Blaszak, a Tekoa City Council member, to agree to create a six-person committee by the end of the week, which would consist of three landowners and three trail advocates to determine the best action for the trail.

"I’m not going to plan on introducing legislation to close the trail until we hear from this committee," Schmick said.

A provision to close the trail from the Columbia River to Malden was intended to be included in this year’s state Capital Budget, but an error caused the closure in the bill to read "Columbia River to Columbia River," instead.

Last week Schmick told the Daily News the proposal derived from the trail’s lack of use, noxious weeds, illegal dumping and other criminal activity and lack of improvements.

At Wednesday’s meeting, both state Reps. Mary Dye and Schmick were questioned by trail supporters, while adjacent landowners explained their concerns.

In several cases, members of the crowd interrupted Dye and Schmick as they tried to respond.

Blaszak, president of the Tekoa Trail and Trestle Association, asked a series of questions regarding the future of the trail, private groups funding the trail, crime along the trail and why a public hearing was never held before the the trail’s closure was proposed.

Schmick reiterated his reasoning as to why he proposed to close the John Wayne Trail.

He said trespassing, theft, scavenging and using the trail as an access point to landowners’ property for hunting are what encouraged the initial proposal.

"These are real issues, now what are we going to do about them?" Schmick asked, more than once.

Dye was reluctant to answer any questions: "I wasn’t there at the time this was introduced, I wasn’t here when it was developed, I wasn’t here when the stakeholders were discussing the issues with the legislative body."

Fred Wagoner, 58, who traveled the entire trail this summer, brought in his pictures that he said showed the trail was in good condition from the Columbia River to Tekoa and some grass clippings were the only dumping he saw on the trip.

Martha Mullen agreed. She said she hiked the trail six times last year.

"I have never seen a hiker - or bike rider even - carrying a small appliance," Mullen said to laughter from the audience.

She apparently referred to a letter to the Daily News that said hikers only reported seeing appliances and shotgun shells littering the trail.

She said there was one spot outside Malden where trash was dumped, but it would take a vehicle to haul the garbage there, ruling out the possibility of trash being dumped by hikers and other trail users.

Branden Spencer, who said he was representing 75 different landowners and the Adams County Weed Control Board, said the trail cuts his property in half.

Spencer said that last year, and for the past five years, the State Parks Department didn’t spray any weeds along the trail due to lack of funding.

This year, Spencer said, trucks were allowed to travel on the trail and spray weeds in problem areas, but they only sprayed the weeds on the road deck, which left Spencer to do the rest of the space on each side of the trail, on his own time with his own money, as the weeds could overtake his property otherwise.

He said since the park ranger based in Washtucna retired, there is no legal oversight of much of the trail in eastern Washington.

If he needs law enforcement help, he said he has to notify rangers as far away as Spokane or Wenatchee.

With no parks supervision of trail users, Spence said, "We literally could be spreading weeds across Washington state much faster than the State Parks Department could ever have the budget to control them."

Nearly every landowner in attendance expressed concerns over spraying weeds on state land.

Spencer also noted landowners have recently been faced with responsibility to maintain the fences that line the trail, which were maintained by the state.

Spencer read his railroad deed from 1918 to the packed city hall, which stated that his property would be forfeited to him in the event the railroad is not used "for any one year after its construction."

Other landowners reiterated Spencer’s concerns, but also added rattlesnakes, dogs killing chickens, shot cows and horses, and cut fences to the long list of problems they encounter.

But Abijah Perkins, a landowner whose property does not abut the trail disagreed and said trespassing and dumping are issues that have to be dealt with by all property owners.

"If you own land there are going to be some of these issues, but you don’t take away the people’s park," Perkins said to boos from most other landowners in the room.

Perkins said Schmick’s "ignorance" on the issue was insulting to those who were in attendance who cared for the trail.

"On this issue you knew you were going to get questions; it’s really hard for us to understand you don’t have the answers," Perkins said.

Tekoa Mayor John Jaeger said he was also disappointed in the "lack of answers" from the legislators.

"We were hoping you would say what you thought, why you did what you did, and why you thought you needed to do what you did," Jaeger said.

He said members of the Spokane City Council have reached out to him in support of the John Wayne Trail, which is linked to the Fish Lake Trail, a project on which Spokane has spent more than $4 million and budgeted another $4 million.

Republican State Rep. Tom Dent, whose 13th Legislative District includes much of the trail, said he is in favor of the trail.

He asked everyone to come together and welcome Schmick’s idea of a committee so the concerns on each side are recognized.

"This closure is not going anywhere; it’s dead, it has to be reintroduced; now you have a great opportunity to work with the people who have the issues and fix it," Dent said.

Once again: Fed bear is dead bear, people injured

WILDLIFE — It's the same disheartening "Fed-bear Dead-bear" story retold this time with an additional little twist of human denial at best, or maybe just stupidity.

State wildlife officials have captured and euthanized two food-conditioned black bears west of Kalispell, but they say someone else continues to feed the bruins, making it difficult for them to catch a bear suspected of attacking and injuring an elderly woman in her house, according to the Associated Press.

Fish, Wildlife and Parks investigator Brian Sommers said the woman who was attacked on Sept. 27 had been regularly feeding the bears.

The two female bears that were euthanized on Sept. 29 and 30 had bellies full of sunflower seeds and bird seed.

 That means someone else is feeding the bears in the Ashley Lake area, hampering agency’s ability to trap the offending bear, Eric Wenum, FWP bear specialist says.

Sommers asked people to remove all supplemental feed from their yards and noted that whoever is feeding the bears can be cited for obstructing the investigation.