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What’s Fishin’ In Washington

This spring’s weather has produced a mixed bag of good news, bad news for Washington anglers.

High rivers and rough seas are the bad for salmon and steelhead anglers while cool weather has kept trout lakes, well, cool and productive.

But as we slide into July, fishermen will get a new target: crab. Dungies open in most of Puget Sound, as do hatchery Chinook in the Straits.

Here’s more on what’s fishing around Washington, courtesy of WDFW’s Weekender:
NORTH PUGET SOUND

Fishing has been slow for anglers on the saltwater, but catch numbers could rise as more marine areas open for salmon in July. On the rivers, anglers continue to cast for steelhead and spring chinook, and some have recently hooked a few nice fish.

Meanwhile, the crab fishery opens July 1 in marine areas 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner), 9 (Admiralty Inlet), 10 (Seattle/Bremerton), 11 (Tacoma/Vashon Island) and 12 (Hood Canal). Fisheries in those areas will be open on a Wednesday-through-Saturday schedule, plus the entire Labor Day weekend.

The daily catch limit in Puget Sound is five Dungeness crab, males only, in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6¼ inches. Fishers may catch six red rock crab of either sex per day, provided those crab measure at least 5 inches across. See WDFW’s sport-crabbing website ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/shelfish/crab/ ) for more information.

In Marine Area 8-2, fishing continues to be slow at the Tulalip Bay “bubble” fishery , said Steve Thiesfeld, WDFW fish biologist. The fishery is currently open each week from Friday through noon Monday through Sept. 6. Anglers fishing the bubble have a two-salmon daily limit. Chinook must measure 22 inches in length to retain.

The catch-and-release salmon fishery in the northern portion of Marine Area 10 continues through June 30. However, beginning July 1, anglers fishing in the marine area can retain up to two salmon daily with no minimum size limit. Anglers must release chinook salmon.

Another option is Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands), which also opens July 1 for salmon. Anglers will have a daily limit of two salmon but can only keep one chinook. “The San Juans really started off strong last year,” Thiesfeld said. “Hopefully, the opener will be just as good this year.”

Looking for some competition? The Bellingham Salmon Derby is scheduled for July 9-11 with a top prize of $5,000. For more information on the derby, which is hosted by the Bellingham Chapter of the Puget Sound Anglers in association with the Northwest Marine Trade Association, is available at http://www.bellinghampsa.com/derby.htm .

In freshwater, portions of the Skagit, Cascade and Skykomish rivers are open for hatchery chinook salmon fishing. The Skagit is open to hatchery chinook retention from the Highway 530 Bridge at Rockport to the Cascade River. On the Cascade, anglers can fish for salmon from the mouth of the river to the Rockport-Cascade Road Bridge. Both stretches are open through July 15. The daily limit on the Skagit and Cascade rivers is four hatchery chinook, two of which may be adults (chinook salmon at least 24 inches in length).

The Skykomish is open from the mouth to the Wallace River through July 31. Anglers fishing that portion of the river have a daily limit of two hatchery chinook salmon. Jennifer Whitney, WDFW regional fish biologist, advises anglers to keep checking WDFW’s website for information about potential fishing regulation changes on the Skykomish River. “Returns to the Wallace River Hatchery so far have been way down this year,” she said. “We will continue to watch this run closely and if it doesn’t improve we may need to close the river to salmon retention to ensure the hatchery gets enough fish to meet its spawning goals.”

The Reiter Ponds section of the Skykomish River is also open for fishing and some anglers have had success hooking hatchery steelhead there recently. That section of the river (1,500 feet upstream to 1,000 feet downstream of the Reiter Ponds Hatchery outlet) opened June 12 after the hatchery collected enough steelhead broodstock to meet spawning goals.

Anglers should be aware that a section of the South Fork Stillaguamish River was mistakenly omitted from the new sportfishing rules pamphlet. That section of the Stillaguamish, from Mountain Loop Highway Bridge upstream, opened for gamefish June 5. Fishing regulations include catch and release, except two hatchery steelhead may be retained. Selective gear rules also apply, and fishing from a floating device with a motor is prohibited.

Before heading out, anglers should check the rules and regulations for all fisheries on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ .

SOUTH SOUND/OLYMPIC PENINSULA

Anglers will have more options to catch salmon in the days ahead as coastal area open to retention of hatchery coho and unmarked chinook, and new fisheries open on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Crabbers will also be able to drop pots in seven popular areas of Puget Sound, starting July1.

Through June 20, salmon anglers had caught 2,759 marked chinook salmon in the state’s first selective chinook fishery off the Washington coast. All but a few hundred of those fish were taken in Marine Area 2 (Westport), where three in four anglers took home a fish. Mark rates for chinook have been averaging about 70 percent.

“The ocean fishery has been up and down from one day to the next, but anglers have definitely been taking home some nice chinook salmon,” said Doug Milward, WDFW ocean fisheries manager. “Chinook caught off Westport have been averaging around 15 pounds, which is big for this point in the season.”

Starting July 4, anglers fishing off Westport will also be able to count hatchery coho and unmarked chinook toward their daily limit. The new rule will take effect July 1 in marine areas 1 (Ilwaco), 3 (La Push) and 4 (Neah Bay).

“Like the chinook, this year’s coho have been bigger than usual,” Milward said. “This fishery should keep getting better and better.”

Wendy Beeghley, a WDFW fish biologist who monitors the catch, asks that all anglers return completed logbooks after each day’s trip to help fishery managers keep track of the catch. “If you like this fishery, you can help keep it going by filling out the logbook and returning it to WDFW,” she said. Logbooks can be returned to fish checkers or by pre-paid mail.

Elsewhere, a chinook fishery will open in marine areas 5 and 6 (Strait of Juan de Fuca) on July 1. The daily limit in those two areas is two fish at least 22 inches in length. All wild salmon must be released.

Meanwhile, recreational halibut fishing went out with a bang June 19, when anglers fishing off Neah Bay and La Push closed out the season by catching most of what was left of this year’s quota.

The one-day opening, plus good weather, gave coastal anglers the chance to catch both salmon and halibut on the same day, and some took advantage of that unique opportunity, said Erica Crust, WDFW’s ocean port sampler.

Looking ahead, seven popular areas of Puget Sound will open to fishing for crab July 1, including marine areas 6 (Eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca), 8-1 (Deception Pass/Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan/Port Gardner), 9 (Admiralty Inlet), 10 (Seattle/Bremerton), 11 (Tacoma/Vashon) and 12 (Hood Canal).

Dungeness and red rock crab seasons include:

* Marine areas 4 (east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line), 5 and 13: Opened June 18 and run through Jan. 2.
* Marine areas 6, 8-1, 8-2, 9, 10, 11 and 12 (much of Puget Sound) – Will open at 7 a.m., July 1 and are open Wednesday through Saturday through Sept. 6, and open the entire Labor Day weekend.

There is a daily limit of five Dungeness crab in Puget Sound. Minimum size is 6 ¼-inches and only males in hardshell condition may be kept. In the Sound, all gear must be removed from the water on days when the fishery is closed.

The daily limit of red rock crab is six in all marine areas. Minimum size is five inches and either sex may be kept.

Crab fishing rules can be found on pages 137-139 of the 2010-11 edition of Washington’s Sportfishing Rules Pamphlet , which contains maps of all the marine areas and sub-areas. The pamphlet is free and available at the more than 600 stores where hunting and fishing licenses are sold. The pamphlet also can be downloaded from WDFW’s web site at: http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ .

Before heading out, crabbers should check for any emergency rule changes adopted since the fishing pamphlet was published. Those changes can be found on WDFW’s website at https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/  or by calling the Shellfish Rule Change toll-free hotline at (866) 880-5431.

Trout and steelhead fishing got under way June 5 in area rivers, including the Skokomish, South Fork Skokomish and Dungeness. Anglers should note that selective gear rules are in effect on those rivers to protect wild summer steelhead. Details on rules and limits are online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ .

Tanwax Lake in Pierce County is off to a good start for largemouth bass and rainbow trout . In Kitsap County, Wildcat, Buck, Island and Wye lakes have all received high marks from anglers fishing for largemouth bass and trout. Duck Lake in Grays Harbor County also has been getting accolades from anglers fishing for trout and crappie .

SOUTHWEST WASHINGTON

Summer chinook salmon are entering the lower Columbia River in large numbers, although catching them is proving to be a challenge. High, turbid water and floating debris have been giving anglers – especially boat anglers – a workout during the opening days of the season, said Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist.

“Conditions are definitely tough for boat anglers,” Hymer said. “People have been catching some nice fish, but they have to deal with some extra challenges due to the high water and debris.”

Under these conditions, fishing from the bank has some advantages, Hymer said. During creel checks conducted during the first week of fishing, 1,463 bank anglers caught 62 adult chinook and released 25. The 572 boat anglers checked that week reported catching 33 adult summer chinook salmon and releasing 15 others.

Under new rules effective this year, anglers may retain only hatchery-reared chinook with a clipped adipose fin and healed scar. All wild, unmarked fish must be released. That is also the case with steelhead , which are showing up in the catch from the mouth of the Columbia River to Bonneville Dam.

“The trade-off is that this year’s summer chinook fishery is scheduled to run straight through July, rather than just a couple of weeks like last year,” Hymer said. “That wouldn’t have been possible without moving to a selective fishery.”

During the first week’s creel check, bank anglers reported catching 61 steelhead and releasing 13 others. Boat anglers surveyed that week caught eight steelhead and released five more. Anglers fishing the Cowlitz River have also been catching some hatchery steelhead.

According to the pre-season forecast, 88,800 summer chinook will return to the Columbia this year – the largest number since 2002.  About a third of those salmon are estimated to be five-year-olds, some weighing up to 40 pounds.

Under this year’s rules, anglers may retain up to two adult hatchery chinook or hatchery steelhead (or one of each) on the mainstem Columbia River from the Megler Astoria Bridge upstream to the Highway 395 Bridge at Pasco  All other salmon – including sockeye – must be released.

That may change, however, given the unexpectedly large number of sockeye counted at Bonneville Dam in recent days, said Cindy Le Fleur, WDFW Columbia River policy coordinator. As of June 22, just over 134,000 sockeye had been tallied at the dam – already more than predicted – and the 26,873 counted the previous day was the second-highest on record for a single day since 1938.

“The rule requiring anglers to release sockeye was adopted because Lake Wenatchee was not expected to reach its escapement goal this year,” Le Fleur said. Given the strong return, fishery managers from Washington and Oregon may reconsider that decision during a teleconference scheduled Thursday (June 24) at 3 p.m.

The scheduled closure of the sturgeon fishery downstream from the Wauna powerlines will also be up for reconsideration during that meeting, Le Fleur said. Sturgeon fishing has been slow in that area – and throughout the lower Columbia River – for a number of weeks, which may allow fishery managers to extend the season, she said.

Any changes in the sockeye retention rule or the sturgeon season below the Wauna powerlines will be announced on WDFW’s website ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/ ), the statewide Fishing Hotline (360-902-2500), regional hotline (360-696-6211 ext. 1010) and in a statewide news release.

For anglers hungering for shad , the Dalles Pool is clearly the place to be. During the week ending June 20, bank anglers averaged nine shad per rod although fishing was slow for boat anglers.  Below Bonneville Dam, anglers have been averaging between zero and two shad per rod.

Rather catch warmwater fish? Boat anglers fishing The Dalles Pool have been averaging two walleye and a bass per rod. In the John Day Pool, 10 boats reported catching 15 bass and seven walleye.

At Riffe Lake, bank anglers fishing at the dam and Taidnapum have been averaging two landlocked coho per rod, kept or released. Anglers should also be aware that Goose Lake north of Carson was stocked with 2,500 catchable-size brown trout and 3,000 catchable-size cutthroat June 15.

EASTERN WASHINGTON

This is the time to fish Lake Roosevelt, including the Spokane River arm, for some of the tastiest freshwater fish – walleye . Bill Baker, WDFW northeast district fish biologist, said walleye are distributing throughout the waterway now that they’ve spawned. The daily catch limit is eight walleye and there’s no minimum size, although only one over 22 inches may be retained.

The Seven Bays area and many other spots upstream on the big reservoir are also good for kokanee and rainbow trout fishing. The daily catch limit for kokanee is six fish, although no more than two can be wild fish. The limit on trout is five, but only two over 20 inches may be retained.

With all three species of fish very catchable, it’s a good time to purchase the new $24.50 two-pole endorsement, which allows anglers to use two poles while fishing at Lake Roosevelt and many other lakes throughout the state. For more information about the endorsement, visit http://wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/twopole/ .

Anglers might want to consider spending a weekend camping at one of the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area’s campgrounds – Evans, Fort Spokane, Gifford, Hunters, Keller Ferry, Kettle Falls and Spring Canyon. Most are on a first-come, first-served basis, but groups need to reserve camp sites. For details see http://www.nps.gov/laro/ .

Baker also noted that fishing has been good at many rainbow trout lakes in the northeast district. For example, Pend Oreille County’s Big Meadow Lake, about seven miles west of Ione on the Meadow Creek Road, is yielding catches of up to 16-inch rainbows.

At the opposite end of the region, the Tucannon River impoundments are cranking out catches of hatchery-stocked rainbow trout . The Tucannon River itself, from the mouth to the Tucannon Hatchery bridge, is also open to fishing.  Anglers who have purchased the new $8.75 Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement can retain up to three hatchery-marked steelhead from the Tucannon’s open waters through October. Selective gear rules and a prohibition on internal combustion motors are in effect upstream of the Turner Road bridge at Marengo.

WDFW’s W.T. Wooten Wildlife Area Manager Kari Dingman said Tucannon lake or river anglers, and other outdoor recreationists who camp on the area, are finding everything very green and lush, thanks to recent rains. But that ample vegetation will be fuel for wild fires soon, so she reminds visitors, including Fourth-of-July holiday celebrants, to comply with the area’s restrictions on fires and a ban on fireworks. All WDFW wildlife areas and water access sites throughout the region are under the same fireworks ban and similar fire restrictions. For details by area, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/lands/ .

Anglers can get a little bit extra out of their fishing license at the Spokane Indians Baseball Club’s fifth annual “Fish and Wildlife Night” on Tuesday, July 6, when game tickets are discounted with the presentation of a valid fishing or hunting license. The game will feature fish and wildlife activities between innings and stadium fish and wildlife displays.

NORTH-CENTRAL WASHINGTON

Bob Jateff, WDFW district fish biologist, said lowland lake fishing for rainbow trout has been holding up pretty well in the Okanogan district. “Cooler, wetter weather has been keeping the water temperatures down a bit, and that has contributed to better than average catch rates for the month of June,” he said.

Jateff said good selective-gear waters are Chopaka, Aeneas, and Blue lakes in the Sinlahekin, and Big and Little Twin lakes near Winthrop.  Other waters that are still providing decent fishing are Wannacut, Pearrygin, and Alta lakes.

WDFW Enforcement Officer Cal Treser recently reported checking numerous limits of trout on Lake Pearrygin, along with large crayfish. “If you want to try spiny ray fishing, fish Patterson Lake in the Winthrop area for yellow perch and Leader Lake west of Okanogan for bluegills and crappies ,” he said.

Jateff also noted the Methow River is still running high, but as water levels start dropping, resident rainbow and cutthroat trout will be catchable. Smaller creeks and rivers can provide fishing opportunities even when the major rivers like the Methow are still running high. “Anglers should pay close attention to the regulations on the Methow because there have been a few changes this year,” he said.

Chinook salmon fishing on the mainstem Columbia River and selected tributaries above Wells Dam is scheduled to start July 1.  New daily bag limits put in place this year will allow anglers to keep up to three adult chinook salmon, but only one of those can be a wild adult. Anglers should consult the current sportfishing rules pamphlet, because there are certain areas that anti-snagging and night closure rules are in effect.

SOUTH-CENTRAL WASHINGTON

High water contributed to a slow start in the fishery for hatchery summer chinook salmon on the Columbia River downriver from Priest Rapids Dam and for hatchery steelhead downstream from the Highway 395 Bridge at Pasco.  None of the 60 anglers surveyed in the John Day Pool had caught any salmon or steelhead, although fishing was good for other species.

During the week ending June 20, anglers fishing the John Day Pool caught 259 shad from 15 boats and 15 bass and seven walleye from 10 boats.

“The Columbia, Snake, Yakima and Walla Walla rivers are all running high, improving some fisheries, such as catfish , but making most of the fisheries, especially salmon, problematic,” said Paul Hoffarth, a WDFW fish and wildlife biologist in Pasco.

Hoffarth is optimistic that fishing will pick up for salmon and steelhead as river conditions improve and more summer chinook move past McNary Dam into the mid-Columbia and its tributaries.

Hoffarth reminds anglers that all wild, unmarked chinook salmon and steelhead must be released. The daily limit is six hatchery chinook, up to two of which may be adults. Anglers must stop fishing once they retain the adult portion of their daily limit. Any steelhead retained counts toward the daily limit of two adult fish, Hoffarth said.

Steelhead fishing will remain closed for the Columbia River upstream of the Highway 395 bridge and in the Snake River until the fall.

The spring chinook fishery runs through June 30 on the Yakima, and anglers continue to catch fish in the area between Union Gap and Roza Dam. Surveys indicate that the best fishing is between the Naches River and Roza Dam. There is a daily limit of two hatchery salmon with a clipped adipose fin; wild chinook must be released unharmed.

Water levels in the upper Naches and upper Yakima tributaries are continuing to drop and clear up. Eric Anderson, WDFW fish and wildlife biologist in Yakima, said his trend should continue in the weeks ahead into the summer months, when fishing in most tributaries should be good for wild trout, cutthroat, rainbow and brook trout.

Even though waters in the Columbia and Snake rivers remain high, fishing for smallmouth bass and walleye should improve as those waters recede and get warmer, Anderson said.

Sturgeon fishing remains open in Lake Wallula (McNary Dam to Priest Rapids/Ice Harbor Dams) through July of this year. Be aware, sturgeon fishing is prohibited from Goose Island upstream to Ice Harbor Dam in the Snake River and upstream of the Priest Rapids Hatchery outlet to Priest Rapids Dam in the Columbia River (white sturgeon sanctuaries).

Anderson reminds anglers that most streams have reduced catch and size limits for trout. In addition, there are catch-and-release zones on the Yakima River above Roza Dam, in sections of the Naches River and in Rattlesnake Creek where all trout must be released unharmed. In most large mainstem rivers and streams in the Yakima basin, anglers must use single barbless hooks and no bait.

Lake fishing in Central Washington remains strong, and WDFW is continuing to stock many lakes in the days leading up to the long Fourth of July weekend. Alpine lakes are also an option in the weeks ahead.

“The high country is starting to open up as the snow levels recede,” said Anderson.  “There are many excellent opportunities to fish high mountain lakes, most of which are hike- to only.”

Information on high lake stocking in Yakima and Kittitas counties can be obtained from the website link at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/plants/regions/reg3/r3_highlakes.htm . Anglers need to check directly with WDFW’s regional offices for high lake fish stocking information in other areas.

Meanwhile, kokanee are biting at Keechelus and Rimrock lakes. While they generally run small (9-11 inches), Anderson points out that anglers can keep up to 16 of them daily.

Powerline Lake and Marmes Pond were planted with rainbow trout earlier this spring, but Hoffarth said the cooler temperatures this spring should keep the bite going for a couple more weeks. Both of these lakes are walk-in only.

Jumbo triploid trout are being planted at Lost Lake in Kittitas County, as well as in Dog and Leech lakes in Yakima County. These fish are running about 1.5 pounds each.  Leech Lake is fly-fishing only. Also in June, 4,500 catchable-size trout and 200 jumbos are being planted in Easton Pond in Kittitas County.

Other recent lake stocking reports can be checked at the WDFW website http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/stocking/weekly/ .

WDFW advises anglers to always check the fishing rules pamphlet for details on a specific river or stream, including what gear is allowed and catch limits. The Fishing in Washington Sportfishing Rules guide is available free at stores that sell fishing licenses. The pamphlet also can be downloaded at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ . That web page also contains a link to emergency rules that have been enacted since the pamphlet was published.

What’s Fishin’ In Oregon

Here’s the latest fishing roundup from around Oregon, courtesy of ODFW’s weekly Recreation Report:

SOUTHWEST ZONE

  • Spring chinook fishing on the upper Rogue has been good above Shady Cove.
  • Spring chinook fishing has also been good on the North Umpqua from Amacher up to Swiftwater.
  • Fishing for resident cutthroat trout is picking up in many rivers and streams. Flies or small spinners are the best bets.
  • Warmwater fishing is improving in several area lakes and ponds. Bluegill are staging in shallow water preparing to spawn and the males are very aggressive. Largemouth bass fishing at Hyatt Lake and Tenmile Lakes has been very good and a 7-pound bass was recently caught in Cooper Creek Reservoir.

NORTHWEST ZONE

  • Nestucca & Three Rivers: Water levels continue to be good for this time of year. Forecasted dry weather will allow the river to drop this week. Spring chinook and summer steelhead angling has been fair to good. Bobber and eggs will produce for chinook. Try spinners or bobber and jigs for steelhead as the water clears, especially in the upper river. With the good flows, boaters should find success with diving plugs or diver and bait. Fishing for cutthroat trout has been fair, with fish spread throughout the river.
  • Tillamook Bay; Fishing for adipose fin-clipped spring chinook has been consistently good, but is winding down as the month goes on. Fish are available throughout the bay and tidewater. Try trolling herring along the jetties (but stay out for the construction safety zone) or near the coast guard station, especially on softer tide series. Spinners or plugs usually produce best in the upper bay, with bobber and eggs/shrimp productive in tidewater areas. Fishing for sturgeon has been slow. Fish were reported to be jumping in the upper bay recently. Best catches generally come from the upper bay and Tillamook River tidewater during the summer time. Check baits frequently as small fish and crabs can clean your hooks quickly.
  • Trask River: Fishing for adipose fin-clipped spring chinook has been good. Fish are being caught throughout the lower river and up to the Dam Hole, with some fish available up to the county park. A few summer steelhead are available throughout the river. The season at the hatchery hole at Trask Hatchery closed to angling June 15.
  • Yaquina River: Angling for cutthroat trout is now open for the season. The Yaquina basin has a good population of cutthroat trout and can offer anglers great fishing opportunities. Generally using small spinners, spoons or other lures can be very effective. Fly fishing is also very productive. Use of bait is restricted above tidewater until September 1.

WILLAMETTE ZONE

  • Spring chinook and summer steelhead are being landed in good numbers on the Clackamas and Sandy rivers. The bag limit has been increased to three adult salmon/steelhead in combination on these two rivers as well as on the the Willamette below Willamette Falls.
  • Steelhead and spring chinook are being caught in the McKenzie and Middle Fork of the Willamette Rivers.
  • More than 46,000 spring chinook and 18,000 summer steelhead have crossed Willamette Falls and are moving into the upper Willamette and its tributaries. Try fishing at San Salvador and Wheatland Ferry on the Willamette and around the mouths of the Tualatin, Molalla, and Santiam rivers.
  • Spring chinook are moving into the Santiam and McKenzie systems.

CENTRAL ZONE

  • Fishing on Crane Prairie is the best it’s been in years with anglers catching fish up to 5 and 6 pounds.
  • Trout fishing on the Crooked River has been good, and the recent population survey found larger trout this year compared to recent years.

SOUTHEAST ZONE

  • Fishing has been good in several area lakes and reservoirs including Krumbo and Pilcher reservoirs and Highway 203 and Burns ponds.
  • Trout fishing is picking up on the Chewaucan Rivera above Paisley.
  • The Powder River is open for spring chinook with a daily bag limit of two fish.

NORTHEAST ZONE

  • Fishing for 8 to 10-inch crappie continues to be good on McKay Reservoir.
  • Trout fishing has been good on Kinney, Magone and Wallowa lakes.
  • Shad fishing on the Columbia River below McNary Dam is heating up.
  • There will be a free fishing event Saturday, June 26 at the Umatilla National Forest pond 5412.  The event begins at 9 a.m. and a hotdog lunch will be served at noon. The event is open to the public with special invitation to anglers under age 14. Sponsored by the Blue Mountain Flycasters and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. For information and directions please contact Bill Duke at the ODFW Pendleton office 541-276-2344.

COLUMBIA ZONE

  • Effective June 16 angling is open for summer chinook and summer steelhead from Tongue Point to the Oregon/Washington border.  Angling is slow but should improve when water levels decrease.
  • Shad fishing is good below Bonneville Dam.
  • Sturgeon fishing is fair near Astoria.

MARINE ZONE

  • Fishing for marked coho south of Cape Falcon to the Oregon/California border opens Saturday (June 26). Only marked coho (all coho must have a healed adipose fin clip) may be retained. That season will run through Sept. 6 or until the quota of 26,000 marked coho is met, which ever comes first. The bag limit is two salmon.
  • Fishing for Chinook was slow again last week with fewer than one in seven anglers landing a fish. The “All Salmon Except Coho” salmon season from Cape Falcon to Oregon/California  border opened May 29 and runs through Sept. 6. Bag Limit: Two salmon.
  • North of Cape Falcon to the Oregon/Washington border the “Selective Chinook Season” opened June 12 with few reports of fish landed. Fishing for chinook will continue through earlier of June 30 or 12,000 marked Chinook quota. Bag Limit: All salmon except coho. Two salmon per day, all retained Chinook must have a healed adipose fin clip.
  • Fishing for halibut was good last weekend. Fishery managers will meet later this week to determine if there is sufficient quota for more all-depth open days. Three more openings – July 1-3, July 15-17, and July 29-31 – are available as long as the total catch does not exceed 105,948 pounds.
  • Fishing for lingcod remained at about one fish for every two anglers targeting lingcod. Average catches of rockfish and greenling were about three to five per angler last week, depending on the port. Success in catching lings and most other bottom fish improves as waves moderate.
  • Most crabbers had average catches between one and three crab. Crabbing in the ocean this time of year can be very productive, but also dangerous because of wind, sea and bar conditions.

Another Columbia Bass Study To Begin

A federal council has approved funding a new study of smallmouth bass predation on salmon smolts in the Columbia River to the tune of $350,000.

According to a story in last Friday’s Northwest Fishletter:

The study will look at suspected “hot spots” for smallmouth bass in the forebays at McNary, John Day and The Dalles dams, and try to compare them to tailrace areas thought not to be hot spots for the bass, based on pikeminnow catch data.

The proposal will also try to figure out the role of juvenile shad in the diets of non-native predators.

This follows up on 2008’s Biological Opinion which tasks hydropower managers with reducing the impact of introduced non-native fish on salmonids, as well as a meeting of scientific minds in late summer that year, Fishletter reports.

We summarized ideas that came out of that meeting in our February 2009 issue with the below table:

(NORTHWEST SPORTSMAN)

UPDATE JUNE 25, 2010: THE COLUMBIA BASIN BULLETIN TODAY HAS A LARGE PIECE ON THE NEW STUDY.

CBB ALSO REPORTS ON A SNORKELING SURVEY OF SMALLMOUTH BASS OCCURRING FOR THE SECOND YEAR IN A ROW ON THE UPPER JOHN DAY BY U.W. GRAD STUDENTS.

SW WA Fishing Report

(JOE HYMER, PACIFIC STATES MARINE FISHERIES COMMISSION)

SALMON/STEELHEAD

Cowlitz River – Boat anglers at the Trout Hatchery are catching some steelhead.

Last week, Tacoma Power recovered 138 spring Chinook adults, 36 jacks, 34 mini-jacks and 224 summer-run steelhead during five days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

Tacoma Power employees released 47 spring Chinook adults and 23 jacks into the upper Cowlitz River at the Skate Creek Bridge in Packwood and 18 spring Chinook adults and eleven jacks into Lake Scanewa above Cowlitz Falls Dam at the Day Use Park during the week.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 8,530 cubic feet per second on Monday, June 21 and are likely to remain steady during the week. Water visibility is 14 feet.

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – Last week we sampled 2,035 salmonid anglers (including 252 boats) below Bonneville Dam with 135 adult and 12 jack summer Chinook, 87 steelhead, and 25 sockeye.  Overall, 70% of the adult Chinook and 79% of the steelhead caught were kept.  All sockeye were released.

The 25,011 sockeye counted at Bonneville Dam yesterday was the second highest daily count since at least 1938.  The record is 27,112 fish on July 7, 1955.

During last Saturday’s flight, over 250 boats and nearly 850 bank anglers counted.  Effort was spread throughout the river.

River flows as measured at Bonneville Dam are expected to increase the next few days from just below 300,000 cfs to just over the mid 300’s.  At the dam, water visibility has been poor the past couple weeks with just 2-3 feet of clarity.

The Dalles Pool – Windy most of the week.  Including fish released, bank anglers averaged an adult Chinook per every 9 rods.  Fishing from boats was slow.

John Day Pool – From Paul Hoffarth, WDFW District 4 Fish Biologist in Pasco WA:   WDFW staff sampled the John Day Pool this past week for summer chinook harvest. Staff interviewed 41 boat and 19 bank anglers with no reported catch.

STURGEON

Lower Columbia below the Wauna powerlines – At the ports of Chinook and Ilwaco, catch rates remains largely unchanged from the past few weeks – slow.  Charter boat anglers averaged a legal kept per every 5.3 rods while private boaters averaged one per every 13.4 rods.  If an angler is lucky enough to catch a fish, there was a 28% chance it would be a legal fish.

Same for the Deep  River and Knappton ramps – Catch rates remain largely unchanged with one in every 7.8 boat anglers keeping a legal size fish.  Fishing from the bank was slow.

Just over 300 private boats and 15 charters were counted during the Saturday June 20 flight.

Saturday June 26 is the last scheduled day for sturgeon retention below the Wauna powerlines.  The states of Oregon and Washington are planning to have a telephone conference later this week.  Stay tuned.

Lower Columbia from the Wauna powerlines to the Marker 82 line – Some boat anglers from the Lewis upstream were catching some legal size fish.  Fishing is slow from the bank.

Less than 100 boats and 10 bank anglers were counted during last Saturday’s flight.

The Dalles Pool – The handful of boat anglers sampled had released an average of a couple sturgeon each.

John Day Pool:  From Paul Hoffarth, WDFW District 4 Fish Biologist in Pasco WA:   7 sturgeon released from the 5 boats sampled.

WALLEYE AND BASS

The Dalles Pool – Including fish released, boat anglers averaged nearly 2 walleye and a bass per rod.  Bank anglers were catching some bass.

John Day Pool – From Paul Hoffarth, WDFW District 4 Fish Biologist in Pasco WA:    15 bass and 7 walleye from the 10 boats sampled.

TROUT

Riffe Lake – Bank anglers at the dam and Taidnapum averaged 2 landlocked coho kept/released per rod.

Goose Lake north of Carson – Planted with 2,500 catchable size browns and 3,000 catchable size cutthroats June 15.  No report on angling success.

SHAD

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – Catches averaged from 0-2 fish per rod when including fish released.  Less than 100 bank anglers on each side of the Columbia and only a few boats were counted during last Saturday’s flight.

The Dalles Pool – Including fish released, bank anglers averaged almost 9 shad per rod.

John Day Pool – From Paul Hoffarth, WDFW District 4 Fish Biologist in Pasco WA:    259 shad from the 15 boats sampled.

Limits Upped For Portland-area Steelies, Chinook

Stories in The Oregonian and KGW.com report that the combined bag limit has been raised for steelhead and spring Chinook to three hatchery fish a day on the Sandy, Willamette and Clackamas starting today.

The bump in the bag is thanks to big early returns of steelhead, credited on the same conditions that produced last year’s big coho return.

“Lower water temperatures and higher flows are creating very, very good – almost ideal – fishing conditions,” The Oregonians quotes biologist Todd Alsbury as saying. “Plus, there haven’t been a lot of people out fishing.”

Shasta Tackle Announces Its Gear Helped Catch Record Koke

Ron Campbell was pretty cagey earlier this week about what gear he used to catch that pending world-record kokanee out of Wallowa Lake.

“It was pretty standard gear that I was using,” the Pendleton, Ore., angler told us late Monday morning, about 30 hours after landing the 9-pound, 10.7-ounce landlocked sockeye at the Northeast Oregon lake. “I think the fish could have been caught on anything — Wedding Rings, Apexes, hoochies. There’s no big secrets on this one.”

In other words, Mack’s Lures, Hot Spot or Shasta Tackle gear, some of the biggest players in the kokanee world.

By yesterday evening, however, the man behind Door No. 3 was raising his hand.

Around 6:39 p.m., an email from Bestfishinginoregon.com popped into my inbox that read:

Campbell was waiting for the maker of his lure to announce it. Gary Miralles of Shasta Tackle told us himself late Wednesday: The fish was caught with a Shasta Pee Wee hootchie (Tequila Sunrise pattern) behind a Sling Blade UV Silver Tiger dodger.

Then around 7:50 p.m., I got a call from Northwest Sportsman contributor Larry Ellis saying basically the same thing after an email from Miralles.

So, there you go.

UFO Spotted Near Spokane (Well, Sort Of)

So, among the many ways I’ve wasted time today, this one takes the cake: watching a bunch of very strange radar echoes in the Spokane area.

No, really, there is a fishing and hunting tie-in!

Unless it’s aliens.

Friends of the family are over in Spokane right now and this afternoon reported it was pretty wet, so naturally I went to the National Weather Service’s Spokane page for the latest forecast.

Looks like more showers overnight, guys, a break into Saturday, then the possibility of rain through the rest of the weekend.

Oh, and a chance of more UFOs.

Say what?

At the top of the Service’s site is an intriguing link I just had to hit: “Unusual Radar Echoes

How do you not click on something like that?

Especially if the World Cup’s done for the day, your mag’s gone to press, and the next one appears to be under control.

In amazement I watched and rewatched the interesting echoes, which first appear to the south and then the west of Fairchild Air Force Base.

A large blue cluster pops up then moves off over the wheatfields and pines near the Lilac City.

UNUSUAL RADAR ECHOES SEEN ON SUCCESSIVE MID-MAY DAYS SOUTH OF SPOKANE. (NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE)

Of course I had to call the Weather Service office for more information.

Hey, I might be slackin’, but I’m still a reporter.

I got Ron Miller on the line. He’s a meteorologist with the Service.

“I guess it is technically a UFO, since it’s unidentified,” he told me.

According to the narrative on his Web site, the “strange phenomenon” first appeared on the radar over a five-day period in mid-May.

This phenomenon developed each day at approximately the same time (around 4:30 a.m.) and over the same location, near the Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge south of Cheney,” says the Service. “Each day the phenomenon seemed to fan out with the prevailing low-level winds and disperse by 5 am.”

The blob — which was several thousand feet thick and miles wide — arose from the area of Long Lake then headed northwest the first three days, then east and northeast the last two.

After cold weather hit the area, the blob disappeared, but then on June 6, 7 and 8, came back, again going with prevailing winds.

Nothing on June 9, but early the morning of June 10, it switched locations and originated near Reardan.

So, Ron, what the hell is really going on?

“It’s either birds or bugs,” he says, adding, “or something else.”

Bugs seems unlikely, unless all that fertilizer the farmers use has triggered the world’s hugest mayfly hatch and thoroughly messed with their circadian rhythms.

So I called up the Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.

AW: “Hey, was there a huge-ass flock of birds at the refuge back in May?”

Jason, budget tech unfortunate enough to pick up the line when I called: “That’s what we’re thinking. Geese or ducks. The spring migration when they’re moving through — I’m not a radar expert, but it’s the only thing I can figure.”

So back to radar expert Ron at the Weather Service.

He points out that the echoes always arise around sunrise, always go with the prevailing winds, then disperse and disappear.

“Is this new this year, or have we just not noticed it?” he asked rhetorically. “We don’t know, but nobody’s really noticed.”

Well, nobody’s noticed it near Spokane.

Radar watchers around the country have, though.

If you search the Weather Service’s Web site for “bird radar,” you’ll get a few echoes.

According to a piece put together by the Green Bay office, what we saw near Spokane at sunrise earlier this winter, err, spring, looks a lot like something called a “roost ring.”

“As the birds take flight in the morning, they often leave the ground in what is called a ‘roost ring’ — a radar signature formed as they fly into the radar’s coverage area.”

An early-rising weatherman out of the Louisville, Ky., office tromped out to the site of strange echoes he was seeing and discovered:

Just before sunrise, a large flock of birds took off from a wooded patch of land there. The exact species of bird is not known (we are not bird experts), but they congregated into a stream aloft and took off to the east and south. They may be some form of Starling based on other large flocks of birds seen recently around the Louisville area …

Then there’s this from the Jacksonville, Fla., office:

Sometimes, the radar beam intersects other objects, including birds.  When there is a high density of birds in one location, typically during bird migrations, sometimes as the birds take flight the radar beam intersects the flock.  This happened in several locations across coastal Southeast Georgia on the morning of October 25, 2009, right around sunrise.  This is a favored time for birds, particularly waterfowl, to leave their nocturnal nesting sites on bodies of water to either continue their migration or return to their favorite daytime refuges.

Interestingly, there’s this potential use of radar data for, ahem, “bird watchers” who may or may not be armed:

Many bird enthusiasts utilize radar imagery to track migration patterns. Radar imagery has also been helpful to both birds and humans regarding aviation safety. Most airport terminals use radar data to track birds as they cross flight paths to avoid collisions.

Think of it as Terrafin not for albies, but quackers — your duck hunting tip of the day.

Unless the echoes do turn out to be aliens.

Then you might want to go with buckshot.

UPDATE JUNE 21

SCRATCH THE BUCKSHOT. JUST GOT OFF THE PHONE WITH A  BIOLOGIST AT THE NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE WHO WAS AT GROUND ZERO MAY 19 WHILE THE PLUME WAS OCCURRING AND HE SAW … ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

“I SAW NO BIRDS,” SAYS MARK RULE, WHO’S BEEN AT TURNBULL 18 YEARS. “I DIDN’T EVEN SEE ANY CLOUDS OF INSECTS.”

HE ALLOWS THAT IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN A HATCH OF BUGS TOO SMALL TO SEE, BUT ALSO POINTS OUT THAT WHATEVER IT WAS ROSE AS HIGH AS 5,000 FEET AND WAS A MILE WIDE.

“I DON’T KNOW WHAT SORT OF INSECTS WOULD HATCH IN THAT SORT OF ABUNDANCE,” HE SAYS.

THE BLOB ALSO MOVED AGAINST PREVAILING WINDS ONE MORNING, AND RULE SAYS LOCAL BUGS STAY LOW AND CLOSE TO THE WATER.

SEEMS LIKE SWAMP GAS WOULD ALSO BE UNABLE TO FLOAT OFF AGAINST THE WIND.

“IT’S STILL A MYSTERY,” RULE NOTES.

AT THE SAME TIME THAT SPOKANE’S RADAR WAS PICKING UP ALL THAT WEIRDNESS, CLIFF MASS AT THE U.W. DID A BLOG ABOUT HOW MIGRATING BIRDS WERE BLOWING UP THE RADAR AT NIGHT.

IGFA Awaits World-record Kokanee Documents

IGFA officials will be checking their mailbox next week for a package from Pendleton, Ore.

“We’re waiting on Ron to submit the record and we’ll go from there,” says Jack Vitek, world records coordinator for the Florida-based International Game Fish Association.

Ron would be one Ron Campbell, the gent who caught that 9-pound, 10.7-ounce kokanee last Sunday morning, the latest in a string of record-wreckers to come out of the Northeast Oregon’s Wallowa Lake.

CAMPBELL AND HIS SUPER-SIZED KOKANEE LAKESIDE AT WHAT ONE MAN DUBBED "WOWLOWA" LAKE. (RON CAMPBELL)

His is the pending world record, and is at least 4.7 ounces heavier than the standing mark, a BC fish caught in 1988.

To certify it, Campbell must send IGFA a hank of his fishing leader, weight certifications and an application form, says Vitek.

“I’m looking forward to it,” he says.

Then there will be a minimum 60-day waiting period from June 13 before it’s approved officially.

That’s to give other anglers a chance to try and catch an even bigger kokanee.

With the way things are going there this year, that’s probable. Already, Wallowa’s given up 8.85, 8.23 and 7.5 state records in 2010’s first six months, as well as more than a few 7-, 6- and 5-pounders.

And the feeling is that there may be an even bigger koke in the lake too.

Campbell himself thinks that.

The week before he gained regional notoriety, he hooked into something big but lost it.

Who’s to say whether it was the fish he caught last Sunday, but stranger things have happened.

For instance, according to Bestfishinginoregon, Campbell himself held the Oregon largemouth record, an 11-pounder from McKay Reservoir.

Plus his brother, Larry, caught the-then state-mark koke out of Wallowa back in 2000. That fish was around half the size of Ron’s.

Wallowa’s remarkable productivity of large kokanee is being credited to a low number of fish in a recent year class and mysis shrimp. Introduced to the lake in the 1960s following what appeared to be a successful experiment to grow bigger kokes at a BC lake, the light-sensitive freshwater crustaceans aren’t normally available to the sight-feeding kokanee except at either end of daylight. However, some of the landlocked salmon appear to have adapted to feeding on the shrimp.

Vitek will be going through the 25 to 30 record applications he receives each week in search of the Campbell family’s latest monster.

I was actually surprised at the volume of mail IGFA gets, but he outlined a host of categories anglers can apply to.

There’s the all-tackle category for all game fish caught on line under 132 pounds of breaking strength.

Then there are the line-class records, which are subdivided into male and female categories.

Fly fishermen have their own book, broken into saltwater records for men and women, and a single freshwater group.

And the kids have two categories, Junior for 11- to 16-year-olds and Small Fry for youngsters to age 10. Both groups are subdivided by sex as well.

“For argument’s sake, for Atlantic sailfish, there would be male Junior, female Junior, male Small Fry and female Small Fry record holders,” Vitek says.

And for argument’s sake, we’ll say that Wallowa’s run ain’t done — 10-pounder, anyone?

EDITOR’S NOTE: AN EARLIER VERSION OF THIS STORY MISIDENTIFIED JACK VITEK OF IGFA AS JASON VITEK. OUR APOLOGIES.

What’s Fishin’ In Oregon

While Oregon’s eyes may be turning to the state’s northeast corner after Wallowa Lake gave up yet another record-setting kokanee, this weekend’s opportunities also include an all-depths halibut fishery.

But as rivers continue to subside, there are springers and steelies to be had in the Willamette drainage, today is the Columbia River summer king opener, nice-sized rainbows are going into coastal waters this week, it’s “best in years” trout fishing on Crane Prairie and there’s good action to be had at Brownlee Reservoir.

NORTHWEST SPORTSMAN WRITER ANDY SCHNEIDER (RIGHT) FOUND BITING SPRINGERS ON THE COAST RECENTLY. (ANDY SCHNEIDER)

Here are highlights from ODFW’s weekly Recreation Report:

WILLAMETTE ZONE

  • Spring chinook and summer steelhead are being landed in good numbers on the Clackamas River. Look for prospects to improve as the recent high flows subside.
  • Summer steelhead and spring chinook prospects are improving on the Sandy River.
  • Steelhead and spring chinook are being caught in the McKenzie and Middle Fork of the Willamette Rivers. Anglers should pay attention to water levels and temperatures to increase success. Additionally, anglers should expect new debris hazards (stationary and floating) and take steps to ensure a safe and successful trip.
  • More than 44,000 spring chinook have crossed Willamette Falls and are moving into the upper Willamette and its tributaries. Try fishing at San Salvador and Wheatland Ferry on the Willamette and around the mouths of the Tualatin, Molalla, and Santiam rivers.
  • Spring chinook are moving into the Santiam system.

NORTHWEST ZONE

  • Cape Meares, Town, South, Coffenbury, and Lost lakes will be stocked with larger trout (about 1 pound each) the week of June 14. This will conclude trout stocking for the spring. Trophy trout stocking is scheduled for September in several lakes.
  • Nestucca and Three Rivers:  Water levels continue to be good for this time of year. Forecasted dry weather will allow the river to drop this week. Spring Chinook and summer steelhead angling has been fair to good. Bobber and eggs will produce for Chinook. Try bobber and jigs for steelhead as the water clears, especially in the upper river. With the good flows, boaters should find success with diving plugs. Fishing for cutthroat trout has been fair, with fish spread throughout the river.
  • Tillamook Bay: Fishing for adipose fin-clipped spring chinook has been consistently good, but will begin to wind down as the month goes on. Fish are available throughout the bay and tidewater. Try trolling herring along the jetties (but stay out for the construction safety zone) or near the coast guard station, especially on softer tide series. Spinners or plugs usually produce best in the upper bay, with bobber and eggs/shrimp productive in tidewater areas. Fishing for sturgeon has been slow. Best catches generally come from the upper bay and Tillamook River tidewater as the spring goes on.
  • Trask River: Fishing for adipose fin-clipped spring chinook has been good. Fish are being caught throughout the lower river and up to the Dam Hole, with some fish available up to the county park. A few summer steelhead are available throughout the river. The season hatchery hole at Trask Hatchery closed to angling June 15.

SOUTHWEST ZONE

  • Spring chinook fishing on the upper Rogue has been good above Shady Cove.
  • Fishing for resident cutthroat trout is picking up in many rivers and streams. Flies or small spinners are the best bets.
  • Salmonflies are emerging along the upper Rogue, and creating the opportunity for some excellent dry-fly fishing.

CENTRAL ZONE

  • Fishing on Crane Prairie is the best it’s been in years with anglers catching fish up to 5 and 6 pounds.
  • Fishing on Lake Billy Chinook has been good for both kokanee and bull trout.
  • Anglers are still catching bright spring chinook on the lower Deschutes River near Sherars Falls.

SOUTHEAST ZONE

  • Fishing has been good in several area lakes and reservoirs including Klamath Lake, Lake of the Woods, and Krumbo and Thief Valley reservoirs.
  • Trout fishing is picking up on the Chewaucan Rivera above Paisley.
  • The Powder River is open for spring chinook with a daily bag limit of two fish.

NORTHEAST ZONE

  • Fishing for 8 to 10-inch crappie continues to be good on McKay Reservoir.
  • Trout fishing has been good on Kinney and Magone lakes.
  • Wallowa Lake continues to turn out record setting kokanee, including a 9 pound 10.7 ounce bruiser caught on June 13.

BROWNLEE ZONE

  • Crappie are spawning and fishing is good. Bass are biting but are fairly small. Catfish are also biting. Trolling for trout is fair. The reservoir is full. Call Idaho Power Company’s recording at 1-800-422-3143 to get information on access at recreational sites or visit their Web site under the “Rivers and Recreation” heading.

COLUMBIA ZONE

  • Effective June 16 angling is open for summer chinook and summer steelhead from the Astoria-Megler Bridge to the Oregon/Washington border.
  • Shad fishing is good below Bonneville Dam.
  • Sturgeon fishing is fair near Astoria.

MARINE ZONE

  • Fishing for Chinook was slow again last week with fewer than one in seven anglers landing a fish.
  • North of Cape Falcon to the Oregon/Washington border the “Selective Chinook Season” opened June 12 with few reports of fish landed. Fishing for chinook will continue through earlier of June 30 or 12,000 marked Chinook quota. Bag Limit: All salmon except coho. Two salmon per day, all retained Chinook must have a healed adipose fin clip.
  • Fishery managers determined last week there is enough quota remaining for a three-day additional all-depth opening June 17-19. Three more openings – July 1-3, July 15-17, and July 29-31 – are available as long as the total catch does not exceed 105,948 pounds. The summer sport halibut season will be every other Friday and Saturday from Aug. 6 to Oct. 30 or until the entire sub-area all-depth catch limit of 141,265 pounds of halibut is harvested. The near-shore season, for ocean waters inside the 40 fathom line, will be open seven days a week from May 1 until Oct. 31 or until the harvest quota of 12,284 pounds is achieved.
  • Fishing for lingcod improved this week with one fish for every two anglers targeting lingcod. Average catches of rockfish and greenling were about three to five per angler last week, depending on the port. Success in catching lings and most other bottom fish improves as waves moderate.
  • The Oregon Department of Agriculture closed all recreational razor clam harvesting from Coos Bay to Bandon due to elevated levels of domoic acid. Razor clamming remains open north of Coos Bay and south of Bandon.
  • Most crabbers had average catches between one and three crab. Crabbing in the ocean this time of year can be very productive, but also dangerous because of wind, sea and bar conditions.

Northern Rockies Wolves Back In Court

With around 100 protesters and at least one placard reading “Kill Wolves” outside his court this morning, U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy heard arguments about wolf protections in the Northern Rockies states.

Defenders of Wildlife and others say that packs must be managed as a whole throughout the region rather than by the states of Montana and Idaho, where they were delisted last spring, and the federal government in Wyoming, where wolves remain under protection of the Endangered Species Act, according to the Associated Press.

AP also reports that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s baseline for recovery in the region, a minimum of 10 breeding pairs and 100 wolves in each state, is being challenged.

“We hope the Fish and Wildlife Service will go back to the drawing board and come up with something that will work,” said Earthjustice’s Douglas Honnold, the attorney for the plaintiffs, according to AP.

The Fed’s reintroduction of wolves into Central Idaho and Yellowstone National Park in the mid-1990s appears to be working quite well. Joined also by wolves moving across the Canadian border, there were just over 1,700 in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming at the end of 2009.

Some Idaho wolves have swam the Snake and now there are at least two packs in Northeast Oregon, where five ranchers were given depredation permits after a series of livestock losses. There are at least two packs in northern Washington as well, one with ties to Northern Idaho, the other with bloodlines into BC and Alberta.

Anti-wolf feelings have reached a fever pitch, swelled by one man’s recent suggestion that sweeteners are fatal to wolves, which didn’t go over so well with an enforcement officer with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.

Judge Molloy promised a ruling “as quickly as I can,” reports The Missoulian.