Ask Missus Walgamott what 2011’s top hunting and fishing story was and without hesitation she’ll say “wolves.”
I yabbered about Canis lupus so much after work hours — their increasing numbers, the delisting (finally), the eye-roller rumors, the tense encounters, development of Washington’s management plan, the trek of OR-7 (now
just 10 miles from in California), new packs in the Blue Mountains, etc., etc., etc — that at one point Amy ruled that I could only tell one wolf story per dinner.
And then she banned all mention.
Can’t blame her, though they certainly helped fill a lot of mag and blog pages this year.
But there were other things going on in Washington and Oregon.
Here’s a look back at the year that was, as it appeared in headlines and text snippets on pages of NWSportsmanMag.com:
ON THE NORTH SIDE OF THE COLUMBIA, THE YEAR BEGAN WITH A CLOUD hanging over the future of the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife.
The WDFW Merger Files: Power Grab, Says TDN (Jan. 4, 2011)
The Daily News of Longview has an editorial today that says Gov. Christine Gregoire’s proposal to merge WDFW and State Parks isn’t just about dealing with the massive budget shortfall, but is an attempt to “enhance and consolidate gubernatorial power.”
The paper says that the realignment would strip the voter-approved Fish & Wildlife Commission of its power to hire and fire WDFW’s director and put it under the governor’s office, a move which would “likely will draw strenuous objections from fishermen and hunters, who tend to want commissioners drawn from their ranks and a commission sympathetic to their agendas.”
It also notes that the merger would save just $2.5 million in 2011-13, “which amounts to only one-twentieth of 1 percent of the state’s $4.6 billion revenue gap.”
WDFW-Parks Merger Bill Introduced (Feb. 4, 2011)
A 376-page bill that would merge WDFW and State Parks has been introduced in Olympia.
SB 5669, sponsored by Senators Ranker, Swecker, Regala, Rockefeller, Nelson, White, and Pflug at the request of Governor Christine Gregoire, would create a Department of Conservation and Recreation.
Gregoire proposed the merger back in mid-December.
A cabinet-level department, DCR’s overall director would be appointed by the governor, and the Fish & Wildlife Commission would be renamed the Fish & Wildlife Advisory Commission, under the bill.
Public Speaks On WDFW-Parks Merger (Feb. 10, 2011)
Norman Reinhardt, president of the Kitsap Poggie Club, said it would turn the clock back, putting politics before science.
“Do not allow this merger take place,” he said.
That was a common sentiment among the anglers who spoke before the Senate Natural Resources and Marine Waters committee, chaired by Sen. Kevin Ranker, a North Sound Democrat.
WA FWC On 5669: Opposition, and ‘Deep Concern’ (Feb. 21, 2011)
Just in case you missed it, the Washington Fish & Wildlife Commission fired off a statement against the part of SB 5669 that would neuter the citizen panel.
In the press release, which came after hours Friday evening, the FWC said the bill would “reverse the will of the majority of the people as reflected in Referendum 45.”
The statement also expresses “deep concern” about the Senate bill’s attempt to merge Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife with State Parks and the Recreation and Conservation Office.
“The cost savings identified in the bill are relatively small in light of the substantial reorganizational effort that a merger would entail,” the FWC says.
WDFW Merger Bill Moves Forward, With Twists (Feb. 23, 2011)
It’s out with the Washington Department of Conservation and Recreation, in with the Washington Department of Fish, Wildlife and (take a breather here) Recreation — and the Fish & Wildlife Commission would retain its policy- and rule-making authority under Senate Substitute Bill 5669.
It was passed out of the Natural Resources & Marine Waters Committee by a 4-2 vote on President’s Day and forwarded to the Ways & Means Committee.
Instead of a director, the super-agency — a conglomeration of WDFW, State Parks and the Recreation and Conservation Office — would also have a “secretary” as its head.
According to Allen Thomas of The Columbian, “The substitute bill gives the governor authority to appoint a Department of Fish, Wildlife and Recreation secretary from a list of five candidates submitted jointly by the wildlife and parks commissions.”
House Budget Bill Keeps WDFW Its Own Agency (April 11, 2011)
I had to call up WDFW’s legislative analyst to make sure mine own eyes weren’t deceiving me when I downloaded the ins and outs of HB 1087, but the state House budget bill passed last weekend does not call for consolidating the fish and game agency with State Parks.
“It looks like it’s off the table as far as the House budget,” says Ann Larson, WDFW’s legislative liason.
She quickly notes that we’ll see what the state Senate’s appropriations bill proposes when it’s rolled out this week.
The Senate is the chamber where SB 5669 was filed at Governor Gregoire’s request. It merges WDFW, State Parks and the Recreation and Conservation Office into a Department of Fish, Wildlife & Recreation. We’ve writtena weebitaboutit.
The House and Senate budgets have to be reconciled before being sent to Gregoire.
The state Senate’s 2011-13 proposed budget would not merge the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife with the State Parks and Recreation Commission and Recreation and Conservation Office, as Governor Gregoire had requested last December, but parts of the plan do look like consolidation.
Details from the operating budget that Senate Ways and Means Committee leaders Sen. Ed Murray and Sen. Joseph Zarelli released this morning reduce expenditures at the headquarters level and encourage WDFW, Parks, DNR, DOE and the Department of Agriculture “to work together to achieve efficiencies in managing the natural resources of the state.”
“There are some aspects of consolidation in administrative functions — what we call back office — so we’re trying to understand that more,” says WDFW deputy director Joe Stohr in Olympia.
“Our staff is still trying to interpret and figure out what it means for State Parks,” adds Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Sandy Maeling.
Previously, Senate Bill 5669 would have merged WDFW, Parks and RCO into a Department of Fish, Wildlife and Recreation.
The House’s budget bill, approved last weekend, left out consolidation.
Eventually, lawmakers sent Gregoire a budget which kept WDFW its own agency, but late in 2011, news came out that it along with the Department of Ecology may open a new office Southwest Washington at a building to be built at the Port of Ridgefield.
Other big news out of Olympia as well as Salem in 2011 included:
Passage of the first Washington fishing and hunting license increase in a decade and the $30 Discover Pass;
Failure to extend the pilot hound hunting for cougars rule in Washington and create a similar hunt in Oregon;
And failure to get a partial gillnet ban for the Lower Columbia out of committee in Oregon and the X-filing of a bill that would have required commercial fishermen in Washington to report lost nets within 48 hours.
LAST JANUARY ALSO SAW THE SURPRISE RELEASE OF A LARGE HERD of Nevada pronghorn onto a sprawling reservation in the lower Yakima Valley
Antelope Arrive In WA Over Weekend (Jan. 17, 2011)
Last week, they were racing across the northeast Nevada sage. Today, they’re learning about their new digs 450 miles to the north-northwest in South-central Washington.
In a lightning-fast move, 100 antelope were captured Saturday by the Nevada Department of Wildlife and dozens of volunteers, and 99 were driven in livestock trailers to the Mabton area of the Yakama Nation’s reservation and released.
“I had the last load, and unloaded them at 12:45 a.m.” Sunday morning, says Glenn Rasmussen of the Central Washington Chapter of Safari Club International. “Oh, yeah (it’s exciting). This is something we’ve been working on for a long time.
And how’d the Yakama Nation’s herd of 89 does and 10 bucks do in 2011?
“We had antelope scattered over a couple million acres,” tribal wildlife biologist Jim Stephenson told me late last month.
Over the course of the year, animals were spotted as far south as Goldendale, east to Kennewick, west to timberline and possibly on the Yakima Training Center to the north.
It was the first release in Washington since the old state Department of Game’s 1968 attempt to keep its small group alive; those were all gone by the mid-1980s.
But so far so good for the Yakamas.
“From the ones we have observed there appears to be a fairly good fawn crop,” says Stephenson. “Since they are scattered over such a large area it isn’t possible to say how many antelope are in the state at this point but I would think that there are at least 50 more to add to the original transplant. If everything falls in to place we plan on capturing another 100 animals this winter to supplement the existing herd.”
A FRIEND OF MINE WHO KNOWS BETTER DECIDED LAST SUMMER to take up steelheading, again, and unexpectedly found himself doing all right on the banks of the Lower Columbia.
Now, “all right” in this case means a fish took a brief passing interest in his bait, but his fishing partners – and a whole lot of other Rose City, Vancouver, St. Helens and Longview anglers – actually did quite well.
The fishing was so good for steelies – as well as fall Chinook – that most of them are probably still on an Omega-3 buzz.
The big crick gave up more of both species between Astoria and Bonneville Dam than ever recorded before.
According to fisheries biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver, “decent water conditions – cooler at first but also (staying) higher than normal during the season” helped contribute to the high catches.
There was also a concerted marketing effort by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association and other partners including Northwest Sportsman magazine and blog that targeted summer-runs in the lower river.
Group Aims To Grow Columbia Steelhead Fishery (Feb. 16, 2011)
Last week the directors of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Travel Oregon met with the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association to initiate a pilot project designed to grow participation in the Columbia River summer steelhead fishery. The meeting was held in conjunction with the Pacific Northwest Sportsman’s Show in Portland, the third largest consumer show of its type in America.
NSIA representatives included major retailers such as Fred Meyer and Fishermen’s Marine and Outdoor, tackle manufacturers, outdoor advertising and media, including Northwest Sportsman magazine, and guides. Facilitated by ODFW, the participants brainstormed ways to leverage their collective communication platforms and resources for better outreach to attract new customers to this thriving but underappreciated fishery.
“Steelhead are one of Oregon’s most prized game fish, known for their fight,” said Todd Davidson, Director of Travel Oregon. “Great conditions and stable fishing seasons make summer steelhead a solid draw to Oregon for visiting anglers and their families.” Davidson continued, “The statewide potential of this pilot project is tremendous.”
Columbia Steelheading On The Rise (July 22, 2011)
The great roving eye that is Northwest Sportsman magazine’s Weekend Hot Bite Finder has been focused this week on finding the very first pink salmon caught in Puget Sound and the opening of a sockeye fishery on Baker Lake in Washington’s North Cascades tomorrow, but a report of “insanely good” summer steelheading has our all-seeing eye zooming in on the lower Columbia River.
That report came from a local tackle shop, but even in the judgement of a slightly more sober fisheries biologist stationed along its shores, catches in the big creek below Rainier, Ore., and Longview, Wash., have been “good” in recent days.
It’s a wee bit tardy, but the summer run is officially on.
Aug. Columbia Steelhead Catch Already A Record (Aug. 16, 2011)
If you’re a Northwest state fish and wildlife agency that, oh, say, decided to pimp the summer steelhead fishery on the Lower Columbia this year, you hit a home run.
The month is only half over, but there’s already a new record “handle” on the big creek.
So far in August, Oregon and Washington anglers have caught 11,639.
And that comes on the back of a possible record-tying July fishery.
It tops the previous high mark for August set in 2009, The Year Of The Monster Run, by 590 fish.
It’s Official: Record July Steelie Catch (Aug. 19, 2011)
Lower Columbia steelheaders bonked a record number last month, and just missed topping the all-time “handle” mark for July as well.
According to fisheries biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver, Washington and Oregon anglers kept 8,549 steelies in July 2011 from Bonneville Dam down to the mouth, over 300 more than the previous record set in that monster run year, 2009.
Huge Summer For Columbia Anglers Rolls On (Sept. 13, 2011)
Fresh off his vacation, Joe Hymer’s back at it, sending out all sorts of hard-to-ignore nugz on Lower Columbia sport fishing.
“Since at least 1980,” the fisheries biologist stationed in Vancouver, Wash., reported this afternoon, “the estimated angler trips through September 11 are the second highest for the entire fall season. The highest was 117,975 angler trips in 2009 so we’ve already set a new record.”
Stats he sent along show we’ve made 117,181 trips on the big river below Bonneville for kings, coho and steelies since Aug. 1.
That’ll surely jump with Chinook retention reopening from the mouth of the Lewis down to Buoy 10 starting this Friday, padding an already prodigious king catch for the season.
Another Columbia Fishing Record About To Be Broken? (Sept. 28, 2011)
Lower Columbia anglers are within 519 Chinook of setting another fishing record this summer-fall season.
Through last Sunday, Sept. 25, 25,677 kings have been kept since Aug. 1 between Astoria and Bonneville Dam, a figure that is second only to the 26,195 retained in that 130-mile stretch in 2003.
Fall King Catch On Columbia A New Record (Oct. 18, 2011)
This just in from Vancouver:
“Through September, an estimated 27,490 adult fall Chinook have been caught in the lower Columbia mainstem sport fishery from the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line to Bonneville Dam. The old record was 26,195 fish caught in 2003. The new record will increase after the October catch is added. The records began in 1969.”
That’s the word from Joe Hymer, a fisheries biologist who tracks such info.
The record catch is matched by a record effort too. Between Aug. 1 and Sept. 25, anglers made 136,502 trips on the big river, topping 2009’s entire fall season by nearly 20,000 (117,975).
CHINOOK AND STEELHEAD OF COURSE RULE ON THE COLUMBIA, but this year saw an intriguing number of pink salmon roll up the big crick.
Minutiae: Deer, Bear And Pinks (Sept. 2, 2011)
… A note to Dennis Dauble, Jeff Holmes, Wayne Heinz and other Tri-Cities anglers who have a hankering for the humpy: One day you may not have to travel over the Cascade Curtain to stoke your smoker.
A surprising number are returning up the Columbia this year.
According to facts this morning from that factoid monger Joe Hymer in Vancouver, a total of 397 pink salmon have gone over Bonneville Dam this year.
“It’s the third highest count since at least 1938,” says the fisheries biologist. “In 2003, a total of 637 pinks were counted at Bonneville Dam; in 1991, there were 550 fish.”
Pink Run Up Columbia Sets New Record (Sept. 7, 2011)
All right, if Joe Hymer ain’t gonna send out an email about this, I’m taking the reins: The previous record return of pinks past Bonneville on the Columbia — a river much better known for king, silver and sockeye salmon — was topped in impressive fashion yesterday.
A total of 129 of the odd-year humpies went over the dam on Tuesday, Sept. 6.
“The fax we got from the Army Corps of Engineers this morning said 40 on the Oregon shore, 89 on the Washington shore,” says Michelle DeHart, manager of the Fish Passage Center in Portland which posts daily fish counts online.
It brought the total for the year to 756 — 119 more fish than the previous high mark set back in 2003, according to FPC data.
Columbia Humpy Watch: Biggest. Day. Yet. (Sept. 21, 2011)
I give up, it’s hopeless, blogging is an addiction and I’m hooked, especially when it comes to Columbia River humpies.
There was a new record daily count at Bonneville yesterday: 224 of the pink salmon, topping the previous high mark of 167, if memory serves.
(The Fish Passage Center only lists daily data for the seven most recent days, but I’ve been obsessively watching and probably would have previously noted a bigger listing.)
It brings the total for the year through Sept. 20 to 2,720.
Record Pink Count At Bonneville Tops 3K (Sept. 23, 2011)
Yesterday, the 3,000th pink of the year crossed Bonneville, as well as the 3,001st, 3,002nd through the 3,057th, padding an already record-whalloping run up the Columbia.
The count is now 480 percent higher than the previous high mark, 2003’s 637.
Columbia Pink Run Poops Out (Oct. 27, 2011)
This year’s unusually large run of pink salmon past Bonneville Dam — 600 percent more than the previous record — appears to have finally pooped out at 3,827, and it appears that even more of the humped ones found lower Columbia River tributaries to spawn in as well.
“Every place we’ve looked for Chinook we’ve found pinks,” supervising fisheries biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver told the Columbia Basin Bulletin last week.
Maybe we’re starting to see some strays that are poking into the Columbia, starting to colonize,” research professor Lisa Seeb of the University of Washington’s School of Aquatic and Fisheries Science told CBB.
Either that or previous years’ runs up the Columbia “have blossomed for the same reasons — most likely favorable ocean conditions — that pink and chum salmon populations around the rim are returning at record rates,” CBB reports.
MEANWHILE, MORE THAN 700 MILES UPSTREAM, ANOTHER NEW SPECIES, pike, began to give fishery managers fits.
While the willing-to-bite northerns are providing a new and different fishery for a region with limited options, their willing-to-bite-on-almost-anything nature is complicating years spent trying to recover native and tribally important fish stocks in the Pend Oreille River watershed, and there’s a very real fear the pike could spread towards salmonid-rich reservoirs downstream.
In fact 2011’s huge water year appears to have helped them do just that.
Meetings To Be Held On PO Pike (April 7, 2011)
We’ll have a big article on Pend Oreille River northern pike in our May issue, but if you want to dive into the hot topic now, set aside the evening of April 19 or 20 and head for Newport or Spokane.
Biologists from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Kalispel Tribe of Indians’ Natural Resources Department will discuss the non-native predator’s expansion into the Northeast Washington river as well as other Eastside waters.
An early March article in the Newport Miner says they’ve turned up in two Spokane County lakes. A WDFW manager in Olympia would not reveal either waters’ name except to say that the fish could not have arrived without a little help.
“It’s a really, really horrific thing to do,” Warmwater Program manager Bruce Bolding told reporter Janelle Atyeo.
Pike Caught In Lake Roosevelt (July 22, 2011)
On Friday, July 22, a fisherman on upper Lake Roosevelt caught a northern pike, a species fishery managers worry will spread further down the Columbia River system.
The fish was landed by walleye angler Davey McKern of Kettle Falls.
Jason Bauer of Northwestwalleye.com forwarded the photo to Northwest Sportsman. He reports that he’s heard rumors of the nonnative species being caught of late in the Northport area, just above where the Columbia becomes Lake Roosevelt.
That’s also not far below the mouth of the Pend Oreille River, which has a growing Esox population. Illegally introduced in that river’s Montana namesake, the Clark Fork, years ago, pike have made their way down through Idaho and there are now enough in the Newport to Ione stretch that anglers actively target them — and state and tribal biologists are fretting.
Pend Oreille Pike Briefing Today (Aug. 10, 2011)
Fishery biologists from the Kalispel Tribe of Northeast Washington will today brief members of the Northwest Power & Conservation Council on the “exponential” growth of northern pike in the Pend Oreille River.
They estimate that there are now from 8,000 to 10,000 in Box Canyon Reservoir between Ione and Newport alone, up from 300 or so in 2004.
Citing data that shows the average length of sampled fish has declined from 33 inches in 2006 to 19 inches this year, tribal biologists also say “the ‘glory days’ of trophy pike are behind us.”
Now, the worry is that the voracious and easy to catch predators will “undermine” massive investments in the restoration of native species in the basin, affect the tribe’s largemouth bass program, and move further down the Columbia system.
Pend Oreille Pike Discussed At Meeting (Aug. 26, 2011)
Dire warnings from tribal fishery managers on the perils of northern pike in Washington’s Pend Oreille River.
The Columbia Basin Bulletin today follows up on last week’s presentation to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council in which Kalispel Tribe Natural Resources Director Deane Osterman warned that their spread into the Columbia River could affect salmonid rearing and recovery in the Okanogan River and John Day Pool, and said the invasive species has already become “a long-term disaster to our native fisheries” in the Pend Oreille.
Remove northern pike from the state’s list of game fish and open the Pend Oreille River for fishing with two rods to keep their numbers down.
Move the end of winter steelheading in most Puget Sound rivers up to Feb. 1 (up to Feb. 16 in terminal zones) and kibosh the Sauk catch-and-release fishery.
Close all of Puget Sound marine waters and tributaries for sturgeon retention.
Rooted in conservation concerns, those are three of the biggest rule change proposals that the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife is looking at for inclusion in the 2012-13 fishing pamphlet.
And finally, late in the year, WDFW sent out a pike press release that was very warlike in tone, but not exactly what I was being told by folks lower down the ladder.
WDFW Declares War On Pend Oreille Pike (Dec. 13, 2011)
In a press release rife with martial language, WDFW announced today that in the coming months it plans “to enlist anglers” “for a spring campaign to halt the advance” of “voracious” northern pike “from invading the Columbia River.”
The agency also launched a new Web page in its Aquatic Invasive Species section that outlines their concerns about the nonnative species which has taken up residence in the Pend Oreille River, the upper Columbia River and Spokane River and been illicitly introduced by bucket biologists into Newman and Liberty Lakes east of Spokane.
IF IT WASN’T WATER WOLVES IT WAS WOLVES in the news — and how in 2011:
‘Some (Wolf) Activity’ In Umatilla Co., ODFW Official Says (Jan. 7, 2011)
Umatilla County stretches well into the Blue Mountains near where Oregon’s Wenaha Pack resides, but members of it or other groups of wolves could be moving out of the timber into more open areas this winter.
Or maybe it’s just coyotes.
A driver photographed three apparent canids off Highway 11 between Pendleton and Milton-Freewater last weekend. A video he took shows dark shapes at some distance moving across a snow-covered field.
A number of wolf reports have come from the area recently.
3 Wolf Bills In WA Legislature (Jan. 18, 2011)
Bills introduced in Olympia last week would insert the state Legislature into wolf management.
They are not unexpected. Last fall, Rep. David Taylor, R-Moxee, told this magazine that he was working on a draft that sounds like HB 1109. It would require WDFW’s final wolf plan to come to legislators for approval. The plan is otherwise currently slated for Fish & Wildlife Commission sign-off this coming fall.
He was joined by Reps. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley and Jim McCune, R-Graham, in introducing two other Canis lupus-related bills, 1107 and 1108.
Calling BS On A Wolf Story (Jan. 20, 2011)
They’re driving me nuts!!
Actually, it’s not so much the wolves as it is wolf people.
Specifically those who want to have assloads of them to romp in the daisies with and to hell with how the locals feel about it; and those who come up with utter bullshit stories about ravening 250-pound Canadian werebeasts being released willy-nilly around Washington.
As a hunter, I’m more worried about the latter camp, however.
The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is using recently released herd-count numbers to renew the call for Congress to delist wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains.
A pair of bills introduced in the House and Senate, HR 509 and S 249, hold the “best promise,” the Missoula-based group says.
“Both bills would end the ridiculous lawsuits that are preventing a fully recovered species from being managed by conservation professionals,” said RMEF president David Allen in a press release today.
WDFW was among those agencies voting to approve the resolution, though not until it was amended to support delisting the entire region’s wolf population, not just Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, according to Bob Everitt, who represented WDFW Director Phil Anderson at the meeting.
He termed a partial delisting “a recipe for big problems in border states,” and indeed, U.S. District Court Judge Molloy’s ruling last August was basically that wolves couldn’t be managed by Montana and Idaho but by USFWS in Wyoming, and which kick-started the latest moves by legislators to circumvent ESA.
“Our management plan fits our position on this resolution,” Everitt says. “What we’d like to see is the far eastern part of the state managed as its own population. That’s something we’ve wanted anyway. It’s not a departure from where we were headed.”
Update on WA Blue Mtns. Wolf (Feb. 23, 2011)
Update on that yearling Oregon wolf sighted in Washington’s Blue Mountains last month and which we reported on earlier this week. It has been heard but not seen by WDFW officials.
“We have heard its collar with our telemetry equipment,” confirms wildlife biologist Paul Wik who is based in Clarkston. “Where we heard it was 80 air miles from where it was collared.”
In its January wolf update PDF, ODFW reported that the Imnaha Pack member, a yearling female known as OR-5, was “discovered” Jan. 20 by WDFW then visually spotted five days later during a flight by Oregon officials.
How WDFW Pays For Wolf Work (March 2, 2011)
Turns out the money I’m forking over to hunt deer in Washington’s Methow Valley is not being used by state biologists to monitor the muley-munching wolves that have taken up residence there.
Rather, the funding for collaring, tracking and otherwise hassling the Lookout Gang, the Diamond Pack in Pend Oreille County, as well as other wolves on the Oregon, Idaho and BC lines bubbles up from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico and comes courtesy of self-obsessed Mercedes drivers.
I got to wondering about how it was all being paid for last December when I received an email with the alarming subject line “Wolves….our tax $’s at work: $200,000 federal grant to ‘monitor’ wolves.”
Further Details On NW WA Skinned Wolf Case (March 9, 2011)
If it weren’t for the nose of Mishka, a specially trained Finnish bear dog, game wardens might never have found the skinned carcass of a wolf in eastern Skagit County in September 2009.
New details about the case emerged today from Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife officer Capt. Bill Hebner in Mill Creek.
He says “several” anonymous tips led officers to search along a road in the Bacon Creek drainage, off Highway 20 between Marblemount and Newhalem.
“It was next to impossible to find it,” Hebner says. “We could smell something dead, but even so, couldn’t find it. The next day we came back with one of our Karelian bear dogs and he found it within seconds.”
Possible Wolf Poo, Tracks Found On Colville Reservation (March 18, 2011)
Colville biologists are anxiously awaiting word back from a genetics lab on a sample of canine poop they sent in earlier this winter.
Joe Peone, director of the Colville Fish & Wildlfe Department in Nespelem, says some “pretty good-sized” tracks were found with it and now they’re wondering if a couple wolves are wandering their 2,100-square-mile North-central Washington reservation.
Biologists have tried howling surveys, setting up trail cams and deploying scent traps, but have come up empty so far, he says.
The tracks and fecal material came from the Sanpoil River valley, about halfway between the river’s mouth on Lake Roosevelt and the reservation’s northern boundary, Peone says.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and 10 of the 14 plaintiffs involved in litigation over Endangered Species Act protections of wolves in the Northern Rockies today announced a settlement that, pending a Federal court’s OK, would move day-to-day management of packs back to Idaho and Montana, where it was in 2009 before a U.S. District Court judge’s ruling last summer relisted the species across the region.
The deal comes as pressure mounts in Congress to legislatively delist wolves. It would not affect Washington and Oregon’s small but growing populations.
Wolf War Front Update (April 12, 2011)
Fast-moving developments on the national wolf front in the past four days, and if you believe the AP story filed today, Congressional delisting is all but a done deal — and it would include parts of eastern Washington and Oregon.
First, over the weekend, U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy ruled against last month’s proposed settlement between the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and 10 plaintiffs on the status of wolves at the same time as a pair of U.S. Congressmen said Canis lupus would be delisted under a pending budget bill.
The Congressmen, Idaho U.S. House Rep. Mike Simpson (R) and Montana Senator Jon Tester (D), sent out statements today on HR 1473, a continuing resolution, which inserts a clause known as 1713 overturning last August’s federal court ruling in Missoula and directs the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to reissue its spring 2009 delisting ruling.
Northern Rockies Wolves To Be Removed From ESA Coverage (April 13, 2011)
Run a Google News search for “Wolves Congress” this morning and you’ll come up with 767 results.
Oh, yeah, wolves in the Northern Rockies and now in the halls of Washington DC are a hot topic.
The gist of many of today’s headlines is that federal protections for Canis lupus were removed through a rider passed in last weekend’s budget battle and which is expected to be approved later this week.
The language prevents judicial review.
Now, management will be handed over to the states of Montana and Idaho, which in all likelihood will hold hunts this year.
It also delists wolves in eastern sections of Washington and Oregon, though those populations remain under state protections — at least that’s how some news accounts have it.
Wolves To Be Delisted Tomorrow (May 4, 2011)
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced it is republishing a 2009 rule on the Federal Register that delists gray wolves in the Northern Rockies from the Endangered Species Act effective tomorrow.
It affects wolves in the eastern thirds of Washington and Oregon as well as all of Montana and Idaho and a part of Utah.
USFWS and the five states will continue to monitor wolf populations in the region, gathering population data for at least five years under a post-delisting monitoring plan previously approved by the Feds, the agency said in a press release.
Additionally, a “status review” for wolves in Washington and Oregon will be done this year. USFWS says there is no plan to reintroduce the species in either state as was done in Yellowstone and Central Idaho in the mid-1990s.
Revised Wash. Wolf Plan Out (May 27, 2011)
Ranchers and dog owners whose animals are being attacked by wolves in Washington would be freer to shoot them while Canis lupus population levels needed to reach certain state recovery goals would be more restrictive.
Those are two of the main changes in a new version of the state Department of Fish & Wildlife’s draft wolf management plan, released today, though far from finalized.
It follows thousands upon thousands of public comments as well as scientific review, much of which seemed to focus — as everywhere else in the Northwestern U.S. — on how many wolves constitute recovery.
When The BBC Came Looking For Wolves (June 3, 2011)
It’s a very long way from Broadcast House in Southwest England to the Methow, but this past February, the BBC showed up in this North-central Washington valley.
Camped out up a cold, snowy gulch, the smoky-smelling camera crew ran around in a rented diesel pickup for a month filming a documentary about the local wolves.
That would be the Lookout Pack – or whatever’s left of it anyway.
Twisp Family Killed 2 Wolves, Tried To Poison More, Feds Say (June 8, 2011)
Two men in an Okanogan County family shot wolves and one spread pesticide to take still more. They and another woman also attempted to ship the pelt of one to Canada, a move that ultimately backfired on the trio.
That according to a 12-count indictment leveled by a grand jury in U.S. District Court for Eastern Washington Tuesday against William “Bill” D. White, his son, Tom D. White and Tom’s wife, Erin White, all of Twisp.
The Whites plead not guilty; a trial is slated to begin in late February 2012.
What might be the best article I’ve read on the lead up to this spring’s delisting of wolves in the Northern Rockies and parts of Washington and Oregon has now been posted in its entirety.
Previously, Hal Herring’s 4,500-word opus on wolf advocates’ lawsuits that held up state management for years after wolves were scientifically recovered, arrogance over locals’ concerns, estrangement from government biologists and then panic in the face of Congressional settlement of the issue was protected behind a paywall at High Country News. This week, it was published by the Cody (Wyo.) Enterprise as “Enviros ‘helped’ wolf lose protection.”
Herring is a hook-and-bullet journalist who blogs for Field & Stream. Previously he wrote that the delisting — brought about by a rider inserted into the Federal budget by Montana Senator Jon Tester (D) and Idaho Representative Alan Simpson (R) — “is a solution hated by the most radical environmental groups, and deemed unacceptable by the perpetually furious anti-wolf crowd. So it is probably just about dead-on.”
The nut of his new article:
It was a destructive cycle: The lawsuits inspired increasing anti-wolf fury; environmentalists responded with yet more lawsuits.
That model is no way to manage wildlife — or people.
But the beat just goes on. Groups are attempting to get the delisting thrown out as unconstitutional, and the RMEF and others flocking to defend it.
Wolf Pup Captured West Of Ione (July 11, 2011)
WDFW captured and released a wolf pup in Northeast Washington July 2 and is now looking to radio-collar its parents. It marks the emergence of a second new pack in the state in just the past week.
Last Tuesday, the Washington Department of Fish & Wildife announced that a female wolf most likely with a litter is roaming the Teanaway area of the Cascades between Cle Elum and Blewett Pass. Northwest Sportsman learned of an animal’s capture there in late June, but WDFW held news until DNA testing determined it to be a wild gray wolf.
WA Wolf Plan Out (July 28, 2011)
That thump that just hit the Internet?
The 516 pages of WDFW’s final wolf management plan/environmental impact statement.
It’s available here.
It appears that 15 breeding pairs over three years across various parts of the state remains the threshold for removal from statewide protections. A minimum number, it would equate to an estimated 97 to 361 wolves running around Washington.
The new official population estimate Northwest Sportsman got yesterday was that there are 25-30 adults and yearlings in the state — a figure which does not include pups — and five confirmed packs. The plan says there are also possible packs in the Blue Mountains and upper Skagit River area.
LMT: Molloy Rules Against Wolf Advocates (Aug. 3, 2011)
The Lewiston Morning Tribune is reporting that U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy in Missoula has ruled against predator advocates’ contention that the Congressional delisting of gray wolves in the Northern Rockies this spring was unconstitutional.
The two-sentence article posted to the paper’s Web site also says that the decision will thus allow Idaho and Montana’s fall hunts to proceed.
Wolf Protesters Arrested Outside ODFW Office (Sept. 27, 2011)
Two wolf advocates were arrested by police late this morning after they allegedly refused to unshackle themselves from the front door at Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s office in Salem.
The duo were part of a dozen or so protesters upset with the agency’s management of the species.
In a video posted to the Salem Statesman-Journal’s Web site, a man and others can be heard shouting, “The blood, the blood is on your hands … ODFW, what do you say, how many wolves did you kill today?”
More chants can be heard in videos posted to the Keizer Times site.
ODFW recently announced that two members of the Imnaha Pack would be killed after it found “clear evidence of a wolf attack” on a cow calf in Wallowa County and said that it was likely the entire pack fed on it.
While ODFW has been less likely to confirm wolf kills than the Fed’s USDA Wildlife Services — and under fire from cattlemen for that — it brings the total number of livestock known to have been killed by wolves in the Imnaha Pack’s range to 14 over the past 18 months, according to ODFW.
Cattlemen, Hunter Group File Wolf Delisting Petition (Oct. 5, 2011)
The day before the third of four public comment meetings on Washington’s proposed wolf management plan and just two months before the Fish & Wildlife Commission is slated to vote on the 516-page document, a pair of groups filed a petition asking that packs in the eastern third of the Evergreen State be stripped of state protections.
The Associated Press also says that the Washington Cattlemen’s Association and Hunters Heritage Council want wolves — presumably in the above area — to be given big game status, a prelude to hunting the species.
That’s a big leap from what’s in the current recommended management plan, which delists wolves when they meet statewide benchmarks — 15 breeding pairs occurring in specific numbers across three recovery zones for three consecutive years.
OR, WA Wolves In The News (Oct. 25, 2011)
Hunters helped the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife track down a new wolf pack in Wallowa County’s Snake River Wildlife Management Unit, the state’s fourth.
After receiving reports and trail camera photographs, biologists surveyed the area last week and found tracks from at least five different wolves including one pup, according to the agency.
While many sportsmen are not happy with the expansion of wolves into the Northwest from their Canadian and Rocky Mountain strongholds, ODFW wolf program coordinator Russ Morgan in La Grande pointed out, “These public wolf reports from Oregon’s outdoor enthusiasts really help us target our survey efforts and make the best use of limited resources.”
ODFW also got a radio collar around one of two pups of the Walla Walla Pack in Umatilla County, near the Washington border, last week.
And the agency reports that two wolves from the troublesome Imnaha Pack, also of Wallowa County, have dispersed into Central Oregon
We heard a rumor last week that signals from a wolf collar had been picked up around Lemolo Lake in Oregon’s Cascades, and today a story by Mark Freeman of the Medford Mail-Tribune confirms that OR-7 has shown up in the upper Umpqua River basin as of last Thursday.
The outdoor reporter adds that the 2-year-old male is “the first confirmed wolf in Western Oregon in 65 years.”
Colville Tribes Speak Out At Spokane Wolf Meeting (Nov. 4, 2011)
The Fish & Wildlife Commission’s fourth of four meetings on WDFW’s proposed final wolf management plan in Spokane yesterday yielded another glimpse into largely overlooked — or at least under reported — tribal positions on wolf recovery in Washington.
If you’ve watched this blog this past July, you got a taste for Colville Confederated Tribes thinking when biologists there confirmed that canid scat found on their sprawling Northeast Washington reservation last winter was indeed wolf poop.
Though there were no resident packs there at the time and the scat was most likely left by a transient wolf or wolves, Natural Resources Department manager Joe Peone told us, “Our priority for the Colville Tribes is to provide sustenance for our members.”
He reiterated that premise on Thursday in Spokane.
9th Circuit Court Hears Wolf Delisting Arguments (Nov. 8, 2011)
As the Washington Fish & Wildlife Commission mulls the state’s final proposed wolf management plan in the lead up to its scheduled December decision, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife tracks footloose OR-7 in the southern Cascades by satellite, and hunters in the Northern Rockies pursue wolves, a California courtroom was the scene of oral arguments today over last spring’s delisting of Canis lupus in the region.
An attorney for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and others presented a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals with arguments that there is precedent for Congress to legislatively strip wolves of Federal protection in eastern swaths of Washington and Oregon, and all of Montana and Idaho, a move which led to the latter two states opening wolf seasons.
Through Nov. 17, 107 wolves have been killed in Idaho, including 20 in the Panhandle zone. Trapping seasons begin Nov. 15.
The court is hearing the case after U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy’s August ruling basically in favor of state management was appealed.
Previously Kari Hirschberger talked about and posted pictures of some of her experience in a thread on Hunting-Washington, but she opens up with reporter Ann McCreary in this week’s paper.
The 24-year-old hunter was scouting for deer by herself at the edge of the Lake Chelan National Recreation Area three days prior to the opening of this past September’s High Buck Hunt.
A forester by training, Hirschberger expected to see muleys in the areas she was watching as other spots “with similar aspect and elevation and vegetation (were) crawling with deer,” but she couldn’t find any in this particular area.
Spotting a deer carcass through her optics, she went down to investigate and eventually stumbled across a shallow hole with bits of hair scattered around which to her suggested a den.
Realizing she “should not be there,” she began to move away and that’s when a pair of wolves appeared.
For all the controversy over the past five years, the Fish & Wildlife Commission was remarkably united in approving a management and recovery plan for wolves in Washington that also addressed some hunter and livestock owner concerns.
“I think the time has arrived,” said chairwoman Miranda Wecker at about 10:45 this morning, and called for a vote on the 521-page document as her six fellow members had amended it.
There were no nays heard.
She then added, “I think it’s time for a break.”
Over and over throughout the two-hour-and-45-minute discussion leading up to that moment, commissioners used words like “flexibility.” To the final plan that Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife staff sent them in late July, they made a handful of amendments — rejiggering the regional numbers needed to meet statewide recovery goals, jump-starting the downlisting process two ways, further and better clarifying how to address wolf-ungulate conflict, and giving livestock owners more flexibility in dealing with wolves attacking their animals on public ground.
The amendments largely came from a set of revisions the commission was handed after hearing from ranchers and hunters at the first three of the citizen panel’s four public meetings on the wolf plan this past summer and fall. The changes were limited to what was “within” the recommended plan that came out of the Wolf Working Group, state staff work and scientific peer review; larger changes would have opened up the agency to lawsuits.
As of the end of 2011, there are a minimum of 25 wolves and four packs in Oregon, and a minimum of 25 to 30 wolves and five packs in Washington. Of those 50 or so known wolves, a fifth belong to a single pack, Northeast Washington’s Diamond, among the largest in the Northern Rockies.
PIKE AND WOLVES WEREN’T THE ONLY PREDATORS IN THE NEWS in 2011. Grizzlies, cougars and wolverines also made headlines.
There were two developments on the bear front, one negative, one positive:
Blanca Bear Poop, Hair Neg For Griz (Jan. 13, 2011)
Poop and hair gathered in Washington’s North Cascades near where a possible grizzly bear was photographed last summer turned up … regular old Ursus americanus.
That’s the word from expedited DNA tests on eight samples taken from a bait and barbed wire “corral” and the woods around tiny Virgin Lake in eastern Snohomish County.
“All of the bears that were attracted to the site … were kind enough to leave hair, and all poop in the area came from black bears (despite their coat color),” reported Donald Gay, a wildlife biologist for the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, by email this morning.
North Cascades Bear In Pics ‘Verified’ As Griz (July 1, 2011)
A large bear photographed in North Cascades National Park has been confirmed as a grizzly, according to a regional wildlife advocacy group.
Then there was the trail cam shot that showed an incredible eight mountain lions gathered in a place not known for its cougar population: Douglas County, Washington. I have to admit to having been skeptical of the image, but in this case, the photo was legit and lent new understanding into the region’s wild cats.
Pic Of Eight Cougars In Basin Confirmed (Feb. 17, 2011)
Once upon a time we hunters traded baseball cards — things with verifiable facts — but these days we swap whatever comes through the Internet.
Take the pics of that giant bear shot in the strangely mossy Saddle Hills of northern Alberta last September (actually shot on Afognak Island, Alaska, in 2007 and debunked here).
And then there’s the pic of the glowing-eyeballed cougar sneaking up on the elk hunter (Scott Sandsberry at the Yak Herald-Republic puts the smack down on that tale here).
Nonetheless, I began to look into all those big cats.
In emails late last week, a pair of WDFW biologists couldn’t confirm where the images were taken, the dead cow or the authenticity of the images themselves, but they did have some interesting things to say about the unusual gathering …
As for wolverines, for males of a certain age, it will always be a battle cry, which I couldn’t help but reference when word came out that not just one but two were working the Wallowa Mountains.
Wolverines Spotted In Wallowas, For The First Time (April 22, 2011)
Dudes and dudettes, I’m just going to admit something to ya’ll: I like wolverines.
First, there’s the movie Red Dawn and its famous battle cry that has echoed through the years between my friends and I, and then there are some who have said that my somewhat grouchy personality resembles Gulo gulo in the morning.
Whatever it is, I’m following news out of Oregon that, for the first time in recorded history, the tracks of one have been spotted in the Wallowas.
ON THE HUNTING FRONT, WASHINGTON WHITETAIL CHASERS were presented with a new regulation for two of the state’s most popular units after locals bent the ear of the Fish & Wildlife Commission.
Will the new four-point-minimum rebuild whitetail numbers in two Northeast Washington hunting units?
Will fewer deer hunters head there this fall?
Will more now-illegal three-point bucks be left to rot in the brush?
Will hunters one day forget that it was the Fish & Wildlife Commission — spurred on by a group of local sportsmen and politicians — that passed the new restrictions and instead blame WDFW biologists who did not support the change?
Well, you can count on that last one, but the rest remain to be seen.
Last Friday, five of the seven members on the citizen panel found local residents’ arguments in favor of the change “compelling” enough to approve the new restrictions for a pair of the state’s “whitetail factories,” the Huckleberry and 49 Degrees North units, starting this fall.
“After reviewing the broad range of public input received over the past nine months, the commission found the input received from area residents and local governments favoring this proposal to be compelling in making this decision,” said chairwoman Miranda Wecker in a press release this afternoon.
An early, early, early snapshot of the new rule’s impact was seen during opening weekend’s deer check station data.
‘Lowest Numbers Ever’ At NE WA Deer Check Station (Oct. 18, 2011)
We’ll see how many hunters turn out for Northeast Washington’s November rut hunt, but WDFW is reporting a “drastic decline” in sportsman numbers at the Deer Park check station over opening weekend of rifle deer season, and it’s attributed to the new four-point minimum in two of the state’s most popular and productive whitetail units.
Kevin Robinette, wildlife program manager at the agency’s Spokane office, reports 117 hunters with five whitetail bucks and one mule deer buck at the annual check station along Highway 395 on the main drag back to Spokane.
“Those are the lowest numbers we’ve ever seen,” he said, looking at at least 10 years of data in front of him and relying on his memory of previous openers’ tallies.
District wildlife biologist Dana Base confirmed it was WDFW’s “lowest count ever for both deer and hunters on the first Sunday after opening day in the October modern firearm season.”
A sixth whitetail, a 3×3, was also brought through, but was confiscated by a fish and wildlife officer because it was too small for the game management unit it was taken in.
THERE WAS ALSO A SERIES OF OPENINGS AROUND THE REGION as well as one closing that were noteworthy.
New Willamette Dock Opens For Fishing (Feb. 15, 2011)
The new fishing dock is now open on the Willamette River. It replaces bank access lost on the other side of the river with the closure of The Wall last year.
The 8-foot-wide by 350-foot-long dock is on the west shore of the river below the falls between the Oregon City Arch Bridge and West Linn Paper Company.
We’re proud to announce that we’re expanding to the West side of Portland with a new 30,000 square foot store across Hwy 217 from Washington Square Mall. The address is 10329 SW Cascade Blvd (the former Comp USA building between Mor Furniture and Staples).
Getting to the west side has been an ongoing goal and we’re tremendously excited to be renovating the building right now with our Grand Opening scheduled for April (exact date tbd at this point!).
In addition to the fishing and hunting gear that has been the backbone of Fisherman’s, the new store will feature an expanded selection of camping, footwear and apparel.
Kaufmann’s Fly Shops Close (April 28, 2011)
Twenty years ago now a friend and I spent a fair amount of time rifling through the goods at Kaufmann’s Streamborn in Overlake.
We were flyrodders then, and we would putter over there to size up the sticks, ogle the waders and jackets, and dream about the fish we’d catch with their fine flies.
Now it appears as if Kaufmann’s … has shuttered their doors.
The mail’s said to be piling up at their store here in the Emerald City.
It’s being discussed on several fishing boards around the region before and since The Oregonian did a short blurb about it last Friday.
What happened? Good question. Kaufmann’s Web portals don’t yield any clues.
Their home page and Facebook page are disabled, and the latest posts on their Twitter and blog pages is April 8.
It reads “It’s Time to Get out & Go Fishing!”
Springfield Cabela’s Opens Tomorrow, May 5 (May 4, 2011)
Can’t wait to walk through the doors of Oregon’s first Cabela’s when it opens tomorrow?
Go for a stroll with the Eugene Register-Guard.
Here’s a link to their story on the 58,000-square-foot shop.
MEMBERS OF OUR WRITING TEAM ENJOYED NOTORIETY during 2011.
Buzz Named Among World’s 20 Best Anglers (May 25, 2011)
I don’t want to seem like I’m bragging or anything — well, OK, I do — but twice in the past year I’ve fished with one of the 20 best anglers on the planet.
He’s from around here, has worked for a couple local tackle companies, you may have seen his name in our magazine, and he’s a pretty cool and down-to-earth dude to fish with. Get on his sled and you’ll probably hear about how he used to do burnoffs in his El Camino on the interstate in Portland years ago and last summer got hit twice (twice!) by the same skunk he trapped in his yard.
And who would this be?
Buzz Ramsey, of course.
Then there’s our kayak guys. Nominations for the craziest things they did in 2011?
NWS Kayak Guys Catch Tuna, Shark 50-plus Miles Out (Aug. 9, 2011)
Conditions on the open Pacific were “sporty,” but yesterday three anglers fishing in their kayaks over 50 miles out of Newport, Ore., caught albacore tuna, a successful end to the first time the tactic of “mothershipping” has ever been attempted on this part of the ocean.
“The weather was marginal but we pulled it off,” reports Mark Veary of Hillsboro, Ore., today. “Bryce is the man — first blood and most fish.”
Bryce would be Bryce Molenkamp of Shoreline, Wash. He hauled two tuna aboard his yellow pedal-powered Hobie, the first while actually just letting line out, Veary says.
We can’t say with absolute certainty, but that probably makes Molenkamp the first angler to ever catch an albie from a ‘yak in the North Pacific.
Remember that post we did back in mid-May, the one about how our kayak kolumnist Bryce Molenkamp hauled in an octopus while fishing for halibut off Neah Bay …
Had a picture of him and his crew holding the eight-armed, 5-foot-wide denizen of the deep …
Included a link to a video that one of his buddies, Jeff Anderson aka megapickles, posted on YouTube …
Would you believe that that clip has been viewed over 1.6 million times as of noon, Nov. 30 in the year of our lord 2011?
As of 2:27 p.m. PST, Dec. 28, 2011, the YouTube tally stands at a whopping 5,903,663, making it the most-viewed “kayak fishing” video on the site by far and second-most viewed Northwest fishing clip. And globally, it’s among the top 30 most-viewed “fishing” videos.
(Just don’t ask for a raise, boyz.)
TWO THOUSAND AND ELEVEN WAS A HUGE WATER YEAR, and while downstream anglers benefited, two reservoirs on the upper Columbia felt the brunt of all that Cannuckian Rockies runoff: Lake Roosevelt, where who knows how many of its trout were entrained out of the impoundment (some turned up as far downstream as McNary Dam), and Rufus Woods, where things looked grim at first.
Rufus Woods Fishkill Update, And Other News (May 27, 2011)
Rufus Woods’ free-roaming rainbow trout — the ones that anglers drive hundreds of miles to catch — at least had a chance to escape from the spike of dissolved gasses that appear to have killed an estimated 35,000 trout in the commercial netpens at the North-central Washington reservoir this week, and possibly hundreds of thousands more.
“The deeper a fish sounds, it can (better) regulate gas bubbles,” explains Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife biologist Chris Donley in Spokane. “The loss is in the fish that can’t sound, can’t adjust. That’s why they’re seeing losses in the netpens.”
‘Probably Over A Million Fish’ Lost In Rufus Woods Gas Kill (June 2, 2011)
Though it’s late in the season, anglers are catching fish at North-central Washington’s Rufus Woods Lake, site of last week’s massive fishkill.
“Right now they’re doing quite well, actually,” says Sheri Sears, Colville Confederated Tribes’ senior policy analyst for fisheries and former fisheries division manager.
Not doing so well: operators of the commercial netpens there. The Columbia River is still flowing too high for divers to get an accurate count, but as many as half of the 2.7 million trout raised for stores and restaurants there may have died, she says.
“Probably over a million fish” were lost, Sears says.
Rufus Woods Fishing Update (June 6, 2011)
The bad news: Rufus Woods Lake is “up and ugly looking — stuff floating down and lots of color. Looks like you’re fishing downstream from a sewer plant.”
The good news: “The fishing is excellent right now.”
Those were the words from angler Ernie Buchanan of Okanogan and WDFW wildlife officer Jason Day over the weekend.
Apparently there was some sort of “unofficial release/escape” from some of the netpens during late May’s flow spike that also devastated the commercial trout operation.
Rufus Anything But Dead (June 10, 2011)
Dissolved-gas-laden river flows croaked over half of the 2.7 million trout in commercial netpens on Rufus Woods Lake in late May, but it appears that a fairly large number managed to escape when the weight of their dearly departed friends and families against the mesh moved the pens off their moorings.
The Colville Tribes were also able to release their broodstock redband rainbows beforehand.
And now they are all hungry.
Very, very, very hungry.
In fact, it’s rather amazing that Bill Herzog and his son River were able to return from their trip there Wednesday with all their fingers and toes.
Rufus Woods near the Timm Ranch was “boiling” with trout, Herzog reported to Joel Shangle, his cohost on Northwest Wild Country Radio.
“It’s spec-#@$%@$-tacular,” Herzog said in a voice mail left on Shangle’s phone.
The duo were able to hook fish from 6 to 10 pounds “at will.”
THE LONG, COLD, WET SPRING DIDN’T DISCOURAGE MARIJUANA FARMERS from putting in a massive crop in Northeast Oregon.
Bear Hunters Discover ‘Staggering’ Big OR Pot Grow (June 17, 2011)
You read about the problem of pot growers moving into Washington and Oregon hunting grounds in the July 2010 issue of Northwest Sportsman and in our blog, and now today comes word that spring bear hunters discovered what is believed to be the “largest outdoor marijuana grow to date in Oregon.”
It was busted on Wednesday at an undisclosed location in northern Wallowa County; officers arrested six suspects of undetermined nationality.
According to the Oregon State Police, the grow stretched over a mile long in a ravine, comprised 91,000 plants and included “miles” of irrigation. They say it appears to have been in the area for awhile.
POACHERS MADE QUITE A BIT OF NEWS IN 2011, especially in Oregon, where state troopers suspected that two Willamette Valley men killed over 300 deer in a single unit the past five years.
‘Largest Single’ Poaching Case In OSP History (April 28, 2011)
It’s being called the “largest single” poaching case that the Oregon State Police have ever investigated, and the alleged wildlife death toll and court charges against nine Springfield residents back that up.
Some are felonies that, if proven, could lead to sentences of up to 20 years in jail and $375,000 fines apiece.
Even more stunning, the image that OSP Fish & Wildlife Division included in the press release. It shows dozens upon dozens upon dozens of deer racks seized during search warrants served in January.
The allegations, if true, are mind boggling.
Three hundred deer poached over five years — just from one unit.
Sixteen hundred pounds of meat seized.
A criminal conspiracy.
Even more charges possible.
“This is the largest single case the State Police has investigated regarding poaching,” OSP Sgt. Ron Martin told a local news station.
In the end, who knows how many game animals have allegedly been stolen from hunters and the public by a very greedy few.
The true wolves, exposed.
Just sickening, absolutely sickening.
“Makes me want to cry,” says one Junction City hunter. “Really really does! I have seen so many nice bucks in the McKenzie. I go to bed at night thinking of how big they are and knowing a guy might have a chance at one of them someday. Then something like this — how disheartening, wrong, unethical. Sickening.”
One of nine Springfield residents accused in what police have called the largest deer poaching case in state history will never be able to hunt in Oregon again.
Miguel A. Kennedy, 26, pled guilty to identity theft (four counts); forgery in the second degree (two counts); unlawful loaning or transfer of hunting tag; and racketeering and was sentenced last week to eight months in jail, $800 in fines and three years on probation, according to the Eugene Register-Guard.
Deserving Sentence For OR Deer Poachers (July 13, 2011)
A big tip of the cap to the Lane County court system — as well as the hard work of the Oregon State Police who made the massive case.
In an “unusual” — but well deserved — sentence handed down yesterday, a pair of Springfield deer poachers will be spending the next four deer seasons in jail.
When you’re heading into the Oregon hills come October, Shane Donoho, 37, and his father, Rory Donoho, 60, will be sitting in the county klink for 90 days after pleading guilty to a criminal conspiracy that, state police allege, killed over 300 deer the past half decade — 30 times the bag limit for the area they poached in had they been hunting lawfully.
As it turned out, however, the Donohos didn’t have to do hard time, due to a lack of space in the local jail.
One guy who did serve some time for poaching was James Cody Stearns of Hoquiam, who also served as the “poster boy” for House Bill 1340, a bill eventually signed into law by Governor Gregoire.
Spree Poacher Bill Sent To Guv (April 8, 2011)
A tip of the cap to the Washington Legislature. Every single state Representative and Senator voted for a bill that stiffens penalties for big-game spree killers.
HB 1340 flew through the lower chamber on a 97-0 vote (with one member excused), and yesterday cleared the upper, 49-0.
“It’s looking good,” said WDFW Deputy Chief of Enforcement Mike Cenci. “It should be off to the governor’s office soon. And I’m sure we’ll have a number of times to apply it this year, unfortunately.”
Basically, 1340 expands what can be considered unlawful hunting in the first degree, a class C felony. Previously, offenders had to have a previous wildlife misdemeanor within the past five years to get hit with that charge.
But now someone who poaches three or more deer, elk, moose, mountain goat, caribou, cougars, black bears or grizzly bears within 24 hours or “course of events” could be charged straight away in the first degree.
Cenci used a KIRO 7 report on convicted poacher James Cody Stearns, “The Headhunter,” to educate lawmakers on the need to pass the bill.
THOSE KILLJOYS, PETA, WERE AT IT in the midst of a pretty nice pink salmon run.
New Low For PETA Antifishing Campaign (Sept. 21, 2011)
PETA has made a miscalculation if they think that a new campaign wrapped around the word “hooker” will make us Northwest parents less likely to teach our kids to fish.
They are, of course, trying to associate your daughters and my sons with prostitution, but the usage backfires because, well, right now Mama and Daddy are out on the Happy Hooker chasing ‘hos (i.e., coho) while looking for a little ‘Nooky (Chinook) and humpy (pink salmon) on the side, and then emailing around our fish porn.
(The boat, of course, is trailered behind a rig sporting the bumper sticker People Eating Tasty Animals.)
Admittedly, our fathers, grandmothers and Izaak Walton are probably shaking their heads at our generation’s crass terminology — the kids these days.
Just as we’ll shake our heads at the words our children will one day use to describe their angling activities.
But fishing is an old and proud and culturally relevant way of life around here.
A FAR MORE REAL THREAT TO OUR OLD AND PROUD WAY OF LIFE, discovery of a troubling fish virus just north of the international border. Scientists are still trying to figure it out and it will be one to watch in 2012.
More On Deadly Salmon Virus Found In 2 Wild BC Sockeye (Oct. 19, 2011)
Word that a deadly salmon virus that has severely affected aquaculture operations elsewhere in the world was found in two wild young sockeye on the central British Columbia coast hit the news yesterday.
Whether the pair would have suffered the same fate from infectious salmon anemia, described as flu for fish, as millions of farmed Atlantic and coho salmon in Chile and Europe have remains to be seen, apparently, but in the meantime, fishery biologists and researchers have been in the news this week.
IN 2011, THE FOCUS OF DAM REMOVALS SWITCHED from Oregon, where Gold Ray on the Rogue and Powerdale on the Hood came out in 2010, to Washington.
While the biggest project and most attention was paid to the Elwha, where Aldwell and Glines Canyon are in the process of being torn down, the most dramatic was the sundering of Condit Dam on the White Salmon in October.
Kaboom At Condit (Oct. 26, 2011)
Before noon, skeins of water fell off the side of the canyon below the spillway and a light wind intermittently rustled leaves nearby.
Overhead a helicopter whirred then veered off and its noise was replaced by a banking airplane. Then the sounds merged.
That was the scene at Condit Dam right before it was sundered.
Just after noon, a dozen or so longer and longer whistle blasts were followed by two minutes of silence. Then after six dozen whistles less than a second apart, there was an explosion that breached the bottom of the dam followed by a great rumbling as perhaps the biggest flood since the Missoula Floods 10,000 years ago hit the canyon.
Condit Kaboom Take 2: ‘Likely Loss Of A Great Fishing Spot’ (Oct. 28, 2011)
Allen Thomas has a different take on this week’s breaching of Condit Dam on the lower White Salmon River.
“Sportsmen probably are losing one of the best steelhead fishing holes in the state,” writes the outdoor reporter for The Columbian. “Those migrating steelhead may be losing one of their best cold-water refuges.”
Ostensibly, the 125-foot-high dam is being demolished because it’s three times cheaper for PacifiCorp to do so than retrofit it for fish passage as required by Federal recertification of the facility.
Taking it down will also open up potential spawning habitat for salmon and steelhead.
But in Wednesday’s explosion and flood, Thomas saw something different: a muddy slurry of silt and logs draining out of Northwestern Lake and down the canyon to the Bonneville Pool.
He worries that the mouth of the White Salmon will clog up, like other nearby streams, and that may affect the band of boaters who target steelhead drawn in summer to the cool, clean waters there.
Thomas notes that in 2009 the fishery yielded just under 7,000 summer-runs, sixthmost in the state.
“So amid all the giddiness of the dam removal, and the potential for salmon and steelhead to use ‘new’ habitat upstream, take a moment to mourn the likely loss of a great fishing spot,” he writes.
IT’S NOT THE ONLY LOOMING LOSS for sport fishermen in the Columbia Gorge.
Allen Thomas is a machine.
In one story today The Columbian‘s outdoor reporter has the scoop on new fishing platforms built by the Yakama Nation at the best spot to fish from the bank at Drano Lake, a popular salmon and steelhead fishery.
“We’re concerned if they are taking over the bank fishing,’’ (WDFW salmon manager) Cindy LeFleur said. “We don’t have that much up there.’’
Asked if non-Indians can fish off the platforms, she said: “They were built by Yakama members, I wouldn’t recommend it.’’
(Speros) Doulos, (Columbia Gorge) hatchery complex manager, has asked for a Department of Interior solictor’s office opinion on the platform issue.
“I’m going to assume the tribe has a right to construct a platform in the ceded area of the Yakamas,’’ Doulos said. “Until I get a solictor’s office legal read, I’m taking a hands-off approach.’’
Meanwhile, next year’s king forecasts for the Columbia were announced just a couple weeks ago.
Columbia Springer, Summer, Fall 2012 Chinook Forecasts Look Good (Dec. 12, 2011)
Columbia salmon managers are forecasting a run of 314,200 upriver-bound spring Chinook next year as well as 91,200 summer kings and another “strong” return of falls.
If the springer forsoothing holds, it would be the fourth largest return since 1979 and second largest of the past five years.
Then there’s the forecast for a record 91,200 June hogs, or summer Chinook, headed for North-central Washington and elsewhere. It would be the highest since 1980; the standing high mark is 89,500 in 2002.
The panel also predicts 462,000 sockeye, which, if it comes to pass, would be a record by a wide margin. In 2010, 387,868 were estimated to have entered the Columbia.
MUCH, MUCH MORE HAPPENED IN 2011 of course. Here’s a quick and dirty look at other noteworthy events, by headline and in rough chronological order, from January to December:
The scary thing is that, all the above links are just to what I posted to our Web site in 2011.
There was so much more Northwest fishing and hunting news out there from guys like Mark Freeman, Rich Landers, Allen Thomas, Scott Sandsberry, Bill Monroe, Henry Miller, Mark Yuasa, Doug Huddle — not to mention the radio and TV guys, the forums, the guides/skippers/outfitters, the agencies themselves — that I absolutely know I’ve missed some key stuff even in the sections I focused on.
(Hey, I am just one dood, I can’t catch it all.)
But overall, those were among the events in our world that made 2011 one for the books.
Happy New Year, and may 2012 be just as interesting … though, for my marriage’s sake, a little less wolfy.