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Monthly Archives: July 2016
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service just announced a plan (hat tip the Verge) to save wild ferrets in the Great Plains region using brilliant combination of drones and M&M’s candy. Endangered since 1967 and thought to be extinct twice, the black-footed ferret is one the rarest mammals in North America—just 300 are thought to live in the wild. According to the FWS, the “primary obstacle” to the recovery of this species is its susceptibility to a virus called the Sylvatic plague, similar to the bubonic plague in humans.
That’s where the drones come in.
To protect the ferrets from the plague, they need to be vaccinated. But tracking down wild animals is tough, which is why the FWS has partnered with private contractors to develop a vaccination delivery system, in which unmanned aerial systems (aka drones) will fly above the ferrets’ territory in northeastern Montana and drop M&M’s candies coated with the vaccine in the area.
Strangely, it won’t be the ferrets eating the vaccine candy. Prairie dogs, which make up more than 90 percent of the ferrets’ diet and are thought to be the main source of infection for the ferrets, are the intended target of the treats. To ensure that the vaccines get eaten by the prairie dogs and not other local rodents with a sweet tooth, the drones will operate from dawn until noon, when the mostly nocturnal competition is asleep.
If everything goes according to plan, the vaccine should prevent most outbreaks of the plague, giving a two-factor boost to the ferret population: more living prairie dogs means more food, and less plague means fewer ferrets die.
The ferrets are a keystone species, which means that they’re critically important to the ecosystem at large. That means when there aren’t many of them, their predators—like owls and hawks—die out. This causes the populations of other prey animals to skyrocket, which wrecks havoc on the entire ecosystem. (For a great example of one such disaster, read up on the removal of gray wolves from Yellowstone National Park.)
For anyone with pets, the ease with which this vaccine will be administered might seem strange, even impossible—it can take even a skilled veterinarian a few minutes to inject an especially squirmy dog. If they can feed the vaccine to prairie dogs, why not your pets? It turns out that only certain types of vaccines can be taken orally, and for most of the vaccines we give our cats and dogs, the animals’ stomach acid will destroy their efficacy.
At least for the foreseeable future, the vet’s office is going to remain a place of needles, not treats.
Future Tense is a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University.
The Umpqua River pinkfin run is still happening and should last until the first week of August, but as the fishery winds down, the fishing will become increasingly inconsistant. Right now there are plenty of female pinkfins in the river above Winchester Bay. The South Jetty is fishing well for striped surfperch and fishing for pile perch in the Umpqua River and Coos Bay has been better than normal this year.
Other fish being caught by anglers fishing Winchester Bay’s South Jetty include greenling, black and blue rockfish and a few cabezon and lingcod. Cabezon have been legal to keep since July 1st and the daily limit is one cabezon at least 16-inches in length.
When bar and ocean conditions permit, tuna fishing has been productive with fair numbers of fish less than 40 miles out with a few as close as 20 miles offshore. A recent ODFW report suggested that anglers try to fish water with a surface temperature warmer than 58 degrees with a chlorophyl content of about .25 milligrams per cubic meter.
Eel Lake has been fishing fair for rainbow trout and a few cutthroat trout. The lake also has a good largemouth population with a few smallmouth bass, brown bullheads and black crappies also present. The coho salmon in the lake are not legal to keep. Area anglers wanting to target freshly stocked trout are going to have to wait until the third week of August when Lake Marie is scheduled to receive 800 trophy rainbows.
On Saturday, Jamie Standifer and a couple of friends trolled herring near Reedsport for a boat limit of Chinook salmon weighing between 13 and 21 pounds. On Sunday, two anglers casting spinners at Half Moon Bay caught Chinook salmon weighing 15 and 20 pounds and brought their fish in for photos, but were quite evasive as to color pattern of their spinners. Anglers trolling the ocean for fin-clipped cohos are usually fishing north of the Umpqua River Bar and catching more native cohos than finclipped ones.
Tenmile Lake has been fishing well for largemouth bass and the current issue of Bassmaster Magazine has the lake rated as the seventh best bass fishery in the western United States. However, when stating the lake’s surface acreage, the magazine seems to have only included the surface acreage in South Tenmile Lake. The magazine also seems to have cut by half, the surface aceage of Potholes Reservoir which is also on the list of top bass fisheries in the western United States.
The Coquille and Umpqua rivers are fishing very well for smallmouth bass. Both rivers are receiving fair to heavy amounts of fishing pressure and the numbers of larger bass seem to be greatly reduced in the areas of greatest fishing pressure. Anglers on float trips that cover fair amounts of river mileage are still finding good-sized bass as they float through river sections that have reduced fishing pressure.
Dwayne Schwartz and I fished the pond formed by the confluence of the North Umpqua and South Umpqua rivers. Our targeted fish species was pumpkinseed sunfish, but we hoped to catch a variety of the pond’s warmwater fish species. However, the pumpkinseeds proved most cooperative.
Almost immediately, Dwayne caught a pumpkinseed at least eight inches long and decided to release it without weighing it. One of Dwayne’s fishing goals is to catch a state record pumpkinseed and the current Oregon state record from Lake Oswego only weighed 7.688 ounces and that fish should not have been eligible for an Oregon record since Lake Oswego is not open to the angling public.
The ODFW policy is that large fish caught in Oregon waters not accessible to the angling public are not eligible for state record consideration – and the Lake Oswego pumpkinseed is not the first time the ODFW has ignored its own policy. Oregon’s current state record largemouth bass replaced a state record largemouth that was caught from a private pond in the Butte Falls area.
Oregon state records for warmwater fish are now being kept by the Oregon Bass and Panfish Club and they should follow ODFW policy and de-certify the Lake Oswego pumpkinseed.
So, although Dwayne did not actually weigh his jumbo panfish, there are ways and formulas that allow weight estimates of surprising accuracy. My favorite method involves memorizing a few weight / length ratios for different fish species.
So if you know that a normally shaped 14-inch rainbow trout weighs one pound, then a reasonable level of math skill should allow you to closely estimate the weight of any rainbow trout of similar body shape once you know its length. For examle, a 21-inch trout would weigh three pounds and six ounces – an estimate arrived at by first comparing their relative lengths. The 21-inch trout is one and a half times as long as the 14-incher. It’s also 1 1/2 times as deep (top to bottom) and 1 1/2 times as thick (side to side) So take the 3/2 ratio and cube it. 3/2 times 3/2 times 3/2 equals 27/8 which equals 3 and 3/8. Since the weight of the anchor fish – the 14-inch trout is one pound, the estimate of the 21-inch trout is three pounds and six ounces. The same formula would give you an estimate of eight pounds for a 28-inch trout of similar shape.
Keep in mind that as fish get older and longer, they tend to get chunkier, which can make weight estimates using this formula less accurate and much lower.
To get an estimate of the weight of Dwayne’s pumpkinseed, let’s assign a weight of one pound for a fat ten inch sunfish and Dwayne did say his fish was very fat.
Cubing the length of his eight-inch pumpkinseed we get 512. Cubing the length of a ten-inch sunfish gives a figure of 1,000. To arrive at a weight estimate for a fat eight eight inch pumpkinseed , we divide 512 by 1,000 and then multiply by 16 ounces. The estimated weight is 8.192 ounces.
So if the original premise of a fat ten inch long sunfish is accurate and Dwayne could somehow get his fish to a business with a certified scale without it losing weight and he took the requied photo and got signatures to the weighing – he could have had a state record for a fish species not many people worry about.
But if a fat one pound sunfish was actually ten and one-quarter inches long, rather than ten inches,the estimated weight for Dwayne’s pumpkinseed drops to 7.607 ounces – nothing more than a near miss.
The recreational groundfish season on the Oregon coast will close outside the 20-fathom line this Friday in order to protect yelloweye rockfish, which are more common in deeper waters.
Yelloweye rockfish populations along the west coast were declared overfished in 2002 by the National Marine Fisheries Service, and are managed under a federal rebuilding plan that limits harvest and other impacts, allowing the population to return to a healthy size.
Unusually high bycatch rates in the central coast all-depth halibut fishery and high effort in the bottomfish fishery so far this year have led to increased yelloweye rockfish encounters. In addition, the rate of voluntary descending device use has dropped from 80 percent in recent years to 60 percent in 2016. As a result, estimated mortality from catch-and-release is higher than expected, putting Oregon’s recreational fisheries on track to exceed the 2016 harvest limit before the end of the year.
Yelloweye in general live in deeper waters, so bringing the fishery inside 20 fathoms will reduce catch of this species, while allowing anglers to continue to fish for popular targets such as black rockfish and lingcod, according to Maggie Sommer, ODFW marine fisheries manager. Fish caught in shallower waters are also more likely to survive after release.
Because of their status, yelloweye rockfish cannot be retained by anglers and must be released if caught. ODFW encourages marine anglers to release all prohibited rockfish by using a descending device to safely return the fish to depth. Sommer noted that even fish which appear severely bloated can survive after being released at depth. This practice also helps keep the fisheries open by reducing the percentage of released fish that fishery managers count as dead. Had descending device use in 2016 remained at 80 percent as in the past, projected mortality would have been within limits without having to implement the 20-fathom depth restriction. Using a descending device helps save fish and increases anglers’ fishing opportunities.
“This is another way that anglers can help us to recover the yelloweye population and keep these fisheries open,” said Sommer, who noted that there are several types of descending devices that can be purchased at tackle shops. ODFW has distributed some of the devices provided by the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission free of charge to help encourage their use, and has a limited number more to hand out on the summer all-depth halibut days, when many anglers likely to encounter yelloweye rockfish in deeper waters are concentrated at boat ramps and marinas.
“We hope that by limiting the fishery to inside the 20-fathom line we can keep anglers fishing this year by keeping them out of areas where yelloweye are most common,” said Sommer. “Our goal is to return the sport groundfish fishery to all-depth in October as originally planned if at all possible. Increasing use of descending devices can help us get there.” At this time, the 20-fathom restriction is in place through the end of 2016 until further notice.
The central coast nearshore and summer all-depth halibut fisheries will remain unchanged. Halibut seasons are set by the International Pacific Halibut Commission and the National Marine Fisheries Service, and cannot be changed in-season due to bycatch concerns under current federal rules. In public meetings on the 2017 halibut and sport groundfish fisheries to be held later this summer, ODFW will be seeking input on modifying the Pacific Halibut Catch Sharing Plan to allowing for in-season changes in the future.
Waypoints for the 20-fathom line may be found on the ODFW website at www.dfw.state.or.us/MRP/regulations/sport_fishing.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) facilitated an exercise today to test response strategies aimed at protecting environmentally sensitive sites in the event of an oil spill near Mission Bay.
As part of the exercise, OSPR personnel and local oil spill responders stretched 800 feet of orange containment boom across the channel leading into the bay from Mission Point to Hospitality Point. There was no reported spill. These were test procedures to tailor a response and refine the contingency plan to best prevent oil from reaching Mission Bay and the mouth of the San Diego River in the event of a spill.
“Drills like this not only allow us to test these strategies in real-time conditions, but are also good practice opportunities for local oil spill responders,” said OSPR Environmental Scientist Kris Wiese.
Factors such as tidal patterns, currents and weather conditions affect how well boom and other equipment works. Testing a strategy helps experts from OSPR determine whether it is likely to be successful in the event of a spill or needs to be altered.
Pictures from today’s events are available on the OSPR Facebook page.
CDFW’s Sensitive Site Strategy Evaluation Program (SSSEP) evaluates strategies selected from more than 600 sites statewide that are particularly vulnerable to an oil spill. These areas are identified in Area Contingency Plans (ACPs) and are rich in sensitive resources such as fish, birds and marine mammals. Many also include habitat for wildlife breeding, nesting and feeding.
ACPs cover the entire coastline and marine waters of California and include the state’s busiest port areas: San Francisco Bay, Los Angeles/Long Beach and San Diego. More than 50 state, federal and local governments, as well as non-governmental organizations, industry and the general public contribute to ACP development.
Media Contact: Eric Laughlin, OSPR Communications, (916) 214-3279
State wildlife managers are seeking public input on their recommendations to change the listing status for five protected wildlife species in Washington.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) recommends removing bald eagles and peregrine falcons from Washington’s endangered species list and downlisting American white pelicans to threatened status from endangered.
Wildlife managers also recommend elevating the protective status of marbled murrelets and lynx to endangered from threatened status.
WDFW periodically reviews the status of protected species in the state. The public can comment on the listing recommendations and draft reviews available online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/endangered/status_review/
Written comments on the reviews and recommendations can be submitted by Oct. 10, via email to vog.aw.wfdnull@moccilbupEdnaT or by mail to Hannah Anderson, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA 98501-1091.
WDFW staff members are tentatively scheduled to discuss the reviews and recommendations with the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission at its November 2016 meeting. The commission is a citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for WDFW. For meeting dates and times, check the commission webpage at http://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/
The bald eagle can be found across Washington but most of the population resides west of the Cascade mountain range. The widespread use of the pesticide DDT and, to a lesser extent, habitat loss, led to the imperiled status of bald eagles, which were listed under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1978. Measures to reduce threats to the species have allowed bald eagles to make an extraordinary recovery both nationally and within Washington, where there were 1,334 eagle nesting sites in 2015, compared to 100 in 2005. If the species is delisted in Washington, bald eagles would continue to be protected under the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Act.
The peregrine falcon is distributed throughout North America, including both sides of the Cascade Mountain range in Washington. The species was listed as endangered in Washington in 1980 when only five nesting pairs were found statewide. The implementation of falcon reintroduction programs and a ban of the pesticide DDT, which had caused the decline of falcon populations nationally, have helped the species to recover. WDFW estimates there are 148 peregrine falcon nesting sites in the state in 2016, up from 70 in 2002. The peregrine falcon would continue to receive protection under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, regardless of its listing classification in Washington.
The American white pelican is a large, nesting bird that eats fish, amphibians and crayfish. The population and range of these pelicans declined in the 19th and early 20th centuries due primarily to habitat loss. The only white pelican breeding colony in Washington was established in 1994 on the Columbia River, north of Walla Walla. Although pelican numbers have increased, with more than 3,000 birds counted in 2015, the pelican population is still vulnerable. Pelicans are sensitive to disturbances by humans or predators. Other factors affecting pelican populations include the loss of breeding and foraging habitats due to severe weather and changes in water levels. Similar to the peregrine falcon, this species will continue to be protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, irrespective of its listing status in Washington.
The lynx is the rarest of the three native cats, including bobcats and mountain lions, in Washington. Lynx have large feet and long legs, giving them an advantage in deep snow over other carnivores that compete for habitat and prey such as snowshoe hares, which comprise 50 to 100 percent of the lynx’s diet. Western Okanogan County is the only area in the state that supports a resident lynx population, estimated at 54 animals. Threats to this population include the loss and fragmentation of habitat due to wildfire, and the unpredictable effects of climate change. There’s no indication that Washington’s lynx population has improved since it was listed for protection.
The marbled murrelet is a small seabird that inhabits the southern Salish Sea and the outer Washington coast. The species flies considerable distances inland to establish nesting locations – an unusual behavior for seabirds. Marbled murrelets face several threats including oil spills and net fisheries in marine areas and the loss of nesting habitat inland due to logging. There has been a substantial decline in old growth forest habitat since the species was listed as threatened in Washington in 1993. Murrelet population numbers in the state dropped 44 percent from 2001 to 2015. Wildlife biologists believe the marbled murrelet could become extirpated in Washington within the next several decades if solutions aren’t found to address threats to this species.
Forty-five species of fish and wildlife are listed for protection by Washington state as endangered, threatened or sensitive species.
The Putah Creek Wildlife Area in Solano County has reopened for public use as of Saturday, July 9, 2016. The wildlife area was closed in August 2015 to allow recovery from the Wragg Fire. Though the area continues to recover from the fire and winter rains, the slopes are now sufficiently stable to allow safe public access without incurring environmental damage.
Hikers are advised to choose their footing carefully and exercise caution as underlying surfaces of the existing trails may have undergone shifting and fallen trees and other hazards may still be present. As always, avoid hiking in extreme heat, wear appropriate footwear and bring plenty of water.
Putah Creek Wildlife Area is located in Solano County just east of Lake Berryessa.
For more information on the wildlife area, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/lands/places-to-visit/putah-creek-wa.
With the water level of the Potholes Reservoir dropping rapidly, the sand dunes are much more recognizable and a minimal current flow can be seen. Moving water makes fish congregate, which enhances fish action.
The Mardon dock has begun to be better catching smallmouth bass, trout, catfish, bluegill and some quality crappie.
The Lind Coulee arm of Potholes Reservoir produced some nice channel catfish this past week and walleye to 25 “.
Largemouth bass action in the sand dunes continues to improve as the water level lowers. This Saturday is the one-day championship for the Washington State Big Bass circuit. At press time we did not have an awards time for Saturday afternoon. Please call 509-346-2651 for more info.
Some of the most treacherous boating on Potholes Reservoir is the area between Goose Island and O’Sullivan Dam. Walleye anglers are catching walleye to 28” in the rocks and smallmouth to 21” have been reported by bass fishers dancing around the “Rock Piles”. We recommend trolling motor use in this area. Your lower unit will thank you!
Although Potholes Reservoir and its connected waterways has produced several heavier catfish during the last two years, the nearly 27 pound cat taken last week may be the longest at 39-inches.
Salmon fishing in the ocean off Winchester Bay showed a marked improvement over last week. On Saturday, Chris McAyeal, of Eugene, while fishing with two friends landed a boat limit of six keeper salmon. Their catch consisted of a finclipped coho and five Chinooks to 20 pounds. They also released a couple of unclipped cohos which seem to be running larger than the clipped cohos and a couple of Chinooks just shy of the 24-inch length required to be legal. Chris said they trolled herring at a depth of 55 feet and caught their salmon north of the Umpqua River Bar.
Other salmon anglers were not so lucky. One of the area’s more successful guides could not get out of the wild cohos and had little to show for a lot of action. A few Chinooks are starting to venture up the Umpqua River and their numbers should continue to increase over the next several weeks. A large Chinook salmon was hooked and lost Sunday morning to a spinner flinger at Half Moon Bay.
Rough bar conditions have put a tempory halt to what has been a very productive tuna fishery about 30 miles offshore and delayed early morning salmon fishing. But there are a few fall Chinooks in the river as far upstream as Reedsport.
There has been very few reports of striped bass catches. A friend of mine has spent several nights targeting stripers on the Smith River and only had a few boils and missed strikes to show for it. The first night he used live bait, he landed two. He caught an 18 pound ten ounce fish on a pikeminnow and a fifteen pound three ounce fish on a sculpin.
For the last few weeks, stripers have been tough to find on the Coquille River which has a surprising amount of tidewater. The river’s smallmouth fishery is holding steady with an impressive number of bass caught weighing at least two pounds. As expected, the river’s largemouth bass population seems to have shrunk and they seem even harder to catch.
Crappie anglers are having fair success at daybreak and dusk as long as they are in the Eugene or Roseburg area. In western Oregon the yellow perch seem to outcompete the crappies. However, fishing for yellow perch remains very slow on Tenmile Lakes, but is fair on Tenmile Creek just below South Tenmile Lake, but few of the perch will measure eight inches in length. Tenmile Creek still has a logjam on it about a mile and a half below the lake, which keeps all but the most reckless from floating it. But this year, the shallow faster current seems especially suitable for trout. The fishing for largemouth bass also seems much improved – possibly due to less fishing pressure due to the logjam.
The Umpqua River pinkfin run is still going on, but is winding down. A guide and his clients landed a boat limit of perch before 9 am last Sunday (7 rods and 105 perch). On the 4th, several more boats had boat limits by 8 am. What they all had in common was they all used sand shrimp for bait and they were all fishing less than two miles up river of where Winchester Bay’s East Boat Basin connects to the Umpqua River. As this fishery approaches it’s conclusion, the fishing will become even more inconsistent.
Umpqua River smallmouth bass are biting well, but the river is very clear and smaller soft plastics or nightcrawlers are more productive than crankbaits.
Umpqua River shad fishing is pretty much over although a few fish are still being caught near the chute at Sawyers Rapids.
Tenmile Lakes has been fishing well for bass and its popularity ensures that almost every other bass fishery in Coos and Douglas counties is underfished. However all of the area bass fisheries are turning into early morning or after dark fisheries.
Rough ocean and bar conditions have limited crabbing options, but some boat crabbers have made decent catches near the lower end of Half Moon Bay. There has been some tuna carcasses in Winchester Bay’s East Boat Basin, which seems to have improved crabbing success for those crabbing off the end of “A” Dock.