Monthly Archives: February 2019

Columbia River Northern Pike

Since sizable northern pike have been recently caught near the bottom end of Lake Roosevelt – a giant Columbia River reservoir in Washington, it appears a certainty that they will soon be in the Columbia River below the dam in prime salmon and steelhead country.

This Roosevelt Lake northern pike weighed more than 27 pounds.

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Pete Heley Outdoors 2 / 27 / 2019.

Coos County received its first trout plants this week. Altogether 14,000 trout will be planted and all of them  will be in the “legal” size classification measuring 8 to 10-inches. The waters being planted are: Bradley Lake (3,000);  Johnson Mill Pond (3,000); Powers Pond (3,000); Saunders Lake (3,000) and Mingus Park Pond (2,000).

Next week Loon Lake is slated to receive 2,000 legal rainbows.

Most area streams have plenty of steelhead in them and fishing success depends primarily on stream conditions as well as fishing skill. Tenmile Creek in the Spin Reel Park area has been fishing especially well the last few weeks and although there hasn’t been fishing pressure directed at Eel Creek, the number of steelhead in the STEP fishtrap would seem to indicate that “steelies” are well-represented in the creek below the trap. When I talked to Curt Thompson at the Flyfishing Expo he insisted on me looking at the video output of the camera located in the fishtrap. Currently, Saunders and Butterfield lakes hold adult steelhead that were recently transported from the Eel Creek fishtrap by STEP volunteers.

Winter steelhead are in all of our local streams and fishing success depends on stream conditions in most cases. Two streams that never seem to muddy up are Eel Creek and Tenmile Creek. Eel Creek is extremely “snaggy” and difficult to fish, while Tenmile Creek is the exact opposite and fairly snag free in most sections – and Tenmile Creek has been hot for the last few weeks with fish to 18 pounds taken. Almost all the finclipped, keepable steelhead that ascend Tenmile Creek only do so as far as Eel Creek and then swim up Eel Creek as far as the STEP fishtrap just below Eel Lake. Some of Eel Creek’s steelhead actually spawn in the stream before reaching the fishtrap and some of the preferred spawning sites are inside the several culverts on the stream.

By the way, the Lower Umpqua Flycasters’ 29th annual Flyfishing Expo seemed better than ever.  The six hour long free show featured the numerous flytying demonstrations  and new and used fishing-related items and even more raffles than usual. One item that I forgot to return and purchase was a pair of used Simms neoprene waders in exactly my size for only $20 and my “forgetfullness” will bug me for months.

The weigh-in at the “Frostbite Open”  was perfectly timed at 3:30 pm – one half hour after the close of the Flyfishing Expo. Miserable cold weather brought out the “doubting thomases”. But as in past years, a substantial portion of the anglers managedto beat the rain and cold water temperatures to post respectacle catches. 

Out of the 75 two-man teams, 12 posted five bass limits. Nineteen teams weighed in bags weighing more than ten pounds and seven teams weighed in more than 16 pounds of bass while the eighth place team weighed in 15.99 pounds. The winning bag weighed 18.56 pounds and the big bass weighed 6.33 pounds.

One angler’s four bass bag weighed 16.70 pounds and if he’d caught one more bass of similar size, his bag weight would have topped 20 pounds.

One moment that I’ll remember for a long time was when one participant insisted in weighing one of his two good-sized bass for big fish despite several observers telling him that the other fish looked heavier, So his big bass weighed 4.97 pounds and his three bass bag, including one much smaller fish, weighed well over ten pounds. If he didn’t weigh his heaviest fish for big bass, at some point it will cost him money.

Congratulations to Chris Carpenter and Travis Glass who won this tournament and far more than their share of the bass tournaments held in our area over the last several years.

Pacific herring showed up in Yaquina Bay and Coos Bay in large numbers last week to spawn and may, in lesser numbers, be spawning in other estuaries as well.

On February 28th Bob Free and Steve Godin will attend the ODFW Ocean Salmon Industry Group meeting in Newport – and hopefully have some positive influence on 2019 ocean salmon fishing regulations affecting our area.

Mann Lake, a popular, if extremely remote fishing spot in southeast Oregon for Lahontan cutthroat trout has dried up and all the fish, including goldfish, have died. 

More bad news is that an Australian mammal is believed to be the first mammal to become extinct due to human-caused climate change. The Bramble Cay melomys, a brownish type of rat living on the isolated Bramble Cay – a vegetated coral island located at the northern tip of the Great Barrier Reef. It’s recent extinction is believed to be primarily due to rising ocean levels that greatly reduced its available habitat.

Some of the other viable fishing spots around Oregon include the upper Columbia River system, the lower Willamette River and Lookout Point Reservoir for jumbo walleyes and the Metolius River Arm of Lake Billy Chinook, which harbors the reservoir’s largest bull trout and opens on March 1st.

Not far from the eastern Oregon border lies western Nevada’s Pyramid Lake which seems to produce at least one 20 pound lahontan cutt each week during the winter months.

As of Thursday, the NRCS (National Resources Conservation) reported snowpack, on a 30-year historic average, to be at 106 percent of average in the Owyhee sub-basin; 105 percent in the Malheur; 108 percent in the Grande Ronde, Powder, Burnt and Imnaha sub-basins; 107 percent in the Umatilla, Walla Walla and Willow sub-basins; 104 percent in the John Day; 83 percent in the Upper Deschutes; 82 percent in the Hood, Sandy and Lower Deschutes sub-basins; 81 percent on the Coast Range; 83 percent on the Willamette; 91 percent on the Rogue and Umpqua sub-basins; 94 percent in the Klamath and 105 percent in the Harney sub-basin.

Pete Heley works parttime at the Stockade Market & Tackle, across from A’ Dock, in Winchester Bay where he is more than happy to swap fishing info with anyone.

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CDFW to Host Public Meeting on Ocean Salmon.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) invites the public to attend its upcoming annual Salmon Information Meeting. The meeting will feature the outlook for this year’s sport and commercial ocean salmon fisheries, in addition to a review of last year’s salmon fisheries and spawning escapement. 

The meeting will be held Wednesday, Feb. 27 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Sonoma County Water Agency, 404 Aviation Blvd., Santa Rosa. Anglers are encouraged to provide input on potential fishing seasons to a panel of California salmon scientists, managers and representatives who will be directly involved in the upcoming Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) meetings in March and April. 

The 2019 Salmon Information Meeting marks the beginning of a two-month long public process used to develop annual sport and commercial ocean salmon fishing recommendations. The process involves collaborative negotiations with West Coast states, federal and tribal agencies, and stakeholders interested in salmon fishery management and conservation. Public input will help California representatives develop a range of recommended season alternatives during the March 5-12 PFMC meeting in Vancouver, Wash.

The PFMC will finalize the recommended season dates at its April 9-16 meeting in Rohnert Park, Calif. 

A list of additional meetings and other opportunities for public comment is available on CDFW’s ocean salmon web page: www.wildlife.ca.gov/oceansalmon/preseason. The meeting agenda and handouts will be posted online as soon as they become available.  ### The California Fish and Game Commission was the first wildlife conservation agency in the United States, predating even the U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries. There is often confusion about the distinction between the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the Commission. In the most basic terms, CDFW implements and enforces the regulations set by the Commission, as well as provides biological data and expertise to inform the Commission’s decision-making process.

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Mexican Wolf Update Through January.

  MEXICAN WOLF UPDATE   January 1-31, 2019
Arizona Game and Fish Department  Mexican Wolf Recovery Program
Monthly Update – January 1-31, 2019

The following is a summary of Mexican Wolf Recovery Program
activities in the Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area (MWEPA) in Arizona, including the Fort Apache Indian Reservation (FAIR), San Carlos Apache Reservation (SCAR), and New Mexico.  Additional Program information can be obtained by calling (928) 339-4329 or toll free at (888) 459-9653, or by visiting the Arizona Game and Fish Department website at
azgfd.gov/wolf or by visiting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website at fws.gov/southwest/es/mexicanwolf. For information on the FAIR call (928) 338-4385 ext. 226 or visit wmatoutdoors.org
Past updates may be viewed on these websites. Interested parties may sign upto receive this update electronically by visiting azgfd.com and clicking on the E-news Signup tab on the top left corner of the webpage.
This update is a public document and information in it can be used for any purpose.  The Mexican Wolf Recovery Program is a multi-agency cooperative effort among the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD), USDA Forest Service (USFS), USDA-Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services (USDA-APHIS WS), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the White Mountain Apache Tribe (WMAT).
 
To view semi-monthly wolf location information please visit http://arcg.is/0iGSGH.
 
Please report any wolf sightings or suspected livestock depredations to: the Alpine wolf office at (928) 339-4329, Pinetop wolf office at (928) 532-2391 or toll free at (888) 459-9653. For sightings or suspected depredations on the FAIR, please call the FAIR wolf office in Whiteriver at (928) 388-4385 ext. 226. To report incidents of take or harassment of wolves, please call the AZGFD 24-hour dispatch (Operation Game Thief) at (800) 352-0700.
 
Overall Mexican Wolf Recovery Program Monthly Update
 Due to the Federal government shutdown that lasted from December 22, 2018 until January 28, 2019, the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program Monthly Update for December did not include any project information for the State of New Mexico. The January Monthly Update will include project information from New Mexico for December and January. The shutdown also resulted in a delay of the annual helicopter count and capture operation by 18 days, however; the count will be conducted in February within the appropriate timeframe. 
During the month of December, USFWS met with the San Carlos Apache Tribe, White Mountain Apache Tribe, and Zuni Departments of Game and Fish.
The captive reared Mexican wolf that escaped from a wildlife center in Divide, Colorado, on Nov 11, 2018, was captured near the center on December 12, 2018 and is being held for veterinary care at the Rio Grande Zoo in Albuquerque, New Mexico.   
Numbering System:  Mexican wolves are given an identification number recorded in an official studbook that tracks their history.  Capital letters (M = Male, F = Female) preceding the number indicate adult animals 24 months or older. Lower case letters (m = male, f = female) are used to indicate wolves younger than 24 months.  A lower case letter “p” preceding the number is used to indicate a wolf pup born in the most recent spring. The capital letter “A” preceding the letter and number indicate breeding wolves.
 
Definitions: A “wolf pack” is defined as two or more wolves that maintain an
established territory.  In the event that one of the two alpha (dominant) wolves dies, the remaining alpha wolf, regardless of pack size, retains the pack status. The packs referenced in this update contain at least one wolf with a radio telemetry collar attached to it. Studbook numbers listed in the monthly update denote wolves with functioning radio collars. The Interagency Field Team (IFT) recognizes that wolves without radio telemetry collars may also form packs. If the IFT confirms that wolves are associating with each other and are resident within the same home range, they will be referenced as a pack.
 
CURRENT POPULATION STATUS
 The year-end minimum population count for 2017 was 114 wolves in the wild in Arizona and New Mexico. Annual surveys are conducted in the winter as this is when the population experiences the least amount of natural fluctuation (i.e. in the spring the population increases dramatically with the birth of new pups and declines throughout the summer and fall as pup mortality generally occurs in this period). Thus, the IFT summarizes the total number of wolves in the winter at a fairly static or consistent time of year. Counting the population at the end of each year allows for comparable year-to-year trends at a time of year when the Mexican wolf population is most stable. Year-end population counts for 2018 continued during the month of January. 
At the end of January, there were 25 packs (11 in AZ and 14 in NM) and seven single collared wolves. There were 76 wolves with functioning radio collars that the IFT was actively monitoring. Not all of the wild wolves are collared. Studbook numbers following individual pack names below denote wolves with functioning radio collars.  


 
IN ARIZONA:
 Bear Wallow Pack (collared AM1338 and f1683)
I
n January, the IFT documented the Bear Wallow Pack in their territory on the east central portion of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest (ASNF) and occasionally on the SCAR and the FAIR. 
Eagle Creek Pack (collared M1477)
In January, the IFT continued to document M1477 traveling with an uncollared wolf in a territory in the east central portion of the ASNF.  
Elk Horn Pack (collared AF1294, f1668, m1671, mp1695, fp1696, and fp1697) 
I
n January, the Elk Horn Pack was located within their traditional territory in the northeastern portion of the ASNF.  
Hoodoo Pack (collared AM1290, AF1333, m1677, m1681, and mp1789)
In January, the Hoodoo Pack was located within their traditional territory in the northeastern portion of the ASNF. Hoodoo m1677 was documented making dispersal movements in New Mexico and the central portion of the ASNF. 
 
Pine Spring Pack (collared AM1394, AF1562, fp1794, and fp1825)

In January, the Pine Spring Pack was located within their territory in the north central portion of the ASNF. The IFT continued to maintain a diversionary food cache for this pack to reduce potential for wolf-livestock conflict.  
Prime Canyon Pack (collared AM1471, AF1488, mp1790, fp1791, and fp1823)
In January, the IFT documented the Prime Canyon Pack within their territory in the east central portion of the ASNF.  
Saffel Pack (collared AM1441, AF1567, and fp1792)
In January, the Saffel Pack was located within their territory in the northeastern portion of the ASNF.  
Sierra Blanca Pack (collared M1571 and F1550)
In January, the Sierra Blanca Pack was located in their territory in the northeastern portion of the ASNF.  
Single collared F1489
In January, the IFT documented F1489 traveling in the north and east central portion of the ASNF.  
Single collared M1574
In January, the IFT documented M1574 traveling in the east central portion of the ASNF, the SCAR, and the eastern portion of the FAIR. 
Single collared AM1382
In January, the IFT documented AM1382, of the Panther Creek Pack, traveling in the east central portion of the ASNF.
Single collared f1686
In January, the IFT documented yearling f1686 continued to make dispersal movements within the eastern portion of the ASNF.
 ON THE FAIR:
 Baldy Pack (collared AM1347 and F1560)
In January, the Baldy Pack was documented traveling in the eastern portion of the FAIR and the north central portion of the ASNF. 
Maverick Pack (collared AF1291 and fp1828)
In January, the Maverick Pack was located within their traditional territory in the eastern portion of the FAIR and east central portion of the ASNF.  
Tsay-O-Ah Pack (collared M1559, AF1283, and f1674)
In January, the Tsay-O-Ah Pack was located within their traditional territory and occasionally documented north of their territory on the FAIR.  
Single collared F1679
In January, F1679 of the Tu dil hil Pack was documented traveling in the eastern portion of the FAIR. F1679 was occasionally documented on the SCAR.
Single collared M1824
In January, M1824 was documented traveling in the northwestern portion of the Gila National Forest in New Mexico. 
IN NEW MEXICO:
 
Copper Creek Pack (F1444)During December and January, F1444, the only wolf with a functioning collar in the Copper Creek Pack, was documented making wide dispersal movements outside the pack’s traditional range. 
Dark Canyon Pack (collared AM1354 and AF1456)
During December and January, the Dark Canyon Pack was documented traveling together within their traditional territory, in the west central portion of the Gila National Forest (GNF).  
Datil Mountain Pack (collared F1685)
During December, the Datil Mountain Pack traveled within their traditional territory.  In January, the Datil Mountain Pack male, M1453, was confirmed dead. The incident is currently under investigation. F1685 continued to travel in the western portion of the Cibola National Forest (CNF).   
Frieborn Pack (collared AF1443 and fp1702)
During December and January, the Frieborn Pack was documented within their territory in the east central portion of the ASNF in New Mexico and Arizona.  
Hawks Nest Pack 
During early December F1473 traveled within their traditional territory.  In late December, the Hawks Nest Pack female, F1473, was confirmed dead. The incident is currently under investigation. With the death of F1473 and the death of AM1038 in November, the Hawks Nest pack is considered defunct and will not be reported on in future updates. 
Iron Creek Pack (collared AM1240, AF1278, M1555, M1556, f1670, m1821, fp1721, and mp1710)
During December and January, the Iron Creek Pack continued to utilize their territory in the northern portion of the Gila Wilderness and the southern portion of the GNF. M1556 was captured by a private trapper, processed and released.  Lava Pack (collared AM1285 and AF1405)
During December and January, the Lava Pack was located within their traditional territory in the southeastern portion of the GNF. 
Leopold Pack (collared AM1293 and AF1346)
During December and January, the IFT documented the Leopold Pack within their territory in the northern portion of the Gila Wilderness. 
Luna Pack (collared AM1158, AF1487, and f1684)
During December and January, the Luna Pack remained in their traditional territory in the north central portion of the GNF. Sub-adult female, f1684, continued to travel in the southeastern portion of the GNF.
Mangas Pack (collared AM1296, AF1439, and f1705)
During December and January, the Mangas Pack was located within their territory in the northwestern portion of the GNF.  
Prieto Pack (collared AM1398, AF1251, m1678, and mp1827)
During December and January, the Prieto Pack was located within their traditional territory in the north central portion of the GNF. In December, the IFT was notified that two wolves were potentially traveling with traps from a private trapper on their feet. A helicopter capture was immediately initiated and F1565 and m1669 were captured.  F1565 and m1669 were placed under veterinary care. Unfortunately, F1565 died the first night under veterinary care. This case is under investigation. Male 1669 was transferred to the Rio Grande Zoo Veterinary Clinic for continued care, but the injuries sustained required the amputation of the leg. On January 23, M1669 was moved to Sevilleta Wolf Management Facility. The IFT has also documented m1678 traveling with the SBP pack in December and January. The IFT established a diversionary food cache for the Prieto Pack to reduce potential for conflict with livestock in January.  
San Mateo Pack (collared AF1399, f1578, and fp1822)
During December and January, the San Mateo Pack continued to utilize their territory in the north central portion of the GNF.  Collared female f1578 has been traveling with single m1824 in the north central portion of the GNF. 
Sheepherders Baseball Park (SBP) Pack (collared AF1553)
During December and January, AF1553was confirmed traveling with Prieto m1678 in the traditional territory of the SBP pack in the north central portion of the GNF.  
Squirrel Springs Pack (collared F1788 and M1349)
During December and January, the Squirrel Springs pack was located in the north central portion of the GNF. The IFT responded to a male wolf caught by a private trapper in December within the Squirrel Springs territory. The IFT confirmed the wolf was M1349, a formerly missing wolf from 2014, and successfully collared and released the wolf. M1349 is now considered a member of the Squirrel Springs pack. 
Single collared M1673
During December and January, M1673 was not located.

MORTALITIES
 
During the month of December, the following wolves in New Mexico were confirmed mortalities: F1565 of the Prieto Pack and F1473 of the Hawks Nest Pack.  Both incidents are under investigation by USFWS Law Enforcement. 
During the month of January, M1453 of the Datil Mountain Pack was located dead in New Mexico; the incident is under investigation.
From January 1, 2018 to December 31, 2018, there were a total of 21 documented wolf mortalities.  

INCIDENTS
 
During the month of December 2018, there were two confirmed depredation incidents on livestock.  In January 2019, there were 18 confirmed wolf depredation incidents on livestock.  There was one nuisance incident in January.  
From January 1, 2018 to December 31, 2018 there were a total of 68 confirmed wolf depredation incidents in New Mexico and 31 confirmed wolf depredation incidents in Arizona.
On December 16, Wildlife Services investigated a dead calf in Catron County, NM. The investigation determined the calf was a confirmed wolf kill. 
On December 22, Wildlife Services investigated a dead cow in Catron County, NM. The investigation determined the cow was a confirmed wolf kill.
On January 5, Wildlife Services investigated a dead calf in Catron County, NM. The investigation determined the calf was a confirmed wolf kill. 
On January 14, Wildlife Services investigated a dead cow in Catron County, NM. The investigation determined the cow was a confirmed wolf kill. 
On January 18, Wildlife Services investigated a dead calf in Catron County, NM. The investigation determined the calf was a confirmed wolf kill. 
On January 20, Wildlife Services investigated a dead calf in Catron County, NM. The investigation determined the calf was a confirmed wolf kill. 
On January 24, the IFT took a report of an elk calf killed by wolves near a residence in Nutrioso, AZ. The reporting party saw two uncollared wolves on the elk carcass. The animals ran off when the reporting party drove a vehicle toward them. The IFT removed the carcass from the property to eliminate further attractant to wolves.
On January 27, Wildlife Services investigated separately a dead cow and a dead calf in Catron County, NM. The investigations determined both were confirmed wolf kills. 
On January 28, Wildlife Services conducted six investigations: three dead cows and three dead calves in Catron County, NM. The investigations determined four were confirmed wolf kills, one calf was a coyote kill and one died of unknown causes. 
On January 30, Wildlife Services investigated separately five dead calves in Catron County, NM. The investigations determined all five calves were confirmed wolf kills.  
On January 31, Wildlife Services investigated a dead calf and an injured cow in Apache County, AZ.  The investigation concluded the calf was a probable dog kill and the injuries caused to the cow were confirmed to have been caused by dogs. 
On January 31, Wildlife Services investigated separately two dead cows and a dead calf in Catron County, NM. The investigations determined all three were confirmed wolf kills.  
COMMUNICATION AND COORDINATION
 
On January 8, WMAT presented an update on KNNB radio in Whiteriver, AZ.
In January, WMAT provided an article on the WMAT Mexican Wolf Tribal Youth Conservation Program in the Native American Fish and Wildlife Society newsletter. 
 
REWARDS OFFERED
 
The USFWS is offering a reward of up to $10,000; the AGFD Operation Game Thief is offering a reward of up to $1,000; and the NMDGF is offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to the conviction of the individual(s) responsible for the shooting deaths of Mexican wolves. A variety of non-governmental organizations and private individuals have pledged an additional $46,000 for a total reward amount of up to $58,000, depending on the information provided.
 
Individuals with information they believe may be helpful are urged to call one of the following agencies: USFWS special agents in Mesa, Arizona, at (480) 967-7900, in Alpine, Arizona, at (928) 339-4232, or in Albuquerque, New Mexico, at (505) 346-7828; the WMAT at (928) 338-1023 or (928) 338-4385; AGFD Operation Game Thief at (800) 352-0700; or NMDGF Operation Game Thief at (800) 432-4263. Killing a Mexican wolf is a violation of the Federal Endangered Species Act and can result in criminal penalties of up to $50,000, and/or not more than one year in jail, and/or a civil penalty of up to $25,000.
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Ocean Salmon Industry Meeting

2019 PRE-SEASON PLANNING: OCEAN SALMON MEETING NOTICE: The 2019 Ocean Salmon Industry Group meeting (OSIG) is scheduled for Thursday, February 28, 2019. This pre-season planning meeting will provide a review of the 2018 seasons, take a first look at the 2019 salmon forecasts, and develop a set of Oregon preferred recreational and commercial ocean salmon season concepts via public input to take forward through the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) regulation setting process.

The OSIG meeting will be held at the Shilo Inn, 536 SW Elizabeth Street Newport, OR. The OSIG meeting is open to all ocean sport fishing anglers and charter operators, commercial salmon troll fishers, and others interested in participating in the development of the 2019 ocean salmon seasons.

Staff from ODFW will provide background materials and presentations and then work with meeting attendees to develop preferred season alter-natives to use as guidance moving forward through the Pacific Fishery Management Council’s season setting process.

Doors open at 9:30 AM, with presentations scheduled to start at 10:00 AM, and conclude by 3:00 PM. There will be a lunch break between 12:00 PM and 1:15 PM.

Links to the agenda and briefing materials for the meeting will be posted on www.dfw.state.or.us/mrp/salmon/ as they come available.The first of the two salmon season setting meetings by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) will be held at the Hilton Vancouver Washington (301 W. Sixth Street, Vancouver, WA) from March 5-12.

This first PFMC meeting in Vancouver will establish a range of alternatives for further review. The final season setting meeting will occur at the DoubleTree by Hilton Sonoma in Rohnert Park, California (One DoubleTree Drive, Rohnert Park, CA) from April 9-16.

More information on these meetings can be found at the PFMC’s website.
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WDFW confirms case of elk hoof disease in Blue Mountains of Walla Walla County.

Test results from an elk shot by a hunter in Walla Walla County have confirmed the presence of elk hoof disease, known scientifically as treponeme-associated hoof disease (TAHD).

A muzzleloader hunter shot the cow elk on Jan. 17 in the Pikes Peak area of the Blue Mountains. After noticing that the hooves were deformed, he submitted the hooves to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). 

Samples were submitted to the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory at Washington State University, where TAHD was confirmed through diagnostic testing. WSU’s veterinary college is where the state has based a program to monitor and research elk hoof disease. 

First documented in the early 2000s, TAHD has since spread to 14 counties in Washington, and has been found in Oregon and Idaho. Last April, WDFW confirmed the presence of the disease in Klickitat County – the first such finding in Washington state east of the Cascade Range.

The disease causes hoof deformities, which can make elk walk with a pronounced limp. Elk may eventually slough the infected hooves, threatening their survival. 

There is currently no vaccine to prevent TAHD, nor are there any proven options for treating it in the field. There is no evidence that the disease affects humans.

Kyle Garrison, WDFW hoof disease coordinator, said the department plans to increase efforts to identify other diseased elk in the Blue Mountains, and will look for limping elk early next month during scheduled aerial surveys. 

State wildlife managers are also asking hunters and other members to report any observations of limping elk, or elk with abnormal hooves via WDFW’s online reporting tool at https://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/health/hoof_disease/.

“We have been monitoring this area fairly intensively for the past four years, and have never before confirmed an elk with the disease,” Garrison said. 

Testing conducted in 2014 identified treponeme bacteria in lesions from affected elk, suggesting the disease can be spread between animals and by contaminated materials, explained Margaret Wild, a veterinarian and WSU elk hoof disease research leader.

“Much remains to be learned about the disease,” she said. “We are further investigating treponeme bacteria and other potential pathogens, and we will also look at factors that may increase the susceptibility of elk contracting the disease.”

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Pete Heley Outdoors 2 / 20 / 2019.

Winter steelhead are in all of our local streams and fishing success depends on stream conditions in most cases.

Two streams that never seem to muddy up are Eel Creek and Tenmile Creek. Eel Creek is extremely “snaggy” and difficult to fish, while Tenmile Creek is the exact opposite and relatively easy to fish and Tenmile Creek has been hot for the last few weeks with fish to 18 pounds taken.

Almost all the finclipped, keepable steelhead that ascend Tenmile Creek only do so as far as Eel Creek and then swim up Eel Creek as far as the STEP fishtrap just below Eel Lake. Some of Eel Creek’s steelhead actually spawn in the stream before reaching the fishtrap and some of the preferred spawning sites are inside the several culverts on the stream.


But right now, possibly the easiest place to actually land an Eel Creek steelhead would be to fish Butterfield or Saunders lakes, both of which received a healthy dose of Eel Creek steelhead last week via STEP volunteers at the Eel Creek fishtrap. Both lakes also contain largemouth bass, yellow perch, crappies  and bluegills and Butterfield Lake even has a very few warmouth sunfish.


The heaviest steelhead reported recently was a 22 pound finclipped buck fron the South Fork Coquille River.


A final reminder about the annual “Lower Umpqua Flycasters Flyfishing Expo” this coming Saturday from 9 am until 3 pm.  The location is the Community Center in Reedsport located at 451 Winchester Avenue. Despite the “free price tag” this is not a “rinky dink” show as it features flytying and flycasting demonstrations as well as informational displays by various stream and fish enhancement groups. Food concessions will be present so there is no reason not to make a “half-day” of it and really check it out.


After checking out the Flyfishing Expo, a short drive to Lakeside will give you a chance to watch the weigh-in for the “Frostbite Open”, one of the most highly regarded bass tournaments in the Pacific Northwest.


Despite the often frigid temperatures, the participating anglers have frequently surprised the viewing public  with the numbers and sizes of the bass they catch. However, the recent really cold temperatures should provide an especially tough test.


The next couple of weeks should offer the season’s best chance to catch a humungous egg-laden Columbia River Walleye. While most of the early season lunkers are caught below The Dalles, John Day or McNary dams, an angler that could consistently find early season walleye below Bonneville Dam or in the Portland area could become a legend. While big walleyes are caught in these areas, it never seems to happen before June.


While crabbing has definitely slowed down, Winchester Bay’s South Jetty was fishing really good for lingcod just before the Umpqua River muddied up. Expect the good fishing to resume once the lower river clears slightly.


While the first spring chinook salmon have already been caught in the Columbia and Willamette rivers one can reasonably expect the first springers to be caught on the Rogue and Umpqua rivers over the next weeks. In most years, the date of the earliest springer catch is as dependent upon how many anglers are actually fishing for them as it is on how many salmon are actually in the river. Let’s hope it’s a good season.


According to an article in “The Columbia Basin Bulletin”, more than 1 million adult coho salmon are expected along the Oregon coast and Columbia River in 2019. Some 905,600 of those are forecasted to enter the Columbia. 


That’s much higher than the 2018 forecast of 349,000 fish (286,200 of those turned into the Columbia) and far more than the disappointing actual run last year of 230,700 fish (147,300 into the Columbia). The 10-year average is 416,100 fish.


According to Stuart Ellis of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission and a member of Oregon Technical Advisory Committee -“The increase is due to what we think are some better ocean conditions especially off the Oregon coast and some better jack returns,” he said.


NOAA Fisheries’ Office of Law Enforcement is offering a reward of up to $20,000 for information that leads to a civil penalty or criminal conviction in the shootings of California sea lions in and around West Seattle. More than 12 sea lions have been confirmed shot in Washington’s King and Kitsap counties since September.


Who would have thought that when Steve Godin and several area members of the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) decided to part ways with the CCA and form their own angling group, they would be so successful. But that is the only way to describe the resulting fishing club. 


The Oregon Coast Anglers (OCA) has undertaken numerous local fishing-related projects over the last several years and this year has started a “Conservation Scholarship Fund”  which offers $500 scholarships to students graduating from local high schools in 2019.

The only requirement is that the scholarship recipients plan to pursue their higher education in majors that relate to conservation of the earth’s resources. The Oregon Coast Anglers has endowed the scholarship fund with $3,500 and the high schools that are included in the program include: Bandon; Elkton; Mapleton, Marshfield, North Bend; Reedsport and Siuslaw (Florence).


For more information on the scholarship program, other OCA projects,  or joining the OCA, please call Steve Godin at 541 – 255 -3383.


Pete Heley works parttime at the Stockade Market & Tackle, across from A’ Dock, in Winchester Bay where he is more than happy to swap fishing info with anyone.

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Winchester Bay Lingcod Fishing Improving.

Fishing for lingcod out of Winchester Bay continues to improve – and the proportion of big ones has increased. Pictured below – Toland Anderson holds up a 38# lingcod. – photos courtesy of Bryan Gill and “The Umpqua Angler Guide Service”.

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Lake Havasu’s Giant Redear Sunfish.

5 years after world-record redear sunfish catch, invasive quagga mussels considered a likely contributor to monster sizes of these sunfish at Lake Havasu

PHOENIX — Have the redear sunfish at Lake Havasu really gone quagga crazy?

Have these panfish that really can fill a pan, and are widely regarded as one of the better fish species to eat, found a surplus of invasive quagga mussels to munch?

A mystery remains: Redear sunfish at Havasu have been reaching world record sizes. But why, exactly?

Let’s dive into this piscatory puzzle.

That world-record feeling

On Feb. 16, 2014, Hector Brito caught a 17-inch, 5.78-pound world-record redear sunfish on a dropshot-rigged nightcrawler.

On Feb. 16, 2014, Hector Brito caught a world-record redear sunfish from Lake Havasu.

Five years ago, “panfish” took on a new meaning.

We’re at the time of year when Lake Havasu tacked its world-record pin on the fishing map. On Feb. 16, 2014, Hector Brito caught a 17-inch, 5.78-pound world-record redear sunfish on a dropshot-rigged nightcrawler.

“I didn’t expect the record to last this long,” Brito said. “It’s amazing.”

This 45-mile fishing wonderland created by the Colorado River on the western-most strip of Arizona, adorned like a leather belt by the regal London Bridge, allows an angler to fish from the beach on the Arizona side and see the California mountains on the other. Some of those anglers said they witnessed a dramatic increase in the sizes of redear sunfish from 2009-2014 that — coincidence or not — occurred after invasive quagga mussels were first discovered in 2007 at Havasu. 

In 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) did a study about the effects of redear and bluegill on quagga populations and found these sunfish do consume quaggas. Even more, the redear reduced quagga numbers by as much as 25 percent. The experiments of the study were conducted in field enclosures of Lake Havasu, as well as in the BOR’s Boulder City, Nev. Fish Lab. See the updated report.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department can’t verify that redear sunfish, also known as “shellcrackers” because of their pharyngeal teeth (throat teeth) that allow them to crush crustaceans such as snails, are reaching unprecedented sizes due solely to quaggas as an additional food source. Other biological factors include Havasu’s food base of grass shrimp and redswamp crawdads.

Regardless, Havasu is home to some of the biggest shellcrackers on the globe.

Fish chatter: redear sunfish are “quagga crazy”

Doug Adams, a former Lake Havasu City-based fisheries biologist for the Bureau of Land Management, said he also knows that redear sunfish eat quagga mussels. At the same time, he said that in 2005 —  2 years before quagga mussels were discovered in Lake Havasu – an electroshocking of 75 sites produced redear sunfish that averaged more than 2 pounds.

“From one standpoint, there wasn’t much fishing pressure until they started catching these bigger (redear),” Adams said. “Quagga could be a good contributor to their sizes. So it’s kind of a mystery.”

A mystery it might remain.

  • Robert Lawler of Lake Havasu City with what was a potential world-record, 5-pound, 7-ounce redear sunfish caught in 2011 from Havasu.
  • Brito’s world-record 5.78-pound redear sunfish from 2014.
  • A pair of big redear sunfish captured during AZGFD’s November, 2018 survey at Lake Havasu.
  • Ashley’s monster redear sunfish caught during April of 2017 reportedly weighed 5.02 pounds and measured 16 1/2 inches.
  • During AZGFD’s fall, 2016 Havasu survey, the biggest redear sunfish captured (left) was 2.5 pounds.

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Still, some Arizona anglers have etched their conclusion: The increasingly larger sizes of redear is a quagga-based phenomenon.

For angler Mike Taylor of Phoenix, it’s simple:

They don’t call them ‘shellcracker’ for nothing,” he said. “No quagga, then lots of quagga. Regular redears, then big redears after quagga show up … coincidence? Maybe, but I’d say increased food source equals bigger fish.

In an email to the Arizona Game and Fish Department, an anonymous angler said he has been fishing extensively for sunfish in Lake Pleasant and the Colorado River. He wrote:

And I have observed that not only do redears feed on quagga mussels, but bluegill and green sunfish do as well. After holding them in a live well for a short period of time, they will regurgitate bits of broken quagga shells until there is a layer approximately a quarter-inch thick in the bottom of the live well.

And finally, some thoughts from Brito, the record holder:

They eat a lot of quagga mussels. Everytime I fish for them, I search their stomachs and always find shells of quagga mussels.

Redear sunfishing techniques

A new world record remains possible.

“I’m sure there’s a 7-pounder out there somewhere,” said John Galbraith, owner of Bass Tackle Master in Lake Havasu. 

Perhaps surprising to some, AZGFD has not received a report of a redear that’s come close to challenging the record. Brito said that since his world record, he’s caught some big ones: a 2- and 3-pound redear this year and one last year that weighed nearly 4 pounds.

Are you up for a shell-cracking quest?

Here’s some redear sunfishing tips:

  • Use the right rig: One of the most popular techniques for catching redear sunfish is using a dropshot rig with a nightcrawler — the same technique Brito used when catching his world record. Brito said he caught the record by the chalk cliffs, and the rig included a No. 8 gold Aberdeen hook.
  • Show a natural presentation: Others use worms on the bottom, without a weight or bobber, and allow the bait to lie motionless.
  • Expect a light bite: Redear bite gently and seem to reject baits that offer resistance such as lead weights. Sometimes, redear will simply move the bait a foot or so like an unsettled shopper.
  • Depth and habitat: At Havasu, when redear are not in shallow water during their typical May/June spawn, they can generally be found in 22-30 feet of water. Redear prefer vegetated areas with submerged stumps and brush with little or no flowing water.
  • Record fish are loners: The world record-size redears seem to break away from the schools of smaller fish. “They’re more solitary fish,” Galbraith said. “You don’t see 1-pounders with a 5-pound fish.”

Back on the dinner table, redear are widely considered excellent eating. Their diet consists of hard-shelled organisms like clams or snails, as well as insect larvae, planktonic crustaceans and other invertebrates.

Quagga mussels: an aquatic invasive species

Stocking redear as a featured sport fish in some locations is a possibility. 

Yet it’s unlikely the Arizona Game and Fish Department would stock redear sunfish with the sole purpose of reducing populations of the quaggas, which also have affected Lake Mead, Lake Mohave, the Lower Colorado River below Lake Havasu to Mexico, the Central Arizona Project canal, Lake Powell, Lake Pleasant, Canyon Lake, Saguaro Lake, and Red Mountain Lake.

Quagga mussels are a poor food source for most other fish species, and drastically reduce food availability for aquatic organisms. This results in smaller catch sizes of other sportfish and native fish species. Quagga mussels may also contribute to increasing occurrences of toxic algae blooms, which can affect both humans and wildlife.

Quaggas colonize rapidly on hard surfaces and can ruin boat motors and clog water intake structures such as pipes and screens, thereby impacting pumping capabilities for power and water treatment plants.

A 2016 U.S. Bureau of Reclamation report looked at costs related to quagga mussel management on the Hoover, Parker and Davis dams along the Lower Colorado River and found more than $6 million of additional funds were spent through 2016 with an estimated $17 million of ongoing maintenance through 2020.

This results in high water and power bills for consumers.

No mystery: Havasu a fishing destination

When it comes to the smallmouth bass, largemouth bass and redear sunfish, the fishing is at its historic best. The lake continues to be ranked as one of the top places to fish for bass in the country: in 2018, Bassmaster Magazine ranked Havasu as the No. 7 best bass lake in the Western U.S.

Redear sunfish isn’t the only species thriving at Havasu. Largemouth and smallmouth bass are also swimming in luxury. Already in 2019, the average winning daily 5-fish bag weight has been around 21 pounds. Most bass-tournament anglers consider average bags weighing more than 20 pounds impressive.

Striped bass fishing also appears to be on the rise. The single-day record for the total weight of striper was set during the annual Lake Havasu Striper Derby during May of 2018: eight stripers totaled 110 pounds, a new one-day record at the 37-year-old tournament.

Robert McCulloch Sr., founder of Lake Havasu City, would probably have been proud.

At the Lake Havasu City Visitor’s Center, history exits in a binder of newspaper clippings. One of the articles, coated in a hue of rusty yellow, features a black-and-white photo with a shoreline marked by protruding finger- and T-shapes that jet into Lake Havasu. The photo of old Site 6 dominates the cover of the Lake Havasu City Herald, issued Jan. 4, 1968.

That’s how it looked when Lake Havasu City founder Robert McCulloch Sr. flew overhead. He would end up purchasing a version of the London Bridge to adorn the Havasu Channel of his city. 

McCulloch could hardly have imagined how big the redear sunfish have become – nearly 6 pounds, with potential for more.

The world-record redear caught in February was not even a spawning fish.

Some local anglers believe that a roe-filled spawner will be caught any day. 

So grab a cup of nightcrawlers, maybe a fishing license online, and a sense of wonder.

A new world record could bear your name.

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Pete Heley Outdoors 2 / 13 / 2019.

The first Columbia River spring chinook was caught near Portland on the lower Willamette River on January 29th by Dave Frey.  He was fishing by himself with a red prawn for bait. The springer was a finclipped hatchery fish of 16 pounds.


While Oregon’s first springer each year usually is caught in the Columbia or lower Willamette rivers the first springers taken each year on the southern Oregon coast are typically caught from either the Rogue or Umpqua rivers during the last week in February or the first week in March.


Crabbers wanting to use the crab dock just upriver from the Siuslaw River’s South Jetty, need to be aware that the road is closed for repairs near Beach 5 Day Use Area – which is about a half-mile before the crabbing dock.

Crabbing is definitely slowing down at Charleston and Winchester Bay, but is still somewhat more productive than it is at this time in most years.

 
Kudos to the man who was attacked by a cougar while jogging alone on Colorado’s Horsetooth Mountain. Despite suffering serious, but not life-threatening injuries, the jogger, fit and in his 30’s, was able to subdue the year-old 70 pound cat by choking it to death. The jogger was quickly released from the hospital and has not yet released a public statement.

 
There were no scheduled trout plants for this upcoming week for our area.  Legal rainbows were stocked this week in Alder (566); Cleawox (1,332) and Dune (332). Munsel is the only Florence area stocked this week with larger rainbows and received 500 15-inch trophy rainbows.


Cold air and the resulting lower water temperatures will probably dampen the trout bite for the next few weeks, but with the number of trout planted so far in February in the Florence area (more than 10,000), when the water begins warming up, the bite should be very, very good. 


The stocking of the Coos County lakes will begin during the last week in February with Bradley Lake (3,000 legals); Saunders Lake (3,000 legals) and Mingus Park Pond (2,000 legals).


Anglers fishing Eel Lake this winter have been catching fair numbers of small coho salmon that chose to remain in Eel Lake rather than swim down the Eel Creek outlet on their way to the ocean. Extremely low water in Eel Creek probably had a lot to do with them staying in the lake. These fish have been running eight to 14-inches in length and many anglers have been keeping them. When I asked Mike Gray, an ODFW biologist stationed in Charleston (who seems to have memorized the fishing regulation booklet) about these fish, he quickly pointed out to me that these fish were not legal to keep – for a couple of reasons.
(1) – They were not finclipped and Eel Lake was not mentioned under exceptions to the southwest zone and (2) – They didn’t measure 15 or more inches in length, and once again, were not mentioned under zone exceptions. 


Young coho planted in Cooper Creek and Galesville reservoirs are legal to keep and are to be considered part of the five trout daily bag limit – and both these waters are included in the exceptions section for the southwest zone. 


I found it very interesting that Bill Taylor, a S.T.E.P. volunteer living in Winchester Bay, had a scale sample analyzed from a 13.5-inch Eel Lake coho by an ODFW biologist this winter and that fish was found to have spent some time in saltwater. Perhaps that 13-inch coho I caught on a plasic worm a decade ago during early August on Tenmile Creek near where Eel Creek enters – wasn’t as unusual as I though it was.


Northern California’s Clear Lake recently held a crappie tournament that was wildly successful. Entrants were allowed to weigh in a maximum of ten crappies – all of which had to measure at least 12-inches in length. The tournament had a full field of 50 boats and the tournament winner weighed in ten crappie weighing 21.42 pounds – or slightly more than two pounds and two ounces per fish. A very impressive average since the heaviest crappie caught during the tournament only weighed 2.68 pounds.


Local anglers should pay special attention to Saturday, February 23rd as two special events will occur then.

The “Flyfishing Expo” will be held at the Reedsport Community Center at 451 Winchester Avenue in Reedsport from 9 am until 3 pm. 
This is one of the more ambitiouis events put on by a single flyfishing club every year. The event will run from 9:00 am through 3:00 pm and will feature FREE door prizes and raffle drawings.  Meals and snacks will be available and some of the booths will feature fly tying; fly casting; informnational and equipment displays. There are plenty of varied flyfishing-related things to experience and best of all – it’s absolutely FREE!


The other big thing that day will Tenmile Lake’s annual “Frostbite Open” which is one of the northwest’s largest and most popular bass tournaments. This tournament usually fields the maximum 75 boats and the winning weight for a five bass limit usually tops 20 pounds. Recent cold weather and the resulting low water temperatures could severely test the anglers participating in this year’s tournament. However the anglers have passed similar tests during the tournament in previous years. 


People wanting to check out both events should check the Flyfishing Expo first and then check out the Frostbite Open weigh-in which usually occurs around 3 pm  at the  boat ramp in the Osprey Point RV Park in Lakeside.


Oregon recently lost one of its most accomplished outdoor writers with the passing of Dwight Schuh at age 73 after an eight year battle with cancer.

Dwight was born in Corvallis, but was living in the Klamath Falls area when he began his outdoor writing career.
Back then, I had a weekly outdoor column in the Klamath Falls Herald and News despite not living in the area and had the pleasure of a half-day visit from Dwight and his wife Laura at my home in Gresham. 

During the visit, I picked Dwight’s brain on overlooked Klamath-area fisheries including the bullhead catfish fishery on the east side of Highway 97 opposite Upper Klamath Lake that usually occurs in late February or early March when the shallow waters become noticeably warmer than the water in the big lake.


What really sticks out about our one-time meeting was how polite Dwight and Laura were and how carefully they chose their words when speaking. Dwight, soon after, started specializing in hunting articles and then in bowhunting articles. He became the editor of “Bowhunting Magazine” when the magazine’s founder decided to retire and picked Dwight to replace him. Dwight was the magazine’s editor for 15 years until his retirement in 2011. Judging from the number of online comments regarding his passing, he is, and will be, greatly missed.

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