Monthly Archives: March 2016

Pete Heley Outdoors 3 / 23 / 2016

A Friday trip to Loon Lake didn’t turn up any pre-spawn crappies and also revealed that the lake’s largemouths had not yet started to relate to shoreline structure in significant numbers. There was little evidence of the lake’s recently planted rainbows, but then I am not sure how much evidence I should expect from a plant that works out to about five trout per acre. There were undoubtedly plenty of trout still left from the previous week’s plant of 2,000 trout (about seven trout per acre) – but they managed to be “scarce” as well.

Two days later, a bass tournament at Siltcoos Lake showed great bassfishing success with every tournament entrant weighing in bass with three of the bass caught during the tournament being in the seven to eight pound class. The top five teams all weighed in at least 18 pounds of bass.

As usual, the tournament entrants were close-mouthed about what produced for them, but several of them used dark-colored jigs to catch their fish.

While the extended weather forecast indicates that cold water baits such as spinnerbaits and jigs might be the way to go for the forseeable future, we shouldn’t have to wait too long before such immediate pre-spawn baits as plastic worms and soft plastic jerk baits become more productive. During the past week, surface water temperatures in degrees have consistently been in the low 50’s. It’s going to be a while before the surface and shoreline water temps reach the 60 degree temperatures that seem to mark the start of the pre-spawn fishery.

Nevada’s Pyramid Lake continues to pump out 15 to 20 pound Lahontan cutthroats almost daily, while a number of waters in northern and central California are kicking out 15 pound channel cats and ten pound Florida-strain largemouths, but the state’s star catch was another 50+ pound landlocked striped bass from Millerton Reservoir. This striper weighed 58 pounds and bit a live six-inch long minnow – a bait that is not legal to use in Oregon.

Striped surfperch continue to dominate the catches of anglers fishing off Winchester Bay’s South Jetty, while an evening rockfish bite does the same for anglers fishing out of kayaks and pontoon boats in the Triangle. Spawning lingcod should be available for jetty anglers, although the best week last year for them occurred in April.

A muddy Umpqua River has put the spring Chinook fishery on hold, but salmon have been caught recently all the way up to below Winchester Dam on the North Umpqua. Since no spring Chinooks have yet been entered into the Wells Creek Inn’s annual contest, doing so would give that first entrant a quick lead.

Lake Marie was stocked with 2,000 rainbows late last week – which works out to about 300 trout per acre. Florence-area lakes that were stocked last week include: Alder Lake (500 legals, 100 12-inchers and 36 16-inchers; Buck and Dune lakes (each with 850 legals, 100 12-inchers and 36 16-inchers); Carter Lake (2,500 legals); Cleawox Lake (3,000 legals and 150 16-inchers); Elbow Lake (200 12-inchers); Erhart Lake (200 legals and 36 16-inchers); Georgia and North Georgia (each with 150 legals); Mercer Lake (1,500 12-inchers); Munsel Lake (2,250 legals and 150 16-inchers); Perkins Lake (250 legals); Siltcoos Lagoon (850 legals, 450 12-inchers and 106 16-inchers); Siltcoos Lake (1,000 12-inchers) and Woahink Lake (1,000 12-inchers).

In Coos County, both Upper and Lower Empire lakes were stocked with 3,000 legal rainbows last week.

According to information on the ODFW website dated March 7th, there are no advisories or regulations against the taking of bay clams, mussels or crabs for the entire Oregon coast, however the taking of razor clams south of Tillamook Head is still not allowed.

Deacon rockfish are a newly identified rockfish species that formerly was considered a variety of blue rockfish and in 2016 they are considered to be part of the three blue rockfish limit. Cabezon are currently closed to retention and will be through June when one cabezon 16-inches long or longer will be legal to keep.

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ODFW Commission Briefed On Wolf Plan Review, Columbia River Harvest Reform And Proposed New Wildlife Holding Rules.

Commission met today in Salem for a briefing on the 2015 Annual Wolf Report and to hear from panelists about the five-year review of the Wolf Conservation and Management Plan. The panelists were selected from organizations that have been actively engaged in Oregon wolf management over the last 10 years—Cascadia Wildlands, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Oregon Wild, Oregon Cattleman’s Association, Oregon Farm Bureau, Oregon Hunters Association and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

Panelists discussed some of their concerns about the current Wolf Plan and changes they would ask for during the review process. Commissioner Buckmaster noted the strong positions on both sides and asked groups to go into the process in the spirt of compromise. “I want to see a revised plan that has the same elements of reasonableness and achievability as the current plan and that we can rest our hats on,” he said. “Go in with an open mind.”

The Commission also heard an update on research, evaluation and implementation of the Columbia River non-tribal fishery reform policy. This is the third year of a four-year transition period for management of fisheries in the mainstem Columbia River. Panelists from Salmon for All, Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, Northwest Steelheaders, Northwest Guides and Anglers and Coastal Conservation Association then participated in a panel discussion about the transition period.

The Commission requested that agency staff try to provide additional information prior to the comprehensive evaluation of the full transition period scheduled for the end of the year.

The Commission was briefed on proposed changes to the Division 44 Protected Wildlife, Holding and Propagation Rules which were developed to protect Oregon’s wildlife and regulate the holding of amphibians, reptiles and other non-game wildlife. They also heard testimony from a number of people who would be affected by the new rules. To allow plenty of time for public input, the Commission will not take any action on the rules until June 9-10 meeting in Salem.

Currently, there are no regulations for the holding of many native species of wildlife that are not hunted or trapped (e.g. non-game), threatened and endangered or held under other permits. The proposed new rules would allow the collection and holding, with no permit required, of up to two individual frogs, snakes, turtles, salamanders, lizards and small mammals from species that are abundant and widely distributed. For example, two Pacific Tree frogs (juvenile, adult or eggs/larval stages) could be collected and kept in an appropriate cage or aquarium.

Once caged, the animal(s) would need to be held for its natural lifetime and not released back to the wild. Unwanted animals could also be turned over to an ODFW office. Animals cannot be released back to the wild due to the risk of introducing disease and other problems that can occur for the released animal and for wild populations.

Several Oregonians currently hold legally acquired bears, cougars, wolves, and bobcats, imported from captive animal breeders. These individuals would be grandfathered in to the new rules but would need a Wildlife Holding Permit ($25/year and already required for all species but skunk) and to maintain minimum care and caging standards outlined in the new rules. New acquisitions or permits for these species would require that the animals be held in a facility accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). The Commission asked that ODFW staff explore other options minimizing regulation of domestic skunks.

In other business, the Commission:

Was briefed on planning for the 2016 ocean salmon seasons which begin May 1.
Adopted an amendment to administrative rules for fish and wildlife habitat, which makes a temporary rule permanent for mitigating impacts from development actions in sage-grouse habitat (Division 415 section 0025).
Approved funding for Access and Habitat projects to improve wildlife habitat and hunting access in the state.
Modified rules for the commercial sea urchin fishery which reduce the number of permits to 12 before the lottery and prohibit enriched air diving in order to maintain current harvest levels.
The Commission is the fish and wildlife policy-making body in Oregon. Its next meeting is April 22 in Bandon.

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Loon Lake Fishing Report

I fished Loon Lake for four hours last Friday and found the fishing very tough. The lake was somewhat muddy, but fishable. My fishing partner opted for using spinnerbait-type lures, so I decided to use soft plastic baits in an effort to cover a wider swath than we would by both of us using the same lure.

I had a very tough day – getting only one hit – from a very optimistic recently stocked nine inch rainbow trout that took a liking to the seven inch jerkworm I was using at the time.

The bass were definitely not biting, so I switched to my ultralight rod and tried to find some crappie. I figured that if I could find them I could get them to bite, but the two areas of the lake that I know they spawn did not seem to have any crappies. Loon Lake’s bluegills don’t seem to bite until May, so I didn’t spend any time pursuing them. The crappies usually spawn in April, so I was disappointed that I didn’t find any “early birds” near their spawning areas.

Dwayne Schwartz, who I was fishing with, also had a tough day, but did get a 13-inch largemouth about halfway through the trip. However, just as Dwayne was concluding his trip, he hooked and landed a beautiful largemouth.

Perhaps, in a subconcious effort to un-elate him, I handed him my scale which was set on kilograms. Dwayne refused to accept the 1.85 reading and switched to the pounds and ounces setting. The 4.1 pound reading allowed Dwayne to keep a smile on his face as he released the bass.

It appears that Loon’s peak bass and crappie fishing is at least a month away especially for anglers wanting to fish soft plastic baits.

Dwayn's best largemouth bit right before he hauled his boat out.

Dwayn’s best largemouth bit right before he hauled his boat out.

A closer look at Dwayne's 1.85 kilogram, 4.1 pound Loon Lake largemouth.

A closer look at Dwayne’s 1.85 kilogram, 4.1 pound Loon Lake largemouth.

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Recreational Dungeness Crab Fishery Open South of Sonoma/Mendocino County Line, Commercial Fishery to Open in Seven Days.

Closure of the recreational Dungeness crab fishery south of the Mendocino/Sonoma county line has been lifted, and opening of the commercial Dungeness crab fishery – delayed since November – is set for March 26 in the same region.

Recent test results show that domoic acid levels in crabs off the California coast south of the Mendocino/Sonoma county line no longer pose a significant human health risk, according to notice given today to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the Fish and Game Commission (Commission) by the director of the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), after consultation with the Director of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).

As a result, the director of OEHHA recommends opening the Dungeness crab fishery in this area. Under emergency closure regulations, CDFW will provide commercial Dungeness crab fishermen at least seven days’ notice before the re-opening of the commercial fishery south of the Mendocino/Sonoma county line, and so that fishery will open at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, March 26. The presoak period, during which commercial fishermen may begin getting gear in place, starts at 6:01 a.m. Friday, March 25.

Closures remain in place north of the Mendocino/Sonoma county line for the Dungeness crab commercial and recreational fisheries. The commercial and recreational rock crab fisheries are closed north of Piedras Blancas Light Station near San Simeon, and in state waters around San Miguel, Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz islands.

The unusually high domoic acid levels off the coast this fall and winter wrecked a Dungeness crab fishery worth as much as $90 million a year to California’s economy. Domoic acid is a potent neurotoxin that can accumulate in shellfish, other invertebrates and sometimes fish. At low levels, domoic acid exposure can cause nausea, diarrhea and dizziness in humans. At higher levels, it can cause persistent short-term memory loss, seizures and may be fatal.

“This has been a very difficult season for hardworking Californians who have suffered significant financial hardship due to this natural disaster,” said Charlton H. Bonham, Director of CDFW. “We thank the affected communities for their patience and fortitude as we have worked with our partners at CDPH and OEHHA to open a portion of the commercial fishery along a traditional management boundary as recommended by the industry.”

Both the commercial and recreational Dungeness crab seasons are scheduled to end June 30 in the newly opened area, although the CDFW director has authority to extend the commercial season.

In February, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker seeking federal declarations of a fishery disaster and a commercial fishery failure in response to the continued presence of unsafe levels of domoic acid and the corresponding closures of rock crab and Dungeness crab fisheries across California. Should a federal determination be made to declare a disaster and failure, the state and federal agencies will work together to determine the full economic impact of the disaster and, upon appropriation of funds from Congress, provide economic relief to affected crabbers and related businesses.

Despite several weeks of test results that showed crab body meat samples below alert levels, one sample of viscera was slightly above the alert level. Because of this, CDPH and OEHHA strongly recommend that anglers and consumers not eat the viscera (internal organs, also known as “butter” or “guts”) of crabs. CDPH and OEHHA are also recommending that water or broth used to cook whole crabs be discarded and not used to prepare dishes such as sauces, broths, soups or stews. The viscera usually contain much higher levels of domoic acid than crab body meat. When whole crabs are cooked in liquid, domoic acid may leach from the viscera into the cooking liquid. This is being recommended to avoid harm in the event that some crabs taken from an open fishery have elevated levels of domoic acid.

With the partial opening of the commercial fishery in the state, CDFW recommends that all people fishing for crab refer to the Best Practices Guide, a resource providing tips on how to use crab trap gear in a manner that reduces incidences of whale entanglements. This guide was produced collaboratively between commercial crabbers, agency staff and staff from non-profit organizations during two meetings of the Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group that took place late last year.

Pursuant to the emergency regulations adopted by the Commission and CDFW on November 5 and 6, 2015, respectively, the current open and closed areas are as follows:

Areas open to crab fishing include:

Recreational Dungeness crab fishery along mainland coast south of Sonoma/Mendocino county line – 38° 46.1’ N Latitude, near Gualala, Mendocino County
On March 26, 2016 Commercial Dungeness crab fishery along mainland coast south of Sonoma/Mendocino county line – 38° 46.1’ N Latitude, near Gualala, Mendocino County
Commercial and recreational rock crab fishery along the mainland coast south of 35° 40′ N Latitude (Piedras Blancas Light Station, San Luis Obispo County)
Areas closed to crab fishing include:

Recreational Dungeness crab fishery north of Sonoma/Mendocino county line – 38° 46.1’ N Latitude, near Gualala, Mendocino County
Commercial Dungeness crab fishery north of Sonoma/Mendocino county line – 38° 46.1’ N Latitude, near Gualala, Mendocino County
Commercial and recreational rock crab fisheries north of 35° 40′ N Latitude (Piedras Blancas Light Station)
Commercial and recreational rock crab fisheries in state waters around San Miguel, Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz Islands.
CDFW will continue to closely coordinate with CDPH, OEHHA and fisheries representatives to extensively monitor domoic acid levels in Dungeness and rock crabs to determine when the fisheries can safely be opened throughout the state.

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WDFW News – Last Steelhead Gene Bank Site Chosen For Lower Columbia River.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will no longer release hatchery-reared steelhead in the Grays River to help preserve the wild steelhead population near the mouth of the Columbia River.

The Chinook River, which flows into the Columbia 15 miles farther downstream, will also be off-limits to the release of hatchery steelhead now that WDFW has designated the Grays/Chinook wild steelhead population the state’s newest wild fish gene bank.

That designation, announced today, is part of a statewide policy to protect self-sustaining populations of wild steelhead by reducing the risk to them posed by hatchery fish, said Cindy Le Fleur, WDFW regional fish manager.

“This is the last of four gene banks currently planned for wild steelhead in the lower Columbia River Basin,” Le Fleur said. “The department remains committed to producing hatchery fish for harvest, but we also need to protect wild steelhead against interbreeding, disease, and competition from hatchery fish.”

Since 2014, the department has also established wild steelhead gene banks on the East Fork Lewis River, the North Fork Toutle/Green River, and the Wind River.

WDFW first identified wild steelhead gene banks as a recovery strategy in the Statewide Steelhead Management Plan, adopted by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission in 2008.

Le Fleur said WDFW’s final decision to site a gene bank near the mouth of the Columbia River came down to a choice between the Grays/Chinook rivers, or an area including Mill, Abernathy and Germany creeks.

In 2015, a 16-member citizen work group advised against siting a gene bank on the Elochoman and Skamokawa rivers, but did not reach a consensus on a final option. However, about 85 percent of the comments later received from the public supported the Grays/Chinook option, Le Fleur said.

“Those rivers have a number of advantages over the three streams, including a higher abundance of wild steelhead and more spawning habitat,” she said.

In recent years, WDFW has raised an average of 140,000 winter steelhead smolts at the Grays River Hatchery from broodstock collected at Beaver Creek on the Elochoman River. About 40,000 of those smolts were released into the Grays River, while the rest were transported to the Elochoman and Coweeman rivers for release.

This year, however, the number of steelhead smolts raised at the Grays River Hatchery was severely reduced by the effects of last summer’s drought. Le Fleur said 130,000 juvenile steelhead died last July as a result of high water temperatures, low water levels and Ichthyophthirus, the deadly fish disease known as “ich.”

In mid-March, the 10,000 smolts that survived will be transported to the Elochoman River, where they will be acclimated then released in mid-April, Le Fleur said.

“Survival rates at some other hatcheries in the region were actually higher than expected, which help to offset the losses at Grays River,” she said. “Even so, total production for the area is about 80 percent of the goal, and we plan to reduce our releases by an average of 20 percent at six sites this spring.”

Those sites include the Washougal, Elochoman, Coweeman and Kalama rivers, as well as Salmon Creek and Rock Creek.

Despite the gene bank designation, hatchery managers plan to continue producing 140,000 winter steelhead smolts per year at the Grays River Hatchery or at the Beaver Creek facility. WDFW will also continue to produce coho and chum salmon at Grays River.

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Pete Heley Outdoors 3 / 16 / 2016

It was a heavy blow to one of the major reasons that I am proud to be an Oregonian. But last week Oregon became the first state to be fined by federal regulators for failing to properly address coastal pollution from various sources such as agriculture and logging when the state’s plan to deal with such pollution was found to be inadequate. The Oregon Board of Foresty began crafting the rules for the required plan last year, but the proposed bill did not reach the floor of the Oregon Senate.

There was a surprising amount of commentary on one of the northwest’s leading online fishing sites last week regarding fishermen clipping the adipose fins of wild steelhead in the hopes that the fish would return in a few years and be caught by the offending angler, or one of his friends and be a keepable steelhead with a completely healed scar where its adipose fin used to be.

The absurdity of this line of thinking boggles the mind. Not every steelhead is able to return to the ocean after spawning. Even fewer manage to survive long enough to spawn again – especially if they are physically impaired and need some of their physical reserves to be able to return to and survive in the ocean.

The odds of the offending angler, or anglers of actually catching the returning steelhead are akin to winning the lottery – and there is always the possibility of the ODFW deciding to address the problem by making all of a river’s steelhead off limits for retention. Let’s hope this illegal tactic ceases – and right now.

Don’t count on the states of Oregon and Washington following suit, because they frown on unnecessary handling of fish in general and sturgeon in particular, but Idaho has recently set two state records for catch and release white sturgeon.

On Feb. 6th, an 80-inch white sturgeon from the Snake River became Idaho’s first catch and release state record for white sturgeon. Then, less than a month later, on March 3rd, an 83-inch fish, also from the Snake River, replaced that record.

Many of western Oregon’s avid anglers are now aware of the relatively strong smallmouth bass fishery in the Coquille River, but most of them don’t realize that the fishery extends all the way up into the first few miles of the South Fork Coquille. Other developing smallmouth fisheries include Woahink Lake Which now has good numbers of smallmouths – but very few smallies weighing more than a pound. Eel Lake’s smallies, while pretty much an incidental fishery, seems to have some larger fish. A few smallmouths measuring more than 18-inches were caught last year. Dorena Reservoir, especially near the dam, seems to have a growing population of smallmouth bass with fish to four pounds taken last year. Smallmouth bass to nearly two pounds were reported last summer in New River, a shallow lagoon-like waterway connected to Floras Creek, the outlet to Floras Lake.

Spring Chinook catches were reported last week upriver as far as the North Umpqua-South Umpqua confluence. It’s still early in the season and fishing is expected to improve with a decease in rainfall and clearing water. Salmon to 40+ pounds have already been caught. Two weeks ago, a spinner flinger landed a Spring Chinook at Half Moon Bay in Winchester Bay. The ocean season for Chinook salmon measuring at least 24-inches in length opened March 15th with little fanfare.

There should be uncaught planted trout in virtually all of our area’s fishing spots that are stocked. Cold, wet and stormy weather has done a good job of keeping fishing pressure low.

Pre-spawn crappie should be biting with the arrival of more stable weather. Our area’s best crappie fisheries include Loon Lake, Ben Irving Reservoir(near Winston) and Cooper Creek Reservoir(in Sutherlin). Local waters that give up rare or incidental crappie catches include: Beale Lake; Butterfield Lake; Cleawox Lake; Eel Lake; Empire Lakes; Saunders Lake; Siltcoos Lagoon; Siltcoos Lake; Sutton Lake; Tahkenitch Lake; Tenmile Lakes; Triangle Lake and Woahink Lake.

Fern Ridge is the best known crappie producer in the Eugene area, but Fall Creek Reservoir, Cottage Grove Reservoir, Dorena Reservoir and Lookout Point Reservoir have all produced crappies weighing more than three pounds.

Tidegates on tidal areas of the Coquille River often harbor crappies and Fat Elk Slough and Johnson Mill Pond also have crappie fisheries.

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New Record Burbot Caught In Ontario

On March 5th, 18 year old Landan Brochu pulled a 37-inch long burbot from Jessie Lake near Nipigon, Ontario. The jumbo burbot had a girth of 23-inches and weighed 16.8 pounds – replacing the former Ontario record burbot, also from Jessie Lake, which measured 36.5-inches and weighed 15.8 pounds

Landan's giant burbot tops the former Ontario record, but falls short of the world record of 25 lbs 3 ounces from Saskatchewan's  Lake Diefenbaker.

Landan’s giant burbot tops the former Ontario record, but falls short of the world record of 25 lbs 3 ounces from Saskatchewan’s Lake Diefenbaker.

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Anglers Urged to Return Overdue 2015 Sturgeon Fishing Report Cards.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is reminding sturgeon anglers to return their 2015 Sturgeon Fishing Report Cards as required by law. Although the deadline to report their catch was Jan. 31, so far only about 13,000 (or 27 percent) of the 48,338 report cards sold have been returned. The sport fishing regulations require that all sturgeon anglers return their report cards, even those who did not encounter sturgeon and who did not fish for white sturgeon.

Without the data gleaned from the roughly 35,000 late report cards, CDFW’s scientific understanding of the white sturgeon and green sturgeon populations is incomplete. This makes it harder for scientists to assess the white sturgeon population and to document accidental catch of the threatened green sturgeon. Addressing the uncertainty could mean new harvest restrictions and certainly means more expense.

“Anglers who return their report cards are providing very good data that is otherwise unavailable. They are also helping to protect the white sturgeon fishery and rebuild both sturgeon populations,” said Marty Gingras, CDFW Sturgeon Program Manager. “Anglers who do not return report cards — especially the many thousands of avid sturgeon anglers — are complicating those efforts. We’re asking anglers to send the information to us now, even though the deadline has passed.”

Anglers can return the overdue report cards by mail to the address printed on the card or — until April 1 — use the CDFW website at www.wildlife.ca.gov/licensing/fishing#758846-harvest-reporting.

In continuing efforts to both encourage anglers to return their 2015 Sturgeon Fishing Report Cards as required by law and to understand more about the missing data, CDFW used the Automated License Data System and a scientific phone survey to contact more than 6,000 avid sturgeon anglers during the last few months. The phone survey showed that many avid sturgeon anglers are choosing not to (rather than forgetting to) return their report cards and that substantial catch data is being withheld. Both reasons were previously considered plausible but had never before been quantified.

White sturgeon and green sturgeon are anadromous, meaning they move from the salt and brackish water to spawn in freshwater. They are both native California species and can live to be more than 100 years old. California’s sturgeon populations were substantially reduced by commercial fishing in the 19th century and the recreational and commercial sturgeon fisheries were (with minor exceptions) closed from 1901 through 1953. Only recreational fishing for sturgeon has been allowed since 1954, and that fishery has become increasingly restricted over time in an effort to rebuild the populations and protect the fishery. Green sturgeon is a threatened species and may not be fished for or harvested.

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WDFW News – Washington Wolf Population Continues To Grow

Washington state’s wolf population continued to grow last year and added at least four new packs, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) annual survey. By the end of 2015, the state was home to at least 90 wolves, 18 packs, and eight breeding pairs.

The recently completed survey shows the minimum number of wolves grew by 32 percent last year, despite the deaths of at least seven wolves from various causes. Since 2008, when WDFW documented just one pack and five wolves, the population has increased by an average of 36 percent per year.

“Wolf populations in Washington are steadily increasing, just as we’ve seen in the upper Midwest and Rocky Mountain states,” said WDFW Director Jim Unsworth. “This increase – and the wolves’ concentration in northeast Washington – underscores the importance of collaboration between our department, livestock producers, and local residents to prevent conflict between wolves and domestic animals.”

Donny Martorello, WDFW wolf policy lead, said the new Beaver Creek, Loup Loup, Skookum, and Stranger packs were confirmed in Ferry, Okanogan, Pend Oreille, and Stevens counties, respectively.

However, researchers found no evidence of the previously documented Wenatchee Pack, and the Diamond Pack shifted its activity to Idaho and is no longer included in Washington state totals.

Martorello said the minimum number of breeding pairs in Washington increased from five to eight – the first increase since 2011.

WDFW conducted the research using aerial surveys, remote cameras, wolf tracks, and signals from 22 radio-collared wolves from 13 different packs. Twelve wolves were fitted with radio collars during the year, while one pup was marked and released without a collar due to its small size.

Despite their growing numbers, wolves were involved in fewer conflicts with livestock than in 2014. Martorello said the department determined wolves from four packs were responsible for killing a total of seven cattle and injuring one guard dog.

Three of the seven wolves that died in 2015 were killed legally by hunters on the reservation of the Spokane Tribe of Indians, which authorized the harvest up to six wolves per year by tribal members. The four other deaths included one wolf killed in a collision with a vehicle, one shot in self-defense by a property owner, and one that died during an attempt to capture it. One wolf’s cause of death is unknown.

Unsworth said WDFW took several steps in 2015 to expand public involvement in wolf conservation and management. He said the most important actions were doubling the size of the department’s Wolf Advisory Group to 18 members, and initiating a “conflict transformation” process to improve working relationships among the members and the groups they represent and the department.

Martorello said WDFW will continue to emphasize the importance of preventive actions to minimize wolf attacks on livestock and domestic animals. For example, WDFW wildlife conflict specialists are available to work with residents of communities where wolves are present.

WDFW has also adopted a “range rider” program to provide an increased human presence in grazing areas. WDFW continues to offer cost-sharing agreements for ranchers through a program designed to help them reduce their expenses for preventive measures.

Gray wolves, all but eliminated from western states in the last century, are protected under Washington law throughout the state and under federal law in the western two-thirds of the state.

Because of the difficulty of confirming the presence of every single wolf, survey results are expressed in terms of the minimum number of individuals, packs, and breeding pairs. The state Wolf Conservation and Management Plan defines a pack as two or more wolves traveling together in winter and a successful breeding pair as an adult male and female with at least two pups that survive to the end of the calendar year.

Under the state management plan, wolves can be removed from the state endangered species list once 15 successful breeding pairs are documented for three consecutive years among the three designated wolf-recovery regions.

WDFW’s complete wolf survey for 2015 will be available by the end of March on the department’s website: (http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/gray_wolf/).

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New Idaho Record Yellow Perch A Real Chunk.

Idaho's new state record yellow perch was only 15.63-inches long, but had a girth of 13.25-inches and weighed 2.96 pounds.

Idaho’s new state record yellow perch was only 15.63-inches long, but had a girth of 13.25-inches and weighed 2.96 pounds.

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