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Ducks, Geese Looking Good In DU’s 2017 Forecast

Waterfowl stop to rest during winter migration. Photo by Debra Hamilton/CDFW

If Ducks Unlimited’s annual waterfowl forecast is an indication, there should be no shortage of birds in the Pacific Flyway.

Here’s what DU had to say about the Pacific Flyway:

The Pacific Flyway receives most of its waterfowl from the western United States and Canada, with the majority of ducks and geese coming from Alberta, British Columbia, the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, Alaska, and other western states. In southern Alberta, an estimated 6.4 million breeding ducks were surveyed this spring—a 28 percent increase from the 2016 estimate and 49 percent above the long-term average.

“The breeding season started with average to above-average spring runoff and cool, wet conditions that may have delayed early breeding efforts,” reports Ian McFarlane, a biologist with DU Canada. “Summer precipitation was near normal in the south, but temperatures have been high, which has decreased water levels. However, semipermanent wetlands remain full in the aspen parkland and Boreal transition zone. There was a good late hatch and numerous large broods have been reported by our field staff.” …

In the United States, above-average precipitation improved wetland conditions across much of the West following several years of severe drought. In California, improved production of mallardsgadwalls, and cinnamon teal was expected following one of the wettest winters on record. In Oregon, breeding duck numbers were similar to last year’s estimate and the long-term average, while in Washington, total ducks were up dramatically compared to both last year’s estimate and the long-term average.

The outlook is good for Pacific Flyway goose populations. Weather and habitat conditions were generally favorable for breeding geese in Alaska, and large fall populations of cacklingRoss’slesser snow, and white-fronted geese are expected. Surveys indicate that Pacific brant numbers were similar to last year’s estimates and the 10-year average. 

Most waterfowl seasons in California get going in October.

Interior Sec. Zinke Asks Government Agencies To Find New Fishing, Hunting Access

From our Northwest Sportsman editor Andy Walgamott:

Federal land managers are being directed to figure out how to provide more fishing and hunting access under a directive signed by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke today, a move lauded by sportsmen’s groups.

It follows on troubling news earlier this week that participation in hunting dropped by 2.2 million between 2011 and 2016, but could help open more lands, so key to the opportunities we enjoy.

MANAGERS OF NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGES, BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT GROUND AND THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE ARE BEING ASKED HOW TO INCREASE HUNTING AND FISHING ACCESS UNDER AN ORDER FROM DEPARTMENT OF INTERIOR SECRETARY RYAN ZINKE. THAT PROCESS HAS BEEN ONGOING AT PLACES LIKE TURNBULL NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, WHERE SPECIAL HUNTS FOR AN INCREASING ELK HERD HAVE BEEN HELD, BUT ZINKE’S ORDER COULD OPEN EVEN MORE OPPORTUNITY. (TURNBULL NWR)

“The more people we can get outdoors, the better things will be for our public lands,” said Zinke in a press release. “As someone who grew up hunting and fishing on our public lands – packing bologna sandwiches and heading out at 4 a.m. with my dad – I know how important it is to expand access to public lands for future generations. Some of my best memories are hunting deer or reeling in rainbow trout back home in Montana, and I think every American should be able to have that experience.”

His order calls for:

  • The Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service to come up with plans within four months for expanding access to hunting and fishing on their lands;
  • Amend management plans for national monuments to specifically ensure hunting and fishing on them;
  • Identify federal lands where those activities are limited;
  • Expand outreach to underserved communities;
  • Develop a “one-stop” website outlining sporting opportunities on all Department of Interior lands;
  • And improve wildlife management collaboration with states, tribes, conservation groups and others.

Ducks Unlimited was supportive, particularly the part of Zinke’s order calling for “significantly” increasing waterfowl populations through habitat projects, as well as more hunting opportunities.

“Wetlands are not only a valuable resource for our nation’s waterfowl, but they also benefit more than 900 other species of wildlife,” noted Dale Hall, DU CEO, in a press release. “Investments in the conservation of wildlife habitats, like wetlands, are vital in preserving, protecting and advancing our nation’s long hunting and angling heritage. At the end of the day, it’s all about ensuring that all Americans and those generations to come, have access to the wildlife and wild places that we enjoy today.”

In recent years, USFWS has gradually been increasing waterfowl, big game and fishing opportunities on Northwest refuges and those across the country.

Land Tawney of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers said his organization looked forward to working with Zinke and Interior.

“Our hunting and fishing traditions rely on both conservation and access, with insufficient access being the No. 1 reason cited by sportsmen for forgoing time afield,” Tawney said in a press release. “The importance of Secretary Zinke’s commitment to sustaining and expanding public access opportunities to the outdoors, therefore, cannot be overstated.”

Others supporting the move included the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation as well as National Rifle Association.

“For too long, sportsmen’s access to our federal lands has been restricted, with lost opportunity replacing the ability to enjoy many of our best outdoor spaces. This extension to Secretarial Order 3356 will go a long way to reversing that trend and help grow the next generation of hunters, fishermen, and recreational shooters,” added Alaska Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, in a press release. “I appreciate this new order and am committed to working with Secretary Zinke and my colleagues to do everything we can to expand and enhance access to our federal lands for all Alaskans, and all Americans, so that we can continue our rich sportsmen’s heritage.”

Dismal Numbers For Winter-Run Chinook

CDFW photo by Harry Morse

In this episode of depressing salmon news … check out this press release from the Golden Gate Salmon Association: 

San Francisco  — The California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, (CDFW) estimates that only 1,123 adult winter run salmon returned to the Central Valley in 2017, according to a report sent to the Pacific Fisheries Management Council.  This is the second lowest number of returning adult winter run salmon since modern counting techniques were implemented in 2003, undercut only by the 824 that returned in 2011.

In 2014 and 2015, the years these fish were born, state and federal fish agencies reported losses of 95 percent of this and other groups of salmon.  The losses were caused by water management choices by the federal Bureau of Reclamation during the drought which failed to retain enough cold water for release from Lake Shasta for successful spawning. Barely adequate cold water supplies existed early in 2014 and again in 2015 when GGSA and others warned the Bureau of Reclamation of the peril facing winter run salmon.  The warnings fell on deaf ears. Elevated river temperatures killed most of the salmon eggs incubating in the river.

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) defines water temperatures needed by winter run as well as where these temperatures need to apply and for how long.  After the high losses of California’s salmon stocks in 2014 and 2015, NMFS is now moving to strengthen cold water protections for winter run but is meeting resistance.

“If we don’t want extinction on our watch, state and federal leaders need to support stronger protections for salmon in the rivers of the Central Valley where most California salmon come from,” said GGSA executive director John McManus. “The low number of winter run salmon that survived the drought to return this year makes crystal clear the need for NMFS to greatly increase temperature protections for these fish in the upper Sacramento Valley where they reproduce.”

Fishery managers have known since 2014 to expect low numbers of adult salmon in 2017, since most return to spawn at age three. Ocean sport and commercial salmon fishing has been constrained to avoid contact with the few winter run survivors, at a great cost to some harbors.

“The economic damage to our salmon runs and ocean salmon fishery didn’t seem to match the concern federal water managers showed for other competing interests when drought forced hard choices,” said GGSA vice chairman Mike Aughney.  “The damage demonstrates the need for federal fishery managers to do the job they’re paid to do, which is protect the fishery resources many of us rely on.”

Winter run salmon are listed as endangered by the federal and state governments.  The CDFW report says it’s possible a few more may be counted in the next several weeks and a final estimate will be available by early October.

CDFW estimates the majority of this year’s returning winter run (83 percent) were hatchery-origin.  Hatchery origin winter run born in 2014 were given adequate cold water for egg hatching and rearing in the controlled hatchery environment while their natural origin cousins were being killed off in the river.  Knowing that conditions in the river would likely turn lethal, hatchery managers produced more salmon in 2014 than usual.

“The federal water managers who refused to reserve the cold water needed by salmon in 2014 would like the current consequences to go unseen, something GGSA won’t agree to,” said GGSA secretary Dick Pool.  “The federal fishery managers at NMFS who had the power to force more protective water management actions at the time didn’t.  Federal and state fish agency heads need to learn from this.”

The Golden Gate Salmon Association (www.goldengatesalmonassociation.org) is a coalition of salmon advocates that includes commercial and recreational salmon fisherman, businesses, restaurants, a native tribe, environmentalists, elected officials, families and communities that rely on salmon. GGSA’s mission is to protect and restore California’s largest salmon producing habitat comprised of the Central Valley river’s that feed the Bay-Delta ecosystem and the communities that rely on salmon as a long-term, sustainable, commercial, recreational and cultural resource.

 

 

General Deer Season Starts Soon, Barring Closures

Photo by CDFW.

The following press release is courtesy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife: 

Deer season is already underway in California’s A and B4 deer hunting zones along the coast, but the majority of general zones – B1-B3, B5, B6, C1-C4, D6 and D7 – open Saturday, Sept. 16.

Several other deer hunting zones – D3-D5 and D8-D10 – open the following week, on Saturday, Sept. 23.

Severe winter weather conditions took a toll on some migratory deer populations and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) reduced the number of tags for a few popular areas in order to sustain herds over the long term. Not all populations suffered heavy winter losses, however, and CDFW’s trail cameras and fecal DNA studies revealed bucks out there for the taking.

“One benefit from the above-average rain and snowfall this winter is that we did see an early green-up,” said Stuart Itoga, senior environmental scientist and the CDFW’s deer program coordinator. “Plentiful forage and water are generally helping deer populations recover from multiple years of drought.”

Detailed information on California’s various deer zones, including season dates, descriptions and maps, is available at CDFW’s Deer Hunting webpage: www.wildlife.ca.gov/Hunting/Deer#54773-seasons.

Hunters are strongly advised to check area closures and local restrictions before heading out. Fire season is here and several large wildfires are burning currently, which may close some areas to hunting. Additionally, the severe winter damaged roads in some areas, which may account for other closures or restricted access. Information on area closures is available at www.wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/area-alerts.

For the 2016 season, a record 84 percent of deer tag holders complied with California’s new mandatory deer tag reporting requirement. CDFW thanks all those who reported and hopes for increased participation following the 2017 season. The reports are vital to estimating populations and setting tag quotas for the coming hunting season. Tags can be reported online at www.ca.wildlifelicense.com/InternetSales/CustomerSearch/Begin. Tag holders may also submit reports by mail to CDFW Wildlife Branch, P.O. Box 944209, Sacramento, CA 94299-0002.

California is phasing-in the use of nonlead ammunition for hunting. Lead ammunition is permitted for hunting deer in California in 2017 outside of the California condor range, state wildlife areas or ecological reserves where nonlead ammunition is required. Learn more about California’s phase-in of nonlead ammunition for hunting at www.wildlife.ca.gov/Hunting/Nonlead-Ammunition.

 

Waterfowl Hunting Clinic In Los Banos

Greenwing teal photo by CDFW.

The following press release is courtesy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife: 

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Advanced Hunter Education Program is offering a waterfowl hunting clinic on Saturday, Sept. 9 at the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge in Los Banos. The clinic will be taught by CDFW Warden Chris Giertych. Giertych is a lifelong waterfowl hunter with years of experience hunting in the Grasslands area around Los Banos.

Participants of all skill levels, from beginner to advanced, are welcome to attend. The clinic will cover the basics of hunting waterfowl, with the goal of developing ethical and conservation minded hunters.

Topics will include duck calling, hunter safety, decoy placement, blind design, ballistics, regulations, game care and information specific to hunting on state and federal waterfowl management areas.

The clinic will run from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. There is no charge, but space is limited to 35 people, so please register early. To register or for more information, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/hunter-education/advanced or contact Lt. Alan Gregory at alan.gregory@wildlife.ca.gov.

Kings Are Buzzing On The Feather River

 

Photos by MSJ Guide Service.

 

Our friend Manny Saldana Jr. of MSJ Guide Service provided us with the following report on Feather River Chinook fishing:

 

Some beautiful, bright king salmon are being caught from the middle section (Yuba City) to the upper parts of the Feather River.
Above are some pictures of some nice bright kings being caught on KF16 Brads Killer fish lure and back-bouncing salmon eggs.
Armondo, Tino and Luis, had lots of fun on the Feather.  We are fishing from Live Oak boat ramp to the Outlet upstream. Salmon are being caught while back-bouncing Brads Killer fish lures in the KF16 size with a sardine wrap on it and back-bouncing salmon roe. Other anglers are having success casting our Bluefox’s lures in the shallow sections of the upper rivers.
MSJ Guide Service
(530) 301-7455

Celebrate Labor Day Weekend With Free Fishing Day 2

Photo by CDFW

 

The following press release is courtesy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife: 

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) encourages all Californians to give fishing a try for free on Saturday, Sept. 2.

CDFW annually offers two Free Fishing Days, typically around the Fourth of July and Labor Day weekends (the first of the two Free Fishing Days in 2017 was held July 1). On these two days, people can fish without having to buy a sport-fishing license. Free Fishing Days also provide an easy opportunity for licensed anglers to introduce non-angling friends and children to fishing and the outdoors.

All fishing regulations, such as bag and size limits, gear restrictions, report card requirements and fishing hours and stream closures, remain in effect. Every angler must have an appropriate report card if they are fishing for steelhead, sturgeon, spiny lobster or abalone anywhere in the state, or for salmon on the Smith River.

CDFW reminds anglers that recreational salmon fishing in the Klamath-Trinity river system remains closed this season due to very low predicted adult returns.

Anglers residing in urban areas also have opportunities to fish close to home. Trout from CDFW hatcheries are stocked in urban waters when the water is cold and adequate to sustain trout. Some CDFW regions also offer Fishing in the City, a program that allows children to learn to fish for catfish and trout in major metropolitan areas. For more information on the Fishing in the City program, please visit http://www.wildlife.ca.gov/fishing-in-the-city.

For more information on Free Fishing Days, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/licensing/fishing/free-fishing-days, and a video on Free Fishing Days can be viewed at www.youtube.com/watch?v=BovDSeSLfgY&feature=youtu.be.  All anglers should also check the rules and regulations at www.wildlife.ca.gov/regulations for the waters they plan to fish because wildlife officers will be on duty to enforce them. In addition, information on CDFW trout and inland salmon stocking is available at https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/fishplants and a fishing guide can be viewed at www.wildlife.ca.gov/fishing/guide.

Coalition Formed To Help Salmon Numbers

(DAN COX/USFWS)

California’s struggling salmon runs have the attention of state and federal agencies, so it’s important to bring together the experts to find a solution as to how to improve the numbers. Hence, The Central Valley Salmon Habitat Partnership.

Here’s the San Francisco Chronicle with more on the new organization:

The Central Valley Salmon Habitat Partnership will include 21 members — state and federal water and wildlife agencies, plus groups representing conservationists, farmers, water suppliers and the fishing industry — seeking to study, develop and fund projects to restore and protect vital habitats.

The partnership deal was signed Tuesday by John Laird, California’s secretary for natural resources.

“This group will take meaningful, decisive action to restore the types of habitat — in the right places — that these fish need to survive and even thrive,” said Curtis Knight, executive director of the conservation group California Trout.

 The Central Valley rivers and tributaries are historically the second most productive habitat for salmon on the West Coast, behind the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest.

But dams, channels, and the destruction of wetlands and floodplains over the past century have impeded access to spawning grounds, ruined food sources and made salmon vulnerable to predation. Steelhead trout and two of the four distinct runs of Chinook salmon are now listed as threatened or endangered.

Documentary Provides Some Rare Perspective When We Most Need Some

 

Dusty Crary is among a vocal, tireless group of Montana ranchers and conservations fighting to save private land documented in a new Discovery Channel film, Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman. (DISCOVERY CHANNEL)

“Private land, in the West, is crucial to the long-term outcome of ecosystems. All the elk and the deer that need forage will depend on private lands to survive in the winter.” 

-Montana rancher Dusty Crary

When I started watching a new Discovery Channel conservation documentary, Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman – it debuts on Thursday on the network at 9 p.m. – I kept waiting for one of those hammer-it- home moments where someone gets condemned, trolled or slapped silly verbally. But it never happened.

I won’t spoil too much of the content of this production, co-directed by accomplished filmmakers Susan Froemke and John Hoffman (and based on the book of the same name by Miriam Horn). But as the 90-minute documentary – narrated by the familiar voice of newsman, angler and conservationist Tom Brokaw – chronicles three very different places with three very different issues, you get a sense that hard-working Americans in the rugged Rockies, the nation’s heartland and the Deep South can do their part to resolve issues and actually see compromise from politicians and governing organizations.

As the title suggests, Montana ranchers, Kansas farmers and Louisiana commercial fishermen all have their ability to make a living and/or protect the natural environment around them put in jeopardy by various forces and obstacles.

Take the small group of ranch owners around western Montana’s  Rocky Mountain Front, some of the West’s most rugged, gorgeous and strategic land. It’s also coveted for its rich oil and gas desposits, and the film cites the 43 Bureau of Land Management drilling leases that were issued during the gas shortage crisis in the early 1980s on private land just to the east and south of the protected Bob Marshall Wilderness and Glacier National Park.

All of that represents private land, meaning more of it is susceptible to more drilling and development.

A small but stubborn, persistent and undaunted – and I use those terms in the best possible way – coalition was formed to helped protect remaining private land in the area. It became a fight that persisted for years upon years – even through a family tragedy that struck one of the leaders of the group, multi-generation rancher Dusty Crary.

Dusty Crary wants the next generation of ranchers in his family, his son Carson, to also work and enjoy the same wilderness around their ranch. (DISCOVERY CHANNEL)

“Our biggest motivation right from the get-go was, we just want to leave it like it is,” backcountry guide Gene Sentz says.

It seems like a fair request, protecting some of the nation’s most pristine areas. But in our current political climate, with President Donald Trump proposing significant cuts within the Department of the Interior while pushing for more drilling on public land – such as his Bristol Bay Pebble Mine reversing decisions on in Alaska and what’s being deemed as the President’s “war on the Environmental Protecting Agency,”  it’s understandable that such fights seem almost futile. if only we had more folks like Dusty Crary fighting for us.

At one point, the ranchers talk about working together with an organization known as the Nature Conservancy, which rancher Stoney Burk says “was considered an extreme enviromental group, and there was a lot of my neighbors who thought they were the devil.”

Imagine mustachioed, cowboy hat-clad Montana ranchers and a staunch conservation group working together for a common goal? But catch a glimpse of the beauty of some of these lands – and I doubt watching even on the largest flat screen in your living room does it justice – and you understand why these groups could find common ground and a cause to unite each other with. How you could not want to prevent this country from oil drilling and subdivisions.

“I want that to look like this 100 years from now,” Crary says, his young son Carson by his side, overlooking a spectacular scene of lush green fields flanked by towering mountain peaks. “You know, our grand dads and great grand dads, they came here in pre-1900 and homesteaded and scratched it out. There’s a lot of honor in and a feeling of pride and responsibility to honor all the hardships they went through to build a ranch.”

Whatever your political beliefs are, who you vote for and how willing you are to compromise, you should watch this documentary. It might not sway you from the far right or the far left, but I defy you to not come away with the feeling that compromise is so critical in our society. You might not even agree with everything these folks are buying, and in the Louisiana fishing segment I could be found shaking my head more than once but understanding the arguments being made by – and I know this is not a chic statement to make these days – both sides.

Of course, in 2017 (and possibly continuing into at least 2020), compromise is not even on the table right now in a time of toxic and venomous sludge releasing from Washington that’s making – whether all of us won’t admit or not – everyone miserable and not having a feeling of anything great coming our way anytime soon.

So here’s to an hour-an-and-a-half of reasonable sanity that Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman pulls off to make you forget about what a turbulent and damn depressing time it is in our country.

 

 

 

 

NBA Star Paul George Raising Money During Bass Tourney

Palmdale native and Fresno State product Paul George (second from left) during his charity bass event at Castaic Lake earlier this month. (TODD KLINE)

 

Our correspondent Todd Kline provided us the above photo for his monthly “Adventures of Todd Kline” feature, and I couldn’t help but smile. Kline got a chance to fish with NBA star – and Los Angelinos hope future Laker – Paul George.

Admittedly, I’m a longtime Golden State Warriors fan who is finally happy after years of suffering and frustration.

Enjoying a Warriors game. (CHRIS COCOLES)

But I’m also a big Paul George fan. He’s become one of the most visible and reported on players in pro basketball now, but at his roots George is a kid from Palmdale who played college basketball mostly in anonimity at my alma mater, Fresno State (much like the guy he was supporting earlier this summer.

But enough about why I like Paul George so much, how about that the guy loves fishing!

 

So it was great to see Kline share his photo with George earlier this month down at Castaic Lake (not far from his Palmdale roots) for the Paul George Celebrity Bass Tournament. 

From NBA.com:

As a part of his first ever Celebrity Fishing Tournament on Sunday, George teamed up with Bass Pro Shops and a variety of professional anglers to host a bass-catching competition for charity. When George hopped into his boat, comfortably donning a grey t-shirt, grey shorts and a backwards hat, it was clear he was in his comfort zone.

That’s exactly where the Thunder wants him to be, which is why Head Coach Billy Donovan and fishing enthusiasts Josh Huestis and assistant coach Adrian Griffin all traveled to California and joined George out on the water. Their speed boats skipped gracefully across the lake as the competition began, each group of consisting of a member of the Thunder and a professional bass fisherman.

“It means a lot,” George said of the support of his new organization. “I’m forever grateful for that.”

George had gone out onto Castaic the day before – graphing and charting the clusters of large and small mouth bass that he found scattered along the edges of the lake. As a part of this competition, the striped bass that hang in deeper water in the center of the lake were off limits. Just like any good professional NBA player, George was ready from the start with his very own scouting report of where they all would most likely be.

So there was George, all 6-foot-9, 220 pounds of him, standing up on the boat tucked away in a quiet cove on the lake, easily flicking his wrist to send his line towards the bank. It was a beautiful day, a relaxing way to spend a Sunday morning.

There was just one proverbial hitch in the line. The fish were mostly too small, and the ones that were big enough weren’t biting.

Fans of George’s new team, the Oklahoma City Thunder, are hoping George’s trade from Indiana that he’ll re-sign with the Thunder next summer. As every Laker fan will tell you, George can be a free agent after this season. So the fact that George’s new teammate, superstar Russell Westbrook – who constantly finds himself in the news, even for absurd reasons  – joined in on the SoCal bass fishing, could bode well for the Thunder holding onto George and keeping him in fishing-crazed Oklahoma.  

Anyway, George, Westbrook, OKC coach Billy Donovan and several other members of the Thunder family, had a great experience at Castaic (our guy Kline finished second in the charity event).

@ygtrece Celebrity Fishing Tournament. In pictures. Swipe 👈

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Wow!! Dope shots from the event yesterday! Check em out! Thanks @cassyathena

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