Ferguson Ridge Ski Area, poised on the brink of breaking out of a glum winter of minimal snow and negligible crowds, suffered a monumental setback last Saturday when gears in the lower bull wheel malfunctioned, stopping the lift an hour and 15 minutes into the day. An accumulation of several inches of powder snow during the week brought a sizable crowd to the hill, plus, a film crew from Oregon Field Guide, that finally successfully scheduled a visit after numerous attempts that were aborted by poor weather.
On Monday the drive unit was dismounted and shipped to Stangel Industries in Enterprise for dismantle and repair. Eagle Cap Ski Club member Charlie Kissinger assures that the repairs are proceeding as quickly as possible. It doesn't seem likely that the repairs will be completed by this weekend, he says, but if the parts are readily available, it is possible. Check with Wallowa Outdoors in Enterprise for current information about conditions at the hill.
Meanwhile, fresh powder continues to accumulate at the ski hill, adding to the dismay of the broken lift.
February's weather was conducive to good angling and steelheaders turned in an exceptional month of fishing. Catch rates were low and the relatively mild weather brought out above-average crowds.
Grande Ronde River anglers averaged catch rates near four hours per fish until the last weekend of the month when Oregon anglers' catch rate dropped to 14 hours per fish, but Washington angling continued at a blistering five hours per fish.
Early in February Oregon anglers caught 51 wild steelhead and 37 hatchery fish. During the same survey Washington anglers landed 56 wild steelhead and 143 hatchery fish. During the middle of the month Oregon anglers caught 30 wild steelhead and 20 hatchery fish. Washington anglers reported catching 51 wild fish and 203 hatchery steelhead.
For Feb. 26 - 27 Oregon anglers on the Grande Ronde caught 11 hatchery steelhead and 17 wild fish for a catch rate of about three hours per fish. Washington anglers caught 86 hatchery fish and 22 wild steelhead for a catch rate of less than three hours per fish.
The trend indicated that fish are moving upstream and anglers on the upper Grande Ronde and Wallowa rivers should see improvement during the next week.
Last week Wallowa River anglers averaged 17 hours per fish, catching 24 hatchery fish and no wild fish. The upper Grande Ronde River produced no fish.
This week the Wallowa River dropped the catch rate to about 14 hours per fish yielding 20 hatchery and 12 wild steelhead.
Rondowa and the Grande Ronde below Elgin produced zero results for the few anglers there.
Imnaha River anglers reported good fishing during mid February landing 16 wild steelhead and 11 hatchery fish, averaging less than three hours per fish.
Last week Imnaha River steelheading seemed to slow slightly as the catch rate climbed to slightly more than four hours per fish. The creel survey showed 10 hatchery fish caught and nine wild steelhead landed.
Dave Tanzey at Imnaha Store verifies that fishing last weekend was good, reporting that "everybody" was catching fish. Even if no fish were caught, the 50 degree daily temperatures were reason enough to be there.
The recent accumulations of mid-elevation snows in the Wallowa Mountains and the north end of the county will eventually blowout the rivers for a few days, so take advantage of the good conditions while there are available.
YOUTH BEAR TAGS
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is left with more than 500 leftover, or unapplied for, spring bear tags for seasons opening in April. These tags become available on a first come, first serve basis on March 15 at license agents throughout the state.
The majority of the spring bear tags ae for west side units. Three Wallowa County units have youth tags available. These leftover tags may be purchases in addition to any other bear tags purchased during 2003.
The following tags are available for Wallowa County: 756T - Wenaha Unit Youth - 20 total resident tags; 757T - Sled Springs/Chesnimnus Youth - 23 total tags with no more than three nonresident tags; and 760T - Minam/Imnaha Youth - 18 total tags with no more than two nonresident tags.
The ODFW report states that youth hunts with leftover tags are limited to hunters aged 12 to 17 years old who are accompanied by a non-hunting adult. No mail order or fax orders are taken for left over tags.
Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission hit another home run this month when it scheduled the next series of public testimony hearings concerning wolf management at its meeting in Newport. The location is about as far away as possible from the area likely to experience the first effects of wolves entering Oregon, making it excessively difficult for those facing the greatest impact to provide testimony.
The Commission scheduled two days for this month's meeting to cover a full agenda of items and expected public testimony. In addition to wolf management issues, the commission will hear a draft report on hatchery policy and a report on options for the 2003 ocean salmon season.
The two-day meeting is scheduled on March 20 - 21 and begins at 8:00 a.m. each day in the ballroom of the Embarcadero Hotel, 1000 SE Bay Boulevard, Newport.