Wallowa County Outdoors: Hunting, fishing good despite record cold

Mac Huff

Snow at the end of October in Wallowa County is business as usual, but this year brought record low temperatures with many locations reporting single-digit temperatures and personnel at Thomason Meadows, north of Enterprise, observed a minus 10 degree reading one night.

The cold, clear weather did little to change steelhead fishing conditions in local rivers and had minor influences on elk herds.

Elk in the Chesnimnus Unit headed for winter range early this week during the unseasonably cold weather, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife personnel noted. Elk herds in the Eagle Cap Wilderness area apparently found more favorable conditions and ODFW staff in the Imnaha Unit didn't witness an exodus of animals headed from summer range in the wilderness area toward winter range in the Snake River canyon.

Hunting success was predictably best in the Chesnimnus unit, which opened for its first rifle bull-elk season during this second-season hunt. A total of 60 bulls was checked during the first two days of the season, with the 366 hunters interviewed achieving a 16 percent success rate - probably much higher than the odds of even drawing a Chesnimnus tag. The harvest included 44 spikes, 12 medium and four mature bulls.

Sled Springs and Snake River units produced identical 11 percent success rates between 55 and 65, respectively, hunters interviewed. The Sled Springs hunt was limited to spikes only, and six tags were filled. Snake River hunters were looking for "any bull" and tagged two spikes and five medium bulls opening on weekend.

The Wenaha Unit was open to general-season tag holders that could hunt for spikes only, and a handful of "trophy tag" holders that could hunt any bull. The dozen or so "trophy tag" holders apparently missed their opportunities during opening weekend, but five hunters filled tags with spike bulls. The Wenaha Unit earned a four-percent success rate.

The Imnaha Unit was at the end of the list, opening weekend, achieving only a 2 percent harvest rate among the 42 general-season tag holders that were interviewed. Restricted to hunting only spikes, hunters tagged only one bull on opening weekend in the Imnaha Unit.

Citations were issued for four cases of failure to validate the elk tag and four road-closure violations.

Last week's snowfall was too little to have a great influence on chukar hunting, but it was better than the dry, clear weather through most of the fall. The snow on the ridges seemed to move birds to slightly lower elevations, but they will follow the skimpy snow line back up the ridges this week as warmer weather returns.

FISHING REPORT

The best that can be said about last weekend's weather is that it gave the steelhead a rest. Ice began flowing in local rivers by Friday and continued into Monday. The Grande Ronde River experienced heavy slush flows over the weekend and many of the eddies completely iced over with accumulations two feet thick in some areas. On Monday afternoon most of the blockades were breaking up, but some of the bigger, slower pools were holding fast.

River levels in the Grande Ronde dropped below 600 cfs on Saturday as very cold temperatures curtailed all runoff from the high peaks to the lowest elevations. Each subsequent day gradually recorded slightly higher daily temperatures and the river began a fidgety recovery, peaking each afternoon and receding each night, but not quite as far as the previous day. On Monday afternoon, the river level seems to be vacillating in the upper 600 cfs range. Along with the slight rise in water level was an equally slight rise in water temperature, which measured 34 degrees on Monday afternoon. Some of the shore ice was underwater and will begin breaking free in the next couple days as daily temperatures continue to rise.

Perhaps the forecast rain later this week will finally push the water level above 700 cfs for the rest of the season.

Surprisingly, the ice didn't deter everyone and fish were actually caught, although, fishing was distressingly slow.

There was an average of more than five anglers per count in each state, for the two days of creel survey, and they must have been interviewed twice, because there were twenty or more interviews in each state.

Oregon anglers hold the edge this week, even with more ice in the river, catching one hatchery and two wild fish at an average of 27 hours per fish. Washington anglers recorded 42 hours of angling time to catch one wild steelhead.

The Imnaha River was also flowing ice over the weekend and there was no fishing information for that river.

WOLF TOWN HALL MEETINGS

ODFW hosts 14 town hall meetings during November and December to hear the "thoughts, concerns and comments of Oregonians about wolves entering the state," a spokesperson states.

Preliminary to the community meeting is presentation before the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission, today, at their monthly meeting in Portland.

An ODFW news release reports that the Commission will hear from the following speakers on the fiscal impacts of wolf management:

• Mark Henjum and Craig Ely, ODFW, summary of wolf management costs in western states;

• Dave Williams, Oregon director for U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services;

• Kemper McMaster, Oregon director for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service;

• Ben Boswell, Wallowa County commissioner;

• Steve West, Klamath County commissioner;

• Fred Obermiller, Oregon State University professor; and

• Margret Sarlen Hinson, sheep rancher, Idaho Economic Impact of Wolves on Sheep Operations.

Public testimony will not be taken during the wolf workshop. The workshop is the fourth in a series of informational sessions for the Commission on issues related to wolf management. Additional information about the potential for wolves to enter Oregon can be found at http://www.dfw.state.or.us/ODFWhtml/InfoCntrWild/gray_wolf/wolf_main.htm .

The following public meetings are the opportunity for the public to comment on the topic of wolves residing in Oregon. Currently, no wolves are confirmed to live in Oregon, the news release states, and Oregon has no plans to actively reintroduce wolves into the state.

Wolves that enter the state from Idaho's packs are protected under both the state and federal endangered species acts. The Oregon Legislature is the only entity with authority to change the Oregon Endangered Species Act. The Commission, however, has the authority to add or remove species from the state list of threatened and endangered species.

Each Wolf Town Hall Meeting will open with a short introductory presentation about the history of wolves in Oregon, their current biological and legal status, and the issues surrounding their migration into Oregon.

Participants may submit verbal or written comments at the meetings.

All meetings will begin at 7:00 p.m. The doors will open at 6:30 p.m. The town hall meetings are scheduled for the following locations and dates:

Note that the closer the area is to potential wolf entry, the shorter the notice to residents. Pendleton: Tuesday, Nov. 12, Pendleton Convention Center, 1601 Westgate;

La Grande: Wednesday, Nov. 13, Eastern Oregon University, Hoke Hall, Room 309, One University Blvd.;

Baker City: Monday, Nov. 18, Sun Ridge Inn, One Sun Ridge Lane;

John Day: Tuesday, Nov. 19, Malheur National Forest Headquarters, 431 Patterson Bridge Road;

Bend: Wednesday, Nov. 20, National Guard Armory Drill Room, 875 Southwest Simpson Ave.;

The Dalles: Thursday, Nov. 21, Wahtonka High School, 3601 W. 10th St.;

Medford: Tuesday, Dec. 3, North Medford High School, 1900 N. Keeneway;

Klamath Falls: Wednesday, Dec. 4, Klamath County Fairgrounds, Exhibit Hall #2, 3531 S. 6th St.;

Burns: Thursday, Dec. 5, Harney County Senior Center, 17 S. Alder;

Eugene: Monday, Dec. 9, Lane Community College, Forum and Science Buildings, 4000 E. 30th Ave.;

Roseburg: Tuesday, Dec. 10, Umpqua Community College, Whipple Theater Building, 1140 College Road;

Salem: Wednesday, Dec. 11, Claggett Creek Middle School, 1810 Alder St. N.E.;

Portland: Tuesday, Dec. 17, World Forestry Center, Miller Hall, 4033 S.W. Canyon Road;

Coos Bay: Wednesday, Dec. 18, Southwestern Oregon Community College, Eden Hall, 2988 Newmark Ave.

Other business being considered by Commissioners today includes:

Importation ban of live cervids and some parts of cervid carcasses (permanent rule making);

Director's report on lower Columbia River coho recovery plan and region activities (informational);

Native Fish Conversation Policy (permanent rule making);

Real property exchange to obtain 50 acres on the Luckiamute River (action);

Fish restoration and enhancement projects (action); and

2003 sturgeon season options (guidance for future rulemaking).

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