By: Uncle Bud

“The gods do not deduct from man’s allotted span the hours spent fishing.”
-Babylonian Proverb-

“Nor the time spent thinking or reading about it either.”
-Uncle Bud-

Guilty! Yes, yours truly is guilty of cabin fever in the first degree as the evidence shows in the several short reports I generated earlier in the month about ice fishing and a lot of ice. But where did it go?

I shall plead nolo contendo for writing the reports during the bitter cold earlier in the month but I refuse to fall upon my sword. No sir … given the past two years of no decent ice for some serious “hardwater” fishing, the court will surely see that I was under duress earlier in the month hence the reports that good ice fishing was coming soon.

Selkirk foothills barren of snow in late January?

Before deciding to confess, I drove out to the Kootenai Wildlife Refuge where I could scream without disturbing the neighbors and complain loudly to the heavens about the lack of ice on our waters. Temperature yesterday? How about 45 degrees? How about seeing small boats heading out to the lakes again?

So, since we are all ready for some serious hardwater fishing I’ll state for the record … the winter has just begun so hang in there and hope for some more freezing weather. We still have February and March to go.

In our excitement and anticipation of some serious ice this year, we joined with Far North Outfitters and Ned Horner, Regional Fisheries Manager to host another first for the North Idaho Panhandle … a full blown ice fishing clinic which was held at Butch Short’s Far North Outfitters on Jan. 22.

Not a large crowd, but those who did show up was a welcomed mix of expert ice fishermen and novices along with four guests who were just curious to learn more about this sport we affectionately call “Hardwater Fishing.”

We were impressed with the quality and quantity of Ned’s informative presentation and the equally informative handouts that were passed out at the clinic. We are in the process of using the handouts to possibly publish a consolidated pamphlet on ice fishing in the North Idaho Panhandle.

If we can pull it all together, this pamphlet will show a listing of our waters and species available for ice fishing, Tackle Tips by Don Ostlund and Rich Landers of the Spokesman Review, and a very informative paper on Ice Safety (a must read for novice and experts alike) and Fish Biology 101.

We’ll announce distribution points and also put this forthcoming ice fishing pamphlet online in the very near future … watch for it.

Both Ned Horner and Rich Landers turned us on to an ice safety video that a Canadian scientist and expert on hypothermia put out just recently. This short but effectively narrated film clip may well just save your life.

Hatchery is filled to capacity.

Made my annual post-spawning run to the Cabinet Gorge Hatchery the other day to get the low down on this year’s Kokanee egg take. Fog was so bad that I picked up three seagulls at McArthur Lake and they rode on the hood until we reached Hope. (I don’t mind helping out our wildlife but, I don’t like the mess they leave on my car either.

It was a great year for Kokanee eggs and I’m pleased to report all 64 runs at the hatchery are at capacity as this years egg take was in excess of 18.7 million. (This figure includes early spawners.) Ned Horner sort of sumed up the official view of this year’s spawning effort: “… I’m really happy with the number of eggs and thankful for all of the financial and other support we got from LPOIC (Lake Pend Oreille and Idaho Club) and the community for the effort.”

Eye’d eggs in their incubator.

Great opportunity right now for you to visit the hatchery and be briefed on the four early life stages the eggs go through before being returned to tributaries leading back to Lake Pend Oreille. Teachers … if you have not taken your class to the hatchery yet, then it is shame on you.

Hatchery Manager John Rankin was lecturing at one of our schools when I made my run but I was able to speak with both Bruce Thompson and Zach Olsen and pester them about the coming years’ stocking forecast. Too early to fine tune the numbers for summer and fall Rainbow stocking but both Bruce and Zach anticipate the stocking level to equal last years’ effort of approximately 125,000 trout for 2005.

Cutt’s for release this year are looking great and Bruce figures they’ll average a good four inches at release time. We’re looking at about 90,000 cutt’s for our lakes in 2005.

Cutthroat trout already in the outside runs and looking healthy.

The bulk of the Kokanee fry will be released into Granite Creek sometime in June and a smaller release of early spawners is scheduled for Spring and Twin Creek. We’ll be on hand to witness the loading and transport effort that it takes to move over 18 million Kokanee fry again this year. This is an effort worth watching.

As for the Rainbow and Cutthroat stocking … we’ll announce how many, when, and where just as soon as hatchery crew firms their schedule.

We have an interesting report on our Idaho State Fish, the Cutthroat Trout coming up soon but that report is still in the breaking news category and we’ll have to sit on it awhile longer.

Beth Brown … just screwing around.

Was able to greet an old friend from my volunteer days working at the hatchery during spawning … Bio Aide Beth Brown. Beth, like everyone connected to the hatchery is an innovative and likeable person. Bruce and I caught Beth trying to hang a scale to weigh the fish pellets on a raised platform. Both of us could not resist teasing Beth about her efforts hence the threatening posture with the portable drill.

How about those Missouri people passing legislation allowing them to “hog” catfish in select waters? We’ve got an argument here that has been going on since that Oklahoma bunch talked about “noodling”. “Noodling” is the sacred turf of our southern brothers and sisters where they use extra long poles to fish around Cyprus stumps and trees in those swamps. “Hogging” is when you wrap a burlap bag around your hand and lower arm and go into those logs and under rock shelves like those Texas guys.

We’re happy for you guys in Missouri gaining this sport but, wish you’d consider changing your name from “Noodlers Anonymous” to “Hoggers Anonymous.” It is only words, right … but it is the principle of the thing that counts.

Tip of the month … If your bride will not allow you to store your maggots in the refrigerator simply tell her you now use wax worms. Seems maggots is just not a very politically correct term to use around some hausfraus.

See you at the end of February with a lot of pictures taken of the fish I caught through the ice … if we get some stable ice that is. In the interim, tight lines to all.