Wardens busy writing tickets for violations

Game wardens in western Montana have been busy lately, writing tickets for violations of fishing regulations.

"Just because the weather's nice, you can't just grab a rod and go fishing," said Jeff Darrah, warden captain for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks in Missoula. "We're having a lot of trouble with people fishing in waters that are not open yet to fishing."

Anglers in western Montana should be aware of the following regulations that are in effect for fishing streams until the general fishing season opens on May 19:

Streams are closed to both whitefish and trout fishing until May 19, except:

Extended whitefish and catch-and-release trout fishing with aquatic insects, maggots, and/or artificial lures only, is allowed on the Clark Fork River downstream from the Perkins Lane Bridge near Warm Springs, the Blackfoot River, the Little Blackfoot River, Flint Creek, Rock Creek, the Bitterroot River and portions of the East and West forks of the Bitterroot. All trout caught must be released.

The Clearwater River is open the entire year downstream from the Lake Inez Fish Barrier for trout and whitefish.

Five Valleys Audubon hosts field trips

Join members of Missoula's Five Valleys Audubon Society this month for two field trips and a slide show, all free and open to the public.

This Saturday, experienced birder Jim Brown will lead a field trip to Brown's Lake to look for waterfowl, raptors, sandhill cranes, early migrant songbirds, and long-billed curlews. Other birds seen on the same field trip last year included five species of grebes, loons, American avocet, black-necked stilt and marbled godwit. Meet at the University of Montana fieldhouse parking lot at 8 a.m. for carpooling. Bring a lunch. This is a full-day trip. For more information, call Larry Weeks at 549-5632, or Brown at 549-8052.

Bring your mother to the field trip at Smurfit-Stone Container's Frenchtown pulp mill to see migrating waterfowl and shorebirds on Mothers Day, Sunday, May 13. On last year's trip, 55 species of birds were spotted. The half-day trip will be led by Larry Weeks. Meet at the UM fieldhouse parking lot at 8 a.m., or meet at the main gate at the pulp mill at 8:30 a.m. For more information, call Weeks at 549-5632.

On Monday, May 14, retired Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks biologist Ken Walcheck will make a slide presentation on Montana's first bird inventory through the eyes of Lewis and Clark. The meeting will be held at the UM Gallagher Business Building, Room L09, at 7:30 p.m.

Mount Jumbo's public land now open

All public land on Mount Jumbo opened for public use on Tuesday.

As part of Missoula's Mount Jumbo Management Plan, most of the mountain is closed from Dec. 1 to protect the mule deer and elk herds that reside on the mountain during the winter. The mountain's southern zone (from the ridge trail across the saddle, above Lincoln Hills, south to I-90) opened on March 15. The northern zone, including the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks parcel, opened May 1.

This winter, a number of local residents reported seeing elk on the mountain. The closure is important to conserve the body weight of deer and elk during the lean winter months. These animals spend excess energy running from people and dogs who may not even be aware of their presence.

For maps of the Mount Jumbo trail system, call the Missoula Parks Department at 721-PARK, or stop by the office at 100 Hickory Street.

Bowhunter courses offered by FWP

Two Bowhunter Education courses will be offered in Missoula by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks in May.

Students are required to attend classes on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., starting either May 7 or May 21, at FWP's headquarters at 3201 Spurgin Road. The two classes will combine for a required field course on Thursday evening, May 24, at Blue Mountain. Classes are limited to 30 students, first-come, first-served. The course is free and there is no pre-registration.

Courses will also be held in June and July, but attendance at one of the early classes is encouraged.

Young bowhunters between the ages of 12 and 18, and all first-time bowhunters regardless of age, must complete an approved bowhunter education course before they can bowhunt in Montana. The course is designed for the beginner, as well as experienced bowhunters, and is taught by certified volunteer instructors.

Bear Honoring event slated for this weekend

Celebrate spring, nature and bears at the Second International Multi-cultural Bear Honoring in Missoula and Pablo on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Bears have been a source of awe and inspiration for people around the world throughout history. As the bears emerge from hibernation, flowers bloom, good times begin.

This year's Bear Honoring event is sponsored by the Great Bear Foundation in Missoula. Call the foundation office at 829-9378 for more information.

Most Glacier fishing still closed until May 19

WEST GLACIER - While the "lake trout only" fishing season in Glacier National Park's Lake McDonald and St. Mary Lake opened on April 1, all other lakes and streams in the park remain closed until May 19, when the park-wide fishing season opens.

According to park officials, the early opening on Lake McDonald and St. Mary Lake allows anglers an opportunity to pursue lake trout in the shallower waters of those two lakes. The daily and possession limit on lake trout in St. Mary Lake, where lake trout are native, is five. The daily limit and possession limit on lake trout in Lake McDonald, where lake trout are non-native, has been increased to 15. There is no size restriction in either lake.

No other fish may be kept until the general fishing season opens on May 19.

Boaters and anglers are reminded that temporary area closures are in effect on Lake McDonald and St. Mary Lake because of nesting bald eagles.

State parks now open for camping

HELENA - Montana state parks opened for camping this week. Resident campers can purchase a State Park Passport for $20 for the first vehicle and $10 for the second vehicle.

For visitors without a passport, the daily entrance fee is $4 per car, or 41 per person walking into the park. Parks fees contribute to the maintenance and improvement of the parks.

Lewis and Clark Caverns now open

HELENA - Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park opened this week for visitors and tours.

Two-hour tours of the caverns are conducted seven days a week from May through September. Tour fees are $8 for adults and $5 for children 6 to 11 years old. Special rates for groups of 15 or more people are available with two weeks advance notice. For more information, call the park office at 406-287-3541.

River safety, canoeing classes being offered

Classes on river safety and whitewater canoeing will be offered in Missoula this weekend by Montana River Guides, a Missoula rafting company.

A free, eight-hour seminar on rafting, canoeing and river safety will be offered Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Missoula City Fire Station No. 3, 1501 39th Street. The class is designed for recreational rafters, canoeists, jet boaters, kayakers and rescue personnel who want to be better prepared for river activities, especially for late spring and early summer high water.

On Saturday and Sunday, Montana River Guides will conduct a swift-water rescue class on the Blackfoot River for people who want two additional full days of hands-on rescue instruction and practice. The class focuses on recognizing and avoiding river hazards, self-rescue, and hands-on rescue scenarios. The cost of the swift-water rescue class is $250. Participants who successfully complete the three-day course (including Friday's seminar) become certified swift-water rescue technicians through Rescue 3 International, an organization that has trained more than 40,000 students since 1979.

A two-day whitewater canoe clinic will be offered by Montana River Guides on the Blackfoot River Saturday and Sunday. The 20-hour class is designed for novice and intermediate canoeists who want to learn the fundamentals of paddling safety in moderate whitewater. The clinic will be taught by certified canoe instructor Alan Burgmuller. The cost of the two-day canoe clinic is $180. Participants can sign up for one of the two days for $90.

For more information about any of the classes, or to register, call Montana River Guides at 273-4718, or 1-800-381-RAFT.

Riverfest slated for Mother's Day

Celebrate a Riverfest with a variety of free, fun educational activities at the Nature Center at Fort Missoula on Mother's Day, Sunday, May 13.

The event will also be the Nature Center's spring open house, celebrating rivers, water, nature and spring in Missoula. Enjoy butterfly walks, birdwatching, native plant tours, canoes from the Trailhead to take for a spin on the Bitterroot River, aquatic insect monitoring and exhibits from other organizations, as well as crafts for sale, ice cream and entertainment.

The event is scheduled from noon to 4 p.m. The next butterfly walk is scheduled on Saturday, May 26, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Stargazing with the Western Montana Astronomical Association will also happen on May 26. Nature Day Camps for kids ages 7 to 10 start June 18. Call the Nature Center for more details at 327-0405. Check out the center's Web site at www.TheNatureCenter.org.

FWP seeks comment on proposal to buy land

KALISPELL - Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is seeking public comments on its proposal to purchase 116 acres of wetland and upland bird habitat directly adjacent to Ninepipe Wildlife Management Area.

The land is owned by the Palmer family. The purchase price is $452,000.

A public meeting to discuss the proposal is set for Tuesday, May 15, at 7 p.m. at the Ninepipe Lodge south of Ronan. The project was initiated by local sportsmen in the Mission Valley and Missoula. The Mission Valley Chapter of Pheasants Forever raised $10,000 and their local banquets to contribute to the project. Other contributors or supporters include Polson Outdoors Inc. and the Big Sky Upland Bird Association of Missoula. The project also has received strong support from the Flathead Reservation Fish and Wildlife Board.

The project will provide increased hunting opportunities for upland bird hunters. Comments will be accepted through May 31. For more information, or to comment, call FWP Wildlife Manager Jim Williams at 406-752-5501.

Montana FWP Web site set to help hunters

HELENA - Montana hunters can now turn to the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Web site to plan big-game hunting trips.

FWP's "Interactive Hunt Planner" allows Internet users to select a species to hunt and then quickly provides information from Montana's Big Game Hunting Regulations and easy-to-use databases. The planner also displays hunting districts against Montana's new digital highway map. Additional options provide topographic maps and land-ownership maps that can also show big-game species distributions. The hunt planner's mapping power was developed in partnership with the Natural Resource Information System in Helena.

Several of the planner's databases also contain harvest statistics, special-drawing statistics, information on harvest quotas, and special hunting-district opening and closing dates associated with specific hunting areas.

The Interactive Hunt Planner is free and can be accessed at fwp.state.mt.us. The planner contains information on antelope, bighorn sheep, deer, elk, moose and mountain goats. A black bear component is under development and expected to be on line in May.

Public comment sought on grant requests

HELENA - Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the Citizens Off-Highway-Vehicle Advisory Committee are seeking public comments on grants requesting $181,668 for OHV projects.

This year, more than $160,000 in revenue was generated by the state gas tax and OHV registrations is available to fund work on established motorized trails, safety education, noxious-weed control and public awareness. FWP's State Parks Division evaluates the grant requests and awards the grants with advice from the Citizens OHV Advisory Committee. Copies of all OHV grant applications are available at FWP regional offices and FWP headquarters in Helena. Information on the grant applications is also available on the FWP Web site at fwp.state.mt.us.

Comments should be mailed to FWP, OHV Trails Programs, P.O. Box 200701, Helena, Mont., 59620-0701, or e-mailed to rpaige@state.mt.us. The deadline for comments is May 20.

Montana FWP meeting to discuss bird licenses

HELENA - The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission is scheduled to take final action on a proposal to cap nonresident upland bird licenses at its meeting in Missoula on Tuesday, May 8.

The meeting will be held at the Doubletree Hotel Edgewater from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Also on the agenda will be adoption of tentative moose, sheep, mountain goat and lion quotas; and tentative moose and sheep auction rules.

Darby Historic Visitor Center now open

HAMILTON - Step back in time to visit the Darby Historic Visitor Information Center and Museum, which opened for the season this week.

The center, staffed by volunteers, offers information on recreation, hiking, and camping to visitors traveling through the Bitterroot Valley, as well as offering a glimpse of the past.

The museum has a typical Forest Service ranger's office of the 1930s and '40s, and many items used by the agency during its early years.

Office hours will be from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and Sundays from 12:30 to 4:30. For more information, call the Darby Ranger Station at 406-821-3913.

Kayaker invites others for river adventure

Avid kayak adventurer Patrick Harbine of Spokane invites other kayakers to join him on his latest expedition, following the route of 19th century explorer David Thompson through the Pend Oreille, Clark Fork and Flathead river drainages.

Harbine's trip will be divided into two sections. The first portion will take about two weeks, and the second about seven to 10 days. Mileage estimates are 478 for the first section, and 267 for the second.

The first section begins on Friday, May 18, near Coram, at Blankenship Bridge on the Flathead River. The voyage will proceed past Kalispell to Flathead Lake, and then paddle the length of the lake, to Polson. The group will portage around Kerr Dam on the lower Flathead River, and then continue downstream to the confluence with the Clark Fork. The eventual destination is Fort Spokane on the Columbia River.

The second section begins on June 23 near the Spokane House of Long Lake on the Pend Oreille River and finishes at the mouth of the Snake River on the Columbia at Kennewick, Wash.

The trip is open to all competent paddlers who want to share responsibility for planning provisions, costs and safety issues. A daily schedule will allow paddlers to join Harbine for one or more days of the journey.

For more information, call Harbine at 509-468-0954, or e-mail OldHarb@aol.com.

Antelope hunting seminar on tap

An antelope hunting seminar will be offered on Thursday, May 24, at 7 p.m. by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks at its Missoula office at 3201 Spurgin Road.

Claire Simmons, FWP wildlife biologist from Big Timber, will discuss antelope biology, population trends and hunting season permits. Hunting strategies, trophy judging and field identification of males and females will be covered. Dan Burns, FWP game warden in Deer Lodge, will discuss the ethical considerations, antelope hunting regulations and meat preservation in warm weather. Ron Uchytil, FWP Block Management Program coordinator from Missoula will help hunters learn to use Block Management to find a place to hunt antelope.

- Compiled by Daryl Gadbow, Missoulian

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