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The Warden's Words

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Warm water fish, unattended lines and catching crawdads

What a fantastic time of the year. I love the smell of newly turned earth drying and warming in the sun. I love the sight of new green on my bushes, plants and trees. It is reassuring to drive through town and see familiar faces out walking their dogs or working in their yards. A drive across the river shows me Ospreys are back on their nests and will provide me with the opportunity to observe their behavior all summer long. A drive along the river road at dusk will usually produce a bunch of elk to observe and a chance for some commentary to your buddies or kids. Scattered along the river course one can find vehicles parked and anglers trying their luck. One of my favorite things to do, this time of year, is to walk the drift yard area during dusk. There is something about a leisurely stroll in a quiet area with nothing but the sounds of the birds, especially the Red-Wing Blackbird. That bird's call has a special hold on me.

    Another thing that happens this time of year I also find reassuring is my contacts with anglers. Over the years I have met many great folks as they fished the waters of my patrol district. Years ago I would check them as they tried to fish with their young kids. Now I check them as they relax in the sun and "catch enough for supper." Occasionally I have the pleasure of checking a father/son team I have been checking for 20 years. Watching that relaxed interaction and the quiet conversations is definitely a big benefit of this work.

    I have a lot of treasured moments in my job, but none as treasured as the chance to check and talk with the men that have had this job before me. I recently had the opportunity to chat with a retired Game Warden whose reputation is the yardstick by which the rest of us are measured. It was nice to see Les Gissel taking advantage of a sunny afternoon and fishing at Denton Slough. The next day I ran into retired warden Joe Blackburn (Plummer) fishing the Derby. The very next day I saw retired warden Keith Hawn directing some work down at Slate's. Now, I am not much for this "Miss Cleo" type nonsense ( a better word than I wanted to use) but to see all three retired wardens in one week?!

    With the coming of the warmth of the sun, the warm water fish showed up. Folks fishing Denton Slough, Morton Slough, Cocolalla Slough, Frye Creek and other spots have been rewarded with some fine stringers. I have been checking 10-11 inch perch and some fine, slab-sided crappies. Bass anglers have been doing great, too. These are the nicest-sized fish I have checked in many a year. I wonder if keeping the lake level up has been the reason for the increase in size. Hopefully the anglers will leave a few of the big ones in the water, for seed. These areas are a great place to take the kids to start and teach them fishing. You can also teach them the importance of cleaning up their fishing area.

    I was going to introduce you to the hatchery staff for the area, but I am going to wait. I had a couple of questions come in that I thought would be nice to answer in this article. First, unattended line.

    Several times a year, I will check a family fishing. Mom and Dad are sitting behind ten actively fishing poles. I can see kids scattered all over the area and some sleeping in the vehicles. Usually Dad is checking the bait on the poles and re-casting. Now, if I sit back and watch for a while, I will observe Mom and Dad using multiple gear because no child will touch a pole - they are too busy playing. So, are the kids fishing? The smart thing to do when the kids start to lose interest is to have them reel in their line before they disappear looking for a frog to catch. This will avoid potential problems and make my job easier.

    Second, trapping crawdads. The best time will soon be upon us. For those that love to eat the crawdads, they will be putting out their traps, tying on anchor lines, fishing for bait and should be putting their name tags on their traps. Now, each legal angler is allowed to have five traps going at the same time. The limits on size are contained in the fishing regs. You will notice the regs governing the tagging of the traps do not say put out five traps and mark one. It says that each trap must be tagged with specific information. A smart angler will put the tag where the warden can check it without disturbing the trap. A smart angler will have the information on the tag readable. Otherwise, a warden may end up with some new traps to add to his collection.

    The sun is out and I need to get out into it. If you have any questions I can answer, give me a call at 266-1501 and I will do my best. In the meantime, please enjoy what we have, enjoy it with the family and try to leave it better than when you found it. JJ Scott

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JJ Scott JJ Scott was a Fish & Game warden for the state of Idaho, now retired

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