Outdoors briefs: Fish for free in Washington this weekend

OLYMPIA -- This is free fishing weekend in Washington.

The Fish and Wildlife Department says no license is required to go fishing today and Sunday.

Other rules such as size limits and seasons still apply.

After the weekend a license will be required again.

An annual fishing license for fresh and salt water costs $42.35 for state residents.

With the free weekend, the department hopes to encourage new anglers.

Open house to launch Othello refuge planning

OTHELLO -- A June 16 open house will launch the planning process for a new management plan for the Columbia River National Wildlife Refuge, part of the sprawling Mid-Columbia National Wildlife Refuge complex.

The open house, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the Othello Muncipal Building's council room, also starts a 30-day comment period in which the public can submit additional ideas and comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over management of the refuge.

Greg Hughes, project leader for the Mid-Columbia River National Wildlife Refuge Complex, said the process will guide management of the refuge for at least the next 15 years.

All national wildlife refuges are required to have a management plan in place by 2012.

The Columbia River refuge is one of eight within the Mid-Columbia River National Wildlife Refuge Complex, which also includes the Hanford Reach National Monument.

The other refuges are Cold Springs, McKay Creek, and Umatilla in Oregon, and Conboy Lake, McNary, Saddle Mountain, and Toppenish in Washington.

State to conduct aquatic invader patrols

Boaters heading to Washington waterways may encounter new mandatory stops by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to check for aquatic invasive species.

The emphasis patrol, which will take place throughout the summer, coincides with the recent seizure of a boat in Spokane contaminated with quagga mussels from Nevada's Lake Mead. A multi-state tracking effort and tips from alert citizens led to the seizure by WDFW enforcement officers.

The 24-foot boat has been decontaminated to avoid the spread of the tiny non-native mollusks, which are prohibited in Washington to protect native fish and wildlife and water systems.

Importation of aquatic invasive species is a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to $5,000 in fines and up to a year in jail.

Knowingly bringing such species into Washington is a felony and can result in even greater fines and jail time.

The Spokane case is still under investigation and no charges have been filed, said Sergeant Eric Anderson, WDFW aquatic invasive species enforcement coordinator.

Since Washington passed a law in 2002 prohibiting importation of aquatic invasive species, the department has mainly worked to inspect commercially hauled watercraft at the state's port of entry weigh stations.