Happy New Year in March? Go Buy Your Fishing License.

New Year’s Day came last week, just the day after Leap Day. March 1 is New Year’s Day if, of course, your year revolves around fishing and hunting. The Montana license year begins on March 1, which means your 2011 licenses expired last week.

So, before you go out for late ice fishing or early stream fishing, be sure to stop at any Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks office, or any license vendor or online to purchase that 2012 Conservation License and fishing license and other licenses for the year.

On the topic of licenses, there are other deadlines coming up.

First of all, the 2012 spring turkey season will begin April 14. If you plan to hunt turkeys in areas where special permits are required, which includes all of Region 3, the application deadline for entering the special drawing is tomorrow, March 8. If you’re worried about making the deadline, remember you can do it online.

The next deadline is March 15, which is the deadline for applying for special deer or elk permits. You should note that this application process is for special permits only; it’s not a license. It’s a permit to hunt bull elk or buck mule deer in hunting districts where the regulations require special permits. If the hunting district doesn’t require a special permit, a general deer or elk license is still all that is required.

People who are successful in the drawing will be notified in April, so they will have several more months for scouting or making landowner contacts.

If you have questions about the drawing process, there is a lot of information at the FWP website, at http://fwp.mt.gov, even including a how-to video.

Getting back to fishing, last week I wrote about the effluent problem with the Butte Silver Bow Sewage Treatment facility, which unfortunately has ammonia in its discharges. Ammonia acts as a chemical fertilizer, spurring plant and algae growth and diminishing oxygen in the water.

B-SB Chief Executive Paul Babb was a speaker at the Silverbow Kiwanis luncheon meeting last week and I asked him about the situation. He noted that in summer months, the plant’s effluent is used for watering the County’s sod farm, which grows grass sod for city use. He recognizes the problem and believes there should be other industrial uses for the water as well.

So, if you regard problems as opportunities waiting to be realized, here it is: a big source of liquid loaded with nutrients, with native, wild fish benefitting if you can keep it out of the recovery area.

Actually there are additional potential issues regarding Silver Bow Creek that concern fisheries biologists.

FWP biologists are looking to put in a barrier in the lower part of Silver Bow Creek to prevent fish from the Warm Springs Ponds from migrating upstream and getting into the stretches where native cutthroat trout are getting established.

Biologists are still concerned about potential acid runoff from the old Beal Mountain gold mine. Since 1998 the Forest Service has been leading the cleanup of the area, a multi-million dollar, multi-year project, cleaning up the mess left behind when the mining company’s shell corporation that operated the mine declared bankruptcy after they’d finished reaping the profits.

We might recall a political campaign from the 1990s when the mining company’s shill appeared on TV commercials cheerfully drinking water from a stream down from the mine, in an effort to fool the voters into buying their cock and bull story about what a clean and green operation the Beal Mountain mine was.

Certainly there are many who would prefer to disagree with me, but it’s good to know that under our voter-approved state law there will be no new cyanide heap leach extraction operations in Montana. Heaven knows how many millions will be saved in future years from not having to clean up after future Beal Mountain-type messes.

Guess it’s time for some spring weather and a chance to go flyfishing. I need a tonic to purge this winter curmudgeon nonsense.

Time to get your new fishing license!

If you want to go fishing in March, you’d better get a license!

The first day of March came and, unusually, I didn’t have any big urge to go fishing. The garlic and tulips along the south side of our house hadn’t sent up any green shoots. If those courageous plants thought it was too cold, it was too early to go flyfishing.

Rest assured, the fishing season won’t wait much longer.

Whether the fishing urge is to find open water for early flyfishing or ice fishing before the ice deteriorates, there is an important first step, and that’s to go to an office of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks or to a local license vendor, or on-line, to get properly licensed before heading out to hit the water.

Our 2010 Conservation License and all those various hunting and fishing endorsements expired at the end of February and if we go fishing on or after March 1 we need a 2011 license to be legal.

As a brief review, an $8 Conservation License is required for all resident anglers age 12 and older. For youth age 12 – 14, or age 62+ seniors, that’s all that’s needed. For everybody else, age 15 – 61, an $18 fishing license is required, though there is a two-day resident license for just $5. The Resident Sportsman and Youth Sportsman licenses include fishing.

At the same time you purchase your 2011 Conservation and fishing license you can also purchase hunting licenses, including elk, deer and upland birds, for the coming year as well. As a special reminder, with winter still dominating the landscape it may not seem possible, but the spring wild turkey season begins just a month from now, on Saturday, April 9. If you’re hoping to hunt turkeys in western Montana you have to put your name in a drawing for a special permit, and the deadline for that is tomorrow, March 10.

I hate to mention that special drawing deadline. I’d just as soon keep it a secret so that my odds of drawing a permit improve.

The Montana Senate Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation Committee would have heard testimony yesterday, March 8, on HB 309, the bill that threatens public access to almost all of Montana’s rivers and streams. Presumably there should still be time to phone and leave a message with legislators that you oppose this terrible piece of legislation. The phone number is 406-444-4800, and you can leave a message for one or more state senators.

This time of year I always look forward to a long season of fishing on our rivers and streams. The Big Hole River often seems like a home away from home and there are a lot of mosquito families depending on us to keep them fed and happy in coming months. Let’s hope Montana citizens make their voices heard, and heard loudly, to preserve public access to those waters.

In this column we’ve followed the dwindling number of veterans of World War I.

There is a new grave in Arlington National Cemetery for America’s last doughboy, Frank Buckles, who died February 27 at his home in West Virginia at the age of 110.

Mr. Buckles was only 16 years old when he enlisted in the U.S Army in 1917. In an archived NPR interview, Mr. Buckles insisted he didn’t lie when he enlisted, but did admit to “misrepresenting” his age. After enlisting, Mr. Buckles volunteered to be an ambulance driver, which was promised to be the fastest way to get to France.

After the war, Buckles worked for steamship companies and happened to be in Manila when Japanese forces occupied the Philippines at the beginning of WWII. He was imprisoned until liberation in February 1945. After retirement he continued to run cattle on his West Virginia farm and was still driving a tractor until age 106.

According to the New York Times there are just two remaining veterans of the Great War, Claude Choules, a British Royal Navy veteran living in Australia and Florence Green, of Britain’s Women’s Royal Air Force, living in England.

Rest in peace, Corporal Buckles and greet Marine Private Mike Mansfield for us.