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.