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  1. #1
    Join Date
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    Wasilla / Skwentna, Alaska
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    Default Spruce Bark Beetle

    For those uninitiated here's a couple pictures, one of a beetle and one of the kind of destruction they can wreak on the forests.

    5480196_M-ODonnell-and-A-Cline_Wood-Boring-Beetle-Families_USDA-APHIS-ITP_Bugwood-org-447x300.jpg

    th4TB7QYHK.jpg

    Yesterday I had to change my plans regarding where I wanted to fish because of the Spruce Bark Beetle. Not actually due to a swarm of beetles but because of the standing dead spruce trees that predominate the landscape here in Southcentral Alaska. I know there are other Alaskans who belong to the forum and was wondering if you have this in your parts of the state.

    I'm a creature of habit and even more so when it comes to fishing so yesterday morning I launched the boat and headed for a spot 16 miles upriver where I lost a very large fish 5 years ago. I know that given the size of this rainbow / steelhead trout it in all likelihood dead by now but habits are hard to break.

    I return to that run every fall at least once and usually several times just to see if another has taken up the post held by that giant so long ago. When I say Giant I mean a trout that will exceed 30 inches and also one that will weigh at least 12 pounds, that's a big one. I've caught big ones but I either get long fish that are skinny or shorter fish that are bordering on the obese...... The fish I saw that day in the past, the fish that just simply came unhooked, that fish may have had it all. It was big.

    So away we went, Boss and I, headed off on a fairly long ride. I try to keep the speed at or under 18 mph so that as I pass areas where there are a lot of spawning silvers I can look for the target species. That target being large trout, they can be seen because the silvers have now turned and are basically red fish. They aren't hard to spot, a bunch of 6 to 13 pound fish between 24 and 36 inches long that are red..... Yep, pretty easy to spot and when you see a group you are looking not at the red ones but for something moving just downstream of them that isn't red. It may just seem to be an anomaly, you may not get a good look but if you think you saw something, you probably did.

    Generally once you have driven a jet boat through the area close enough to think you've seen something you have also sent that something running for dear life and stopping to fish probably won't pay off. So you look for landmarks, you make a mental note to self of where that something you think you saw was at. The idea here is that after you reach your destination and finish fishing there you come downstream drifting not running un step. If you do a good job of picking your landmarks you will know when you're about 100 yards above your special something that you think you saw..... Sounds like a lot of work doesn't it?

    Getting back to the original storyline, as I was driving along at about mile 13.5 (I have a Garmin mounted on my console) I passed a massive dead spruce tilted out over the river looking every bit as if it could finish its plunge onto the river as I passed under but I passed anyway. Not more than half a mile farther I came onto one on the left side that was in the same condition but with a caveat. Caveat being that the trunk was split wide open so that I could see right through the thing! I passed but slowed, within another 100 yards I was at an idle and static in the flow checking depth for a 180* turn.

    I could not go on. We all see trees that have fallen. We've all heard the old puzzle, "If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there does it still make noise"? I could not bet that neither would fall while I was fishing 3 miles upstream of them so I turned back.

    If you have your chainsaw and plenty of gas with you, then you could go on but I did not. If the river were blocked you would have to be able to drive the boat another 40 miles to reach a take out point and your truck and trailer would not be there and that's if there were no more trees down upstream. We had some serious wind and hail just yesterday the day before I went, and all bets were off on what was upriver...……

    I drifted and stopped many times coming down the river, caught a few salmon by accident but no trout, no steelhead. Maybe the extra water, maybe the silt washed in from the hard rains, maybe the tremendous number of leaves drifting in every section of the water column...… Who knows but I caught no trout.

    Still it was beautiful out there albeit a little more breezy / windy than is conducive to casting well but I managed to get the fly in the water enough that my hopes were sinking by 5:30 PM and by 6:30 I had fired up the engine and hit the throttle. The good news was that the extra water allowed for an easy trip back and running with the current I can hit 35 mph and was back at the launch in 2 flicks of a lambs tail

    I'll rest it a few days and let the water drop and clear again. I really believe that if that water is clouded the fish don't even see the fly and you are just practice casting and honing your technique.

    Ard
    Last edited by Ard; 09-26-2018 at 01:11 PM. Reason: Added Pictures

    Anywhere can be the land of great expectations, broken dreams, or paradise found, it's all up to you.

    Life On The Line - Alaska Fishing with Ard
    Ard's Forum blog, Alaska Outdoors

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  3. #2
    Join Date
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    Crowded Colorado
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    Default Re: Spruce Bark Beetle

    We have beetle kill here in Colorado as well. I don't know if it's the same beetle you have, but in many areas if a match was thrown down or cigarette, kiss the forest good-bye.

    Looking at your photo Ard, I couldn't help but think how pretty it would be if the evergreen's turned that color in the Fall naturally. Sadly they don't. These beetles are nasty critters indeed.
    The only thing human kind ever learned through history, is that through history, human kind has learned nothing.

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  5. #3
    Join Date
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    Wasilla / Skwentna, Alaska
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    Default Re: Spruce Bark Beetle

    Oh that's next Scotty, fires. We've had a wet year this summer much to my chagrin because the high and dirty water has made this the toughest of the 15 seasons I've been on these rivers. But there have been no significant burns in this area.

    I made a blog post just a couple weeks ago about having to take down a 100 foot tree that was right next to the cabin. It was the largest and healthiest spruce I know of on that 34 acre piece of land and the bugs killed it in a single year.

    These trees along the river are going to dictate that I carry a chainsaw along as part of my gear every time I make a trip between now and ice up.

    Oh, and about not catching what I was after it isn't so bad. I saw 2 guys floating down in rafts after I had turned around. When I turned I went below the trees and parked at a nice sandbar so I could put a rod together. I don't rig a rod until I reach the destination and by doing that I have time to settle in a bit before fishing.

    I was having a cup of coffee and just sitting there when they came downstream. They had been moose hunting the 40 miles of river above me for the past week and hadn't seen a bull moose. In that week we had 2 really violent storms with an inch of hard rain and high winds. They weathered through that and had not seen a moose. With that in mind, going out for six or seven hours and trying to cherry pick a big trout but coming up empty doesn't seem so bad. The big ones are like a bull moose on this river, few and far between.

    Anywhere can be the land of great expectations, broken dreams, or paradise found, it's all up to you.

    Life On The Line - Alaska Fishing with Ard
    Ard's Forum blog, Alaska Outdoors

  6. #4

    Default Re: Spruce Bark Beetle

    Quote Originally Posted by Ard View Post
    For those uninitiated here's a couple pictures, one of a beetle and one of the kind of destruction they can wreak on the forests.

    5480196_M-ODonnell-and-A-Cline_Wood-Boring-Beetle-Families_USDA-APHIS-ITP_Bugwood-org-447x300.jpg

    th4TB7QYHK.jpg

    Ard
    Ard,

    Ever since I saw the wildfires in Yellowstone Park, I have paid more attention to how our national forests are managed for disease and to minimize forest fires.

    Let me start by saying I'm pretty sure the beetle in Colorado and in the western USA is the pine bark beetle/mountain bark beetle.



    They are endemic to the mountain west of the USA and are responsible for huge tracts of dead pine trees like the ponderosa pines. They mainly kill mature forests because mature trees are less able to produce the sticky sap that will fill the holes and suffocate the beetles. Add drought conditions and the stressed young trees are unable to defend themselves. See how the young pine below has sealed the beetle bore holes



    The refusal of the USA to allow logging of mature pines in the national forests leaves large areas of dead trees that are just waiting for a careless camper or a lighting strike to cause the loss of thousands and even a million acres of salvageable timber. The result is that we are forced to import lumber from Canada that is now more expensive due to tariffs.

    Note the living young trees and the dead mature pines below. You can find these places all throughout our national forests.





    This is the ultimate result, the eventual forest fire with timber that is useless.



    Then you get erosion and silted rivers.

    Water Quality & Wildfire | USGS California Water Science Center

    Logging in National forest is now at historic lows (less than 1% of our national forests are logged each year). The result is that there are more fires and that over half the budget is spent fighting fires.

    The state of US forests: Six questions answered

    "What are the most serious stresses on U.S. forests? Climate change, insect infestations and decreased logging in national forests are making wildfires larger and more frequent. The Forest Service currently spends more than half of its budget on controlling wildfires."

    Below is the report of the House Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation in 2013 when an environmental friendly president Obama was in office.

    State Forests Management Superior to Federal Forests for Job Creation, Revenue Production, Local Economies and Fire Prevention - House Committee on Natural Resources
    https://naturalresources.house.gov/u...ralforests.pdf

    "The hearing was an opportunity to hear from state leaders, local land managers and timber experts on the inadequacies and burdens of current federal forest management practices that have contributed to poor forest health, underfunded schools, lost jobs, and suppressed economic activities in communities near National Forests. In comparison, state managed forests can often produce hundreds of times more revenue, from just a fraction of the land base while maintaining vibrant, healthy forests to support local communities....

    Idaho Governor, Butch Otter, provided detailed statistics comparing Idaho managed state forests to federally managed forests in Idaho and concluded “even though the Forest Service is the largest forest land manager in Idaho, the State and private forests provide over 90 percent of the wood milled in our state. Timber harvests on federal lands in Idaho are the lowest they have been since 1952, and less than 1 percent of national forests are logged nationwide each year.” The Governor said that considering the amount of federal forest land that burn each year, it appears to people in his state “the federal government would rather see a valuable resource go up in smoke than harvest it and create some much-needed jobs for rural communities.” Governor Otter said...




    I am not calling for the return to the clearcutting of our national forests. But there is no doubt in my mind that the pendulum has swung way too far in the other direction, so much so, that we are losing millions of acres of salvageable timber to fires that deplete the US Forest service budget that should be spent on actually MANAGING rather than IGNORING our forest. MANAGEMENT means harvesting timber where it is needed and not letting it burn to the benefit of no one.

    C'mon, who in their right mind thinks that wise management is harvesting less than 1% of our national forests each year? We can and need to do much better.
    Regards,

    Silver



    "Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought"..........Szent-Gyorgy

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  8. #5
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    Default Re: Spruce Bark Beetle

    I get what you're saying Silver,

    The areas here in Alaska are impossible to timber. This country is for all intent inaccessible and the forests affected cover tens of millions of acres laced with the wildest flowing rivers you could imagine.

    This is just the way things are at this time in life here. My way to deal with the problem will be to carry a chainsaw in the boat so I don't find myself stranded 20 miles up a river which would be like being up shitcreek without a saw.

    Anywhere can be the land of great expectations, broken dreams, or paradise found, it's all up to you.

    Life On The Line - Alaska Fishing with Ard
    Ard's Forum blog, Alaska Outdoors

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  10. #6

    Default Re: Spruce Bark Beetle

    I need to add another aspect to logging regarding what most environmentalists consider the #1 issue ---. Global Warming traced to increased CO2 emissions.

    Here's the deal. Forests absorb huge amounts of CO2 and incorporate it into wood.

    How Much Carbon Have your Trees Stored?

    When we allow dead trees to burn up in forest fires we lose in 2 ways. First we lose wood that can be used in wood products. Permanent wood products trap the carbon so it does not return to the atmosphere. So the CO2 that the tree trapped remains trapped.

    When the scrap wood is used for wood pellets or for firewood, the CO2 is returned to the atmosphere. However that still saves CO2 from entering the atmosphere. How is that possible? Well, if the wood was NOT used for heating another fuel would be used like fuel oil or natural gas. So burning wood saves humans from not using non renewable sources of CO2 creation. Oil and natural gas is much more valuable to use as raw materials for fertilizer (ammonia from natural gas), plastics (natural gas) and gasoline (oil)

    Allowing dead timber to burn is a waste of both construction material, heating fuel, and releases CO2 into the atmosphere that could have been better used in another way.

    Here's the deal with global warming. The very earth used to have a very, very high CO2 concentration. Our current CO2 concentration is 0.038%, a trace gas. On early earth it was about 33%, higher than our current oxygen levels almost 870 times higher than the CO2 concentration today.



    Live began on earth about 3.8 billion years ago when CO2 concentrations were much higher than today, Just look at the graph below for CO2 then and now (the yellow is CO2) compared to now.

    BBC - Earth - The secret of how life on Earth began

    The global warming due to CO2 is a planet returning to an earlier form. Oil was formed from dead organisms in the early oceans which sunk to the bottom and were covered with sediment and the fats in the dead animals turned to oil. Coal was formed from dead plants the were covered and compressed into coal. That is why oil is found under land that was ocean bottom and coal under what was the early continents.

    Both processes REMOVED carbon from our atmosphere. So now we have less CO2 and we are used to the climate that has resulted. Early earth was much warmer and warm water and an atmosphere with abundant CO2 is more likely to produce life or support early plant life.

    We call it global warming but back then, the living creatures (if they had a brain and language) would call our current temperatures very cold.
    Regards,

    Silver



    "Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought"..........Szent-Gyorgy

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  12. #7

    Default Re: Spruce Bark Beetle

    Back then, humans and pretty much all mammals didn’t exist either. It doesn’t matter what the temps were 3.8b years ago, they will all die if the temps and CO2 levels get anywhere near 1% of what they were.

  13. #8

    Default Re: Spruce Bark Beetle

    Those little suckers can cause some destruction.

  14. #9
    Join Date
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    Knoxville, TN/Reidsville, NC
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    Default Re: Spruce Bark Beetle

    We definitely have issues with dead trees here in the Smokies and into WNC. Hemlocks, spruce and ash trees have all been hit hard around here over the last several years. It throws a whole different dynamic/problems when fishing those areas hit hard. Falling trees and limbs and streams jammed up with dead trees all impact fishing.

    A couple of years ago I went to a lesser visited area of the GSMNP and wanted to fish a particular river that gets very little pressure. What I found was a clogged choked stream practically full of dead hemlocks not to mention those still standing wanting to fall at anytime.
    Mainline the blueline

  15. #10
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    Default Re: Spruce Bark Beetle

    Dead trees fall across the forest roads in the wht mtns of az. I wouldn't go deep on the rez without a chainsaw if the wind is blowing. Drought, then bark beetle, then fire, then flood has already happened here. Its also happened in southern colorado. I went to a bark beetle presentation one summer. The fire danger or lack of is interesting. Here's pics of the lit.

    bark beetle 1.jpg

    bark beetle 2-1.jpg

    bark beetle 3-1.jpg
    steve

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