Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A small, well-lighted lake

The trail to Gamlin Lake winds through an open forest with little underbrush.
Walking sticks left by other hikers usually lean against the wildlife sign in the parking lot.
The trail eventually passes through a meadow overlooking the lake where an old homestead, barely noticeable and decaying into the earth, is swallowed by thorn bushes. Less organic remnants like this pickup prick at the imagination.
Gamlin is one of dozens of small, accessible lakes in the northern Panhandle.

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—Ralph Bartholdt
Agent, Keller Williams Realty, Coeur d’Alene
(208) 582-1867

Monday, May 23, 2011

Future of the homeowner tax deduction

Interest tax deductions for homeowners have been around since 1986 when the U.S. tax code was reformed.
The idea was to encourage homeownership and spur the housing and construction markets, among the biggest drivers of the economy.
Eliminating or scaling down the mortgage interest tax deducation has been considered in Congress as a means to rein in the national debt.
Pundits on both side of the aisle have reasons to dislike or applaud the deduction. Opponents call the deductions a tax expenditure that costs the government $120 billion annually. Supporters say cutting it would be the same as another middle class tax increase and further depress the housing market just as it looks for ways to climb out of tha tank.

What do you think?

Here are a few articles on the subject.

-Ralph Bartholdt

Thursday, May 19, 2011

May day! It's pike time in North Idaho

Pike enthusiasts Ben Carney (r) and Dan Pierce with a lunker NI pike that hangs in Coeur d' Alene's premier fishing source, Fins and Feathers Tackle and Guide Shop on Sherman Ave. The men started the North idaho Pike Association with a page on Facebook/ Ralph Bartholdt

Its body stiff as a board, it doesn’t blink, but maybe a series of successive waves results in an undulation of its fins, a flip of tail that causes a weed stalk to flinch.
Cast there.
That is how 19-year-old Ben Carney picks up the northern pike in the shallow bays of his favorite north Idaho pike lake.
He fishes Hayden for pike whenever he can, and he often targets the same animals because, he says, pike are territorial, and especially with smaller fish, you can often cast at a pike that you hooked near a certain structure, even a clump of grass, and drag in the same fish.
He doesn't keep the fish he catches, choosing instead to toss them back into the lake for other enthusiasts to hook.
Dan Pierce, 45, a former millworker who prefers to spend his waking hours casting plugs and tube baits into aquatic cabbage patches is Carney’s fishing partner.
Standing at the edge of Hayden Lake on a glum, late spring day with snow spitting from a sky the color of concrete Pierce describes a fight with a specific pike.
“It was down there in the cabbage and we couldn’t get it up,” he says. “It just sat there.”
The fishing line was weed-wrapped and the fish was content to hunker in the foliage until Pierce reached down from the boat’s gunnels into the water with a net, bumped the pike on the head wrapped him in net and hoisted the fish to the surface.
Pierce and Carney are anticipating, with relish, the coming season’s pike tournaments. Two of the men’s favorite tournaments will be on Lake Coeur d’Alene’s southern end, a place Pierce knows well.
It is where he caught his first fish as a boy, and where his heart often travels when time strictures prohibit he make it there.
It was on Hayden Lake, though, that both men caught their biggest pike, a 29-pounder for Dan and a 19 pounder for Ben.
For these guys, pike fishing is more than salad. It is gravy.
“It’s adrenaline,” Pierce says.
Ben caught a half dozen small snakes on a recent day as he forged along the water accompanied by snow, a peppering of hail, but no other anglers. He patiently anticipates higher water when big pike move from the depths to the shallows for some aggressive spring feeding.
“In mid-May, when the water is up, the pike are going crazy,” Pierce says.
The men focus their efforts in the shallows then, throwing spinnerbaits and spoons at weedlines.
Silver minnows with a trailers or big-bladed spinners are the chosen hardware.
There are other methods: Bank fishers mostly, toss dead things, herring, smelt, suckers that are threaded with treble hooks and strung through big bobbers.
“Pike hit hard,” Ben says.
With no season, bag or possession limits, Northern Idaho is wide open for pike anglers to pursue their favorite quest. With its many lakes holding big pike, anglers like Pierce and Carney are in the right spot to pursue their passion.
Hayden Lake has long been known as a great pike lake, the men concur, but “it gets fished pretty hard,” Pierce said. “Coeur d’Alene Lake is bigger and is always good for pike.”
The state record, a 40 pound 2 ounce northern pike was hoisted from a nearby Lower Twin Lake last year by a trout fisherman. A few days later, a 32 and a 36 pounder were also taken at Lower Twin.
The men started a club called The North Idaho Pike Association with a page on Facebook.
Although mid-May shakes the arms and jiggles the jowls of many north Idaho pike anglers, it doesn’t end there.
“It’s good all the way into October,” and later, Pierce says. “If you can handle the cold, you’ll catch them.”

-Ralph Bartholdt

A more refined version of this story appears in Northwest Sportsman Magazine's May issue.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Rural designation, and zero down home loans, may be thing of past in Post Falls

As home prices continue to slide, making the market a veritable candystore for buyers who are also taking advantage of another dip in interest rates, at least one North Idaho community may feeling the crunch more than others.
Post Falls, which was afforded a rural designation by the USDA allowing zero-down home loans will likely lose its rural designation.
New census figures released last week show that Post Falls, one of the fastest growing markets in the state, saw a population jump over the past decade that pushes the city out of its rural designation.
For several years in a shifting market, zero-down rural development loans provided money that kept the Post Falls real estate market afloat, said Kim Cooper, spokesman for the Coeur d'Alene Association of Realtors.
As equity shrinks or disappears there are some sellers who are more likely to show a profit on their home. Long-time home owners, many with as much as 100 percent equity, stand to sell quickly given bargain barn interest rates, Cooper said.

For more on the local real estate market click here:

-Ralph Bartholdt

Backyard coups, Chickens take to NI towns

                                              Raising chickens is common, and allowed, in many NI cities/Ralph Bartholdt 

Backyard bantees, barred rocks and Australorps are common in some cities where council members have lifted bans on raising chickens.
In the small town of St. Maries, an hour drive south of Coeur d'Alene, the council voted this month to allow chickens in town after a 10-year-old citizen asked to raise a few hens in her back yard as a 4-H project.
Kootenai, Idaho near Sandpoint adopted a similar measure last year and Rathdrum is considering one.
Throughout North Idaho, communities have given the nod to backyard coops as long as roosters are not in the picture.
Coeur d'alene allows chickens. In Hayden, residents must have 3/4 acre dedicated to the birds. Don't be surprised to wake to roosters crowing in Spirit Lake, and chickens have been a staple in Sandpoint yards for several years.
Although local co-ops are brimming with baby birds and kids carrying small boxes that peep, before you buy call City Hall to see if chickens are kosher, or considered a nuisance and best baked with garlic and basil.

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-Ralph Bartholdt