MassWildlife: Brake for moose!

 

Because fall is the breeding season for both moose and white-tailed deer, the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) reminds motorists to be mindful of increased deer and moose activity, especially during early morning and evening hours. September and October is the breeding season for Massachusetts’ moose population found primarily in the central and western areas.  The breeding season (also known as “the rut”) for white-tailed deer closely follows the moose breeding season from late October through early December.

 

Male deer and moose experience “tunnel-vision” during the mating season created by the urge to reproduce. They will often chase females across roads, unaware of motor vehicles. Additionally, because moose have no natural predators in Massachusetts and are protected by law from hunting, these large (500-1,000 lbs) members of the deer family are unconcerned as they move through populated areas. The dark color and height of moose make them difficult to see at night (moose eyes rarely shine like deer eyes because they are above headlight levels).  Long legs and top heavy bodies make moose very dangerous to motorists when struck.

Be aware and heed “Moose and Deer Crossing” signs erected by highway departments and slow down.   Moose are less likely to move from the road than deer; so braking and driving defensively for moose is our best policy.  Police and other departments responding to moose or deer/car collisions are reminded that while drivers or passengers are allowed by law to keep white-tailed deer they have hit with their vehicle (salvaged deer must be officially reported), only the DFW or the Environmental Police can make decisions regarding the disposition of moose. All moose or deer/vehicle collisions should be reported to the Environmental Police (800) 632-8075 and to DFW Wildlife District offices.

The bulls stay with the cows only long enough to breed then leave in pursuit of other cows. Both bulls and cows travel more during this time in pursuit of a mate.  Females can breed as early as 1 ½ years of age.

Moose, like deer, lack a set of upper incisors; they strip off browse and bark rather than snipping it neatly.  During summer, moose prefer to feed in or near clearings and other open areas where they browse on tender leaves, twigs and tree bark as well as aquatic and semi-aquatic vegetation. Grasses, lichens, mosses, mushrooms and other herbaceous plants are also a part of their diet. Winter food mostly consists of needle bearing trees and hardwood bark, buds and twigs.

Only bulls grow antlers. These antlers begin growing in March to early April, completing by August when the velvet is shed. Antlers start dropping in December, though some young bulls retain their antlers until late winter. The bell, the flap of skin and long hair that hangs from the throat, is more pronounced in adult bulls than in cows or immature bulls.

According to DFW, moose have been absent from our state from the early 1700′s.   As recently as the 1970′s a moose sighting was considered a rare sight. So why are they here now?  As early settlers cleared the extensive forests in the state for pastures and farming, moose habitat disappeared along with the moose. This happened through much of New England.  Habitat for moose recovered due in part to farmers moving out to the more fertile Midwest or to factory towns during the Industrial Revolution.

Moose are now reclaiming their former range and moving into areas where they haven’t been seen for hundreds of years.

Moose populations got a boost in northern New England states from a combination of forest cutting practices and lack of moose harvest which created ideal moose habitat and allowed for high reproduction and survival rates. Gradually, as the population increased, moose moved southward into their historic range and by the early 1980′s they moved into northern Worcester and Middlesex Counties and began to breed and disperse through central Massachusetts.

In 2007, MassWildlife biologists estimated 850-950 moose lived in Massachusetts, with the majority of them found in northern Worcester County.  During the year, moose home ranges vary from 5-50 square miles depending on the season.  MassWildlife has been monitoring moose populations through sighting reports, road kills and urban/suburban situations.  A recent study has begun to catch and collar moose to follow them and understand their movements, reproduction and survival rates.

During the breeding season in fall, or the calving season in spring, we are advised to stay a respectful distance away because bulls can be unpredictable and cows can be very protective of their calves.  Keep dogs under control.

Some other interesting facts about moose:  There has been a steep decline in some parts of the US in places such as Minnesota, Montana and New Hampshire.  Some scientists speculate that the underlying cause is climate change (global warming).  Winters have grown substantially shorter across much of the moose’s range.  In NH, a longer fall with less snow has greatly increased the number of winter ticks, a devastating parasite.  “You could get 100,000 ticks on a moose” said Kristine Rines, a biologist with the state’s Fish & Game Dept.

Up in British Columbia, a recent study blamed the decline on the widespread loss of forests caused by the epidemic of pine bark beetles which thrive in warmer weather.  The loss of trees leave the moose exposed to human and animal predators. *****

The Berkshire Hatchery Foundation is having its final kid’s fishing derby of the year on September 13. *****

 

I just returned from a 12 day fishing trip to upper Quebec, Canada which will be written about in future columns.  If you tried to reach me during that period with announcements that you wished to be mentioned in the column, please don’t think I ignored you.  Your input is important and always welcomed.

Questions/com

Some hunting seasons open this Tuesday.

 

 

The black bear hunting season is nearly upon us.  The season is divided into two time periods. The first period begins on Tuesday September 2 and ends on Saturday, September 20, for a total of 17 days.  The second period begins on November 3 and ends on November 22, for a total of 18 days.  The season is open only in wildlife management zones 01 through 09.

Bear hunters can purchase and print their Black Bear permit when they buy their hunting licenses, or can go online later in the year and purchase and print it immediately.  It is no longer necessary to mail in an application, and one does not need to wonder if the applications or permits were lost in the mail.   There is no longer a deadline of any kind for these permits.

The hunting hours begin at ½ hour before sunrise and continue until ½ hour after sunset.  The season bag limit is one black bear per calendar year. A person may kill a bear of any sex or any size.  Hunters are encouraged to check the MA Fish & Wildlife Guide, page 31 for more information on this sport.

The 2014-15 Migratory Game Bird Regulations, including hunting seasons, bag limits, and methods of take, are now available. The early statewide goose hunting season also begins on Tuesday, September 2 and ends on September 25.   Hard copies of the regulations will be available at license vendor locations and MassWildlife offices in September.  The daily bag is 7 and the possession limit is 21.

All migratory game bird hunters are reminded they must complete an online Harvest Information Program (HIP) survey each calendar year. If you have not completed the HIP survey, visit a local license vendor, MassWildlife office, or go to www.mass.gov/massfishhunt to be sure you have completed the survey. Your license must have either the notation “HIP Survey Completed” or “Waterfowl Stamp” when printed.

Disappointed that you did not win an antlerless deer permit this year?  Well in our neck of the woods, the odds of getting one were not in your favor.   The following lists the Western District Wildlife Management Zones, the number of allocations, number of permits and chances of winning:

Wildlife

Mgmt. Zone

Allocation # Applicants Chance of Winning
1 400 1,229 39%
2 175 1,636 15%
3 1,100 2,325 53%
4N 375 2,145 18%
4S 275 1,619 18%

 

 

Guess you and I will just have to bag a buck.*****

 

This year 31 adult Atlantic Salmon returned to the Connecticut River from the Atlantic Ocean.   This compares with previous years as follows:  89 in 2013, 57 in 2012, 111 in 2011, 51 in 2010 and 75 in 2009.  This year, 1 returned to the Salmon River in Connecticut, 3 to the Farmington River in Connecticut, 2 to the Westfield River and 25 reached the Holyoke Dam.  Of those reaching Holyoke and released upstream, 11 of them reached Gatehouse Dam and were released, 8 reached Vernon and released, two made it to Bellows Falls and released and 1 made it all the way to the Wilder Dam in VT.  That last fish traveled through CT, MA and well into VT/NH, up above White River Junction.

 

As you may be aware, the Connecticut River Salmon Restoration program has ended.  Both the US Fish & Wildlife Service and wildlife agencies of MA, VT and NH will no longer support it.   The last stocking of salmon fry into our feeder streams in Massachusetts took place in the spring of 2013.  They will remain in our streams for a couple of years until they turn into smolts and make their migration to Long Island Sound and the sea.  After a couple of years, with luck, they will return to their home streams to spawn.  That means the last Connecticut River spawning run into Massachusetts will probably take place in 2017.

 

Adult sea-run Atlantic salmon are being tagged and released at all fishway/trap facilities.  If a tagged salmon is caught while fishing, you must release it immediately unharmed. You are asked to not remove the fish’s tag and to call 413-548-9138 ext. 121, (indicated on the yellow streamer tag), to provide information on the event.

 

In Connecticut, they are still maintaining their fry stocking program on their own but at a greatly reduced level.  The problem is that they have no place to retain the wild returning salmon now that the USFWS has closed its facilities and is out of the program.  It will be difficult to get diverse stock from other returning salmon into the CT River, so there will be bio-diversity issues.  They will be shifting their program to handle domestic salmon at their state hatcheries but are not sure as to how to proceed with this program. According to the CT Dept of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP) officials, they feel that maintaining the salmon rearing program in their schools is an important educational program.  Amen to that.

 

Other 2014 returns to the Connecticut River this year include the following:  375,132 American Shad (vs 397,689 last year) 42 adult American Eel, 679 Blueback Herring (vs 995), 403 Gizzard Shad (vs 823), 27,535 Sea Lamprey (vs 24,926), 3 Shortnose Sturgeon (vs 2) and 68 Striped Bass (vs 245 ).  Some 4,789 American Shad (vs 4,900), 1,127 Sea Lamprey (vs 726), 38 American Eel and 4 Blueback Herring returned to the Westfield River.  (No records available of American Eel and Blueback Herring returning to the Westfield in 2013).

 

The Merrimack River is the other Massachusetts river where Atlantic salmon run.  That restoration program also has been discontinued.  Some 41 Atlantic Salmon returned into that river this year along with 34,711 American Shad, 33,517 River Herring, 128 Striped Bass, 4,023 Sea Lamprey, 2,678 American Eel and 29 Gizzard Shad.

Famous poet once was in North Berkshires

 

 

For you fishermen and stream enthusiasts, here is a poem which you may enjoy.   The poem was discovered in the North Adams Library by Paul Ouellette of Lanesboro and read at a Taconic Trout Unlimited Chapter meeting over 25 years ago.    It still is required reading for TU members.   Paul is in his 90’s now, but I’ll bet he can still recite that poem from memory.  You’ll  never guess who wrote it.

There’s a brook on the side of Greylock that used to be full of trout, But there’s nothing there now but minnows; they say it is all fished out. I fished there many a Summer day some twenty years ago, And I never quit without getting a mess of a dozen or so. There was a man, Dave Lilly, who lived on the North Adams road, And he spent all his time fishing, while his neighbors reaped and sowed. He was the luckiest fisherman in the Berkshire hills, I think. And when he didn’t go fishing he’d sit in the tavern and drink. Well, Dave is dead and buried and nobody cares very much; They have no use in Greylock for drunkards and loafers and such. But I always liked Dave Lilly, he was pleasant as you could wish; He was shiftless and good-for-nothing, but he certainly could fish. The other night I was walking up the hill from Williamstown And I came to the brook I mentioned, and I stopped on the bridge and sat down. I looked at the blackened water with its little flecks of white And I heard it ripple and whisper in the still of the Summer night. And after I’d been there a minute it seemed to me I could feel The presence of someone near me, and I heard the hum of a reel. And the water was churned and broken, and something was brought to land By a twist and flirt of a shadowy rod in a deft and shadowy hand. I scrambled down to the brookside and hunted all about; There wasn’t a sign of a fisherman; there wasn’t a sign of a trout. But I heard somebody chuckle behind the hollow oak And I got a whiff of tobacco like Lilly used to smoke. It’s fifteen years, they tell me, since anyone fished that brook; And there’s nothing in it but minnows that nibble the bait off your hook. But before the sun has risen and after the moon has set I know that it’s full of ghostly trout for Lilly’s ghost to get. I guess I’ll go to the tavern and get a bottle of rye And leave it down by the hollow oak, where Lilly’s ghost went by. I meant to go up on the hillside and try to find his grave And put some flowers on it — but this will be better for Dave.

The poem is entitled Dave Lillie and it was written by none other than the famous poet Joyce Kilmer.  Yes, the same guy who wrote the poem “Trees”.  You remember it, “I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree…. “   A lot of us Lenox Dale grade school kids back in the 1940’s and 1950’s had to learn that poem and recite it in class.   I don’t know if kids even learn poetry in school any more.  But I digress.

It is obvious that he (Alfred Joyce Kilmer) lived in or visited the North Berkshires, because he mentioned some local landmarks such as Mt Greylock, North Adams Road and the town of Williamstown in the poem..    According to research conducted by Paul W. Marino (www.PaulWMarino.org), a Lillie family farmed in what is now the watershed of Mt Williams Reservoir, which he believes is the area to which Kilmer referred.

Marino notes that Kilmer, who was born and raised in New Brunswick, NJ, was no stranger to the Berkshires.  For many years his mother maintained a summer home in Cheshire.

At the age of 31, Kilmer was killed in World War I, during the Second Battle of the Marne on July 30, 1918.  On that day he volunteered to accompany Major William “Wild Bill” Donovan when Donovan’s First Battalion was sent to lead the day’s attack.

According to Wikipedia, most of his poems are largely unknown and several critics including his contemporaries and modern scholars have disparaged Kilmer’s work as being too simple and overly sentimental, and suggested that his style was far too traditional, even archaic.  

Well, some of us simple, archaic old folks do like his poems.

Many thanks to Matt Tannenbaum of the Bookstore in Lenox for helping me research this article .*****

Happy 100th birthday goes to the Berkshire Hatchery, an environmental and operational landmark on the Konkapot River in New Marlborough.   The Hatchery was created when the family of John Sullivan Scully, a trout fisherman, entrusted their 148-acre retreat to the U.S. Government in 1914.   It became a Federal hatchery in 1919.

Scully is to be honored today at the Hatchery’s Lobsterfest.   As Berkshire Hatchery Foundation President George B. Emmonds so eloquently wrote  in his article in the August issue of The Monterey News:  “As the sound of music at the afternoon celebration filters over a picturesque mountain setting, with the year round flow of 300 gallons a minute of perfect 47 degree water, attendees will be asked to join in singing this song of praise to honor the generosity of Scully’s (Irish) ancestral heritage.  Although it was 100 years ago that the founding angler rounded a bend in the river of life, he will be with us in spirit as his legacy lives on.”

Hope you are one of the lucky ones attending today’s Lobsterfest.

. 4376 – An Act relative to the reduction of gun violence – a critical look

H

Well, the much awaited anti-gun violence bill was finally passed by our legislators and signed by Governor Patrick.

According to Jim Wallace, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Gun Owners Action League (GOAL) two interesting things happened during the deliberations.  First, it became clear that the MA Legislature was going to take a much more deliberate process than our neighboring states did.  Second, there was a “tectonic” shift in terms of what happened when MA legislators began discussing further restrictions of the gun owner’s rights.  GOAL members (15,000 members strong) sent out a loud and clear message and they were heard.

Positive changes according to GOAL:

  • Critical training language correction for juniors allowing trainers to provide firearms to junior shooters and hunters with parental consent.  Juniors are now able to apply for their FID card a year early (age 14) and receive their card at 15, thus allowing them to hunt in their first eligible year.
  • Persons over 18 years old will no longer need an FID card to purchase pepper spray.  15-17 years old can possess but must have an FID card.
  • Police chiefs must first petition the court to deny someone an FID card.  They now have to put denials in writing.  Now, gun owners can appeal their LTC restrictions in District Court which places the burden of proof on the police chief to defend the denial or restriction in District Court and in writing.    The language also includes time limits.  If there is no decision rendered in the prescribed amount of time, the license will be issued.
  • The term “prohibited person” is now being used for both licenses – instead of “unsuitable”.   This change in the language provides a much needed change in framework around who is prohibited.
  • A 90 day license renewal grace period was fixed. Gun owners will now receive a receipt upon renewal, which makes the license valid until the new license is received.
  • Language was added protecting people who voluntarily seek mental health help preventing them from being listed as a “prohibited person”.  This also gives protection to people who voluntarily seek help for drug and alcohol use.
  • There will be exemptions for the sale of Olympic-style handguns.  They were previously not allowed to be sold in the Commonwealth.
  • Curios and relic (C&R) collectors can now purchase handguns and firearms that may not comply with the approved firearms roster.  They can now legally transfer them to licensed C&R dealers.
  • Created online portal for face-to-face transfers preserving private sales.
  • Removed the Class B License to Carry and made all one LTC license
  • Language was added providing protection of property for firearms owners.  Now, if your firearms get confiscated, the licensing authority shall at that time inform you in writing of your ability to transfer them to an independent licensed individual.  (Apparently there were cases where confiscated firearms disappeared and were not returned to the rightful owners, even though they were cleared of charges).
  • Language was added so that a person who, in good faith, reports lost or stolen firearms will have protection, so that the licensing authority cannot make them considered a prohibited person.
  • The time period active duty military members have to become licensed, or renew their license has been extended from 90 to 180 days.  Also, veterans will now be exempted from having to take the mandatory gun safety training classes.

According to Wallace, here is what was stopped in H.4376, thanks in part because of gun owners’ and GOAL’s efforts:

  • The original bill would have criminalized private sales of firearms between licensed individuals.  It was struck and private sales remain legal.
  • It would have applied a “suitability” clause to the issuance of FID cards.  This was modified so that the licensing authority now has to prove in court that the applicant is unsuitable
  • It would have made the FID applicant list a “reason” for applying.
  • It would have given the licensing authority the ability to place restrictions on FID cards.
  • It had onerous language regarding the confiscated/seized firearms.
  • It would have penalized licensees for not renewing early
  • It would have had a restrictive amendment including a one gun a month rule.

According to GOAL, the things that they did not like with the legislation are as follows:

  • MA police chiefs now have more power over license applicants via applying “suitability” to FID cards.
  • Increased penalties for violating storage laws
  • Increased penalties for being in possession of a firearm on school grounds.

GOAL took a neutral position with NICS compliance.  (GOAL worked hard to ensure that the language met Fed standards), “safe and supportive schools” (NRA’s idea of adding armed police to schools) and increased fines for criminal acts involving firearms.

Wallace noted that the scope of the bill is very large and in order to get an accurate assessment one needs to step back and examine it as a whole, what was gained, what was lost and what was stopped.  “We certainly did not receive letters forcing us to register our rifles and turn in our magazines.  We didn’t wind up with laws mirroring Vermont or Montana but rather made strides in the right direction”.

Kudos go to Jim Wallace for lobbying so hard for reasonable legislation.  It is doubtful that he got much sleep during the deliberation period.  Kudos to our local legislators, too, for supporting this reasonable legislation.  And kudos especially to the gun owners who flooded legislator’s e-mails, tied up phone lines, filled up mail boxes and ran fax machines out of paper. You were heard and you made a difference.

Antlerless deer permits are ready. Did you win one?

 

Hunters who applied for an Antlerless Deer Permit (permit) by July 16 must return to the MassFishHunt licensing system to try to win a permit. The instant award period began August 1 and continues through December 31.  The odds of winning a permit during the instant award period are the same whether you try to win in August, September, or any time before December 31.  Hunters have one chance to try for an instant award permit.

There are three ways in which a hunter may participate and try to win a permit: log into the MassFishHunt system,  visit a MassWildlife office, or visit a license agent location. Staff at these locations will help you out.

If you log onto MassFishHunt, here is what you do:

  • Enter your  last name and customer ID
  • Click the Enter Sales button
  • Click Accept in the Customer Electronic Signature dialog box
  • Choose Hunting Permits and Stamps from the main menu
  • Choose Add next to Antlerless Deer Permit
  • The zone for which you previously applied will appear on the next screen.
  • Click Select to check whether a permit has been won for that zone.
  • One of two messages will appear on the screen indicating the permit win/lose status:  “Congratulations! You have been awarded an Antlerless Deer Permit which has been placed in your shopping cart. Close this window and click check out to purchase it.” Or the one which I usually get, “Unfortunately you did not win this product.”

If you win, an Antlerless Deer Permit will be placed in the shopping cart, and you check out to complete the purchase.  These permits will remain in the shopping cart until purchased or expired.  Be sure to print your permit upon completion of the transaction.  All permits expire on December 31 of the year issued.   Good luck. *****

 

The Onota Fishing Club is sponsoring its 27th Annual Crappie Derby next Sunday at Onota Lake.   It will run from 6AM – 12 Noon.  Participants will be in 2 person teams at $25/person.  Prizes will be awarded for most crappie, most pan fish and heaviest crappie.  Sign up for the derby at Portsmitt’s Lakeway Restaurant where there will be an all-you-can-eat fish fry that will follow at a cost of $10 fee for non-participants.  For more information, call Chris Porter at 413-496-0105. *****

 

The Lee Sportsmen’s Association will be holding an NRA Basic Pistol Course for men and women on Sunday Aug 24 from 8AM to 1PM, and Aug 28 from 5:30 to 8:30PM.  Both sessions are mandatory.  Cost is $100 which includes an annual LSA membership.  To pre register, call Vicki 442-8107 or lady45white@gmail.com. *****

 

*****

 

The Berkshire Hatchery is busy these days.  According to Berkshire Hatchery Foundation Board Member Steven. J Schwartz, the hatchery’s primary mission is to provide lake trout as brood stock for Lakes Ontario and Erie.  The Foundation has continued with its support of two brood stock strains for the Lakes and each strain has multiple age classes.  Some of the trout raised at the Hatchery will provide eggs this year to the USFWS lake trout restoration program.  These fish will provide millions of lake trout fingerlings that will help the Lakes regain their breeding trout population.  The younger age classes will ensure a steady supply of eggs into the future and allow breeding between different aged fish which will help maintain genetic diversity.

 

This year the Hatchery and US Fish & Wildlife Service helped supply trout for 30 public fishing events in Western MA and CT.  In addition to those events, the Foundation sponsors six monthly fishing derbies for children (there is one scheduled for next Saturday from 9 to 10:30 at the lower pond).  The Hatchery is open during the summer months with the help of an intern and, on a permit basis, children can fish the lower pond.

 

The Foundation sponsored a graduate at Dartmouth College, Marcus Welker, who is researching the homing abilities of the Atlantic salmon. His doctorate will focus on how the migration to its natal stream is affected by the composition of amino acids in our waterways.

 

The Hatchery is continuing its efforts in the field of environmental research by providing two scholarships for local students.  These students will continue with their education in the field of environmental research.

 

Incidentally, the Hatchery Foundation is having its annual Lobster Fest on August 24 from 2 to 5 PM.  Tickets, which cost $65, can be purchased by contacting the Hatchery at (413) 527-9761.   Hope you can make it for such an organization deserves our support. *****

 

As you are well aware, we have had a very wet summer.  And nowhere is it more evident than in our vegetable garden.  It is so wet and muddy in parts of it that I have to wear knee high rubber boots.  And once in the garden, I sink and slide in the mud constantly fearful of losing my balance and falling into the quagmire.  I wouldn’t dare go there without using my fishing wading staff.

 

Think I am exaggerating?  Well last week it was so wet, I saw a great blue heron at the edge of the garden, peering through the garden fence.   Apparently, with all of the water, it thought it could snag a fish or two.  When it saw me, it flew just a short distance into our field and stood there watching me.

While wondering why it was hanging around it occurred to me that it was probably after the multitude of voles and baby rabbits that have invaded our property this year.  The voles in particular have raised havoc with our garden.   I hope that bird has a good appetite and sticks around for a while.

Questions/comments:  Berkwoodsandwaters@roadrunner.com.   Phone/fax:  (413) 637-1818

 

Get the lead out……save our loons

Recently, wildlife officials in New Hampshire reported the third documented lead poisoned loon death this year.  It was discovered in July on Lake Winnipesaukee where the bird beached itself.  It was transported to an animal hospital for a blood test and x-rays.  Radiographs showed a lead-headed fishing jig and blood lead levels were at toxic levels, so the loon was immediately euthanized.  The link between loon deaths and lead poisoning first emerged in the 1980s.  Necropsies performed by the Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine on dead adult common loons in New Hampshire revealed that 49% had the remains of lead sinkers and jigs in their gizzards and had died from lead poisoning. A loon will die approximately two to four weeks after ingesting lead tackle.   Officials believe it is likely that loons are eating fish that have tackle in or on them. As the acidic juices in the bird’s gizzard break down the food, the lead is also broken down and gets into the bloodstream of the bird, said Emily Preston, a wildlife biologist with the N.H. Fish and Game Department.   Necropsies of dead adult loons show that lead tackle accounts for more deaths than every other human factor combined. The loss of so many adults from this preventable cause of mortality has inhibited the recovery of loons in New Hampshire, according to the Loon Preservation Committee. “Because loons do not breed until 6-7 years of age and have low reproductive success, it is important that adult loons survive for many years to produce surviving young. The loss of an adult loon may also result in the loss of that loon’s nest or chicks, further negatively impacting the population.” Over the objections of some sportsmen, Governor Hassan signed a bill (SB 89) in 2013 that increases protection for loons from lead fishing tackle by banning the sale and freshwater use of lead fishing sinkers and jigs weighing one ounce or less.

 

This bill will be implemented in June of 2016, but N.H. Fish and Game and the LPC are urging everyone to remove lead tackle from their tackle boxes now.  Safe alternatives to lead tackle are weights made of steel, tungsten, tin, bismuth, and other materials.  They are effective and readily available.

In Massachusetts, it has been illegal to use any lead fishing sinkers and lead jigs weighing less than 1 ounce in inland waters since January 1, 2012.  Prohibited tackle includes lead sinkers and jigs weighing less than an ounce regardless of whether they are painted, coated with rubber, covered by attached “skirts” or some other material.  *****

With the hot weather upon us, trout fishing in our local rivers has pretty much shut down until the fall for many local anglers.  They don’t want to overly stress the trout which are trying to survive the low, hot water conditions.  One exception is the Deerfield River which has frequent cold water releases from the bottom of the dams and the fishing is good all summer long.

Fuad Ameen, of Pittsfield, former writer for Western Mass Angler Newspaper, sent in this article which is a warning for us all.  Many thanks, Fuad.

“What is unusual about the Deerfield is the fact that many dams impound the waters and regulate the flow of the river daily.  This everyday release of the water causes the river to rise quickly and this rapid rise can jeopardize your wading safely back to shore.  The fly caster must be alert and use extreme caution when in the stream.

 

Fishing close to the dams, the water rises quicker and is even more dangerous.  The incident that follows happened to me one summer evening.  My friend, Max, and I were fishing the famous “Old Mill Dam Hole” near the entrance to the Hoosac Tunnel in Zoar, MA.

 

The “Old Mill Dam Hole “is in a section of the river close to one of the dams.  Max was upstream from me, while I was casting off of some submerged timbers in the main pool.  In low water, the pool was perhaps eight feet in depth.

 

I heard Max’s warning whistle first and then what sounded like a strong wind blowing pierced my ears.  That sound of wind was actually the rushing and rising waters coming around the bend and quickly filling the “Old Mill Dam Pool”.

 

Making my way back off of the sunken beams, I saw several large trout rising at the tail end of the pool.  Feed was washing down and the trout were quick to surface.  I looked back at Max and yelled “watch me take some of these”.  But in that split second, I had let my guard down and stepped off of the sunken timbers.  I was quickly caught in the roaring currents.  As I sank, I knew I would have but one chance to surface as my waders quickly filled.  I doubled up and when my feet hit bottom, I surged upward with all of the strength I could muster.  Just my head broke the surface and I was being carried downstream in the raging currents.  My rod and cap were gone.

 

Max had witnessed my distress and was running along the shore trying to catch up with me.  He picked up and extended a long branch on the first bend and the currents pushed me towards Max.  I grabbed and hung on to that branch for dear life and was dragged out.

 

I have fished the Deerfield my entire life and knew of the dangers of the rising waters, yet could have lost my life that day.

 

After dark, I returned to the “Old Mill Dam Hole” as the waters had receded.   I recovered my favorite rod for future adventures.  My fishing cap was lost forever”……Fuad Ameen

Westfield River’s Keystone Arches – Gems in our back yard

 

Say, did you happen to read DFW Western District Manager Andrew Madden’s fine article in the most recent issue of the Massachusetts Wildlife magazine dealing with the Westfield River Keystone Arches?   The pictures were magnificent and so was the article.  Those granite arches truly are gems in Western Mass. They were built in the 1840’s when the Western Railroad was extended out through the Berkshires.

Due to the serpentine course, the arches cross the river 10 times and are wholly dry laid, not a drop of mortar was used in them.  Some of them are no longer used because new bridges were built when they relocated part of the line.

For the longest time, they could only be reached by trespassing and walking along the railroad tracks which follow the West Branch of the Westfield River between Bancroft (part of Middlefield) and Chester, MA.   But recently a 2.5 mile hiking trail was constructed to two bridges abandoned in 1912 which are wholly on the property of the MA DFW (Walnut Hill Wildlife Management Area).

There is much more information on the arches in Madden’s article and also on a web site http://keystonearches.com.

Coincidentally, a close friend (Fred Rugo, from Rhode Island) and I were there the same week that the article came out.  He had heard about the arches and asked me to take him there to view them and perhaps fish while we were there.   Because we were in a hot weather spell (80 degrees by 11:00 AM), I couldn’t assure him that the fishing would be all that great.  Instead, we fished the Housatonic River in Lee that morning and later on went to visit the arches.

At the time I was unaware of the above referenced hiking trail and we entered off of Middlefield Road in Chester near the twin arches area.  While there we saw two teen aged boys fishing the holes near the trestles.    It was good to see that kids enjoying the outdoors during their summer school vacations and were not stuck in front of a computer screens.  We asked one kid if he caught any trout and he did.  He went upstream to retrieve the fish that he had stashed in a cold water hole to preserve them.   We couldn’t believe the size of one of those rainbow trout, it had to be 17 inches long and the second one was well over a foot long, also.  He was so proud of those fish, and rightly so.

Guess I had better start fishing that stretch again next year, although it is not the easiest place to get at, especially as you go upstream a ways from Chester toward Middlefield.  As I recall, in some places you have to be part mountain goat in order to get to the river some 65 or 70 feet below the arches.  *****

We all have been seeing what is happening in California what with the drought they are currently experiencing.  Things are getting so bad that the rivers and reservoirs there are being de-watered.   In the eastern part of Massachusetts they are also having some problems with water shortages.  This issue was addressed in the latest newsletter from MassWildlife in an article entitled:  Sustainable stream flow, balancing the needs of fish and people.

The article states that because both fish and people need water, the DFW is playing an important role to ensure that stream flow needs of fish are considered in the water withdrawal permitting process.  DFW has been participating in Sustainable Water Management Initiative (SWMI) stakeholder meetings providing input on revisions to the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Water Management Act.  Working with DEP, state agencies, water suppliers, environmental advocates, industry representatives, and concerned citizens have crafted a framework designed to ensure a balance between both human and environmental needs for stream flow. The framework describes the methodology for defining Safe Yield in each of the state’s 27 watersheds and how stream flow criteria will be applied by DEP when issuing Water Management Act permits.

From the largest bass to the smallest minnow, fish and fish habitats benefit from protected stream flow. This in turn benefits anglers who pay for fish and wildlife conservation through fishing license and equipment purchases. SWMI’s proposed Water Management Act revisions are designed to prevent past extreme conditions such as occurred in the Ipswich River: dry river beds and dead fish. The current Water Management Act revisions recognize how critical stream flow alterations can negatively affect fish communities.  At the same time, the proposed revisions continue to ensure water availability for the needs of people.*****

 

The American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, VT (next to the Orvis store) has announced a program entitled, Angling & Art: The Confluence of Passions. Art and the sport of fly fishing have been intimately connected throughout history and remain so today; from angler Winslow Homer to naturalist James Prosek, artists have captured the magic and chronicled the heritage of fly fishing for centuries.

This year, Angling & Art takesplace through the month of July and will be held in its nationally recognized Gardner L. Grant library located at 4070 Main Street in Manchester.  We are also invited to an informal artist workshop with artists George Van Hook and Dave Morse on Saturday, July 26 from 1-3 p.m.  For more information, click onto its web page http://www.amff.com/events-activities. *****

Concerned about ticks and the possibility of getting infected by them?  I received a couple of e-mails from readers giving information on an informational website (http://www.cdc.gov/ticks/geographic_distribution.html).  It lists 7 types of ticks here in the US along with pictures, geographic locations, diseases transmitted by them and the symptoms, how to avoid them, how to remove them and more.  Check it out.

Environmental officials remind citizens to practice safe boating and wear life jackets

 

The Massachusetts Environmental Police (MEP) are reminding boaters of safety guidelines, including the importance of wearing lifejackets. They also are urging boaters to take a boating safety course, and reminding operators it’s the law to operate boats only while sober and have safety equipment onboard.

“For the protection of everyone on the water, we want to remind all boaters to travel at reasonable speeds and never operate a vessel while under the influence of drugs or alcohol,” said MEP Acting Director Chris Baker.  “Officers will be patrolling our waters and enforcing both state and federal recreational boating laws which are in place to ensure that all boaters have an enjoyable and safe boating experience.”

Each boat must be equipped with one personal floatation device, or life jacket, for each person on the vessel. All children under 12 must wear a life jacket at all times on any vessel, including personal watercraft such as Jet Skis or Sea-Doos.  Everyone riding personal watercraft, and all water skiers and tubers must wear approved life jackets.

Last year there were 88 boating accidents in Massachusetts resulting in 12 fatalities.   In 2012, there were 93 accidents and 15 fatalities.  Of those 27 fatalities in 2012 and 2013, 17 were drownings and only two of the victims were wearing life jackets.  According to the US Coast Guard, there were 560 boating fatalities nationwide in 2013; 77% of those deaths were due to drowning and of those, 84% of the victims were not wearing lifejackets.

Boaters are also prohibited from operating within 150 feet of a public or private swimming area. For inland waters, operating at speeds greater than 45 mph is prohibited.

Under Massachusetts law, boaters under the age of 12 may not operate a motorboat unless accompanied and supervised by an adult.  Children between 12 and 15 must complete an approved boating course prior to unsupervised operation.  Children under the age of 16 may not operate a personal watercraft.  All boats are required to carry life jackets, fire extinguishers and navigation lights. A paddle or an oar is required on boats less than 16 feet long.

All boating accidents should be reported to the MEP at (800) 632-8075.

Staying with this sad subject, my fishing buddy, Attorney Michael Shepard of Dalton and I spent a weekend fly fishing recently on the West Branch of the AuSable River near Lake Placid, NY.  We took advantage of NY’s free fishing days.  The day before our arrival two teenage boys had drowned in the swollen river and they were still searching for one of them when we arrived.

The boys had been jumping into the raging river near the Flume, a place near where the river crosses under Rte 86 at the foot of Whiteface Mountain between Lake Placid and Wilmington, NY.  The river is squeezed into a chute with walls that stretch nearly 100 feet up on both sides.  You can see it while standing on the bridge and it is a scary sight.    The day before the teenagers drowned, the area had received 4 inches of rain and one can only imagine how that river was thundering through that chute.  You rarely see any fishermen there even under the best of conditions.

The missing teen’s mother, from Plattsburg, NY, was staying in the same motel where we were (Hungry Trout) and was awaiting recovery of her son’s body.   Her husband had recently passed away and she had only the one son.  It was so sad.

On Saturday, Mike and I fished but the river was still high and dangerous and we had no luck.  During the day, police helicopters were constantly flying overhead searching for the boy’s body as were drift boats manned by NY State troopers.  They even had some brave souls in kayaks searching every nook and cranny along the shores and banks.

On Sunday, the river had come down a little and we decided to fish it downstream of a dam which impounds the river in Wilmington (called Lake Everest).  There is a spot down there where Mike likes to fish, and he usually wades out to the middle and leans or sits on a big rock while he fishes.  But the water was still a little too high and he was forced to turn back.

I linked up with him after an hour or so of fishing and as we were talking, the river unexpectedly got loud, the water began to surge and its level came up almost a foot.   His rock was suddenly under water.  It turned out that officials had begun lowering Lake Everest in search of the body, without any siren or warning signs whatsoever.  I shudder to think what would have happened if Mike had made it out to that rock.  We may have been searching for another body.

We subsequently learned that it wasn’t until the following Monday that they recovered the teen’s body.  There is nothing that can bring a community down like a drowning.   Please, let’s have none of that here in the Berkshires by obeying the boating safety regulations and respecting the water. *****

MassWildlife reports that approximately 2,550 wild turkeys were taken by hunters during the 2014 spring turkey season; slightly less than recent averages. They cited many factors that likely contributed to the decline: cold, rainy weather during the 2013 hatch resulted in sub-par poult production; the longer, colder past winter probably affected the timing and extent of spring turkey breeding movements, and lastly, cold and rainy weather during the first week of the turkey hunting season may have influenced hunter effort as well as turkey activity.   *****

Attention deer hunters:  This Wednesday is the deadline for submitting applications for antlerless deer permits.

Don’t invite black bears to your neighborhood

 

 

Every year MassWildlife reminds us to take in our bird feeders in the spring because they could attract bears into our neighborhoods.  Once they find our feeders, they are like hobos (vagabonds) who keep track of the places where they can get a good meal and come back.

 

At the same time more people are raising chickens for food these days.  Chickens and other fowl are usually fed cracked corn, laying mash, etc.  Well, guess what? Bears love grains, too and if they can grab a chicken or two while there, all the better.

 

Recently, Pete Viale of Lee sent me pictures taken from a trail camera taken on the evening of June 18 at their hunting camp (which is owned by a group of sportsmen) near Goose Pond, Tyringham.  The bear was trying to get into a quail recall pen that they had set up there.  The bear, which had two tags in his ears, didn’t get in that night but was successful two nights later with the loss of all birds released.

 

Viale contacted Western Region DFW Biologist Tony Gola and gave him the tag numbers.  Gola contacted DFW Bear Biologist Laura Hajduk-Conleewho in turn contacted CT Wildlife Biologist Paul Rego.   He replied that it is a male bear that they tagged as a 35 lb yearling in the den in March 2013.   He is currently 2.5 years old.  The den and the sow’s home range were in northeast Hartland, CT adjacent to the MA border.  He did not recall having any conflict complaints about this bear.  His mother lives in an area with low human density and they have not received many reports or complaints about her.  According to Rego, another male yearling that they tagged this March has traveled to southeast Vermont and has caused some issues there.

 

Gola recommends that everyone raising poultry should protect their flocks with electric fencing. DFW receives numerous complaints each year of bears raiding “free-range” chicken pens. Most often the bear is after grain stored in the pen, but some will make a meal of the poultry. The website: Living With Wildlife Foundation:  www.lwwf.org has an excellent publication for installing electric fences to deal will a myriad of bear conflicts. Incidentally, you have the right under Mass General Law to shoot the bear if caught in the act of depredation.  “It’s not likely you will be there if the bear returns whereas an electric fence works 24/7”, Gola said.

 

Hopefully by taking steps to discourage bears from our bird feeders and grains, they will move on into the woods where they belong and cause no trouble or damage.  Otherwise, they may come to a sad ending which we may have indirectly caused. *****

 

The Patrick Administration announced that $4.74 million in coastal resilience funding was received from the U.S. Department of Interior for dam removal and shoreline protection projects. Eleven projects will be managed by the state Department of Fish and Game (DFG) and will restore river and marine habitat, improve public safety and create jobs. The funding includes $4.5 million to DFG’s Division of Ecological Restoration and $240,000 to DFG’s Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF).

 

The projects are concentrated in areas where coastal and inland flooding poses a risk to public safety and where dam removal and habitat restoration will have tremendous ecological benefit. As more extreme weather is expected to impact Massachusetts, state and local communities are focusing on building resiliency to help better prepare for storms.

 

“Removing aging dams reduces risks to communities from large storms and is a proven method for restoring critical wildlife habitat,” said DFG Commissioner Mary Griffin. “These dam removal projects will open up 189 river miles for migratory and resident fish and restore 90 acres of floodplain wetlands, while the Boston Harbor project will restore marine habitat and help protect coastal infrastructure.”

 

Some of this grant money is earmarked for the removal of the Pittsfield’s Tel-electric Dam, a key element in the City of Pittsfield’s greenway plan. The dam is aging, dangerous and removing it will reconnect the West Branch of the Housatonic River to coldwater habitat in the mainstream Housatonic River.  *****

 

Readers may recall the November 17, 2013 article about studies that were conducted of PCB levels in crayfish in the Hoosic River entitled “Hoosic River in good health despite remaining PCB’s).  Williams College chemistry professors David Richardson and Jay Thoman and students from Williams College, MCLA and Bennington College reported on the results of their studies of PCB levels in crayfish taken from various sites in the river and feeder streams.

The results were reported at theHoosic River Watershed Association’s (HOORWA) annual State of the River Conference.

 

This year, Professors Richardson and Thoman, along with some Williams College students will soon be starting a research project focused on making significant measurements of PCB levels in fish, principally trout, in the Hoosic River.  They are hoping to build a contact group of local fishermen/women who could help by catching fish and donating samples and maybe even training some students to become proficient at catching fish themselves.

 

They are in the planning stages of this project, and are imagining the construction of a network of folks who would contribute to creating an extensive sampling project in a very grass roots way.  This would be a great training experience for the students and it would help them write the next chapter in the natural history of the Hoosic as it works to recover from PCB contamination.

 

Interested volunteer anglers can contact Professor Richardson at David.P.Richardson@williams.edu*****

 

The Berkshire Hatchery Foundation will be holding a kid’s fishing derby at the lower pond next Saturday from 9 to 10:30 AM.    Children under 12 years old must be accompanied by an adult.