Catch and release fishing pointers

 

In recent years, there has been more interest in catch and release (C&R) fishing.  One reason could be the increase in C&R fishing areas.  In our area, we have stretches of the Housatonic River and Westfield Rivers which are designated as C&R areas with artificial lures only.  Other anglers are releasing their fish rather than eating them due to the health advisories of mercury, PCB’s etc.  On MassWildlife’s web site they list local waters where such advisories exist.  Some people just don’t like the taste of the fish and let them go.

At least once a year a fisherman asks me to do an article on how to properly release a fish unharmed.  That is a complex subject on which people have different opinions.  The following is my opinion:    If you wish to release a trout, my first recommendation is to not to use treble hooks which come on lures.  These barbed hooks frequently hook the trout on the top, bottom and side of the mouth at the same time.  That means that you probably will have to hold the fish firmly and twist the hooks out.  Do not place your fingers through the gills.  Do not hold the fish with dry hands.  That causes the protective slime on the fish’s skin to come off and the fish will probably die from some kind of fungus.  Keep your hands wet while handling the fish.   If the fish starts to bleed, forget it, that fish is a goner.  It is best to keep and eat it, if legal.  In a designated C&R water body, you must release all trout whether dead or alive. I recommend that you replace those treble hooks with a single, barbless hook or cut two of the three hooks off.     If you can’t get any barbless hooks, pinch the barb down yourself.

So will the fish get off with barbless hooks? If you keep tension on the line and don’t allow any slack, the chances are good that you will catch the fish.  Fly fishermen love barbless hooks because after they net the fish, the hook usually comes out of the fish on its own.  They don’t even have to touch the fish or take it out of the water.  And, if the hook sticks into the net it comes right out.  How many of us have had a barbed hook get stuck in the net and had to cut it out?   Incidentally, use C&R nets as the material is less abrasive and have soft or knotless mesh. Also, if you happen to stick the hook into your clothes or body you will be very thankful that it was barbless.

Don’t fight your fish longer than necessary.  Use sufficient line and equipment to bring that fish in rapidly.  So many times fishermen use ultra light equipment to enjoy the fight longer.  An exhausted fish will swim away, but will probably die later because of lactic acid which builds up in their systems during long fights.  Don’t allow the fish to flop around on streamside rocks or bottoms of boats because they harm themselves.  Never grab the fish by its eyes or gills.  Avoid squeezing it by its stomach.

When the rivers become warm during the summer, trout have decreased chances of survival after release.  You might consider switching to fishing in the early morning when the waters are cooler.  If you catch a trout from a river, especially during warm weather, hold your fish pointing into the current in slower sections until it is revived and swims away on its own.  Sometimes it takes a little time.

Release your fish as soon as possible and if you take photos, do so as soon as possible also.  Use needle nosed pliers, fishhook removers or hemostats to remove hooks.  Do not try to dig out a deeply hooked fish.  Most fly fishermen I know simply cut the tippet near the fly if it is deeply embedded in cartilage and let it go.  The fish will live and the hook will rust out after a short time.

If you are a bait fisherman, I recommend using circle hooks.  It is rare to gut hook a fish using them because they almost always hook the fish in the corner of the mouth.  If you decide to fish with bait and conventional hooks, set the hook quickly to avoid deeply hooking the fish.

Bass fishermen should lift the fish out of the water by its lower jaw and be sure to keep the body in an up and down (vertical) position.  Unlike what you see on those TV bass fishing shows, do not hold the fish by the mouth in a horizontal position.  They have lived their lives in suspension and experts tell us that such a hold can tear their internal organs, viscera and dislocate their spines.  Hold them by the mouth or jaw and support the fish under the belly.  I quit watching those TV bass fishing programs because many fishermen hold the fish horizontally by the mouth in front of the camera and carry on a lengthy conversation before releasing the fish back into the water.  I hate seeing that and don’t understand why the B.A.S.S. organization doesn’t get after them.

As one aquatic biologist put it, After the fight of your life, say going 12 rounds in a boxing ring or running a marathon, imagine having your air cut off!  That’s exactly what we do when we lift a fish out of the water.  Fish kept out of water for more than one minute have a greatly diminished chance of survival, once a fish has been out of water for three minutes, it has virtually no chance for survival, even if it swims away.

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

 

 

Atlantic salmon still returning to the Connecticut River

 

The Holyoke Fish Lift closed on June 22 for new passage construction activities.  Perhaps more Atlantic salmon and other fish returned to the river but are not included in the following figures.

As of June 23, some 20 adult Atlantic Salmon returned to the Connecticut River from the Atlantic Ocean.   This compares with previous years as follows:  31 in 2014, 89 in 2013, 57 in 2012, 111 in 2011, 51 in 2010 and 75 in 2009. This year, 3 returned to the Farmington River in Connecticut, 3 to the Westfield River in MA and 13 reached the Holyoke Dam.  Of those reaching Holyoke and released upstream, 3 of them reached Gatehouse Dam and were released and 2 reached Vernon and were released.

 

One salmon passed the Moulson Pond Fishway on the Eightmile River in Connecticut.  That fishway is situated downstream of Rathburn Dam in the town of Lyme, CT.   It is the first and most significant barrier to migrating fish in the Eightmile River Watershed.  The mouth of the Eightmile River is eight miles upstream of Long Island Sound on the Connecticut River.

 

As you may be aware, the Connecticut River Salmon Restoration program has ended.  One reason was that the salmon returns were not what the US Fish & Wildlife Service had hoped for.  Both the USF&W 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 remained in our streams until this year and begin making their migration as smolts to Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean.  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 returning 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).

 

In Connecticut, they are still maintaining their fry stocking program on their own but at a greatly reduced level.  The CT Dept of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP) officials feel that maintaining the salmon rearing program in their schools is an important educational program.  Amen to that.

 

Other 2015 returns to the Connecticut River this year include the following:  416,346 American Shad (vs. 375,132 last year) 10,334 adult American Eel (vs. 42 last year) 106 Blueback Herring (vs. 679), 106 Gizzard Shad (vs. 403), 27,535 Sea Lamprey (vs. 24,052), 1 Shortnose Sturgeon (vs. 3) and 21 Striped Bass (vs. 68). This year the American eel counts at Holyoke are primarily a result of numerous eel ramps/traps.

 

Some 3,375 American Shad (vs. 4,789), 216 Sea Lamprey (vs. 1,127), 49 American Eel (vs.38) and 1 Blueback Herring (vs. 4) returned to our Westfield River. *****

 

This year while fly fishing a remote stretch of the East Branch of the Westfield River in Chesterfield, MA, I caught and released one of the most memorable fish of my life.  No, it wasn’t a behemoth, in fact it was only about 7 inches long.  It was an Atlantic salmon smolt and it was on its journey downstream to the Connecticut River and the sea.  So what’s the significance?  Well, I am quite sure that I will never catch another Atlantic salmon out of the Westfield River again.

 

You see, that fish was from the last (2013) salmon fry stocking conducted by MassWildlife and its volunteers.   It spent the last two years growing up in a Westfield River tributary eluding predators such as larger fish, mammals and herons as well as low summer water conditions.  The odds were against it making it this far.

 

Even if that fish was to survive the near impossible odds of returning to its natal Westfield River after spending a couple of years in the open sea, it would only get as far as the first dam it encountered in the Westfield.  There it would be captured and released upstream of the dams and prohibited from being caught by fishermen.   It would not be brought to a hatchery to be spawned out for the following year’s fry because of the ending of the Connecticut River salmon restoration program.

 

Because of the program’s ending, that little fish had a lot of significance and I spent the remainder of that fishing trip thinking about it.   It brought back memories of years of effort by the USFWS trying to get the salmon fry, whose parents had previously returned to rivers in Maine, conditioned to return to the Connecticut River.  Helping Division of Fisheries and Wildlife stock those one inch small fry was part of my spring ritual for nearly 30 years and the memories of trudging along the little feeder streams with hip boots and plastic pails along with my wife Jan and others came to mind as I released that fish.   And memories of kids from the schools who raised them from eggs, named some of them and released them into tributaries sending them on their long journey with songs.

 

The cost to maintain the salmon restoration program was but a drop in the bucket as compared with some useless programs that our government is financing.  There are other ways to measure the program’s success besides dollars and returning numbers such as the educational value to the thousands of students who participated in it over the years.

 

That little salmon that I caught and released represented the end of an era and there will be no more salmon in Massachusetts waters. It was a final good bye. I’m glad I was fishing alone.

Wayne Rodd, taxidermist extraordinaire

 

When I first began writing this column some 11 years ago, Wayne Rodd of Southampton, MA contacted me to let me know that he was an official measurer for the Boone and Crockett Club, the Pope and Young Club (bow hunters), the Longhunters (Muzzleloader record book), Buckmasters, and occasionally the Northeast Big Buck Club (they are the folks that have the deer head and antler display at the Big E Sportsmen’s show in West Springfield).

He casually mentioned that he was a taxidermist and showed me some of his work.  I immediately wanted to feature him in a column but he asked me not to.  He wanted no notoriety for his work or no new business.  In fact, he could barely keep up with the customer work load that he had.  He just wanted me to know and hopefully pass on to the readers that he was an official measurer should they bag a trophy.

I kind of lost touch with Wayne over the years but every now and then his name would show up in one of the columns.  Well, recently Wayne contacted me to tell me of his recent outstanding achievement.  Let me relay what he wrote:  “Just wanted to share with some of my friends who aren’t on Facebook the results of my last taxidermy competition.   I brought two commercial pieces, (a grey fox and a boar mount) plus two framed red fox photos to enter into the wild-life art category at the New England Association of Taxidermists (NEAT) because I didn’t put anything together for the show at the time.  Then after putting a white-tail deer together for the showroom I decided to enter it into the Master’s Category for deer.

 

The five pieces ended up getting five blue ribbons for 1st Place. Then the deer took Best of Category for Deer in the Masters Division, and the boar Best of Show – Commercial Mount, one fox photo took Best Wildlife Art, and for the fun of it I entered for the Old Timers Award, which is voted on by other taxidermists, and the deer took that award also.  So, in the end, five blue ribbons and 4 awards.”

 

I pleaded with him to let me write about him and include one of his pictures of his work into this column.  He relented and provided the above photo.

 

Wayne is owner and operator of Manhan Taxidermy since 1981 and has a Manhan Taxidermy page on Facebook that has several albums with more photos. The deer that took Best of Category in the Masters Division at the recent NEAT show has not yet been posted on his web site.  He is planning on first taking it up to Maine for a show there in August.

 

Currently he specializes in deer heads, game heads and life size mounts of North American game. He no longer does any fish or migratory birds.

 

Wayne was just elected to be on the Board of Directors of NEAT. Anyone interested in joining that organization can find out how on the NEAT website.

 

As far as taxidermy goes he says that he has a good steady number of regular customers who keep him busy enough and is currently not looking for more work.  In that way he can keep things moving along and put the necessary time in the mounts, so  they come out the way he wants them. He’s been involved in taxidermy for over 30 years, and a lot of regular customers know he will only take in so much work.  Consequently they keep his name to themselves in case they are lucky enough to get something worth mounting.

 

Hopefully, Wayne will not be mad at me for this write-up.  As previously mentioned, he is not looking for any notoriety and would like to keep a low profile.  Sorry Wayne, but outstanding accomplishments deserve recognition.  People want to know about you and your great work.  It goes with the territory.

As far as measuring for the record books, he is still an official measurer for the above mentioned organizations and can be contacted through their web-sites or through his own Facebook page.  It helps to keep him off the phone so he can stay on top of any work load, or not walk away from something while he’s working on it.  I am honoring his request not to disclose his phone number for that reason. *****

Do you fish in New York State?   Well, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the license renewal reminder you recently received was incorrect.  It noted that the cost of an annual fishing license was reduced to $25.  That is indeed the case for resident anglers, but not non-residents.  Non-resident annual fishing licenses were reduced almost 30% from $70 to $50.  The DEC apologizes for the confusion and hopes you will take the opportunity to renew your NY fishing license.   To sweeten the deal, if you purchase your license on-line by September 1, 2015 you will be entered into a drawing for one of five $100 Dicks Sporting Goods Gift Cards.

Time running out to apply for antlerless deer permit

To harvest an antlerless deer in Massachusetts, hunters must possess a valid hunting or sporting license as well as an Antlerless Deer Permit (permit) for the Wildlife Management Zone (WMZ) in which they intend to hunt. The permit allows the harvest of one antlerless deer in the specified zone during any deer hunting season. Hunters must have a permit in their possession while hunting.

 

If you have not applied for a permit yet, you must do so by July 16.  There is no fee to apply but a $5 fee is charged if you are awarded a permit during the Instant Award period.   You may apply  by visiting the MassFishHunt web site, a MassWildlife office, or a license vendor.  Then, during the Instant Award Period, from August 1 through December 31, you can try to win a permit.

 

MassWildlife reminds citizens that the female segment of the deer population is used for population management since with each female deer harvested, not only is the individual removed from the population but so too is that deer’s future reproductive potential.  Therefore, in regions of the state where there are high numbers of deer per square mile, a large number of permits are made available.  Conversely, in regions where there are relatively fewer deer (sometimes resulting from poor habitat quality), fewer permits are allocated for hunters.

 

Each year MassWildlife determines the number of permits to issue for each of its fifteen WMZ’s.  Any surplus permits are made available in October. Although no official announcement has been made yet, MassWildlife anticipates that there will be no changes in the permit allocations this year – they will be the same as last year.  The Fish & Wildlife Board endorsed this at its May meeting. *****

 

Incidentally, the Worthington Rod and Gun Club at 458 Dingle Road, Rte. 112 will be having a Basic Hunter Education Course on July 20, 21, 23 and 24 from 5:30 to 9:00 PM.  To enroll, call (508)389.7830.

 

This course is mandatory and designed for first-time hunters.  In order to purchase a hunting license, a hunter must have successfully completed a Basic Hunter Education course from any US state, Canada, or Mexico.   Funding for the program is derived from the sale of hunting and sporting licenses and from federal excise taxes on firearms and archery equipment.  All courses are conducted free of charge. *****

 

Staying with the subject of hunting, there have been some changes made in the regulations governing black bear hunting this year.   Black bear hunting is now permitted in all zones throughout the Commonwealth.  (Previously, bear hunting was only allowed  in Zones 1 through Zone 9).

 

Also, in an effort to get the bear population to a manageable level, bear hunting is now permitted during shotgun deer hunting season.  Hunters already afield during the shotgun deer season can now take a bear anywhere in Massachusetts  provided they have a $5 Bear Permit and use:  1.) shotgun not larger than ten gauge, including shotguns with a rifled bore, slugs only; 2.) muzzle-loading firearm fired from the shoulder, .44 to .775 caliber; or 3.) bow and arrow.

 

During the shotgun deer season, all deer hunting regulations apply.  Hunters must wear 500 square inches of blaze orange on their chest, back, and head.  Only hunting implements that may be used for hunting deer may be used for hunting bear; no rifles or handguns are allowed.

So, to recap the black bear hunting season dates this year, they are as follows:  First Season: September 8 through September 26, Second Season: November 2 through November 21 and Shotgun Season: November 30 through December 12.  Hunting is prohibited on Sundays*****

 

Congratulations to MassWildlife for recently receiving a $720,000 North American Wetlands Conservation Act grant award to support habitat restoration and conservation projects that benefit wetland and upland habitats and over 160 bird species at several locations in the Great Marsh. The Great Marsh consists of more than 20,000 acres of marsh, barrier beach, tidal river, estuary, mudflat, and upland islands from Gloucester to Salisbury.  The Great Marsh is the largest contiguous saltmarsh in New England. This was the tenth NAWCA grant focused on wildlife conservation efforts in the Great Marsh in the past twenty years.

This grant will protect more than 1,140 acres, restore 202 acres, and enhance 80 acres of habitat, which include saltmarsh, mudflats, coastal islands, maritime forests, and shrub. The area’s outstanding habitats support healthy populations of wildlife which are in need of special conservation action, including American Black Duck, Woodcock, New England Cottontail, Bobolinks, and Saltmarsh Sparrow—the only endemic breeding bird (doesn’t nest anywhere else) in the northeastern United States.

“This is the largest and most complex wildlife conservation grant award the Division has received,” said Jack Buckley, Director of the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. *****

Last Saturday, I had the opportunity to attend the free fly fishing demonstration which was sponsored by the Hoosic River Water Association and put on by fly fishing guide Chris Jackson on the Hoosic River at Cole Field in Williamstown.   He is an excellent fly caster and fisherman and I picked up some good pointers from him and learned a new location in which to fish the river.    Jackson can be reached at www.flyfishthedeerfield.com.   Allow yourself some time for the site is packed with useful information and excellent fly tying videos. *****

 

The Lee Sportsmen’s Association is running a Basic Pistol Course on the Monday evenings of July 13 and July 20 from 5:30 to 9:30 PM.  The course cost is $100.00.  To sign up, contact Larry Karlquist at (413) 442-7807. *****

 

The Berkshire Hatchery Foundation is holding another free kid’s trout fishing derby at their lower pond in Hartsville next Saturday, July 11 from 9 to 10:30 AM.

Focus: Youth fishing

Readers may recall that last week I mentioned the schools that have trout rearing and stocking programs.  This program is enthusiastically received by the parents, teachers and students.  But, there are also youths who like to catch them, too.  Recently, I attended two events where the focus was on youth fishing.

 

One of them took place on Reynolds Pond in Cheshire.  The event, called the Youth Outreach Fishing Derby, is sponsored by the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen.  The League purchased the trout, the food, the bait and fishing outfits for each kid.  The Adams Outdoor for Youth and the Cheshire Rod & Gun Club set up the equipment, helped teach the kids how to bait the hooks, to catch and land fish.  They also did the cooking and fish cleaning.  All of the officers of the County League were there to give support.  Members of the East Mountain Sportsmen’s Club, Taconic Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Pittsfield Sportsmen’s Club, Lenox Sportsmen’s Club and others also pitched in to make sure the kids had a very enjoyable and memorable day.  They deserved it.

 

So who were the kids who were so lavishly treated?  Most of them (16) were kids who typically don’t have parents who could take them fishing because they didn’t have fishing poles and wherewithal and because it wasn’t in their experience.   Because of where they are on the socio-economic scale they were kids that may tend to be truants or a little problematic in school.  They never had the opportunity to experience outdoor fishing type activities.   Alex Daugherty, Probation Officer from the Juvenile Probation District of Northern Berkshires brought them.  His connection with them was through the Northern Berkshire Coalition.

 

Bill Gates, Chief of Juvenile Courts in Berkshire County brought along another 4 kids from the Key Shelter in Pittsfield.  The Key Shelter is a clinical house, a place where kids, because of their situations at home, needed a change in environment.  The court system is involved and placed them there not because they are delinquent but for diagnostic emphasis.  The kids are troubled for reasons beyond their control and need to be helped outside of the home to work things out.

 

For most, this was the first time they had ever gone fishing.   But with the help of the mentors it didn’t take long for them to figure out how to cast and catch fish.   Every kid caught at least one fish and most went home with bags of brook trout to eat.

 

Around noon, they took a break and were treated to burgers, hot dogs, chips, cookies and refreshments.  They all were well mannered kids who, at least on that day, had a ball and left any problems they had behind. It probably costs the League $1,000 to put this on but there is never any hesitation from the delegates.   League VP Mike Kruszyna often refers to this day as the best, most rewarding day of the year.  Amen to that.  *****

 

Staying with youths and fishing, Taconic High School teacher Ron Wojcik has been teaching an after school fly fishing class for a number of years.  In his course, he teaches fly casting, how to tie fishing knots, equipment and safety, and when time permits stream entomology.  He is looking to expand the program in the future to include some fly tying and work on some fly fishing trips to local waters. Most of these kids do not have their own equipment so Trout Unlimited members who help out allow them to borrow theirs.  Wojcik is also looking into possible future funding to get the kids some beginning equipment such as fly rods, flies, fly boxes, waders and vests. (Incidentally, if Wojcik’s name sounds familiar, he is also the coach of the Hoosic Valley Regional High School girls’ basketball team.  You know, the team that usually wins.)

 

At the end of the fly fishing course, Ron invites them to an undisclosed private fishing spot and, with the help of several Taconic TU mentors, puts them to work casting and catching trout. But not before they had their fill of pizza and brownies made by his wife Diane.

 

This year, he had 5 students:  Mike Boc, Alex Stevens, Troy Phelps, Alex Kent and Lexi Henderson in his class.  It was the first class that he had a lady flyfisher (Lexi) and she not only caught the most fish but also the largest one, a nice sized rainbow trout.

 

Since beginning the course, Ron has had over 50 students go through and participate over the years. He receives assistance from fellow teachers and TU members Dave Boyce and Steve Smith. *****

 

The Mass. Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) has designated July 4 and 5 as Free Saltwater Fishing Days.  No permit is required to fish recreationally in the Commonwealth’s marine waters, out to three miles. (Saltwater anglers over the age of 15 are usually required to have a Massachusetts Recreational Saltwater Fishing Permit.) Anglers looking for a spot to drop a line from shore, or a boat ramp to put in a kayak, canoe, or larger vessel, should check out the Office of Fishing and Boating Access’ Directory of Access Sites. *****

 

The Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club 2015 Youth Rifle League will begin on July 8 with safety night.  On the next seven Wednesdays, from 5 PM to 7PM, they will be shooting on the range. The last night of the league will be August 26 with some fun shooting and a cookout.  Cost is $40 per child.

 

Brook trout released into local streams by students

Three local schools are involved with raising and releasing brook trout here in the Berkshires.   They originally started out raising Atlantic Salmon in the ASERP (Atlantic Salmon Egg Rearing Program, but, the Connecticut River Salmon Restoration program ended two years ago.  Both the US Fish & Wildlife Service and wildlife agencies of MA, VT and NH will no longer support it.   The schools then started raising brook trout from eggs that came from the Roger Reed Salmon Hatchery in Palmer, Ma.    Students actively take part monitoring water quality on a daily basis and assisting in the trout’s husbandry needs.  By the time they were released in May or early June, they are nearly 2 inches long.

At the Becket-Washington School, the 3rd and 4th graders participated in the program.  Over 100 brook trout were raised from eggs and the survival rate was great with only 4 dying while in the aquarium.  They were released on June 3 at the outdoor classroom along Yokum Brook in Becket.  Teachers Mary Kay McCloskey and Patty Robbie headed up the program there with assistance from Karen Karlberg.

Approximately 75 Taconic High School students participated, releasing their trout into Windsor Brook in Windsor on May 27.   They had some equipment problems but still managed a 60% success ratio.  One student came into school over break to care for the fish to ensure they were properly fed and their water quality was on par.  Teachers who participated were Tanya Michaud, Michell Potash and Ron Wojcik.  According to Michaud, this is their second year rearing brook trout in the classroom and their release site shows evidence that the fish are healthy and thriving.  There were 3 fish that were about a year old swimming in an eddy and it is suspected that they are from their cohort of trout released last year around the same time

At Mt Everett Regional High School in Sheffield, some 140 students were involved and had a 100% survival.  They not only raise and release fingerlings, but some trout are retained for the Aquacultural Class where they grow them larger and release them at the 8 to 12 inch size (for better survival) into the Konkapot River and Umpachini Falls.  Teachers involved there are Steve Antil, Tim Schwartz, Daniel Weston and Asha Von Rudin.  Von Rudin heads up the Aquaculture program where they really get into water ecology monitoring, macro-invertibrate studies, etc.   *****

Don’t you know, it always happens, lots of neat things going on all on the same day.

On Saturday, June 27, from 9 AM to noon, Steve McMahon, President of the Hoosic River Watershed Association (HOORWA) invites you to join fly fisherman Chris Jackson for a fly fishing demonstration on the Hoosic River at Cole Field in Williamstown, MA. It’s an opportunity to witness and learn the basic techniques of casting a fly into moving water and see what happens next.   Jackson, a respected angler, will demonstrate the importance of softly delivering a fly on the surface of the water.  Wear old sneakers in order to wade in and bring a fly rod if you own one.   If you plan to attend, meet at the soccer gate at Cole Field by 9 AM.  Contact the leader Elayne Murphy at 413-458-2947 or at emurphy@williams.edu for details and preregistration. The rain date will be June 28.

On the same day, from 10 AM to 2 PM, the Trustees of Reservation invites you to a free workshop entitled Dragonflies Above And Below The Water.  Join Entomologist Dr. Kirsten Martin as she explores Glendale Falls Brook on Clark Wright Road in nearby Middlefield, MA, marveling at the exquisite world of dragon and damselflies.  Flyfishermen know only too well that trout relish dragonfly and damselfly nymphs.   To register call Project Coordinator Meredyth Babcock at 623-2070 or volunteer@wildscenicwestfieldriver.org.

By the way, have you ever visited Glendale Falls?   It is truly a special place.   Fed by more than five square miles of watershed, wild and rocky Glendale Falls is one of the longest and most powerful waterfall runs in Massachusetts.  In spring, the waters of Glendale Brook roar over steep rock ledges to join the Middle Branch of the Westfield River, a federally designated Wild and Scenic River.

Also on the same day, June 27, Tom Wessels, ecologist and Professor Emeritus at Antioch University New England will have a special workshop at the Bidwell House Museum in Monterey, MA.  From 10:00 – 11:30 AM – Talk and Slideshow, 11:30 – 12:30 PM – Lunch and Discussion and 12:30 – 2:30 PM – Explore the Bidwell House Forest with Tom Wessels

Based on Tom’s book, Reading the Forested Landscape: A Natural History of New England, this workshop introduces approaches used to interpret a forest’s history.  Using evidence such as the shapes of trees, scars on their trunks, the pattern of decay in stumps, the construction of stone walls, and the lay of the land, it is possible to unravel complex stories etched into our forested landscape.  This process could easily be called forest forensics, since it is quite similar to interpreting a crime scene.

Participants will gain a better understanding of cultural and natural disturbances on the land in general, specifically the 192 acre Bidwell House property, and how they have shaped our use and enjoyment of our woods and fields; learn methods and skills to identify and understand these cultural and natural historical events in order to apply this knowledge to your own land or on any walk in the woods.

Tom also wrote The Granite Landscape, Untamed Vermont, The Myth of Progress, and Forest Forensics: A Field Guide to Reading the Forested Landscape. He has conducted landscape ecology and sustainability workshops throughout the country for over 30 years. Click onto http://bidwellhousemuseum.org/ for more information.

2015 Harry A. Bateman Memorial Jimmy Fund Fishing Derby was “biggest day ever

That’s according to Co-Chairman Stephen Bateman.  It was a great success with some 254 people registered and about 50 others attending.  Fifteen trophies and prizes were handed out to the winners with many of the trophies dedicated to people who were great supporters of the fishing derby who have passed away.  This year the 1st Place Adult Award was won by 15 year old Spenser Davis, of Dalton, with a 4 lbs 3oz. Largemouth Bass.  His award had a special meaning because it was the first year the award was presented in the memory of Thelma Drury who not only was a member of the Berkshire County Jimmy Fund Council but one of the 52 people at the very first fishing derby, which was held on Father’s Day, 1993.

 

Bateman recalls that it poured all day and Thelma was out in it with her husband John the entire day that first year.  She only missed one fishing derby and apologized because they were going to be out of town.  Thelma sadly passed away in August of 2014.

 

The Sportsmanship Award, containing a tackle box with over $100 worth of tackle, was awarded to Autumn Twing.  Bateman points out that this fishing derby is known for the great prizes that are awarded, all of which are sponsored by local friends and businesses. This year the fishing pole combos were randomly given out to children who were either first time attendees or children who did not win any raffle prizes.  Six bicycles were awarded to children just for attending. There were many newcomers as well as people who have been coming for years.  Brian Wendling was a teen when he started out at the fishing derby, and this year he and his daughter Marissa both ended up winners.

 

Newcomers Mia and Ava, who have never fished before, were brought to the event by Grandma Missie Lacy, and they had a blast.  Ava approached Stephen Bateman and said, “I have a present for you.” and gave him a clump of moss she pulled off of a rock.  According to Bateman, the smile on her face made him feel like he hit the lottery. After a year missed due to illness, long time attendee Matt Clark won the Perch/Crappie category.  The fish weigh-in is normally done by Steve and Co-Chairman Stephen Gingras and Harry Bateman’s nephew Richard Pierce Jr., but this year Taconic High School students Nick Gingras and Marlaina Tremblay stepped in and did a great job.  It takes 6 months to plan this event, but it is all worth it, said Steve.
Here are this year’s winners:  CHILDREN HEAVIEST GAME FISH CATEGORY:  1st Place – Dylan Crea, a 1 lb 10 oz Rainbow Trout; 2nd Place – Sophie Dinopus, a 1 lb 8 oz Rainbow Trout; 3rd Place – Casey Wassily, a 1 lb 7 oz Rainbow Trout.

CHILDREN HEAVIEST NON- GAME FISH CATEGORY: 1st Place – Tessa Matarazzo, a 11 oz White Perch;  2nd Place – Jaxon Wallace and 3rd Place Marrisa Wendling,  both with 10 oz Bullheads.

ADULT HEAVIEST GAME FISH CATEGORY:  1st Place – Spenser Davis, above mentioned Largemouth Bass; 2nd Place – Kevin Wojtkowski, a 2 lbs 12 oz Largemouth Bass; 3rd Place – Jake Beaudion, a 2 lbs Largemouth Bass.

SPECIAL HEAVIEST FISH 1ST PLACE AWARDS:  Bass Category  – 4 lbs 5 oz Largemouth caught by Brian Wadsworth, Perch/Crappie Category : 1 lbs 1 oz caught by Matt Clark, Carp Category – 8 lbs 1 oz caught by Brian Wendling, Trout Category – 2 lbs 1 oz Rainbow Trout caught by Jack Stimpson, Trout Child Category – 2 lbs 1 oz Rainbow Trout caught by Becca Stimpson. The Sportsmanship Award went to Autumn Twing.

 

On behalf of all of the cancer survivors and those families that have been affected, congratulations to Stephen Bateman and team for another fantastic Jimmy Fund derby, and many, many thanks for your efforts *****.

 

MassWildlife has recently announced a major change in the Freshwater Sportfishing Awards Program, adding the Bowfin as an eligible species.  Interest in Bowfin is increasing in the Northeast, with more states recognizing them as a gamefish. The Bowfin pin will replace the Broodstock Salmon pin, since Salmon are no longer stocked in Massachusetts waters.  Currently, Bowfin populations are limited to the Connecticut River and Taunton River drainages and a few isolated ponds throughout the state (Onota Lake in Pittsfield is one of them).  The Catch and Keep minimum weight is 6 pounds for adults and 4 pounds for youth. The Catch and Release minimum length is 22 inches. Click onto the MassWildlife web page for valuable information on how to tell Bowfin from some other similar looking species such as the invasive Snakehead. *****

 

MassWildlife conducts a survey from June through August each year to evaluate turkey brood numbers. “The brood survey serves as a long-term index of reproduction,” explains Dave Scarpitti, Turkey Project Leader.  “It helps us determine productivity and allows us to compare long-term reproductive success, while providing some estimation of fall harvest potential.” Turkey nesting success can vary annually in response to weather conditions, predator populations and habitat characteristics.

Scarpitti points out that citizen involvement in this survey is a cost-effective means of gathering useful data, and he encourages all interested people to participate. Be sure to look carefully when counting turkey broods, the very small poults may be difficult to see in tall grass or brush. Multiple sightings of the same brood can also be noted.  A turkey brood survey form is posted on the agency website.  *****

At its May meeting, the Massachusetts Fish & Wildlife Board unanimously appointed Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) Acting Director, Jack Buckley as its new Director.  He replaces the recently retired Director Wayne MacCallun. *****

Mom, look what I caught!”

That’s what 4 year old Austin Decker said to his mother after landing the big carp pictured above.  He was fishing at Onota Lake with his mom Courtney, Uncle Corey and friend Pat Santolin, all of Pittsfield.  He caught it with his little pole and worms on Mother’s Day.

 

Sorry, can’t tell how big it was as they immediately took the picture and released it back unharmed, but wiser, into the lake.  He could hardly hold it what with its squirming trying to get free.  It had to be around 10 lbs, wouldn’t you say?

 

Many thanks go to Karen Decker, also of Pittsfield, who passed on the information.  The very proud grandma only wishes that she was there to witness the event. ****

 

The Berkshire Hatchery Foundation is holding another free kid’s trout fishing derby at their lower pond in Hartsville next Saturday, June 13 from 9 to 10:30 AM.

The folks at the hatchery point out that if your derby experience feels too overcrowded or if you have a younger less experienced angler then they may want to fish during office hours from 9 AM to 4 PM provided they abide by the following rules:  Kids must be 13 years of age or younger, must be supervised by an adult, must get a pass, can keep a maximum of three fish, must return the pass and record the number of fish caught before leaving and must pick up any trash. Monthly derbies will still be held.  *****

 

Author Bob Romano wrote another excellent book entitled Brook Trout Blues.  This is his third in his series of novels set in Western Maine’s Rangeley Lakes Region.  The main character is once again Salvatore D’Amico, a middle-aged fishing guide in that area, who has the uncanny ability to get entwined in interesting situations.

 

Weird things happen to him just because he is trying to mind his own business and preserve his quiet peaceful lifestyle of fly fishing and guiding other anglers in that remote area.  Things like a missing neighbor, an attractive reporter who is trying to hit on him, a motorcycle gang, a pot farm, and more.

 

The book has a nice plot which definitely holds your interest.  It incorporates a good dose of mystery, adventure and intrigue.  As good as that is, what really impresses me each time I read one of his books is how Romano captures the characters and surrounding environs.   His words have the ability to take you to that region and you can almost smell the balsam and spruce forests, hear the roar of the rivers and the sounds of waterfowl, itch from the blackflies and mosquitoes and feel the dampness of the shaded forest floors.   You can almost hear the colorful residents speak in their unique accents (Don’t tell them they have an accent!)

 

I enjoyed this book and hope he is working on another.  The 232 page soft cover book is complimented by the cover art of John Swan and interior artwork of Trish Romano.  It is published by Birch Brook Press and costs $23.00.  For more details, go to www.birchbrookpress.info or Romano’s website:   www.forgottentrout.com. *****

 

Russ Cohen, River Advocate from the Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration (DER), is taking advantage of Governor Baker’s Early Retirement Incentive Program and is stepping down. He has worked for the Commonwealth for over 27 years, originally with the Mass. Riverways Program, part of the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife and Environmental Law Enforcement. He considered himself extremely fortunate to have worked for and with wonderful people, including Riverways Program Coordinators Judy Wagner, Maria Van Dusen and Joan Kimball, and then, after the Riverways Program became part of the DER in 2009, Tim Purinton and Hunt Durey.

 

Among the highlights of his work was the drafting of the “Rivers Bill”, which, after years of prolonged and determined effort on the part of many, eventually became the Rivers Protection Act.  He also took part in the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs’ Watershed Initiative, in which he served on five watershed teams including the Housatonic.  I first met him when he frequently traveled out to the Berkshires to attend our meetings of the Friends of Williams River back in the 1980’s.   We immediately established a solid friendship which lasts to this day.

 

For his work with rivers he has received many awards: Environmental Achievement Award from Save the Bay (RI), the Environmental Service Award from the Mass. Association of Conservation Commissions,  Public Servant of the Year Award from the Environmental League of Massachusetts, Environmental Merit Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,  Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association of Massachusetts Wetland Scientists, and the River Steward Lifetime Achievement Award from the League of Women Voters and Sudbury-Assabet-Concord River Stewardship Council.

 

Russ also received a “Heritage Hero” award from the Essex National Heritage Commission for his foraging writing and programs. Most recently, Russ received the 2013 Education Award from the New England Wild Flower Society, in recognition of both his rivers work and foraging programs.  Russ has just completed his 40th year of teaching courses about wild edibles.  In 2004 he wrote an excellent book, Wild Plants I Have Known…and Eaten.  (It is in its 5th printing)

 

Fortunately for us, he expects to stay involved in some capacity in land and watershed conservation and stewardship in New England and upstate NY, particularly where it overlaps with interest in edible wild plants.  He is exploring the possibility of partnering with land trusts and other owners/managers of conservation and other lands to enhance the plant diversity on suitable sites, particularly by adding native edible species.

 

Crowningshield Property – A crowning achievement

 

 

The Crowningshield property is a 108 acre farm with a mile of riparian frontage along the headwaters of the West Branch of the North River, a wild trout stream in the nearby Town of Heath, MA.  When a farmer was interested in reviving the old farm, he approached the Franklin Land Trust (FLT).  Because the property has steeply sloping pastures and a woodlot that is landlocked by the West Branch it was a poor candidate for working land funding.

 

Two fly fishermen among the FLT staff visited the property.  They were surprised to see that the West Brook was shaded by mature riparian woods and rushing through a series of steep riffles and deep pools.  It looked to them as prime wild brook trout waters.   Follow-up research confirmed that the stream supports wild brook trout, has high water quality, sports a healthy macro-invertibrate community and falls in a regionally significant sub-watershed.  That brook was the most important resource on the property.

 

The FLT took the matter to the Deerfield River Watershed Chapter of Trout Unlimited (DRWTU) for advice.  Well, that chapter is relatively new and didn’t have the kind of funds needed to help the FLT purchase the property, so they brought the matter to the Massachusetts-Rhode Island Council of TU.  The Council supported the project and based upon a Council match of $2 for every $3 pledged by the chapters, they raised $45,000.  Even our local Taconic Chapter got into the act and pledged $1,000.  As a result, the FLT was able to secure the 108 acres and, with a conservation restriction, opened it up to public access.  Now, any angler can enjoy the mile of pristine trout stream.

 

Richard Hubbard, Executive Director of FLT summarized the effort:  “Just when we thought that we had run out of funding options, we came to the realization that we needed to look beyond our normal path for conserving land and focus on its incredible fishery.” Hubbard said.  “From our very first meeting with the MA/RI Council, we have been impressed by the enthusiasm that TU has brought to this project and its willingness to make significant financial and organizational commitment towards the conservation and future management of the Crowningshield Farm”.

 

Energized by the experience of working together to protect the farm, this new partnership portends the opportunity for even greater impact.  Building off of their new foothold in the waters of the West Branch, the partners envision a multi-layer conservation project that would protect more than 1,000 acres of forested landscape that keeps wild trout streams cold and clean.

 

The partners hope to engage landowners along the upper West Branch and its tributaries in creating a permanently protected landscape with more than 6 miles of wild trout water at its heart.  John Troiano, MA/RI Council Chairman described the effort, “Legacy projects like this don’t come up very often.  In the very short time available, it seemed impossible.  We made the commitment to do it and then figured out how to make it happen”.

 

Many thanks to Bruce Osterling, Chairman of the Projects Committee for Greater Boston TU for the above information.*****

 

The Berkshire Ducks Unlimited Annual Banquet & Fundraiser will take place next Sunday, June 7 at Mazzeo’s Ristorante, 105 South Street, Pittsfield.  Doors open at 4 PM and dinner is at 6 PM.   Tickets cost $35 for individuals and there are various sponsor packages.  DU is the world’s largest non-profit organization dedicated to conserving North America’s continually disappearing waterfowl habitats.  Established in 1937, DU has conserved more than 13 million acres across the continent.  Click onto http://MA.ducks.org, local events for more information.*****

 

The 23nd Annual Harry A. Bateman Memorial Jimmy Fund Fishing Derby, will take place next Saturday, June 6 at the Frank Controy Pavilion at Onota Lake in Pittsfield, MA from 6:00 AM to 12:00 PM. No fishing license is required (free fishing weekend in Massachusetts). The derby is open to the public and its purpose is to raise money for the Jimmy Fund – Dana Farber Cancer Institute for Children.  All of the proceeds will be donated to the Jimmy Fund in memory of Harry A. Bateman a former member of Central Berkshire Bowman & I.U.E. Local 255 who was well known throughout Berkshire County and who became a victim of cancer in 1992.

15 trophies and prizes will be given away to the winners of the fishing derby. There will be  a special category for those fishing with a bow & arrow.  All fish must be weighed in at 12:00 p.m. and can be caught at Onota Lake from a boat or the shore.

 

The fee, which includes food and beverage, is $10 for adults and $5 for Children 14 years and younger.  There is a ticket raffle and many other great prizes.  Advanced tickets may be purchased at Avid Sports, Dave’s Sporting Goods & Onota Boat Livery.  Registration required before fish can be weighed in.  *****

 

The following local waters were scheduled to be stocked with trout last week:  Deerfield River in Buckland, Charlemont and Florida; Westfield River in Huntington, Chesterfield, Cummington, Windsor and Savoy and the following lakes and ponds:   Plunkett Lake, Stockbridge Bowl, Ashfield Pond, Littleville Lake, Windsor Pond, Richmond Pond, Otis Reservoir, York Lake, Goose Pond and Onota Lake.

 

Correction from last week’s column about the Wild Acres fishing derby:   According to Heather Traversa, her children Rebecca Stimpson, and Casey Wassilie along with their cousins Mike and Mark Stimpson are the ones who caught the tagged fish in the 13 trout that they caught. They are not related to Steve Fones. Steve’s granddaughter Jordan Hamilton caught the trout with the help of Jack Stimpson and it was Steve himself that caught the bass.  My apologies to all.

Its time to get ‘out fishin’

 

One day last fall, Ms. Jeanne Cawley of Hinsdale approached me with a copy of the following poem.  She said that it used to hang in a cottage where her father  stayed long ago while fishing in the Adirondacks in NY.   It was written by Edgar A. Guest and she wondered if he was a poet or just someone who used to fish the Adirondacks and stay at that cottage.  It obviously had significance to Jeanne and I promised to look into it.

Well, it turns out that Mr. Guest was a prolific English-born American poet who was popular in the first half of the 20th century and became known as the People’s Poet.   He wrote over 11,000  poems which were syndicated in some 300 newspapers and collected in more than 20 books, including A Heap o’ Livin’ (1916) and Just Folks (1917).  Guest was made Poet Laureate of Michigan, the only poet to have been awarded the title.  His popularity led to a weekly Detroit radio show which he hosted from 1931 until 1942, followed by a 1951 NBC television series, A Guest in Your Home.

The poem, entitled Out fishin’, is as follows:

A feller isn’t thinkin’ mean,

Out fishin';

His thoughts are mostly good an’ clean,

Out fishin’. He doesn’t knock his fellow men., Or harbor any grudges then; A feller’s at his finest when Out fishin’. The rich are comrades to the poor,

Out fishin'; All brothers of a common lure,

Out fishin’. The urchin with the pin an’ string Can chum with millionaire an’ king; Vain pride is a forgotten thing,

Out fishin’.

A feller gits a chance to dream,

Out fishin'; He learns the beauties of a stream, Out fishin'; An’ he can wash his soul in air That isn’t foul with selfish care, An’ relish plain and simple fare, Out fishin’. A feller has no time fer hate, Out fishin'; He isn’t eager to be great, Out fishin’. He isn’t thinkin’ thoughts of self, Or goods stacked high upon a shelf, But he is always just himself, Out fishin’. A feller’s glad to be a friend, Out fishin’ A helpin’ hand he’ll always lend, Out fishin’. The brotherhood of rod an’ line An’ sky and stream is always fine; Men come real close to God’s design, Out fishin’. A feller isn’t plotting schemes, Out fishin'; He’s only busy with his dreams, Out fishin’. His livery is a coat of tan, His creed -to do the best he can; A feller’s always mostly man, Out fishin’.

 

Things have certainly changed since Mr. Guest wrote those words.  For one thing, it’s no longer just a “feller’s sport”   but the gals love it too.  Just ask Connie Rickard and her daughter Akira Derr of Pittsfield, pictured above. It is so nice to see a mother and daughter spending quality time fishing together.

 

Thank you so much, Jeanne, for bringing this poem to our attention. There is something special in the words written by angling poets who have long passed beyond the river bend.  Their words ring just as true and beautifully today as then.  Maybe in a future column I can feature another of his poems entitled Fishing Nooks *****

 

Approximately 120 anglers participated in the Wild Acres Youth Fishing Derby which was held on Saturday, May 9.   Lion Aviation sponsored the derby and stocked 400 trout for the day’s event.  The Onota Fishing Club hosted it and provided poles, bait and assistance to all children.  They also provided breakfast and lunch for all participants.  50 of the trout were tagged and trophies were awarded to all children who caught them.

 

In addition to the stocked brook and rainbow trout, a couple of bass, sunfish, perch, bull head, frogs and two turtles were caught.  It looked like Steve Fones’ grandkids had the best luck, catching 13 trout including 3 of the tagged ones.   All of them were released.  Granddaughter Jordan Hamilton caught a big rainbow trout and a nice bass.  Young Lucas Fones had a good day, too.  The Stimpson’s caught some nice ones, too. *****

The following waters were scheduled to be stocked with trout last week:  Hoosic River in Cheshire and Adams, Clesson Brook in Ashfield and Buckland, Cold River in Charlemont, Florida and Savoy; Deerfield River in Buckland, Charlemont and Florida; Housatonic River  in Pittsfield (S/W), Lee (C&R), Stockbridge (C&R), Dalton and Hinsdale;  South Brook in Adams and Cheshire, Dry Brook in Cheshire, Konkapot River in Monterey, New Marlbough and Sheffield; and the following lakes and ponds:  Otis Reservoir, Greenwater Pond, Laurel Lake, Big Pond, Lake Buel, Onota Lake, Norwich Pond  and Windsor Pond. *****

In his monthly report to the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen, Division of Fisheries and Wildlife District Manager Andrew Madden noted that this spring, MassWildlife is once again working to help the Common Loon, a Species of Special Concern under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act.  Loons are threatened primarily by lead poisoning, induced by the ingestion of fishing sinkers lost by anglers, as well as acid rain, pesticides, shoreline development, and human disruption.  Management efforts, including monitoring and floating nest rafts, have been critical in increasing the number of breeding pairs in the Commonwealth.  The Western District will have 2 loon rafts deployed this spring at water supply reservoirs in Hinsdale and Lee. *****

 

Recently, Madden reported that some 430 coyotes were harvested statewide during the past hunting season.  Of that total, approximately 75 – 80 were harvested in Berkshire County.  No statewide figures were available.