Unwelcomed guest arrives at fishing camp



Following up on my recent articles about 5 of us fishermen heading north to Quebec to fish in Lake Ternay:  Attorney Mike Shepard (Mike S) and me from the Berkshires, Mike Miller and Carl Racie from Athol, MA and Gary Hebert from Richmond, NH (guys from the east).


One evening, shortly after dinner, our guide Steve came storming into the lodge shouting “There’s a bear out there!”  He grabbed outfitter Joe Stefanski’s 30:06 scoped rifle and ran back outside.  Some of us didn’t take him too seriously for, as mentioned in a previous column, he had a drinking problem and could have been hallucinating.  Things livened up at the table shortly thereafter when we heard a gunshot from outside.  Several rushed outside to see if there really was a bear and if Steve shot it.  Apparently, he missed.


We had just returned to the dinner table when there was another shot and once again fellows scurried out to see what was what.  He missed again.  This scene repeated itself one more time.   There was no way I was going out with a guy running around in the dark shooting a gun.  The bear got away again.


We were beginning to suspect that there was no bear at all when Claude, the handyman, came back in saying he shined a flashlight on the bear but no one was with him to shoot it.  Later on, Steve came in holding a hip boot that was all chewed up.  (Bears apparently like to chew on boots and waders.)


Mike S and I headed back to our cabin because he had left his waders on a clothes line to dry and he wanted to get them inside.  As long as we were there, we called it a night and went to bed. I slept with one eye open that night.  Our cabin was not that secure, with parts of the door rotted out and a very poor latch.  The wind actually blew it open a couple of times earlier during the week.


Around 5 AM, I heard a scratching sound on the outside wall near my feet and thought the guys in the next cabin were clowning around, trying to scare us.  It wasn’t until I heard a piece of plywood being torn off the outside wall that I bounded up to look out the window.   I saw nothing there, listened next to our door and heard nothing and looked out another window.  There I saw a black bear walking down the boardwalk heading away from our cabin and toward the lodge.   I woke Mike S up and told him about it and we both peered out the window but we couldn’t see it any more.  Mike went back to bed and as I was getting dressed we heard 3 gunshots come from the area near the lodge.


Gary Hebert and I walked toward the big house and saw Joe standing there in his underwear holding his rifle.  The first words out of his mouth were “What’s a guy have to do around here to get a night’s sleep?”   The animal had awakened him while rummaging nearby and he shot it.


Shortly thereafter, Claude joined us from the guide’s cottage and showed us the damages the bear did there.  During the night, it scratched at their door trying to get it.  It destroyed Steve’s backpack, scattered his fishing lures, chewed up a beer can, chewed up his sun glasses and punctured an aerosol can of OFF insect repellant (that’s possibly when it chewed up the camp water hose, probably to gargle). Sometime during the night, it also chewed up a couple of jerry cans near the boats.  It tore off a chunk of plywood from our cottage and left it lying on the ground.


After bears had previously broken into one of Joe’s camps and totally destroyed his lodge kitchen, stove, refrigerator, etc, costing him thousands of dollars in damages, he doesn’t fool around with them anymore.  From that day on, no fishing cleaning is allowed on the island or anything that will attract bears.  He flies out the garbage when he goes for provisions.


Unlike the bears around here with frequent contact with humans, bears up there are hundreds of miles away from civilization.  They never see humans and probably consider us another animal to kill and eat.  I hated to see the bear being killed, but if not that day, then sometime in the future it would have caused someone serious trouble.


Joe had to get the dead bear off the island lest the carcass attract other bears.   It was rolled down the hill to the water’s edge, attached by rope to a boat and towed out to a nearby small island which he calls Bear Island.    He left it there where it will eventually be eaten by other bears or scavengers.


Later on, we kiddingly asked Joe what the proper attire was for bear hunting up there.  “Fruit of the Loom”, he replied.


In some ways, Mike S and I were glad to leave because of the slow fishing, drunken guide, dangerous, slippery rivers, white knuckled boat rides through white caps, and marauding bears.  On the other hand, the sights of the Northern Lights were remarkable as were the sights and sounds of the loons and, of course the occasional catching of big beautiful brookies.


As our plane approached, Mike Miller confided in us that he wished he was leaving, too.   But he had to stay because his son Darren was flying in on that plane to fish with him and the other guys for the next several days.  Did he have a premonition?  Find out next week.

Trip to the North turns south



Readers may recall last week’s article about 5 of us fishermen heading north to Quebec to fish in Lake Ternay:  Attorney Mike Shepard (Mike S) and me from the Berkshires, Mike Miller and Carl Racie from Athol, MA and Gary Hebert from Richmond, NH (guys from the east).


When our plane landed on Lake Ternay and we got to the island, there were other people leaving who had spent the prior week fishing.  They said they caught some fish but the fishing was slow at times.   The weather had been very hot, the water warm and the fish were not moving into the rivers.


After unpacking our gear and grabbing a quick lunch, we got into a couple of 16 foot boats and crossed the lake a mile or so to fish the South Rapids (inlet to the lake) where we caught a few small brookies.  It was then that we noticed that we had only one guide for the five of us and he was a last minute fill in.  The scheduled guide hurt his hand and could not be there.


The guide was a Frenchman from New Brunswick who we shall call Steve, and he was accompanied by another Frenchman also from New Brunswick named Claud.  Claud was a likable person whose job was to keep the equipment running and do other camp maintenance.


That night, the outfitter Joe Stefanski asked us not to give any alcohol to Steve because he had a drinking problem.    He also mentioned that Steve had spent two years in prison in Kuujjuaq village in Nunavik, Quebec.   We noticed he always carried a sheathed knife on his belt.  He was an excellent fly tyer though and was familiar with the waters.


The next day, we returned to the South Rapids, hiked over a peninsula where a boat was stashed, crossed that lake to another inlet and hiked overland to the river.  Mike S. caught a nice brookie of nearly 4 lbs where the river entered the lake.   I moved upriver and had just stepped into the water with the intent of fishing downstream toward Mike when Steve entered just below me and started catching fish after fish.  Being the guide, I fully expected him to invite me down there to fish it, but he didn’t.  It was like he was competing with me.


When he finally moved upstream, I went there and began catching nice trout myself.  We never saw Steve or Claud the rest of the day.  In the meantime, Stefanski brought the guys from the east to the other side of the river and they caught a few nice fish.


At the end of the day, the Frenchmen returned to the boat and on the way back we heard all about the big fish that they caught up above.  This did not set well with us who were supposed to be guided that day.


A day or so later, we noticed Steve helping himself to the guy’s beer and before long, an 8 pack of beer was missing.  His problem with alcohol was becoming evident.  Mike S and I took our stuff to our cabin.  After all, we weren’t in a place where we could go to the corner package store and buy more.


The next day, we fished the North Rapids (lake outlet) some 12 miles away (2 hour boat ride in very choppy waters). Care had to be taken at certain spots lest the motor propeller struck large submerged rocks.  Depending on what side of the river you fished or if you wanted to brave the strong current and slippery rocks in the middle, some large brookies could be caught.  We never saw a landlocked salmon that day nor had the shore lunch that we were promised.


On our next trips to the North Rapids fishing got a little better.  Steve typically took the guys from the east in his boat and Mike S. drove ours.  One day Steve spent an hour or so helping me and Mike S.  get out into the middle of the river and catch some beautiful fish.  He took the guys from the east to the opposite side of the river and they caught some nice fish, too. On the way back, we did some trolling in a shallow inlet and caught 7 nice pike of 36” or more for our dinner that night.


But for the next several days, Steve only drove the boat and dropped us off to fish while he disappeared on shoreline or sat in the boat drinking.  There was virtually no guiding being done, or shore lunches, and it appeared as though he was drinking more and more.


When the beer ran out, he started hitting the hard stuff that other customers from previous trips had left when they went home.  He used so much of our orange juice for mixer that we had none left for breakfast the last day.


A trip like this is not just about catching fish.  Part of the enjoyment is when the dinner is over and the fishermen sit around the fireplace, have a drink and discuss the big fish that they didn’t catch.  We couldn’t do this because of Steve and we were uncomfortable and had to watch every word we said to him.  Usually, we retired to our cold cabins earlier that we wanted.  We were disappointed.


Don’t get me wrong.  We caught some big brook trout.  Mike S. and I caught a couple in the 4 lb range and the guys from the east landed some even bigger in the 5-6 lb range.  However, we should have caught more.  If we had a sober guide who took his work seriously, the outcome of our trip may have been different.  To be continued next week.


Off again on another fly fishing trip


For over 6 months Attorney Michael Shepard of Dalton and I have been planning a fly fishing trip to Lake Ternay in Northern Quebec.  We had arranged the trip through outfitter Joe Stefanski of High Arctic Adventures. Several years ago, we used the outfitter to fish Diana Lake in the Nunavik region in Canada.  We had a wonderful trip then catching lots of large brook trout and we hoped the same would happen at Ternay.

The day finally arrived and we drove up to Montreal, stayed at the Sheraton Hotel that night and linked up with three other fishermen :  Mike Miller and Carl Racie from Athol, MA and Gary Hebert from Richmond, NH.   The next morning we flew to Sept-Iles in Quebec and then on to Wabash, Labrador.  From there we took a 5 minute ride to Labrador City where we purchased our provisions and spent the second night.  The following morning, bush pilots flew us in two  seaplanes, from Little Wabash Lake to Lake Ternay where our camp, Lake Ternay Lodge was located on an island.  Our plane was a four seat de Havilland Beaver which was built in 1956 and it appeared that the only modern equipment on it was a GPS system, similar to what you have in your car.

Mike Shepard sat in a front seat next to the 22 year old pilot and I sat in the back next to a strapped in 55 gallon drum of aviation fuel.  After an hour flight, we made a smooth landing on the lake.  (I get such a rush taking off or landing on water).  The lake is located approximately 100 miles northwest of Wabash in Quebec Province with nothing, I mean nothing but tundra and water bodies in between.   There were no other people or towns for nearly 100 miles.

The lake is in the headwaters of the Caniapiscau River in the sub arctic region and a river flows in from the south (South Rapids) and the outlet flows north (North Rapids).  All rivers there above the 52nd parallel flow north ultimately into Ungava Bay, some 350 miles north.

According to Stefanski, the brook trout, lake trout, landlock salmon, pike, etc. stay in the deep lake during the winter and as soon as “ice out” the baitfish swim upstream to spawn and the game fish follow and feed on them.   During the warm summer months, they drop back into the lake and stay there until it is time for them to spawn, in late August or early September, depending on weather and water conditions.  That is what brought us to this remote spot at that time.  We wanted to fish the rivers for big brookies, landlocks, and perhaps lakers. Aah!  The things we do and places we go to outfox a critter with a brain the size of a pea.

After two days of traveling, we finally made it there and were ready for a wonderful week of catching some big fish.  To be continued in next week’s column.  *****

At the September Berkshire County League of Sportsmen meeting, Andrew Madden, Manager of DFW Western District reported the following:

Hunting on Sundays is still prohibited in Massachusetts.  A bill allowing bowhunting on Sundays had been passed by the House in June, but it did not get passed by the full legislature.

The DFW Field Headquarters staff is back in operation in Westborough. The new state-of-the-art, energy-neutral Headquarters building, is located on the footprint of the old building on the Westborough Wildlife Management Area.  Phone numbers, email addresses for Field Headquarters staff, and location remain the same (1 Rabbit Hill Road, Westborough, MA 01581).

The sale of Surplus Antlerless Deer Permits by Wildlife Management Zone will be staggered over the following days in October:

  • Zone 11 permits will go on sale Tuesday, October 7th at 8 A.M.
  • Zone 10 permits will go on sale Wednesday, October 8th at 8 A.M.
  • Zone 13 and 14 permits will go on sale Thursday, October 9th at 8 A.M.


Three Western District sportsmen’s clubs are participating in the Youth Pheasant Hunt this fall (East Mountain, Lee, and Worthington).  For more information contact the DFW Western District office in Dalton (413) 684-1646.

Total new acreage (Ownership and Conservation Easements) in the Western District totaled 958 acres this past year:  Blandford – 150 acres, Chester  – 76 acres, Chesterfield – 91 acres, Cummington – 2 acres, Great Barrington – 325 acres, Lanesboro – 139 acres, Windsor – 75 acres and Worthington – 100 acres

Fall trout stocking should begin the last week of September and run through the Columbus Day weekend.  The Western District waters usually stocked in the fall include: Ashfield Pond, Deerfield River, Littleville Lake, Westfield River (E. Branch), North Pond, Upper Highland Lake, Littleville Lake, Norwich Lake, Goose Pond, Laurel Lake, Lake  Buel, Windsor Lake, Lake Buel, Otis Reservoir, Big Benton Pond, Onota Lake, Pontoosuc Lake, Richmond Pond, Stockbridge Bowl and Windsor Pond.

The September meeting of the Fisheries and Wildlife Board will be held this Tuesday at noon at the DFW Western Wildlife District office, 88 Old Windsor Road, Dalton. *****

The Berkshire County Chapter of Whitetails Unlimited will be having a banquet on Saturday evening, September 20 at the Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club, Route 102, Stockbridge.  There will be games, raffles and a social hour at 5 PM and a buffet dinner at 6:30 PM.  Tickets cost $45 for a single, $35 for spouse, $25 for junior.  There are sponsor deals also.  The ticket order deadline is tomorrow. We attended the first event last year and had a wonderful time.

The Cheshire Rod & Gun Club Turkey Shoots start next Sunday and run every Sunday through November 23.  Shoots start at 1 p.m. and costs $3 a shot.

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.


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:


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


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.