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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t invite black bears to your neighborhood

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Sportsmen, conservationists need to take action with checkbook and letters

 

 

Berkshire Natural Resources Council is a non-profit land conservation organization working throughout the Berkshires in Massachusetts to preserve threatened lands.  The Council places special emphasis on protecting Berkshire’s farms, forests, streams, and ridgelines – the great landscape features that give us clean water, fresh air, local produce, healthy wildlife, and outstanding recreational opportunities. You still have time to help them accomplish some wonderful projects by making a donation by June 30.

 

According to Tad Ames, BNRC President, by June 30 they hope to close on a Golden Hill deal in Lee which will permanently conserve and transfer hayfields from a corporate ownership into the hand of a local farmer.  Neighbors and the Lee Land Trust have helped leverage a state agricultural investment.

 

Two more farm projects should also close in late summer or early fall.  That would bring BNRC’s tally of protected farms to 30 with four more pending.   All credit goes to committed farmers, the Massachusetts APR Program and you, the supporters.

 

Also by June 30 they expect to buy a parcel from the City of North Adams that will connect the Hoosac Range and Mahican-Mohawk Trail.  Another closing will be the purchase of a 52 acre parcel in Lanesboro linking BNRC’s Constitution Hill with Lanesboro’s Laston Park on North Main Street.  They hope to build a bridge across Town Brook to connect the two parcels for walkers.

 

BNRC’s stewardship staff is taking care of 8,695 acres that they own and looking after 84 conservation restrictions that protect 10,322 acres.  *****

Hunters and shooters:  Are you aware that House Speaker Robert DeLeo released a bill entitled “An Act Relative to the Reduction of Gun Violence” to the general public?   Upon reviewing the legislation the Gun Owner’s Action League (GOAL) was very unhappy with it.  All 50 of the parts of the bill are listed as well as what GOAL supports and opposes.  For details, click onto  http://www.goal.org/goal-response-may-30-2014.html.   You are encouraged to read it but you will be upset.

GOAL’s assertion that the newly proposed legislation was supposed to be about addressing mental health issues and providing more crime fighting tools. While some of the bill covers those matters to some degree, there are proposals in it that will simply result in the further persecution of lawful gun owners.  People like you and me – hunters, skeet shooters, etc.

You are encouraged to respectfully and courteously contact your local representative and senator and ask them not to vote for this bill.    Don’t depend on the other guy to do it or your sportsmen’s club or the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen.  You do it!  Let your legislator know that there is a person attached to this letter.   *****

As you may know, the EPA has announced its proposal for the removal of PCBs from the rest of the Housatonic River.  After challenges and other delays, it will probably take 5 years before they begin and then it will take another 13 years or so.

Many people have no problem with their removing the PCB’s immediately upstream of the dams.  That would eliminate nearly 90% of them from the river.  However; from the confluence of the East and West Branches of the River in Pittsfield to Woods Pond in Lenox, the plan calls for removal of riverbed sediment and soil in eroding river banks in hot spots, and reconstruction of  the banks with an engineered cap covered with a bio-engineering ”soft” layer or if necessary with rip-rap.  Parts of the riverbed will also be capped.

This cap consists of a mixing layer, a filter layer, bioturbation layer, protective layer and a habitat layer.    Personally, I just can’t understand this cap business in moving water.  Surely they must be aware of the tremendous force of a raging river with the ability to roll huge boulders and take down trees which will then scrape and scour the river bottom and presumably any caps that exist there.

There are plans to dredge Woods Pond and cap it, too.  Some folks think they should just dredge it and skip the cap.  All the capping from upstream will end up there anyway.  The dredged material would be shipped off-site to existing licensed facilities, presumably by train.

Perhaps they should get off of this shovel and wheelbarrow technology and seriously look in to other methods of bio-remediation too, such as whatTim Gray and the Housatonic River Initiative folks have been advocating for years.

The remediation plan has barely been touched in this column.  Much more information is available at www.epa.gov/region 1/ge/proposedcleanupplan.html.  You have until August 8, 2014 to mail in your comments to: ( r1housatonic@epa.gov), or fax (617) 918-0028.. *****

The DFW conducts an annual wild turkey brood survey from June through August. It serves as a long term index on reproduction,” explains Dave Scarpitti, Turkey Project Leader.  It helps them determine productivity and allows them to compare long-term reproductive success. Citizen involvement in this survey is a cost-effective means of gathering useful data, and he encourages all interested people to participate. A turkey brood survey form is posted on the agency website.   Completed forms should to be mailed to: Brood Survey, DFW Field Headquarters, 100 Hartwell Street, Suite 230, West Boylston, MA 01583.

The Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club  Youth .22 Rifle League will run 8 weeks from July 2 to August 20on Wednesday evenings from 5 to 7pm.  $40 per child.  SSC membership is not required to join the league which is for kids 6yrs old and up.  The Club supplies all firearms and ammo but the kids need their own eye and ear protection.   Call Mike Buffoni with any questions at (413) 232-7703, or go to www.stockbridgesportsmensclub.org to download an application and mail it in.

2014 Antlerless deer permit allocations remain unchanged in most districts

 

In his May report to the MA Fish and Wildlife Board, DFW Deer Project Leader David Stainbrook recommended few changes to the antlerless permit allocations for this year’s deer hunting season.    In fact, no allocation changes were recommended for Wildlife Management Zones (WMZ) 1 through 9.   (The Western District encompasses WMZ 1 through parts of WMZ 4).  That is because the deer density levels are at the desired levels or very close to them.  However; in WMZ 10, 11 and 12 the Division is still struggling to attain what it considers optimal density levels.  He recommended increasing the antlerless permits from 11,000 to 12,000 in WMZ 10, from 10,000 to 11,000 in WMZ 11 and from 650 to 800 in WMZ 12.  Those zones are at the eastern end of the Commonwealth and Cape Cod.  The Board approved his recommendation.

To get an idea of the density problem which exists  in the east, contrast the total number of permits in WMZ 1 through 9 (13,174), which takes you from the Berkshires to Rte 495, to the 23,000 around the Boston area. They must have a serious deer problem on Martha’s Vinyard and Nantucket too, for the permits total 2,700 on each island.  The entire Western Massachusetts area, west of the Connecticut River only has 2,325 permits.

So why is there such a problem getting the deer density totals down in the east?  The main reason given by DFW is the fact that many of these towns do not allow deer hunting.  As a consequence, the deer herd there has skyrocketed to the point that residents are complaining they are eating all of their flowers, bushes and gardens.  The deer are also taking a heavy toll on various tree saplings necessary to sustain their forests as well as eating rare and endangered plants.  There are also high numbers of deer/auto collisions as well as high rates of lime disease caused by deer ticks.

The only way DFW can get the deer densities down to desired levels is by increasing the number of antlerless permits in towns where people can hunt.

Interestingly, some of those thickly settled towns are beginning to allow archery hunting.  They  consider  it safer than shotgun hunting but is still a way to help alleviate the problem.  Last year in those zones, more deer were harvested by bow hunters than any other method.  Now the State Legislature is looking into possibly allowing archery deer hunting on Sundays.

DFW Director Wayne MacCallum is pleased that two thirds of the state is basically at density goals.  He doesn’t believe there is another state in the country that has a deer population that’s as healthy as ours.   “We have hard winters but we don’t have winter kills because we’ve got those densities down to a point where we have sustainable harvests.  For nearly two decades some 10,000  deer have been harvested a year”.  Healso praised the new data base model used by DFW to manage the deer herd.

F&W Board Chairman George “Gige” Darey expects the new data model to get even better because they are just at the beginning of it.  “It is so important to manage the deer herd.  We can’t let it get out of sync, like what is happening in Maine (high winter kills) and on Long Island (where they are so many that they are contemplating poisoning them).

Stainbrook also reported the final numbers for the 2013 deer hunting seasons.  Some 11,566 deer were harvested by hunters during the combined 2013 hunting seasons. By season, the statewide total breaks down as follows:  6 deer taken during the special deer season for paraplegic sportsmen; 4,486 taken in the archery season; 4,609 taken during the shotgun season; 2,343 taken during the muzzleloading season and 122 deer harvested during the Quabbin Reservation hunt.  For more detailed information, go to the MassWildlife White-Tailed Deer Harvest Information web page.

Incidentally, the deadline for applying for a 2014 antlerless deer permit is July 16.   There is no application fee but a $5 fee is charged if you are selected for a permit during the Instant Award period.  If you are not sure you submitted an antlerless deer permit application, check your hunting license in the Item Purchased section where you will see a line item that reads: “Antlerless Deer Permit Application.  You can also log on to the MassFishHunt website at www.mass.gov/massfishhunt and check your customer inventory.  If you have not yet applied, you can submit your application for an antlerless deer permit either online through a computer or at a licensed vendor.  *****

Steve Bateman of Pittsfield, organizer for the 22nd annual Harry A. Bateman Memorial Jimmy Fund Fishing Derby which was held on June 7, can’t thank you enough for supporting this derby.   A record 252 people participated.  He reports that it was a beautiful day but no monsters were caught.  The winners were as follows:  Children’s Heaviest Game Fish Category:  1ST  place – Jayden Tucker, largemouth bass – 2 lbs 6 oz; 2nd place – Jordyn Hamilton – largemouth bass – 1 lb 7 oz; 3rd place – Chalyce Jones – rainbow trout – 1 lb 7 oz.  Children’s Heaviest Non-Game Category:  1st place Brody Perkins – bullhead – 11 oz; 2nd place– Corey Kahlenbeck – white perch – 7 oz; 3rd place – Logan Barde – bluegill – 7 oz.. Adult Heaviest Fish Category:  1st place – Clem Caryofiles – largemouth bass – 3 lbs 1 oz; 2nd place – Mitch Scace – Largemouth bass – 3 lbs, 3rd place – Brian Barde – largemouth bass – 2 lbs 13 oz.  Special Heaviest Fish 1st Place Awards:  Bass: Shaun Herforth – smallmouth bass – 3 lbs 2 oz, Perch/Crappie: Dakotah Thiede – yellow perch – 9 oz.  Trout Adult:  Stan Les – rainbow – 1 lb 11 oz.  Trout Child:  James Lambert – brown trout – 3 lbs.  Sportsmanship Award:  Lillian Wilson.

Students now raising and stocking trout

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Readers may recall that the Connecticut River Atlantic Salmon Egg Rearing Project (ASERP) ended last year.  The US Fish & Wildlife Service decided to no longer fund it and the affected New England States’ Fish and Wildlife Agencies could not absorb the cost to maintain it.

When the salmon program ended, so did the ASERP school programs.  The faculty of the Becket Washington Elementary School felt that this program was too valuable an education program to end.   In lieu of salmon, they switched to raising brown trout.  Like the salmon program, the 3rd and 4th graders received the eggs from the MassWildlife Reed Hatchery, hatched them out in their aquarium, fed them and release them into the nearby Yokum Brook on May 29.

They had received 80 eggs in the spring and, according to teachers Mrs. Mary Kay McCloskey and Mrs. Patty Robie, there was a very low mortality rate.  The trout averaged around 2 inches long when they were released.  Many of the fish were given names, like Elvis III, Airiana, Wink and Pete.  Unlike Atlantic salmon which migrate to the sea after a couple of years, these fish will stay and grow in Yokum Brook or swim downstream to the nearby West Branch of the Westfield River..

Hats off to the school, teachers, and principal Leslie Blake Davis for continuing this program and exposing the children to the fish and their environs.  Unquestionably there was additional work running this program but they enjoy doing it.  For example, Mrs. Robie received a Berkshire County Teacher of the Year Award this year and received a small stipend which she used to buy more boots for the kids.  *****

Incidentally, returning 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 call 413-548-9138 ext. 121, as indicated on the yellow streamer tag below the dorsal fin, to provide information on the event. Please do not remove the fish’s tag.  As of June 5, 19 of them have returned to the Connecticut River.  The estimated total of all anadromous fish that returned this year will be covered in a future article, as soon as the final tally is made. *****

While the Becket-Washington students were busy raising and releasing the trout, students from Taconic High School were learning how to catch them with a fly rod and how to release them unharmed.  Don’t worry, those Becket-Washington trout are too smart to be caught.  After all, they went to school.

 

Taconic High School teacher Ron Wojcik conducts an after school flyfishing class.  The course includes fly casting, fishing knots, entomology, ethics and good sportsmanship.  At the end of the course, he and his wife Diane fed the kids pizza, cookies and soft drinks before taking them fishing at a private pond.  Five students were able to participate and they were:   Michael Boc, Adam Delphia, Joe Kozlowski, Alex Kent, and Jonathan May.   There they were joined by Taconic Chapter Trout Unlimited members Allen Gray, Paul Knauth, Marc Hoechstetter, Steve Smith and me who helped them improve their fly casting skills.  The students managed to catch several nice trout * ****

The Berkshire County Chapter of Ducks Unlimited will be having a dinner on Saturday, June 21 at the ITAM on 93 Waubeek Road, Pittsfield.  There will be raffles, and live and silent auctions.  Doors open at 5:30 PM.  Space is limited to 150.   The basic price is $40 pp and there is a sponsor package beginning at $250.

Tickets can be purchased online @http://www.ducks.org/massachusetts/events/34336/berkshire-county-of-ducks-unlimited-annual-dinner  (Online sales end on June 20), or by calling either Joe Delsoldato  at( 413)717-0938, or JP Murphy  at (413)822-3915. *****

Hey shooters, do you want to save on ammo expenses?  Jim Finnerty of GOAL is teaching a course on rifle reloading. It includes component selection, proper brass sorting and case preparation, load selection, gauges and tools, crimping, sizing rimmed and belted cases, loading for long range shooting, review of pressure signs, and testing with record keeping.   The 5-hour course costs $100 and space is limited.  Contact Larry for more information at (413) 442-7807.

 

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

 

Attached picture is of the students releasing their brown trout into Yokum Brook.  Thanks to Becket resident Karen Karlberg who has been involved with the fish rearing program, for taking the pictures.

Update on didymo

 

It was just about a year ago whenofficials from the Massachusetts Departments of Fish and Game  and Conservation and Recreation  informed residents of the presence of Didymosphenia geminata (didymo, a/k/a rock snot) ) in the Green River in Alford and Egremont.  That finding was the first confirmed occurrence in Massachusetts.

It has also been detected in NY, CT, VT and NH.  Fishermen wearing felt soled boots were blamed for its spread and some states banned their use.  Fishermen were angry at being forced to buy new boots that they didn’t trust.   They remembered the previous attempts at producing non-felt soles which didn’t work.   Nothing beats felt at gripping wet rocks.

In his update to the MA Fish & Wildlife Board, DFW Western District Manager Andrew Madden reported that he went back to check on the didymo in the Green River late last summer and could hardly find any.   He informed the Board that didymo requires a set of environmental conditions:  cold, clear, oligotrophic type water, sunlight, and proper PH.  He feels that the key limiting factor seems to be reaction to phosphorous.  Didymo requires really low phosphorous levels and if you get above a certain level it goes away.  He speculated that there was a lot of water diluting conditions there as summer went on with reduced water levels and increased agricultural run-off.

Scientists knew that didymo was native to all of North America and already present in many streams.  What’s new are the blooms, and they believe the blooms are caused by a change in the environment — low levels of phosphorous in the water, which cause didymo to grow the long stalks that could become streambed-smothering mats. Turns out that Madden is right.

 

Of course we should continue to thoroughly disinfect and dry our boots.  But isn’t it ironic that  we have been doing our best to get the phosphorous out of our waters only to have the cleaner water foster the growth of didymo? *****

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

For various reasons I got a late start on fly fishing this year.  The first day of fly fishing for me is always a nostalgic trip into yesteryear.  I knew where I was going to fish, but had no idea of what hatches were on and what flies to use to imitate them.  Some of my friends had already been out fly fishing several times and had good ideas of what flies would work best.  I didn’t want to ask them because they would know that I was going fishing soon and would not want me to fish alone.  Not this day, for I already had a truckload of fishermen going with me…………people like Joe Areno, Charles Lahey, Ralph Shea, Bill White, Ted Giddings, Gordon Leeman, Al Les, and others.

 

Wait, you say, these folks have all passed beyond the river bend, some of them many years ago.  True, but their memories still linger and are with me to this day, especially the first day of fly fishing each season.  Their influence on me in the sport of fly fishing was great.

 

Each year on my first outing, I tote them along.  This year I fished with Joe Areno’s fly rod that he purchased in Japan during the Korean War.  The reel that I used was an old beat up Martin reel that Gordon Leeman (former game warden) fished with.  Some of the flies used were the late Bill White’s Brown Charm, which Ted Giddings passed on to me, Charlie Lahey’s Mad River Special, Lee Wulff’s flies (met him in North Adams when he was a guest speaker of the Hoosic Chapter of TU), the AuSable Wulff, tied up for me by Francis Betters, famous fly tyer and author, and others. .

 

Of all the people mentioned, no one had a more profound effect on me as Ralph Shea of Pittsfield.  He practiced catch and release long before it became popular.  It was he who taught me how to cast a fly and how to tie them.  It was with him that I caught my first trout on a fly out of the Westfield River in Bancroft (on a fly that he taught me to tie).

 

The last time I saw Al Les was fishing on the Williams River in West Stockbridge.  We fished together a short time that day.  He passed a few months later. (He was the first recipient of the Silvio O. Conte Sportsman of the Year Award).  I was so impressed with Joe Areno (another Sportsman of the Year award recipient) that I developed and named a fly after him.  I fished with Charlie Lahey many times and was elated when  he was inducted into the Freshwater Hall of Fame in Hayward, Wisconsin.  He fly fished until he was nearly 102 years old.

 

The memories of these and other great fly fishermen were vivid and I sat down on a stream bank and reflected.     They had a lasting effect and were the reason why I took up the sport.  Because of them, I was able to enjoy a sport that I had hitherto never known.    For the last 35 or so years, it has provided me with great pleasure.

 

I never caught a fish that day, but so what.  We just enjoyed the clear blue spring sky, warm sun, and green pastures.  The memories of these sportsmen made for a very special day.

As previously mentioned, this happens once each year, in the spring and I look forward to it.  I so much enjoy their company. *****

 

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