New policies on MassWildlife lands

In his February report to the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen, DFW Western District Supervisor Andrew Madden announced that in response to increased and unauthorized trail development activities as well as requests for new trails on its lands, the Fisheries & Wildlife Board approved a Wildlife Lands Policy and a Walking Trails Policy in August 2016. Together these policies support MassWildlife’s statutory mission of conserving wildlife habitat and providing wildlife-related recreation. 

These new policies can be seen by clicking onto the following:


MassWildlife lands generally include simple, gravel or dirt parking lots with unmarked footpaths and wood roads. This minimal-development management approach keeps “wild places wild,” while allowing access to nature with an “off-the-beaten path” experience. 


Here’s what the policies DO:

  • Support MassWildlife’s mission to protect wildlife and its habitat
  • Formalize a trails license agreement process for six regional trails
  • Limit trail creation, marking, and maintenance
  • Allow areas damaged by trails to recover
  • Continue free public access to MassWildlife lands

The policies DO NOT:

  • Restrict public access to MassWildlife lands
  • Prevent walking on or require closure of any existing path, woods road, or cart path on MassWildlife lands
  • Limit hunting, fishing, trapping, wildlife-related recreation, hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or off-trail exploring.


Unfortunately, MassWildlife sees people developing new trails, cutting new trails or taking some ownership of trails on its lands.  These new policies address that problem.


Also Madden reported that MassWildlife recently acquired 125 acres abutting the Peru Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Peru, MA.  The newly acquired land is off of East Windsor Road.

According to Madden, this acquisition not only protects and expands on huntable land but improves access to the WMA, which is one of the District’s largest at almost 5,000 acres. The property was cut recently for timber and has a variety of habitats including some wetland features. In the future they plan to develop a small informal parking area from East Windsor Road.  The property boundaries are completely marked. 


Keeping with WMA’s, Madden reported that the Western District is continuing its boundary marking efforts this winter. Through contract funds and internal staff time they will be marking more than 40 miles of boundaries by June.  MassWildlife’s land holdings in the Western District exceed 60,000 acres and 500 miles of boundary.


More information on the 2016 Deer harvest

In last week’s column, I mentioned that the preliminary statewide deer harvest for 2016 was 12,233, and that compared with last year’s harvest of 10,042.  Also mentioned was that the Western District (WD) accounted for 2,197 of them which compared to 1,887 last year.   Here are more WD data: 

Zone 1 produced a harvest of 349 (last year it was 293), Zone 2 – 479 (462), Zone 3 – 539 (486), Zone 4N – 531 (436) and Zone 4S – 299 (210). In the WD, 720 were taken during Archery Season compared to 511 last year; 969 during Shotgun Season compared to 898, and 418 were harvested during the Primitive Firearms Season compared to 320.

The biology structure of the deer harvest has not been broken down yet, but the average age structure for the last 5 years was:  About 40% were 1 ½ years old, 30% were 2 ½ years old and 30% were 3 ½ years old and older.  DFW feels that these are desirable age structures.

Incidentally, according to statistics from State Farm Insurance that were provided to MassWildlife, about 7000-9000 deer are killed statewide by vehicles each year.

Big E Sportsmen’s Show

The 34th annual Springfield Sportsmen’s Show opens on Friday, February 24 and runs through Sunday the 26th at the Big E in West Springfield.  The hours are Friday from noon to 8pm, Saturday from 9am to 7pm and Sunday from 10am to 5pm.  Tickets are $13 for adults, $5 for kids 6-12 and 5 yrs and under free.  It is billed as the undisputedly largest “pure” sportsmen’s show in the Northeast.  The show includes the best of hunting, fishing, boating and adventure recreation that the outdoor world has to offer all bundled together in one great event.  It is filled with hundreds of booths, exhibits, seminars and action areas.    For a listing of big named hunting and fishing presenters and more information, click onto


Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation

The Bay State Chapter of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is having a banquet on Saturday, February 25 at the Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club.    It is a social evening of fun, great food and camaraderie all for the benefit of elk country.  Tickets are limited, so purchase yours ASAP for a chance to win top notch firearms, premium hunts and exclusive home furnishings.  Doors open at 5:00pm. Call Gary D. Johnston at (413) 298-3623 for more information.


Hoosic River

The Hoosic River Revival’s (HRR) vision is to revitalize the Hoosic River, maintain current levels of flood protection and bring the river back as an asset to the residents of North Adams. The North Adams Public Library is currently featuring two displays to learn about the history of the Hoosic River and the HRR’s vision for the south branch of the river.


The first floor display includes information about the history of the flood chutes in North Adams and an artist rendering that invites residents to “imagine a revitalized Hoosic River.”


A second display in the Children’s Library on the second floor features fun activities for children along with interesting facts about animals that live along the River.   Sara Russell-Scholl, the Youth Services Librarian, has included a collection of children’s books about animals that live in and around rivers.


The display, which will continue through February, can be seen Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9am–5pm, Thursday from 12–8pm and Saturday from 10am–1pm.




Steve Sears appointed to the Massachusetts Fish & Wildlife Board.


Governor Charlie Baker recently appointed Stephen A. Sears, of Dalton, to the seven-person Massachusetts Fish & Wildlife Board representing the Western District.  This Board is assigned the responsibility of supervision and control of the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW).  Sears replaces George (Gige) Darey of Lenox who recently retired from that Board.


Steve was introduced to the delegates of the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen by Darey at its February meeting.  (The League had previously petitioned Massachusetts EOEA Secretary Matthew A. Beaton and Governor Baker to appoint him).


He said that he is truly humbled to be able to take Darey’s place.  Steve is a lifelong sportsman, having caught his first trout when he was 3 years old.  He recounted how he had an opportunity while he was working at Crane & Co to protect all of the land where he caught his first trout.  “If we hadn’t done that 15 years ago, it may have been sold for condos last year.”  He’s an avid hunter, shotgun or bow hunting almost every day of deer season until he gets his limit.


He acknowledged that he has a big job to do and huge shoes to try to fill.  He said he will do the best he can to support the sportsmen to preserve the (outdoor sports) for the kids and their kids.  It’s a big job and he will do his best to make the meetings, bring information back to the Berkshires, listen to the concerns of sportsmen and address them the best that he can.


Steve holds a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from UMASS, Amherst.  He was with Crane & Co., Inc., for over 25 years, most recently as Vice President in charge of manufacturing, engineering, and environmental services. In his tenure at Crane, he oversaw all the energy procurement and environmental policies, and was instrumental in applying many leading edge process developments in U.S. currency production as well as spearheading many environmental efforts.


He is the president of the Massachusetts Outdoor Heritage Foundation where money is raised to do projects in support of the DFW.    The Foundation has done some great things so far and he is looking forward to continuing that work as well.  He is the Vice-Chair of the Berkshire Brownfields Commission and serves or served on the boards of the Center for EcoTechnology, Mount Greylock Ski Club, Upper Housatonic National Heritage Area and The Trustees’ Notchview Advisory Committee.  He served as a long-term member of the Dalton Development and Industrial Commission, where he led the development and implementation of multiple new bylaws for the Town of Dalton.


He is currently developing a former Crane & Co., Inc., factory building in Dalton, creating a quality –oriented marketplace for local artisan products and sustainable businesses.


Steve grew up and still lives in Dalton with his wife Maria. They have three grown children.  Behind his house is a mountain of which he knows just about every inch.   It has about 25 square miles of good hunting land.  “ It’s a big place, it’s a great place” he said.  He lives only 2 miles from the DFW Western District Headquarters in Dalton.  He worked for Crane & Company when they sold the building to the Boy Scouts.   That was before the Boy Scouts sold it to the DFW.


Steve said that he is thrilled to work with all of (the sportsmen and women).  He thanked the League for its support.  In turn, the League wished him the best of luck with a round of applause.


Prior to Steve’s introduction, former Chairman Darey had a few words.  He recounted how Steve was one of his students at Wahconah Regional High School.  Later on they both coached cross country skiing.  They worked together a lot helping other schools that did not have cross-country ski teams, running workshops and other projects.  Gige feels very comfortable leaving the Board knowing that Steve is going to be there. “He will do a great job”’ he said.


Darey also mentioned how he was on the Board for 38 years, its chairman for 35.   He remembered the great people he met over the years and the wonderful accomplishments.    “Its been a wonderful time serving the sportsmen”, he said, “and wouldn’t trade the life he had for anything”.  He thanked everyone.   He received a rousing, extended round of applause from the delegates.


Ice Fishing Derbies

The Locker Room Ice Fishing Derby will be held on Sunday, February 26, dawn till 2pm, Laurel Lake, $10 Adults, $5 Students..  There will be a Raffle and Pasta Dinner at the Locker Room on Main Street in Lee at 2pm.  All proceeds will to benefit the Lee Youth Football


The Ashfield Rod & Gun Club will be having a kid’s ice fishing derby on Ashfield Lake on Saturday, February 18.  The free derby will run from 8am to noon.  A free luncheon and awards presentation follows.  Call Joe Miraglia (413) 628-4400 for more info.


2016 Deer harvest

MassWildlife recently reported that the preliminary statewide deer harvest for 2016 was 12,233.   This compares with last year’s harvest of 10,042.  Both archery and primitive firearms seasons saw record harvests in 2016.  The total harvest was near record levels as well.  This good harvest was likely due to the low harvest in 2015 due to unseasonably warm weather, lack of snow, and an abundance of food. The increased harvest during the 2016 season was likely making up for the low harvest of last season and the weather was much more favorable for hunters.

The Western District accounted for 2,197 of them which compares to 1,887 last year.   I hope to have more detailed harvest information in a future column.

Wildlife Habitat Improvement Grants announced


In a recent news release, the Baker-Polito Administration announced that $317,243 in grants were awarded for wildlife habitat improvement projects totaling 534 acres in 13 Massachusetts communities.  These municipal and private conservation efforts will work to improve habitats for native wildlife and increase opportunities for wildlife-dependent recreation.

Western Massachusetts will be receiving approximately 59% of those funds. The following landowners will receive these grants:

  • Berkshire Natural Resources Council (Dalton and Hinsdale) – $18,000 – The BNRC will work to control invasive plants and improve floodplain forest along the Old Mill Trail.
  • Massachusetts Forest Alliance (Ashfield and Hawley) – $47,950 – The Massachusetts Forest Alliance will create young forest habitat.
  • Town of Lenox – 33,500 – The Town will work to combat the hardy kiwi invasive plant infestation.
  • Nature Conservancy (Sheffield) – $23,640 – TNC will improve wetland and grassland habitats through the removal of woody plants on the Schenob Brook Preserve.
  • The Trustees of Reservations (Sheffield) – $35,701 – The TTOR will restore grassland habitat through woody species removal and invasive species control on the West Grumpelt Parcel of Bartholemew’s Cobble Preserve.
  • MassAudubon (Otis) – $29,213 – Mass Audubon will create new, and expand existing, shrubland habitat on the Cold Brook Wildlife Sanctuary.

“We are proud to provide municipalities, conservation organizations and private landowners the resources necessary to improve habitats for wildlife in need of conservation assistance, while enhancing recreational opportunities for people who enjoy hunting, bird watching and other outdoor activities” said Governor Baker.

In its second year, the MassWildlife Habitat Management Grant Program provides financial assistance to private and municipal landowners of conserved lands to improve and manage habitat for wildlife deemed in greatest conservation need and for game species. The projects will also expand opportunities for hunting, fishing, trapping, and other outdoor recreation, and complement the ongoing habitat management efforts on state lands.

“Wildlife in special need of conservation as well as game species will benefit directly from these habitat management activities,” said Department of Fish and Game Commissioner George N. Peterson, Jr.  “In addition, the sporting community, birders, naturalists, and other wildlife enthusiasts will enjoy improved recreational opportunities.”

“The reality is that 80 percent of Massachusetts’ lands where wildlife is found are owned privately,” said Jack Buckley, MassWildlife Director. “It makes sense as an agency to promote and apply science-based habitat management activities with committed municipal and private landowners, thereby protecting their investment in wildlife and habitat.”

“Protecting and preserving our natural resources is a vital part of Massachusetts’ environmental programming and services,” said State Senator Adam G. Hinds (D-Pittsfield).  “I appreciate the Administration’s support of these habitat improvement projects in Sheffield, Hinsdale, Ashfield, Otis and Lenox.”

“Improving and protecting wildlife management habitats is an important investment in maintaining the Commonwealth’s quality of life, and preserving a more sustainable environment which supports a diverse range of species and landscapes,” said State Representative Stephen Kulik (D-Worthington).

Report Winter Fish Kills

MassWildlife reminds us that the majority of the fish kills reported to them turn out to be natural events not caused by pollution. During the winter, ice and snow cover can cause low dissolved oxygen levels in ponds. Ice and snow can limit the amount of light that reaches the water column and interfere with photosynthesis and decomposition of organic matter, which in turn can decrease the amount of oxygen available to fish. That may result in winter fish kills. Weedy ponds that are less than 15 feet deep are particularly vulnerable.

Ice anglers may encounter signs of a low oxygen environment when they drill through the ice and notice the smell of rotten eggs or observe sluggish or dying shiners. The odor is hydrogen sulfide gas which is a natural byproduct of low dissolved oxygen environments, and is not likely the result of pollution. Oxygen levels should return to normal shortly after the ice melts in the spring.

If you observe dead fish, contact the Environmental Law Enforcement’s 24-hour radio room at (800) 632-8075. A MassWildlife biologist will review each situation to determine whether the kill is natural or requires a site investigation.


In last week’s column about the gold pin freshwater fishermen, I erred twice.   The first error showed Angler of the Year Joshua Christman holding a large carp, whereas the picture caption said that it was a bowfin.  The second was where I listed Shaun Klammer of Adams as receiving two gold pins.  One for having caught a 24 lb 14 oz Northern Pike out of Onota Lake in the Youth Catch and Keep category and another for catching a 43 inch Northern Pike also out of Onota Lake in the Catch & Release category.   Shaun did catch the  24lb 14 oz pike but Jeff Klammer, Shaun’s father, caught the a 43″ pike.  My apologies for both errors.


Regarding fishing families, I recommend you read this month’ s Massachusetts Wildlife magazine article entitled, A line that Binds; Fishing, Family and the Lure of the Rez, by editor Troy Gipps.  The article was written about Val Percuoco’s fishing family.  Val, you may recall, caught the 3 lb 8 oz state’s record white perch recently while fishing with her dad Vinny on Wachusett Reservoir.  Val has fished with her dad and Uncle Paul and two sisters, Lynn and Nicole, since childhood.  They have earned countless Sportfishing Award Program pins.  Heck, Val’s younger sister Lynn has 20 pins of her own for 7 different species!


Ice Fishing Derby

The Ashfield Rod & Gun Club will be having a kid’s ice fishing derby on Ashfield Lake on Sunday, February 18.  The free derby will run from 8:00 am to noon.  All kids will receive a prize.  Call Joe Miraglia (413) 628-4400 for more info.


Questions/comments:   Phone:  (413) 637-1818



Pittsfield Angler, Joshua Christman, is MA 2016 Angler of the Year


Joshua Christman has been named the 2016 Angler of the Year in the Adult Catch & Keep category.  During the year, he caught and received pins for 17 species of freshwater fish, a new record in that category.  The species were: Bowfin, Brook Trout, Brown Trout, Bullhead, Carp, Chain Pickerel, Channel Catfish, Crappie, Largemouth Bass, Northern Pike, Rainbow Trout,  Smallmouth Bass, Sunfish(Rock Bass), Tiger Trout, Walleye, White Perch and Yellow Perch.

He will receive a gold pin and trophy for catching the largest Tiger Trout which measured 17 inches in the Catch & Release Category, a 6 lb 10 oz Bowfin and a Rock Bass which weighed 1 lb 9 oz. ( In Massachusetts, a Rock Bass is classified as a Sunfish).

This is the first time the Angler of the Year trophy will be awarded to a Berkshire County angler.  “That’s because the anglers in Berkshire County have a disadvantage”, says Christman.  “There are not as many species of fish available here.  For example there are no catfish, walleyes, landlocked salmon or lake trout in the Berkshires.”  Joshua learned to catch them through his Facebook friends, through Massfishing4life.  There are about 3,200 members scattered statewide,   and some of them provided pointers such as bait selection, tackle, water bodies, etc.

Joshua works 40 hours a week and has two children, so most of his fishing takes place at night. When asked if he will have any of his fish mounted, he said that he will probably not.  He encourages anglers not to kill the fish just to have them mounted. He usually only kills a fish if he intends to eat it.  He encourages anglers to get replica mounts of their large fish.

There are two other angler award categories, the Youth Catch and Keep and the Catch & Release categories.


Jason Bunar of Kingston, MA was named the Youth Catch & Keep Angler of the Year. He caught18 species, also a new state record:  Bowfin, Brook Trout, Brown Trout, Bullhead, Carp, Chain Pickerel, Channel Catfish, Crappie, Largemouth Bass, Rainbow Trout, Shad, Smallmouth Bass, Sunfish, Tiger Trout, Walleye, White Catfish, White Perch and Yellow Perch.


Michael Nee, of Northborough, MA was named the Catch & Release Angler of the Year.   He also caught 18 species and set a new record in that category.  He received pins for:   Brook Trout, Brown Trout, Bullhead, Carp, Chain Pickerel, Channel Catfish, Crappie, Landlocked Salmon, Largemouth Bass, Northern Pike, Rainbow Trout, Shad, Smallmouth Bass, Sunfish, Tiger Trout, White Catfish, White Perch and Yellow Perch.


In our local waters, the following gold pin/trophy fish were caught:  Joshua’s bowfin came out of Onota Lake, his Rock Bass out of the Housatonic River in Pittsfield and his Tiger Trout out of Goose Pond. A 24 lb 14 oz Northern Pike was taken out of Onota Lake by Shaun Klammer of Adams.  He also got a gold pin in the Catch & Release category for catching a 43 inch Northern Pike out of Onota Lake.


In the Youth Catch & Keep category,  the following gold pin catches were made: Cooper Shepardson of Lenox Dale caught a 23 lb 9 oz  Carp out of the Housatonic River in Lenox Dale. Zachary Buccigross of Abington, MA caught a 14 lb 10 oz Northern Pike out of the Housatonic River in Sheffield.  Troy Michalak of Lanesborough caught a 1 lb 13 oz White Perch out of Pontoosuc Lake.  James Najimy of Savoy caught a 1 lb 10 oz Yellow Perch out of Bog Pond in Savoy.  Incidentally, Madison Sniezek, of  Peru, caught an 8 lb 11 oz Lake Trout out of the Quabbin Reservoir.


In the Catch & Release Category, John Lander of Pittsfield caught a gold pin Brown Trout measuring 28 inches out of Onota Lake.


Last year there were two state record fish caught.  William Roy of Palmer, MA caught a 25 lb 7 oz Lake Trout out of the Quabbin Reservoir.  Val Percuoco of Leominster, MA caught a 3 lb 8 oz White Perch out of Wachusett Reservoir in West Boylston, MA. Readers may recall articles and pictures of these anglers and fish in this column last year.


Congratulations to all of these anglers who had a memorable year of freshwater fishing.  They will be awarded their trophies later at a time and place to be announced by MassWildlife.  For more information about the Sportsfishing Awards Program, click onto the MassWildlife web page.


Basic hunter education courses

First-time hunters who wish to purchase a Massachusetts hunting or sporting license must complete a Basic Hunter Education course.  This course is designed for first-time hunters and is standardized across North America.


The following local Basic Hunter Education courses are scheduled as follows:  Pittsfield High School, 300 East Street, Pittsfield, March 7, 9, 14, 16, 21 and 23. Cheshire Rod & Gun Club, 310 Curran Road, Cheshire, February 20, 24, 27, March 3, 6 and 10.   Both are 6 class sessions which run from 6 to 9 PM.  You must attend all class dates and times to successfully complete the course.


If you are interested in this course and wish to enroll, call 508-389-7830. Students are enrolled first-come, first-served, and enrollment cannot be processed via email. *****

Its ice fishing time, but be careful



What’s going on here?  For the second year in a row the Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club has had to cancel its scheduled ice fishing derby due to possible thin ice conditions.  It had been scheduled for Stockbridge Bowl on January 29.  Sure, one could probably get onto the ice here and there, but a public ice fishing event with kids running around is no place to take chances.  It is too bad, too, for a lot of work and planning goes into these derbies.  But, as club organizer Mike Buffoni explained, ”Ice on  the Bowl is breaking up and there is no ice-making weather in the near future to make it safe for the 29th”.


We grumpy old ice fishermen are getting perplexed over not being able to get out and freezing as we ice fish.  We have deer meat and other wild game building up in our freezers just waiting to be taken out and cooked up out there.  It never tastes so good as when grilled and eaten on the ice out there, especially when blowing snow and sleet is pelting your face. Darn this global warming!


Some organizations are hoping that it will get cold again and they can still have their ice fishing derbies.  For example, the Lenox Sportsmen’s Club ice fishing derby is scheduled for Sunday, February 5 at Stockbridge Bowl.  Sorry, I have no specifics on cost, times, etc. for this derby.


The Cheshire Fire Dept is scheduled to have its 1st annual ice fishing derby on Sunday, February 12, with registration at 7am at the first lake near the boat ramp.  Costs: adults $15, youths 12 and under free with the purchase of an adult ticket.


The 31st. Annual Berkshire County Jimmy Fund Ice Fishing Derby is also scheduled for

February 12 at 6am at the Onota Lake Pavilion. Contact Derby Chairman Leo Kruczkowski.


The Onota Fishing Club’s derby is scheduled for February 19 from 6 am to 2 pm, at the Onota Lake Controy Pavilion.  Adults $15, kids under age of licenses $5.  Dinner after derby costs $12.


The Lee Sportsmen’s Association ice fishing derby is scheduled for February 19 from 6am to 2pm on Goose Pond.  Following that there will be a spaghetti and meatball dinner at the club.  The cost is $10 for adults and $6 for kids.  For more information, call John Polastri at (413)822-8278.


The Cheshire Rod & Gun Club’s annual derby is scheduled for February 19 on the, 1st and 2nd Hoosac Lakes in Cheshire.  It runs from sunrise to 4pm. With weigh-in at the Farnams Causeway.  I believe the cost is $10 for adults and kids 14 and under free.


Before attending these derbies, be sure to check to make sure that they have not been cancelled.


Other upcoming events

There will be a National Wild Turkey Federation fundraising banquet on February 4 at the Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club.   Doors open at 5pm and dinner is at 6:30pm.    Tickets cost $65, which includes dinner, a year’s membership in the NWTF and a year subscription to Turkey Call magazine.  Contact Chris Puntin  at 413-464-4036 or email at for more information.


The Lee Sportsmen’s Association is having a Turkey Shoot on Sunday, January 29 from noon to 3:00 pm, and a dinner from 4:30 to 6:30pm.  The menu is venison stew and polenta and spaghetti and meatballs.  The cost is $15.00 for adults and $7.00 children 12 and under.  The dinner proceeds benefit its pheasant raising program.


Fly tying events

Chris Samson informs us that they are having fly tying events at Berkshire Outfitters, Rte 8 in Adams every Tuesday evening at 6:30. Free and open to the public, the events cover fly tying from beginner to expert with lessons if someone would like to learn to tie a fly.  There will be extra tools and vices on site.  Chris says that he has been wanting to get some local people together who are into fly fishing.  He is trying to build a community of anglers to share lies and information and just have a good time.


Canid and cougar presentations

Sue Morse, the founder of Keeping Track®, is highly regarded as an expert in natural history and one of the top wildlife trackers in North America. Since 1977, she has been monitoring wildlife, with an emphasis on documenting the presence and habitat requirements of bobcat, black bear, Canada lynx and cougar.


On Friday, February 3, from 6:00 to 7:30 pm, Sue will conduct a canid presentation entitled, “Wild Cousins of Our Best Friends: Wolves, Coyotes and Foxes”.   It will be held at Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield and is free and open to the public. “Intelligent, loving and loyal, wild canids have much to teach us – not only about our beloved pets but about healthy ecosystems too”. Sue will share her amazing photos and personal adventures studying these animals..


Then on Saturday, February 4 from 6:00 to 7:30 pm, Sue will conduct a mountain lion presentation entitled, “The Cougar Comes East”.  It will be held at Mt Everett High School in Sheffield and is also free and open to the public.  “Cougars are not only being seen in eastern North America, some are attempting to re-colonize their former habitats.  Where once it was flatly dismissed as an impossibility in the so-called “developed” east, scientists have now documented cougar dispersals and even occupancy in a growing list of eastern states and provinces”.  There will be an illustrated introduction to cougar biology and ecology in the broad diversity of habitats.   You will get the low-down regarding the latest confirmations of cougars in the east, including wild habitats from Manitoba to Louisiana and Maine to Georgia.


For more information contact Elia Del Molino at (413)429-6416 or

2016 Black Bear harvest was a record


MassWildlife Furbearer and Black Bear Project Leader Dave Wattles recently reported that a new record of 283 bears were harvested over the three 2016 seasons. The previous record harvest of 240 bears occurred in 2014.

During the first (September) season, 190 bears were taken, 46 were taken in the second (November) season, and 47 were harvested during the shotgun deer hunting season. According to Western District Supervisor Andrew Madden, 205 bears were taken in the Western District with 94 in Berkshire County.  Some of the higher Western District  harvests occurred in the following towns: Blandford accounted for 17 of them, Granville 13 and Cummington 10.

Madden also reported that 93 wild turkeys were harvested statewide during the fall turkey hunting season.  Some 15 of them were harvested in the Western District.  Earlier this year, MassWildlife’s Wild Turkey Project Leader David Scarpitti reported that the statewide spring preliminary harvest figures indicated that 3,054 wild turkeys were taken   So it looks like about 3,147 wild turkeys were harvested this year.


No 2016 deer harvest figures have been released yet.


Remembering Peter Mirick

It was reported in a recent MassWildlife newsletter that Peter Mirick, retired editor of Massachusetts Wildlife magazine, avid sportsman and herpetologist, passed away in December from cancer. He began his career with MassWildlife in 1977 as a staff writer for the magazine and served as an assistant biologist before becoming the magazine editor in 1981.


During his time with the Division, he earned a Master’s Degree in Biology from Worcester State College. Pete was an avid herpetologist, conducting research on the endangered Black Rat Snake and assisting with projects related to other reptiles and amphibians. During his career, he was active with professional organizations including The Wildlife Society, New England Outdoor Writers Association, and the Association of Conservation Information. He received a number of awards for his writing and editing and was the lead editor of the “Trapping and Furbearer Management in North American Wildlife Conservation” publication, which is used by state conservation agencies across the country.


He also authored the recently published “Massachusetts Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles.  (An excellent book currently on sale at the DFW Western District Headquarters in Dalton, MA).


Pete was a strong believer in educating people, particularly youth, about wildlife conservation and was a passionate advocate for hunters, anglers, and trappers. He will be greatly missed by many, including the folks at MassWildlife, natural resource professionals, naturalists, and sportsmen and women.


Water Flowing at McLaughlin Fish Hatchery

In the same MassWildlife newsletter it was announced that last month officials turned on the water pipeline at the McLaughlin Fish Hatchery in Belchertown. Construction began in June 2016 on the nearly mile-long water pipeline and hydropower turbine that will supply six million gallons of water daily to the hatchery, produce renewable energy, and reduce the hatchery’s electric demand.

McLaughlin Hatchery, built in 1969, is located in Belchertown near the Swift River and is the largest of MassWildlife’s five trout hatcheries. This hatchery is responsible for half of the state’s entire annual trout production, approximately 225,000 pounds, with a “retail value” exceeding $2 million dollars. Fish raised at McLaughlin Hatchery are stocked in nearly 500 rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds throughout Massachusetts.

The water pipeline project taps water from the Chicopee Valley Aqueduct and provides the McLaughlin Trout Hatchery with a reliable, gravity-fed source of cold water, eliminating the environmental and biological risks associated with the water withdrawal from the Swift River. The result will be an energy cost savings of $60,000 per year. The project also includes installation of a hydropower turbine on the pipeline. The construction of the building for the hydropower generator is well underway and the hydropower generator has been delivered to the site. The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) has received a grant to fully cover the cost of the hydropower unit which will generate almost $53,000 in annual revenue for the MWRA. As MassWildlife put it, “This project is a win – win scenario for the MWRA, the hatchery, and the Commonwealth”.

 Fly Fishing Show

The annual Fly Fishing Show will take place from January 20 through 222 at the Royal Plaza Trade Center in Marlborough, MA. There will be over 50 talks and demonstrations each day.  While there, you might shop for the newest tackle, book your next dream trip, watch tying and casting demos and learn from the experts.  I always pick up one or two autographed books and fly tying stuff while there


All the new rods, reels, fly tying materials, books, DVDs and latest equipment will be on display to test and purchase. There is a casting pond for casting demos and it is available to test your new rod.  Some of the celebrity authors this year include Gary Borger, Bob Clouser,  Ed Engle, Bob Popovics and many other flyfishing stars and they will be happy to autograph your books. There will be more than $60,000 in door prizes.


Show Hours are:  Friday:  10AM – 6PM, Saturday:  9AM – 5:30PM and Sunday:   9AM – 4:30PM.  Ticket costs:  One day $15, Two-day pass $25, Three-day pass $35, Children under 5 free, under 12: $2, Scouts under 16 in uniform: free and Active Military with ID: $10.   Click onto for more details.


Every year I write this,  but it is true – for flyfishers/flytyers this is a must-attend event.


Truckload of goodies raffle

The Cheshire Rod & Gun Club Truckload of Goods raffle winners were:   Truckload – Cara Aherne of Pittsfield, 2nd – Derek Wells of Adams, 3rd – Joe Fuller of Lee 4th – Dave Harmon of Pittsfield, and 5th – C. Barrie of Pittsfield.  Now that’s a good way to start off the new year

Sweren receives Crooked Staff Award


At its December meeting, the Taconic Chapter of Trout Unlimited (TU) presented Henry Sweren of Dalton its most prestigious award, the Crooked Staff Award.  He was also presented a plaque and, newly instituted this year, the use of the late Mr. Ernest Goodrod’s fly rod for the upcoming year.

Henry is a Life Member of TU.  He originally joined the Merrimac River Chapter of TU (New Hampshire) in 2001, but after moving to the Berkshires, he became a valuable member of the Board of Directors of the Taconic Chapter. He has helped in arranging the International Fly Fishing Festivals which have been held locally.  He participated in the OLLI (Osher Life Long Institute) program teaching people how to fly cast, tie knots, etc.  He is also a life member of the Farmington River Anglers Association.

I first wrote about the Crooked Staff 14 years ago and it occurred to me that some readers were young tykes back then and perhaps know nothing about this rich Taconic TU tradition.


Well, nearly every year since the mid 1980’s the Chapter’s Board of Directors selects one of its members to receive this coveted award. The person is selected as the member who best represents the ideals of T.U. (conserving, protecting and restoring North America’s coldwater fisheries and their watersheds).  This member holds the Crooked Staff for the following year until it is either passed on to another deserving member or is held, if none is deemed deserving.


The staff itself was the brain child of Ken Welch, one of the chapter’s past members who has since moved to the New York State Finger Lakes area. He related the following story about the origin of the staff which he claimed was true. However, members wonder if the social hour preceding the meeting when he introduced it affected his veracity.  In any event the moral of the story is still solid:


“Many years ago there lived a trout fisherman who was the epitome of the ultimate gentleman angler. He was a man who was honest to a fault, one who needed no guidelines such as game laws by which to live. He was a man who always did the proper thing because it was the right thing to do. Mr. Ernest Goodrod was that man.


He would never wade into another man’s pool, he never kept under-sized fish, nor exceeded the lawful limit. In fact he felt those laws weren’t written for him since he had always practiced Catch and Release. Mr. Goodrod stopped to help young anglers that he felt could use his expertise; he never lied about the quantity or the quality of his catches. He was free with his advice and shared the location of favorite fishing holes with strangers. He was truly a gentleman’s gentleman.


In spite of a heart condition he fished frequently, and often alone. Being of an advanced age he always had his wading staff tied to his belt with a rawhide tether. It was cut from a strong, straight tree and left in its natural state. Straight, strong, and pure, not unlike Mr. Goodrod. But alas, the day came when he didn’t return from his favorite stream; his heart had finally failed him. He was found at the Bridge Pool by the local near-do-well, a despicable man who lied cheated and connived his way through life. He was noted for following the trout stocking trucks to take as many trout as possible. When this awful man found Mr. Goodrod, he stripped him of his rod, vest, waders and wading staff. For most of that summer he used his stuff, including the staff, but every time he broke the law the staff would get shorter due to it taking on a coil and eventually the staff became unusable.


One evening the local game warden arrested the bum, jailed him and confiscated all his fishing tackle, including the crooked staff. Everyone knew that the staff was once the property of Mr. Goodrod and the story spread that if a real gentleman of Mr. Goodrod’s caliber were to handle the staff it would straighten out to its original splendor.


Ken Welch obtained the staff but in spite of him being a fine gentleman the staff remained crooked. Somewhere Ken had a hidden flaw. He was aware of the fine character of the members at the Taconic Chapter of T.U. and figured one of its members could remove the coils. Ken suggested that if the staff was presented to the one who most represented the ideals of T.U., the staff would be restored, but alas after many, many recipients, it remains crooked. Apparently each honoree had a hidden flaw in his or her character. Some day the likes of Mr. Goodrod will be found, so it is hoped.”  Let’s see if Henry Sweren can straighten it out.


Recently, charter member Homer Ouellette, himself a Crooked Staff recipient, passed beyond the river bend. Unbeknownst to the TU members, he had gained possession of Mr. Goodrod’s flyrod.  Homer’s brother Paul Ouellette, from Lanesborough, brought it to the recent TU meeting hoping that it would be presented to future deserving crooked staff recipients.  On it is inscribed, “Property of Mr. Ernest Goodrod”. A new TU tradition has been formed.


License-to-Carry Courses

The Lee Sportsmen’s Association and the Lenox Sportsmen’s Club are both sponsoring Massachusetts LTC courses. Completion of these courses awards the candidates a MA State Police Certificate which is required to apply for your MA LTC.  The Lee course is on January 14 from 9am to 3pm. The cost is $125 per person.  Contact Rob M. at 413-232-7700, or e-mail to register.


The Lenox course is on January 15, from 10am to 2pm. The cost is $70.00 per person.   Contact Tom Nadolny at 413-822-6451 or to register.