In his most recent report to the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen, DFW Western District Manager Andrew Madden reported that fall trout stocking season should be beginning this week and be completed by the second week of October depending on water conditions. This fall more than 60,000 rainbow trout that are 12 inches or longer will be stocked in Massachusetts water bodies.
According to MassWildlife’s Chief of Hatcheries, Ken Simmons, the ongoing drought should not have a major impact on fall stocking even if it persists through the fall season. “Drought conditions will likely result in the curtailment of some river and stream stocking due to low flows but we do not anticipate there will be much of an impact on lake and pond stocking,” Simmons said. There are more than 90 lakes and ponds on the fall stocking list and only 14 rivers and streams. MassWildlife fisheries biologists will assess the condition of each waterbody before making a final decision about stocking.
The two rivers in our area that are usually stocked in the fall are the Deerfield River and the East Branch of the Westfield River. According to Madden, stocking in the Westfield River could be iffy unless water conditions greatly improve.
Simmons noted that the drought has made operations at MassWildlife’s five hatcheries more challenging but has not affected the number of fish available for this fall’s stocking. In fact the 60,000 rainbow trout that will be stocked is 10,000 more fish than the original fall goal.
As was the case with the 2016 spring season, anglers will be able to view daily stocking reports this fall by visiting Mass.gov/Trout. They can search for a specific waterbody or town using the sortable list, or explore new fishing spots by using the map feature.
Airboat crew banding waterfowl
During dark nights of late summer and early fall, MassWildlife biologists take to the marshes and rivers in an airboat to capture ducks for banding. This technique, called night-lighting, allows biologist to sample ducks all over the state. Unlike traditional bait trapping, which limits sampling to a few sites, night-lighting with the airboat allows biologists to capture ducks in the Berkshires one night, on the Cape the next night, and in Worcester County the night after that.
Ducks are placed into crates according to their size, then banded and released. Banding records are submitted to the Bird Banding Lab of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The data then become available to state and federal biologists who assess the status of waterfowl populations. It can also be used to monitor movements, wintering areas, and longevity of various species.
The airboat is used to navigate shallow marshes where ducks roost among vegetation at night. The loud noise generated by the 350 horsepower engine and the spotlights onboard confuse the ducks and allows biologist to get close enough to net them. Because of the noise, most sites are visited only once per season and boating rarely goes beyond 11 pm. Successful night-lighting requires a dark sky, so trips are shorter early in the season due to the late sunset. Moonlight is also a factor; airboat trips must be planned to avoid the brightest phases of the moon.
This year, some sampling sites may not be available due to the ongoing drought. While the airboat doesn’t need much water to get around, it needs some. Night-lighting concludes at the end of September but in the meantime, if you hear what sounds like an airplane stuck in a swamp, it just might be the MassWildlife airboat.
Paddlers in kayaks and canoes must wear life jackets from September 15 to May 15 every year. According to the Massachusetts Environmental Police, most boating fatalities in the Commonwealth result when boaters fail to wear life jackets while in small craft in cold water or cold weather. Waterfowl hunters using canoes or kayaks are reminded that this law also applies to them.
Youth Deer Hunt is October 1
It is not too late to get your child enrolled into the Youth Deer Hunt program. The Youth Deer Hunt Day provides young adults aged 12–17 with an opportunity to hunt deer with their own deer tags during a special single-day season that precedes the Commonwealth’s annual archery, shotgun, and muzzleloader seasons. Hunters are reminded that all shotgun deer season regulations apply on the Youth Deer Hunt day. Youth Deer Hunt Permits are free, but must be obtained at a license vendor or MassWildlife office. The permits and tags are only valid for the Youth Deer Hunt day and cannot be used in later seasons. All youth hunters and any accompanying adults must wear a minimum of 500 square inches of blaze orange on their chest, back, and head.
Whitetails Unlimited Banquet
The Berkshire County Chapter of Whitetails Unlimited will be holding a banquet on Saturday, October 1 at the Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club, Route 102, in Stockbridge. Social hour begins at 5pm and buffet dinner at 6:30 pm. There will be games and raffles. For tickets or information, contact Keith O Neil at (413)717-1945 or buy online at www.whitetailsunlimited.com.
Free fly tying classes
The Berkshire Hatchery Foundation is exploring the possibility of conducting free fly tying classes at the Berkshire Hatchery in Hartsville/New Marlborough, MA. Depending on interest, it will be conducted on Wednesday evenings beginning October 12 at 6 pm. Initially, the class size will be limited to six. Tools and materials will be provided. If interested in enrolling or if you have questions contact Will Regan at email@example.com or me at the below address. I will report in a future column if there is enough interest to hold the classes.