Thank you Gige

 

There were a lot of strangers in the Town of Stockbridge on Saturday, May 13.  Governor Charlie Baker was here as well as Lieutenant Governor Karen Polito.  EOEEA Secretary Matt Beaton, former EOEEA Secretary and State Senator Bob Durand, former State Senator Stephen Brewer, several former Fish & Wildlife Commissioners including Walter Bickford, Dave Peters, Mary Griffin and current Commissioner and former State Representative George Peterson, former Director of the MA DFW Wayne MacCallum and current Director Jack Buckley, MA Senator Anne Gobi,  and Representative Kulik from Worthington.  There were several former and current Fish & Wildlife Board members, officers of the Mass Sportsmen Council and the Worcester County League of Sportsmen.

 

They all linked up at the Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club with local State Representative Smitty Pignatelli, Senator Adam Hinds, former Berkshire Natural Resources Chairman George Wislocki, current BNRC Chairman Tad Ames, current F&W Board member and President of the Mass Outdoor Heritage Foundation Steve Sears, and a whole host of sportsmen, DFW personnel and environmental dignitaries.  There was even a man there that claimed to be an official from the Town of Ripton, MA.  Those who couldn’t attend such as current F&W Board Chairman Joe Larson and former Governor William Weld sent letters and gifts.

 

They were there to celebrate 88-year old George “Gige” Darey’s retirement from the MA Fish & Wildlife Board.  Gige didn’t want a retirement party and only agreed to it when he learned that it was also a fund raiser for the Massachusetts Outdoor Heritage Foundation which he and MacCallum co-founded.  There was not an empty chair in the place and everyone who attended personally knew and/or worked with Gige over the years.  Co-Chairmen for the event were Durand, Peters, MacCallum and Sears, and what a great event they put together.

 

Space does not allow me to mention all of the people and wonderful words said about Gige.  Don’t get me wrong, they also took advantage of the opportunity to roast him and to mention some “spoof’s” that they participated in with him over the years.  Appeals Court Judge Joseph Trainor did an excellent roasting job.

 

Rep. Smitty Pignatelli said that he couldn’t think of anybody who has taught him more about the importance of conservation of open space and protection and the rights of sportsmen than Gige.  .  He repeated a phrase once told to him by the late Bill Wilde (of Highlawn Farm), “Our natural beauty is more valuable than an oil well in Saudi Arabia.”

 

Senator Hines noted that his work and had an impact.  “ It made a difference”.   After making wonderful comments, State Senator Gobi presented him the Red Poppy Award, (for Korean War veterans). After Peters and Durand related some comical past events and listed many of Gige’s accomplishments he was presented an award from the Mass Outdoor Heritage Foundation.

 

Rep. Kulik read a resolution from the MA House and Senate, congratulating him on the occasion of his retirement.  It recognized his 38 years on the Board of which 35 as its chairman and the fact that he was first appointed by Governor Michael Dukakis, served under the 7 subsequent governors, preserved thousands of acres of vital wildlife habitat while providing public access and making the MA F&W Board one of the most respected wildlife agencies in the country.  It noted his establishment of the Non-Game Advisory Board, passage and implementation of the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Act, institution of the Wild Wings Conservation Stamp, the development of the core habitat protection and the development and expansion of many youth programs.

 

BNRC’s George Wislocki and Tad Ames noted that Gige was one of the founders of Sportsmen for Land Preservation and helped raise over $300,000 over the period of 6 years, which was crucial for the survival of the BNRC.  “He cemented a relationship of the BNRC with the sportsmen of Berkshire County”.

 

Mike Roche, member of the MA F&W Board announced that the Board created an award in Gige’s name. “ From this time forward there will be a Gige Darey Award to be presented to a MassWildlife staff member who exemplifies the values, work ethics and standards that George created.”

 

Former DFW Director Wayne MacCallum described the F&W Board.  It sets policy, regulatory authority and has to approve the hiring of every person appointed to the DFW.  “George was absolutely incredible in terms of requiring that all appointments were made with the most qualified people.  He was a strong advocate in support of professional natural resource management. Not only in Massachusetts, he is legendary throughout the country for the programs the MA DFW has instituted He is a fierce fighter for the environment.  Much of what you see here (open space) has to do with George Darey.  Under George’s leadership, the DFW went from a hooks and bullets agency to an integrated agency incorporating the protection of many different species”.   They haven’t had a license increase since 1996.

 

On behalf of his and his son’s generation, EOEEA Secretary Matt Beaton thanked him for his inspiration.  Lt Governor Polito commented on Gige’s long service and mentioned that his services were all for free. (Other than travel expense reimbursement, F&W Board members are not paid).  She thanked Gige for sharing so much of his time, energy and love for this Commonwealth.  He is a great friend to all sportsmen.   “Having Gige on this Board for 38 years chairing it for 35 years absolutely mattered here in the Commonwealth”, she said.

 

Gige took a little razzing from Beaton and Governor Baker for missing 5 of those Board meetings out of 400 over the course of 38 years.  Twice as a pall bearer, once an ice storm prevented him from getting through, a health issue and one day to go bird hunting.

 

Governor Baker said that “George is a hero, not just because of the time he spent on the Board but the good work that was done.     We all benefit tremendously from the coalitions that he built.  We live in a difficult age where people draw very bright lines and have trouble viewing any other point of view but their own and are really not that experienced in coalition and finding common ground.  One of the truly great things is that he found common ground all of the time, and he had a core set of principles.  He understood that he was one player among many and he never forgot that. “

 

“He worked extremely hard to figure out where the common ground was and where the opportunity was to support the stuff that he cared so much about.  Along the way he created a bunch of public and private institutions that stood the test of time and will be here for a very long time.  The legacy is not just the history but its also what is going to happen going forward because those institutions are in place and will continue to perform long after the rest of us have gone on to do other things.  “You are such a son of Massachusetts”, Governor Baker said, “and you have meant so much to the Commonwealth and so much to the people of the Commonwealth”.

 

In accepting his citations, awards and standing ovation, Gige commented on how much his partner Ginny Acabane meant to him and how lucky he is.  Referring to his service on the Board, he said, “The ride that I have been on, I would not change one bit”.  As to the sportsmen, he said that he has enjoyed working with them and was very proud to represent them.

 

All attendees were given a memento coffee mug.  On one side is a picture of Gige with his faithful Brittany Spaniel, Éclair.  (In a joint effort of the F&W Board and local sportsmen, that dog was purchased and imported from Brittany, France  and was presented to Gige by Mike Roche on March 9, 2013, following the early, unexpected death of his previous dog).

 

On the other side of the mug were words that really struck me:  “A hundred years from now, if fish still swim in our rivers and deer still prance through our fields, if we can recognize the view from atop our favorite Berkshire heights, we will in large measure have George L. “Gige” Darey of Lenox to thank. For nearly a quarter-century now as Chairman of the State Fish & Wildlife Board and at the center of a network of conservative groups, Mr. Darey has devoted his time, energy and powers of persuasion to making sure we and our children will have woods to walk in and game to shoot.”   October 12, 2002, Berkshire Eagle editorial.

Pictured seated are George “Gige” Darey and his partner Ginny Acabane.  Standing are Lt. Governor Karen Polito and Governor Charlie Baker.  Picture provided by S. A. Sears Photagraphy

Students liberate rainbow trout into Otis Reservoir

Tuesday, May 2 started off with a pretty heavy rainfall, but by the time the school bus arrived at the Tolland State Forest campground beach on Otis Reservoir, the rain stopped and it cleared up a bit. Arriving in the bus were sixteen 4th graders and their teacher, Bethany Mielke, from the Farmington River Elementary School.  They arrived around 11:00 am and they had a job to do –  release about 200 of the 400 rainbow trout that were patiently waiting in the nearby MassWildlife stocking truck.  The event was coordinated by the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen.

 

MA Department of Conservation & Recreation (DCR) Bob Mason, Adam Hull, Mark Jester and Western District Manager Dom Sacco were there to greet them along with MassWildlife’s Western District Supervisor Andrew Madden, aquatic biologist Leanda Fontaine-Gagnon and technician Ray Bresette.

 

Bresette netted a few trout at a time from the truck’s tank, put them into empty 5 gallon pails and then handed them to the youths who then ran them to the water’s edge and tossed them into the lake.  Each of the youngsters took several turns in releasing them.  Only a couple of pails got tossed out along with the trout.  Teacher Mielke got to release some of them as well as the bus driver Darlene Deschaine and all of the DCR folks.  Even I got to carry a pailful, dropping only one trout along the way.  It was retrieved and released unharmed into the water, too.  There were no fish casualties and all of them happily swam away.

 

After all 200 trout were liberated, Andrew and Leanda answered questions from the kids as well as explained some of the many projects they work on.  Ironically, as Andrew was explaining the loon restoration project, we could hear a pair of yodeling loons on the lake somewhere off in the distance.  And as he was explaining the eagle restoration and banding project, high up in the sky above us was a soaring bald eagle.    Gosh he had to feel good, for he and his staff spent many hours over the years on their restorations in Massachusetts.

 

Later on, the remaining 200 trout were released into Otis Reservoir at a different location.  It was a great day.  The kids were all well behaved and perhaps left the reservoir that day with lifelong fond memories.

 

Trout Stocking

 

One MassWildlife stocking truck broke down recently and set back the stocking schedule, but they have a new truck now and they are stocking like gang busters.   The following waters were stocked last week:  Green River in Alford, Egremont and Great Barrington; Green River in New Ashford and Williamstown, Yokum Brook in Becket, Yokun Brook in Lenox, Walker Brook in Becket and Chester, Konkapot River in Monterey, New Marlborough and Sheffield; West Brook in Lee and Great Barrington, Potash Brook in Blandford, North Branch Hoosic River in Clarksburg, Hubbard Brook in Granville, Farmington River in Otis and Sandisfield, East Branch of Westfield River in Savoy and Windsor, Housatonic River (C&R) in Lee, Greenwater Pond in Becket, Beartown Brook and Hop Brook in Lee, Factory Brook in Middlefield,  Garfield Lake in Monterey, Big Pond in Otis, Onota Lake, Pontoosuc Lake, Stockbridge Bowl, Potash Brook in Russell, North Pond in Savoy, Depot Brook in Washington, Hemlock Brook in Williamstown, and Westfield and Windsor Brooks in Windsor.

Bass Tournament 

Although much of the focus of this column has been on trout lately, bass fishing is ongoing, too.  Recently, the Greylock Bass Club had a bass tournament on Onota Lake and the winners were:  1st Place – Dave Benham 14.13 lbs,   2nd Place – Joe Chague 13.04 lbs, 3rd Place – Mike Naventi 9.11 lbs and 4th Place – Jim Underhill 9.05 lbs.  The Big Bass winner was Joe Chague with a 4.12 lbs largemouth.  The above weights represented the total weight of all of the bass legally caught by the anglers.  The breakdown of bass was pretty much 50/50 largemouth to smallmouth.

Little bears In his May report to the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen, DFW Western District Supervisor Andrew Madden reported that the bear complaints and issues are cropping up again.  Unique this year is the fact that DFW has had 5 bears that Andrew responded to that are yearlings which weighed under 20 lbs.  They should be in the 50-70 lb weight at this point.  They picked up one in a garage that was freezing and weighed 13 lbs.  They took it someplace where it was fattened  up and then released.  He picked up another one recently that weighed 9 ½ lbs.

Madden feels that it is some kind of strange biological phenomena which may be drought related from last year or maybe food source related, he’s not really sure.  This high incidence of really tiny starving bears is going on throughout New England.  Vermont has had 6 or 7 cases of it.

Fishing Derbies

 

The Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club is having its Spring Fishing Derby at the boat ramp on Stockbridge Bowl next Sunday, May 21 from dawn until 3:00pm. Prizes of $100 will go the  heaviest trout or salmon, pickerel, bass and bullhead.  There will be free lures for all kids 12 and under.  Food will be available.  Pre-registration fee is $10 and post registration is $15.  Tickets are available at the Minkler Insurance Agency, 31 Main Street, Stockbridge, (W)413-644-3590, (H)413-298-4630 or from any club member.

 

The Pittsfield Sportsmen’s Club is sponsoring a Kid’s Fishing Day on Reynolds Pond in Cheshire next Sunday May 21, from 8:00 am until 1:00 pm.  Kids are encouraged to bring poles and fishing tackle and if they have none, extra poles will be available.  Lunch will be available.  For questions, contact Travis DelRatez  at 413-441-7979.

The attached picture shows a Farmington River Elementary student tossing some trout out into Otis Reservoir.  Standing next to him on the left is DFW Western District Aquatic Biologist Leanda Fontaine-Gagnon and to the right is teacher Bethany Mielke

 

Another successful Youth Turkey Hunt Day

Saturday, April 22, was the day when the youths and their mentors took to the woods to bag a gobbler.  For the kids it was the culmination of classroom instructions, safety classes, shooting practice, etc. Traditionally, the special youth turkey hunting day occurs on the Saturday before the opening day of the spring turkey hunting season.  Each year I try to cover the kids at a different sportsmen’s club that has the youth turkey hunting program.   Last year I was at the Cheshire Rod & Gun Club, this year the Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club and next year I hope to be at the Lee Sportsmen’s Club.

 

This year the SSC had a fairly large group of kids (20) to mentor.   As you can see by the photo, they did very well with 5 kids bagging birds and just about every kid and mentors had action, either by having toms respond to their calls or having opportunities to see some.  That’s really important for it takes a great deal of fortitude for the youngsters to get up early and be out in the woods before daybreak.  If they don’t have some kind of positive action, they may get immediately discouraged and not ever go turkey hunting again.

 

Mike Buffoni, who heads up the Stockbridge program and who also is a mentor had a memorable morning himself.  He and his accompanying youth spotted a female moose during the hunt.  Others hunters spotted a bear of two.  Mike has to be super proud of his two sons Max and Marco for they both bagged gobblers.

 

The day started off damp and raw with a few sprinkles here and there but as the day progressed, it warmed up.  When the kids and mentors returned to the club around noon, (turkey hunting must cease at noon) they were treated to a hot roast beef dinner expertly prepared by Chef Peter Delgrande.

 

After the meal, the customary procedure is to teach the kids how to dress the birds, breast them out for consumption, and save the tail feathers, beards and spurs for display.   Getting that first turkey was a big event for these kids and I’m sure they wanted to save such items for fond memories and bragging rights.

 

While one of the mentors was eating his meal, he picked at least 20 ticks off of his shirt – both wood ticks and deer ticks.  He had hung his hunting jacket on the back of his chair and they were jumping off of that onto his shirt.  He said that he had also pulled a lot of ticks off of him when he finished hunting and was leaving the woods.

 

From what I hear and see, this is going to be one heck of a year for ticks, so please make sure you use a tick repellent spray on your clothes, such as permethrin, and be sure to carefully inspect yourself when you get home.

 

Matt Ranzoni, who headed up the Lee Sportsmen’s Association youth hunt, had 6 kids participate this year and 3 of them were successful.  Donavan Coccomo got a tom weighing 21 lbs, Hunter Briggs got a 20 lb bird and Matt Driscoll got a 15 lb jake.  Travis Bush passed up a jake because he saw a tom that he was after.  The other two hunters, Dorian Page and Owen Bush had close calls.

 

No word was received as to how the kids at the Cheshire Rod & Gun Club did.

 

The Lee and Cheshire youth turkey hunt programs are similar to that of the Stockbridge Club, but I doubt very much that they had the kind of delicious meal that Delgrande prepared.

 

As of midweek, MassWildlife only had harvest numbers on what had been reported online. Many check stations still issue physical seals so they aren’t able to obtain harvest numbers until they get information back from all the check stations statewide after the season closes.

 

Incidentally, readers may recall my March 5 column, ”NE Turkey Hunting Hall of Fame inductees announced”, wherein I mention that MassWildlife’s James Cardoza was one of the inductees for supervising the recovery of Massachusetts wild turkey.  Following that article, 90-year old Joe Robinson called me to tell the rest of the story.  Robinson, a former DFW Western District biologist, retired 35 years ago, but he remembered the turkey recovery effort quite well and related the following:

 

The real credit for reintroducing the turkeys back into Massachusetts belongs to the then DFW Western District Supervisor Winn Saville, and his staff including Frank Putnam, Ed Hover, Fred Bohlman and Joe.  “We were the pioneers”, he said.  “Members of the staff traveled to New York in the early 1970’s, got the birds and released them in Beartown State Forest.  We kept an eye on them to see how they were doing.  We built feeders for the turkeys and put bags of corn into them.  The deer got a lot of that corn.”  Joe said that the first turkeys migrated to the Great Barrington area along with their poults.  After some years of reintroducing them and their own self populating, the hunting season was opened 1980.

 

Fishing Derbies

The Berkshire Hatchery Foundation in Hartsville-New Marlborough is having a free children’s fishing derby next Saturday, May 13  from 9 to 10:30am at its lower pond.  Children aged 12 and under must be accompanied by an adult.

 

Trout Stocking

The following waters were scheduled to be stocked with trout last week:  West and Middle Branches of the Westfield River in Becket, Chester, Huntington, Middlefield and Worthington; Littleville Reservoir in Chester and Huntington, Trout Brook in Peru, York Lake in New Marlborough, Otis Reservoir, Laurel Lake, Richmond Pond and Windsor Pond in Windsor.

 

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

 

Front left to right; Curt Wilton III, Max Buffoni, Madison Gilmore, Nick Powers, Zack Lupioni  Back row left to right; Kadin Shafiroff, Brady Whalen, Matt Fletcher, Bailey Gilmore, Marco Buffoni, Nick Puntin, Darrin Cloran, Nate Smith.  Not in picture; Kade Groeber, Kevin Triono, John Field III, Myles Houle, Juliana Hektor, Briel Winters, Brett Smith.

Stocking trout on Earth Day

 

On Friday, April 21, Earth Day, MassWildlife conducted a trout stocking event at Onota Lake in Pittsfield.  Usually, the stocking dates and times are kept secret so as to avoid “stocking truck followers” from catching a lot of fish before the trout have had time to acclimate to their new surroundings.  But this time it was different.  MassWildlife wanted the public, especially children who were out of school during school vacation to be there and to participate.  And a lot of kids and their parents and grandparents did show up.

About 350 nice sized rainbow trout were put into white 5 gallon pails, 3 or 4 at a time, and the kids and older folks scurried to the lake’s edge to toss them into the water.  They had to hurry as no water was put into the pails in order to keep the loads lighter.

It was a great day for all involved.  I couldn’t help but chuckle as some of these kids weren’t much bigger than the pails they were carrying.  MassWildlife’s Western District Aquatic Biologist Leanda Fontaine-Gagnon stood in the water in hip boots to ensure that every trout was safely liberated and I am happy to report that there were no casualties—at least not until some nearby fishermen caught some.  Derek McDermott and Ray Bresette of MassWildlife carefully  netted the trout out of the stocking truck and placed them into pails for the kids lined up to take their turns at stocking. Western District Supervisor Andrew Madden ensured that the operation went smoothly and also provided some pamphlets and animal track information.

There were a lot of smiling faces seen that day, not sure who had the most fun, the kids, their parents/grandparents or the MassWildlife team.

Pictured above, wearing the tiara, and stocking some trout was 15 year old Meghan Kalbaugh of Chicopee, MA who came to the event with her parents.  She is the reigning Miss Western Mass Outstanding Teen.  She had a beautiful sash but took it off while stocking so as not to get it wet and slimy from the fish.

Message to the young lads, turn off the smart phones and computer games, pick up your fishing rods and head for the lakes.  No telling who will be out there stocking the trout.  Look at what you missed!

Trout stocking

The following local waters were scheduled to be stocked last week:  Hoosic River in Cheshire and Adams, Deerfield River in Buckland, Florida and Charlemont;  Clesson Brook in Ashfield and  Buckland, Swift River in Ashfield,  Cummington and Goshen; Pelham Brook in Charlemont and Rowe, Housatonic River in Hinsdale and Dalton, Little River in Worthington and Huntington, West Branch Brook in Chesterfield and Worthington, Ashfield Pond and South River in Ashfield, Dry Brook and South Brook in Cheshire, Wahconah Falls Brook in Dalton, North Pond in Florida, Stones Brook in Goshen, Dunbar Brook in Monroe, Mill Brook in Plainfield, Bronson Brook in Worthington, Plunkett Reservoir in Hinsdale, Goose Pond in Lee and Tyringham,  Lake Buel in Monterey, Windsor Lake in North Adams and Otis Reservoir in Otis.

Lakes are being remapped

In his latest report to the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen, Fisheries and Wildlife Board member Stephen Sears of Dalton, reported that DFW fisheries personnel are in the process of making new maps of all our lakes. He said that they will be incredibly accurate.  They will also be available on-line.  They already mapped Onota Lake and will be doing Pontoosuc Lake soon.  Click onto the MassWildlife web page to check out the new Onota Lake map.

 

Loons

MassWildlife cautions us that Common Loons, a species of Special Concern, have been observed taking shiners on anglers hooks and hooking themselves.  They urge anglers to pull hooks baited with shiners out of the water when loons are present and continue fishing when they have passed.   Anglers may recall that the protection of the loons was a major reason why the use of lead weights under 1 oz have been prohibited in Massachusetts.  Apparently, the loons ingest them and then later die an agonizing death from lead poisoning.

 

I love loons.  Of all the sounds heard in the wilds, by far my favorite is the yodeling sound of a loon on a quiet night on or near a crystal clear northern lake.   Upper Maine and Canadian lakes provide such waters.  Loons require clear lakes because they it make it easier for them to see prey underwater. Chances are, while listing to the loons, you may also be marveling at the Aurora borealis (northern lights).  They go hand-in-hand.

 

Last year, while fishing in Labrador, I saw some loons and commented to a guide my fondness for this bird.  He did not share my feelings, in fact, he downright despised them.   He said that they can grow to 12 lbs and they eat an awful lot of fish each day.  The outfitters and guides up there get their livelihood from fishermen and they want them to catch a lot of fish so that they come back.  Loons compete with them for the fish.

 

Thinking that he was exaggerating, I checked into it when I got hone.   In one study, scientists estimate that loons eat 22% of their body weight each day.  In another study, biologists estimate that loon parents and their 2 chicks can eat about a half-ton of fish over a 15-week period.

 

Well, even so, I still love the sight and sound of that bird and support its restoration in Massachusetts.

 

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

Accompanied by a picture of Miss Teen Western Massachusetts, Meghan Kalbaugh, stocking trout.  Standing next to her is her father James.

 

From left to right:  Mark Jester banquet emcee, BCLS President Mike Kruszyna, George Darey, Doug Frank, Tom Macy, Karen Karlberg and Robert McDermott.