Focus: Youth fishing

Readers may recall that last week I mentioned the schools that have trout rearing and stocking programs.  This program is enthusiastically received by the parents, teachers and students.  But, there are also youths who like to catch them, too.  Recently, I attended two events where the focus was on youth fishing.


One of them took place on Reynolds Pond in Cheshire.  The event, called the Youth Outreach Fishing Derby, is sponsored by the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen.  The League purchased the trout, the food, the bait and fishing outfits for each kid.  The Adams Outdoor for Youth and the Cheshire Rod & Gun Club set up the equipment, helped teach the kids how to bait the hooks, to catch and land fish.  They also did the cooking and fish cleaning.  All of the officers of the County League were there to give support.  Members of the East Mountain Sportsmen’s Club, Taconic Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Pittsfield Sportsmen’s Club, Lenox Sportsmen’s Club and others also pitched in to make sure the kids had a very enjoyable and memorable day.  They deserved it.


So who were the kids who were so lavishly treated?  Most of them (16) were kids who typically don’t have parents who could take them fishing because they didn’t have fishing poles and wherewithal and because it wasn’t in their experience.   Because of where they are on the socio-economic scale they were kids that may tend to be truants or a little problematic in school.  They never had the opportunity to experience outdoor fishing type activities.   Alex Daugherty, Probation Officer from the Juvenile Probation District of Northern Berkshires brought them.  His connection with them was through the Northern Berkshire Coalition.


Bill Gates, Chief of Juvenile Courts in Berkshire County brought along another 4 kids from the Key Shelter in Pittsfield.  The Key Shelter is a clinical house, a place where kids, because of their situations at home, needed a change in environment.  The court system is involved and placed them there not because they are delinquent but for diagnostic emphasis.  The kids are troubled for reasons beyond their control and need to be helped outside of the home to work things out.


For most, this was the first time they had ever gone fishing.   But with the help of the mentors it didn’t take long for them to figure out how to cast and catch fish.   Every kid caught at least one fish and most went home with bags of brook trout to eat.


Around noon, they took a break and were treated to burgers, hot dogs, chips, cookies and refreshments.  They all were well mannered kids who, at least on that day, had a ball and left any problems they had behind. It probably costs the League $1,000 to put this on but there is never any hesitation from the delegates.   League VP Mike Kruszyna often refers to this day as the best, most rewarding day of the year.  Amen to that.  *****


Staying with youths and fishing, Taconic High School teacher Ron Wojcik has been teaching an after school fly fishing class for a number of years.  In his course, he teaches fly casting, how to tie fishing knots, equipment and safety, and when time permits stream entomology.  He is looking to expand the program in the future to include some fly tying and work on some fly fishing trips to local waters. Most of these kids do not have their own equipment so Trout Unlimited members who help out allow them to borrow theirs.  Wojcik is also looking into possible future funding to get the kids some beginning equipment such as fly rods, flies, fly boxes, waders and vests. (Incidentally, if Wojcik’s name sounds familiar, he is also the coach of the Hoosic Valley Regional High School girls’ basketball team.  You know, the team that usually wins.)


At the end of the fly fishing course, Ron invites them to an undisclosed private fishing spot and, with the help of several Taconic TU mentors, puts them to work casting and catching trout. But not before they had their fill of pizza and brownies made by his wife Diane.


This year, he had 5 students:  Mike Boc, Alex Stevens, Troy Phelps, Alex Kent and Lexi Henderson in his class.  It was the first class that he had a lady flyfisher (Lexi) and she not only caught the most fish but also the largest one, a nice sized rainbow trout.


Since beginning the course, Ron has had over 50 students go through and participate over the years. He receives assistance from fellow teachers and TU members Dave Boyce and Steve Smith. *****


The Mass. Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) has designated July 4 and 5 as Free Saltwater Fishing Days.  No permit is required to fish recreationally in the Commonwealth’s marine waters, out to three miles. (Saltwater anglers over the age of 15 are usually required to have a Massachusetts Recreational Saltwater Fishing Permit.) Anglers looking for a spot to drop a line from shore, or a boat ramp to put in a kayak, canoe, or larger vessel, should check out the Office of Fishing and Boating Access’ Directory of Access Sites. *****


The Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club 2015 Youth Rifle League will begin on July 8 with safety night.  On the next seven Wednesdays, from 5 PM to 7PM, they will be shooting on the range. The last night of the league will be August 26 with some fun shooting and a cookout.  Cost is $40 per child.


Brook trout released into local streams by students

Three local schools are involved with raising and releasing brook trout here in the Berkshires.   They originally started out raising Atlantic Salmon in the ASERP (Atlantic Salmon Egg Rearing Program, but, the Connecticut River Salmon Restoration program ended two years ago.  Both the US Fish & Wildlife Service and wildlife agencies of MA, VT and NH will no longer support it.   The schools then started raising brook trout from eggs that came from the Roger Reed Salmon Hatchery in Palmer, Ma.    Students actively take part monitoring water quality on a daily basis and assisting in the trout’s husbandry needs.  By the time they were released in May or early June, they are nearly 2 inches long.

At the Becket-Washington School, the 3rd and 4th graders participated in the program.  Over 100 brook trout were raised from eggs and the survival rate was great with only 4 dying while in the aquarium.  They were released on June 3 at the outdoor classroom along Yokum Brook in Becket.  Teachers Mary Kay McCloskey and Patty Robbie headed up the program there with assistance from Karen Karlberg.

Approximately 75 Taconic High School students participated, releasing their trout into Windsor Brook in Windsor on May 27.   They had some equipment problems but still managed a 60% success ratio.  One student came into school over break to care for the fish to ensure they were properly fed and their water quality was on par.  Teachers who participated were Tanya Michaud, Michell Potash and Ron Wojcik.  According to Michaud, this is their second year rearing brook trout in the classroom and their release site shows evidence that the fish are healthy and thriving.  There were 3 fish that were about a year old swimming in an eddy and it is suspected that they are from their cohort of trout released last year around the same time

At Mt Everett Regional High School in Sheffield, some 140 students were involved and had a 100% survival.  They not only raise and release fingerlings, but some trout are retained for the Aquacultural Class where they grow them larger and release them at the 8 to 12 inch size (for better survival) into the Konkapot River and Umpachini Falls.  Teachers involved there are Steve Antil, Tim Schwartz, Daniel Weston and Asha Von Rudin.  Von Rudin heads up the Aquaculture program where they really get into water ecology monitoring, macro-invertibrate studies, etc.   *****

Don’t you know, it always happens, lots of neat things going on all on the same day.

On Saturday, June 27, from 9 AM to noon, Steve McMahon, President of the Hoosic River Watershed Association (HOORWA) invites you to join fly fisherman Chris Jackson for a fly fishing demonstration on the Hoosic River at Cole Field in Williamstown, MA. It’s an opportunity to witness and learn the basic techniques of casting a fly into moving water and see what happens next.   Jackson, a respected angler, will demonstrate the importance of softly delivering a fly on the surface of the water.  Wear old sneakers in order to wade in and bring a fly rod if you own one.   If you plan to attend, meet at the soccer gate at Cole Field by 9 AM.  Contact the leader Elayne Murphy at 413-458-2947 or at for details and preregistration. The rain date will be June 28.

On the same day, from 10 AM to 2 PM, the Trustees of Reservation invites you to a free workshop entitled Dragonflies Above And Below The Water.  Join Entomologist Dr. Kirsten Martin as she explores Glendale Falls Brook on Clark Wright Road in nearby Middlefield, MA, marveling at the exquisite world of dragon and damselflies.  Flyfishermen know only too well that trout relish dragonfly and damselfly nymphs.   To register call Project Coordinator Meredyth Babcock at 623-2070 or

By the way, have you ever visited Glendale Falls?   It is truly a special place.   Fed by more than five square miles of watershed, wild and rocky Glendale Falls is one of the longest and most powerful waterfall runs in Massachusetts.  In spring, the waters of Glendale Brook roar over steep rock ledges to join the Middle Branch of the Westfield River, a federally designated Wild and Scenic River.

Also on the same day, June 27, Tom Wessels, ecologist and Professor Emeritus at Antioch University New England will have a special workshop at the Bidwell House Museum in Monterey, MA.  From 10:00 – 11:30 AM – Talk and Slideshow, 11:30 – 12:30 PM – Lunch and Discussion and 12:30 – 2:30 PM – Explore the Bidwell House Forest with Tom Wessels

Based on Tom’s book, Reading the Forested Landscape: A Natural History of New England, this workshop introduces approaches used to interpret a forest’s history.  Using evidence such as the shapes of trees, scars on their trunks, the pattern of decay in stumps, the construction of stone walls, and the lay of the land, it is possible to unravel complex stories etched into our forested landscape.  This process could easily be called forest forensics, since it is quite similar to interpreting a crime scene.

Participants will gain a better understanding of cultural and natural disturbances on the land in general, specifically the 192 acre Bidwell House property, and how they have shaped our use and enjoyment of our woods and fields; learn methods and skills to identify and understand these cultural and natural historical events in order to apply this knowledge to your own land or on any walk in the woods.

Tom also wrote The Granite Landscape, Untamed Vermont, The Myth of Progress, and Forest Forensics: A Field Guide to Reading the Forested Landscape. He has conducted landscape ecology and sustainability workshops throughout the country for over 30 years. Click onto for more information.

2015 Harry A. Bateman Memorial Jimmy Fund Fishing Derby was “biggest day ever

That’s according to Co-Chairman Stephen Bateman.  It was a great success with some 254 people registered and about 50 others attending.  Fifteen trophies and prizes were handed out to the winners with many of the trophies dedicated to people who were great supporters of the fishing derby who have passed away.  This year the 1st Place Adult Award was won by 15 year old Spenser Davis, of Dalton, with a 4 lbs 3oz. Largemouth Bass.  His award had a special meaning because it was the first year the award was presented in the memory of Thelma Drury who not only was a member of the Berkshire County Jimmy Fund Council but one of the 52 people at the very first fishing derby, which was held on Father’s Day, 1993.


Bateman recalls that it poured all day and Thelma was out in it with her husband John the entire day that first year.  She only missed one fishing derby and apologized because they were going to be out of town.  Thelma sadly passed away in August of 2014.


The Sportsmanship Award, containing a tackle box with over $100 worth of tackle, was awarded to Autumn Twing.  Bateman points out that this fishing derby is known for the great prizes that are awarded, all of which are sponsored by local friends and businesses. This year the fishing pole combos were randomly given out to children who were either first time attendees or children who did not win any raffle prizes.  Six bicycles were awarded to children just for attending. There were many newcomers as well as people who have been coming for years.  Brian Wendling was a teen when he started out at the fishing derby, and this year he and his daughter Marissa both ended up winners.


Newcomers Mia and Ava, who have never fished before, were brought to the event by Grandma Missie Lacy, and they had a blast.  Ava approached Stephen Bateman and said, “I have a present for you.” and gave him a clump of moss she pulled off of a rock.  According to Bateman, the smile on her face made him feel like he hit the lottery. After a year missed due to illness, long time attendee Matt Clark won the Perch/Crappie category.  The fish weigh-in is normally done by Steve and Co-Chairman Stephen Gingras and Harry Bateman’s nephew Richard Pierce Jr., but this year Taconic High School students Nick Gingras and Marlaina Tremblay stepped in and did a great job.  It takes 6 months to plan this event, but it is all worth it, said Steve.
Here are this year’s winners:  CHILDREN HEAVIEST GAME FISH CATEGORY:  1st Place – Dylan Crea, a 1 lb 10 oz Rainbow Trout; 2nd Place – Sophie Dinopus, a 1 lb 8 oz Rainbow Trout; 3rd Place – Casey Wassily, a 1 lb 7 oz Rainbow Trout.

CHILDREN HEAVIEST NON- GAME FISH CATEGORY: 1st Place – Tessa Matarazzo, a 11 oz White Perch;  2nd Place – Jaxon Wallace and 3rd Place Marrisa Wendling,  both with 10 oz Bullheads.

ADULT HEAVIEST GAME FISH CATEGORY:  1st Place – Spenser Davis, above mentioned Largemouth Bass; 2nd Place – Kevin Wojtkowski, a 2 lbs 12 oz Largemouth Bass; 3rd Place – Jake Beaudion, a 2 lbs Largemouth Bass.

SPECIAL HEAVIEST FISH 1ST PLACE AWARDS:  Bass Category  – 4 lbs 5 oz Largemouth caught by Brian Wadsworth, Perch/Crappie Category : 1 lbs 1 oz caught by Matt Clark, Carp Category – 8 lbs 1 oz caught by Brian Wendling, Trout Category – 2 lbs 1 oz Rainbow Trout caught by Jack Stimpson, Trout Child Category – 2 lbs 1 oz Rainbow Trout caught by Becca Stimpson. The Sportsmanship Award went to Autumn Twing.


On behalf of all of the cancer survivors and those families that have been affected, congratulations to Stephen Bateman and team for another fantastic Jimmy Fund derby, and many, many thanks for your efforts *****.


MassWildlife has recently announced a major change in the Freshwater Sportfishing Awards Program, adding the Bowfin as an eligible species.  Interest in Bowfin is increasing in the Northeast, with more states recognizing them as a gamefish. The Bowfin pin will replace the Broodstock Salmon pin, since Salmon are no longer stocked in Massachusetts waters.  Currently, Bowfin populations are limited to the Connecticut River and Taunton River drainages and a few isolated ponds throughout the state (Onota Lake in Pittsfield is one of them).  The Catch and Keep minimum weight is 6 pounds for adults and 4 pounds for youth. The Catch and Release minimum length is 22 inches. Click onto the MassWildlife web page for valuable information on how to tell Bowfin from some other similar looking species such as the invasive Snakehead. *****


MassWildlife conducts a survey from June through August each year to evaluate turkey brood numbers. “The brood survey serves as a long-term index of reproduction,” explains Dave Scarpitti, Turkey Project Leader.  “It helps us determine productivity and allows us to compare long-term reproductive success, while providing some estimation of fall harvest potential.” Turkey nesting success can vary annually in response to weather conditions, predator populations and habitat characteristics.

Scarpitti points out that citizen involvement in this survey is a cost-effective means of gathering useful data, and he encourages all interested people to participate. Be sure to look carefully when counting turkey broods, the very small poults may be difficult to see in tall grass or brush. Multiple sightings of the same brood can also be noted.  A turkey brood survey form is posted on the agency website.  *****

At its May meeting, the Massachusetts Fish & Wildlife Board unanimously appointed Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) Acting Director, Jack Buckley as its new Director.  He replaces the recently retired Director Wayne MacCallun. *****

Mom, look what I caught!”

That’s what 4 year old Austin Decker said to his mother after landing the big carp pictured above.  He was fishing at Onota Lake with his mom Courtney, Uncle Corey and friend Pat Santolin, all of Pittsfield.  He caught it with his little pole and worms on Mother’s Day.


Sorry, can’t tell how big it was as they immediately took the picture and released it back unharmed, but wiser, into the lake.  He could hardly hold it what with its squirming trying to get free.  It had to be around 10 lbs, wouldn’t you say?


Many thanks go to Karen Decker, also of Pittsfield, who passed on the information.  The very proud grandma only wishes that she was there to witness the event. ****


The Berkshire Hatchery Foundation is holding another free kid’s trout fishing derby at their lower pond in Hartsville next Saturday, June 13 from 9 to 10:30 AM.

The folks at the hatchery point out that if your derby experience feels too overcrowded or if you have a younger less experienced angler then they may want to fish during office hours from 9 AM to 4 PM provided they abide by the following rules:  Kids must be 13 years of age or younger, must be supervised by an adult, must get a pass, can keep a maximum of three fish, must return the pass and record the number of fish caught before leaving and must pick up any trash. Monthly derbies will still be held.  *****


Author Bob Romano wrote another excellent book entitled Brook Trout Blues.  This is his third in his series of novels set in Western Maine’s Rangeley Lakes Region.  The main character is once again Salvatore D’Amico, a middle-aged fishing guide in that area, who has the uncanny ability to get entwined in interesting situations.


Weird things happen to him just because he is trying to mind his own business and preserve his quiet peaceful lifestyle of fly fishing and guiding other anglers in that remote area.  Things like a missing neighbor, an attractive reporter who is trying to hit on him, a motorcycle gang, a pot farm, and more.


The book has a nice plot which definitely holds your interest.  It incorporates a good dose of mystery, adventure and intrigue.  As good as that is, what really impresses me each time I read one of his books is how Romano captures the characters and surrounding environs.   His words have the ability to take you to that region and you can almost smell the balsam and spruce forests, hear the roar of the rivers and the sounds of waterfowl, itch from the blackflies and mosquitoes and feel the dampness of the shaded forest floors.   You can almost hear the colorful residents speak in their unique accents (Don’t tell them they have an accent!)


I enjoyed this book and hope he is working on another.  The 232 page soft cover book is complimented by the cover art of John Swan and interior artwork of Trish Romano.  It is published by Birch Brook Press and costs $23.00.  For more details, go to or Romano’s website: *****


Russ Cohen, River Advocate from the Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration (DER), is taking advantage of Governor Baker’s Early Retirement Incentive Program and is stepping down. He has worked for the Commonwealth for over 27 years, originally with the Mass. Riverways Program, part of the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife and Environmental Law Enforcement. He considered himself extremely fortunate to have worked for and with wonderful people, including Riverways Program Coordinators Judy Wagner, Maria Van Dusen and Joan Kimball, and then, after the Riverways Program became part of the DER in 2009, Tim Purinton and Hunt Durey.


Among the highlights of his work was the drafting of the “Rivers Bill”, which, after years of prolonged and determined effort on the part of many, eventually became the Rivers Protection Act.  He also took part in the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs’ Watershed Initiative, in which he served on five watershed teams including the Housatonic.  I first met him when he frequently traveled out to the Berkshires to attend our meetings of the Friends of Williams River back in the 1980’s.   We immediately established a solid friendship which lasts to this day.


For his work with rivers he has received many awards: Environmental Achievement Award from Save the Bay (RI), the Environmental Service Award from the Mass. Association of Conservation Commissions,  Public Servant of the Year Award from the Environmental League of Massachusetts, Environmental Merit Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,  Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association of Massachusetts Wetland Scientists, and the River Steward Lifetime Achievement Award from the League of Women Voters and Sudbury-Assabet-Concord River Stewardship Council.


Russ also received a “Heritage Hero” award from the Essex National Heritage Commission for his foraging writing and programs. Most recently, Russ received the 2013 Education Award from the New England Wild Flower Society, in recognition of both his rivers work and foraging programs.  Russ has just completed his 40th year of teaching courses about wild edibles.  In 2004 he wrote an excellent book, Wild Plants I Have Known…and Eaten.  (It is in its 5th printing)


Fortunately for us, he expects to stay involved in some capacity in land and watershed conservation and stewardship in New England and upstate NY, particularly where it overlaps with interest in edible wild plants.  He is exploring the possibility of partnering with land trusts and other owners/managers of conservation and other lands to enhance the plant diversity on suitable sites, particularly by adding native edible species.


Crowningshield Property – A crowning achievement



The Crowningshield property is a 108 acre farm with a mile of riparian frontage along the headwaters of the West Branch of the North River, a wild trout stream in the nearby Town of Heath, MA.  When a farmer was interested in reviving the old farm, he approached the Franklin Land Trust (FLT).  Because the property has steeply sloping pastures and a woodlot that is landlocked by the West Branch it was a poor candidate for working land funding.


Two fly fishermen among the FLT staff visited the property.  They were surprised to see that the West Brook was shaded by mature riparian woods and rushing through a series of steep riffles and deep pools.  It looked to them as prime wild brook trout waters.   Follow-up research confirmed that the stream supports wild brook trout, has high water quality, sports a healthy macro-invertibrate community and falls in a regionally significant sub-watershed.  That brook was the most important resource on the property.


The FLT took the matter to the Deerfield River Watershed Chapter of Trout Unlimited (DRWTU) for advice.  Well, that chapter is relatively new and didn’t have the kind of funds needed to help the FLT purchase the property, so they brought the matter to the Massachusetts-Rhode Island Council of TU.  The Council supported the project and based upon a Council match of $2 for every $3 pledged by the chapters, they raised $45,000.  Even our local Taconic Chapter got into the act and pledged $1,000.  As a result, the FLT was able to secure the 108 acres and, with a conservation restriction, opened it up to public access.  Now, any angler can enjoy the mile of pristine trout stream.


Richard Hubbard, Executive Director of FLT summarized the effort:  “Just when we thought that we had run out of funding options, we came to the realization that we needed to look beyond our normal path for conserving land and focus on its incredible fishery.” Hubbard said.  “From our very first meeting with the MA/RI Council, we have been impressed by the enthusiasm that TU has brought to this project and its willingness to make significant financial and organizational commitment towards the conservation and future management of the Crowningshield Farm”.


Energized by the experience of working together to protect the farm, this new partnership portends the opportunity for even greater impact.  Building off of their new foothold in the waters of the West Branch, the partners envision a multi-layer conservation project that would protect more than 1,000 acres of forested landscape that keeps wild trout streams cold and clean.


The partners hope to engage landowners along the upper West Branch and its tributaries in creating a permanently protected landscape with more than 6 miles of wild trout water at its heart.  John Troiano, MA/RI Council Chairman described the effort, “Legacy projects like this don’t come up very often.  In the very short time available, it seemed impossible.  We made the commitment to do it and then figured out how to make it happen”.


Many thanks to Bruce Osterling, Chairman of the Projects Committee for Greater Boston TU for the above information.*****


The Berkshire Ducks Unlimited Annual Banquet & Fundraiser will take place next Sunday, June 7 at Mazzeo’s Ristorante, 105 South Street, Pittsfield.  Doors open at 4 PM and dinner is at 6 PM.   Tickets cost $35 for individuals and there are various sponsor packages.  DU is the world’s largest non-profit organization dedicated to conserving North America’s continually disappearing waterfowl habitats.  Established in 1937, DU has conserved more than 13 million acres across the continent.  Click onto, local events for more information.*****


The 23nd Annual Harry A. Bateman Memorial Jimmy Fund Fishing Derby, will take place next Saturday, June 6 at the Frank Controy Pavilion at Onota Lake in Pittsfield, MA from 6:00 AM to 12:00 PM. No fishing license is required (free fishing weekend in Massachusetts). The derby is open to the public and its purpose is to raise money for the Jimmy Fund – Dana Farber Cancer Institute for Children.  All of the proceeds will be donated to the Jimmy Fund in memory of Harry A. Bateman a former member of Central Berkshire Bowman & I.U.E. Local 255 who was well known throughout Berkshire County and who became a victim of cancer in 1992.

15 trophies and prizes will be given away to the winners of the fishing derby. There will be  a special category for those fishing with a bow & arrow.  All fish must be weighed in at 12:00 p.m. and can be caught at Onota Lake from a boat or the shore.


The fee, which includes food and beverage, is $10 for adults and $5 for Children 14 years and younger.  There is a ticket raffle and many other great prizes.  Advanced tickets may be purchased at Avid Sports, Dave’s Sporting Goods & Onota Boat Livery.  Registration required before fish can be weighed in.  *****


The following local waters were scheduled to be stocked with trout last week:  Deerfield River in Buckland, Charlemont and Florida; Westfield River in Huntington, Chesterfield, Cummington, Windsor and Savoy and the following lakes and ponds:   Plunkett Lake, Stockbridge Bowl, Ashfield Pond, Littleville Lake, Windsor Pond, Richmond Pond, Otis Reservoir, York Lake, Goose Pond and Onota Lake.


Correction from last week’s column about the Wild Acres fishing derby:   According to Heather Traversa, her children Rebecca Stimpson, and Casey Wassilie along with their cousins Mike and Mark Stimpson are the ones who caught the tagged fish in the 13 trout that they caught. They are not related to Steve Fones. Steve’s granddaughter Jordan Hamilton caught the trout with the help of Jack Stimpson and it was Steve himself that caught the bass.  My apologies to all.

Its time to get ‘out fishin’


One day last fall, Ms. Jeanne Cawley of Hinsdale approached me with a copy of the following poem.  She said that it used to hang in a cottage where her father  stayed long ago while fishing in the Adirondacks in NY.   It was written by Edgar A. Guest and she wondered if he was a poet or just someone who used to fish the Adirondacks and stay at that cottage.  It obviously had significance to Jeanne and I promised to look into it.

Well, it turns out that Mr. Guest was a prolific English-born American poet who was popular in the first half of the 20th century and became known as the People’s Poet.   He wrote over 11,000  poems which were syndicated in some 300 newspapers and collected in more than 20 books, including A Heap o’ Livin’ (1916) and Just Folks (1917).  Guest was made Poet Laureate of Michigan, the only poet to have been awarded the title.  His popularity led to a weekly Detroit radio show which he hosted from 1931 until 1942, followed by a 1951 NBC television series, A Guest in Your Home.

The poem, entitled Out fishin’, is as follows:

A feller isn’t thinkin’ mean,

Out fishin';

His thoughts are mostly good an’ clean,

Out fishin’. He doesn’t knock his fellow men., Or harbor any grudges then; A feller’s at his finest when Out fishin’. The rich are comrades to the poor,

Out fishin'; All brothers of a common lure,

Out fishin’. The urchin with the pin an’ string Can chum with millionaire an’ king; Vain pride is a forgotten thing,

Out fishin’.

A feller gits a chance to dream,

Out fishin'; He learns the beauties of a stream, Out fishin'; An’ he can wash his soul in air That isn’t foul with selfish care, An’ relish plain and simple fare, Out fishin’. A feller has no time fer hate, Out fishin'; He isn’t eager to be great, Out fishin’. He isn’t thinkin’ thoughts of self, Or goods stacked high upon a shelf, But he is always just himself, Out fishin’. A feller’s glad to be a friend, Out fishin’ A helpin’ hand he’ll always lend, Out fishin’. The brotherhood of rod an’ line An’ sky and stream is always fine; Men come real close to God’s design, Out fishin’. A feller isn’t plotting schemes, Out fishin'; He’s only busy with his dreams, Out fishin’. His livery is a coat of tan, His creed -to do the best he can; A feller’s always mostly man, Out fishin’.


Things have certainly changed since Mr. Guest wrote those words.  For one thing, it’s no longer just a “feller’s sport”   but the gals love it too.  Just ask Connie Rickard and her daughter Akira Derr of Pittsfield, pictured above. It is so nice to see a mother and daughter spending quality time fishing together.


Thank you so much, Jeanne, for bringing this poem to our attention. There is something special in the words written by angling poets who have long passed beyond the river bend.  Their words ring just as true and beautifully today as then.  Maybe in a future column I can feature another of his poems entitled Fishing Nooks *****


Approximately 120 anglers participated in the Wild Acres Youth Fishing Derby which was held on Saturday, May 9.   Lion Aviation sponsored the derby and stocked 400 trout for the day’s event.  The Onota Fishing Club hosted it and provided poles, bait and assistance to all children.  They also provided breakfast and lunch for all participants.  50 of the trout were tagged and trophies were awarded to all children who caught them.


In addition to the stocked brook and rainbow trout, a couple of bass, sunfish, perch, bull head, frogs and two turtles were caught.  It looked like Steve Fones’ grandkids had the best luck, catching 13 trout including 3 of the tagged ones.   All of them were released.  Granddaughter Jordan Hamilton caught a big rainbow trout and a nice bass.  Young Lucas Fones had a good day, too.  The Stimpson’s caught some nice ones, too. *****

The following waters were scheduled to be stocked with trout last week:  Hoosic River in Cheshire and Adams, Clesson Brook in Ashfield and Buckland, Cold River in Charlemont, Florida and Savoy; Deerfield River in Buckland, Charlemont and Florida; Housatonic River  in Pittsfield (S/W), Lee (C&R), Stockbridge (C&R), Dalton and Hinsdale;  South Brook in Adams and Cheshire, Dry Brook in Cheshire, Konkapot River in Monterey, New Marlbough and Sheffield; and the following lakes and ponds:  Otis Reservoir, Greenwater Pond, Laurel Lake, Big Pond, Lake Buel, Onota Lake, Norwich Pond  and Windsor Pond. *****

In his monthly report to the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen, Division of Fisheries and Wildlife District Manager Andrew Madden noted that this spring, MassWildlife is once again working to help the Common Loon, a Species of Special Concern under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act.  Loons are threatened primarily by lead poisoning, induced by the ingestion of fishing sinkers lost by anglers, as well as acid rain, pesticides, shoreline development, and human disruption.  Management efforts, including monitoring and floating nest rafts, have been critical in increasing the number of breeding pairs in the Commonwealth.  The Western District will have 2 loon rafts deployed this spring at water supply reservoirs in Hinsdale and Lee. *****


Recently, Madden reported that some 430 coyotes were harvested statewide during the past hunting season.  Of that total, approximately 75 – 80 were harvested in Berkshire County.  No statewide figures were available.


Rainbow trout liberated with help of Crosby School students



I don’t know if you saw Berkshire Eagle photographer Ben Garver’s great picture and caption, “Fishing, in Reverse” featured in the Saturday, May 9, 2015 Berkshire Eagle.  It was about Crosby Students assisting in the trout stocking the previous day at Onota Lake.  I was there and please allow me to tell you more about it.


The trout stocking scheme was the brainchild of, and first brought up in a 2014 meeting of the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen BCLS) by its president Mark Jester.  Working closely with Andrew Madden, Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) Western District Manager, Jim Legacy DFW ‘s Angler Education Program Manager out of Westborough and Donna Baker, Principal of the John C Crosby Elementary School, they made it happen.


The weather was perfect and around 11 AM, the school busses arrived at the Onota Lake Pavilion.  Approximately 140 second and third graders showed up and orderly filed into lines.


Before the stocking began, Jester welcomed the kids and informed them that the League was sponsoring the event and explained the proceedings.  “You are all becoming conservationists today”, he said.  He thanked Mrs. Baker and parents who were there to witness the event.  He got a few boos  and jeers when he told them they cannot kiss the fish.


Madden then explained that they will be stocking rainbow trout.  “We grow these fish for about a year and a half and we need you to help us get the fish into the water”, he said.  He asked the kids for a show of hands as to how many of them fish.  What a  pleasantl surprised when almost all of them raised their hands.


Legacy spoke and said the Angler Education Program has some 100 instructors statewide.  He explained the procedure for stocking the fish.   Mrs. Dana Ohman, DFW Western District Fish Biologist would net some fish out of the stocking truck and put them in a 5 gallon bucket (with no water). Two kids would run them to the edge of the lake (perhaps 100 feet) and toss the fish out of the buckets into the water.  Every kid would get a chance until the allotted numbers of trout were stocked.   Madden and Legacy would stand in the water in hip boots to ensure that all of the fish made it safely and swam away.


The kids tolerated the speeches and instructions, but they really came to life when Ohman reached in with her net and produced a couple of gorgeous trout.   That prompted a loud and enthusiastic round of applause and shouts of “Yea!”


The kids were told that the fish couldn’t breathe until they got into the water so they ran as fast as their little legs could carry them.  Some kids were so pumped up that they threw the buckets, fish and all into the water.  When all of the kids had their chance, it was the teachers turn to run with the buckets of fish.  I’ll bet some of them hadn’t run that fast in years. Even Jester sped by with a bucket of fish.


In all, some 300 gorgeous rainbows were liberated and there was not one casualty.  Following that, the kids had a picnic at the pavilion.  What a wonderful day! I can’t speak more highly of the efforts of Mark Jester, the DFW folks, Mrs. Baker and her staff of teachers and the well behaved students.  I suspect they will remember that day for a long time.  I know I will.


While at the stocking, I bumped into former DFW Biologist Leo Daley.  Remember him?  He worked out of the local office and retired from the Division over 25 years ago.  At 87 years old, he is sharp, looks good, is very active, and even teaches karate now.


Speaking of retirement, I heard that local DFW Biologist Tony Gola recently retired after 40 years with the Division.  His co-workers wanted to have a retirement party for him but insisted on a silent retirement and demanded that DFW not throw any party or do anything for him.  So, shhh, don’t tell a soul.  I suppose we can whisper a thank you to him for his many years of dedicated service. *****


The following waters were scheduled to be stocked with trout last week:  Hoosic River in Clarksburg, Cheshire and Adams; Green River in Alford, Egremont and Great Barrington; Williams River in West Stockbridge and Great Barrington, Westfield River in Becket, Chester, Chesterfield, Huntington and Middlefield; Deerfield River in Buckland, Charlemont and Florida; Pelham Brook in Charlemont and Rowe, Dry Brook and South Brook in Cheshire, Housatonic River (C&R) in Lee and Stockbridge, Dunbar Brook in Monroe, and the following lakes:  Ashfield, Upper Highland, Littleville, Pontoosuc, Laurel, Windsor, Pelham  and Goose Pond. *****

In his monthly report to the BCLS, DFW Manager Andrew Madden reported a couple of interesting tidbits.  He announced that the DFW recently acquired 60+ acres of land in Hinsdale abutting the Hinsdale Flats Wildlife Management Area.  The acquisition included fields and wetlands and improves access and protects huntable areas on existing land.

He also reported that as a result of eagle surveys he is seeing a sharp increase in eagle nests.  They are popping up in new places.  In fact, on the day of his report, he learned about two more new nests.  Up to 46 nesting pairs now exist in the state; whereas, just a few years ago the number was 24 to 26. If you hear of any new nests let him know.

New regulations for Striped Bass fishing went into effect this year


The Division of Marine Fisheries (MarineFisheries) has adopted a 1-fish recreational bag limit for Atlantic Striped Bass but the recreational minimum size limit remains the same at 28 inches.  This bag limit reduction (from 2 fish) was undertaken to reduce recreational harvests in Massachusetts by at least 25%, as required by the Interstate Fishery Management Plan (IFMP). Massachusetts’ commercial quota has also been reduced by 25%.

Last October, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission approved an addendum to the IFMP for Atlantic Striped Bass. The addendum responds to results of the 2013 benchmark stock assessment, which found that fishing mortality in 2012 was above target, and female spawning stock biomass has been steadily declining below the target level since 2006.  Enforcement of alternative rules across the entire population of for-hire permit holders (numbering 900), particularly when they are fishing without patrons aboard, would have proven troublesome.  A universal rule also removes any negative perceptions about benefits from a “dual-standard” allowed to for-hire patrons.  Anglers in Massachusetts will operate under the same rules as those in neighboring states in 2015, as New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Connecticut have also adopted 1 fish at 28″ minimum rules.  For more information, refer to *****


According to club spokesman Tim Minkler, 65 anglers participated in the Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club Fishing Derby that was held on May 3 from dawn to 3PM at Stockbridge Bowl.  It was a perfect day with good sun and temperatures reaching into the mid-70s.

The following individuals were $100 Winners:  Largest Trout:  12 year old Seth Slemp from Lee, (2 lbs, 16.5”); Largest Bass:  Austin Consolati, from Lee (1 lb, 9 oz., 14”); Largest Pickerel: Silas Amlaw, New Lebanon, NY (4 lb, 26”); Largest Bullhead: Seth Slemp again (1 lb, 13”).

Ages 12 and Under Winners:  Largest Trout:  First – Seth Slemp, noted above ; Second – Colin Mackie, from Becket, 1 lb 12 oz, 14.5”;  Third – Dylan Trumps, South Lee, 1 lb, 7 oz., 14”;  Fourth-  Gabriel Nascimento, Richmond, 13 oz, 12”.  Largest bullhead was caught by Seth Slemp noted above. *****

The Onota Fishing Club will be holding its annual Trout Derby on Onota Lake on next Sunday at the Pavillion.  The derby will run from 6:00 AM to 12:00 Noon. Trophies and prizes will be awarded for both children and adult divisions.  Cost for adults is $15 and for children $5.  Breakfast will be available to all participants with an all-you-can-eat fish fry following the derby.  There will be a $10 fee for all non participants for the fish fry.  Tickets are available in advance at Portsmitt’s Lakeway Restaurant or at The Onota Lake Pavillion the day of the derby. *****

The following waters were scheduled to be stocked last week:  Deerfield River received Tiger Trout in Buckland, Charlemont and Florida; Westfield River in Chesterfield, Cummington, Huntington, Russell and Windsor; Housatonic River in Dalton and Hinsdale, Hubbard River in Granville, West Brook in Great Barrington, Bennett Brook in Hinsdale, Town Brook in Lanesborough, Hop Brook, Beartown Brook and West Brook in Lee, Trout Brook in Peru, Buck and Clam Rivers in Sandisfield, Hop Brook in Tyringham, Hemlock Brook and Green River in Williamstown, Plunkett Lake, Laurel Lake, Lake Garfield, Lake Buel, York Lake, Otis Reservoir, Onota Lake and Stockbridge Bowl.

Mark your calendar, free fishing days this year are June 6 and 7 in Massachusetts.  Other nearby states’ free fishing days are:  Maine – May 30 and 31, New Hampshire – June 6, Vermont – June 15 and New York – June 27 & 28. *****


The Lee Sportsmen’s Association will be holding a Basic Pistol Course on May 11 and May 18.  The course cost is $100.00.  To sign up, contact Larry Karlquist at (413) 442-7807. *****


The Lenox Sportsmen’s Club is holding a Chicken, Sausage and Polenta dinner fund raiser this Friday evening.  Doors open at 5 PM and dinner is served at 6:30 PM.  Tickets cost $15 per person. *****


According to MassWildlife, some 1,130 turkeys were harvested the first week of spring turkey season.  The weather is great, the birds are gobbling, and there is plenty of season left (season ends on May 23).  They urge you to get out there.

Last week I mentioned that brothers Owen and Travis Bush each bagged a bird during the Lee Youth Turkey Hunt.  Their picture is shown above.

Young turkey hunters experience a cold but successful hunt

Young turkey hunters experience a cold but successful

With their mentors, youths took to the woods early last Saturday morning taking advantage of the special Youth Turkey Hunting day.  The frigid weather didn’t discourage the eighteen enthusiastic youths mentored by Stockbridge Sportsmen Club members.  Seven kids bagged gobblers and three others had shot opportunities but didn’t connect with their shots.  Everyone saw birds and all had birds answering their calls. Max Buffoni bagged the largest tom, it weighed 21.5 lbs. They had their first muzzle loader shotgun harvest with one of the new Knight muzzle loaders that was donated to the club by board member Rob McDermott last year.  After the hunt they all went to the club for a great lunch.

At the Lee Sportsmen’s Association, 8 kids went out.  Two birds were bagged by brothers Owen and Travis Bush.  Owen’s bird weighed 22 lbs and Travis bagged a 14 lb jake.  The boys were mentored by parents Jana and Todd Bush.  Yep, you read that right, mom was right there in the turkey blind with them at 5 AM, freezing with the others. The club provided  burgers and dogs after the hunt.

The Cheshire Rod & Gun Club had 11 kids that participated.  One got a 14 lb jake and the other got a 17 lb tom with an 8 inch beard.  Sorry, no names of the youth hunters were provided.

MassWildlife reported that 69 young hunters statewide were successful in the Young Adult Turkey Hunt Program. *****

A child’s fishing derby will be held next Saturday from 7AM to 3PM at Wild Acres near the Pittsfield Airport.  Lion Aviation will sponsor the derby and will stock trout for the day’s event.  The Onota Fishing Club will host the event and provide poles, bait and assistance to all children.  They will also provide breakfast and lunch for all participants.  Trophies will be awarded to all children who catch a tagged trout.  Parking is available at the upper level of Wild Acres Pavilion.  *****

The Berkshire Hatchery Foundation is holding another free kid’s fishing derby at their lower pond in Hartsville next Saturday, from 9 to 10:30 AM.    Its last derby was well attended with 32 participants catching 58 brook trout and prizes for all.   *****

The following waters were scheduled to be stocked with trout the weeks of April 20 and 27:  Hoosic River in Adams, Cheshire and Clarksburg;  Ashfield Lake,  Clesson Brook, South River and Swift River in Ashfield, Clesson Brook in Buckland, Deerfield River in Buckland, Charlemont, and Florida, Westfield River in Becket, Middlefield, Chesterfield, Cummington, Chester, Russell, Huntington, Savoy, Worthington, and Windsor; West Branch Brook in Chesterfield, North Pond in Florida, Upper Highland Lake, Stones Brook and Swift River in Goshen; Little River, Littleville Lake and Norwich Pond in Huntington, Otis Reservoir, Richmond Pond, Onota Lake, Greenwater Pond, Goose Pond, Big Pond, Lake Garfield, Lake Mansfield, Westfield Brook and Windsor Pond in Windsor.


Windsor Lake in North Adams, Bronson Brook, Little River and West Branch Brook in Worthington, Konkapot River in Monterey, New Marlborough and Sheffield, Chickley River  in Savoy, Hawley and Charlemont; Cold River in Savoy, Charlemont and Florida; Hudson Brook in Clarksburg, North Pond in Florida, Berry Pond and Kinderhook Creek in Hancock, Farmington River in Otis and Sandisfield, Green River in Alford, Egremont and Great Barrington; Housatonic River (C&R) in Lee and Stockbridge and Housatonic River (SW) in Pittsfield.


Tiger trout were stocked into Onota Lake and Windsor Pond.  Tagged trout were stocked into the Deerfield River, Littleville Lake and the Westfield River in Russell. *****

The Cheshire Rod & Gun Club is starting this year’s monthly pistol shoots next Saturday. All shoots will take place at the club on Saturdays starting at 10 AM.  The entry fee is $10 for the first shoot and $5 for the second.  Winners will split half of the 1st shoot’s dollar take, and all of the 2nd shoot.


The 2nd shoot is the same caliber as the first, but with a surprise.  If you have any questions, call either Chuck Jones at (413) 684-3391 Martha Lee at (413) 212-4154.

Four honored at BCLS Conte Banquet

Four honored at BCLS Conte Banquet

The Cheshire Rod & Gun Club banquet hall was packed for the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen’s  Silvio O. Conte Memorial Awards Banquet which was held last Saturday evening.  Award winners were: Shaun Smith of Lee – Sportsman of the Year, Mark Jester of Pittsfield – John Zuber Award, retired Mass DFW Director Wayne MacCallum of Grafton- Lifetime Achievement Award and the Adams Outdoor for Youth organization – Sportsmen’s Appreciation Award. They were selected by the various sportsmen’s clubs which make up the BCLS.   Their individual feats were highlighted in prior columns.

Smith’s award was in recognition of his dedication, leadership and commitment to the sportsmen of MA.   BCLS President Mark Jester presented a plaque and citations from State Senator Benjamin Downing representing the Senate and State Rep William “Smitty” Pignatelli representing the House of Representatives. Jester congratulated and thanked him for all of the work that he did for the paraplegic hunting program in MA.  For over 40 years he dedicated himself to those who can no longer walk around the woods. “Because of his efforts, they are still getting out into the woods and enjoying the outdoors”, said Jester,   “Their memories of being out into the outdoors are good ones instead of just sitting in the chairs to which they are bound.”


“It’s not a one man show”, Smith said in accepting the award.  He thanked the past and current members of the DFW for their help over the years as well as Al Vincent who has been involved in the program for as long as he has.  He also thanked his understanding wife Mary for her support of his involvement in this program.


Mass F & W Board Chairman George “Gige” Darey of Lenox presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to MacCallum for his efforts to preserve and protect the rich natural resources which will forever benefit the citizens, habitat and wildlife of this great Commonwealth.  Noting that he is highly regarded nationwide, he credited MacCallum for pushing for the “presumption of openness” for passive recreation on State lands, for initiating the Land Stamp, a supplement to the Open Space Bond Bill, which resulted in the preservation of thousands of acres in Massachusetts, and more.


In accepting the award MacCallum said that it was a real honor and pleasure to be the director and to work with all of the sportsmen across the state. He loved his job.  He commended Acting Director Jack Buckley for all his help along the way.


Wayne Tinney of Adams accepted the Sportsmen’s Appreciation Award for the Adams Outdoor for Youth Organization.  He is its President.  The award is in appreciation of the Club’s unwavering commitment to the community and to the community’s greatest assets, it youth.  “This award is all about helping the kids in our community” said Tinney.


Tinney then presented the John Zuber Award to Mark Jester of Pittsfield for recognition of his unwavering dedication to the sportsmen of Berkshire County.  He called him one of the hardest working guys in all of the sportsmen’s groups.


“This is one of the greatest honors ever bestowed upon me”, said Jester.  “John Zuber was a great friend and this award means a lot to me.  If it wasn’t for John (Previous BCLS President) the County League wouldn’t be what it is today”. Jester talked about hunting with his dad and how he got him involved and sparked his love for the outdoors.   He thanked the sportsmen for making it possible for him to represent them in Westborough, Boston and with local legislators. *****


Next Sunday, the Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club will be holding its annual Spring Fishing Derby on Stockbridge Bowl from dawn until 3:00 PM.  There will be $100 prizes for the heaviest trout, pickerel, bass and bullhead.  Free lures for all kids 12 and under.  Pre-registration fee is $10, after that it is $15.  Official rules and weigh-in will be at the boat ramp.  For more information call (413)644-3590 or (413)298-4630.  *****


The spring turkey hunting season opens tomorrow.   Good luck and have a safe and enjoyable hunt.  Watch out for the ticks.