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.