Think you know all of the freshwater fishes in Massachusetts?

 

Don’t answer that until you read the new MassWildlife brochure entitled Freshwater Fishes of Massachusetts. I don’t know about you, but I thought the only sunfish in Massachusetts were Bluegills (Lepomis Macrochirus) and Pumpkinseeds (Lepomis gibbosus). True, some classify the Crappie, Perch and Rock Bass as sunfish, but I don’t. Some others, including MassWildlife, categorize Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass as sunfish, but not me. I call them gamefish.

Well, according to the new MassWildlife brochure, there are also Banded Sunfish (Enneacanthus obesus), Redbreast Sunfish (Lepomis auritus) and Green Sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus) residing in the Commonwealth. In fact some have been caught here in the Western District. It also lists another kind of pickerel in Massachusetts called the Redfin Pickerel (Esox americanus) which only grows to a size of 6 to 10 inches and resides in the eastern part of the Commonwealth. Interestingly, in the Minnows family is listed the Common Carp (Ciprinus carpio). I don’t know about you, but I have a problem calling a 40 lbs carp a minnow!

This excellent new brochure, which is free at any DFW Regional Office, has excellent color pictures of them and other Massachusetts freshwater fish as well as other interesting information. Local DFW Aquatic Biologist Leanda Fontaine Gagnon had a hand in producing it.

New Natural Heritage Atlas
On August 1, 2017, the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program (NHESP) released the 14th Edition of the Natural Heritage Atlas. The Atlas is used by project proponents, municipalities, and others for determining whether or not a proposed project or activity must be reviewed by the NHESP for compliance with the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act and the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act Regulations.
Updated Priority and Estimated Habitats will be posted on the Division’s website and made available electronically as a downloadable geographic information system (GIS) data layer. Additionally, the Division will provide the town-based Priority and Estimated Habitat maps to planning boards, building inspectors, and conservation commissions in municipalities where these areas have been delineated. See www.mass.gov/nhesp for more information, including the final maps and a summary response to the Priority Habitat public comments.
NHESP, part of the Massachusetts DFW, is one of the programs forming the Natural Heritage network. NHESP is responsible for the conservation and protection of hundreds of species that are not hunted, fished, trapped, or commercially harvested in the state, as well as the protection of the natural communities that make up their habitats. The Program’s highest priority is protecting the vertebrate and invertebrate animals and native plants that are officially listed as Endangered, Threatened or of Special Concern in Massachusetts.
The overall goal of the Program is the protection of the state’s wide range of native biological diversity.
Riverside Trails Seminar, Saturday, September 9
According to the Great Barrington Land Conservancy, Trail Building is a process that is , complex and rewarding especially in a riverfront area.
The GB Land Conservancy invites you to learn about the planning and implementation of riverside trails from expert trail builder, Peter Jensen. The seminar will run from 10:00am until noon.
Peter has been building trails for over 30 years, and the Great Barrington River Walk was one of his early projects. Attendees can learn how this National Recreation Trail grew from a garbage filled bank to a rehabilitated riverfront area and peaceful in-town walkway celebrating the beauty and history of Great Barrington and the Housatonic River.
Peter will share his expertise and trail building experiences in a power point presentation followed by a guided walk along River Walk. The seminar is free and open to the public. Participants will have an opportunity to talk to Peter about their own trail projects or riverside trail goals. Register as soon as possible as space is limited at info@gbtrails.org
This program is provided by Great Barrington Land Conservancy as part of the 2017 River Walk Community Programs.

Community Celebration Day, also September 9
From 10:00am until 4:00pm, the Berkshire Natural Resources Council will be having a Community Celebration Day at the Holiday Farms, 100 Holiday Cottage Road in Dalton, MA. There will be hay rides, guided walks, archery, fishing, birds of prey with Tom Ricardi and music all day. While registration is not required, they ask you to consider letting them know by registering and getting a free ticket.

Massachusetts Outdoor Exposition, Sunday, September 17
The Massachusetts Outdoor Expo, also known as The Big MOE is a free, family-friendly event designed to introduce young and old to wildlife and the outdoors. Attracting several thousand attendees annually, the Big MOE features a variety of skills stations, craft tables, and other exhibits relating to wildlife and the outdoors. This is your opportunity to try new outdoor skills and activities such as fishing, archery, kayaking, shooting, building a bird box, geocaching, mountain biking, nature arts and crafts. Visit a New England Pioneer Encampment, take a peek at live birds of prey and native reptiles, be part of a tree stand safety demonstration and get up close and personal at the 4-H petting zoo. Local sportsmen’s clubs, outdoor businesses, conservation organizations and state agencies sponsor most of the activity stations.
You may recall last year that the event was cancelled, presumably due to liability issues. Well, this year adults and youths will be required to sign a Liability Release Form. This form can be found at the Big Moe Fawns Expo website and you are asked to print it off beforehand and bring one per person with you.
The Big MOE location is the Hamilton Rod & Gun Club in Sturbridge, MA. Admission, parking and all activities are free. Convenient parking provided at the Sturbridge Business Park, 660 Main St., with free shuttle bus transportation. No pets or alcohol allowed, but food and drink are available for purchase.

No changes to be made in statewide antlerless deer permit allocations this year

In his recent report to the Fish & Wildlife Board, MassWildlife Deer and Moose Project Leader David Stainbrook discussed the emerging trends in the Western and Central regions (Wildlife Management Zones 1-9) and in the Eastern Region (WMZs 10-14). He explained that it is helpful to break the state into two areas when looking at deer management issues and trends.

In WMZ 1-9, the deer numbers have been kept relatively stable over the past 30 years, but in the eastern zones, deer numbers have gone from very low (rare to see a deer in some areas), to quite abundant. In areas where there has been adequate hunting access, deer numbers have likely been kept stable, but in areas with limited to no hunting access, deer numbers have been steadily growing.

He reported that they are on average within the Management Range in WMZs 1-9, but there is always variability within each zone, with some areas having lower deer numbers and some with higher deer numbers. The variability typically comes down to hunting access. He also reported that one major part of MassWildlife’s goal is to maintain a healthy, balanced deer population.

The data that staff collects in WMZ 1-9, (which come only from huntable areas, to investigate physical health of deer) indicate that deer are in good physical condition. The strong yearling male antler beam diameters they are recording indicate that the deer are healthy enough to devote more resources into antler growth, and also that their mothers were healthy enough to give them a good head start. Upon analyzing the age structure of the harvest data, it revealed in WMZs 1 to 9 that those zones are exhibiting a balanced age structure.

In conclusion, and based on the deer density to management range of 12-18 deer per square mile, Stainbrook recommended no change to the antlerless deer permit (ADP) allocation in WMZs 1-9. He also recommended that MassWildlife conduct pellet count surveys and deer browse surveys, stating that these will add to their understanding of current deer densities, so they know when they are reaching the upper end of their management range.

The proposed Antlerless Deer Permit Applications for 2017 are as follows:
WMZ Allocation WMZ Allocation

1 400 7 2,250
2 175 8 2,500
3 1,100 9 4,100
4N 375 10 12,000
4S 275 11 11,000
5 1,250 12 800
6 300 13 2,700

Hunters who applied for an Antlerless Deer Permit by the July 16th deadline must return to the MassFishHunt system to try to win a permit. The instant award period begins August 1 at 8:00 A.M. and continues through December 31. This is not a first-come first-served system. The odds of winning an Antlerless Deer Permit during the instant award period are the same whether a customer tries to win in August, September, or any time before December 31. Hunters have one chance to try for an instant award Antlerless Deer Permit.

There are three ways in which a hunter may participate and try to win a permit: 1) Log into the MassFishHunt system (follow instructions), 2) Visit a MassWildlife office , or 3) Visit a license agent location . Staff at these locations will access the MassFishHunt system on the customer’s behalf.

Stainbrook also recommended and the Board approved the following:
• Set the Youth Deer Hunt Day on September 30, 2017 and continue to allow youths to take either an antlered or antlerless deer in any zone.
• Allow youth 12-17 to obtain their free youth deer hunt permit online
• Allow online harvest reporting during second week of shotgun season, starting the second Monday of the shotgun season. This is more convenient for hunters, and staff has not seen any drops in reporting with online reporting, nor is it a concern for biological data collection.

Stainbrook also recommended that MassWildlife extend the Archery deer season, starting the season two weeks earlier in WMZs 10-14. This would give hunters eight weeks instead of six weeks. If approved it would start after the Youth Deer Hunt Day, on the eighth Monday prior to Thanksgiving, which is October 2 in 2017. The Board could not approve the recommendation at that time because it has to have a public hearing first.

River clean-up surprise
Jane Winn, Executive Director of the Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT), thanks everyone who helped to pull canoe-loads of trash out of the Housatonic River during the clean-up which took place on Saturday, June 15. She reported that the extraordinary find of the day was an ATM! Volunteer Tom Sakshaug said that they thought it was an oven or refrigerator but when he went to see how heavy it was he discovered it was an empty ATM. BEAT Stewardship Manager Ella DelMolino passed the information onto Jane who notified the police and they arrived and removed it.

Thanks also went to the Housatonic Valley Association (HVA) who co-hosted the event, to BlueQ who provided lunch and “cool” BlueQ stuff, and the City of Pittsfield who hauled the trash away and provided some funding for this year’s cleanups.

Firearm Course
On Saturday, August 12, the Lee Sportsmen’s Association will be having a Multi-License Firearm Course. This course qualifies applicants to apply for licenses in MA, CT, UT, FL, ME and NH. Robert J. McDermott will be conducting this course. For information and registration contact him at 413-232-7700 or robmcdermott@verizon.net.

Archery Shoot
Karen Kruszyna,, spokesperson for the Cheshire Rod & Gun Club, informs us that there will be a Tri-State 3-D Archery Shoot on Sunday, August 6. It starts at 8 a.m. and participants are advised to get there ahead of time to register. Price for adults (30 targets) is $10, Youths 12 to 15 is $5 and Cubs 0-11 are free.

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

 

Kids fishing with little fish sometimes catch lunkers

 

Over the Fourth of July weekend, 12-year old Nina from Queens, NY was visiting her grandparents Dave and Maggie Bimbane on Ashmere Lake in Hinsdale. She was netting some small “baby” sunfish along the shoreline with her 10-year old cousin Gage. She decided to rig the sunfish onto a fishhook and toss it out near their dock. She saw a nice largemouth bass follow the bait and attack it. According to grandpa Dave, there was a lot of excitement (screaming and yelling) when they tried to net the bass. It was too big for their net but she was able to land it anyway.

Nina went through the decision of either mounting it as a trophy or cooking it. She finally decided that it had lived all these years and it should be set free, which she did. Grandpa Dave is really proud of young Nina. “It was a great choice for a 12-year old person.” he said. That fish may provide great pleasure to another angler in the future and maybe that angler will also release it.

The bass measured 18 inches long and weighed 2.5 lbs. Looks heavier than that, don’t you think? I’ve got a feeling that she will do more visiting and a lot more fishing up at the lake in the future.

It never ceases to amaze me. Most bass fishermen fish with rubber worms, lures, plugs, spinner baits, etc. They probably have hundreds of dollars invested in their equipment. I wonder if they remember their younger days when they would simply hook a small bait to the red and white bobber and cast it out. Kids sure caught a lot of fish in those days using that method. I don’t remember practicing “Catch & Release” back then, because we fished for food.

In addition to the small fish, we would fish with what we called crabs (crayfish), perch bugs (dragonfly nymphs) and any other wiggly pinching critter that we caught along the shorelines and riverbanks.

Basic Hunter Education Courses
All first-time hunters who wish to purchase a Massachusetts hunting or sporting license must complete a Basic Hunter Education course. One will be taught at the Ashfield Rod & Gun Club, 161 North Street, Plainfield, MA, on August 3 and August 19. The times are 6:00 to 9:30pm on August 3 and 8:00 am to 3:30 pm on August 19.

The second course will be taught at the Pittsfield High School, 300 East Street, Pittsfield. The dates are September 5, 7, 12, 14, 19 and 21 from 6:00 to 9:00pm.

Participants must attend all class dates and times to successfully complete the course. To enroll, call (508)389-7830.

Land Acquisitions
Recently, MassWildlife completed three Western District land projects. All three of them built on existing land holdings and enhanced access for sportsmen while protecting a diversity of
habitat.

The first one was the acquisition of 24 acres of land located within the Long Mountain Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Otis. Based upon topo maps, it appears to be between Angerman Swamp and Hayden Swamp and to the east of the boundary with Beartown State Forest near the Tyringham town border. There does not appear to be any ready access to it, but the closest road appears to be Stebbens Road in Otis. There is no informational write-up of the property available yet.

The second one was the acquisition of 24 acres of land abutting the Chalet WMA in Lanesborough. It is between the Chalet WMA and the Boulders Wildlife Conservation Easement area with access from Gulf Road. There is limited parking space (2 cars) nearby on Gulf Road. The Chalet WMA has over 6,400 acres within its boundaries.

The third one was the acquisition of 66 acres abutting the Ram Hill WMA in Chesterfield, MA. Access to the area is off of Route 143, across from Dead Swamp. Sorry, there is no informational write-up of the property available yet. This increases the acreage of Ram Hill WMA to 244 acres.

Incidentally, much of the information about the WMA’s was obtained from MassWildlife’s Wildlands Web Viewer where one can find out information about all of the WMA’s and other preserved lands. There are three base maps of the properties: USGS older maps, the newer topographic maps and satellite maps. These maps are currently being updated to give valuable information such as total acreage, access and parking locations, boat launches, etc. Check them out on http://maps.env.state.ma.us/dfg/masswildlifelands.

Eagle Update
Readers may recall my June 18, 2017 column wherein I noted that it appeared that eagle nests in Pittsfield, Great Barrington, Richmond, Russell and Lenox failed to produce young this year. Things were looking dismal. Well, there is some good news. This year they had successful eaglets develop in June in Buckland, Otis, and Monterey. MassWildlife banded only 2 chicks in the Western District and both were in the Monterey nest. Statewide, MassWildlife banded 29 chicks, recorded 57 active nests and had 50 eaglets fledged.

MassWildlife also reported that when an early spring storm destroyed a Bald Eagle nest containing eggs, chances were extremely small that the pair could re-nest. However, one pair of eagles beat the odds this spring by building a new nest and hatching two eggs. This successful second nesting is the first ever recorded in Massachusetts. MassWildife recently visited the nest and banded two chicks.

Questions/comments: Berkwoodsandwaters@roadrunner.com

What is the DER and what does it do?

 

 

The Massachusetts Division of Environmental Restoration (DER) was created in 2009 with the merger of the Riverways and Wetlands Restoration Programs. DER coordinates ecological restoration to improve habitat for fish and wildlife and restores important ecosystem services that improve the quality of life for all Massachusetts citizens.  DER works with many partners across a variety of aquatic systems, from freshwater to saltwater, to restore the ecological integrity of degraded habitats for the benefit of people and the environment.

 

In 2016 alone, the Division removed 2 dams and completed 2 wetland restoration projects, restoring 285 acres and opening 13 river miles statewide.  It advanced work on multiple river and wetland restoration projects that have recently initiated construction or will begin construction next year.  Once complete, those projects will remove 8 dams, reconnect more than 78 river miles and restore nearly 280 acres of degraded wetlands.

 

Using Commonwealth funds, DER leveraged $10 million in newly awarded external funds.  Volunteers worked in 72 communities devoting more than $100,000 worth of labor towards protecting and restoring our rivers and wetlands.  The DER provided technical support and guidance in more than 170 communities and across all 27 major watersheds.

 

DER, together with its partners, has restored in total over 1,800 acres of coastal wetlands and reconnected over 250 miles.

 

In Western MA, the DER was recently awarded a $179,620 grant from the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation.  The grant will build municipal capacity to upgrade culverts and increase the pace of culvert replacement in the Deerfield River Watershed.  The Deerfield River has an abundance of coldwater streams, which provide essential habitat for fish species. In 2011 many towns were hard hit in the region after Tropical Storm Irene.  This grant, in conjunction with other DER funds will immediately advance the design and/or construction of up to 6 culverts in the Deerfield River Watershed and, in time, will lead to many more replacements.

 

DER’s Streamflow Restoration program continues to work with municipal partners in Pittsfield to improve streamflow below recreational dams.  This past winter, DER installed a telemetry station at the Onota Lake dam that measures water level and assists with lake management and downstream releases to Peck’s Brook, a tributary to the West Branch of the Housatonic River.  Last fall DER also funded a survey of macro-invertebrates in Peck’s Brook, along with several other streams in the area, to better quantify changes in the aquatic community after modifications were made to upstream dam management.  Recent monitoring shows significant improvements in both streamflow and macro-invertebrate populations in the brook, despite 2016 drought conditions.

 

In 2017, DER will be working on 11 new priority projects adding to its total roster of 62 projects.  Here in the Berkshires, the Kitchen Brook Dam in Cheshire, has a provisional status of Significant Hazard.  It has an impassable obstruction on the brook, which drains part of Mount Greylock’s eastern slope and is tributary to the coldwater trout stream Thunder Brook.  That brook is where DER previously worked with the town to removal another aging dam and to replace an undersized culvert with a fish-friendly crossing.  Removal of Kitchen Brook Dam will open up 4 miles of high quality cold water habitat for Eastern Brook Trout.

 

The Kinne Brook Dam in Chester was removed in 2014, and now two undersized culverts will be replaced in 2017-2018.  The goal is to restore river functions to the high-quality cold-water stream which is a tributary to the Westfield River.  It is abundant with eastern brook trout.  The barrier removals were done in partnership with Trout Unlimited and others.

Several years ago, the DER removed a dam on the North Branch of the Hoosic River in Clarksburg.  Now, there is an Urban River Restoration Priority Project planned for the Hoosic River in North Adams.  The goal is to modernized North Adams’ aging concrete flood chutes with habitat, river and community friendly modifications while maintaining existing flood risk management levels.   So far a concept design for the South Branch Hoosic River restoration is in place including preliminary designs for a Phase I restoration in the Noel Field area. Soil, sediment and groundwater sampling was just completed in the Phase I restoration area. Concept design work for the North Branch of the Hoosic River is just beginning and will take about a year to complete.

 

The DER is a division which reports directly to the Commissioner of the Department of Fish and Game.  Tim Purington is its Director.  It is one of my favorite state agencies because we can see tangible results which affects our lives and benefits the critters. I hope it continues to receive sufficient funding to accomplish it very important work.

 

Trout Stockings

The following local waters were scheduled to be stocked last week.  Due to the rain and high waters, this schedule was subject to change: Ashfield Pond, Housatonic River (East Branch) in Dalton and Hinsdale, Housatonic River SW Branch in Pittsfield, Pontoosuc Lake, Lake Garfield, Lake Buel, Windsor Lake in North Adams, Onota Lake, Goose Pond, and Windsor Pond in Windsor.

 

Water Safety

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 weather. Paddlers in canoes and kayaks are required to wear life jackets from September 15 – May 15.  They also advise us to:  Make sure everyone wears a life jacket, follows navigation rules, such as safe speed and spotters, never boat under the influence and keep in touch by using cell phones, etc.  Don’t panic if you fall into the water.  Stay afloat with the help of your life jacket, regain control of your breathing, keep your head above water in vision of rescuers, and stay with the boat if possible

Pittsfield teenager will compete in National Junior Olympic Shooting Championships

 

The Lee Sportsmen’s Association (LSA) recently announced that one of its junior athletes, Lena DuPont, of Pittsfield, has earned and accepted a first round invitation to compete in the 2017 National Junior Olympic Shooting Championships for Air Pistols.   They will take place at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO on April 20 – 24.  Lena is 14 years old and an 8th grade High Honors student at TEC Connections Academy.

To compete is quite an honor, as only the finest junior athletes in the nation are invited. The event provides an opportunity for obtaining possible future shooting scholarships and a National Junior Team appointment, which allows them to compete internationally.  Standing shoulder to shoulder with the best shooters in the country makes this match one of the most competitive events in which Lena will participate.

She is a member of LSA’s Air2Spare youth air pistol team, and earned a Silver medal with two teammates (Riley Laurent and Cooper Maloney) at the 2016 Baystate Games.  They were taught by Air2Spare founders and coaches Cliff and Vicki White.  Berkshire Eagle reporter Jacob Mendel, covered these winners in his August 1, 2016 article entitled, “Air2Spare air pistol shooting club continuing growth after Baystate Games showing”. Lena was also featured last summer on WNYT (Albany TV) during the Olympic games

Lena then went on and won a Silver medal at the 2016 Progressive Position Pistol (PPP) Nationals in Ft. Benning, GA in her category for the Eastern Region, and placed 7th overall in the nation.

She is excited for this opportunity and says, “I was really surprised and happy to get this invitation. It’s the equivalent of a shooting Christmas for me and the other junior shooters who were invited!”

Incidentally, Lena is fundraising to help offset the travel costs associated with attending the championships in Colorado.  Her GoFundMe link is: https://www.gofundme.com/lenadupont2017.  For offline donations, contact her mom Stephanie DuPont at (215) 668-7808 or email dupontfam5@gmail.com.

Good luck, Lena!

International Defensive Pistol Association

The outdoor matches of the IDPA and Sheet Matches seasons at Lee Sportsmen Club are starting soon.   Refer to the LSA web site calendar for a list of all match dates.    You do not have to be a member of the Lee club to participate and new shooters are always welcome.  The IDPA is a shooting sport that simulates self-defense scenarios and real life encounters.  Each stage is purposely different to force you to practice different skills.   You will need a 9mm or larger and 3 mags minimum.   The rules of IDPA are followed for safety and scoring. The matches are typically $15 to participate.  There are many IDPA videos on You Tube and they recommend this starter one:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ke-20oCBTOM

 

Steel matches are typically strings of 5 targets repeated 5 times/strings. It’s best if you have 5 magazines.  These matches are rim and center fire pistol and 22 rifle friendly.  Shawn Sullivan ssullee@icloud.com is the best point of contact for IDPA and steel.    New shooters must attend a safety orientation prior to their first shoot.  Each match begins with a safety briefing.  Sign in time is 12:15-12:30 for afternoon matches.

 

Trout Stocking

The following local Western District waters were scheduled to be stocked last week:  Deerfield River (Buckland, Charlemont, Florida), East Branch Westfield River (Chesterfield, Cummington, Windsor), Housatonic River C&R (Lee), Farmington River (Otis, Sandisfield),  Pontoosuc Lake, Laurel Lake, Richmond Pond, and Stockbridge Bowl.  The schedules were subject to change.

Monitoring our water quality

While the Clean Water Act of 1972 was established to help make our rivers swimmable and fishable, most of our rivers still don’t meet that goal, especially after a rainstorm, due to the pollutants carried down the storm drains to the river. That’s according to the Housatonic Valley Association (HVA), who informs us that each of us has the opportunity to make choices that improve the water quality of our rivers and lakes.

Yesterday the HVA conducted a Water Quality Monitoring Training at the Bill Laston Memorial Park in Lanesborough.  Once a month, the trained volunteers will collect water samples at designated locations on Wahconah Falls Brook in Dalton and the Southwest Branch of the Housatonic River in Pittsfield. They volunteered for one morning, once a month, from April through October. The goal of this sampling is to determine current bacteria levels in the above mentioned waters. Segments of these tributaries are currently listed as impaired due to high bacteria levels. If the sampling shows that bacteria levels have dropped, these tributaries may be taken off the state’s impaired waters list. If you missed yesterday’s meeting, check with Alison Dixon, HVA Berkshire Outreach Manager at (413)298-7024 to see if you can still get involved.  The time commitment is 30-40 minutes per month.

Also, the HVA will be conducting Stream Team training on Tuesday, April 4 from5:30 to 7pm at the Mason Library, in Great Barrington, and Saturday, April 8 from  2:30 to 4:30pm at the Berkshire Athenaeum in Pittsfield.  This spring volunteers will help complete river assessments on the Southwest Branch of the Housatonic River (Pittsfield) and the Green River (Austerlitz, NY to Great Barrington) Volunteers will walk or paddle a 1 – 2 mile segment of the river and record observations.

Our streams and rivers are also affected by acid rain.  Today, volunteers are gathering water samples from hundreds of streams and rivers across the state and delivering them to designated laboratories for analysis. This acid rain monitoring program has been ongoing for more than 30 years and good baseline data has been accumulated.  It will be interesting to see what effect, if any, President Trump’s new executive order addressing coal production will have.

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.

Corrections

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

 

 

2016 was a busy year for MassWildlife

The following information was taken in part from DFW Director Jack Buckley’s annual message:  On June 4, MassWildlife celebrated its 150th anniversary. Over 1,000 people visited the new Field Headquarters on that day to celebrate. The event was an opportunity for staff to highlight its diverse programs from archery for kids to black bear research to butterflies. The day was so successful it is planning a similar event for next year.

 

During the year, it began construction of a water pipeline that will provide gravity-fed, consistently cold water from the Quabbin Reservoir to the McLaughlin Hatchery in Belchertown. Although a significant investment of angler’s dollars, when completed in 2017, this project will produce long-term benefits through reduction of energy costs, establishment of a long-term stable water source for the hatchery, and result in an improvement in the quality of stocked trout.

 

During the 2016 trout stocking season MassWildlife launched a new web-based tool for trout anglers that provides daily online trout stocking reports.  Anglers are encouraged to check out the new tool during the spring trout stocking season at mass.gov/trout.  (For those who aren’t into these new fangled computers, I hope to continue providing timely stocking information in this column.)

 

Making improvements to the Hunter Education program continued to be a focus of the agency. Its goal is to make hunter education easily accessible and convenient without a wait to sign up for a course. Over the past year new Hunter Education staff members were hired to provide enhancements to the program. The primary objectives of these staff are to schedule, plan and conduct Basic Hunter Education courses across the state, particularly in low service areas, as well as to conduct other courses that are developed and administered by the program.

 

In 2016, the Hunter Education Program staff concentrated solely on: 1) increasing the number of Basic Hunter Education Courses being offered in underserved areas of the state such as Boston and Springfield, and 2) increasing the number of participating students. This past year, 94 Basic Hunter Education courses were held across the State, a 14.6% increase over the previous year. A total of 3,952 students participated in the basic course representing a nearly 6% increase in attendance.

 

MassWildlife is implementing the Learn-to-Hunt Program assisting new Hunter Education

graduates in the transition from the classroom to the field. Designed for adult Basic Hunter Education graduates with little or no hunting experience, participants can sign up for a one-day clinic or a 3-day in-depth workshop. Classroom and outdoor exercises help new hunters learn more about the skills and techniques used to hunt different game animals. Taught by Division staff and volunteers from sporting clubs and related organizations, this program utilizes the experience and knowledge of seasoned sportsmen and women. In the first year of this new program, 321 hunters participated.

 

During the year, it expanded programs in archery and recreational shooting resulting in the development of the Explore Archery Program.  This program was created to promote a lifelong interest and participation in the sport of archery to participants of all ages.  MassWildlife continued to train and certify instructors from recreation departments, nature centers, Scouting organizations, and schools. Successful completion of this program allows any certified instructor the ability to offer an archery program in their area and to borrow equipment from MassWildlife free of charge.

 

It has continued its very successful Youth Deer Hunt Day. Beyond the intrinsic benefits, this hunt serves as a great recruiting tool for developing hunting mentors.

 

In 2017, to complement the above programs, MassWildlife plans to partner with the UMASS Extension 4-H Youth Development Program to launch a 4-H© Shooting Sports Program in Massachusetts.  It will focus on youth development and will be designed to empower young people with skills they can use for a lifetime. Young people will develop an understanding of natural resources and conservation ethics while learning marksmanship, the safe and responsible use of firearms, the principles of hunting and archery, and other valuable life skills including self-confidence, personal discipline, responsibility, and sportsmanship.

 

MassWildlife has updated its logo and has begun re-designing agency publications, signs and web pages for a consistent look and easily recognizable agency identity.

 

Director Buckley and his staff have got to be proud of the above accomplishments.  However; Buckley acknowledges that what the Division does would not be possible without the strong support of hunters, anglers, and trappers. “Although we manage wildlife for the benefit and enjoyment of all citizens of the Commonwealth, the sportsmen and women are the financial backbone of MassWildlife. Your willingness to step up in supporting everything from land acquisition to the conservation of rare and endangered species demonstrates the broad view of the interconnectedness and importance of all wildlife … Thank you!”

 

Hoosic River Ranger

The mission of the Hoosic River Revival is to reconnect the community to a healthy, scenic, accessible, flood-controlled river, which will enhance North Adams’ recreational, cultural, and economic vitality.

 

The Hoosic River Revival has collaborated with the North Adams Public School System in the creation of an outdoor education curriculum which focuses on the historical and environmental learning opportunities along the Hoosic River levees at Noel Field in North Adams.  This new offering, called “the Hoosic River Ranger” program, is an inter-active, interpretive walking tour for elementary school children.

 

Supplementing the River Ranger outdoor education curriculum is a new self-guided brochure from the Hoosic River Revival: the “Hoosic River Family Wildlife Walk” brochure. Created by Johanna Wasserman and the River Revival’s Social Media advisor, Bert Lamb, the brochure highlights a half-mile walk from Joe Wolfe Field to Hunter Foundry Road, and is now available in the North Adams Public Library, and at the Colegrove and Brayton schools.  The brochure may also be downloaded from the Revival website: http://bit.ly/HRRwildlifewalk

Young pheasant hunters take to the woods

 

 

Recently, members of the Cheshire Rod & Gun Club conducted a youth pheasant hunt on club property.  Some 10 youths mostly from 13 years to 15 years age were mentored by club members Stan Tracy, Rick Gale and others.  The club purchases and stocks its own birds on club property and on this day, members gave up their hunting day to allow the youths a chance to experience a pheasant hunt.  The birds were stocked between 5 and 6 AM and no hunting was allowed until after 9 AM.

 

Prior to going out on the hunt, the youths were provided a free pancake breakfast and then they attended a safety meeting.  Most were kids or grandkids of club members but some of them were from other areas.  For example, one youth was from Lee.  A couple of others were kids of parents who did not hunt and they had no other opportunity to learn to hunt pheasants.

 

Tracy mentored three teenage girls, Mia Gale, Isabella LaCasse and Suki Liang and didn’t know what to expect.  “I didn’t know if they would be dressed properly and was afraid that they would show up wearing sneakers” he said.  But when they showed up, the girls were properly dressed in camo or hunter orange clothing and knee high boots.  They were serious and ready to go in spite of the cold, raw weather.  Two parents showed up to help with the mentoring.

 

Out to the woods and fields they went, accompanied by Tracy’s bird dog Brady.  The girls did great, each having bagged a pheasant.   The only complaint that Tracy received was that after an hour or so, the guns became heavy.  He was glad that the parents came along to help carry the extra gun for them.   They were anxious to call it a day, not because of boredom or the cold weather or anything like that.  They wanted to get back to the clubhouse to clean their game.  They weren’t fazed at all with the plucking and removal of the birds’innards.

 

In all, 10 youths participated in the hunt and they bagged 15 or 16 birds.

 

Incidentally, MassWildlife will be stocking 40,000 pheasants statewide this fall.  They started stocking for opening day which was October 15 and will continue until November 25.  Plenty of time left to bag a couple for your next pheasant under glass meal.

Division of Ecological Restoration

The MA Department of Fish and Game’s Division of Ecological Restoration works with community-based partners to restore aquatic ecosystems. The Division’s ecological restoration work brings clean water, recreation opportunities, healthy commercial fisheries, and other ecosystem services to the citizens of Massachusetts.  Tim Purinton is its Director. Here is what they had to say about our recent drought in its November 2016 newsletter Ebb and Flow:

“Our aquatic ecosystems are under an incredible amount of stress from the ongoing and persistent drought. This long period of drought will be remembered, like the blizzard of 1978 or the hurricanes of the late 1950s.  Periods of low streamflow and drought are a natural occurrence and many aquatic organisms have evolved traits that enable them to survive. However, this summer’s drought has highlighted how human activity and a changing environment have greatly impacted the ability of many aquatic organisms to survive under drought conditions.

DER’s Streamflow Restoration program documents flow stress conditions around the state, due to water withdrawals near headwater streams and impervious surfaces that reduce the potential for rain to recharge aquifers. These data are used to inform and support policy and actions that restore and maintain healthy streamflows.

This summer and fall we observed many streams that were completely dry for months at a time and others that were just a series of disconnected pools. In these impacted streams, the baseflow (groundwater that feeds streams during periods when there is no precipitation) had disappeared as groundwater levels dropped below the streambed due to the impacts of water withdrawals, lack of precipitation and impervious surfaces. In other streams, water levels behind dams dropped below spillways, resulting in no flow below the dam. The lack of water and flow in these streams directly impacts habitat quantity and quality which may have lasting impacts on aquatic organisms.

While many streams that we monitor were severely impacted by drought conditions, the reference streams that we monitor as part of a regional climate change monitoring network fared much better. These streams are located in relatively undeveloped and forested watersheds with healthy riparian corridors and proved more resilient to drought conditions. These streams were able to maintain baseflow and cool temperatures throughout the drought, illustrating how important these forests and riparian vegetation are to maintaining healthy streamflow. This natural infrastructure allowed the precipitation to slowly infiltrate and recharge groundwater aquifers, providing lasting benefits for instream habitat and water temperature. These streams flowed throughout the summer and fall while many other streams were dry.

Impacts of the drought are not limited to streams, as drinking water suppliers, fishing and recreational enthusiast as well as the agricultural industry all faced serious drought related impacts. One bright spot of the drought is the increased emphasis and interest in the importance of water conservation, especially during the summer. Many communities were able to greatly reduce water use through conservation practices, including increased education, watering restrictions and bans. These conservation efforts not only benefit water supplies but also streamflow.”

 

New State record white perch caught

New State record white perch caught

Back in July, 2016 MassWildlife reported that a new state record lake trout was caught out of Quabbin Reservoir.  Caught by Eric Kozlowski, of Cheshire, it weighed 22 lbs 4 oz.  Well, MassWildlife recently reported that another state record freshwater fish was caught.  This one, a white perch, was caught by Val Percuoco, of Leominster, MA out of  Wachusett Reservoir.  It weighed 3 lbs 8 oz, was 18 inches long and had a girth of 13.5 inches.  It broke the previous record of 3 lbs 5 oz, which was caught in 1994 by Tray Richford.  That fish also came out of Wachusett Reservoir.

 

Val is an avid angler and she was fishing with her father Vinny Percuoco, on Sunday, October 16.  They were fishing from the shore as there is no boating allowed on Wachusett Reservoir. While fishing with a night crawler a big fish hit.  “It was a great fight from the second I set the hook- nice bend in the rod, running drag like crazy.” she said.   Her dad didn’t net it because he didn’t want to damage the fins. He just carefully pulled it in by the line once it was close enough to the shoreline.

 

“I just ran to the measuring tape because we were going to measure and release for the Catch and Release Program with MassWildlife, but then we realized just how big it was. So we grabbed our scales and weighed it.”     “State Record!” said Vinny.

 

Val said that this once in a lifetime fish will be mounted.  Usually it is either catch & release for them or her mom and grandparent will eat what they catch.  Neither she nor her dad eat fish.

 

It was brought to B & A Bait and Tackle in West Boylston, MA, a shop right next to Wachusett Reservoir, was weighed and an affidavit filled out. She then brought it to the MassWildlife Field Headquarters on the next day where Todd Richards, Assistant Director of Fisheries, certified that it was a white perch and he weighed it.

 

Val is 28 years old and she has been fishing with her dad since she was 3.    Val and Vinny  – what a great team.  May they fish together for many more years to come.

 

Incidentally, in case you are wondering, anyone who may have a state record fish must bring it to a MassWildlife office for a fisheries biologist to identify and weigh.

 

 

IDPA Steel Rimfire rifle match  

The International Defense Pistol Association invites you to bring your rimfire or centerfire (9mm up to .45) pistols or revolvers to use at the upcoming match on November 5 at the Lee Sportsmen’s Association from 1:00 to 4:00 PM.  Rifles must be bagged or boxed with empty chamber indicators in place and .22LR rimfires only. You should bring 5 magazines if possible, 150 round count (No magnum loads).  These are safe shoots with a safety officer standing next to the shooter.  Shooting will take place under the canopy, so rain is no problem.  Cost is $7 and Cold Range Rules apply.  There will be a safety briefing at 12:45PM.  Contact Shawn Sullivan for questions ssullee@icloud.com.

 

PCB Cleanup

It seems like some progress is finally being made on the removal of PCB’s from the Housatonic River.  As you are probably aware, the EPA has recently announced its plan to clean up the “rest of the river”. And it is anticipated that GE will appeal the decision.  What’s new there?   Berkshire Eagle reporter Clarence Fanto has been on this story for years and has been doing a great job of keeping us informed.

 

You may recall that the EPA and GE finally came up with a consent decree in the year 2,000.  Not bad, it only took 20 or so years to get that far.  After 16 more years of wrangling, and with the input of agencies such as the Massachusetts DEP and F&W, CT DEEP, and others, the EPA came up with a plan to address the PCB’s.  Basically, it would remove them from the hot spots in the river and flood plains from Pittsfield to Woods Pond in Lenox Dale and move them out of state to a licensed landfill.   (See Fanto’s October 25, 2016 Berkshire Eagle entitled” EPA’s cleanup plan is final” for more details of the plan.)  So after all these years, it turns out that the shovel and wheel barrel technology prevailed.

 

It does more dredging than I like to see and not enough for those who advocated for a more thorough clean-up.  And GE will undoubtedly appeal it.  But it seems to be the most reasonable plan, one that doesn’t destroy the river but removes a good chunk of the PCBs.  It is a plan that appears to be acceptable to fisheries and wildlife biologists and area sportsmen.  The Berkshire County League of Sportsmen has always advocated for an environmentally sensitive cleanup.  Good luck if you think you will get rid of all the PCBs there or anywhere in the world.

 

So will the cleanup begin tomorrow?  Hah!  It will probably take 5 years before all of GE’s appeals have been resolved.  Who knows, maybe the EPA’s plan will be scrapped.  Let’s hope the EPA hangs tough and will not allow the PCB’s to be placed in dumps anywhere here in the Berkshires.  Even if GE agreed to the plan and started cleanup tomorrow, it is projected to take 13 years to complete.

 

Some years ago while discussing the proposed cleanup with my neighbor; I said that we would probably never see that cleanup (and accompanying environmental damage) in our lifetimes.  His reply was, “I hope I never do”.  He may get his wish.

 

Wildlife habitat improvement grants available

 

Sporting clubs with an interest in wildlife habitat management may want to apply for grant funding from MassWildlife. The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs has provided $300,000 for a habitat management grant program that will fund private and municipal efforts to manage conservation lands which benefit native wildlife and related recreation. The MassWildlife Habitat Management Grant Program is managed by the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife). In its second year, the program provides financial assistance to private and municipal landowners of conserved lands to improve and manage habitat for wildlife in greatest conservation need and for game species. The projects will also expand opportunities for hunting, fishing, trapping, and other outdoor recreation, and complement ongoing habitat management efforts on state lands.

Eligible applicants include owners of private or municipal conserved lands. Conserved land is defined as property protected in fee or by a Conservation Restriction, land enrolled in Chapter 61,61A/B, or has a current Landowner Incentive Program covenant. Examples of habitat management practices include: Mowing, brush hogging, heavy chipping, tree clearing, contract grazing,  invasive species control, fencing for habitat protection, prescribed burning, woodland improvements, tree planting of species beneficial to wildlife, nest site structure, creation and installation, and more.

Applicants may apply to receive between $10,000 and $50,000 per grant towards their approved habitat management projects. State and federal lands are not eligible. For more information click onto  mass.gov/dfw/habitat-grant.  Applications must be postmarked by November 15,2016.

HVA improving riparian buffer

Eversource manages a transmission right-of-way in Hinsdale which crosses the Old Mill Trail and the East Branch of the Housatonic River, a state designated healthy cold water stream. The strip of land adjacent to the river under this transmission line will be the site of a restoration project to be coordinated by the HVA thanks to funding received from Eversource and the Central Berkshire Fund of the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation.

Eversource’s maintenance of vegetation under transmission lines is designed to keep vegetation from growing into the overhead electrical lines. Where transmission lines cross a river, this can greatly reduce the amount of river shading which is important for keeping stream temperatures cool. Cool temperatures are especially critical for native brook trout, whose population in recent years has declined considerably.  The East Branch of the Housatonic River still has a healthy native brook trout population. When members of the Taconic Chapter of Trout Unlimited expressed concern to HVA about this stretch of river under the transmission line along the Old Mill Trail and its potential impact on the native brook trout habitat, HVA responded and drafted a restoration plan.

With permission from Eversource and the Hinsdale Conservation Commission and necessary funding, the process to create a much healthier riparian buffer has begun. This fall, invasive plants such as Japanese knotweed, barberry and multi-flora rose will be treated or removed.  Later on selected native plants will be planted with assistance from Wahconah High School students.

This improved riparian buffer will provide shade, better stabilization of the river bank and also intercept surface runoff thereby trapping any sediment and pollutants before they enter the river. The leaf litter from the vegetation naturally deposited into the stream will provide food for many of the aquatic invertebrates which in turn will provide food for trout and other fish.

In cooperation with the new landowners, Berkshire Natural Resources Council, HVA will ensure future trail management includes manual removal of any woody seedlings that could interfere with the transmission lines. Manual maintenance of this stretch of vegetation under the transmission line could eliminate any need for future herbicide applications between the Old Mill Trail and the river’s edge. Over time, the improved riparian buffer and elimination of invasive species will enhance the wildlife habitat in and along the river.  For more information about this restoration project, contact the HVA at 413-394-9796.

Unfortunate cancellation of Big MOE

The Massachusetts Outdoor Expo, (Big MOE), started out with a group of sportsmen and women who wanted to create an opportunity for kids to learn more about outdoor skills, wildlife and conservation.  They approached the Hamilton Rod and Gun Club in Sturbridge to host the Expo, due to its central location and facilities.  Shortly thereafter, members of the Outdoor Expo group approached FAWNS,   (Facts About Wildlife & Nature Society), a non-profit group founded in 1998 to promote the connection of people to the outdoors.  They were also interested in promoting educational experiences focusing on the outdoors and a partnership was formed with FAWNS being the organizing entity.

For 19 years the Big MOE continued to operate as a free family event. Its key function was to offer a first, safe, step into the outdoors guided by the certified instructors who oversaw the hands-on activity stations.  It provided its participants with the tools to learn about and connect with the many education programs, sporting clubs, and other community pathways to learning more about outdoor activities.  The event annually drew several thousand visitors and about 45 activity stations.

This year, with just a few days before the big event, they were unable to secure the necessary liability insurance to protect all involved. Even though it had a perfect, incident free record for the past 19 years, the insurance companies deemed the event a high risk. Consequently, the event, which was scheduled for last Sunday, had to be cancelled.  As one organizer said, “Sadly, this is now a reflection of where our society is heading unless we all make an effort to change this attitude”.

Fortunately, they were able to get the word out about the cancellation in time and only 30 cars had to be turned away.  People were disappointed but they weren’t angry.

FAWNS is determined to continue Big MOE next year.