Massachusetts has a new state record Bowfin

It weighed 7 lbs 14 oz and was caught Sunday evening, July 23, out of the Taunton River. 16-year-old Tauri Adamczyk, from Taunton, MA, caught that fish. The Bowfin was 26.5 inches long with a girth of 14 inches.
Fishing with her father Jeff from shore and using cut bait, she saw a little nibble on her line. When she picked up her pole and set the hook, the fish took off down the river. Tauri who was using a strong rod and line was able to work the fish back close to shore. It was then that they realized they had forgotten the net. Her father ran to the car and got it. He was sure happy to see that and the fish was still on Tauri’s line when he came back and netted it. They are undecided as to whether or not to have it mounted.
Tauri is no novice when it comes to catching Bowfins. In 2015, she received the MassWildlife gold pin for catching the largest Bowfin that year weighing 7 lbs 4 oz. (The gold pin is awarded to the largest fish of a particular species that year). That was the first year that the Bowfin was recognized by MassWildlife as a sportfish and became part of the Freshwater Sportfishing Awards Program. It replaced the Broodstock Salmon pin which was delisted as an eligible fish after the MassWildlife and the US Fish & Wildlife Service stopped stocking the Broodstocks into our waters. To be eligible for a pin (bronze or gold) a bowfin must weigh at least 6 lbs for adults and 4 lbs in the youth category.

In fact, 2015 was the year that she won the Youth Catch & Keep Angler of the Year. She won the award by catching the following “pin” fish: Bowfin out of the Taunton River, Taunton; Brook Trout, Hamblin Pond, Barnstable; Brown Trout, Grews Pond, Falmouth; Brown Trout, Long Pond, Plymouth; Bullhead, Snipatuit Pond, Rochester; Carp, Housatonic River, Lee; Carp, Charles River, Dedham; Chain Pickerel, Snake Pond, Sandwich; Crappie, Long Pond, Lakeville; Landlocked Salmon, Wachusett Reservoir, West Boylston; Largemouth Bass, Chartley Pond, Norton; Rainbow Trout, Cliff Pond, Brewster; Smallmouth Bass, Flax Pond, Brewster; Sunfish, Little Pond, Plymouth; Sunfish (another gold pin fish), Coonamessett Pond, Falmouth; Tiger Trout, Long Pond, Plymouth; White Perch, Snipatuit Pond, Rochester and Yellow Perch, out of Monponsett Pond, Halifax. Quite an accomplishment for a 14-year old kid. Tauri said that she has been fishing with her dad since she was a little girl.
So, you never heard of a Bowfin? Well, it’s a primitive fish in the Gar family. They go by other names such as, Dogfish, Grinnel, and Mud Fish. They are easily identifiable with a single dorsal fin that runs from mid body to the tail, large head, sharp teeth, two barbells projecting anteriorly from its nose, and a black spot near its round tail. They average from 1 to 5 lbs and 15 to 25 inches in length. The world record is 21 ½ lbs. They breathe under water through their gills, and breathe on the surface with their gas bladders. They are very aggressive weedy predators. They are considered rough fish and not recommended for the table, but perhaps you can smoke them.
According to Alan Richmond from the biology department of UMASS, only one species of the family Amiidae has survived over the millions of years and that is this one, the (Amia calva). They are native to the Mississippi River watershed but were first noticed in the Connecticut River drainage in the 1980’s. Now it lives mainly in the Connecticut and Taunton river drainage systems, although they have been caught right here in the backwaters of Onota Lake in Pittsfield. In fact, the first year that I began writing this column, I featured this fish in my May 9, 2004 column. John Valentine of Pittsfield a caught a 28-inch Bowfin out of Onota Lake. At that time, the DFW did not consider it a sportfish and recommended that you not release it back into the waters because it is not native to this area. They didn’t want them to spread in our local lakes and compete with our native fish. We can only speculate how these fish got into our waters, but some say they may have been the result of accidentally getting in with live bait that is imported from the south.
Catch & Release validated
Remember my July 23, 2017 article about 12-year old Nina from Queens, NY who caught that big bass in Ashmere Lake? If you recall, she was fishing with her 10-year old cousin Gage at Dave and Maggie Bimbane’s cottage on July 4 weekend when she caught the 18 inch, 2.5 lbs largemouth bass which was living under a boat dock. After catching and photographing it she released it.
Well, don’t you know, young Gage also caught an 18 inch, 2.5 lbs bass from under that same dock on July 26. According to grandparents Dave and Maggie, he remained calm and collected, in spite of the fact that his fishing pole was bent under that dock. After catching and also releasing the fish, Gage said, “Oh, I think I’m done for a while”.
Dave and Maggie feel that the same fish was caught by both children……and so do I. That being the case, what better testimony for the concept of Catch & Release than this. If you are not going to mount or eat your catch, then release it and let someone else experience the excitement and joy that you got when you caught it.
Young Gage may not realize it now, but he sure owes his cousin Nina a huge thank you.
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

New book published on fishing the Cape Cod Canal

How many times have you fishermen traveled over the Saginaw or Bourne Bridge on your way to surf cast for striped bass near Wellfleet on Cape Cod Bay or Race Point near Provincetown?  Traveling up Rte 6, have you ever peered at the Cape Cod Canal and wondered what the fishing was like there?  Were you ever tempted to stop and fish it but just didn’t know enough about it?  Maybe it is good that you didn’t stop because the fishing gear that you took along probably wasn’t adequate to land those big stripers in the Canal’s strong current.  That’s according to D.J. Muller who recently authored a new book entitled “Fishing the Cape Cod Canal, A Surfcaster’s guide to Stripers.”

 

The Canal, which is 7 miles long and 480 feet wide, connects Buzzard’s Bay to the south and west to Cape Cod Bay to the north and east and purportedly offers the striped bass fisherman unparalleled opportunities—a fishery unlike any to be found on any coast.  Before fishing the Canal or “the Ditch” one should know and understand the tides and migration patterns and how they affect the fishery.  One should also know what type of fishing tackle and lures to use.  According to Muller, your normal salt water rod, reel, line and lures probably won’t hold these 30, 40 or 50 lb fish which know how to use the strong currents and tides to their advantage.  He also explains the various methods of fishing the Canal.

 

I know one thing for sure, after reading this book, I would never use my regular surf casting gear in that canal.  A much heavier rod, reel and line are needed.  I could probably get away with using my lures, but would have to change out the hooks to heavier ones, as the author suggests.

 

And even if you had the necessary equipment, do you know where to fish?  Well, Muller covers that, too.  He doesn’t give away his secret spots but does recommend some storied locations on its banks.  He is a recognized authority on Northeast surfcasting who has been fishing the Ditch for over 15 years.  He is the author of The Surfcaster’s Guide to the Striper Coast, Striper Strategies and Striper Tales.

 

It is a clear, concise, no-nonsense, well written book.  I suspect that after reading this book, you wont head for the Cape to do some striper fishing without taking it along.

 

The book was published by Burford Books.   It is a 120 page paperback book which won’t break the bank at $14.95.  What a great gift for Father’s Day, and you know he won’t have it yet as it was just published this past May 27.  It should be available at bookstores, online book retailers, tackle and specialty shops or from the publisher, Burford Books (www.burfordbooks.com).

 

Fishing Derbies

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

 

Trout Stockings

Depending on the hatchery, staff, weather, water conditions, etc., the following waters may have been stocked last week: Otis Reservoir, Onota Lake, Westfield River in Becket, Middlefield, Chester and Huntington and the Green River in Alford, Egremont and Great Barrington.

 

Forest Tour

A  Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) Bureau of Forestry Pre-Harvest Forest Tour will take place at the Pittsfield State Forest in Lanesborough tomorrow from 4:00 PM – 5:30 PM. DCR Forester Kevin Podkowka, will be leading a tour of the Potter Mountain – Lanesborough Timber Sale where he will discuss forest management techniques in a predominantly northern hardwood forest, provide a view of the trees designated for harvest, and explain how harvest operations will take place. A detailed silviculture prescription for the harvesting operation will be provided to attendees.

 

The meeting place is the parking area for Potter Mountain Road, Pittsfield State Forest in Lanesborough.  The tour will be conducted rain or shine. Attendees are encouraged to dress for the weather and to wear sturdy shoes. For additional information about the tours and DCR forest management on state forests, parks, and reservations,contact William Hill, Management Forestry Program Supervisor, at (413) 545-3891.

 

The Housatonic Valley Association

(HVA) recently announced the opening of a new floating dock which is located at the end of Park Street, just beyond Stockbridge Town Park. A new sign featuring a map of the local water trail, points of interest, and safety tips marks the entry to the dock The new dock is designed to provide easy access for paddlers of all abilities, giving a safer approach to the water over a treaded walkway and featuring a roller-entry system that makes it easier for paddlers to get their crafts into and out of the water. The launch location is convenient for destinations such as Goodrich Memorial Footbridge, the Mary Flynn Trail, Laura’s Tower, Willow Mill Dam, or (downriver) the Glendale Dam. “The absolute best way to connect with the river is to spend some time paddling it,” says HVA Berkshires Director Dennis Regan. “HVA’s mission of protecting the river and its surroundings begins with providing more opportunities for people to experience it up close. We hope this new dock will be the starting point for many lifelong adventures.” Onyx Specialty Papers, Berkshire Bank, TD Charitable Foundation, Fields Pond Foundation, Canyon Ranch and the Red Lion Inn were sponsors of the project.  Also, the citizens of Stockbridge, through the Community Preservation Committee, provided the major contribution for this project. Fundraising and project management were provided by the HVA.

 

Incidentally, the HVA recently moved to a new office which is located at the Merwin House, 14 Main Street, Stockbridge.  Stop in check it out some time.

 

Students liberate rainbow trout into Otis Reservoir

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Trout Stocking

 

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

Bass Tournament 

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

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

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

Fishing Derbies

 

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

 

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

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

 

Students release 500 trout into Windsor Lake

 

 

Last Friday the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen sponsored an elementary school trout stocking day at Windsor Lake in North Adams.  The participants included all of the 4th graders in North Adams including students from the Greylock, Brayton and Cole Avenue grammar schools.    MA Division of Fisheries & Wildlife Western (DFW) District Manager Andrew Madden and staff brought 500 beautiful, frisky rainbow trout to be liberated.

 

DFW staff netted a few trout at a time from the hatchery truck tank, placed them into 5 empty gallon buckets and one or two kids ran the buckets to the lake’s edge and tossed the fish out of the pails into the water.  Lofting those fish from a pail can be tricky and sometimes the fish, pail and everything went flying into the waters, as evidenced by the picture.   Some also landed on the ground, but DFW staff immediately picked them up and tossed them into the water unharmed. The kids did a great job and all 500 of the fish were released – shook up, but unharmed.  Even some teachers got into the act by running the buckets of fish to waterfront and releasing them, too.

 

In addition to DFW personnel, there were representatives from the County League, Adams Outdoor for Youth, Cheshire Rod & Gun Club, DCR, MA Angler’s Education, and others.  Environmental Police Officer Terry Davis was there to ensure that no anglers caught any of the fish in front of the kids while they were stocking.  After the stocking, the kids ate their lunches in the pavilion building

 

What a great day for the kids.  What better way for them to spend a school day connecting with nature, especially following a grueling week of exams.

 

Youth Turkey Hunt follow-up

Here are the names of the last week’s successful youth turkey hunters who were sponsored by the Lee Sportsmen’s Association:  Matt Fletcher, Curt Wilton III, Devon Atwell, Sam Harding, Kade Groeber and Miles Houle.

 

Incidentally, according to Astrid Huseby, who heads up this program for the DFW, 73 toms were checked in online statewide.  That doesn’t include any birds checked in at any physical check stations.  Congratulations to all the youth turkey hunters, the clubs that sponsored the programs and to the mentors.

 

Trout stockings

The following waters were scheduled to be stocked with trout last week:  Westfield River in Becket, Chester, Huntington, and Middlefield; Deerfield River in Buckland, Charlemont and Florida; Green River in Alford and Great Barrington, Farmington River in Otis and Sandisfield, Housatonic River in Lee (C/R) and Pittsfield (S/W), Green River in Williamstown, Hemlock Brook in Williamstown, Dry Brook and South Brook in Cheshire, Wahconah Falls Brook in Dalton, Town Brook in Lanesborough, Ashfield Pond, Greenwater Pond, Pontoosuc Lake, Laurel Lake, Lake Buel, Garfield Lake, Otis Reservoir, Richmond Pond Stockbridge Bowl and Windsor Pond.

 

Fishing Derbies

The Berkshire Hatchery Foundation in Hartsville-New Marlborough is having a free children’s fishing derby next Saturday, May 14  from 9 to 10:30am at its lower pond.  Children aged 12 and under must be accompanied by an adult.

 

The Onota Fishing Club is having a Trout Derby at the Controy Pavilion at Burbank Park on Onota Lake next Sunday, May 15, from 6am to 1pm.  The entrance fee is $10 with kids 12 years and under free.  There will be a 50/50 raffle, prizes for kids, and a cash prize for the biggest fish.  A fish fry will follow which is included with the paid entry, including hot dogs and hamburgers.  The cost is $10 for non entry.

 

Wildlife Walk

Next Saturday, May 14, there will be a Western Mass Woodlands for Wildlife Walk at Haskell Farm in Peru, MA.  You are invited to join MassWildlife’s Habitat Biologist, Marianne Piché, and others for an easy field walk and discussion to highlight forestry and habitat management work done on the Haskell Farm. You will be able to hear songbirds as you tour young forests and grasslands that provide critical food and shelter for birds and other wildlife. Mass Audubon, MA DCR’s Service Forester, and Steve Hayes consulting forester will be on hand to share information about why certain wildlife species are declining, forest management practices that enhance wildlife habitat, and new cost share programs available to help you manage your woods for wildlife. Free and open to all, pre-registration is requested.  Call (413)625-9151 or email melissa@masswoodlands.com for more information, directions, or to register.

 

Bass Information

Tournament bass fishermen can help MassWildlife collect information on trophy bass by submitting bass creel survey forms.  Data such as how long it takes to catch a bass, average weight and the number of trophy bass landed allows biologists to track trends in individual waters.  A copy of the data you submit will be sent to your e-mail address. If you prefer to report your Creel Survey in paper format and mail or fax it to the DFW Field Headquarters address on the bottom of the form.

 

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

 

 

Big bass caught in Becket waters

 

 

It was 5:10 AM on Saturday, July 25, when Gabrielle Graham of Becket made her first cast into a local pond in Sherwood Forest in Becket.  She was fishing with a large greenish worm imitation.  On that first cast a large fish gobbled up that worm.  According to Gabrielle, the fish was so strong that it towed her row boat, with two people in it, around the lake for several minutes. 

 

When she finally managed to bring it to the side of the boat she saw that it was a huge largemouth bass.  She did not have a net and had to grab it by its lower jaw and hoist it out of the water and onto the boat.  She said that it was so big that she had trouble lifting it. 

 

A friend took a picture of it and she immediately released it back into the water.  She didn’t want to kill that fish after it gave her such a thrilling fight.  Besides, she said, it is a catch and release lake.  By 5:19 AM it was all over and the fish was happily swimming again.

 

She didn’t have scales with her to weigh the fish but, according to Gabrielle, some estimated it to be between 8 lbs and 14 lbs.  She is no stranger to hooking and fighting large fish for she fishes the Salmon River in Pulaski, NY for steelhead and king salmon.  She feels that its weight was on the upper end of the estimations. 

Beginning this year, MassWildlife has a new Catch and Release category in its Sportfishing Awards Program and she could have probably received a pin.  However; in order for a fish to be considered it must be measured at the site of capture and photographed against a standard measuring device. The photo must include the entire fish and the measurement must be clearly discernible.  The clear, side view, close-up photograph of the fish must be included with an affidavit.

Too bad for Gabrielle, she’ll just have to go out and catch it again and this time bring a tape measure.  *****

In my June 14 column, I had mentioned that the MA Fish & Wildlife Board had appointed Division of Fisheries & Wildlife Acting Director Jack Buckley as its new Director, replacing recently retired Director Wayne MacCallum.  At the time, there was no press release as to Buckley’s bio or qualifications, but recently, the following information has been made available.

 

Buckley has been with MassWildlife since 1988 as Deputy Director of Administration, directly involved with the development of fisheries and wildlife management and policy initiatives.  He has provided general management and research guidance to the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program; represented the Division’s interest to the legislature; worked with various constituent groups to implement agency initiatives; supervised the Federal Aid Program; provided supervision and guidance to the Information and Education staff; and coordinated programs with the Department of Fish and Game, Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs, and other conservation partners.

 

In addition, Buckley served on several committees with the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, including Legislative Affairs, Federal Budget, and International Affairs.  He serves as the regional representative for the Northeastern states to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species Technical Working Group.

 

Prior to working for the Division, Buckley was the Chief of Fisheries Management in Washington D.C. for the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.  He was also a Project Leader at the Massachusetts Cooperative Fishery Research Unit at UMASS where he directed a multi-agency funded research project on the behavioral ecology and population dynamics of the endangered Shortnose Sturgeon.   He earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Fisheries Biology from UMASS and a Bachelor’s degree in History from Ripon College in Wisconsin.

 

“I am very grateful to the Board for giving me this extraordinary opportunity,” said Buckley. “While there are challenges ahead, I believe the future looks bright, and I look forward to working with hunters, anglers, trappers, environmentalists, and all citizens to fulfill our public trust responsibility to the people and natural resources of the Commonwealth”. *****

 

As you know, former Berkshire Eagle Sports Editor Brian Sullivan recently passed away.  His passing occurred when I was away and this is my first opportunity to write a few words about him.

 

It was Brian who interviewed me for this column back in February, 2004.  He was friendly and made me feel very comfortable during the interview.  He then introduced me to his boss, then had Ben Garver take my photograph and I left the Eagle Building that day with a new job.  I was very appreciative of the fact that he took a chance on hiring this retired, old bank auditor who happened to love to hunt and fish.  Thereafter, each week when I dropped off my column, he always greeted me with a friendly smile (a rare sight for an auditor) and words of encouragement. 

 

A year or so after that, Brian asked me to appear as his guest on his sports program which was aired on Southern Berkshire Cable TV.  Anyone who knows me knows that I would rather be water boarded than to speak in public, much less on TV.  But this was Brian, whom I owed so much, asking and I said yes.  The filming went well and once again he made me feel comfortable during the interview. 

 

He was my boss for the next seven or eight years and we had a very good relationship.  Even after he had left the editor position and was in ill health, we would meet here or there and he still had that friendly smile and kind words.

 

Brian Sullivan was a good man and he will be missed. *****

 

Fond memories of opening days

To us older folks, the third Saturday in April brings back fond memories.   It marked opening day of the fishing season.  In those days, the fishing season closed on February 28 and by the time April came around, we were ready to get out fishing again.  There were a lot of preparations for opening day. Fishing licenses had to be bought, new fishing equipment was purchased, night crawlers caught, live bait bought, leaky boots patched, outboard motors tuned up, preparations made for boat rentals, etc.  The night before, sandwiches were made and thermoses ready.

 

For a week or so before opening day, many of us drove from lake to lake checking on their conditions.   We wanted to make sure that the ice was gone off of them and there was open water in which to fish.  Some lakes were unfishable due to the ice.  There was great speculation as to which lures would work.  Would it be the gold colored Al’s Goldfish, the Silver and Blue Wobble Rite, the Red and White Daredevil?

 

If you wanted to get a good spot to fish, you had to get to the location around 4:30 AM on opening day.  With all of the excitement and anticipation, sleep was practically impossible the night before.

 

One year, in the early 1970’s, my long time fishing partner, Jerry Zink and I decided to not even go to bed so that we could be the first to get to our chosen spot.  It was the back side of Laurel Lake in Lee where the “white bridge” was located.  We knew for a fact that the DFW stocked trout off of that bridge, and we wanted to catch some of them.

 

We decided to spend the evening at Joe’s Bar in Lenox, socializing with the crowd, playing the pin ball machine and watching a barroom brawl or two until closing time.  After that, we would go to my house where I would cook up some bacon and eggs.  After that, we would get our fishing stuff together and arrive at Laurel Lake around 4:00 AM.  The plan progressed like clockwork and we pulled into the parking spot near the white bridge around 4:00 AM.  We were the first ones there.

 

It was still dark, so we got all of our gear ready; leaned our fishing poles against the car and put the bait and creels on the hood.  It was a little chilly, so we sat inside the car to keep warm.  As soon as we saw a car headlight approaching, we would jump out of our car, grab the gear and go immediately to the bridge so that we would be the first there and have the best spot.

 

The next thing we knew, the sun was high and shining brightly and the hordes of the world were in our fishing spot.  Both sides of the bridge were crowded and fish were splashing as they were being hauled in.  Kids were running around shouting, fish were flopping on the roadway, bobbers were hanging from trees and a couple of fishing lines were already tangled up in the overhead telephone line which ran nearby.

 

Jerry and I had fallen asleep and were awakened by all of the commotion.  We couldn’t even get near the water.  We left there and tried our luck at Richmond Pond and met the same conditions there.   No fish were caught that opening day.  It served us right for being so smart and trying to be the first there.

 

Jerry suggested that maybe next year we’d make some adjustments…..perhaps eating beforehand made us tired……yeh, that’s it, next year no bacon and eggs.

 

Actually, we never pulled an opening day all-nighter again. *****

 

The following Western District waters were scheduled to be stocked during the week of April 6:   Hoosic River (SW) in Adams and Cheshire, Green River in Alford, Egremont and Great Barrington; Westfield River in Becket, Chester, Cummington, Huntington, Middlefield, Savoy, Windsor and Worthington; Deerfield River in Buckland and Florida; Williams River in West Stockbridge and Great Barrington; Housatonic River (SW) in Pittsfield, Lee(C&R) and Stockbridge (C&R); Konkapot River in Monterey, New Marlborough and Sheffield; Lake Garfield and Onota Lake*****

 

The following waters were scheduled for stocking last week:  Walker Brook in Becket and Chester, Yokum Brook in Becket, Deerfield River in Buckland and Florida; Westfield River in Chester, Huntington, Middlefield, and Worthington; Hoosic River in Clarksburg, Housatonic River in Dalton and Hinsdale, Wahconah Falls Brook in Dalton, Sackett Brook in Dalton and Pittsfield,  Town Brook in Lanesborough, Greenwater Brook in Lee, Goose Pond Brook and Hop Brook in Lee and Tyringham, Depot Brook in Washington, Green River and Hemlock Brook in Williamstown, Yokum Brook in Lenox, Factory Brook in Middlefield, Farmingon River in Otis and Sandisfield, Potash Brook in Russell, Buck and Clam Rivers in Sandisfield, Larrywaug Brook in Stockbridge, Windsor Brook in Windsor, Pontoosuc Lake, Laurel Lake, Lake Buel, Plunkett Lake,  Littleville Lake, Windsor Lake, Onota Lake, Stockbridge Bowl  and Goose Pond. Stocked waters are subject to change based on water conditions, staffing functioning trucks, etc. *****

 

The results for of the Greylock BASS Club for 2014  are as follows:  1st Place and Angler of the Year  (2 years in a row)  Bill Gates, 2nd Place – Joe Chague, Chip McCann, Jim Underhill (3 way tie), 3rd Place – Dave Benham.  Benham also won the Big Bass of Year Award with a 4 lbs 12 oz largemouth out of Onota Lake.

 

Their tournament schedule for 2015 is as follows:  May – Richmond Pond and Pontoosuc Lake,   June – Onota Lake, and July – Saratoga Lake.  The Tournament of Champions is in September on Lake Champlain.

 

To become a boat member, contact Bill Gates at 413 243 1744. *****

 

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

Hoosic plans to be revealed

Tomorrow from 1:30 to 2:30 PM a special announcement will be made about the revival of the Hoosic River. The event will take place at Noel Field on State Street in North Adams.   Guests will include State Senator Benjamin Downing, State Representative Gailanne Cariddi, Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Mary Griffin and Mayor Richard Alcombright.

In an October 28 news release, it was announced that the Board of Directors of the Hoosic River Revival (HRR) has chosen the location for the first phase of its restoration of the Hoosic River.  A mile-long focus of their revitalization work will be the South Branch, from Foundry Road to the bridge connecting the former Sons of Italy to Heritage Park, one of seven potential restoration locations recommended by their consultants.

The release went on and reported that “Although the project is still in the ‘conceptual drawing’ phase, it is likely that the primary restoration work will be on the northern half mile.  Once completed, this revitalized section will:  maintain existing flood protection; feature a much wider river with recreational opportunities; ensure a continuation of the Ashuwillticook Bike Path; provide access to downtown (North Adams);  the Greylock Market (renovated Heritage Park), and the future Scenic Rail; and include a large plaza with amphitheatre steps to the river and space for the North Adams History and Science Museum and the Hoosac Tunnel Museum.  Mayor Alcombright expressed his enthusiasm for the pilot project choice of the River Revival, “City residents and visitors will love the close proximity of all these exciting projects, and enjoy looking at our beautiful Hoosic River“.

Since its start in 2008, the HRR has participated in more than 40 public meetings, sharing information about the condition of the 60 year-old chutes, the benefits of restoring a river, various systems for maintaining flood protection, and options for the North Adams section of the Hoosic.  At these meetings, residents have consistently highlighted five qualities for the Board of Directors to include in any project: flood protection; a healthy, accessible river; economic development opportunities; neighborhood, historical, and cultural linkages; and overall improved quality of life in the city. The Board felt it had additional factors to consider:  cost, feasibility, Corps of Engineers requirements, available property, environmental damage, relevant City projects, the new 2030 Vision Plan, and the plans of the North Adams Partnership.

Board President Judy Grinnell praised the extensive cross-section of area residents who participated in this long-term process of deciding how and where to begin the restoration: “Our Board of Directors and Advisory Council members, the Mayor and his staff, and of course the people of North Adams deserve so much credit for giving this 2.5 mile, complex, challenging project such serious consideration for the past 6 years. There were many issues to consider in choosing just one section of the river to restore.  However, we believe the Board’s choice of the South Branch incorporates all of the primary goals highlighted by the community”.

“Funding the pilot project is the next big challenge for the River Revival.  Thanks to the persuasive efforts of our State representatives, Senator Ben Downing and Representative Gailanne Cariddi, there is $8,775,000 allocated in the 2015-19 Massachusetts Environmental Bond Bill for this first phase of the project.  However, funding is not assured.  To receive that State support, the project needs to be considered a priority by (Governor Baker); not all items in the Bond Bill will get that designation.”

(If I may interject, let’s hope that Governor Baker will remember the strong endorsement received from former North Adams Mayor Barrett in his pursuit of the governorship.)

According to Ms Grinnell, if these State funds are not offered to the River Revival, the non-profit Hoosic River Revival will continue its fundraising efforts with individuals, businesses, grants, foundations, as well as appropriate State and Federal entities.  She emphasized that the HRR has asked for no financial support from the City of North Adams and it does not plan to request any City funds in the future.

This scribe cannot overemphasize the important role that Judy Grinnell has played in the HRR’s efforts to revive the Hoosic River.  She even drove from North Adams to my home in Lenox to provide valuable information for a HRR article previously written in this column.  On more than one occasion she urged me to attend its workshops and presentations in order to gather information to inform the public through this column.  How fortunate for the North County folks to have such a strong advocate for the revival of the Hoosic River.  The same applies to the dedicated board of the HRR.

At the end of every memo or news release from the HRR is the following quote from Margaret Meade:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

I think we are seeing the thoughtful and concerned citizens of the Northern Berkshires bringing this to fruition albeit on a smaller scale. *****

Staying on the subject of revived waters, I received pictures and an e-mail from David Bell of Pittsfield who caught a “pretty decent” largemouth bass from Silver Lake in Pittsfield last month.   It measured 14 inches.  He went on and said that he has caught yellow perch, crappie and sunfish as well as largemouth bass on prior outings, but this is the first legal bass. “For myself I’ve had to really work to catch them, if one can call it that, but given time it can only get better.”   He said.  “Years ago when looking out over Silver Lake from GE Building Thirty Three I never dreamed I’d be kayak fishing on that body of water.”     

Thank you, David, for the great news.   

Spring turkey hunting season opens tomorrow

Hard to believe the turkey hunting season is beginning its 34th year in Massachusetts. The spring season runs from April 28 to May 24.

At the time of colonial settlement the wild turkey was widespread in Massachusetts, ranging from Cape Cod to the Berkshires. As settlement progressed; however, hardwood forests were cut and the range of the turkey began to shrink. By the early 1800s turkeys were rare in the state, and the last known native bird was killed on Mt. Tom in 1851. Fortunately, conservation and wildlife organizations intervened, and the wild turkey made a dramatic recovery. Between 1972 and 1973, 37 birds were captured in New York and released in southern Berkshire County. The new flock grew slowly at first, but expanded rapidly after about 1976 with the estimated fall 1978 population totaling about 1,000 birds. Supplemented by an overflow from adjacent states, turkeys ranged throughout most parts of Massachusetts west of the Connecticut River. In-state transplants of the birds, conducted from 1979 to 1996, expanded the range of the bird into the central, northeastern and southeastern parts of the state.

Back in 1980 there was an estimated 1,250 turkey hunters and 72 turkeys were harvested.  Last year some 21,115 hunters applied for turkey permits and they bagged close to 3,000 birds. (2,778 in the spring and about 200 in the fall seasons).  The estimated fall population of turkeys now exceeds 15,000 birds.  The wild turkey was designated the official state game bird of Massachusetts in 1991.

Here are some reminders from MassWildlife: A permit is required to hunt them. An official green safety sticker must be attached to the firearm such that it is visible to the hunter when sighting down the barrel. Spring hunting hours are ½ hour before sunrise to 12:00 noon. .The annual bag limit is 2 turkeys per year either by: (a) 2 bearded birds in spring season (1 per day) with NO fall turkey hunting allowed, or (b) 1 bearded bird in spring season and 1 bird of either sex in fall season. No hunter may take 2 birds in the fall season.

Turkey hunters can check their harvested bird online. Immediately after harvest, the hunter must fill out and affix the tag from the turkey permit on the harvested turkey.  The turkey must be officially “checked” either online via the MassFishHunt system or at a traditional check station within 48 hours of harvest and before the bird is processed for food or for taxidermy. One can find a check station near you at mass.gov/dfw/checkstation.

 

If checking your game online, the MassFishHunt system will generate a confirmation number after you submit all information; this confirmation number must be written on the harvest tag that is attached to the turkey. (The confirmation number serves as the official seal)  The tag with confirmation number (or metal seal) must remain on the bird until it is processed for food or for taxidermy.

Turkey hunters should read the regulations (Page 32 of the Fish & Wiildlife Guide) for more information.

It will be interesting to see how the hunters do this spring because many claim that the turkey flock is down this year.   Remember, turkey hunting is one of the most dangerous forms of hunting.   Use your noggin! *****

 

The Stockbridge Police Department will present an NRA Home Firearm Safety Course on Monday, May 5 at 6:00 PM in the Community Room at the Town Hall. This free course is exclusively for women who are residents of the Town of Stockbridge. If there are firearms in your home owned by family members, or if you think you may be interested in learning more about firearm safety and the shooting sports, this course is a great way to get started.

The four hour non-shooting course teaches students the basic knowledge, skills, and explains the attitude necessary for the safe handling and storage of firearms and ammunition in the home.  Students are taught NRA’s three rules for safe gun handling, primary causes of firearms accidents, firearm parts, how to unload certain action types, ammunition components, cleaning, care, safe storage of firearms in the home and more

The application deadline is 8:00 AM on May 1 and applications are available at the Stockbridge Police Dept. *****

The Greylock Bass Club reports the following 2013 Results: Angler of the Year was Bill Gates, 2nd – Chip Mcann, 3rd – -Dave Benham, 4th – Jim Underhill and 5th – Joe Chague. The lunker largemouth for the year weighed in at 4 lbs 9.5 oz, caught and released by Bill Gates.

In 2014 they will be fishing 6 tournaments in Mass and New York. They also will host a 2 person Open Bass Tournament on June 1 at Pontoosuc Lake. Check local sporting good stores for more information   *****

The following local waters were scheduled to be stocked with trout last week: Hoosic River in Cheshire and Adams, Clesson Brook in Ashfield and Buckland, South River in Ashfield, Westfield River in Becket, Chester, Chesterfield, Cummington, Huntington, Middlefield, Russell, Savoy and Windsor; Potash Brook in Blandford and Russell, Deerfield River in Buckland, Charlemont and Florida; Dry Brook and South Brook in Cheshire, West Branch Brook in Chesterfield and Worthington, Sackett Brook in Dalton and Pittsfield, Swift River in Ashfield and Goshen, Stones Brook in Goshen, Kinderhook Creek in Hancock, Little River and Norwich Pond in Huntington, Hop Brook in Lee and Tyringham, Pontoosuc Lake in Pittsfield and Lanesborough, Yokun Brook in Lenox, York Lake in New Marlborough, Windsor Lake in North Adams, Big Pond and Otis Reservoir in Otis, Berry Pond, Housatonic River (SW) and Onota Lake in Pittsfield; Mill Pond in Plainfield, Richmond Pond in Richmond, Buck and Clam Rivers in Sandisfield, Westfield Brook in Windsor, and Bronson Brook in Worthington.

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

 

 

The saga of the old Baby Zara bass plug

When we were youngsters, my buddy Jerry Zink, then of Lenox, and I were avid bass fishermen. In those days, we would clip out advertisements from sporting magazines and send for free fishing catalogs from Heddon Co., Creek Chub, Fred Arbogast, etc. Jerry would send for some and I would do likewise and after checking them out, we would swap catalogs. While our friends were trying to get a hold of “girly” magazines, we were drooling over color pictures of beautiful bass plugs. Weird kids, eh?

By the time we were 13 we had summer jobs and had amassed enough money to send for some of those bass plugs. I remember well my 1956 order from Heddon: two River Runts, two Meadow Mouse plugs, and two Punkinseed underwater plugs. I had a dollar of so left over so I ordered a frog colored plug called the Baby Zara. When my order arrived, I was pleased with the plugs except for the Baby Zara. It was a torpedo shaped floating plug that didn’t wobble, gurgle, rattle, dive or do anything. It just sat there in the water. I put it in my tackle box and forgot about it for the next 5 years.

One summer night in 1961, some of us guys decided to go to the shores of Stockbridge Bowl at night and hang out for a while. Because my parents were suspicious of our activities, I brought along my fishing rod to make it look like I was going night fishing. Not being serious about fishing, I chose the one plug that I didn’t mind losing, the Baby Zara.

After horsing around with the guys for a while, I decided to cast the plug into the darkness. Not seeing where it landed I started giving it sharp jerks hoping to hear or see it. All of a sudden there was a strong silent jerk back. After a fierce battle, I landed a 5 lb bass. After a period of jubilation, I cast the plug out again, made the same sharp jerks and the same thing happened – another 5 pounder! What unbelievable luck, especially with this ho-hum plug.

I’ll never forget the look on my father’s face when I walked into the house that night with those two giant bass. He immediately began sharpening his fish cleaning knife. (We didn’t practice catch and release in those days, the only fish we released were into the frying pan.)

The following day I went fishing during daylight with this plug to see what in the world attracted those fish. Nothing happened. Then I remembered that I was sharply jerking the plug the night before and when I did the same, the answer became obvious. When the plug was jerked hard, the plug nosed down into the water and then it would pop 2 or 3 inches into the air, just like a small fish or frog would do chasing an insect. It immediately became my go-to plug until I lost it sometime later in a fish. I didn’t order another one as I knew I wouldn’t be home fishing for several years.

Having just gotten out of the Service in June 1967, I started bass fishing again. Although I had other plugs, there was no Baby Zara, and to make matters worse, it was no longer listed in the Heddon catalog. I wrote to the company to see if it was possible to order a couple of them. They responded that they no longer sold that plug; but if I ordered a box of 25, they would send them to me. The cost would be around $35, which was about half of my pay in those days. I asked Jerry Zink if he wanted to split the cost of the box of plugs. I don’t think he was as enamored with them as I, but he went along with it any way. Hey, what are friends for?

The supply of them was getting low when in the 1990’s they showed up on the market again. My wife Jan, stepson Lance and I bought a few of them. I should have bought more for after a year or so they stopped selling them again. Later on they came out with a similar version but the eye placement on the plug was in a different location and it didn’t work the same. It just didn’t jump when jerked.

Fast forward to last summer. I was fishing alone on Ashmere Lake in Hinsdale around 5AM with one of the remaining plugs from the 1967 purchase. (yellow one with a silver fishbone design on its side). All of a sudden the morning silence was shattered when a big bass swirled, grabbed the plug on its second attempt, and jumped two feet out of the water a couple of times. When I finally got it near the boat it made a powerful dive and broke the line. I never saw that fish nor the plug again. I really felt bad, not because the fish got away (would have released it anyways) but because it took the 45 year old plug. Upon returning, I told our neighbors Mike and Claire Shepard about the incident. For the next week, Jan and I searched all over the lake for it but to no avail. Oh well, at least that old plug went down fighting.

Ten days later, Mike called. His daughter Meredith and her friend Nick were kayaking on the lake and found it floating not far from where I had lost it. They returned it and I was absolutely elated. That plug is now retired and hangs on a roof rafter right next to my red and white Bass-O-Reno and other old retired bass plugs.