Berkshire County 2017 bear harvest set a record

According to figures released by MassWildlife, 119 black bears were harvested in the Berkshires last year beating the prior record of 106 which was set in 2016. The harvest numbers have been steadily rising over the years. For example, 57 were harvested in the Berkshires in 2013, 78 in 2014 and 75 in 2015. Berkshire County continues to have the most resident bears and consequently the highest harvest totals. The county with the next highest harvest was Franklin County with 64 bears harvested last year.
The statewide harvest came in at 268 bears in 2017 and that represents the second highest total, just below the 283 bears taken in 2016. A statewide breakdown by hunting season is as follows: September season (Sept. 5 – Sept. 23) was 151, the November season (Nov. 6 – Nov. 25 was 26 and the Shotgun season (Nov. 27 – Dec. 9) was 91.
New regulations proposed for Wildlife Management Areas

MassWildlife is proposing leash and waste disposal regulations for dogs on Wildlife Management Areas (WMA). MassWildlife has a long tradition of welcoming dogs on WMAs and dogs are still welcome on them under this new proposal.
MassWildlife proposes to take this action due to repeated complaints from WMA users about negative and unsafe encounters with unleashed dogs and issues with dog waste. MassWildlife protects and manages these areas to sustain wildlife abundance and diversity and provide wildlife-related recreation, including hunting, fishing and wildlife-watching, while at the same time providing a safe and enjoyable outdoor experience for all visitors. Therefore:
1. The proposed regulations require leashing dogs and other domestic animals on WMAs. Dogs may be off-leash only when hunting or hunt-training with licensed hunters under existing regulations, or if they are participating in retriever or bird dog trial events that have been permitted by MassWildlife. Leashing dogs decreases conflicts with both people and other dogs, resulting in a safer and more positive experience for everyone.
2. The proposal also requires dog owners to pick up dog waste and dispose of it offsite. Removing dog waste reduces nuisance and protects the safety and health of dogs and other pets, people, and wildlife.
In a recent report to the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen, Western District Supervisor Andrew Madden noted that here in the Berkshires, the problem is not so severe. But in the WMAs in the eastern part of the state it is a real problem because large numbers of unleashed dogs are roaming in some of those WMAs. In many cases it is the dog sitters who are bringing them.
Hunters, whose license and Wildland Stamp fees helped purchase these lands, cannot fully enjoy the hunting experience because of the numbers or dogs, some of them aggressive, disrupting hunting activities.
A public hearing has been scheduled for February 6, 2018 at 7 PM at the MassWildlife Field Headquarters, 1 Rabbit Hill Road, Westborough, 01581. Information on the public hearing, public comment process and proposed regulatory language is posted on MassWildlife’s website at Mass.gov/masswildlife-public-hearings. Outdoor sportsmen, and any other users of Wildlife Management Areas, are encouraged to attend or weigh in, by mail or email, on this proposed regulation.
MassWildlife Habitat Grants announced
Eighteen municipalities, organizations, and private landowners across the state have been awarded a total of $506,856 in grants for wildlife habitat improvement projects. The MassWildlife Habitat Management Grant Program was developed to establish partnerships between MassWildlife and private and municipal landowners to enhance habitat and increase recreational opportunities on properties across the state. This year, funds provided through the grant program will benefit 20 wildlife habitat improvement projects, totaling 950 acres in 19 Massachusetts communities. The projects will complement the ongoing habitat management efforts currently underway on state owned lands.
The Habitat Management Grant Program is in its third year, and has now awarded over $1,215,000 in funding to 51 projects. The Program’s mission is to provide financial assistance to municipal and private landowners of conserved properties to improve and manage habitat for wildlife that has been deemed in greatest conservation need and for game species. Projects awarded with funds are also designed to expand outdoor recreational opportunities. The funds are provided through MassWildlife’s Habitat Management Grant Program. This year, the Baker-Polito Administration increased the funding of the program by $200,000 utilizing environmental bond funds.
“The Habitat Management Grant Program is a great example of the strong partnership between the state, municipalities, private landowners and organizations working together to conserve land and wildlife,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “These grants are an important tool to help build upon the thousands of acres of important conservation land for wildlife and residents across the Commonwealth.”
“Massachusetts is home to an incredibly diverse array of protected natural resources and habitats that include saltwater marshes, mountain summits, and old growth forests,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton. “Habitat for common and rare plants and wildlife requires active and ongoing maintenance and management in order to thrive, and these grants will assist in those important efforts.”
“Habitat management is key to benefiting birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians which depend on some less common habitats,” said Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Ron Amidon. “I’m grateful that we have the opportunity to expand our habitat management footprint and improve recreational opportunities for sportsmen and women, birders, naturalists and other outdoor enthusiasts.”
“About 80 percent of Massachusetts’ lands where wildlife is found is owned privately,” said Jack Buckley, MassWildlife Director. “Therefore, as an environmental agency we should promote and apply science-based habitat management activities with committed municipal and private landowners, thereby protecting their investment in wildlife and habitat.”
Local or nearby awardees of this year’s Habitat Management Grant Program are:
• $36,500 to the Berkshire Natural Resources Council, Great Barrington, to conduct invasive species control at Housatonic Flats and Thomas and Palmer Preserves.
• $16,675 to the Franklin Land Trust, Heath and Plainfield, to enhance native shrub habitat on Crowningshield Farm (Heath) and Guyette Farm (Plainfield).
• $36,630 to the Town of Lenox, to conduct hardy kiwi invasive species control within Kennedy Park.
• $15,632 to the Sheffield Land Trust, to work to control invasive species at Ashley Falls Woods.
• $20,503 to the Nature Conservancy, Sheffield, to create and improve old field and shrubland habitats at the Schenob Brook Preserve.
• $15,500 to the Cherry Hill Realty Trust, Stockbridge, to remove the invasive hardy kiwi plant.
• $20,905 to the Town of Stockbridge, to treat invasive species at Gould Meadows and Bullard Woods.
• $24,493 to Mass Audubon, Tolland, to create shrubland habitat at the Richardson Brook Wildlife Sanctuary.
Winter Waterfowl Survey
Every 5 years, MassWildlife conducts a winter waterfowl survey of sites where people feed wild ducks and geese. While the feeding of wildlife is discouraged, there is no state law or regulation that prohibits feeding (though some municipalities do restrict or prohibit feeding). MassWildlife is asking the public’s assistance in reporting current waterfowl feeding locations for biologists to identify and count these birds.
The survey will be conducted statewide this month and includes sites in urban, suburban, and rural areas near fresh, brackish, and salt water. Feeding sites range from municipal parks where many visitors come to feed the ducks to ducks in backyards feeding on spilled bird seed or handouts thrown out someone’s back door.
MassWildlife biologists will visit historic feeding sites from January 8 to 26. Because these locations can change over 5 years, public input is needed. If you know of a spot where waterfowl are being fed, let them know by phone at 508-389-6321 or by e-mail at h.heusmann@state.ma.us. Include the town and specific location where you’ve seen waterfowl being fed this January. If you are able, also include the number of ducks and/or geese (preferably by species) that you see at a feeding site at one time.
Mallards are by far the most common duck at feeding sites but other ducks may be observed as well. American black ducks are common and wood ducks, pintails, gadwalls, American wigeon, and hooded mergansers are seen on occasion. Canada geese are common at many feeding sites.
MassWildlife’s survey started 45 years ago and documented the increase of mallards at feeding sites reaching peak numbers of over 20,000 mallards at 218 sites during the 1993 survey and declining thereafter. This decline can be attributed to more Canada geese utilizing the sites resulting in many areas being posted “No Feeding” because of the mess geese made. The last survey showed that the number of mallards was down to 9,700 at 139 sites along with nearly 1,600 geese (down from over 5,300 geese recorded during the 1998 survey).

Marlborough Flyfishing Show

The 2018 Fly Fishing Show will take place from January 19 through 21 at the Royal Plaza Trade Center in Marlborough, MA. There will be over 50 talks and demonstrations each day. While there, you might shop for the newest tackle, book your next dream trip, watch tying and casting demos and learn from the experts. There will be more than $40,000 in door prizes.

All the new rods, reels, fly tying materials, books, DVDs and latest equipment will be on display to test and purchase. There is a casting pond for casting demos and it is available to test your new rod. Some of the celebrity authors this year include Joe Humphreys, Gary Borger, Bob Clouser, Ed Engle, Sheila Hassan, Jason Randall, Bob Romano and others, and they will be happy to autograph your books.

Show Hours are: Friday: 10AM – 6PM, Saturday: 9AM – 5:30PM and Sunday: 9AM – 4:30PM. Ticket costs: One day $15, Two-day pass $25, Three-day pass $35, Children under 5 free, under 12: $2, Scouts under 16 in uniform: free and Active Military with ID: $10. Click onto www.flyfishingshow.com/Marlborough_for more details.

This is a must-attend event for New England flyfishers and flytyers. The next closest show of this magnitude is in New Jersey or Pennsylvania.

A most memorable fishing trip, Part 2

Last week, this column followed the remarkable trip of Rex Channell and his wife Trish Watson across Canada. Readers may recall that they traveled in their 25-foot Coachman Freelander (aka FISHlander) and camped and fished all across Canada. Let’s pick up the trip when they crossed back into the USA from British Columbia, Canada.

Passing into Idaho, they stopped to visit Matt Sawyer former Marketing Director of Butternut Ski Area in Great Barrington who now works at Lookout Pass Ski Area in Idaho. For the next several days they fished such famous rivers as the Coeur D’Alene, Little St Joe and Quartz Creek with Matt, also an avid fisherman, as their guide.
Then onto Montana where on August 8, they visited two different former Berkshire County ski friends in the Whitefish, Montana area – Emily Goodrich and Paul Descouteau. There was a very real wildfire threat in the Flathead area of Montana, especially in Seeley Lake where active firefighting was prominently visible. Instead they fished Livingston, MT – the Little Blackfoot River, Yellowstone River and Boulder River – which offered up cutthroat, rainbow and browns of various sizes. They splurged on a float trip on the Yellowstone River with Montana Trout Anglers and had a very successful trip catching healthy (1-2 lb) rainbows and browns.
They crossed into Wyoming on August 18 through the very crowded Yellowstone and Great Teton National Parks at the height of the tourist season. They stopped in to see former Berkshire-ites, Jonathan Gray in Jackson, WY and Celeste Young in Victor ID and visited the Jackson National Fish Hatchery (Snake River cutthroat). On recommendation of several local guides, they trekked the 15-mile dirt road up the Grey’s River out of Alpine, WY. There, they experienced the spectacular solar eclipse on the Grey’s River with only a herd of ranch cattle as company. Unfortunately, the fishing was pretty slow with only a couple of Snake River cutties netted in the three days.
So back in Alpine, they took another guided float trip, this time on the Salt River with Pioneer Anglers Fly Shop. It was an evening float that started at 3:00 pm and lasting until dark with continuous surface action using big hopper patterns and producing a lot of Snake River cutthroat several in the 2+ lb range. On their way through central and southeastern Wyoming, they visited the Museum of the Mountain Man in Pinedale and the Saratoga National Fish Hatchery (primarily lake trout). They saw several enticing rivers (e.g. North Platte) and alpine lakes (e.g. Lake Marie in the Snowy Range of the Medicine Bow National Forest) but left them to fish another trip as they were making their way to Colorado to meet up with relatives in a few days. At an over-night in Laramie, Wyoming, they camped in the Prairies Lake region and tried fishing from shore on the Gelatt and Twin Butte Lakes with no luck.
On August 25 and 26, they traveled to Boulder and Castle Pines, Colorado to visit friends and family sightseeing in the Garden of the Gods and the Red Rocks parks. In Salida, one of their favorite places in Colorado, they stayed near Chalk Creek for three days and fished Wright’s and Chalk Lakes catching lots of rainbow trout in the 10”-14” range on size 2 to 10 terrestrials. And they visited three Colorado State Fish Hatcheries – Mt Shavano (kokanee salmon, Snake River cutthroat, rainbow and cutbow), Chalk Creek (rainbow) and Roaring Judy (kokanee salmon, cutthroat, rainbow).
Rex and Trish spent the next 12 days in southern Colorado, visiting transplanted friends, taking in the sights and fishing some great areas. In the Gunnison area, they fished Cement Creek, Spring Creek and Taylor Reservoir for small browns and brookies. They toured the Ross Reel factory in Montrose. They fished the San Miguel River outside of Ridgeway catching rainbows on dries against straight red-rock cliffs. From Ouray, “the Switzerland of America”, they took the Million Dollar Highway which traverses three passes over 10,000 feet high in 57 miles ending up in Durango where they fished the Lemon Reservoir and Florida River.
They spent the next week in Utah visiting the national parks and monuments – Arches, Canyon Lands, Capital Reef, National Bridges, Glen Canyon, Bryce Canyon and Zion. In Moab, they went off-roading to fish the small alpine Oowah Lake. While marveling at the landscape, they took plenty of time to fish the southern Utah area around Loa hiring guide/owner Mike James of the Quiet Fly Fisher who gave them a diverse sampling of river, lake and reservoir. Both Rex and Trish were successful catching tiger trout in the 3 lb category with a size 16 imitation boatman fly. Some of the waters they sampled both with Mike and on their own include the Fremont River, Ferris Lake, Forsyth Reservoir, Bicknell Bottoms, Boulder Mountain Reservoir, Garcane Power Plant Reservoir, Boulder Creek, and Upper East Boulder Reservoir catching tiger, rainbow and brook trout. In Bicknell, they visited the J Perry Egan State Fish Hatchery (brook, rainbow and lake trout).
They spent 4 days in Arizona (9/18 – 9/21) to see the north rim of the Grand Canyon – so awe-inspiring – and to visit an aunt and uncle in Phoenix. However, it was still very warm (highs above 100°) so they decided to go back into the mountains of Colorado as soon as possible. Passing back into Colorado, they stopped at Mesa Verde National Park. On 9/23-9/24, they stayed at the Elk Trace B&B, a working ranch in Pagosa Springs, CO, to celebrate their 34th wedding anniversary fishing (naturally) this time in the nearby Williams Creek and Reservoir.
They spent several days in Mogote, CO, to fish the Conejos River, a river they had fished a few years ago. They stayed at the dispersed wilderness site at Elk Creek since Colorado state campgrounds had been closed since mid-September. They took a day trip with Conejos River Anglers and landed a lot of 16”-20” browns using size 20 and smaller nymph patterns with a double dropper rig. On the way east, they fished the Arkansas River at several pull-offs along US 50 through Canyon City and into West Pueblo but had no luck. The last stop they made in Colorado was to the Pueblo Weisbrod Aircraft Museum, incredible collection of aircraft from the last 120 years.
Now in the plains states, Rex and Trish were interested in laying down some miles. They quickly passed through Kansas and Missouri. They visited Boot Hill Museum and Front Street, Dodge City, KS as a fun diversion from driving. And they took a detour to Branson, MO, to visit Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede – good, clean entertainment. They visited relatives outside of St. Louis, MO and friends in Indianapolis, taking in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis Zoo.
On October 5 they finally made it into Michigan. Their first stop was to the Richard Clay Bodine State Fish Hatchery (brood stock for steelhead). In Spring Lake, they visited
Nick Petrinec who took them out on the Muskegon River in his Jet boat. They spent several days fishing, first the Pere Marquette River in Baldwin, catching big king salmon using egg patterns and grey mop flies, then the Manistee River at the Hodenpyl Dam in Mesick, Michigan netting several 10”-12” rainbows using Adams nymphs and stimulator dries and finally, the North and South Forks of the AuSable River in Grayling, where they were skunked. They made one more stop in Michigan to visit ski friends – Cheyanne Sawyer (the daughter of Matt from Idaho) – at Boyne Mountain Ski Area. They traversed the Upper Peninsula before crossing back into Canada at Sault Ste Marie, taking in Niagara Falls on the Canadian side.
They arrived home on October 20 after discovering that all campgrounds and RV parks were closed in the northeast leaving only Walmart Parking lots as places to camp.
They were gone some 164 days, of which 96 of them were spent fishing. They traveled through 8 Canadian provinces, 17 states, traveling 16,708 miles. They visited 7 fish hatcheries, and if you are wondering why, they have a special place in their heart for them. They were married in one.
What an amazing trip! They hope to have a video program of the trip early in 2018, with the locations and times to be determined at a later date.
But wait! You might think they would be tired of camping and fishing by then, but guess what. On October 23, they did some wilderness camping on the Deerfield River in Charlemont, MA and Trish caught the pictured 20- inch plus brown trout!
Ice Fishing
With this serious cold snap, some hard water anglers will be heading out onto the ice to do some ice fishing. There may be enough ice, especially in the higher elevations, but be careful in the lower elevations. You might want to stay away from any stream inlets or areas where there are currents which will have thinner ice. MassWildlife has some ice thickness guidelines, be sure to check them. Simply search “Stay Safe on Ice”, on its web page.
The last weather forecast that I saw mentioned temperatures in the 5 below zero area. Keep a sharp eye on the youngsters so that they don’t get frostbitten hands and feet. If you go, don’t forget to bring your 2018 fishing license.
Personally, I love to ice fish, but I’m going to wait another week, just to be on the safe side.

A most memorable fishing trip – Part 1

 

Readers may recall from last fall’s Canadian fishing articles of local fishermen, there were still two more anglers flyfishing up in Canada. Rex Channell and his wife Trish Watson. Rex is a local flyfishing guide who operates under the name of Allure Outfitters. I had promised to write about the trip when they returned. I had no idea at the time that they wouldn’t return until mid-October, after a 5 1/2 month trip. So, let’s take a break from this fall’s hunting articles and think fish for a while.

Rex and Trish packed up their 25-foot 2015 Coachman Freelander and began a fishing journey the likes of which most of us can only dream.

On May 9, 2017 they set out for West Falmouth to flyfish the Cape Cod Canal for schoolies (small striped bass). After 3 days, they headed for New Hampshire and Maine to visit friends, do some hiking, check out the beaches and lighthouses, etc. They stayed at the Desert Dunes of Maine Campground in Freeport, ME. (Yes, there are desert dunes up there), and they fished the Saco River near Fryeburg. While there was surface activity, they did not land anything.

They fished several stretches of the Crooked River in Bethel, ME while visiting friends but the river was high and non-productive. They went on to visit and fish with Brenda Sears (former Coordinator/Leader of Casting for Recovery in Massachusetts and licensed Maine guide) and her son Justin in Rangeley, ME, angling in such famed rivers as the Magallaway and Rangeley happily netting many nice brook trout and landlocked salmon in the latter on size 10 – 12 mayfly and stimulator patterns as well as larger streamers for the next 6 days.

Moving on to Greenville, ME in the Moosehead Lake region they fished the Roach River (no luck) and the Kennebec River with Rex catching a nice 3 lb brookie on a size 2 cone-head streamer. They spent several days camping and fishing on Perch Pond in the Deboullie Wilderness Area – only accessible by 25 miles of dirt roads deep in the North Maine Woods. While the fishing was not spectacular – some small brook trout – the wilderness itself was! The final Maine waters they fished were the Fish River and the Wallagrass Stream near Fort Kent again landing brookies and landlocked salmon on streamers. They said in general the rivers in Maine were difficult to fish this time of year (May) as the waters were high with late spring run-off but they were still able to land enough fish to make them happy and eager for more.

They drove from Ft. Kent and arrived at the Sugarloaf Provincial Parc in Atholville, New Brunswick on June 8. There they fished the St Lawrence River at Tide Head catching small salmon, climbed Sugarloaf Mountain and rode mountain bikes throughout the park. They traveled the Gaspé Peninsula in Quebec Province and looked into fishing the Cascapedia River for Atlantic Salmon, but while the season was open, the salmon had not started up the rivers yet. They were told that the returning Atlantic Salmon count was down by two thirds in recent years in Quebec and New Brunswick. So, instead, they visited the Cascapedia River Museum and went on a hike in the Chic-Chocs (a mountain range in the central region of the Gaspé Peninsula).

While in Quebec Province, they fished the Pesciculture – Peche de la troute – a trout farm in St Felicite. For the next several days (June 14 through June 19) they camped, visited lighthouses, and museums and ferried across the St Lawrence River on their way to Labrador. On June 21 they arrived in Labrador City, Labrador. (population around 10,000). The people there were so incredibly friendly and helpful that they decided to stay 3 three days where they fished for brookies in Tanya Lake and Dumbell Lake both within the town boundaries.

There is only one road of 530 km (317 miles) between Labrador City and Happy Valley-Goose Bay and one population center – Churchill Falls. It is so remote that they signed out a satellite phone in Lab City to carry in case of emergency turning it in (without incident) when arriving in Happy Valley.

When they found a boat ramp/camp on the Ossokmanuan (Ossok) Reservoir along the way to Church Falls, they stopped to camp and fish resulting in catching the pictured large landlock salmon (called Ouaniniche) using 4x, sized 12 mayfly imitations (parachute gray flies). They hiked to Churchill Falls in Labrador (The falls are 245 feet high, located on the Churchill River) and toured the hydro-power plant of the same name, the third largest in the world and 1000+ feet underground. They took another opportunity to camp and fish at a pull-off on the Cache River where they caught more brook trout on dries before arriving at Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador was one of their primary destination points as they had scheduled a fly-in float plane fishing trip to Igloo Lake Lodge for the first week of July. (If that place sounds familiar, that is where local Attorney Michael Shepard and fellow anglers fished last summer. Remember that big brook trout that Mike was holding in a picture featured in this column on October 8, 2017?) Rex and Trish spent a week there catching huge brook trout and northern pike. Fifteen minutes into the trip, they were into 8 ½ lb brookies. Rex caught the pictured one just shy of 10 lbs later in the week. In the lake, they were using large sculpin patterns while trolling, while in the rivers they were catching the brookies on stimulators and smallish gray ghost flies.

They drove across Quebec taking a more northerly route along the Saguenay Fjord and avoiding the large eastern Canadian cities. They fished Lac Bujold, Lac du Milieu and the Chigoubiche River in Quebec along the way to Ontario. Only Lac Bujold offered up any fish – brook trout.

On July 16, they arrived at the Lost Lake Wilderness Campground in Gowganda, Ontario which provides fishing for large northern pike, walleye, smallmouth bass and brookies on 8 lakes including Lost Lake, Hill’s Lake and Aurora Lake. They stayed there 3 days and caught plenty of fish on both dry and wet flies. One of the larger pike was caught using home-made cork popper on a 3 wt rod. Although they rarely take the fish, they had a wonderful shore lunch of walleye and pike that they caught the day before.

While in Gowganda, they visited Hill’s Lake Fish Hatchery. Budd Lake near Wawa, Ontario was the last opportunity they took to fish heading into the vast plains. They camped at Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park outside of Thunder Bay, Ontario, taking in the impressive waterfalls and before entering Winnipeg, they stayed at the Falcon Lake Provincial Park.

Westward they traveled and on July 22, they reached Morris, Manitoba where they attended the Manitoba Stampede and Rodeo. In Saskatchewan they camped at the Moose Jaw River Park on July 23 where they rode bikes instead of fishing as the water was low, slow and murky.

While they had planned on going to Banff and Jasper National Parks in Alberta, the wildfire threat in that region made them change their route. On July 24 they arrived in Crowsnest, Alberta and stayed at the Lundbreck Falls Provincial Park camping right on the river. There they fished the Crowsnest River for rainbows having great luck especially in the evenings where mayfly hatches were happening. (If that
name sounds familiar, that is where Paul Knauth, Allen Gray and I had tremendous rainbow trout fishing this past August, and was highlighted in this column on October 1).

On July 27, they arrived in Fernie, British Columbia and stayed at Snowy Peaks RV Park and for 5 days there. Again, fishing mostly in the evening, they caught a lot of healthy (2+ lb) west-slope cutthroat trout on the Elk River. This was all dry fly fishing with the go-to fly being a size 14 yellow sally. Fishing in this area of BC was more expensive since there is a fee of $20 per rod per day added to the cost of a fishing license for most of the big rivers, including the Elk, but the results were well worth it.

Their last stop in Canada was the Goat River outside of Kitchner, BC. They wilderness camped on the river 3 miles up a multi-use dirt road (logging and recreation) and fished the Goat River, catching 12” cutthroat and rainbow trout on yellow sallies and small stimulators.

On August 2, they crossed the US/Canadian border at Porthill, ID stopped in Spokane, Washington. Did they head for home? Heck no, the fishing trip was only half over. We’ll pick up the rest of the journey, hopefully in next week’s column.

Annual Berkshire Knapsacker New Year’s Day Hike and Gathering
The event will take place at the First Congregational Church Hall, 25 Park Place, Lee, MA. Two hikes are scheduled (or snowshoe as conditions warrant). The longer hike will be on the Appalachian Trail starting at the Route 20 parking area, led by Harold Moon. They will hike to the Goose Pond cabin and back, about four miles. They will leave the Church at 10:00 AM and return around 12:30 PM.
The shorter hike will be around Basin Pond in Lee, starting at the Becket Rd. parking lot, hiking through hemlock groves and over a stream to the site of the 1960 dam ruins and back, about 3 miles. They will leave the Church Hall at 10:15 AM and return around 12:30 PM.
A pot-luck lunch begins around 1:00 PM, (bring your own place setting, serving utensils, and an appetizer, dessert, salad, or entree to share) followed by a short business meeting.
At 2:00 PM, Dr. Richard Greene, an experienced and accomplished wildlife tracker, will present a program entitled “An Up-Close Look at Wildlife” He will discuss the value of wildlife cameras in conservation and science and will share his photos and videos capturing our local wildlife in their natural habitats. Dr. Greene’s presentation is free and open to the public.

Labrador trip came close to a washout

Last week I wrote about the Alberta, Canada flyfishing trip that Allen Gray, Paul Knauth and I took a few weeks ago. If you recall from my September 24, 2017 column, good flyfishing buddy Attorney Michael Shepard of Dalton returned to flyfish in Labrador with 8 other anglers most of whom he had fished with in Quebec and Labrador before. Last year, you may recall, they fished the Minipi River system. This time the anglers fished out of Igloo Lake Lodge on Igloo Lake, a different river system. Like last year, Mike Miller of Athol, MA arranged the trip.
While we arrived in our cottage in Blairmore, Alberta the same day we left home, Mike’s trip was a bit more entailed. They first had to drive to the airport in Montreal, Canada on Wednesday, August 16 and spend the night there. They flew out the next morning with a stop in Halifax, Nova Scotia before landing in Goose Bay, Labrador. They spent that night in Goose Bay and then flew out (by float plane) to Igloo Lake arriving on Friday. When they returned, they did the same, with one exception which I will get into later.
Mike’s fishing partner on this trip was William Waite (Bill) from Westminster, MA (You may recall him from my article last year. He was the least experienced flyfisherman who caught the largest brook trout (8 lbs). Remember? His guide had forgotten the net and had to net it with a 5-gallon pail.)
Igloo Lake is located about 70 miles southeast of Goose Bay. Jim Burton is the owner of two lodges on that lake. According to Mike S., the facilities were beautiful, the boats were topnotch, his guide was the best he ever fished with and the food was restaurant quality. The lodges are located in one beautiful part of Labrador. Burton also owns a float plane which allows him to fly anglers out to other water bodies. There is a one mile stretch of river near the camp which flows into the lake, but the waters were low because of a drought there this past summer. The first day, Mike and Bill fished that stretch catching smaller trout.
The following day, Mike Miller and 3 others flew out to Char Lake, some 200 miles north of Igloo Lake to fish for Arctic Char. They congregate there during their spawning run. Because the float plane could only take 4 anglers at a time, Mike Shepard was scheduled to fly in on the second day. The anglers had phenomenal luck, catching some 80 char and sea run brook trout, many of them caught on char flies that Mike Shepard had tied for them. Well don’t you know, when it was Mike S.’s time to fly out the next day, there were 50 mph winds and the trip was postponed. Then came the rains and fog and a low ceiling. The nasty weather lasted for 3 days and Mike S. and Bill were never able to fly into Char Lake.) It was a big disappointment because Mike really wanted to catch an Arctic char on this trip.
While the other guys were fishing Char Lake, Mike S. and Bill fished the pond at the bottom of the nearby river and caught 6 or 7 pike averaging around 30 inches. Mike caught a 7 ½ lbs. brook trout.
The next day, they fished Burton Pond. To get there, they had a 30-minute boat ride across Igloo Lake and then trek 1 ½ miles across a peat bog. Burton Pond is a big lake, not connected to Igloo Lake, which runs into the Eagle River and ultimately to the North Atlantic. Mike S. and Bill trolled Zoo Cougers and green leech flies. They got into some 5-6 lbs. brook trout which were podding up and boated a dozen or so of those bruisers. Bill and Mike caught 17-18 northern pike in the 30-inch range in Igloo Lake using big green and purple bunny leeches.
On the last day at Burton Pond, Bill and Mike S. caught 22 brook trout all over 5 lbs. Bill caught 14 trolling and Mike caught 8. In the last hour of fishing, Mike proceeded to catch three 5-pound brookies, as well as a 6 and 7 pounder all on size 8 and 6 green drake dry flies.
Incidentally, all fish were released unharmed. They all had a very successful trip, wouldn’t you say?
On the August 25 return trip, they hit a snag. Their luggage was left behind in the Goose Bay airport. They had planned on spending the night in Montreal and enjoying a good meal; however, without their luggage, they didn’t even have a change of clothes. So, they drove home that evening. (Incidentally, Mike Shepard never got his luggage until September 25.)
There’s always potential drawbacks when you book a fishing trip to these hard to reach Canadian destinations. In order to reserve a spot, you have to book early, sometimes a year in advance, and you never know what conditions you will encounter when you get there. In Mike’s case, it was 3 solid days of wind and rain. If you recall, in our trip to Alberta, it was the fires that closed down our rivers. As they say, “You pays your money and you takes your chances”. (An old idiom with intentional grammatical errors).
At the time of this writing, there is another local angler on his way home from a Canadian fishing trip. Rex Channel of Pittsfield, who is a local fishing guide and owner of Allure-Outfitters. He actually fished Igloo Lake a couple of weeks before Mike and then headed west fishing all across Canada and parts of western US. Hopefully, I can write about his trip when he returns home.
Berkshire Natural History Conference
On Saturday, October 14, the 3rd Annual Berkshire Natural History Conference will feature presentations by local and regional naturalists, as well as acclaimed authors at the Berkshire Community College from 9 a.m.to 4 p.m. MassWildlife will have a table set up at the event, and retired MassWildlife Biologist Jim Cardoza will make a presentation on wild turkey conservation.
Watch out for moose
MassWildlife urges drivers to use caution because it’s mating season for moose. During September and October, moose become more active and cross roads more frequently. Also in May and June during yearling dispersals, when yearling moose are driven away by their mothers. Moose eyes rarely shine because their eyes are above headlight level and their dark color makes them very difficult to spot at night.
I’m sure readers are tired of reading this advisory year after year. However; as you know, each year we have an influx of new young, inexperienced drivers on our roads who may not have gotten the word. It’s a good time to talk about this with your new drivers.
Questions/comments: Berkwoodsandwaters@roadrunner.com. Phone: (413)637-1818

Attached is a picture of Attorney Michael Shepard with one of his large brook trout

Making the best of a fishing trip

Allen Gray of Pittsfield, Paul Knauth of Hinsdale and I recently spent 9 days flyfishing in south western Alberta, Canada. We were concerned even before we left that there would be fires all over the place out there. While flying into the Calgary, Alberta airport, the pilot commented that there was fair weather and there should be a smooth landing and that the only problem that we may encounter would be the smoke. We had also heard rumors that parts of Crowsnest Pass and Hillcrest, Alberta were being evacuated. (Upon arrival, we found that not to be true. Fake news!)
Driving the 2 ½ hours southwest to our cottage in Blairmore, Alberta, we could smell and see the smoke. We had intended to fish the Livingstone, Carbondale and Oldman Rivers, located in or near the Rocky Mountain Provincial Forest. But upon arrival, we quickly learned that these rives were closed to fishing in order to prevent the possibility of starting more fires. Not only were they closed, but also the roads which led to them. One person who owned land along a closed road told us that they had to have a permit just to get to their homes. They weren’t even allowed to ride their horses on their own property (presumably a ranch).
Our first morning, we went to the local fly shop to purchase some flies and fishing licenses. There we met other fishermen and guides and we all were facing the same problem….where to fish? Anglers were disappointed to learn that after traveling hundreds or thousands of miles to fish a particular river, it was closed. Prior to leaving home we knew that there were forest fires in Alberta, British Columbia and Montana, but we had already purchased airline tickets, rented a cottage, arranged for a car rental, etc., well in advance and we would lose the down payments. So,we took our chances and went anyway.
Susan Douglas-Murray, co-owner of the Crowsnest Café and Fly Shop said that basically there were only 2 nearby rivers which we could fish that were still open, the Crowsnest River and the Castle River. We had known about these rivers from past trips, but we usually bypassed them in favor of the more popular Livingstone and Oldman Rivers, where we could catch West Slope Cutthroat Trout. Because all of the visiting anglers were referred to these same two rivers we expected to see shoulder to shoulder fishermen on them.
We needn’t have worried for these rivers are large and cover great distances with plenty of room for everyone. If we wanted to, we could have fished over 25 miles of the Crowsnest River, a beautiful river which flows through farms, grasslands and several towns.
On our first two days, we fished the Castle River, another gorgeous river. Paul and Allen had decent luck but I lost two giant rainbow trout that broke my leaders. We were fishing in 88 degree weather those days with no shade to speak of. It was definitely hat dunking weather.
For most of the remaining days, we fished the Crowsnest River, a river that is virtually loaded with rainbow trout, some of them really large. They were very frisky trout, nothing like the hatchery- reared rainbows around here. Paul phrased it accurately, “You hook into one of those large rainbows and after jumping a few times, they settle onto the river bottom and say, c’mon angler, let’s have at it”. One behemoth broke three of his tandem fly rigs before he finally landed it. Same thing happened to me. I lost 5 of those big rainbows, the likes of which the world has never….. before I could land one. Allen lost a couple of the big ones, too, before landing some. Although they would leap 3 or 4 times, we were able to handle the smaller rainbows, but the big ones gave us serious trouble.
During our entire stay, we could smell and see the smoke from distant fires and hear the sounds of helicopters ferrying firefighters and equipment somewhere. There was one day we were fishing in what appeared to be a snowstorm, but it was actually falling ashes. We never saw the normal color of the sun, for it was always orange or red caused by the smoke. At times it looked like a big balloon in the air. Fortunately, it wasn’t a choking type of smoke and the days were usually gorgeous.
There were a couple of days when the wind was horrific, making it difficult to place your fly where you wanted it. Once while crossing a river, a sustained strong wind came up which almost blew me over. I grabbed my hat and stuffed it into my shirt, while bracing against the wading staff. The wind was so strong that it bent my flyrod like I had a fighting fish on. Trying to handle the river current, strong wind, hat, fly rod and cigar was a chore. Something had to go and it was the cigar. I watched that expensive cigar float down the river. It cost darn near a buck.
In the evenings before dinner, we would sit out on the deck, have a drink and look at the Canadian Rockies, or at least what we could see of them through the smoke. Then we would enjoy a delicious meal expertly prepared by Allen.
In the mornings we made our sandwiches and headed for the fly shop. One morning as we entered the shop, one of the fishermen there pointed to Paul and said to the others, “That’s him!” The day before he happened to see Paul land a large trout and agreed to take a picture of him holding it. Paul became an instant celebrity whose advice was sought. Even the resident professional fishing guide who was in the shop that morning wanted to know what flies he used. They were quietly huddled over the fly selection as Paul advised the guide which ones to use.
It started to get chilly the last couple of days with rain and hail and temperatures in the low 30’s, but that didn’t deter us from fishing to the end. I doubt any of us were overly upset at not fishing our intended rivers because we discovered great new fishing areas.
The memorable 10-day fishing trip cost less than $2,500 per person and that included our food which probably shouldn’t be included in the cost as one has to eat somewhere anyways. If you decide to go there someday, be sure to stop at the Crowsnest Café and Fly Shop and Susan will steer you to some fantastic fishing waters.

Its ice fishing time, but be careful

 

 

What’s going on here?  For the second year in a row the Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club has had to cancel its scheduled ice fishing derby due to possible thin ice conditions.  It had been scheduled for Stockbridge Bowl on January 29.  Sure, one could probably get onto the ice here and there, but a public ice fishing event with kids running around is no place to take chances.  It is too bad, too, for a lot of work and planning goes into these derbies.  But, as club organizer Mike Buffoni explained, ”Ice on  the Bowl is breaking up and there is no ice-making weather in the near future to make it safe for the 29th”.

 

We grumpy old ice fishermen are getting perplexed over not being able to get out and freezing as we ice fish.  We have deer meat and other wild game building up in our freezers just waiting to be taken out and cooked up out there.  It never tastes so good as when grilled and eaten on the ice out there, especially when blowing snow and sleet is pelting your face. Darn this global warming!

 

Some organizations are hoping that it will get cold again and they can still have their ice fishing derbies.  For example, the Lenox Sportsmen’s Club ice fishing derby is scheduled for Sunday, February 5 at Stockbridge Bowl.  Sorry, I have no specifics on cost, times, etc. for this derby.

 

The Cheshire Fire Dept is scheduled to have its 1st annual ice fishing derby on Sunday, February 12, with registration at 7am at the first lake near the boat ramp.  Costs: adults $15, youths 12 and under free with the purchase of an adult ticket.

 

The 31st. Annual Berkshire County Jimmy Fund Ice Fishing Derby is also scheduled for

February 12 at 6am at the Onota Lake Pavilion. Contact Derby Chairman Leo Kruczkowski.

 

The Onota Fishing Club’s derby is scheduled for February 19 from 6 am to 2 pm, at the Onota Lake Controy Pavilion.  Adults $15, kids under age of licenses $5.  Dinner after derby costs $12.

 

The Lee Sportsmen’s Association ice fishing derby is scheduled for February 19 from 6am to 2pm on Goose Pond.  Following that there will be a spaghetti and meatball dinner at the club.  The cost is $10 for adults and $6 for kids.  For more information, call John Polastri at (413)822-8278.

 

The Cheshire Rod & Gun Club’s annual derby is scheduled for February 19 on the, 1st and 2nd Hoosac Lakes in Cheshire.  It runs from sunrise to 4pm. With weigh-in at the Farnams Causeway.  I believe the cost is $10 for adults and kids 14 and under free.

 

Before attending these derbies, be sure to check to make sure that they have not been cancelled.

 

Other upcoming events

There will be a National Wild Turkey Federation fundraising banquet on February 4 at the Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club.   Doors open at 5pm and dinner is at 6:30pm.    Tickets cost $65, which includes dinner, a year’s membership in the NWTF and a year subscription to Turkey Call magazine.  Contact Chris Puntin  at 413-464-4036 or email at  Cpuntin1218@gmail.com for more information.

 

The Lee Sportsmen’s Association is having a Turkey Shoot on Sunday, January 29 from noon to 3:00 pm, and a dinner from 4:30 to 6:30pm.  The menu is venison stew and polenta and spaghetti and meatballs.  The cost is $15.00 for adults and $7.00 children 12 and under.  The dinner proceeds benefit its pheasant raising program.

 

Fly tying events

Chris Samson informs us that they are having fly tying events at Berkshire Outfitters, Rte 8 in Adams every Tuesday evening at 6:30. Free and open to the public, the events cover fly tying from beginner to expert with lessons if someone would like to learn to tie a fly.  There will be extra tools and vices on site.  Chris says that he has been wanting to get some local people together who are into fly fishing.  He is trying to build a community of anglers to share lies and information and just have a good time.

 

Canid and cougar presentations

Sue Morse, the founder of Keeping Track®, is highly regarded as an expert in natural history and one of the top wildlife trackers in North America. Since 1977, she has been monitoring wildlife, with an emphasis on documenting the presence and habitat requirements of bobcat, black bear, Canada lynx and cougar.

 

On Friday, February 3, from 6:00 to 7:30 pm, Sue will conduct a canid presentation entitled, “Wild Cousins of Our Best Friends: Wolves, Coyotes and Foxes”.   It will be held at Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield and is free and open to the public. “Intelligent, loving and loyal, wild canids have much to teach us – not only about our beloved pets but about healthy ecosystems too”. Sue will share her amazing photos and personal adventures studying these animals..

 

Then on Saturday, February 4 from 6:00 to 7:30 pm, Sue will conduct a mountain lion presentation entitled, “The Cougar Comes East”.  It will be held at Mt Everett High School in Sheffield and is also free and open to the public.  “Cougars are not only being seen in eastern North America, some are attempting to re-colonize their former habitats.  Where once it was flatly dismissed as an impossibility in the so-called “developed” east, scientists have now documented cougar dispersals and even occupancy in a growing list of eastern states and provinces”.  There will be an illustrated introduction to cougar biology and ecology in the broad diversity of habitats.   You will get the low-down regarding the latest confirmations of cougars in the east, including wild habitats from Manitoba to Louisiana and Maine to Georgia.

 

For more information contact Elia Del Molino at (413)429-6416 or elia@thebeatnews.org.

2016 Black Bear harvest was a record

 

MassWildlife Furbearer and Black Bear Project Leader Dave Wattles recently reported that a new record of 283 bears were harvested over the three 2016 seasons. The previous record harvest of 240 bears occurred in 2014.

During the first (September) season, 190 bears were taken, 46 were taken in the second (November) season, and 47 were harvested during the shotgun deer hunting season. According to Western District Supervisor Andrew Madden, 205 bears were taken in the Western District with 94 in Berkshire County.  Some of the higher Western District  harvests occurred in the following towns: Blandford accounted for 17 of them, Granville 13 and Cummington 10.

Madden also reported that 93 wild turkeys were harvested statewide during the fall turkey hunting season.  Some 15 of them were harvested in the Western District.  Earlier this year, MassWildlife’s Wild Turkey Project Leader David Scarpitti reported that the statewide spring preliminary harvest figures indicated that 3,054 wild turkeys were taken   So it looks like about 3,147 wild turkeys were harvested this year.

 

No 2016 deer harvest figures have been released yet.

 

Remembering Peter Mirick

It was reported in a recent MassWildlife newsletter that Peter Mirick, retired editor of Massachusetts Wildlife magazine, avid sportsman and herpetologist, passed away in December from cancer. He began his career with MassWildlife in 1977 as a staff writer for the magazine and served as an assistant biologist before becoming the magazine editor in 1981.

 

During his time with the Division, he earned a Master’s Degree in Biology from Worcester State College. Pete was an avid herpetologist, conducting research on the endangered Black Rat Snake and assisting with projects related to other reptiles and amphibians. During his career, he was active with professional organizations including The Wildlife Society, New England Outdoor Writers Association, and the Association of Conservation Information. He received a number of awards for his writing and editing and was the lead editor of the “Trapping and Furbearer Management in North American Wildlife Conservation” publication, which is used by state conservation agencies across the country.

 

He also authored the recently published “Massachusetts Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles.  (An excellent book currently on sale at the DFW Western District Headquarters in Dalton, MA).

 

Pete was a strong believer in educating people, particularly youth, about wildlife conservation and was a passionate advocate for hunters, anglers, and trappers. He will be greatly missed by many, including the folks at MassWildlife, natural resource professionals, naturalists, and sportsmen and women.

 

Water Flowing at McLaughlin Fish Hatchery

In the same MassWildlife newsletter it was announced that last month officials turned on the water pipeline at the McLaughlin Fish Hatchery in Belchertown. Construction began in June 2016 on the nearly mile-long water pipeline and hydropower turbine that will supply six million gallons of water daily to the hatchery, produce renewable energy, and reduce the hatchery’s electric demand.

McLaughlin Hatchery, built in 1969, is located in Belchertown near the Swift River and is the largest of MassWildlife’s five trout hatcheries. This hatchery is responsible for half of the state’s entire annual trout production, approximately 225,000 pounds, with a “retail value” exceeding $2 million dollars. Fish raised at McLaughlin Hatchery are stocked in nearly 500 rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds throughout Massachusetts.

The water pipeline project taps water from the Chicopee Valley Aqueduct and provides the McLaughlin Trout Hatchery with a reliable, gravity-fed source of cold water, eliminating the environmental and biological risks associated with the water withdrawal from the Swift River. The result will be an energy cost savings of $60,000 per year. The project also includes installation of a hydropower turbine on the pipeline. The construction of the building for the hydropower generator is well underway and the hydropower generator has been delivered to the site. The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) has received a grant to fully cover the cost of the hydropower unit which will generate almost $53,000 in annual revenue for the MWRA. As MassWildlife put it, “This project is a win – win scenario for the MWRA, the hatchery, and the Commonwealth”.

 Fly Fishing Show

The annual Fly Fishing Show will take place from January 20 through 222 at the Royal Plaza Trade Center in Marlborough, MA. There will be over 50 talks and demonstrations each day.  While there, you might shop for the newest tackle, book your next dream trip, watch tying and casting demos and learn from the experts.  I always pick up one or two autographed books and fly tying stuff while there

 

All the new rods, reels, fly tying materials, books, DVDs and latest equipment will be on display to test and purchase. There is a casting pond for casting demos and it is available to test your new rod.  Some of the celebrity authors this year include Gary Borger, Bob Clouser,  Ed Engle, Bob Popovics and many other flyfishing stars and they will be happy to autograph your books. There will be more than $60,000 in door prizes.

 

Show Hours are:  Friday:  10AM – 6PM, Saturday:  9AM – 5:30PM and Sunday:   9AM – 4:30PM.  Ticket costs:  One day $15, Two-day pass $25, Three-day pass $35, Children under 5 free, under 12: $2, Scouts under 16 in uniform: free and Active Military with ID: $10.   Click onto  flyfishingshow.com/Marlborough__MA.html for more details.

 

Every year I write this,  but it is true – for flyfishers/flytyers this is a must-attend event.

 

Truckload of goodies raffle

The Cheshire Rod & Gun Club Truckload of Goods raffle winners were:   Truckload – Cara Aherne of Pittsfield, 2nd – Derek Wells of Adams, 3rd – Joe Fuller of Lee 4th – Dave Harmon of Pittsfield, and 5th – C. Barrie of Pittsfield.  Now that’s a good way to start off the new year

Over 60,000 trout to be stocked statewide this fall

In his most recent report to the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen, DFW Western District Manager Andrew Madden reported that fall trout stocking season should be beginning this week and be completed by the second week of October depending on water conditions.  This fall more than 60,000 rainbow trout that are 12 inches or longer will be stocked in Massachusetts water bodies.  

According to MassWildlife’s Chief of Hatcheries, Ken Simmons, the ongoing drought should not have a major impact on fall stocking even if it persists through the fall season. “Drought conditions will likely result in the curtailment of some river and stream stocking due to low flows but we do not anticipate there will be much of an impact on lake and pond stocking,” Simmons said.  There are more than 90 lakes and ponds on the fall stocking list and only 14 rivers and streams.  MassWildlife fisheries biologists will assess the condition of each waterbody before making a final decision about stocking.

The two rivers in our area that are usually stocked in the fall are the Deerfield River and the East Branch of the Westfield River.  According to Madden, stocking in the Westfield River could be iffy unless water conditions greatly improve.

Simmons noted that the drought has made operations at MassWildlife’s five hatcheries more challenging but has not affected the number of fish available for this fall’s stocking.   In fact the 60,000 rainbow trout that will be stocked is 10,000 more fish than the original fall goal.

As was the case with the 2016 spring season, anglers will be able to view daily stocking reports this fall by visiting Mass.gov/Trout. They can search for a specific waterbody or town using the sortable list, or explore new fishing spots by using the map feature.

Airboat crew banding waterfowl

During dark nights of late summer and early fall, MassWildlife biologists take to the marshes and rivers in an airboat to capture ducks for banding. This technique, called night-lighting, allows biologist to sample ducks all over the state.  Unlike traditional bait trapping, which limits sampling to a few sites, night-lighting with the airboat allows biologists to capture ducks in the Berkshires one night, on the Cape the next night, and in Worcester County the night after that.

Ducks are placed into crates according to their size, then banded and released. Banding records are submitted to the Bird Banding Lab of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The data then become available to state and federal biologists who assess the status of waterfowl populations. It can also be used to monitor movements, wintering areas, and longevity of various species.

The airboat is used to navigate shallow marshes where ducks roost among vegetation at night. The loud noise generated by the 350 horsepower engine and the spotlights onboard confuse the ducks and allows biologist to get close enough to net them. Because of the noise, most sites are visited only once per season and boating rarely goes beyond 11 pm.  Successful night-lighting requires a dark sky, so trips are shorter early in the season due to the late sunset. Moonlight is also a factor; airboat trips must be planned to avoid the brightest phases of the moon.

This year, some sampling sites may not be available due to the ongoing drought. While the airboat doesn’t need much water to get around, it needs some. Night-lighting concludes at the end of September but in the meantime, if you hear what sounds like an airplane stuck in a swamp, it just might be the MassWildlife airboat.

Boat safely

Paddlers in kayaks and canoes must wear life jackets from September 15 to May 15 every year. 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 cold weather. Waterfowl hunters using canoes or kayaks are reminded that this law also applies to them.

Youth Deer Hunt is October 1

It is not too late to get your child enrolled into the Youth Deer Hunt program. The Youth Deer Hunt Day provides young adults aged 12–17 with an opportunity to hunt deer with their own deer tags during a special single-day season that precedes the Commonwealth’s annual archery, shotgun, and muzzleloader seasons. Hunters are reminded that all shotgun deer season regulations apply on the Youth Deer Hunt day.  Youth Deer Hunt Permits are free, but must be obtained at a license vendor or MassWildlife office.  The permits and tags are only valid for the Youth Deer Hunt day and cannot be used in later seasons. All youth hunters and any accompanying adults must wear a minimum of 500 square inches of blaze orange on their chest, back, and head.

Whitetails Unlimited Banquet

 The Berkshire County Chapter of Whitetails Unlimited will be holding a banquet on Saturday, October 1 at the Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club, Route 102, in Stockbridge.  Social hour begins at 5pm and buffet dinner at 6:30 pm.  There will be games and raffles.  For tickets or information, contact Keith O Neil at (413)717-1945 or buy online at www.whitetailsunlimited.com.

Free fly tying classes

 The Berkshire Hatchery Foundation is exploring the possibility of conducting free fly tying classes at the Berkshire Hatchery in Hartsville/New Marlborough, MA.   Depending on interest, it will be conducted on Wednesday evenings beginning October 12 at 6 pm.  Initially, the class size will be limited to six.  Tools and materials will be provided.  If interested in enrolling or if you have questions contact Will Regan at willregan3@gmail.com or me at the below address.  I will report in a future column if there is enough interest to hold the classes.

Despondency in Paradise

 

Last week I wrote about our flyfishing trip to Labrador.  This is a continuation.

We flyfished primarily the inlets and outlets of Anne Marie Lake, Big Minipi and Little Minipi and the rivers in between for several days, trolling for pike occasionally, casting from rowboats and square backed canoes and wading the rivers.  Float plane fly outs to other nearby lakes in the Minipi River system were usually available, but due to repairs, we were unable to take advantage of them until day 6.

I was a little uncomfortable flyfishing out of the canoes where two fishermen in waders stand up casting while the guide controls the canoe.  Did I mention that I can’t swim?

For the first 5 days, neither Mike Lange nor I had caught a trout, in spite of 40 or 50 of them having been caught by others.  Gary Hebert and Ron Amidon actually had “doubles” fishing out of their boat, (two fish caught simultaneously).  Mike took it with grace, simply pouring himself a glass or two of wine each night and smoking a cigar out on the deck.

I didn’t handle it well at all.  Beginning  to doubt my fishing abilities, I asked the guides what I was doing wrong.  Nothing, they said, just think positively. That lodge rafter started to look pretty good as a solution to my fishing problems.   After 5 fishless days, I texted my wife Jan, saying, “Another lousy day in Paradise.”  (That’s the title of a book by flyfishing author John Gierach).  Jan thought I was referring to the weather.

I considered praying for help, but I didn’t want to waste God’s time on a lousy trout.  I would rather ask for his Divine Intervention to ensure that our 1952 vintage de Havilland Beaver float plane kept us airborne.

Everyone was sympathetic and the guides had been taking note of our plight and were doing their utmost to see that we caught a trout.  Even the camp cook, Nancy, quietly approached me one day before dinner and discreetly placed a pink button into my hand, claiming it would bring good luck fishing the next day.  Hocus pocus, yes, but I would try anything about then.  The next morning, when she asked if I was taking the button, I realized that I had lost it.   She immediately got me another one, this one attached to a piece of string, and I pinned it to my vest.

On the way out to go fishing on the 6th day, the camp cleaning lady, Dru, all of 4’6” tall, massaged my ear lobes for good luck.  I don’t know ….  must be an Innu or Inuit thing.  The bush pilot who was flying us out to the Little Minipi River absolutely guaranteed us success that day, too.

So there I was, after having spent thousands of dollars, casting away on the Little Minipi, placing my trust in a button, shiny ear lobes and an unwritten bush pilot’s guarantee.  It seemed to have worked for I hooked a fish (3lbs?) and brought it to the guide’s net.  He missed it and it got away!  Shortly thereafter, I hooked a larger fish and it also got off.  More despondency!  Meanwhile I was watching Mike Shepard catch 7 trout just several yards downstream from me.  He conceded the spot and I finally caught my first fish, a 6 ¾ pound beauty.

After releasing that fish, my thoughts turned to Mike Lange across the river, hoping he would catch one, too.  Later that day, when we got to our float plane to return to camp, he told me that he caught two nice fish.  Good for him, for he and Bob Wilson had to fly out that evening.

On our last day, Mike Shepard and I had the camp boss Ray Best as our guide.  He was very knowledgeable about the flora and fauna of the area.  As we trudged through the woods, he crushed leaves from a shrub along the trail and had us smell it.  It was called Indian tea and had a pleasant aromatic smell.  Later, he picked some small white berries and had us taste them.  They were tasty, with a minty flavor.  When asked their name, he said, “We call them little white berries”.

We were fishless until about 2 pm.   Mike was standing in a fairly shallow part in the middle of the river while I fished with Ray from the boat.  Mike hooked a good fish but before we could get over to him, it got off.  Then he hooked another and this time we were there to net it for him. While there, Mike suggested I fish the area.

“The plane leaves in an hour”, I heard crackling through Ray’s Walkie Talkie.  We still had to cross the river, stow the boat, hike a trail to the outlet of Anne Marie Lake get into another boat, cross that lake to the lodge and finish packing.   I reeled in the line and readied to go, when Ray said that we still had 10 minutes of fishing time. I made a short case and watched a big trout come up from the bottom and take the fly.  The 7 ¼ lb trout was netted, photo’d and released.  Another cast and bang, another, this one was 7 ½ lbs.  It was time to leave.   Go figure.

During this trip, the 10 of us had caught 90 brook trout over 3 lbs, 16 of them over 7 lbs and an 8 pounder.  All were gently netted, weighed, photographed and released.

Incidentally, when I got home and finally read Gierach’s above referenced book, Another Lousy Day in Paradise, I was surprised to learn that it was about fishing where we were on Anne Marie Lake on the Minipi.  The title is facetious, for he caught lots of big fish there, but for me for a while, it was real.

Unbelievable brook trout fishing in Labrador

On August 18, Attorney Michael Shepard of Dalton and I joined eight other flyfishermen and departed for Labrador to fish for brook trout.  Our destination was Coopers Lodge which sits on a peninsula on Anne Marie Lake in the Minipi River system which flows north to the Churchill River and ultimately to the Atlantic Ocean..  Anne Marie Lake is approximately 5 miles long.  The Minipi has been written up frequently in national outdoor sports magazines and is touted as having the largest brook trout in the world with catches averaging 5 lbs apiece.

The brook trout there are a unique strain and have been the subject of various genetic studies over the years. The late Lee Wulff first brought it to our attention when he brought Curt Gowdy and the ABC American Sportsman’s Show crew to film them fishing there in the 1960’s.   Wulff’s 1939 admonition that “a sport fish is too valuable to be caught only once”   was really evident there.

Wulff felt that the size of these fish was based on the food source.  The water is organically and chemically suited to support rich quantities of insect life.  The lakes are shallow enough to let sunlight reach their beds and warm things to great productivity, in spite of the short 4 month growing season.  Biologists believe the fish, which have evolved over thousands of years of natural selection, gain 1 lb a year feeding on the 26 varieties of mayflies and many caddisflies in the Minipi water system.  Every now and then the guides tag some trout and one of them traveled 70 miles to the Kenamu River in Labrador/Newfoundland.   Another trout that was tagged in the Minipi river system had traveled 15 miles in one week.

We wanted to catch some.   The trip was arranged by fly fishing guide Marla Blair of Ludlow, MA, and was coordinated by Michael Miller of Athol.  Also joining us was Gary Hebert of Richmond NH.  (The four of us had previously fished Lake Tierny together in Quebec two years ago).  Accompanying Mike Miller was his son Darren Miller of Bedford, his grandson Brandon Jones also of Athol, William Waight of Westminster, MA and Ron Amidon of Templeton, MA. Dr. Robert (Bob) Wilson of Naples, FL and Michael Lange of Newton, PA, joined us a day later.

Lorraine and Jack Cooper have been operating camps on the Minipi river system for nearly 40 years following Wulff’s philosophy of Catch & Release.  They monitor anglers’ catches in notebooks, listing the weight, location, fly and angler’s name. The Coopers have two lodges, one on Minipi Lake and the other on Anne Marie Lake.  We stayed at Anne Marie, the newest one, built in 2011.   It was absolutely gorgeous.

We took off from Boston and spent the first evening in Goose Bay, Labrador.   The following morning we flew by Twin Otter float plane to our destination camp on Anne Marie Lake, some 25 minutes south of Goose Bay.  Upon arrival, we met our guides (one guide per two anglers, rotated daily).  The camp boss was Ray Best and he had a team of excellent guides:  Todd, Ralph, Herb, Junior, Hebert and Wadsworth.   All resided in the Goose Bay area.  We met the cook, Nancy from Quebec and cleaning lady, Dru (Wadsworth’s wife).  We immediately unpacked, ate a light lunch, suited up and were out fishing that afternoon.

Fortunately, I can report that no bear attacks, calamities or other fearful events took place on this trip.  The only injury sustained was by Bill Waight and that was a hand injury.  He hurt it banging on the wall one night, trying to quell the loud snoring of a guy in the next room.  The next morning he was seen checking out the lodge rafters to see which was strong enough to hang the snorer.

Incidentally, the largest brookie of the trip was caught by Bill, a new comer to the sport having flyfished for only a year or so.  One afternoon while fishing the Little Minipi River, he sat down on a flat rock along the edge of the river to take a rest.  He drifted a mouse patterned fly downstream and, don’t you know, a big fish hit it and he caught  an 8 pounder!  That’s ironic in itself but the real interesting part is that his guide had forgotten to bring his big net.  The only thing available was a 5 gallon pail and after some effort, they caught it using the pail.

That night the more experienced flyfishermen were checking out that same rafter to string Bill up.

I developed a case of the shakes early on.  For a while I thought it was the DT’s from perhaps drinking too much wine at dinner but it turned out to be caused by something else.  Gary, Ron and I were the early morning risers and Gary usually made the coffee.  That coffee was so strong it could get up and pour itself.  The shakes disappeared when I eased up on Gary’s coffee.

We saw some interesting sights.  One morning a moose passed within 25 feet of our lodge, munched a while and then he swam away to another area.  On another morning there was a spectacular rainbow.   One evening, we all piled out onto the lodge deck to witness the aurora borealis (northern lights) while being entertained by the melodic call of a loon in the distance.   In Labrador, you get up close and personal with the northern lights and loons.  Daily we were entertained by shore scoters, eagles and ospreys.

It didn’t take long for some of us to connect with the large brookies and there were 6 or 8 big ones in the 5 – 7 lb category caught that first afternoon by Mike Miller, Ron and Gary.  Fish under 3 pounds weren’t even counted.

The weather couldn’t have been better with sunny skies and temperatures into the 70’s.  The only time that we got wet was when we were returning to the base camp crossing the lake.  Often the waves were good size and would splash over the bows of our boats drenching us.

I cannot speak more highly about the Cooper Camp on Anne Marie Lake.  The 6,000 square foot lodge accommodations are truly outstanding, the food was great, the staff and guides were wonderful and the brookies really do average 5 lbs.  If you are thinking about going, check out its website for prices, etc.  (http://www.minipi.com).  Allow yourself some time for there is a waiting time of 12 to 18 months.

So did everyone catch lots of fish?  I’ll tell you about one who didn’t next week.