Wildlife Habitat Improvement Grants announced


In a recent news release, the Baker-Polito Administration announced that $317,243 in grants were awarded for wildlife habitat improvement projects totaling 534 acres in 13 Massachusetts communities.  These municipal and private conservation efforts will work to improve habitats for native wildlife and increase opportunities for wildlife-dependent recreation.

Western Massachusetts will be receiving approximately 59% of those funds. The following landowners will receive these grants:

  • Berkshire Natural Resources Council (Dalton and Hinsdale) – $18,000 – The BNRC will work to control invasive plants and improve floodplain forest along the Old Mill Trail.
  • Massachusetts Forest Alliance (Ashfield and Hawley) – $47,950 – The Massachusetts Forest Alliance will create young forest habitat.
  • Town of Lenox – 33,500 – The Town will work to combat the hardy kiwi invasive plant infestation.
  • Nature Conservancy (Sheffield) – $23,640 – TNC will improve wetland and grassland habitats through the removal of woody plants on the Schenob Brook Preserve.
  • The Trustees of Reservations (Sheffield) – $35,701 – The TTOR will restore grassland habitat through woody species removal and invasive species control on the West Grumpelt Parcel of Bartholemew’s Cobble Preserve.
  • MassAudubon (Otis) – $29,213 – Mass Audubon will create new, and expand existing, shrubland habitat on the Cold Brook Wildlife Sanctuary.

“We are proud to provide municipalities, conservation organizations and private landowners the resources necessary to improve habitats for wildlife in need of conservation assistance, while enhancing recreational opportunities for people who enjoy hunting, bird watching and other outdoor activities” said Governor Baker.

In its second year, the MassWildlife Habitat Management Grant Program provides financial assistance to private and municipal landowners of conserved lands to improve and manage habitat for wildlife deemed in greatest conservation need and for game species. The projects will also expand opportunities for hunting, fishing, trapping, and other outdoor recreation, and complement the ongoing habitat management efforts on state lands.

“Wildlife in special need of conservation as well as game species will benefit directly from these habitat management activities,” said Department of Fish and Game Commissioner George N. Peterson, Jr.  “In addition, the sporting community, birders, naturalists, and other wildlife enthusiasts will enjoy improved recreational opportunities.”

“The reality is that 80 percent of Massachusetts’ lands where wildlife is found are owned privately,” said Jack Buckley, MassWildlife Director. “It makes sense as an agency to promote and apply science-based habitat management activities with committed municipal and private landowners, thereby protecting their investment in wildlife and habitat.”

“Protecting and preserving our natural resources is a vital part of Massachusetts’ environmental programming and services,” said State Senator Adam G. Hinds (D-Pittsfield).  “I appreciate the Administration’s support of these habitat improvement projects in Sheffield, Hinsdale, Ashfield, Otis and Lenox.”

“Improving and protecting wildlife management habitats is an important investment in maintaining the Commonwealth’s quality of life, and preserving a more sustainable environment which supports a diverse range of species and landscapes,” said State Representative Stephen Kulik (D-Worthington).

Report Winter Fish Kills

MassWildlife reminds us that the majority of the fish kills reported to them turn out to be natural events not caused by pollution. During the winter, ice and snow cover can cause low dissolved oxygen levels in ponds. Ice and snow can limit the amount of light that reaches the water column and interfere with photosynthesis and decomposition of organic matter, which in turn can decrease the amount of oxygen available to fish. That may result in winter fish kills. Weedy ponds that are less than 15 feet deep are particularly vulnerable.

Ice anglers may encounter signs of a low oxygen environment when they drill through the ice and notice the smell of rotten eggs or observe sluggish or dying shiners. The odor is hydrogen sulfide gas which is a natural byproduct of low dissolved oxygen environments, and is not likely the result of pollution. Oxygen levels should return to normal shortly after the ice melts in the spring.

If you observe dead fish, contact the Environmental Law Enforcement’s 24-hour radio room at (800) 632-8075. A MassWildlife biologist will review each situation to determine whether the kill is natural or requires a site investigation.


In last week’s column about the gold pin freshwater fishermen, I erred twice.   The first error showed Angler of the Year Joshua Christman holding a large carp, whereas the picture caption said that it was a bowfin.  The second was where I listed Shaun Klammer of Adams as receiving two gold pins.  One for having caught a 24 lb 14 oz Northern Pike out of Onota Lake in the Youth Catch and Keep category and another for catching a 43 inch Northern Pike also out of Onota Lake in the Catch & Release category.   Shaun did catch the  24lb 14 oz pike but Jeff Klammer, Shaun’s father, caught the a 43″ pike.  My apologies for both errors.


Regarding fishing families, I recommend you read this month’ s Massachusetts Wildlife magazine article entitled, A line that Binds; Fishing, Family and the Lure of the Rez, by editor Troy Gipps.  The article was written about Val Percuoco’s fishing family.  Val, you may recall, caught the 3 lb 8 oz state’s record white perch recently while fishing with her dad Vinny on Wachusett Reservoir.  Val has fished with her dad and Uncle Paul and two sisters, Lynn and Nicole, since childhood.  They have earned countless Sportfishing Award Program pins.  Heck, Val’s younger sister Lynn has 20 pins of her own for 7 different species!


Ice Fishing Derby

The Ashfield Rod & Gun Club will be having a kid’s ice fishing derby on Ashfield Lake on Sunday, February 18.  The free derby will run from 8:00 am to noon.  All kids will receive a prize.  Call Joe Miraglia (413) 628-4400 for more info.


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



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.

DFW announces 2015 deer harvest numbers


The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) reported that the statewide preliminary deer harvest for 2015 (excluding special hunts and any data not yet received) was 10,042.  The harvest figures for the previous four years beginning with year 2011 were as follows:    11,081, 10,938, 11,413 and 11,165.  In the Western District (WD), which includes all areas west of the Connecticut River (Zones 1 – 4), some 1,887 were taken.   For the previous four years beginning with year 2011 the figures were 3,417, 1,626, 1,664 and 1,737.    Zones 10 and 11 in eastern Massachusetts yielded 4,061 deer in 2015.


The statewide preliminary archery season harvest was 4,188.  Harvest figures for the previous 4 years beginning with year 2011 were as follows:  3,765, 3903, 4,474 and 4,456.  In the WD, 511 were taken with the bow in 2015.   The WD archery harvests for the previous four years, beginning with year 2011, were as follows: 522, 453, 577 and 505.    Zones 10 and 11 yielded 2,108 in 2015.

The statewide preliminary shotgun season harvest was 4,123.    For the previous 4 years beginning with year 2011 the harvests were as follows: 5,349, 4,950, 4,625 and 4,742.  The WD shotgunners checked in 898 in 2015, which compares with the previous 4 years:  904, 842, 739 and 888.  Zones 10 and 11 yielded 1,324 in 2015.  Note – 784 more deer were taken with the bow out there than with shotgun.

The statewide preliminary primitive season harvest was 1,599.  The previous 4 years beginning with year 2011 were: 1,959, 1,958, 2,314 and 1967.  In the WD, muzzleloaders checked in 320 in 2015, which compares with the previous 4 years as follows:   251, 301, 350 and 344.  Zones 10 and 11 muzzleloaders checked in 629 deer in 2015.

The first statewide preliminary youth hunt harvest was 132.  In the WD youths checked in 58 of them.

The total harvested deer by all methods in the WD were as follows: Zone 1 – 293, Zone 2 – 462, Zone 3 – 486, Zone 4N – 436 and Zone 4S – 210.

While total harvest by zone can be informative, it doesn’t provide the complete picture for monitoring trends in deer density because total harvest is influenced by antlerless deer permit allocations in each zone, as well as annual changes in hunter effort data, weather, etc. The MassWildlife Deer Project Leader analyzes harvest, biological, and hunter effort data, along with hunter success rates, female versus male harvest, and other factors to manage deer populations in each zone. An analysis of this information is now underway for the annual spring deer management review.  A complete harvest summary will be posted on the DFW website shortly after the annual deer review, so check back in May or June.

Hunters should also keep an eye on their email inbox for the annual hunter survey. All hunters who included a valid email address in their MassFishHunt profile will receive a hunter survey by email in February or March. *****

As you are well aware, this winter has been an unusually warm one.  Maybe we will get some winter weather yet, but so far winter sports such as skiing, snow shoeing and skating have been dismal.  The same holds true with ice fishing.  But, as the saying goes, hope springs eternal and some sportsmen’s clubs and organizations are still planning ice fishing derbies.  As of this writing I have information on only one derby.


On February 14, the Lee Sportsmen’s Association will have its ice fishing derby at Goose Pond from 6AM to 2PM.  The awards and spaghetti and meatball dinner will take place at the LSA Clubhouse after the derby.  The cost for derby and dinner is $15 for adults and $6 for kids.


There will be no Locker Room Ice Fishing Derby on Sunday, February 21 due to ice conditions   but they will still have a pasta dinner and raffle prizes at the Locker Room from 1 to 4 PM.   The cost is $10 for adults and $5 for students.  Proceeds will benefit: the Lee Youth Football program.


The Lenox and Cheshire sportsmen’s clubs as well as the Jimmy Fund derbies have been cancelled due to ice conditions.  May I suggest that if any derby is still scheduled, be sure to check with the derby organizers in advance.  Also, satisfy yourself that there is sufficient ice! *****


Next Sunday at 1:00 PM the Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club will be holding a multi-state firearms course.  It includes firearm laws covering licensing, storage, transportation, operation and safe handling of firearms, shooting fundamentals, etc.  Participants will receive a course certificate which will allow them to apply for licenses in Massachusetts, Utah, New Hampshire and Maine.  A Utah firearm permit is honored in 30 states.   The fee for the entire 5 hour course is $140 or one can take just the Massachusetts or Utah segments for $100.   Preregistration is required.   Call or e-mail Robert J. McDermott at (413)232-7700 or robmcdermott@verizon. *****


On Monday, February 15, the Lenox Sportsmen’s Club will hold its 33rd annual Presidents Day Rabbit Hunt.  Registration fee is $10 with weigh in at 4:00 PM.  Prizes awarded for heaviest hare and cottontail.  A venison dinner will follow which is included in the registration fee.    Pre-register with Ron Carr @ 413-442-5122 or sign up at the club.  *****


Ice fishing season is upon us, let’s be careful

Well, after a delayed start due to the warm weather, it looks like there may be enough ice to get out onto the lakes and ponds and do some “hardwater” fishing. Make sure there is enough ice before venturing out onto it.  The bulk of the information for this week’s column comes from MassWildlife which has ice strength and safety tips which are listed below.  They stress that the figures in the table below are for clear, blue ice on lakes and ponds and caution us to reduce strength values 15% for clear blue, river ice. “Honeycombed” ice, which occurs in the spring or during major winter thaws as the ice is melting, is the most dangerous ice.  It is best avoided unless the angler is certain there is a safe layer of solid ice beneath the honeycombed surface.”

They caution us to “be aware that many lakes and ponds contain spring holes and other areas of current that may create deceptively dangerous thin spots in areas that are otherwise safe. Always use caution, and don’t venture out onto unfamiliar waters without checking ice thickness frequently.”

Ice Thickness and Strength
Ice Thickness (inches) Permissible Load (on new* clear/blue** ice on lakes or ponds)
2″ or less STAY OFF!
4″ Ice fishing or other activities on foot
5″ Snowmobile or ATV
8″-12″ Car or small pickup truck
12″ – 15″ Medium truck
*New ice is stronger than older ice. **White ice or “snow ice” is only about half as strong as new clear ice. Double the above thickness guidelines when traveling on white ice.

“There are no guarantees. Always consider ice potentially dangerous. Assess ice safety by using an ice chisel to chop a hole in the ice to determine its thickness and condition. Make sure you continue to do this as you go further out on to the ice, because the thickness of the ice will not be uniform all over the pond or lake. Be aware that ice tends to be thinner on lakes and ponds where there are spring holes, inlets or outlets. Don’t venture onto ice-bound rivers or streams as the currents make ice thickness unpredictable.”

MassWildlife cautions that if you, a companion, or pet fall through the ice, don’t panic!  Call for help if there are people nearby. While it doesn’t take long for the cold water to start slowing your physical and mental functions, you have more time than you might think; typically 2-5 minutes and perhaps longer if you are in good, physical condition.  Air will remain trapped in your clothes for a short time aiding your buoyancy.  Kick your legs while grasping for firm ice.  Try to pull your body up using “ice pins” that should be hanging around your neck.  Once your torso is on firm ice, roll towards thicker ice. This will better distribute your weight. Remember that ice you previously walked on should be the safest.

After you reach safe ice, don’t waste precious time, you need to warm up and dry out. If you are in a remote area, this means getting to or starting a campfire. If you are in a more urban setting get to a car or house. Once there, get out of wet clothes, change into dry clothes to get warmed up and seek advice from your physician on medical attention. You need to warm up quickly to prevent hypothermia.

If a companion falls through the ice remember the phrase “Reach-Throw-Go”. If you are unable to reach your friend from shore, throw him or her a rope, jumper cables, tree branch, or other object. If this does not work, go for help before you also become a victim. Get medical assistance for the victim immediately.

When walking on or near ice, keep your pets on a leash. If a pet falls through the ice do not attempt to rescue the pet, go for help. Well meaning pet owners can too easily become rescue victims when trying to assist their pets.

Incidentally, the Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club Echo Lake derby, which was scheduled for next weekend, has been cancelled due to ice conditions. *****

It is unclear whether the Onota Boat Livery will be preparing a list of local ice fishing derbies this year.  If not, I would be happy to list them in this column.  Please get the information to me at least 2 week in advance of the event.  Information needed:  Date, Name of Event, Location, times, entry fee, and contact phone number. *****


First-time hunters who wish to purchase a Massachusetts hunting or sporting license must complete a Basic Hunter Education course.  This course is designed for first-time hunters and is standardized across North America.


The following local Basic Hunter Education courses are scheduled as follows:  Pittsfield High School, 300 East Street, Pittsfield, March 1, 3, 8, 10, 15 and 17.  Cheshire Rod & Gun Club, 310 Curran Road, Cheshire, March 7, 11, 14, 18, 21 and 25.   Both are 6 class sessions which run from 6 to 9 PM.  You must attend all class dates and times to successfully complete the course.


I am mentioning this months in advance because the courses fill up quickly.  If you are interested in this course and wish to enroll, please call 508-389-7830 immediately; students are enrolled first-come, first-served, and enrollment cannot be processed via email. *****


The sportsmen of Berkshire County have lost yet another well known sportsman, Kenneth R. Larabee, Sr from Cheshire.   He was an avid bass fisherman who founded the Northern Berkshire Bass Club and was the past president of the Tunnel City Bass Club.  Our condolences go out to his wife Sandra and family.  The tournament bass fishermen of Northern Berkshires will truly miss him.

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

Half a million trout to be stocked this spring


According to Mass DFW, close to 500,000 brook, brown, rainbow and tiger trout will be stocked by them this spring. The fish will come from their five hatcheries located in Sandwich, Palmer, Belchertown, Sunderland, and Montague.  The Western District should get about 100,000 of them. They reported that it has been another challenging year for the hatcheries given the extremely cold, icy, and snowy conditions that have prevailed this past winter.

Nevertheless, they report that the close to 500,000 trout being stocked this spring, coupled with the more than 67,000 twelve plus inch trout stocked last fall should provide some excellent fishing in the coming months.  Due to the heavy snow and thick ice that remains on lakes and ponds across the state, trout stocking likely will not begin until the first week in April, beginning with the eastern region of the state moving westward as the ice and snow melts.

Here are some 2015 trout stocking facts provided by Mass DFW:  45% of the trout average over 14 inches, 72% of them average over 12 inches, 218,000 rainbows will average over 14 inches, 46,500 rainbows will average over 12 inches, 10,000 rainbows will average between 9 and 12 inches, 750 brown trout will be over 18 inches, 46,600 brown trout will average over 12 inches, 79,400 brown trout average between 9 and 12 inches, 1,350 brook trout will average over 15 inches, 37,600 brook trout will average over 12 inches, 47,000 brook trout between 9 and 12 inches and 2,500 tiger trout that will average over 14 inches.

Anglers are encouraged to check the trout stocking schedule for the district near them, or contact individual district offices for the latest stocking information. Trout stocking schedules will be updated every Friday between the end of March and Memorial Day.

There is a Tags ‘N Trout program which is a cooperative venture between MassWildlife and participating clubs, businesses and other groups.  A certain number of trout are tagged and stocked into selected water bodies in each MassWildlife District.  The tagged trout in each water body are sponsored by a local sportsmen’s club, business, or other entity.   Any angler who catches a trout with a bright pink tag will receive a prize from the local cooperator in the Tags ‘N Trout Program.

In the Western District, tagged trout will be stocked in the following waters:  Ashfield Lake, Westfield River, Upper Highland Lake, Deerfield River and Littleville Lake.   If you catch one, contact the sponsor for your prize.   A listing of the sponsors is available on the MassWildlife web site. *****

The Onota Boat Livery’s 2015 Ice Fishing Contest ended on March 15.  Congratulations to the following winners who won $50 store prizes:  Largest pike – 23 lbs 8 oz, 42 inch out of Onota Lake, caught by John Kozlowski of  Pittsfield,  Largemouth Bass – 4 lbs 1oz, 21 inch out of Pontoosuc Lake caught by Austin Dufur of Adams; Smallmouth Bass – 3 lbs 15 oz out of Long Pond by Ed Vidal of  Pittsfield; Perch – 1 lb 2 oz out of Pontoosuc Lake by Bubby Carofiles of Stephentown, NY;  Crappie – 1 lb 5 oz out of Onota Lake  by Bruce McCauley of Hinsdale; Pickerel – 3 lbs 7 oz out of Onota Lake, by Corie Tremont of  Pittsfield and Trout – 1 lb 10 oz, 17 inch, out of Laurel Lake caught by Joe Chague of Pittsfield.  Congratulations to all.


Vicki and Cliff White will be teaching basic pistol classes in the near future at two sportsmen’s clubs.   The Lenox Sportsmen’s Club is offering a course at its club house in Lenox on the evenings of April 14 and April 17 beginning at 5:00PM.  The Lee Sportsmen’s Association will be offering one on Saturday, April 11 from 8:00AM to 6PM at its clubhouse in Lee. These classes provide great opportunities to learn the skills, knowledge and attitude to be a responsible gun owner.  Information on these classes can be obtained from the clubs’ web pages or at  cliffxring@gmail.com *****


Congratulations to 7 year old Emma Ranzoni of Lee for catching the above pictured 5 lb 2 oz, 20 ½ inch largemouth bass out of Buckley-Dunton Lake in Becket last Saturday.   According to her dad Matt, the fish made a long run, the tip-up spooled out, the line knotted up at times and all sorts of maladies happened before finally landing the fish.  She will receive a bronze pin under the MA Freshwater Sportfishing Awards program.  Her dad, who does some taxidermy, will mount it for her.


What a wonderful story to wrap up the 2015 ice fishing season.


Cub Scouts take to the ice



Last weekend, Joe Chague of Pittsfield had his second annual ice fishing class on Laurel Lake for Sacred Heart Church Pack #20 Cub Scouts.  He was assisted by friend Mark Markham also of Pittsfield.  Some 15 scouts, siblings and friends showed up for the class.  They were taught how to cut holes through the ice, sound the holes, set up and bait tip-ups, jig for fish, etc.  Midway through the class, they stopped for cups of hot chocolate and hot dogs.


They had a great time and were unaffected by a couple of snow squalls that passed through.   Although none of them caught fish of their own, they got to see and handle some nice white and yellow perch caught by Mark.  He caught them using a jigging stick as well as on tip-ups.


Some parents had a thrill, too, and perhaps learned a thing or two about ice fishing.  Joe had several different types of tip-ups on display; from very old to new Y2K compliant.   I set up a tip up that was probably made in the 1930’s.  It was a single piece tip-up with no reel, the kind that I learned to ice fish with when I was a kid.  You can well imagine the thrill when that flag went up and I caught a pickerel. Never thought I would ever catch another fish on such a tip-up again.


As the picture indicates, these kids really got into this sport. Did you ever see 15 excited kids racing to respond to a tip- up?  Well, don’t get in their way.


Such events as this and the R.O.P.E.S. (Respect Other People Encouraging Self-esteem) ice fishing derby are wonderful ways to get kids (and parents) outdoors and interested in ice fishing. *****


Some 46 coyotes were entered into Dave’s Sporting Goods Coyote Contest this year, and the winners were as follows:  Carl Dolle of North Adams bagged the most coyotes with a tally of 22.  He also got the heaviest one which weighed 46 ½ lbs.   Cliff Briggs of Great Barrington won the random raffle.  If Carl’s name sounds familiar, it is because he bagged the largest coyote in last year’s contest, one weighing 50 lbs.  In the 2013 contest, Carl got the most coyotes with a tally of 24, and in 2012, he bagged the most coyotes with a tally of 16.  Do you think that maybe he knows what he is doing?  *****

Governor Baker recently appointed former State Representative George Peterson, from Grafton, as Commissioner of the Department of Fish & Game.  Peterson served 10 terms in the House before deciding to not run again in 2014.   Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton, who served with Peterson in the House, also appointed Mary-Lee King deputy commissioner of Fish and Game.  This announcement came as great news to sportsmen statewide.


“As an avid outdoorsman and former commercial fisherman, George will bring a wealth of knowledge and experience as well as a unique understanding of the issues most important to sportsmen and commercial fishermen across the Commonwealth,” said Beaton. “I am honored to lead the DFG, and look forward to upholding the Department’s ongoing commitment to the protection of the Commonwealth’s wildlife, open space, and outdoors educational programs,” said Peterson.  King previously held the title of Legislative Director for the DFG, and worked as a chief policy advisor for former Gov. William Weld and chief of staff to then-Sen. Paul Cellucci. *****


Getting that urge to go fly fishing?  Well, this Friday evening, the Taconic Chapter of Trout Unlimited is hosting an International Fly Fishing Film Festival at the Berkshire Hills Country Club, 500 Benedict Road, Pittsfield.   You are invited to see some of best rated fly fishing videos of 2014 taken from around the world.  You are encouraged to bring the whole family.


Doors open at 6:30 PM and the film will be shown at 7 PM.  The cost is $12 for advanced tickets or $15 at the door.  The first 45 attendees will receive a free copy of Stonefly Magazine.  There will be a 50/50 raffle and a handmade 9’ 4wt fly rod will be given out as a door prize.  Refreshments will be available.  Tickets can be obtained by calling Bill Travis 413-447-9720, by contacting any Taconic TU Chapter Board member, (listed on its website  http://www.taconictroutunlimited.org, under “Members”) or on-line at: www.THEF3T.com and search for the date.


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



2014 County League of Sportsmen Award winners are announced


Shaun Smith of Lee was selected to receive the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen (BCLS) 2014 Sportsman of the Year Award.   The Lee Sportsmen’s Association’s nomination states that “Shaun has been a long time sportsman over the years, and last year celebrated his 40th year being a volunteer for the Massachusetts Paraplegic Hunt program.  For many years he has taken the lead organizing the South County paraplegic hunt to make sure all hunters have a great time.  Shaun is also involved in Hunter Education Courses as a basic instructor and in firearm training as a NRA certified pistol and rifle instructor and a range safety officer.  Shaun runs the indoor archery league and has been working very hard to move the club into the 21st century.”


Former Massachusetts DFW Director Wayne MacCallum of Grafton was selected to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award.   His many achievements were the main focus of last week’s column.


The Adams Outdoor for Youth organization was selected to receive the Sportsmen’s Appreciation Award.  The 31-year-old non-profit organization was founded by town resident James “Jimmy” Carpenter, who also served as its first president. Meetings occur on a monthly basis, and there are more than 130 “family members.” Among the youth-focused activities and events offered by the group are ice-fishing derbies, a well-attended spring fishing derby held in conjunction with the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition and the BCLS, and another very popular annual youth fishing derby. Annually, it holds a well attended game dinner and 100% of the proceeds are used for financial scholarships for youths interested in attending sports camps and a state-sponsored conservation camp.  Education-focused scholarships are also offered to Berkshire area high school seniors.


BCLS President Mark Jester of Pittsfield was selected to receive the prestigious John Zuber Lifetime Achievement Award.   Just look at his accomplishments:  BCLS delegate since 1982 and its president for 17 years, former Lakewood Sportsmen’s Club Secretary; Lenox Sportsmen’s Club Secretary, Board Member and VP since 1984. He was Instrumental in the Adopt-a-Forest Program, involved in getting the ACEC designation for the Housatonic River,  serves on several different environmental and non-profit charitable organizations, former founding member on the Governing Board of the Housatonic River Restorations, Sportsmen for Land Preservation, Western Mass Sportsmen’s Alliance, Berkshire Environmental Coalition, Board of Directors for GOAL, BCLS Representative on the Mass Sportsmen’s Council, appointed to the Massachusetts Zebra Mussel Task Force, leader of the local effort to get the National Archery-in-Schools Program established in the Berkshires.  In the last 4 years he has signed up 10 schools into the program with thousands of students participating.  He has taught youth archery classes at Lenox Sportsmen’s Club since 1996 and coordinates and hosts the Conte Banquet every year. He is constantly meeting with City, State and Federal Legislators, DCR, GOAL, DFW, USF&W and Massachusetts F&W Board on sportsmen’s issues.  He has even testified before the EPA in Washington DC.


He has worked on behalf of sportsmen’s issues with and for National Wildlife Federation (NWF) surrounding federal legislation with EPA on the Mercury Rule/ Clean Air and Clean Water Act.


He hosts a local TV outdoor sports programs “GOAL Show” with Executive Director James Wallace and “The Outdoor Report” with the NWF. He was named the 2000 BCLS Sportsman of the Year, 2001 Massachusetts Sportsmen’s Council Sportsman of the Year and the 2014 recipient of the MSC’s highest award, the Ray Gribbons Award.


The richly deserved awards will be presented at the Silvio O. Conte Memorial Banquet at the Cheshire Rod and Gun Club on the evening of April 18.   Tickets can be obtained from any BCLS delegate.   *****


The East Mountain Sportsmen’s Club will be conducting a Basic Hunter Education Course at its club location at 312 Henderson Road, Williamstown. The dates are April 13, 17, 20, 24, 27 and May 1 from 6 to 9 PM. All first-time hunters who wish to purchase Massachusetts hunting or sporting licenses must complete a Basic Hunter Education course.  For more information, call 508-389-7820. *****


The next Lee Sportsmen’s Association Pistol Course will be held on Monday March 23rd and Monday March 30th. The cost is $100.  Participants will be given a student packet and learn the attitude, skills and knowledge necessary to become a responsible gun owner.  Course includes handling, dry firing, parts and operation of revolvers and semi auto pistols, cleaning, storage, opportunities to shoot in different venues, and the current MA gun laws.  Upon successful completion, participants will receive a MA State Police Certificate for application for their LTC.  Contact Larry K. at 442-780 for more information. *****

DFW is sending out electronic hunter surveys to approximately 32,000 licensed hunters through Novi Survey, an online survey company. The survey is designed to understand hunter effort and preferences and to collect important local “on-the-ground” information that will help manage game in the Commonwealth. The survey takes approximately 5-15 minutes to complete. All responses are anonymous, identifying information such as email and IP address will not be recorded.  If you haven’t received the survey by the end of this month, check your junk or spam folder for an email from MassWildlife/Novi Survey.  A reminder will be emailed to license holders who have not responded within a week. ****

The Locker Room in Lee recently held its 23rd annual ice fishing derby at Laurel Lake.  Tournament Director Butsy Crawford, who recently turned 90 years old, ordered up some great weather and about 100 fishermen participated.   The Adult Heaviest Fish, a 5lb 1 oz pickerel, was taken by Bill Ahern.  The Kid’s Heaviest Fish, a 2 lb 1 oz pickerel was taken by Jack Clarke.  A pasta dinner with raffle prizes was held at the Locker Room afterwards.  All of the proceeds went to Lee Youth Football.


Take a kid ice fishing this winter



Well, it’s here, ice fishing season.  If you go ice fishing take a kid along.  The ice is safe now, but be careful and don’t do anything foolish like walk too close to a stream inlet or near open water.


Many of us were exposed to ice fishing when we were kids.  Chances are good that a dad, older brother or uncle brought us ice fishing for the first time, and chances are also good that we have never forgotten that day.


In my case, my oldest brother Joe and our good friend and neighbor Henry (Hank) Sedgwick brought me to Stockbridge Bowl on my first trip.  It was in the early 1950’s when I was about 10 years old.    I remember it like it was yesterday.


We had no sooner stepped onto the ice when it made a scary crack and rumble. I froze where I stood.  They laughed and reassured me that there was nothing to worry about, that there was over a foot of ice and that the lake was just “working”. We set up our tip-ups off of the Shadowbrook Shore.


Standing on frozen water and chiseling a hole into the ice (no augers back then) was a whole new experience for me.   No, the water didn’t gush out of the hole as feared but just stayed there. We scooped the chipped ice out of the holes, set up the tip-ups, spread out the line onto the ice (our tip ups didn’t have reels on them in those days), sounded the holes (determined the water depth), baited the hooks (with shiners) lowered them into the holes, and attached the flags to the tip-ups so that they would pop up when a fish ate the bait and moved.  When the holes were all dug and tip-ups set up, I couldn’t wait for a fish to come along and eat the bait to see what happened next.


We were standing on the shoreline and it was a cold, cloudy day with periodic spits of snow.   It was slow fishing until about 11:00 am when Hank’s flag popped up a couple of hundred feet away. Out onto the ice he hurried to tend to the tip-up. I wanted to go with him to see what happened next, but Joe insisted that I stay with him on the shore line to gather up some dry twigs and branches to start a fire to warm up and cook some hot dogs.  While gathering the firewood, I kept glancing out to Hank to see what was going on, but he knelt next to the hole in a way which blocked my view.


After a few minutes he came back claiming that the fish had hit his bait and sprang the flag but didn’t hook itself, so he reset the flag.  No sooner had he returned when the flag went up again and this time they said “You take this one, Spike” ( nickname that my father, brothers and Hank called me). The three of us ran out to the tip-up.  While running there, we could see the line which had been spread out on the ice being pulled into the hole by a fish.


I didn’t know what to do so they were shouting instructions.  Pull the line to set the hook!  Now pull the line in hand over hand straight out of the hole!  I could feel the fish fighting back.  Wow! What a thrill.  Pretty soon I could see the head of the fish sticking out of the hole and quickly pulled it out.  There, flopping on the ice, was a 19 inch pickerel.  I had never caught a pickerel or any fish that large before.  I received a lot of congratulations and pats on the back (no such thing as a high 5’s in those days).


It turned out to be the only fish caught by anyone that day and I never forgot it.  Even though it occurred over 60 years ago I think about it frequently.


Then one night last year, I had a rude awakening.   It suddenly occurred to me that the whole event was probably staged for my benefit.  Perhaps Hank went out to that tip-up, solidly hooked the fish, let it stay in the water on the hook and reset the flag.  As soon as the fish moved again, it set the flag off and they wanted me to catch it – my first fish.  I have used the same ploy over the years with my nephews and kids and I should have figured it out sooner.


My brother Joe has long since passed beyond the river bend and I can’t ask him, but Hank is still around and I see him every now and then.  I asked him one night last year if that event was staged.  After a period of  silence and the display of an excellent poker face, he said, “ Geeze, Spike, I don’t remember”. Well, if it was staged, that only made the event all the more special.


I encourage dads and granddads to expose the kids (boys and girls) to ice fishing at least once.  They will either love it or hate it, but probably will never forget it. Who knows, perhaps 60 years from now, one of them will also be writing about it in their outdoor sports column.  *****


This evening at 5:30 pm the Lee Sportsmen’s Association will be holding a fund raising venison and polenta dinner to support its pheasant program.  They raise pheasants and release them on public lands for all hunters to enjoy. The cost is $15 for adults and $6 under 12.  Contact Dick Salice at (413) 822-8411 for more information.


Schedule of 2015 ice fishing derbies is now available


The above is the schedule of upcoming ice fishing derbies this winter.  Our thanks go out again to Paula Dailey at the Onota Boat Livery in Pittsfield for compiling the 2015 schedule of ice fishing derbies and posting them on its web site   Simply log onto Onotaboat.com to access that list.

Although space does not allow listing all of the derbies raffle prizes, I am making an exception with the Lanesboro Volunteer Fire Dept derby.   For a $10 ticket, you can enter into its raffle which has the following prizes:  1st Prize – Eskimo ice auger valued at $560, 2nd Prize – Ice fishing jet sled filled with everything needed to go ice fishing(except an auger) valued at $650.  All of the proceeds benefit the Lanesboro Volunteer Fire Dept.  Tickets can be obtained at the Onota Boat Livery which, incidentally, donated or provided the above items at cost.   *****

According to Berkshire Beagle Club (BBC) Director John Demary, the rabbit hunt last Saturday was a success considering the cold and raw day.   Some 24 hunters participated, bagging 3 snowshoe hares and 7 cottontail rabbits.

The largest hare was taken by Rylan Kalisz of Adams with one weighing 3.59 lbs.  It was taken in front of his grandfather Dick Kalisz’s (also of Adams) dog Hudson.  The largest cottontail was taken by Dave Morris of Lee with one weighing 3.01 lbs.  It was taken in front of Tom King’s (of Cheshire) dog Boomer.   I am listing the dogs’ names along with the owners because, after all, they did all of the work.

Some of the bunnies were donated to member Russell Moody, Minister of The Pittsfield Church of Christ who cleaned them and gave them to families in need.  It is unfortunate that we have such needy families here in the Berkshires but if there is one consolation it is this:  wild rabbits are delicious.   I grew up eating them and still have a couple of meals of them every year.

Following the contest check–in, the participants enjoyed a delicious meal of venison pasta, venison chili and bear stew.   A raffle followed the meal.

Incidentally, the BBC recently held its officer elections and the following individuals were elected:  President – Rodney Hicks of Hancock, VP – John Demary of Dalton, and Treasurer – Tim Cahoon of Pittsfield.  The Secretary position is open. *****

A Basic Hunter Education Course will be held at the Pittsfield High School, 300 East Street, Pittsfield, on March 3, 5, 10, 12, 17 and 19 from 6:00pm to 9:00pm.

All first-time hunters who wish to purchase a Massachusetts hunting or sporting license must complete a Basic Hunter Education course.  The course is designed for first-time hunters and is standardized across North America.  All government-issued Basic Hunter Education certificates, from any North American jurisdiction, are accepted as proof of successfully completing the course in order to purchase a hunting or sporting license.

Anyone who has held a hunting license prior to 2007 in this or any other state, or is a graduate of a Basic Hunter Education course in this or any other state, does not need any additional training and may immediately create a customer account and purchase a Massachusetts hunting or sporting license (www.mass.gov/massfishhunt).   Proof of a previous license or certificate is not required.  For more information, call 508-389-7820. *****


On Saturday, February 7 the Lee Sportsmen’s Association will be having an All Women’s Basic Pistol Course from 8:00am to 6:00pm.  For more information call Vicki White (413) 442-8107.


Brady Kerr, Secretary of the Lenox Sportsmen’s Club reports that the following leagues have started but there is always time to join in:  Pistol League runs Mondays 7:00pm and Thursdays at noon, Rifle League on Sundays from 10:00am to noon, 2-D Archery shoots on Thursdays and Fridays from 6:00pm to 8:30pm or Saturdays from 12:30pm to3:00pm and 3-D Archery League on Mondays from 6:00pm to 8:30pm.


State parks and forests have a new “Friend”

According to Ryan Aylesworth, the founder & CEO the Western Massachusetts Public Lands Alliance (WMPLA), it was founded in July 2014.  WMPLA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in the Pittsfield area whose mission is to use philanthropy, volunteerism, education, and advocacy to sustain and enhance the quality of outdoor recreation, public access, infrastructure, environmental education, historical preservation, and natural resource conservation within the state parks, forests, and wildlife management areas of western Massachusetts.


Its primary purpose is to serve as a regional-scale “friends group” for public lands managed by the Commonwealth in Berkshire, Franklin, Hampshire, and Hampden counties.   According to Ryan, our state lands are chronically under-funded, resulting in crumbling infrastructure, reduced public access, inferior recreational and educational opportunities, and inadequate resource management.  WMPLA was founded to reverse this deeply troubling trend.


Before founding WMPLA, Ryan was the President & CEO of Audubon International (AI), a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that has been administering a wide range of rigorous environmental education and certification programs for over nearly 30 years.  Prior to that, he worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – first as a biologist in the Northeast, and later heading up the agency’s governmental affairs program in the Midwest Region.  These professional experiences, combined with a deep passion for the outdoors that began as a youth growing up in the mountains of northwestern Maine, have fostered Ryan’s belief that effectively conserving and enhancing public lands requires regional-scale collaboration involving diverse programs, organizations and stakeholder groups.


In addition to the professional skills that Ryan bring to the table, WMPLA benefits from the leadership of a Board of Directors comprised of individuals with extensive professional experience in areas such as education, natural resource management, business, communications, and government.  Members of WMPLA’s leadership also have close ties to the people and communities of the Berkshires and Pioneer Valley. This is especially true of Jonathan Butler, President of the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce and former Town Administrator in Adams, who recently joined WMPLA’s Board of Directors because he understands how substantially improving how public lands are managed will benefit the region’s tourism-based economy.


Of interesting note, one of WMPLA’s Board members recently learned that the Lee Sportsmen’s Association (LSA) had roughly 100 pheasants die as a result of a predator (speculated to be a fisher cat) tunneling into its pen. (These pheasants had been acquired from the Austerlitz Club).   The LSA leadership told the WMPLA Board member that they were distressed because this meant that the club was not going to have the number of birds needed to continue stocking various public lands open to hunting for the duration of the upland bird season.


In response to this news, WMPLA generously offered to make a $1,500 donation to purchase an additional 100 birds from the Austerlitz Club in NY and provide the LSA what it needed to save the hunting season. As a result of this generosity, WMPLA is now well on its way to forming a valuable and lasting relationship with the LSA, which they plan to replicate with other clubs and outdoor recreational groups including hikers, anglers, campers, birders, Nordic skiers, snowshoers, bikers, etc., that use our state parks, forests and wildlife management areas.


They have an interesting web site (www.wmpla.org) where you can learn all about the organization, what it does, who serves on its Board, what’s on its priority list, etc.   Incidentally, the October Mountain State Forest is on its priority list.  Check them out. *****


The Onota Boat Livery is once again having its seasonal ice fishing contest.  Entrants must sign up by February 1 and the contest ends on March 15.  Participants must be at least 18 years old and purchase at least $25 worth of store merchandise.  They may fish anywhere in the Berkshires and all fish caught must be through the ice and brought to the Livery for measuring.  Contestants must have previously entered the contest.  In the event of a tie, the prize will be divided equally amongst winners.

The prizes are $50 Onota Boat Livery gift certificates for the largest pike, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, trout, pickerel, perch and crappie.   Atlantic salmon and tiger muskies have been discontinued from contest.   Check out the web site at Onotaboat.com for a listing of the derby rules.

To prevent needless killing of nice fish, may I suggest that before going out you check the Onota Boat Livery leader’s board, or call them (413-442-1724) to see what the leading fish are. Also bring a copy of the minimum weights which qualify for a State Sportfishing Award (page 22 of the Fish & Wildlife Guide).   Bring along a scale, too.  That way you know whether or not you caught a money/pin fish and if not, you can release it unharmed if you wish.

Incidentally, the Onota Boat Livery will be preparing a list of upcoming ice fishing derbies when the information is received from the derby organizers. I will list it as soon as completed.   *****

The Berkshire Beagle Club, on Sleepy Hollow Road in Richmond, will be holding its Annual Rabbit Hunt next Saturday.  Entrance fee is $10 per person and that includes a dinner.  Weigh-in by 4:00 PM.  Contact John Demary if you wish to enter and/or donate some raffle prizes.  Prizes go for the largest cottontail and snowshoe rabbit.  No hunting is allowed on the Beagle Club grounds. *****

The Lee Sportsmen’s Association (LSA) adult archery league starts on Thursday, January 15 at 6:00 PM and runs for 8 weeks.  For additional information call Mary Smith (413) 243-2710.  The LSA’s next pistol course will be held on Monday, January 12 and Monday, January 19 from 5:30 to 9:30 PM.  For additional information call Larry Karlquist (413) 442-7807.