No telling what you may catch while ice fishing

 

Sometimes you might hook onto weird stuff while ice fishing such an old boot or something from the bottom of the lake. Why, just a week or so ago, a buddy of mine pulled in a beer can. Somehow, his fishing line and hook wrapped around it. Hmmm, wonder how that happened.

Sunday, February 4 was a nice sunny day and Cory Walton of Hinsdale was out with his buddies ice fishing on Plunkett Lake in Hinsdale, MA. They had set up about 25 yards from the shoreline. Around 9:30 AM they saw a critter resembling a weasel along the shoreline near where some ice had buckled up. They didn’t pay too much attention to it, and were just enjoying the day.

Around 1:00 PM, Cory’s tip-up flag went up and he went to attend to it. As he was approaching it, he could see the tip-up shaking in the hole, a good indication that a sizeable fish was on the end of the line. When he got to the hole and checked his tip-up, he saw that all of the line was stripped from the reel, except where the line was tied to it. He set the hook and started hauling in the fish. Whatever was on the end of his line under the ice didn’t fight like a fish, but it was moving. When he started to pull it through the hole, he was shocked to see an angry river otter. Cory got it half way out of the hole, but it braced itself on the ice with its two front legs and refused to be pulled out of the hole.

The guys were all surprised and started hooting and yelling. The otter made a fierce spin, shook the hook and slipped back into the hole. After it got loose, the guys checked all around the hole for blood to see if it had been hurt. Fortunately, there was no signs of blood or other bodily damages.

Cory said that there was no open water anywhere for the otter to get into the lake and under the ice except for that buckled ice near the shoreline. Between that area and his tip-up there was no open water. Somehow it got into the water, swam under the ice to his live bait and took it. Presumably it had swum up from the Housatonic River in the Hinsdale Flats area, up Frissel Brook and into Plunkett Lake.

Well, fishermen have been known to stretch the truth a tad and I was a little skeptical after hearing this fishy story. It certainly was a classic requiring some imagination. Well, the skepticism disappeared when I actually saw a video of the event which was posted on Facebook by Cory’s buddy Justin Russell. Nope, this was definitely not fake news. Hmmm, I wonder if there is a State freshwater fishing award for otters.

 

The 32nd annual Jimmy Fund Ice Fishing Derby, which was held on Sunday, February 11 at Onota Lake was another success. In spite of the rainy weather, a nice crowd participated. The winners were:

Kids 12+ under
Caesen Kendall, 3.9 lbs Brown Trout
Dominic Curtin, 3 lbs Pickerel*
Miranda Dygun, 1.2 lbs Pickerel

*It’s interesting that Dominic Curtin’s mother, Eden Curtin, won this event when she was a child. According to Steve Bateman, she won it in 1995 or 1996 by catching a large Atlantic salmon. Its nice to see such traditions being passed on from generation to generation.

Young Adult 13-17
Rick Armstrong, 3.2 lbs Pickerel
Ben Mancini, 1.4 lbs Pickerel
Colby Gray 1.0 Lbs Brown Trout

Adults 18+
Eric Moser, 8.8 lbs Pike
Todd Wich, 6.2 lbs Pike
Ralph Wendling 5.0 lbs Pike

Congratulations to all.

The 13th annual Tom Wren Memorial Ice Fishing Derby will be held on Saturday February 24 from 6AM to 3 PM on Pontoosuc Lake in Pittsfield. Sign- ins will be in the marked gray camper shanty just on the ice off the public right away at Narragansett Park in Lanesboro. The gray camper shanty will have a big banner marking it. The cost is: Adults – $10 and children – $5. All cash brought in will be paid out in prizes. Prizes will be awarded for the top three heaviest fish in both adult and children’s categories. Final weigh is at 3 PM at the sign-in station. Participants are asked to please bring a big pail or something to transport the fish to weigh-in and ensure a healthy release.

Firearms safety course

A live fire NRA & Massachusetts State Police Certified Firearms Safety Course will be held on Saturday February 24th at the Cheshire Rod & Gun Club in Cheshire, MA. This is to qualify MA residents and non- residents alike for the MA License -To- Carry or FID Card. This will be a hands-on live firing, one day course. A full lunch will be provided and a $10 gift certificate to Pete’s Gun Shop. The cost is $100 which covers all ammo, safety gear, class materials, certificates, a hardcover NRA textbook and food. It runs from 9AM to about 4:30PM. Be there by 8:45 AM to sign in. Interested parties are asked to pre-register by calling or stopping in at Pete’s Gun Shop at 413-743-0780.

The Massachusetts LTC is now recognized for concealed carry in 29 states including:
Arizona, Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

This list is constantly being added to. Check with Pete’s periodically for new additions. Residents of Vermont can get the MA Non-Resident LTC by taking this course, and if National Reciprocity passes they can then take advantage of it.

Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Banquet
The Bay State Chapter of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is having a banquet on Saturday, February 24 at the Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club. Even if you don’t hunt elk, it is a social evening of fun, great food and camaraderie all for the benefit of elk country. Peter DelGrande’s famous Herb-crusted Boneless Prime Rib and Chicken Marsala Buffet is reason enough to attend.

Prizes include incredible firearms and bows, premium hunts, trips and adventures, limited edition art, handcrafted pottery and home furnishings, custom jewelry, and much more. Tickets are limited, and cost: Single Attendee – Includes 1 Meal & 1 Supporting Membership – $70.00, Couple Attendee – Includes 2 Meals & 1 Supporting Membership – $105.00. Doors open at 5:00pm. Call Gary D. Johnston at (413) 298-3623 for more information.

The 35th Annual Springfield Sportsmen’s Show

The show take place at the Eastern States Exposition (Big E) 1305 Memorial Ave., West Springfield, MA) on February 23 through 25. The show includes the best of hunting, fishing, boating and adventure recreation. The show hours are Friday from noon to 8 PM, Saturday 9 AM to 7 PM and Sunday 10 AM to 5 PM. Admission: Adults – $14, kids 6 to 12 $5 and under 6 Free.
The aisles will be filled with everything you need to enhance your sportsmen’s lifestyle. From all new hunting and fishing gear to special items like trip packages to exotic destinations
World renowned big game hunter and TV star, Dick Scorzafava will present his well-known Radical Hunting Success Seminar, sign books for his many fans and give away thousands of dollars worth of hunting gear in Dick’s Big Gear Giveaway.
Kids will see all of Bwana Jim’s favorite critters in person from alligators to snakes. In this entertaining and educational program, Bwana Jim will introduce you to an extensive array of animals and teach you all about how they live in the wild
David Pickering, the “Carp King,” is the go to expert when it comes to carp fishing. In his seminar, “Targeting Large Carp,” Dave will discuss strategies and various topics related to fishing for trophy carp.
Cory de Sousa was chosen by Tom Miranda to join the Elite Pro Staff of Mathew’s Dominant Bucks TV. His hunts have been filmed and they can be seen on Mathew’s Dominant Bucks TV as well as on Whitetail Slam TV. He is being recognized for his many years of experience and impressive success in the woods.
Paul Sannicandro of Moose Woods Guide Service will explain the principles of compass navigation. In addition, Paul will cover the importance of understanding the difference between magnetic north and true north as well as explaining the process of setting the declination for your compass.
Joe Judd, will be presenting a turkey hunting seminar. Joe is an award-winning turkey caller who has over 35 years of hunting experience to his credit. This highly regarded expert is a member of the Quaker Boy Pro Staff and he is also a member of the hunting Pro Staff for Alpen Optics. In 2013, Joe was the recipient of the prestigious Roger Latham Award presented by the National Wild Turkey Federation. A National Honor, this is the highest commendation given to a volunteer member by the NWTF.
Representatives from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will be at the show to meet with military veterans and their family members to assist them with connecting with VA benefits. Eligible Veterans can sign up for VA health care at the show.
The Big Buck Display which is put on by the Northeast Big Buck Club will be there. The Big Buck Club is a non-profit organization dedicated to Northeast hunters and outdoorsmen. Each year, hundreds of volunteers measure trophy bucks from MA, CT, VT, RI, ME, NH, NY and PA.
There is so much more to see at the show.

Its ice fishing time, but be careful

 

Many outdoor enthusiasts are taking to the ice now that we are in mid winter. There are several ice fishing derbies taking place this and the next few weekends. Due to the warmth, last year’s season ended early and many ice fishermen felt short-changed. They were stuck with a lot of deer meat that they had intended to cook out on the ice.

This year has been another funny one with hard freeze – rain and thaw – hard freeze – rain, etc. The last forecast that I saw for this weekend was rain. Listed are some of the ice fishing derbies scheduled to take place in February, but as the dates near, perhaps you should check with the derby organizers just to be sure that none of them were cancelled due to ice conditions.

Upcoming Derbies

The Ashfield Rod & Gun Club’s Annual Youth Ice Fishing Derby will take place on Saturday, February 10 from 8 AM to 12 PM. New this year, there will be a 3 tip-up/hook limit due to the lake drawdown. Prizes will be awarded for all legally caught fish checked in at headquarters (The Ashfield Lake House). After the derby, a spaghetti dinner will be held at Sanderson Academy. There will be a $5 charge for adults, free for kids. Following the dinner, MassWildlife Western District Biologist Nathan Buckhout will be giving a presentation at the academy. For additional derby information, contact Joe Miraglia at (413) 628-4400.

The 32nd annual Jimmy Fund Ice Fishing Derby will take place on Onota Lake on Sunday, February 11. This derby is in memory of Bill “Geli” Gelinas, John Porter, Chris Porter, Cathy Saldo and John Drury. It will run from 6 AM to 2 PM. Tickets cost $15 for adults and $5 for kids and they are available in advance at the Onota Boat Livery on Pecks Road (413) 443-1366, and Maces Marine on Valentine Road, Pittsfield (413) 447-7512 or on the day of the derby at the Frank Controy Pavilion at Burbank Park on Onota Lake. Three divisions of trophies and prizes and plenty of good food.

The Lee Sportsmen’s Association will be holding its Ice Fishing Derby also on February 11 from 6 AM to 2 PM on Goose Pond. Check/weigh in will be at the shanty. Cost is $10 for adults and $6 for kids 12 and under. The adult winner of the heaviest fish will receive $100, and kids will win various prizes. There will be a spaghetti dinner at the LSA clubhouse afterwards. For more information, contact John Polastry at (413)822-8278.

On February 18, the Cheshire Rod & Gun Club will be holding its annual ice fishing derby on the 1st and 2nd Hoosac Lakes (Cheshire Lake) from sunrise to 4 PM. Weigh in will be at Farnams Causeway. An Eskimo Propane Auger ($500 value) will be awarded to the heaviest ticket holder fish. There will be youth fun prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd places. Prizes and refreshments at 5 PM at the Club House. Kids 14 and under free with adult ticket. For more information, contact Corey McGrath at (413)841-5070.

If ice fishing derbies don’t appeal to you, perhaps you would prefer doing a family ice fishing day such as that held by the Kinneys of Dalton. As my wife Jan and I approached them on Ashmere Lake in Hinsdale last Sunday, we were delighted to see kids were having fun playing out on the ice and catching fish. It was nice seeing kids outdoors and not sitting home playing computer games. Grandpa and the dads set up along an undeveloped shoreline, something becoming more and more rare these days. In the old days, there was no problem finding such places, but now much of our lake shorelines are developed and have “No Trespassing” signs.

As we neared, we could hear the crackling sound and smell of burning wood from a small bonfire that was made with wood that they brought with them in their sled and dead wood and sticks found on the nearby forest floor. No saws were seen there, nor propane tanks nor hibachis on which to cook their food. Just like the old days, the food was simple and easy to prepare……hot dogs on a wooden spit over the open fire. I suspect that gramps Lawrence “Chip” Kinney had something to do with that, for surely, he remembers those old ice fishing days, too.

Boy! Did that bring back memories. After gabbing with them for a while, and admiring pictures of the nice fish that the kids had caught and released, Jan and I (and Jacques our beagle) left them. But that sight and memories still lingered in my mind and after some urging from Jan, I went back to take their picture and get their names.

If you closely observe the picture, you will see the bonfire with pieces of old logs and branches burning away. Now I ask you old timers, does that bring back fond memories?

Fundraiser for pheasants

There will be a turkey shoot at the Lee Sportsmen’s Association today starting at 1:00 PM and following that there will be a venison stew and spaghetti dinner at the Club. The cost is $15 for adults and $7 for kids under 12 years old. The proceeds of these events will be used to raise pheasants to be stocked on lands for the general public to hunt. Contact John Polastri for more information.

Incidentally, the LSA is the only Berkshire County sportsmen’s club that raises and stocks pheasants and only one of two clubs in Western Mass that does so.

Basic Hunter Education Course

There will be a basic hunter education course held at the Pittsfield High School, 300 East Street, Pittsfield, Massachusetts on: March 6, 8, 13, 15, 20 and 22 (all Tuesday and Thursday evenings), from 6:00 to 9:00 PM. You must attend all class dates and times to successfully complete the course. If you are interested in this course and wish to enroll, call (508) 389-7830 immediately; students are enrolled first-come, first-served, and courses fill quickly.

Fly Tying

Henry Sweren, president of the Taconic Chapter of Trout Unlimited, recently announced that free Winter Fly Tying Sunday Afternoon events will be held at Berkshire Hills Country Club from Noon to 3 PM on February 11, 18 and March 4h and 18. For more information, contact Henry at (413) 822-5216.

Regulations Prohibiting Bump Stocks and Trigger Cranks

If you hold a Massachusetts firearms license or firearms identification card, you should have or will be receiving a notice from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security. Section 52 of Chapter 110 of the Acts of 2017 directs them to inform you that bump stocks and trigger cranks are illegal in Massachusetts. Section 53 of Chapter 110 provides the changes that will take effect in two stages: Effective immediately upon its signing, the new law prohibited the purchase, sale or offering for sale of trigger cranks or bump stocks. Effective February 1, 2018, the new law will prohibit possession of bump stocks or trigger cranks, including possession in a private home. There are no exceptions to this prohibition for licensed firearm owners; an FID card, a License to Carry or even a license to possess a machine gun will not authorize possession of a bump stock or trigger crank.

Because the law does not allow for transfer or sale of these prohibited items, if you currently possess one of them within Massachusetts, you should contact your local police department or Massachusetts State Police to get details about how to transfer custody of the prohibited item to the police for destruction. Retention of such a prohibited item beyond the 90-day period will expose the owner to criminal prosecution.

I think most gun owners know why this new regulation came about (Las Vegas shooting) and should have been expecting it.

If you did not receive this notice, you may have a problem on your hands. If you have moved, Massachusetts General Law Chapter 140, section 131(l) states: Any licensee shall notify, in writing, the licensing authority who issued such license, the chief of police into whose jurisdiction the licensee moves and the executive director of the criminal history systems board of any change of address. Such notification shall be made by certified mail within 30 days of its occurrence. Failure to so notify shall be cause for revocation or suspension of said license.
Good luck!

 

Outdoor artistic/writing opportunities available for youngsters

Junior Duck Stamp Contest: “There is still time to enter the Massachusetts Junior Duck Stamp (JDS) contest,” advises MassWildlife’s Wildlife Education Specialist Pam Landry. “Any student, from kindergarten through grade 12, regardless of whether they attend public or private school or are home-schooled, can submit original artwork in this fun and educational competition. Even if students do not enter the art competition, the related information can serve as a valuable resource in art or science classrooms.” The entry deadline is February 15, 2018.
The JDS program links the study of wetlands and waterfowl conservation with the creation of original artwork. Students in grades K-12 learn about the habitat requirements of various kinds of ducks and geese and then express their knowledge of the beauty, diversity, and interdependence of these species artistically, by creating a drawing or painting which can be submitted to the JDS art contest. The art is judged in four age group categories in a statewide competition; the entry judged Best of Show moves on to represent Massachusetts in the national JDS competition. Art teachers, science teachers, and parents who home-school can visit its website for an information packet and entry information.
For more information, contact Pam Landry at (508) 389-6310, or pam.landry@state.ma.us.

New England Outdoor Writers Association outdoor writing contest: NEOWA recently announced its 6th annual Youth Outdoor Writing Contest. The rules for the contest are as follows:

1. The contest is open to students in New England. Submissions from students in grades 6-8 will be entered in the Junior Division; grades 9-12 will be entered in the Senior Division.

2. The topic must be outdoor-oriented (fishing, hunting, boating, canoeing, hiking, camping, nature, ecology, etc.). Any prose or poetic form is acceptable.

3. First, second, third and two honorable mentions will be chosen in both the junior and senior divisions. Winners will receive certificates and cash prizes. First place $150, second $100, third $50, honorable mention $25.

4. The written work should not exceed 500 words. Entrants must submit by mail, three legible 8½ x 11 copies of his or her work with a title of the entry and the author’s name. The entrant must also include a cover sheet including name, age, address, telephone, e-mail and grade in school. One copy of the entry must also be sent by email.

5. The deadline for mailing contest entries is Feb. 15, 2018. Mail entries to Youth Writing Contest, c/o Randy Julius, 487 Central St., East Bridgewater, MA 02333.
Email: randyjulius19@gmail.com Phone 508-378-2290, 508-642-2997.

NEOWA will announce the contest winners during spring 2018.
Don’t feed the deer
A message from MassWildlife: Although well-intentioned, people who feed deer in the winter may not understand the negative unintended consequences of this seemingly benign activity.
A host of microorganisms (bacteria, protozoa and fungi) and enzymes in the deer’s digestive system enables the breakdown of plant material into a form that allows for proper digestion and nutrient absorption. The composition of this digestive microflora actually changes during the year to help deer digest the different types of seasonally available foods. As warm weather foods, such as green, soft vegetation, die off in the fall, deer gradually shift to browse, woody plant material such as twigs and buds. Accordingly, the deer’s digestive microflora slowly adjusts to this dietary change over a period of weeks.
During the winter months, if abrupt changes in diet occur with introduced high carbohydrate foods like corn, apples, and deer pellets, it can disrupt the deer’s stomach chemistry, triggering bloat, diarrhea, damage to the rumen (the first of four stomach chambers), and even death. High levels of lactic acid produced as a by-product of the carbo hydrate-digesting bacteria overwhelm other microflora, reduce the rumen’s pH (rumen acidosis), and damage the rumen lining. This lactic acid can also be absorbed into the bloodstream and can rise to potentially fatal levels.
Even if a deer survives the initial issues, damage to the rumen lining can be permanent, potentially leading to future digestive problems. Feeding deer can also cause deer to congregate in larger numbers, increasing disease transmission risks, and causing deer to adjust travel patterns that increase vehicle collision risk.
A healthier, safer way to support deer through particularly rough winters is to improve existing natural habitat. Creating areas of young hardwood and shrub-dominated understory forests (e.g., recently cut), especially near coniferous covers of hemlocks, pines and firs, is very beneficial. In locales where deer numbers are much higher than what the natural habitat can support (evidenced by over-browsing), opening large blocks of land to regulated hunting can reduce deer densities, benefiting the remaining deer and the local ecosystem.
Private landowners, land trusts, and cities and towns can provide winter food and cover for deer and other wildlife by including selective forest cutting in their habitat management plans.
Basic Hunter Education Course

All first-time hunters who wish to purchase a Massachusetts hunting or sporting license must complete a Basic Hunter Education course. The Basic Hunter Education 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.

A Basic Hunter Education Course will be taught at the Cheshire Rod and Gun Club, 310 Curran Road, Cheshire, MA, on February 12, 16, 19, 23, 26 and March 2, 2018, from 6 PM to 9 PM for all 6 evenings. You must attend all class dates and times to successfully complete the course.
If you are interested in this course and wish to enroll, call (508) 389-7830.
Firearms safety courses
The Lenox Sportsmen’s Club is having a License-to-Carry / UTAH firearms course on Saturday, January 28 from 12:00 to 4:00 PM. It is a Massachusetts State Police Compliant course. The cost is $70 for LTC, $125 for UTAH and $150 for both. Preregistration required. Contact Tom Nadolny at (413)822-6451 or tnadolny1@gmail.com or Dennis Leydet at (413)329-7081 or djleydet@gmail.com.
Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club News
In its most recent newsletter, the Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club announced that it has recently purchased approximately one hundred acres of land adjacent to its existing property, along the northwestern boundary. This purchase brings the total acreage to just over two hundred acres, and helps protect the Club from potential encroachments. It thanked those involved in the extended negotiation and purchase, led by its immediate past president, Wayne Slosek. Special thanks also went to its attorney and Club member Jack E. Houghton, Jr., “whose diligence and persistence” saw it through some difficult issues. Thanks were also given to the Skorput family, who were the previous owners, for their patience and generosity throughout the process, most especially Peter, who acted as point man for the family.
The Club was able to pay the cost from its treasury, but as a result, is requesting the membership to step up when paying this year’s dues by including an additional donation to help replenish it. I’m sure it wouldn’t refuse donations from non-members as well.
Incidentally, after forty years of putting out the Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club newsletter, Gary Johnston handed off the responsibility to Max Scherff, a new club member who has graciously volunteered to share his literary expertise with all members. “It has been my great pleasure to contact you over the years through this newsletter” wrote Johnston, “I have always felt that communicating with the membership about the ongoing activities at the club are vital to our continued success. I have great confidence in Max.”
Ice fishing derbies
The 40th Annual Raymond “Skip” Whalen Ice Fishing Derby will be held at Stockbridge Bowl boat ramp on Sunday, January 28 from 7 AM to 1 PM. Entry fees are as follows: Kids under 15 years old – $5 (and they all win something) , Club members and Town residents – $10, Nonmembers aged 15 and up – $15. Tickets may be purchased at Wheeler & Taylor and Berkshire Insurance Group in Stockbridge, at the Club on Saturday mornings 9 AM to noon, or on Derby Day at the Bowl only until 9 AM.

Also on January 28, the Onota Fishing Club is having an ice fishing derby on Onota Lake from 6 AM to 2 PM. There will be cash prizes for adults and kids and donuts, muffins, coffee, hot cocoa. There will be a pasta dinner afterwards. The adult entry fee is $15 and for kids under age of licenses, $5. Tickets for the dinner after the derby cost $12. Register at the Controy Pavilion.

Please note:

Any club or organization that wishes its ice fishing derbies (or any other events) mentioned in this column must get the information to me two weeks before the scheduled event. It has to be in this column the Sunday before the scheduled event and my deadline is the Wednesday before that. Thank you.

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

 

 

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.

Wildlife Habitat Improvement Grants announced

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Report Winter Fish Kills

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

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

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

Corrections

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

 

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

 

Ice Fishing Derby

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

 

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

 

 

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