Bear/human contact reported in South County

At the August 22, 2017 Mass Fish & Wildlife Board Meeting at The Stationery Factory in Dalton, MA, Environmental Police Officer Captain Tony Abdal-Khabir and DFW Western District Supervisor Andrew Madden reported on a bear/human contact. It occurred on August 21 in New Marlborough. A large bear was tearing apart a peach tree and the owner (who we shall call the reporting party) tried to chase it away. The bear closed the distance of about 38 feet and clawed his forearm.
He called 911 and soon local police and EMS were the on the scene. Shortly thereafter Lt. Carlow of the Environmental Police arrived, then Madden and after him additional environmental Police. According to Madden, the abrasions were superficial with light injuries. The reporting party received treatment at the scene. Because the wounds were so light and superficial, Madden felt that it wasn’t a true attack or an intent to harm him necessarily but rather an intent to bluff him.
Madden and EPO Carlow spent time walking around the property looking for the bear but didn’t find it or any sign of it. Based upon the description it was likely a male and it could have been miles away by then. The reporting party was satisfied with that and in Madden’s opinion was ok with that situation. They advised him of his Section 37 rights (right to protect himself and his property from wildlife) and moved on from there. The reporting party has had encounters with bears before. He is a bear hunter and had taken one during last year’s bear hunting season. He was well versed with bear identification and said it was a large bear. Madden had no doubt that where he lives, who he is and his experience, it was a large bear.
According to EPO Captain Abdal-Khabir, the takeaway is that they had a successful deployment using bear protocol which they have been working on. They had rapid response by both agencies and were able to operate within the parameters set forth. The end result is that they did not have to euthanize the bear.
The reporting party, even though he had a minor contact, was so lucky, said Adam-Khabir. Even a small yearling can do considerable damage at that proximity. “We must take them seriously and give them the respect they deserve”, said Madden.
At the same Board Meeting, Madden reported that they have initiated a bear collaring program here in the Western District. Their intended goal was to trap 2 or possibly 3 sows and put radio collars on them. In actuality, they captured 18 bears which included 6 sows. Of the 6 captured, they lost contact with one due to a collar mechanical failure and another one that was killed by a resident after it killed some chickens. They are down to 4 sows now but still beyond their expectations.
He commented on the number of large bears that were caught. They trapped 2 bears that were well over 400lbs and another over 300lbs and that was in the spring when they were coming off of hibernation and hadn’t had a chance to fatten up yet. They also had a couple on film that exceeded those 400lbs bears, so there are 500lbs bears out there.
He commented that the towns where they have the most bear complaints are in towns like Stockbridge, Monterey and Otis where there is a huge influx of people in the summertime, with summer camps, second homeowners, etc. and bears are active at that time searching for food.
Madden gave an update on some bears that were considerably under nourished and underweight which were found in the spring. (Some weighed less than 20 lbs and one only weighed 9 lbs.) It was a phenomenon that was also reported in VT and NH. He said that 2 were left in place as there was no public safety concern. They had to move two of them, one was hanging over Rte 9 in Cummington, MA that was creating a public situation and the other one was inside a garage. They removed it and brought it to Tufts University Wildlife Clinic for 2 weeks and then relocated it. They had no answer as to what caused their underweight conditions, perhaps a bad drought the year before.
Incidentally, the First Season of black bear hunting opens on September 5 and runs to September 23. A permit is required. If you take a bear with an ear tag or radio collar, contact DFW’s Field Headquarters (508)389-6300 immediately. You will be asked for information that will help biologists determine the source and status of these animals and you will be asked to return the equipment to MassWildlife
Duck Hunting Opening Day Change
If any Berkshire hunters are planning their usual opening day duck hunt on Columbus Day, please take note. This year the Fish & Wildlife Board changed the opening day to one day later, October 10. This change was the result of sportsmen answering questionnaires which were sent out by MassWildlife. Not to worry, they say, hunters will still have the same number of duck hunting days. They added another day at the end of the season ….. December 25! I thought you would like to know so that you have time to try to get October 10 off from work or school.
Community Celebration Day
The Berkshire Natural Resources Council (The Landkeepers) wants you to help them celebrate its 50th anniversary by attending its Community Celebration Day on September 9 at Holiday Farm, 100 Holiday Cottage Rd., Dalton, MA from 10am to 4pm.
There will be hay rides, guided hikes, archery, fishing, birds of prey and music. While registration is not required, they ask that you please consider letting them know if you’ll attend by reserving a free ticket by contacting Mackenzie Greer at the BNRC website.

Think you know all of the freshwater fishes in Massachusetts?

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Local turkey hunter is an inspiration to us all


On the last Friday of this year’s Spring Turkey Hunting Season, Zach Porio, of Adams, went hunting for toms. Normally, he hunts with friends Richard Frew or Nick Chenail but they couldn’t go with him that day. So, he went with his usual partner, his trusty black lab Roxanne. He likes to take her for she is quiet and in case he falls out of his wheelchair or stand, he can send her for help. (In case you didn’t notice from the photograph, Zach is a quadriplegic. That was the result of a motorcycle accident he had in 2012.)
It had rained the night before but this day was turning out to be a nice one. The only thing he had to worry about was the tires of his wheelchair getting stuck in the mud.
Dave Willette, author of Coyote Wars and columnist for the Northwest Sporting Journal wrote about that day in his August 2017, Mass Wanderings column, entitled, “Determination and Desire Personified”, and much of the following is derived from it.
“Zach couldn’t get into his normal spots that morning so he tried a new place where he had permission to hunt. It’s a real challenge for Zach to find suitable places to hunt as he has to take into consideration what his limitations are, especially if there is a slope of any kind and if it’s wet. He has to know that there are birds around there because he can’t do any scouting. He usually hunts out of his wheelchair, but if he has to use his truck, he has to be sure not to trample the farmers’ hay.
On this day, Zach drove his custom truck to the edge of the farmer’s field and backed out 30 yards to drop the turkey decoys out of the truck window. He then drove back to the edge and watched for birds by looking through his rear- view mirrors.
An hour after daylight ten or so turkeys popped out of the hedgerow 400 yards away so Zach started calling with his box call. By 10:00am, the birds had gotten within 200 yards and soon two jakes broke off and came within 50 yards. When Zach started to turn a little, they saw him and ran off. He then got into a better position.
He can’t sweat like he used to due to his injuries and he got very hot sitting in the truck. Around 11:00am, he was getting ready to quit, but before doing so, he decided to try his new turkey call. He got a response! Zach slowly turned to see two toms about 20 yards from the decoys but the bigger one detected him and decided to bail. He shot the second one with his .20 gauge shotgun and “it dropped like a stone”.
Because Zach only has partial use of his upper extremities, he had to pull the trigger with both hands while supporting the gun on his knees. He then had to drive his truck closer, grab a rope, get into his wheelchair and push it 20 yards over a meadow to retrieve his turkey. (He doesn’t have a motorized wheelchair). He had to bend over, tie the turkey by its feet, push himself back upright, put the rope into his mouth and drag it to the truck while pushing his wheelchair. (That bird weighed over 12 lbs!). “I was exhausted by the time I got back into the truck”, he said.
Zach, who is married (to Samantha) and has two children, is quite a guy. He hunts other birds and animals, too, including bears.
He felt funny about relaying this story. He prefers to keep stuff like that to himself. It wasn’t until I stressed upon him that he is such an inspiration to all of us, especially to others who are battling physical disabilities, that he relented.
Many thanks to Dave Willette for providing much of the above information. Incidentally, you may want to check out the Northwoods Sporting Journal. It is an excellent outdoor sporting magazine which focusses mainly on northern New England.
Lobsterfest
The Friends of the Berkshire Hatchery Fund Raiser Lobsterfest will be held next Sunday afternoon, August 20 from 2 to 5pm, at the Hatchery at 240 Hatchery Road, Hartsville, MA. This event supports the programs and scholarships that the Foundation provides. The full lobster dinner, which will be catered by Other Brother Daryl’s, costs $65 pp. Tickets can be obtained by calling (413)528-9761.
Basic Hunter Education Courses
All first-time hunters who wish to purchase a Massachusetts hunting or sporting license must complete a Basic Hunter Education course. One will be taught at the Lee Sportsmen’s Club, 565 Fairview Street, Lee, on August 21 and September 9. The times are 6:00 to 9:30pm on August 21 and 8:00 am to 2:30 pm on August 19. Participants must attend all class dates and times to successfully complete the course. To enroll, call (508)389-7830.

Young Adult Pheasant Hunt
Hunter Education graduates aged 12–17 can participate in the Young Adult Pheasant Hunt. The program involves shooting instruction and practice, a pre-hunt workshop, and a mentored hunt prior to the regular pheasant season. All young adults between the ages 15 and 17 will need a hunting license and FID card to participate in this program.
This hunt takes place on Saturdays in September and October; specific dates vary and are determined by participating sportsman’s clubs. For more information and to view participating clubs, visit the MassWildlife website or contact Astrid Huseby by email at astrid.huseby@state.ma.us.
F&W Board
The August meeting of the Massachusetts Fisheries and Wildlife Board will be held on Tuesday, August 22, at 1:00 pm, at the Stationery Factory, 63 Flansburg Avenue, Dalton, MA.

 

Massachusetts has a new state record Bowfin

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

In fact, 2015 was the year that she won the Youth Catch & Keep Angler of the Year. She won the award by catching the following “pin” fish: Bowfin out of the Taunton River, Taunton; Brook Trout, Hamblin Pond, Barnstable; Brown Trout, Grews Pond, Falmouth; Brown Trout, Long Pond, Plymouth; Bullhead, Snipatuit Pond, Rochester; Carp, Housatonic River, Lee; Carp, Charles River, Dedham; Chain Pickerel, Snake Pond, Sandwich; Crappie, Long Pond, Lakeville; Landlocked Salmon, Wachusett Reservoir, West Boylston; Largemouth Bass, Chartley Pond, Norton; Rainbow Trout, Cliff Pond, Brewster; Smallmouth Bass, Flax Pond, Brewster; Sunfish, Little Pond, Plymouth; Sunfish (another gold pin fish), Coonamessett Pond, Falmouth; Tiger Trout, Long Pond, Plymouth; White Perch, Snipatuit Pond, Rochester and Yellow Perch, out of Monponsett Pond, Halifax. Quite an accomplishment for a 14-year old kid. Tauri said that she has been fishing with her dad since she was a little girl.
So, you never heard of a Bowfin? Well, it’s a primitive fish in the Gar family. They go by other names such as, Dogfish, Grinnel, and Mud Fish. They are easily identifiable with a single dorsal fin that runs from mid body to the tail, large head, sharp teeth, two barbells projecting anteriorly from its nose, and a black spot near its round tail. They average from 1 to 5 lbs and 15 to 25 inches in length. The world record is 21 ½ lbs. They breathe under water through their gills, and breathe on the surface with their gas bladders. They are very aggressive weedy predators. They are considered rough fish and not recommended for the table, but perhaps you can smoke them.
According to Alan Richmond from the biology department of UMASS, only one species of the family Amiidae has survived over the millions of years and that is this one, the (Amia calva). They are native to the Mississippi River watershed but were first noticed in the Connecticut River drainage in the 1980’s. Now it lives mainly in the Connecticut and Taunton river drainage systems, although they have been caught right here in the backwaters of Onota Lake in Pittsfield. In fact, the first year that I began writing this column, I featured this fish in my May 9, 2004 column. John Valentine of Pittsfield a caught a 28-inch Bowfin out of Onota Lake. At that time, the DFW did not consider it a sportfish and recommended that you not release it back into the waters because it is not native to this area. They didn’t want them to spread in our local lakes and compete with our native fish. We can only speculate how these fish got into our waters, but some say they may have been the result of accidentally getting in with live bait that is imported from the south.
Catch & Release validated
Remember my July 23, 2017 article about 12-year old Nina from Queens, NY who caught that big bass in Ashmere Lake? If you recall, she was fishing with her 10-year old cousin Gage at Dave and Maggie Bimbane’s cottage on July 4 weekend when she caught the 18 inch, 2.5 lbs largemouth bass which was living under a boat dock. After catching and photographing it she released it.
Well, don’t you know, young Gage also caught an 18 inch, 2.5 lbs bass from under that same dock on July 26. According to grandparents Dave and Maggie, he remained calm and collected, in spite of the fact that his fishing pole was bent under that dock. After catching and also releasing the fish, Gage said, “Oh, I think I’m done for a while”.
Dave and Maggie feel that the same fish was caught by both children……and so do I. That being the case, what better testimony for the concept of Catch & Release than this. If you are not going to mount or eat your catch, then release it and let someone else experience the excitement and joy that you got when you caught it.
Young Gage may not realize it now, but he sure owes his cousin Nina a huge thank you.
Questions/comments: Berkwoodsandwaters@roadrunner.com. Phone: (413) 637-1818.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Kids fishing with little fish sometimes catch lunkers

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Questions/comments: Berkwoodsandwaters@roadrunner.com

Meet your new Fish and Game Commissioner

Ron Amidon of Templeton has recently been appointed by Governor Charlie Baker as the new Commissioner of the Department of Fish & Game (DFG). He replaced former Commissioner George N. Peterson, Jr. who decided to step down and spend more time with his family. The DFG oversees the Commonwealth’s marine and freshwater fisheries, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, plants, all endangered species, and the habitats that support them.
Amidon, whose career has been in large scale construction management, has spent over 30 years actively involved in the Commonwealth’s sporting community. He has served as the President of the Otter River Sportsmen’s Club, Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Worcester County League of Sportsmen’s Clubs, President of the Gun Owners Action League, and Moderator of the Massachusetts Conservation Alliance. He is also heavily involved with Ducks Unlimited and Trout Unlimited and has a strong interest in identifying cold water habitats for trout, protecting wildlife habitat and supporting restoration of upland bird habitat. He is known and respected across the state as a staunch defender and protector of our outdoor sports heritage.
I have the good fortune to be able to call Ron a friend. I first met Ron and his wife Rena a few years back while camped along the banks of the East Branch of the Westfield River in Chesterfield. My wife Jan and I met and took an immediate liking to them. Through conversations, it didn’t take long to learn that Ron is a staunch defender of our hunting and fishing heritage and protector of the environment. He doesn’t just talk about these issues but takes action as witnessed by his commitments listed above.
He’s not a bad fisherman either as the attached picture shows. That wild brook trout, which he caught on a fly rod and quickly released, weighed more than 7 3/4 lbs. The picture was taken while Ron and a group of anglers fished the Minipi River system in Labrador last year. Local Attorney Michael Shepard of Dalton and I were in that group.
You get to know a guy that you share a lodge with in the middle of God’s Country. In the early twilight hours, sipping a steaming cup of coffee, while waiting for the guides to wake up, Ron and several of us would discuss hunting and fishing issues of the day. Having gotten to know Ron better, I can’t think of a more qualified person to head up the DFG.
In stepping down, Peterson, who had served as Commissioner since February of 2015 said, “I am very grateful to Governor Baker for giving me the opportunity to serve as Commissioner of the Department of Fish and Game. I will cherish the time I spent working directly with the professional staff on the issues I deeply care about—habitat conservation, fisheries management, ecological restoration, and enhancement of public access to the Bay State’s wildlife, lands and waters, and outdoor activities such as fishing and hunting.”
Prior to his appointment as Commissioner, Peterson had served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives for 20 years, representing the 9th Worcester District, and was the Assistant Minority Leader when he left the House of Representatives. He is an avid recreational fisherman and hunter. He is also a U.S. Army veteran.
Outdoor sportsmen could always count on Representative Peterson to support and promote their causes on Beacon Hill and were very appreciative of his accomplishments as the Commissioner. While Commissioner, he came out here to the Berkshires on numerous occasions to attend various functions and was on a first name basis with many of us. I’m sure you will join me in thanking him for his service in our military, in our House of Representatives and as F&W Commissioner and wish him the best in the future.
HVA Paddle Trip
On Tuesday, July 18, the Housatonic Valley Association will have a Beginners’ Paddle Trip from 4:30 to 7:00pm. There will be a free introduction to canoeing on a flatwater stretch of the Housatonic River in Glendale. Instruction will be provided by a certified instructor and canoes and equipment will be provided. Learn how to safely enter and exit a canoe, the basic strokes and how to steer. Program support is provided by Housatonic Heritage. Preregistration required. More information provided upon registering. Call HVA at 413-298-7024 or email adixon@hvatoday.

Report Fish Kills This Summer
With the warming up of our lakes and ponds, fish kills may occur. The sight of dead and dying fish along the shores of a favorite pond or river can be distressing and can prompt concerns about pollution. However, according to MassWildlife, the vast majority of summer fish kills reported are natural events.
Natural fish kills are generally the result of low oxygen levels, fish diseases, or spawning stress. Depletion of dissolved oxygen is one of the most common causes of natural fish kills. Water holds less dissolved oxygen at higher temperatures; in shallow, weedy ponds oxygen can be especially low as plants consume oxygen at night. Spawning of fish such as Sunfish and Largemouth Bass in late spring and early summer occurs in shallow waters along the shores. These densely crowded spawning areas become susceptible to disease outbreaks, especially as water temperatures increase. The result is an unavoidable natural fish kill, usually consisting of only one or two species of fish.
To be sure there isn’t a pollution problem, it’s always best to report fish kills (Environmental Police 1(800) 632-8075). A MassWildlife fisheries biologist will determine if the kill is a natural event or the result of pollution. When pollution is the suspected culprit, MassWildlife notifies the Department of Environmental Protection, who then conducts a formal investigation of the water and affected fish to determine the source of pollution.