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Hooks and Antlers
By Mike Seymour
Johnson Newspapers
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Hooks and Antlers

Wind, clouds, storms can affect fishing trips

First published: June 28, 2015 at 12:30 am
Last modified: June 28, 2015 at 12:06 am
BIG CATCH - Dr. David Speer, Canton, went out for a days fishing onboard Muskie Magic with his son David Jr.  Walleye & perch were caught, but most memorable was the fight from this 15 pound catfish.  

Anglers pay close attention to wind direction and velocity.

A veteran angler is most likely a weather-conscious individual who checks the forecast when planning a trip and again just prior to heading out on the water.

And there are anglers of a different electronic generation I than who actually consult up-to-date weather conditions during the fishing trip.

Anyway, while an angler might check on details such as approaching storms, cloud cover or lack thereof, odds of precipitation, air temperature, barometric pressure and more, he or she is often most interested in wind conditions because of the significant role that wind direction and wind velocity play in fishing success.

Wind Direction

Over the years, fishermen have created short verses that capture the general effect that weather, expressed in wind direction, has on fish activity and the likelihood of angler success. One such verse proclaims, “Wind out of the north, don’t leave port; wind out of the east, fish bite the least; wind out of the south, a fish opens its mouth; wind out of the west, fish bite the best.”

While these words appear to suggest that we should only go fishing when the wind blows from the west or south, my motto is to go fishing whenever I can safely do so in spite of the wind direction. Still, when the wind blows from the north or east and fish become inactive, an angler can take measures to improve the odds of getting fish at line’s end.

For example, on north- and east-wind trips, an angler might lower his expectations for number of fish caught, utilize a slower presentation, work deeper water, fish closer to bottom or cover, use live bait, try smaller lures, and expect softer bites.

Wind Velocity

Velocity is another important wind factor. When winds are too strong, they present a safety issue especially on large, open waters and on shallow lakes or shallow-water areas because of wave buildup. A wise angler follows the creed, “When in doubt, don’t go out.”

In addition to the safety issue, strong winds present other difficulties for anglers, especially in the area of boat control where winds hamper efforts to stay along a structural edge or weed line to maintain a proper speed for bait or lure presentation, or to move in a desired direction.

Strong winds also raise havoc with casting effectiveness, maintaining the all-important “feel” of lure or bait at line’s end, detecting bites, and keeping an offering at the targeted depth. Even though windless conditions may eliminate such negatives, windless days have their downside, too, as perfectly calm days allow fish to easily detect angler presence particularly in shallow water or in clear water.

Two techniques that somewhat combat windy conditions are trolling and anchoring although big waves can result in inconsistent lure presentation and an up-and-down ride when trolling, and windy conditions can make holding anchor on a precise spot an impossibility.

Strong winds do have an upside, though, as they blow organisms into the shallows where bait fish follow and where anglers will find active game fish especially if those winds blow from the west or south. Also, wind action oxygenates shallow lakes and shallow-water areas, another factor that activates fish. Windy conditions are a time, too, when larger fish feel comfortable moving about and roaming the shallows.

In essence, light or moderate winds are the most angler-friendly ones as they allow for effective boat control and effective bait or lure presentation while creating lower light conditions that tend to put fish in a more positive mood than do calm, undisturbed surface-waters.

Clouds and Storms

Cloudy, overcast days make for good fishing because of the low-light conditions and the resulting increased fish activity. Essentially, a low cloud cover creates dawn-like and dusk-light conditions throughout the day. In contrast, bluebird-colored skies and a bright sun make for tough fishing especially in clear water.

For safety reasons, strong thunderstorms are a good time to stay off the water. Also, such storms typically put fish in a negative, inactive mood even though the 24-hour period prior to the storm’s arrival offers good fishing. After a significant storm passes, it may take fish another 24 or more hours to return to normal activity levels.

Outdoors Calendar

Monday: Trap and skeet shooting, 5:30 p.m., at Lisbon Sportsmen’s Club.

Wednesday: Trap shooting, 7 p.m., at Black Lake F&G.

Saturday: Kids Free Fishing Classes (regular at 11 a.m.; fly fishing at 1:30 p.m.) at Wellesley Island State Park.

July 11: Third Annual Bob Moss Memorial Bass Derby, sponosred by Redwood United Methodist Church, at Redwood Fire Hall.

July 17-18: Clayton’s 47th Annual Decoy and Wildlife Art Show.

July 19: Ogdensburg Seaway Festival 5th Annual Sandbar Classic Fishing Derby.

July 19: Colton Youth Fishing Derby (Kevin Lamora at 262-0899).

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Bass Season Is Cause For Celebration Among Anglers

First published: June 21, 2015 at 12:54 am
Last modified: June 21, 2015 at 12:54 am

Each new fishing season is a cause for celebration, and such was the case on Saturday when area waters saw an influx of anglers with the opening of the traditional black bass season in New York state.

The Empire State’s black bass include the smallmouth and the largemouth, and the fish are likely called black bass because of their dark appearance as fry and their dark upper half as adults.

Black bass rank as America’s favorite game fish because they thrive in waters from coast to coast and because they inhabit a wide range of water types from small farm ponds to the massive Great Lakes. Also, the popularity stems from its aggressive feeding nature, susceptibility to a variety of angling presentations, and great fighting ability.

Most people don’t think of bass as sunfish, but smallmouth bass and largemouth bass are members of the sunfish family. More so than other sunfish, though, bass are pursued for sport rather than food. This sport-fishing interest stems from Ray Scott’s founding in 1968 of the Bass Anglers Sportsman’s Society (B.A.S.S.), an organization which popularized tournament fishing and catch-and-release angling.

Largemouth Bass

The largemouth bass is so named because the fish has a large mouth with the upper jaw extending beyond the eye, features resulting in such nicknames such as “bigmouth” and “bucket-mouth.” Largemouth bass have a brownish to greenish body with a dark horizontal band extending along their entire length from head to tail.

Largemouth bass favor quiet, weedy areas where the fish typically inhabit water depths from a few feet to 20 feet, and this species does particularly well in fertile waters. Though largemouth bass can tolerate water temperatures in the 80s, they are more active in 65- to 75-degree water.

Common prey includes crayfish, minnows, and small fish, especially juvenile sunfish. In clear water, largemouth bass feed primarily by sight, but when waters are murky, the fish rely on their lateral line to detect prey. More so than other sunfish species, largemouth bass are loners rather than schooling fish. Still, a number of largemouth bass may appear in the same area if that area offers quality food and cover.

Smallmouth Bass

Smallmouth bass have brownish or bronze sides with a series of dark, vertical bars, a coloration that has earned this fish the nickname of “bronzeback.” Smallmouth bass are easily distinguished from their largemouth cousin because the upper jaw extends to the middle of the eye rather than beyond the eye. As you would expect, the smallmouth bass has a smaller mouth, too.

Smallmouth bass like clear, cool, moving water with hard bottoms of gravel or rock so streams and rivers with summer temperatures in the 55- to 75-degree range offer ideal habitat. This bass favors deeper structures than does the largemouth.

As a general rule, the smallmouth bass doesn’t grow as big as the largemouth bass. Where 10 pounds is considered a big largemouth, a 5-pound smallmouth is deemed a monster. Still, smallmouths are often the more-prized species because of their fighting and leaping abilities. Many anglers claim that, pound-for-pound, the smallmouth bass is the best-fighting of all game fish.

Another attractive feature of the smallmouth is its schooling tendency. When an angler catches one fish, the odds are good that more fish are in the vicinity.

A cool-water species, the smallmouth bass preys on crayfish, minnows, and small fish such as yellow perch, and like the largemouth, the smallmouth relies on sight for feeding in clear waters and lateral line for feeding in turbid conditions.

Regulations

The statewide regulations for black bass allow for a traditional season that extends from the third Saturday in June through November 30 and a catch-and-release season that runs from December 1 through the Friday preceding the third Saturday in June. The minimum-length requirement is 12 inches and the daily limit is five bass during the traditional season while only artificial lures may be used during the catch-and-release season. Still, many area waters have regulations that vary from the statewide ones, so be sure to consult the current Regulations Guide to familiarize yourself with the regulations for whatever waters you fish.

Outdoors Calendar

Monday: Trap and Skeet Shooting at Lisbon Sportsmen’s Club at 5:30 p.m.

Wednesday: Trap shooting at Black Lake F&G at 7 p.m.

Saturday-June 28: Free Fishing Days in New York state waters.

Saturday-June 28: Clayton Lions Club Bass Tournament.

June 28: Northern New York Bassmasters Tournament at Black Lake.

July 4: Kids free fishing classes (regular at 11 a.m.; fly fishing at 1:30 p.m.) at Wellesley Island State Park.

July 17-18: Clayton’s 47th Annual Decoy and Wildlife Art Show.

July 19: Ogdensburg Seaway Festival 5th Annual Sandbar Classic Fishing Derby.

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Hooks and Antlers: Anglers can hit ‘Grand Slam’ at Lake Bryson Lodge

First published: June 14, 2015 at 12:58 am
Last modified: June 14, 2015 at 12:58 am

I love fishing trips to the Canadian “bush” so when Leo Maloney, fellow outdoors writer and fishing companion, invited me to join him on a venture to Lake Bryson Lodge in Quebec, I immediately jumped at the opportunity. Well, actually I didn’t jump until I got my wife’s approval.

Anyway, last week found us driving 165 miles northwest of Ottawa for a three-night stay at Lake Bryson Lodge and its 100 square miles of forest land dotted with 17 lakes. Anglers are attracted to the lodge because of the wilderness and because they can go for any one of four prized species and also have a legitimate chance at landing a true trophy of that species whether it be a speckled (brook) trout, walleye, lake trout, or northern pike.

FISHING AT BRYSON

While most anglers target a single or even two species here, Leo and I hoped to catch all four species and complete our so-named “Bryson Lake Grand Slam.” That goal would prove challenging, though, as we took limited tackle with us, were fishing unfamiliar waters, and, in the case of lake trout, were pursuing an unfamiliar species. Still, we were able to overcome these shortcomings because prior to each outing and based on our targeted species, owner Denis LeBrun would indicate on a map where we might fish and then suggest a technique to use.

Speckled trout proved to be our favorite species because that fishing far exceeded any brook trout action we had ever experienced. Using the traditional Adirondack technique of trolling a Lake Clear Wabbler and worm, Leo and I fished three different lakes where loons were the only other anglers and where the only sounds were the calls of those loons, the wind in the trees, and the soft purr of our electric motor.

We pursued walleyes on the 15-mile-long Lake Bryson where tossing twister-tail-tipped jigs or in-line spinners produced occasional fish during the day. The best action occurred, however, around sunset and into dark when walleyes moved into the 12- to 15-foot depths where dragging crawler harnesses behind bottom bouncers yielded a steady catch.

Leo and I felt that catching lake trout would be our biggest “Grand Slam” hurdle because we didn’t have the right equipment for locating fish or for fishing those depths at which “gray” trout typically hold. One morning we spent several fishless hours trolling flutter spoons behind three-ounce sinkers over 50- to 60-feet of water. Ironically, that evening Denis invited us for some walleye trolling in his boat, and we caught two lake trout in 15 feet of water. Because of cold temperatures, lake trout were spread throughout the lake and had yet to settle into their summer haunts that makes catching them much more predictable.

Even though 10 of Bryson Lake Lodge’s 17 lakes are pike-only waters, Leo and I pursued this toothy species on the main lake. We focused our initial efforts around downed trees and woody cover along deeper shorelines, but we had our best luck in the very back of vegetated, shallow bays where casting Mepps spinners enticed a handful of pike to explode and where we solidified the “Grand Slam.”

HUNTING AT BRYSON

In addition to the exclusive fishing rights on 17 lakes, Lake Bryson Lodge has exclusive hunting rights on 100 square miles of forest land, and that access allows for first-rate black bear, moose, and small game hunting.

Spring bear hunters were just arriving as Leo and I headed home, but Denis expected an excellent season because trail cameras revealed that bears were hitting every one of the established 23 bait sites. In fact, one site had seven different bears visiting there.

The territory has a thriving moose population, and the fact that the lodge has an 80 percent repeat-customer clientele indicates the quality of moose hunting. Because moose hunts here take place during the rut, calling is the standard hunting technique.

CONSERVATION THEME

The strong conservation ethic at Bryson really impressed me. Denis has a degree in fish and wildlife while his wife, Laurel LeBrun, has a degree in terrain and water, and the couple has used their knowledge to take actions to protect and enhance the natural resources at Bryson.

Some examples of sound conservation principles at the lodge include the construction of walleye spawning grounds, setting of a slot limit for walleyes, fire-hosing brook trout spawning areas, stocking of brook trout, setting daily limit at five brook trout when the provincial limit is 10 fish, policy of releasing younger lake trout, policy of not shooting female bears with cubs, hunting only 10 of 20 designated moose zones annually, limiting moose kills in each zone, and regulating the shooting of female moose.

FACILITIES

Even though Bryson Lake Lodge lies deep in “the bush,” the facilities here offer all the comforts of home such as hot showers, full kitchens, and heat.

The main lodge has a reception room, store, game room, satellite phone and even wireless internet while the 10-suite lodge has a hot tub.

For more information on Bryson Lake Lodge, visit www.lacbryson.com or call Denis toll-free at 1-855-683-1790.

Outdoors Calendar

Monday: Trap and Skeet Shooting at Lisbon Sportsmen’s Club at 5:30 p.m.

Wednesday: Trap shooting at Black Lake F&G at 7 p.m.

Friday-Sunday: St. Lawrence Bowfishing Championship (www.stlawrencebowfishing.com).

Saturday: Bass Season opens for St. Lawrence and Jefferson County waters.

Saturday: Muskellunge Season opens on St. Lawrence River; 54-inch minimum size requirement.

Saturday: Pillar Point 34th Annual Bass and Walleye Fishing Derby.

June 27-28: Free Fishing Days in New York State Waters.

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Hooks and Antlers: Report has good news for trout and salmon anglers

First published: June 07, 2015 at 1:35 am
Last modified: June 07, 2015 at 1:35 am

Preliminary information from the “2014 Annual Report of the Bureau of Fisheries Lake Ontario Unit and St. Lawrence River Unit to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission’s Lake Ontario Committee” contains good news for the lake’s trout and salmon anglers.

The report is a collaborative effort of NYSDEC, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and academic partners. Today’s column includes selected information from the preliminary report recently released by DEC Bureau of Fisheries.

Fishing Boat Survey

The 2014 Lake Ontario Fishing Boat survey ran from April 15 through September 30, and information from that survey — and similar surveys covering 1985 to 2013 — are referenced here.

Lake Ontario’s trout and salmon fishing success in 2014 was the sixth highest in the last 30 years with the five-highest years occurring from 2009 to 2013. The measuring device for angling success was the number of fish caught per charterboat-angler hour.vThe total trout and salmon catch last season was 200,763 fish, of which 106,880 — or 53 percent — were harvested. Chinook salmon made up 38 percent of the catches while brown trout accounted for 22 percent. Anglers harvested 44 percent of their Chinook salmon catches and 19 percent of their brown trout catches.

Even though Chinook salmon fishing was slow from mid-June through mid-August across the New York shoreline, the angling was good in the early season (April through mid-June) and again during the second half of August. In fact, the 2014 catch rate was 36 percent above the longterm average and more than two times higher than the 1985 to 2002 average. Also, the Chinook salmon fishing was above the longterm average for the 12th consecutive year. However, salmon growth and condition levels were below average last summer.

The brown trout catch rate was 16-percent above average in 2014, and fishing quality was near record high levels with 2011 being the highest. Even though the fishing quality for Coho salmon has been considered excellent for five of the past nine years, last year saw a 28-percent drop in catches of that species. Catch rates for rainbow trout were above average along the entire New York shoreline in 2014, and for the seventh consecutive season anglers experienced record or near-record success. After a record-low catch of lake trout in 2007, anglers saw improved catch rates annually from 2008 to 2013, but last year’s lake trout catch dropped slightly from 2013. Regarding Atlantic salmon, catch rates remained relatively high as they were 11-percent above average.

Boat Trips

For the past decade, the number of fishing trips targeting trout and salmon has remained fairly stable, and 2014 (from April 15 to September 30) saw an estimated 49,434 such trips. The trout and salmon efforts accounted for 84 percent of all Lake Ontario fishing trips, and those anglers saw an estimated 15 lamprey per 1,000 fish caught. That number represents a 23-percent decrease compared to the previous five-year average and a 66-percent decrease compared to the record high of 2007.

An estimated 6,878 fishing boat trips targeted smallmouth bass from the traditional opening day (third Saturday in June) through September 30 — the highest number since 2009. Records indicate that the quality of smallmouth bass fishing peaked in 2002 and then declined to its lowest level in 2010. Since then, the quality increased from 2011 through 2013, and the 2014 quality was similar to 2013 with an angler catch-rate of 0.57 bass per hour.

Eastern Basin Warmwater Fish

To assess warmwater fish populations in the lake’s Eastern Basin, DEC has conducted an annual gill-net survey since 1976. The 2014 nettings showed a decline in smallmouth-bass and yellow-perch numbers while the white-perch and walleye numbers were on the rise. From 1995 to 2013, smallmouth bass and yellow perch dominated net catches, but 2014 saw white perch rise to the top with its highest catch rate since 1989.

On a negative note, the 2014 smallmouth-bass-catch rate declined to its lowest level since 2004, and last year’s level was a disappointing 37 percent below the 2009 to 2013 average.

Yellow-perch catches saw a decline, too, as the 2014 catch rate was an eye-opening record low and 87 percent below the 2009 to 2013 average. Officials point out, however, that perch catches can vary significantly because of their schooling tendency and the influence of water temperature.

On a more positive note, the walleye-catch rate was similar to that of the past 10 years, and a 16-percent increase over 2013. Strong year classes from 2003, 2005, and 2008 showed up in the nettings. Also, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources data indicates that 2011 and 2014 saw relatively strong natural reproduction by walleyes.

Outdoors Calendar

Monday: Trap and skeet shooting at Lisbon Sportsmen’s Club at 5:30 p.m.

Wednesday: Trap shooting at Black Lake F&G at 7 p.m.

Saturday: SLR walleye Association’s Members Only Tournament (384-3450).

Saturday: Women’s Day at the Range at Black Lake F&G at 9 a.m. (287-9398).

Saturday: Free fishing classes at Wellesley Island State Park; regular fishing at 11 a.m. and fly fishing at 1 p.m.

June 19-21: St. Lawrence Bowfishing Championship (www.stlawrencebowfishing.com).

June 20: Bass season opens for St. Lawrence and Jefferson County waters.

June 20: Muskellunge season opens on St. Lawrence River; 54-inch minimum-size requirement.

June 20: Pillar Point 34th Annual Bass and Walleye Fishing Derby.

June 27-28: Free fishing days in New York state waters.

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DEC Accepting Public Comments On Proposed Turkey, Deer Regulations

First published: May 31, 2015 at 1:03 am
Last modified: May 31, 2015 at 1:03 am

DEC is currently accepting public comments on proposed hunting changes related to wild turkeys, deer, and the Deer Management Assistant Program .

Pending a review of the public comments, regulation changes could take effect this fall. The comment period closes on June 29. Those interested in submitting comments can find instructions at www.dec.ny.gov, and clicking on Regulations and then Proposed Regulations.

Here’s a closer look at the proposed changes:

Wild Turkey Proposal

Currently, the fall turkey season in the Northern Zone runs from October 1 through the Friday preceding the opening of early muzzleloader season. The season bag limit is two birds of either sex in Wildlife Management Units 6A, 6C, 6G, and 6H, while the other WMUs in the Northern Zone have a one-bird-of-either-sex seasonal limit. For the fall of 2014, the turkey season extended from October 1 to 17.

DEC’s new proposal calls for a two-week fall season across the state with a seasonal bag limit of one bird of either sex. Across the Northern Zone, that two-week season would run from October 1 to 14.

DEC proposes limiting the season length and bag limit because wild turkey populations have declined significantly from peak numbers about 15 ago. Cited causes for the population decline are changes in habitat, higher predator populations, poor reproductive success in years with above-average rainfall during the nesting season, and harvest of hen turkeys during the fall season. By reducing the fall harvest, officials believe turkey populations should increase in the long run.

Since 2012, DEC biologists and researchers at SUNY ESF and Cornell University have studied the biological and social factors associated with turkey management, and part of that study consisted of the annual banding of more than 450 hen turkeys, some with satellite radios. DEC will continue to band and track hens in 2015 and 2016, and the proposed fall hunting changes will be evaluated as part of a four-year research project.

Antlerless Harvests

Five or so years ago, a deer task force comprised of various stakeholders recommended that the deer population in WMU 6A should be increased by 15 percent. In an effort to achieve that increase, DEC stopped issuing Deer Management Permits (DMPs) for that unit in 2011. However, deer numbers in WMU 6A failed to rise because of the harvest of antlerless during bow and muzzleloader seasons, particularly the heavy harvest during the seven-day early muzzleloader season.

As a result, DEC is proposing a rule that will restrict harvest during the early muzzleloader season to antlered deer only in WMU 6A until such time as populations increase to the desired levels set by the task force, and the season may again be returned to an either-sex opportunity.

In contrast to WMU 6A, a number of WMUs across the state do not take enough antlerless deer to keep population numbers at desired levels. Those WMUs are 1C, 3M, 3S, 4J, 8A, 8C, 8F, 8G, 8H, 8N, 9A, and 9F where offering an increased number of DMPs each year has failed to see an increase in the antlerless harvest. As a result, a new proposal will allow hunters to take only antlerless deer during the first 15 days of the early/regular bow season and during all of the late bow and muzzleloader seasons in the WMUs just listed.

Deer Proposals

The Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) enables wildlife biologists to help landowners and resource managers implement site-specific deer management on their lands. In doing so, DEC issues a special permit for use only during the open deer hunting seasons and a determined number of antlerless tags to landowners and resource managers whose property is in need of site-specific deer management efforts.

Regarding DMAP, current proposals hope to refine the program to improve harvest reporting, increase program accountability, expand opportunities for landowners, reduce the paperwork burden of applicants and DEC, and increase flexibility for DEC staff in administering the program. Individuals will find the proposed DMAP amendments on the DEC web site.

Outdoors Calendar

Today: Turkey season closes in New York state.

Monday: Trap and skeet shooting at Lisbon Sportsmen’s Club at 5:30 p.m.

Monday: Public hearing on SLC Carry Conceal Pistol Law at Court House in Canton at 6 p.m.

Wednesday: Trap shooting at Black Lake F&G at 7 p.m.

June 13: SLR Walleye Association’s Members-Only Tournament (384-3450).

June 13: Women’s Day at the Range at Black Lake F&G at 9 a.m. (287-9398).

June 13: Free fishing classes at Wellesley Island State Park; regular fishing at 11 a.m. and fly fishing at 1 p.m.

June 19-21: St. Lawrence Bowfishing Championship (www.stlawrencebowfishing.com).

June 20: Bass season opens for St. Lawrence and Jefferson county waters.

June 20: Muskellunge season opens on St. Lawrence River; 54-inch minimum-size requirement.

June 27-28: Free Fishing Days on New York state waters.

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Hooks and Antlers: Jefferson County leads way in deer take for 2014

First published: May 24, 2015 at 1:09 am
Last modified: May 24, 2015 at 1:09 am

Eight counties lie completely within the Northern Zone, and those counties are Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence, and Warren. Portions of six other counties comprise the remaining area of the Northern Zone, and those counties are Fulton, Herkimer, Oneida, Oswego, Saratoga, and Washington.

Of the eight counties that lie within the Northern zone, the area ones of Jefferson, St. Lawrence, Lewis, and Franklin yielded the highest deer harvests in 2014 according to DEC’s recently released report.

TAKE BY COUNTY

Jefferson County saw 7,599 deer taken this past season, and 3,346 or 44 percent of those were bucks. The top-producing towns in the county were Ellisburg (439 bucks, and 1,166 total deer), Adams (277 bucks and 665 total deer), Henderson (238 bucks and 624 total deer), and Rodman (284 bucks and 572 total deer).

St. Lawrence County saw hunters take 4,908 deer of which 3,033 or 61.8 percent were mature bucks. Townships leading the way in this county were Lisbon (252 bucks and 426 total deer), Potsdam (200 bucks and 374 total deer), Canton (173 bucks and 322 total deer), and Russell (138 bucks and 321 total deer).

Lewis County saw 3,562 deer taken this past season, and 1,929 or 54.2 percent of those were bucks. The top-producing towns in the county were Denmark (194 bucks and 512 total deer), Croghan (271 bucks and 449 total deer), Lowville (110 bucks and 288 total deer), and Martinsburg (144 bucks and 284 total deer).

Franklin County saw hunters take 1,512 deer of which 981 or 64.9 percent were mature bucks. Townships leading the way were Malone (93 bucks and 167 total deer), Moira (74 bucks and 134 total deer), Harrietstown (83 bucks and 118 total deer), and Bangor (62 bucks and 105 total deer).

TAKE BY WMU

WMU 6A extends across the northern one-third of St. Lawrence County and includes a small portion of northeast Jefferson County and northwest Franklin County. Hunters shot 2,891 deer in this WMU, and that figure represents 9.9 percent of the total Northern Zone harvest. The WMU 6A buck take was 1,910 or 66.1 percent of this unit’s total kill. Hunters here shot 1.3 bucks per square mile and 2.0 deer per square mile.

WMU 6C extends across central St. Lawrence County and includes a north-to-south stretch of Lewis County and a small piece of northwest Franklin County. Hunters shot 3,032 deer in this WMU, and that figure represents 10.4 percent of the total Northern Zone take.

The WMU 6C buck kill was 1,615 or 53.3 percent of this unit’s total harvest. Hunters here shot 1.7 bucks and 3.1 deer per square mile.

WMU 6G includes the majority of Jefferson County extending along the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario as well as a small bit of northwest Oswego County and a small bit of northwest Lewis County. Hunters shot 7,036 deer in this WMU, and that figure represents 24.2 percent of the total Northern Zone take.

The WMU 6G buck kill was 2,771 or 39.4 percent of this unit’s total harvest. Hunters here shot three bucks per square mile and 7.5 total deer per square mile.

DISAPPOINTED HUNTERS

Hunters in WMU 6F are very concerned about their low deer takes in recent years. WMU 6F includes lands in east-central St. Lawrence County and west-central Franklin County, lands that extend from Malone in the north to Cranberry Lake in the south and from Colton in the west to Paul Smith’s in the east.

Hunters shot 914 deer in this WMU this past season, and that figure represents 2.2 percent of the total Northern Zone Harvest.

The WMU 6F buck kill was 636 or 69.6 percent of this unit’s total harvest. Hunters here shot 0.5 buck per square mile and 0.8 deer per square mile.

While attending recent meetings of the Federated Sportsmen’s Clubs of St. Lawrence County, I’ve heard WMU 6F hunters attribute their poor deer numbers to various factors such as harsh winters, fawn predation by bears and coyotes, taking of does, and the ban on winter feeding programs.

Those hunters, however, seem to agree that the primary cause of low deer numbers is due to poor deer habitat and that poor habitat has been created by logging practices that are not friendly to deer.

Such practices include the removal of tracts of mast-crop trees, conifer stands that served as wintering areas, and the chipping of tops that were once left on the ground and provided both food and cover for deer.

Outdoors Calendar

May 26: Regular meeting of SLC Fisheries Advisory Board at Canton Boces at 7 p.m. (393-2709).

May 30: Muskellunge Season opens in New York State; 40-inch minimum size requirement.

May 31: Turkey Season ends in New York State.

June 1: Public hearing on SLC Carry Conceal Pistol Law at Court House in Canton at 6 p.m.

June 20: Bass Season opens for St. Lawrence and Jefferson County waters.

June 20: Muskellunge Season opens on St. Lawrence River; 54-inch minimum size requirement.

June 27-28: Free Fishing Days in New York State waters.

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Hooks and Antlers: Thousand Islands region teems with outdoor opportunities

First published: May 17, 2015 at 12:43 am
Last modified: May 17, 2015 at 12:43 am

Part of human nature leads us to believe that the grass is always greener in a place other than where we are, and those who spent this past winter in Northern New York can certainly attest to their belief that Florida’s grass is much greener than New York’s.

Last weekend, though, I attended the New York State Outdoor Writers Association’s (NYSOWA) Annual Conference in Clayton, and I can attest that the grass is abundantly green in our own backyards. In fact, since the St. Lawrence River is the heartbeat of that community, I might more appropriately say, “The water is always bluer in Clayton.”

FISHING

NYSOWA conferences mix business with pleasure, and pike fishing on the St. Lawrence was on the pleasure side of the ledger for me. In essence, the 45-degree water temperature made for slow angling, but the hours on the water were still enjoyable ones because of the camaraderie of fellow writers, the knowledge and expertise of local guides, and the overall beauty of the 1,000 Islands region.

Even though pike fishing was on the slow side, we were able to console ourselves by partaking in a traditional 1,000 Islands shore dinner provided the Clayton Guides Association.

Charter captains providing services for the writers were Myrle Bauer of Net Results Charters (686-2122), Keith Dasno of Gotta Have It Charters (783-9826; ksdasno@earthlink.net), and Rich Clarke of Sign Man Charters (888-686-3041; www.1000islandsfishing.com).

CLAYTON WATERFRONT

Whenever I visit Clayton, I’m drawn to the scenic waterfront and Frink Park in particular as the public park is an ideal location for relaxing and enjoying the scenery. During the first afternoon of the conference, I walked over to Frink Park and encountered individuals engrossed in various activities among which were perch fishing, river watching, reading, eating lunch, sunbathing, and photographing the full-size sculpture of a trophy St. Lawrence River muskellunge. Also, a wedding party was taking after-ceremony photos with the river and islands in the background.

After stopping at Frink Park, I walked along the waterfront shops and attractions on Riverside Drive and then along the marinas and docks towards French Creek before returning to the park via James Street and Riverside Drive. My primary intent on the hour-long walk was to enjoy the ambience of the village and get some exercise. If I had so chosen, I could have spent a full day on that same walk if I had stopped at the various attractions on the route. Among those attractions were historic buildings, numerous shops, various churches, Antique Boat Museum, Save the River, Thousand Islands Art Center, Thousand Islands Museum, St. Lawrence Gallery, and more.

BOAT TOURS

A boat tour is a must-do activity when visiting the 1,000 Islands area, and the writers took a three-hour cruise out of Clayton to Grindstone Island, into Canadian waters, around Wellesley Island, under two spans of the international bridge, and past Heart Island and the famous Boldt Castle. Professional guides provide a running and interesting narrative during boat cruises, and the narrative includes details on historical events, river lore, the islands, its inhabitants, wildlife, and more. Many island homes are owned by multi-millionaires who have the wealth to own homes anywhere in the world; yet, they elect to have vacation homes in the 1000 Islands. Their choice of this area is solid evidence that the grass is greener and the water is bluer in Clayton.

LUXURY ACCOMMODATIONS

The newly-opened 1,000 Islands Harbor Hotel served as the headquarters for NYSOWA’s 2015 Annual Conference, and attendees had high praise for the accommodations and services there. The Harbor Hotel sits in downtown Clayton adjacent to Frink Park, and the facility has over 100 waterfront rooms that offer fantastic river views. Additional offerings include a large riverside patio, indoor swimming pool and Jacuzzi, state-of-the-art fitness center, dining areas, 1,000 Islands Bar, and more.

For more information, visit www.1000islandsharborhotel.com.

MORE CLAYTON ACTIVITIES

Today’s column briefly touched on some of the things that make Clayton an ideal destination for readers. For more information, visit the Clayton Area Chamber of Commerce at www.1000island-clayton.com. The site offers a detailed “Walking Tour of Clayton” guide as well as a calendar of upcoming events, a sampling of which includes The Great New York State Food & Wine Festival, Clayton Lions Club Bass Tournament, Gala Fireworks Display, 47th Annual Decoy & Wildlife Art Show, Save the River’s 13th Annual 5K/10K Run for the River, 51st Annual Antique Boat Show & Auction, and the 2nd Annual Clayton Jazz Festival.

Outdoors Calendar

Monday: Trap and Skeet Shooting at Lisbon Sportsmen’s Club at 5:30 p.m.

Saturday: Cape Vincent Chamber of Commerce Spring Fishing Derby (654-2481).

Saturday: Spider Rybaak’s Free Fishing Class at Wellesley Island State Park at 11 a.m. and fly fishing at 1:30 p.m.

May 26: Regular meeting of SLC Fisheries Advisory Board at Canton Boces at 7 p.m. (393-2709).

May 30: Muskellunge Season opens in New York State; 40-inch minimum size requirement.

May 31: Turkey Season closes in New York State.

June 1: Public hearing on SLC Carry Conceal Pistol Law at Court House in Canton at 6 p.m.

June 20: Bass Season opens for St. Lawrence and Jefferson County waters.

June 20: Muskellunge Season opens on St. Lawrence River; 54-inch minimum size requirement.

June 27-28: Free Fishing Days in New York State waters.

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Hooks & Antlers: Hunters saw decline in deer harvest in 2014

First published: May 10, 2015 at 12:55 am
Last modified: May 10, 2015 at 12:55 am

The 2014 statewide harvest of 238,772 deer marked a 2.0 percent drop from the 2013 take of 243,567 deer.

Still, this past season’s kill ranked higher than the previous five-year-average of 233,556 deer. Of the 2014 harvest, 108,604 or 45.5 percent were bucks, and 130,068 or 54.5 percent were antlerless deer. The statewide buck kill represents a 5.3-percent drop from 2013 and a 1.8-percent drop from the previous five-year-average of 110,546 adult males.

Northern Zone

Northern Zone hunters saw a more significant decline in harvest numbers than did their Southern Zone counterparts. The total Northern Zone 2014 deer take was 29,075, which represents a 10.2-percent drop from the previous year when hunters shot 32,369 deer. The 16,727 bucks shot was a 14.4-percent drop from 2013 while the antlerless take of 12,348 marked a 3.8-percent decline.

Breaking down the Northern Zone harvest by the type of tag used, Big Game tags accounted for 43.6 percent of the take while Muzzleloader tags represented 23.7 percent of the kill. Deer Management Permits (DMPs) were used for 19.3 percent of the take, Deer Management Assistant Permits (DMAPs) were used for 7.4 percent, and Bow tags accounted for the remaining 6.0 percent of the harvest.

Breaking down the Northern Zone harvest by sex and age of deer, hunters shot 16,727 adult males (57.5 percent of harvest) and 9,003 adult females (31.0 percent of harvest). The 1,749 male fawns taken represent 6.0 percent of the total harvest while the 1,596 female fawns account for 5.5 percent of the total harvest.

Comparing ZONES

The breakdown of tag types used by Northern Zone and Southern Zone hunters contrasts sharply. For example, DMPs accounted for 45.0 percent of the Southern Zone take compared to 19.3 percent in the North, and Muzzleloader tags represented just 4.0 percent of the Southern Zone kill compared to 23.7 percent in the North. Southern Zone hunters used Big Game tags for 30.2 percent of the harvest compared to the Northern Zone’s 43.6 percent, and bow hunters tagged 15.7 percent of the kill in the South compared to 6.0 percent in the North. DMAP harvests were fairly similar at 5.0 percent the Southern Zone and 7.4 percent in the Northern Zone.

Looking at the take by sex and age, adult males comprised 44.0 percent of the Southern Zone’s total compared to the North’s 57.5 percent, and adult females comprised 38.7 percent of the South’s total compared to the North’s 31.0. The male fawn harvest in the Southern Zone accounted for 9.0 percent of the total take compared to the Northern Zone’s 6.0 percent while the female fawn take was 8.2 percent in the south and 5.5 in the North. Hunt

Youth Deer

Columbus Day Weekend marked the third annual Youth Deer Hunt when junior hunters (ages 14-15) accompanied by a licensed and experience adult mentor are allowed take a deer with a firearm. Last fall saw 9,033 youths or 70 percent of the eligible junior hunters participate, and those hunters took 1,182 deer across the state. That figure amounts to a harvest density of 2.9 deer per square mile.

Youths in the Northern Zone accounted for 150 of those deer, and the breakdown by sex and age was 97 adult males, 43 adult females, five male fawns, and five female fawns. One hundred and twenty-four youths tagged their deer with a Big Game tag while 26 utilized a DMP.

Special Thanks

“Hooks and Antlers” applauds those adult mentors who accompanied youths in last year’s Youth Deer Hunt. Also, applause is echoed for mentors who made it possible for junior hunters to participate in the state’s Youth Turkey Hunt and Youth Waterfowl Hunt as well as all adults who make an effort to take youths hunting, fishing, camping, canoeing, hiking, etc.

Such mentors are the essence of the “Pass It On” theme supported by Bass Pro Shops and other organizations across the country.

When adults and youths participate together in a hunting or fishing venture, the generation gap disappears, and the adult becomes more youthful while the young person becomes more mature.

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Hooks and Antlers: Turkey season calls for last minute preparation, safety

First published: April 26, 2015 at 12:59 am
Last modified: April 26, 2015 at 12:59 am

Hunters have only a few days to get things in order for Friday’s opener of New York’s Spring Turkey Season, and among the things to consider are scouting, calling, gear readiness, current regulations, and safety.

SCOUTING

Scouting aids hunters by revealing what birds are in a given location as well as their roosting, feeding, and strutting behaviors. At this point just prior to the season, it is critical that any scouting remains non-intrusive so hunters are advised to scout from a distance by using binoculars. If calling is part of your scouting strategy, be sure to avoid over-calling and to use locator rather than actual turkey calls.

CALLING

Proficient calling is more important in turkey hunting than in most other types of hunting, with the possible exception of waterfowl, so now is time to make sure that you have a variety of calls on hand and that they are clean and in good working order. My calling skills are somewhat mediocre. While my calling does get a bird’s attention, that calling lacks the fine-tuning to lure the bird within range.

GEAR

Turkey hunters use a fair amount of paraphernalia, and chief among that gear is the gun, clothing, and vest. Hopefully, your gun has been sighted in, and you know the limitations of that gun and the selected load. Also, hunters seek concealment from head to toe so the right clothing and footwear should be in order for that first day’s hunt. After all, no one wants to be looking for a facemask at 3:30 a.m.

A fully-stuffed vest is common attire in the turkey woods, and those vests typically hold items such as shells, license, tags, pen, knife, compass, orange hat, insect repellent, map, decoy, calls, head net, seat cushion, flashlight, water bottle, snack, gloves, and pruning shears. The last item is particularly helpful in assuring the set-up site is quiet, comfortable, and allows for ease of movement.

REGULATIONS

The Spring Turkey Season in New York State runs from May 1 to May 31, and hunting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise until noon. Hunters must possess a hunting license and valid turkey tag. The season limit is two bearded-turkeys, and only one bird may be taken per day. Immediately after taking a turkey, the hunter must fill out the appropriate carcass tag and report the harvest within seven days via phone (1-866-GAMERPT) or internet (www.dec.ny.gov).

SAFETY

Hunting accidents are rare, but when one occurs in the turkey woods the likely cause is one hunter mistaking another hunter for a turkey or when a gun is mishandled and accidentally discharges causing harm to the handler or someone nearby. Such incidents are preventable, though, by using common sense, by following some guidelines for safe turkey hunting, and by practicing the basics of firearm safety.

Since red, white, and blue are colors of spring gobblers, safe hunting calls for hunters to avoid wearing those colors. When setting up, hunters are advised to select a spot with good visibility and with back protection such as a tree that is wider than the shoulders and taller than the head. If another hunter approaches your set up, avoid making any motions and speak out in a loud voice to alert the hunter of you presence.

Also, turkey hunters should always avoid the temptation to sneak up on a bird for a shot. For one thing, you may be moving in on another hunter’s calling and set up. From a practical perspective, a turkey would likely spot your movement before you got close enough for a shot anyway.

Common sense calls for spring hunters to always positively identify their target as a bearded turkey and to always avoid shooting at sound or movement. From both a safety and ethical perspective, avoid encroaching upon another hunter who is already in the area or who is already working a bird.

The basics of firearm safety hold true for all shooting and hunting situations, and the first fundamental is to always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction. Also, firearms should be treated as if they are loaded. When shooting, it is critical that the shooter be sure of his target and what is in front of and beyond that accurately-identified target. In addition, hunters are reminded to avoid running, jumping, or climbing with a loaded firearm.

Outdoors Calendar

Today: 2015-16 Fishing Regulations Guides are available at license-issuing agents.

Monday: Trap and Skeet Shooting at Lisbon Sportsmen’s Club at 5:30 p.m.

Friday: Spring Turkey Season opens in New York State.

Saturday: Northern pike, walleye, and pickerel seasons open in New York State.

May 14-17: Henderson Harbor Spring Classic Fishing Derby (Henchen Marina at 938-5313).

May 16: Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation CNY Chapter’s Annual Banquet in Cicero (Dan at 882-8694).

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Hooks and Antlers: Bear take in Northern Zone is ‘typical’ in 2014

First published: April 19, 2015 at 12:50 am
Last modified: April 19, 2015 at 12:50 am

Northern Zone hunters harvested 518 black bears during the 2014 seasons, and that number marks a 36 percent increase over the 2013 take of 380 bears. Still, the 2014 take was right in line with the five-year average (2009-2013) kill of 519 bears and the historic average (1991-2000) harvest of 515 bears.

HARVESTS BY SEASON

Available food sources typically affect whether Northern Zone hunters shoot more bears during the Early Season or the Regular Season. For example, hunters took 291 bears during this past year’s Early Season and 84 bears in that season in 2013 while the 2014 Regular Season saw 159 bears shot and the 2013 Regular Season accounted for 246 kills. Bow hunters took 26 bears in 2014, an increase over the previous year’s take of 15 bears; muzzleloaders shot 42 bears last year, an increase over the 2013 harvest of 35 bears.

INTERESTING BEAR FACTS

The largest bear taken in the state in 2014 had a dressed weight of 646 pounds, and that bear was taken during the Regular Season in the Town of Wells in Hamilton County. Across the state, hunters harvested one bear per 29 square miles of land.

Hunters reported 24 tagged bears, and 16 of those animals had been tagged in New York for a variety of reasons such as research, relocated urban bears, nuisance responses, or released rehabilitated bears. Of the remaining tagged bears, three were originally tagged in Pennsylvania, two in New Jersey, and one in Massachusetts.

Because of black bears expanding their range in the state, DEC opened new areas to hunting in 2014, and two of those areas were Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) 6A and 6G, units that border the St. Lawrence River and the eastern basin of Lake Ontario. Hunters in WMU 6A shot seven bears while WMU 6G hunters shot a single bear.

TAKE BY WMU

The top-producing WMUs this past season were 5H, 6C, 6J, and 6F. Hunters in 5H shot 162 bears, and that WMU is a large Adirondack one extending across Herkimer and Hamilton counties and into portions of Oneida and Fulton to the west and Essex and Warren to the east. WMU 6C extends across central St. Lawrence County and into a portion of Lewis to the west and Franklin to the east. Hunters in 6C harvested 84 bears. WMU 6J is that section of the Adirondacks where the counties of St. Lawrence, Lewis, Herkimer, and Hamilton merge, and hunters here accounted for the taking of 81 bears. WMU 6F consists of land in St. Lawrence and Franklin counties, an area where hunters killed 47 bears in 2014.

COUNTIES AND TOWNSHIPS

St. Lawrence and Lewis counties were the Northern Zone leaders with respective takes of 99 and 85 bears last year.

Other counties and their harvests were Herkimer (61), Hamilton (51), Essex (35), Franklin (31), Clinton (30), Warren (29), and Jefferson (23).

Hunters in St. Lawrence shot 51 bears in the Early Season, 35 bears in the Regular Season, four in Bow Season, and nine in Muzzleloader Season. The top-producing townships were Parishville (11), Pitcairn (11), Hermon (10), Clare (10), and Hopkinton (9). Hunters in Lewis took 63 bears in the Early Season, 14 in the Regular Season, five in Bow Season, and three in Muzzleloader Season. The leading towns were Croghan (24), Greig (15), Watson (15), Diana (9), and Lyonsdale (9). Actually, more bears were killed in the Town of Croghan than in any other township across the Northern Zone.

Franklin County hunters took 20 bears in Early Season, 10 in Regular Season, none in Bow Season, and one in Muzzleloader Season. The leading towns were Bellmont (6), Waverly (6), and Malone (5). In Jefferson County, hunters shot 17 bears in Early Season, five in the Regular Season, one in Bow Season, and none in Muzzleloader Season. Wilna and Antwerp were the leading towns with kills of 12 and seven bears respectively.

RODS AND REELS FOR YOUTH

The St. Lawrence River Walleye Association is holding a Rod and Reel Collection on Saturday, April 25 from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. at Corky’s Collision on East Orvis St. in Massena. Collected items will be used to benefit local youths who are without rods and reels. Organizers ask that any donated rod or reel be in good-working order. For more information or pick-up, call 212-7410.

Outdoors calendar

Monday: Trap and Skeet Shooting at Lisbon Sportsmen’s Club at 5:30 p.m.

April 25: Greater Odgensburg Chamber of Commerce’s Sportsman Show at Lockwood Civic Center (393-3620).

April 25: SLRWA Rod and Reel Collection for youths who lack gear (212-7410).

April 25-26: Youth Wild Turkey Hunt Weekend.

April 27: Trap and Skeet Shooting at Lisbon Sportsmen’s Club at 5:30 p.m.

May 1: Spring Turkey Season opens in New York State.

May 2: Northern pike, walleye, and pickerel seasons open in New York State.

May 14-17: Henderson Harbor Spring Classic Fishing Derby (Henchen Marina at 938-5313).

May 16: Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation CNY Chapter’s Annual Banquet in Cicero (Dan at 882-8694).

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