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An online space for outdoorsmen from CNY and beyond. Tell us about the one you caught or the one that got away.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Choosing the right kayak


Outdoorsmen have a fascination with boats and that includes kayaks, one of the fastest growing segments of the watercraft industry. The ease of using them, their versatility and the freedom that they give you adds up to a whole lot.
When we are kayaking various locations, especially local waters, people frequently ask us lots of questions. Many of the questions involve stability, ease of paddling, sea-worthiness and their suitability for fishing. Many people who know us sometimes ask for suggestions since they know that we spend countless hours each summer in our kayaks.
There is no standard answer for what type of kayak one should buy. Scott Locorini, owner of Adirondack Exposure, explains that it depends on what a person wants to do and what type of water they plan to paddle. This will determine the type, length and material best suited for that person.
There are three basic categories of kayaks: whitewater, touring and recreational. For most people a recreational kayak is the normal choice. These are the type that most of us would use for quiet rivers, small lakes and ponds and the protected shoreline of larger lakes. Within that category there are many designs, variations and models to choose from.
Most recreational kayaks range from 10 to 14 feet in length. According to Locorini, longer length means better tracking and efficiency, while shorter ones are more maneuverable. However, shorter ones also tend to be wider so they require more effort in paddling and tend to wander from a straight line in paddling.
Within the longer kayaks there can be a difference in width. Narrower kayaks have more speed and ease of paddling but lack the initial stability of slightly wider ones. It takes a bit more concentration and care to get into the narrower ones without tipping. However the secondary stability is usually good since you have a low center of gravity, i.e. sitting right at water level.
Kayaks are made of several materials. Most common is polyethylene which is rugged, resilient and moderate in price and weight. Composites of Kevlar or fiberglass are lighter but less durable and cost more.
You can get superlight kayaks but the prices are very high, usually three or four times what you would pay for a regular polyethylene kayak. Thermoplastics represent a midpoint between the polyethylene and composites in price, weight and durability. We recently purchased two Hurricane Santee Sport models and are very pleased with them.
Cockpit sizes vary and larger cockpits make it easier for people, especially larger paddlers, to enter and exit. They also make it easier to carry gear such as photo equipment or fishing tackle in front of you. Of course the more cockpit space you have, the more likely you are to get splashed by waves, etc. Spray skirts can help solve that problem.
As mentioned earlier, the touring kayaks are longer and narrower for traveling long distances. They have many other features such as storage compartments or rudders designed for the person who wants to cover long distances such as on a camping trip or long voyage. They are heavier, less maneuverable, and more expensive so unless you are planning on distance trips across big water, you really don’t want a touring kayak.
I am often asked the question about how convenient it is to fish out of a kayak. Keep in mind that the initial users of kayaks, the Eskimos, depended on them for getting their food. Because of the increased popularity of kayaks and fishing, now there are several specialized models designed just for fishing. Fishing kayaks are the fasting growing niche within this popular sport.
However most recreational kayaks will do just fine with a little adjustment on your part and limiting your tackle. Locorini reminds us that you can trick out any recreational kayak to be a fishing kayak or you can go for some pre-designed models with larger cockpits, rod holders, etc. Some people fasten rod holders or paddle holders to their recreational kayaks while others prefer removable clips such as those make by Yakima to hold rods and paddles.
The open or “sit-upon” kayaks offer ease of movement, stability and many features including the ability to add electronics like fish finders or live wells. Another factor to consider is weight. Since they generally are heavy, most people trailer them or leave them at camp where they fish a single body of water. Most are definitely not the type you will easily hoist up on your vehicle.
For general paddling and exploring, consider the factors of weight and width that were discussed earlier. Remember that initial stability, a comfortable seat and a good back rest are important considerations for anyone who plans to spend considerable time in their kayak.
Your best bet is to test paddle several types and models to see how they handle, how comfortable each is and other factors such as weight. Take the opportunity to test paddle several and you will probably join the growing ranks of people who spend much of the summer in their kayak.
If you are new to kayaking or want to develop your skills further, consider taking various paddling classes from Locorini of Adirondack Exposure. He is a licensed Adirondack guide and a member of the Kayak Hall of Fame. Locorini is located four miles south of Old Forge on Rte. 28 near Okara Lakes. Check out web site www.adirondackexposure.com or call Scott at 315-335-1681.
Kayaks are actually very stable since you have a low center of gravity sitting right at water level. They are easy to paddle, go where other boats cannot go and are easy to transport. Choose wisely and join the growing ranks of people who have discovered just how much fun kayaking is.
SHORT CASTS
Clayton Decoy Show: Enjoy Clayton’s 46th Annual Decoy, Wildlife Art and Sporting Collectibles Show on July 18 and 19. The event is put on by Thousand Islands Museum and runs 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. Vendors and exhibitors participating include nationally-known carvers, wildlife artists and vintage decoy and sporting collectible dealers.
There will also be a Vintage Decoy contest on Friday at 11 a.m. At noon on Friday, the Art Knapp Singles Contest will take place in the arena. There will be a Guide’s Traditional Shore Dinner available on Friday ($20) from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Coyote Moon Vineyards, sponsored by Classic Island Cruises. Proceeds will go to Thousand Island Museum.
Kids Fishing Follow Up: Have you taken your kids fishing lately? If not, shame on you. If you think that taking them to the local derby or going on the Free Fishing Days (for adults) last month were enough, you are wrong. Surveys show that less than half of the kids who attend one of the many derbies in the spring, ever pickup a fishing rod again for the rest of the year! Make it part of a family outing, go for a special hour or so after supper or make it a special day. But don’t delay. The days are already getting shorter!
Crossbow Banquet: The New York Crossbow Coalition will hold its first annual banquet on July 26 at the Ramada Inn, Buckley Rd, Syracuse. Doors will open at 6 p.m. with dinner at 7 p.m. There will be raffles, auctions, deluxe buffet and informational presentations. Various ticket packages and sponsorships are available. For more information contact NYCC, PO Box 316, Pulaski, NY 13142 or email rick@nycrossbowcoalition.com.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Thousand Islands offer variety of fun


The river flowed strongly between the scenic islands with currents swirling in often strange patterns. Along the rocky shores, blending in with the brush or cattails, stood herons waiting patiently for their next meal. Overhead ospreys would soar until they spotted a fish and then plummet and dive into the water in an attempt to seize their prey.
Scattered throughout the watery wonderland were fishing boats of all size as anglers attempted to find the right location and test their skills for the prized gamefish that the area is known for. The Thousand Islands region of the St. Lawrence River is known for many things but for many of us the fishing takes top spot in our minds.
In the area near Clayton, the river is six miles wide and includes an amazing variety of islands ranging from the large ones, like Grindstone and Wellesley, to smaller ones less than an acre in size. Iroquois Indians called this the Garden of the Great Spirit and today most people still view the area with similar awe.
The fishing is what draws many of us to the area. The area is known for the great variety of gamefish and the quality of the fishing experience. For most of the past 35 years I have made it a point to open the bass season in the Thousand Islands.
Unfortunately this year was a major disappointment for most bass fishermen. The cold winter affected a lot of things and the cold water flowing down from the Great Lakes affected the St. Lawrence River fishing. Normally bass have just finished spawning at this time of year and are still in shallow water. But this year, with the water temperature still in the high 50s for most of the river, the bass had not moved into shallow water yet.
Anglers who fished the areas where they normally find largemouth or smallmouth bass were disappointed. The few bass that were caught were often caught in deeper water while fishing for northern pike. My best was a 3 1/2 lb. largemouth that hit in about 18 feet of water. Most anglers in the Clayton – Alexandria Bay area had similar experiences.
Northern pike fishing was generally good. Pike had spawned and many of them were in the bays with cooler water and had not moved out as deep as they normally would be. A lot of anglers who targeted pike found them in about 15 to 25 feet of water. Using jigs, spoons or live bait along the edge of drop-offs or the weedlines produced some nice pike.
The river contains an amazing amount of gamefish including largemouth and smallmouth bass, northern pike, muskellunge and walleye. Tasty panfish such as perch and crappie are popular with many anglers. Shallow weedy bays harbor bragging sized largemouth while the rocky structure, varying depths and faster moving currents are a smallmouth heaven. Of course, the mysterious muskellunge excites the imagination of many anglers but that is mainly an autumn fishery when they feed aggressively. At this time of year they are usually taken by trolling at night, especially downriver near Ogdensburg.
Fishing in the Thousand Islands region can be great but the river is difficult to figure out with the irregular bottom, confusing depths and varying current patterns. It can also be hazardous if you are not familiar with the many shoals, etc. Your best bet is to hire a guide. Contact 1000 Islands Fishing Charters at (315) 686-2381 or Captain Mike Seymour for Ogdensburg at (315) 379-0235 for more information on charters.
But the Thousand Islands region, especially Clayton, offers more than just fishing. There is boating, swimming, nature centers, art galleries, golf, museums and more. If you are looking for a vacation, extended weekend, or a short get-away, consider Clayton and the Thousand Islands region. There are all types of accommodations, including a new luxury hotel scheduled to open on the Clayton waterfront later this summer. Contact the Clayton-1000 Islands Chamber of Commerce at 1-800-252-9806 or e-mail info@1000Islands-Clayton.com.
We were staying at Grass Point State Park near Fishers Landing. From our campsite we could enjoy the beautiful scenery, the sight of many boats on the river and lakers and ocean-going freighters plying the St. Lawrence Seaway. On several days it was a relaxing break to go kayaking. One of our favorite trips involves going along the north shore of Wellesley Island near the State Park and travelling around the Canadian Islands.
In addition to evenings around the campfire by the riverbank, we visited with friends, and occasionally dined at some of our favorite restaurants. Visits to local wineries like Thousand Islands Winery or Coyote Moon are a great experience. Now there is another excellent winery, the Cape Wintery, located upriver in Cape Vincent. They make great wines and a visit to their showroom is a pleasant experience. Check their website www.TheCapeWinery.com.
The Thousand Islands hold a special place in my heart ever since my childhood and the days there pass all too quickly. We are already planning our next trip there. Maybe the fish will be more cooperative next time.
SHORT CASTS
Fenner Fur Rondy: The Independent Fur Harvesters of Central NY will hold its annual summer Fur Rondy on July 11 and 12, 2014 at Nichols Pond. There will be family fun, trapping business and a Trapper Training Class. Contact Al LaFrance (682-2050) for more information.
Clayton Decoy Show: Enjoy Clayton’s 46th Annual Decoy, Wildlife Art and Sporting Collectibles Show on July 18 and 19, 2014. The event is put on by Thousand Islands Museum and runs from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. Vendors and exhibitors participating include nationally-known carvers, wildlife artists and vintage decoy and sporting collectible dealers
There will also be a Vintage Decoy contest on Friday at 11 a.m. At Noon on Friday, the Art Knapp Singles Contest will take place in the arena. There will be a Guide’s Traditional Shore Dinner available on Friday ($20) from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Coyote Moon Vineyards, sponsored by Classic Island Cruises. Proceeds will go to Thousand Island Museum.
Bass Pro Shops “Summer Camp”: Bass Pro Shops will be holding free family activities at its Utica store from now through July 13, on every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. There will be free workshops every afternoon for kids, approximately 20 minutes in length. These will include bird watching, fishing, archery, kayaking, backyard adventure, shooting and hunting, travel safety, water safety and camping. There will also be free shooting arcade and casting challenge. In addition, there will be crafts classes on various days from noon until 2 p.m. Check the website www.basspro.com for exact times and details.
Adirondack Outdoors & Lake Ontario Outdoors: The summer issues of Adirondack and Lake Ontario Outdoors magazines are now available. Articles ranging from fly fishing for pike, bass and salmon are among the features of Lake Ontario Outdoors. Adirondack Outdoors is a summer fishing special with additional pages covering all major fishing topics, hiking, paddling destinations and camping information for the Adirondacks. It will soon be available at many newsstands throughout central New York. In the meantime you can pick up complimentary copies at no charge at Hanifin Tire & Service Center or Sweet Temptations Café in Oneida.
Essex Chain UMP: The DEC recently announced the draft of the Unit Management Plan for the Essex Chain of Lakes in the recently acquired Adirondack lands between Indian Lake, Long Lake and Newcomb. You can view the complex regulations, maps, etc. on the web site www.dec.ny.gov/land97474html. Comments will be accepted until July 18.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Make boating season a safe one


Boat Safety
The beginning of summer, especially the Fourth of July Holiday, is traditionally the busiest boating time of the year. Let’s make sure that it is a safe and pleasant experience for everyone.
With the busy boating and canoeing season coming up it is worth reminding everyone about boat safety. New laws about operating a boat under the influence of alcohol have been passed and hopefully these will reduce the number of accidents on our waterways. Keep alert and save the refreshments until after the boat has been docked for the day.
It is also important to note that laws require a wearable type I, II or III PFD (life jacket) be aboard every vessel, including canoe or kayak. Children under 12 must wear a PFD while aboard a boat or canoe. In fact everyone should wear them since nobody plans on having an accident. Injury, shock from cold water and current can inhibit your ability to swim and statistics show that most deaths result from drowning.
Know the rules of the road about giving sailboats a wide berth, and use courtesy like reducing waves around smaller craft like fishing boats, canoes and kayaks to avoid swamping them. Be alert for kayaks and other boats that are smaller and ride low to the surface of the water. Familiarize yourself about common rules of passing or meeting other boats.
It is also the law to reduce speed and avoid causing wakes in many areas along sensitive shorelines, docks and other areas. Use common sense, stay alert, and make this a safe season on the water.
Boat Launch Courtesy
With the holiday weekend soon to arrive and great weather in the forecast it is certain to be a busy season on the water. Boat launches will be busy so be sure to use courtesy and keep things moving smoothly so you won’t interfere with others. We realize that veteran boaters are familiar with these procedures but some newer boaters may not think of these so here are some hints to make sure all have a smooth launch or landing.
Make sure your battery is cranking fresh. Running it off the trailer is not the time to find out you need a charge. Have an experienced person back the trailer down. This is not the weekend or the location to give your wife or son some learning experience. Get your boat ready before you launch. Have your gear aboard, tackle in place, water skis or coolers all set in the parking lot, not spend time doing it at the dock. After you pull your boat out of the water, move the trailer off to the side out of other people’s way before you fasten down everything for the trip home.
Boat Regulations Target Invasive Species
As part of an aggressive effort to prevent invasive species from entering and damaging New York water bodies, the State DEC adopted new regulations that require boaters to remove all visible plant and animal materials from boats, trailers and associated equipment, and to drain boats prior to launching from DEC lands.
The regulations, which are effective now, pertain to all DEC boat launches, fishing access sites and other DEC lands where watercraft such as boats, kayak or canoes, can be launched into the water.
These new regulations will help reinforce the message that boaters need to clean their equipment of any clinging plant and animal materials and drain their boats prior to launching at lands administered by DEC.
Boaters should take the following steps to ensure that their boat, trailer and equipment are free of aquatic invasive species: Visually inspect the boat, trailer and other fishing and boating equipment and remove all mud, plants and other organisms that might be clinging to it. Materials should be disposed of in one of the Nuisance Invasive Species Disposal Stations installed at many DEC boat launches, in the trash or at an upland location away from the launch ramp.
Drain the boat’s bilge and any other water holding compartments such as live wells, bait wells and bilge tanks. This does not apply to water associated with sanitary systems or drinking water supplies.
Drying boats is also highly recommended but is not required under the new regulations. Boaters who are unable to dry their boats between uses should flush the bilge and other water holding compartments with water, preferably at a temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Microscopic larval forms of aquatic invasive species, such as zebra mussels and spiny waterflea, can live in as much as a drop of water.
To ensure that these organisms are not accidentally spread, anything holding water should be dried, flushed or disinfected with hot water to ensure that these aquatic invasive species are not spread. Additional information on AIS and disinfection recommendations can be found www.dec.ny.gov/animals/48221.html.
The new regulations are available at www.dec.ny.gov/regulations/propregulations.html.
SHORT CASTS
Camping Photo Contest: New York State Campgrounds are sponsoring a 2014 NY Camping Photo Contest. Time period is Memorial Day to Columbus Day. For a complete list of photo categories, contest rules, and to enter the contest, visit www.reserveamerica.com/nycampingphotocontest.
Streamline Canoes: While I was at Paddlefest last month I had the pleasure of having my booth next to the display of the Weaver family of Canastota. Nathan and Kristine Weaver operate a 100% grass-fed organic dairy farm between Canastota and Peterboro. Since their dairy farm includes a sizable amount of quality timber they can utilize for wood resources, including building wood strip canoes.
Their daughter Luann and son Alex spend time at Bear Mountain Boat Shop in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada. At this shop they have learned from world class boat builder Ted Moore. When the farm work slows in the winter the family converges into the timber-framed farm shop to build a few select canoes. Family labor fells the trees, cuts it into lumber, air dry it, cut and plane it to size. Finally their crafts put it together into a beautiful, practical canoe.
They can even customize the canoe to your choice of wood and design. I was very impressed with the workmanship and beauty of these canoes. Not only are they works of art but they are easily paddled and comfortable. I was also impressed with the light weight of these canoes. The transparent fiberglass and epoxy coatings on both sides of the hull give the boat strength. The canoes are available with hand caned seats.
If you appreciate beautiful canoes that are also practical and efficient, you owe it to yourself to check out the Streamline Canoes. Visit the Weaver family farm at 4225 E. Mile Strip Rd, Canastota, NY. Call 684-3391 for times or more information.
Crossbow Banquet: The NY Crossbow Coalition will hold its first annual banquet on July 26 at the Ramada Inn, Buckley Rd, Syracuse. Doors will open at 6 p.m. with dinner at 7 p.m. There will be raffles, auctions, deluxe buffet and informational presentations. Various ticket packages and sponsorships are available. For more information contact NYCC, PO Box 316, Pulaski, NY 13142 or email rick@nycrossbowcoalition.com.
Backpacking Tip: Use your watch as a compass. If you are lost without a compass, point the hour hand of your watch at the sun. Halfway between the hour hand and the 12 on the watch will be south. This works even with Daylight Saving Time.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Anglers await bass season opener


The third big opener of the fishing season occurs next weekend. Next Saturday, June 21, marks the opener of bass season and from the St. Lawrence River to the Hudson River anglers will be out in force after either smallmouth or largemouth bass. Generally these two species inhabit different habitats or cover and call for different fishing techniques, but both species will provide fun and excitement for the next five months.
The opening of bass season is not quite the big event it once was because now much of the state allows catch and release fishing for bass before the season opens. However much of the north country, including some Adirondack counties and the Henderson Harbor-St. Lawrence River area, do not permit pre-season fishing for bass.
Locally, Oneida Lake is one of the top spots for smallmouth bass and with the changing ecology and weed growth the largemouth population has become a major attraction for anglers. Ted Dobs is one of the local anglers and licensed charter captains who regularly have success fishing for bass on Oneida Lake.
Ted often suggests dragging green pumpkin tube jigs over rock piles since the smallmouth are often still bedding in deeper areas. If they are chasing schools of baitfish your best bet might be using a drop shot rig. He recommends a six pound fluorocarbon line, size 1 drop shot hook in black nickel finish and one-quarter ounce weight depending on wind, etc. Use any fluorocarbon knot and run the tag end back through the hook.
Ted recommends using Berkley Gulp minnows in three inch size in smelt, emerald shiner or black shad patterns. Don’t buy crayfish since they won’t be a significant part of the bass menu until July. Bass are feeding on minnows at this time of year.
Those anglers who prefer smaller waters have no shortage in central New York. Some of the popular waters in central New York include DeRuyter Reservoir, Cazenovia Lake, Eatonbrook Reservoir, Redfield Reservoir, Lake Delta, Canadarago Lake or Whitney Point Reservoir. Those who prefer stream or river fishing should consider lower Chenango River, Mohawk River, lower Fish Creek, Oswego River, Black River or the estuary of the Salmon River.
One of the most popular spots for bass fishermen will be the St. Lawrence River. Even though the shallow weedy bays provide good fishing for largemouths, it is the smallmouth bass that will attract the most attention. Anglers come from all over the state and even other states for the great fishing that the St. Lawrence has to offer.
Normally by opening weekend the bass will have spawned but still be in shallow water. Veteran charter captains like Al Benas or Myrle Bauer suggest using small floating stickbaits, shallow running crankbaits, Mepps spinners and spoons. Since post spawn smallmouths often are not actively moving about, they often like to drift with live minnows parallel to rocky shorelines and thus cover a lot of territory.
Further downriver near Ogdensburg, Mike Seymour guides for bass, pike and muskie. Last summer when I fished with Mike we caught lots of smallmouth two to four pounds using live bait. Mike explained that it was important to use enough weight to get the minnow down near the bottom and take the slack out of your line so you could feel the bass hit in the strong current.
The St. Lawrence offers great fishing but it can be confusing or intimidating finding good spots in all that water. For information on guiding services contact Al Benas (686-3030), Myrle Bauer (686-2122) or Mike Seymour (379-0235).
In the Adirondacks the water is colder and in many waters the bass will have not yet spawned. You probably will do well to search for them in areas adjacent to the shallow spawning areas.
Some of the top Adirondack bass waters include the Fulton Chain with largemouths in First and Second Lakes, and smallmouths in Third, Fourth,
Seventh and Eighth Lake. Indian Lake, Long Lake, Tupper and Saranac Chain all provide excellent smallmouth fishing. Largemouths are found in Lows Lake, Durant, Abanakee and Oseetah. Blue Mountain Lake and its connecting lakes of Eagle and Utowanah have both smallmouth and largemouth.
Those anglers targeting largemouth bass will typically fish the shallow waters, especially the edges of weed cover. Plastic worms, spinner baits, jigs or crankbaits worked along cover usually produces action.
Wherever you fish, my advice would be to start in the northwest corner of the lake since that is where bass usually spawn. Work the shallow areas and gradually fish deeper until you find fish. You might start looking for aggressive fish with spinners or small crankbaits but if the action is slow try a slower approach with jigs and curly tails or plastic worms.
If you are fishing big waters, you might want to drift and cover more territory while casting or using live minnows. In small ponds look for areas where two types of cover converge (e.g. weeds and tree tops). If the grass or weed growth is significant try Senko worms rigged wacky style.
But even if the fish don’t cooperate this weekend, remember that it is a long season and we have more places to go than we can possible fish in one season.
SHORT CASTS
Spey Nation: Have you ever wondered what a Spey Rod is? Would you like to learn to cast these two-handed fly rods that seem as if they can cast across any river? The group of rod makers, guides and fans of using Spey rods call themselves “Spey Nation” and they invite you to join them this month.
The 2014 Spey Nation weekend will be June 20 – 22 on the Salmon River with three days of fun at no charge. There will be free movies Friday night at Tailwater Lodge in Altmar, presentations all day on Saturday at the Pineville Boat Launch. The free lunch will be catered by Tailwater Lodge and at 4 p.m. there will be the drawings for the raffles which will benefit the Fish Creek Atlantic Salmon Club. Sunday will be free fishing at the Douglaston Salmon Run or lessons from Spey Casting Instructors.
Collins Reunion: The Collins family has the right idea for a reunion. The whole clan gathers for a weekend of outdoor sports, including fishing at some campground or resort. Lately they have been meeting at Pecks Lake northwest of Gloversville and stay at the rustic cabins or campgrounds of Pecks Lake Resort. Ted Collins reported that they had a good time, as always, and everyone caught fish, including panfish, walleye, rainbow trout and plenty of pickerel, pike and bass. Top honors went to nine year old Dennison Helesky from the Kingston
area who caught a 39 inch, 16 pound pike. The Rapala lure was caught in the corner of the mouth so the big pike could not bite off the line. All the kids win something but Dennison won a rod and reel and a great memory.
Golden Park Program: If you are a NYS resident 62 or older on any weekday (except holidays) you can obtain free vehicle access to state parks and arboretums. Simply present your current valid NYS Driver’s License. This policy applies both to Office of Parks and Recreation and DEC facilities.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Camping remains a popular summer pastime


Memorial Day weekend traditionally marks the beginning of camping season but it really gets into high gear in a few weeks with the end of school and families starting their vacations. The camping experience can range from backpacking and primitive camping to travelling in an RV to various private or public campgrounds. Each type, as well as those in between, have various advantages and lots of people who love it.
Statistics show that camping is actually growing in popularity in New York State and elsewhere. Some of the reasons are that it can be relatively inexpensive for families to take a vacation, as well as the fact that it puts in contact with the outdoors world.
Since we have a great variety of outdoor sports and attractive regions in New York, you can choose the areas and level of camping that you want to enjoy. Boating, fishing, paddling or hiking are just some of the activities at easy access when you camp. State campgrounds, private campgrounds or primitive areas in the state forest preserve offer lots to choose from.
In addition to being a camper myself, I visit with lots of others to exchange ideas and suggestions, or check out the new equipment at stores and outdoor shows. Time and space do not permit going into the various advantages and options now but we wanted to show you some of the newest developments that campers will find handy.
However three things that I can always recommend are products by Coleman, Coghlan, and Thermacell repellents. Coleman makes everything from lanterns & stove to tents and pop-up campers. You won’t go wrong with Coleman products. Thermacell devices (appliances and lanterns) really keep away the nasty mosquitoes and black flies. They are the greatest development for enjoying camping without the insects.
Coghlan’s Camping Products: All types of campers have known for a long time that Coghlans is the company to turn to for all types of aids and devices to make your camping experience easier. For example if you are a tent camper, or just have a screen tent to go with your RV, you want to make sure that you have one of Coghlans Tent Repair Kits with you. This small package contains the essentials of patch material to make quick repairs to canvas tents and screens: pieces of tent material, a piece of nylon window screen, a spool of thread and needle and a tube of Canvas Cement.
If you are backpacking you want to travel light but have essential fuel for cooking or heating at camp, especially in areas where wood fires are prohibited. Coghlan’s Camp Heat comes in 6.4 oz. cans of Diethylene Glycol with a screw on lid. Simply unscrew the lid and light the wick. When finished put the cap back on to extinguish the flame and save the fuel for re-use. Each can provides four hours of burn time.
Olympia RG850 Flashlight: The RG850 flashlight is loaded with practical features for changing lighting conditions and challenging settings. It features five unique light settings including low, medium, high, strobe and SOS for emergency situations. The Olympia RG850 flashlight is completely waterproof withstanding submersion of up to two meters for 30 minutes. It is crafted from Aircraft-grade aluminum with type III anodized anti-abrasive finish.
The RG850 features 850 powerful lumens of brightness with a beam distance of 389 meters, enough to illuminate an entire camp area. The model also comes equipped with a rechargeable battery that allows users to recharge the battery while in the flashlight via a micro-USB cable. www.olympiaproducts.com.
Solar Pad 3000: For most people today, electronics including the cell phone or Ipad are an important part of the camping trip. If that is the case with you then you should check out the Solar Pad 3000 by Secur Products. It is great for emergency use or for keeping your cell phone from “powering off.”
The Solar Pad 3000 is a compact (6 x 9 inches), high efficiency and high capacity charger to re-charge your phone, tablet, GPS, camera or other digital device while on the go. It will fully charge by exposing it to six or seven hours of sunlight and then it charges your electronic device by a cable and USB port. It is water resistant and built to travel and can even be mounted in a window to charge on the go. You can also charge it in four hours by connecting it to your PC before you leave home. www.securproducts.com.
Dakota Watches: Even though we may be free of a schedule while camping or some other outdoor activity it is still important to know what time it is for various reasons. Dakota Watches are known for quality timepieces ranging from elegant timepieces to rugged sportwatches for outdoor recreation. There are many models and styles to choose from but one that I have recently found handy as well as reliable is the Dakota Digital Clip Clock.
Instead of the wrist band (which causes an uneven sun tan) this one has a carabiner arm that easily clips to your belt, strap of your backpack or fishing vest, etc. It easily flips up to show the large easily visible face with digital display. It features day and date calendar display and is made of an aluminum water-resistant case. It also includes a stopwatch, EL backlight and even an alarm clock. You can wear it on your belt by day and it then folds to double as a nightstand alarm clock in the evening.
To see the full range of Digital Clip Clocks as well as traditional wrist watches visit www.dakotawatch.com.
Ambi – the “electronic ice cube”: Minor mishaps including bumps and bruises are a fact of life when camping. We often do not have ice packs handy to keep the swelling down or bring relief from bug bites, bumps, migraines, etc. The Ambi is a small device about the size of your phone that operates on four AA batteries or a DC adapter to serve as a cooling device with the touch of a button.
The Groover – Grill Cleaning Pad: It is enjoyable to cook on the grill, it is not fun to clean it. Now GrateChef has a device that makes the chore much easier and more efficient. Groover Grill Cleaning Pads work with a heat-activated internal cleaner that removes grease or accumulated residue while the grill is hot. Just attach a Groover cleaning pad to the bristles of a grill brush and scrub.
This does not require any rinsing afterwards and is completely food safe so you can cook immediately after cleaning. It leaves no chemical residue or smell. Since your grill brush does not come in direct contact there is no damage to it from the hot grill. It works on any material grill grate. www.gratechef.com.
SHORT CASTS
Camping Promotion Program: New York State has an Early Summer Camping Special as a way of promoting and encouraging people to use its campgrounds. If you are camping from now until June 26 you can make reservations and save $5 per night for your weekend and weekday camping trip. Use the promotion code EARLYCAMPING14 when making advance reservations by phone (1-800-456-CAMP) or online at newyorkstateparks.reserveamerica.com. This discount program does not apply to previously booked reservations, walk-ins or cabins and cottages.
CNY Gunworks: With the end of the turkey season many guns will need a thorough cleaning and lubrication before you put them away for a few months. If you are not sure about doing the job properly you might consider a professional like Central NY Gunworks on Rt. 233 in Verona. Gary Donovan and his staff also have licenses, ammunition and guns for all of your varmint hunting and target shooting needs over the summer. Call 363-7041 for more information. Of course it’s not too early to get work done on your hunting rifles or shotguns over the summer instead of waiting until mid September.
Golden Park Program: If you are a NYS resident 62 or older you can obtain free vehicle access to state parks and arboreteums on any weekday (except holidays).Simply present your current valid NYS Driver’s License. This policy applies both to Office of Parks and Recreation and DEC facilities.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Now is the time to learn fly fishing

Have you ever thought that you would like to get involved in fly fishing? Spring is the prime time for fly fishing since many mayfly or other aquatic insects will be hatching and trout will be eagerly feeding on them. The hatches create enough action that even a beginner can have fun catching fish. Of course, some of the recent weather with cold temperatures and strong winds definitely was not fly fishing weather.
Fly fishing is fun and it is easier than you might think. How should you get started? The best advice is to ask a friend who is an experienced fly fisherman. By asking a friend, professional instructor or local sports shop you will probably get the best advice on what type of equipment to purchase and how to get started. Lessons from guides or pro shops can be very helpful.
Locally there are several groups that can offer advice, support or even assist you in learning to cast properly or get started in fly tieing. Mohawk Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited (tumohawkvalley.org) welcomes new members and is very helpful. The Madison County Chapter of TU (tu680.tripod.com) is involved in casting clinics and fly tieing, in addition to its stream improvements and stocking.
For most of the trout fishing in this area, an 8 and 1/2 or 9-foot rod, balanced with a 5 or 6 weight line will be ideal. Fortunately, it is easy these days to balance equipment - i.e. the proper weight line for the rod. Simply match the number on the rod with the weight of the line. You will want a heavier weight for bass or steelhead fishing.
You should have a good quality reel with sufficient capacity and drag control, but basically they are just used for storing line. A single action reel with interchangeable spools for using different types of lines (sinking tip, weight forward, etc.) is what most of us need.
The variety of lines can be confusing but most of your fishing needs will be served by floating, weight forward lines. These are easiest to cast and allow for delicate presentation. Level lines are cheaper but should be avoided for most casting purposes since they don’t give you the distance or delicate presentation.
The last part of the equipment is a tapered leader. This allows you to present the fly so the fish will not see the connection. Although experienced anglers may opt for longer leaders, most of us will do fine with a 7 1/2 or 9-foot tapered leader. The tippet (end) should match the size of the fly you are using. Smaller flies call for more delicate tippets. You can attach the leader with a nail knot, but many people use various commercial leader connectors to easily attach the leader to the end of the fly line.
The third part of the equation is choosing the proper flies to use. This can be the most intimidating or frustrating part. When you see fish rising all around you but ignoring your offerings, you wonder if it is your casting techniques, fly selection or a punishment for not mowing the lawn before you left. You may not have to match the hatch exactly but the closer you come, the better your success will be. When in doubt, just try to come as close to the size as possible, then try to match shape and color and this usually produces some fish.
You don’t need an overwhelming number of patterns and sizes to catch trout. Most of the trout in this area can be caught on dry flies in Adams, Light Cahill, Hendrickson, Caddis, Gray Fox, March Browns or Elk’s Hair Caddis. Your wet fly selection should include Wooly worm, Royal Coachman, Dark Hendricksen and Hornberg. Toss in some Wooly Buggers, Muddler Minnows and Hare’s Ear and some streamers and nymph imitations and you are on your way.
Most of the significant hatches on trout streams are mayflies or caddis flies that occur as the water warms. Generally, the following major hatches occur within a week of these times each year: Hendrickson - early May to mid June; Blue Winged Olive – May 1 to June 30; March Brown – mid May to mid June; Light Cahill – early May to the end of June; Sulphurs – early June to mid July; Green Drake - mid June to July 1; Isonychia early June to mid July; Golden Drake – early to mid July; White Mayfly - August and September. Not all Central New York streams have these same hatches.
Many years ago Pete French, an excellent fly fisherman and guide, gave me good advice. Pete said that the first thing he did when he arrived at the stream was nothing. Essentially, Pete was saying that he sat an observed any activity of mayflies hatching and emerging, or dying and floating on the water, and signs of whether the fish were feeding on the surface or on emerging hatches beneath the surface.
In addition to fishing dry flies on the surface, or trolling streamers, a common tactic of fly fishermen is to use wet flies like the Muddler Minnow, Hornberg or Wooly Bugger. These are best fished with a sinking line near the bottom of the pond and gently twitched or moved with the drift of the canoe. If you don’t have a sinking line, you can use a split shot on your leader to get the fly down.
It is true that the better you are at casting and fly selection the more fish you will catch. But you get better by practicing it on the stream or pond. Thus you can catch fish and have fun while learning. So join the growing number of people who find that fly fishing isn’t a difficult challenge - it’s just plain fun.
Short Casts
Save The Date: The Madison County Friends of NRA Banquet will be held on Saturday, June 7 at the Rusty Rail in Canastota. Contact Ralph Meyers (363-5342) for more information.
Record Striper: The first new record fish of 2014 was a striped bass caught in the Hudson River near Newburgh on May 14. The new record fish weighed 60 pounds and was 53.4 inches long with a 33-inch girth. It surpassed the old record set in 2007 by 4 pounds, 10 ounces. Eric Lester was fishing alone when he hooked the monster striper and then began a comedy of errors with the reel coming off the rod. He managed to re-attach it but found the line snarled around the engine prop. He untangled that and managed to land the fish alone. Photos of the record fish are available on the DEC website.
Spey Nation: The 2014 Spey Nation weekend will be June 20–22 on the Salmon River with three days of fun at no charge. There will be free movies Friday night at Tailwater Lodge in Altmar, presentations all day on Saturday at the Pineville Boat Launch. The free lunch will be catered by Tailwater Lodge and at 4 p.m. there will be the drawings for the raffles which will benefit the Fish Creek Atlantic Salmon Club. Sunday will be free fishing at the Douglaston Salmon Run or lessons from Spey Casting.
Fenner Fur Rondy: The Independent Fur Harvesters of Central NY will hold their annual summer Fur Rondy on July 11 and 12 at Nichols Pond. There will be family fun, trapping business and a Trapper Training Class. Contact Al LaFrance (682-2050) for more information.
Wild Boars Off Limits: As reported earlier, the hunting or killing of free-ranging wild boars is illegal in New York State. Although NYS wants to eradicate any wild pigs, the shooting of them by random hunting is counter-productive. The pigs are extremely wary and intelligent and if one is killed the rest scatter and become more difficult to trap or kill. The state has been able to eliminate all of most of them in various areas of Central NY but some areas of wild boars apparently remain. It has been an expensive process but the free-ranging hogs do incredible damage to the environment, wildlife and agricultural crops. Any Eurasian boars that are in enclosed hunting preserves may still be hunted but those are scheduled for elimination by next year.
Deer Take: According to results released recently by the DEC, the total deer harvest was slightly above the previous year and an increase from the previous five year average. The number of bucks killed was down by about 4,000 but the number of does killed on DMU permits rose by over 5,000. However the DEC was disappointed that the DMU desired quotas were not reached in many units, especially in western NY. We will have a breakdown on local figures later or you can check the reports on the DEC website.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

ECOs hold successful youth turkey hunt

Oneida County Youth Hunt
The Federated Sportsmen Clubs of Oneida County and Region 6 Environmental Conservation Officers (ECOs) teamed up to hold its fourth annual Youth Turkey Hunt on April 26 and 27. The National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), Oneida County Sheriff Dept. and NYS Outdoorsmen Hall of Fame and other interested sportsmen and women from the area assisted and supported the event. A total of 16 youths signed up from Herkimer, Oneida and Madison Counties to participate in this year’s hunt.
A Safety Day for the 16 youths and their parents was held April 12 at the Cassety Hollow Rod and Gun Club in Oriskany Falls. A presentation on turkey hunting safety and regulations was conducted by ECO Ric Grisolini. Mr. Tim Furner from Gander Mountain and the NWTF put on a small presentation on the setup of turkey decoys in the field and a calling demonstration.
In the afternoon each youngster patterned their shotguns under the instruction of ECO Mike Dangler, a certified firearms instructor. Each youth was partnered up with an ECO and mentor from their area. They talked about the equipment they had and what they might need.
On April 26 the ECOs and mentors took 16 youths out hunting. Four of the youths harvested their turkey on this day. They had three misses that day as well. Everyone had turkeys all around them that morning but many of the turkeys hung just outside the range of their guns, so those youths could not get a shot. The largest turkey harvested that day was 22 pounds, with one seven-inch beard and another one and one-half-inch beard on its chest and spurs that were one-inch long. The youths all had a great time and they received lunch after the hunt.
On April 27 the ECOs and mentors took out twelve youths out. The weather was cold and rainy but they harvested two nice birds. The largest bird that day was 20 pounds with a 10-inch beard and spurs of one and one-half inches long. The second bird was 18 pounds with a nine-inch beard and one-inch spurs. They also had three misses that day as well. The youths all had a great time and enjoyed lunch after the hunt.
The Oneida County Federation and the ECOs would like to give a big thank you to the following groups or organizations for their donations for this year’s hunt: NYS Conservation Officer Assoc., National Wild Turkey Federation, Gander Mountain of New Hartford, Bass Pro Shops of Utica, Otis Technology, Zink Calls, Mountain Hollow Game Calls, and Mr. Steve Heerkens.
The Oneida County Federation and the organizers of the event would like to give a big thank you to Environmental Conservation Officers and sportsmen and women mentors that took the time out of their schedule to take a kid out hunting.
Thanks also go to the cooks for the event, Brian Day and Larry Chandler, and the Cassety Hollow Members for the use of their Club for the Safety Day, and the two days of hunting.
Turkey Tales
The turkey season is a week old and a lot of nice birds have been taken. Typically the majority of hunters have had some excitement or frustration but haven’t bagged a bird yet. However, those who know turkey hunting realize that statistically the odds of getting a mature tom are less than getting a deer.
One thing that many hunters have commented on is the relative lack of gobbling on the roost and general scarcity of gobbling after they fly down from the roost. However if you do get a bird within hearing range, they are likely to respond to your calls with aggressive gobbling. Getting them to come within range, however, is another matter.
Dick Cooper has had a lot of excitement calling in gobblers but the big toms have stayed out of sight or out of range. “Coop” did pass up shots at jakes who wandered within range to check out his decoys. Glen Garver called in a nice tom on opening day but there were no hens to draw the big birds’ attention away.
Sue Bookhout got a big tom of 22 pounds, 8-inch beard, and one-inch spurs earlier this week, shortly after the tom came down from his roost across the road. I was successful early last week on Friday when I heard a lone gobble about 9:30 a.m. down at the bottom of the ridge I was sitting on. I called sparingly and about 20 minutes later two big toms snuck up the ridge silently. The one I bagged weighed 22 pounds with a nine and one-half-inch beard and one and one-quarter-inch spurs.
So far the story seems to be don’t get discouraged if you don’t hear one gobble on the roost. Be patient, call sparingly until you get a response, and be ready for one to sneak in silently.
SHORT CASTS
Vernon Rod & Gun Club Chicken BBQ: The Vernon Rod & Gun Club will hold a chicken barbecue on Saturday, May 17 from noon until done. Location will be at the clubhouse on Stuhlman Road across from Vernon Downs. Menu will include half a chicken, roll, coleslaw, salt potatoes and dessert. Meals are available for sit-in dinner or take out. Proceeds from this event will be used to fund the kids fishing derby in June.
Walleye Report: The cool, damp weather last weekend failed to dampen the enthusiasm of walleye fishermen on Oneida Lake and the tributaries. Windy weather made fishing conditions difficult, especially on Sunday with nasty waves creating rough boating conditions. Partly because of the weather, and partly because there were still a lot of the male walleyes in the tributaries, much of the boating activity was concentrated in Fish Creek. A considerable number of fishermen took keeper-sized walleye, although very few of the fish were large. Anglers generally had to put in a lot of time or miles on the lake for the fish they did catch.
Paddlefest: Adirondack Paddlefest, the largest on-water canoe and kayak show in the Northeast returns to Old Forge May 16–18. There will be hundreds of canoes and kayaks on sale, and all types of accessories available. Meet with manufacturers representatives, take skill classes for a modest fee and attend free seminars and demonstrations on everything from tandem paddling techniques to kayak fishing. Of course, this is also your chance to test paddle canoes, kayaks and stand up paddleboards, as well as try out various paddles.
There will be a special one-day contest of fishing for northern pike from a kayak on Saturday, May 17. First prize will be a Wilderness Fishing Kayak. There will also be many booths of various outdoor related organizations. For more information check the website www.AdirondackPaddlefest.com or call 369-6672.
Bass Pro Shops Go Outdoors Weekends: Local Bass Pro shops, including the North Utica store, will host two weekends of free workshops and activities May 16–26. The weekend of May 17-18 will include seminars on camping, survival, proper fit of PFDs and cooking demonstrations. The weekend of May 24–25 will be geared towards youngsters with BB gun shooting range, metal detector treasure hunt, scavenger hunt and crafts. There will be kids workshops on camping and water safety. See the website www.basspro.com for times and details.
L.L. Bean Camping Weekend: Local L.L. Bean stores will hold a camping weekend May 16–18. This will be a weekend long event at local L.L. Bean stores. There will be free clinics with expert staff on camping essentials, hiking and backpacking trips, and beginner birding. You can see product demonstrations and test gear in a wide variety of tents, chairs, sleeping bags, etc. There will also be fun games and crafts for kids of all ages. See the website LLBean.com for more information.
Oneida Lake Team Walleye Trail: The team tournament returns to Oneida Lake on June 1 with the Team Walleye Trail, sponsoring a one-day tournament. Winning team is guaranteed a minimum of $2,000 and the lunker prize is $750. Hours are 7 a.m. until 3 p.m. with the tournament based in Oneida Shores County Park in Brewerton. See the website oneidawalleyes.com for complete rules and details.
Paddlefest Fishing Tournament: A new event at Paddlefest this year is the inaugural Paddlefest Fishing Tournament with first place winning a new Wilderness Systems Fishing Kayak. The day is Saturday, May 17 and registration is from Friday noon or Saturday morning between 9 and 10 a.m. Preregistration must be in the mail by Monday, May 12. See the website www.AdirondackPaddlefest.com for on-line registration and details.
The contest will be for northern pike and will be a catch and release tournament. Pike must be caught from a kayak in the Fulton Chain of Lakes or tributaries. Kayak rentals are available. Second prize will be a carbon paddle valued at $355 and third place will receive a $75 gift card. Registration is limited to the first 50 participants. The event is sponsored by Mountainman Outdoor Supply Company, Adirondack Outdoors magazine and Wilderness System kayaks.