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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, August 26, 2015

Fishing by the light of the moon

Fishing is always a mystery as to what lurks in the watery depths and how you are going to catch it. The element of darkness adds another level of mystery, anticipation and excitement. Frequently that excitement is punctuated by a lunker fish that makes this extra effort worthwhile.
Muskellunge are always a fish of mystery and challenge. Their huge size, the relativity scarcity of these fish and their unpredictable nature make them a prized challenge for anglers. Although most people put their hopes of catching one on trolling the icy days of late autumn, some anglers like my friend Mike Seymour regularly catch bragging-sized muskies all summer long.
Mike generally fishes the area of the St. Lawrence River near Ogdensburg where he guides for various species. Even when he is not guiding, Mike and his son Luke regularly fish for muskies and catch 10 to 15 each summer. The key is that he fishes for these behemoths after dark by trolling the areas that he knows hold muskies.
Naturally this calls for an intimate knowledge of the river and its structure as well as the techniques of fishing for muskies. If you want the excitement of catching a muskie without fishing during the icy gales of November, then fishing at night is your best bet. For more information contact Mike Seymour at (315) 379-0235.
Many bass fishermen target bass after dark because the cool summer night air is a welcome relief from the day’s heat. During the daylight hours their favorite spot is often buzzing with boaters. Any bass in the area were hiding in deep water or in dense cover with no thought of feeding.
Fishing after dark means there is less boating activity to disturb bass. The water temperatures cools a few degrees and they no longer have to stay in deep water or heavy cover to avoid the bright sunlight. The bass not only feel more secure after dark but the items on their menu like frogs, crayfish and small bullheads are also more active.
My friend Gary Lee is an Adirondack angler who loves to fish at night for bass with top-water lures. Many of his best fishing adventures are at night during the summer season. Bill Batdorf and Blaine Cook are two local anglers who are adept at night fishing for bass. Although they may have their own preferences for different methods or favorite spots, they all agree that night fishing for bass is a magical time and some of the biggest fish are taken at night.
Shallow areas adjoining deep water or those that have heavy cover are the best bet for night fishing. Areas of clear water and weeds are usually better than areas of dark or murky water for fishing at night. A key factor is that bass won’t have to move far from their daytime hideouts to their feeding areas.
Fishing after dark calls for being familiar with the water and knowing that the area is free of stumps, shoals or other hazards. You should also know the depths, structure and other areas where the bass are likely to be so you can quietly approach them using landmarks as guides. It is a good idea to be out on the water in prime areas before sunset to orient yourself and get your gear ready.
Often the fishing will be good in the last hour or two before sunset. You will probably find that the period right after sunset is slow fishing. It usually takes an hour for the fish to acclimate their eyes to the darkness before they are ready to feed again.
Fishing after dark calls for extra caution. In addition to PFDs and lights, you should be sure to include a jacket and insect repellent. Make sure you have long-nosed pliers because trying to lip-lock a bass in the dark is an invitation to disaster. Check the shoreline or other landmarks and carry a compass because even familiar waters will appear strange after dark.
Bill Batdorf favors top water lures like Jitterbugs. He suggests darker colors for darkest nights, since bass see the lure on the surface as a silhouette. Other top water lures include Chug Bugs or various poppers. Bill usually employs a steady retrieve because that gives bass a chance to zero in on the movement. If that doesn’t work, you can vary the speed of your retrieve.
Although most bass anglers like lures that create noise such as top water chuggers, lures with “propellers” or spinner baits, other bass lures will also catch fish at night. Some anglers who are skillful with plastic worms use these at night as well. Remember that key considerations are getting the lure through and out of the weeds and cover, and the ease of unhooking bass afterwards.
There are countless ponds or lakes, large and small, that are suitable for night bass fishing. You are actually better off trying some of the smaller ponds since it is easier to familiarize yourself with the cover, etc.
Brown trout are another species that lends itself to night fishing. Browns are warier than brook or rainbow trout and often spend the daylight hours in deep water or heavy cover during the summer days. Night anglers often catch some lunker browns that most people would not believe inhabited those streams.
Again it is imperative to know the stream you are fishing. Be familiar with the depths, the current and the bottom structure. Know the area so you can almost cast to the areas from memory since you will not be able to see much in the dark. Although the big browns are often cruising the pools, you may still find them close to their normal hideouts.
Have a light handy, but be careful not to shine it on the water or you will put down the big browns who should be out feeding. Typically these monsters will be cruising the pools or feeding in the riffles at the head of pools.
Nightcrawlers, salted minnows or big streamer flies and Wooly Buggers are my baits or lures of choice. Some other anglers, however, are successful using smaller streamers or flies, as well as Phoebes, Mepps spinners or small spoons.
In the next few weeks the water temperatures will remain warmer and days will still be bright and sunny. Thus it is still a good time to be fishing at night. Give it a try and you may be surprised at what goes slurp in the dark of the night.                       
SHORT CASTS
Larry Chandler: Sportsmen and the Central New York community lost a good friend last week when Larry Chandler passed away. Most people knew Larry as a pleasant and warm personality who practically always had a smile on his face. His easy going nature belied his hard work, dedication and sense of responsibility to his community and sportsmen’s issues.
One of Larry’s greatest loves was the Boy Scouts of America and he spent countless hours serving and leading in many capacities. He was also a long time instructor for Hunter Safety and put in many days teaching youngsters the safe and ethical practices of hunting. He also served as Hunting Safety Coordinator for the Oneida County area.
Larry aided the causes of many sporting organizations and projects including the Vernon Rod & Gun Club, Oneida County Federation of Sportsmen, youth turkey and goose hunts and the New York State Outdoorsmen Hall of Fame. Larry was an inductee of the New York State Outdoorsmen Hall of Fame as befitting someone who contributed so much to the preservation of outdoor sports and conservation.
Our organizations and area are much richer because of his efforts. Larry Chandler will be missed as a sportsman, a member of the community and a friend.
BPS Women’s Workshop: Bass Pro Shops in North Utica will continue its Fall Classic education series this weekend with a women’s workshop. The Women’s Hunting Workshop will be held on August 29 at 3 p.m. The workshop is free and first 25 women to attend will receive a free tumbler.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Catch and release: Use care and common sense

The famous fly fisherman and star of the TV show “American Sportsman” Lee Wulff popularized the saying that a great game fish was too valuable to only catch once. Lee Wulff’s fishing adventures often stressed catch and release and demonstrated how to properly do it. But Wulff was not rigid or dogmatic about the idea. He would say that it was also proper to keep a few fish to eat. Moderation and common sense should be the angler’s guidelines.
In a recent column we discussed the idea that catch and release often a good thing, especially in areas of high fishing pressure or for species that are naturally propagated instead of raised in a hatchery. That column focused more on the methods of safe handling and care for fish so they can be released successfully.
One thing worth repeating is that it is usually better to release the fish while it is still in the water whenever possible. This is especially true when dealing with large fish like northern pike. Mike Seymour is a guide on the St. Lawrence River who guides clients for muskies, bass and pike. Often his clients will hook a nice-sized pike and bring it alongside the boat. The angler smiles and asks Captain Mike Seymour how much he thinks it weighs. Mike nods and says “well right now it is a 10 pounder. But if we bring it into the boat it will weigh 7 pounds.” The angler grins and says OK, while Mike deftly uses his pliers to unhook the pike and watch it swim away.
As a guide and a sportsman, Mike Seymour quietly stresses the importance of the practice of catch and release. Throughout the season Mike or his son regularly catch big muskies and quickly photograph and release them. This has been an ethic stressed for many years by most muskie fisherman. These elusive and mysterious fish have increased in both size and number in the St. Lawrence in recent years due to this common practice.
Two things, however, must be kept in mind when fishing: It does not do any good to release the fish if you are careless and do not handle the fish carefully. Secondly, this is a guideline and should not be a dogmatic, black and white issue either way.
It is more important to practice this where the fish population is pressured, numbers are limited and much of the population comes from natural propagation. Save the River, a conservation-based organization on the St. Lawrence River, is stressing limiting the number of smallmouth bass that you keep while fishing. Numbers of smallmouth bass have declined sharply in recent years due to several factors, mainly the presence of the predatory round gobies which raid the nests.
But if there are large numbers, or many of that species come from hatchery stock, that is a different situation. You should not feel guilty or be ostracized if you keep some fish for the frying pan. As long as you do it – like most things – in moderation the resource will not be harmed.
Very few people believe in catch and release for walleye. One factor is that walleye are good tasting and that is the reason people fish for them. It certainly is not the excitement of fighting them. Walleye are also stocked by the DEC so the majority of the population comes from this stock.
Of course king and Coho salmon are going to die after spawning so there is no reason to feel guilty. Some people release them so they can continue fishing and others may have the chance to catch the same fish. But the great taste of salmon and the numbers of stocked fish means most will naturally end up on the grill.
When releasing fish with care you should minimize the time out of the water. Using barbless hooks and using pliers makes it easier to release a fish. Wet your hands to minimize removing protective slime when you have to handle fish. Take some quick photos and carefully put it back in the water, or put it in the live well to be photographed later.
If you do have to net a large fish like a muskie to unhook it, place a wet towel over its eyes to keep it from thrashing about the boat. Do not lift it vertically since this unnatural position can put great stress on its organs.
Grabbing a bass by the lower lip can immobilize it, but do not try to force it into a horizontal position using this grip. If you need to take a horizontal photo, use your other hand to support the fish underneath. Pike can be immobilized by firmly gripping the fish over the gill plates or using a “spreader.” Never grab any fish through the gills.
Lifting a trout up under its belly seems to temporarily relax or immobilize them. Again a quick photo, or even one in the shallow water will provide memories or proof of your catch to your friends.
When I was a youngster I practiced a lot of catch and release even before it was popular. Part of the reason was that I wanted to insure lots of fish to catch later and part of the reason was that I was too lazy to clean many fish. We always had a rule to keep any big brown trout. Part of it was the desire to show off a trophy, and part of it was the fact that big browns are cannibals and clean out a pool by eating all the small trout. Today some fishing clubs or leases have similar rules.
Keep in mind that you are fishing to enjoy the experience and if you catch some fish the experience is even more rewarding. If you are going to keep some fish for the grill, just consider the circumstances and do it in moderation.
SHORT CASTS
Shorter Fall Turkey Hunting Seasons: The NYS DEC has adopted new regulations to shorten fall turkey hunting seasons in New York State due to a declining turkey population across the state. The new fall seasons are two weeks long with a statewide season bag limit of one bird of either sex. Season dates vary regionally with the season in the Northern Zone running October 1–14 and the Southern Zone running October 17–30.
The new fall hunting season structure is based on the results of research conducted by DEC. Based on those studies, DEC concluded that the best way to enhance turkey populations while maintaining some fall hunting opportunity was to offer a two-week season in all areas of the state.
Youth Goose Hunt: The Oneida County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs and ECOs are again teaming up to offer a special youth goose hunt to youngsters who may not otherwise have the opportunity to go goose hunting. Youngsters must have completed their hunter safety course beforehand.
There will be a meeting with parents, ECOs and hunter mentors; target practice and other preparation for the next day’s hunt. This year’s hunt will take place on the weekend of Sept. 19 and 20. Youngsters will have the opportunity to learn the skills necessary for goose hunting and then actually experience it with the guidance of an ECO or hunter mentor in the field.
The program is open to youths ages 12–17. A small game license and an HIP number are necessary for all youngsters. Youths ages 16-17 will also need a federal wildfowl stamp. Interested participants should contact Scott Faulkner (225-0192), ECO Steve Lakeman (734-0648) or ECO Ric Grisolini (240-6966) for an application for this program. Space in the program is limited so be sure to register immediately.
Special Opportunity To Visit Restricted Refuges: The public will have a special opportunity to visit restricted portions of three Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) in Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties starting Saturday, Aug. 15 and continuing through Sunday, Aug. 30. Opening these refuge wetland areas to the public for a limited period gives visitors a chance to connect with nature through hiking, canoeing and bird watching, with minimal impacts on wildlife.”
During the 16-day period, Perch River WMA in Jefferson County and Upper and Lower Lakes and Wilson Hill WMAs in St. Lawrence County, including their wetland restricted areas, will be open to visitors each day from sunrise to sunset, except for Perch Lake, which opens at noon. For most of the year, these wetlands are off limits to the public to provide feeding and resting areas for migratory waterfowl.
The restricted wetland areas are also used by a number of New York State’s endangered, threatened and rare species including bald eagles, black terns and northern harriers (marsh hawks), among others. By late August, the nesting and brooding season is mostly complete and the fall migration period has not yet begun, enabling DEC to allow public access.
For additional information, bird lists and maps, contact DECs Regional Wildlife Office at 315-785-2263 or visit the DEC web page at http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/8282.html.
DEC Seeks Participants For Summer Turkey Survey: The DEC has encouraged New Yorkers to participate in a survey for wild turkeys throughout the month of August. Participants can record observations of turkeys while exploring the forests and fields around their home or driving.
Weather, predation and habitat conditions during the breeding and brood-rearing seasons can all significantly impact nest success, hen survival and poult survival. This index allows DEC to gauge reproductive success and predict fall harvest potential.
During the month of August, survey participants record the sex and age composition of all flocks of wild turkeys observed during normal travel. Those that would like to participate can download a Summer Wild Turkey Sighting Survey form from the DEC website: http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/48732.html. Detailed instructions can be found with the data sheet. Survey cards can also be obtained by contacting your regional DEC office, by calling (518) 402-8886, or by e-mailing wildlife@dec.ny.gov (type “Turkey Survey” in the subject line).

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Coyotes are here to stay

In Aztec lore, the coyote was known as “God’s Dog” because of its mysterious ways and intelligence. The Navajo believed that the coyote would be the last creature on earth because of its cleverness and ability to adapt to changing conditions.
Some people have other names or labels for the coyote, many of which cannot be printed in a family publication. Coyotes do create a lot of strong feelings and many people despise them while others like them. Of course we know that some people like to stick their hands into snake infested waters and blindly “noodle” for catfish, some like to hunt wild boar and kill them by stabbing them with a big knife and some other people even like to drink warm beer.
Personally I hate coyotes. There, I’ve said it and gotten that out of the way. My personal reasons will be evident later.
Coyotes are often referred to as “coy-dogs” or “brush wolves.” The coy-dog label came about when they first appeared in the 1960s in significant numbers and people attributed their larger size to the possibility of interbreeding with dogs. Although they can, and have sometimes in the past, that is very rare today. They usually have different breeding cycles and coyotes certainly have no problem finding mates these days. They are much more likely to kill the dogs rather than mate with them.
The term brush wolf comes from their larger size than the western coyotes. This is actually due to interbreeding with wolves as they migrated east. Scientists have determined that the genetic makeup of the eastern coyote contains genetic similarity with the red wolf and this has created a distinct subspecies with larger size and some distinct behavior patterns.
Eastern coyotes usually weigh about 30–40 pounds but many larger males have been taken. Their big bushy tail makes them seem even larger. When some people see this large member of the canid family in the fields or their backyard they often wonder if they are seeing a timber wolf. Timber wolves are considerably larger, usually weighing 90–100 pounds, have shorter rounded ears and a blunter muzzle.
Coyotes usually live in pairs rather than packs as wolves do. However, the young of the year and other unmated females may form packs for hunting in fall and winter. Coyotes make a variety of calls and their howls and other sounds can often be heard on a late summer or autumn night.
The female coyote gives birth to the pups in spring and typically has three to five pups, although they sometimes give birth to as many as 10 or 12. The young are raised in a den, hollow log or under a ledge and stay in that area for three or four months until they are old enough to travel and hunt with the adults.
Coyotes eat a wide variety of things ranging from fruits to large mammals. Because they are predatory in nature, most of their diet consists of mice, small rodents, woodchucks, rabbits, beaver, birds, turkey and deer. One farmer told me how coyotes in the area would hear his tractor mowing hay and after he had made about three or four passes around the field the female and the pups would appear and spend an hour pouncing on the now vulnerable field mice in the freshly mown hay.
Coyotes are also a major predator on turkey and wildlife biologists know that they take a toll on hen turkeys while they are nesting. I have had coyotes come in to the sound of my calling or the tom turkey gobbling and mess up several of my hunts.
Once I had a coyote sneak in towards my decoys while I was calling and when it saw my movement in the shadows, it turned and bounded straight for me. I grabbed my shotgun and yelled but before I could get off a shot, the coyote realized its mistake and spun and dodged behind some trees as it sped away.
Another time I was goose hunting and heard something on the opposite side of a stonewall. As I rose up to take a look I came face-to-face with a coyote at a distance of three feet. That time we both jumped back in total surprise. Some hunters have not been so lucky and have been pounced on from behind and bitten while turkey hunting. The coyotes usually got away when they realized their mistake but the hunters had to undergo the shots for rabies vaccine.
Coyotes take a fairly heavy toll of fawns. One ESF study confirmed this but their conclusion was that the effect was minimal “since most predation occurs in spring.” Duh! That is when fawns are born! That is like saying most injuries from snowball fights occur in winter.
In some areas coyotes kill a substantial number of adult deer in winter. This is usually in areas of deep snow like the Adirondacks. Deer cannot travel fast in the deep snow and the packs of coyotes travel on top of the snow and soon surround and pull down the deer.
Coyotes also make a habit of attacking beagles while they are hunting rabbits. The sound of a baying hound brings the coyotes in to attack and kill the beagle. Some dismiss this as the instinctive behavior of coyotes to not tolerate other canids during the period when they have young. However, this practice of coyotes is year-around, not just when they have young (which is after rabbit hunting season).
This year I have had three friends call me about coyotes in their backyard asking if it was a coyote or wolf and ask if it were dangerous. Yes, they are coyotes. No, they are not normally dangerous to humans (unless they mistake you for the game while you are hunting). Seeing them in broad daylight in your yard does not mean that they are rabid, although you should never take chances. It does mean that they have been accustomed to humans and are becoming bolder.
Since coyotes are well-entrenched in suburban, or even urban areas, they have quickly learned that cats and small dogs are easier prey than rabbits or woodchucks which can escape into their dens. In some areas where the coyotes are particularly bold, people have armed themselves with stout walking sticks or even cattle prods when out walking their small lap dogs.
Coyotes are definitely intelligent and adaptable. Most of the time we do not see them although we will see the signs in our neighborhoods if we are observant enough. The danger, especially to small pets or possibly small children, comes when coyotes become habituated to humans and become especially bold.
During the open season (usually October 1 through March 31) coyotes can be trapped or hunted. Hunting is usually done with hounds or by calling them in with calls of a dying rabbit or other prey.
It takes intensive hunting to significantly reduce coyote numbers in a given area. But you can reduce the actual number slightly and make the survivors more cautious and wary of humans. Coyotes are here to stay so the best we can do is to learn how to live with them and possibly take advantage of the sport they may offer.
Youth Goose Hunt
The Oneida County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs and ECOs are again teaming up to offer a special youth goose hunt to youngsters who may not otherwise have the opportunity to go goose hunting. Youngsters must have completed their hunter safety course beforehand.
There will be a meeting with parents, ECOs and hunter mentors; target practice and other preparation for the next day’s hunt. This year’s hunt will take place on the weekend of September 19 and 20. Youngsters will have the opportunity to learn the skills necessary for goose hunting and then actually experience it with the guidance of an ECO or hunter mentor in the field.
The program is open to youths ages 12–17. A small game license and an HIP number is necessary for all youngsters. Youths ages 16-17 will also need a federal wildfowl stamp. Interested participants should contact Scott Faulkner (225-0192), ECO Steve Lakeman (734-0648) or ECO Ric Grisolini (240-6966) for an application for this program. Space in the program is limited so be sure to register early.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Enjoying summer despite the weather


“Hello muddah, hello faddah.
Here I am at Camp Granada.
Camp is very entertaining.
And they say we’ll have some fun if it stops raining!”


A lot of us of a certain age remember the words of that pop song by Allan Sherman from many summers ago. It certainly rang true during June and even a lot of the first half of July. Rain put a damper on a lot of activities (pun intended) from camping to boating, or even backyard barbecues. Trout fishing on streams is usually good during a rain but sometimes the heavy rains caused very high water conditions. In any case, fishing in a stream or from a boat during a thunderstorm is not recommended.
My wife and I had a good time camping near Old Forge for two weeks. We managed to dodge most of the rainstorms and had some good kayaking trips on Stillwater, the Moose River, Big Moose Lake and “Black Bear Lake” among others. Of course one of the reasons that we like Old Forge is that we have a list of things to do in the event of nasty weather.
One of those things is to visit View (the Arts Center) where they have some excellent exhibits. Currently the theme is “For the Birds” with some outstanding exhibits of mixed media on birds, wildlife paintings of Ed Williams, the Natural Side of Things by David Kiehm as well as the outstanding photo exhibits by Sue Kiesel and Melissa Groo. Put it on your list of things to do, rain or shine.
It was sort of like Old Home Day at the campground with many Sherrill or other area residents enjoying the Adirondacks as well. The Tiffin clan from Sherrill had a family camping reunion as did the Balch families. Others that we spent time with included Ed and Maxine Kimball, Joe Robinson and Sandy and Chuck Boryss. Pete and Carol Dwyer and all their children and grandchildren were reunited for a week in Inlet. We were fortunate to be invited to join again and spent a fun evening discussing new events and old times.
Fishing was fair but spotty. One day I could do well on bass and the next time I would have to work to take a few small ones. Most of the bass were scattered but found in relative shallow water since the waters were still cooler than normal for this time of year. Sinking worms and wobbling spoons usually provided the most action.
My friends Al Beans and Mike Seymour have reported that fishing is still only fair on the St. Lawrence River. At both the Thousand Islands and downriver near Ogdensburg the bass fishing has been slow although the pike were a bit more predictable.
Hopefully the weather will improve and people can enjoy more summer activities without keeping an eye on the weather every minute. Whether it’s camping, sailing, paddling, fishing, hiking or waterskiing, get out and enjoy you. Schedule a vacation, a get-away weekend or even an afternoon at the beach. Don’t put it off any longer. Summer is already half over!
Adirondack Railroad Future
Earlier this month while I was away on vacation the DEC and DOT released the state’s plans for the Adirondack Railroad.  We have covered this issue previously and reported that the state was going to release its revised Unit Management Plan (UMP) for the railroad. The UMP as presented appears to be a compromise but in reality the sportsmen and average tourists were thrown under the bus (train engine?).
Apparently giving in to the moneyed interests and the organized media campaign of those who want to tear up the railroad, the state announced that it will tear up the tracks from Tupper Lake to Lake Placid and replace it with a deluxe hiking and biking trail at a cost of over $11 million dollars.
It plans to keep and rehabilitate the tracks from Big Moose to Tupper Lake. It would also create a new snowmobile trail connecting to Beaver River and create a hut-to-hut cross country ski trail along the tracks in this remote section.
There are several problems with this plan. The economic viability of the railroad will depend on tourists going to Lake Placid. No offense meant to the good people living there, but Tupper Lake is not a destination that is going to attract many people! The economic stability and regular runs through this Wilderness Area will affect the sportsmen who want to use this drop-off service for camping, fishing, paddling and hunting.
Meanwhile we will have a multi-million dollar trail for locals to walk their dogs or jog on before or after work. Serious hikers want to climb the high peaks or remote areas, not a railroad bed. And there is no provision for maintenance of such a trail. The state is strapped to maintain the simple hiking trails they have now.
My opinions have been stated before and are well known. If you need more specific information, check the website www.adirondackoutdoorsmagazine.com for an article on potential for sportsmen in the Spring (March) 2015 issue or an editorial in the Fall (September) 2014 issue. If you care about this as a tourist, sportsmen, or just for the economic health of the communities like Utica, Old Forge, etc. then take the time to write by the deadline of July 27.
Comments may be mailed to either John Schmid, NYSDEC, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233 or Dawn Klemm, NYSDOT Region 2, Utica State Office Building, 207 Genesee St., Utica, NY 13501 or e-mailed to adirondackpark@dec.ny.gov.  Don’t put this off. You can bet that the “Meanie-Greenie” environmental extremists are already at work deluging these offices with letters advocating tearing up the entire track.
Kayaking 101
Kayaks continue to grow in popularity at a record pace. More people are buying new or used ones and joining in the fun. We have discussed the attractions of kayaking and considerations in choosing a kayak previously.
Of course it is a good idea to get advice from a experienced kayaker or expert or even take a course in kayaking. But if you are renting one, borrowing a friends, or have just bought one, there are a few things to consider. These basic things include getting in and out, as well as paddling. None are on a level of running whitewater rapids, but nonetheless there are some things to keep in mind.
Don’t plan on getting into or out of a kayak without at least getting your feet wet. You definitely cannot step into one from a dock like you would getting onto a bass boat or party barge. Kayaks have very little initial stability (i.e. they tend to tip until you are seated) but have excellent secondary stability – that is once you are seated they are really very stable.
First the kayak should be floating in water. Ideally this is ankle deep water over a solid sandy or gravel bottom. Some people simply straddle the kayak, grip each side, and plop themselves backward into the seat. It’s not graceful, but it works. An easier way is to stand beside it, grip both sides, and step one foot squarely in the center. While maintaining your hold, lean over the kayak and let yourself down into the seat.
There is absolutely no graceful way to exit a kayak but at least you can remain dry. Float the kayak into the shallow water or even partially on a sandy beach. Reach slightly forward and grip both sides of the cockpit. Swing one foot over the side into the shallow water and when you have solid footing, pull yourself up with your arms. Maintaining a hold for balance, step out with the other foot.
Some people that I know (but won’t mention any names!) prefer the “beached whale” method. Essentially they paddle up at an angle onto the shore and simply flop over sideways and crawl out. This has the added bonus of providing entertainment for the others in the group or any bystanders.
Paddles should not be used like canoe paddles. Don’t dig deeply into the water as if you were paddling a war canoe. Keep your paddle fairly level with the water surface and think of it as reaching out ahead of you and pulling yourself through the water. Anything else is a waste of your energy.
Some people like their paddle blades even, while others prefer to “feather” them or offset the blades at angles of 30 to 45 degrees. Definitely do NOT use them to pole or push off from land! The fiberglass or carbon fiber blades are not meant to be used as some old wooden stick.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Enjoy Lake Ontario fishing aboard family friendly charters


A southwest breeze ripples the water and provides cooling relief from the warm summer sun. A charter boat trolls in the predetermined course searching the blue-green waters for a variety of gamefish. Overhead the gulls circle and search for bait fish as if they were miniature para-sailers. The only sounds are the raucous call of the gulls, the creak of the downrigger cables, and the animated conversation of the passengers as they anticipate fishing action.
Suddenly there is the excited call of “fish on!” and one of the passengers grabs the rod from its holder while others await orders from the captain as to what they should do next. After a battle with a powerful fish, the quarry is brought to the boat, netted and brought aboard to the excited calls of congratulations and admiration for the fish.
Welcome to the world of Lake Ontario fishing. World class fishing for bass, trout and salmon exists a mere hour or two away. And if you don’t have a big sea-worthy boat equipped for Lake Ontario fishing, there are many professional charters that can give you the experience and excitement. One such locally owned charter is “Family Style Fishing Charters” that operates out of Fair Haven, just west of Oswego.
I was reminded of this great fishing adventure recently as I read the fishing reports sent weekly from my friends Bill Hilts of Niagara County or Mike Waterhouse of Orleans County. Recently the Lake Ontario anglers have been taking a variety of trout and salmon in the top 50 feet of the water column over depths of 150–200 feet. Spoons have been the top lure but a variety of techniques including downriggers, dipsy divers, planer boards or lead line have all produced fish.
There are a lot of skilled charter captains on Lake Ontario who will help you catch fish and show you a good time. I have fished with many of them from Henderson Harbor to the Niagara River. There are also skilled local residents who maintain their boats and operate charters on Lake Ontario.
One such charter is “Family Style Fishing Charters” operated by the Lucason family from Camden. They run their new Baha 277 GLE fishing boat out of Fair Haven and can easily access the areas that fish are found at different times of the season. The boat is well equipped with the latest electronics and fishing gear such as downriggers for catching everything from brown trout to Chinook salmon.
Captain Phil Lucason has always had a passion for fishing and wanted to share it with others. His family shares this same enthusiasm and is involved in the charters, thus one reason for the name. The boat is named Morgan-E after his two daughters Morgan and Elizabeth, who often act as first mates. I can personally attest that they are very nice young ladies and extremely enthusiastic and knowledgeable anglers.
Another key part of the concept of “family style” charters comes from Captain Phil’s approach. His calm, friendly approach makes fishermen and women of all ages and skill levels feel welcome. Anglers can help out as much or as little as they want.
Some charter captains do not want their clients to set the hook, or net the fish, etc. because their main goal is to put as many fish in the box (cooler) as possible and they don’t want to take a chance on someone losing a fish at the boat. By contrast, the Lucasons believe that fishing should be a learning and fun-filled experience. So for whatever role you feel comfortable with, Captain Phil will instruct and guide you and let you enjoy the whole experience.
The Morgan-E is large enough to accommodate four people comfortably but can handle up to six people, especially families with children. Deep gunnels keep you inside the boat safely and the stand-up head is convenient.
Even the pricing is family friendly with reasonable rates. There are a variety of trip lengths ranging from four-hour evening trips to the standard six or eight hour trips, and the custom 10 hours of fishing with several options, including a split outing.
If you are looking for a good time for the entire group and a great fishing experience for the entire family, think about Lake Ontario this summer. Whether you are novices, or serious experienced anglers you should seriously consider Family Style Fishing Charters. Call Captain Phil Lucason at 315-709-9958 or goodtrolling@aol.com. Check the website at www.familystylefishingcharters.com. World class fishing is practically at your doorstep.
SHORT CASTS
Staycations: With many families today the issue of both spouses getting the same vacation time is a big problem. Even if they do manage to get time for a family vacation there is still a lot of summer that cries out to be enjoyed.
For day trips consider the many state parks like Verona Beach, Delta Lake, Chittenango Falls or Green Lakes. Hiking trails the beach, and swimming offer a day’s fun for the youngsters. Check out the sandy beach at Sylvan Beach and enjoy the beautiful sunset.
Toss in the canoe or boat at small area waters like Lebanon Reservoir, Eatonbrook Reservoir, Lelands Pond or Stony Pond. Fishing and paddling can also be enjoyed at places like Prospect Pond or Redfield Reservoir.
Enjoy a family outing in nature at locations like Great Swamp Conservancy near Canastota or the Rome Fish Hatchery. A little further away but still an easy day trip are locations like Highland Forest, Beaver Lake Nature Center, Salmon River Falls and Montezuma Wildlife Refuge.
If you are taking the kids fishing make sure it is some place where they have a chance for action and success as well as be secure. Consider the aforementioned ponds or the deep water docks and fishing access for Oneida Lake at Cleveland or some small stream like Oriskany Creek.
There are lots of places for a parent to take the kids or even whole families enjoy an afternoon together. The important thing is to get out and take advantage of the resources in Central New York instead of sitting around home and spending your time in wishful thinking.
Fishing Line Hazards: Regular readers of this column know that discarded fishing line is one of my pet peeves. It is hazardous to wildlife, dangerous for humans and harmful to boats. Break-offs and tangles are going to happen but there is a lot we can do to minimize this. Certainly avoiding fishing in places like launch sites and picking up discarded line are easy things that everyone can do.
DEC reports that approximately 12 eagles or their chicks die every year because of being entangled in line, often with a fish attached. Countless other wildlife perishes because of the tangles of monofilament left in or around the waters.
Many of these snags are caused by using sinkers in combination with bobbers. In most cases you might need one or the other, not both. When snags do occur you can usually break the line at the knot by the hook, the weakest part of the line. You don’t want to pull on the line since monofilament can cut into your skin. But simply wrapping your hand with a fishing towel, or in the case of stronger monofilament just wrap it around your body by taking a couple turns and stepping back will break the line close to the snag. This way you will not leave a long length of monofilament to entangle wildlife or canoeists who might be wading in the area.
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 arboreteums. Simply present your current valid NYS Driver’s License. This policy applies both to Office of Parks and Recreation and DEC facilities.
Chef’s Choice Knife Sharpener: With the arrival of summer we will be using our knives a lot more. Whether it is fish fillet knives or knives for our backyard steak cookout, we want them to be sharp. A great aid for the outdoorsman or homeowner is the Chef’s Choice Diamond Hone Knife Sharpener 445. It is a professional manual sharpener for all types of knives that uses diamond abrasives to give incredibly sharp, long-lasting edges. There are two stages or slots for sharpening and then honing the edge. It is easy to use with either right or left hand and slip-resistant rubber feet to hold fast to the work surface. You won’t have any more excuses for dull knives at your home. www.chefschoice.com

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Adirondacks provide great experiences a short distance away


The evening sun casts a soft glow on the waters of an Adirondack Lake marked only by the rising of fish, a couple of canoes of fishermen and families of ducks swimming along the shore. The smell of a campfire mingles with the scent of pine and balsam while the silence is broken by the plaintive call of the loon. Sitting by the lakeshore and watching a deer or an osprey, it is easy to forget about the outside world and the daily pressures and chores.
You can find this scene many places in the central Adirondacks. But the nice thing about this area is that it also offers much more and while you enjoy the solitude of the wild the services, fine restaurants, other accommodations or any of the other attractions can be just a few miles away.
Although fishing for brook trout in small streams or ponds and pursuing rainbow or lake trout in the larger lakes gets attention, the fishing for bass in lakes and ponds is often overlooked. A great thing is that you can hike or paddle to remote fishing areas that you will have virtually to yourself. Or if you prefer you can rent a boat or launch your own on the Fulton Chain of Lakes to fish for lake trout, landlocked salmon, northern pike, tiger muskie, largemouth and smallmouth bass.
Paddling opportunities abound from the Moose River to smaller bodies of water like Moss Lake. Pick up your free booklet “Adirondack Waterways” at either Old Forge or Inlet Visitor Centers. One of our favorite places is Limekiln Lake which is becoming a pilgrimage for fans of Mitch Lee’s writings just as “Black Bear Lake” is for fans of Ann LaBastille or Walden Pond for disciples of Henry David Thoreau.
There are countless miles of hiking trails that range from short and easy to longer and more challenging day hikes. Bald Mountain, Rocky Point and Black Bear Mountain are easy to moderate hikes that offer great views. But there are many miles of interesting trails such as Bubb and Sis Lakes or trails in the Moose River Plains.
The Moose River Plains is a unique area with dirt roads giving access to campsites, hiking trails, fishing in ponds or streams and viewing wildlife. Stop in at the Inlet Information Office for a map and some expert advice from Mitch Lee. Maybe you will get lucky and see a moose.
The Old Forge–Inlet area offers all the usual outdoor and water sports like boating or swimming, etc. in a beautiful setting. But there are many rainy day activities, including the “View” Arts Center in Old Forge which is continually changing its excellent exhibits. Other activities range from the concerts by the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra in Inlet, Arts in the Park festival at Inlet, horseback riding, seaplane rides, golf at Inlet or Thendara or the Adirondack Scenic Railroad. Space does not permit listing all the things to do or places to go, so check on the tourism centers in Inlet (www.inletny.com) 1-866-GO INLET or Old Forge (www.oldforgeny.com) 369-6983.
Looking for the longest water ride in the central Adirondacks? It’s the Moose River. For leisurely, gentle flowing and scenic paddling you cannot beat the North Branch or the Middle Branch just below Old Forge. A trip from North St. Bridge gives you an eight-mile trip back to Old Forge in about four hours. Add two hours to your trip by starting at Rondaxe Lake. Rent canoes or kayaks from Tickners on Riverside Drive or arrange their shuttle service for your own vessels.
You can go down the Middle Branch to Lock & Dam in about an hour’s leisurely paddle. Or take the River and Rail where you paddle down the Middle Branch for four hours and you and canoe or kayak ride the train back to Old Forge. This is a fabulous adventure that operates Thursday through Sunday. Contact Tickners Moose River Outfitters (369-6286) for reservations or more information. They don’t just rent you a boat; they help plan your adventure. Trust me – they are the best.
If you are looking to get off the beaten path or try something new this summer contact Scott Locorini of Adirondack Exposure. From day trips to longer adventures you can choose from rafting, kayaking or canoeing, hiking, woodcraft skills and fishing. Check out his line of canoes and kayaks, accessories and fishing gear at his headquarters near Okara Lake two miles south of Old Forge. Call 369-6699 for more information.
Accommodations range from motels, bed and breakfast inns, rental cottages or campgrounds. State campgrounds at Nicks Lake, Eighth Lake and Limekiln Lake offer nice facilities or you can opt for primitive camping at Moss Lake or the Moose River Plains as well as other locations. Check the web sites mentioned above for complete listings.
In the meantime be sure to include the central Adirondacks in your summer plans. Whether it’s a vacation, get-away weekend or several day trips, take advantage of this great area at our doorstep. As they say the good roads make it easy to get there; the mountains make it hard to leave.
SHORT CASTS
Dylan Clute’s big catch: Dylan Clute shares his family’s love of fishing and is already an accomplished fisherman but even he got a surprise on a family outing to North Carolina. The family was staying at the Outer Banks and fishing off Oceanic Pier when Dylan realized that he had a big fish on. He was using shrimp bait and weighted to get to the bottom when the big fish hit and started taking his line. Dylan tried to reel but could not budge the fish. He held on for 45 minutes and was getting pretty tired when he could finally get the fish close to the pier where his family could net it for him. To his, and everyone’s, surprise he had hooked a huge stingray. They weighed it in the net and it topped out at 52 pounds! The monster was carefully unhooked and released but it is an experience that Dylan will probably never forget.
Adirondack Railroad UMP: The state recently announced that it was opening the Unit Management Plan that they had previously adopted for the Adirondack Railroad. To the surprise of no one but the disappointment of many, the state plans a so-called “compromise.” It plans to keep and rehabilitate the tracks from Old Forge to Tupper Lake. But bowing to the supposed popular sentiment and money of certain influential people, they intend to tear up the railroad tracks from Tupper Lake to Lake Placid and replace it with a multi-million hiking trail. Tourists wishing to travel to lake Placid and the viability of the railroad are disregarded but the locals will have a deluxe trail to bicycle, jog or walk their dogs on. Comments will be accepted by email at NYStravelcorridor@dot.ny.gov.
Decoy and Wildlife Art Show: The 47th annual Decoy/Wildlife Art and Sporting Collectibles Show Sale will be held in Clayton on July 17 and 18. The event will be held at the Cerow Recreation Park Arena on Route 12 in Clayton from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. on both days. There will be many carved decoys, paintings, others carvings and art for display and auctions. Friday will kick off the event with a traditional shore dinner served from 4–8 p.m. For additional information contact the Thousand Islands Museum at 315-686-5794 or see www.timuseum.org.
Free Guided Adirondack Hikes: The Town of Long Lake is offering free guided hiking trips throughout the summer based from Long Lake. Participants will be taken by shuttlebus from Long Lake to the various trailheads. The hikes will be led by NYS certified and experienced guides Spencer Morrissey and Joan Collins who always provide excellent trips and interesting facts along the way. Register now since these popular trips will fill up fast. The dates, itineraries and descriptions of the distance, and other information. can be found on the website: mylonglake.com.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

New products for summer


With the summer season getting into high gear this holiday weekend, people will be spending more time outdoors. Whether it is our backyards, weekend fishing trips, camping or other vacation activities, most people will be enjoying the outdoors whenever weather and time permit. New technology or improvements in gadgets make the summer more enjoyable.
Although I am definitely not a ”techie,” I do appreciate the new products that make our outdoor experience easier or more enjoyable. If you are still using the same old gear from your first outing, you might want to consider an upgrade.
Thermacell Camp Lantern: Thermacell is introducing the new durable, water-resistant Repellent Camp Lantern that provides bright light and repels mosquitoes. With a heavy-duty rubberized base, 50 hours of light at its highest setting and the ability to keep mosquitoes, black flies and no-see-ums at bay, this lantern makes camping more enjoyable. The repellent creates a 15 foot x 15 foot zone of protection. Each butane cartridge lasts 12 hours.
This versatile lantern has a weighted bottom so it can’t easily be tipped, as well as a contoured bail for easy transport and storage. The base is accented with black rubber that protects the lantern if dropped or knocked over. A battery life indicator changes color showing remaining power. The lantern produces 300 lumens of light and operates on D cell batteries. With three light settings and SOS for emergency situations, the lantern globe can be detached to increase the intensity of the light for maximum brightness. The base hook also allows the lantern to be suspended in a tent or campsite from above for hands-free base camp operations.
The Thermacell Repellent Camp Lantern functions as both a lantern and highly effective mosquito repellent simultaneously or separately. It is available at most sporting or outdoor retailers. For more information visit Thermacell.com.
Costa sunglasses: With the coming of summer weather women who love the water are planning an escape to the beach, lake or river. Costa’s new sunglass styles, Boga and La Mar, offer a stylish look while Polarized lenses protect the eyes and the lens have exceptional clarity. Boga features a large, round-eye fit, with a stylish nylon frame design. They include Costa’s hypoallergenic rubberized no-slip nose pads and temple tips, and durable built-in optical spring hinges to provide a “forget-they’re-on” fit.
Both can be customized in a full array of Costa’s patented color enhancing polarized 580P(tm) lenses and frames. Costa’s 580 lens technology selectively filters out harsh yellow and harmful ultraviolet blue light. Filtering yellow light enhances reds, blues and greens and produces better contrast and definition while reducing glare and eye fatigue. Absorbing high-energy blue light cuts haze, producing greater visual clarity and sharpness. For more information visit costadelmar.com.
Stetson No Fly Zone Hats: Outdoorsmen know the importance of wearing head gear to protect from the sun’s harmful rays. There is also the added benefit of shielding the eyes and being able to see better. Stetson, the maker of some well-known hat brands, now has an added benefit to some of their specialty head gear. Their Stetson No fly Zone hat also keeps insect pests away in addition to the above benefits. It is EPA registered and environmentally friendly and contains permethrin fabric to repel insects such as mosquitoes. They come in many styles suitable for both men and women. The Khaki color and cool mesh provides protection in the hot summer sun. Visit Stetson.com for more information.
Secur Products 4 in 1 Light & Powerbank: Secur Products has been known for making innovative, useful and quality devices. I have several and have been very satisfied. One of the newest ones is the SP-1100, a 4 in 1 light and power bank. This has a built –in battery that is charged from your computer USB port. It can then be used to charge your mobile phone, iPad or similar device. With our reliance on electronics these days it is extremely convenient for campers, hunters, fishermen, hiker and others who are active in the outdoors. The light functions in various modes around the campsite or outdoor activities. It can serve as a flashlight, extends to serve as a lantern, or can be used as a flashing red emergency light. It is compact, powerful and dependable. For more information, visit Securproducts.com.
Crusta Smart Phone Case: Smart phones have become an integral part of life, even in the outdoors. The problem is that our outdoor activity subjects these phones to a lot of abuse like being dropped from tree stands, kicked around in boats and assorted dirt and grime. One of the newer and best cases for your smart phone is the Crusta which is made of tempered glass and offers four functional layers of protection. The tempered glass is unbreakable if dropped up to six feet and the screen protector shields your phone from mud, dirt, spills, dust and all the hazards of being outdoors. It has built in touch sensitivity and is stylish with 32 color combinations to choose from. Visit amzer.com/crusta for more information.
Dakota Silicone Sport Digital Watch: When we are involved in outdoor sports we often need a watch but typical activities are hard on most watches. Dakota watches provide convenient, dependable and stylish watches at an affordable price. One of their latest is the Silicone Sport Digital Watch. It is available in a variety of colors and has comfortable silicone straps. It is simple, stylish and functional and comes with the guarantee that includes the first battery free. It is water-resistant to a depth of 330 feet and tough enough to withstand the impact that hikers, climbers and fishermen typically inflict on it. More information can be found on  Dakotawatch.com.
Hillsound Freestyle 6 Crampons: Slipping and falling on ice, slippery banks, or treacherous river bottoms can be a serious concern for outdoor sports. Although we often think of crampons or similar devices when the Salmon River they can be helpful for other streams with strong currents like Fish Creek. Hillsound’s Freestyle6 crampons provides protection with convenient use at an affordable price. These easy on – easy off crampons fit over your boots or waders and offer secure footage on steep muddy banks, slick and slippery rocks in both still or moving water. They also give you extra protection against ice in winter conditions. Don’t worry about scratching the bottom of the boat or transporting invasive species on your felt wader soles because these are easy to pull off. Visit Hillsound.com for more information.
SHORT CASTS
T.I. Fishing Report: The cold winter and spring definitely set the fishing back on the St. Lawrence River because of cold water. We just returned from two weeks in the Thousand Islands and the bass fishing was about two weeks behind what it normally is there according to my friend Al Benas who is a long time guide and charter captain.
On the season opener, I fished with my friend Mike Seymour who is also a guide on the river. Water temperature was 58 to 60 degrees and bass had just spawned. We caught some male bass guarding the beds but we did not want to leave the beds unguarded from the depredations of gobies and others so we switched to deeper water trying to catch some females who had finished spawning. Most of them were uncooperative but we did manage to catch a few. Shortly the males will leave the nests and the females will be hungry so fishing should improve.
Local Fishing Report: After returning from our Thousand Islands vacation I had a chance to check with a few people on local fishing. Some bass fishermen on Oneida Lake had fair luck but found that the smallmouths were a bit deeper than they expected. Jigs and tubes or curly tails produced a number of bass although the action was not as fast as they expected. Others who were fishing the weedy shallows of Oneida Lake for largemouth were disappointed and had trouble locating bass although they picked up some nice walleye in the process.
Jim Clute had been fishing for walleye in the shallow water and did well using X-Raps. However Jim did say that a few feet shallower or deeper produced no fish. You had to have a consistent drift and target that particular depth that day.  Some anglers fishing deep water had very little luck in finding fish or getting them to bite very readily.
Gerald Fuller reported that his friend was fishing near bottom and accidentally caught a sturgeon that was over 50 inches long. The big fish put up a strong fight and was quickly released when it was brought to the boat. Remember that sturgeon are protected and you should not even remove them from the water, and especially should not hold them vertically.