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Hooks and Antlers
By Mike Seymour
Johnson Newspapers
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Hooks and Antlers

Hooks and Antlers: Time of day affects fish feeding habits

First published: July 19, 2015 at 12:59 am
Last modified: July 19, 2015 at 12:59 am

The time of day can affect angling success.

There’s a saying among the fishing fraternity that the best time to go fishing is whenever you can. That thinking bears an element of truth, but certain times of the day do offer better odds for success than others.

With the stable water temperatures of midsummer, fish tend to remain in a general area that meets their safety, feeding, and comfort needs.

In this temporary “home range,” fish develop a routine of resting, moving, feeding, and avoiding predators. Even though various factors such as wind velocity, wind direction, barometric pressure, moon phase, cloud cover, sunshine, boat activity, angling pressure, and more play an important role in affecting fish moods and behaviors, anglers are advised to consider that time of day also plays a vital role in fish-activity levels and the likelihood of an angler finding fish at line’s end.

Today’s column takes a general look at how time of day affects fish-activity levels.

DAWN AND DUSK

While in their home areas, many species become active at dawn and dusk, times of change in the degrees of light and dark.

At dawn, fish become active as they seek food and then shelter prior to the brighter conditions of midday. Prior to dusk, fish do their final feeding before settling in for the night. In muskellunge circles, the hours at dusk are often called the “magic hours” because they offer the day’s best odds of hooking up. In essence, low light makes for better fishing, and the hours around dawn and dusk reliably produce those conditions.

EARLY MORNING AND EARLY EVENING

Close behind dawn and dusk as prime fishing times are the early morning and early morning hours. The morning hours can be especially productive during the warm-water temperatures of summer. While the morning hours see significant activity from nearly all game fish species, that period is excellent when pursuing the largest predators in a water system. Summer’s warm water temperatures also make the early evening excellent fishing hours as lakes and rivers seem to come alive with insect hatches, baitfish activity, and feeding fish. Also, on those days when the wind makes for difficult conditions, the evening hours often see that wind die down.

MIDDAY

For the most part, the midday hours of 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. are considered the poorest fishing period of the day, particularly during the summer months.

Exceptions do exist, though, as fishing can be good in stained waters where sunlight increases visibility and in cold waters where the midday sun warms the shallows and surface layer. During the spring, fall, and winter, the midday lull is less pronounced than it is at this time of year.

NIGHT

While many species such as yellow perch lie low during the hours of darkness, some species are very active and offer good fishing opportunities. Generally, night fishing is best when water temperatures are warm, although the warming temperatures of late spring and the onset of cooling temperatures in early autumn also lure these same species towards the shallows where they actively feed.

Among the species commonly pursued after dark are brown trout in streams, largemouth bass on surface lures, bullheads in soft-bottomed areas, catfish in river holes, and crappies around lighted fixtures such as bridges. Also, structural edges are prime locations for taking walleyes, rock bass, and muskellunge under the cover of darkness.

While bullheads and catfish rely on their senses of smell and touch for after-dark feeding, walleyes rely on their special low-light vision for night feeding.

Species such as rock bass and muskellunge have large eyes that allow for taking in light so they, too, commonly pursue prey after dark.

Outdoors Calendar

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

Tuesday: Trap shooting at Gouverneur R&G Club at 6:30 p.m.

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

July 25-26: Gun Show, Flea Market and St. Lawrence County Trappers Rendezvous at the Massena Rod & Gun Club, Patterson Road, Massena.

July 30-Aug. 2: B.A.S.S. Elite Series on the St. Lawrence River at Waddington.

Aug. 8: SLRWA 14th Annual Walleye Challenge Team Tournament at Massena Intake (384-3450).

Aug. 8: Northern New York Bassmasters Tournament at Cranberry Lake (www.nnybassmasters.com).

Aug. 15-16: Clayton-1,000 Islands Rotary Club’s 38th Annual Gun & Sportsmen’s Show at Clayton Arena.

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State waters rank among nation’s best bass lakes

First published: July 12, 2015 at 12:55 am
Last modified: July 12, 2015 at 12:55 am
HOOKED -Attorney Anne Weaver caught a nice 42” Muskie on the St. Lawrence River on opening day. It was her first Muskie and now she’s hooked. Promising to come back to the area with her children again to fish. The fish was caught on a charter with Let’s Go Fishin’ Another with Ed Reyes.

Like Dorothy in the “Wizard of Oz,” New York bass anglers can exclaim, “There’s no place like home; there’s no place like home.”

After all, Bassmasters just released its annual ranking of the 100 Best Bass Lakes, and that list includes six New York state waters, three of which are ranked in the top 20. Those waters and their respective rankings are St. Lawrence River (8), Lake Champlain (14), Lake Erie (19), Oneida Lake (40), Cayuga Lake (61) and Chautauqua Lake (79).

St. Lawrence River

Commenting on the Thousand Islands 50-mile stretch of the river’s top-ten ranking, Bassmasters wrote: “A more picturesque fishing destination you will not find. It seems for each of the islands poking out of this section of the St. Lawrence River, a dozen 5-pound smallies exist. It took more than 50-10 to win a September 2014 BFL event here, and you had to average more than 18 pounds over the two days to be in the Top 10. And this is more than a trophy fishery, as you likely will be tired of setting the hook and fighting better-than-average brown bass at the end of a fishing day.”

Lake Champlain

New York shares the 490-square miles of Lake Champlain with Vermont, and Bassmasters explained this lake’s 14th-place ranking by writing: “The smallmouth in this giant body of water are almost as big as Champ, the lake monster that supposedly lives here. It’s now taking 20 pounds of brown bass to win derbies here. That said, some anglers are starting to mix in some largemouth, which are thriving in the shallows of this beast.”

Lake Erie

The 30-mile radius of Lake Erie out of Buffalo earned that portion of the lake a 19th-best-bass-lake rating, and even though Bassmasters utilized up-to-date 2015 fishing reports in its evaluative process, they noted: “It seemed ice would never melt from this section of the Great Lake this year. But, once it did, the smallmouth fishing heated up in a hurry. No tournament results are available yet, but a writer’s event here in May yielded scads of 4-pound-class fish, with a handful topping 5 pounds, and two exceeding 6 (Not bad for outdoor writers.).”

Oneida Lake

Commenting on 40th-ranked Oneida Lake and its 79.8 square miles, Bassmasters noted: “Although this historically awesome lake has not yet returned to its best form, it’s headed that way. Ice-out was a few days later this year than it was last, so bass fishing hadn’t really revved up as of this writing. That said, looking at summer through fall tournaments here last year, weights are climbing back to glory levels for this lake. A mid-July derby took 18.40 to win, and the top 37 teams had more than 14 pounds. And remember, the smallmouth and largemouth get equal billing here; you can win with either species.”

Cayuga Lake

The 38-mile-long and 3.5-mile-wide Cayuga Lake earned a 61st-place ranking, and Bassmasters wrote: “This is the longest of New York’s famed Finger Lakes. It’s also the best for targeting largemouth. Ask Greg Hackney how good it can be; he won the 2014 Elite Series event here with a four-day total of 85 pounds.”

Chautauqua Lake

Covering 13,156 acres, Western New York’s Chautauqua Lake merited a 79th-place ranking. Commenting on the lake, Bassmasters wrote: “According to the New York fisheries folks, this may be one of the healthiest lakes in the state. Both largemouth and smallmouth thrive here, and anglers can focus on shallow grass or deep structure to catch them. Don’t expect the fish of a lifetime from this fishery; instead, expect a whole bunch of fish in the 2-to 3-pound range.”

Toledo Bend

Toledo Bend along the Texas/Louisiana border ranks as America’s number one bass lake. Elite Series pro Mark Davis of Arkansas said of this 185,000-acre lake: “There are fish in this lake that will be born and then die of old age and never see a lure. I guarantee it.” Bassmasters wrote: “But the real tale of the tape for the new best bass lake in America comes from the 2014-15 Toledo Bend Lake Association Lunker Bass Program data. This group gives a bass replica to any angler who brings a live bass over 10 pounds to an official weigh station on either the Texas or Louisiana side of the lake. Between May 18, 2014 and April 24, 2015, 79 bass in the double digits were certified.”

Lake Michigan’s Sturgeon Bay in Wisconsin ranked number two on the list while Michigan’s Lake St. Clair earned the third spot.

For more information on the best bass lakes list, visit www.bassmaster.com.

Outdoors

Calendar

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

Tuesday—Trap shooting at Gouverneur R&G Club at 6:30 p.m.

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

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

July 18: Ogdensburg Seaway Festival Kids Fishing Derby at Greenbelt Docks at 9:30 a.m.

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

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

July 30-August 2: B.A.S.S. Elite Series on the St. Lawrence River at Waddington.

August 8: SLRWA 14th Annual Walleye Challenge Team Tournament at Massena Intake (384-3450).

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Top B.A.S.S. anglers will compete on St. Lawrence River at Waddington

First published: July 05, 2015 at 12:56 am
Last modified: July 05, 2015 at 12:56 am
FAMILY TRADITION - Ben Rolfe Carol Rolfe Rosie turnbull and jim Rolfe took part in the St. Lawrence Valley Sportsmans Club Bass Derby as a family tradition.

For the second time in three years, the world’s top 100 bass anglers will converge on Waddington to compete in the Evan Williams Bourbon Bassmaster Elite at the S. Lawrence River, July 30 through August 2.

When the elite anglers fished the St. Lawrence in 2013, they had high praise for the quality of fishing, the beauty of the river, and the friendliness of area residents and businesses.

Similarly, weigh-in attendees were impressed by the fish catches and the professionalism of the elite anglers.

Elite 2015 Schedule

B.A.S.S. has eight Elite Tournaments on the 2015 schedule. To date five tournaments have been completed, and Waddington is next on the schedule with the final two events taking place in August on Chesapeake Bay at Cecil County, Maryland and on Lake St. Clair in Detroit.

Chris Lane of Guntersville, Ala., won the initial Elite Tournament held on the Sabine River in Orange, Texas in mid-March while Skeet Reese of Auburn, Calif., finished first in the second event held on Lane’s home water of Lake Guntersville in mid-April. Justin Lucas, also of Guntersville, claimed the top spot at the Sacramento River Elite in California in early May. Aaron Martens of Leeds, Ala., won the fourth tournaments at Lake Havasu in Lake Havasu City, Arizona also in early May, and Edwin Evers of Talada, Okl. placed first at the Kentucky Lake Elite in Paris, Tenn., in early June.

Angler of the Year Standings

Heading into the St. Lawrence River Elite, Dean Rojas of Lake Havasu, Ariz. leads in Angler of the Year (AOY) points with 424. Rojas placed third on the Sacramento River and sixth on his home water of Lake Havasu while finishing 19th, 11th, and 46th in the other tournaments, respectively. In addition to qualifying for 13 Bassmaster Classics, Rojas is approaching the $2-million mark in tournament winnings.

Having won the Sacramento River Elite and earned top-ten finishes at the Sabine River and Lake Havasu, Justin Lucas of Guntersville, Ala., is second in AOY standings at 421 points. Lucas also has 2015 Elite finishes of 30th and 38th. He has one Classic appearance despite 2015 marking only his second year on the Elite trail.

Third place belongs to Aaron Martens of Leeds, Ala., who sits at 420 points, just a single point behind Lucas. Martens boasts of a first-place finish at Lake Havasu, a second-place finish at Sacramento River, a third-place finish at Sabine River, and a 15th-place finish at Kentucky Lake, while placing 66th at Lake Guntersville. Martens has two AOY titles to his credit as well as 16 Classic appearances and tournament earnings of $2.4 million.

Greg Vinson of Wetumpka, Ala., sits in fourth place with 356 points due to an eighth-place finish at Lake Guntersville and respectable finishes of 20th, 22nd, 45th, and 60th at the other Elite events.Vinson has fished in three Classics and has earned over half a million dollars on tour.

With 354 AOY points, Brent Ehrler of Redlands, Calif., claims the fifth spot. Despite an 87th-place finish at Sabine, Ehrler stepped up his performance with finishes of ninth, 28th, 13th, and 16th respectively at the last four Elite tournaments. This year marks Ehrler’s rookie season on the Elite tour although the angler does have a Forrest Wood Cup win on his resume.

A single point behind Ehrler is Cliff perch of Payson, AZ. Pirch had a second-place finish at Lake Havasu and a seventh-place finish at the Sacramento River while placing 40th, 40th, and 69th in the other events. This angler has two Classic appearances to his credit.

After a disappointing year in 2014, Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., has rebounded to seventh place in the current AOL standings. The four-time Classic champion placed 46th and 45th at Sabine and Guntersville before finishing 13th at Sacramento, 58th at Havasu, and 2nd at Kentucky. VanDam’s resume boasts of 24 Classic appearances and tournament earnings approaching $6 million.

Mike Iaconelli of Pittsgrove, N.J. will be looking to move up from 44th place in the standings. The animated angler has 16 Classic appearances, a Classic championship, and $2.3 million in earnings.

Brandon Palaniuk, winner of the 2013 Elite event on the St. Lawrence River, currently stands in 50th place. The Hayden, Iaho resident has appeared in five Classics and will looking to defend his Waddington title.

Outdoors Calendar

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

Tuesday: Trap shooting at Gouverneur R&G Club at 6:30 p.m.

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

Saturday: Bob Moss Memorial Bass Derby sponosred by Redwood United Methodist Church at Redwood Fire Hall.

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

July 18: Ogdensburg Seaway Festival Kids Fishing Derby at Greenbelt Docks at 9:30 a.m.

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

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

July 30-Aug. 2: B.A.S.S. Elite Series on the St. Lawrence River at Waddington.

Aug. 8: SLRWA 14th Annual Walleye Challenge Team Tournament at Massena Intake (384-3450).

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Wind, clouds, storms can affect fishing trips

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

Anglers pay close attention to wind direction and velocity.

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

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

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

Wind Direction

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

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

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

Wind Velocity

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clouds and Storms

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

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

Outdoors Calendar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bass Season Is Cause For Celebration Among Anglers

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

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

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

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

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

Largemouth Bass

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

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

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

Smallmouth Bass

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

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

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

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

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

Regulations

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

Outdoors Calendar

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

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

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

Saturday-June 28: Clayton Lions Club Bass Tournament.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FISHING AT BRYSON

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

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

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

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

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

HUNTING AT BRYSON

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

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

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

CONSERVATION THEME

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

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

FACILITIES

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

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

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

Outdoors Calendar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fishing Boat Survey

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

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

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

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

Boat Trips

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

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

Eastern Basin Warmwater Fish

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

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

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

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

Outdoors Calendar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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DEC Accepting Public Comments On Proposed Turkey, Deer Regulations

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

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

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

Here’s a closer look at the proposed changes:

Wild Turkey Proposal

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

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

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

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

Antlerless Harvests

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

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

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

Deer Proposals

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

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

Outdoors Calendar

Today: Turkey season closes in New York state.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TAKE BY COUNTY

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

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

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

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

TAKE BY WMU

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

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

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

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

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

DISAPPOINTED HUNTERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

Outdoors Calendar

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

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

May 31: Turkey Season ends in New York State.

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

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

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

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

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Hooks and Antlers: Thousand Islands region teems with outdoor opportunities

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

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

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

FISHING

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

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

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

CLAYTON WATERFRONT

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

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

BOAT TOURS

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

LUXURY ACCOMMODATIONS

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

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

MORE CLAYTON ACTIVITIES

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

Outdoors Calendar

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

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

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

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

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

May 31: Turkey Season closes in New York State.

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

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

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

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

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