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Hooks and Antlers
By Mike Seymour
Johnson Newspapers
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Hooks and Antlers

Hooks and Antlers: Consider using guide to help land the big musky

First published: October 19, 2014 at 1:40 am
Last modified: October 19, 2014 at 1:40 am
PHOTO PROVIDED
Andrew Stahl of Canton caught this mighty musky while fishing on the St. Lawrence River.

The St. Lawrence River ranks among the world’s top musky flows, and evidence of that fact lies in the river’s long history of producing both numbers of muskies as well as monster muskies.

In recent years, though, the St. Lawrence has not produced the numbers of muskies it once did. Likely causes of this decline are shoreline development in spawning areas, loss of quality nursery areas as a result of habitat changes caused by invasive species, VHS, and angling pressure.

Despite the drop in musky numbers, the river maintains its world-class status and continues to produce huge muskies year after year, as evidenced by this sampling of catches in recent years: 54 inches by Matt Forjohn, 55 inches by Dave Lawrence, 56 inches by Matt Carlson, 57 inches by Julie Cashaback, and a 60-inch monster caught and released by Dan Polniak.

Polniak hooked his giant musky while fishing with Captain Rich Clarke of Sign Man Charters out of Clayton. Going with an experienced guide will likely increase your odds of catching a musky by tenfold or more. St. Lawrence River guides have the know-how for catching muskies, and the guides will utilize time-proven techniques in time-proven locations to help you catch a musky.

Still, going with a guide is no guarantee that you’ll hook into a musky because fishless outings are a reality for all who pursue the king of freshwater fish.

Guided trips, though, do guarantee that you’ll learn a lot about musky-fishing techniques and this knowledge will benefit you on future outings.

For example, when I first developed an interest in muskies, two friends and I spent two days fishing with a guide on Ontario’s Rideau River. That experience provided me with the knowledge and confidence to return to my home water, the St. Lawrence River, where I began hooking up with muskies.

Another benefit of using a guide is learning how to handle these big fish once they get to boat-side. A strong catch-and-release ethic dominates modern musky circles along the St. Lawrence, and there is no better way to learn how to successfully handle and release a musky than witnessing an experienced guide do just that.

In addition to increasing your odds of catching a musky, learning how-to musky techniques, and learning how to properly handle muskies, going with a guide means the opportunity to catch a BIG fish.

If you look at the various media for big-musky photos each year, you will likely see a smiling angler alongside a veteran river guide.

FISH KNOWN HOTSPOT

While muskies may swim anywhere along the St. Lawrence River’s length, the majority of catches occur in certain locations.

Thus, another key to catching muskies is to fish an area that has a reputation as good musky water, a lesson I learned from Al Russell, legendary St. Lawrence River musky guide out of Ogdensburg.

In my early days of dealing with “musky fever,” my efforts were producing more northern pike than muskies. When I went to Russell, he said, “Don’t waste your time going all over the river. Instead, spend your time in the traditional musky areas — Sandbar at the mouth of the Oswegatchie River at Ogdensburg and the shoals near the International Bridge.”

Upon heeding Russell’s advice, my musky catches increased dramatically, and your catches will improve too if you concentrate your efforts in well-known musky areas.

Among the traditional trolling areas along the St. Lawrence River are Hinckley Flats Shoal, Featherbed Shoal, and Carleton Island out of Cape Vincent; Round Island to Reed Point, Black Ant Shoals, and Forty Acre Shoals out of Clayton; American Island out of Morristown; Sandbar at the mouth of the Oswegatchie River and International Bridge Shoals out of Ogdensburg; and Hawkins Point and Robinson Bay out of Massena.

Since good musky spots are not well-kept secrets along the St. Lawrence River, a visit or phone call to any bait shop should steer you in the right direction about where to fish.

Too, since some musky haunts span the international border, anglers are reminded that an Ontario license is required when fishing Canadian portions of the St. Lawrence.

BE PERSISTENT

In addition to advising me to troll in known musky areas, Al Russell said, “You have to be patient and persistent to catch muskies.”

Veteran musky anglers know the wisdom in this advice as there are no guarantees of a hookup on any musky outing or even a string of outings. Still, an angler who fishes a traditional location along the St. Lawrence River and who is persistent in his or her efforts will catch muskellunge, especially if that angler fishes with an experienced musky guide.

Outdoors Calendar

Saturday: Regular Deer Season opens in Northern Zone.

Saturday: Regular Canada Goose Season opens in Northeast Goose Hunting Area.

Saturday: Trapping Season opens for a variety of species.

Nov. 1: PFDs must be worn when underway in vessels less than 21 feet.

Nov. 1: Second Portion of Waterfowl Season opens in Northeast Zone.

Nov. 1: Trapping Season opens for beaver and river otter.

Nov. 1-14: Crossbows may be used in Southern Zone.

Nov. 15: Regular Deer Season opens in Southern Zone.

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Hooks and Antlers: Food sources key in early hunting season

First published: October 12, 2014 at 1:22 am
Last modified: October 12, 2014 at 1:22 am

With the arrival autumn’s chilly weather, whitetails instinctively begin to feed heavily in order to build up fat reserves for the approaching winter.

A mature whitetail deer eats 10 pounds of food daily at this time of the year. As a result, early season success demands that the hunter, too, focus on food. Among the prime food sources in the North Country are food plots, farm crops, fruits, mast crops, and native browse.

PRIME FOOD SOURCES

Food plots are fast-growing in popularity with area hunters and landowners. In essence, these are plots of food planted specifically to attract and nourish whitetail deer. Popular plantings include clover, alfalfa, soybeans, corn, buckwheat, ryegrass, chicory, winter rye, and brassica. Wildlife other than deer benefit from food plots, and some plots such as winter wheat and brassica continue to serve as a food source once hunting season concludes.

Area farmers suffer significant crop loss annually due to damage done by feeding deer, and those who hunt farmland know that crop fields are deer magnets in the early season. Clover and alfalfa are especially attractive fields as are corn and soybean ones.

Farmland crops like those in food plots appeal strongly to deer because these foods can contain up to 20 percent protein whereas most native foods contain less than 10 percent protein.

Fruits, mast crops, and native browse are important early-season foods on both farmlands and woodlands. Attractive fruits include apples, pears, grapes, cherries, and berries. Important mast crops are acorns, hickory nuts, and beechnuts. While deer eat both red and white acorns, the white are strongly preferred as they are less bitter.

Biologists have documented that deer feed on over 600 plants so natural browse is a more difficult food source for hunters to specifically locate.

Still, abandoned fields and other areas of low-growth vegetation in both farmland and woodlands have an abundance of native browse.

Logging areas also attract early season deer. Active logging means there is fresh browse on the ground, and hunters shouldn’t overlook areas that were logged in recent years because such areas, too, offer plenty of new growth within a whitetail’s reach.

TIMES OF CHANGE

Since autumn is a time of change, various factors can turn a hot feeding area into a cold one and vice versa. For example, the spreading of liquid manure, the application of round-up, or a fall plowing will make an alfalfa or clover field undesirable. Also, fruit and mast crops can be depleted in a short period of time, and hard frosts can kill various foods.

On a positive note, a freshly cut cornfield, despite the loss of cover, can attract deer to fallen cobs and kernels. Also, strong winds or rains can cause fruit and mast crops to fall to the ground.

Too, strong winds can topple trees that provide easy-to-reach browse just as active logging does.

HUNTING PRESSURE

The one factor that affects early-season food sources more than any other thing, though, is hunting pressure. After a couple of incidents of detecting hunters at feeding sites, mature deer will periodically abandon that location, or they will visit it only under the cover of darkness.

The challenge for a hunter, then, is how to select a set up that allows the hunter to hunt the food source but at the same time does not alert deer.

No easy answer exists, but hunters should take stands only when wind conditions are favorable.

Setting up at the actual feeding site poses difficulties on evening hunts because deer are in the vicinity at the conclusion of legal hunting hours, and the hunter must leave the area undetected.

While the wind might be favorable, deer will still pick up on the slightest movements and noises made by hunters as they exit stands. Prior to exiting a stand, a hunter held the advantage, but when the hunter leaves a stand, the odds turn in the deer’s favor.

To avoid this dilemma, some hunters choose to intercept deer in travel corridors between bedding and feeding areas rather than at the actual feeding site.

Hunters will likely see fewer deer in such stands, but leaving the hunting area undetected should be easier. Also, mature bucks tend to arrive at feeding locations after legal hunting hours so the chance of encountering such a buck might increase in a travel corridor.

Outdoors Calendar

Oct. 15: Crossbows may be used during last 10 days of Early Bowhunting Season in Northern Zone.

Oct. 15: Trout Season closes in New York State.

Oct. 17: Fall Turkey Season closes in Northern Zone.

Oct. 18: Early Muzzleloader Season opens in Northern Zone.

Oct. 19: First Portion of Waterfowl Season closes in Northeast Zone.

Oct. 25: Regular Deer Season opens in Northern Zone.

Oct. 25: Regular Canada Goose Season opens in Northeast Goose Hunting Area.

Oct. 25: Trapping Season opens for variety of species.

Nov. 1: PFDs must be worn when underway in vessels less than 21 feet.

Nov. 1: Second Portion of Waterfowl Season opens in Northeast Zone.

Nov. 1: Trapping Season opens for beaver and river otter.

Nov. 1-14: Crossbows may be used in Southern Zone.

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Hooks and Antlers: State to host youth deer hunt

First published: October 05, 2014 at 2:43 am
Last modified: October 05, 2014 at 2:43 am

For young hunters across New York State, Columbus Day weekend may rank as their favorite holiday of the year as next Saturday through Monday marks the third Annual Youth Deer Hunt.

In the 2012 and 2013 Youth Deer Hunts, an estimated 60 percent of eligible junior hunters participated, and DEC estimates those hunters took more than 1,400 deer.

For the 2014 hunt weekend, more than 15,000 junior hunters are expected to participate.

Junior hunters (ages 14-15) will be eligible to take one deer of either sex with a firearm during this Youth Firearms Deer Hunt and may use a Deer Management Permit, Deer Management Assistance Permit, or a regular season tag.

Junior hunters must be accompanied by an adult hunter, and both the junior and adult hunters are required to have a hunting license. Adults are not allowed to possess a firearm, crossbow, or bow; or to harvest an animal while accompanying a junior hunter during the special hunt.

Participants in the Youth Deer Hunt are advised to consult the rules for 14-15 year old junior hunters and their mentors as listed on page 39 of the current Regulations Guide.

These rules cover topics such as mentor eligibility, positioning of youth and adult when afield, use of tree stands, and wearing of blaze orange.

RUSH OUTDOORS CHALLENGE

Like many anglers, I enjoy fishing different destinations, and last Sunday was particularly enjoyable as I had the opportunity to fish the St. Lawrence River out of Cape Vincent as part of the second annual Rush Outdoors-New York State Outdoor Writers Association Angling Challenge.

Sponsored by Rush Outdoors, the producer of hunting and other outdoor shows across New York State, the Angling Challenge pits three members of the Rust Outdoors film team against three members of the New York State Outdoor Writers Association (NYSOWA) in a friendly competition for media bragging rights.

In last Sunday’s event, we fished for bass, pike, and walleye, and the scoring system was based on the number of fish over 16 inches as well as the length and weight of the largest fish caught.

The guides for the day were second-generation ones, Adam and Eric Swenson.

Adam operates Katy’s Worries Charters, and he had the Rush Challenge team on board. Erik operates Lori J Charters, and he guided the NYSOWA team.

Joining me on the writers team were Leo Maloney of Sherrill, who is the outdoors columnist for the Oneida Daily Dispatch and editor of Adirondack Outdoors magazine; and Sue Bookhout of Cazenovia, who is the owner of SB Media Group and a developer of WordPress websites.

The strategy for both boats was to drift along structural and weed edges using a drop-shot type rig tipped with a Senko, plastic bail, or live minnow.

The fish were not overly co-operative that hot, sunny day, but between the two boats we caught and released various species including round goby, yellow perch, walleye, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and northern pike.

Throughout the four hours of fishing, neither team was able to establish a significant lead until, with two minutes of fishing time remaining, Sue Bookhout landed 30.5-inch northern pike to give the victory to the NYSOWA team.

For more information on Rush Outdoors, visit www.rushoutdoors.com. Captain Adam Swenson can be reached at 778-6481 or aaswenson20@yahoo.com, and Captain Erik Swenson can be contacted at 654-2414 or ericandjulie@tds.net.

NEW YORK HUNTING WEBPAGE

Many tourism and government agencies are reluctant to promote hunting so I was really pleased to see that New York State has announced the development of a webpage to promote hunting in the Empire State. The new webpage was created in cooperation between the Empire State Development Corporation and Department of Environmental Conservation. People can access the site at www.ILOVENY.com/hunting.

Outdoors Calendar

Oct. 11-13: Third Annual Youth Deer Hunt.

Oct. 15: Crossbows may be used during last 10 days of Early Bowhunting Season in Northern Zone.

Oct. 15: Trout Season closes in New York State.

Oct. 17: Fall Turkey Season closes in Northern Zone.

Oct. 18: Early Muzzleloader Season opens in Northern Zone.

Oct. 19: First Portion of Waterfowl Season closes in Northeast Zone.

Oct. 25: Regular Deer Season opens in Northern Zone.

Oct. 25: Regular Canada Goose Season opens in Northeast Goose Hunting Area.

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Hooks and Antlers: Pheasant, waterfowl, wild turkey seasons open this week

First published: September 28, 2014 at 1:31 am
Last modified: September 28, 2014 at 1:31 am

I will continue to have a fishing rod in my hands in the coming days, but for sportsmen and women who opt to tote a gun, October brings an array of hunting opportunities, and among the month’s onset of hunting options are the pursuit of pheasants, waterfowl, and wild turkeys.

PHEASANTS

DEC is releasing 30,000 adult pheasants on lands open to public hunting across the state, and among those stocking sites are St. Lawrence County’s Upper and Lower Lakes Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Canton, Wilson Hill WMA in Louisville, and Fish Creek WMA in Macomb; Jefferson County’s Perch River WMA in Brownville, Ashland WMA in Cape Vincent, and French Creek WMA in Clayton; and Lewis County’s East Martinsburg Road in Martinsburg.

Even though the majority of pheasants will be released prior to the opening day on Wednesday; some sites will see an additional release during the course of the season.

Pheasants will be released at various locations at Upper and Lower Lakes WMA depending on the number of birds received and habitat conditions. At Wilson Hill WMA, pheasants will be released at the upland areas surrounding the marsh pools.

Special regulations are in effect for this WMA so hunters should check the posted rules at the kiosk in front of the Check Station Building.

Stocking locations at Fish Creek WMA include the fields off State Highway 58 and the West Lake Road.

At Perch River WMA, pheasants will be released at Dog Hill and both sides of the Vaadi Road. Hunting regulations are posted at the Vaadi Road Check Station. Ashland WMA will see releases of birds along Ashland Road while French Creek release sites include Bevins Road and Grant Road.

For the 6490 East Martinsburg Road release location, look for the pheasant signs at the intersection of State Route 12 and the East Martinsburg Road. Hunters should note that this is private property, and sign-in is required at the red tool barn behind the house.

Pheasant season extends through Feb. 28 in the Northern Zone, and the daily limit is two birds of either sex. For more information on DEC pheasant programs, visit www.dec.ny.gov.

WATERFOWL SEASON

The first portion of waterfowl season in the Northeast Waterfowl Hunting Zone runs from Saturday, Oct. 4 through Sunday, Oct. 19. The daily limit of six ducks includes all species of mergansers, and may include no harlequin ducks and no more than four mallards (no more than two of which may be hens), one black duck, three wood ducks, two pintail, two redheads, two scaup, one canvasback, four soters, or two hooded mergansers.

Waterfowl hunters must register in New York’s Harvest Information Program (www.NY-HIP.com), and hunters 16 years and older must have a federal migratory game bird hunting stamp. “Duck stamps” are available at most post offices. Shooting hours extend from one half-hour before sunrise to sunset, and non-toxic shoot is required.

WILD TURKEYS

Fall Turkey Season in the Northern Zone gets underway on Wednesday and runs through Friday, Oct. 17, the day prior to the opening of Early Muzzleloading Season. Regulations for fall hunting differ from the rules for hunting turkeys in the spring. For example, fall hunters my take a bird of either sex. Too, hunting hours extend from sunrise to sunset instead of from one half-hour before sunrise until noon.

In Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) 6 A, 6C, 6G, and 6H the season bag limit is one turkey while the other WMUs in the Northern Zone have a season bag limit of two turkeys, and unlike the spring season, both birds may be taken on the same day.

Upon harvesting a turkey, hunters are required to immediately fill out the carcass tag and attach it to the bird. Regulations also require that the harvest be reported within seven days via phone (1-866-GAMERPT) or internet (www.dec.ny.gov). Too, hunters are asked to save one leg from each turkey taken, and they will receive instructions about what to do with the leg when the kill is reported. DEC wildlife personnel use the legs for age and sex information.

Outdoors Calendar

Oct. 1: Application deadline for Deer Management Permits.

Oct. 1: Fall Turkey Season opens in Northern Zone.

Oct. 1: Cottontail Rabbit and Varying Hare Seasons open in Northern Zone.

Oct. 1: Pheasant Season opens in Northern Zone.

Oct. 1: Coyote Season opens in New York State.

Oct. 1: Early Bowhunting Season opens in Southern Zone.

Oct. 4: Waterfowl Season opens in Northeast Waterfowl Hunting Zone.

Oct. 15: Crossbows may be used during last 10 days of Early Bowhunting Season in Northern Zone.

Oct. 18: Early Muzzleloader Season opens in Northern Zone.

Oct. 25: Regular Deer Season opens in Northern Zone.

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Hooks and Antlers: NHF Day notes importance of hunters, anglers

First published: September 21, 2014 at 2:15 am
Last modified: September 21, 2014 at 2:15 am

Congress established National Hunting and Fishing Day in 1971 to acknowledge the conservation and economic importance of sportsmen and women across the country, and this coming Saturday, Sept. 27, marks the 43rd annual celebration of National Hunting and Fishing Day (NHF Day). Since its inception, NHF Day has been formally proclaimed by every U.S. President.

Most Americans, including many hunters and anglers, aren’t aware of the tremendous benefits that these traditional activities provide for all who appreciate wildlife and wild places.

Nationwide, America’s 34 million sportsmen and women, through licenses, permits, and special taxes, generate $4.7 million daily for fish, wildlife, and habitat programs.

No other group contributes more for conservation.

Country music star, award-winning TV host, and former soldier Craig Morgan is the honorary chairman for the 2014 NHF Day.

Morgan is well known as an avid outdoorsman and also takes pride in serving others. He has made 10 overseas tours to entertain our troops and received the 2006 USO Merit Award for his genuine support of our U.S. soldiers and their families.

“I couldn’t be happier to serve as honorary chair for National Hunting and Fishing Day,” Morgan said in a statement. “As a parent, I’ve shared my love of the outdoors with my kids, and I know that conservation is key to creating a better future for upcoming generations in the outdoor sports.”

For information on NHF Day and scheduled activities across the country, visit www.nhfday.org.

NHF DAY AT SALMON HATCHERY

In recognition of NHF Day, the DEC Salmon Fish Hatchery is hosting its 19th annual open house from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, rain or shine. There is no admission charge.

The day’s events include fishing and hunting demonstrations, environmental education programs and displays, stream ecology for kids, and a fish petting zoo.

Too, guests can visit the nearby Salmon River Falls, a DEC unique area located four miles from the hatchery on Route 22. The area has a 110-foot waterfall, trails, and viewing areas in a scenic setting.

For more information, call the hatchery at 298-7605.

EARLY BOWHUNTING SEASON

The Early Bowhunting Season in the Northern Zone opens on Saturday.

Participation requires that hunters are licensed with bowhunting privileges, and because of the change in the license year from Oct. 1 to Sept. 1, hunters may use either last year’s license or this year’s license for the September portion of the Early Bowhunting Season in the Northern Zone.

Outdoors Calendar

Sept. 24: Trap Shoot at Black Lake F&G Association at 7 p.m.

Sept. 24-26: B.A.S.S. Eastern Divisional Tournament at Waddington.

Sept. 25: September Canada Goose Season closes in Northeast Goose Hunting Area.

Sept. 27: National Hunting and Fishing Day.

Sept. 27: Early Bowhunting Season opens in Northern Zone.

Sept. 27-28: Youth Pheasant Hunt in Northern Zone.

Oct. 1: Application deadline for Deer Management Permits.

Oct. 1: Fall Turkey Season opens in Northern Zone.

Oct. 1: Cottontail Rabbit and Varying Hare Seasons open in Northern Zone.

Oct. 1: Pheasant Season opens in Northern Zone.

Oct. 1: Early Bowhunting Season opens in Southern Zone.

Oct. 4: Waterfowl Season opens in Northeast Waterfowl Hunting Zone.

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Hooks and Antlers: SLRWA Hosts Fall Bass, Walleye Event

First published: August 31, 2014 at 3:13 am
Last modified: August 31, 2014 at 3:13 am

The St. Lawrence River Walleye Association (SLRWA) is presenting its 11th Annual Waddington Bass and Walleye Fall Classic on Saturday, Sept. 13.

The event is a team competition of one or two people, and the winning team will be determined by the heaviest weight of four fish, two bass (smallmouth or largemouth) and two walleyes.

The entry fee per team is $50 for team, and a $5 restocking will be assessed to non-SLRWA members. Payout to winners will be based on the number of entrants.

In addition, there will be an optional Big Fish Contest ($20 per team), and 50 percent of money will go for biggest bass and 50 percent for biggest walleye.

Participants must pre-register by 6 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 11. Registration sites are JC River Run Bar & Grill in Waddington, Steve’s Stop and Shop on Route 37 in Louisville, and Salon 181 in Massena. Anyone signing up on the morning of the event will be assessed an additional $10 fee.

Fishing hours are from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m., and all boats must be in the water at the Waddington Boat Launch at Whitaker Park by 6:30 a.m.

Fishing boundaries extend from the top side of the Robert Moses Power Dam in Massena to the Iroquois Dam in Waddington. Anglers may fish both the Canadian and U.S. sides of the river, and anglers planning to fish in Canada are advised to contact Canadian Customs at 888-226-7277.

The weigh-in station opens at noon at the boat launch at Whitaker Park, and all fish must be weighed prior to removing a boat from the water.

Cash prizes will consist of all entry fees minus $200, and the breakdown is 50 percent for first place, 30 percent for second place, and 20 percent for third place.

The cash awards and other prizes will be awarded at JC River Run Bar and Grill at 4 p.m.

For more information, contact Mike at 705-2181 (work) or at 384-3450 (home), or visit www.stlawrenceriverwalleyeassociation.com. Rain date for the event is Sunday, Sept. 14.

BASS ELITE TOURNAMENT AT CAYUGA LAKE

Greg Hackney of Gonzales, La. topped the field of Elite Anglers at Cayuga Lake last week with a four-day, 20-fish catch weighing 85 pounds.

For his efforts, Hackney earned the $100,000 top prize, an automatic qualification in the 2015 Bassmaster Classic, and the number-one position in the Angler of the Year race.

Second-place honors went to Todd Faircloth of Jasper, Texas, who had a four-day, 20-fish catch weighing 75 pounds, 13 ounces. Rounding out the top five spots were Chris Zaldain of San Jose, Calif.; Edwin Evers of Talala, Okla.; and Jared Lintner of Arroyo Grande, Calif.

Neither Hackney nor Faircloth finished in the top 40 in the 2013 Elite Event at Waddington, but Zaldain, Evers, and Lintner finished 16th, 25th, and 32nd respectively.

Hackney’s winning weight at Cayuga would have placed second at Waddington, nearly four pounds behind Brandon Palaniuk’s winning weight of 88 pounds, 12 ounces.

Evers’ second-place weight of 75 pounds, 13 ounces at Cayuga would have earned him 12th-place honors at Waddington.

Palaniuk of Hayden, Idaho, led after day One at Cayuga, but the Waddington winner finished in eighth place with 69 pounds in the Finger Lakes.

SEPTEMBER CANADA GOOSE SEASON

Monday marks the opening of the September Canada Goose Season in the Northeast Goose Hunting Area, and the season extends through Thursday, Sept. 25. To hunt Canada Geese an individual must possess a small game hunting license and register in New York’s Harvest Information Program (www.NY-HIP.com or 1-888427-5447). Hunters 16 years and older are also required to have a federal migratory game bird hunting stamp, (‘duck stamp’).

These stamps are available at most post offices as well as some sporting goods stores, and on-line orders can be placed at www.duckstamp.com).

The September shooting hours extend from one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset except for the Youth Waterfowl Hunt Days (Sept. 20-21) when hunting hours end at the traditional time of sunset.

Non-toxic shot is required, and the daily bag limit is 15 geese per day.

SQUIRREL SEASON

Small game hunting also kicks off on Monday with squirrel season when hunters may take gray, black, and fox squirrels. Red squirrels are unprotected and may be hunted at any time with no daily limit.

The daily limit for squirrels is six, and hunting hours run from sunrise to sunset.

Outdoors Calendar

Monday: Canada Goose Season opens in Northeast Goose Hunting Area.

Monday: Squirrel Season opens in New York State.

Thursday: Seaway Valley QDMA Banquet in Gouverneur (287-4968).

Friday: Second Annual Banquet of North Country Chapter of Ruffed Grouse Society in Malone (518-521-4559).

Sept. 6-7: Beginner Fly Fishing Event for Women at Elbridge (243-7667).

Sept. 9: Federated Sportsmen’s Clubs of SLC meet at Canton Boces at 7 p.m.

Sept. 13: 11th Annual SLRWA Bass and Walleye Fall Classic at Waddington (705-2181 or 384-3450).

Sept. 13: Early Bear Season opens in Northern Zone.

Sept. 13-14: Syracuse Gun Show at State Fairgrounds (607-748-1010).

Sept. 20: Ruffed Grouse Season opens in Northern Zone.

Sept. 20-21: Youth Waterfowl Hunt in Northeastern Waterfowl Hunting Zone.

Sept. 27-28: Youth Pheasant Hunt in Northern Zone.

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Hooks and Antlers: Clayton show to feature rehabilitating fly-fishing program for military

First published: August 03, 2014 at 12:51 am
Last modified: August 03, 2014 at 12:51 am

CLAYTON — Project Healing Waters will be among the exhibitors at the Clayton-Thousand Islands Gun and Sportsmen Show slated for the Cerow Recreation Park Arena on Aug. 16-17. The project utilizes fly-fishing activities to work with veteran and active military personnel in a healing way.

Trent Myer heads the current Project Healing Waters Chapter at Fort Drum, and he says, “Being in the water is good for improving balance and strength; fly casting exercises the upper body; and being on the water is good for the soul.”

Show hours extend from 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for military with ID, and free for children under 12. Sponsoring the 2014 show are Route 37 Building Supply, Wellesley Island Building Supply, Greg Henry Construction, and Surefine Market of Clayton. More information is available by calling 482-4596 or 686-2832.

PROJECT HEALING WATERS

Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, Inc. (PHWFF) is a non-profit organization incorporated in Maryland. The first program began at Washington’s Walter Reed Medical Center in 2005, and the name was established in 2006 with incorporation taking place in 2007.

Since that time PHWFF has expanded nationwide and has a program in Canada.

The organization’s mission states the group is dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled active military service personnel and disabled veterans through fly fishing and associated activities including education and outings.

PHWFF currently has 160 programs in 48 states, and all programs are associated with and draw volunteers form Federation of Fly Fishers clubs, Trout Unlimited chapters, and independent clubs. Last year, more than 2,400 volunteers donated over 130,000 hours of service to PHWFF program activities.

Program activities may include, but are not limited to, fly-fishing instruction, fly-tying classes, fly-casting workshops, rod building, and fly-fishing outings.

For PHWFF volunteers, the benefits of association lie in the giving. Volunteers can give by making cash donations, donating used fly fishing equipment, becoming a volunteer, or even starting a program if there is not one in the area.

PHWFF’s mailing address is Post Office Box 695, LaPlata, Md., 20646, and the phone number is 301-830-6450. The organization’s Web site is www.projecthealingwaters.org.

TENTATIVE WATERFOWL SEASONS

DEC has announced the tentative 2014-14 waterfowl seasons. The seasons do not become official until federal regulations are adopted later in the summer. For the Northeast Zone, youth days will be held the weekend of Sept. 20-21 while the regular season will be split into two sessions: Oct. 4 (Saturday)-Oct. 19 (Sunday) and Nov. 1 (Saturday)-Dec. 14 (Sunday).

The September Canada Goose Season for the Northeast Goose Hunting Area will run the traditional dates of Sept. 1 (Monday) through Sept. 25 (Thursday). The regular season will be divided into two sessions: Oct. 25 (Saturday)-Nov. 16 (Sunday) and Nov. 18 (Tuesday)-Dece. 14 (Sunday). By closing the season on Nov. 17, hunters are afforded an extra weekend day to hunt geese.

MEPPS SEEKS SQUIRREL TAILS

The hair on a squirrel’s tail emits a rippling, pulsating movement in the water, and that movement is a key, fish-attracting component of Mepps lures. Company representative Kurt Mazurek says, “We’ve tried hundreds of other natural and synthetic materials; bear hair, fox, coyote, badger, skunk, deer, even Angus cow, but nothing works as well as squirrel tail hair.”

The company notes that squirrels are a plentiful resource, they make excellent table fare, their skins are used in making a variety of products, but their tails are usually thrown away. Instead of tossing out the tails, Mepps is asking hunters to recycle squirrel tails by sending them to the company which buys fox, black, grey, and red squirrel tails and which will pay up to 26 cents each for tails depending on quality and quantity. The cash value is doubled if the tails are traded for Mepps lures.

More information on the Squirrel Tail Program is available at www.mepps.com, and Mazurek reminds hunters, “We do not advocate harvesting of squirrels solely for their tails.”

Outdoors Calendar

Aug. 4: Trap and Skeet Shoot at Lisbon Sportsmen’s Club on Pray Rd. at 5:30 p.m.

Aug. 6: Trap Shoot at Black Lake F&G Association at 7 p.m.(869-6051).

Aug. 7: Sporting Clays Shoot at Black Lake F&G Association at 1 p.m. (323-5585).

Aug. 9: NNY Bassmasters Tournament at Cranberry Lake (www.nnybassmasters.com).

Aug. 9: 6th Annual Long Lake Bass Fishing Derby (518-624-2145).

Aug. 12: Monthly meeting of Canton Sportsmen’s Club (Nickerson Rd.) at 6:30 p.m.

Aug. 12: Monthly meeting of Federated Sportsmen’s Clubs of SLC at Canton Boces at 7 p.m.

Aug. 14: SLC Trappers Association meets at Lisbon Library at 6:30 p.m.

Aug. 16-17: Clayton-1000 Islands Gun and Sportsmen Show at Cerow Arena (482-4596).

Aug. 23: Outdoor Adventure Day at Fort Drum (788-8450).

Aug. 23: NNY Bassmasters Tournament at St. Lawrence River, Ogdensburg (www.nnybassmasters.com).

Aug. 30: Outdoor Heritage Family Rendezvous II at Black Lake F&G Association (www.BLFGA.org).

Aug. 30: Spider’s Basic Fishing Program (Free) at Wellesley Island State Park (482-2479).

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Hooks and Antlers: state-best drum tops Chaumont mark

First published: July 27, 2014 at 1:01 am
Last modified: July 27, 2014 at 1:01 am
PROVIDED PHOTO
James VanArsdale of Henrietta hoists a state-record freshwater drum, which he landed in Irondequoit Bay.

For the second time in 2014, DEC has announced a new state record fish.

While fishing in Rochester’s Irondequoit Bay in Lake Ontario, James Van Arsdall of West Henrietta landed a 33.5-inch freshwater drum that weighed 26 pounds and nine ounces. The catch occurred on June 14, and it bested the previous record, a 24.5-pound drum caught by Chaumont’s Gregory Netto in Chaumont Bay on June 8, 2005.

An impressive feature of VanArsdall’s record drum was the fish’s girth. For example, a northern pike that measured 33.5 inches might weigh 10 or so pounds, but the record drum more than doubled that weight.

While freshwater drum are not rare catches in area waters, the fish are uncommon catches. The first drum I ever caught was when I was jigging for walleyes at the mouth of the Oswegatchie River at Ogdensburg. Like other walleye anglers who hook a drum, I thought I had a monster walleye because the fish stayed down and had impressive fighting ability.

The last drum I caught was one of the oddest catches of a lifetime of angling. That fish hit a nine-inch Cisco Kid when I was night-trolling for muskies in the St. Lawrence River several Octobers ago.

FRESHWATER DRUM

Freshwater drum are often called “sheepshead,” and they live in large rivers and lakes such as St. Lawrence and Ontario. An identifiable feature of the drum is its blunt or short head.

The drum is the only freshwater fish in North America that is a planktonic spawner whose eggs drift with the current. This fish gets its name from the sound that males emit while swimming.

Freshwater drum have numerous, round teeth that they use in crushing their food, which typically consists of snails, mussels, clams, and crayfish. The species is usually nocturnal, and once at line’s end, a drum puts up a praiseworthy fight.

STATE RECORD STRIPED BASS

The other state record fish (inland) taken this year was a 60-pound striped bass caught by Eric Lester on May 14. Lester caught the fish in the Hudson River, and it topped the previous record, a 55.38-pound striper that was also caught in the Hudson River. Ian Kiraly took that fish on May 9, 2007.

ANGLER ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS

Page 65 of the current “Freshwater Fishing Guide” lists New York’s state record fish. Too, the guide has detailed information on the state’s Angler Achievement Awards program where angler catches are recognized in three different categories: “annual award, “catch and release,” and “state record”. For more information, see pages 63-66 of the guide that is available at all license-issuing agents.

NEW ADIRONDACK MAGAZINE

If you browse the magazine section of area stores, you are likely to run across a copy of a new publication titled “Adirondack Outdoors”.

Owned and published by Michael Wade, who grew up in Ogdensburg, the glossy magazine is geared towards Adirondack outdoors enthusiasts.

Topics covered in articles in the current issue of “Adirondack Outdoors” include kids fishing, brook trout heritage, backcountry boats, Lake Champlain bass and salmon, kayak fishing, largemouth bass, Sacandaga Lake, Lake George boat inspections, Fulton Chain pike, paddling the Adirondacks, Pecks Lake, summer photography, popper fishing, Stillwater Reservoir camping, hiking tips, venison appetizers, camping and hiking rules, outdoors calendar, product reviews, and more.

“Adirondack Outdoors” is currently published quarterly, and interested persons can subscribe by sending a check or money order ($15.95) along with name, address, e-mail, and phone number to FishUS.com, P.O. Box 96, Clinton, NY 13323.

Subscriptions are also available by calling 315-624-9966 or by visiting www.adirondackoutdoorsmagazine.com where more information on the publication can be found.

BASSMASTER H.S. CHAMPIONSHIP

Garrett Enders and Nick Osman of Susquehanna High School, Pa., outlasted 59 high school teams to win the inaugural Bassmaster High School Championship.

The pair used weightless, wacky-rigged Senkos for their Day Four catch that moved them from second to first place.

For their victory, Enders and Osman received $2,000 each in scholarship funds from B.A.S.S. They were also offered $20,000 scholarships (over four years) if they attend Bethel University.

Outdoors Calendar

July 28: Trap and Skeet Shoot at Lisbon Sportsmen’s Club on Pray Rd. at 5:30 p.m.

July 30: Trap Shoot at Black Lake F&G Association at 7 p.m.(869-6051).

July 31: Sporting Clays Shoot at Black Lake F&G Association at 1 p.m. (323-5585).

July 31: Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open at Lake Champlain, Plattsburgh.

Aug. 2: SLR Walleye Association’s 13 Annual Walleye Challenge Tournament (384-3450).

Aug. 9: NNY Bassmasters Tournament at Cranberry Lake (www.nnybassmasters.com).

Aug. 9: 6th Annual Long Lake Bass Fishing Derby (518-624-2145).

Aug. 14: SLC Trappers Association meets at Lisbon Library at 6:30 p.m.

Aug. 16-17: Clayton-1000 Islands Gun and Sportsmen Show at Cerow Arena (482-4596).

Aug. 30: Spider’s Basic Fishing Program (Free) at Wellesley Island State Park (482-2479).

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Hooks and Antlers: Catching walleye requires mastering three key techniques

First published: June 22, 2014 at 1:04 am
Last modified: June 22, 2014 at 1:04 am
PROVIDED PHOTO
Mike Gagner displays a 9.82-pound walleye that took “Big Fish” honors at the St. Lawrence River Walleye Association’s eighth annual Smackdown Tournament on June 14.

Walleyes may well rank as the most popular species among local anglers who rely on three basic techniques for making their catches. Those techniques are trolling minnow plugs, dragging crawler harnesses, and casting jigs.

Certainly, the most successful anglers have developed their walleye-catching methodology to something of an art, but here is a look at the basics of each technique.

TROLLING MINNOW PLUGS

Trolling minnow plugs offers the advantages of covering a lot of water and of familiarizing oneself with an area in relatively short time. Whereas wind conditions can hamper other techniques, trolling remains a viable option regardless of wind direction or velocity.

Since river walleyes typically hold on or near bottom, a trolling key is to get the lure within a few feet of bottom. Today’s assortment of diving plugs, in-line weights, diving devices, and downriggers make it easy to reach 35-foot depths and beyond. A second trolling key is to make sure there is good lure action. An easy way to check lure action is to visually inspect the lure while running it at boat side at trolling speed.

For the best results, anglers should troll along structural edges rather than in open water.

Also, trolling up current or cross current will usually out-produce downstream trolling in river stretches of strong current. Since walleyes move shallower in low-light conditions, anglers should do likewise.

DRAGGING CRAWLER HARNESSES

Like trolling, drifting crawler harnesses allows an angler to cover a lot of water in a short period of time, and since summer walleyes generally spread throughout a water system, covering water is important in locating fish. By using heavier-weighted bottom bouncers, anglers can work deep water, a favorite haunt of summer walleyes.

A key to successful drifting is boat speed. If the drift is too slow, blades will not turn, and the rig will settle on bottom.

For St. Lawrence River anglers, this means only one thing: gobies will gobble up the bait. When the drift speed is too fast, the rig often lifts too far off bottom to entice strikes. Under ideal conditions, the current and/or wind will move the boat at a speed that allows for proper presentation, but more often than not, the angler will have to use an electric motor to speed the drift or a drift sock to slow the drift.

CASTING JIGS

Casting bucktail-hair jigs or plastic-tipped jigs doesn’t allow an angler to cover as much water as trolling plugs or dragging harnesses does, so the technique is better utilized when walleyes are somewhat concentrated in a given area.

Although casting jigs will take fish during the summer months, the technique takes more fish in early and late season when walleyes are concentrated in post-spawn or pre-winter schools not far from spawning grounds.

Jigs offer the flexibility of fishing a variety of depths, and they can be worked slowly or aggressively to match water temperature and fish mood. Casting jigs works best in areas with no current or mild current or when controlling boat speed via wind, electric motor, or drift sock.

The basic technique calls for casting the jig and letting it fall to bottom. Then the angler uses a lift-drop technique as he or she works the lure near bottom and back to the boat. Ninety percent of the strikes typically occur on the jig’s fall, and the angler will feel only a “tick” as the walleye inhales the dropping jig.

If the “tick” goes undetected, the angler will feel the weight of the fish when lifting the jig.

Skillful jiggers visualize what the jig is doing at line’s end. These anglers also have a feel for what the jig is doing, and they watch their line to detect any slack that indicates the jig has hit bottom or a walleye has inhaled it.

Tipping the jig with a piece of crawler or adding a stinger hook typically increases the number of hook-ups.

Outdoors Calendar

June 23: Trap and Skeet Shoot at Lisbon Sportsmen’s Club on Pray Rd. at 5:30 p.m.

June 25: Trap Shoot at Black Lake F&G Association at 7 p.m.(869-6051).

June 26: Sporting Clays Shoot at Black Lake F&G Association at 1 p.m. (323-5585).

June 28: Northern New York Bassmasters Tournament at Chaumont Bay (www.nnybassmasters.com).

June 28-29: Free Fishing Days in NYS.

June 30: Trap and Skeet Shoot at Lisbon Sportsmen’s Club on Pray Rd. at 5:30 p.m.

July 2: Trap Shoot at Black Lake F&G Association at 7 p.m. (869-6051).

July 3: Sporting Clays Shoot at Black Lake F&G Association at 1 p.m. (323-5585).

July 5: Spider’s Free Fishing Programs at Wellesley Island State Park (482-2479).

July 12: Northern New York Bassmasters Tournament at Black Lake (www.nnybassmasters.com).

July 20: Youth Fishing Derby at Colton (262-2225).

July 26: 14th Annual Raquette Lake Bass Tournament (www.mylonglake.com).

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Fishing equipment important, but no guarantee for success

First published: June 14, 2014 at 7:39 pm
Last modified: June 14, 2014 at 7:39 pm

Some manufacturers guarantee phenomenal fish catches if an angler uses their products, and some athletes guarantee victory in championship games. In reality, though, there are no guarantees when it comes to fishing or athletic competition.

Instead, success in life stems from implementing the fundamentals of a given activity.

GEAR PREPARATION

Before getting on the water, spend some time preparing the gear. Among the numerous possibilities are organizing tackle boxes, re-spooling reels with new line, re-placing worn hooks, studying lake charts, and installing fresh batteries in the camera. Time on the water is for fishing, not for dealing with gear.

LINE CARE

Special attention should be given to line care. Make sure that spools are full as partially filled spools cast poorly and stress the line. Also, adjust the drag, as a too-tight drag stresses line, and a too-loose drag results in line twist.

GATHER INFORMATION

Pre-trip information can contribute to success, and worthwhile information is available from angling friends, local bait shops, on-line sites, and fishing charts. Anglers who keep logs of their outings have a special source of information.

FELLOW ANGLERS

When you get the chance to fish with other anglers, to utilize a different technique, to fish for a different species, or to fish new waters, do so. Such experiences will likely make you a more knowledgeable angler.

FISHING TIMES

My motto is to go fishing whenever I can, but the best fishing generally occurs in the early morning hours and in the early evening hours. An angler who fishes at those times will likely double a typical mid-day catch.

WIND DIRECTION

Again, my motto is to go fishing whenever I can, but wind direction plays a major role in fish activity as stated in this jingle: “Wind out of the east, fish bite the least; wind out of the north, don’t leave port; wind out of the south, fish open their mouths; wind out of the west, fish bite the best.”

QUIET APPROACH

While Grandpa’s admonition of “Don’t talk so loud; you’ll scare the fish” is an overstatement, there’s significant truth in the need for anglers to utilize a quiet approach when fishing.

Always approach a fishing site with as little intrusion as possible, be sure to drop the anchor and not throw it, and make soft casts rather than splashing ones.

WORK STRUCTURE

Arguably, the three major influences on modern angling have been the spinning reel, the depth finder and Buck Perry’s philosophy of structure fishing.

Fish love structure, especially structural edges, and thanks to Perry’s influence, anglers have learned to work areas such as drop offs, mid-lake shoals, weed lines, points, humps, channels, island edges, old river beds, etc. The best sections of a river, lake, or reservoir have large and varied structures as well as adjacent deep water.

LURE CONFIDENCE

Constantly changing lures rarely leads to successful catches. Anglers are better off to use a limited number of lures and to fish them with confidence. Knowing that a lure is reaching the depths inhabited by the pursued species is critical to angler confidence.

Some anglers make the miscue of selecting a lure that fails to reach the fish zone, which is often that area within a few feet of bottom.

SMALLER LURES

There is an element of truth in the saying, “Big lure means big fish.”

Using smaller lures and baits generally improves an angler’s catch rate. Small fish are unlikely to strike a big lure, but a big fish will hit a small offering.

As an illustration, I rarely catch non-targeted species while using musky plugs, but I do catch a variety of game fish while pan fishing, and I do catch pike and muskies while casting bass lures.

VISUALIZATION

Skilled anglers have developed a knack for visualizing what is happening at line’s end.

These anglers become the lure. They can visualize how the lure is behaving, see how the lure relates to bottom and impart the desired lure action.

Such anglers can also detect any alteration such as a fish tap, a tick of the bottom, or a weed on the line. If an angler changed nothing about his or her fishing tactics this summer except to better visualize what is happening at line’s end, he or she would see an improvement in catch rates.

POSITIVE ATTITUDE

A positive attitude plays a key role in fishing just as it does in any of life’s ventures. All anglers experience unproductive outings, but at such times, a positive attitude says, “I learned something today. I learned what not to do when I encounter similar conditions on future outings.”

Outdoors Calendar

Monday: Trap and Skeet Shoot at Lisbon Sportsmen’s Club on Pray Road at 5:30 p.m.

Wednesday: Trap Shoot at Black Lake F&G Association at 7 p.m. (869-6051).

Thursday: Sporting Clays Shoot at Black Lake F&G Association at 1 p.m. (323-5585).

Saturday: Bass and muskellunge seasons open in New York state.

Saturday: SLVSC Annual Opening Day Bass Derby.

Saturday: Spider’s Kid Fishing Program at Wellesley Island State Park (482-2479).

Saturday: Long Lake F&G Club’s Bass and Pike Fishing Derby (518-624-2145).

Saturday: Sporting Clays Shoot at Black Lake F&G Association at 9 a.m. (323-5585).

Saturday and Sunday: Annual Henderson Harbor Smallmouth Bass and Walleye Derby.

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