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Hooks and Antlers
By Mike Seymour
Johnson Newspapers
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Hooks and Antlers

St. Lawrence Walleye Association sets 13th annual challenge

First published: July 20, 2014 at 12:30 am
Last modified: July 19, 2014 at 7:11 pm

The 13th annual St. Lawrence River Walleye Challenge Team Tournament is slated for Aug. 2 at the Massena Intake Boat Launch.

Sponsored by the St. Lawrence River Walleye Association, the event is a two-person team competition featuring payouts (based on number of teams competing) for the top three places: 50 percent and plaques for first, 30 percent for second, and 20 percent for third. Winning teams will be determined by the total weight of three walleyes, and numerous door prizes will also be awarded.

Registration will take place on Aug. 1 at the Massena Rod and Gun Club (Patterson Road) from 6-7:30 p.m. Tournament entry fee is $50 per team, and there is an additional $5 conservation fee per non-SLRWA members to aid walleye-stocking efforts in the river. Teams can also participate ($20) in the optional 100 percent payback Big Fish Contest.

Tournament rules will be reviewed at the registration meeting, and teams will draw their boat numbers. Fishing hours extend from 6 a.m. until 2 p.m., and all teams must be present in the water at the Massena Intake by 5:45 a.m. Tournament boundaries include both American and Canadian waters from the Iroquois Dam at Waddington to the topside of the Robert Moses Dam at Massena. If anglers plan to fish in Canada, they should report to Canadian Customs by calling 888-226-7277. The rain date is Aug. 3.

Tournament organizers request safety, integrity and sportsmanship from all participants. For more information, contact Mike Gagner at 769-1902 (work), 384-3450 (home), or slrwalleyechallenge@yahoo.com.

Information is also available by visiting www.stlawrenceriverwalleyeassociation.com.

Walleye Challenge

Ben Nightingale and Randy Gravline will be looking to defend their 2013 Walleye Challenge title when the angling team won first place with a three-fish weight of 15.59 pounds.

The team of Danny Hart and Jerry Grenon placed second last year with a 14.64-pound catch while Rob Eddy and Mike Bradish entered a 13.70-pound catch for the third-place cash prize. Hart also won the Big Fish competition with a 9.16-pound walleye.

Junior Carp Tournament

The 12th annual St. Lawrence International Junior Carp Tournament for boys and girls ages 11-18 is set for Thursday-Saturday, Aug.14-16 along a 30-mile stretch of the St. Lawrence River from Ogdensburg to Massena.

Matt Conger of Ogdensburg, who fished the tournament every year from 2003 until “aging out” at 18, will serve as the Grand Marshal of this year’s event.

The $125 entry fee covers participation in all tournament-related events during the three days, and those events include the pre-tournament fishing school sponsored by Mort Backus and Sons. When youths register, they can register to fish as an individual, with another person, or as part of a four-person team.

The Junior Carp Tournament is a catch-and-release event hosted by the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce. Interested youths can pick up registration forms at the County Chamber (101 Main St. in Canton) or download them at www.northcountryguide.com. For more information, contact the county chamber at 386-4000.

College Bass Championship

Most college students ended the school year two months ago. Such is not the case for 167 student-anglers, though, as they will be taking their final exam, the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship, from July 31-Aug. 2 on the Chatuge Reservoir in northeast Georgia. Those students comprise 84 duos representing nationwide colleges and universities.

At stake in the Bassmaster College Championship are scholarships, bragging rights and the chance for one college angler to compete in the prestigious 2015 Bassmaster Classic. Qualifying schools from the Eastern Region are University of North Carolina at Charlotte, East Carolina University, Georgetown College, University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, University of Tennessee, Western Carolina University, Eastern Kentucky University, Bethel University (five teams), Tennessee Tech University (two teams), West Virginia University, Clemson University, and the University of South Carolina.

For updated information on the College Championship, visit www.bassmaster.com.

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: Chicken barbecue at Massena Rod and Gun Club (769-3205).

Saturday: 14th annual Raquette Lake Bass Tournament (www.mylonglake.com).

Saturday: Northern NY Bassmasters Tournament at SLR, Waddington (www.nnybassmasters.com).

Saturday-Sunday: SLC Trappers’ Rendezvous, Gun Show, and Flea Market at Massena R&G Club.

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

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Hooks & Antlers: Outdoor events abound over next 2 weeks

First published: July 13, 2014 at 12:30 am
Last modified: July 12, 2014 at 7:39 pm

The sportsmen’s calendar features a number of outdoors-related events in the next two weeks, and among those are the Sandbar Fishing Classic, a 100th anniversary celebration, trappers’ rendezvous, decoy and wildlife art show and fishing derby for youths.

Sandbar Classic

The Ogdensburg Parks and Recreation Department will be hosting its fourth annual Sandbar Classic Fishing Derby on July 20 as part of the 54th annual Ogdensburg International Seaway Festival.

The event is sponsored by Algonquin Power, Inc., Cape Air and Hosmer’s Marina.

Anglers can register for the following species — bass, walleye, northern pike and perch beginning on Monday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. during normal business hours at the Dobisky Visitors Center.

The cost is $5 per species but anglers have to register for at least two species.

Each angler can only submit one fish from each of the categories they register for. Each fish entered will be weighed and its length recorded.

Winners will be determined by weight. If a tie, the length will determine the winner. All weighing of fish will take place at Hosmer’s Marina.

For a third year, there will be a youth division for bass and perch. Registration for youths 16 and under, is $5. Youths can choose to register for the adult division if they choose.

Prizes and awards will be provided by the family of the late Al O’Marah, who will also be sponsoring the annual Al O’Marah Lunker Award for the angler catching the heaviest bass. Fishing is on the St. Lawrence River only.

Registration is offered before the tournament at the Dobisky Visitors Center, 100 Riverside Ave., and on the morning of the tourney at Hosmer’s Marina from 6 to 7 a.m. when fishing begins. The tournament will end at 3 p.m. when the winners will be announced, and the trophies and prizes will be awarded.

Thanks to a donation from Algonquin Power, the first 90 participants that sign-up will receive a free T-shirt. Winners from each division will receive a hat courtesy of Algonquin Power.

Massena R&G Club

The Massena R&G Club is celebrating its 100th year of operation, and part of that celebration is a Chicken Barbecue on July 26 as well as the publication of a book entitled “History of the Massena Rod and Gun Club,” which costs $10.

The Massena club is active year-round, and annual activities include the Sportsman’s Expo, Rabbit Hunt, 3-D Archery Shoots, Trap Shoots, Sporting Clays and support for the Wilson Hill Goose Roundup.

Both firearms and archery shooting are popular, and the club has an indoor archery range, a 50-yard pistol range, a 100-yard rifle range, and a 300 hi-powered rifle range. Winter activities also include cross-country skiing and snowmobile riding. Spaghetti dinners are served on Tuesdays, and Chef’s Choice has recently been added as a second option.

The Massena R&G Club is located at 155 Patterson Road off Route 37 west of Massena. More information is available by calling 769-3205 or visiting www.massenargc.us.

Trappers’ Rendezvous

The St. Lawrence County Trappers’ Association is hosting its annual Rendezvous, Gun Show, and Flea Market on July 26-27 at the Massena Rod and Gun Club. The event features demonstrations, displays, trapping supplies for trade and sale, trapper training course, games and refreshments.

Admission is $2 for adults and free for youths under 12 years of age. Primitive camping is available for the weekend ($20), and attendees can stake their claim on Friday evening. For more information, call 769-2627 or visit www.stlawrencecountytrappers.webs.com.

Clayton Decoy Show

The 46th annual Decoy and Wildlife Art Show will take place on Friday-Saturday at the Town of Clayton Cerow Recreation Park Area. Friday events include the Vintage Decoy Contest at 11 a.m., the Art Knapp Memorial Hunting Decoy Contest at noon, a Chappy Auction of Decoys and Collectibles at 1 p.m., and a Traditional Shore Dinner ($20) from 4-8 p.m. at the Thousand Islands Museum.

Saturday activities include the Ken Harris Gunning Rig Contest and the Pfc. Jack T. Sweet Memorial Gunning Pairs Contest at 10 a.m. A silent auction will be conducted throughout the show.

Admission is $5 for adults and free for youths under age 11. Admission is also free for individuals with military identification. All proceeds will benefit the Thousand Island Museum, and more information is available by calling 686-5794 or by visiting www.timuseum.org.

Youth Fishing Derby

The Colton Youth Fishing Derby will take place on July 20. The event is free for all youths from ages 3-15 though donations will be accepted. Numerous prizes will be awarded, and the day also includes a Bouncy Castle, various drawings, and lunch (hamburgers, hot dogs, and beverages).

Registration starts at 7 a.m., and the fishing hours extend from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. All events will take place behind the Colton Town Hall in the lower parking lot. For more information, contact Kevin Lamora at 262-2225.

Walleye Derby

The St. Lawrence River Walleye Association will hold its 13 annual St. Lawrence River Walleye Challenge Tournament on Aug. 2. This is a two-person-team event with 100 percent payout (less $200). More details will be available in an upcoming column, but readers can get more details by calling Mike at 384-3450 or by visiting www.stlawrenceriverwalleyeassociation.com.

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Catch and release fishing started with trout, muskie

First published: July 06, 2014 at 12:30 am
Last modified: July 05, 2014 at 7:12 pm

Catch-and-release fishing is very popular among today’s anglers.

This practice can be traced to a number of influences beginning with legendary fly fisherman, Lee Wulff, who said, “A good game fish is too valuable to be caught only once.”

Those in the fly-fishing world were the first to buy into Wulff’s thinking and to routinely release their catches.

There was also Muskies, Inc., an organization that promoted releasing fish in the musky-angling fraternity. Also, B.A.S.S. with the catch-and-release format of their bass tournaments was a major player in today’s catch-and-release practice.

The folks at In-Fisherman played a role, promoting the concept of selective harvest where small and medium size fish were kept for eating, and larger fish were released so they could spawn another year.

Catch-Release Angling

Anglers practice catch-and-release fishing for a variety of reasons.

In some waters, catch and release is mandated by regulations, and in other cases, catch and release is required because of closed seasons or the catch does not meet minimum-length or slot-limit requirements.

For the most part, though, catch and release is a voluntary practice of anglers. Such anglers may be fishing simply for the sport of it, or they may want to ensure the future of the fishery for the next generation. The catch might be too small or too large for their liking. For example, many St. Lawrence River walleye anglers release fish larger than 24 inches. The thinking of such anglers is that smaller walleyes are tastier and that larger walleyes are prime reproducers.

Serious musky anglers release all of their catches. These anglers know that muskies are a slow-maturing species and that they are subject to overharvesting. Some anglers are looking to land, but not keep, a personal best regarding fish size.

Other anglers might be looking to win a catch-and-release award such as those presented in the New York State Angler Achievement Program (See pages 63-66 in the current Regulations Guide). Many states and organizations recognize record catches in the release category so some anglers release their catch to qualify for a state or a world record.

The practice of selective harvest also plays a major role in catch-and-release fishing. Incidental or non-targeted catches are commonly released so when a perch angler hooks a largemouth bass or northern pike, he might opt to return that fish to the water.

Release Tips

Time is of the essence for successful release as is minimizing any handling of the fish. Anglers are advised to match their gear to the targeted species so as not to stress fish during the fight. For example, a skilled angler with a medium weight rod and 10-pound test line can easily land a musky; however, the prolonged fight may overstress the fish so that he doesn’t survive.

Proper tools can also facilitate the landing and unhooking of fish, and standard items include an oversize net, needle-nose pliers, mouth spreader, and bolt cutters. The pliers, spreader and cutter are especially useful when using plugs with three sets of treble hooks or when handling large, toothy species, such as northern pike and musky. Having these tools and the camera ready to go prior to the catch can significantly reduce the time it takes for successful releases.

When unhooking a fish you intend to release, it is advisable to leave the fish in the water, and this is where the oversize net comes into play. The last thing you want to do is have the fish flopping in the bottom of the boat and losing its protective coating.

If a picture is to be taken, the oversize net allows the fish to remain in the water until the picture taker is ready to go. When handling a fish, be sure to avoid contact with the eyes and gills, and to adequately support the underside of larger fish.

When releasing fish, it is critical to limit their time out of the water and to limit any handling. Since fish are more susceptible to stress and wounds in warm water temperatures, summer is the time to use extra care when practicing catch and release.

Canton Sportsmen’s Club

Former, current and prospective members of the Canton Sportsmen’s Club are encouraged to attend a club meeting on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. The club is in serious need of rejuvenation regarding membership, fundraising and clubhouse improvements.

Outdoors Calendar

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

Tuesday: Important Meeting of Canton Sportsmen’s Club at 6:30 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: Northern New York Bassmasters Tournament at Black Lake (www.nnybassmasters.com).

July 13: Dustin Crosby Memorial 3-D Archery Shoot at Racquette Valley F&G Club,South Colton (262-2947).

July 20: 4th Annual Sandbar Classic Fishing Derby at Ogdensburg (393-1980).

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

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Gear selection key to fly fishing

First published: June 29, 2014 at 12:30 am
Last modified: June 28, 2014 at 9:06 pm

When an angler decides to take up the sport of fly fishing, many of his or her spinning and bait casting skills are transferable.

A major difference in fly fishing, though, is the casting and the gear that facilitates the casting. In traditional angling, the weight of the lure or bait is used to cast the line out. In fly fishing, the weight of the line is used to cast the fly out.

Here is some information to help novice fly fishers understand the basics of rods, reels and lines:

Fly Rods

The majority of modern fly rods are made of graphite. These rods aren’t as strong as their fiberglass predecessors, but the graphite rods are lighter and more sensitive, important features when casting. Most fly rods vary in length from 6-to-10 feet, and the most common lengths are 8-to-9 feet.

Short rods are easier to handle in tight quarters, but the longer ones lift more line off the water and allow for greater casting distances. A good choice for the beginner might be an 8-to-8 ½-foot rod.

Fly rods are classified by weights from 1-to-15. The most common weights are 4-to-6. A 4-weight is considered light and works well for creeks and small streams. A 5-weight is considered medium-light and is a popular size for general trout fishing. A 6-weight is considered medium weight and is versatile as it casts everything from light flies to No. 4 bass bugs. A beginning angler probably can’t go wrong by purchasing a 6-weight rod.

A key aspect in rod selection is that it must match the line weight being used. The recommended line weight(s) for a rod is listed on the rod just above the grip.

Fly Reels

The primary purpose of a fly reel is to hold the fly line and backing so smaller reels are fine for stream trout while larger ones are better suited for pursing species such as steelhead.

The reel is also used in fighting larger fish when the angler retrieves line and applies drag. Because of their relatively simple design, fly reels are fairly inexpensive. A good reel will be sturdy and lightweight.

There are three basic styles of fly reels: single-action, multiplying and automatic. A single-action reel has one spool revolution for one turn of the reel handle. These are the most common reels, and important qualities include line capacity, interchangeable spools and a drag system.

The multiplying reel is good when retrieving a lot of line as a single turn of the reel handle will turn the spool two or three revolutions. Line is retrieved on an automatic reel by pushing a lever instead of turning the reel handle.

Single-action and multiplier reels typically have an exposed spool or rim so anglers can apply extra drag by pressing their fingers or palm against the spool, a technique called palming.

Fly Lines

Unlike standard fishing lines, fly lines are classified by weight and not by strength. In essence, the fly line is the starting point in fly fishing as a fly rod is selected based on the line weight.

Like fly-rod weights, fly-line weights vary from 1-to-15, with 1 being the lightest and 15 being the heaviest. Remember that the weight of the line casts the fly out so the lighter weights are used to cast the smallest flies, while the heavier weights are used for the largest flies.

General guidelines indicate that 4-to-6 weights are good for panfish, trout and bass; 7-to-8 weights are good for bigger trout, bigger bass, pickerel and pike; and 9-to-10 weights are good for salmon, steelhead, pike and muskies.

Fly lines have a core of braided product with a smooth, plastic coating. Standard line length is 90 feet, and standard backing is 100 feet of Dacron, though backing length does vary from 50-to-200 feet.

Because of the numerous styles and variables in fly-lines, line selection can be complicated, but the basic choices are floating, sinking and sinking-tip. Floating lines do just as their name indicates, and they are the easiest to master when learning to cast.

Sinking lines, too, do as their name suggests, and they are rated based on a sink rate per second. For example, 2ips line will sink 2 inches per second.

Sinking lines are more difficult to pick up off the water and to cast than are floating lines, but these lines are effective when fishing deep-water conditions.

Sinking-tip lines have a forward section that sinks while most of the line is floating. Such lines offer the best of both worlds as they can be easily picked up off the water for the next cast, and they sink for a subsurface presentation.

Outdoors Calendar

Today: Free Fishing Day in NYS.

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

July 12: Northern New York Bassmasters Tournament at Black Lake (www.nnybasmasters.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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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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Hooks and Antlers: The sunfish is colorful and popular North American delight

First published: June 07, 2014 at 11:37 pm
Last modified: June 07, 2014 at 11:37 pm

Centrarchidae is the scientific name for the members of the sunfish family, and the translation of this technical term is “nest builders.”

The sunfish are native only to North America. In addition to 30 native species, there are over 20 hybrids due to cross breeding between species such as the pumpkinseed and blue gill or the black crappie and the white crappie.

Members of the sunfish family prefer warm-water habitat such as ponds, shallow lakes, and protected bays of deep lakes and large rivers.

During spawning, the male builds the nest, protects the fertilized eggs, and guards the fry until they abandon the nest.

The three major groupings in the sunfish family are the true sunfish, the crappies, and the black bass.

THE TRUE SUNFISH

The most popular species in the true sunfish grouping include the bluegill, pumpkinseed, and redear sunfish, all of which have a brightly-colored appearance that merits the fish being labeled as sunfish.

The true sunfish are very popular among anglers because the fish are abundant in numbers, easy to catch, excellent table fare, and scrappy fighters.

If there is a negative aspect to sunfish, it lies in their tendency to overpopulate and become stunted in waters where there is a lack of larger predators.

The true sunfish do well in a wide range of water temperatures and water qualities. Their habitat preference is the quiet, warm, and weedy water of ponds, pits, lakes, reservoirs, and rivers. Like their largemouth bass cousin, sunfish prefer shallow-water habitat where favorite feeding times are morning and evening.

CRAPPIES

Like the true sunfish, crappies can be found in waters in just about everybody’s backyard. In addition to widespread availability, the crappie’s popularity stems from its sporting and eating qualities.

The crappie group consists of the black crappie and the white crappie.

Though the two species have overlapping ranges, black crappies are more abundant in the northern portion of the United States while white crappies are more plentiful in the southern part of the country.

Crappies, pronounced “croppies,” have soft mouths, a characteristic that earned the fish the nickname of papermouth. Among the crappies other common names are calico bass and specks.

Crappies are similar to the true sunfish in the types of water the fish inhabit, in their spawning behaviors, and in their food preferences. Crappies differ from the true sunfish in that they spawn at slightly lower temperatures, they handle lower-oxygenated water better, they are roamers in their habitat, they suspend varying distances from bottom, and they have larger mouths so they have a stronger tendency to feed on small fish.

BLACK BASS

Most people don’t think of bass as sunfish, but black bass are members of the sunfish family. The three most popular bass are the largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and spotted bass, and they are likely called black bass because of their dark appearance as fry and their dark upper half as adults.

The black bass rank as North America’s favorite game fish for various reasons.

First of all, bass thrive in waters from coast to coast. In addition to their native waters in the eastern two-thirds of the United States, southern Canada, and northern Mexico, bass have been stocked in waters throughout the United States and southern Canada.

Also, bass inhabit a wide range of waters from small ponds to massive reservoirs. Other factors contributing to the bass’s popularity are its aggressive feeding nature, susceptibility to a variety of presentations, and great fighting ability.

More so than other sunfish, bass are pursued for sport rather than eating.

Much of the sport fishing interest in bass likely stems from Ray Scott’s founding of the Bass Anglers Sportsmen Society (B.A.S.S.) in 1968. B.A.S.S. has also played a key role in the popularity of catch-and-release fishing among the bass-angling fraternity.

Outdoors Calendar

June 9: Trap and Skeet Shoot at Lisbon Sportsmen’s Club on Pray Rd. at 5:30 p.m.

June 10: Monthly meeting of Federated Sportsmen’s Clubs of SLC at Canton BOCES at 7 p.m.

June 11: Trap Shoot at Black Lake F&G Association at 7 p.m.

June 12: Monthly meeting of SLC Trappers Association at Lisbon Library at 6:30 p.m.

June 14: SLRWA 8th Annual Smackdown Walleye Tournament(www.stlawrenceriverwalleyeassociation.com).

June 21: Bass and muskellunge seasons open in New York State.

June 21: SLVSC Annual Opening Day Bass Derby.

June 21-22: Annual Henderson Harbor Smallmouth Bass and Walleye Derby.

June 28-29: Free Fishing Days in NYS.

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St. Lawrence River Walleye Association Smackdown event benefits Meals on Wheels

First published: June 01, 2014 at 12:30 am
Last modified: May 31, 2014 at 8:12 pm

All proceeds from the St. Lawrence River Walleye Association’s eighth Annual Smackdown will benefit Meals on Wheels, and the popular walleye derby is slated for June 14.

The Smackdown is a two-person team event. Each team may enter three walleyes, and the winners will be determined by total weight of fish entered.

The Smackdown pays out 100 percent of entry fees (minus $200) with 50 percent for first place, 30 percent for second place, and 20 percent for third. In addition, there will be a Big Fish category with a 100 percent payback of entry fees for that category.

The launching facilities at the Massena Intake will serve as event headquarters.

Participants are required to have their boats in the water by 5:45 a.m., and fishing hours extend from 6 a.m. until 2 p.m. The weigh-in station opens at noon, and all boats must report to the Massena Intake by 2 p.m.

Fishing boundaries include that section of the St. Lawrence River from the Iroquois Dam, Waddington to the Robert Moses Power Dam in Massena.

The entry fee is $60 per team, and $10 will go the Big Fish contest. Also, a $5 stocking fee will be imposed for non-SLRWA members. Anglers can register at Steve’s Stop and Shop in Louisville and Salon 181 in Massena.

Interested anglers will find a complete set of rules at www.stlawrenceriverwalleyeassociation.com, and more information is available by calling Mike at 384-3450.

Teen Anglers Catch Cash

Tennessee teenagers Mark Spicer and Dylan Crumbley had an interesting fishing experience this spring at Blythe Ferry on Chickamauga Lake, an impoundment of the Tennessee River.

According to WTVC-TV, the anglers hooked into two bags, and when the bags were brought to shore, the teens discovered the bags contained $10,000 in cash, and the money was stained red from a previously-exploded dye pack.

The anglers notified authorities of their catch, and officials connected the bags to a bank robbery the previous year. Dye packs are small explosive devices used by banks to deter robberies. When the packs explode, an aerosol marks the surrounding cash with a bright red dye that renders the money unusable.

Commenting on the catch, Spicer said, “I thought I had a turtle at first, started reeling it in, and it turned out to be a bag.”

The teens credited their Rat-L-Trap lures for making the cash catch.

Black Lake Offers Quality Membership

The Black Lake Fish and Game Association offers a quality membership to area sportsmen and women.

Popular activities include trap shoots, sporting clays, fishing derbies, Outdoor Heritage Rendezvous and numerous other events throughout the year.

Among the club’s noteworthy programs are sending youths to conservation camp, offering hunter education courses, building and placing wood duck boxes, walleye stocking, maintaining first rate shooting facilities and more.

For more information on the club, visit www.BLFGA.org or contact club secretary Ryan Demick at 486-2210 or ryan@vintagedoors.com.

Fishing and the Wind

Regarding the effect that wind direction has on the quality of fishing, an old adage states, “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; fish out of the west, fish bite the best.”

Outdoors Calendar

Today: Watertown Sportsmen Club hosts Annual Youth Trout Fishing Derby at club’s trout pond (777-8027).

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.

June 10: Monthly meeting of Federated Sportsmen’s Clubs of SLC at Canton BOCES at 7 p.m.

June 12: Monthly meeting of SLC Trappers Association at Lisbon Library at 6:30 p.m.

June 14: SLRWA eighth Annual Smackdown Walleye Tournament(www.stlawrenceriverwalleyeassociation.com).

June 21:Bass and muskellunge seasons open in New York State.

June 21:SLVSC Annual Opening Day Bass Derby.

June 21-22: Annual Henderson Harbor Smallmouth Bass and Walleye Derby.

June 28-29: Free Fishing Days in NYS.

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Hooks And Antlers: DEC has plans for 50 access projects

First published: May 25, 2014 at 1:42 am
Last modified: May 25, 2014 at 1:41 am
WHAT A BROOKIE - Lynn Lucas of Massena caught this 19” Brooke Trout while fishing with her husband Don in the Adirondacks.

The DEC has plans for 50 access projects across the state, and those projects will improve access to public lands and waters for a variety of outdoors-related activities including hunting, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, camping, boating, bird/wildlife watching, and more. Today’s column takes a look at the projects slated for area counties.

ST. LAWRENCE COUNTY PROJECTS

One St. Lawrence County project will take place on the Grasse River Easement in the towns of Clare and Colton where car-top boat launch will be constructed to provide access to Pleasant Lake as well as access to 15 miles of public fishing along Pleasant Lake Stream and the Middle Branch of the Grasse River. The project also calls for installing parking and constructing/improving the trail network. Recreational opportunities in this remote area include fishing, canoeing, kayaking, camping, hiking, and bird/wildlife watching.

Another project is slated for the Yellow Lake State Forest in the Town of Rossie, and this project includes the construction of a car-top boat launch along the Oswegatchie River as well as the construction of parking, a trail, and a trailhead for access to the 751-acre state forest. Recreational opportunities include fishing, hunting, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, and bird/wildlife watching.

The final St. Lawrence County project intends to improve access to the waters and wetlands of the 4,500-acre Fish Creek Wildlife Management Area in the towns of Macomb and Depeyster. This project includes the construction of a car-top boat launch, parking lot, and trail, and the universal pathway and launch will afford persons with disabilities an opportunity to explore the area. Recreational opportunities are fishing, hunting, trapping, canoeing, kayaking and bird/wildlife watching.

FRANKLIN, LEWIS, HERKIMER COUNTIES

The lone Franklin County project is the construction of a new boat launch and parking at the Meacham Lake DEC Campground in the Town of Duane. This ramp will be ADA compliant. Meacham Lake covers 1,185 acres, and the lake is completely surrounded by the Debar Wild Forest. Recreational opportunities enhanced by this project include fishing, motor boating, canoeing, and kayaking.

Lewis County will see a project on the 30,000-acre East Branch of Fish Creek South Conservation Easement on the Tug Hill Plateau in the Town of Lewis. This project provides trout-fishing opportunities on the East Fork of the Salmon River, and the project involves the construction of an accessible parking area, trail, and platform for fishing and wildlife viewing. Too, the access road will be rehabilitated for two-wheel-drive automobiles. Additional recreational opportunities include hunting and hiking.

Herkimer County’s single project is slated for the Black River Wild Forest in the Town of Ohio where the un-driveable Mill Creek Road will be completely redone as a gravel roadway. The Mill Creek Road is the only practical access to that section of the Black River Wild Forest, an area utilized by hunters for camping during the big game season. Recreational opportunities stemming from this project include hunting, camping, biking, canoeing, kayaking, and hiking.

OSWEGO COUNTY

Oswego County will see an access project at Deer Creek Marsh Wildlife Management Area in the Town of Richland. This 1,770-acre area is comprised of upland habitats, sand dunes, a barrier beach, and an extensive wetland ecosystem, and the project involves constructing an access trail including the removal of all stumps and trees from access routes. Too, a boating dock and ramp will be built for access to Lake Ontario. Intended recreational opportunities are canoeing, kayaking, bird watching, hunting, beach access, and sand dune access.

A second county project proposes shore-fishing access and ADA-compliant access on the north shore of Oneida Lake at Cleveland in the Town of Constantia where a car-top boat launch will be constructed and the existing crib wall will be rehabilitated. Recreational opportunities include fishing, canoeing, and kayaking.

The final Oswego County project is the installation of a fishing and boating platform at the Redfield Island boat launch on the Salmon River Reservoir in the Town of Redfield. Recreational opportunities include fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and bird/wildlife watching.

Outdoors Calendar

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

Tuesday: SLC Fisheries Advisory Board meets at Canton Boces at 7 p.m.

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

Saturday: Wild Turkey Season closes in NYS.

Saturday-Sunday, June 1: Hendrickson Hatch Catch-and-Release Fly Fishing Tournament in Malone (518-483-6333 or www.hendricksonhatch.org).

June 1: Watertown Sportsmen Club hosts Annual Youth Trout Fishing Derby at club’s trout pond (777-8027).

June 12: Monthly Meeting of SLC Trappers Association at Lisbon Library at 6:30 p.m.

June 14: SLRWA 8th Annual Smackdown Walleye Tournament (www.stlawrenceriverwalleyeassociation.com).

June 21: Bass and muskellunge seasons open in New York State.

June 21: SLVSC Annual Opening Day Bass Derby.

June 21-22: Annual Henderson Harbor Smallmouth Bass and Walleye Derby.

June 28-29: Free Fishing Days in NYS.

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Hooks & Antlers: Life Jackets Reduce Boating Fatalities

First published: May 18, 2014 at 12:30 am
Last modified: May 17, 2014 at 9:53 pm

This week is National Safe Boating Week, and the 2014 theme encourages boaters to wear their life jackets because according to the BoatUS Foundation, “Of all the fatal boating accident victims who drowned, almost 85 percent weren’t wearing a life jacket.”

Life jackets come in a variety of shapes, styles and sizes so boaters can easily find a comfortable fit, which is important when it comes to youths.

A common mistake is to put an adult-size jacket on a youngster. Another common mistake is stowing life jackets where they are not handily accessible. Most accidents happen quickly and circumstances don’t always allow for retrieving stowed life jackets.

From a safety perspective, wearing a life jacket makes a lot of sense for boaters. If boaters choose not to wear life jackets, then it makes sense to have the jackets so they are readily accessible.

The BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water is a national leader promoting safe, clean and responsible boating.

Funded primarily be the half-million members of BoatUS, the organization provides innovative educational outreach directly to boaters and anglers with the aim of reducing accidents and fatalities, increasing stewardship of America’s waterways and keeping boating safe.

A range of boating safety courses and more information can be found at www.BoatUS.org.

Motorboat Education Law

New York state has a new motorboat law regarding age and education requirements for motorboat operators.

The regulation states, “Any person born on or after May 1, 1996 and at least 10 years old who operates a motorboat must be the holder of a boating safety certificated issued by one of the following: New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation (www.WearItNewYork.com), United States Coast Guard Auxiliary (www.cgaux.org), or United States Power Squadron (www.usps.org).”

NYS Boater’s Guide

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation has produced a 64-page booklet entitled New York State Boater’s Guide.

Designed as a handbook of registration, operation and safety information for the prudent boater, the guide has eight sections: Registration, Trailering, Equipment, Rules of the Nautical Road, General Boating Requirements, Getting Underway, Specific Recreational Boating Activities and Personal Watercraft.

All boaters are encouraged to look at page 28 of the booklet. That page lists the required safety equipment for various pleasure boats. The categories include personal watercraft, motorboats less than 16 feet, motorboats from 16 feet to less than 26 feet, rowboats, canoes, kayaks and sailboats.

The New York State Boater’s Guide is available on-line at www.WearItNewYork.com.

Life Jacket Regulations

New York State law refers to life jackets as Personal Floatation Devices (PFDs), and in keeping with National Safe Boating Week’s life jacket theme, here’s a look at our state’s PFD requirements:

A PFD must be worn by anyone operating a personal watercraft. A PFD must be worn by anyone under 12 years of age, unless in an enclosed cabin, if onboard a motorboat less than 65 feet or any other pleasure boat including sailboats, canoes and kayaks. A PFD must be worn between Nov. 1 and May 1 by any individual on any pleasure boat under 21 feet, including sailboats, canoes and kayaks.

For motorboats less than 16 feet, motorboats 16 feet to less than 26 feet, rowboats, canoes, kayaks and sailboats, a PFD is required for each person on board, but the PFD does not have to be worn.

DMP Deer Takes

New York state hunters used Deer Management Permits (DMPs) to harvest 98,945 deer or 40.6 percent of the total 2013 kill of 243,567 deer. The statewide success rate for hunters using DMPs was 15.2 percent.

Southern Zone hunters tagged 91,989 deer with DMPs, and this figure accounted for 44.2 percent of the zone’s 2013 kill of 208,325. Long Island hunters harvested 1,588 deer using DMPs, and this number represents 55.3 percent of the total take of 2,873 deer. In the Northern Zone, DMPs accounted for 5,368 deer or 16.6 percent of this zone’s total 2013 kill of 32,369 deer.

Outdoors Calendar

Today through Friday: National Safe Boating Week.

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 Clubhouse at 7 p.m.

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

Saturday: Spider’s Basic Fishing and Fly Fishing Programs at Wellesley Island State Park (482-2479).

May 26: Trap and Skeet Shoot at Lisbon Sportsmen’s Club on Pray Road at 5:30 p.m.

May 27: SLC Fisheries Advisory Board meets at Canton Boces at 7 p.m.

May 31: Wild Turkey season closes in NYS.

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