Ice fishing is a social activity for many anglers, and nowhere is the social aspect of ice fishing more prevalent than at derbies where anglers enjoy the camaraderie of family, friends, co-anglers, and derby officials. And midwinter is peak time for ice derbies across the region.
Today’s column takes a look at five area derbies slated for the coming weeks.
Cranberry Lake Derby
The Cranberry Lake Volunteer Fire and Rescue “First Strike” Ice Fishing Derby will be held on Saturday. This northern pike event features $800 in cash prizes awarded each hour as well as numerous door prizes. Too, there is a youth perch division, and all registered youths will receive a prize.
Registration ($35 for adults and $10 for youths) starts at 4 a.m. at the Cranberry Lake Fire Hall on the day of the event. Fishing hours extend from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m., and prizes will be awarded at the Fire Hall at 4 p.m. For more information, visit www.cranberrylakefire.org , e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 858-2937.
The Redwood Volunteer Fire Department is hosting the Redwood ìLuck of the Draw” Ice Fishing Derby on Saturday, February 7. The event has open-boundaries and features a $1,000 grand prize (donated by Redwood VFD) in the adult division and a $500 grand prize (donated by Felder’s Roofing and Gerald Umstead General Contractor) in the youth division.
Minimum entry lengths for northern pike are 24 inches for adults and 22 inches for youths. Anglers can pre-register ($10 for adults and $5 for youths) at Felder’s Service Station and Crossroads Grocery in Redwood, T.I. Bait Shop in Alex Bay, Chapman’s Sport Shop at Black Lake, Hunter’s Hideaway in Theresa, and Ace Hardware in Chaumont.
Activities will take place at the Redwood Fire Hall where anglers can register from 6-9 p.m. on Friday, February 6 and from 6 a.m.-noon on Saturday and where they can weigh in pike from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Prizes will be awarded at 6 p.m. For more information, call Cindy at 486-6629.
Tupper Lake Derby
The Tupper Lake Rod and Gun Club will host the Northern Challenge Ice Fishing Derby, one of the area’s largest derbies, on Saturday, February 7. This event pays out more than $33,000 in cash and other prizes, including $800 each hour ($500 for first, $200 for second, and $100 for third). Giveaways include two four wheelers and $6,400 in door prizes
The Lake Simon derby is a catch-and-release tournament that also includes a “lunker” pool for the largest pike. Fishing is restricted to Lake Simon, and the Clubhouse serves as derby headquarters. Detailed rules for the contest are available at www.tupperlakearchers.net. Registration fee is $35, and more information is available by calling Dave at 518-359-9715.
Sackets Harbor Derby
Also slated for Saturday, February 7 is the Sackets Harbor Sons of the American Legion 6th Annual Northern Pike Ice Fishing Derby. The event has both adult and youth divisions with payouts to the top three places in each division. Registration ($10) and rules are available at Sackets Harbor Country Mart, Chaumont Hardware, and Sackets Harbor American Legion at 209 Ambrose St.
Fishing gets underway at dawn, and weigh-in closes at 5 p.m. There will be a chicken barbecue at the Legion Hall. Waddington Derby
The Waddington Sons of the American Legion is holding its 14th annual Come Hook Some Cold Hard Cash Ice Fishing Derby on Saturday, February 14. In addition to numerous door prizes, awards include $500 for the largest pike, $50 for the biggest walleye, and $50 for the heaviest perch. Fishing hours extend from sunrise until 4 p.m. Anglers can register ($25) in Waddington at the American Legion, Green Machine Bait & Tackle, Uppstrom’s Bait & Tackle, or Coles Creek Marina. For more information, call Mike Tiernan at 250-5252.
January 31: Cranberry Lake Volunteer Fire & Rescue “First Strike” Ice Fishing Derby (848-2937).
February 7: Redwood VFD “Luck of the Draw” Ice Fishing Derby (486-6629).
February 7: Sackets Harbor Sons of the American Legion Ice Fishing Derby.
February 7: Tupper Lake R&G Club Northern Challenge Ice Fishing Derby (518-359-9715).
Febraury 14: Chippewa Bay F&G Club’s Annual Ice Fishing Derby.
February 14: Waddington Sons of the American Legion “Come Hook Some Cold Hard Cash” Ice Fishing Derby (250-5252).
February 20-22: Bassmasters Classic at Lake Hartwell in Greenville, South Carolina.
February 21: SLRWA Annual Northern Pike Challenge at Louisville (www.stlawrenceriverwalleyeassociation.com;384-3450).
February 21-22: West Potsdam Fire Department Gun Show (265-2577).
Rob Pirie is an avid reader and has read Ed Garvey’s Adventures of a Lifetime three times. That book, which chronicles the author’s hiking of the Appalachian Trail in 1970, ignited a fire in Rob’s spirit.
The 57 year-old Heuvelton resident said, “The more I read, the more I wanted to go and hike the trail myself. I developed a case of what people call ‘White Blaze Fever.’”
The term “White Blaze Fever” stems from the 3-by-6-inch white rectangles or white blazes that mark the entire length of the 2,000-plus miles of the Appalachian Trail.
When a person develops the fever, he or she becomes obsessed with a desire and a passion to get on the trail and hike.
The Appalachian Trail is formally known as the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, but for those who have a familiarity with the trail, it is affectionately called the A.T. This internationally renowned trail extends from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. The nearly 2,200 mile-long trail system passes through the 14 states of Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.
Two to three million people visit the trail each year, but the A.T. has achieved its fame from those hikers who have hiked its entire length in a single year or over a period of time. “Thru hikers” are individuals who cover the entire trail in a 12-month period while “section hikers” walk the entire trail in sections and over a period of two years or longer. Approximately 2,000 people initiate a thru hike each year, but only one in four completes the hike.
To put in perspective the challenge of a thru hike, consider that the total elevation gain of hiking the entire A.T. is equivalent to climbing Mount Everest 16 times.
PREPARING TO HIKE
Rob spent a year preparing for his attempt to thru hike the A.T. His physical training consisted of walking a five-mile loop from his home three to four times a week while toting a backpack.
Initially that pack weighed 10 pounds, but by the end of training the pack weighed 40 pounds.
Rob also did a lot of research, both in books and online, as part of his preparation. Among the quality sources of information were “Appalachian Trail Data Book” and www.whiteblaze.net. Too, he joined the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and Appalachian Mountain Club. Rob’s research provided him with information about landmarks, elevations, distances, shelters, food, water, towns, available services, and more along the entire length of the A.T.
Rob began his thru hike at Springer Mountain last March 14. He carried a 35-pound pack that contained essential items such as tent, sleeping bag, food, water filter and bottle, a change of clothes, trail guide, and a pack cover to keep things dry. Daily hikes began at first light and averaged 15 miles although Rob’s shortest day was 6.8 miles, and his longest was 27 miles.
Rob estimates he hiked alone about 40 percent of the time and with trail companions the rest. He used a pair of retractable hiking poles so their length could be shortened for ascents and lengthened for descents.
Daily meals consisted primarily of candy bars for lunch and Ramen Noodles for supper and water was the drink.
Rob said, “Water access was good along the trail. I started out filtering my water, and I also filtered water in lower elevations, but I took water straight from the sources in the higher elevations. Whenever I came to a water source, I would ‘camel up.’” The expression refers to taking in as much water as possible, much like a camel does.
Nights were spent in the tent or one of the more than 250 three-sided shelters that exist along the trail.
Weather conditions varied from the summer heat of the south to the early-fall ice and freezing temperatures of the north. Too, there was plenty of sun, wind, fog, rain, and some tremendous lightning storms. Commenting on the weather, Rob said, “I don’t know what there was about it, but I really liked to hike in the pouring rain.”
Trail conditions varied from easy-to-walk sections to hazardous areas.
Rob noted, “There were areas of sharp rocks and sheer edges where I had to hoist myself up or hang on while going down.”
Because of trail conditions and the weight of a pack, falls are common among hikers.
Rob said that he took a couple of dozen spills with half a dozen of them being pretty good ones. His most notable injury during the trek was a painful tendon in the lower leg for which he stopped at an urgent care facility and a got a cortisone shot and a supporting brace.
Creature encounters are an aspect of hiking the A.T., and Rob pointed out, “I saw a lot of black bears, deer, wild ponies, a copperhead, a rabid raccoon, and even an emu that had escaped from some ranch.”
The hiker said he was usually up high in elevation so mosquitoes and other insects were not that much of a problem, but he did carry 100 percent DEET which he applied when needed.
After wearing out two pairs of hiking boots, spending six months and a day on the trail, and hiking 2,185.3 miles, Rob arrived at Katahdin, Maine on Sept. 15.
When I asked Rob about his favorite part of the trail, he replied, “Maine was the jewel of the entire A.T. It was wilder than the other sections, and the views were mind-blowing.”
Though his case of White Blaze Fever has subsided for now, the thru hiker acknowledged the fever may rekindle at some point.
The recent below-zero temperatures, and similar forecasts for the coming days, should ensure plenty of safe ice for the onset of the 2015 derby season that will include January events at Black Lake, Alexandria Bay, and Cranberry Lake.
Black Lake Challenge
Rollaway Bay will be the site for the 2015 Black Lake Challenge on Saturday. The challenge, which has adult and youth divisions, will include the awarding of numerous door prizes.
Payout for the two largest northern pike, largest walleye, and largest crappie will be based on the number of entries, and 50 percent of all proceeds will go to the Wounded Warrior Project at Fort Drum.
Anglers can register ($15 for adults and $5 for youths) at Fish Creek Bait and Tackle. Fishing hours begin at 6 a.m., and weigh-in concludes at 4 p.m. by Patterson Taxidermy. Free coffee, hot chocolate and fish chowder will be available on site.
Black Lake Derby
The Black Lake F&G Association’s 47th Annual Ice Fishing Derby is an open-boundary tournament scheduled for Saturday, January 24. The event has Big Fish and Pan Fish categories in both the adult and kids divisions. Cash prizes totaling $2,400 will be awarded, and numerous door prizes will also be handed out.
Anglers must register ($15 for adults, $35 for family, and $5 for youths 16 and under) prior to fishing.
Pre-registration is available at the local bait shops until noon on the day of the derby. Anglers can also register at the association’s clubhouse on Route 58 between Morristown and Edwardsville from 6 to 8 p.m. on Friday, January 23 and beginning at 7 a.m. on Saturday. Complete rules and regulations are available at registration sites, and weigh-in closes at the clubhouse at 4 p.m. at which time prizes will be awarded.
For more information, visit www.blfga.org.
Alexandria Bay Derby
The Alexandria Bay Volunteer Fire Department’s “Luck of the Draw” 17th Annual Fire and Ice Fishing Derby will take place on Saturday, January 24, and it is also be an open-boundary affair.
Northern pike must measure a minimum of 26 inches to qualify for entry, and there is a special Live Release category. The derby will feature more than $10,000 in prizes, including $2,000 donated by Glen Sweet and Hoover Heating & Cooling, $500 by Gouverneur Savings & Loan, a $500 gift certificate by Route 37 and Wellesley Island Building Supply, an ice auger by Horizon Marine, a gas grill by Charles Garlock & Sons, and a Milwaukee 18-volt 4-PK by McQuaide & Banningan. Also, $250 will be awarded for the biggest fish while the top prize in the youth division is a half-day fishing charter with Captain Pat Snyder. All registered youngsters will receive a prize.
Registration runs from 8 a.m. through the evening on Friday, January 23, and from 5 to 11 a.m. on the day of the event. Cost is $10 for adults and $5 for youths 12 and under.
Weigh-in closes at 5 p.m. at which time a merchants’ auction will be held with the awards being presented at 6 p.m. All activities, including live entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights, will take place at the Alexandria Bay Municipal Building/Fire Station where the Alex Bay FFA will host a breakfast on Saturday morning.
For more information, call 816-2310 or 788-2243.
Cranberry Lake Derby
The Cranberry Lake Volunteer Fire and Rescue “First Strike” Ice Fishing Derby will be held on Saturday, January 31.
This northern-pike event features $800 in cash prizes awarded each hour as well as numerous door prizes. Also, there is a youth perch division, and all registered youths will receive a prize.
Registration ($35 for adults and $10 for youths) starts at 4 a.m. at the Cranberry Lake Fire Hall on the day of the event. Registration forms ($30 prior to January 26) are also available online at www.cranberrylakefire.org. Fishing hours extend from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m., and prizes will be awarded at the Fire Hall at 4 p.m.
For more information, visit the above website, e-mail email@example.com or call 858-2937.
Derby sponsors include Cranberry Shores, Fun Unlimited, Todd’s Supply, Blevin’s Ford, Rockland Form-A-Plastic, Mort Backus and Sons, Padgett’s IGA, Basswood Lodge, and Wright’s Marine.
January 17—2nd Annual Black Lake Challenge at Rollway Bay.
January 23-25—New York Sportsman’s Expo at State Fairgrounds, Syracuse.
January 24—Black Lake F&G Association’s Annual Ice Fishing Derby (www.blfga.org).
January 24—Alex Bay VFD 17th Fire & Ice Fishing Derby (816-2310; 778-2243).
January 31—Cranberry Lake Volunteer Fire & Rescue “First Strike” Ice Fishing Derby (848-2937).
February 21—SLRWA Annual Northern Pike Challenge at Louisville (www.stlawrenceriverwalleyeassociation.com;384-3450).
“Hooks and Antlers” recently asked a number of area sportsmen, “What are your outdoors plans for 2015, and do you have any special plans?” Their responses comprise today’s column:
Ed Blackmer of Chippewa Bay: I am going to try fishing with some homemade lures (bucktail jigs and hand-carved wooden ones). Too, I have an invite to go down near Galveston to do some red fish chasing with an old duck-blind buddy.
Hank Bouchard of Ogdensburg: My 2015 plans are to make more time for fishing, work at hunting camp in Canada, and plant food plots here.
Jim Boyce of Massena: I plan to have my granddaughter catch her first walleye and to go to Long Island for some striped bass fishing. And I’m still trying for that 20-plus-inch brook trout.
Mark Brackett of Canton: In the New Year I hope to crossbow hunt more for deer and to chase a moose.
Doug Dominy of Canton: To spend all the time I can outdoors with family and friends.
Jack Flanagan of Canton: My plans for 2015 are to get out more, especially fishing, and keep enjoying the outdoors.
Bob Flavin of Ogdensburg: I plan on spending more time out on Lake Ontario for spring trout and summer lakers with my grandsons, granddaughter, and friends.
Dave Forsythe of Lisbon: In 2015 we plan to get our food plots reclaimed, and we surely want to do more fishing.
Mike Gagner of Massena: My 2015 hunting plans will include a trip back to Coshochton County in Ohio in search of another Ohio trophy buck.
Dan Lake of Heuvelton: I have no specific plans. I just want to get the boys out in the woods, and they are already talking about rabbit hunting.
Don Lucas of Massena: I am looking forward to ice fishing, especially the Northern Pike Challenge put on by the St. Lawrence River Walleye Association.
Lyle Newman of Canton: I don’t have any special plans for 2015, but I want to continue along the same path outdoors-exercise wise. I’ll probably plant a food plot this coming year as I neglected to plant one this year.
Walt Paul of South Colton: To take a deer hunting trip to an area where there is something to hunt.
Cody Richardson, Sr. of Lisbon: I am hoping to do more fishing and hunting next year, repair some of my tree stands, and work on a food plot for the fall. I also hope to return to Virginia for another memorable trip.
Neal Riggs of Lisbon: I’m looking forward to snowshoeing and skiing and getting my grandkids out in the wild.
Jim Robinson of Black Lake: My plans are to have more of what I had this year: good times with good friends at hunting camp and good health to hunt every day of the deer season, but I hope to see more deer.
Chris Showers of Heuvelton: My plans are the same as the past few years: to spend as much time as possible in the outdoors with my three daughters. Although they have busy schedules, we are looking forward to ice fishing this winter as they enjoy that very much.
Joe Siematkowski of Colton: My plans for 2015 include a bit more scouting and relocating some stands. I also need to replace my hand-held Yahtzee game that I depend on for the slow days in the stand.
Bill Simmons of Potsdam: Next year I will master the new hunting club that I started to learn this year.
Dan Skamperle of Ogdensburg: I’ve been getting into the Adirondacks the last few years doing some mountain climbing and even a little fishing so I’m looking forward to doing a paddle-in-and-camp trip this summer.
Larry Vielhauer of Ogdensburg: I have no special plans for 2015 for hunting and fishing at this point.
Tony Zappia: I am very much looking forward to this spring and summer as I will be competing in trials in both the U.S. and Canada with my 7-year-old Golden, Tea, and my youngest Golden, who is currently training in Texas, Ice.
“Hooks and Antlers” recently asked a number of area sportsmen, “What was your outdoors highlight(s) for 2014?”
Their responses comprise today’s column.
Ed Blackmer of Chipewa Bay:: St. Lawrence River water levels were low at the start of the year, but overall they were decent so I did a lot of water sports with the grand kids and had some good fishing weather.
Hank Bouchard of Ogdensburg: My highlight was getting my nephew to join me on my annual bow hunting in Canada.
Jim Boyce of Massena: I didn’t really have any highlights this year; I was just happy to get out hunting and fishing.
Mark Brackett of Canton: The highlight of my year was to see the thrill of my daughter harvesting her first deer. With her .243, she made a 150-yard heart shot. Special thanks go to Dan Huntley.
Doug Dominy of Canton: This year I returned to the “big woods” to hunt after several years of “lot hunting” around home. My highlights were simple: getting to know the land and camp, the deep sense of solitude while hunting the big woods, and making many new hunting friends.
Jack Flanagan of Canton: My biggest kick of 2014 was seeing the pictures of my son Kyle catching some nice northern pike in Sweden where he is playing hockey.
Bob Flavin of Ogdensburg: My highlight was a family fishing trip (grandsons Fred Lawton and Mitchel McCarthy, daughter Bobbie Jean McCarthy, and wife Dawn) on Lake Ontario with Saiff Charters. I also had a wonderful day on the lake with grandson Brad Lawton and friends Mike and Luke Seymour.
Dan Lake of Heuvelton: The highlight was my son Jack getting his first deer with a muzzle loader on our Heuvelton property. He’s a hunter for life as he also went to the big woods in Fine almost every weekend. Both Jack and my younger son Bryce did some bow hunting as well.
Lyle Newman of Canton: This year was a quiet one hunting- and fishing-wise, but I did spend a lot of time hiking, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and taking daily walks with my dog Max.
Walt Paul of South Colton: My highlight this year was seeing a deer!
Cody Richardson, Sr. of Lisbon: One highlight was a muzzle loader trip to Virginia where I enjoyed the hunting and the mountain scenery. I also spent time fishing walleyes on the St. Lawrence River with my son and brother-in-law.
Neal Riggs of Lisbon: My highlight was seeing a number of bucks, does, and fawns on my trail camera.
Jim Robinson of Black Lake: My highlights were the good times with good friends at hunting camp and being healthy enough to hunt every day of the deer season.
Chris Showers of Heuvelton: My highlight was having my oldest daughter take and pass the hunter-safety course. Her reward was a lifetime license and a new hunting rifle.
Joe Siematkowski of Colton: My highlight again this year was seeing all of my fellow hunters. These days the stories seem to outnumber the deer.
Bill Simmons of Potsdam: My highlight was a once-in-a-lifetime, elk-hunting trip to Idaho. We had four hunters and bought back two bulls. The best part was sharing that time with my son who shot his first bull. Harvesting elk, especially packing out the meat, is a lot of work, and hunters need to be in top shape.
Dan Skamperle of Ogdensburg: My highlight was spending time on the St. Lawrence River, whether I was fishing or just floating. Nothing beats the river.
Larry Vielhauer of Ogdensburg: My highlight was my hunt of a lifetime for Kodiak Island brown bear in Alaska where I harvested a Boone & Crockett boar on the first day of a 15-day hunt.
Tony Zappia: As within the past few years, my highlights revolved around the training, field trialing and waterfowl hunting with my golden retrievers.
January 23-25: New York Sportsman’s Expo at State Fairgrounds, Syracuse.
January 24: Black Lake F&G Association’s Annual Ice Fishing Derby.
At the conclusion of this year’s deer season, “Hooks and Antlers” asked a number of area sportsmen, “How did your deer season go?”
Their responses comprise today’s column.
Ed Blackmer of Chippewa Bay: I never got a shot, but at least I saw a buck.
Hank Bouchard of Ogdensburg: Deer season was great as I shot a nice buck early in the rifle season, and I saw a lot of small bucks, which I passed up. I’ll be bow hunting in Canada until December 31.
Jim Boyce of Massena: I did shoot a 182-pound, 8-point; but hunting was tough, and I saw very few deer.
Mark Brackett of Canton: Apparently the winter of 2013-14 was very harsh on the deer population. Many people I talked to, both in the big woods and down in the valley, said they saw only a fraction of the deer as compared to a few years ago. It appears the does absorbed fawns and the weaker deer died. I was lucky enough to put some venison in the freezer but not a rack on the wall. It was still fun to get out there and enjoy all of the fun associated with the hunt.
Doug Dominy of Canton: I harvested a buck during muzzleloader, and he will provide our venison for the year. I‘ve talked to several hunters who have venison-less freezers so I consider myself fortunate to have some venison.
Jack Flanagan of Canton: My deer season was up and down. I had a great start when I put a buck and a doe in the freezer in the early season. After that, I saw very few deer and no bucks.
Bob Flavin of Ogdensburg: I only got out one time with my 12-year-old grandson, Fred Lawton, and we didn’t see any deer.
Dave Forsythe of Lisbon: Our season went well, and we put some meat in the freezer. We saw several young bucks that will make it to another season, and we had a good time as my oldest boy, Josh, got back into hunting for the first time in several years.
Mike Gagner of Massena: The 2014 deer season was a great one as we made it to Ohio in mid-October during their archery season. My youngest son harvested his largest deer to date, an Ohio trophy 8-point that measured approximately 140 inches.
Dan Lake of Heuvelton: Deer sightings were low on my farm property in Heuvelton. It was the worst I’ve seen since I bought the property in 2007. In the Town of Fine there was good buck sign, but I personally never saw a buck.
Tom Lightfoot of Massena: I retired last December from Alcoa but ended up taking a 6-month contract in Saudi Arabia with them so unfortunately I missed the whole season.
Don Lucas of Massena: I didn’t get out as much as I would have liked due to a lot of very windy days. During the rifle season, I saw eight deer but no horns. On the last day of black powder, I was following a fresh set of large tracks when a blob of snow fell from the trees and hit me on the head and shoulders and filled my scope lens with snow. As I finished cleaning the lens, I looked up to see a large rack standing broadside at 30 yards. He bolted away before I could do anything about the tissue in my right hand and gun in the left.
Rick Mace of South Colton: Despite spending many hours in the big woods, very few deer were sighted. Other clubs in Region Six reported similar low deer numbers.
Lyle Newman of Canton: By far, deer season was the worst I have experienced. I saw only a fawn and a small yearling even though I hunted over 30 times. On the bright side, though, it is always nice to be in the outdoors.
Walt Paul of South Colton: The hunting was extremely poor, and my view is the deer herd in the Adirondack foothills is at an all-time low.
Cody Richardson, Sr. of Lisbon: My season went well as I had success during the black powder seasons both here in the North Country and in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.
Neal Riggs of Lisbon: My season was not very good because I didn’t see a lot of deer, but I did get a spike horn so I have venison in the freezer.
Jim Robinson of Black Lake: I saw very little sign and very few deer at camp in the big woods, but I did get a small 6-point at home. I hunted every day of the season but one (very high winds), and overall the season was enjoyable.
Chris Showers of Heuvelton: My season was pretty good. I didn’t harvest a buck because I chose to pass on several young bucks, but I saw a lot of deer every time I went out.
Joe Siematkowski of Colton: I hunted a fair bit and saw very few deer. On two trips downstate (bow and gun), I hunted for nine days and saw nine deer. I didn’t hunt a lot around here, but I saw very few deer. It’s hard to believe that now one gets excited about seeing a doe.
Bill Simmons of Potsdam: My deer season went well. I took a trip out west, and here at home I was learning new hunting grounds where I did find a group of deer.
Dan Skamperle of Ogdensburg: My deer season was interesting. Despite doing everything “right” in my regular hunting areas I wasn’t seeing anything. One day, when conditions were really crunchy, I headed to some woods where I hadn’t been in a while. Everything was wrong on this hunt (busting a flock of turkeys, cell phone going off, noisy walking, and fogged scope), but I wasn’t in that swamp stand three minutes when I took a 6-point that came walking down the trail. You just never know.
January 23-25: New York Sportsman’s Expo at State Fairgrounds, Syracuse.
January 24: Black Lake F&G Association’s Annual Ice Fishing Derby.
Now that the Northern Zone deer seasons have come to a close, ice fishing will become the activity of choice for sportsmen and women during the coming months.
To ensure the season gets off to a smooth start, here is a six-item checklist that merits angler attention.
An auger is the angler’s tool for accessing fish-holding water, and sharp blades translate to quicker and safer hole-making. Any dull blades should be professionally sharpened or even replaced.
Gas-powered augers are the hole-maker of choice for most anglers although electric augers are fast gaining in popularity, and some pan-fishermen prefer the quietness of the hand auger.
For gas-powered augers, the new season calls for a can of fresh gas with the proper mixture of oil and fuel stabilizer.
If anglers follow only one guideline for gas augers, that guideline is to ensure the engine is running properly PRIOR to heading to the ice.
The modern ice angler has a wide selection of jigging rods from which to choose, and it is wise to select an outfit to match the targeted species. For example, setting the hook on a paper-mouthed crappie calls for a different rod than when setting the hook on a hard-mouthed walleye.
Reels on jigging rods typically have smaller-diameter spools that create significant line memory so it’s wise to replace last year’s line at season’s onset. Because on-ice malfunctions do occur, anglers are advised to always have an extra, ready-to-go, jigging rod.
Prior to an outing, especially the first one of the season, anglers should carefully inspect their tip-ups. Tip-ups hold up well from season to season, but anglers are advised to check the flags and tripping mechanisms to ensure they are working properly.
Too, the sturdy line on tip-ups usually holds up well from one winter to the next. Still, the line should be inspected, and all leaders and other terminal tackle should be re-tied or, better yet, replaced.
Just as an angler should have an extra jigging rod in case of malfunction, he should also have an extra, ready-to-go tip-up.
I’m not one to be giving tips on electronic devices because I still use a lead sounder to determine water depths, weed edges, drop-offs, etc.
I have, however, observed other anglers utilize their electronics for successful fishing, and modern electronic units are the way to go for those who so choose.
Such devices can give the angler an under-ice view of the habitat, fish presence, fish activity level, and fish reaction to presented baits or lures. Angler familiarity with his electronic device is a real key to putting more fish on the ice.
Ice fishers are somewhat limited in the amount of gear they can tote, but eight handy items are needle-nosed pliers for removing hooks, sharpening stone for touching up hooks and fillet knives, tape measure to verify legal fish length, mouth spreaders for easier unhooking of northern pike and pickerel, dip net for removing minnows from the bait bucket, set of ice creepers for safer movement on bare ice, sunscreen for skin protection, quality sunglasses for protection from the sun’s glare, and a compartmentalized box with extra hooks, weights, jigs, etc.
Since many waters have specific regulations for ice fishing, a current copy of the Regulations Guide is another miscellaneous item to have on hand. For organizational purposes, I like to keep these items in large, zip-lock bags.
Bait Shop Contact
Important on any ice fisherman’s list is some means of communication with a local bait shop whether that communication is in the form of a phone call, actual on-site visit, electronic e-mail, or website visit.
Such shops can provide up-to-date information on ice conditions, fishing quality, bait availability, and fish-catching tactics.
Ice-safety information is especially important in early and late season. In addition, these shops carry ice-fishing gear, and they will have a supply of lures and baits that work in area waters.
Today: Late Muzzleloader Season in WMUs 5A, 5G, 5J, 6A, 6C, 6G, and 6H.
Today: Waterfowl Season closes in Northeast Waterfowl Hunting Zone.
Today: Goose Season closes in the Northeast Goose Hunting Area.
Monday: Muskellunge Season closes on the St. Lawrence River.
Tuesday: Muzzleloader Season in most Southern Zone WMUs.
January 23-25: New York Sportsman’s Expo at State Fairgrounds, Syracuse.
January 24: Black Lake F&G Association’s Annual Ice Fishing Derby.
Although the close of the Regular Deer Season means the hunting season is over for the majority of area hunters, quality opportunities remain through December. Among the pursuable quarry are deer, geese, ducks, pheasants, grouse, squirrels, rabbits, hares, fox, and coyotes.
Northern Zone hunters have another week to pursue white-tails and fill an end-of-the-season tag as the Late Muzzleloader Season runs through Dec. 14. Wildlife Management Units 5A, 5G, 5J, 6A, 6C, 6G, and 6H are open for the late season, and muzzleloader hunting privileges are required. Deer options for Southern Zone hunters include the Late Bow-Hunting and the Muzzleloader seasons that run through Dec. 16.
While the early season found plenty of hunters in the woods, late season sees only a fraction of those hunters still afield, and this eased-up hunting pressure translates to once-nocturnal deer moving more freely during daylight hours. Too, the rut is pretty much over so deer are now focused on feeding, and hunters should also focus their efforts on the prime food sources in their hunting areas. Even though does, fawns, and yearling bucks enter feeding areas prior to sunset, mature bucks remain reluctant to do so until after dark.
With the recent cold temperatures, many of the area’s small waters have frozen over so waterfowl are now utilizing the open water of rivers and large lakes.
The long-range forecast calls for continued below-freezing temperatures, and that cold weather should continue to bring diver ducks from the North. In essence, cold weather translates to good hunting for the area’s big-water duck hunters who work the islands and points along the St. Lawrence River and the shoreline areas of Lake Ontario. The second portion of Waterfowl Season is open until Dec. 14 in the Northeast Zone, and the daily limit is six ducks.
Resident Canada geese as well as migratory birds continue to be abundant on area waters and in area fields. The challenge for hunters, though, is that the birds are pretty well-educated and extremely wary at this point in the season.
On a positive note, though, geese are often easier to decoy once snow appears on the ground. The Goose Season in the Northeast Goose Hunting Area runs through Dec. 14, and the daily bag limit is three birds.
Small-game options include pheasants, ruffed grouse, gray squirrels, cottontail rabbits, and snowshoe hares. Such hunts can make for a fun day in the woods, particularly when young hunters are part of the group.
The best bets for pheasants are those locations stocked by DEC this past fall. Jefferson County stockings occurred at Perch River Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Brownville, Ashland WMA in Cape Vincent, and French Creek WMA in Clayton. The lone stocking site in Lewis County was off the East Martinsburg Road in Martinsburg, while Upper and Lower Lakes WMA in Canton, Wilson Hill WMA in Louisville, and Fish Creek WMA in Macomb comprise the stocking locations in St. Lawrence County.
Even though WMA pheasant populations are fairly well depleted at this time of the year, some birds always manage to survive into winter.
The Northern Zone pheasant season runs through Feb. 28, and regulations allow for a daily limit of two birds of either sex.
Ruffed grouse and gray squirrel seasons also extend through Feb. 28 in the Northern Zone. The daily limit for grouse is four birds, but bagging a single bird is a successful day for most hunters. Grouse hunting is the equivalent of dry fly fishing for trout where the challenge of the pursuit is a reward in itself. Based on the number of squirrels I encountered during deer season, the population seems to be thriving. The daily bag limit is six grays.
December might be the best winter month for rabbit hunting as cottontail rabbit and snowshoe hare populations are higher now than they will be in the coming months. Too, hunters typically don’t have to deal with the deep snows of midwinter. The season for both species extends through March 15, and the daily limit is six for both rabbits and hares.
Among the more challenging species to hunt are red fox and coyotes. Many hunters contend that coyotes significantly impact the deer herd in the big woods by preying on winter-weakened white-tails and spring-born fawns. Thus, while fox and coyotes are hunted primarily for their fur, reducing the coyote population is an additional motive for some hunters. The statewide fox season runs through Feb. 15 while coyote season extends to March 29.
Regulations allow hunters to pursue fox and coyotes during the day and at night, and there is no bag limit on either species, although taking a single fox or coyote is a challenge.
Changes in the state’s freshwater fishing regulations typically occur every two years at which time DEC issues a new regulations guide. Currently, DEC is recommending dozens of rule changes, and public comment on those proposals will be accepted through December 1.
The new regulations are slated to take effect on April 1, 2015, so the regulations in the 2013-14 Freshwater Fishing Regulations Guide will be in effect until the new regulations are enacted. Once those rules are enacted, new regulations guides will be made available to the public.
Today’s column takes a look at some of the proposed regulation changes, but a full text of the proposals is available at DEC’s website at www.dec.ny.gov. Comments on the proposals can be sent via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or via standard mail to Shaun Keeler, NYSDEC, Bureau of Fisheries, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4753.
The current statewide regulations for muskellunge call for a 30-inch minimum length requirement although that requirement is 40 inches for Chautauqua Lake and the rivers and streams in St. Lawrence County. The proposed regulation would set the statewide minimum length requirement for muskellunge at 40 inches.
The current minimum length requirement for muskellunge in the Niagara River, Lake Ontario, and the St. Lawrence River is 48 inches, but the new regulations call for a 54-inch minimum-length requirement on those waters. That 54-inch requirement is presently in effect for Lake Erie and its tributaries.
The traditional muskellunge season has opened on the third Saturday in June, but the proposed regulation calls for opening the season three weeks earlier on the last Saturday in May.
More special regulations are in effect for trout than any other species, and this is understandable due to the variety of trout species, trout waters, and angler interests. Thus, many of the proposed regulations deal with minimum size, daily creel limits, season length, and methods of angling for trout.
One proposed regulation calls for initiating a catch-and-release season for trout for sections of the Salmon River in Franklin County while other regulations will eliminate the current special regulations that allow for catch-and-release-only fishing on Cold Brook and the West Branch of the St. Regis River in St. Lawrence County.
Current statewide regulations allow for a daily limit of five trout (brook, brown, rainbow, and splake) of any size while the new proposal will establish a special regulation of a daily creel limit of five fish with no more than two fish longer than 12 inches in Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Oneida, and St. Lawrence counties.
For Star Lake and Trout Lake in St. Lawrence County, trout regulations will be modified to increase the minimum size limit to 12 inches and to reduce the daily creel limit to three. Also, year-round angling will be allowed for landlocked salmon on Star Lake, and ice fishing will be permitted.
New regulations will establish an open year-round trout season for St. Lawrence County’s Sylvia Lake, with a 12-inch minimum size limit and three-fish daily creel limit, and with ice fishing permitted.
Gear and Use of Gear
Current regulations (except for some special regulations) permit the use of no more than three hand lines and five tip-ups wherever ice fishing is allowed. To streamline what devices may be used for ice fishing, the proposed change modifies the statewide regulation to allow for a total of seven ice fishing devices/lines.
Many gear-related proposals relate to Lake Ontario tributaries. One proposal permits the use of floating lures with multiple hooks with multiple hook points on all Lake Ontario tributaries with the exception of the Salmon River. A floating lure is defined as a lure that floats while at rest in water with or without any weight attached to the line, leader, or lure.
Another proposal clarifies that the regulation for the Great Lakes tributaries restricting the use of hook with added weight was not intended to ban the use of small jigs, while a third clarifies that the use of flies with up to two hook points is legal on all Great Lake tributaries.
Also, a proposal calls for replacing the Lake Ontario tributary regulations for St. Lawrence River tributaries in Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties with the statewide terminal tackle restrictions.
The opportunity to observe deer in the intimacy of their natural world is one of the joys of deer hunting.
As a hunter spends more time in the same area, he or she begins to become familiar with the movement patterns of deer there. And certainly, a hunter who understands those patterns in a given area significantly increases his or her chances of tagging a deer.
Numerous factors influence deer movements at all times of the year, but those factors become even more complex during the fall when available food sources come and go, dramatic weather changes occur, the breeding cycle comes and goes, and the seasonal influx of hunters appears in the whitetail’s woods.
Acknowledging this complexity of influences on deer movement and that deer are creatures who behave as individuals, today’s column takes a look at likely deer movement during the remaining weeks of the season.
By their nature, white-tailed deer are crepuscular creatures. This term means that deer are most active at dawn and dusk. Deer hunters are certainly aware of this crepuscular characteristic as traditional hunting tactics call for hunters to take morning and evening watches when deer are most active.
Several studies conclude that deer actually have a five-activity cycle during a 24-hour period. Of course, dawn and dusk are the prime times of movement, but three lesser movements typically occur, one during the day and two under the cover of darkness.
Too, studies have indicated that deer are more active during periods of changing barometric pressure than during times of a steady barometer reading and that an increasing pressure sees more activity than a dropping one. Also from a weather perspective, seasonal temperatures result in good activity levels particularly when temperatures are cooler than the norm.
As autumn progresses, bucks experience an incredible increase in testosterone levels. In well-balanced herds, this hormonal surge increases activity levels as bucks move in search of receptive females. As a doe comes into heat, buck activity increases in the vicinity of that particular deer.
Likewise, when there is a prime food source such as a mast crop or food plot, deer-activity levels will be high in the vicinity of that particular source.
Limited food sources, a condition typical of the big woods, will also increase deer movements as the deer must move more in order to find adequate feed. Likewise, crop cuttings, killing frosts, and field treatments may eliminate concentrated food sources so deer have to move more to find food.
Lack of hunting pressure, too, enhances deer movement during the fall. In non-hunted areas, deer can be seen feeding in open fields hours before sunset or hours after sunrise, a scene uncharacteristic of hunted areas.
Of course, those days leading up to the rut see an increase in buck movement as males move in search of receptive females
Undoubtedly, the number-one factor affecting deer movement at this time of the year is hunting pressure. When deer experience this annual pressure, they suppress their daylight movements and become more nocturnal, or they spend more time in non-pressured areas. This is especially true of mature bucks.
From a weather perspective, white-tailed deer restrict movements when temperatures soar unseasonably, when winds gust strongly, and when rains pour down. Just as a prime food source may enhance deer activity in a given location so, too, can it suppress daylight activity as deer may only move to the area after dark when hunters have abandoned the woods. Nocturnal deer often remain at a prime food source where they alternately feed and bed through much the night.
A high doe population typically suppresses buck movement, too. When there is a significant imbalance in the doe-to-buck ratio, bucks do not have to compete with other bucks for receptive does. Such conditions result in minimal scraping, rubbing, sparring, and moving on the part of bucks.
During the pre-rut, testosterone-fueled yearlings may suppress doe activity at prime feeding sites as does feed elsewhere to avoid this young-buck badgering. Peak rut also suppresses buck activity as once a buck selects a doe, he may remain with her for up to the 72 hours surrounding the peak of her estrous cycle.