Thursday, June 23, 2016

Lake Metroparks sets sights on additional small boat access to the lower Grand River


Lake Metroparks is adding to its inventory of small- and paddle- boat access to the Grand River.

Approved by the agency’s three-member park board June 22nd is the spending of up to $450,000 for the construction of a boat ramp and associated amenities at the parks system’s 54-acre  Beaty Landing. This park is located off Route 84 in Painesville and straddles a viable and key steelhead fishing site.

With the addition of the boat launch ramp at Beaty Landing, Lake Metroparks will have a string of three such appointments with each unit spaced about five river miles apart, says Vince Urbanski, Lake Metroparks’ deputy director.

 

“Beaty Landing is one of our multi-use parks which appeals to a broad range of users, including steelhead anglers from late fall through early spring,” Urbanski says. “And along with the new boat ramp we’re going to add about another one-half mile or so of hiking trails.”

 

Those trails will help provide even better access to the Grand River for steelhead fishing foot-soldiers, Urbanski says also.

 

Upstream about five miles is the parks system’s 133-acre Mason Landing Park, currently located in Perry Township.

 

However, this is a work-in-progress park as the Ohio Department of Transportation moves forward with the construction of a new bridge on Vrooman Road which crosses the Grand River. Among the project’s requirements is the relocation of the park, its amenities and the largely unimproved boat ramp to the opposite side of the river, which will be anchored in Leroy Township.

 

Located about five miles downstream of Beaty Landing is the 18-acre Grand River Landing, located in Fairport Harbor. It is this small-boat launch site that receives the most interest from boating anglers – and almost certainly will even after the Beaty Landing project is completed, Urbanski said.

 

“That’s a primary launch site for steelhead anglers wanting to take their boats upstream as far as the can go or else downstream, even to Lake Erie,” Urbanski said.

 

While the existing Grand River Landing and the planned-for Beaty Landing sites (along with the to-be-relocate Mason’ Landing) are the same thing by providing small boat access to the Grand River, they also are different in some respects, says Urbanski.

 

Beaty Landing’s ramp size will be narrower than the one at Grand River Landing for starters, says Urbanski.

 

Even so, Beaty Landing should still prove a vital link for small boat enthusiasts to access a here-to-for difficult-to-get-to stretch of the lower Grand River, says Urbanski.

 

What will become obvious to boating visitors to Beaty Landing is that the Grand River’s water depth there is much shallower than at the Grand River Landing site and somewhat similar to the Mason’s Landing location, Urbanski says.

 

Thus while an owner of a small boat who utilize the Grand River Landing park often does so with small outboard engine strapped to the vessel’s transom, the expected boater at Beaty Landing no doubt will employ paddle power for his or her canoe, kayak, or inflatable vessel.

 

Consequently a steelhead angler who wants to take a fishing float trip will largely discover a nearly five-mile-long stretch of river with virtually no pressure from anglers utilizing gas-powered outboards.

 

Among the new and revamped amenities planned for Beaty Landing is that Lake Metroparks will “dedicate a few of the present 30 or so parking slots closer to the actual ramp for use by boaters,” Urbanski says.

 

Urbanski said also the parks system has awarded a contract with a local construction firm and should commence the project within a few weeks. Part of the project’s grunt work is to be accomplished in-house, Urbanski says as well.

 

And if all goes well, says Urbanski, small boat owners could begin using the ramps by this autumn, “even if the paving portion of the project doesn’t go as planned.”

 

And perhaps best of all besides the Grand River access hook is that usage of all three landings are – or will be once construction is completed at two of them – free to Lake County residents and non-residents alike.

 
“They are all popular parks and we believe they’ll continue to beand likely even more so once everything is completed,” Urbanski says.


- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
JFrischk@Ameritech.net

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Experts weigh in on which Ohio fish records will stand and which will fall


Catching a falling star and putting it in your pocket may actually be easier than reeling in an Ohio state-record fish and enshrining it on one’s wall.

Few are the anglers who’ve set out on an Ohio angling adventure with the express purpose of catching – or shooting with a bow-and-arrow – a state record fish. Maybe one or two bowfishermen but that’s about it.

Then again, the opportunity for capturing an Ohio state record fish is more plausible for some officially recognized species than for others.

And in some cases concerning Ohio’s various 42 recognized hook-and-line categories and five bow-fishing categories the existing record might as well be chiseled in granite. The reason being the likelihood of it being toppled is nil. Or darn near close enough to fit the description anyway.

Then again, says two Ohio experts on the subject, it’s entirely possible – even probable – that a bigger-than-existing holder for one or more of the state’s record-recognized species has seen the inside of a landing net. Yet such fish in all probability either were returned to the water or else converted into fillets for the fry pan.

Responding to the two-pronged question as to which five listed species categories are most likely to see new records and which five probably won’t encounter pretenders to their respective thrones were Fred Snyder and Scott Hale.

Snyder is a retired Ohio Sea Grand agent and is also the current chairman of the Outdoor Writers of Ohio’s State Record Fish Committee. Hale is one of two Ohio Division of Wildlife assistant chiefs and the person who oversees both of the agency’s fish and game management programs.

Ohio’s state record fish list is maintained by the Outdoor Writers of Ohio and has been for generations. Meanwhile, the Wildlife Division, well, manages the state’s fish stocks and assists the writers group in the application process by identifying the species of potential new record catches.

Not to be ignored either is that both men are also are avid anglers. That being said, each expert is brutally honest in dismissing their respective odds of ever catching a new state record-whatever fish species themselves.

For Hale the five fish species records he believes are at the greatest risk for being broken in the near-term includes the walleye, the freshwater drum, the flathead catfish, the blue catfish and “everything in the bow-fishing group.”

In the case of the drum, Snyder agrees this species is primed for a new state record. He notes he’s even pretty certain that larger specimens have taken the bait but that the enabling angler simply lacked the desire to proceed with filling out the required paperwork.

“The fisherman just put it in a dumpster, though two other fishermen removed the drum and took it to a taxidermist,” Snyder said. “Thing is, there’s now a lot of forage in Lake Erie for the drum to eat; they really do feast on things like zebra mussels and can pack on the weight because of it.”

Snyder’s Top Five picks for breaking the state record glass ceiling also suggests placing wagers on both the walleye and the yellow perch.  Hale is not about to disagree, either.

“I think we’re going to see a new walleye record broken,” Hale said. “You just have to believe there’s one heavier out there in Lake Erie than the current record (of 16.19 pounds, caught Nov. 23, 1999).”

And Hale says as well that the Ohio fishing world ought not to be surprised to see this new record walleye being hauled up through the winter ice in Lake Erie’s Western Basin.

“It will be a female, loaded with eggs so winter could be the time for it to be caught,” Hale says.

As for the blue catfish, Hale says a fish weighing in the triple digits is a distinct possibility.

“The one in the books is truly massive but the blue catfish – and all catfish in general – is getting a lot of angler attention on the Ohio River; so a blue ‘cat in excess of 100 pounds is a definite possibility,” Hale said.

To which it is Snyder’s turn to agree that the blue catfish also makes his Five Best record picks he expects to fall.

Snyder is confident in seconding Hale’s selection because a blue catfish tipping the scales at 100 pounds would represent just a five-percent gain in weight over the current record-holder weighing 96 pounds and caught June 11, 2009 from the Ohio River.

Cheating a little, Hale lumps the entire package of five bowfishing state records as being primed for record-book exchange. And for sort of the same reason the flathead catfish and the blue catfish records credibly stand on the threshold of new angler ownership.

“ “The bowfishing categories are all ripe for picking,” Hale says.

Snyder says he has no doubt that what Hale says regarding bowfishing is true. He notes that while recently visiting a large tackle retailer near Toledo he saw a boat that was decked out as a dedicated bowfishing platform with all of the whistles and bells that distinguishes this sport-fishing sub-culture.

“These bowfishing guys are dedicated, and can be out all night with their gear,” Snyder says.

But there’s one species that Hale may have missed as Snyder rounds out his Top Five picks for good-as-gold chances for replacement honors: That species being the long-ear sunfish. The reason is that the current long-ear sunfish is a Lilliputian-size squirt weighing in wet at only 0.14 pounds so “it wouldn’t take much to see that record fall,” Snyder says.

Snyder does cheat a bit, too, though, with his count. He adds the lake trout to his possibly/maybe/likely-will-be-broken list. He fudges his math to include the lake trout since the Wildlife Division has embarked on a recovery project for the species in Lake Erie.

Thus, time is on the side of this species record eventually toppling, Snyder says of his list’s addendum.

And Snyder and Hale also share some thoughts as to which members on the combined 47-recognized species list will remain etched there until both of them have traded their fishing poles for harps and white robes.

For both biologists the current record largemouth bass will almost certainly never exit the list since “a 13.13-pound largemouth is massive for that species in Ohio,” Hale says.

Also on Snyder’s forever frozen on Ohio’s state record fish list is the chain pickerel; a 6.25-pound fish taken March 25, 1961.

“You just don’t see chain pickerels being caught much in Ohio anymore,” says Snyder.

However, Snyder  doesn’t discount the possibility that sometime between March, 1961 and today an angler has taken a heavier chain pickerel but may have mistook it for a smallish northern pike or even a musky.

That same suspicion is what fuels Hale’s and Synder’s shared belief that the rock bass’s extraordinarily long life on the state record fish list is possibly, a fluke.

Ohio’s state record rock bass holds Ohio’s longest tenured such title. This 1.97-pound record-holder harkens back 84 years to September 3, 1932 and taken from Deer Creek; the stream, not the reservoir.

“If it’s going to be broken, the record fish will come from Lake Erie,” Snyder says. “Really, it’s one for the books that I wonder if anyone has ever caught a larger one and then just tossed it back into the lake.”

That statement mirrors almost word for word Hale’s thoughts about the future of the state record rock bass, particularly since a niche fishery for the species has developed around the Cleveland Harbor, says Hale.

Once again, too, we see both Snyder and Hale finding it difficult to stick with just five of anything. At this point Snyder owns up to having three species on the won’t-be-broken state record fish list: the largemouth bass, the chain pickerel, and (maybe) the rock bass.

Meanwhile, Hale has two: the largemouth bass and (also maybe) the rock bass.

To Snyder’s list add the pink salmon; a non-native species that occasionally appears in a couple of Northeast Ohio streams on a two-year spawning migration cycle: Euclid Creek and Conneaut Creek.

“We just don’t hear or see of this species being caught anymore,” Snyder says, a statement that almost certainly he would find disagreement coming from some Northeast Ohio steelheaders.

Along with Snyder’s choice of the pink salmon is the striped bass. This record should stand the test of angling time, says Snyder, a point shared by Hale who gives as his reason how the Wildlife Division is “no longer in the business of stocking striped bass.”

“Kentucky still stocks stripers in the Ohio River but the fish there struggle to put on weight,” Hale says.

Hale and Snyder’s opinions merge once more, and this time it’s regarding the tiger musky state record.

It’s kind of difficult for an angler to catch a state record anything if a fisheries agency is no longer stocking a species that is incapable of reproducing anyway, both fish biologists say as the biological fact for dismissing much of a chance of a new tiger musky record emerging.

 “I actually think this species should be removed from the list anyway, but I suppose the guy who caught the record (Matt Amedeo of Akron from Turkeyfoot Lake on April 28, 2006, a fish weighing 31.64 pounds) might get upset,” Hale says.

This is where Hale utilizes a little creative ciphering of his own, lumping all three of the state record salmon categories – coho, pink and Chinook/king - together; a three-for-one Mulligan. That combination brings Hale’s five solid-to-stand state records to an actual count of seven: the largemouth bass, the striped bass, the rock bass, the tiger musky, and the pink, coho, and Chinook/king salmon.

Meanwhile, Snyder’s count of fish species records that are locked in as probably unbeatable totals five: the largemouth bass, the striped bass, the rock bass, the tiger musky, and the pink salmon.

Actually, we need to add one more fish species to each of the experts’ respective list. That is the pure-strain musky, the state record specimen representative being the 55.13-pound brute taken April 12, 1972 from Piedmont Reservoir by Joe D. Lykins of Piedmont.

Perhaps no other Ohio state record fish species remains as revered – or as elusive for being supplanted - than does Lykins’ pure-strain musky. Even in spite of the phenomenal rise of Ohio becoming a go-to musky-fishing destination and its intensive musky fisheries management program.

Ohio’s pure-strain musky fish record continues to hold the high ground, says Hale, because the state’s pure-strain muskies grow fast and consequently, die young.

“This one will be a tough one to break,” Hale says. “We do see 50-inch fish caught every year but everything has to fall into place. Fifty-inch muskies are pretty rare.”

Ah, but such is the stuff that angling dreams are made of.

- By Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Farewell to a gentleman, and angler, a friend

It was my honor to have known The Senator - as I always called George V. Voinovich, who died in his sleep June 11 at his Cleveland home, just on the other side of the road from the Neff Road marina/boat launch and Euclid Creek fishing complex now run by Cleveland Metroparks.



It also was my privilege to have served as his volunteer steelhead fishing guide on more than a few occasions over the years. As far as I know the last steelhead The Senator caught was on a trip I had arranged with him for a day of angling at my honey hole on Big Creek.


Joining me was frequent Ohio Outdoor News contributor Paul Liikala, who was the net man and whose duty it was to scoop up a pair of nice trout out from what we have henceforth referred to as "The Senator's Hole."



The Senator also dearly loved it whenever I handed along a packet or fly box of my hand-tied steelhead flies. These weren't just little tokens that he pocketed and never used; no sir. He thought they were right-fine trout-busters.



Yes, The Senator's love was his wife, Janet, and his delight were his kids and grandchildren. But The Senator also had an amazing passion for fly fishing. The Senator would chuckle whenever he would say that when he went somewhere to a gathering of fellow governors or senators they'd always bring their sets of golf clubs while he packed a fishing outfit or two.



His belief in the sanctity of life was never far from him, either - and that spilled over to his efforts to ensure the protection of Lake Erie and the entire Great Lakes, for that matter.



He also was a champion of Ohio's sport fisheries and the economic and recreational value that this billion-dollar industry provides. A favorite story we liked to chat about was the time he was governor and the Ohio Division of Wildlife had begun making plans to scrap its Fish Ohio program. The Senator was taking no prisoners on that one; he offering to dip into his political war chest if necessary to keep the popular program afloat.



Similarly, The Senator was instrumental is seeing to it that the Wildlife Division acquire the Castalia trout hatchery, which wasn't the most popular idea, even among some agency officials. Can anyone picture where Ohio's steelhead program be today if it wasn't for that hatchery?



A time or two on the stream and before he died I mentioned to The Senator that we ought to name the hatchery after him. "Oh, no," The Senator said, "There's enough things now that's name after me."



Was The Senator the best angler I ever attended to? No. Neither did he listen to every suggestion I passed along. Even so, The Senator was always a delight to fish with.



He never complained, even when the fishing was less than fruitful and the trout exceeded his skill level. Didn't matter to him and didn't matter to me.  I surely shall miss him.


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Popular Fish Ohio program to see species eligibility list expansion


At 40 years old the state’s Fish Ohio award program is just getting its second wind.

Likely to climb aboard the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s trophy fish recognition band wagon are five additional fish species with each having their own respective minimum to maximum qualifying length.  Once hooked up the Fish Ohio Award program will thus consist of 25 species, up from the present 20 recognized species.

The inclusions are almost assured though the stamp of approval must officially come from the eight-member Ohio Wildlife Council, which certifies such things.

Anticipated for joining the qualification list and their respective slot length eligibility are the bullhead (14 to 20 inches); the long-nosed gar (24 to 50 inches); the bowfin (23 to 36 inches); the sucker/all species (20 to 44 inches); and the Kentucky spotted bass (15 to 22 inches).

The Fish Ohio program began modestly enough in 1976, starting even before the presentation of the ever-popular pin. Originally the state passed out cheap, thin metallic medals in which a tab could be bent over and the presentation clipped to a fishing shirt pocket.

However, the Fish Ohio program really began to grow its legs in 1980. That is when the Wildlife Division began awarding collectable pins. In the case of the first such decoration, the recognition turned out to be a small, oval-shaped pin made of pewter and bearing the likeness of a leaping smallmouth bass.

Beginning the following year the pin took on the much more familiar look that today’s Fish Ohio recipients would recognize: A larger oval shape but the pin being  made of base metal and illustrated in a hard-finished product with a color scheme that features one of the program’s qualifying species.

Included too is the year of recognition along with the embossment of the words “Fish Ohio.”

Pin species inclusion cycles about every 10 years or so, the smallmouth bass image next appearing on the 1990 pin while the walleye first showed up in 1981 and then again in 1991. A special 20th year Fish Ohio medallion was launched in 2000 and which featured a leaping smallmouth bass, a fishing outfit, a stylized “Fish Ohio” inscription, and all appearing in the foreground of the state’s shape.

It wasn’t but a few years after the Fish Ohio program’s launch that the Wildlife Division added its “Master Angler” component. Here, an angler catching a qualifying specimen from at least four different eligible species earns the Master Angler status for that particular calendar year. The hardware for this honor is another pin that features that year’s selected species but is decorated with a different and distinctive color rendition along with the added recognition touch of the words “Master Anglers.

A short-lived adjunct to the Fish Ohio program was the Wildlife Division’s “Grand Slam” awards. This Fish Ohio element comprised three distinct categories from which an angler could seek recognition, though each subset possessed a similar requirement. That stipulation spelled out that an angler had to catch one specimen from only three recognized species.  Further demanding is that separately a qualifying angler had to catch these fish from one the following specific geographical regions: Lake Erie, inland, the Ohio River.

Receiving a “Grand Slam” award pin was never an easy fishing experience. In fact, so challenging was it that the greatest number of anglers ever to collect a “Grand Slam” in one year was seven, says Vicki Farus, the Wildlife Division official who administers the Fish Ohio program on a daily basis.

That paltry figure is dwarfed by total Fish Ohio entries which numbers about 12,000 to 13,000 with some 500 to 600 annual Master Angler awards being certified.

Almost lost to history have been a few previous attempts by the Wildlife Division to scuttle the program. That idea didn’t float too well with George V. Voinovich, Ohio’s the-then governor and a deeply committed angler and Fish Ohio program supporter/promoter.

Voinovich was so outraged to learn that the Wildlife Division was preparing to stick the fork in the Fish Ohio program and declare that it was done, that the governor threatened to withdraw money from his own campaign fund in order to keep the popular angling playbill from being pitched.

This proved fortuitous for anglers seeking trophy fish recognition as well as for persons desiring to collect the assemblage of colorful – and cool-looking – pins. Today, many of the most commonly found Fish Ohio pins – excluding Master Angler, the 20th Fish Ohio anniversary pin, and any Grand Slam pin – are selling on eBay with a starting figure of around $20 each.

Complete sets of Fish Ohio pins from 1980 to the present have been known to fetch more than $1,000.

As for the program today, prospective applicants no longer have to go postal and mail an entry form and then wait until who-knows-how-long to receive a pin. Much like what else the Wildlife Division does now-a days, the agency has taken the Fish Ohio program into the orbit of the Internet.

Applicants access the Wildlife Division’s web site, scoot around until they find the portal for the Fish Ohio program, log in and enter their respective and qualifying catch. In just a few minutes the catch is entered and recorded; available at any time for review.

Best of all, Farus has the system now spitting out pins to their recipients within a matter of only several days instead of several months.

Anglers can even track how their favorite species or body of water is performing in terms of trophy fish being caught. That information can help an angler decide where and when it is best to fish for a trophy walleye, muskie, steelhead, white bass, or beginning next year – a bullhead or long-nosed gar – and the rest of the other eligible 19 Fish Ohio clan.

Clearly the Wildlife Division’s Fish Ohio program has come a long way since its unpretentious beginnings. And it appears now with the qualifying list expansion that its best days still lay ahead.

 

 By Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Thursday, June 2, 2016

David Berg's yellow perch official state record - but how long will it last?


The ink is hardly dry on David Berg’s new Ohio yellow perch state record book entry and the Mentor angler is all ready sharpening his fishing hooks in anticipation of defending his crown.

Berg, of Mentor, caught what has become Ohio’s new state record yellow perch. The fish weighed 2.86 pounds and was taken from a bulkhead that helps protect a small private marina and rack storage business in Lake County’s Fairport Harbor, a community with a long and storied history of Lake Erie commercial and sport fishing.

Berg’s perch’s other significant statistics included a length of 15.75 inches and a girth of 13.75 inches, though the actual weight is the only key that opens the door into the Ohio state record fish chamber.

Another point worth noting is that the fish was caught April 18, which will seen in a moment as a significant number in its own right.

Certification came May 25, following some filing protocol snafus that temporarily delayed Berg’s entry into Ohio’s state fish record book. This documentation process is the purview of the Outdoor Writers of Ohio’s State Record Fish Committee, the nation’s only such body that maintains a state record fish ledger.

As for what Berg’s yellow perch replaces is the former record holder: Itself a Lake-Erie caught yellow perch but one that weighed 2.75 pound, measured 14.5 inches and was caught by Charles Thomas on April 17, 1984.

Berg said he went fishing at the HTP Marina with his brother, Fred, of Fairport Harbor. Both men were facing some serious health assessments and work and decided to wet a line or two in order to relax. The marina was selected because that’s where David Berg keeps his 29-foot Amberjack walleye-fishing boat.

“It was in the afternoon so there weren’t many other anglers around,” David Berg said. “A couple of days earlier I was there also and caught a nice 32-inch northern pike. Fred’s caught perch there before, and it’s not unusual to catch other fish, too.”

Those other fish include smallmouth bass, which seem to relish the opportunity to wheel about the security of the marina’s steel bulkheads in search of minnows. And Berg thought it was just such a smallmouth bass that had snatched an emerald shiner from his perch rig dangling from an ultra-light spinning outfit.

“At first I didn’t even think I’d go for the net,” David Berg said, continuing. “In fact, when the fish started to come up I thought it was a smallmouth.”

Only when the fish’s true colors – and its hefty bulk – became truly apparent did the Berg Boys spring into “gotta’ save this fish” mode.

Though David  Berg has taken yellow perch that has pulled the tape to 14 inches before he knew he was breaking new ground. Thus began the several-day odyssey that saw the perch weighed on a scale which did not bear a current certified-approval sticker issued by a county auditor, then the scale being certified but only after the fish had been all ready weighed (not permitted, no exceptions), and a jumping-of-the-gun premature announcement by some outdoors media that a new state record yellow perch was caught.

David Berg was determined, however, to ensure that his perch would become the replacement for Thomas’s 1984-caught state record yellow perch.

“That fish had a lot of miles on it,” Berg said.

Thing is, even with David Berg’s now-officially recognized yellow perch in the record books he’s got his eyes on the prize for 2017. And that brings up the matter of David’s Berg April 18 catch and also the date of Thomas’s now-former state record yellow perch: April 17.

Those dates are certainly no coincidence, says both Fred Snyder, chairman of OWO’s record fish group and a retired Ohio Sea Grant agent, as well as Cary Knight, supervisor of the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s Fairport Harbor Fisheries Research Station.

It was Knight who verified David Berg’s yellow perch as being, well, a yellow perch.

“When I walked over to see the perch I jokingly said that it was a peacock bass; it was that big,” Knight said with a chuckle.

What Knight won’t joke about is the timing of the catch.

“Remember: Pennsylvania’s new state record yellow perch came just the week before,” Knight said.

And this conjunction of state record catch dates is important to note. That is because in Lake Erie’s Central Basin “mid-April is primo time” for a hunt to catch a new state record yellow perch. The reason being is that Lake Erie’s female yellow perch have reached their maximum egg-laden pre-spawn weight, Knight says.

“At this time of year a female yellow perch can add a half-pound of weight just in eggs; maybe more,” Knight said. “I can just about guarantee that this is a perfect time to go for a record yellow perch.”

What’s more, says Knight also, such pre-spawn female yellow perch often come close to shore, the fish looking for structure to lay their eggs. Something like steel bulkheads.

Asked if a three-pound yellow perch may some day challenge David Berg’s record book catch, Snyder is not about to dismiss that potential.

“I think there’s a high probability that David’s record will be broken in the not too distant future,” Snyder says. “For one thing there’s much better management of Lake Erie’s yellow perch stocks than ever before with much more cooperation among the states and Canada. All of this is allowing fish to become older and grow larger.”

And that management strategy is taking into account several prior good hatches of yellow perch that extend 10 or more years in the past, Knight also says.

“Yes, I believe that this (current) record could be broken in 2017 or 2018,” Knight says.

Which is perfectly fine by David Berg. His eyes are not only own savoring his current record-holding yellow perch but have cast themselves to next year – and beyond – with the idea of reeling in a new record-setting three-pound behemoth yellow perch. Maybe even from the same bulkhead from whence came his 2.86 pound state record yellow perch.

“Absolutely I want to keep my name in the record books,” David Berg said.

By Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Jeff is the retired News-Herald reporter who  covered the earth sciences, the area's three county park systems and the outdoors for the newspaper. Jeff is the recipient of more than 125 state, regional and national journalism awards. He also is a columnist and features writer for the Ohio Outdoor News, which is published every other week and details the outdoors happenings in the state.


Monday, May 16, 2016

UPDATED WITH NEW KILL DATA Ohio's 2016 spring turkey season kill mirrors 2015's; multi-county pockets of declines being seen





With a spring wild turkey-hunting season opening day that was much warmer than its last day four weeks later, Ohio’s hunters still managed to bag more birds than they did during the 2015 spring season.

But only by a ridiculously and statistically miniscule number: Just 180 more birds. Add the kill from the youth-only spring wild turkey-hunting season and the number shrinks even more – to a total 2016 all-spring seasons’ paltry gain of 155 birds.

In total the 2016 four-week spring season saw 16,229 birds taken. Couple that number with the April 16th and 17th youth-only season kill of 1,564 birds and the combined total comes to 17,793 wild turkeys. In 2015 the respective figures were 16,049 and 1,589 for a combined total of 17,638 birds.

A further look back shows that the total wild turkey kill was 23,421 birds in 2010 (the highest-ever record spring season turkey kill in Ohio); 18,162 birds in 2011; 17,657 birds in 2012; 18,409 birds in 2013; and 16,568 birds in 2014.

Mincing the 2016 figures some more, of Ohio’s 88 counties during the just-concluded spring turkey-hunting season, 52 of them showed gains; some by a lot but most counties by only a little bit. Among those counties seeing subjectively large kill increases were Athens (plus-40 birds); Clermont (plus-49 birds); Jefferson (plus-37 birds); Hocking (plus-41 birds); and Pike (plus-32 birds).

Meanwhile, 33 counties saw drops in their kill when their respective 2016 totals are stacked up against their 2015 totals with three counties – Auglaize, Perry, and Washington - posting respective identical 2015 and 2016 spring season kills.

In the decline ledger some of the more significant falloffs were seen in Coshocton County (down 40 birds); Guernsey County (down 56 birds); Holmes County (down 35 birds); Knox County (down 69 birds); and Licking County, which experienced an eye-popping decline of 89 birds.

Ohio Division of Wildlife research biologist Mark Wiley says that this pocket of counties is largely located east and south of Columbus. And at first blush this loosely defined cell of counties appears to be something of a harvest-decline anomaly; one that is worthy of at least some research effort, says Wiley.

 “It’s a pocket that we’re curious about,” Wiley said.

Another inexact pocket where turkey kill numbers have retreated - and which will come under more agency-led biological scrutiny - is in southwest Ohio. Here the matrix consists of Darke, Clinton, Montgomery, Greene and Butler counties, says Wiley.

“Of course the individual harvests in these counties are not as large as those found in the other pocket,” Wiley said. “I don’t have anything solid as to why we’re seeing these patchy pockets of increases and decreases, and I’ll be the first to admit that there won’t always be an answer.”

None of which means the Wildlife Division will avoid trying to uncover the developing mystery’s “why,” however, also says Wiley.

Such exploration will almost certainly focus on historical turkey reproduction data; poult recruitment and turkey kill numbers. Along with these data-heavy points the agency will also look at any potential changes in habitat, though this last potential component probably isn’t a factor in the heavily forested hill country of east-central Ohio, Wiley says.

Even so and without question, Ohio’s wildlife experts are crediting – blaming, really – much of this spring season’s lackluster turkey kill to the steady slide from really nice turkey hunting weather to conditions more in line with what one would expect to encounter during a late autumn deer-hunting campaign.

As an example, on April 18th , opening day, the daytime high temperature as recorded in Cleveland was 79 degrees. On the last day of the season, May 15th, - and also recorded at Cleveland - the day’s high temperature was just 50 degrees, and which also saw a snow shower that caught everyone by surprise; likely even the turkeys.

Downstate, the weather was every bit as bad and perhaps even worse. For the Columbus area precipitation was noted on 13 of the spring wild turkey-hunting season’s final 15 days, based upon data provided by the National Weather Service.

And in Cincinnati, precipitation fell on 11 of the spring season’s final 15 days.

No wonder then that the 18,000-bird harvest the Wildlife Division believed was possible after the season’s first week was scuttled by a weather pattern largely built on cool temperatures, often unforgiving breezes and the steady drip-drip-drip of rain showers and even in Northeast Ohio on the final day, snow showers.

“At the end of the first week of the season the turkey harvest was up five percent but after that it just kept going down, down, down,” said John Windau, the Wildlife Division’s chief spokesman.

Other data provided by the Wildlife Division points toward a harvest that was heavily tilted toward a kill of two-year old or older mature gobblers.

In terms of the breakdown of what Ohio’s turkey hunters killed this spring, adult gobblers comprised 75.4 percent of the total while jakes made up 23.5 percent. Bearded hens accounted for just 1.1 percent of the total, Wiley said.

By comparison, for the 2015 spring season, 77.8 percent of the turkeys killed were adult males, 21.1 percent were jakes and an identical year-to-year 1.1 percent were bearded hens.

As for the number of turkey tags sold, 66,436 permits were issued this year compared to 65,883 such licenses for the 2015 spring season, Wiley said also.
A slight dip in the number of second birds shot by hunters was noted this year. Based on data supplied by the Wildlife Division, 17.8 percent of Ohio’s spring wild turkey hunters registered killing two birds. That figure is an ever-so-small reduction from the 2015’s spring season figure of 18.4 percent. 
Here is the preliminary list of all wild turkeys checked during the 2016 combined spring turkey hunting. The first number following the county’s name shows the harvest numbers for 2016, and the 2015 numbers are in parentheses.

Adams: 432 (413); Allen: 89 (78); Ashland: 202 (208); Ashtabula: 569 (557); Athens: 363 (323); Auglaize: 50 (50); Belmont: 491 (520); Brown: 347 (327); Butler: 166 (200); Carroll: 322 (330); Champaign: 95 (102); Clark: 15 (19); Clermont: 396 (347); Clinton: 40 (60); Columbiana: 361 (385); Coshocton: 418 (458); Crawford: 74 (63); Cuyahoga: 12 (10); Darke: 40 (55); Defiance: 324 (298); Delaware: 111 (107); Erie: 55 (49); Fairfield: 102 (108); Fayette: 26 (14); Franklin: 21 (11); Fulton: 120 (117); Gallia: 418 (393); Geauga: 264 (269); Greene: 16 (23); Guernsey: 428 (484); Hamilton: 117 (116); Hancock: 53 (60); Hardin: 87 (101); Harrison: 425 (430); Henry: 72 (58); Highland: 387 (357); Hocking: 309 (268); Holmes: 217 (252); Huron: 113 (155); Jackson: 347 (320); Jefferson: 410 (373); Knox: 285 (354); Lake: 54 (68); Lawrence: 274 (222); Licking: 281 (370); Logan: 141 (117); Lorain: 141 (139); Lucas: 60 (45); Madison: 13 (6); Mahoning: 228 (213); Marion: 35 (31); Medina: 138 (145); Meigs: 419 (450); Mercer: 21 (23); Miami: 20 (17); Monroe: 508 (481); Montgomery: 18 (25); Morgan: 308 (325); Morrow: 174 (170); Muskingum: 462 (478); Noble: 349 (335); Ottawa: 3 (0); Paulding: 126 (145); Perry: 260 (260); Pickaway: 26 (24); Pike: 278 (246); Portage: 205 (236); Preble: 114 (108); Putnam: 87 (89); Richland: 280 (277); Ross: 350 (330); Sandusky: 25 (22); Scioto: 270 (236); Seneca: 141 (162); Shelby: 50 (42); Stark: 281 (223); Summit: 65 (54); Trumbull: 464 (435); Tuscarawas: 429 (426); Union: 48 (32); Van Wert: 27 (17); Vinton: 306 (329); Warren: 101 (67); Washington: 466 (466); Wayne: 106 (100); Williams: 313 (296); Wood: 36 (30); Wyandot: 103 (104). Totals: 17,793 (17,638).

 

By Jeffrey L. Frischkorn


Jeff was the retired News-Herald reporter who covered the earth sciences, the area's three county park systems and the outdoors for the newspaper. Jeff is the recipient of more than 100 state, regional and national journalism awards. He also is a columnist and features writer for the Ohio Outdoor News, which is published every other week and details the outdoors happenings in the state.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

REVISED: Throttle back on declaring new state record yellow perch caught off Fairport Harbor





Ladies and gentlemen, news of a new Ohio state record yellow perch being caught from off the pier at the HTP Marina in Fairport Harbor is a wee bit premature.

 
Unfortunately, a number of outdoors reporters have jumped the gun, indicating in one fashion or another that a new state record yellow perch exists. Yet as of now the referenced 2.9-pound yellow perch is a potential new state record, and nothing more.

 
Thus the current state record yellow perch - a fish weighing 2.75 pounds and caught from Lake Erie by Charles Thomas of Lorain in April 17th, 1984 - remains the best fish of that species ever entered in the state record fish program.

 
Ohio’s state record fish program is administered by the Outdoor Writers of Ohio, which began the state fish record-keeping project and has continuously maintained the list for more than 70 years. It works with such agencies as the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife and the Ohio Sea Grant Agency in verifying catches.

 
The verification and approval process is not some functional formality, either. Rather, it is the keystone that supports the entire record fish-keeping structure.

 
However, an issue has come to the fore that demands attention. The potential new state record yellow perch was initially weighed on a scale that was not legally certified by a county auditor, as the rules stipulate, says the committee’s chairman and OWO member, retired Ohio Sea Grant agent Fred Snyder.

 
Only afterwards - one day, - says Snyder - was the scale then certified.

 
Consequently, The Outdoor Writers of Ohio's Record Fish Committee members have instructed that the fish be reweighed, this time on a scale that also meets the lawful definition of certification. Whether the angler chooses to follow through on the instructions is his option, though his application is in the hands of the committee’s members, Snyder says.

 
What cannot be lost nor dismissed is the importance of adhering to the state record fish program's strict protocol, and which is essential for two very logical reasons. The first of these is that it protects a current record fish holder's catch, a catch that conformed to all of the program’s requirements without exception and without being fudged or broken.

 
Ohio’s list of state record fish contains 47 headings; 42 hook-and-line categories and five bow-fishing categories. Each of those record holders has a right of expectation that anyone and everyone who seeks to displace their title must successfully navigate the same rules they were required to follow. It’s called fairness.

 
The second reason is intertwined with the first: It protects the integrity of the state record fish program. If a stated and unambiguous rule is allowed to be broken even once than it can be broken twice, three times - or more times.

 
And remember this too: Rules are never bent; they can only be broken. Thus, any casual departure regarding the importance of closely tracing the program’s stated rules would be unfair to future potential record fish holders. And it would eventually put into play the question of whether a catch – any catch - is truly a new record.

 
As outdoors writers we love nothing more than to announce an impressive catch, especially when it’s a new state record fish. We want to be first to report this good news. However, as journalists we are required to be fair and accurate.

 
And as a former chairman of the OWO State Record Fish Committee I fully understand and appreciate the vital importance of properly dotting the program’s every “i” and crossing its every “t.” The program’s rules demand no less of its committee members.

 
There really is no other way to properly report on this potentially exciting new state record yellow perch; and one that Lake County may take particular pride in, especially since it was caught from shore.  

 

 
By Jeffrey L. Frischkorn


 

Jeff is the retired News-Herald reporter who covered the earth sciences, the area's three county park systems and the outdoors for the newspaper. Jeff is the recipient of more than 125 state, regional and national journalism awards. He also is a columnist and features writer for the Ohio Outdoor News, which is published every other week and details the outdoors happenings in the state.