Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Euclid Creek is pretty in pink (salmon)

It was a red-letter day September 12 for Cleveland Metroparks’ aquatic biologist Mike Durkalec.

That’s when he and a Cleveland Metroparks assistant were conducting a routine fish species census of the lower Euclid Creek. Not counting tiny feeder arteries, Euclid Creek is a 12-mile-long Lake Erie tributary located in the eastern fringe of Cleveland.

What Durkalec and his assistant found amongst some suckers, minnows and sunfish was a rare catch indeed; a pink salmon that possibly would be a potential new Ohio state record fish for the species.

Pinks are the smallest species of the Pacific salmon family and are only an occasional visitor to Lake Erie streams. Make that an exceptionally uncommon visitor.

Aware of the significance of the large, humped-back, hook- jawed male pink that the electrical jolt shocked to the water’s surface, Durkalec saw to it that the fish was quickly photographed and just as quickly returned alive and unharmed to Euclid Creek.

Durkalec did not want to risk weighing or even measuring the pink salmon, estimating the fish at around 3 ½ pounds and almost certainly in excess of 20 inches.

Ohio’s current state record pink salmon was a fish caught from Conneaut Creek on September 24, 2004 by Andy Janoski. This fish weighed 3.06 pounds and measured 20 1/8 inches.

Not only has Durkalec been with Cleveland Metroparks for nine years he’s been a steelheader for 30 years; and even has caught pinks while fly-fishing the Upper Great Lakes, particularly Michigan’s Gardner River where pinks are far more abundant than in Euclid Creek.

“I even caught one from Arcola Creek, but that was about 20 years ago,” Durkalec said. “But when we recovered this fish during our electro-shocking we gave each other high-fives. It certainly was the most exciting fish in the bunch; a heck of a fish.”

Durkalec and his assistant were combing the waters of lower Euclid Creek as the parks system’s assessment component to a wetlands project within the adjacent Wildwood marina that was completed by the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District.

The marina and the narrow slit of stream are contained within the Wildwood unit of Cleveland Metroparks’ Euclid Creek Reservation. Management of this component - as well as all of the former Cleveland Lakefront State Park - was transferred in June 2013 from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to Cleveland Metroparks.

And from the mouth of the stream on up to what is locally referred to as the “Fruitland Dam,” located just north of the Ohio Route 2/Interstate 90 bridge, is a popular location for migrating steelhead and accompanying steelhead anglers.

Even so, while steelhead and an odd brown trout or two are hooked here regularly from autumn through spring, no previous reports of a pink salmon being found on any angler’s stringer has been documented.

That detail is not surprising given the rarity of pink salmon being found and caught in the waters of Lake Erie or any of its tributaries, says Kevin Kayle, supervisor for the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s Fairport Harbor Fisheries Research Station.

Kayle likewise supervises the state’s steelhead program.

“In all likelihood this fish came from a stream in the Upper Great Lakes since whenever a pink salmon is encountered in Ohio it is always an adult,” Kayle said. 

“And more than likely where there is one there could be more; that’s a very real possibility.”

Details of the pink salmon’s acquaintance with the Great Lakes began in the 1950s with two small introductions; one believed to be accidental and the other intentional, says the U.S. Geological Survey.

The first is said to have occurred in 1956 when about 100 young pinks were accidentally released into Lake Superior during a transfer between a Thunder Bay, Ontario fish hatchery and a sea plane.

A second release – and this one being intentional, says the U.S. Geological Survey – happened in 1959. That is when approximately 21,000 surplus pink salmon fingerlings that were raised at a Port Arthur, Ontario fish hatchery were subsequently released into the Current River, a Lake Superior tributary.

From these two small fledgling releases a new Great Lakes fisheries was slowly created; a detail that can be tracked via a Geological Survey animated map at http://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/factsheet.aspx?SpeciesID=906.

Noting that anglers have flocked to Cleveland Metroparks’ Facebook page to gaze on the two photos, Durkalec understates by saying it’s “an interesting fish.”

That, and then some, as the park district has observed a good deal of angling interest from where it empties into Lake Erie up to the over-powering Fruitland Dam which is insurmountable for any fish.

“It’s nice to see a pink salmon again,” also said Phil Hillman, fish management supervisor for the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s District Three (Northeast Ohio) office in Akron. “It’s been a while since we’ve seen one here in the Ohio waters of Lake Erie and its tributaries.”

- 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. During his 30 years with The News-Herald Jeff was 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.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Ohio pro-gun group announces its 2014 general election endorsements

With the coming of September during a mid-term election cycle, also shepherd the endorsements from special interest groups.

And current State Representative John Rodgers is one of less than a handful of Ohio Democrats to pass muster with the pro-Second Amendment group, the Buckeye Firearms Association’s political action committee (BFA-PAC).

Rogers – the honorable gentleman from Mentor-on-the-Lake – represents Ohio House District 60.

In fact, Rogers is one of only five Democrat House candidates to receive the Buckeye Firearms Association endorsement. The other four endorsed House “D” candidates are Nick Barborak in Ohio House District 5, Heather Bischoff in Ohio District 20, Debbie Phillips in Ohio House District 94, and John Patterson in Ohio House District 99.

Rogers, Barborak, Bischoff, Phillips and Patterson are each ranked “A” by the Buckeye Firearms Association’s PAC.

Only about 64 of the state’s 99 Ohio House district contests also see an endorsement from the Buckeye Firearms Association’s PAC.

Also, the Buckeye Firearms Association only endorsed one Democrat running for the Ohio State Senate. That person would be Joe Schiavonia, who represents Ohio State District 33 and received an A-minus rating.

Likewise, the Buckeye Firearms Association did not endorse and Democrat running for any statewide office, among them being governor, attorney general and Ohio State Supreme Court.

The highest rating awarded by the group is A-plus. No Democrat and only a handful of Republicans earned that score. Among these so-awarded Republicans is incumbent Ohio Secretary of State, John Hustad.

Ohio Governor John Kasich (R) is the recipient of the PAC’s B-plus, by the way.

 Lest anyone think being a Republican means an automatic endorsement from the Buckeye Firearms Association’s PAC group, such a thought is erroneous.

Failure to respond to the firearms group’s survey meant an automatic endorsement rejection, for one thing.

In the words of the Buckeye Firearms Association as relates to its endorsement protocols and processes, this is a portion of the group’s statement. It is significant to note that Buckeye Firearms Association is a single issue entity; that being pro-Second Amendment, commonly called “gun rights:”


“Buckeye Firearms Association is nonpartisan. We do list a candidates’ party affiliation next to their name. Our only consideration is how a candidate measures up on Second Amendment related issues. While we understand that many people have preferences and party affiliation, we as an organization do not.

“Single issue

We are a ‘single issue’ PAC. We understand that many people have other issues that are important to them. We understand that. But just as it would not be right for a pro-life group to endorse on the basis of gay rights issues, it is not appropriate for us to consider anything but Second Amendment rights when issuing our grades and endorsements. We recommend you find other groups that grade candidates on those issues that are important to you. We pride ourselves on being exceptionally accurate on our single issue.”

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Whose dime pays for your 'quake-damaged home? (Or, turning a deaf ear to fracking)

People looking to shake things up in their lives should live in one of two places in Ohio; and they couldn’t be further apart, either.

In an annual study conducted by the independent Ohio Insurance Institute the twin locales for most likely seismic activity is an area that broadly includes Allen, Auglaize, Mercer and Shelby counties in western/southwestern Ohio, and the Northeast tier of Ohio consisting of Geauga, Cuyahoga and (especially) Lake and Ashtabula counties.

Stats employed by the Ohio Insurance Institute are provided by the Ohio Department of Natural Ohio Seismic Network. The network is a series of remote seismic monitoring devices that electronically record and reveal the data on a near real-time basis.

Chronically under-funded and largely staffed by volunteers, the Network survives with a lick, prayer and bailing wire along with whatever federal government funding floats down the grant-supply revenue stream.

Anyway, the data the Network compiles is welded with statistics gleaned by the Ohio Insurance Institute.

Together their picture shows that Ohio recorded 18 tremors in 2011, up from the nine in 2010, and also four-and-one-half times the number recorded in 2009.

Likewise the to-date number of temblors stands at 10. That figure is two more earthquake events recorded during the same time frame in 2013, says the Insurance Institute.

A cost price-point is important to remember as well. That vital piece of news comes about because most general homeowner’s insurance policies do not cover damage resulting from an earthquake.

Thus an Ohio property owner looking for assistance after an earthquake event should weigh heavily purchasing an inexpensive rider to a homeowner’s or property owner’s policy.

And compared to those states where earthquakes are seemingly a daily affair and more volatile to boot, Ohio’s earthquake insurance rates are cheap, too, the Insurance Institute says.

Here is a for instance: In Ohio, earthquake insurance averages about 47 cents per every $1,000 of coverage for a home/building made of brick and masonry. For a wooden structure that cost is even less; about 25 cents per every $1,000.

Run on over to the Pacific Northwest and earthquake insurance there can cost up to $15 per every $1,000 for a brick and masonry structure and up to $3 for a wooden building.

Yes, structures built from brick and such are more expensive to insure than those made by materials cut down by the History Channel’s “Axmen.”

The reason is because buildings constructed of brick typically sustain greater damage than those structures constructed from good old, reliable wood.

Ah, but don’t just yet get all enamored with earthquake insurance. Not if you live in one of those Ohio counties where Gov. John Kasich and his economic bottom-line zealots contend that hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is worth the cost of someone else’s troubles.

Like you if your house starts to rumble and that set of century-old china comes crashing to the floor.

In the case of fracking the Ohio Insurance Institute has determined that 36 percent of surveyed insurance companies operating in Ohio would (or will) exclude earthquake damage that had been determined was caused by fracking.

So there you have it; pay the man now in the form of a cheap to modest earthquake insurance rider or pay the contractor lots more when you are left to pick up the pieces of your tremor-damaged home.

Unless the earthquake event came about as the result of fracking, of course. In which case send the bill to Gov. John Kasich or Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director James Zehringer.

I’m sure either one would enjoy a good laugh.

- 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. During his 30 years with The News-Herald Jeff was 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.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Opening days are rewards in themselves

Please don’t say that season openers are no big deal.

There are a big deal; for me, anyway, and I guess for more than a few other hunters who relish the lack of sleep, don’t mind a bunch gulping crow-dark coffee bought from some quick-fill pit-stop service plaza and eating so-called “breakfast sandwiches” made a fortnight ago and left to mummify under those infernal heat lamps.

I’m not complaining, mind you; really, I’m not.

In truth I’d have it no other way. Which is why I’m always amazed whenever I hear someone say he won’t be going afield this year, the excuse being “I’m too busy with (fill in the blank).”

I’ve never heard of someone on his deathbed saying “If only I had gone to work more instead of taking in so many (fill in the blank) season openers.”

Of course season openers can be better. For starters I’d like better and fresher brewed coffee along with a breakfast sandwich where one can distinguish the bread from the sausage from the egg from the genuine artificially enhanced cheese.

And yet none of this found me complaining any when Ohio kicked off the start of the statewide early Canada goose-only hunting season today. The same day, by-the-way, that Ohio also opened the gate to the statewide squirrel-hunting season and the first component of the dove-hunting season.

It was geese I chose to seek out on today’s trifecta of openers. As is my usual procedure come September 1st, too.

Not that I have anything against either squirrels or doves. Just the opposite, if truth be told and if you had a mind to ask me. In the past I’ve taken advantage of opening the door to a new hunting year by shooting doves.

But the dove fields at the Mosquito Creek Wildlife Area have fallen on hard and lean times. I won’t go into why that is and please excuse me for not getting started on that rather touchy subject.

Let’s just say, I figured my chances were better finding willing geese on a friend’s small lake than expecting doves to sashay onto Mosquito’s hard scrapple and rather misnamed “dove fields.”

Be that as it may, geese it was, just as geese it will be when the general waterfowl-hunting season commences in about six or seven weeks.

Those aren’t the only openers I’ll engage in for the 2014-2015 hunting year, either. 
There will be the one for the statewide archery deer-hunting season, and another for the restricted two-day, antlerless-only muzzle-loading deer-hunting.

Then there is the fall turkey-hunting season opener and the start for the general small-game hunting season. Not lost either is the beginning of the general firearms deer-hunting season along with the opener of the statewide muzzle-loading deer-hunting season.

Plus the reboots of seasons that went out for a spell and will return again for another go-round.

Yeah, that’s a lot of openers to remember and I try my darndest not to forget any of them.

Even my church’s late minister once took note of my obsession, if you will, with season openers. He commented (correctly, I hasten to add) some years ago that if there was a season opener on English sparrows I’d participate in that one as well.

Pastor John Ashbrook was closer to nailing it than even he knew.

An Ohio Division of Wildlife biologist who has since retired would laugh long and loud when I would call him after the crow season opener, requesting data on the subject.

So I do take my season openers seriously. A goodly reason for that is my level of preparatory activity that goes into most of these seasons.

There are hunting blinds to erect, duck and goose decoy anchor ropes to unsnarl, game feeders to fill with corn, trail cameras to set, and landowners to say “howdy” to also.

Oh, and not to forget the trips to the rifle range and the archery range. Those vital trips are intended to check to see if the squirrel-killing .22-caliber rifles, slug shotguns and muzzle-loading rifles are still zeroed tightly or need some tweaking.

One cannot forget rummaging through the heavy-duty plastic clothes boxes in order to fish out the proper gear, either. Nor night after night spending time poring through a deep stack of outdoors catalogs to determine if I have missed some essential piece of gear.

Trust me; I’m not going to forget the requirement of working with my two Labrador retrievers, Berry and Millie.

Yes, sir, a monstrous amount of time, energy - and can’t forget , coin - is spent getting ready for Ohio’s many hunting season openers.

So when this year’s Canada goose-only early season came and went without me seeing one bird I was disappointed. Importantly, however, I was not discouraged anymore than I regretted going hunting instead of following the lead of fellow outdoors writer Paul Liikaka.

Paul never gave a thought about geese let alone the date being an opening day. Nope, Paul and two friends had no difficulty harnessing up a 90-fish limit of Lake Erie yellow perch while I stared for five hours into a goose-less sky.

Thing is, I still believe I got the better of the deal. My dogs got themselves all tuckered out; I took pride in my handiwork of sprucing up the goose-hunting blind and I clucked with satisfaction the placement of the decoys along with happily noting I hadn’t forgotten this or that piece of essential gear.

Okay, I didn’t shoot a goose on the early season opener. It was no big deal; not when I know there are a passel more season openers up the road.

Shoot, I might even come up with one of my own; maybe declaring a day in May as my very own personal English sparrow opener. Which means I’ll have to buy for myself one of those expensive, tricked-out .177-caliber air rifles.

Yeah, I think that would bring a smile to Pastor Ashbrook’s face.

- 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. During his 30 years with The News-Herald Jeff was 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.