Thursday, October 16, 2014

Reading the fishers' minds: brings out its spy glass

Anglers are predictable enough that surveys geared to picking their brains tread on stating the obvious.

Even so, the work done by Fernandina, Florida-based Southwick Associates and its “” does help the sport fishing industry better understand the full nature of sport fishers’ buying habits.

Such a comprehension enables tackle makers gear their product production to what will move the quickest and with the best possible profit margin.

Ditto for the retailer, be it a mom and pop bait shop, a big box corporation, Internet source, or a major catalog company which logs off several forests each year in order to provide the paper for the never-ending supply of seasonal supplements and updates.

And for the consumer it comes down as often as not to price point; the best deal for the money.

Yet Southwick’s does also reveal that anglers tend to be a conservative and frugal lot when it comes to buying equipment.

For instance, the latest edition of shows that of those anglers who bought fishing-related equipment in the July-August survey period, over 2/3s of them bought fishing lures and baits while one-half plucked down their dollars for terminal tackle (sinkers and – chiefly – hooks).

Yet in spite of this supposedly being the era of the Internet where and when simply “everybody” buys on-line, the survey shows that just 25-percent of fishing reels were made via the electronic superhighway.

Not surprising either is that when it comes to hard (plastic) baits/lures, Rapalas were the brand bought “… in every period.” says.

Neither startling is that Zoom was the soft plastic lure of choice.

Meanwhile, when anglers wanted to buy hard plastic baits, soft plastic baits and spinnerbaits they went to an outdoor specialty store while the typically inexpensive jig was purchased at a local tackle/bait store.

As for what fresh-water sport anglers sought, yep, the largemouth bass came out on top; a real no-brainer and hardly a stunning revelation. Nearly 57 percent of fresh-water anglers sought the largemouth bass.

Next came panfish, followed by catfish. Yes, catfish.

As for walleye, that species ranked only seventh in popularity; ahead of muskies but behind trout.

For Ohio’s steelheaders here is couple of sobering statistics. More surveyed anglers said they fished for carp (5.5 percent) than fished for both salmon (5.1 percent) and steelhead (2.3 percent). Indeed more fresh-water anglers sought white bass than salmon and steelhead.

Again, none of this should come as a surprise as previous studies have pretty much demonstrated the same pecking order.

And one of those “huh” moments came with the survey’s note that nearly 63 percent of salt-water anglers used live bait and just under 60 percent either used artificial lures only or in addition to live bait.

Yet these two categories are reversed for fresh-water anglers. Fully 77.4 percent of fresh-water anglers used artificial lures while 46.5 percent of them used live bait either exclusively or in addition to artificial bait.

In each style of fishing, however, angling from shore was important as 59 percent of fresh-water anglers fished from land, shore, beach, pier or dock while 41 percent of salt-water anglers did the same, the survey says.

Of course, fishing from a powerboat – including those owned and operated by charter skippers - was important for both classes of anglers.

Another “huh” is that 9 percent of salt-water anglers said they fished from a kayak; one percent more than the number of fresh-water anglers who said they fished from one of the paddle-sport vessels.

Let’s look at fishing line purchases for a moment and here we see a still-stubborn reliance on the less-expensive and ubiquitous monofilament. While 25.5 percent of anglers said they used the expensive slate of fluorocarbon lines and 32.2 percent used the superlines and braids, 40 percent of anglers still spool up with the ageless mono lines. Of course, as the figures suggest, some anglers seem to tailor their fishing line to the type of water or fish species they are seeking.

One also might think that fly-fishing anglers go gaga over buying one of the ever-expanding types of rods and reels, be it large-arbor, centerpin, spay, high-tech fiberglass, or whatever.

But even here the survey demonstrates a conservative buying trend.

By far the overwhelming amount of fly-fishing-related equipment involves finished flies, fly-tying materials, tippet material, leaders, and hooks.
Rods and reels aren’t even in the same ballpark. Flyrods rank ninth in purchases (squeezed between strike indicators and fly boxes) with fly reels ranking 14th (tucked between flyline backing and fly-fishing nets). Nets – imagine that.

Do take note that fly-fishing anglers remain a studious lot as “books” are heralded as their 18th most common purchase. Shoot, “books” don’t even register with the rest of the fresh-water and salt-water angling clans.

In noting impediments to angling the survey’s respondents said “access to water,” “water quality,” “invasive species,” and “too many disruptive activities on the water such as water-skiers and personal watercraft users” as “the biggest problem facing fishing today.”

It almost seems like the responding anglers were looking for an excuse as to why they weren’t out on the lake, on the stream or the surf. Oh, well, just presents the data and leaves the interpretation up to the end users.

Ending, the results show that the majority of respondents just as soon preferred not to fish in the company of a child. Some 34 percent had not fished with a child within the past year, 19.5 percent took one youngster, and 21.1 percent led two youngsters to the fishes.

Predictable to a fault perhaps, 44.1 percent of the youngsters an angler did mentor were a son or a daughter, 16.8 percent took in tow and grandson or granddaughter, while 16.5 percent shepherded a nephew, niece or “other relative.”

Only 17.4 percent assisted an “unrelated young person” and just 5.2 percent took upon the mantle of angling role model to a Scout, church or other youth group.

So there you have it; the ins and outs of what we anglers buy, fish for, where we fish, and finally how we go about recruiting the next generation of fishers.

It’s all food for thought, as the results always are, of course.

- 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, October 13, 2014

UPDATED with season's harvest figures: Sometimes quiet is enough for a deer season opener

Days like this are worth the price of admission; and they offer the hunter the opportunity to savor the woods’ serene early autumn splendor.

Savor, indeed, with the mixed pungency of drying corn stalks, ripened earth and a brew of various types of hardwoods on the cusp of shedding their leaves in preparation for a long winter’s nap.

A cloud-filled sky was moving rather swiftly west to east, thwarting the necessary light to finish the remaining minutes of the second day of Ohio’s two-day, antlerless-only, muzzle-loading-only deer-hunting season.

Warmer that was Day One, Day Two was never-the-less comfortable enough that allowed for the deliberate leaving behind of a fleece vest. Also not needed was any requirement for long-john underwear.

Then again, a couple of pre-dawn mornings had sapped the strength of Ashtabula County’s normally ubiquitous buzzing/biting insect population. That was a good thing, too, especially since I had left my Thermacell bug repelling gizmo back in the SUV along with the fleece vest.

Hope’s propellers spun pretty reliably, given that several hours earlier the landowner’s son had missed one doe as it tried a sneak out of the standing corn. And when the muzzle-loader had gone “bang,” the doe bolted untouched. Yet the noise was load enough to startle another half-dozen or so deer to vacate the same field.

Such was my confidence that I might find the deer oozing their way back into the same corn patch, tracing a strait-as-an-arrow rusted logging pathway to the free and abundant meal.

Thing was, Day One had not gone particularly well, either. I had spent 11 ½ hours in a hunting blind. All for naught as I failed to so much as even see a deer, let alone one absent the prohibitive set of antlers demanded by law for this special and early deer-hunting season.

So I figured a change of scenery was in order, and given the encouraging prospects of what the landowner’s son encountered I placed my chips down on the table.

Yet there are no assurances when it comes to hunting white-tailed deer. That’s true whether the hunt happens in Ohio, Texas, Wisconsin or wherever. Ditto that second weather the hunt occurs in Guernsey County, Adams County or Ashtabula County.

So I packed up my meager stash of muzzle-loading supplies and hiked the short distance from the woodlot’s far southwest corner to the SUV, waiting on a tractor path turn-around.

Hey, it happens, yeah it does. But I will say this; Day Two was one of those times when I felt especially blessed and privileged to be a hunter. Thus, no apologies are necessary, either.

UPDATE – Here is the harvest data for Ohio’s recently held two-day/antlerless-only/muzzle-loading-only deer-hunting season.

All figures and comments are supplied by the Ohio Division of Wildlife.

COLUMBUS, OH – Ohio’s muzzleloader hunters checked 6,613 antlerless white-tailed deer during a two-day season, Oct. 11-12, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). That is an 18 percent increase from 2013, when hunters checked 5,608 deer, the first year for the antlerless muzzleloader season.

The Ohio counties that reported the most checked deer during the 2014 antlerless-only muzzleloader season: Ashtabula (228), Columbiana (180), Coshocton (177), Licking (164), Tuscarawas (151), Guernsey (150), Trumbull (147), Stark (145), Knox (143) and Adams (142).

An additional 1,313 deer were harvested by archery hunters on Oct. 11-12. The total number of antlerless deer checked by hunters during the two days was 7,926, a 21 percent increase from 2013 (6,553).

Editor’s Note: A list of all white-tailed deer checked by muzzleloader hunters during the 2014 antlerless muzzleloader hunting season, Oct. 11-12, is shown below. The first number following the county’s name shows the harvest numbers for the antlerless muzzleloader hunting season in 2014, and the 2013 harvest numbers are in parentheses. The antlerless muzzleloader harvest numbers do not include archery numbers.

Adams: 142 (135); Allen: 41 (46); Ashland: 141 (111); Ashtabula: 228 (200); Athens: 133 (117); Auglaize: 42 (39); Belmont: 75 (99); Brown: 88 (94); Butler: 62 (57); Carroll: 133 (120); Champaign: 51 (36); Clark: 39 (28); Clermont: 76 (91); Clinton: 39 (34); Columbiana: 180 (128); Coshocton: 177 (138); Crawford: 41 (32); Cuyahoga: 4 (5); Darke: 41 (26); Defiance: 65 (48); Delaware: 64 (38); Erie: 30 (25); Fairfield: 81 (51); Fayette: 12 (7); Franklin: 29 (9); Fulton: 26 (29); Gallia: 93 (60); Geauga: 60 (63); Greene: 20 (26); Guernsey: 150 (144); Hamilton: 19 (18); Hancock: 33 (31); Hardin: 42 (43); Harrison: 115 (115); Henry: 28 (14); Highland: 100 (79); Hocking: 109 (103); Holmes: 103 (89); Huron: 96 (80); Jackson: 85 (62); Jefferson: 75 (82); Knox: 143 (141); Lake: 25 (18); Lawrence: 56 (54); Licking: 164 (164); Logan: 102 (77); Lorain: 115 (83); Lucas: 19 (28); Madison: 14 (19); Mahoning: 100 (75); Marion: 27 (27); Medina: 80 (68); Meigs: 128 (88); Mercer: 36 (26); Miami: 34 (20); Monroe: 59 (68); Montgomery: 25 (18); Morgan: 108 (65); Morrow: 56 (53); Muskingum: 136 (143); Noble: 79 (83); Ottawa: 24 (10); Paulding: 53 (56); Perry: 92 (54); Pickaway: 23 (18); Pike: 64 (51); Portage: 86 (64); Preble: 44 (41); Putnam: 32 (33); Richland: 98 (105); Ross: 94 (85); Sandusky: 41 (27); Scioto: 59 (64); Seneca: 83 (69); Shelby: 63 (63); Stark: 145 (66); Summit: 20 (9); Trumbull: 147 (117); Tuscarawas: 151 (115); Union: 58 (32); Van Wert: 20 (19); Vinton: 129 (79); Warren: 45 (39); Washington: 65 (72); Wayne: 104 (83); Williams: 69 (93); Wood: 42 (16) and Wyandot: 88 (58).Total: 6,613 (5,608).

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

UPDATED Ohio's wildlife officials work to ensure good compliance of new deer-hunting rules

Ohio’s archers made up for lost ground this past weekend in the number of deer killed since the season opened September 27.

On Opening Day, Ohio’s quiver of archery deer hunters shot 2,095 deer. This figure represents a 15.22-percent decline from the 2013 Opening Day bag of 2,471 animals.

However, the to-date tally in the obviously still-young archery deer-hunting season now stands at 9,666 whitetails. For same 2013 to-date period the figure was 8,697 deer.

Another way of putting it is that Ohio’s archery deer hunters experienced a nearly 11-percent increase in the to-date statewide whitetail harvest.

Yet this news was only one component addressed during an Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife teleconference with a number of Ohio outdoors writers.

This conference call was held late this morning (October 7) and included several of the agency’s chief wildlife management, law enforcement and public information administrators.

Among some of the conference call’s other touched-upon highlights were the changes made in the use of antlerless-only deer-hunting permits, the inclusion of certain straight-walled rifle cartridges during the statewide general firearms deer-hunting season, the threat of disease in the herd and associated impact on hunters.

Along with other sundry deer-hunting rules and regulations that are now in play or will as the rest of the deer-hunting year comes into view.

“We feel pretty good about the rules,” said Ken Fitz, the Wildlife Division’s law enforcement administrator.

Of concern to the teleconference’s agency-associated collective voice was the matter related to the use of antlerless-only permits. No wonder since such documents are legal to use in some counties but are not permitted in others.

Here is a for instance: In Northeast Ohio deer hunters in Lake, Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Trumbull and Portage counties all can use at least one of the less expensive antlerless-only tags up through when the general deer-gun season begins December 1st.

However, no antlerless-only permits are eligible for use in Geauga County, which is surrounded on all sides by the aforementioned other counties.

Yep, the Wildlife Division fully understands this new wrinkle in the rules very possibly will add a layer of confusion as to what, when and where something is legal to use.

All in spite of Fitz’s optimistic “we feel pretty good about the rules,” too.

Thing is, Ohio has just concluded a six-year run of generally stable hunting regulations and nothing is more consistent than change.

“We can’t do our jobs without the tools, and change is one of those tools,” said Mike Tonkovich, the Wildlife Division’s white-tailed deer management administrator.

Tonkovich said during the teleconference that adjustments, changes and accommodations are all necessary in order for Ohio to remain flexible in its ability to best management the state’s deer herd.

“And I believe that our deer hunters understand this,” Tonkovich said as part of the agency’s “adaptive management” strategy.

“The herd is not the same throughout the state,” Tonkovich also said.

Neither are the new deer-hunting rules. Gone now is the requirement that a slug shotgun or a straight-walled caliber-eating rifle must be plugged so that the firearm can handle only two rounds in a magazine and one round in the chamber.

Even so, a deer hunter is still limited to a maximum of only three rounds in a firearm at any one time.

Good luck with enforcing that one, though Fitz does say his staff of county-assigned wildlife officers and other commissioned staff will be afield, watching to see how many cartridges or slugs a hunter slips into a firearm, ejects from a firearm or else cuts loose at a deer.

“It won’t be as easy to enforce,” Fitz did say in something of an understatement.

In terms of the number of citations issued during the 2013 statewide general firearms deer-hunting season, having an unplugged shotgun ranked forth at 89, or just one citation less than hunting without written permission (90 violations) but far more than the failure to wear florescent/hunter orange at 32 citations issued.

Just how many such tickets will be issued this year under the new system is anyone's guess right now.

With the advent of the use of certain straight-walled calibers and the yes/no use of antlerless-only permits the field offers will have some wiggle room in how to deal with game law violators, Fitz said as well.

“I’m not going to second-guess what our officers do,” Fitz said.

Still, in the end it is up to each individual deer hunter to know the rules, regardless of how clumsy, how arcane, how unenforceable they may seem on the surface.

That is why – said Suzie Vance, the person in charge of the Wildlife Division’s public information section – it is important for all Ohio deer hunters to bone up on the rules; old as well as new.

And these requirements are found within the Wildlife Division’s 44-page “Ohio Hunting and Trapping Regulations 2014-2015” game law digest.

Either that or else if some rule still stumps a hunter that person can call the Wildlife Division’s Call Center hotline at 800-945-3543.

The Call Center’s hours of operation will be expanded for this weekend’s early antlerless-only/muzzle-loader-only deer hunting season. The hours will be 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., both Friday and Saturday (October 10 and 11), and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday (October 12).

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn