Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Wintry weather slows Ohio fishing licenses - with two noteworthy exceptions

Pummeled by the unusually sustained cold weather, sales of Ohio fishing license have largely stalled.

Largely, though entirely, says the to-date statistics related to sales of the state’s various fishing and hunting licenses.

Provided by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Ohio Division of Wildlife the data reveals that the issuance of resident annual Ohio fishing is off 15 percent. In raw numbers this translates into 126,439 such documents being issued to-date this year compared to 148,785 resident adult licenses sold during the same period in 2013.

In all last year the Wildlife Division sold 653,798 resident adult annual fishing licenses. Such licenses represent the fiscal backbone of the Wildlife Division’s fisheries-related economic tally.

Down also are sales of non-resident adult annual fishing licenses, as well. The to-date figures for this important category are 6,805 so far for this year and 7,502 for the same period in 2013. Last year the Wildlife Division sold 32,914 non-resident adult annual fishing licenses.

However, two categories of fishing license sales are actually up; and the suspect for causing the increase is the weather, says Tom Rowan, a Wildlife Division’s assistant chief.

Increased sales are being noted in the categories of both one-day fishing licenses and three-day non-resident fishing licenses.

Data supplied by the Wildlife Division show that so far this year the agency has issued 1,673 three-day fishing permits compared to the 2013 same to-date tally of 25,360 three-day licenses for a 27-percent gain. In 2013 the agency sold 25,360 three-day fishing licenses.

Again was noted also for sales of one-day licenses to non-resident adults. The current 2014 to-date figure for this category stands at 2,254 one-day tags end compared to the 2013 to-date sale of 1,756 such documents. That increase totals 28.36 percent.

In 2013 the Wildlife Division sold 28,487 one-day non-resident fishing licenses.

“I believe what happened is that a lot of anglers saw and took the opportunity to go ice fishing in the Western Basin,” Rowan said. “Guides up there said the season was one of the best they saw in a long time. People took advantage of that good fishing and it’s reflected in the sales of three-day fishing licenses and one-day non-resident fishing licenses.”

Rowan said that overall fishing sales are off, though such shifts are hardly unusual. The same situation was seen early on 2012 when cold and wet weather struck early also, Rowan said.

“Sales boomed last year this time because we had a mild spring,” Rowan said. “We always see license sale increases when the weather is nice.”

Like the sale of Ohio fishing licenses their respective hunting brethren tags also have slid, though hardly enough to elicit a yawn by the Wildlife Division’s bean counters.

The to-date sale of 2014 general resident adult hunting license figure is off less than 8 percent while sales of spring turkey tags is down slight at 5.5 percent.

Neither drop is even worthy of the smallest of worries, including those for spring turkey permits, says Rowan.

“It’s just like what we see for the deer season; a lot of turkey hunters wait until just before the season starts,” Rowan said.

And that season begins Monday, April 21 with this Easter weekend dedicated to youth only.

Perhaps another area where the on-going wintry weather has impacted sales involves the one-day and seasonal shooting range permits. The first category is down 23.48 percent while the second category is down 12.45 percent.

The Wildlife Division operates five Class “A” supervised rifle and pistol shooting ranges around the state that each require a participant to first purchase either an one-day or else a seasonal permit.

“You can never predict what’s going to happen with license and permit sales because of factors like the weather,” Rowan also said. “But our sales have been steadier than those seen in other states. We take these ups and downs into account when we work up our budget.”
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Pennsylvania knows how to raise trout and the ire of anglers

SANDY LAKE, PA – The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s failure to warn the public it couldn’t stock trout along a long stretch of Sandy Creek proved a costly mistake for anglers.

After all it was the several dozen or so anglers up and down Sandy Creek who had bought fishing licenses (adult resident, senior citizen resident and adult nonresident) in the belief they were going to return home with fresh-caught trout.

The eagerness was understandable, too, since all of the fishers were participating in Pennsylvania’s annual trout opener, this latest seasonal launch happening Saturday, April 12.

Given that the Commission will ultimately stock its Commonwealth streams, lakes and ponds with 4.2 million brook, rainbow and brown trout for the year – and with many of these fish released in anticipation of the season opener – an expectation of luring a daily creel limit of five trout was reasonable.

Yet reason was crushed by the bumbling failure of the Commission to notify anyone that a lengthy portion of Sandy Creek upstream from the Utica Bridge to near Sandy Lake Village was not stocked.

None of the Sandy Creek anglers who spent the first 90 minutes fishing for the proverbial whale in a bucket disagreed with the Commission’s logic, of course.

Hammered hard by the 2014 Winter that Would Not Die, the Commission found itself against the calendar.

Consequently the agency’s trout-full stocking truck was stymied by too much snow lingering on the access road that parallels Sandy Creek. That was March 11; one month and one day before Pennsylvania’s trout season opener.

Instead, said the Commission’s waterways patrol officer who made his entry along this trout-starved section of Sandy Creek, he had the truck’s crew pour the vehicle’s fishy contents into the creek at the Utica Bridge. That dumping was worth 2,000 trout, the fish warden said.

Stunned, the angler standing next to me noted in a telling understatement, “no wonder we’re not catching fish.”

Well, not entirely, since just an hour shy into the season I caught one 14-inch rainbow, either a fish washed downstream from a genuine stocking point or else a trout that was curious Marco Polo and had made its way upstream from the Utica Bridge. It was the only fish taken by anyone within eyeshot of the Furnace Run dead- end angling terminal

No doubt, had the officer stuck around just a few minutes longer he’d have heard  language take on a decided deep blue color for all of the  salty “that dirty so-and-so” tints directed at him as well as the entire Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

“Why didn’t it get the word out; call the media, bait stores that Sandy Creek wasn’t stocked?” queried more than one angler as he (and she) began packing up to leave.

Other anglers opined upon their exit that at the very least the printing of signage saying something like: “Due to heavy snow cover on the access road the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission was unable to stock this portion of Sandy Creek. We regret any inconvenience.”

However, inconvenienced were the dues-paying tout anglers, though their regrets were not directed at the previous month’s uncharitable for stocking weather.

Instead, the anglers’ collective regret was in trusting the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission would have done the right thing. That being, of course, the Commission going not just the mile but the extra mile in a genuine effort to alert prospective Sandy Creek trout anglers to make alternative plans for opening day.

Problem is such a thought process requires a heartfelt belief that the customer comes first, last and always.

Given that government bureaucracy is a monopoly it makes sense in some twisted way that the Commission would dump 2,000 trout at one location. And followed by pretty much keeping the news to itself instead of directing the agency’s  sign shop to print informative posters that could be stapled to the oaks, sycamores, maples and other tree species that line Sandy Creek.

 - Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Ohio approves 2014 hunting seasons, use of some straight-walled cartridges for deer

Ohio's deer hunters will now have the opportunity to use a limited number of centerfire rifle calibers even as they will confront tighter bag limits.

On Wednesday, April 9, the eight-member Ohio Wildlife Council approved allowing more than 20 specific so-called straight-walled calibers commonly used in centerfire rifles. They include such venerable calibers as the .45-70 Government.

For a number of years various pro-firearms and pro-hunting groups have lobbied in favor of allowing such calibers. But it was only after the introduction of in-line muzzle-loaders, new propellants for them along with superior sabot pistol-type bullets was the opposition to the straight-walled calibers largely silenced.

The reason for this is because in-line muzzle-loaders powered by new powders that crank up velocity and propel heavier payloads and with improved ignition systems are now in everyway equal to or better than many of the old-fashioned calibers chambered in various rifle configurations.

Of interest and concern now is whether the demand for single-shot and lever-action rifles chambered in the allowed calibers will exceed supply. Already some Northeast Ohio gun shops have experienced enhanced customer interest along with increased sales of such firearms and related ammunition.

Anyway, here is the official press release from the Ohio Division of Wildlife as it relates to the approval of the various 2014-2015 hunting seasons and regulations:

The Ohio Wildlife Council approved new white-tailed deer hunting regulations at its meeting on Wednesday, April 9, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).

Among new regulations are decreased deer bag limits in many counties, and hunters may use straight-walled cartridge rifles during the 2014 deer-gun week. The council also voted to remove bobcats from Ohio’s list of threatened species.

The Ohio Wildlife Council voted to approve deer hunting proposals prepared by ODNR Division of Wildlife biologists. The 2014-2015 deer hunting season dates will remain largely consistent with previous years.

One change in season dates included adjusting deer-muzzleloader season to begin on Friday, Jan. 2, 2015, and end on Monday, Jan. 5, compared to last year when the season began on a Saturday and concluded on a Tuesday. The October antlerless deer-muzzleloader weekend will be held for the second year.

Deer hunting seasons for 2014-2015:
  • Deer archery: Sept. 27, 2014 - Feb. 1, 2015.
  • Antlerless deer muzzleloader: Oct. 11-12, 2014.
  • Youth deer gun: Nov. 22-23, 2014.
  • Deer gun: Dec. 1-7, 2014.
  • Deer muzzleloader: Jan. 2-5, 2015.
The Ohio Wildlife Council also approved changes to Ohio’s list of endangered and threatened species. The bobcat, previously threatened, was removed from the list. Bobcats are still considered a protected species in Ohio with no hunting or trapping season.

The snowshoe hare was changed to a species of concern, Bewick’s wren was changed to extirpated and smooth greensnakes were changed to endangered.

Small-game hunting and furbearer trapping season dates were also passed on Wednesday.

Season dates and bag limits for migratory birds, including mourning dove, Canada goose, rail, moorhen, snipe, woodcock and waterfowl will be set in August in compliance with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s framework. The Ohio 2014-2015 hunting and trapping season dates can be found at bit.ly/1415Ohiohuntingseason.

Deer bag limits reflect the reduction in the deer population in many counties as numbers continue to move closer to target levels. Bag limits were reduced in 44 counties, increased in five counties and 39 counties stayed the same as last season.

Antlerless tags are eliminated in some counties as deer populations approach target levels. Antlerless tags were introduced as a way to reduce Ohio’s deer herd, and have been successful, thereby eliminating their need in certain counties.
County deer bag limits:
  • Two (no more than one antlerless permit): Auglaize, Darke, Fayette, Hancock, Madison and Mercer counties..
  • Three (antlerless permits are not valid): Belmont, Carroll, Coshocton, Defiance, Fairfield, Fulton, Gallia, Geauga, Greene, Guernsey, Hardin, Harrison, Hocking, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson, Knox, Lawrence, Meigs, Miami, Monroe, Morrow, Muskingum, Noble, Perry, Richland, Van Wert, Washington and Williams counties.
  • Three (no more than one antlerless permit): Adams, Allen, Ashland, Ashtabula, Athens, Butler, Champaign, Clark, Clinton, Columbiana, Crawford, Erie, Henry, Highland, Huron, Licking, Logan, Lorain, Marion, Medina, Morgan, Ottawa, Paulding, Pickaway, Pike, Preble, Putnam, Ross, Sandusky, Scioto, Seneca, Shelby, Trumbull, Tuscarawas, Union, Vinton, Wayne, Wood and Wyandot counties.
  • Four (no more than one antlerless permit): Brown, Clermont, Cuyahoga, Delaware, Franklin, Hamilton, Lake, Lucas, Mahoning, Montgomery, Portage, Stark, Summit and Warren counties.
The council also approved straight-walled cartridge rifles for deer hunting. The rifles are the same caliber and use the same straight-walled cartridges that are currently legal for use in handguns.

The new regulation is designed to allow additional opportunities for hunters that own these guns or want to hunt with these guns. These rifles have reduced recoil compared to larger shotguns, and the rifles are more accurate than the same caliber handgun.

Legal deer hunting rifles are chambered for the following calibers: .357 Magnum, .357 Maximum, .38 Special, .375 Super Magnum, .375 Winchester, .38-55, .41 Long Colt, .41 Magnum, .44 Special, .44 Magnum, .444 Marlin, .45 ACP, .45 Colt, .45 Long Colt, .45 Winchester Magnum, .45 Smith & Wesson, .454 Casull, .460 Smith & Wesson, .45-70, .45-90, .45-110, .475 Linebaugh, .50-70, .50-90, .50-100, .50-110 and .500 Smith & Wesson.

A new regulation states shotguns and straight-walled cartridge rifles used for deer hunting be loaded with no more than three shells in the magazine and chamber combined. The current hunting regulation states a shotgun must be plugged if it is capable of holding more than three shells.

New next year, youth hunters can harvest up to two wild turkeys during the 2015 two-day youth season (one per day). Checking two wild turkeys would fill the youth hunter’s bag limit for the remaining 2015 spring wild turkey season. This change does not take effect until 2015. The bag limit remains one wild turkey for the two-day 2014 youth wild turkey hunting season.

The Ohio Wildlife Council is an eight-member board that approves all of the ODNR Division of Wildlife proposed rules and regulations. Small-game hunting and trapping seasons were proposed at the Ohio Wildlife Council’s January meeting.

Deer proposals were presented in February and amended in March. Go to wildohio.com for more information about hunting in Ohio.

Open houses to receive public comments about hunting, trapping and fishing regulations and wildlife issues were held on March 1, and a statewide hearing on all of the proposed rules was held on March 13.

Open houses give the public an opportunity to view and discuss proposed fishing, hunting and trapping regulations with the ODNR Division of Wildlife officials.

Council meetings are open to the public. Individuals who want to provide comments on a topic that is currently being considered by council are asked to preregister at least two days prior to the meeting by calling 614-265-6304. All comments are required to be three minutes or less.

ODNR ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR website at ohiodnr.gov.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

UPDATED Fish Ohio program undergoes revamping

A good year for anglers in 2013 produced a vintage year for the state’s Fish Ohio program, too.

The Ohio Division of Wildlife’s 37-year-old (started in 1976 but re-launched in  1980 when the agency began adding the pin feature) Fish Ohio awards program saw 12,760 submissions by anglers last year. And the program also accounted for 532 Master Anglers last year.

For the previous year the total (2012) was 12,462 qualifying Fish Ohio entries along with 521 Master Angler awards. In 2011, those figures were 11,278 qualifying Fish Ohio entries and 490 Master Angler awards.

As for the year when the Wildlife Division’s Fish Ohio program maxed out that was in 1988 when 37,132 awards were presented along with 691 Master Angler awards.

Yet the program has undergone a significant submission component change. Beginning this year the program has incorporated an entirely new entry format that includes – among other things – the requirement to establish a log-in password protocol.

The advantages with the new system, says Wildlife Division officials, is the ability to review what species an angler has submitted, when it was caught and its length.

Interesting as well as new the system now allows people to view the approximately to-date data of the entries electronically submitted and for each of the 20 officially recognized species.

For example, an angler can go on line and access either via a PDF or Excel version how many walleye have currently been entered, from what body of water, the date of submission as well as the length for each fish.

“That’s a pretty nice feature we built into the system,” says the Fish Ohio program administrator, Vicki Farus.

To become eligible for a Fish Ohio award consisting of a really cool, colorful and collectable hat pin and a do-it-yourself printed recognition certificate, an angler had to catch a qualifying specimen from one of the aforementioned 20 recognized species.

The Master Angler award requires an angler to catch at least one representative from a minimum of four recognized species. But this pin is even more jazzed up and makes the additional work worth it for many anglers; as mentioned earlier, 532 fishers to be exact.

For a Grand Slam award an angler is challenged with catching no fewer than three eligible species, each of which must come from one of the following specific bodies of water: Lake Erie, the Ohio River, and inland waters. Oh, the three species vary for each specific waterway as well.

The 2013 pin featured a brown trout. The year’s Master Angler pin is a bit fancier that includes a sort-of brushed bronze background along with the standard “Master Angler” embossed on the pin along with the year.

A yellow perch will grace the 2014 Fish Ohio as well as 2014 Master Angler pin. This will be the forth time the yellow perch has appeared on a Fish Ohio pin (1986, 1996, and 2006 were the years the species was depicted).

Some of the recognized species that have yet to appear, Farus says, are the northern pike, the carp and the blue catfish.

“We added the blue cat to the list of recognized species just last year,” Farus said.

Whatever species is depicted, however, the last thing any recipient wants to do is besmirch these somewhat oval in shape base-metal pins with painted fronts.

Such pins often find their way onto Internet auction and for-sale sites. Prices range widely, depending on year and whether the pin is a standard Fish Ohio model or as a step-up Master Angler pin or one of the even much less common “Grand Slam” award.

Thus prices may range from about $10 each to $300 or more with the first-year-issue 1980 pewter model featuring a raised smallmouth bass being among the most valuable.

A complete set of Fish Ohio/Master Angler pins have been known to sell for $650 to more than $1,300, too.

All of which is considerably more than the approximately 50 cents it costs to forge each Fish Ohio pin and a program that sets back the agency less than $20,000 annually.

Even so, many anglers have no interest in parting company with their award pins and sometimes will seek out missing or replacement tokens for their collection.

Thing is, accumulating a collection constitutes a hard several years’ worth of angling. It also typically involves fishing in more than one body of water. After all, while an angler might catch a qualifying 36-inch muskie from Lake Erie the odds are better this will be done in West Branch Reservoir.

Still, Lake Erie stands at the pinnacle of where to seek a trophy, Fish Ohio-qualifying entry. Last year 4,462 Fish Ohio entries were pulled from Lake Erie. That figure is the most for any other body of water, public or private, too.

 In fact, of the 20 recognized Fish Ohio eligible species, Lake Erie led the public bodies of water in fully one-half of the categories. And Lake Erie failed to break into the Top Five public waters in only five categories.

Lake Erie produced 1,915 qualifying walleye, 1,055 yellow perch, 838 freshwater drum (sheepshead), 256 channel catfish, and 168 white bass.

Yet many anglers looked to private lakes and ponds to secure their Fish Ohio awards. Fully 2,703 Fish Ohio qualifying entries came from these private bodies of water. Among them were 1,200 sunfish/bluegill, 501 largemouth bass, 433 crappies (both black and white), 295 channel catfish, and even 82 carp.

Way, way down the list of places where Fish Ohio qualifying species were caught in 2013 was the Ohio River. Only 782 eligible entries were recorded as coming from the Ohio River in 2013. This system’s Top Five entries included 248 hybrid striped bass (wiper), 129 sauger, 77 channel catfish, 72 white bass, and 39 crappies as well as freshwater drum (tied for fifth place).

As for the state’s top lakes and rivers for catching trophy fish in 2013 they were Mosquito Reservoir (264 entries), Buckeye Lake (171 entries), Hoover Reservoir (166 entries), Pymatuning Reservoir (148 entries), Indian Lake (146 entries), and the Maumee River (143 entries).

Yet what is in store for the 2014 Fish Ohio program is a major revamping of how eligible species are entered and recorded. Long gone are the paper applications with even the Internet-based system having undergone considerable revision.

The new rules do require that an applicant follow the instructions specifically. For details, visit the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s web site at: www.fishohio.org.

And still being work on is allowing a person to enter an eligible fish for someone else. This substitution process was permissible under the old system but  the new process’s programing prevents such a buddy approach at the moment, Farus says.

“We’re working on it, though,” Farus says.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Sunday, March 30, 2014

REVISED LEAD & CLOSING: Fish Camp sure isn't about the catching nor even about the fish

A fish camp is no more about fish than a deer camp is about deer.

Oh, sure, the thrill of the kill or the hard tug on the line is each satisfying enough in their own right. And if you initially ask an angler why he’s headed to a fish or a deer hunter to a deer camp you can pretty much expect to hear the person say: “to catch a trophy trout” or to shoot a “Boone and Crockett buck.”

Don’t believe that person, however. They’re lying, just what you should come to expect from a person wearing a stinky, dried-fish-slimed fishing vest or a blood- and mud-stained blaze orange hunting vest.

They come (WE come) for a host of reasons other than claiming dibs on a trophy deer or steelhead. Oh, those are vital things to wrap your brag around to be sure; squeezing the trigger or setting the hook just isn’t the principal objective anymore.

I use principle in a limiting fashion, of course. The arresting function is age. Tack on some years plus a few inches of girth and one’s perspective on fish camp expands right along with them.

The reverse is if you’re a young buck or even a doe. Then the biggest fish and the handsomest set of antlers take on substantially greater importance. It is the time in a wet-behind-the-ears person has yet to experience the blood lust draining from his or her body.

This entire preamble further demonstrates that fish camp (like deer camp) is best savored after some well-done aging when old folks tend to get a might wordy.

Well, then, on to the annual Lake County Steelhead Fish Camp; always held the last week in March, always utilizing Lake Metroparks’ Resource Cabin in Madison Township as the base of operations and always hosted by the Lake County Visitors Bureau.

This year’s fish camp once again featured some grizzled old goats that’ve done their time on more than one occasion over the event’s approximately 25 years of existence. (A fish camp is best remembered when the actual number of meetings cannot be recalled with a full measure of either accuracy of truth).

Paul Liikala of Cuyhaoga Falls, Steve Pollick of Freemont, Phil Hillman of Akron, and me of here were this year’s age-struck veterans. We were joined by newbies Hazel Freeman of Monroe County, Heather Bokman of Columbus, and James Proffitt.

We are all outdoor writers, which is (more or less) a requirement for inclusion in the Lake County Steelhead Fish Camp. Not always with an exception here and there just to mix things up a little.

Anyway, there are few steelhead in Monroe County and I can vouch that Proffitt was all too honest when he said he had not seen any swimming around Port Clinton Harbor, either.

Like Hillman, Bokman works for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife. There she slaves as the agency’s electronic editor, if I am to understand her title and mentioning correctly. That means I gather that Bokman ensures that stories and such written and prepared by the Wildlife Division get properly certified for entrance onto the Information Super Highway, or whatever it is called today.

Bokman’s boss said she doesn’t get cut loose from her Columbus cubicle very often and consequently some moss has begun to grow on her office shingle.

I promised Bokman’s supervisor we’d take care of that deficit right quickly and match her with Hillman and Freeman.

Meanwhile Proffitt and Pollick would tag along with Liikala, the latter pair being two parts of what has become known as the Three-Part Three Amigos, the final leg having had to cancel his fish camp participation for some honest important family business.

Dang, sorry about this entire rambling but I do find myself going on more with each the coming and going of each fish camp.

Without belaboring the point overly much we all know what a seriously hard winter Northeast Ohio has endured,; how it’s kept the creeks and rivers frozen, wrecked in large measure the runs of steelhead and made angling when possible all but impossible.

So the initial plans of the fish camp’s participants were shut down, the “closed” signage installed by air temperatures in the low teens that refroze the various streams. With one grand exception; that being the Grand River, a water course with enough grit and distemper to tell the cold to go and take a hike.

With both parties situated along the Grand River  in Lake County – one group set up at the Uniroyal Hole and the other downstream near the Pipe Bridge Hole – the game was in play to catch trout.

Shunned was the use of fly rods and hand-tied morsels of feather, fur and thread. Instead both fish camp components used steelhead rods fitted with spinning reels. This is serious steelhead-fishing gear with the ability to launch a float, three or four split shot and a trout-egg packet called a spawn sack far enough out into the current where the trout lie.

Helping the efforts of Liikala, Pollick and Proffitt was Mentor’s Bob Ashley. Ashley has the intuitive instinct of a true steelhead predator and assisted the others by example more than by anything else, too.

The wind was brisk enough, all the fish camp participants said, though clear skies helped by allowing the sun’s rays to feed the air and warm the anglers.

Please remember what we spoke on earlier, however. The part where fish camp attendees can be counted on to exaggerate and embellish their exploits.

In this case, though, they told the truth. The trout did bite, the cold was forgotten, complaints of being uncomfortable were cached in the mental round file, and any concerns about wasting time were lost.

It was not a slaughter by any means with all the writers except for Bokman fair hooking two trout each. Meanwhile, both Ashley and Hillman fared better; one and then the other reeling in a photo-worthy trophy .

Even so, Bokman didn’t chime in with some limp, whiny complaint that it was Hillman’s fault, the river’ fault, the cold weather’s fault or the fish camp’s fault. Nope, Bokman said she had opportunities; she just didn’t squeeze the trigger fast enough.

Okay, so Bokman did the honorable thing and admitted that whatever went wrong rested on her shoulders. She’ll do better at the next Lake County Steelhead Fish Camp, I told her.

The only thing Heather Bokman will have to work on is this honesty thing. If a “slightly” embroidered fishing tale is good enough for elders Liikala, Pollick, Hillman, Ashley, me and is now acceptable for Freeman and Proffitt then, by George, it will have pass muster by the steelheading fledgling Bokman as well.

And as for me, well, I'm always the last one to leave and close up the cabin, of course.  I wait until everyone is gone and the cabin is empty.

Then I take a slow tour of the place, checking cupboards, inspecting closets, making sure the rheostat is turned down to 55 degrees or so, ensuring the lights are out, that sort of thing.

I’ll troll through the living room and look around: Mostly I just listen.

 I swear,  I can hear the voices from all those long-ago fish camps with all those long-ago invitees, some of whom were one-shot deals and others who are now dead while still others came as guides and whose names I no longer can recollect...

And once I remember vividly asking Bev to bring a very young Labrador puppy I had just bought in order to show her off one evening, watching her use that very same rug Pollick had vacuumed, a puppyish Jenny Lynn leaving a bit of a small puddle of pee stain behind.

 Jenny Lynn was 13 when she died and she's been gone for three-plus years so that sort of gives you an idea of how large is my memory chest of fish camp stories.

Yep, I HEAR those ghosts whenever the wooden floor squeaks, the fire crackles and the wind taps the shingles.

 I see the ghosts, too, in the flickering light of that same fire, in the shadows when I tuck in a look to be certain nothing was left behind and looking out at me as I walk down the concrete path to the parking lot.

Believe me when I say, the Lake County Steelhead Fish Camp is no work at all. It's all about family and stocking the memory chest with another trip-worth of ghost stories.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Painesville/Ohio EPA sign covenant to allow development at former hospital site

The city of Painesville has taken a large and important environmental step toward utilizing the eight acres which once anchored Lake Health System’s former Lake East/ East End Hospital.

Under rules adopted and administered by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, the city has received what is called a “covenant not to sue” under the state’s so-called Voluntary Action Program.

Such rules protects the property’s owners, operators and any future owner from being legally responsible to the state for any further environmental investigation and remediation relating to known hazardous pollution releases, says agency spokeswoman Linda Fee Oros.

Oros said that Painesville took the initiative to hire a certified professional to assess the eight-acre site at 10 East Washington Street.  

Among the environmental concerns when the hospital closed in 2009 and subsequently torn down were potentially hazardous wastes, including asbestos, a known cancer-causing agent. All such wastes were disposed of following carefully scripted protocols, Oros said.

The dismantling of the facility was necessary due to the construction of Lake Health’s TriPoint Medical Center several miles away in Concord Township.

Oros said also the covenant remains applicable so long as the property is used and maintained in accordance with the terms and conditions of the covenant.

It is Painesville’s objective, says Oros, to develop the one-time urban brownfield into multi-family residential and commercial redevelopment use, or both.

“In the 18 years since the Ohio EPA first issued a covenant under the VAP program, more than 8,000 acres of blighted land have been revitalized at nearly 400 locations across the state,” Oros said.


  • Jeffrey  L. Frischkorn
  • JFrischk@Ameritech.net

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Arbitrator's report blisters Natural Resouces Department regarding Wildlife Officer Roberts

In the 29-page arbitrator’s report regarding back-on-duty Ohio Division of Wildlife officer Matthew Roberts the state comes under heavy fire.

And not just from the Fraternal Order of Police, the union which represents the agency’s commissioned officers, including Roberts, either.

The arbitrator – attorney Susan Grody of Cleveland – blisters the Ohio Department of Natural Resources by firing Roberts in large measure because he violated a work time-recording policy that came into being only after he hunted while on duty.

At issue was how Roberts hunted while on duty during the 2010 Ohio general firearms deer-hunting season, specifically Dec. 2 and 3.

Assigned to Clinton County, Roberts traveled to Brown County where he hunted with defrocked former state wildlife officer assigned to Brown County, Allen Wright.

Roberts did use his state-issued motor vehicle and was wearing his state-issued slacks. Those stipulations are explained in the arbitrator’s document as a routine matter that would allow an officer to leave a hunt and immediately engage in an official law-enforcement activity.

It is explained further in the document that this is exactly what transpired during Robert’s trip from Clinton County to Brown County.

At the heart of the matter is how wildlife officers account for their hours worked as well as how these same commissioned personnel did so before the Natural Resources Department issued new hour-accounting guidelines and rules.

Thus the bulk of the 29-page document records why the Natural Resources believed Roberts violated the state’s time-recording policy and why the FoP says the officer simply followed the work-time-recording policies of the day.

And each side doesn’t mince words in stating its respective case.

For the Natural Resources Department that excommunication of Roberts includes saying of him: “… dishonest, was a failure of good policy, and brought discredit to (the) ODNR.”

The Natural Resources Department further argues in the arbitrator’s report that “(f)alsifying reports is one of the most common unethical acts within the ranks of law enforcement.”

Problem is, says the FoP in response, it had been a 30-year policy for the Wildlife Division to extend “flex” time to its commissioned officers rather than hold them to an 8/40/5 work week schedule, called “Straight 8” in the document.

And this flex time policy had become so ingrained within the culture of the Wildlife Division’s commissioned staff that its mention was even included into the officer-cadet academy training protocol, the Union argues in the 29-page arbitrator’s report.

Being a wildlife officer is not a 9-to-5 job that involves punching a time clock, the FoP continues with its argument in the document.

“The position description states they are ‘on call 24hrs., 7 days per week.’ Flextime is not only permitted, it’s a necessity,” the document records the Union as saying.

Consequently, “What the Grievant (Roberts) did was no different than what wildlife officers have been instructed to do since 1980,” the FoP continues in the 29-page arbitrator’s report.

After allowing each side to throw its best punches the arbitrator weighs in, and her reaction is anything and everything but favorably inclined to the Natural Resources Department’s statements.

The arbitrator notes that it wasn’t until 2012 – two years after Roberts admitted hunting during the 2010 general firearms deer-hunting season – that Wildlife Division commissioned officers were instructed to record their actual time worked rather than the here-to-fore accept flextime approach.

“This is certainly what should occur,” The arbitrator says in her findings. “Doing so would make the Wildlife Officers’ timekeeping practices in line with the Parties’ Agreement and (with) state and federal wage and hour law.”

“Indeed,” the arbitrator also notes, Roberts “often worked more hours in a week than he was paid for.”

“It would be fundamentally unjust – in the context of the Parties’ collectively-bargained Article 19 standard of just cause – to hold the Grievant (Roberts) to a standard that did not get communicated to him until after the days in question for which he has been accused of wrongdoing.”

“The state cannot retroactively apply its 2012 timekeeping procedure to 2009 and 2010,” the arbitrator concludes in her remarks.

As a resul, the arbitrator ordered that Roberts be reinstated as a wildlife officer with all health benefits and full back pay minus any compensation such as unemployment benefits.

In the matter involving David Warner, Roberts’ supervisor, his case is before the Franklin County Common Pleas Court.

Warner was discharged at the same time and for the same reasons as was Roberts but because the former was an exempt supervisor he is neither protected by any collective bargaining agreement nor represented by any union.

However, an arbitrator has determined that Warner too should be reinstated to his position with the Wildlife Division.

Also, the related misdemeanor charges both men agreed to in Brown County Common Pleas Court are not voided by the arbitrator’s findings, says Jessica Little, the Brown County prosecutor.

 - Jeffrey L. Frischkorn