Tuesday, April 28, 2009

On being patient (best way to catch a fish)

Sen. George V. Voinovich had just a little time to kill. Not much, however.

But it was a shame that he wasn't able to slay another 30 minutes. That's how long it took before the steelhead of the Chagrin River decided to up and start hitting Monday morning.

In all likelihood Monday was going to be the last day for steelheading by my brother, Rich, and myself. Time to move on to other fish species, like carp, catfish and crappie.

Sen. Voinovich wanted one last trout try, too. So did my son-in-law, Gabe Rathe, of Knoxville, Tenn.

So the date was selected by Voinovich's tight schedule and Gabe's visit.

However, the steelhead had other things on their minds, like migrating back to Lake Erie after spawning. The river at Lake Metroparks' Chagrin River Park was nearly deserted of trout. Only the day before Rich and our older brother, Terry, had seen a slew of steelhead in this same stretch.

The pickings were slim on Monday; at least when we started around 7 a.m.

After an hour Rich had taken three fish and Gabe one, neither the Senator nor myself had hooked - let alone - taken any trout.

Voinovich gave his respects and said he could get some things accomplished on his wife's "honey-do" list. So he took his leave and promised that we'd get together later this year for some farm pond bass fishing.

Rich, Gabe and I were left as the remnent group. Along with a few pods of trout that became more active as the morning wore on.

It was hardly fast and furious work but the fish did come. Mostly older models that had become worn down by the constant assault of the river and spawning. These were the veterans and they carried their medals in the broken fins and open sores.

I managed to catch five or six trout, the fish caught on a variety of flies, mostly Otter egg patterns but also a couple of fish taken with sucker spawn patterns. Hot pink or purple, as I now recall.

Gabe was becoming frustrated. He's already taken a minor dunking along with hooking a few upper classmen steelhead. These fish had taken graduate lessons in escaping, however, and foiled Gabe's intent to land them.

Yet Gabe persisted, never wavering or quiting. His second fish was bigger than the first and measured perhaps 18 inches. And he wanted more and bigger game.

But Gabe saved the best for the last, even as he had his family to cheer him on. His wife (my daughter, Rebecca) and their four children (Grace, Hope, Nehemiah and Elija and I thank you for asking) along with my wife (Bev) had the followed the trail down to the creek. There, they stood on the bank to encourage Gabe on.

It is not often one gets a cheering section, especially one so large. Gabe did, though, and took full advantage of the audience.

He hooked fair and square a fresh-run hen steelhead, maybe the last of its kind of the season. The fish first streaked toward the far shore and then made a leap.

Gabe carefully played the trout, which was eased into the shallows where I was able to pounce on the wet, slimy critter. All 10 pounds and 29 1/2 inches of her.

The angler said as much that this was the biggest trout he'd ever caught, a real Fish Ohio trophy that will earn him a pin.

There was no need to keep fishing for steelhead, not when the children were all eager to catch some bluegills on their own.

Besides, nothing more could be accomplished. Gabe caught a truly remarkable fish at the curtain call of the steelhead fishing season. And he did it with his family for an audience; a tremendous ego-booster and best way to become a hero.

Had we quit early and given in then not much of this story could have been told. It just shows you that patience is a virtue when it comes to life in general and fishing in particular.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Friday, April 24, 2009

Talking turkey (on never being too old to learn)

Gosh darn it, maybe I should have stuck around this morning after all.

When the western sky darkened to pitch black and then lit up from sizzling streaks of lightening, the land-owner and I decided to retreat from the Ashtabula County turkey woods.

We had worked two birds and I suspect we could have moved on them. However, I'm not partial to holding a lightening rod in the form of a shotgun. Not when zingers are traveling from the ground-up or the top-down; whichever way lightening strikes.

So we beat it back to the house, stopping along a tractor path long enough to listen to gobblers gobble every time the earth shook from the booming thunder.

We made it back just in time before the skies opened up and the light show was in full bloom.

So I decided to head back home, quiting an hour or two earlier than planned.

The thing is, the storm was short lived and had passed by about 9 a.m.

Then the turkeys began to gobble their fool heads off (I was told) with many of them falling prey to good calling. Including from Jeff McKinney of Leroy Township who called in a jake after the storm was finished.

Apparently so did a whole slew of other turkey hunters who were checking in their birds at Mentor's Gander Mountain store around 10:30 a.m.

The thing is, I know better. Take an early morning, intense thunderstorm and let it pass quickly and gobblers often are active on the back side. It's not the first time I failed to remember that trait.

Alas, I thought my needs of getting into work overshadowed sticking around. A debatable choice.

What wasn't up for discussion, of course, was hunting DURING the thundershowers. No way, no how.

I spoke with another friend who was out with two partners and they hunted through the storm, becoming soaked but calling in a bird anyway.

You can buy a whole turkey for about $2 per pound. Thus, risking being struck by lightening hardly is worth the effort.

There will be more days and more turkeys but there's only one me. I'll be back, though next time I just might hang around until the rain stops and the thunder/lightening goes away.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Limbaugh alienates base (He supports antis)

The often bombastic Rush Limbaugh has alienated a portion of his conservative base.

Limbaugh has linked up with the rabidly anti-hunting, -trapping and -fishing Humane Society of the United States. This group seeks an end to recreational hunting and fishing and will do so species by species and implement by implement if necessary.

What Limbaugh has done is cut two radio advertisements for the HSUS that deal with dog fighting and an alliance between faith-based people and the group.

But Limbaugh also has praised the HSUS, saying that "animal welfare advocates have been stereotyped in the same manner as religious people," reports the Columbus-based U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance.

The Alliance takes Limbaugh to task for supporting a group that seeks to end recreational hunting and fishing and place severe restrictions on medical research, the farming and livestock communities.

Limbaugh did not respond to a request for comments regarding a letter sent to him by the Alliance.

"The fact is that every major piece of legislation, lawsuit or ballot issue that would restrict the rights of Americans to hunt originated with (the) HSUS," said Alliance CEO Walter P. Pidgeon Jr. in the open letter.

"While you may truly believe that your partnership is only for the two programs for which you produced two advertisements, their success at gaining perhaps the most prominent conservative voice in America as a spokesman will greatly aid their efforts to maintain their image, while furthering their true radical goals," Pidgeon also said in his April 15 letter to Limbaugh.

The Alliance then goes on to urge sportsmen to call Limbaugh from noon to 3 p.m., weekdays at 800-282-2882.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Turkey killing time (for the lucky few)

Reports from the the second day of Ohio's spring wild turkey hunting season have not been much better than for Monday's opener.

A stop at Mentor's Gander Mountain store revealed that thus far only 15 birds have been checked in there for the first two days of the season. Add just five more for the special youth-only hunt, April 18 and 19.

Among those successful today at killing a gobbler was Bob Haynik of Painesville Township.

While hunting in Lake County, Haynik shot a 20-pound gobbler that sported a 9 1/2 inch beard with spurs measuring 1 inch and 1 1/4 inch, respectively.

Haynik took his bird at a little more than 45 yards and just five minutes before the day's hunting was to close.

This turkey also was with a companion of about the same size, Haynik said.

But Haynik said the birds today were mostly silent; a point also brought home by the landowner on whose property I intend to hunt Thursday and Friday.

Wish me success.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Monday, April 20, 2009

It's Wildlife's fault (bad turkey opener)

Right now I can hear the heavy sound of intense rain striking the skylight here at the paper.

So too the wind, which is reaching gusts of up to 40 mph in most parts of Northeast Ohio and up to 50 mph in Ashtabula County - typically Ohio's spring turkey season harvest leader.

But you aren't finding me in the woods today. Nor Tuesday or Wednesday. Rain, wet snow and high winds are all in the weather mix; none of which is conducive to good turkey hunting.

At 59 years of age I've gotten a lot smarter and with more aches and pains that help me become a better judge of what I can (or want to) tolerate. I'm no fool. I don't want to get soaked or frozen, not on a day when the rain seems to be coming in sideways.

What a lousy spring opener weather-wise, which is the first spring season opener I've missed in close to two decades.

And the weather won't improve until at least Thursday, which is when I'm planning to be in the woods.

However, this didn't have to happen. A few years ago the Ohio Division of Wildlife bowed to pressure from one of its Wildlife Council members who hunts turkeys along the Ohio River. Down there spring comes a lot earlier than it does in Northeast Ohio.
This council member exercised enough pull to bring about an earlier opener.

But a season that starts on April 20 makes no sense along Lake Erie. It's at least one week too early.

Clearly what is needed is a zone system for spring turkey hunting - an idea many Wildlife Division officials resist. They say a two-zone system would put too much hunting pressure on the zones.

But continuing with the system we have now makes no sense at all. With the price of gasoline, limited hunting opportunity and the desire to hunt closer to home, hunters just aren't traveling long distances to kill a gobbler.

And turkey hunters can point to the very successful zone system now in place for waterfowl hunters. It works well for duck and goose hunting where biologists have determined that autumn weather and the like means northern Ohio can have an earlier season while southern Ohio benefits from later migrations.

While turkeys do not migrate they do act differently south to north, the flocks breaking up later the further north you venture.

Same is true for vegetation. While in southern Ohio things green up by early May up here we might still see snow then and can experience killing frosts well deep into the month.

The time has long since past when Ohio should adopt a duel-opener for spring turkey hunting.

And while we're at it the Wildlife Division should ignore the personal prejudices of one or two Wildlife council members who just happen to have the ability to abuse their power.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Friday, April 17, 2009

Up a creek (but with a paddle)

Another canoe and kayak race is about to give Lake Metroparks' annual Grand River outing a run for its money.

The Eastlake-based Chagrin River Canoe and Kayak Club will host a Chagrin River paddle sports race May 2 from Lake Metroparks' new Pleasant Valley Park in Willoughby Hills downstream to the confluence of the river and Corporation Creek in Eastlake.

That's quite a haul, and comes one week after the Lake Metroparks' Grand River venture on April 25.

This will mark the first time in memory for an organized paddle sports race on the Chagrin River, which had for decades been blocked by the former Willoughby dam.

With that structure now gone, paddlers can travel unimpeded all the way to the lake.

The object of the race, officials say, is to draw attention to the Chagrin River, a state-designated scenic river.

For further information, call 440-942-4141.

On a different matter, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports that waterfowl hunters spend $900 million annually on goods and services with a total economic multiplier of $2.3 billion.

Waterfowl hunting supported 27,000 jobs and generated more than $8.5 billion in employment income, the Service's study found.

This study also determined that waterfowl hunters tend to be younger, have higher educational achievement, and are more affluent when compared to all hunters.

By far the majority of waterfowlers live either in the South or the Midwest the study also found.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Hey, I resemble that remark (notes from a Right Winger)

It's bad enough that the main stream left-wing media all too often portrays gun owners as flannel-shirt-and-dirty-ball-cap-wearing troglodytes but to be lumped into the same category as extremists bent on mayhem goes too far.

Even for the Obama administration.

And yet the administration's Department of Homeland Security has done just that. In a recent report the bureaucrats and political appointees of this department have stated that the country needs to watch out for right-wing extremists.

And it then goes to link the recent surge in handgun and ammunition sales as reasons for the alarm, stating that folks like me who've bought firearms and ammo in recent weeks are somehow stockpiling up for some crazed civil war or something.

That's more than a reasonable stretch. It borders on saying that somehow everyone who visits a gun show or a firearms dealer is out to be a member of a white supremacist group.

Or - even worse - that veterans returning from the war in Iraq are going to join just such groups as well.

Fact is, Homeland Security has absolutely not one shred of evidence to back up its claims.

How insulting and revolting, but pretty typical for an administration that says one thing about firearms ownership and then proposes something else.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Clean up its act (At Headlands Dunes State Nature Preserve)

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources' cash-strapped Division of Natural Areas and Preserves is looking to volunteers to do what its ever-shrinking staff cannot do.

And that is, clean up the 16-acre state nature preserve, which is located at the far east end of Headlands Beach State Park in Painesville Township.

The agency is hosting an "Adopt-A-Beach Kickoff" get-together beginning at 1 p.m., April 25.

Its purpose is to help clean up the litter from the impressive dunes and beach area.

This activity will be preceded by a short program.

Gloves and plastic bags will be provided though participants are encouraged to dress appropriately for the weather.

Headlands Dune State Nature Preserve protects one of the last and best beach dune communities in Ohio and is a popular spring and fall birding site.

For further information about this project, call 440-632-3010.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Monday, April 13, 2009

On catching steelhead (and doing it my way)

Every steelhead angler has a special brew to catch fish: Preferred rod, reel, line and a select choice of flies.

So do I, and I used them this morning (Monday) to land several fish before I punched the time clock for work.

I fished the Chagrin River at Lake Metroparks' Chagrin River Park, a preferred late season fishing hole where I can sight the trout I want to stalk.

My choice of rods is either an 8-footer or a 9-footer in seven weight.

Meanwhile I carry an assembly of flies I wanted to drown, many of which never get wet.

One of the things I see incorrectly done - and witnessed yet again Monday - was how anglers will wade into a stream to free a fly hooked onto a rock. One angler even waded most of the way across the stream to release a stuck fly.

That, of course, spooked all the fish he was trying to cast to.

If an angler has to worry about losing flies on spawning trout then he's in the wrong line of work.

Fishermen must go well armed and expect to loose some flies. maybe even a lot of flies. That's why it's best to learn how to tie flies, many of which are uncomplicated fish-slayers.

Really, only a few simple patterns is all most of us need. Woolly buggers, sucker spawns, yarn egg patterns, Otter egg patterns, Clouser minnows are enough to do the job 75 percent of the time.

The rest is largely window dressing.

Same goes for casting. You don't need to lay out 50 feet of fly line, not with a 10-foot leader. Twenty feet of fly line is plenty, and 10 feet is often more than enough.

And when it comes to leaders I believe that an angler should go with the heaviest tippet possible and not the lightest possible. For strong currents and stained water I'll use 10-pound test tippet material; maybe dropping to 8-pound test tippet material.

I also keep a spool of 6-pound test tippet material handy but I rarely use it, saving its for really shallow water when it's also gin-clear.

The 10-pound test tippet allows me to do a better job of manipulating the fish instead of allowing the trout to run wild and through the hole, spooking all of the other fish.

I also believe that one needs to work from the tail of the hole - or pod of fish - to its head.

That way I've been able to pick off more fish, working them downstream.

Maybe some of this is elemental or maybe even goes against your own practices but they work for me most of the time. The rest of the time I'm happy just to be fishing.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Friday, April 10, 2009

Nature disconnect (and our kids lose)

Talk about a nature disconnect, the new Oxford Junior Dictionary has elbowed out a host of nature- and outdoors-related words.

In their place will be a horde of Electronic New Age material.

Thus, blackberry (as in the kind you eat) becomes BlackBerry (the kind you send e-mails on).

Among the nature word jettisoned are acorn, dandelion, heron, holly, ivy, mistletoe, beaver, cheetah, doe, ferret, minnow, mussel, otter, pelican, lobster, oyster, porcupine, raven, starling, violet, tulip, poppy, canary, lavender, clover, and wren.

(As a side: Other, religious words, deleted include chapel, disciple, minister, monk, nun, parish, and psalm.)

In the place of the nature words are those like Blog, broadband, MP3 player, voicemail, attachment, celebrity, Euro, database, export, bullet point, cut and paste, idiom, alliteration, and endangered.

That last one is an ironic tip of the hat to the endangerment of a realistic exploration and understanding of the natural world.

Instead of kids appreciating what these words and symbols mean they'll be more inclined to accept a false ideology based upon emotion rather than scientific truth.

More the pity for this poor world of ours.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Economic victim (bad for ducks)

Local Ducks Unlimited volunteers trying to assemble another fund-raising banquet are finding that the economy has a stranglehold on people's wallets.

The Lake County DU chapter is hosting its annual fund-raiser Saturday, April 25 at the Eastlake Croatian Lodge and Party Center. It will include dinner, raffles and auctions.

Cost is $70 per person and $95 per couple.

However, while previous DU dinners held there have drawn 200 to 300 people only about 100 tickets have been sold thus far.

That is unfortunate as DU does spend its money wisely with the funds going to help preserve and manage wetlands. These wetlands support not only ducks and geese but a wealth of other wildlife species.

To join in on the April 25 party, call 440-749-5182.

While we're on the subject of fund raisers, the March 28 Steelheaders Ball netted $10,000 for the Lake Parks Foundation which supports Lake Metroparks efforts.

Money given during the Steelheaders Ball goes toward improving angler access on Lake Metroparks holdings along the Chagrin and Grand rivers.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Monday, April 6, 2009

20 years of zebra mussels (and still counting)

The latest edition of the Ohio Sea Grant's "Twineline" magazine has an excellent summary of the invasion by the highly destructive zebra mussel.

It may be hard to believe but this tiny invasive mussel has been causing havoc in Lake Erie for 20 years and is far from ended in the damage it has caused.

The "Twineline" article notes that Lake Erie's temperate conditions were nearly perfectly suited for the zebra mussel, whose genetics indicates it came from various European sources.

That proved bad for Lake Erie because it only enhanced the mussel's ability to swarm all over Lake Erie.

While a European zebra mussel would mature in three to five years and produce upwards of 50,000 eggs, in Lake Erie a mussel would mature in 11 months and produce up to 1 million eggs annually.

Soon - as anglers and boaters and others quickly found out - zebra mussels were everywhere, on everything and in everything.

So much so that by 1994 they were costing the region between $5 billion and $10 billion annually, clogging water intake systems, coating boat hulls and cutting fishing lines that came close to the bottom.

The mussels also alrgely killed off native mussels. The zebra mussels covered the natives, preventing the latter from opening and filtering water.

Worse, another invasive species, the round goby, found the zebra mussel quite tasty.

This proved bad because the zebra mussel's high fat content stored up heavy toxins that had been locked in the lake's sediments.

This toxic brew only accumulated in the gobies which when eaten, passed on to its chief predator - the smallmouth bass.

PCBs concentrations in zebra mussels increased from 100 parts per billion to a hefty 1,800 parts per billion in bass, the "Twineline" article notes.

All of which helped give rise to the still-on-going efforts to curtail the import of all invasive species into the Great Lakes.

It's a never-ending battle with one of the first skirmishes being with the terrible and terribly small zebra mussel.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Friday, April 3, 2009

Pro basketball goin' green (or not)

A leading environmental groups has the NBA playing ball in trying to "go green."

The Natural Resources Defense Council has teamed with the NBA in developing a more environmentally friendly profile.

The leagues supplier of uniforms - Adidas - will outfit all players with 100-percent organic cotton shooting shirts, each featuring the NBA's green logo.

Organic cotton is more agriculturally/environmentally friendly and has a smaller "carbon footprint."

And the NBA will host an on-line auction of basketballs made from 40 percent recycled materials.

But those who question the emerging green ethic says the NBA's take is something of a sham.

Each NBA games produces about 449 tons of carbon dioxide due to many factors including team and fan travel, energy at arenas, that sort of thing, says the Carbon Neutral Company.

Add up all of the NBA's home and away games and its total carbon footprint is equal to more than 46,000 SUVs.

In a nut shell, says Advocacy Ink, the NBA "is like operating a coal-fired plant for about 2.5 months per year - most ungreen of it."

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Angling access (or lack thereof)

I know from where Southwick Associates speaks.

The most recent Southwick and Associate's AnglersSurvey.com report shows that 23 percent of anglers said they had lost due to closure at least one honey hole in the past three years.

That figures compares to the 25 percent of anglers who reported the same thing in January 2008.

Even so, 56 percent of the fishermen said they still fished at least as often as they did before, "presumably at other spots that remain open to them," reported Southwick, an outdoors industry consulting firm.

Not quite one year ago my two older brothers and I lost our favorite deer hunting location through no fault of our own. The landowner got upset with some other folks who could hunt the land and we just got caught up in the vortex.

But along with the loss of the hunting land I also lost fishing access to a really fabulous several-acre farm pond that was chock-full of nice largemouth bass and large bluegills.

Even so - like Southwick's survey shows - I still fish at the same level. But I switched to my primary farm pond.

Still, it remains unnerving to lose a good fishing spot not matter what the reason.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn