Monday, April 30, 2012

Ohio fishing license sales soar; turkey tag sales not so much

The warm weather seems to have hooked Ohio anglers into buying their licenses.

Enough so that the Ohio Division of Wildlife is reporting that the to-date sale of fishing licenses is up 50 percent from the same period last year.

In all, so far, more than 282,922 Ohio fishing licenses have passed into the hands of buying anglers. For the same time frame in 2011 that figure was 188,136 fishing licenses being issued.

The same cannot be said for the sale of either the state’s general hunting licenses or the spring wild turkey-hunting permits. Those numbers are down. At least for now, an agency official says.

That fact alone is of significance since Ohio is into its second week of the state’s wild turkey-hunting season.

“We have been fortunate to have an early spring with warm, stable weather that has led to excellent water conditions,” said Rich Carter, the Wildlife Division’s new fish management administrator.

Fish have been active and “anglers have really been catching them,” Carter says, believing these factors have led the charge to increased angling license sales.

“Our license sales to date have been fantastic as folks take advantage of the good weather and excellent fishing,” Carter says. “Anglers fishing our inland lakes are catching great numbers of crappie and bass, and we’ve also seen an outstanding walleye bite on Lake Erie as well as the Sandusky and Maumee rivers.”

Lagging behind from their 2011 sales are those for the general hunting license and also for the adult turkey hunting tags.

In the case of general resident hunting licenses, the to-date sales are off nine percent; from the 51,652 licenses that were sold for the same period in 2011 versus the 47,034 tags that have been issued to-date.

Also, adult spring wild turkey-hunting permit sales are down 12 percent. For the same to-date period in 2011 the Wildlife Division sold 41,901 such tags. This year’s same to-date tally is 36,808 tags.

And that gives hope to Mike Reynolds, the Wildlife Division’s wild turkey management administrator.

Reynolds believes that when the spring turkey-hunting season concludes May 20 the actual number of turkey hunting tags will approach the long-term average of around 75,000 such permits of all kinds.

Reynolds explains that the Wildlife Division’s new license-issuing allows for last-minute online buying that hunters appear to be something of procrastinators.

He cites as a for-instance the come-from-behind sales of the less-expensive youth turkey hunting tags just prior to and during the recently concluded two-day spring wild turkey-hunting season for this demographic group.

The same is may very well bode true for both general resident hunting license and adult turkey tag sales, Reynolds says.

“Right now we sitting at 62,594 turkey permits of all kinds being sold and we still have about three weeks to go with the general spring season,” Reynolds. “So successful hunters may yet buy a second permit while others may simply not have gotten around to turkey hunting; maybe including those hunters who are still out-of-state and who are going after their ‘Grand Slam.’”

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twitter: @Fieldkorn

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Late for spring turkey opener no biggie

I was 48 hours late for the start of Ohio’s spring wild turkey-hunting season.

That’s never happened before, not in Ohio at least. Punctual to a fault in arriving early on the season’s opener, I always say. Or did, at least up until this year, the 25th Ohio spring turkey season for which I’ve been a participant.

Sure the weather on Monday’s season opener was far from tolerable. Heavy with cold and flexed by a wind that bent the will to participate, I had a ready-made excuse to avoid the opener.

It was going to be too raw of a day to expect much in the way of hearing a male turkey gobble much less kill one,
I successfully argued with myself.

Uh-huh, as the opening day statistics later revealed. In Ashtabula County - where I ALWAYS begin the season’s start - hunters killed 93 turkeys. That beat last year’s opening day take of 70 birds.

Actually, the weather was a convenient truth that provided cover for the real reason for my absence in the turkey woods on Monday.

After three months and multiple visits with various specialists I’m no more closer to a resolution as to why my joints never cease aching and my strength as vaporized.

In any event, the 48 hours after opening day saw me anchored to the same woodlot I’ve voluntarily chained myself to for the past dozen and more spring turkey seasons.

I did correct my positioning, however, and advanced another 50 yards to a better location. My back slapped against the same tree from which several years ago I had watched a string of jakes snake through the woods until they were close enough for me to shoot the lead bird.

Only there were no lead bird marshaling a troupe of his mates this morning.

Once - and only once - I heard a hen turkey, her half-spirited yelps seemingly not building much enthusiasm in her nor confidence in me.

Except for the always-omnipresent roaring of Canada geese that regularly fly overhead the woods were relaxed, not having to recognize the vocal talents of other bird life.

Still, the woodlot was far from being void of game. A hen woodduck rushed through the trees, as agile as any ruffed grouse. Somewhere in one of those tree exists a hollowed-out cavity being sub-leased to the woodduck.

And out ahead too was a train of deer; doe, I suspect, given the way one of the animals was displaying her well-developed pregnancy.

The deer strolled to within 15 yards of me, munching on the newly hatched leafs that grew from the forest’s tenderest and shortest trees.

Cautious not to flinch, I also keep a watch on the squadron of deer. If nothing else they were providing an interesting show during and otherwise unproductive sit.

Eventually they became nervous, trying to wrap their senses around the whatever-it-is perceived threat just a few paces away. That’s when they turned to starboard and walked stiff-legged back to where they came from.

After an hour of hunting this way I became antsy enough to want to move. Not within the same woodlot but several miles to the west. It was there last year when I was bamboozled by a jake and missed it clean when the bird came up out of a ravine and stopped less than 10 yards away.

The way I figured it, there’s no reason to discount this spot. After all, the landowner had given me and me alone permission to hunt the small woodlot so I wasn’t worried about competition from another hunter.

And a muddy half-hearted trail traced itself on the face of this woodland patch the way a poorly drawn tattoo mars a person’s form.

The foot path could not take a direct route through the woodlot, however. Bumps in the terrain and temporary/vernal splotches of water made it imperative that the trail wag back and forth even as it moved forward.

Near the location where I had called in the jake was a puddle of giant white trilliums. The wildflowers were pooled at the edge of the ravine where the 2011 bird snookered me.

Exactly how this cluster of wildflowers had avoided becoming snack food for the woodlot’s many deer is anyone’s guess. All that I know is that the deer candy was still available.

Not so any turkeys. The turn-around location was a bust. So too was the retreat back along the trail.

Stopping along the trail every 50 yards or so I did my best by uncorking my mouth call and talk like some lovesick hen turkey. There would be no response.

By the time I had made my way back to the vehicle the sun’s growing warmth was more robust and the back-country road more dusty. I was tired.

Of course I could - and easily, did - argue that the day went pretty much perfectly, filled with hope made warm by the promise that maybe tomorrow will be a perfect-plus adventure.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twitter: @Fieldkorn

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Lake, Ashtabula, Lorain buck lower opening day turkey kills

It was a mixed bag for the start on Monday of Ohio spring wild turkey-hunting season.

Though several counties - including Lake, Lorain and Ashtabula - noted gains over their 2011 spring turkey-hunting season opening day kills, overall the numbers are down statewide.

Blame the weather, which presented less than ideal hunting conditions though that didn’t stop Ashtabula County from taking the lead in the number of turkeys shot on opening day.

In all, a preliminary total of 2,227 bearded wild turkeys were killed on the first day of the spring turkey-hunting season. In 2011, a preliminary total of 2,646 wild turkeys were killed on opening day.

Top counties on Monday were: Ashtabula-93, Coshocton-79, Tuscarawas-78, Muskingum-74, Guernsey-69, Adams-62, Highland-57, Knox-56, Brown-55 and Clermont-54.

The Division of Wildlife estimates that more than 70,000 people will hunt turkeys during the four-week season and which runs through May 6.

Ohio’s wild turkey population was estimated at 180,000 prior to the start of the spring season.

Only bearded wild turkeys may be taken during the spring hunting season. Hunters with the proper permits may take a limit of two bearded gobblers during the four-week season, but not more than one wild turkey per day.

Here is a list of preliminary wild turkey harvest results for opening day of the 2012 spring wild turkey-hunting season with their respective 2011 figures in parentheses: Adams: 62 (88); Allen: 4 (7); Ashland: 22 (24); Ashtabula: 93 (70); Athens: 41 (69); Auglaize: 5 (4); Belmont: 38 (73); Brown: 55 (71); Butler: 27 (30); Carroll: 38 (41); Champaign: 9 (14); Clark: 2 (4); Clermont: 54 (54); Clinton: 10 (9); Columbiana: 41 (56); Coshocton: 79 (79); Crawford: 10 (15); Cuyahoga: 0 (1); Darke: 4 (3); Defiance: 22 (19); Delaware: 16 (20); Erie: 7 (8); Fairfield: 11 (21); Fayette: 0 (0); Franklin: 6 (4); Fulton: 12 (9); Gallia: 35 (64); Geauga: 34 (42); Greene: 1 (6); Guernsey: 69 (94); Hamilton: 13 (30); Hancock: 3 (5); Hardin: 11 (8); Harrison: 50 (67); Henry: 5 (4); Highland: 57 (59); Hocking: 41 (44); Holmes: 41 (30); Huron: 16 (31); Jackson: 49 (43); Jefferson: 32 (62); Knox: 56 (79); Lake: 14 (11); Lawrence: 14 (29); Licking: 52 (67); Logan: 26 (24); Lorain: 22 (15); Lucas: 9 (3); Madison: 0 (0); Mahoning: 21 (24); Marion: 7 (4); Medina: 7 (11); Meigs: 45 (69); Mercer: 2 (3); Miami: 2 (5); Monroe: 43 (55); Montgomery: 1 (1); Morgan: 37 (54); Morrow: 29 (31); Muskingum: 74 (81); Noble: 43 (31); Ottawa: 2 (0); Paulding: 10 (7); Perry: 37 (38); Pickaway: 6 (4); Pike: 48 (46); Portage: 32 (29); Preble: 16 (10); Putnam: 8 (3); Richland: 50 (53); Ross: 46 (58); Sandusky: 1 (3); Scioto: 33 (36); Seneca: 17 (22); Shelby: 5 (6); Stark: 24 (27); Summit: 1 (4); Trumbull: 41 (47); Tuscarawas: 78 (85); Union: 5 (7); Van Wert: 0 (3); Vinton: 32 (33); Warren: 15 (17); Washington: 35 (72); Wayne: 7 (15); Williams: 33 (24); Wood: 3 (4); Wyandot: 13 (14). Total: 2,227 (2,646).

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twiter: @Fieldkorn

UPDATED Rocky River fish kill number now known

State wildlife and environmental protection officials have finished counting the number of fish found dead along a three-mile stretch of the Rocky River.

Their tally totals 28,613 fish and other aquatic species such as crayfish and frogs, dead as a result of a still-unknown cause.

No terrestrial wildlife were found along the banks, which might have indicated they were poisoned by whatever caused the fish to die, Wildlife Division officials say.

The fish were discovered late Sunday by an angler who alerted the Ohio Division of Wildlife through that agency’s poacher-reporting hotline.

By Monday the scene along the three-mile stretch of the Rocky River - all of which flows through Cleveland Metroparks’ Mill Stream Run Reservation in Strongsville - was one of state Wildlife Division officials along with their counterparts with Cleveland Metroparks and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency scouring the area for dead fish.

Their first task was to collect, preserve, count and identify the fish species. It is known that some of the dead fish were steelhead trout as well as possibly the bigmouth shiner, a state-listed threatened fish species, and smallmouth bass.

“The investigators aren’t going back to the stream today because they believe they have all the data that they need,” said Jamey Graham, spokeswoman for the Wildlife Division’s District Three (Northeast Ohio) office in Akron.

Broken down by species the preliminary-only totals are: crappie - 16; trout - 72; minnows (all sub-species) - 22,018; darters - 3,287; suckers - 3,962; crayfish - 61; frogs - 3; shad - 2; sunfish - 143; smallmouth bass - 49.

The reason for the separation of the fish by species is so that the Wildlife Division can determine how much to charge in fines and restitution.

Ohio has assigned a dollar figure for each fish species and which is used to determine how much an offending party must pay in the way of restitution.

“Plus, it might help us determine what caused the kill and where since some fish species are more sensitive to indicators than are other fish species,” Graham said.

That discovery process will be aided by the Ohio EPA with its team of investigators which will work to discover what caused the fish to die, where the offending agent originated from and ultimately who was responsible, has said Mike Settles, Ohio EPA spokesman.

This story will be updated as additional information becomes available.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twitter: @Fieldkorn

Monday, April 23, 2012

Breaking News UPDATED: Massive fish kill on Rocky River being investigated

A “very large,” near-total, fish kill was reported late Sunday night along a five mile stretch of the Rocky River from Stronsgville, through Berea to a point where the east and west branches meet to form the main stem.

This location is Cleveland Metroparks’ Mill Stream Run Reservation in Strongsville.

Among the fish killed were steelhead trout and the bigmouth shiner, a state-listed threatened species.

Annually the Rocky River is stocked with about 100,000 steelhead trout smolt. This stocking has led the Rocky River to become one of the nation’s premier steelhead-fishing destinations.

Jarod Roos, the Wildlife Division District Three (Northeast Ohio office) law enforcement supervisor, was prepared to call it a “total fish kill” until agency officials found “some minnows and carp” about one and one-half mile downstream,” from the park, said Jamey Graham, the agency’s district spokeswoman.

“But they are still counting fish and should have an estimate on the number of dead fish later this afternoon,” Graham said.

Graham said the Wildlife Division was contacted through the agency’s 800-POACHER hotline.

Agents with the Wildlife Division began their inspection at first light, Graham said as well.

“There are about one dozen Wildlife Division employees and about the same number of Cleveland Metroparks employees,” Graham said.

The Ohio EPA is on site as well, taking tests of water samples, which will take about one week or more before results are known, said agency spokesman Mike Settles.

Mike Settles, Ohio EPA spokesman, said that whatever happened likely “happened late last week.”

“The reason we think this is because the Berea water treatment plant had a slight spike in the water’s pH level,” Settles said. “That’s a possible indicator that something went into the river. But there was no odor, no sheen on the water and no cloudiness to the water either.”

Settles said that the real job will be trying to determine the source with agency officials going so far as to remove manhole covers in sewers, and check out local businesses in an effort to “see if there was something that upset the system.”

“There’s just no obvious source for the fish kill at this time,” Settles said. “We will be back there (Tuesday).”

Settles did say that the majority of fish were found in the Strongsville portion of the impacted stream.

Cleveland Metroparks also conducts a stocking of trout each spring in the Rocky River.

“That stocking was to have occurred (Monday), but it has been moved to Wallace Lake,” said Graham.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twitter: @Fieldkorn

Wildlife Division seeks to quiet job reassignment rumors

With the job shuffling of two indicted Ohio Division of Wildlife officials some members of the public are asking if the employees are really applying elbow grease or have been placed in “make work” positions.

It’s most certainly the former, says the Wildlife Division chief, Scott Zody.
What’s more, Zody also says, the rearrangement of who is temporarily in command of the agency’s District Five (southwest Ohio) office is no big deal either.

For that matter neither is the fact that the Adams County wildlife officer is now in Meigs County is of any significance; rather, just a routine assignment request. Zody says.

As for who is in charge of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Parks and Recreation Division, the status hasn’t changed, either.

At issue in the first instance is the job status of Todd Haines - the agency’s District Five supervisor - and Michelle Ward-Tackett, Wildlife’s human resources manager.

Both are under indictment in the so-called “Brown County Five” matter. Each is awaiting an appeal before the Ohio State Supreme Court as are three now-retired agency officials.

While the matter of the five current and former Wildlife Division officials is pending before the state supremes, Haines and Ward-Tackett have left - at least temporarily - their previous jobs.

“They have both been reassigned to other duties on a temporary basis - Todd is providing assistance in the Central Office Wildlife Management section under the direction of Dave Scott, and Shelly has been working in the Department Human Resources Office but is providing HR services to the (Wildlife) Division,” says Scott Zody, the Wildlife Division’s chief.

Thus, no decision has been made “relative to Mr. Haines or Ms. Ward-Tackett’s status,” Zody says.

“Both Todd and Shelly are working in non-supervisory positions but at the same time providing much needed assistance in both of their areas of expertise,” Zody says. “Believe me, there is plenty of work for both.”

Regarding the Parks and Recreation Division chief’s job, Zody says that no permanent posting exists. Rather, the Natural Resources Department’s deputy director - Glen Cobb - is also serving as that agency’s acting chief, Zody says as well.

As for the District Five supervisory role the agency’s Dave Kohler was initially put in as that post’s acting district manager back in January, Zody says.

“But since he has been promoted to a Wildlife Management position in (the) Central Office, we need to appoint a new acting (district manager)- that appointment is pending approval with the department,” Zody says.

In looking at Adams County’s one-time wildlife officer, Chris Gilkey, he has not been re-assigned, Zody says.

“He chose to transfer to an open spot in Meigs County per the FOP contract,” Zody says. “Chris has been an excellent county officer, and while I am sorry to see him leave Adams County, he will continue to be an asset for the Division in his new duties in Meigs County.”

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twitter: @Fieldkorn

Friday, April 20, 2012

Outdoor writers grilling of ODNR Director to be carried in real-time

The state's outdoors writers will have grilled Natural Resources director for lunch Saturday.

And the public is welcome to follow along with the baking process by accessing the social media site, Twitter.

Meeting at the Roberts Centre in Willmington this weekend is the Outdoor Writers of Ohio, representing most of the state's outdoors media specialists from reporters and columnists to photographers to such social media sites as this blog.

Following the group's lunch at 11:30 a.m., Saturday the writers will listen to James Zehringer, the current director for the Ohio Department of Natural. His address will start at around noon.

With no set format it is expected that Zehringer will make several prepared comments. These messages will be followed by a lively and unsolicited question and answer session from the writers each of whom is free to ask the director about anything involving the Natural Resources Department.

In all likelihood, and given their controversial subject matters issues suc as "fracking," the talk of merging the Natural Resources Department with the Agricultural Department, as well as the present state of Ohio's deer management programs will all be fair game.

And the questions and the director's responses will be covered in real-time via Twitter. To follow along with the real-time Twitter feed, dial in to my Twitter account: @Fieldkorn.

Hope you can join us.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twitter: @Fieldkorn

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Cuyahoga Valley, other national parks threatened under the guise of national security

An environmental group is concerned that pending federal legislation will - if approved - devastate 54 national parks, supposedly in the name of national security.

Among the legislatively at-risk national parks is the only one in Ohio: Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

The Coalition of National Park Service Retirees says that HR 1505 and titled the “National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act,” would "gut a century’s worth of proven federal lands protection, potentially opening up millions of pristine acres of national parks to off-road vehicle use, road construction, air strips and helipads, fencing, base installations, and other disruptions."

Under the bill's intentions the federal government could - and would - "suspend the enforcement of almost all the nation’s environmental laws" on all lands under the jurisdiction of the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture within 100 miles of the northern border with Canada and the southern border with Mexico," says Maureen Finnerty, the chairman of the parks retiree group.

"Why would families seeking the natural and cultural wonders and outdoor experiences of our national parks choose to visit such Border Patrol-controlled areas criss-crossed by new roads, penetrated by noisy all-terrain vehicles, and dominated by tactical infrastructure?" Finnerty said.

Besides Cuyahoga Valley some of the other likely impacted national parks include Acadia, Big Bend, Carlsbad Caverns, Cuyahoga Valley, Glacier, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Guadalupe Mountains, Isle Royale, Joshua Tree, North Cascades, Olympic, Saguaro, Theodore Roosevelt, Voyageurs, and Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve.

The combined total acreage of these 15 parks is 21,657,399, nearly 25 percent of the overall footprint U.S. National Park System.

In all, 36 laws that would be expressly suspended within 100 miles of the borders with Canada and Mexico include the National Park Service Organic Act of 1916; the Wilderness Act of 1964; the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969; the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966; the Endangered Species Act of 1973; the Clean Water and Clean Air acts; and the Archeological Resources Protection Act of 1979.

H.R. 1505’s remaining provisions also would independently provide “immediate access” to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol for road, equipment, and infrastructure construction and motorized vehicle use on national parks.

The outrage, Finnerty says also, is that the nation's "Crown Jewels" could end up being "trashed in the name of achieving national security gains that are fictitious.”

“This legislative proposal is perhaps the most direct assault on national parks ever to be advanced at any level in any Congress in U.S. history," Finnerty goes on to say. "It threatens to literally stop all enforcement of several landmark environmental and conservation laws that the National Park Service uses to manage and protect the National Park System and to serve millions of park visitors."

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twitter: @Fieldkorn

Monday, April 16, 2012

Two good fishing days outweigh loads of unresolved work

SANDY LAKE, PA - Down into the aged gorge that heaves with weathered boulders runs Sandy Creek.

Were it not for the fact that the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission twice annually stocks trout here I doubt that the little creek would draw much interest. Certainly not from me...

Same is true for an Ashtabula County farm pond of some acquaintance. This pond was visited the afternoon before the trout-fishing trip and yielded a treasure trove of panfish, from sunfish to crappie and even yellow perch.

Had I not obtained permission from the pond’s owner to wet a line there years ago I never would be giving it the smallest knot of thought now.

Funny how things intersect in one’s life, changing the texture of what one does and when...

For Sandy Creek this marked maybe the twentieth time I’ve visited it for Pennsylvania’s trout-season opener. Good, bad and indifferent successes have come and gone, along with days that were either sunny, cloudy, rainy, warm, cold or even snowy.

All were worth it, though...

One could second that thought in favor of the most recent visit to the farm pond, though heaven’s keeper is the only one who has an accurate tally on the number of times I’ve visited the small lake.

As often as not I have enjoyed company at each location, more so for Sandy Creek than for the farm pond. If that statement actually makes any sense to anyone else other than me...

On Saturday’s trout-season opener I once again joined Tommy Oehlenschlager and Steve Myers, both of the Ashtabula County’s Roaming Shores area, more or less.

The creek is only a 90-minute drive from Tommy’s house and we made it an hour before the season’s legal starting time of 8 a.m.

However, someone else was occupying at least part of the beach where our trio usually stakes a claim. Concerned at first we soon found that the angler had trudged his way across the creek to take a hold on our location. He did so due in large measure to the successes he had seen Tommy, Steve and me had enjoyed on previous openers.

Tommy remarked that were I not been late arriving at his house (in truth it was less than 10 minutes) we’d have had first dibs on the place. And I told Tommy that had he not stopped at the Sheetz mini-mart in Conneaut Lake we’d have docked on time as well. Checkmate.

There was only one thing to do and that was to ask the angler for permission to squeeze in beside him. The young angler was downright neighborly. He not only said “yes” but he even went so far as to trim back some of the willow quills that had grown up from the streambank’s soft earth...

Of course no such challenge/solution was necessary the day before at the farm pond. With permission at hand and no angling pressure expected, my two older brothers - Terry and Rich - and I could arrive at any time and know we’d find all the elbow room we could ever ask for. No waiting was required, which suited us just fine, thank you...

The hour’s wait for the trout season opener passed quickly enough. Time could be spent examining which tiny jig to use with how many maggots and how large a foam plastic float to employ. Careful thought was projected as to how large the gap should be between the bobber and the bait.

With Sandy Creek running well below its seasonal average we figured this space ought to be more than 15 inches, tops...

At the farm pond this important-to-know gap was already fixed, seeing as how this was the third fishing trip to its waters. All I had to do was tow the foam plastic float to an imaginary point on the fishing line and I’d be all set.

That, plus the bonus of not worrying about any starting time. And yet every now and then a little anxiety over what is in store never hurt an angler. It helps make the experience memorable.
Tommy checked and rechecked his cell phone’s chronograph while I did the same with my Casio “G-Shock” wrist watch.

At a second or two past 8 a.m. (the extra flashes of time given just for insurance should a fish warden be watching) the bails of a dozen spinning reels were opened and their respective baits tossed into Sandy Creek’s current.

Almost immediately Tommy’s float and my float both disappeared, drowned by the tug of stocked rainbow trout. While Tommy’s fish escaped, mine was slid out of the water and onto the bank. There it was unhooked and I was free to make another cast.

“One fish down and one to go,” I said to our new fishing neighbor.

I explained to him that for each trout opener I keep two fish - one for my wife, Bev, and one for me. These fish are cooked up in an annual trout dinner ritual...

Not so for all or part of the panfish haul Terry, Rich and I were catching from the farm pond. All of those fish were reeled in and steered away from the property owner’s retriever; a dog who argues that all such wiggly things belong to her. The fish were given their pardon and freed back into the pond.

I’m not sure why I almost universally release the fish that I catch from the farm pond except for perhaps the fact that I don’t enjoy cleaning bluegills.

I was, though, disappointed for failing to bring along a cord stringer to hold the perch we were catching. None of which, by the way, were under 10 inches...

The morning along Sandy Creek began to ebb and along with it the sunshine that overlaid the gorge, hills and stream. In its place was a thickening brew of ever-darkening clouds, expectant with the threat of rain.

Even though I was still two fish shy of a five-fish limit of trout in my mind’s eye the day was a bully success. A limit wasn’t needed, especially since my self-made pledge was to keep two trout only, anyway.

Whatever else came was going to enter the ledger under the “bonus” trout heading. Which was exactly what happened.

Trying out Tommy’s highly successful (read: “limit”) rig of a bead-headed stonefly nymph fly with three maggots for lunch meat it was no problem at all snatching my final two trout.

In all, Tommy, Steve and I had caught 18 trout and kept 12. More than sufficient if you ask me and which helped to make this particular trout season opener was one of our more successful ones...

It was time for Terry, Rich and me to finish up our farm pond bank foot patrol. Happy for the abundant sunshine that followed us we were becoming a mite frustrated with the uptick in the cool wind. That made the angling more difficult, given that we were using small jigs and appropriately sized floats.

Since everything that we caught was still swimming in the farm pond there was no stringer nor fish bucket to haul up to our awaiting vehicles.

There would be no fish fry; no annual opening day dining ritual to observe...

And yet each of these back-to-back outings - so different in their locations, legal entanglements and expectations - were so much alike in their ultimate objective.

They were charms, to be worn as unseen signals that the simplest of days spent afield are best measured by their own blessings rather then by some unpaid debit resulting from a full plate of unresolved worries.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twitter: @Fieldkorn

Friday, April 13, 2012

Huge blue marlin doesn't outweigh teen's fishing spirit

Frank Sinito Jr. is only 14 years old but has a whale of a fish tale to tell involving a blue marlin that would rival the story told by Ernest Hemingway in his “The Old Man and the Sea.”

While enjoying spring break in Hawaii March 27 with his parents Frank Sr. and Malisse of Waite Hill Village, “Frankie” was lucky enough to be in the “Finest Kind Charters’” fighting chair when good luck - and a 760-pound blue marlin - came together.

The fish’s other impressive facts were that it measured 16 feet and was the largest blue marlin reportedly taken from the waters between Maui and Lanai islands this year.

The epic battle took three hours but the fish was not the first of its kind for Frankie on this trip. Two days earlier he had hooked and landed a respectable and typically average-size 100-pound blue marlin.

That fish also came from the deck of the “Finest Kind” and skippered by charter captain Dave Hudson.

Not coincidentally this was the same vessel and the same charter captain that Frankie’s parents had hired for a day of fishing during their Hawaiian honeymoon some 24 years earlier.

Frank Sr. said that when they arrived at Hawaii for the family vacation he looked for a fishing charter and was more than pleasantly surprised to learn that the same boat and the same captain were available for hire.

But for Frankie what followed on his trip will be equally memorable as was the first one for his parents.

When the marlin struck a locally made foot-long “Breakfast for Monsters” imitation squid lure trolled at high speed along the water’s surface, Frankie was just hoping it would be something on the order of his previous 100-pound marlin.

However, Hudson knew the fish was big - maybe something on the order of 400 to 500 pounds, said the senior Sinito.

“Anything over 100 pounds and I would have been happy,” Frankie said. “I was just thinking that I had to get the fish to the boat, and when I finally saw it, it was like looking at a whale floating on the surface.”

Such a whale took some doing to subdue, too, Frank Sr. says.

“Frankie got tired out after a while and I took over but I couldn’t keep up with what I was supposed to do,” Frank Sr. said. “For the last 30 minutes I would pump the rod and every time I lowered the rod Frankie would start reeling in the slack line. When it finally surfaced we knew the fish was exhausted.”

At six feet tall and weighing 150 pounds the University School multidiscipline athlete was dwarfed by the super-size-me blue marlin.

“When we did get it into the boat the size of its mouth when opened was huge and its eyes were the size of softballs,” Frankie said.

Despite his young age Frankie has a lot of fishing experience underneath his fish-fighting belt. He and his father have frequented some of the finest salt-water and fresh-water fishing haunts.

Frankie has even caught billfish before but nothing even remotely close to his Hawaiian marlin catch while his best-ever fresh-water fish was a 20-pound chinook salmon taken from Lake Michigan.

Those fish, however, were just a prelude to Frankie’s run-in with one of sport fishing’s most revered billfish species.

The blue marlin is found in tropical waters throughout the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic oceans where in the case of the latter the blue marlin is considered threatened due to over-fishing.

Not so in the Pacific, especially around the waters of the Hawaiian Islands which are regarded as the world’s finest trophy blue marlin fishing grounds.

While Frankie’s catch is notable the world-record blue marlin caught by a sport angler is a fish weighing 1,376 pounds and caught off Kona, Hawaii in May 1982.

On average the pelagic blue marlins that are caught by Hawaiian hook-and-line anglers weigh between 80 and 300 pounds. Almost certainly Frankie’s marlin was a female since males of the species rarely weigh more than 300 pounds.

Yet for all his work Frankie did not have the opportunity to either enjoy a grilled marlin fillet or even think about where to put a 16-foot-long fish mount on a family room wall.

As is the custom with nearly all salt-water fishing guides who deal in such species as tuna and blue marlin the catch becomes the property of the captain or boat.

And by law such catches can be sold commercially, typically to Japanese fish mongers who as often as not are awaiting at the dock to either buy or collect the catch. The fish is then flown whole by an awaiting jet to Japan where it is sliced and diced into sushi.

In the case of Frankie’s marlin the behemoth was sold even before the charter boat had tied up to the dock. The Sinito’s believe the fish was sold for $1.50 per pound.

As for Frankie and his father their reward for the son catching the marlin was a pair of T-shirts provided by the fishing lure’s manufacturer, Hawaiian Custom Lures.

Plus a lifetime’s worth of fishing memories, of course.

“It would be nice to go again and try to catch one bigger but I know that would be a hard thing to do,” Frankie said.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twiter: @Fieldkorn

Toronto building owners sued for bird deaths

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Building Owners in New Lawsuit Over Bird Collision Deaths

Birds killed by glass collisions. Kenneth Herdy, FLAP
( Washington, D.C., April 13, 2012) As we await a verdict in the first trial of a building owner over bird collision deaths, a second trial over the same issue has just begun in Toronto. Cadillac Fairview Corporation, the owner of three office buildings in the city, has been charged with violating Canada’s Species at Risk Act. The company has pleaded not guilty.
The charges are being brought in a private prosecution by Ecojustice, a Canadian non-profit environmental law firm. The Toronto-based non-profit Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP), which works to document and prevent bird collisions with buildings, estimates that the complex is among the most lethal in the city. Ten birds in two species - Canada Warbler and Olive-sided Flycatcher – were killed at the Yonge Corporate Centre buildings and are listed as Threatened under the Canadian Species at Risk Registry. The charges also allege that an additional 800 birds were killed at the complex in 2010.
 The highly reflective glass of the deadly buildings mirrors nearby trees and the sky, which likely leads birds to mistakenly fly into the windows and be killed or injured.
“Cost-effective technology now exists to greatly reduce these unnecessary deaths from collisions with buildings, and some U.S. cities, such as San Francisco, have adopted bird-safe standards to ensure they are applied. American Bird Conservancy has just published Bird Friendly Building Design - the first national guide to designing and retrofitting buildings to be safer for birds,” said Dr. Christine Sheppard, Director of American Bird Conservancy’s Bird Collisions Campaign Manager.

The Guide will be especially helpful to architects, planners, building owners and regulators and is available at ABC also has helped design classes eligible for American Institute of Architects sustainable design credit, to instruct architects on how to design beautiful buildings that are also safe for birds.

A verdict is pending in the first trial, against Menkes Developments and related companies who are the owners of the Consilium Place complex (three office buildings) who were charged under Canada’s Environmental Protection Act with discharging a contaminant – light reflected from the glass – that causes harm to animals.

In addition to possible fines under that law, the Menkes companies also face a maximum fine of $60,000 under the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act for causing birds to be in distress.

Ecojustice and Ontario Nature brought the charges in the first case, claiming that the buildings, whose exterior faces are almost entirely glass, are responsible the deaths of about 7,000 birds in the last decade, making them the most deadly in the entire Greater Toronto area.
Almost 30,000 birds were documented to have been killed by such collisions in Toronto between 2000 and 2010, according to FLAP, but estimates suggest the actual toll may be closer to one million.
American Bird Conservancy (ABC) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit membership organization whose mission is to conserve native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. ABC acts by safeguarding the rarest species, conserving and restoring habitats, and reducing threats, while building capacity in the bird conservation movement.

Washington, D.C., November 9, 2011) American Bird Conservancy (ABC), the nation’s leading bird conservation organization, has called on the mayors of U.S. cities to stop the epidemic spread of feral cats that threaten national bird populations as well as scores of other wildlife. Letters were mailed to mayors of the fifty largest cities in the United States, urging they support responsible pet ownership and oppose Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) programs that promote the feeding of outdoor cats. 
“Cat overpopulation is a human-caused tragedy that affects the health and well-being of cats, our native wildlife, and the public,” says Darin Schroeder, Vice President for Conservation Advocacy for ABC in a letter to the mayors. “Numerous published, scientific studies have shown that trap, neuter, re-abandon programs do not reduce feral cat populations, and that outdoor cats, even well-fed ones, kill hundreds of millions of wild birds and other animals each year in the U.S., including endangered species. Birds that nest or feed on the ground are especially vulnerable to cat attacks.” 
“What few people seem to understand is that the domestic cat is an extremely effective predator that has been introduced by modern man into an environment whose species have evolved few, if any natural cat defenses. Non-native, well-fed, inoculated, healthy cats versus defenseless prey is about as fair in the world of nature as the proverbial shooting of fish in a barrel,” he said.
Studies indicate that there are 95 million outdoor and feral cats in the United States that kill at least 532 million birds, and possibly significantly more. Given the well-documented impacts of cat predation on wildlife, ABC urges the mayors to oppose TNR programs and the outdoor feeding of cats as a feral cat management option. 
Specifically, ABC asks the mayors to issue a policy directive opposing TNR, and to halt city funding for the practice if any is currently being expended. The ABC letter says that dog overpopulation problems aren’t solved by simply turning unwanted dogs loose onto the streets; the same should be true for cats. Ensuring responsible pet ownership is at the core of any long-term solution to the cat overpopulation problem. 
“This is a problem in every city in America including our most populous, New York City,” said Schroeder. “Unfortunately we see too many cities abdicating their responsibility to public welfare and wildlife, and embracing TNR programs. We urge Mayors to take a closer look and recognize this doesn’t work to reduce cat populations.” 
ABC suggests communities concerned about feral cats work to enact mandatory licensing programs, the fees from which can fund programs to help find homes for the unwanted pets and educate pet owners about keeping their cats indoors. Through the Cats Indoors! Campaign, American Bird Conservancy and its many partners encourage people to keep their cats indoors, train them to go outside on a harness and leash, or build outdoor cat enclosures. Cats should be spayed or neutered before they can produce an unwanted litter, and should never be abandoned. Abandoning cats is illegal in many areas, is extremely cruel to cats, and is harmful to birds and other wildlife. Further, the sanctioning of cat colonies by local officials only serves to encourage cat owners to dump more unwanted cats at these sites.
“TNR is not humane to the cats or the wildlife. Free-roaming cats are in constant danger of being hit by cars, contracting diseases and parasites, or being attacked by other animals or people,” said Schroeder. “Colonies often become dumping grounds for unwanted pets, thus continuing the inhumane cycle.” 
Cats can also transmit diseases such as rabies, toxoplasmosis, and cat scratch fever to humans. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has declared that cats are the top carrier of rabies in domestic animals. In just the last month, about 30 feral cats in northwestern Florida were euthanized following tests that confirmed two feral cats in the area were indeed rabid. 
Food left out at TNR colonies attracts not only more cats, but hungry wildlife as well, which increases the chances for interactions with rabid animals. Three people in Florida living in the vicinity of TNR feeding sites were bitten last year by rabid cats and had to undergo rabies treatments. 
Federal, state, and local governments have responsibilities under the Endangered Species Act and Migratory Bird Treaty Act to protect birds. Failing to do so can result in legal penalties and civil liability.
The National Association of Public Health Veterinarians, The Wildlife Society, and the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have joined ABC in opposing TNR programs. 
These issues are explained in an informative video on TNR and cat colonies, viewable here and on the ABC website
American Bird Conservancy (ABC) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit membership organization whose mission is to conserve native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. ABC acts by safeguarding the rarest species, conserving and restoring habitats, and reducing threats, while building capacity in the bird conservation movement.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

New fish-cleaning rule first needed angler review

Still chained to its good old boy image the Ohio Division of Wildlife once again has infuriated its customer base over a matter of some significance for the latter.

Somewhere along the agency’s chain of command came the hot idea of helping to ensure that Lake Erie fish poachers won’t get away with their illegal catch.

To accomplish this goal the Wildlife Division created a new rule. Instead of allowing anglers to fillet their catch whole or in part with the fish skin removed this regulation now says “It is illegal to possess fish in any form other than whole or into complete fillets with the skin attached... until the angler reaches their permanent residence.”

Which on the surface of things looks pretty straightforward. Except for the fact that anglers living more than few hours away from Lake Erie or those who have their catch professionally cleaned must either cool or freeze their catch with the skin still attached.

Better it is, says these anglers, that they can unzip their catch at the dock, remove the skin and then either freeze the fillets or at least put them on ice for the long journey home

“I now have to bring home my ‘normal’ two-day limit of walleye and finish cleaning them, most inconveniently,” said Chip Hart, an outdoors writer and angler from Cincinnati. “Not to mention that two- (and) three-day-old walleye, although refrigerated, taste fishy with skin left on that long.

“As well, my fishing buddies who ‘don’t have a convenient place to clean them’ will be having me do them, too.”

As for participating in any Lake Erie perch charter in the future, “those are completely out of the question,”

“Guess Lake Cumberland, the Cumberland River, and Dale Hollow will see more of me,” Hart said.

Another angler, Larry Fielder of Euclid, is no less upset.
Fielder notes that even after hauling the fish home, filleting them there and removing the skin has its legal drawback.

“Under the new law I can’t take my processed fillets over to your house for a fish fry,” Fielder has said.

All of those points could have and should have been avoided.

First off the new regulation is not highlighted in red print as is the usual practice for freshly adopted rules that universally appear in any annual fishing law digest.

“Oops” is the best the Wildlife Division can say about this exclusion.

But “oops” is all too common for an agency that continues to drop the public relations ball more than a Cleveland Indians outfielder flubs a simple pop-up.

The Wildlife Division first needed to announce its intentions and also seek prior public input on an issue that assuredly was going to generate interest if not outright opposition.

It was either callous or downright neglectful for the Wildlife Division to ignore seeking such comment not only from individual anglers but also from charter boat skippers as well as commercial sport-fish cleaning businesses.

I know, I know, the Wildlife Division has gone on record by saying it won’t be “...going after a fish cleaning station.” but rather going “...after the guys who are going out two and three times a day...” to over-bag on their daily allotment and the agency also intends to “..use a lot of discretion.”

Even with those self-described limitations do not think for one moment that every Wildlife Division officer will follow these unwritten guidelines instead of observing the letter of the law even if its spirit is unwilling.

With the rise of Scott Zody as the Wildlife Division’s new chief there was - and still is - hope that at long last the Wildlife Division’s torpid and monolithic bureaucracy will become modernized and more responsive.

Let US hope we’ve seen the last of the Wildlife Division’s bumbling steps at dealing with the people who foot the bill.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twitter: @Fieldkorn

History Museum promotes Ohio rivers documentary film

The Cleveland Museum of Natural History is hosting a screening of the newly released "Call of the Scenic River: An Ohio Journey" at the Capitol Theatre on Thursday, 7 p.m., April 26.

A featured member of those interviewed is Jim Bissell, the museum's curator of botany.

"Call of the Scenic River: An Ohio Journey" is the story of Ohio’s most natural waterways, told by those who appreciate their splendor and work to protect and preserve them for future generations

 Few people realize that Ohio was the first state to pass a scenic rivers act in March 1968. Ohio’s program continues to lead river conservation efforts because of its respect for private property, commitment to designating the most ecologically intact systems, and popular volunteer opportunities.

Released during the 40th anniversary year of the Clean Water Act, this film follows Ohio filmmaker Tom Mayor’s journey as he experiences Ohio’s scenic rivers and learns firsthand about nonpoint-source pollution and the ecological and economic impacts of water quality.

This movie screening is being presented by the Natural Areas Division of The Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Proceeds from this event will benefit the Museum's Natural Areas Program, which protects land along the wild-and-scenic-designated portions of the Grand River, Chagrin River, Conneaut Creek and Ashtabula River. 

For more information about the Museum's conservation work, visit 
Tickets are $6 per person and will be available at the door of the Capitol Theatre or on its website:

Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twitter: @Fieldkorn