Thursday, May 31, 2012

Ohio fishing license sales still on a roll

Sales of Ohio fishing licenses are at a fever pitch thanks in no small part to the long stretch of unseasonably warm weather.

For hunting license sales, not so much, however.

The Ohio Division of Wildlife is reporting that for all categories of fishing licenses, sales are up nearly 30 percent when compared to the same period in 2011.

This number includes a nearly 35-percent rise in the number of the all-important resident fishing licenses, the money-making engine that drives the Wildlife Division’s fisheries program. Here to-date sales of licenses climbed from 321,780 in 2011 to 433,799.

Only in two narrowly defined categories of free fishing licenses were drops noted.

Thus the Wildlife Division reported a to-date 33-percent revenue gain from the $7.36 million collected for the period in 2011 to the $9.8 million collected thus far in 2012.

So far, the 2012 fishing license sales are up, which is a great sign,” says  Andy Burt, the Wildlife Division’s licensing coordinator. “Last year we had a poor spring for fishing where it was either too wet or too cold and if it was nice, it was only during the week, not the weekends.”

This year’s weather and sales appear to be just the North Pole opposite from last year, Burt says.

“The dichotomy in the years makes this year appear like it may end up being a huge increase in sales when over the long term it is only slightly above average,” Burt says.

As a result, says Burt, the Wildlife Division will wait until after the July 4th holiday period before projecting where sales of fishing licenses will wind up.

“There is a large proportion of anglers that buy licenses in the spring, but with summer vacations and nice boating weather, there are still a decent number of licenses sold throughout the summer,” Burt says. “
However, if they don’t buy a license by the end of July, they likely won’t buy a license at all.”

The yin to the robust fishing license sales yang is the lackluster sales of hunting licenses. And in virtually every category that matters, too.

The to-date sales of resident hunting licenses fell nearly 7 percent this year when compared to the same period in 2011.

Also off are the sales of youth-only hunting licenses, antlerless-only licenses (down a whopping 23 percent), and either sex deer tags.

Down too, was the sale of spring turkey tags which were required for the recently concluded season for this category. A drop of more than 1,000 spring turkey permits was noted in the adult category and which resulted in a decline in revenue for wild turkey management of almost $80,000.

Overall, therefore, the Wildlife Division has experienced a to-date shrinkage of hunting license sales-generated revenue of nearly $1 million.

“I don’t look too much on the to-date hunting license sales, but I’m not sure how these licenses compare to the five-year average but this year’s sales are down,” Burt said.

Burt did say that a “bump” in hunting license sales will come with the waterfowl season opener and a much larger jump just before the start of the general archery deer-hunting season.

The bottom line, says Burt, is that it’s “too early to tell about the sale of hunting licenses.”

“We do know that sales of hunting licenses are declining in general though we’ll wait to see what happens after the deer gun season when most of our hunting licenses are sold,” Burt said.

 Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twitter: @Fieldkorn

Monday, May 28, 2012

Annual Memorial Day Mentor Lagoons bass hunt still great

With a curl and quick recoil of his right wrist Mike McCoy ever so softly rolled a slinky black-colored plastic worm into a crevice tucked inside the rotting concrete bulk work.

The worm descended rather swiftly, towed to the bottom’s gooey muck by a stub of a lead pencil sinker.

A jiggle of the fishing and a couple of cranks on the handle of his Ardent spinning reel and McCoy brought the plastic worm to life. Enough life, in fact, that a three-pound male largemouth bass could not resist the temptation.

Like the men folk of so many other species in this world male largemouth bass go a bit crazy when it comes to the arena of progeneration.

Maybe the bass was simply trying to move the fake bait off a spawning bed or perhaps the fish wanted to teach the thing-a-ma-jig a lesson. Whatever, but between a razor-sharp hook, properly matched tackle and McCoy’s professional fishing experience, the largemouth didn’t stand a chance.

“Nice fish,” McCoy said as he only briefly admired the healthy bass before releasing it.

I replied that all bass are nice.

“Yeah, but as my youngest daughter says ‘some bass are nicer,’” McCoy replied.

And so they are, including those bass found within the claws of the Mentor Lagoon’s several fingers that poke their way back from Lake Erie.

These lagoons are among the most unique of their kind in the Great Lakes.

Populated seasonally by hundreds of boats of all kinds, the Lagoons also are the home to a wide variety of fishes: Carp, drum, black and white crappie, bowfin, sunfish, and northern pike.

Yet for anglers like McCoy the Lagoons are Bass Central Station.

But don’t get the idea the fish are everywhere, are simpletons, or can be cropped for the fry pan. They aren’t, they’re not, and they can’t. Not if the Lagoons’ bass fishing is to remain the most poorly kept secret zippered shut by area anglers.

And each Memorial Day holiday weekend for the past five years McCoy has let me occupy the rear deck of his Ranger bass-fishing boat. During these outings we’d spend the day tossing drop-shot-rigged plastics into various Lagoons’ nook and crannies.

This year was no different. Except, that is, for the record-setting heat and the relatively cool reception from the bass.

McCoy piloted his Ranger along the seam where the Lagoons me the bulk work, docks, indentations and such that provide cover for the fish.

“Yesterday the bass were on fire,” McCoy said, stumped that while we were catching nice fish there was – for him anyway – too wide a gap between bass.

Traveling back and forth through a couple of the Lagoon fingers we worked at finding fish. Some usually good spots were unusually void of bass, however.
“Maybe this is an afternoon bite,” McCoy said.

A good professional bass-fishing angler McCoy always has his brain wrapped around the angling whiteboard, analyzing the whys and wherefores that separates his tribe from the rest of us weekend wanna-bes.

Don’t get me wrong. I was having a ball, catching a couple of respectable bass in the process and pleased that I wasn’t embarrassing myself by pitching less than precision-like casts.

All too quickly and our annual bass-fishing retreat was over. The bass weren’t the worse for wear and McCoy kept his considerable angling talents honed to saber sharpness.

Me? Given all that’s happened lately health-wise I think I came out ahead the best.

- By Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twitter: @Fieldkorn

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Ohio's turkey hunters pay for cool, wet 2011 spring

In spite of near perfect weather for this year’s four-week-long spring turkey-hunting season and some of the worst weather for last year’s season, the kill still was down some three percent this time around.

Which doesn’t come as a huge surprise. Last year’s unseasonably cool temperatures and super abundant rain showers put a world of hurt on turkey pullet survival.

In the end that meant fewer turkeys were available for hunters during the just-concluded season.

Hunters checked 17,647 wild turkeys during the season that ended May 15. The preliminary total represents a three-percent decrease over last year’s harvest number of 18,162, says the Ohio Division of Wildlife.

Once again Ashtabula County again led will a kill of 762 birds. That figure is up from the 700 turkeys killed during the 2011 spring season.

Other top counties were: Ashtabula-762, Tuscarawas-531, Guernsey-495, Coshocton-492, Muskingum-486, Belmont-456, Knox-451, Harrison-450, Trumbull-428 and Adams-420.

Noteworthy perhaps is that Geauga County and Lorain County both reported declines in the kill. Nearly every other Northeast Ohio county saw gains.

Count me as one of the unsuccessful hunters. I watched eight sunrises and one sunset during the four-week season. Birds were heard just three times and seen but once. A pair of jakes which were attracted by my calling wanted to come in but were coaxed into pulling back by a mean, old boss hen. Maybe during the up-coming fall season I can get my revenge and make her our Thanksgiving Day dinner. That's because  hunters are allowed to shoot a turkey of either sex during the fall season.

The Division of Wildlife estimates that more than 70,000 people hunted turkeys during the season. Prior to the start of the spring hunting season, state wildlife biologists estimated the wild turkey population in Ohio to be more than 180,000 birds.

Preliminary spring turkey season results for 2012 are listed. The 2011 final totals are shown in parentheses:
Adams: 420 (502); Allen: 45 (45); Ashland: 237 (224); Ashtabula: 762 (700); Athens: 335 (367); Auglaize: 34 (36); Belmont: 456 (435); Brown: 350 (428); Butler: 184 (200); Carroll: 385 (349); Champaign: 87 (87); Clark: 18 (17); Clermont: 338 (420); Clinton: 60 (75); Columbiana: 410 (394); Coshocton: 492 (443); Crawford: 77 (85); Cuyahoga: 2 (4); Darke: 52 (43); Defiance: 218 (227); Delaware: 126 (131); Erie: 60 (52); Fairfield: 111 (90); Fayette: 6 (5); Franklin: 21 (23); Fulton: 92 (90); Gallia: 289 (370); Geauga: 276 (300); Greene: 20 (23); Guernsey: 495 (498); Hamilton: 119 (139); Hancock: 23 (31); Hardin: 88 (74); Harrison: 450 (474); Henry: 32 (35); Highland: 402 (438); Hocking: 296 (283); Holmes: 259 (215); Huron: 152 (158); Jackson: 292 (296); Jefferson: 365 (374); Knox: 451 (498); Lake: 84 (58); Lawrence: 179 (262); Licking: 380 (425); Logan: 166 (159); Lorain: 177 (182); Lucas: 46 (43); Madison: 1 (4); Mahoning: 238 (226); Marion: 49 (53); Medina: 120 (116); Meigs: 366 (396); Mercer: 20 (17); Miami: 12 (26); Monroe: 417 (440); Montgomery: 20 (15); Morgan: 292 (338); Morrow: 212 (205); Muskingum: 486 (455); Noble: 333 (305); Ottawa: 9 (2); Paulding: 99 (82); Perry: 247 (257); Pickaway: 26 (28); Pike: 280 (270); Portage: 234 (224); Preble: 91 (71); Putnam: 50 (58); Richland: 393 (408); Ross: 333 (344); Sandusky: 13 (17); Scioto: 210 (260); Seneca: 165 (162); Shelby: 42 (39); Stark: 213 (219); Summit: 42 (28); Trumbull: 428 (405); Tuscarawas: 531 (571); Union: 38 (37); Van Wert: 11 (21); Vinton: 263 (256); Warren: 90 (123); Washington: 390 (402); Wayne: 96 (107); Williams: 261 (242); Wood: 19 (21); Wyandot: 88 (105).

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twiter: @Fieldkorn

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Cancer threat puts damper on turkey season finale

Streams of sunshine were starting to trickle into the woodlot, the warm, bright currents growing stronger with each passing minute.

Some of these splashes of light poured onto the woodlot's floorboard while others rode the morning waves to overtake the forest's darkest backwaters.

It was - as are every sun-drenched mornings in May - the time for turkeys to stir, collect their thoughts, and talk to each other. Some birds simply are attempting to tune into another bird's location. Others are out to shout to one, all, and the morning sun, that they are not to be trifled with.

These last turkeys are the toms, or gobblers, that are the point of attraction for several ten thousand of Ohio hunters. Myself included.

Only this particular morning (yesterday, for the record) held special significance, important meaning.

Some 18 hours earlier I had been told I had cancer. To be exact, prostate cancer. To what degree I will find out later this week. As well as having the heavy burden of deciding how best to save my life by which treatment venue to use.

I know all about the upbeat statistics. Ever since the first whiff of the possibility of prostate cancer fell out of my all-ready cluttered cabinet of physical ills I've been on the Internet trail of the disease, looking for data, visually scrounging for pointers and options.

Of course the odds are in my favor, I keep telling myself, and which others also opine in the positive. After all, I exercised due diligence in getting tested each year since I turned 50. That includes having blood drawn for the PSA test which is intended to root out any markers of a cancer-invaded prostate.

Even so, we are talking about cancer here. And while the attending doctors have all spoken in carefully manicured terms about early detection and all that, they have never, ever, have included the word "promise."

Nor can they. As often as not cancer is a stealth intruder that does its murderous deed when the host may very well not be looking.

My hopeful saving grace was that I faithfully stood my post for the past 12 years.

And all of these things washed over me as I watched the woodlot arise out of the darkness and then the awakening life as both joined to capture the flag, which they won't relinquish until nightfall.

So I observed and listened. Maybe with a tint more attention but certainly with more appreciation.

The hens were putting softly but yelped with greater intensity. Their object was to overrule the tempting coaxing that Tommy Oehlenschlager and I applied with our calls.

It was not that gobblers lacked interest. To the contrary. We'd call and from one to possibly five gobblers would respond. They wanted to check out our lusty pleadings but the hens kept their consorts in check.

All of the birds dropped their anchors, moared behind a large block of shrubs and trees; way too thick to see through.

Tommy and I played Battleship with the unseen turkeys for the better part of an hour. A bit of desperation was in order. The conclusion of Ohio's spring turkey-hunting season was only one day ahead. And I hadn't killed a turkey in something like three spring seasons.

Nor would I this season, either.

Shrugging off the stiffness in the legs and in the back I did my best to climb into a standing position. It was some work given that the body is tempered by age.

The birds had gone quietly into the woodlot's recesses, never having turned the corner on the shielding green-stained encumbrance.

By now the tide of light had very nearly reached its apogee inside the forest. Wonderfully, peaceful and seemingly at rest even with its life force coming on line, the woodlot was both a tonic and a temptress.

I was glad to have been both an observer and a participant to the woodlot's night-to-day ritual this morning, just one of countless others I now so desperately desire to enjoy with even greater intensity.

So I wept. Loud enough for Tommy to hear me and pleadingly enough for him to say "You will. They caught it early."

I prayerfully request so. Perhaps these woods need my company as much as I do theirs.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twitter: @Fieldkorn

Friday, May 18, 2012

State's falcon-rearing project a success in Eastlake

Good parents both, Starbright and Jerry dive-bombed the intruders who were out to (temporally) kidnap their five offspring.

Few can blame the pair as the 3 1/2 week-old peregrine falcon chicks called out to their parents while Starbright and Jerry did more than just opine about the capture of their young.

The birds made a continuous run of sorties, striking the hard hats of Ohio Division of Wildlife biologist Jennifer Norris and wildlife technician Laura Graber.

Considering that peregrine falcons are the world’s fastest animals and can achieve power-dive speeds of up to 200 miles per hour, a strike from a bird’s particularly nasty talons on a plastic hard hat can send shudders through a researcher’s noggin.

“It’s an occupational hazard for us and the birds,” Norris said with a chuckle. “Yeah, we got hit on the head a few times.”

The two Wildlife Division wildlife management officials were joined by Jason Keller, the agency’s state wildlife officer assigned to Lake County.

It was the trio’s intent to remove the chicks from their fabricated nesting box that is anchored some 300 feet above the ground. This perch is attached to the wide concrete “smoke stack” at FirstEnergy’s Eastlake coal-fired power plant.

Since 2005 when the artificial nesting structure was first installed, a pair of falcons has set up homesteading. It is assumed that the pair always was - and still is - the female Starbright and her consort, Jerry.

To date the nesting box-using falcon pair has raised 34 chicks, including this year’s brood of three females and two males.

When the cardboard box (interestingly enough, inscribed with the words “Xmas decorations”) containing the five chicks was brought down a group of admiring spectators gawked.

“A box of falcon chicks; too cute,” said an admiring Ann Bugeda, Lake Metroparks’ chief of interpretive services, who came to watch the process.

When the “oohs” and “ahs” were sufficiently exhausted the three Wildlife Division officials went to work. They attached numbered aluminum bands to the chicks’ legs and determined the birds’ sex.

Norris explained also that no longer included in the leg-banding operation is the drawing of blood for DNA analysis. That is because past studies have indicated good health and a good genetic diversity, Norris said.

Further, Norris, said, the Wildlife Division’s falcon-rearing project was itself first hatched in 1988. That is when a falcon pair began occupying a nesting box in Toledo.

From 1989 to 1993 some 46 falcon chicks were hatched in Ohio, a remarkable feat considering that their parents utilize artificial structures attached to buildings. In the wild, peregrine falcons make their homes on ledges found on towering cliffs, Norris said.

“The population of falcons in Ohio has grown to 36 nesting pairs,” Norris said.

Along with Ohio’s falcon-rearing project and that found in other states the nation’s peregrine falcon stocks continue to grow. For this reason the species was removed from the federal government’s endangered species list.

Contributing as well to the falcons’ rebound was the banning of the pesticide DDT. This toxic chemical was good for eradicating bugs but was bad for birds as it climbed the food chain and damaged the species’ ability to produce viable eggs for hatching.

And while still considered as being threatened in Ohio the species’ status is reviewed in the state every five years with such an undertaking to occur this year, Norris said.

As for this year’s class of five chicks the birds have been assigned the names of “Avenger” (after the current hit motion picture), “Skype” and “Twitter” (in keeping with the growth of social media), “Stacks” (for the power plant’s exhaust towers), and Megavar” (an electrical measurement term).

These names will be compared against the those of hundreds of other falcons in order to avoid duplication, said FirstEnergy spokeswoman, Jennifer Young.

Once the chicks were returned to their nesting box life again returned to normal both for them and also for their dotting parents.

Over the next few months these chicks will be taught how to hunt for food, Norris said, with an abundance of pigeons, gulls and other small birds making up a substantial banquet table.

“When the chicks are finally kicked out by their parents and on their own they’ll disperse to other locations,” Norris said. “We know of birds that were raised here in Ohio have been found nesting as far away as Texas.”
hio’s falcon program is funded through the Wildlife Division’s non-game and endangered species fund, which is fueled in large measure to donations made through the state income tax check-off program and the sales of specially designated license plates.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twitter: @Fieldkorn

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Pymatuning's smile shines on more than just walleye

JAMESTOWN, Pa. - Neither a fathead minnow impaled on a small jig nor an one-quarter ounce Road Runner bottom-spin lure could entice a Pymatuning Reservoir black crappie into biting.

Of course, Darl Black and I should have been there yesterday. Hey, wait a minute: Black WAS there yesterday.

A Pennsylvania outdoors writer who specializes in fishing, Black had cooked up a “Pymatuning Crappie Camp” fishing outing for a small group of like-minded journalists.

You don’t need to ring the bell twice for me to accept an invitation like that one. Especially when the subject is about angling for panfish in general and crappies in particular.

Forget those Pymatuning walleye. I’ll take a school of the 14,650-acre reservoir’s tight-knit spawning crappies any day of the week. In this case, that day was Tuesday.

And was the reservoir ever packed. Boats jammed gunwale to gunwale with eager anglers peppered the lake’s waters.

Among those playing hooky for the day was Dave Fury, judge for the Geauga County Court of Common Pleas. Fury enjoys fishing Pymatuning and has done well here, he said as he launched his well-aged boat and engine from the far southern Pennsylvania State Park launch ramp.

That’s the same ramp system from which Black sent several two-person teams of eager crappie anglers merrily on their way.

Black assigned me to his boat, a retrofitted dory that more typically is used by commercial watermen for doing stuff other than fishing.

In Black’s case he figured that his new boat could become a modified platform for inland lakes fishing challenges. There’s plenty of legroom in the craft though it’s seating arrangement currently consists of metal lids atop storage cubicles.

No problem as the floor arrangement allowed me to stand and stretch at my leisure. Such an exercise would prove risky in most any other vessel given my weighty poor center of gravity.

Black said we would start fishing a short distance from the boat launch. The location was just around a bend in the long lake. That is where a beaver has staked out a homesteading claim with the construction of its lodge.

“A friend of mine was here yesterday and he called to say he caught some really nice black crappies,” Black said in anticipation of numerous fish snacking on our offerings.

It was not to be, however. With a skinny-thin distance between our floats and their respective minnow-jig dinner plates, we worked at coaxing fish from the shallow-water tangle of strategically placed branches.

Nothing came calling, though: A mite stressing perhaps, but understandable. Pymatuning Reservoir is not

Thus, when it comes to bunched-up spawning crappies an angler easily can empty the pool before it can refill itself with new recruits. That’s likely what happened, Black opined.

Nor was I going to argue. After all, Black’s assessment made scientific sense. Likewise, I’ve also experienced first-hand this foundational principal of crappie fisheries management.

Thing was though that no matter where Black pointed his boat in the reservoir’s southern quadrant we were unable to locate hungry crappie. Or much else for that matter.

Even in the offsetting bay where the crumbling remains of a World War II-era torpedo testing facility still stands we failed to awaken any fish.

A mad dash - as if Black’s heavy boat really could sprint - to the Pennsylvania side of the reservoir failed to produce any crappie. Equally disappointing was that cell phone calls to other fish camp pairings indicated that in most cases the angling was slow elsewhere as well.

Which gave me time for my gaze to drift. During the course of the fishing day I had enjoyed spying several eagles flapping their way across the reservoir, an osprey looking for fish of its own to catch and a loon that had yet to skedaddle to its summer home somewhere in the North Woods.

By mid-afternoon we were back at the boat launch, waiting for the other crews to enter port.

Our faces had become tinted a rusty sort of hue while our energy levels were bleached some. But I could claim with the honesty of an honest angler that I had spent a right fine day on the water, thank you.

Even when a pair of our boys came in with a livewell bulging with hyper-active black crappies I was not terribly upset. A little, maybe, but not a whole bunch.

Envious, of course, because the pair regaled their non-stop crappie-fishing action that saw them catching about 150 fish, and thanking Black for first providing the exceptional where-to-go tip.

Some days are like that when you’re fishing, certainly. We’ve all been there as anglers and we’ll do so again.

With that being said, I really hope that my all-too-often dismal Pymatuning Reservoir fishing experiences have now reached their final designated terminal.

I guess I’ll just have to wait for the next train and hope that Black will give his most-excellent and well-executed idea a second run on the tracks.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twitter: @Fieldkorn

Monday, May 14, 2012

Florida a game hog when it comes to wild pig hunting

OKEECHOBEE, Fla. - If Florida is Hog Heaven then the heavily farmed area around Lake Okeechobee is Hog Central.

Actually, any one of a whole bunch of other states can lay claim to being called the Wild Boar Capital of the World. Count Texas, California, the Carolinas in the mix with Florida.

The estimated population of wild, or - feral - hogs in the United States is pegged at around four million animals. Florida’s share is said to be about 500,000 porkers while Texas leads with a piggish two million hogs.

It is opined as well that wild hogs are now in 35 to 40 states. Among them being Ohio.

No one really knows for sure just how many feral pigs are really rooting up farms, fields and woodlots in Florida or anywhere else.

Part of the reason is because a female hog - called a sow - becomes sexually mature in as little as six months of age. These sows can have up to three litters annually with each litter consisting of nine to 10 piglets.

That is why scientist use such terms as “pandemic” and “environmental disaster” to describe the country’s pig population explosion.

You have to go back to 1539 to assign blame. That is the year that Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto introduced swine into southwest Florida. Add to that an influx of hogs allowed to roam freely by farmers over the past couple of centuries and the species’ ability to burst at the seams was simmering on the back burner.

The heat was turned on by the massive spread of factory farming operations. The pigs have taken a real shine to crops, including the sugar cane fields of south Florida.

Of course no one can say that feral hogs are dumb brutes. They are as sly and intelligent as they are prolific.

And just as mean. For that just ask Bitt Johnson, a guide who works with Floridian fishing/hunting outfitter Ron’s Guide Service.

The week before I went on a hog-hunting trip and used Johnson to lead the way, he had stepped down from his combine-size swamp buggy to approach a boar for one reason or another. A very bad mistake as things turned out.

Johnson said that when the boar eyed him the animal charged. Using its sharp tusks the boar gouged a pretty nasty furrow in one of the guide’s legs.

Thing is, though, hunting wild hogs/feral pigs in Florida is a blast. As it has become in many other states.

So much so that just within the past couple of years a whole constellation of hog-hunting specific hardware has appeared.

Such firearms makers as Savage and Rock River are now selling guns specifically geared to hog hunting. That even includes semi-automatic firearms built on AR-style chassis as well as tiny M-O-A bolt-action rifles, complete with camouflaged paint jobs and tactical optics.

Not to be outdone, ammunition makers such as Hornady and Winchester have developed both lead-based and all-copper loads tailor-made just for killing hogs.

Gun cranks, too, have cooked up new center-fire calibers specifically for the killing of hogs. Think: .450 Bushmaster and the .458 SCOCOM.

Really, though, many standard rifle configurations and long-time calibers are perfectly adequate for the hunting and killing of hogs.

On my recent trip to the hog-thick Lake Okeechobee region I packed my vintage and unaltered World War II-surplus Springfield 03-A3. It was fed Remington’s Managed Recoil ammunition that includes 125-grain bullets. The round is intended for recoil-sensitive persons and for shooting at deer-size game out to 150 yards.

In the past I’ve used my Ithaca rifled-barrled 16-guage shotgun with Lightfield sabot slugs. This was a death-dealing hog killer. And one time I even used a Ruger semi-automatic pistol in 9mm caliber, something that I wouldn’t do again. It was underpowered.

I thought the 03-A3 rifle/Remington Managed Recoil combination would perfectly suited for killing a hog. It was, which came as no surprise.

After getting over a case of buck fever and missing, I cycled another round into the Springfield. The rifle sent the bullet speeding 70 yards downrange to the trotting boar. When the bullet arrived the hog never made another step.

The thing is, hog hunting in Florida is just so darn cheap. And equally as successful. The total cost for a hog hunt with Ron’s Guide Service is $250. That price includes skinning and quartering the animal.

Another positive fiscal factor: Because feral hogs are considered an invasive species in Florida, a hunting license is not required. Not to be forgotten either is that there are no bag limits and no closed seasons.

For these reasons I call a Florida hog hunt the country's least expensive big-game hunting opportunity.

Also, hunters in many cases have a choice of hunting from a tree ladder stand, following a pack of specialized hounds or climbing aboard a swamp buggy and traveling across a swamp-infested ranch. That last method is a hoot and is my favorite way of hunting hogs in Florida.

Oh, and the safest, too. Just ask Johnson who said he never intends to disembark from the machine until he knows for sure the hog isn’t going to rise up Zombie-like and strike again.

For information about hunting with Ron’s Guide Service, contact or call 954-582-6647.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twitter: @Fieldkorn

Mosquito goose hunters to have more elbow room

Selected goose hunters will be left to their own devices at the Mosquito Creek Waterfowl Refuge in Trumbull County.

With the exception of maintaining two blinds for disabled hunters the Ohio Division of Wildlife will no longer supply the semi-permanent blinds that have for decades been a waterfowling mainstay at Mosquito.

Instead, successful hunters who put in for the annual lottery drawing to hunt at the reserve will be “encouraged” to provide their own “transportable hunting blinds or to hunt without the use of an artificial blind,” the Wildlife Division says.

One or two blinds will be maintained for those who are selected to hunt, but are physically challenged. Please call ahead if you are physically challenged and would like to reserve one of these blinds.

Up to 20 blinds have been used here but no more than 10 per hunting day, said Lou Oros, manager of the Mosquito Creek Waterfowl Refuge.

“Actually, a lot of guys don’t like using them; they would prefer sitting elsewhere instead of being isolated,” said Oros. “What they’ll get instead is a numbered stake and the hunters will be required to stay within a certain distance of that stake, which hasn’t been established yet.”

In effect, Oros, says, this is a similar waterfowl hunting set-up as performed at Magee Marsh.

“There are so many options to use like layout blinds, portable blinds and the like,” Oros said. “And when the corn isn’t good the blinds had a tendency to stick out and flare the birds anyway. I think this will be good thing for hunters.”

For further information, contact the Wildlife Division’s District Three (Northeast Ohio) office at 330-644-2293.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twitter: @Fieldkorn

Friday, May 11, 2012

Moon goes on warpath for Indian River fishing

MELBOURNE, Fla. - It would appear that even fishes can become moon struck.

At least those fishes that live in Florida’s Indian River, which really isn’t a river at all. Not in the sense of what we typically think about when it comes to such things as creeks, streams, tributaries and rivers.

What the Indian River is, is an 121-mile-long knife blade of brackish water that has peeled away a slice of the east coast of Florida’s mainland.

Scientific folk call it an “estuarine.”

The Indian River’s salinity typically goes up and down according to how much freshwater washes into the system. That influx is derived at least in some measure by tropical storms that can dump tons of rainfall into the river.

The reverse happens when drought conditions choke off the sweet water, leaving the Atlantic Ocean to turn on its salty spigot instead.

Indian River fishing guides like Terry Lamielle have to take the river’s salinity into account when they prepare for a day on the water. Just as they do by assessing the phase status of the moon.

And on May 5 not only was the moon full it also was at its closest approach to Earth of the year, being at its so-called parigee.

With a clear, moonlit night sky the Indian River’s fishes no doubt had fed through the night and likely weren’t much in the mood for breakfast.

“It’s been an epic year for sea trout fishing,” Lamielle said. “But that full moon last night could have hurt things.”

It did, too, with the very first stop being void of sea trout activity, which really aren’t trout at all but look something like one. Florida, it seems, has no problem co-opting terms that aren’t exactly what they seem to be.

Lamielle had piloted his fishing vessel to the edge of a shallow-water mud flat that often in the morning is the scene of sea trout feeding action. The hope was that the flat would show a lively dance of fish to which we then could cast top-water popping baits.

Sadly it was not to be, however, and after a cursory look of the surroundings Lamielle charged up his boat and moved on.

The next angling port-of-call was at “Honest John’s Canal,” a mangrove-encrusted sea of small islands; the spawn made from the dregs of muck dredged up decades ago in order to construct Florida’s share of the 3,000-mile-long Intercoastal Waterway.

This waterway is a trench gouged out of the shallow Indian River so that vessels can navigate without running aground on mud flats.

“It’s nice and quiet back here,” Lamielle said in an almost church-like whisper. “Maybe the fishing’s not as good as it once was but it’s still my favorite place to fish.”

And that favoritism goes back to the latter part of the 1960s. That is when Lamielle’s parents uprooted him from their Canton home and transplanted him to east-central Florida.

Ever since Lamielle’s become something of a fishing fanatic, spending first his youth and then his adult life unlocking the Indian River’s angling secrets.

That fishing fatal attraction eventually led Lamielle to shy away from his stable, well-paying but dull job as an official with a food-supply company to undertake the uncertainties of being a full-time fishing guide for both freshwater and saltwater species.

He never regretted his decision.

“This is where I became a fishing guide,” Lamielle gushed as the fishing boat entered the labyrinth of small but heavily forested islands. “The way I see it, ‘salary’ is just another name for slavery.”

Lamielle handed off a spinning outfit rigged with braided line, a stout leader of monofiliment and properly saddled with a wooden top-water bait similar in appearance to a Heddon Torpedo.

For my father-in-law, Lamille pressed into service another spinning outfit and one equipped with a banana-shaped (sort of) jig body and a soft plastic imitation shrimp. I swear that lure looked so real it could have become part of a shrimp cocktail appetizer should the fishing prove slow.

The object, Lamielle said, was to cast the baits as close as possible to the snag of mangrove roots. The roots of one tree interlock with those of another to produce a chain-link fence of wood into which bait fish flee for security.

Also occupying space within the mangrove root system are snook, sea trout, flounder and even tarpon which use the web from which to launch their attacks. They didn’t appear to be at home, though.

“I knew it was going to be tough bite,” Lamielle said.

After an hour of rifling my top-water popping plug toward the edge of the mangroves I had not attracted even so much as a follow from a fish.

Meanwhile, my father-in-law had snatched one just-under-size sea trout from the water while enticing a small skillet-size flounder to strike. That fish was lost just as Lamielle leaned over the boat’s gunwale to hoist aboard the fish.

Swapping out the top-water lure for a shrimp-jig combination of my own I rebooted my casting toward the mangroves.

If the fish didn’t hit within the first few feet of the cast then chances were that no fish would strike, Lamielle said.

True enough, as I felt a solid tug when a fish struck the bait and then vanished.

“I call those ‘drive by’ fish,” Lamielle said, who was chock-full of such descriptive analogies.

There also was the one for casting the lure, missing the water by a country mile and then seeing the bait hanging from a mangrove branch.

“‘Birds are in the trees and fish are in the seas,’” Lamielle said as his rhyme for this sort of inaccurate casting.

He also had descriptions for casts where the lure makes a hearty “kur-plunk!,” while Lamielle uses another term for the arching casts where a lure shoots high up into the air and then drops rock-like alongside the boat.

As Lamielle coaxed his fishing platform through the integrate network of islands we would cast to the most promising points of angling interest. Aiming toward one overhanging tree Lamielle instructed me to cast my artificial lure to near the base of the mangrove tree.

A few short jerks of the rod allowed the imitation shrimp to bounce life-like along the Indian River’s mucky bottom.

In short order I felt a not-so-timid response from a fish that made a good account of itself. All in spite of the fact that it was so flattened to lead one to believe it was road kill.

It wasn’t, of course. Instead it was a flounder, an oval-shaped, dark-colored fish with its two bug-eyes resting above.

Lamielle explained that the flounder is a perfect ambush predator, resting on the bottom until some sort of meal passes overhead. At that point the flounder moves with surprising speed to snatch its meal.

However, that was the final fish of the morning. In spite of several more stops within the maze of mangrove islands we could find no more willing biters.

By late morning the peppery-hot Florida sun had squelched the angling. Besides, Lamielle needed to get back to the boat landing and pick up his second crew of anglers.

I surely would have liked to have caught some legal-sized sea trout; something that I’ve wanted to do for many years. I understand that when prepared properly that sea trout make for exceptional eating.

Maybe, but I will say this, Atlantic flounder isn’t bad either. On that score I can now speak with both experience and authority.

For information about fishing with Lamielle, contact him at, or call him at 321-725-7255 or 321-537-5347. The web site for his “Easy Days” guide service is at

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Feds, state agree to $5.5 million settlement for Ashtabula River clean up

Coming their legal forces, both the U.S. Justice Department and the Ohio Attorney General have hammered out a long-needed – though still proposed - settlement of claims for injuries to natural resources caused by past releases and discharges of hazardous substances into the lower Ashtabula River and harbor.

Here, the damage goes back at least 70 years and eventually led to at least part of the watershed becoming a Super Fund clean-up site.

So polluted the Ashtabula River system’s been that it was dismissed as a potential site for the stocking of steelhead trout by the Ohio Division of Wildlife.

The consent decree, valued at $5.5 million, was filed today (May 10) in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio on behalf of the natural resource trustees. These entities include the Department of the Interior, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, says the Environment News Service in an extensive press release on the subject.

"This agreement will compensate the public for precious natural resources that were damaged by hazardous pollutants released into the Ashtabula watershed over more than half a century," said Ignacia Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice.

The settlement provides for the acquisition of several ecologically-valuable properties along the Ashtabula River, implementation of habitat restoration projects and land use restrictions to protect restoration properties and reimbursement of natural resource damage assessment costs incurred by the trustees.

"Completion of these negotiations marks a major milestone in our collective efforts to restore the Ashtabula River," said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. "Careful stewardship of our waterways and natural resources will ensure that they can be enjoyed by our kids and grandkids. The federal and state trustees are to be commended for their diligent efforts."

The Environment News Service goes on to say that since the 1940s, numerous industrial facilities in Ashtabula released hazardous pollutants to the river, including PCBs, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, chlorinated solvents and low-level radioactive materials, according to complaints filed in court by the United States and state of Ohio.

The hazardous substances injured natural resources in the Ashtabula River and harbor, resulting in fish consumption advisories and impaired navigational use of the river.

To compensate the public for the value of impaired or lost natural resources, the United States and the State of Ohio sought damages from parties that owned or operated facilities where hazardous substances were released and from parties that allegedly arranged for disposal of hazardous substances at the facilities.

Eighteen companies are participating in the settlement. Several federal agencies as well are responsible for making payments totaling approximately $768,800.

The responsible parties previously contributed approximately $23 million toward the cost of the sediment cleanup, and many of the parties also participated in a cleanup of the Fields Brook Super Fund site, an alleged source of contamination in the lower Ashtabula River.

Dredging projects carried out under the Great Lakes Legacy Act and the Water Resources Development Act removed 600,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediments from the lower Ashtabula River between 2006 and 2008. The proposed settlement agreed on Thursday targets habitat enhancement and protection.

Under the consent decree, restoration projects approved by the natural resource trustees will be implemented by two groups of responsible parties - a group of four railroad companies and a separate group of 14 companies known as the Ashtabula River Cooperating Group II.

The railroads will restore a 6.4-acre riparian parcel known as the 5½ Slip peninsula, which abuts a fish habitat enhancement project constructed as part of the Great Lakes Legacy Act sediment cleanup project.

The restoration will replace invasive plant species with native plants. A channel will be excavated across the peninsula to establish a hydrological connection between the 5½ Slip and the river's main channel.

An area of emergent wetland habitat along the newly constructed channel will be encouraged. Land use restrictions will be established on the 5½ Slip peninsula to protect the character of the restored property.

ARCG II also has agreed to restore a 28-acre riverfront parcel along the northern boundary of Indian Trails Park. Restoration will include enhancing a six-acre wetland through invasive species control; planting native vegetation; and installing a canoe launch, boardwalk and small parking area for public use.

Five other ARCG II restoration properties identified in the decree contain high natural resource value, including rare fen habitat, old growth forest and areas that provide ideal habitat and foraging for threatened or endangered species.

These properties occupy more than 200 acres and include 3.4 miles of river frontage. Some adjoin or are close to park areas held by the Ashtabula Township Park Commission.

Together, these properties will preserve a natural corridor along an urbanized stretch of river.

In addition to restoration properties already acquired by ARCG II, the proposed settlement allows trustees to identify additional properties for possible acquisition and restoration.

ARCG II agreed to spend up to $1.45 million to acquire and restore additional properties.

The trustees will approve all restoration work. The restoration properties will ultimately be transferred to park districts, non-profit organizations or other institutions acceptable to the trustees. The properties also will be subject to environmental covenants that establish land use restrictions designed to preserve the natural resource value of the properties.

The proposed settlement is subject to approval by the district court following a 30 day public comment period.

- Jeffrey L. FRischkorn
Twitter: @Fieldkorn

Help name FirstEnergy's Eastlake power plant falcon chicks

While the expected closure of Akron-based FirstEnergy’s Eastlake coal-fired power plant still up in the air at least for this year the peregrine falcon nesting box remains.
And active, too. As does the falcon-nesting box at the utilities Lake Shore plant in Cleveland.
In all, eight falcon chicks are being raised in the two boxes and the public has an opportunity to help name the youngsters.
Interested persons can “tweet” their best names for the falcons to @FirstEnergyCorp and include the hashtag #fefalcons.
The deadline for submissions is noon on Tuesday, May 15, 2012.
FirstEnergy Company representatives will review public submissions as well as suggestions from FirstEnergy employees.
Then the best The best names will be presented to Ohio Department of Natural Resources officials who will
pick the winners and bestow names on the chicks when they are banded with identification tags.
In the past, those falcon chicks hatched at the Eastlake plant were given names selected by FirstEnergy employees.
In the past all the falcon chicks hatched at FirstEnergy’s Eastlake plant were given names submitted by the utility’s employees but is now opened to the public as well, says corporate and Natural Resources officials.
The three Lake Shore falcon chicks will be banded on Thursday, May17, while banding of the five Eastlake chicks is expected later this month.
Since 2005, nearly 40 peregrine falcon chicks have been born at three FirstEnergy power plants.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twitter: @Fieldkorn

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Natural Resources Department messes with birders

In this case you CAN blame the Ohio Department of Natural Resources for trying.

Not surprisingly birders throughout Ohio are crying “fowl” over activity conducted this week by the Natural Resources Department.

That gung-ho drive deleted a 20-foot long or so row of invasive honeysuckle bushes from the Headlands State Nature Preserve in Painesville Township.

This 16-acre preserve lies adjacent to the 120-acre Headlands Beach State Park and the honeysuckle removal was done near the unit’s kiosk at the far eastern parking lot. This lot is typically used by anglers and hunters who access the Grand River-West breakwater.

Oh, and birders, too. Not just those residing in Lake County but from all points on the compass.

The problem, says these all-aflutter birders, is that the honeysuckle bushes are currently in bloom. That little botanical detail attracts insects which in turn draws hundreds - even thousands - of migrating songbirds, especially warblers.

Drawn to the preserve for its abundant supply of warblers are birders, complete with their tennis shoes, binoculars, life lists, and spending money are the birders.

None of which the Natural Resources Department seems to have taken into consideration when it began its clear-cutting operation.

In fact, the birders say, Headlands Dunes is one of the Lake Erie shoreline’s most important “migrant traps,” a term that designates a migrating bird-anchoring way station. And as such, the preserve and its insect/warbler-loving honeysuckle bushes draw birders from a wide area throughout the Midwest.

“I found out about this (Tuesday) and I would have thought the ODNR would have made some kind of notice or announcement; maybe even put up a sign but they didn’t even do that,” said Anders Fjeldstad of Mentor-on-the-Lake and an avid Northeast Ohio birder.

Fjeldstad said that Headland Dunes is a major birding location, especially in the spring when the low-hanging honeysuckle bushes provide near eye-level viewing of migrating song birds.

“I expect there will be 100 birders there (Wednesday), looking for warblers, but they won’t see any,” Fjeldstad said. “They’re spending thousands of dollars trying to promote birding in Ohio and then they do this? It doesn’t make sense.”

Fjeldstad said those responsible for removing the approximately 20-foot-long row of honeysuckle bushes “probably didn’t even know that the nature preserve is an important migrant stop.”

“I was told they wanted to manage this as a ‘dunes ecosystem,’ which is fine, but that last 20 feet should have been left as it was,” Fjeldstad said. “Are they going to replant with native species? ‘No.’”

That is very true on both counts.

However, with that being said, there is an effort being made by long-time DNAP stake-holders to help ensure that the Natural Resources Department and its Parks Division do not muck up this valuable commodity that has for so long been a step-child of so many previous administrations.

Good-luck with that.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twitter: @Fieldkorn