Sunday, April 28, 2013

That's a wrap: Finishing touches to another steelhead-fishing season

The whine of weed-whackers and the incessant roar of lawnmowers were over-powering the quiet, demur happy gurgling of the small stream.

Spring had come to the creek at long last, and not a moment too soon to suit most people.

But steelheaders are not most people, not in the conventional sense anyway. Some steelheaders even crave the nastiest, cold-nose-running weather imaginable. Not so much because the angling is better but rather for the reason such weather conditions help keep other, weaker, members of this tribe huddled around a fireplace.

I don’t go that far, though truth be told steelheading is the only type of fishing for which I’d give up a hunting trip.

And this day likely was the closure on the season. Oh, the law says nothing about when such a season begins any more than when it ends. That subjective decision is left entirely up to the fates.

When the retreat of sunflower-yellow colt's-foot and the cerulean bluebells emergence to take the former’s place the creek begins its own hibernation of sorts.

The stream has begun to warm and even many of the frequent spring rain showers have less impact on the volume of water that races between its banks. An easy answer exists for this; spring has awakened the neighboring trees and kick-started the emerging ground cover.

Such growth sucks up a goodly portion of the rain water before it has an opportunity to run off into the creek.

Sorry that I’m taking so long to get to the point. Actually, this is the point.

Every steelhead-fishing season about this time I stalk the stream’s banks in search of the last few  steelhead, the stranglers who lingered beyond their annual breeding welcome. For the most part they are tired fish, these steelhead. On their spawning redds they still fan the flames of egg and sperm but the warming water tempers their behavior.

More sluggish as a rule than their brothers and sisters that ran the creek in February and March, the ones that spawn in April seem to take on their duties with half-hearted interest.

A pity too the trout must deal with the more dynamic quill-back suckers which are now entering the stream in strong volume. The suckers are in no mood to curry the favor of the trout, of course. They have their own procreation business to attend to about this time of year in this same creek.

After all, the creek is not owned by the suckers or the trout, nor any other fish species for that matter. They are all time-share renters of its waters.

Still, it is good that I do this each year, paying this visit and giving my respectful “thank you” to the creek and its trout.

So I take my newly acquired Scott 7-weight fly rod (thank you, Lake Metroparks employees for dipping into your personal checking accounts to buy this wonderful retirement gift) and tie on a fly.

The first fish to claim the hand-tied fly was a buck steelhead. The fight was over soon after it had begun, the male trout struggling without the vigor of those steelhead caught a few weeks earlier.

Now the hen trout was a different matter. She struck the fly, engulfing it and transmitting the strike up the leader, the fly line and through the 9 ½ feet of graphite.

She deserved to be released as unharmed as possible, which explains why I snipped the leader’s tippet and let the hen trout escape not just with her life but also with my olive woolly-bugger fly.

“Jeff, you can always make another fly but you can’t make another trout,” I said as I watched the steelhead dash for the fastest water it could find.

I strolled along the rest of the creek, or that portion for which I have permission to trespass anyway. In passing I paid attention to not only the activity in the stream (there was not much) but also what had had passed by earlier.

Besides those prints created by my own footwear there was no other sign of someone else  having recently come and gone this way; just those of geese, ducks and white-tail deer. Their passing was the stamp that even when the transient trout and I are gone the others are permanent residents.

At the vertex of the property where I am entitled by permission to fish I take my rest, assessing as well the emotional, spiritual, physical values of this short, though intense, steelhead-fishing season.

Yep, I reckoned as I finished the short hike back to my SUV, it was another grand adventure. They all are, of course.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Thursday, April 25, 2013

State, feds wasting anglers' dollars by providing "fish food" for sea lampreys

Trying hard to spend anglers’ dollars both the federal government and its counterpart in Ohio are embarking on a supposed lake trout reintroduction project for Lake Erie.

In November of last year Ohio and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service dumped 82,000 lake trout fingering into Lake Erie’s Western Basin off Catawba Island and another 41,300 lake trout into the Central Basin off Fairport Harbor.

This, in a two-fold scheme to help clear out lake trout from the federal government’s cold-water fish hatchery at the base of Kinzua Dam on the Allegheny River near Warren, Pa.

Earlier this month the feds and Ohio took another fiscally unsound one step forward and two steps back by seeding the Western and Central basins with more lake trout, albeit ones that are a little larger.

While trying to restore any native species is a commendable approach to a healthier Lake Erie, pretty much lost in the biologists’ zeal is the fact the system is in need of more than a simple booster shot of stocking a fish species that way largely wiped out by another species.

Lake trout populations throughout the Great Lakes Basin were decimated some 50 years with the arrival of the parasitic sea lamprey, a scourge so severe that a single member of this clan will kill during its adult stage up to 40 pounds of native fishes.

And try as it might – and this effort at least is deserving of praise – efforts to control the sea lamprey require continual, on-going work. That effort is being demonstrated this month whereby streams in Ohio and Pennsylvania will be/are treated with a chemical that zaps the sea lamprey in its larval stage.

All well in good.

That being said, however, when asked why the return rates of steelhead trout into Northeast Ohio streams are so much worse today than they were a few years ago, officials with the Ohio Division of Wildlife chime with a makes-sense explanation. These fisheries say that the predatory feeding habits of the sea lamprey very possibly-maybe are killing off the trout while both species are sharing space in Lake Erie.

The biologists also have said that fall, rise and subsequent fall again of the lake’s bottom-hugging burbot stocks have taken a serious hit from the sea lamprey invasion.

So what does the federal government do with the full support and blessing of Ohio’s Wildlife Division?

It goes forward with stocking a highly vulnerable native fish species – in this case, lake trout into a system resplendent with an abundance of a body-juice-sucking species; in this case, the sea lamprey.

Maybe the federal government’s fish hatchery is booming with the birth and growth of a truly magnificent and native fish species, in this case, the lake trout.

However, that being said, does it really make economic sense in this day and age of tight governmental budgets to be raising and releasing what amounts to fish food for sea lampreys?

One can only wonder if fish and wildlife officials in both Washington and Columbus truly believe there are all kinds of anger dollars around to be burned.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Much improved opening day turkey season harvest for most (but not all) Ohio counties

It appears that an Ashtabula County landowning friend and I were in good company for Monday's spring wild turkey-hunting season opener.

We tag-teamed to kill a pair of talkative and bold jake gobblers. The pair came strutting in to our set-up just 19 minutes after the season started.

Working from a pop-up fabric blind, we watched the two birds make their approach. Taking the lead with the landowner's permission, I got away with firing two rounds before my jake began its death flop on the forest floor.

The commotion from the gunfire coupled with the body dance of my bird intrigued the companion jake which wasted little time in strolling up to its fallen comrade. That sort of curiosity doesn't just kill cats it also can doom foolish year-old gobblers.

Before you could say "wow," the landowner and I were writing out our handmade tags and attaching them to our respective Thanksgiving Day dinners.

It also appears that we were not alone in our success, either. It was excellent season opener for all but a handful of counties Lake, Lorain, and Highland counties were among the handful of Ohio counties that posted declines from their resective 2012 opening day kills.

In any event, this is the complete county-by-county opening day harvest as provided by the Ohio Division of Wildlife:




COLUMBUS, OH – For the opening day of Ohio’s 2013 spring wild turkey season, hunters harvested 2,762 wild turkeys, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).

The 2013 opening day total is a 24 percent increase from the 2012 opening day tally when 2,227 turkeys were killed.

This year, Ashtabula County had the most checked wild turkeys of the opening day with 114 turkeys. Ashtabula County also had the largest number of turkeys harvested during the 2012 opening day.

Ohio’s spring turkey season began Monday, April 22, and closes Sunday, May 19.

The spring turkey season is open statewide except for Lake La Su An Wildlife Area in Williams County. Find more information in the 2012-2013 Ohio Hunting and Trapping Regulations, available where licenses are sold, and at
The ODNR Division of Wildlife estimates that more than 70,000 people will hunt turkeys during the four-week season. Legal hunting hours are one-half hour before sunrise until noon from April 22 to May 5.

Hunting hours May 6-19 will be one-half hour before sunrise to sunset. Ohio's wild turkey population was estimated at 180,000 prior to the start of the spring season.
Only bearded wild turkeys may be killed during the spring hunting season. A hunter is required to check their turkey by 11:30 p.m. on the day of harvest. Hunters with the proper permits may kill a limit of two bearded gobblers during the four-week season, but not more than one wild turkey per day.
A new tagging procedure implemented this year allows hunters to make their own game tag to attach to a wild turkey. Game tags can be made of any material (cardboard, plastic, paper, etc.) as long as it contains the hunter’s name, date, time and county of the kill. Go to the Turkey Hunting Resources page at for more information on changes to the game check process.
All hunters must report their turkey harvest using the automated game-check system. Hunters have three options to complete the game-check:
Game-check transactions are available online and by telephone seven days a week, including holidays. Landowners exempt from purchasing a turkey permit, and other people not required to purchase a turkey permit, cannot use the phone-in option.

The ODNR Division of Wildlife will update the total turkey harvest numbers on Monday, April 29, Monday, May 13, and Monday, May 20, at The turkey harvest numbers will be listed by county as well as statewide.

Ohio’s first modern day wild turkey season opened in 1966 in nine counties, and hunters checked 12 birds.

The total number of checked turkeys topped 1,000 for the first time in 1984. Turkey hunting opened statewide in 2000.
Editor’s Note: A list of all wild turkeys checked during opening day of the 2013 spring turkey hunting season is shown below. The first number following the county’s name shows the harvest numbers for 2013, and the 2012 numbers are in parentheses.

The counties with the most checked wild turkeys during opening day of the 2013 spring season were: Ashtabula (114), Muskingum (97), Coshocton (89), Guernsey (87), Tuscarawas (85), Harrison (76), Monroe (76), Belmont (72), Trumbull (70) and Adams (69).
Adams: 69 (62); Allen: 1 (4); Ashland: 39 (22); Ashtabula: 114 (93); Athens: 52 (41); Auglaize: 4 (5); Belmont: 72 (38); Brown: 58 (55); Butler: 25 (27); Carroll: 59 (38); Champaign: 21 (9); Clark: 4 (2); Clermont: 60 (54); Clinton: 8 (10); Columbiana: 62 (41); Coshocton: 89 (79); Crawford: 14 (10); Cuyahoga: 1 (0); Darke: 4 (4); Defiance: 20 (22); Delaware: 13 (16); Erie: 7 (7); Fairfield: 12 (11); Fayette: 1 (0); Franklin: 3 (6); Fulton: 15 (12); Gallia: 63 (35); Geauga: 52 (34); Greene: 8 (1); Guernsey: 87 (69); Hamilton: 16 (13); Hancock: 5 (3); Hardin: 11 (11); Harrison: 76 (50); Henry: 6 (5); Highland: 41 (57); Hocking: 40 (41); Holmes: 47 (41); Huron: 33 (16); Jackson: 59 (49); Jefferson: 60 (32); Knox: 63 (56); Lake: 8 (14); Lawrence: 30 (14); Licking: 60 (52); Logan: 19 (26); Lorain: 19 (22); Lucas: 6 (9); Madison: 1 (0); Mahoning: 24 (21); Marion: 3 (7); Medina: 12 (7); Meigs: 60 (45); Mercer: 1 (2); Miami: 3 (2); Monroe: 76 (43); Montgomery: 5 (1); Morgan: 57 (37); Morrow: 30 (29); Muskingum: 97 (74); Noble: 47 (43); Ottawa: 2 (2); Paulding: 8 (10); Perry: 47 (37); Pickaway: 4 (6); Pike: 44 (48); Portage: 47 (32); Preble: 14 (16); Putnam: 8 (8); Richland: 47 (50); Ross: 49 (46); Sandusky: 3 (1); Scioto: 40 (33); Seneca: 13 (17); Shelby: 10 (5); Stark: 29 (24); Summit: 3 (1); Trumbull: 70 (41); Tuscarawas: 85 (78); Union: 4 (5); Van Wert: 1 (0); Vinton: 39 (32); Warren: 17 (15); Washington: 60 (35); Wayne: 15 (7); Williams: 30 (33); Wood: 5 (3); Wyandot: 16 (13). Total: 2,762 (2,227).

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Some Grand River mudpuppies to be sacrificed during sea lamprey control treatment

Within the next week or two an unknown number of Grand River and Conneaut Creek mudpuppies will become collateral damage as the federal government seeks to control the invasive sea lamprey.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will treat these Lake Erie tributaries with something called a “lampricide,” a chemical that seeks out and destroys the larval form of the fish-killing adult sea lamprey.
By applying the chemical 3-trifluoromethyl-4-nitrophenol (TFM) up to 90 to 99 percent of the species’ mud-burrowing larvae will die, the Fish and Wildlife Service insists.
Then again, so well several native stream invertebrate species, among them being the mudpuppy.
 A distressing bit of biological control news perhaps but one whereby the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, says an Ohio Division of Wildlife fisheries biologist.
Saying that lampricide critics must “look at the bigger picture,” state fisheries biologist Phil Hillman said also that mudpuppies and other potentially impacted invertebrates can – and importantly, will – quickly repopulate treated stream sections.
Hillman is the fish-management administrator with the agency’s District Three (Northeast Ohio) office in Akron.
That bigger picture, Hillman notes, is Lake Erie and is vast fisheries, each and every one of which is threatened by the sea lamprey, a non-native species that exploded in the Great Lakes largely after the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway.
Up until then the two Niagara falls stopped any further Great Lakes encroachment.
Yet once the sea lamprey did enter Lake Erie and thence into lakes Huron, Michigan and Superior, the species decimated many economically important sport and commercial fish species.
Without repeated and periodic treatment of streams throughout the Great Lakes basin every three to five years a very real threat to the region’s $7 billion annual sport and commercial fisheries exists, says the federal government.
The reason for this is because within its lifetime a mature sea lamprey can consume up to 40 pounds worth of host fishes, making the estimated 50-cent-per-larval lamprey control cost a bargain.
Ohio Wildlife Division biologists speculate that one of the reasons for the much lower than normal steelhead returns area tributaries he past few years is attributed to high mortality amongst the trout by parasitic sea lampreys while both species are in Lake Erie.
Based on maps provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Agency, the Grand River will be treated on or after April 29 but before May 16.
Several sites up and down the system re scheduled for treatment including at several sites owned by Lake Metroparks such as at the mouth of Big Creek at the agency’s Helen Hazen Wyman Park in Concord and Painesville townships.
Also scheduled for treatment is Mill Creek, contained within Lake Metroparks’ Hogback Ridge Park in Madison Township.
No treatment will occur in the Grand River upstream of the Harpersfield dam in Ashtabula County.
Conneaut Creek’s treatment protocols call for treatment at about the same time frame as for the Grand River. Here, treatment is further scheduled for both the stream’s west and east arms.
Also, Nancy Niehus, the Lake County General Health District’s Director of Environmental Health, says people might become alarmed as the lampicide may cause a temporary yellow tint to the applied water.
Consequently, Niehus is urging other county governmental agencies to be aware that the public may become alarmed by this tinting, suggesting they help educate any concerned citizens about the treatment’s short visible discoloration and assuage any health threat concerns.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Friday, April 19, 2013

Rare fisher found dead along I-90 next to Gully Brook Park

Being a semi-truck driver Michael Gozelanczyk sees more than his fair share of road kill though what he encountered April 15 along I-90 between Willoughby and Willoughby Hills gave him a double take.

So much so that Gozelanczyk of Auburn Township wheeled about, stopped and scooped up the dead critter, lying along the interstate next to Lake Metroparks’ 172-acre Gully Brook Park.

Thinking maybe the half-flattened mammal was either a river otter or perhaps the much more rare pine martin, Gozelanczyk used an Internet-based field guide to make a positive identification.

Only it was no fairly common river otter and no rare pine martin. What the mammal, the electronic field guide said, was an equally-rare-for-Ohio fisher.

Positive identification came from the Ohio Division of Wildlife. Its officer assigned to Geauga County, Scott Denamen, collected the now-frozen fisher from Gozelanczyk and today delivered it to the agency’s District Three (Northeast Ohio) office in Akron.

Fishers are in the same family as weasels, skunks, martins, badgers and otters. The can grow to 18 pounds, with males being up to 41 inches long and females being shorter and lighter in weight.

The species craves large swaths of mature forests and typically are found no closer to Ohio than Upstate New York and central Pennsylvania.

Porcupines make up a major portion of a fisher’s diet though members of this clan will eat smaller mammals, carrion and some plant matter.

They can be aggressive and may attack pets with a few incidences of them attacking young children.

During a recent February international fur-buyers’ auction in Toronto, the average price for a fisher pelt sold for $156.67, the species’ luxurious pelts being especially in demand by the Chinese, reports the industry-related Trapping Today.

“I used to trap and hunt but I never thought I’d ever see a fisher,” Gozelanczyk said. “I went ‘wow.’”

Wow, too, was the reaction from the Wildlife Division, though perhaps not as dramatically as expressed as by Gozelanczyk.

“It’s not a terribly huge surprise though it certainly something that is unique,” said District Three spokeswoman Jamey Emmert. “There have been reports of possibly fisher activity near our Highlandtown Wildlife Area in Columbiana County.”

This might make more sense than a fisher – even a dead one – being found in western Lake County. While Lake County is a couple counties over from Pennsylvania, Columbiana County is hard-pressed to the state line.

And fishers are native to Pennsylvania which manages the species as a fur-bearing mammal through a limited trapping program. The state conducted its first modern-day fisher-trapping season in 2011 after a successful re-introduction effort spearheaded by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service.

One unknown regarding the fisher Gozelanczyk found, however, is whether the animal is a male or female. It seems that whatever struck the animal did so at the fisher’s high-quarters, partially obliterating at least a casual sexual identification, Emmert said.

“The front half is in beautiful condition though,” Emmert said.

That being said, the fact the fisher was found in mid-April leads biologists to believe the animal is probably a male. This is the species’ breeding season and thus the fisher may have wandered into Ohio in search of a mate, Emmert said.

No word yet on what the agency plans to do with the carcass, however.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

New turkey/deer tagging procedures have recording wiggle room

Ohio’s turkey and deer hunters will face a new bend in the learning curve while completing their required harvest paperwork.

Beginning with this year’s spring wild turkey-hunting season, successful hunters will field the obligation of writing their own temporary tag.

The next required step will include adding the 18-digit confirmation number provided by the Ohio Division of Wildlife via the Internet or by dialing a toll-free telephone number.

And while this hand-made tag is vital so is the actual spring turkey hunting permit, the $24 paper document that most participants are required to buy as well as their $19 general hunting license.

Yet though officials with the Wildlife Division say the actual hand-written tag required for attachment to the turkey (or this fall, a deer) can “be made of any material (cardboard, plastic, paper, etc.)” a photocopy of the purchased permit is also legal tender so long as it contains all of required notations.

That twist being acceptable, according to the Wildlife Division’s law enforcement section following a query on the subject.

Importantly also, says these law enforcement agents, both the tag and the permit must include the hunter’s name, date, time and county of the kill.

In addition, following the placement of the tag – regardless of its origin or how it is made – at the point of kill, the hunter must acquire and properly record the 18-digit confirmation number. This, before delivering the bird or animal carcass to a game processor, taxidermist, or one’s freezer.

Obviously if portions of the kill are in more than one place than more than one tag is required.

Such an example would be if a buck rack or a wild turkey skin is in the hands of a taxidermist while the meat or venison is in an at-home freezer.

Thus, a copy of the tag is required for each location.

Likewise, says the Wildlife Division, the actual purchased permit should have the 18-digit confirmation number as well as being in possession of the hunter during any time of the respective hunting season.

The reason for this additional step – a strictly voluntary measure – is to facilitate a more amiable encounter with a Wildlife Division agent should the official encounter the hunter while afield some other time during the turkey- or deer-hunting season, agency officials said during the query.

The ODNR Division of Wildlife has a blank game tag available at, which is suitable for the tagging and checking process.

More information, including a pamphlet explaining the process, is available at

Hunters with questions can also call 800-WILDLIFE (800-945-3543).

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn