Sunday, March 30, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Thursday, March 20, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


  • Jeffrey  L. Frischkorn

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 - Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

UPDATED includes Prosecutor's comments: Ohio made to rehire wildlife officer who admitted to hunting while on duty

Former Ohio Division of Wildlife officer Matthew Roberts not only has his old job back but could collect more than 18 months' worth of back pay, too.

After first admitting to hunting while on duty as the state wildlife officer assigned to Clinton County, Roberts was dismissed by the agency Sept. 28, 2012.

Along with Roberts also fired by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources was supervisor David Warner who was dismissed on Sept. 21.

Officially the two were let go – in the words of the Natural Resources Department at the time – for:

“B. Dishonesty – 2. Willfully falsifying or removing any official document.

“D. Failure of Good Behavior – 1. Failure of Good Behavior.

“D. Failure of Good Behavior – 7. … any act that brings discredit to the employer.”

In each case the separation was made after the Natural Resources Department determined the men had violated state policy governing conduct while on duty.

Their separation also comes after each man was indicted in Brown County Court of Common Pleas for allegedly violating state law regarding employment irregularities.

Roberts and Warner were charged in July 2012 for alleged theft in office, a fifth degree felony, and tampering with records, a third degree felony.

Warner also was indicted for alleged dereliction of duty, a second degree misdemeanor.

In January 2013 both men pleaded “no contest” to allegations they were hunting while on duty and then falsifying time sheets by writing they were working when they really were hunting.

Under the terms applicable during that sentencing Warner received a 120-day suspended sentence, a one-year probation, along with the loss of the opportunity to hunt, trap, or fish for one year.

Also, both men had to pay restitution to the state for the time they falsified being on duty when the were hunting.

However, also under the sentencing terms the respective restitution applied only to the single day in which Brown County Prosecutor Jessica Little wrote the indictment.

For Warner that restitution amounted to $708.73 and for Roberts his restitution amounted to $353.10, Little said at the time.

Little also said at the time that it would be up to the Natural Resources Department to recover any additional money.

But all of this has been turned on its head.

Recently a state arbitrator ruled in favor of Roberts, paving the way not only for his reinstatement as a Wildlife Division officer but that he is entitled to receive back pay, says Natural Resources Department spokeswoman Bethany McCorkle.

McCorkle explained that the union contract/labor agreement with the Natural Resources Department requires that an aggrieved employee-union member has the right to state his or her case before an arbitrator.

And this arbitrator “determined that Matthew Roberts did not willfully falsify any official documents, which is the standard required to prove a rule violation,” McCorkle said.

“Therefore Roberts was reinstate(d) to the position of Wildlife Officer with back pay – offset by any earnings from other sources during the period of separation,” McCorkle said,

As for Warner, the Ohio State Personnel Board of Review ordered that he be reinstated with a 60-day suspension, McCorkle said.

McCorkle also says the Natural Resources Department and working through the Ohio Attorney General's office has appealed that decision to the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas.

"That appeal is pending," McCorkle says.
While a federal arbitrator has determined no wrong-doing on the part of Roberts and Warner related to Natural Resources Department policy, that doesn't vacate the two men's misdemeanor charges they pleaded to in Brown County Court of Common Pleas, however.
"The court found them guilty and that decision really has nothing to do with the decision made by the Natural Resources Department," said Jessica Little, Brown County Prosecutor.
In fact, Little says, what the arbitrator determined and what the Natural Resources Department did - or does - as it related to Roberts' and Warner's employment and wages is "really none of this office's business."

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

New Ohio fish consumption advisories offer insight into troubled waters

This one is straight from the horse's mouth; a look at Ohio's fish consumption advisories.

Such advisories are posted by the Ohio Department of Health with the cooperation of other state agencies. They include the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Wildlife along with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

It is important to remember that these are advisories only. The government cannot impose a ban on eating more than the recommended allowance of fish than it can stop a person from swimming in Lake Erie when a high bacterial count advisory is issued there, either.

Note there are some additions though for the first time in a while no new or additional advisories involve streams or waters in Northeast Ohio.

In any event, here's the state Health Department's fish consumption advisory for 2014:

"The 2014 Ohio statewide fish consumption advisory provides recommendations based on samples taken from nine lakes and 34 streams for the upcoming season. Fish consumption evaluations help Ohio anglers make informed decisions about how often to consume their catch. 
"Many fish caught in Ohio can be safely consumed once per week. In addition, most yellow perch and sunfish can be consumed twice per week, except those caught in the Ashtabula River, Cuyahoga River, Mahoning River, Nesmith Lake, Ohio Canal, Ohio River and West Branch Reservoir, where meals should be limited to once per week.
"More specific information can be found on Ohio EPA’s website under advisories for specific water bodies, which contain details about sport fish caught in 74 Ohio water bodies.
"Advisories that are more restrictive in 2014 include the following water bodies:
·         Black River
One meal per month for channel catfish and common carp from Interstate 80 in Elyria to Homewood Park in Lorain; and Homewood Park to U.S. 6 in Lorain;
One meal per month for channel catfish from Erie Street/U.S. 6 to Lake Erie. 
One meal every two months for common carp from Erie Street/U.S. 6 to Lake Erie. 
·         Black River East Branch
One meal per month for common carp 23 inches or longer from Richman Road in Lodi to the Black River main stem.
·         Black River West Branch
One meal per month for common carp and rock bass in all waters.
·         Rocky River East Branch
One meal per month for rock bass from State Route 3 in North Royalton to the Rocky River main stem.
·         Little Miami River East Fork
One meal per month for common carp in all waters;
One meal per month for freshwater drum, flathead catfish, smallmouth buffalo, smallmouth bass and common carp from the Indiana state line to Interstate 75 in Toledo.
One meal per month for channel catfish from Defiance to Perrysburg.
One meal every 2 months for channel catfish from Perrysburg to Lake Erie.
One meal per month for freshwater drum, flathead catfish, smallmouth buffalo and common carp from Interstate 75 to Lake Erie.
One meal per month for smallmouth bass from Interstate 75 to Lake Erie.
  • Mill Creek (Marysville)
One meal per month for smallmouth bass from State Route 46 to the Scioto River. 
·         Ohio River
One meal per month for freshwater drum from the Pennsylvania border in East Liverpool to the Bellville lock.
One meal every two months for hybrid striped bass in the same segment.
One meal per month for freshwater drum from the Bellville Lock to the Indiana border. 
·         Stillwater Creek
One meal per month for northern pike and saugeye from Piedmont Lake to State Route 800 in Stillwater.
·         Swan Creek
One meal per month for freshwater drum and rock bass from Whitehouse to the Maumee River.
·         Tiffin River
One meal per month for common carp and freshwater drum from Evansport to the Maumee River.
  • Walnut Creek
One meal per month for smallmouth bass 14 inches or longer for all waters. 
  • Caesar Creek Lake
One meal per week for largemouth bass.
  • Piedmont Lake
Two meals per week for common carp and largemouth bass.
  • Stonelick Lake
One meal per week for largemouth bass.
"Ohio fish advisories can be found on Ohio EPA’s website, or call (614) 644-2160 to request a copy.  Ohio EPA partners with the Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to develop consumption advisories for fish caught in Ohio. 
"Fish consumption advisories are updated annually based on processed samples collected during the previous fishing season. For the latest advisory, Ohio EPA and ODNR collected 591 samples."
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn]

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

TenPoint offers special tune-up deals for its products, not including Horton, however

It doesn't matter whether an archer believes TenPoint could have or can help Horton crossbow owners.
Like it or not, that arrow left the rail months ago. It can't be recalled, either.
However, for those crossbow owners who do own a TenPoint product the Ohio-based firm is offering some early bird tune-up specials.
Given that the next archery deer-hunting season will come out quicker than a jump-string buck, it will pay in the long-run to get things fixed now.
Thus, here is the latest bit of news from TenPoint and its special offers to repair, fix or tune-up one of the firm's products.
Don't get caught needing repairs or adjustments just before hunting season begins.

TenPoint's 2014 Early Bird Tune-Up Specials offer you a different money-saving opportunity each month from March 15th through June 30th.

2014 TenPoint & Wicked Ridge Early Bird Specials
  • March 15th - April 30th: Free return shipping (*excludes hard cases)
  • May 1st - May 31st: Free labor
  • June 1st - June 30th: 15% off tune-ups and 10% off accessories
To take advantage of one of these great offers, follow the steps below:
  1. Choose the best offer for you.
  2. Mark your calendar or contact us to send you a reminder.
  3. Call TenPoint Customer Service for a Return Authorization Number (330-628-9245) or email your request by completing a Return Authorization request form online (Click here for form).
  4. Ship your bow with your Return Authorization Number clearly written on the package.
Regardless of which offer you select, TenPoint will carefully examine your crossbow following our Crossbow Service Checklist before returning it.

Click here to view the entire TenPoint Crossbow Service Checklist!
Thanks and Happy Hunting.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Effort underway to make common tern more, well, common at Ashtabula Harbor

The objective of a federal-state-non-governmental conservation organization project at Ashtabula Harbor is intended to help ensure that the common tern becomes far more ubiquitous across Lake Erie.

Listed as a state-endangered bird species, the common tern is not so common an Ohio resident after all. The species' nesting habits have made it vulnerable to a more aggressive gang of avian bullies – the various gull species along with various raptors like hawks and owls.

While once a frequent colony nester amongst the limestone island chain of Lake Erie's Western Basin, common terns now only hop-scotch along them and around the water's south shore. The birds know they are not welcome by the mean-spirited and predatory gulls which also elbow out the terns for any available breeding sites.

So while common terns are, well, common during their seasonal migrations along Lake Erie's south shore they seldom stick around to nest and produce young. Only a smattering of artificial nesting sites exist in the Western Basin and in 2012 these locations yielded a crop of only around 400 chicks.

Consequently the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is embarking on a common tern-nesting habitat-enhancement project at Ashtabula Harbor in extreme Northeast Ohio. It is the Corps that is responsible for maintaining the harbor's stony breakwater.

The Corps has worked on similar projects elsewhere, too. Among them was an effort in 2006 to enhance common tern and roseate tern nesting at Bird Island at Cape Cod, Mass.

Another such undertaking was worked out in 2009 with the New York Power Authority in the Buffalo Harbor. This project even involved the construction of a barge onto which was established a tern-nesting colony site.

In short order the newly built tern-nesting complex was being utilized and yielded some 550 tern nests, the Port Authority said.

Working with the Corps on the Ashtabula Harbor effort is the Ohio Department of Natural Resources with the project's $60,000 funding being provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the auspices of the Congressionally approved Great Lakes Initiative.

Also assisting is The Nature Conservancy, a non-governmental organization, or a “NGO,” as such entities are oft-times called.

The Conservancy's field staff and a cadre of eager hands-on volunteers are centered at the NGO's Northeast Ohio field office. This unit is housed at the Conservancy's Morgan Township complex in Ashtabula County, the former summer camp once owned by the City Mission in Cleveland.

Each involved party has a responsibility in the project, the various components fitting in an environmental tongue-and-groove fashion.

It has been left to the Corps to construct the main 250 square foot edifice along Ashtabula's outer harbor that will become the nesting site's castle, so to speak.

Constructed of concrete are the eight-foot-long so-called “cap stone” blocks stationed along the crest of the breakwater. Thus the nesting colony site will rise high enough to protect any curious chick from tumbling into Lake Erie, help keep at bay the wave wash of water, and also aid in discouraging marauding winged predators.

Tern decoys will be added as an enticement for the real deal to set up their colony.

As for nesting material, the sort-of catwalk is primed with a layer of small gravel into which a female tern will scoop out a shallow depression and there to deposit two or three appropriately sized spotted olive-brown eggs.

From these eggs will come chicks, the process taking three to four weeks, the colony's clutch beginning to be laid anywhere from May to June. In just less than one month the chicks will fledge, graduating to become next year's parents.

Hopefully at the same location.

To aid the chick's survival during their short pre-fledged portion is where the Nature Conservancy comes into play.

The NGO is being tasked with constructing 200 common tern chick shelters. Each shelter consists of two one-by-six-by-24-inch long wooden slabs screwed together in an L-shape.

Inverted, the shelters will harness the power of stealth to help the chicks evade any sour Lake Erie weather as well as the prying eyes of hungry predators.

This project is intended to “demonstrate how the Corps can incorporate additional environmental or social benefits” into the coastal structures under the agency's command, also says Lt. Col. Owen J. Beaudoin, the commander of the Corps' Buffalo District under which Ashtabula Harbor falls.

“And it's an opportunity to bring the common tern back to the Ashtabula area where it was once locally common, but has not been recorded as nesting there for decades.”

More than happy to oblige and lend a hand is the Conservancy, says Karen Adair, head of the Conservancy's Morgan Swamp complex.

“This is a great opportunity for us to partner with the Corps on a very important project to help enhance common tern populations through artificial nesting,” Adair said during a recent shelter-building project.

“It is our hope and expectation that the terns will establish a nesting colony at Ashtabula Harbor.”

As for the shelters' construction material, the Conservancy is using wood stripped from formerly used overnight youth cabins left behind when the property passed into the hands of the NGO.

“We were going to tear down some of the cabins anyway so this is a good recycling opportunity as well,” Adair said.

Adair said the Conservancy's original intent for establishing its foothold at the Morgan Township location was to work on aiding the protection of the Grand River Watershed. That aspect was expanded to enfold the adjacent Ashtabula River Watershed, Adair says.

“We've also worked with the city of Ashtabula on a beach enrichment project,” Adair said. “And we've done work helping to eradicate invasive plant species along the Ashtabula River so this latest project is a natural next step for our involvement within the watershed.”

While the dozen and one-half volunteers built about 200 shelter units, only 50 will be installed later this month. The rest will be held in reserve, Adair said as well.

“There's no exchange of money involved,” Adair said additionally. “We have a wonderful and strong volunteer base that we can access via e-mail and even word of mouth.”

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Ohio game law open house draws interest, little criticism

About 40 – more or less – Northeast Ohio sportsmen and sportswomen took the time today (Saturday, March 1) to express their thoughts regarding the state's proposed 2014-2015 hunting laws and regulations.

Now it remains to be seen whether the Ohio Division of Wildlife was truly listening.

Each March the Wildlife Division hosts a series of open houses throughout the state intended to inform the state's hunters of the coming seasons' parameters as well as all of the other legal requirements necessary to tie-rap what is store.

Among the locations that again served as a venue was the Wildlife Division's Fairport Harbor Fisheries Research Station.

Among the Wildlife Division officials attending the forum was Kevin Kayle, manager of the fisheries station, Scott Denamen, state wildlife officer assigned to Geauga County, and the agency's assistant chief, Tom Rowan.

The program ran for three hours with visitors coming and going at their leisure, picking up materials, leaving penned thoughts and expressions of either support or opposition regarding the proposals. These recommendations were spelled out in large letters on even larger talk boards that strung out in the complex's office section.

Officials were responsible for explaining the recommendations' fine points along with why the Wildlife Division choose the wildlife management-driven regulatory paths that the agency selected.

And the curious, the opinionated, the supporter and the opponent got along with the proposals, Rowan said.

Mostly, anyway.

“I really haven't heard anything negative so far but then I don't think we're proposing anything too controversial,” Rowan said.

Widely – if not also wildly – applauded was the agency's proposal to allow the use during the statewide general firearms deer-hunting season of a 26-arsenal-list of specific straight-walled cartridges chambered in rifles. Such calibers as .45-70, .50-70, .375 Winchester, and .444 Marlin all made the Wildlife Division's grade.

And though this generally accepted and much-appreciated proposal is less than one month old it has already undergone a rather significant change. And one that will impact not only those who will (if the proposal is approved) use a lever-action Marlin rifle but also a deer hunter who sticks with his or her semi-automatic Winchester slug shotgun.

Originally the proposal said that a rifle could hold no more than three live cartridges. Just like what is required now of shotguns.

Instead the Wildlife Division is proposing to do away with the plug requirement, exchanging that stipulation with one saying either a rifle or a shotgun simply have no more than three rounds of live ammunition; one in the chamber and no more than two in the magazine.

“It became a question of safety; how to ensure that the placement of dummy rounds and live rounds don't accidentally get mixed around,” Rowan said.

And if the three rounds maximum standard will apply to rifles then it ought also to apply to slug shotguns, Rowan said.

Since this subject was of keen interest by the attendees the broader issue of Ohio's current deer management was of even greater curiosity. But apparently not so much an object of scorn, said Denamen.

“It was 'motivated curiosity,'” Denamen said. “What they wanted to know was why we are going in the direction we are and not in some other direction.”

Which is not the same as saying that the attending hunters believed that Ohio's deer herd is growing.

“I think our deer herd has taken a hit,” said open house attendee Dale Golob of Euclid. “I didn't even take a shot at a deer this year because I just didn't see the numbers I once did, but I think Ohio has an understanding about the deer herd.”

Credit, or blame, more like it, must fall at the feet of the non-resident deer hunter, Golob also said.

While many Ohio resident deer hunters have an exceptionally long opportunity with a four-month-long archery season along with three separate gun-type seasons of one kind or another, the non-resident deer hunter typically has only a couple of days to get in, kill a deer, and get out, Golob says.

“So the non-resident hunter is less selective and will take whatever he can get,” Golob said.

Which is why Golob says he'd like to see the non-resident general hunting license fee rise from the present $125 to “$300.”

“It's pretty frustrating,” Golob said. “I don't mind seeing non-resident hunters but they're going to have to pay more.”

Of course, the Wildlife Division cannot set the cost of a hunting or fishing license on a non-resident or a resident. That right is owned entirely by the Ohio General Assembly, which may very well take up the question of raising non-resident hunting and fishing license fees this year.

But for now the focus centers on whether the eight-member Ohio Wildlife Council will approve or reject the Wildlife Division's hunting law recommendations.

Then again, what form those proposals will ultimately appear may rest in part on whether the Wildlife Division is willing to tweak them or be dead-set in believing the agency – and the agency alone – knows what is best for the state's wildlife along with the state's sportsmen and sportswomen.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn