Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Ohio's youth-only turkey hunt and opening day general spring season numbers are up

The numbers shows what good weather can do to get a tom turkey talking and shot instead of clamming up due to cold temperatures, bitter winds and persistent rains.

Both the just-concluded two-day/youth-only and the first day of Ohio’s general spring wild turkey hunting seasons were unqualified successes.

However, for 2018’s general spring season opening day figures, not every one of Ohio’s 88 counties saw gains when their respective 2018 numbers are stacked alongside their respective 2017 figures.

It is important to note, though, that the general season’s opening day numbers do not include figures for Lake, Geauga, Cuyahoga, Ashtabula and Trumbull counties. Beginning in 2017 these five counties were carved out as being a special Northeast Ohio spring wild turkey hunting season.

Thus , the state has been divided into two zones for spring turkey hunting: a South Zone, which opened April 23rd and runs through May 20th. The Northeast Zone opens April 30th and continues through May 27th

It is interesting to note as well that during the 2015 youth-only spring wild turkey season the total kill for the two-day/weekend format stood at 1,589 birds. Meanwhile, that figure for its comparable 2017 season was 1,564 birds, a statistically insignificant number.

Last year during its two-day season, youthful hunters age 17 and under killed 1,895 birds while for the just-concluded hunt, youths killed 1,860 birds: or again, a statistically insignificant figure. Also, the turkey kill numbers for both 2017 and 2018 youth-only spring seasons do show more turkeys being killed by kids than for either 2015 or 2016.

A few other interesting spring turkey-hunting snippets as gleaned from the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s 2017 spring turkey hunting report shows that since 2014, the number of turkey-hunting permits have fluctuated only slightly; up, down and then back up. The exact figures went from 68,960 licenses issued in 2014 to 65,883 licenses in 2015, 66,436 license in 2016, and 65,486 licenses last year. The year in which the most-ever permits issued was in 2003 when the state granted 94,889 documents.

Regarding the total birds being killed for all of the spring seasons, the highest number ever was the 26,156 birds shot during 2001. Also, last year’s total all-spring seasons kill of 21,097 turkeys ranks third, trailing behind the 2001 all-seasons’ kill, and 2010’s 23,421 birds.

As for the method of kill, not surprisingly shotguns lead the way and hovered very close to 97 percent for each of the years between 2014 and 2017. Vertical bows typical account for around 1.7 percent of birds killed annually with crossbows accounting for less than one percent for each of the years 2014 through 2017, the Wildlife Division report shows.

Here is the list of all wild turkeys checked by hunters during the 2018 opening day of the state’s spring hunting season, excluding the five Northeast Ohio hunting zone. The first number following the county’s name shows the harvest numbers for 2018, and the 2017 numbers are in parentheses.

Adams: 53 (92); Allen: 6 (8); Ashland: 53 (41); Ashtabula: 0 (0); Athens: 90 (61); Auglaize: 3 (8); Belmont: 128 (81); Brown: 54 (66); Butler: 31 (36); Carroll: 90 (91); Champaign: 18 (19); Clark: 1 (4); Clermont: 45 (75); Clinton: 4 (9); Columbiana: 57 (54); Coshocton: 149 (125); Crawford: 4 (8); Cuyahoga: 0 (0); Darke: 4 (5); Defiance: 33 (47); Delaware: 19 (17); Erie: 7 (4); Fairfield: 28 (16); Fayette: 2 (4); Franklin: 3 (4); Fulton: 14 (19); Gallia: 61 (69); Geauga: 0 (0); Greene: 4 (2); Guernsey: 136 (109); Hamilton: 12 (18); Hancock: 4 (6); Hardin: 11 (14); Harrison: 132 (92); Henry: 8 (8); Highland: 59 (86); Hocking: 63 (66); Holmes: 56 (58); Huron: 30 (31); Jackson: 70 (57); Jefferson: 78 (54); Knox: 85 (85); Lake: 0 (0); Lawrence: 28 (45); Licking: 77 (82); Logan: 25 (27); Lorain: 18 (22); Lucas: 16 (8); Madison: 2 (1); Mahoning: 27 (32); Marion: 3 (4); Medina: 30 (19); Meigs: 110 (84); Mercer: 5 (7); Miami: 3 (4); Monroe: 126 (83); Montgomery: 5 (5); Morgan: 95 (66); Morrow: 20 (37); Muskingum: 117 (89); Noble: 69 (72); Ottawa: 0 (0); Paulding: 9 (19); Perry: 67 (47); Pickaway: 3 (4); Pike: 43 (37); Portage: 47 (38); Preble: 25 (14); Putnam: 5 (9); Richland: 51 (39); Ross: 58 (70); Sandusky: 3 (4); Scioto: 36 (53); Seneca: 26 (27); Shelby: 5 (5); Stark: 38 (43); Summit: 10 (7); Trumbull: 0 (0); Tuscarawas: 147 (115); Union: 8 (6); Van Wert: 4 (7); Vinton: 84 (71); Warren: 6 (16); Washington: 107 (78); Wayne: 18 (21); Williams: 25 (41); Wood: 3 (2); Wyandot: 6 (18); TOTAL: 3,315 (3,127).

Here is the list of all wild turkeys checked by eligible youth hunters during the 2018 two-day youth spring hunting season is shown below. The first number following the county’s name shows the harvest numbers for 2018, and the 2017 numbers are in parentheses.

Adams: 28 (35); Allen: 8 (10); Ashland: 34 (25); Ashtabula: 35 (50); Athens: 29 (28); Auglaize: 6 (5); Belmont: 54 (40); Brown: 25 (36); Butler: 18 (14); Carroll: 36 (40); Champaign: 5 (5); Clark: 3 (2); Clermont: 24 (38); Clinton: 2 (4); Columbiana: 27 (26); Coshocton: 68 (63); Crawford: 9 (5); Cuyahoga: 0 (0); Darke: 9 (10); Defiance: 22 (36); Delaware: 10 (13); Erie: 1 (7); Fairfield: 4 (6); Fayette: 1 (0); Franklin: 1 (4); Fulton: 11 (13); Gallia: 31 (46); Geauga: 13 (19); Greene: 0 (4); Guernsey: 63 (46); Hamilton: 5 (2); Hancock: 0 (2); Hardin: 7 (8); Harrison: 66 (58); Henry: 9 (6); Highland: 28 (34); Hocking: 35 (15); Holmes: 36 (39); Huron: 13 (16); Jackson: 41 (44); Jefferson: 35 (34); Knox: 38 (32); Lake: 1 (4); Lawrence: 35 (44); Licking: 43 (35); Logan: 8 (10); Lorain: 9 (12); Lucas: 9 (8); Madison: 0 (0); Mahoning: 10 (15); Marion: 2 (5); Medina: 11 (10); Meigs: 60 (46); Mercer: 3 (3); Miami: 2 (5); Monroe: 81 (71); Montgomery: 1 (1); Morgan: 44 (47); Morrow: 19 (19); Muskingum: 90 (82); Noble: 74 (55); Ottawa: 0 (0); Paulding: 6 (8); Perry: 50 (30); Pickaway: 2 (0); Pike: 12 (26); Portage: 20 (26); Preble: 9 (8); Putnam: 9 (8); Richland: 31 (36); Ross: 36 (40); Sandusky: 0 (1); Scioto: 15 (20); Seneca: 12 (11); Shelby: 6 (2); Stark: 21 (21); Summit: 2 (1); Trumbull: 26 (42); Tuscarawas: 59 (56); Union: 4 (10); Van Wert: 2 (5); Vinton: 42 (32); Warren: 8 (11); Washington: 60 (58); Wayne: 13 (11); Williams: 19 (30); Wood: 0 (2); Wyandot: 4 (8). Total: 1,860 (1,895).

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Ohio Division of Wildlife calls on Lake County with its Lake Erie fisheries summit

The Ohio Division of Wildlife took its 2018 Lake Erie Sport Fishing Summit on the road April 21st.

By pitching its big top in Lake County, the agency’s periodic informational campaign came to rest in the Central Basin. Its venue was Lake Metroparks’ Painesville Township Park, a unit with a commanding view of Lake Erie, one that stretches west past the Grand River harbor and east toward the Perry Nuclear Power Plant.

Incorporating 10 segments with breaks and lunch wedged in-between, the summit featured items that addressed various fields. These subjects were presented by the Wildlife Division and several of its partners that also each keep close scientific tabs on Lake Erie, including the Central Basin – a location that some of the 60 or so invited attendees said was in need of more attention by all officials.

Topics during the six-hour-long summit included one that focused on a practical subject for sport anglers. This was a presentation of a citizen-initiated project on how walleye see colors differently under water clarity changes. And ultimately which lure color that walleye anglers said their target species seem to prefer when the water is clear, when silt dominates the water column, and when Lake Erie’s algal blooms are particularly heavy.

At the other summit presentation extreme was a 30-minute talk by a scientist associated with The Ohio Sate University’s Aquatic Ecology Laboratory. This talk featured the scholarly driven subject material “The phenotype of an organism is determined not only by its genotype and environment, but also by the genotype, phenotype, and environment of its mother.”

So from the pragmatic to the professorial, such summits are engineered to provide a wealth of diverse data to one of Lake Erie’s primary and devoted constituency groups; recreational anglers, said one of the program’s chief architects, Travis Hartman, the Wildlife Division’s Lake Erie Program Administrator.

“We had a similar summit the Western Basin in 2013 and so we wanted one for the Central Basin,” Hartman said. “We also are looking at the possibility of hosting a summit every other year, but we’ll see how this one goes.”

Hartman said the Wildlife division does host summits of similar sorts that relate to Ohio’s inland bodies of water but those meetings tend to “fish species specific.”

“That really doesn’t work as well for Lake Erie which is so much more multi-species oriented,” Hartman said. “The thing is, the Central Basin is so unique when compared to the Western Basin that we believed it needed - and was deserving of - its own summit.”

The thing is, too, says Hartman, that Lake Erie as a whole embraces not just a wide range of stakeholders from various commercial, recreational and scientific interests it also brings into play a host of inter-connected educational and government partners.

Which is why and how the Central Basin summit saw presenters from such diverse – but related – fields as the Wildlife Division, OSU’s Aquatic Ecology laboratory, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, Lake Metroparks, Cleveland Metroparks, Ohio Sea Grant Agency, the U.S. Geological Survey – Great Lakes Science Center, and the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association.

“We really believed that we need to include in this summit our many Lake Erie partners,” Hartman said.

That joint concern has led to a joint effort at pulling together for the good of Lake Erie – a situation that had not always existed, said Roger Knight, Fishery Management Specialist with the Great lakes Fishery Commission and who formerly had Hartman’s job with the Wildlife Division.

“The problem wasn’t that people weren’t trying; the problem was that the people were trying on their own by working independently,” Knight said. “(And) it’s easy for a new administration to come in not knowing about the lake’s fisheries let alone much caring about it.”

Knight focused on that topic by noting how following World War II, technology and the human desire to exploit the Great Lakes fisheries in general overcame the resource’s ability to keep pace. A collapse of the fisheries – including on Lake Erie – was inevitable, Knight said.

Thus from the ultimate acknowledgment that human activity had bested Lake Erie’s fisheries ultimately arrived a multi-jurisdictional consensus-driven strategy that benefits both the fisheries resources and the users, including recreational anglers, Knight said as well.

“People can walk away from this plan at any time but the idea is to find and reach common goals and strategies,” Knight said.

Yes, but those goals and strategies are sorely needed to focus even more attention on the Central Basin, noted some summit attendees.

“It’s great, and I didn’t know that the history of the lake’s fisheries (presented by Knight) was so fascinating,” said Al Kurrat, a summit attendee and a member of the Eastlake-based Chagrin River Salmon Association.

Yet Kurrat said the Wildlife Division and its Lake Erie partners “need to do more” to address the peculiarities of the Central Basin and its fisheries, especially the management unit’s stock of yellow perch.

Thus the Wildlife Division and its summit partners need to listen as much as to talk, Kurrat says.

“Hopefully they can address some of the issues and concerns we have here in the Central Basin,” Kurrat said. “But this is really good information and I hope it continues.”

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Friday, April 20, 2018

Ohio's wet, chilly spring has put the freeze on sales of fishing licenses

With the on-going cool-down of temperatures and the bountiful deluge of both rain and snow, to-date sales of fishing licenses in Ohio are experiencing a deep chill of their own.

These sales are the kick-off to the state’s fishing season, too, with anglers turning hopeful gazes at the walleye run in the Maumee River, reef fishing in the Western Basin, angling for spawning steelhead in Northeast Ohio, bass fishing in the Ohio River and crappie fishing everywhere else.

Statistics for both fishing license sales as well as weather data demonstrate how the two are joined at the hip.

The National Weather Service notes that during March at Cleveland, for example, the daily average temperature was 34.4 degrees, which was four degrees below the daily average. For precipitation the Weather Service reports that during March, Cleveland received 4.01 inches of precipitation, or 1.08 inches above the month’s average.

April has not proven any better, either. The to-date daily temperature at Cleveland for the month is 41.5 degrees, which is 6.2 degrees below the month’s daily average. Meanwhile, 3.86 inches of precipitation has thus far fallen which is 1.56 inches above average.

But the dismal weather pattern is not occurring just at Cleveland, of course. Over in Toledo for April, the to-date temperature stands at 39.4 degrees; a whopping 7.9 degrees below that city’s to-date average. And while the rainfall gauge at Toledo for April has not encountered the same overflow as seen in Cleveland it has still recorded a thus-far surplus.

What all of this is leading to are declines across the board in the to-date sales of fishing licenses of all kinds.

For to-date (as of April 17th) sales of resident Ohio fishing license the number has plunged 28.5%; from 200,537 sold for the period February 22nd through April 17th in 2017 to 143,318 so far in 2018.

During this same period sales of non-resident fishing license has dropped from 13,125 to 10,032, or a decline of 23.6 percent.

One-day fishing license sales are off as well. Sales of these permits stood at 3,005 for the stated period in 2017 to 2,150 for the same recording period this year. That translates into a decline of 28.5 percent, the Wildlife Division’s statistics reveal.

Perhaps noteworthy also is the decline in the sale of one-day charter boat licenses to non-residents; presumably issued to visiting out-of-state anglers who want to fish for walleye on Lake Erie’s Western Basin reefs. Here, in 2017 the to-date sale of these tags was 641 while this year that number stands at 357, or a fall of 44.3 percent.

One of the few gains seen is the sale of three-day tags for some reason. This document has seen its sales rise by 7.6 percent.

In all, however, the to-date issuance of all types of fishing licenses in Ohio has dropped 25.4 percent. In 2017 the to-date total was 266,351 documents, and so far in 2018 the number is 198,659.

Interestingly the sale of spring turkey hunting tags in Ohio has not encountered issues. The Wildlife Division’s running scorecard shows that sales of resident spring turkey permits is down less than one percent while sales to non-residents are actually up 16.1 percent.

And sales of youth spring turkey permits have increased as well: 9.2 percent, to be exact.

The Wildlife Division has always said that it understands the dynamics that weather plays in sales of both hunting and fishing licenses. This is why the agency ensures that a fiscal buffer exists in order to prevent one bad year from depleting the Wildlife Fund, an act that requires careful money managing, the Wildlife Division has repeatedly said.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Sunday, April 15, 2018

New Conneaut Creek angler access dedicated in memory of Wildlife Division biologist

On an unseasonably, bitterly cold day more than 60 people huddled together to dedicate a 30-acre state public fishing access to the memory of Ohio’s “Mr. Steelhead.”

The new Conneaut Creek angler access site in Ashtabula County is named after Phil Hillman who served for more than 30 years with the Ohio Division of Wildlife before his untimely death last July at age 62.

Hillman was employed as the fish management supervisor for the agency’s District Three (Northeast Ohio) office in Akron. However, he is remembered as much for his passion regarding the Wildlife Division’s steelhead program as well as his dogged work in expanding angler access throughout Northeast Ohio.

Dedicated April 14th was the Phil Hillman South Ridge Road public fishing access site on a bluff bordering Conneaut Creek. This is the first time the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has ever named a public hunting or fishing area after one of its current or former employees.

On hand to commemorate the dedication was Hillman’s widow, Carolyn, and his three sons, Matt, Zach (who has applied to become an attendee for the Wildlife Division’s up-coming officer training academy), and Adam. Carolyn Hillman was accorded the honor of cutting the ceremonial ribbon to the new public fishing access site.

“I really don’t think Phil would have expected this, but I do know he would be humbled by it,” Carolyn said. “Our family is very much touched by this gesture.”

Adam Hillman humorously added that he often fished with his late father, sharing the opportunity to outrun any other angler they perceived as attempting to beat them to the choicest Conneaut Creek steelhead fishing holes.

“My dad loved what he did every day of his career; this is what he was born to do,” Adam said. “This dedication and this fishing access point being named after my dad means the world to me personally.”

Natural Resources Department Assistant Director Gary Obermiller said during the proceedings that the department “knows what Phil put into his work.”

“Maybe we would not have the steelhead program were it not for Phil,” Obermiller said. “Phil was the face of the program. This day gives us the opportunity to dedicate this site in Phil’s memory and to his family.”

Of course Phil Hillman was not the only Wildlife Division official who chipped in to assist with the state’s steelhead program. However, he was such an integral component that he and the project were joined at the hip, said Wildlife Division fisheries biologist Kevin Kayle.

Kayle, in fact, is the person officially in charge of the Wildlife Division’s steelhead program.

“We were ‘brothers in arms’ with the program for three decades,” Kayle said. “This site is a tribute to Phil and his efforts to create and enhance angler access along Conneaut Creek. And everywhere else, for that matter.”

Hillman’s former boss – District Three supervisor Peter Novotny – said it is a little known fact outside of the agency that the late fisheries biologist was the dogged advocate behind the state’s move to replace the stocking of the more erratically returning London-strain of trout with that of the more consistently returning Little Manistee strain of fish from Michigan.

“Phil’s enthusiasm inspired us all,” Novotny said. “I truly believe that Phil can never be replaced.”

Such an effervescent approach to helping shepherd the state’s steelhead program was due in no small measure to Hillman’s own driven angling pursuit of the species, several dedication attendees said.

“You could say that steelhead were Phil’s forth son, and I’m not sure which was his favorite,” Novotny said, a comment that elicited a good laugh from the dedication’s attendees.

Asked if Hillman was really that good of a steelhead angler, fellow trout fisher Les Ober of Geauga County’s Newbury Township responded with “oh, yeah.”

“When it came to steelhead fishing Phil was always on top of his game, which is why he won a whole bunch of tournaments,” Ober said. “He really knew what he was doing.”

The Phil Hillman South Ridge Road Fishing Access site is located south of Interstate 90 off Route 7, on South Ridge Road in Ashtabula County’s Conneaut City.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn