Sunday, September 29, 2019

(Updated) Putting the "fishing is fun" back into the Governor's Fish Ohio Day

When Bill Trump’s “Anonymous” (440-983-7203) fishing boat returned to Geneva State Park Marina three hours early, no one gave the arrival much attention.

Neither did they pay any never-mind when the other nine participating Lake Erie charters each returned well within the Governor’s Fish Ohio Day franchise’s Central Basin episode’s 1 p.m. must-be-back time requirement.

This is – after all – the Walleye Capital of the World’s true White House, something I’ve said before.

And in truth the late, former Ohio Governor James A Rhodes would be happy and proud. Rhodes was the master angling showman who coined the indulgently correct “Walleye Capital of World” moniker.

Rhodes made his comment during the first-ever Governor’s Fish Ohio Day several decades back, and I heard him repeat it during the event’s second or third replay; all of them held around Port Clinton.

Somehow, though, it took all the way to current Ohio Governor Mike DeWine to recognize there are more fish stories to made than those exclusively assembled from outings on Lake Erie. Just as DeWine understands the Earth and Lake Erie do not end east of Sandusky.

Consequently, DeWine decreed there shall be Fish Ohio light both inland as well as the lake’s Central Basin, though the latter was actually begun by his predecessor, John Kasich.

So the minions in his office and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources expanded transforming the idea into a multi-faceted agenda that included - for this year - fishing 692-acre Cowan Lake in Clinton County for bass and panfish.

Oh, and Lake Erie in autumn, but off Ashtabula County’s Geneva State Park instead of the Islands.

While I cannot speak for the Cowan Lake event since I was not there, I will take the word of several outdoors writing friends who were, and who said the event was carried along on heavenly wings, to hear them talk.

On the other hand I did attend the September 28th affair at Geneva State Park. If the Cowan event mirrored the one at Geneva State Park, than my fellow writers’ praise was justified.

Let’s be blunt, the current parental Governor’s Fish Ohio Day has become a bloated and self-congratulatory episode of gratuitous political and bureaucratic glad-handing with a bonus – but still, - superficial relationship to what Governor Rhodes intended: That is, to show-case Lake Erie’s walleye fisheries.

It begins with ushering a crowd of invitees – some of whom often look bored with the prospects of actually fishing. These are people who would prefer to stand around and schmooze with each other, or else lobby the governor and his staff, than to sally forth with some captain whom might himself be ill-prepared for the assignment.

This overblown Fish Ohio Day program ends with a litany of dull speeches too often fueled by trite and tiresome press releases and uninspiring, canned comments. Presented more often than not, too, by individuals who appear they are going to great pains to impress each other and, most importantly, the governor.

That being said, for the Geneva State Park event being aboard the first vessel back to the dock I had the time to observe this Son-Of-Governor’s Fish Ohio Day. And I took the time to observe how the sins of the father were not being repeated by the child, as well.

Clearly, the people involved were enjoying themselves. No doubt, the local Ashtabula County tourism representatives, the marina staff, and the 10 skilled and eager-to-please charter captains let the fish do the talking.

More than anything, what struck me most was how the Ohio Division of Wildlife staff pulled duty for this event. Field commissioned officers, office personnel, and mid-management supervisors of all stripes pitched in.

They conjured the menu of fried fish bits, walleye “crab” cakes, and even fish tacos. These folks not only became chefs but they likewise cheerfully delivered trays of samples around to the guests sitting at picnic tables. Shoot, they event cleaned up the agency’s new traveling outdoors kitchen and put away all of its many buckets, baskets, and utensils.

These men and women - any observer could note without much effort - were simply putting on a Saturday afternoon backyard barbecue for family and friends. They truly enjoyed themselves, and this was conveyed without words via the efficiency, quality, and professionalism of their work.

And if one of them were to be stopped by a non-guest to be asked a question abut this or that Wildlife Division matter; well, they took the time to deal with that one, too.

Then again, so did DeWine. Unlike the parental Fish Ohio Day where the state’s chief executive is followed around by a bevvy of political toadies seeking favorable patronage. Or else by those who want their Facebook friends to know they were invited,.

Yet at the Geneva State Park outing, DeWine did not an entourage of hangers-on looking to be seen or be heard. DeWine likewise was at his relaxed best, and was treated like just any other picnic guest. He met people who came to him, and he would go out of his way to do the same.

This, then, is how I came to enjoy this Governor’s Fish Ohio more than any other for which I have attended in a very long time. Between the local organizers, the 10 charter captains, and the Wildlife Division’s boots-on-the-ground staff the sum put the “fun” back into what the Governor’s Fish Ohio Day ought to be about.

Somehow I can easily picture Governor James A. Rhodes displaying a large grin and ordering in his homespun-Jackson County-born, nasal voice to “let’s go fishing.”


- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Friday, September 27, 2019

Non-resident walleye poachers caught off NE Ohio's Ashtabula, pay nearly $10,000

Six non-resident anglers were recently convicted of over-bagging by nearly 100 fish on Lake Erie walleye while fishing off Ashtabula Harbor in Ashtabula County.

The sextet were sentenced in Ashtabula Municipal Court by its judge, Laura DiGiacomo.

Agency officials say the six West Virginia non-resident anglers came to Lake Erie to enjoy the Central Basin’s deserved reputation as a walleye wonder when it comes to catching fish. But the six men became greedy.

The Wildlife Division reports that in July a six-officer surveillance operation was undertaken, members consisting of agents with the agency’s Sandusky-based Lake Erie law enforcement unit as well as officers with the agency’s District Three (Northeast Ohio) Office in Akron.

Each angler was charged and convicted on three counts of exceeding the daily bag limit for Lake Erie walleye. The six men were Lawrence B. Davis, 61, Sutton, WV; Jeffrey H. Hamrick, 61, Sutton, WV; Bernard L. Malone, 67, Fairmont, WV; Brandon M. Malone, 36, Fairmont, WV; Darrell A. Shaver, 36, Morgantown, WV; and Keith A. Shaver, 58, Gassaway, WV.

The Wildlife Division law enforcement project saw the six men engage in what’s called “double dipping,” whereby an individual goes out, catches a limit of fish, and then proceeds to return to the water to fish and comes back to the dock with a second limit of fish, said Matt Leibengood, the Lake Erie unit’s supervisor.

There wasn’t a specific call about this incident but the project came about from an historic series of complaints we’ve received regarding double-dipping in the area,” Leibengood said.

Wildlife Division officers observed as well how the poachers were passing fish off between their respective boats. These anglers also used different boat ramps every day to prevent detection by Wildlife Division officers.

Typically when we do a project such as this one it will start well before daylight and not end until well after dark; up to a 16-hour day,” Leibengood said. “Some of our guys who were processing the evidence weren’t getting home until past 4 a.m.”

After observing the six men engage in the illicit activity, they were arrested and charged with catching a combined 99 walleye over their legal daily limits.

All six individuals were found guilty on all charges.
Judge DiGiacomo fined the defendants, ordered them to pay restitution for the 99 walleye. Likewise, the court revoked their Ohio fishing licenses for three years with the potential to shorten the revocation if all fines, costs, and restitution are paid.

And because of their convictions, each of the defendants will also be entered into the Interstate Wildlife Violator’s Compact. Such an entry almost certainly will result in each angler losing his respective fishing rights and privileges in 46 other states, including their home state of West Virginia.

In all, the fines amounted to $4,419 with restitution set at $4,950, for a total of $9,360.

It was definitely just sentencing, and we are thankful the judge saw the illegal activity for the seriousness that it was,” Leibengood said.

Seizure and a petition to the court for forfeiture of the defendants’ boats, fishing equipment and tow vehicles were not sought because the walleye were not caught with the intention to sell the fillets, which would have been a matter of the illegal commercialization of the resource, Leibengood said.

Leibengood said also this incident is a great object lesson for any angler who thinks he or she can get away with committing an offensive of this nature by believing they can successfully thwart detection through subterfuge and adopting supposed evasive strategies.

The Division of Wildlife has a very dedicated crew of officers who work to make cases like this happen,” Leibengood said. “Their efforts won’t be circumvented.”

As for the illegally taken walleye, the fish were forfeited to the state and will be donated to charitable causes, the Wildlife Division says.

- Jeffrey L.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

North America's bird populations in crisis, dropping 29% since 1970

Here is some very sobering news provided by both the American Bird Conservancy and the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

It comes from an article published September 19th in “Science” magazine which says North America's bird populations have declined by 29 percent since 1970.

Take note, too, that good news comes about for waterfowl. Credit on that score is being given by Cornell to the nation’s hunter for their contribution to waterfowl conservation through the license fees and “duck-hunting” stamps required to be purchased. These monies have gone toward wetlands preservation, protection and acquisition, Cornell says. - Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Here, then is Cornell’s statement:

A study published today in the journal Science reveals that since 1970, bird populations in the United States and Canada have declined by 29 percent, or almost three billion birds, signaling a widespread ecological crisis.

The results show tremendous losses across diverse groups of birds and habitats—from iconic songsters such as meadowlarks to long-distance migrants such as swallows and backyard birds including sparrows.
"Multiple, independent lines of evidence show a massive reduction in the abundance of birds," said Ken Rosenberg, the study’s lead author and a senior scientist at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and American Bird Conservancy.

"We expected to see continuing declines of threatened species. But for the first time, the results also showed pervasive losses among common birds across all habitats, including backyard birds."
The study notes that birds are indicators of environmental health, signaling that natural systems across the U.S. and Canada are now being so severely impacted by human activities that they no longer support the same robust wildlife populations.
The findings show that of nearly three billion birds lost, 90 percent belong to 12 bird families, including sparrows, warblers, finches, and swallows—common, widespread species that play influential roles in food webs and ecosystem functioning, from seed dispersal to pest control.

Among the steep declines noted:
  • Grassland birds are especially hard hit, with a 53-percent reduction in population—more than 720 million birds—since 1970.
  • Shorebirds, most of which frequent sensitive coastal habitats, were already at dangerously low numbers and have lost more than one-third of their population.
  • The volume of spring migration, measured by radar in the night skies, has dropped by 14 percent in just the past decade.
"These data are consistent with what we’re seeing elsewhere with other taxa showing massive declines, including insects and amphibians," said coauthor Peter Marra, senior scientist emeritus and former head of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and now director of the Georgetown Environment Initiative at Georgetown University.

"It’s imperative to address immediate and ongoing threats, both because the domino effects can lead to the decay of ecosystems that humans depend on for our own health and livelihoods—and because people all over the world cherish birds in their own right. Can you imagine a world without birdsong?"
Evidence for the declines emerged from detection of migratory birds in the air from 143 NEXRAD weather radar stations across the continent in a period spanning over 10 years, as well as from nearly 50 years of data collected through multiple monitoring efforts on the ground.
"Citizen-science participants contributed critical scientific data to show the international scale of losses of birds," said coauthor John Sauer of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). "Our results also provide insights into actions we can take to reverse the declines."

The analysis included citizen-science data from the North American Breeding Bird Survey coordinated by the USGS and the Canadian Wildlife Service—the main sources of long-term, large-scale population data for North American birds—the Audubon Christmas Bird Count, and Manomet’s International Shorebird Survey.
Although the study did not analyze the causes of declines, it noted that the steep drop in North American birds parallels the losses of birds elsewhere in the world, suggesting multiple interacting causes that reduce breeding success and increase mortality.

It noted that the largest factor driving these declines is likely the widespread loss and degradation of habitat, especially due to agricultural intensification and urbanization.
Other studies have documented mortality from predation by free-roaming domestic cats; collisions with glass, buildings, and other structures; and pervasive use of pesticides associated with widespread declines in insects, an essential food source for birds.

Climate change is expected to compound these challenges by altering habitats and threatening plant communities that birds need to survive. More research is needed to pinpoint primary causes for declines in individual species.
"The story is not over," said coauthor Michael Parr, president of American Bird Conservancy.

"There are so many ways to help save birds. Some require policy decisions such as strengthening the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. We can also work to ban harmful pesticides and properly fund effective bird conservation programs.

Each of us can make a difference with everyday actions that together can save the lives of millions of birds—actions like making windows safer for birds, keeping cats indoors, and protecting habitat.

The study also documents a few promising rebounds resulting from galvanized human efforts. Waterfowl (ducks, geese, and swans) have made a remarkable recovery over the past 50 years, made possible by investments in conservation by hunters and billions of dollars of government funding for wetland protection and restoration.

Raptors such as the Bald Eagle have also made spectacular comebacks since the 1970s, after the harmful pesticide DDT was banned and recovery efforts through endangered species legislation in the U.S. and Canada provided critical protection.

"It’s a wake-up call that we’ve lost more than a quarter of our birds in the U.S. and Canada," said coauthor Adam Smith from Environment and Climate Change Canada. "But the crisis reaches far beyond our individual borders.

Many of the birds that breed in Canadian backyards migrate through or spend the winter in the U.S. and places farther south—from Mexico and the Caribbean to Central and South America. What our birds need now is an historic, hemispheric effort that unites people and organizations with one common goal: bringing our birds back."

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn