Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Sayonara Winter

Another ice season is in the books. I didn't get out nearly as much as I did in years past, but each outing was an adventure. The peak of my season was a road trip to Lake George with some of the best ice I've ever stepped foot on. I love ice fishing as much as the next guy, but it's hard not to be looking forward to open water and warmer weather. Here are a few photos to remember this winter by. 







Monday, March 9, 2015

A Call for Action (again)

Connecticut anglers have been down this road before and it's time to make some noise again. Governor Malloy's new budget includes a proposal to close the Kensington State Fish Hatchery in Berlin to save $196,000 a year. The argument against this is simple: the recreational revenue generated from fishing throughout Connecticut is significant and the value from fish stockings and unique programs that the Kensington Hatchery supports far outweighs the cost of keeping it open and fully staffed.

Kensington Hatchery is unique because it is responsible for all of Connecticut's seeforellen brown trout, a special strain of trout that grow exceptionally large. In fact, a 19-pound seeforellen trout raised in the Kensington Hatchery was recently caught in Connecticut’s West Hill Pond and is now the new brown trout state record. These fish are extremely popular and it just so happens that Kensington Hatchery has the only disease-free stock of seeforellens left in the nation. Shutting it down would mean losing the seeforellen strain in Connecticut waters and tossing years of hard work out the window. 

Kensington Hatchery employees stocking huge seeforellen brown trout (photo credit: CT DEEP).



Altogether the Kensington Hatchery produces approximately 50,000 catchable size trout and 700 surplus broodstock trout annually that are stocked in our most important trout waters. In addition, 250,000 of its trout fry and parr are used annually in programs to enhance sea run trout and wild trout populations. 

But this is not just about trout. Approximately 2,000 broodstock Atlantic salmon are produced at Kensington Hatchery and stocked annually into the Naugatuck and Shetucket Rivers, as well as a handful of lakes and ponds. Connecticut’s broodstock salmon fishery is quite popular and attracts anglers from around the Northeast. In fact, it is estimated that Connecticut's Atlantic salmon fishery is responsible for 5,000 – 7,000 trips per year and those anglers spend a combined $500,000 doing so. If Kensington closes there will be no more broodstock salmon stocked in Connecticut waterways!

What it's all about! A young angler with a salmon raised at Kensignton Hatchery (photo credit: Bill Smyrnow)


Furthermore, more than 500 student classrooms throughout the state are currently part of either Salmon in the Classroom or Trout in the Classroom programs. These are highly educational and beneficial programs that are run and funded through volunteer cooperation, teachers and students, and CT DEEP, which provides eggs for these programs from the Kensington Hatchery. Educational programs such as these should be encouraged and increased rather than eliminated.

The figures below speak for themselves:
  •  251,000 state residents take 5.4 million fishing trips and spend $198 million per year.
  •  51,000 non-residents take 457,000 fishing trips and spend $45 million per year in CT.
  •   Recreational fishing supports over 4,400 jobs in CT. 
  • Trout are the most sought after gamefish species in Connecticut attracting approximately 2.1 million fishing trips per year and generating ~$50 million per year in annual expenditures having a net economic impact of $67.5 million per year. 
  •  Approximately $2.8 million in annual license revenue is generated by trout anglers in Connecticut.
  •  Approximately 100 lakes and ponds and over 200 rivers and streams are stocked annually with trout.
  •  The overall benefit to cost ratio for Connecticut’s Trout Program is 25 to 1. 
If you are a Connecticut resident that purchases a fishing license each year and supports seeforellen brown trout, broodstock salmon or the Trout/Salmon in the Classroom program, please consider calling and/or emailing Governor Malloy, your state reps, state senator, and the Appropriations Committee about keeping the Kensington State Fish Hatchery up and running. Thank you. 
A beautiful seeforellen brown trout raised at Kensington Hatchery (photo credit: CT DEEP)

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Smarch

Editor's note: I think this post from my buddy Chad sums up the feelings of many anglers in the Northeast that are itching for spring. 

I didn’t even bother to change the calendar from February to March. Now six days in, and still looking at J Tomelleri’s Sockeye Salmon and its native range three thousand miles to the west of me, a pink blob running from Bearing Sea south along that long foreign coast. On this forlorn and barren coast I am socked in by three feet of snow still, and the winter lags like an illness taken deeply in the chest, frozen in deep, with roots that break apart the land in their freezing and half-thawing, make ruptures, refreeze.

It has been a hard winter here, the coldest ever month of February they say, and none can doubt it. Most water is utterly gone. All covered in snow and ice still. The winter creeping and creeping, freezing and refreezing until finally, a leak in the roof, ominous dark spot on the ceiling bearing a steady drip. 

I call a friend of a friend skilled and unemployed enough to do the job and in short order he has shoveled the roof clear of four foot of snow. This is work I could not do, having tried it weeks earlier to be unceremoniously dumped off the roof in a slide of ice and shit pinged off the rickety ladder and deposited rib down on the frozen porch. With life flashing before my eyes certainly a wise choice to pony up the cash to someone with the skills. Someone less top-heavy then I, Mike works the roof with the easy foot guise of a squirrel.  Deep gratitude I feel and the leak stops.

The sun is out on the weekend and it is time to go fishing. I do not care where and have little to no hope of catching a fish. This is how you know you fish, when you go anyway. A bluebird day, and though only just above freezing the change is inevitable and with good intentions I am convinced that the end is nigh of the cold hard season. 

The only option is a brown line that flows through a mill town. I can see it from the highway; it has open water and that is all that matters. There are no fish living there, I am convinced. If they do live though, I am sure they are too cold and sluggish to eat anything. Not essential. This is the Smarch season in Northeastern Connecticut. It is nearly the opposite of what fishing should be, wherein you value the day on not catching any fish. A good day is no fish at all, but out in the field no less.



You belly up to the bar afterwards and order up with your wind chapped face and your sore bone fingers. “How’d you make out?” the bar keep asks. You smile and shake your head slowly like you are in a beer commercial and just say in a grin “Phenomenal.”

So you enter the water in your leaky waders with a white mink Zonker and you practice. And you cast to all the likely spots, and work the visible bait in rhythmic urges downstream, quartering it against the places you would be if you were a fish and you were feeding. Quartering it where in a month or so there will be a fish feeding. An hour in you feel you are fishing well, and you slump down for a cold beer into the streamside snow.



It gives hope, the flowing water and the sun climbing high through the growing afternoon. The snow takes on that shine, the metallic luster that it gives off in its melting. The shadows of trees are blue on the snow and they cross over a tiny dark stonefly crawling on the snow.

The old timers down around Beaver Brook call them snow-flies and the hook keepers of their grey un-sanded blanks bear tiny black nymphs to imitate them. Forcing the issue through all this slow crept winter that bears down on the land, forcing the issue both the flies and us old timers. Hope flies away into the sunlight and I reach for the fly box.

Could you imagine catching even one? Probably not. But still.


Friday, February 27, 2015

Epoxy Jigs Aren't Just For Albies

False albacore are the first fish that come to mind when I think about epoxy jigs. This type of lure casts well, can be ripped through the water column at a high rate of speed, and mimics a slew of small baitfish. It didn't really occur to me to use epoxy jigs in freshwater applications until we started targeting big seeforellen brown trout from shore. If they work on trout in open water, then why not through the ice? Well, we brought a bunch of the jigs on a January road trip to Lake George for some field testing and apparently lakers love them too. They get to the bottom in a hurry and their slim profile matches an array of forage from smelt to ciscos. When lake trout are in an aggressive chasing mood, epoxy jigs are a great offering to tie on. It's always nice to find another nice tool for the toolbox. Thanks, Hogy Lures