Saturday, March 16, 2013

Hardwater Pike

There is nothing like a string of bad ice fishing seasons to make a hardwater junkie more thirsty for the next. Well, this winter was a sneaky good one. What appeared at first to be a repeat of last year's poor excuse for an ice season, turned into a long, prosperous one that is still going on as I type this mid-March. Save for an amazing lake trout road trip and a couple attempts for walleye, it was a season spent pursuing northern pike. While Connecticut's trout lakes are in the shitter, it's pike program is so good it's drawing anglers from all over southern New England, us included. This winter our crew iced some impressive toothy critters up to 22-pounds, all of which were released in hopes to be captured again in the future. This video represents well over a dozen long days on the ice boiled down into three minutes. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

A Call For Action

Not often do I use this blog as a pulpit, but this is an important issue and something that could be avoided if enough anglers speak up. I fear that many Connecticut anglers don't realize what is at risk and by the time they find out, it could already be too late. So here is the skinny...

The Kensington State Fish Hatchery, one of only three CT DEEP hatcheries, will shut down due to budget cuts if we don't voice our opinions to the powers at be. The key is to make the State of Connecticut aware that this decision will ultimately cost us money instead of saving it by hurting fishing license sales and other spending by trout and salmon anglers. Every phone call, email and letter reiterating this message to members of the General Assembly's Appropriations Committee, specifically the Conservation & Development Subcommittee, will help our cause.

In the fine print of the proposed State budget, the eighth bullet down on page 194 recommends reducing the number of state-run hatcheries (read: Kensignton) to the tune of saving $149,910. I realize the State has a spending problem and cuts need to be made somewhere, but should we really be cutting things that generate more money than they cost to run? I would argue that getting rid of everything this hatchery brings to the table could cost us much more than $150K. An uniformed legislator may look at the overall production of our three hatcheries and easily write off Kensington because it's responsible for only 10% of the trout stocked in Connecticut waters. However, this facility is a prime example of quality over quantity and you have to look deeper to find out what freshwater anglers would really lose.

Kensington Hatchery is unique because it is responsible for all of Connecticut's Seeforellen brown trout, which are a German strain of trout that grow very large. The facility in question just so happens to have the only disease-free stock of Seeforellens left in the nation and closing it would mean tossing years of hard work right out the window. The 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 and wild trout populations. Simply put, Kensington fish live longer, grow larger, and are wilder in nature than trout coming from our other hatcheries.

Seeforellen brown trout thrive in Connecticut lakes thanks to Kensington Hatchery.

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. The broodstock salmon fishery we have now 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 our waterways! Furthermore, the Salmon in the Classroom program, known as "Fish Friends," will no longer exist in the 90 Connecticut schools that now receive salmon eggs, and the last of the remaining salmon fry released in our rivers and streams, about 300,000 per year, will also go bye-bye if Kensington closes its doors. 

Chew on these numbers for a minute...

* 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.

So what exactly is the rational again behind saving $149,910 by closing Kensington Hatchery?

Below is the contact information for Connecticut Senators and Representatives who have some say in the editing of the fish hatchery budget line item. Please take a few minutes and reach out. Keep in mind that phone calls have more of an impact than emails, but anything is better than nothing. Thank you!

Sen. Bob Duff (Co-Chair); (860) 240-0414
Rep. Bryan Hurlburt (Co-Chair); (860) 240-8585
Sen. Clark Chapin (Ranking Member); (860) 240-8816
Rep. Craig Miner (Ranking Member); (860) 240-8700
Sen. Beth Bye Email; (860) 240-0428
Rep. Ezequiel Santiago; (860) 240-8585
Rep. Charles D. Clemons; (860) 240-8585
Rep. Peter Tercyak; (860) 240-8585
Rep. Patricia Dillon; (860) 240-8585
Rep. Mitch Bolinsky; (860) 240-8700
Sen. Andrew Maynard Email; (860) 240-0591
Rep. Jay Case; (860) 240-8700
Rep. Patricia Billie Miller; (860) 240-8585
Rep. Melissa Ziobron; (860) 240-8700
Rep. Kevin Ryan; (860) 240-8585
Rep. Roberta Willis; (860) 240-0271

Connecticut's broodstock Atlantic salmon fishery will be gone for good if Kensington closes.