LENOX

Close to 500,000 brook, brown, rainbow and tiger trout will be stocked this spring from the DFW hatcheries located in Sandwich, Palmer, Belchertown, Sunderland and Montague. The Western District should receive about 100,000 of them.

It has been a challenging year for the division's trout hatchery managers, between the drought conditions that prevailed much of last summer and the extremely cold, icy and snow conditions that have prevailed this past winter.

Nevertheless, close to 500,000 fish will be stocked this spring. Couple that with the more than 67,000 12-plus-inch trout stocked last fall, and it should provide some excellent fishing in the coming months. Due to the delayed spring thaw, trout stocking could not begin until the last week of March or the first week in April, beginning with the Cape area and then moving westward as the ice and snow melts.

Here are some 2014 trout stocking facts provided by Mass. DFW: 41 percent of the fish average over 14 inches; 71 percent of the fish average over 12 inches; 195,000 rainbows will average over 14 inches; 71,000 rainbows will average over 12 inches; 12,000 rainbows will average between 9 and 12 inches; 500 brown trout will be over 18 inches; 43,000 brown trout will average over 12 inches; 81,000 brown trout average between 9 and 12 inches; 1,250 brook trout will average over 15 inches; 31,200 brook trout will average over 12 inches; 38,200 brook trout between 9 and 12 inches; 10,000 brook trout between 6 and 9 inches; and 4,700 tiger trout that will average over 14 inches.

Anglers can check the DFW weekly trout stocking schedule pages for information about stocking in each district, or contact individual district offices. Trout stocking schedules will be updated every Friday between March and Memorial Day.

The following local waters were scheduled to be stocked last week subject to alterations or cancellations: Pontoosuc Lake, Onota Lake, Laurel Lake, Stockbridge Bowl and the Farmington River.

Get your fishing equipment ready, oil the reel, replace the old line, patch up the boots, etc. Don't forget to print out your fishing license. Pick up a copy of Trout Unlimited's Anglers Guide to Trout Fishing in Massachusetts to find out where to go and what to use. The Bookstore in Lenox has a new supply of them.

Tell the kids, mom and gramps to get ready, too, because you are taking them this year. There will be an awful lot of trout out there to catch and a lot of hours may have to be devoted to catching them. It's tough, but hey, somebody has to do it.

n

This Thursday evening, Rich Strolis of Catching Shadows Custom Flies will be the guest speaker at the Taconic Chapter of Trout Unlimited meeting at the Bass Water Grill in Cheshire.

For him, fly tying is as much of a passion as fly-fishing, and this is something he truly believes is an integral part of becoming a solid angler. He will offer a fly-tying demonstration and talk about a variety of styles and types of fly patterns from both simple to complex that will accommodate tiers of all skill sets. Whether you are a beginner who wants to learn the basics, or a seasoned veteran who wants to brush up on some of your skills, he will have something for you.

The event is free and open to the public. Social hour starts at 5 p.m., with the presentation at 6 p.m. and dinner off the menu (optional) to follow at 7 p.m. For more information, contact Ron Wojcik at (413) 684-4141 or
rwojcik@bcn.net.

n

The Berkshire Hatchery Foundation will hold a kids' fishing derby at the lower pond next Saturday, from 9-10:30 a.m. Please let them know if you are coming by logging on to http://www.berksfish.com/events.html and giving the number of children attending. Children younger than 12 years old must be accompanied by an adult.

n

MassWildlife reminds us that black bears are emerging from their winter dens and seeking food, and it's time to take down bird feeders. In many cases, bears will ignore natural foods such as skunk cabbage and instead head to the nearest birdfeeder for a good meal. To avoid this problem, they are asking property owners to be proactive by removing bird feeders and other potential bear foods promptly and taking other preventative measures.

The bear range is expanding eastward, and some residents in Eastern Massachusetts may notice bear activity in the coming months and years. Taking action now, by removing feeders and securing trash, will help avoid conflicts with bears now and in the future.

"If food such as bird seed, pet food, unsecured trash or dumpsters are easy for bears to find, conflicts can occur that pose hazards to both bears and people." says Laura Conlee, a DFW wildlife biologist.

Removing bird feeders will not create a problem for birds, as feeding stations only supplement available natural foods.

Log onto the MassWildlife website for more tips on preventing bear conflicts.

n

Parting reminder: Falling into cold water (less than 50 degrees) can cause a cold shock response that makes breathing difficult and can lead to rapid drowning, even for experienced swimmers. The wearing of a dry suit when kayaking in cold water is recommended, as well as wearing a personal floatation device (PFD). Kayaking with a buddy is also recommended. In Massachusetts, all canoe and kayak occupants must wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved PFD from Sept. 15 to May 15. Readers are probably getting sick of reading this message every year, but I ask for your understanding. Each year, there are new people taking up the paddling, fishing and hunting sports, and they may not be aware of the regulations and potential dangers involved with them.

To reach Gene Chague:
Berkwoodsandwaters@roadrunner.com,
or (413) 637-1818.