Gene Chague | Berkshire Woods and Waters: At Lake Buel, Ranzoni catches a massive pike

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Will the next state record northen pike come out of Berkshire waters?

It almost did last weekend.

That's when Matt Ranzoni and his two kids, Gabe and Emma, went ice fishing at Lake Buel with their cousin, Mike Scarpa. They all reside in Lee. Matt and Mike fish for pike together all the time, but this day was special. Mike caught a 30.8-pound, 44-inch northern pike.

When the fish swam past the hole in the ice, the kids saw it and thought that it was an alligator. With a girth of 23 inches, its back was three-fourths the width of the 10-inch hole. Mike had to let the fish run about eight times before tiring it out enough so that Matt could slide his hands under its gill to pull it out. They weighed it, took pictures and released it. It was a large female filled with eggs.

Although it was a huge fish, it was not the state record. That fish weighed 35 pounds and came out of Quacumquasit Pond in Brookfield in 1988. This fish might have received a gold pin for being the largest northern pike caught in 2018, but Matt and Mike released it to fight another day and perhaps gain enough weight to become the new state record. Kevin Janis of Pittsfield caught one weighing 29 pounds, 10 ounces out of Cheshire Reservoir last year, which will probably be the gold pin for that year.

So, what's with these large northern pike that are being caught lately? Twenty-plus-pound fish are regularly being caught out of Onota Lake, Pontoosuc Lake, Cheshire Reservoir, Lake Buel and even the Housatonic River. Matt believes that local fishermen are realizing that these fish are approaching state-record size, so they let them go to gain a few more pounds with the hopes of breaking the state record. He believes the state record will be broken in the near future and the fish will come out of Berkshire waters, thanks to the fishermen releasing the big ones.

Mike is doing a replica mount of the fish. According to Matt, he and the kids will never forget that family day of fishing. "It was a team effort," he said.

Extended archery deer season proposed

A public hearing to extend the archery deer season in eastern Massachusetts will be held Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the MassWildlife Field Headquarters at 1 Rabbit Hill Road, Westborough. The proposal is to open the archery deer season two weeks early in Wildlife Management Zones 10-14.

The current archery deer season opens across the state six weeks before Thanksgiving and closes the Saturday after the holiday. The proposed change opens the archery deer season in WMZs 10-14 eight weeks before Thanksgiving. In WMZs 1-9, the archery deer season would remain the same, opening six weeks before Thanksgiving.

The proposed season change will increase hunting opportunities in a region where deer numbers are above management range goals. No changes were recommended for WMZs 1-9, as deer numbers in these zones are within management range goals.

Hunting seasons ending

On Feb. 28, the cottontail rabbit, snowshoe hare and fox hunting seasons ended. That leaves the bobcat and coyote seasons still open, and they end Thursday.

Coyote and fox pelts/carcasses must be checked/reported within four working days of the end of the season by either checking them at an official check station, or reporting them online and writing the harvest confirmation number on a tag of your own making, then attaching the tag to the carcass or pelt. Confirmation numbers must remain attached to all pelts/carcasses, with the specific confirmation number issued for each particular pelt or carcass, until the carcass is prepared for mounting by a taxidermist, or the pelt is sold or tanned.

I don't know if anyone crow hunts anymore, but that season ends April 9.

Basic hunter/trapping education courses

There will be a basic hunter education course held at the Worthington Rod & Gun Club, 458 Dingle Road, Worthington, on April 16, 17, 19 and 20. All couses are from 5:30 to 9 p.m.

A Trapper Education Course with Independent Study will be held at the Spencer Fish and Game Club, 155 Mechanic St., Spencer, on April 25 and May 5 at the following times: April 25, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., and May 5, from 8 a.m. to 5: p.m. This course is being offered in the Independent Study format, which means that in addition to the two required in-class sessions, students will need to complete homework in between the sessions.

You must attend all class dates and times to successfully complete these courses. If you are interested in these courses and wish to enroll, call 508-389-7830 immediately between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Students are enrolled first-come, first-served, and courses fill quickly.

Archery shoot

On March 17 and 18, the Stockbridge Sportsmen's Club Buckhorn Archers will be having a 450 Round Indoor Archery Shoot to benefit a scholarship fund. Participants can choose from several shooting times: March 17 at 4 p.m., March 18 at 9 a.m. or 1 p.m. The Youth Shoot will take place March 18 at 11 a.m.. Registration fees are $15 for adult classes and $5 for youth and cub classes.

The classes of competition will be: adult (men & women) compound freestyle, bowhunter compound, traditional/longbow or recurve.

There will be a spaghetti dinner the evening of March 17 at 6. Cost is $12 for adults; $8 for children 12 and younger. On March 18, from 7:30 to 11 a.m., there will be a pancake breakfast costing $8 for adults and $5 for youths.

For more information, contact John Mange at 518-794-7868 or John Davis at 413-446-9012.

Adult archery classes for beginners

The Lenox Sportsmen's Club will be having adult archery lessons at its clubhouse at 258 New Lenox Road, Lenox, on Tuesdays, March 13, 20 and 27, from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

The program, which is for beginners, will teach the basics of shooting the bow and recognize the challenges and rewards of archery. It is free of cost, but donations are always welcome. They have all the equipment you will need. If interested, register ASAP at info@lenoxsportsmensclub.com.

Ham shoots

Starting today and every Sunday until Easter, the Lenox Sportsmen's Club is having its Easter ham shoots or gift certificate. Targets go on sale at 12:30 p.m., and the first shoot is at 1. The shoots will continue until 3. There are 22 targets available at $3 each.

The kitchen opens at noon. You are invited to join the fun and bring the family and friends. Don't forget to bring your 22 LR, because they have 22 shoots as well.

Also starting today and every Sunday until Easter, the Lee Sportsmen's Association is having its Easter shoots. Winners take a choice of turkey, steak, spiral ham or pork loin. Also, there will be a money shoot. Doors open at noon, and shoots run from 1 to 4; $2 per round for food and $3 per round for the money shoot. Food will be available. For more information, contact John Polastri at 413-822-8278.

Trap shooting

Saturday, the Lee Sportsmen's Association commenced with its 2018 Saturday morning Trap Shooting Program. All levels of shooters are welcomed. Participants range from beginners to highly qualified shooters. If you are a beginner, don't worry, they have an expert who will be happy to get you started. The game of Trap revolves around the principle of five shooters standing side by side breaking clay targets launched from a single trap machine. The clay birds are all going-away shots. The trap oscillates, making each shot slightly different and unpredictable. You might want to give it a try.

For more information, call John Ballard at 413-684-3467 or email

drinkarustynail@yahoo.com.

Venison & Polenta Dinner

On March 16, the Berkshire County Sheriff's Association will be having its first Venison & Polenta Dinner at the Cheshire Rod & Gun Club, 310 Curran Road, Cheshire. Doors open at 5 p.m. and dinner is at 6. The suggested donation is $20.

There will be a 50/50 raffle. Proceeds go to supporting charitable donations made by the Deputy Sheriff's Association including: youth and school athletic teams, booster clubs, charitable golf tournaments, camp sponsorships at the Boys & Girls Club, Gladys Allen Brigham Center, Special Olympics, Toys for Tots, Shriner's Hospital for Children, Unico and others.

For tickets, contact Capt. Tom Morton at 413-652-7786.

Take down the bird feeders

MassWildlife reminds us that with temperatures warming up, black bears might become active and search for food. If you live in an area where bears have been spotted, it's time to take down your bird feeders. Unfortunately for some, the reminder came too late. For more information about living with bears, go to mass.gov/bears.

Gene Chague can be reached at berkwoodsandwaters@roadrunner.com or 413-637-1818.

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