Gene Chague: Berkshire Woods and Waters: Tiger muskies stocked again in Pontoosuc Lake


This fall, the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) was able to receive 1,800 tiger muskies (tiger muskellunge) to stock in Massachusetts waters from the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife' Hackettstown State Fish Hatchery as part of a cooperative exchange program. That program allows MassWildlife to exchange landlocked salmon from its Palmer hatchery for northern pike and tiger muskellunge from New Jersey.

This year, the first 900 tiger muskies, averaging 13 inches long and weighing about a half-pound apiece, were stocked in waters in the eastern part of Massachusetts. The second 900 were stocked in western Massachusetts waters with Hampton Ponds in Westfield/Southwick receiving 300 and Pontoosuc Lake receiving 600. It will take 3 to 5 years for these fish to reach the 28-inch minimum size limit. All tiger muskies caught shorter than that must be released unharmed.

Tiger muskellunge are sterile hybrids created by crossing muskellunge, Esox masquinongy, the largest of all the esocids, with northern pike, Esox lucius. The first stocking of tiger muskellunge took place in 1980 when MassWildlife personnel stocked 5,000 tiger muskies from the Pleasant Mount Hatchery in Pennsylvania. The Massachusetts record for tiger muskellunge was set in 2001 by the late James Lambert of Pittsfield with a 27 lb. tiger muskie caught out of Pontoosuc Lake.

2016 licenses

The 2016 hunting, sporting, fishing, and trapping licenses are available for purchase through MassFishHunt, at a license vendor location, or at a DFW office. Anyone 15 or older needs a license in order to fish in freshwater or to hunt. During December, it is possible to purchase either a 2015 or a 2016 license; therefore, license buyers should use care when selecting the year when making a purchase. Minors aged 15 to 17 may not purchase hunting or sporting licenses online and must have certain documentation in their possession when making a license purchase at a MassWildlife District office or other license vendor locations. Freshwater fishing licenses for 15- to 17-year-olds are free and can be obtained online.

Coyote derby

Dave's Sporting Goods in Pittsfield is having its Coyote Derby again this year. It will run until the end of coyote hunting season which is March 8, 2016. The entrance fee is $10 and prizes will be awarded to the person who bags the most coyotes and the largest coyote. There will also be a random draw.

Incidentally, some 430 coyotes were harvested statewide last year. Of that total, about 75 to 80 were harvested in Berkshire County.

Busy at the BNRC

The folks at Berkshire Natural Resources Council (BNRC) have been quite busy these days. You surely have heard about the recent Crane donation of the Boulders to them. It is a 685-acre tract of undeveloped land located in parts of Dalton, Lanesborough and Pittsfield which is one of the largest parcels ever received by the BNRC. It also transfers part of the conservation restriction Crane had with the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife to the BNRC. What a wonderful thing for Crane to do. The BNRC must have been kept busy facilitating that deal.

No wonder they received the coveted Francis Sargent Conservation Award from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts earlier this year.

But the BNRC is not done yet. They are not giving up on permanently protecting the 146-acre Undermountain Farm in Lenox. A conservation restriction deal was imminent earlier this year with the help of Lenox Community Preservation Act funding, but it fell apart. Now in a renewed effort, the BNRC is hoping to purchase a conservation restriction on 83 acres of that farm without using taxpayer funds in early 2016. Considerable funds have been raised so far for the project but to close the deal they still need another $115,000 in donations by New Year's Eve.

Ever wanted to just go out and buy a nice Christmas present for yourself? Here's your chance. By helping the BNRC raise the $115,000, you will assure that the farm will remain productive and provide you with sweeping views over the open fields. Your gift will also secure a permanent walking trail across the farm.

Still unresolved is the 63 acres at the south end of the farm which includes parts of Parson's Marsh and an open water pond. BNRC hopes to raise another $180,000 to protect that in 2016.

But first things first. Let's see if we can help them protect the 83 acres now. Please remember BNRC Executive Director Tad Ames' words first uttered when the Council received the prestigious Francis Sargent Conservation Award from the Massachusetts DFW earlier this year: "We do not conserve land so that we can put it in a glass case and observe how wonderful it is and pat ourselves on our backs for having set it aside. We work together to conserve land so that people can feel the touch of bark under their hands, so that they can be startled when a grouse explodes from the brush, so that they can taste the sweet corn or the venison stew, so that they can see the wind in the canopy. If we can't get people out on the land and enjoying it and becoming richer for the experience, then we have not accomplished our whole job".

A protected Undermountain Farm. Now wouldn't that be a wonderful Christmas present?

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