bucket throwing rainbow trout into lake

Around 800 rainbow trout, raised at MassWildlife’s Belchertown hatchery, are released into Onota Lake in Pittsfield with the help of the public during an Earth Day fish stocking event in April.

After over 38 years of state service, Marion E. Larson retired in early March from her position as Chief of MassWildlife’s Information and Education (I&E) Section. Marion joined MassWildlife in 1991, after she had served the Commonwealth for seven years as an Environmental Police Officer.

She began her MassWildlife career in I&E as a Wildlife Education Specialist, coordinating Project WILD, a national program that provides ecology and conservation teaching resources and training to K-12 teachers and serving on the Massachusetts Envirothon steering committee, in addition to providing trainings, coordinating public displays and events, and performing many other related duties. In later years, Marion was the Outreach Coordinator, fielding emails and phone calls from the public; providing content for the agency’s website; organizing meetings, programs, and events; developing the agency’s newsletter, and handling press inquiries in coordination with the Department of Fish and Game and the Secretary of Energy and the Environment.

Marion Larson headshot

Marion Larson.

Marion was promoted to her ultimate position of Chief of I&E in 2012. During her tenure, she served on the board of directors of the Massachusetts Junior Conservation Camp, on the Massachusetts Envirothon Council, as part of the Massachusetts State Commission for Conservation of Soil, Water, and Related Resources’ grant review team, and on the Northeast Information & Education Association. While she was Chief, the agency developed and implemented its highly successful social-media outreach and marketing strategy; focused its efforts on hunter and angler recruitment, retention, and reactivation; opened its new LEED Platinum certified Field Headquarters in Westborough; and proudly celebrated its 150th anniversary with a gala, full-day open house at the Field Headquarters.

The hallmarks of Marion’s successful career are the lasting connections she made across agencies and organizations statewide and the seemingly effortless, down-to-earth rapport she always maintained with members of the press and the public alike. Her general wildlife and conservation knowledge and ability to convey it simply are matched only by her curiosity and enthusiasm for the subjects. Marion’s lifelong passion for education was the catalyst for much of her work. As she noted in her farewell email to her MassWildlife colleagues, “whether it was in law enforcement, working with educators and volunteers, outreach to different audiences, media relations, publications, [or] other communications efforts, the common thread was education.”

Marion received a Commonwealth of Massachusetts Citation for Outstanding Performance in 2000 and was recently honored with two new prestigious awards, the Sportsmen’s Appreciation Award from Worcester County League of Sportsmen’s Clubs and the Lillian Gribbons Award, given by the Massachusetts Sportsmen’s Council.

I first met Marion in the early 1990’s when she assisted the then information chief Ellie Horwitz in MassWildlife’s Becoming an Outdoorswoman (BOW) program. No, I didn’t try to become an outdoorswoman, but my wife Jan did. I taught fly-tying classes for them.

I can’t begin to tell you how helpful she was in providing information for this column over the years. Nearly every month or so I communicated with her to get clarification of something or perhaps to obtain contact information of someone about whom I was writing. She was always very helpful.

“I have enjoyed meeting and working with various folks from the Berkshire outdoor and environmental community over the years, especially George Darey. A teacher in so many ways, I appreciated his experience and advice.” she said. “There are some terrific people and organizations that are doing great work, partnering with one another on good projects. [By] working together on common goals, reaching out to new and different audiences, much more can be accomplished.”

On behalf of the local sportsmen and women, we offer a hearty thanks for her service and wish her a long and happy retirement.

Will Marion just fade away into the sunset? I doubt that, for she continues to serve on the Board of Directors of the New England Outdoor Writers Association, along with her old friend Ellie Horwitz.

Trout Stockings

fish stocking at onota

A large crowd gathers on Earth Day to help MassWildlife stock Onota Lake with around 800 rainbow trout raised at the department’s hatchery in Belchertown.

The following waters were scheduled to be stocked last week: Dry Brook in Cheshire and Adams; Walker Brook in Becket and Chester; Deerfield River in Buckland, Florida and Charlemont; South Brook in Cheshire; Westfield River (Middle Branch) in Worthington, Middlefield, Chester and Huntington; Westfield River (East Branch) in Savoy, Cummington and Chesterfield; Housatonic River (East Branch) in Dalton; Housatonic River (SW Branch) in Pittsfield; Kinderhook Creek in Hancock; Williams River in West Stockbridge and Great Barrington; Greenwater Pond in Becket; Littleville Reservoir in Chester and Huntington; North Pond in Florida; Berry Pond in Hancock; Garfield Lake in Monterey and Windsor Lake in North Adams.

Trout stocking with kids

young boy stocks trout

A local youth stocks trout in Onota Lake under the watch of DFW Western District Supervisor Andrew Madden.

Last month, on Earth Day, hundreds of youngsters helped DFW personnel stock close to 800 rainbow trout into Onota Lake. And they didn’t charge a penny for their services. They certainly kept District Aquatic Biologist Leanda Fontaine-Gagnon busy for a while netting them out of the DFW truck-mounted aerated fish tank and placing them gently into the pails.

Each year, the Massachusetts DFW invites the public to help them stock trout during school vacation week. What a wonderful way for the kids to meet MassWildlife fisheries staff, view the trout up close, and learn about places to fish near them.

I always get a kick out of seeing the expressions on the faces of these youngsters (and their parents) when they first see a real live trout flopping around in their 5-gallon pails while running to the lake side to quickly release them. Some of these kids are not much bigger than the pails that they are carrying. With District Manager Andrew Madden urging them on at the shoreline, they gave hearty heave-hos, and launched the trout out of the pails and watched them sail through the air before plopping harmless into the water. Every kid got a chance to liberate some of the trout with a parent running closely by them snapping pictures. I am pleased to report that there were no fish casualties and all of them quickly swam into deeper waters.

Youth Fishing Derby

The Friends of the Berkshire National Fish Hatchery, in conjunction with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, will be sponsoring a free fishing derby on May 14 at the lower pond of the Berkshire National Fish Hatchery, 240 Hatchery Road, New Marlborough from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. for children 13-and-under. They must be accompanied by an adult.

License to carry course

Pete’s Gun Shop in Adams is holding an NRA & Massachusetts State Police Certified LTC Safety Course. The course consists of classroom instruction followed by live firing. This will be a two-evening all-inclusive, live-fire class on Tuesday and Wednesday, May 17 and 18 at the Cheshire Rod & Gun Club. The classroom portion will be on the 17th at 5:30 p.m. and the shooting portion will be on the 18th at 5:30 p.m.

This is to qualify residents and non-residents for the Mass. License to Carry or FID Card. Participants will receive a $10 gift certificate to Pete’s Gun Shop in appreciation for taking the course. The cost of $100 covers use of the range, firearms, ammo, safety gear, class materials, certificates, and the NRA Basic Pistol Safety Textbook. Individuals can pre-register by calling or stopping in at Pete’s Gun Shop at 413-743-0780, as space is limited. A non-refundable deposit is required to reserve your seat at the time of registration. No credit cards are accepted.

This live-fire course fills up very quickly so call or stop in early to pre-register.

Puppy Day at the Beagle Club

Own a young beagle under 1½ years old? You might want to consider bringing it over to the Berkshire Beagle Club on Sleepy Hollow Road in Richmond next Saturday morning, May 14, to see if it has any interest in bunnies. The Club is having a beagle “puppy day” where from 8 a.m. to noon the general public is invited to bring their dog over. The cost is $10. The property is entirely fenced in so it can’t get lost or hit on a road. People will be there to give advice on how to train your puppy. It’s a good time to meet members and learn about the club should you be interested in someday joining. For more information, contact Chris Wilser at 845-489-6554 or Jeff St. John at 413-441-0744.

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

Gene Chague is a longtime sportsman and editor of The Eagle's Berkshire Woods and Waters outdoors column.