Gene Chague | Berkshire Woods and Waters: Daily trout stocking reports have ended

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MassWildlife recently reported that in order to help minimize crowding at the trout stocked areas, date information has been temporarily eliminated. Although trout stocking locations and frequency may be altered slightly due to the COVID-19 emergency, the state will continue to stock trout this spring. Consequently, there will be no trout stocking reports in this column, at least for the time being. A complete listing of all of the stocking locations is given on the MassWildlife website, but not the dates.

According to Marion Larson, MassWildlife Chief of Information & Education, some towns have complained about the crowded conditions which exist shortly after trout have been stocked there. There are concerns that social distancing is not being practiced.

Some anglers may be unhappy with MassWildlife's recent actions. They may be some of the 10 million people who filed for unemployment the last couple of weeks and are having problems putting food on the table. They want to know if and when the stockings took place. They don't want to waste their time fishing an area that hasn't been stocked. They want to take their kids to areas where they know they can catch fish.

But before you take to the social media and spew out vitriol about MassWildlife's actions, please ask yourself one question: Is catching three trout worth the risk of contracting the coronavirus and spreading it to your family? Regardless what some people say, you know in your heart that it is not a hoax. Just check the daily death count.

Like it or not, Massachusetts is doing everything it can to curtail the spread of the virus. It may seem extreme, but it's better to err on the side of safety. We must practice social distancing. Stay at least six feet away or you might end up six feet under.

In this day and age, the word of stocking locations spreads like wildfire and soon anglers start arriving. If you show up at a usual stocking location and see a crowd, you might consider going somewhere else, otherwise the whole purpose of social distancing is for naught.

But for many other anglers, not having this information poses no problems whatsoever. They are disgusted by the fact that some anglers follow the stocking trucks and are after the fish as soon as the stocking trucks leave. Casting out power bait or an imitation salmon eggs (which the trout mistake for pellets which were fed to them in the hatcheries) does not appeal to them.

Some folks wish we would go back to the good old days when there was an opening day of trout fishing. The trout were stocked one or two weeks before the season opened, thus giving them a chance to spread out and get acclimated to their surroundings and food sources. Anglers had to work for those fish and learn their likely locations and how to entice them to bite. Ample fish were caught on spoons such as the Al's Goldfish, certain flies, live shiners or old-fashioned night crawlers on a bobber. Anglers fished different areas of a lake from shore or boat in their pursuit of the trout and not just where they were stocked, so they say.

Well, that's true to a certain extent, but I remember a lot of opening days, too, with anglers lined up shoulder to shoulder. I can't tell you how many times another angler would make an errant cast, cross my line and tangle me up.

The real lucky anglers learned long ago that fishing is not all about catching fish. It's the sights and sounds of the surrounding environment, the sounds of a babbling brook, wood frogs and peepers. The sounds of waterfowl coming in for the night, the peaceful twilights and the beautiful mornings.

Henry David Thoreau expressed it this way: "Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after. For the commercial fisherman, it is a living he is after. It is money to have a home and to feed his family. For the sport fisherman it is often the getting away or the solitude of a mountain stream. People often think 'they are going fishing,' but in reality, they are seeking something that fulfills their life and their dreams."

Shoreline fishing postponed within watershed properties

To prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the state Department of Conservation and Recreation is postponing the start of shoreline fishing at Quabbin Reservoir, Sudbury Reservoir, and Wachusett Reservoir from Sat., April 4, to Sat., May 9. Additionally, the opening of the boat launch areas for fishing within the Quabbin Reservoir is also postponed until May 9,

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Youth Turkey Hunt Day still on

Please remember that the emergency declaration and directive from Governor Baker to mitigate the spread of coronavirus, MassWildlife cancelled all turkey hunt seminars this spring. However, past participants who have completed hunter education and the turkey hunting seminars can still participate in the Youth Turkey Hunt Day which opens on April 25.

Hunters aged 15-17 are required to purchase their hunting licenses at vendor locations in person, but many vendors are closed or are re-prioritizing staff duties to essential activities. All MassWildlife offices are also closed. It is preparing an option that will allow minor hunting licenses to be purchased online. It expects that details will be available soon and updates will be available at Mass.gov/turkey2020.

All hunters should practice social distancing while participating in outdoor activities. Given the current public health situation, MassWildlife recommends that mentors should only hunt with immediate family members (within their residence) this year.

The regular spring seasons for adults opens on April 27 and runs until May 23.

Youth Artist from Boston Wins Junior Duck Stamp Contest

Chuxian Feng, a student of Mr. Gao's Art Studio in Boston, won Best of Show in the 2020 Massachusetts Junior Duck Stamp Contest. Her colored pencil drawing of a Canada goose with goslings was selected from 337 entries. Feng's award-winning work will move on to the National JDS Contest.

Students from kindergarten through 12th grade from across the commonwealth submitted original works of art depicting waterfowl in appropriate wetland habitat, demonstrating both artistic talent and a knowledge of the value of wetlands for wildlife. In March, MassWildlife held the judging at which time the top 100 winning artists were selected. A combination of the top 100 artworks will be exhibited throughout Massachusetts in the coming year. The Massachusetts JDS Program is sponsored by MassWildlife, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with support from Massachusetts Sportsmen's Council. You can support the JDS Program and wetland conservation by purchasing Junior Duck Stamps featuring national winners from previous years; buy online at duckstamp.com.

Tel-Electric Dam removal proceeding

In its 2019 Annual Report, the state Department of Environmental Restoration has reported the following: "The Tel-Electric Dam (also known as the Mill Street Dam) in Pittsfield has stood on the West Branch of the Housatonic River for more than a century. In recent years, the dam has fallen into disrepair and no longer serves a useful purpose. It also is a safety hazard for the community and contributes to local flooding during storms.

"DER has been working with the City of Pittsfield, the private dam owner, and other partners for over 10 years to plan the removal of this dam. Deconstruction of the dam began this fall. Removing the dam reconnects nearly five miles of upstream river habitat with the lower reach of the West Branch Housatonic River.

"This dam removal is part of the City of Pittsfield's larger efforts for a clean, resilient, free-flowing West Branch of the Housatonic River that connects two local parks and increases residents' access to the river. With the dam gone, kayaking and canoeing will be possible. The City envisions a new trail past the former dam as part of a river greenway.

"Support for the project comes from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the US Department of the Interior Office of Restoration and Damage Assessment, Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs Dam and Seawall Repair or Removal Fund and the MVP Program, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, the Massachusetts Sub-Council of the Housatonic River Trustee Council, the City, and the dam owner."

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


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