Gene Chague | Berkshire Woods and Waters: Five honored at Silvio O. Conte Memorial Banquet

The Cheshire Rod & Gun Club banquet hall was packed last Saturday night to celebrate the Silvio O. Conte Sportsmen's Awards Banquet. Mark Jester, former President of the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen (BCLS) was the emcee for the evening. The accomplishments of all of the award recipients were listed in my March 18 column.

In presenting the first award, the Outstanding Achievement Award, to Tom Tyning, Fish & Wildlife Board Member Stephen Sears said, "He has not only taught students but also teachers to help them teach our views about all the great things of Berkshire County."

The Outstanding Achievement Award plaque reads, "In recognition of your efforts to introduce thousands of people including many future sportsmen to the vast wonders of the outdoors." In his acceptance of the award, Tom mentioned that his real start in this area was when he was a kid growing up in the Connecticut Valley. He discussed his education and future endeavors in the area. Radio telepathy was first being invented in the 1970s and he said that he was able to put a transmitter into a turtle for 2 years. He described that period as, "a very quiet and slow period" of his life.

Then Mark Jester said some very nice things about me before presenting me with the John Zuber Award. This award reads, "Presented in recognition of his unwavering dedication to introduce and perpetuate the ideals of sportsmen in Berkshire County."

This was quite an honor for me because I had a great respect for John and what he accomplished during his lifetime. I thanked the sportsmen, conservationists and the DFW for supporting and reading the Berkshire Woods and Waters column over the years. If it wasn't for them providing news information and pictures, I wouldn't be able to write it weekly. I thanked the Berkshire Eagle for keeping the column after my predecessor, Ted Giddings retired. Lastly, I thanked his wife Jan, my "in-house" editor who proofreads and keeps me pretty much out of trouble.

Mark then presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to George Wislocki, who retired from the Berkshire Natural Resources Council (BNRC) after many years. "The County League and the BNRC have had a great relationship over the years, we helped them and they helped us."

The Lifetime Achievement Award plaque reads, "Worked for over 50 years preserving open space, majestic ridge lines and vulnerable wetlands of Berkshire County."

George commented that he grew up in Eastern MA and loved the outdoors, and when he was 14 he attended a youth conservation camp here in the Berkshires. Later on, when he was older and worked for the BNRC, he linked up with George "Gige" Darey in preserving land.

"I love these clubs (referring to the Cheshire Rod & Gun Clubhouse). "Look at everyone here", these clubs are important but times are changing and I hope 50 years from today there will still be this club and there will still be people here." He urged the sportsmen of Berkshire County to "take the kids into the woods and show them what the woods are all about. It's an experience to be a sportsman, it's a wonderful experience. It is so much Berkshire."

"Its rare to have someone who is so dedicated to certain aspects of the outdoors and does so on a volunteer basis," said Mark about Dan Miraglia when presenting him with the Sportsmen's Appreciation Award. "He grew up fishing lakes and is really involved in the aquatic species. He is the eyes and ears when it comes to lakes, drawdowns and herbicide applications. He brings things to light for the sportsmen and keeps them involved in what is going on. He does so pretty much single handedly and the BCLS supports him, and he supports us."

The Sportsmen's Appreciation Award plaque reads, "In recognition of his support dedication and oversight in the preservation of open space and wildlife."

Dan recalled as a kid catching gold fish and frogs in rivers and ponds and how the shores of Onota and Pontoosuc Lakes were loaded with turtles and frogs. "Now they are disappearing in our lakes. There just is not enough protection," he said. The effects of continued drawdowns for 30-40 years have had their effects. "Take the politics out of lake management and give our lakes back to the sportsmen."

Karen Kruszyna became the second woman to have ever be awarded the Sportsperson of the Year award. Only one other woman has won the award and that was Eleanor Tillinghast.

"If you go to this club, (Cheshire), if you go to the Adams for Outdoor Youth Club, if you go to the BCLS functions, you will see Karen selling tickets," said Jester. (she was selling tickets that night)

She is always involved in the organizations' activities and is there at the helm or standing behind the person speaking or running the event. Everyone knows that if it wasn't for her, the person would not be able to put the event together. Same thing here tonight. Her Sportsperson of the Year plaque reads, "In recognition for her lifelong dedication, leadership and support of youth in Massachusetts."

In accepting the award, Karen said that she is grateful every day because of the fact that when she has to do something she can always pick up the phone and ask for and always receive help. People almost never say no, and that's why this all works. That very morning, she was so excited when she was driving through Adams and saw kids riding bikes with backpacks and fishing poles. She said, "Oh my god, kids going fishing." She stopped and told them where she thought they would catch fish. "I learned this week that parts of the Archery-in-the-School program is incorporated into a local school's physics program. It's wonderful to co-exist, when they learn about sports, they can also learn about other scientific things."

Mark noted that the BCLS has its annual Youth Outreach Fishing Derby every year and that some twelve Berkshire County schools have Archery-in-the-School programs. If your school doesn't have such a program and you want to see one, contact a BCLS delegate or Mark and they will work hard to get one in. They also have trout rearing and release programs in the schools.

"We are fighting a rear guard right now and we need to get these kids involved in the outdoors. Bring the kids to sportsmen's dinners, turkey shoots, get them involved in archery and shooting programs," said Mark.

Mark introduced current BCLS President Tom Brule to the crowd who in turn made some comments. Lastly, Mark thanked Mike Kruszyna, long time BCLS VP who filled in as president for the last two years until the position was filled by Tom.

Richmond Pond Trout Stocking

DFW had a special Earth Week trout stocking event on Richmond Pond on Friday, April 20. Leanda Fontaine-Gagnon, Aquatic Biologist for the DFW Western District (WD) explained that the purpose of the event was to get people familiar with their stocking process and what they do on a daily basis all year long. The WD covers all of Berkshire County as well as western portions of Hampshire, Hampton and Franklin Counties. DFW is charged with overseeing, protecting and managing the natural resources across the state. All 5 districts have the same type of staffing. In the WD, there is an Aquatic Biologist, a Wildlife Biologist, District Manager, four Wildlife Technicians, a Land Steward, who oversees all of their Wildlife Management Areas, a Real Estate Agent and a clerk.

They stock most of the locations in the spring and a handful in the fall. As Aquatic Biologist, she does all of the organization for the stocking in the WD. She determines what fish to stock and how many and what sizes to go in which waters. She puts in orders to the hatcheries for the fish and also goes out and stocks. During this time of year, she typically spends one day in the office and the rest of the week she is out in the field stocking.

Why do they stock fish? In this technologically advanced age, everybody is inside playing with smart phones, tablets and whatnot. DFW wants to get people back out into the world and enjoy what we have for natural resources; such as fishing, kayaking, and just enjoying the natural resources.

They are not stocking trout for restoration purposes but for people to catch. They are supplementing the wild trout populations for angling purposes in order to get pressure off of the wild trout population.

They stock four different types of trout in the state: brook, brown, rainbow, and a hybrid tiger trout which is a cross between a brook and brown. In the WD they stock just over 96,000 fish in the entire spring allotment and across the state it is about 600,000. Rainbow trout, 14 inches and over is the bulk of what they stock. They also put a lot of brookies, browns and tiger trout.

All of the trout come from 5 hatcheries across the state, with four in the Connecticut Valley: the Bitzer Fish Hatchery in Montague, Sunderland Fish Hatchery in Sunderland, McLaughlin Fish Hatchery in Belchertown and Roger Reed Hatchery in Palmer. Another hatchery, the Sandwich Fish Hatchery in Sandwich also produces tiger trout. The fish stocked at Richmond Pond on this day were from the McLaughlin Hatchery.

DFW put out a variety of fish from 9 to 18 inches. They stock out the fish based upon the size of the water body. Typically, they stock 12 plus inch fish in Richmond Pond but the 9-inch fish are usually stocked into smaller streams. They stock 70 cold water bodies in our district, 23 ponds and 54 rivers or streams.

On a typical day when they are stocking fish they check their schedules, drive to the hatchery, fill up with water there (they have 4 individual tanks in the truck) and obtain their allotted fish for that day. On this particular day, they were carrying 750 fish on board (about 1,000 lbs), with 350 of them going into Richmond Pond and the remainder to Goose Pond. When they arrive at their water bodies, they either send them out through chutes where they can do so or carry them by nets into rivers and streams.

It may seem like they are harming the fish by tossing them into the waters but if the fish are gently stocked, that is one of the worst things to do. The little plop into the water actually wakes them up a little. DFW takes care to ensure that the fish survive. (no casualties were observed this day).

After fielding a few questions, Leanda asked the 20 or so spectators to help out with the stocking process by carrying the trout in white 5 gallon pails to the lake front and tossing them into the water. Everyone, especially the kids, had a ball.

GOAL Seminar

On Tuesday, May 1, beginning at 6:30 pm, the Stockbridge Sportsmen's Club will be hosting a free GOAL seminar entitled "MA Gun Law for Citizens". It is a 3-hour seminar presented by Jon Green, Director of Education and Training for the Gun Owners Action League, that will help separate fact from fiction. Jon's presentation will provide a clear understanding of Massachusetts gun laws and regulations.

All firearms owners should attend. The seminar is free to Berkshire County residents and neighboring counties courtesy of the Stockbridge Sportsmen's Club. You are requested to RSVP so that they can plan seating for the event. Contact Robert J. McDermott at 413-232-7700 or or

Questions/comments: Phone: (413) 637-1818


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