Gene Chague | Berkshire Woods and Waters: Spring trout stockings continue across state

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Trout are continuing to be stocked into Massachusetts waters by MassWildlife. The following bodies of water were stocked with trout from the period March 26 through April 1:

Rainbow Trout were stocked into the Deerfield River in Buckland, Charlemont and Florida; Westfield River in Windsor, Cummington, Worthington, Chesterfield, Chester, Huntington and Middlefield; Main Stem of Westfield River in Huntington, Russell and Montgomery; Windsor Lake in North Adams; Big Pond in Otis; York Lake in New Marlborough; Lake Buel, Pontoosuc Lake, Goose Pond, Richmond Pond, Onota Lake, Stockbridge Bowl, Windsor Pond, Laurel Lake, Littleville Lake in Huntington and Chester and Greenwater Pond.

Eastern Brook Trout were stocked into Ashfield Pond in Ashfield; Upper Highland Lake in Goshen; Windsor Pond, Laurel Lake, Goose Pond and Stockbridge Bowl.

Brown Trout were stocked into the Housatonic River (C&R) in Lee and Stockbridge; Stockbridge Bowl, Laurel Lake, Goose Pond, Littleville Lake and Chester, and Norwich Pond in Huntington.

Tiger Trout were stocked into Goose Pond and Stockbridge Bowl.

As you can see by the accompanying pictures of Harold Armstrong and Josh Christman, there were some huge brown and brook trout stocked.

Incidentally, MassWildlife recently announced that all Wildlife Management Areas and waters across the commonwealth will remain open and available for the public during the COVID-19 response. Officials said it's important to spend time outdoors to support your mental health year- round. Outdoor activities, and travel to and from those activities, are still permitted; however, people should avoid gathering in groups larger than 10 people and provide a safe distance between themselves and others by remaining six feet apart while outside.

Jack P. Sheppard

Anyone who launches a motorboat, canoe, or kayak at a public boat access facility or casts a fishing line from a barrier-free fishing facility or shoreline access can thank the late Jack P. Sheppard, former Director of the Office of Fishing and Boating Access (OFBA), for making their recreation experiences possible. Sadly, only a month after retiring from a 48-year career, Sheppard passed away on March 5 after a brief illness.

Sheppard's career began with the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife providing engineering expertise, procurement, and other services for the agency. He oversaw the Young Adult Conservation Corps program, a federal summer youth program that hired young people to work at state and federally managed lands, forests, parks, and hatcheries. Some of the people he hired went on to careers with MassWildlife or other state fish and wildlife agencies.

In the 1980s, Sheppard transferred to the Public Access Board in Boston as the Chief Engineer and was appointed Director in 1988. Now known as the Office of Fishing and Boating Access (OFBA), this small, but critical agency is charged with providing access to the 1,200 miles of Massachusetts' seashore and its hundreds of lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams. OFBA's skilled staff oversees facility design, construction and repair of boat launch facilities for motorboats and car-top boats, construction of fish piers, and acquisition of shoreline fishing areas.

He sought out municipalities and state agencies that already owned waterfront land or boat launches to work through Land Management Agreements. Under Agreement terms, OFBA provides maintenance, repair, or construction services while municipalities and agencies retain land ownership. In this way, OFBA dramatically increases public boating and fishing facilities. Now, there are nearly 300 boating access sites across the state. A number of these facilities are barrier-free, affording access for people with disabilities.

Jack frequently visited the Berkshires announcing improvements in boat ramps. Some recent projects were on Mansfield, Goose and Richmond Ponds.

FID/LTC Permit renewals

The state Guns Owner Action League (GOAL) has been receiving inquiries as to what gun owners should do if their permits expire during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many are unable to get to the licensing authorities. Here is information issued by GOAL:

"GOAL is currently in communication with the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security. They have recently allowed the Registry of Motor Vehicles to extend all licenses, registrations, etc. by 60 days. GOAL is asking that they do the same thing with firearm licenses. The Major City Chiefs Association and the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police are in agreement with us on this.

"While GOAL is waiting on their response, here are a few things that some licensing authorities are doing to help. Be sure to check with your town to learn if they apply accordingly.

"Most towns are ceasing new applications to prevent face to face interactions, but are saying mail them in if you wish.

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"Some are asking that renewal applications be done by mail. In this case there are a few things to remember.

"Include a $100 check made out to the city/town that you are renewing in.

"Ask for a receipt for the application. Some are asking that you provide an e-mail address to respond to this request. Others have said they will mail the receipt to you.

"Once you have applied for renewal and have a receipt, your license is valid until action is taken on it.

"Some towns have stated that they will use your recent Registry of Motor Vehicle photo for the mail in process or the one they have on file. Some towns are asking to provide a photo with your hard copy application, preferably on a white or bright background. We assume this will allow them to take a photo of it for the files.

"As for fingerprints, there should be no need if there are on file. In any case most are willing to waive that requirement for now.

"Note: Even if you are able to conduct the process remotely you may not receive a physical license or card anytime soon. They are not even sure if the Firearms Record Bureau is currently operating.

"Chapter 140, Section 131(i) states:'"If the licensee applied for renewal prior to the end of that period, the license shall remain valid after its expiration date for all lawful purposes until the application for renewal is approved or denied.'"

Should firearms dealers be considered an essential business?

A recent posting on Pete's Gun Shop's bulletin board gave the following information: "The Federal Government, as of (Saturday, March 28), through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has published a set of guidelines for essential businesses. Listed therein are all firearms businesses as being essential. As this is merely a guideline, states are still free to set their own limits."

On March 31, Governor Baker announced that they were releasing an updated "essentials" list after reviewing the recent DHS list. When that new Massachusetts list was released it contained the new federal advisory on firearms word for word.

However; within hours afterward, the Baker Administration edited their list by specifically removing firearm retailers and shooting ranges. When the Governor's office was queried by the GOAL about the sudden change, they were given a standard answer about protecting people against the virus. Keep in mind, firearm retailers are excluded from state-backed financial aid. Pete's Gun Shop owner Tom Decker and GOAL urge hunters and other gun owners to contact Gov. Baker and all of your elected Representatives and Senators if you feel this is wrong.

This may not seem important to some citizens, but if you are a hunter who is planning on taking a youth turkey hunting for the first time later this month and need ammo or hunting supplies, this is a big deal.

Also, I hope the Governor and his advisors are aware of the fact that monies that come from excise taxes on hunting equipment is disbursed by the Federal Aid Program to the states based upon their sales figures. (Pittman Robertson Act). Since 1937, P-R has provided serious funding for wildlife and habitat conservation. The state DFW relies heavily upon those funds for its wildlife management and habitat projects.

So, it is also a big deal to outdoor sportsfolks, bird watchers and those who value our open spaces

Fishing Derby

The Berkshire Hatchery Foundation in Hartsville-New Marlborough has started up its monthly free children's fishing derbies. They are scheduled to have one next Saturday, April 11 from 9 to 10:30 am at its lower pond. Children aged 12 and under must be accompanied by an adult. These fishing derbies will run once a month through September of this year.

You might want to check with them first to see if they cancelled it due to the virus.

Gene Chague can be reached at or 413-637-1818.


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