Adirondack Almanack provides this weekly Hunting and Fishing Report each Thursday evening, year round. The Almanack also provides weekly backcountry recreation conditions reports for those headed into the woods or onto the waters.
SPECIAL NOTICES FOR THIS WEEKEND
** indicates new or revised items.
** WINTER CONDITIONS
Winter conditions remain with unseasonably low precipitation but seasonably cold weather, leaving conditions generally icy around the region. An artic cold front is expected to move through this weekend and temperatures are predicted to be in the single digits during the day and below zero at night. Scattered snow squalls and whiteouts are forecast around the region, but likely not enough to substantially contribute to the snow pack. We lost additional snow cover this week; there is now between 4 to 8 inches of snow on the ground in the lower elevations, with 18 inches or more in the higher elevations. Summit areas can expect daytime wind chill values hovering above and below zero this weekend. Snow cover varies substantially with elevation, with the most in the south central and central Adirondacks, including the High Peaks. With the exception of Lake George and Lake Champlain, all the region’s lakes are iced over. Use caution when traveling on ice. Be prepared by wearing appropriate layered clothing, pack and use snowshoes and ice traction devices (cross country skis are not generally recommended in all areas of the High Peaks backcountry at this time, and are not recommended elsewhere), drink plenty of water and eat plenty of food to avoid hypothermia.
** SNOW DEPTH REPORT
Snow depths around the region vary, with 2 to 6 inches at most lower elevation; 5 to 7 inches in the south central Adirondacks and lower elevations of the central Adirondacks. There is 18 inches at Lake Colden Interior Cabin and more in the higher elevations of the High Peaks. Areas in Eastern Essex County and Southern Warren County have little to no snow. The National Weather Service snow cover map provides a good gauge of snow cover around the region, albeit somewhat under-reporting actual snow accumulations.
** ICE ON WATER
Ice has formed on lakes and ponds and the smaller bays of Lake Champlain and Lake George, where there remains much open water. Ice thickness remains less than what is typical for mid-winter. 6 to 12 inches of ice are reported on lakes at lower elevations. There is ice on South Bay on Lake Champlain, and on some of the bays of Lake George, but on large portions of these lakes the ice remains dangerously thin or nonexistent. Always check the depth of ice before crossing and avoid inlets, outlets and ice on or near running water. Ice that holds snow may not hold the weight of a person.
** SOME SNOWMOBILE TRAILS OPEN
Some of the region’s snowmobile trails remain open, but expect thin, hard packed icy trails with some boney and bare spots. Riding conditions are at best fair in Southern Franklin County and Lake Clear through toward Long Lake, Indian Lake, Old Forge, Inlet, and the Speculator area. Reasonable riding remains on the Cedar River side in the Moose River Plains, in the Perkins Clearing / Speculator Tree Farm Area (though some areas will be difficult to get to), in the Stillwater, Beaver River or Old Forge system, and around Cranberry Lake. Eastern Essex, Warren and Washington County are not ridable. Each individual club has the final authority as to whether to open their trails or not and snowmobilers should show restraint in areas with insufficient snow cover to avoid damaging the trails. Also, a reminder to respect the landowners who have given permission for trails to cross their land. Check with local clubs before venturing out. A map of New York State Snowmobile Association Member Clubs by county, complete with contact information, may be found here.
** KNOW THE LATEST WEATHER
Check the weather before entering the woods or heading onto the waters and be aware of weather conditions at all times. The National Weather Service (NWS) at Burlington and Albany cover the Adirondack region.
** Fire Danger: LOW
FIREWOOD BAN IN EFFECT
Due to the possibility of spreading invasive species that could devastate northern New York forests (such as Emerald Ash Borer, Hemlock Wooly Adeljid and Asian Longhorn Beetle), DEC prohibits moving untreated firewood more than 50 miles from its source. Forest Rangers have been ticketing violators of the firewood ban. More details and frequently asked questions at the DEC website.
DEC SUMMER CAMP REGISTRATIONS HAVE BEGUN
For only $350, campers ages 11 through 17 can participate in a wide variety of outdoor activities, including fishing, bird watching, fly tying, archery, canoeing, hiking, camping, orienteering and hunter safety education at one of four DEC summer environmental education camps. Campers also learn about fields, forests, streams and ponds through fun, hands-on activities and outdoor exploration. Starting January 28, applications should be mailed with the required fee to reserve a spot. Applications and details are available on DEC’s website.
ADIRONDACK FISHING REPORTS
** WATERS RUNNING AT NORMAL JUST ABOVE LEVELS
Ice has formed on all slack waters. The region’s rivers and streams have returned to normal or just above normal for this time of year. Consult the latest streamgage data if you our venturing onto the region’s waters.
** Ice Fishing Has Begun
Ice fishing is well underway but ice thickness remains less than what is typical for mid-winter. 6 to 12 inches of ice are reported on lakes at lower elevations. There is ice on South Bay on Lake Champlain, and on some of the bays of Lake George, but on large portions of these lakes the ice remains dangerously thin or nonexistent. Always check the depth of ice before crossing and avoid inlets, outlets and ice on or near running water. Ice that holds snow may not hold the weight of a person. The Almanack covered the beginning of the hard-water angling season on Thursday.
** Water Temperatures
Water temperatures in many of the Adirondack waters have dropped into the lower 30s, colder water temperatures can be expected in higher elevation waters. Lake Champlain water temperature is 33 degrees.
New Staff for State Fish Hatcheries
Eleven new employees, including ten fish culturists and one biologist, have been hired to work in New York State’s fish hatcheries. Filling vacancies left by retirements in 2011, the fish culturists will work at DEC’s hatcheries across the state, assisting in all aspects of growing and stocking fish. The new biologist will work with the fish health unit at the Rome hatchery, assisting in surveillance and treatment of fish diseases. Bringing hatcheries back to required staffing levels is a worthwhile investment. Anglers spend an estimated $530 million annually on fishing in New York State, due in large part to the approximately 900,000 pounds of hatchery-raised fish produced each year. Other information on New York State’s fish hatcheries is available on DEC’s website.
Special Fishing Seasons Remain Open
The statewide trout season is closed but there are some exceptions to this regulation. The catch-and-release areas on the West Branch of the Ausable River, Saranac River and the Battenkill remain open as well as a few ponds such as Mountain Pond, Lake Clear & Lake Colby in Franklin County; and Connery Pond in Essex County. Lake Champlain and sections of its tributaries are open all year for trout and salmon fishing. To find out which waters near you still have trout fishing opportunities, check the special fishing regulations by County.
Currently Open Fishing Seasons
Open seasons include Pike, Pickerel, Tiger Muskie, Walleye (those seasons close March 15 and reopen May 15). Yellow Perch, Crappie, and Sunfish seasons are open all year. For catch and size limits view the freshwater fishing regulations online.
Personal Flotation Devices Required
Boaters are reminded all persons aboard a pleasure vessel less than 21 feet regardless of age must wear a personal flotation device from November 1st to May 1st.
The gate for the road to Lake Clear Girl Scout Camp is open, but due to the condition of the road until further notice it should only be used by pickup trucks, SUVs and other vehicles with high clearance. This road is used to access Meadow and St. Germain Ponds.
Kings Bay Wildlife Management Area
The two gates are open allowing ice anglers to access Kings Bay and Catfish Bay on Lake Champlain. The Town of Champlain has improved the shoulder of Point Au Fer Road, directly west of Scales Road, allowing easier access for snowmobiles and ATVs. However, the Town asks ice anglers to please park as far off Scales Road as possible so emergency vehicles and snow plows can safely pass and to obey the No Parking signs along Point Au Fer Road.
Use Baitfish Wisely
Anglers using fish for bait are reminded to be careful with how these fish are used and disposed of. Careless use of baitfish is one of the primary means by which non-native species and fish diseases are spread from water to water. Unused baitfish should be discarded in an appropriate location on dry land. A “Green List” of commercially available baitfish species that are approved for use in New York State has now been established in regulation. A discussion of these regulations and how to identify approved baitfish species is available online. Personal collection and use of baitfish other than those on the “Green List” is permitted, but only on the water from which they were collected and they may not be transported overland by motorized vehicle. Anglers are reminded that new regulations for transportation of baitfish are currently under consideration, and these proposed regulations can be viewed online.
Preventing Invasive Species and Fish Diseases
Anglers are reminded to be sure to dry or disinfect their fishing and boating equipment, including waders and boots, before entering a new body of water. This is the only way to prevent the spread of potentially damaging invasive plant and animal species (didymo and zebra mussels) and fish diseases (Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS) and whirling disease). Methods to clean and disinfect fishing gear can be found online.
Health Advisories on Fish
The NYSDOH has issued the 2010-2011 advisories on eating sportfish and game. Some of fish and game contain chemicals at levels that may be harmful to human health. See the DEC webpage on Fish Health Advisories for more information and links to the Department of Health information.
ADIRONDACK HUNTING REPORTS
DEC Seeks Comment on Bobcat Management Plan
DEC has released a proposed five-year bobcat management plan for public review and comment. The draft management plan is available on the DEC website. The comment period on the draft plan runs through February 16, 2012. Comments may be submitted in writing through February 16, 2012 to NYSDEC Bureau of Wildlife, Bobcat Management Plan, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4754 or by e-mail to email@example.com (put “Bobcat Plan” in the subject line). Phil Brown reported on the plan for Adirondack Almanack this morning.
DEC Accepting Pheasant Program Applications
The application period is now open for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s cooperative Day-Old Pheasant Chick Program. Day-old chicks are available at no cost to participants who are able to provide a brooding facility and covered outdoor rearing pen, and have identified an adequate release site. Approved applicants will receive the day-old chicks in April, May or June. No chicks obtained through the Day-Old Pheasant Chick Program are permitted to be released on private shooting preserves. All release sites must be approved in advance by DEC and must be open to the public for pheasant hunting. Individuals interested in these programs should contact their nearest DEC regional office for applications and additional information. In 2011, DEC distributed 46,496 day-old pheasant chicks to qualified applicants. Applications must be filed with a DEC regional wildlife manager by March 15, 2011.
Sportsmen & Outdoor Recreation Legislative Day
The New York State Rifle & Pistol Association has set a date of Tuesday, March 20, 2012 for the 3rd Annual Sportsmen & Outdoor Recreation Legislative Awareness Day. It will take place from 9:00am to 1:00pm in the “Well” of the State Legislative Office Building in Albany. Sponsored by NYSRPA and Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb the event focuses on lobbying around 2nd Amendment issues and exhibits and presentations by advocates, including a keynote address by Wayne LaPierre, Executive Vice President and CEO of the National Rifle Association.
Winter Wild Turkey Flock Survey
Visit DEC’s Winter Wild Turkey Flock Survey (http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/48756.html) webpage and start recording observations of turkey flocks to help monitor their status and health. Just print a turkey-sighting form, record the number of turkeys you see in a flock from January through March, and send in your results to the address noted on the form at the end the survey period. In 2011, more than 640 reports were received, resulting in 10,200 birds counted in 49 of the 62 counties in New York State.
2011 Deer Harvest Update
The 2011 hunting year started out low compared to last year, with 5% less harvest in mid-November and 20% less harvest in the opening week of the Southern Zone regular season. However, harvest picked up during Thanksgiving week, boosting results to align more closely with results of the 2010 harvest at this time of year.
2011 Bear Harvest Update
The 2011 season is quite different from last year, with preliminary harvests down in the Northern Zone but at record levels in the Southern Zone. This year, new regulations opened bear hunting in eastern New York, ranging from Westchester County to Washington County. Hunters in the new hunting areas have taken more than 40 bears so far. Still, even without these additional bears, the preliminary take in the southeastern New York region may become one of the top harvests ever recorded. In central and western New York, harvest is topping around 300 bears, which has already shattered the previous record of 189 bears taken in 2008.
Lewis Preserve WMA
The Brandy Brook has jumped its bank creating a braided stream channel across the main foot trail adjacent to the existing foot bridge. Users should use caution while attempting to cross this new stream channel as it may be deep and swift moving.
Small Game Seasons Open
A number of small game seasons are now open including: Grey, Black and Fox Squirrel, Crow, Snipe, Rail, Gallinule, Ruffed Grouse, Cottontail Rabbit, Pheasant, Woodcock, Coyote, and Varying Hare. Fox, Raccoon, Skunk, Opossum and Weasel seasons are now open. Bobcat season is open in all Region 5 WMUs, except 5R which does not have a season. See the DEC Small Game webpage for more information on seasons and regulations.
Snow Goose Season Closed
In the Northeastern Waterfowl Hunting Zone Snow Goose season has closed, it reopens February 24 and closes April 15. Note that the boundary between the Northeastern and the Southeastern Waterfowl Hunting Zones now runs east along Route 29 to Route 22, north along Route 22 to Route 153, east along Route 153 to the New York – Vermont boundary.
Some Trapping Seasons Closed
Fisher and Martin seasons are now closed in all Region 5 WMUs; Bobcat season is closed in all Region 5 WMUs except in 5S and 5T where it closes February 15; Mink and Muskrat season closes April 15 in all Region 5 WMUs except 5R, 5S & 5T where it closes April 7; Coyote, Red Fox, Gray Fox, Raccoon, Skunk, Opossum and Weasel season closes February 15 in all Region 5 WMUS. The use of bait or lure is prohibited with body gripping traps set on land between December 11 and February 15 in all Region 5 WMUs, except in WMUs 5R, 5S & 5T. Otter season closes April 7 in all Region 5 WMUs except 5S and 5T where it closes February 28 and in 5R where there is no trapping season. Beaver season closes April 7 in all Region 5 WMUs.
Warnings and announcements drawn from DEC, NWS, NOAA, USGS, and other sources. Detailed Adirondack Park hunting, fishing, and trapping information can be found at DEC’s webpages. A DEC map of the Adirondack Park can also be found online [pdf].
The DEC Habitat/Access Stamp is available for $5 at all outlets where sporting licenses are sold, on-line and via telephone at 1-866-933-2257. Stamp proceeds support the DEC’s efforts to conserve habitat and increase public access for fish and wildlife related recreation. A Habitat/Access Stamp is not required to hunt, fish or trap, nor do you have to purchase a sporting license to buy a habitat stamp.