A screened-in porch is an ideal place to relax on a summer evening in the Adirondacks. The tight, wire mesh that covers the walls allows the enjoyment of nature’s unique fragrances and wildlife sounds without the harassment of mosquitoes and other flying nocturnal pests. However, during the early parts of summer, there is one bug that can detract from the backwoods ambiance of that peaceful Adirondack evening. Biting midges are small enough to pass through traditional screens, allowing them access to any individual wanting to enjoy the evening.
The biting midges form a large group of exceedingly small true flies that are roughly the size of a sand grain, and are known to many as punkies or no-see-ums. The latter common name comes from this bug’s ability to remain unseen in low light conditions, such as on a porch after sunset, even when one of these pests has started to chew into your skin. Despite their dark color, no-see-ums are still a challenge to see clearly, even when standing against a patch of light colored skin. On a person with a dark complexion, punkies can be impossible to spot, regardless of how good the light may happen to be. » Continue Reading.
Carl Schwartz, US Fish and Wildlife Service and John Braico, NYS Trout Unlimited will lead a walk of the Ausable River on October 24 focused on rebuilding and repairing streams effected by flooding. Funds recently secured by the Ausable River Association (AsRA) for restoring tributaries damaged during Irene flooding are being considered for allocation.
Both Schwartz and Braico have worked extensively throughout New York to repair rivers and restore aquatic habitat. Schwartz works actively on river restoration projects and operates an excavator to build natural channels. The Ausable River Association and the Essex County Soil and Water Conservation District are inviting and encouraging Citizens, Town Council members, Town DPWs, County DPW, DOT, DEC, and NonGovernmental Organizations to attend.
Date: October 24, 10 AM; Meet at the mouth of John’s Brook at the Rt. 73 bridge in Keene Valley; 2 PM Meet at the Gazebo in Ausable Forks.
A few days after Hurricane Irene, I hiked to Duck Hole to see how the place looked after the breach of the old logging dam. Although the pond lost most of its water, there were streams running through the resultant mudflats and a pool remained at the base of the waterfall on east shore.
Earlier in the year, I had carried my canoe to Duck Hole and had a ball paddling around and admiring views of High Peaks. Now I wondered if anyone would ever want to bring a canoe to Duck Hole again.
Lampreys (petromyzontidae) are native to parts of the Adirondacks. They are among the most primitive fish in the world and can be distinguished from eels by their lack of jaws and paired fins. Most species of Lamprey have a parasitic life stage, where they will attach themselves to other fish like Lake Trout and “rasp” through the skin using their teeth and tongue. Within the Adirondacks three species can be found within Lake Champlain and some of its tributaries, these include: Silver lamprey, Sea lamprey, and the non-parasitic American Brook lamprey.
Lampreys have an elongate shape with seven pairs of round gill openings. They have a single nostril that is located in front of the eyes. All species have similar life histories; in the spring, they move into streams to spawn. Adults build nests by moving pebbles on the substrate to form a depression in which to lay their eggs. » Continue Reading.
What follows is a guest essay by longtime local guide Joe Hackett:
The Adirondack Park has a long and storied history of outdoor sporting adventures.
For centuries, the region was a favored hunting ground for the Iroquois and Algonquin nations. Indeed, the area provided the first commodities of trade in the New World as Adirondack beaver pelts became crucial to early commerce. » Continue Reading.
What follows is a talk given at the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks’s Arthur M. Crocker Lecture Series in 2006.
It somehow takes the pressure off public speaking to know that one stands up here, rather than sits out there only by accident of birth. That is to say: my father Howard Zahniser, who died four months before the 1964 Wilderness Act became law, was the chief architect of, and lobbyist for, this landmark Act that created the now 106-million-acre National Wilderness Preservation System. I am up here because of his accomplishments. » Continue Reading.
What follows is a story of some young men from Albany learning to fly fish on the West Branch of the Ausable River, and who for the first time experience the pull of the river, its rocks and pools, a trout on the line, and in their hands. I start with some background.
When Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve organized one year ago, we decided to seek out non-traditional allies and educational partners in our efforts to broaden aware, informed support for wild nature. One of those partners is Brother Yusuf Burgess of Albany. For many years, Brother Yusuf has been helping young urban youth to discover discipline, teamwork, self-awareness and self-worth in the great outdoors. As often as time and funds allow, Yusuf brings youth from Albany to the Adirondacks, Catskills, Hudson Valley and beyond to learn outdoor skills such as boat-building, fishing, skiing, camping. He understands young people and the streets. He has walked their walk.
A former counselor at the Albany Boys and Girls Clubs, Yusuf is employed as Family Intervention Specialist with Green Tech Charter High School. He is an experienced kayaker and fisherman, founder of the Environmental Awareness Network for Diversity in Conservation, and is also New York’s representative on the Children and Nature Network. For several years, Yusuf worked for the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation to recruit more children and families of color into DEC’s Summer Campership program. His successful efforts to create teen “eco-clubs” in urban America have been noticed at home and internationally, and he is widely sought as a speaker. Some of the young men and women whom Yusuf influenced have gone on to professional careers, and some have returned to help Yusuf mentor today’s teens.
Yusuf and his students are featured in the acclaimed 2010 documentary film, Mother Nature’s Child (Fuzzy Slippers Productions, Burlington, VT), which explores nature’s powerful role in children’s health and development. To quote from the film’s promotional materials, “The film marks a moment in time when a living generation can still recall childhoods of free play outdoors; this will not be true for most children growing up today.” For more, go to www.mothernaturesmovie.com.
Recently, Yusuf brought six young men from Albany’s Green Tech Charter High School to learn fly fishing from Adirondack Wild’s Dan Plumley, to apply what they learn on the West Branch of the Ausable River, and to camp out at Dan’s oak grove in Keene. Yusuf had each boy equipped with fly rod, poncho, and camping gear. Dan worked tirelessly to improve their casting technique, where the thumb and tip of the rod work together to drop the fly where it wants to be – right where the hatch is rising and the fish biting. Few other sports require the wrist and shoulder to be so still. Slowly, with Dan’s careful guidance some of them got the feel for it.
On the river, Dan explained about the Forest Preserve and its significance, and taught the boys that this particular section of the West Branch was a “no kill” conservation area, where fish are “catch and release” only. He showed them how to tie a fly, how to hold the hook to avoid being punctured, and how to read the river for the best places to fish.
One boy got in the waders, took Dan’s favorite rod, and immersed himself in the life of the West Branch. Completely absorbed, he moved upriver to an unoccupied pool, casting by himself. About 2 pm, we heard him. He had a trout on his line! His friends joined him as he unhooked a nice brown trout, proudly held it for the cameras, and released it. This was one of many special moments where these young men exchanged self-consciousness for independence as they explored a completely new and challenging outdoor world.
As other fishers left a pool unoccupied, Dan moved the group to that very spot and found that within minutes the trout were rising to a hatch, perhaps the black flies which were beginning to harass us on the bank. Dan positioned the young men for success, but their casts were just falling short of the constantly rising fish. Finally, Dan took his rod and practice-cast upstream, and then dropped the fly perfectly. After several attempts, he had a trout on the line. He called for one the boys to bring it in slowly and very soon in their hands was a handsome, small brook trout which tolerated a photo-shoot, and then shot from their hands back into the river: a magical conclusion to the afternoon’s “edventure,” a term Yusuf uses frequently.
Back at their camp in Dan’s oak grove, the boys settled in to tend and watch their camp fire, joke and laugh, and also to think on the day and what they had accomplished. “I am thinking about how far I am from home right now,” said one young man very quietly as he stared into the fire’s light. I knew he was not merely referring to road miles, but to inner miles. Next morning, Dan asked another about his overnight experience. “It was my first time camping, and it was extremely fun!”
It is remarkable to see how Yusuf works with these young men who, without the guidance and opportunities for growth he provides, might easily fall under many negative influences close to their homes. Yusuf participates in their camaraderie, knows these young men, and knows how to bring out their best qualities, put them to work, and to earn their respect. I am pleased we are playing a small role in Yusuf’s determined campaign to transform the lives of several generations of urban youth through exposure to nature in the wild Adirondacks.
Photos: Brother Yusuf Burgess with the young men he brought with him to the Ausable; Brother Yusuf; Dan Plumley coaches from mid-stream; Trout in the hand.
Although water levels have finally dropped below flood stage on Lake Champlain this week, a Flood Warning remains in effect and facilities and businesses near low-lying shorelines continue to be heavily impacted by high waters.
The Ausable Point Campground remains closed, as is the campground access road. Many Valcour Island campsites and access points are still flooded and due to the high waters, floating docks have not been installed and bathrooms are closed at Peru Dock, Port Douglas, Willsboro Bay and other boat launches. Vermont closed all access to Lake Champlain except for Tabor Point, malletts Bay, Lamoille River, Converse Bay, and Larabee’s Point. Quebec closed all access and shut down boating to prevent further shoreline erosion due to wakes. » Continue Reading.
A proposed regulation that would limit motorized boating on Thirteenth Lake to electric motors only has been released for public comment by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). Interested parties have until July 2 to provide comments on the proposed regulation.
Thirteenth Lake lies in the northeastern portion of the Siamese Ponds Wilderness Area in the Town of Johnsburg, Warren County. The lakeshore is predominately state-owned lands classified as wilderness. Some privately owned parcels adjoin the lake. During the development of the Unit Management Plan for the Siamese Ponds Wilderness Area, DEC received numerous comments from private homeowners on the lake and from other users requesting that motorboats be prohibited on Thirteenth Lake due to noise, air pollution and water pollution issues. In response to these concerns, the Siamese Ponds Unit Management Plan calls for limiting motorized boating on the lake to electric motors only. This regulation implements that directive.
The use of electric motors will allow anglers to troll for trout and people with mobility disabilities to access the lake and adjoining wilderness lands.
The full proposed regulation and additional information regarding the purpose of the regulation can be viewed on the DEC website.
Comments will be accepted until July 2, 2011. Comments or questions may be directed to Peter Frank, Bureau of Forest Preserve, Division of Lands & Forests, by mail at 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4254; e-mail at email@example.com or by telephone at 518-473-9518.
The National Fish Habitat Action Plan has unveiled the 2011 list of 10 “Waters to Watch”, a collection of rivers, streams, estuaries, watershed systems and shores that will benefit from strategic conservation efforts to protect, restore or enhance their current condition. Included in the list is the Batten Kill in Washington County.
The 10 waters represent a snapshot of this year’s larger voluntary habitat conservation efforts in progress. These and other locally driven conservation projects are prioritized and implemented by regional Fish Habitat Partnerships that have formed throughout the country to implement the National Fish Habitat Action Plan. The objective of the Action Plan is to conserve freshwater, estuarine and marine habitats essential to the many fish and wildlife species that call these areas home. The 10 “Waters to Watch” are representative of freshwater to marine habitats across the country including rivers, lakes, reservoirs and estuaries that benefit through the conservation efforts of these Fish Habitat Partnerships formed under the Action Plan-a bold initiative implemented in 2006 to avoid and reverse persistent declines in our nation’s aquatic habitats.
The initial Action Plan’s 10 “Waters to Watch” list was unveiled in 2007 and in 2011 will feature its 50th project. Since 2006, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has provided $12 million to support 257 on-the-ground Action Plan projects in 43 states, leveraging $30 million in partner match, to address the priorities of Action Plan Fish Habitat Partnerships. Additional funds have been provided by several other State and Federal agencies and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and industry partners.
“Our approach-teaming local, state, tribal, and federal agencies with private partners and stakeholders-is helping to bring these waters back to life in most cases…in a faster more strategic way,” said Kelly Hepler, Chairman of the National Fish Habitat Board. “By watching these 10 models of our nation’s aquatic conservation efforts underway, we can see real progress, in both avoidance and treatment of causes of fish habitat decline. Too often we have focused on treatment of symptoms with limited success. Through sound science and on-the-ground locally driven partnerships, these select Action Plan projects can be held high as a vision of what quality habitat should and can be, and how it benefits all people throughout the United States.” BATTEN KILL RIVER – Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture
The Batten Kill project is a high profile fisheries and watershed restoration project that has galvanized local, regional and national groups and partners. Once a famous, world-class recreational trout fishery, the river experienced a steady decline in its wild fish population over the past two decades. Since 2000, there has been widespread grassroots support and effort to restore the fishery to its former status.
Purpose of the project: In-stream and riparian habitat restoration for Eastern brook trout in the Batten Kill watershed, have been based on scientific assessments and monitoring that have led to strategic on-the-ground implementation of restoration practices.
The goals are to deliver as much short term habitat restoration work as possible through the installation of in-stream cover and shelter along with replanting the riparian zone, while making long term investments in quality habitat by improving river dynamics, conserving existing buffers, and planting buffer zones where vegetation is deficient.
There is also the essential component of fostering good stewardship by educating landowners in river-friendly practices and supporting easements or other conservation protection of riparian areas where appropriate.
Project Timeline: Projects to install cover and shelter structures combined with in-stream structures to improve river dynamics (according to established Natural Channel Design Techniques) began in 2005 and continue in earnest today.
There are two teams implementing assessments and restoration: one in Vermont, one in New York. Each team restores about a half a mile of stream each year. So far, the partnership has accomplished:
26 miles of fish habitat inventory and assessment. 27 projects totaling 10.5 miles of riparian and stream habitat restoration. 21 miles of stream geomorphology and bank erosion surveys. 15 scientific/biological investigations & assessments and fishery studies. Multiple river stewardship and public outreach and education projects.
The project is considered a good example of cooperation between Federal, State, and local agencies, organizations, communities and streamside landowners, in both states, to develop and implement a scientific-approach and community-driven restoration effort. Monitoring shows a 400% increase in the number of yearling trout in the affected pools and 100% increase in affected riffles.
Partners include: Batten Kill Watershed Alliance of New York and Vermont US Fish & Wildlife Service Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program Fisheries Program US Forest Service, Green Mountain National Forest Natural Resources Conservation Service New York Department of Environmental Conservation Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department Washington County (NY) Soil and Water Conservation District Bennington County (VT) Natural Resource Conservation District Windsor County (VT) Natural Resource Conservation District Clearwater Chapter of Trout Unlimited Adirondack Chapter of Trout Unlimited Southwestern Vermont Chapter of Trout Unlimited The Orvis Company National Wildlife Federation University of Vermont University of Massachusetts Dartmouth College
The rest of the 10 “Waters to Watch” for 2011 include:
Alewife Brook/Scoy Pond, NY (National Fish Habitat Partnership – Atlantic Coastal Fish Habitat Partnership)
Au Sable River, Michigan – (National Fish Habitat Partnership – Great Lakes Basin Fish Habitat Partnership)
Barataria Bay, Louisiana – (National Fish Habitat Partnership – Southeast Aquatics Resources Partnership)
Cottonwood Creek, Alaska – (National Fish Habitat Partnership – Mat-Su Basin Salmon Habitat Partnership)
Duchesne River, Utah – (National Fish Habitat Partnership – Desert Fish Habitat Partnership)
Llano River, Texas – (National Fish Habitat Partnership – Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership)
Manistee River, Michigan- (National Fish Habitat Partnership – Great Lakes Basin Fish Habitat Partnership)
St. Charles Creek, Idaho – (National Fish Habitat Partnership – Western Native Trout Initiative)
Waipa Stream, Hawaii – (National Fish Habitat Partnership – Hawaii Fish Habitat Partnership)
The Action Plan has met its objective of establishing at least 12 Fish Habitat Partnerships by 2010 to help identify the causes of habitat declines and implement corrective initiatives for aquatic conservation and restoration, with 17 Fish Habitat Partnership currently working on the ground in aquatic conservation.
Since its launch six years ago, the Action Plan has received wide public support. To date nearly 1,700 partners have pledged their support including a range of organizations and individuals interested in the health of the nation’s fisheries such as fishing clubs, international conservation organizations, federal agencies, angling industries and academia.
These ten habitat conservation efforts highlighted in 2011 are a small sample of the many habitat conservation projects implemented under the Action Plan. The 2011, as well as past 10 “Waters to Watch” lists can be viewed at www.fishabitat.org along with complete information on the scope of the Action Plan. Illustrations: The Batten Kill in Arlington, Vermont; below, the Batten Kill and its tributaries. Courtesy Wikipedia.
After a long, cold, snowy winter, it is time to search out the majestic Adirondack Brook Trout. Many of the best trout fishing and viewing locations are still experiencing high flow conditions, making accessing them difficult. Due to these conditions, stocking of bodies of water within the Adirondacks will not take place until later in the month. It is anticipated that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation will stock 147,000 Brook Trout into Adirondack waters.
Brook Trout, Salvelinus fontinalis, our state fish, is one of the easiest species to recognize. The white leading edges on the fins, wormlike vermiculation and the red spots on their sides haloed with blue, make this fish unique. The Brook Trout, like the Lake Trout is actually a char. They can serve as an indicator of the health of an aquatic ecosystem. Brook Trout live in lakes and streams throughout the Adirondacks. Being a cold-water species, they prefer, small streams with cool temperatures, as well as lakes and ponds that are cold and well oxygenated. During the fall, Brook Trout will migrate to the spawning redds, generally in streams or in the shallow bays within lakes on gravel beds. The majority of spawning takes place midday. During courtship both sexes defend the spawning redd by chasing away intruders. Females will lay between 40 to 79 eggs per pit. The female will spend up to 2 days digging the pit. While she is digging the male will approach her, touching her sides. When the female is ready, she will move into the center of the pit, the male will curl himself around her to hold her in position. The pair will then vibrate together, releasing eggs and milt. Both sexes will spawn multiple times.
Brook Trout are voracious eaters and will feed on aquatic insects, invertebrates, salamanders, tadpoles, small mammals and other fish. Within the Adirondacks, there are native strains of Brook Trout that are unique to the body of water in which they are found. These strains are termed Heritage strain Brook Trout. The most commonly known are the Horn Lake, Little Tupper Lake and the Windfall Pond strain. The average size of a Heritage Brook Trout is 9 to 16 inches. They reach maturity between 2 to 3 years of age and can live for up to an average of 6 years. The New York statewide fishing regulations for Brook Trout are: Open season starts April 1 and runs till October 15; however their may be regulations for specific bodies of water. The minimum length that may be kept is, any, with a daily limit of 5. The state record Brook Trout is a 5 pound 4.5 ounce fish caught in Raquette Lake in 2009.
Brook Trout populations within the Adirondacks have declined from historical numbers; this is due in part to non-native fish species, degradation of water quality and acid deposition.
Photos: Brook Trout, Courtesy Blueline Photography, Jeremy Parnapy.
Corrina Parnapy is a Lake George native and a naturalist who writes regularly about the environment and Adirondack natural history for the Adirondack Almanack.
Trout, lake trout and landlocked Atlantic salmon seasons all begin on April 1st, but unlike last year when opening day trout anglers were greeted with relatively tranquil conditions, this winter’s heavy snows and resultant high, cold stream conditions will not be friendly to early season trout anglers. Early season anglers should use caution, as ice melt can create swift flow in high waters, unstable ice layers and unstable hiking terrain – particularly in higher elevations where winter snow is returning Friday.
“After a long, cold and snowy winter, we know that anglers are anxious to hit the water,” said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens. “Unfortunately, a good portion of the state remains covered with snow, which may restrict access to streams and cause very high stream flows making early season angling difficult.” » Continue Reading.
As the snow melts and the ice recedes from local water bodies around the Adirondacks, the thoughts of some turn to trout. There are a variety of trout species found in the Adirondacks: Rainbow, Brown, and Lake Trout and the king of all fish – in my eyes at least – the Brook Trout. While April 1st marks the opening day of trout season across New York State, many bodies of water in the Adirondacks are open to trout fishing all year long. For specific fishing regulations, check out the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation website. Brook Trout Salvelinus fontinalis, is actually a char and our state fish. They are easy to identify, having wormlike markings or vermiculation on their backs and brilliant red spots on their sides that are surrounded by blue halos. The most distinguishing feature is the brilliant white edges on their pectoral, pelvic and anal fins. Brook Trout live in lakes and streams in cold well-oxygenated waters and spawn in the fall. The state record for Brook Trout is 5 pounds 4.5 ounces.
Rainbow Trout Salmo gairdneri, are an introduced species originally coming from the Western side of the continent. They are dark olive, almost blue green in color above, lighter on their sides, with a pale yellow to white belly. Adults will have a pink or red band along their sides. Rainbow Trout occur in large streams and lakes where they have been stocked, and spawn in the spring. The state record for Rainbow Trout is 31 pounds 3 ounces.
Brown Trout Salmo trutta, are an introduced species originally from Europe. They are olive green, shading to tan or white on the belly. They have small irregular spots, which are surrounded by pale halos. Brown Trout are primarily a stream fish but can live in lakes. They tolerate higher water temeratures than Brook Trout and spawn in the fall. The state record for Brown Trout is 33 pounds 2 ounces.
Lake Trout Salvelinus namaycush, are a native species of trout. They are silvery gray on their sides and have white on their bellies. Their backs have darker areas with white to creamy spots and vermiculation. Sometimes their fins will have an orange cast to them. Lake Trout are found in deep, cold, well-oxygenated lakes and spawn in the fall. The state record for Lake Trout is 41 pounds 8 ounces.
All species of trout feed on smaller fish species and insects, which is why it is important to conduct a bottom up management approach for fisheries management. Trout are very sensitive to changes in their environment, to maintain a healthy, viable trout population, which is why shoreline and streamside riparian buffers are important.
Photo: Above, Adirondack fisherman shows off a string of trout; Below, Brook Trout courtesy Wikipidia.
Corrina Parnapy is a Lake George native and a naturalist who writes regularly about the environment and Adirondack natural history for the Adirondack Almanack.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will propose revisions to the current rule restricting overland transport of uncertified baitfish. DEC is currently developing a proposed revision to the regulations that would allow baitfish to be transported overland within defined “transportation corridors” for use within the same waterbody from which they are collected. DEC anticipates issuing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in March to be followed by a 45-day public comment period. » Continue Reading.
The Ausable River Association (AsRA) has received two awards that will fund trout and salmon habitat improvement projects. The project will identify and replace structures that act as barriers to the passage of fish and other aquatic organisms. AsRA will receive $46,910 from the Lake Champlain Basin Program and will work with The Adirondack Nature Conservancy and SUNY-Plattsburgh to complete a fish passage study. AsRA will also receive $52,000 from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to replace culverts and deconstruct dams that act as barriers to fish migration. The project will use field assessments and GIS mapping tools to identify and rank barriers to aquatic organisms, assess the overall connectivity of stream habitat in the Ausable Watershed, and prioritize structures for replacement. The collaborating groups will conduct a training workshop to present the results to Town and County highway superintendents, and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation.
Maintaining connections between rivers and small tributaries is important for protecting trout, salmon, and other aquatic organisms. Trout rely upon small upland tributaries for spawning and refuge from warm summer temperatures. Dams, culverts, and bridges can altered flow and block upstream movement to important refuge streams. Connectivity to upland tributaries is becoming even more critical as temperatures in valley bottom streams rise due to climate warming.
The Ausable and River Association is a nonprofit watershed group that works cooperatively with landowners, municipalities, and government agencies to preserve the natural, scenic, and recreation resources of the Ausable Watershed. For more information call 873-3752 or write firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Adirondack Almanack's contributors include veteran local writers, historians, naturalists, and outdoor enthusiasts from around the Adirondack region. The Almanack is the online news journal of Adirondack Explorer. Both are nonprofits supported by contributors, readers, and advertisers, and devoted to exploring, protecting, and unifying the Adirondack Park.
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