Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Wildlife Quiz - Spiders


Spiders
Spiders exist within the class of arachnids, which also includes ticks, mites and scorpions. A spider’s body is divided into two sections, a cephalothorax, containing the eyes, mouthparts, and legs and an abdomen, containing the genitals, spiracles and anus. Unlike insects, spiders have eight legs and lack antennae. Spiders also have the unique ability to spin silk which is used to make webs for trapping prey or transportation/escape.
Spiders are beneficial because they feed heavily on insects, thus helping to keep global numbers in check. Some spiders (like the funnel building Grass Spider) wait for prey to get caught in their webs while others (like the Dark Fishing Spider) actively hunt for prey.
Spiders inhabit every continent except for Antarctica and have been on earth since the Triassic period, over 200 million years ago. Scientists have currently identified approximately 45,700 different species of spiders. Currently 40 different species of spiders call Maine home. 
Only a relatively small number of spiders are very poisonous and even these seldom bite humans unless provoked. Because many people have a strong aversion to spiders, they tend to be killed indiscriminately even if they are harmless. Only two spiders have been found in Maine that are dangerous to human. While not Maine natives, both the black widow and brown recluse spiders occasionally hitch hike their way into the state via shipping boxes, old furniture or luggage. For this reason, it is important when traveling or receiving clothing or furniture from southern climates that they be thoroughly inspected for possible infestation.

Wildlife Quiz Questions:
1. Spiders exist within what class?
2. What other creatures exist within the class of arachnids?
3. How many parts is a spiders body divided into?
4. How are spiders different from insects?
5. How long have spiders been on earth?
6. Worldwide how many species of spiders are there?
7. How many species of spiders call Maine home?
8. How many different species of Maine spiders are poisonous to humans?

Wildlife Quiz Answers:
1. Spiders exist within the class of arachnids.
2. Ticks, mites and scorpions exist within the class of arachnids.
3. A spider’s body is divided into two sections, a cephalothorax and an abdomen.
4. Unlike insects who have 6 legs, spiders have 8 legs and no antenna.
5. Spiders have been on earth since the Triassic period, over 200 million years ago.
6. Scientists have currently identified approximately 45,700 different species of spiders
7. Forty different species of spiders call Maine home.
8. Currently, only two spiders (the Brown Recluse and Black Widow) have been found in Maine and are considered poisionous to humans.


Wildlife Quiz - Fisher Cat


MS.WildlifeQuiz.April.2018.Fisher.doc

The Fisher (Pekania pennanti) exists as a member of the mustelid family. While frequently called Fisher Cat, the Fisher is not in any way related to the feline species. Instead, the Fisher shares many common traits with other mustelids such as; weasels, martens and otters.
The Fisher’s native range includes Canada and the northern United States where it thrives in these regions boreal forests. A crepuscular creature, the fisher prefers to hunt during dusk and dawn. Despite its common name, the Fisher rarely eats fish, instead it spends a majority of its time stalking small mammals, including squirrels, rabbits and its favorite prey the porcupine. The Fisher exits as one of the few animals able to effective dispatch and consume porcupines without becoming injured. 
Male and female fisher share similar features. Both possess long, thin, bodies and a sleek black coloration similar to an oversized mink. Fishers however are much larger than their comparatively diminutive mink cousins, with male averaging around 10 pounds and females averaging 5 pounds. The largest Fisher ever recorded weighed 20 pounds. Retractable claws allow the Fisher with the ability to maneuver well in trees, even possessing the ability to climb down trees head-first a trait shared by very few mammalian species.
The Fisher mating cycle starts with both males and females actively finding mates during March and April. After implantation, the pregnancy is delayed for 10 months until the following February. Female Fishers then give birth to a litter of three or four kits in the early spring. The female nurses and cares for the kits until late summer, when they are 5 months the kits set out on their own to establish new ranges.

Wildlife Quiz Questions:
  1. What other animals exist as member of the mustelid family?
  2. What is the native range of the Fisher?
  3. When does the Fisher prefer to hunt?
  4. What pointy creature is the Fisher able to consume without becoming seriously injured?
  5. What is the average weight of a male and female Fisher?
  6. How much did the heaviest recorded Fisher weigh?
  7. When does the Fisher mating cycle start?
  8. How many Fisher are birthed in a litter?

Wildlife Quiz Answers:
  1. Other animals that exist as member of the mustelid family include; weasels, martens and otters.
  2. The Fisher’s native range includes Canada and the northern United States.
  3. Crepuscular creatures, the fisher prefers to hunt during dusk and dawn.
  4. The Fisher exits as one of the few animals able to effective dispatch and consume porcupines without becoming injured. 
  5. The average male Fisher weighs approximately 10 pounds and female Fishers average approximately 5 pounds.
  6. The largest Fisher ever recorded weighed 20 pounds.
  7. The Fisher mating cycle starts with both males and females actively finding mates during March and April.
  8. Female Fishers give birth to a litter of three or four kits in the early spring.


Spectacular Brown Trout

Historically Speaking 
 Resilient and possessing an innate ability to survive in adverse conditions, the Brown Trout thrives in “marginal” waters that would likely kill other trout species. Because of this, Brown Trout will likely become the future of sport fishing in Central Maine. Since 2003, the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has been studying three different strains of Brown Trout brood stock, in an effort to determine which is best to use to stock Maine waters. The study, set to conclude in 2020, will ultimately determine which of the three Brown Trout will be most successful in competing for survival in waters currently home to many aggressive fish species.

The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, “Brown Trout Management Plan” states that, “Brown trout are a well-accepted part of Maine’s fisheries management program. Their attractiveness as a sport fish and their ability to adapt to a wide range of habitats has made them invaluable in providing a sport fishery in many lakes, ponds and streams which otherwise would have none.” Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has obviously put a lot of effort into determining how the Brown Trout best fits into the Maine biome and should be commended. Brown Trout aren’t native to Maine, but they are still a challenging fish worthy of catching.

Catching the Big Bad Brown 
Difficult to catch and reclusive, big brown trout over 20 plus inches are on just about every angler’s wish list. These fish don’t get huge however by being stupid, so fishermen looking to catch one need to employ tactics designed to specifically target these behemoths. Browns can be caught during all times of the day but the biggest browns only move out in search of food in low light conditions and that means if you want to catch the big boys, you are going to have to fish before dawn or after sunset. Scientists, studying the feeding behaviors of big brown trout, have conducted tagging studies that show these fish rarely move from their protective hideouts in daylight but travel miles in search of food at night. Once a brown trout reaches a size in excess of 20 inches, they become primarily fish eaters, because of this, flies like the Cone Head Slumpbuster Bunny Streamer or the Clouser minnow both in black, catch big browns regularly. To increase the effectiveness of both of these lures, add a small red bead to the line ahead of the fly. Upon retrieval, the bead taps against the head of the fly creating underwater vibrations that goad fish into striking. For the spin casting angler, lures like the black ¼ ounce Arbogast Jitterbug and other top water lures like the black Savage Gear Rad Rat drive large carnivorous browns crazy.

The world record for brown trout is 42 pounds, 1 ounce, while the state of Maine record is a 23 pounds, 5 ounces fish caught on Square Pond by set by Robert Hodsdon in 1996. 

Black Best 
Some readers may wonder why “black” lures are used for night time fishing. This is because fish see contrast very well and black lures cast a very strong silhouette. Because most fish attack a lure from below, the dark color stands out against the night sky like a sore thumb compared to lighter colored lures that can actually be quite difficult for fish to see on moonlit nights. A final trick to catching big browns is avoiding the crowds. Pressure will force big browns into hiding so anglers must fish when waters are most quiet. Fishing isolated waters, mid week and at night practically ensures a fisherman will likely have prime fishing spots all to themselves.

 Spectacular Spectacle 
 A conversation with one of the central Maine wildlife biologists yielded information that 139-acre Spectacle Pond (DeLorme’s The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (MAG), Map 13, 1-B) in Augusta and Vassalboro has been regularly producing big browns through the ice all winter. This success is likely because of the strict regulations and limited boat access (hand carry only and motorboats over 10 horsepower are prohibited). Anglers targeting browns must be aware of the S-6 (Artificial lure only) and daily bag limit on brown trout is set at 1 fish, with a minimum length limit on brown trout at 18 inches. If anglers plan to also target the ponds brook trout, be aware of the ponds S-16 code that states that the daily bag limit on brook trout is set at 2 fish, with a minimum length limit of 12 inches and that only 1 may exceed 14 inches. Other S-code restrictions exist during October-December and anglers are encouraged to read the law book before fishing Spectacle Pond. Pond Access Spectacle Pond is surrounded by the Alonzo Garcelon Wildlife Management Area and private landowners. If driving to the pond from route 3, the access road is 3.8 miles from the intersection of Church Hill Road and route 3. A large sign marks the access road to the pond which is via a gravel road which extends approximately one and a half miles through the woods starting at Church Hill Road and ending at a parking area next to the pond. Only hand-carried craft can be put in the water from this location. Spring access to Spectacle is iffy, with the road entering the pond typically gated until after Memorial Day (May 28th). Individuals looking to get a jump on the crowds can park alongside the road and walk in. Float tubes allow anglers to successfully target browns across the entire western shore of the pond.

Kill Coyotes in Central Maine


Kill More Coyotes
            Regularly killing coyotes is something I equate to an art form. These wily predators are incredibly gifted in knowing and effectively avoiding danger. To consistently out smart these canines, hunters must be flexible and not afraid to try new techniques and tactics.
Baiting and Calling Coyotes
            For many years, I hunted coyotes over bait sites. While extremely effective, the hassle of securing landowner permission, setting up a shack, finding fresh bait and hunting the bait almost every night (who wants to feed coyotes!) finally all had me reaching a point where baiting was no longer fun, it was just work. I knew that there had to be a simpler way to hunt coyotes that was easier but also continued to remain extremely effective.
            Hunters who practice the art of calling coyotes not only free themselves from the burden of managing bait sites but also expose them to a whole new world of coyote hunting that bait hunters don’t get to experience. This isn’t to say anything negative about bait hunting, as I still believe this is an extremely effective way of killing coyotes and helping manage their population. Similar to the sportsman, who prefers to stand hunt rather than still hunt for deer or vice versa, running, calling and gunning for coyotes differs greatly from baiting and is a fun challenge all sportsmen should try.
Evolution of the Coyote Hunter
All coyote hunters seem to evolve is a similar manner. First comes the purchase of a simple hand held wounded rabbit call, next comes an electronic call and finally comes the addition of some type of motion decoy. The importance of these last two purchases is that they distract the coyote’s attention away from the caller and focus it in the direction of the electronic call and motion decoy. By placing the call and decoy upwind of the hunter, the idea is that the approaching predator will have his keen eyes and sensitive nose diverted from where the hunter is hiding.
Set-up for Success
Calling coyotes into effective shooting range is not an easy task. Those shots all coyote hunters dream about, where the coyote appears, slowly creeping across an open field and into the scope of the awaiting hunter is extremely rare. Mostly, these canines stick to heavy cover, only exposing themselves for a shot for a few seconds. Because of this proper set-up is of utmost importance. Provide a shot opportunity by making sure that each setup has at least one shooting lane between the call and location where the hunter is hiding. I like to set my call and decoy on the edge of a field where the visibility is high but set up 30-40 yards inside the wood line. Typically coyotes will follow the wood line right to the decoy, creating a shot opportunity for either rifle or shotgun.
Coyote Calling
The go to call for coyotes is a wounded rabbit but because of it’ popularity, it is often overused. Last season, I had great luck in Central Maine using a turkey decoy and making turkey sounds, specifically the kee-kee-run. Because of the extremely healthy turkey population in this area of the state, coyotes have really honed in on this being a readily accessible prey animal. For those looking to talk turkey to coyotes this March, grab a slate or box call and give it a try. For the turkey hunting crowd skilled at using diaphragm calls, conduct a Google search for “Howl on Turkey Diaphragm Call” and watch how some hunters are using the turkey diaphragm to make coyote howls and barks, very interesting!
The howl and bark is another call every hunter should have in their hunting arsenal. By starting each calling sequence with a few howls, hunters trigger the coyote’s strong territorial instincts, often forcing it to run into the call before the perceived challenger beats it to a free meal. When a hunter play a coyote howl on an electronic caller placed 30-40 yards away and answers it with a handheld caller, it creates the illusion of multiple coyotes. This can sometimes be the trigger needed to dupe call shy coyotes.
Over calling is death to beginner coyote hunters. Start calling sequences with a couple howls followed shortly after with a prey sound, then wait 10 minutes. If nothing try another prey sound but be very careful of any movements. It is likely that a coyote is already there watching and waiting. Typically if there is a coyote in the area and everything has been done right, they come calling and quickly. Never start calling until completely ready, properly concealed and gun positioned for a shot.
Alonzo Garcelon WMA
If looking for public lands in Central Maine to hunt coyotes, the Alonzo H. Garcelon Wildlife Management Area (DeLorme’s The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (MAG), Map 13, B-1) is comprised of several land parcels equating to 4,882 acres, spread across the towns of Augusta, China, Vassalboro and Windsor. Access to the various parcels within the WMA is difficult in most areas due to private land ownership and lack of parking. My favorite access location is via the Mud Mill Road, located off route 17 approximately 7 miles east from Augusta. (If you pass Clark’s East Side Scrap, you have gone too far.) There is a sign at the end of this road marking the WMA and a small parking area. Be sure to bring skis or snowshoes as even in March snows will likely be deep and be prepared to hike as the trail system is fairly extensive, offering lots of choices on where to setup ambush locations. Be cautious to absolutely identify targets as this WMA is also used by people walking their dogs and enjoying other non-hunting recreational activities.


Monday, February 12, 2018

Critical Ice Fishing Updates

My old Jiffy ice auger coughed, wheezed and finally sputtered to life like an asthmatic struggling for a last strained breath at a dust mite convention. Loaded with last year’s “un-stabilized” ethanol fuel and operating in an ambient temperatures just above freezing, the poor old girl’s carburetor strained to maintain a healthy purr. Despite her initial complaints, the beast to tore four impressive ten inch holes through the ice and in the process, just about rattle every filling out of my skull. Then suddenly and quite unexpectedly something inside the machine made a loud “clank”, the motor whined, bucked and then died. A quiet calm settled onto the lake, as the last echoes of the augers final belches of exhaust spewed out of its muffler. This incident marked for me the end of an era, a final goodbye salute to an old friend. It also proved to be the last time I ever picked up a gasoline powered ice auger.
ION Ice Auger ROCKS!
Years ago, I would have scoffed at the prospects of an “electric” powered ice auger but the Ion Electric Ice Auger is an amazing piece of equipment. Powerful, fast and QUIET, the 8 inch ION will drill up to 40 holes through 2 feet of ice on a single charge. At just 22 pounds, the ION is just shy of half the weight of my old gas powered ice auger and boasts special blades that create smooth breakthroughs and no jarring stops. Add the ION’s ability to reverse its blade and flush slush down the hole and it’s blatantly obvious that this auger should be on every anglers most wanted list. I purchased my ION about 4 years ago and since that time, the company has continued to make numerous updates and changes to the original ION to make it even more effective in cutting ice.
The newest addition to the ION line-up is the ION X, 40-Volt High-Performance Auger. This new ION auger boasts numerous improvements including the ability to drill through almost double the amount of ice as the older models. It also has a center point blade, like the old Jiffy’s that makes pin point blade positioning possible. Also, integrated LED lights for drilling in low-light situations and an new trigger and handle design make it even easier to operate than the original. Even with all of these ergonomic and performance upgrades, the ION still weighs a mere 22 pounds. When you can hand your auger to your 11 year old son and have him safely drill all of the ice holes, you realize that the initial investment is well worth the money.
Ice Chisel Valuable Tool
Another investment I made last year, in my ice cutting arsenal, was a new ice chisel. Now a sane person might wonder why an individual with a power ice auger would also need an ice chisel but be assured there was a need. My previous spud, was a relic used by my grandfather that was basically a long iron pipe that had one end flattened with a hammer and had then been sharpened with a file. While it would eventually hack through the ice, I always felt using this “tool” to bludgeon my way through the hard water was likely a task that could be vastly improved upon. The Eskimo Redneck Ice Chisel is truly the lamborghini of ice chisels. While I would not use it to hack my way through 3 feet of ice, it is a fantastic tool for easily chopping out day old holes previously fished by yourself or other fishermen. Also, if like me you enjoy trapping your own live bait, the chisel is indispensable in keeping the holes open and clear of ice.
Let’s go Fishing
            Properly outfitted with the latest in ice fishing gear, anglers this month would be well served to begin chasing brook trout on many of the stocked ponds in Central Maine.  In historical alignment with previous yearly stocking reports, Togus pond (Delorme’s The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (MAG), Map 13 C-2) in Augusta was stocked with approximately 1,000 brook trout in the 12-13 inch range during the month of November. While Togus receives heavy fishing action, good fishing exists on this 676 acre pond right through early spring. In addition to brook trout, the pond also contains a healthy population of delectable white and yellow perch and largemouth bass of the size that will turn heads. Access to the pond is available off route 105, approximately 5 miles outside of Augusta. Parking is limited along the road as well as at a small parking lot next to the bridge. Since the access is at the extreme southern end of the lake, on windy days there is very little protection. Many anglers bring small portable shelters or haul in via snowmachine large, comfortable ice shacks complete with wood fueled heaters.
            If anglers are looking for lots of popping flags, Little Togus Pond (Map 13, C-2) offers explosive action for largemouth bass, pickerel and yellow perch. Anglers should just make sure that they walk at least half way across the pond before drilling holes as the pond is extremely shallow. Again, as with Togus Pond, out in the middle of the lake there is very little shelter from the wind so plan accordingly. When I fish big and little Togus with my children, I wait for calm and sunny days or bring my small portable ice shack and little buddy heater. Having them warm and comfortable means they enjoy the experience and I get to spend more time fishing!


Thursday, January 18, 2018

Choosing the Perfect Generator

If there is one thing that the wind storm of October 29th, 2017 taught me, it’s the importance of having a generator to run critical appliances during an extended power outage. If not for a friend allowing me to borrow his generator, 7 days without power would have caused all of the food in my freezer to spoil.

Determined never to be caught in such an awkward situation again, I recently purchased a generator of my own. Purchasing a generator was not a task I took lightly and my final selection was done after completing considerable research on several of the most popular generators on the market. The first thing anyone will notice when selecting a generator is that there are a vast number of makes and models available. Finding the perfect fit is accomplished by determining a balance between, price, weight, wattage, decibel (db) rating and fuel type.

Generators come in two main categories, stationary and portable. Stationary generators are large, powerful, expensive devices designed to run entire households, businesses and hospitals. Portable generators are relatively light, easier on the wallet and of course transportable. In this article, I will be discussing portable generators.

Determining Power Needs 
There is no question that a generator is practical during a power outage but aside from that, generators are also valuable for providing power while tailgating, at “off-grid” cabins, when RV camping or running and charging tools at construction sites. For me, I needed a generator that would provide emergency power at my home and when not needed at home, provide electrical power for a small “off-grid” cabin. Generally, higher wattage generators cost more, are heavier and consume more fuel. For these reasons, it’s important when selecting a generator to first determine how much power (wattage) is need. To answer this question, determine what electronic devices you plan to simultaneously run as well as the wattage of the largest appliance requiring power. Most electrical devices require more power to start than they do to run, so be sure to look at an appliances start-up wattage as well as its running wattage. For my situation, I only needed enough power to run a couple lights (180w), charge my cell phone (25w) and run a refrigerator (700w), coffee maker (1000w), microwave (1000w) and a selection of power tools during construction projects, circular saw (1400w) and table saw (2000w). Since it would never be necessary to run all of these appliances and tools in unison, I calculated that a 2000 watt generator would likely provide me with all of the power needed. The Internet contains charts listing the power requirements of hundreds of different appliances so when determining exact power needs be sure to conduct a Google search for “wattage calculator”.

Fuel Choices 
Generators run on a variety of different fuels including, natural gas, propane, diesel, regular gasoline, mixed gasoline and even solar. To simplify the available choices, two fuels stand out as the most viable options, propane and regular gasoline. Deciding on one or both of these fuels (some generators can run on both propane and gasoline) is really up to the individual. Dual fuel generators cost more, single fuel generators cost less. Also, how often will the generator be in operation, once a year or practically all the time? Gasoline has a shorter shelf life than propane and if planning to pull out a generator 1-2 times a year for emergency power, a consumer could potentially want a propane model. For me, running a generator practically all of the time, for a variety of different purposes, regular gasoline seemed the best option both for its widespread availability and ease of use.

Finding a Balance 
Now with an understanding of my anticipated power needs, I then began looking at the next two critical factors, weight and decibel rating. Since my generator was going to be transported between home and camp, it was important to select a model I could easily load and unload from my truck. Also, because the generator was going to be used at my cabin, I really wanted a model that was quiet, thus maintaining the serenity of the locale.

Making a Final Selection 
After compiling all of the information, I began searching the Internet for a generator that would fit all of my anticipated needs. After looking at several different brands, I finally settled on four of the mostly highly reviewed and consumer recommended models. On this list were the Honda EU2000, $899, 59 db, 51 lbs, Champion 2800, $899, 58 db, 95lbs, Yamaha EF2000isv2, $989, 51.5 db, 44.1lbs and Generac GP2200, $599, 60 db, 46.6 lbs. Given how close all of the generators were in what they were able to provide and the similarities in costs, my final decision was made by eliminating the Champion model because of weight, eliminating the Yamaha model due to price and eliminating the Generac model because it received a lower consumer recommendation than the Honda.

As such, my final decision on a generator was the Honda EU2000, a machine possessing the perfect mix of all of the key ingredients and power I needed. An important additional item is that if not concerned about a generators weight and decibel rating, a considerable amount of money can be saved. For example the Champion 3650 is a loud 68 db and heavy at 98lbs but provides well over 3500 watts at a bargain price of $319.

Cautions and Dangers 
Generators are NEVER to be operated inside an enclosed area, as they emit carbon monoxide that can kill people and pets in minutes. Care should even be taken not to run a generator in close proximity to an open door or window, as dangerous fumes can still enter interior spaces. Generator can safely provide power by either using extension chord(s) to provide power to a homes electronics or by hard wiring directly into a homes fuse box. Portable “emergency” generators (2000w and lower) tend to be used by a majority of homeowners using extension chords. Larger generators (2000w and greater) tend to be hard wired, as this is a safer and more convenient model. Homeowners wishing to hardwire their generator should have the installation completed by a certified electrician and thoroughly understand how the generator is connected to the house’s electrical system and the power grid.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Pike Fishing Primer

I am excited at having been chosen as the new Central Maine writer and I look forward to chronicling my outdoor adventures with family and friends throughout this region for many, many years to come. It is my hope that through this sharing, I am able to provide knowledge and information that enriches the outdoor experiences of my readership and helps nurture our sporting heritage and traditions. Thanks for following along!

Pike Fishing Primer 
Ask most Northern Pike enthusiasts about ice fishing and you will hear a lot of stories about catching them early and late in the hard water season. This is because both during early ice (December) and in the spring (late February), Northern Pike can be found in fairly shallow water, clustered around weed beds and the mouths of tributaries in search of food. By January, however, Pike have moved out of the shallows and into deeper waters in their relentless pursuit of food. This migration makes the job of finding pike a much more difficult endeavor. To turn the odds in your favor, anglers need to first target lakes containing Pike.

Location, Location, Location In central Maine, finding a lake containing pike is becoming an increasingly easier and easier task. This is both unfortunate to angling traditionalists and exciting to those of us who simply like to catch monstrous sized fish. When in pursuit of Pike, it is important to note that not all central Maine lakes are created equal. Some lakes simply produce larger pike than others. Lakes in central Maine that consistently produce trophy sized Pike include: Great Pond, (DeLorme’s The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (MAG), Map 20 ,E-4) Messalonskee Lake, (Map 21 ,E-1) Long Pond, (Map 20 ,E-4) North Pond, (Map 20 ,D-4) and Annabessacook Lake (Map 12 ,C-3).

No matter what time of year, Pike are still ambush feeders. Even though pike may have departed from their classic shallow water territories, they will still congregate around some type structure where they can lay and wait for unsuspecting prey. Structure in deep water includes rock piles or steep drop offs. Study lake maps to find shelfs, corners or dips that interrupt these drop offs, as they provide places for Pike to hide as they wait for bait fish to swim along these breaklines. Spot and Stalk After selecting a promising location, start drilling holes, a lot of holes. Those who lament at this tedious chore would be well served to invest in an ION electric ice auger. Light enough to be lifted with a single finger; this amazing device really simplifies the chore of pounding holes through the ice.

I like to compare Pike fishing to deer hunting. There are stand hunters and there are spot and stalk deer hunters. By drilling only a few holes, anglers are waiting and wishing that a Pike will swim by their jig or bait. Instead of using this passive technique, I recommend actively stalking the Pike by drilling 15-20 holes in varying depths along a section of promising structure. Jig each hole for a maximum of 20-30 minutes to actively locate fish. Using modern electronics, like a flasher, can help find fish faster but anglers can still have great luck by simply being proactive in their drilling and jigging.

Pike will eat almost anything and as such, have been caught by anglers on almost every type of fishing lure imaginable. With that said, however, there are certain lures that tend to work better than others when in pursuit of big, wall hanger Pike. Vertical Spoons like the Swedish Pimple and Acme Kastmaster, are favorites and their performance can be improved by adding a piece of cut bait on one of the hooks, a killer combination. Drop the lure to the bottom, lift, drop and lift 5-6 more times then hold it still. Pike often hit the lure when it stops moving. Often I let the lure sit for a couple seconds, then proceed to give it a slight twitch before jigging again. Often that little twitch is all it takes to elicit a brutal strike. Tip-ups While jigging catches a lot of Pike, anglers should not limit themselves to only one line in the water. When done in unison, jigging and using tip-ups serve up a lethal combination of techniques that put Pike on the ice. As Pike are generally curious creatures, aggressively jigging lures, creating a disturbance around a tip-up will often increase the number of catches in a day dramatically Tip-ups are an extremely effective means of presenting big bait to big Pike.

A sturdy tip-up with a large spool capable of holding 300 feet of line and having a tension adjustment, helps to keep large bait from continually triggering the flag. Generally, the bigger the Pike being targeted the bigger the bait that should be used. A live Sucker or Golden Shiner in the 6-8 inch range will be an irresistible meal to an 18-20 pound pike. Just make sure to anchor it solidly in place, using a 1/2 ounce sinker, so that it cannot escape. Big Pike are notoriously lazy and don’t like to expend a lot of energy in pursuit of a meal. This past ice fishing season, I used dead bait and had a higher catch rate than with live bait. Often with Pike fishing, it pays dividends to mix it up now and then.

Speaking of mixing it up, Google and buy the “Quick Strike Rig for Pike” and watch your rate of successful hook-ups soar! I have checked with my contact at the Maine warden service and been assured that these devices are legal for fishing purposes as long as “both of the devices hooks penetrate a single bait, so as to catch a single fish.” When drilling holes and rigging tip-ups, I like to drill my holes parallel to promising structure and set baits at two feet off the bottom. If after a couple hours, I don’t elicit a strike, I will move the tip-ups to alternate pre-drilled holes in other promising locations. FLAG!

When a pike grabs the bait line typically flies off the spool at such a rate of speed that a roster tail of water flies off the back of the spool. I usually allow the fish to run until it stops. This is when a pike typically swallow the bait. As soon as the line again begins to spool out, immediately set the hook. In deep water this technique is usually very effective in making sure the Pike is well hooked. In shallow waters or in waters with a lot of underwater structure, it is better to simply set the line as fast as possible. Once caught, Pike will try everything they can to break off and will quickly become entangled in rocks, branches, submerged trees and any other structure so they can to escape.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Wildlife Quiz - Yellow Perch

Yellow Perch
The yellow perch, (Perca flavescens) belongs to the Percidae or perch family of fishes. Yellow perch are native to the North American continent but dispersed widely from its original predominant range of the eastern United States and Canada due to its popularity as a sport and commercial game fish. Yellow perch have gold or yellow colored bodies and possess unmistakable dark vertical stripes. This unusual color pattern has given them the nickname “tiger trout” by anglers. The dorsal fin, contains several sharp spines that work to protect the fish from predators and provide unsuspecting anglers with an unpleasant surprise. Yellow perch are a relatively diminutive species of game fish, averaging between 5-8 ounces. It is not uncommon in health yellow perch waters, to occasionally catch large adults reaching 10 inches and weighing 10 ounces. The largest yellow perch caught in Maine was a monsterous 1 pound 10 ounces behemoth taken out of Worthley Pond in East Peru, it currently stands as the state record.
A gregarious species, yellow perch often travel in large schools, making fishing for this delectable game fish exciting once anglers locate them. Rarely taken from waters more than 30 feet deep, yellow perch tend to prefer living a majority of their lives eating and breeding in shallow waters. Perch are prolific breeders, with male yellow perch reaching sexual maturity at three years of age, females at four. Perch spawn in the spring, typically in April and June. Mating occurs with females first releasing a sticky, gelatinous mass of eggs that adheres to dense vegetation and fallen trees. During the spawning season, males release milt around the eggs to fertilize them. Eggs and sperm are randomly mixed and soon after fertilization, the young hatch. Yellow perch typically live 9-10 years
Body size predominantly determines the diets of yellow perch. Juvenile yellow perch eat small insects like mosquitoes while the larger adult yellow perch dine on crayfish and the eggs and fry of other fish. In turn, bass, walleye and northern pike all prey on perch.

Wildlife Quiz Questions:
1. What family of fishes do yellow perch belong?
2. What is the primary defense weapon of the yellow perch?
3. What is the native range of the yellow perch?
4. What do male yellow perch release on the female yellow perch eggs to fertilize them?
5. What was the weight of the biggest yellow perch caught in Maine?
6. What is the average weight of an adult yellow perch?
7. When is the mating season for the yellow perch?
8. What is the average life span of a yellow perch?
9. What fish species prey on yellow perch?

Wildlife Quiz Answers:
1. Yellow perch belong to the Percidae or perch family of fishes.
2. The primary defense weapon of the yellow perch is a dorsal fin, containing several sharp spines that help protect the fish from predators.
3. The native range of the yellow perch runs across the eastern United States and Canada.
4. The male yellow perch releases milt onto the female’s eggs to fertilize them.
5. The biggest yellow perch caught in Maine weighed 1 pound, 10 ounces.
6. The average weight of an adult yellow perch is 5-8 ounces.
7. The mating season for the yellow perch runs from April to June.
8. The average life span of a yellow perch is 9-10 years.
9. Yellow perch are preyed upon by bass, walleye and northern pike.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Fire!

"There's something not quite right with you!?!?!" and thus started an interesting conversation with my Dad, one blustery Saturday afternoon while ice fishing. Inquiring, with the slightest bit of hesitation, I asked, "Why would you say that?" The old man took a deep breath and then started in on his tirade . . . "Well, you and your friends layer up in all this newfangled super insulated clothing, and then proceed to sit out in the middle of the lake all day long, in weather conditions not fit for man nor beast, then at lunch time, you heathens chow down a can of sardines, a couple little Debbie snack cakes and call it a meal!?! Lastly, if you do manage to catch a fish you take it home and throw it in the freezer where it may not get eaten for months!"

At that point, I stared blankly at the old man trying to figure out exactly what was wrong with the series of events he had just relayed. Clearly exasperated, the old man took another deep breath and continued . . . "I taught you better than that! Don't you remember all those times fishing pickerel ponds as a kid? Don't you remember warming frozen toes and fingers on a warm lake side fire? Don't you remember eating freshly caught fish wrapped in tinfoil and gently steamed on the coals of a fire? Don't you remember cooking hot chocolate in an old tea pot? AND lastly PLEASE tell me you remember eating red hotdogs and marshmallows cooked on freshly cut alder branches?"

I again stared blankly . . . Now nearly frantic in his level of disgust, the old man staggered across the deep snow and dragged a large dead tree out of the shoreline brambles. As I drilled holes and prepared lines, he worked tirelessly to organize a sheltered "hangout" area by piling up blocks of snow to make a windbreak and constructing a small teepee of sticks to serve as the beginnings of a small fire.


Scientists have proven that the sense of smell is the sense most closely linked to memory and of that I am not surprised. As I finished baiting the last hook, the smell of acrid wood smoke began drifting across the hard water, bringing with it a lifetime of happy ice fishing memories that slowly began leaking back into my conscious mind. As I walked over to the old man, I asked "Hey Dad did you bring any of those red hotdogs and marshmallows?" A wide smile appeared on the old man’s face, "Certainly" said Dad, "I thought you would never ask."

I wanted to share this story as it really is interesting how ice fishing has changed tremendously from my Dad's generation to mine. He and his friends were without snowmobiles and ice augers, they would hike up to 5 miles through deep snow to access good ice fishing waters. They enjoyed only tea (who can walk 5 miles with a buzz-on!) and ate almost everything that they caught fresh from the icy waters over a blazing lake side fire. When I compare that to our "modern" ice fishing lifestyle, I begin to feel a little bit disgusted with myself and what I have allowed to be stolen from the enjoyment of this great outdoor activity. With eyes now open, I vow to make more of a concerted effort this season to embrace the "old" ways and make sure these excellent traditions and treasured memories are passed on to my children!

I had believed for many years that a fire on the ice was not permissible under Maine law. A review of the Maine statutes and an email to the Maine warden service proves my belief incorrect. Maine’s revised statute on open burning (9325) reads that “open burning without permit is permissible on frozen bodies of water, when not prohibited by state rule, local ordinance or water utility regulation and as long as no nuisance is created.” The Maine warden service reports that “a fire on the ice is permissible except when specifically prohibited such as on water supplies. Litter left behind is generally what creates the greatest issue, such as beer cans and other non-burning materials.”

Ultimately, according to the law and law enforcers, if ice fishermen are not on a regulated water supply and remain responsible, there is no reason why a warming/cooking fire on the ice cannot be built. Now before heading for the shoreline to collect firewood to build a raging bonfire, please make sure you are acquainted with the law on the frozen body of water on which you are fishing and even more importantly, be prepared to follow good sporting ethics when building a fire on ice. Remember that every shoreline belongs to someone, so being respectful and thoughtful should be high on everyone’s priority list. Being responsible means keeping fires at a manageable and easily controllable size. Fires should not be constructed in close proximity to camps and other shoreline structures. Wood for fires should either be brought in or deadwood salvaged from shorelines. Live trees should never be cut and bark should never be stripped from trees and unless in very remote areas, even dead trees should be left standing. Most of the time, a small cooking/warming fire can be constructed from driftwood and dead branches salvaged from 3-400 yards of shoreline.

For the uninitiated, building a fire on the ice is an act in futility unless the person first understands a couple critical construction details. First heat from the fire melts the surrounding ice creating steam that makes starting a fire and keeping it going almost impossible. Secondly, a pool of water forms directly under the fire pit, due to the heat from the fire melting the surrounding snow and ice, this also will eventually extinguish the fire. Before building a fire on the ice, first create a platform of wooden logs on which the fire sits. Doing this eliminates both the issues discussed above.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Little Brown Bat - Wildlife Quiz

The Little Brown Bat (Myotis lucifugus) exists as one of the eight different species of bat that live in Maine. The range of the Little Brown Bat stretches across the northern half of the United States, southern Canada and has been spotted in Alaska, the Yukon and even Iceland. Both male and female Little Brown Bats, as their name suggests, have uniformly dark brown fur and matching dark brown wing membranes. A diminutive bat species, adults rarely exceed a length of 4 inches and weigh less than half an ounce.

Contrary to popular opinion, less than one bat in twenty thousand has rabies, and no bats in Maine feed on blood. Instead, of being viewed as disease ridden, blood sucking vermin, bats should be respected for the critical role they play in helping to maintain healthy ecosystems by preserving the natural balance of insect populations like mosquitoes, blackflies, wasps and midges. For example, a Little Brown Bat typically consumes its body weight in insects each night during active feeding. Scientists estimate bats save the U.S. agricultural industry $3 billion a year in pest control. In the summer, Little Brown Bats sleep approximately 20 hours a day, conserving their small fat reserves of energy, by primarily hunting during dusk and dawn when insect prey are most readily available. Little Brown Bat possesses the ability to survive harsh climates, like Maine winters, by both migrating and hibernating.

When fall arrives, Little Brown Bats fly to more southern locales where they join hundreds of other bats in a hibernaculum or “winter quarters”. These hibernaculum typically include caves and mines, where they hibernate for the winter. If successful in avoiding predators, like fisher cats, weasels, raccoons, birds, rats and snakes and disease, Little Brown Bats live approximately 6 to 7 years. White-nose syndrome has decimated Little Brown Bat populations since its discovery in 2006.

Questions 
1. How many species of bat live in Maine?
2. What is the range of the Little Brown Bat?
3. What color is the Little Brown Bat?
4. How much does the Little Brown Bat weigh?
5. How many insects does the Little Brown Bat consume every night?
6. How much money does the Little Brown Bat save the U.S. agricultural industry in pest control every year?
7. Does the Little Brown Bat hibernate?
 8. How long does the Little Brown Bat live?

 Answers 
1. Eight different species of bat that live in Maine.
2. The range of the Little Brown Bat stretches across the northern half of the United States, southern Canada and has been spotted in Alaska, the Yukon and even Iceland.
3. As their name suggests, the Little Brown Bat, has uniformly dark brown fur and matching dark brown wing membranes.
4. A diminutive species, Little Brown Bat adults rarely exceed a length of 4 inches and weigh less than half an ounce.
 5. The Little Brown Bat typically consumes its body weight in insects each night during active feeding.
6. Scientists estimate bats save the U.S. agricultural industry $3 billion a year in pest control.
7. Yes, the Little Brown Bat hibernates.
8. Little Brown Bats live approximately 6 to 7 years.
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