Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Coyote Hunting, Bass Fishing and Hiking Chick Hill

Coyote Hunting
While hunters can shoot coyotes in Maine all year round, a special night hunting permit allows hunters to shoot coyotes at night until Aug. 31st. While use of spotlights is certainly extremely beneficial, hunting under the added illumination of a full moon offers an even higher degree of visibility, providing more accurate species identification and faster target acquisition in a larger kill zone. The full moon on August 7th will afford the last really good opportunity to pursue these critters at night until the coyote night hunting season re-opens in mid December.
Those new to predator hunting will find August the perfect time to get out and try their luck, as young coyotes will be out and about in the early evenings. These awkward, uneducated teenage coyotes are typically much easier to dupe and will often forgive calling mistakes that would typically run off more wary mature coyotes. If wanting to try hunting coyotes this is the month!
The Stud Mill road is a dirt highway through the vast Maine wilderness, providing access to thousands of miles of prime coyote hunting opportunities. One of my personal favorite spots is located in and around Cranberry Lake (DeLorme’s The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (MAG), Map 35 E2 and 3). Hunting in groups of 3 or 4 people a common technique involves using a vehicle to drop off individuals at set intervals and have them try calling. A couple miles between each caller is sufficient spacing and allows each person plenty of breathing room. Once the driver parks the vehicle and is in place, they call for about an hour and then drive back and collect the other hunters. This sequence can be repeated over and over and allows a group to cover a lot of miles calling. Just remember to take turns being the last man out of the truck as stud mill coyotes seem to be forgiving of vehicles that simply drive by but a stopping vehicle makes them extremely cagey and the last man out of the truck usually shoots the least number of coyotes.
Please remember that the Stud Mill road and all of the connecting side roads are a titanic and complex maze for the uninitiated. When dropping off hunters, be sure to have a plan in place for pick-up that involves colored marking ribbons at drop off positions, a set meeting time to be by the roadside and GPS waypoints. Being lost in the Maine woods anytime of year isn’t an enjoyable option and a simple plan makes this scenario completely preventable.
Good Night Bass Fishing
The warm waters of summer mark the return of the bass’s feisty attitude. Early mornings, late evenings and even the dead of night certainly top my list as favorite hours to fish. These times typically see less boat traffic and paddlers are less abused by high winds that tend to blow throughout the day. Add to these benefits, the possibility of viewing beautiful sunrises and sunsets and it isn’t hard to understand why the best time to be on the water usually starts or ends in the dark.
Big bass tend to emerge from their shadowy underwater lairs to feed long after boat traffic has departed. Dark colored lures like Jitterbugs and other surface disturbers are the preferred lures and are guaranteed to elicit brutal strikes from hungry aquatic predators hiding in the shadows. Crawford Lake (Map 36, D-2) is a great spot to begin the night angling obsession and promises excellent after dark bass fishing action.
Hiking Chick Hill
At 1,160 feet above sea level, Chick Hill (Map 24, A-1) provides a fantastic place to take the family for a short hike. For the minimal effort expended, Chick Hill boasts impressive views, sure to be enjoyed by everyone. To get there, from the intersection of Route 180 and Route 9 in Clifton, drive east on Route 9 for 3.3 miles, then turn left onto Chick Hill Road. Drive 0.3 and veer right at the fork, then drive another 0.3 mile to where Chick Road ends at a rough, gravel parking area.

The hike to the summit from the parking lot is less than a mile and a half and is comprised of moderate terrain. The summit is the prefect sport to enjoy a picnic lunch, boasting expansive views of Little Little Chick Hill, Schoodic and Tunk mountains.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Wildlife Quiz - Beaver

Beavers (Castor canadensis) spend most of their lives living a semi-aquatic existence. Beavers are slow on land, but good swimmers. Evolution has provided the beaver with the unique ability to close off its ears and nose to keep out water and they can hold their breath underwater for approximately 15 minutes. A large flat tail and webbed hind feet make them efficient swimmers and well adapted to watery environments.
Once widely distributed across all of North America, beavers were almost eliminated, in the late 1800s, because of unregulated trapping. With proper management, however, beavers have been reestablished and are now common in many areas. Maine’s many marshes, lakes, ponds and streams are almost guaranteed to hold abundant populations of this omnivorous rodent.
Telltale signs of beavers, inhabiting these biomes, include beaver dams. Engineering marvels, beaver dams work to increase water depth, allowing beavers to store food where it will not be frozen into the ice during the winter season. Within these small ponds, beavers build domed houses (lodges) constructed of mud, small sticks and vegetation. Beavers construct underwater entrances to their lodges, which helps protect them from predators. Though dens provide effective protection from predators, beavers are still preyed upon by black bears, coyotes, lynx, bobcats, fisher, and dogs while they forage for food onshore. If able to avoid predators, beavers typically live 5-10 years in the wild. When frightened, a swimming beaver will slap the water with its broad tail. This alarm serves as a warning to other beavers that danger is near.
Herbivores, beavers feed on the leaves, twigs and inner bark of hardwoods such as aspen, birch, willow, oak and maple. Beavers cut down trees using their sharp front teeth. These teeth continually grow must constantly be worn down by cutting down trees, stripping bark and feeding.
The soft and warm pelts of muskrats remain a valued commodity in the fur trade. The Maine trapping season for beaver starts in October and runs until April or March depending on the Wildlife Management Area.

Wildlife Quiz Questions:
1. What unique ability do beavers have that allow then to swim without water entering their airways and ear canals?
2. How long can a beaver hold its breath underwater?
3. What adaptation do beavers possess that allows them to be very efficient swimmers?
4. What animals prey upon beavers?
5. How long do beavers live in the wild?
6. What does a beaver do to alert other beavers that danger is near?
7. What do beavers eat?

Wildlife Quiz Answers:
1. Evolution has provided the beaver with the unique ability to close off its ears and nose to keep out water.
2. Beavers can hold their breath underwater for approximately 15 minutes.  
3. Beavers have a large flat tail and webbed hind feet making them efficient swimmers and well adapted to watery environments.
4. Beavers are preyed upon by black bears, coyotes, lynx, bobcats, fisher, and dogs.
5. Beavers typically live 5-10 years in the wild.
6. When frightened, a swimming beaver will slap the water with its broad tail to warm other beavers of danger.

7. Herbivores, beavers feed on the leaves, twigs and inner bark of hardwoods such as aspen, birch, willow, oak and maple.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Fishing for Sculpin

Fishing for Sculpin
Fishing off the commercial pier in Eastport (Delorme’s The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (MAG), Map 27 A-4) has always ranked as one of my fondest childhood memories. We used to catch a lot of mackerel back then but I don’t recall ever keeping any of the fish; instead we likely threw them back into the Atlantic or gave them to one of the many other anglers fishing the pier. In those days, the fishing was always furious and a young boy had all the mackerel he could dream of catching by just lobbing a single weighted hook into the large schools. I remember the schools being so massive, that anglers could watch the mackerel whip the water frothy as they chased baitfish around the entire harbor. While the fishing these days certainly isn’t as good as it once was, fishing off the Eastport pier still has all the makings of a fun adventure for young and old alike.
This past July, I had the pleasure of taking my two young sons angling for the first time off the pier in Eastport. Unfortunately, luck was not on our side and over the course of several hours, we never managed to land even a single mackerel. My understanding, from talking to several locals, was that we were a few weeks early and the schools of tinker mackerel had not yet reached this section of the Washington County coast. While the mackerel didn’t corporate, what we did manage to have fun catching were several sizeable sculpin.
Within the Gulf of Maine there exist several different fish that are members of the sculpin family. Included in this list are the Hook-eared sculpin, Mailed sculpin, Shorthorn sculpin, Longhorn sculpin, Stag horn sculpin and Arctic sculpin. Of the species listed, the Longhorn sculpin is the most plentiful and the fish most frequently caught off Maine piers. While not a massive fish, the Longhorn sculpin can grow to 18 inches in length, although few of them ever get any longer than 10 to 14 inches.
Not a fish that will ever win a beauty pageant, the homely sculpin has been known to elicit screams of fright from unsuspecting anglers who haul one out of the brine. Oddly proportioned with a head and mouth seemingly too small for its body, strangely colored and possessing spines that jut out from its head and fins, the sculpin is truly an ugly looking fish. In its defense, however, the lowly sculpin has evolved over the millennium to become a master of camouflage, possessing the ability to vary its skin color to match its surroundings. Additionally, those predators unlucky enough to attempt to attack or eat a sculpin will quickly be dissuaded as they are covered with numerous needle sharp spines. Because of these impressive defenses, once caught by anglers, sculpin are bothersome to unhook. The easiest way to remove the hook and return the fish to the water without getting stuck is to subdue the fish by firmly grasping it by the mouth. Never attempt to kick a sculpin off the pier and back into the water as their spines can easily penetrate the thin fabric of a sneaker.
Sculpin have a voracious appetite, readily taking any type of bait or lure that is presented. What type of lure doesn’t seem all that important as they will strike about anything dangled in from of their gaping mouths. Adding a small morsel of clam, squid or fish belly helps to encourage a strike but anglers can still enjoy a high degree of success by simply jigging a lure close to bottom. Fishermen who specifically target sculpin do so using dropper rigs. These simple set-ups consist of taking 4 feet of 20 lb monofilament line and attaching a 4 oz weight to the end. Twelve inches up from the weight tie on a 2/0 hook using a dropper knot, go up another twelve inches and tie on a second 2/0 hook again using a dropper knot. At the end of the line, opposite the weight, attach a barrel swivel. Instead of using bare hooks, some anglers prefer to attach small bucktail flies to the dropper knots as these have the benefit of still eliciting strikes even if the bait falls off or is stolen. So greedy were the sculpin inhabiting the waters around the Eastport pier that I am confident the kids caught several of the same sculpins multiple times and would have continued to catch these fish over and over had we not moved further down the pier.  

In Maine, the longhorn sculpin is considered a “trash fish”. In the past, they were processed into fishmeal, dog food or used to bait lobster traps. Sculpin is, however, an extremely tasty fish to eat. The one caution to preparing this fish for the dinner table is to use great care when filleting it to avoid getting stuck by one of its many spines. The easiest way to avoid being stuck is to simply cut off all of the spines with a pair of pliers and filet like any other normal fish. The delicious flesh can then be battered and deep fat fried or simply pan fried in a drizzle of olive oil. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Wildlife Quiz - Dragonflies

Dragonflies belong to the “insect” family of creatures and as such, possess segmented bodies divided into a head, thorax and abdomen. Each of the divided sections houses specialized organs, the head the compound eyes and antenna, the thorax the three pairs of jointed legs and transparent wings, the abdomen the dragonflies’ reproductive and execratory organs. Dragonflies exist within the order Odonata, a Greek word meaning “uneven wing”. This nickname was given to the dragonfly because their hind wings are broader than their fore wings. This adaptation allows their two sets of wings to work independently, allowing dragonflies to maneuver effortlessly through the air in pursuit of prey. Voracious eaters, a dragonfly can eat food equal to its own weight in about 30 minutes. Dragonflies regularly consume a vast array of insects including, house flies, butterflies, moths and even bees. One scientific study even showed that a single dragonfly can consume well over 100 hundred mosquitoes a day!
Fossil evidence indicates that dragonflies inhabited the earth over 325 million years ago. These prehistoric relatives were monstrous compared to modern day dragonflies with some having wingspans over 30 inches.
            Dragonflies undergo a three stage life cycle (egg, nymph, adult) which is classified as incomplete metamorphosis. Most other insects undergo a four stage life cycle (egg, larva, pupa, adult). During its life cycle, a dragonfly actually spends very little of its life as an adult dragonfly. Most of its life is instead lived out in the nymph stage underwater. Only after living this underwater existence for a period of several years, does the nymph complete its final molt and emerge from the shallows as a winged adult.
Upon emerging, adults typically survive for just a few weeks, just long enough to find a mate and reproduce. During mating, the male grasps the female at the back of the head and the female curls her abdomen under her body to pick up sperm from the front of the males abdomen. This is typically called the "heart" or "wheel" posture. After mating, the female dragonfly will find a calm body water where she will deposit her eggs on a plant in the water. The following spring, the eggs hatch and the life cycle of the dragonfly begins again.

Wildlife Quiz Questions:
  1. To which family of creatures do dragonflies belong?
  2. What three parts is a dragonfly’s body divided into?
  3. What does the Greek word Odonata mean?
  4. How many mosquitoes can a dragonfly eat in a single day?
  5. How long ago does fossil evidence indicate dragonflies existed on earth?
  6. How wide was the wingspan of the prehistoric dragonflies?
  7. What are the three stages of the dragonfly cycle of incomplete metamorphosis?

Wildlife Quiz Answers:

  1. Dragonflies belong to the “insect” family of creatures.
  2. Dragonflies bodies are divided into a head, thorax and abdomen.
  3. The Greek word Odonata means “uneven wing”.
  4. A dragonfly can consume well over 100 hundred mosquitoes in a single day!
  5. Fossil evidence indicates that dragonflies inhabited the earth over 325 million years ago.
  6. The wingspan of the prehistoric dragonflies was over 30 inches.
  7. Dragonflies undergo a three stage life cycle (egg, nymph, adult) which is classified as incomplete metamorphosis.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Fishing for Snapping Turtles

Fishing for Snapping Turtles
A large percentage of Americans feel that the consumption of anything not found on a grocery store shelf, sitting on a sterilized bed of Styrofoam and double wrapped in plastic, is unfit for human consumption. Travel to most other countries in this world and a person quickly realizes that many cultures on this planet have a much more open view of what is considered “fit for human consumption”. This isn’t to say that pockets of hardcore outdoorsmen, are not scattered throughout the United States, willing to eat just about anything, as I have watched sportsmen eat raccoon, porcupine and squirrel, as well as much “wilder” game like alligator, snake, kangaroo, wild hog and even camel. While these animals may seem wild to some, to others these critters are considered normal everyday food. 
With sufficient arm-twisting, many individuals can be pried out of their comfort zones and convinced to try a small morsel of the above mentioned game animals. Where the line exists that few negotiate is with the eating of organ meats such as lung, stomach, intestines, tongue and even the magnificent tasting heart and liver. I encourage readers to be more open to trying new foodstuffs, as in the end, many will be pleasantly surprised.
This long rather long introduction leads me to my latest outdoor adventure, the trapping, cleaning and the eating of a snapping turtle. Yes, you heard that right, those scary looking dinosaurs of the depths that many swimmer and anglers have seen lurking in the waters of Maine’s various lakes, and ponds. 
The Plan Forms
This adventure all started, as many do, with an alcohol fueled late night discussion on how one would actually go about trapping, cleaning, preparing and lastly preserving the shell of a snapping turtle. With all of the unknowns and the added possibility of an unscheduled finger amputation, this escapade had all the important elements needed for a truly grand time.
Arriving upta camp, armed with the necessary gear for trapping a massive snapper, we were greatly encouraged by several turtle sightings as the sun dipped below the horizon. We watched with particular attention, as an enormous prehistoric head protruded out of the lake, as a massive snapping turtle began its nightly ritual of searching for food in the lakes quiet shallows. Examining my meager fishing tackle, consisting of a handful of large hooks and 45-pound test steel leader, I debated if my limited gear stood a chance of holding such a hefty and powerful amphibian. In all honestly, my brother and I believed our chances, at actually catching one of these beasts, were zero.
Early the next morning, well before sunrise, my brother and I baited our hooks with chicken livers, then secured the hook to a steel leader and lastly to a 20 lb monofilament fishing line. To suspend the chicken liver about 2 feet under the surface, we used an empty bleach bottle as a bobber. Once set, I began chuckling at the ridiculous thought that our line might actually be effective.
            About 30 minutes after sunrise, I noted a sizeable turtle head protrude from the lakes mirror smooth surface about 10 yards from our “bobber”. Not even a minute later, the beast struck! I violently set the hook and after about a 10 minutes battle had the hissing and very angry snapping turtle on the shore.
With a hatchet in my right hand and wielding a large knife in the other, I stared at the turtle with slight dread knowing the extensive task that lay before me. Of course the most obvious place to start the dissection was with the removal of the creature’s mouth implements, capable of removing a man’s hand at the wrist. (I was told later that because of the low oxygen environment in which a turtle’s brain exists, its brain still functions hours after it is severed from its body!) With any animal, it is always a sportsman’s desire to dispatch it as quickly and humanely as possible. Given snapping turtles impressive defensive capabilities, the most direct and safest approach, is to deliver a hard blow to the back of its neck with a sharp axe, completely removing the head in 2-3 quick blows. 
Eating Turtle
Turtle meat is somewhat tough so it is best to parboil it for an hour or so before planning to incorporate it into any recipe. One of the favorite methods of preparing is including the delicate bits in a soup. In our “experiment”, the turtle parts were boiled and then allowed to cool. The bones were picked of meat and placed in a shallow casserole dish then lightly sprinkled with pineapple chunks and a small handful of diced summer sausage. The end result was predictably as described in most of the literature, each of the different turtle parts all having uniquely different tastes. Perhaps my favorite was the white, rubbery neck meat that had a texture and taste similar to lobster. Also, the dark leg meat was what one would expect were it possible to combine beef with chicken. 
All in all an enjoyable eating experience, albeit a tough sell among the rest of the tribe. While everyone was willing to “try” a small morsel of the final meal, few were wiling to make the commitment to fill their plate. It appeared that, try as I might, some of the preconceived notions and ideals about what food should look and taste like were difficult for some individuals to overcome. In the land of plenty, the snapping turtle has little worry about becoming extinct due to over harvesting.
Preserving the Turtle Shells
The shell of the turtle we harvested was gorgeous. In order to preserve it, a fair amount of work had to be done to make sure that the connective cartilage between the turtles plates did not decompose and cause the shell to crumble. Of prime importance was the removal from the shell of all flesh. This was done initially during the cleaning process and repeated in more details once the shell were allowed to dry in the sun for a few days. The beef jerky texture of the flesh that remained was easy to scrape out of the shells with a sharp knife. Next the shells were washed in soap and scrubbed with Comet cleaner to help remove the dried on algae. If we had things to do over again this step would have been done before the drying as the algae would have been easier to remove. Lastly, the shells were again set aside to dry and we dusted a good heap of Borax into each. After about a week of drying in a cool dry spot the shells were ready to begin accepting their coats of lacquer. About 8 coats provided a beautiful “wet” look to the shells and preserved them for future mounting on the wall of the man cave.
Final Thoughts
Since snapping turtles are not considered either endangered, game or a sport fish, there are no specific laws related to harvest regulations, gear and season.  The gray area arises when considering the potential by-catch of fish that do have rules and regulations associated with them. So, while personal snapping turtle trapping is legal without specific permits or licenses, anglers must consider the anticipated methods and whether or not they could potentially take other species (by-catch) that do have laws/rules associated with them. So with that said, while a fishing license isn’t “required” to fish for snapping turtles, it’s a good idea to have one incase one accidentally catches a regulated fish species.  
Snapping turtles are top level predators in most of the water bodies in which they live and as such carry high levels of mercury, PCB's, and other bio-accumulates.  Therefore limiting consumption of snapping turtle meat (and avoid if pregnant, etc) is a good practice to follow.

Snapping turtles take years to reach sexual maturity (18+ years for snappers), have very low hatching success, and as such need to live a long time in order to replace themselves.  While limited personal take should allow populations to persist, commercial harvesting of snapping turtles in Maine would quickly decimate the population.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Planning Your Budget for the Entire Season

Written By: Mckinley Downing from Outdoor Empire.

Money isn’t everything. But its importance shouldn’t be overstated especially when it comes to affording good-quality equipment, travel, and property for hunting. Budgeting is simply taking the amount of money you have and using it as wisely as possible.

Hunting doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, in some cases, you can borrow a rifle to shoot a deer from your back porch for $.80 and a cheap round of $.30-.60 costs.

If you have dreams of a rocky mountain elk hunt, a new bow, or just a few days off to hunt the rut in your back 40, having a written, well-planned budget is going to help out in getting the best hunt possible.

The Real Cost of Days Off 
This is the most expensive part of a typical hunting season.

Not because you don’t get paid for the day off, everyone has a different situation there. In fact, everyone only gets a few precious days per year and hunting season falls just in time to compete with Thanksgiving and Christmas. Damn.

The key here is to communicate with your family and friends exactly when and where you’re expected to make an appearance. You’ll find that many of the best hunting times, you’re going to be needed. Well, too bad.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t care, but the rut only peaks once a year!

It’s been a huge help in the past years to get a calendar and write on each day when you’re going to have to entertain family and what religious or charitable commitments you should have.

Then fill in the days when you’re going to hunt and place the calendar somewhere you and your spouse or family can see it.

Use your days off wisely but try not to step on anyone’s toes or waste any vacation time. Especially because you’ll start to see that the cost of equipment pales in comparison to the cost of taking days off can be.

Try not to take unpaid days for hunting, use your vacation days. That way, even if you saw nothing and had a miserable time, at least you got paid for it!

Tags & Licenses 
This is the most significant fixed cost you’ll encounter. Everyone needs them, and everyone pretty much pays the same price.

Sometimes, you can avoid paying because some states offer programs not to charge deployed military members, disabled veterans, and hunting on family owned property. Even some species like hogs don’t require licenses in some states.

Look for ways to reduce the prices of tags and licenses by:
⦁ renewing early
⦁ only buy what you know you’ll use
⦁ buying online

On western hunts, shop around! You’d be shocked by the price differences between states for a big game like elk. Popular states like Colorado charge double compared to sleeper states like Idaho and Utah.

As far as budgeting goes, licenses are the easiest part because of the fixed price. Use this to your advantage by reserving the money early because you already know the exact cost. Unlike fuel, land taxes or taxidermy fees.

Traveling to hunt isn’t just going across the country to a western bear hunt. You need to plan for the costs of fuel and oil to go to and from your hunting location; not just your truck, but also your ATVs if you use them.

If you hunt just six times per year, for all seasons, and travel an hour one way to your lease, you’ll likely end up spending up to $200 per year in gas just to get there and back. The solution is to carpool!

Whether you’re driving, flying in, or taking a train to your hunting location, if you have enough cargo space, you can carpool on your weekend deer hunts and cross-country pursuits.

The further you go, the better this tactic works. Not only do you save money, but you can also travel much faster by sleeping and driving in shifts.

Make sure to stay away from restaurants, hotels, and food from gas stations because it wastes money and valuable time. Either drive in shifts or plan your itinerary around camping at campgrounds close to the interstate. It's cheaper, faster, and there’s nowhere to really waste money.

Budgeting for gear is simple. Buy the best you can afford with the money left after the costs of travel, time off work, and licenses.

This is one of the fun parts of hunting, but there’s still planning. Remember, 80% of your budget is going to be spent on the gear you’ll use 20% of the time. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t spend some money on a good rifle, bow, or tree stand because those are the critical pieces of kit.

In reality, you’ll spend just as much on rain gear, layers, packs, boots, and all the little stuff that make the hunt more enjoyable and easier than you will on essential equipment. What you don’t want is to spend too much on gear and then be forced to skimp on travel or time off.

It can be tough to strike that balance of good-quality equipment that lasts and the cheap bargain basement kit that is sold at discount shops.

When it comes to disposable items like hand warmers, fuel canisters, and camouflage duct tape, buy the cheapest you can find that gets the job done. As long as it serves its purpose, don’t sweat on the brand.

For critical pieces of gear like weapons, stands, and vehicles, remember: if you’re on a budget, you can’t afford to buy it twice.

Things to Consider When Budgeting 

Allow Wiggle Room 
Maybe gas will go up. Maybe the cost of corn will go up. Maybe you won’t get paid for that extra vacation day.

Set aside 10% or so of the entire budget to save just in case. That can cover emergencies that may happen while on the field, or it can be the starting point for next season’s budget.

Have a Wish List 
When you plan your budget, make sure you have an “on deck” or “wish” list should you have a bit of extra cash or a gift you want to take advantage of.

That could mean new gear, more cash on hand for a long-distance trip or more money for range trips.

Factor in Range Costs 
Unless you’re shooting from your back porch, you’re going to spend considerable amounts of money for range use -- range fees, gas, time, and of course ammo.

If your range offers punch cards, memberships or group rate, they’re never a bad idea. Same with bulk ammunition for training purposes.

Get Discounts 
Use coupons, loyalty cards, and rewards points. Try squeezing out every dollar that you can. It may only amount to $50 saved per year, but that can be gas money or an extra range trip.

Use a Warranty 
Don’t just sit idly when your gear fails. Make sure to use a warranty or replacement policy. You can’t afford to replace equipment if it fails prematurely. Take advantage of every warranty or replacement policy that you can, just get some risk protection.

Image Sources: Pixabay

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Wildlife Quiz - Small Mouth Bass

The Smallmouth Bass
The Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus dolomieu) exist as freshwater member of the sunfish family. The Smallmouth Bass differs from the Largemouth Bass in that its upper jaw of does not extend beyond the back of the eye. The Smallmouth Bass goes by many other names such as Smallie, Bronzeback, Brownie, Black Bass, Brown Bass, and Bareback Bass. Originally a native to the Mississippi River, Saint Lawrence River, Great Lakes, and Hudson Bay, through stocking the Smallmouth Bass can now be found inhabiting lakes, streams and rivers across Canada and the United States.
Smallmouth Bass commonly live 5-7 years, with a few impressive individuals reaching 10-20 years of age. Older adult Smallmouth Bass can attain lengths up to 27 inches and weigh as much as 12 pounds but in Maine, only a few individuals ever exceed 5 pounds. Male Smallies weigh around two pounds, while females tend to be larger, averaging three to five pounds.
The Maine state record smallmouth bass stands at 8 pounds and was caught in Thompson Lake by George Dyer in 1970. The current world record for a smallmouth bass is 11 lb 15 oz. 
When water temperatures warm to the mid-50s, smallmouths begin move into the shallow flats to spawn. Spawning occurs in water 3-15 feet deep, in small diameter gravel nests that border underwater stumps, boulders and vegetation. The female can lay up to 20,000 eggs, which are guarded by the male until they hatch.

Voracious eaters, Smallmouth Bass prey upon almost anything they can fit in their mouths and have even been observed eating frogs, mice and birds. Their tenacity makes Smallmouth Bass one of the most popular game species, regarded for its size by many anglers as, "the gamest fish that swims".

Wildlife Quiz Questions:
1. What is the difference between a Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass?
 2. What was the original native range of the Smallmouth Bass?
 3. How long does a Smallmouth Bass typically live?
4. What is the largest Smallmouth Bass caught in Maine?
5. What is the weight of the world record Smallmouth Bass?
6. When do Smallmouth Bass spawn?
7. How many eggs do Smallmouth Bass lay?
8. What large prey species have Smallmouth Bass been seen feeding upon?

 Wildlife Quiz Answers: 
1. The Smallmouth Bass differs from the Largemouth Bass in that its upper jaw of does not extend beyond the back of the eye.
 2. The Smallmouth Bass was originally a native to the Mississippi River, Saint Lawrence River, Great Lakes, and Hudson Bay.
3. Smallmouth Bass commonly live 5-7 years.
4. The Maine state record smallmouth bass stands at 8 pounds and was caught in Thompson Lake by George Dyer in 1970.
5. The current world record for a smallmouth bass is 11 lb 15 oz.
6. Smallmouth Bass begin move into the shallow flats to spawn, when water temperatures warm to the mid-50s.
7. Female Smallmouth Bass can lay up to 20,000 eggs.
8. Smallmouth Bass have been observed eating frogs, mice and birds.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Lead is Dead!

Lead is Dead
Last season, I started trolling togue with wire trolling line. Wire lining might not be the sportiest way to catch togue but it is highly effective and given my extremely high degree of success with this product, I am afraid I will never again be able to return to using lead core line again.
Tolling with wire line, such as AFW’s Monel trolling wire, allows anglers to get down deeper, faster and without having to let out as much line as those fishing lead core. This is made possible because wire line has a higher mass and lower diameter than lead core line. This property, of wire line, allows it to sink more rapidly than lead core and attain deeper trolling depths without the use of additional sinkers or down rigging. As a comparison, running 100 yards of 30 pound test Monel, at trolling speeds of less than 2mph, provides the ability to fish depths of almost 70 feet. The same length of lead core trolled at the same speed, will sink only to a depth of approximately 50 feet. Wire line also displaces a smaller volume of water than lead core, thereby creating less felt drag. This translates to less felt rod vibration, leading to decreased angler fatigue after a long day of trolling.
Wire line does require anglers to learn a few new knots and some fishermen may even need to purchase a new rod and reel. I prefer a medium fast rod that has the backbone to handle the heavy load of line, weight, spoons and lure but also still has some degree of action at the tip for playing out caught fish.  Those who fish a lot will likely place a lot of stress on their equipment and wire line. To help combat these issues, be sure to check out the “Twili-tip”, this invention uses a small spring to guide the wire line through the rod tip, saving rod eye wear and reducing line kinking which can ultimately weaken the line. I run my wire line through a mooching reel but other choices are equally good as long as the spool isn’t made of plastic. Wire will eventually cut into plastic spools, rendering the reel useless. Mooching reels are nice because an angler can slowly play our line by cranking the reel handle. Using a standard trolling reel, an angler must slowly thumb the wire of the spool otherwise it “birds nest”. Wire line is unforgiving and hurrying it off your reel will have you using the cutting out the snags with pliers. Ultimately, however, even with these few challenges, the positives of using wire line are well worth the initial investment of time and money.
By carefully watching the depth finder and spooling line in and out carefully and deliberately anglers can hug the bottom and find where the big boys hide. Don’t be afraid to snag bottom from time to time, just make sure that the drag on your reel is set lightly. Wire doesn’t stretch and catching bottom can quickly become problematic. Last spring while trolling for togue on Whitney cove on West Grand Lake our largest togue were hooked seconds after our deep water trolling rigs bounced off bottom. It is my guess that the disturbance of the substrate elicits togue to bite.
Big Bait Big Fish
            When targeting big togue with deep wire lines, I prefer to use big bait. When trolling, live bait isn’t needed so my favorite baits include; sea run smelts, large golden shiners and suckers. Sea run smelts caught during the winter while jigging out of the smelt fishing shacks on the Kennebec river can be bagged, frozen whole and used effectively as bait all summer long, same with large golden shiners left unused after ice fishing season. For those looking for additional togue bait should consider checking out, 42 acre Orie Lake in Talmage  as it is a great spot to catch white suckers.
            Catching suckers isn’t much different than catching smaller baitfish like minnows. The only difference is that the hole in the bait trap needs to be slightly enlarged and white bread is used primarily as bait. Successful sucker fishermen also know to target the mouths of inlets and outlets to maximize catches. Also, in Maine, the White Sucker spawns, usually in great numbers, in the shallow water of streams throughout April and May and can be easily netted.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Wildlife Quiz - White Sucker

White Sucker
The White Sucker (Catostomus commersonii) exists as a freshwater species native to the North American Midwest and Northeast and as far south as New Mexico. The Catostomidae, or sucker family, is closely related to minnows.
Also known by the names mullet, white horse or just plain sucker, White Suckers were originally so named because of their odd toothless mouth and distinctively fat lips. White suckers use these fleshy lips to suck up bottom sediments and consume organisms that may be hidden there. White Suckers will eat almost anything, including small invertebrates, algae and a wide array of plant matter. In turn, larger predatory fish species such as togue, bass and northern pike prey on the White Sucker.
While there exists a growing interest in serving up White Sucker as table fare, more commonly they serve as fish bait for anglers targeting large and more desirable fish species. For those interested in eating the White Sucker, their flesh is described as white, flaky and moist and highly prized when deep fat fried or served in fish chowders.
In Maine, the White Sucker spawns, usually in great numbers, in the shallow water of streams throughout April and May. During the spring spawn, females release thousands of eggs that are fertilized by awaiting males.
 White Suckers reach sexual maturity at three to eight years. Those hatchlings and juveniles fortunate enough to evade predators can live up to approximately 17 year and grow to 15-20 inches long.

Wildlife Quiz Questions:
  1. What is the native range of the White Sucker?
  2. What are other names for the White Sucker?
  3. Why are White Suckers called “Suckers”?
  4. What do White Suckers eat?
  5. What fish feed on White Suckers?
  6. When do White Suckers spawn?
  7. When do White Suckers reach sexual maturity?
  8. How long do White Suckers live?
Wildlife Quiz Answers:

  1. The native range of the White Sucker stretches from the North American Midwest and Northeast to as far south as New Mexico.
  2. The White Sucker is also know by the names mullet, white horse or just plain sucker.
  3. White Suckers are called “Suckers” because of their odd toothless mouth and distinctively fat lips.
  4. White Suckers will eat almost anything, including small invertebrates, algae and a wide array of plant matter.
  5. White Suckers are fed upon by larger predatory fish species such as togue, bass and northern pike.
  6. In Maine, the White Sucker spawns in the shallow water of streams throughout April and May.
  7. White Suckers reach sexual maturity at three to eight years.
  8. White Suckers live to approximately 17 years of age.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Fly Fishing Need Not Be Complicated and Stream Side Sushi

Fly Fishing Need Not Be Complicated
Fly fishing certainly is an art form and many over the course of their lifetime master this sport. However, one need not cast a 60 yards, know the name of every nymph in the fly box at LL Bean and dress like they stepped out of an Orvis catalog to have fun catching fish on the fly. For most, the seemingly most difficult step to becoming a fly fisher is picking up rod, reel and line and attempting that first tentative cast. Well, don’t be an anxious angler, just do it! Fly fishing is not nearly as complicated as it is frequently made out to be and a person can learn all they need to achieve casting success and catch fish in as little as an hour. Now I am not saying that your cast will be perfect or that you will be able to cast like a pro but what most newbie fly casters don’t realize is that 90% of the fish caught on the fly are done so with casts distancing less than 25 feet. Therefore, fly fishing is more about understanding specifically where the fish are hiding and targeting them with short, well placed casts.
Another issue I see frequently when instructing new fly fishers is poor gear selection. They buy expensive waders, sun glasses, fly jackets and nets but purchase their fly rod, reel and line at Walmart. Avoid frustration, maximize available funds and shorten the amount of time it will take to master the art of fly fishing by first investing in these three critical items. This isn’t to say big money need be spent but $100 on a rod, $80 on a good weight forward tapered floating line and $50 on a reel will go a LONG way in shortening the learning curve. Better gear simply casts easier allowing beginners to become less frustrated when trying to learn.
When fly fishing, always wear eye protection. Beginner or experts should all heed this warning and when instructing I cannot stress this enough. Wind, branches, other fly casters, fish spitting the hook, misplaced casts . . . there are simply too many uncontrollable variables for an angler to make a perfect cast every time. Even experts casting in perfect situations can make mistakes. A hook in the ear or head is an inconvenience; a hook in the eye is potentially tragic. Full wrap around polarized sunglasses on bright days and cheap $10 clear safety glasses on those days that are overcast are what I call simple preventative measures.
Read a book, watch youtube videos, take an adult education class, hire a Maine guide, take a class at LL Bean . . . whatever the final choice, there are lots of instructional options to help anglers successfully take that first cast. 
After long months of inactivity, “anglers anxious” wishing  to fly fish open waters would be well served to make a pilgrimage to Grand Lake Stream (Delorme’s The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (MAG), Map 35, B-4). Open April 1st to fly fishing only, hoards of anglers descend upon the stream, drunk on the prospects of pulling fat silversides from the stream’s turbulent, ice cold waters. Fishing is often fast and furious during the first three weeks of April, with hungry salmon eager to bite hard on any imitation smelt patterns (Black Ghost and Gray Ghost). Those new to the sport of fly fishing and confused by the overwhelming selection of flies can stop at the Grand Lake Stream store and simply ask the clerk what they are biting.
Widely considered one of the top landlocked salmon rivers in the state, Grand Lake Stream regularly produces salmon of between 16 and 20 inches in length, with larger fish always an exciting possibility. Regulations set a length minimum for salmon at 14 inches and a one fish bag limit on salmon. The dam pool is by far the most popular (and also most crowded location) so those wishing for a quieter and more pristine experience, it is good to explore other areas of the stream such as the hatchery pool.
Stream Side Salmon Sushi
Those staying in Grand Lake Stream usually stay in lodges with three fully prepared and served meals a day (American plan), however, those with more budget conscious considerations choose to cook our own meals (house keeping plan). For those choosing this plan option, I can think of no better lunch time meal than freshly caught salmon. This meal can be easily prepped ahead of time and assembled on-site with little more time commitment than making a sandwich.
Start by making the sushi rice the evening before, I prefer “Rice Select” but there are many other brands equally good. Cook rice according to the directions on the rice package and after the rice has cooled, add approximately 3 tablespoons of rice vinegar per cup of rice made. Rice can then be place in a large Ziploc bag.
In the morning, pack up the sushi rice along with, roasted seaweed wraps, pickled ginger, soy sauce, wasabi, and avocado. Once a salmon is caught it can be filleted and the flesh cut into thin strips. To assemble the rolls, place a seaweed wrap on a plate and press a thin layer of cool rice on the seaweed. Leave at least 1/2 inch top and bottom edge of the seaweed uncovered for easier rolling later. Dot some wasabi down the center of the rice so that it is spread evenly through the entire roll. Arrange avocado and salmon to the rice about 1 inch away from the bottom edge of the seaweed. Slightly dampen the top edge of the seaweed and then roll from bottom to the top edge. While some people prefer to accomplish this step with the help of a bamboo mat, it isn’t absolutely necessary. Cut roll into 8 equal pieces, top with a thin slice of pickled ginger and serve sprinkled with soy sauce to taste.
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