Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Wildlife Quiz - The Atlantic Mackerel

The Atlantic Mackerel’s (Scomber scombrus) impressive range stretches from Labrador to North Carolina in the western Atlantic and from Iceland to Northern Africa in the eastern Atlantic. Populations of Atlantic Mackerel have also been found in the Baltic, Mediterranean and Black seas. Closer to home, the Atlantic Mackerel inhabits the gulf of Maine and frequent visitor to our coastal bays and inlets during the mid summer months.

Close to thirty different species, share the common name “mackerel”, a term meaning "marked" or "spotted." The Atlantic Mackerel’s nickname originates from the 20-30 dark wavy bands, overlaying the fishes blue-green colored back. The bands run across the back, from the fish’s head to tail and stretching down the body to approximately the midline. From the midline to the fish’s belly, the coloration changes to a brilliant silvery white iridescence. The stripes at first may appear to provide camouflage but that is not the case, scientists have determined that the strips help the Atlantic Mackerel properly communicate body movements with each other while schooling and feeding.

The Atlantic Mackerel reproduces in early summer, with a majority of the spawning occurring in the Gulf of Maine during the months of June and July. Prolific broadcast spawners, females produce and distribute as many as 1,000,000 eggs that in turn receive fertilization by males. After spawning, Atlantic Mackerel do not protect their eggs and offspring; instead eggs float free in the open ocean until hatching. Juveniles feed on plankton until reaching a size where they become capable of consuming small crustaceans, fish, shrimp and squid.

Most of the Atlantic Mackerel caught in Maine waters reach an average length of around 15-16 inches and weigh approximately 2-3 pounds. A few luck anglers occasionally pull larger, trophy size Atlantic Mackerel out of Maine’s coastal waters each summer reaching a hefty 4+ pounds. A mackerel for the record books would weigh 7+pounds.

Wildlife Quiz Questions: 
1. What is the range of the Atlantic Mackerel?
2. How many species of “Mackerel” exist?
3. What does the term “mackerel” mean?
4. What is the purpose of the “stripes” on the back of an Atlantic Mackerel?
5. When does the Atlantic Mackerel reproduce?
6. How many eggs does a female Atlantic Mackerel produce?
7. What does the Atlantic mackerel feed upon?
8. How big is an Atlantic Mackerel?
9. What would a record book Atlantic Mackerel weigh?

Wildlife Quiz Answers:
1. The Atlantic Mackerel’s range stretches from Labrador to North Carolina in the western Atlantic and from Iceland to Northern Africa in the eastern Atlantic. Populations of Atlantic Mackerel have also been found in the Baltic, Mediterranean and Black seas.
2. Close to thirty different species, share the common name “mackerel”.
3. The term “mackerel” means "marked" or "spotted."
4. Scientists have determined that the strips on the back of an Atlantic Mackerel help it properly communicate body movements with each other while schooling and feeding.
5. The Atlantic Mackerel reproduces in early summer, with a majority of the spawning occurring in the Gulf of Maine during the months of June and July.
6. Female Atlantic mackerel produce and distribute as many as 1,000,000 eggs.
7. The Atlantic Mackerel feeds upon plankton until reaching a size where they become capable of consuming small crustaceans, fish, shrimp and squid.
8. Most of the Atlantic Mackerel caught in Maine waters reach an average length of around 15-16 inches and weigh approximately 2-3 pounds. A few luck anglers occasionally pull larger, trophy size Atlantic Mackerel out of Maine’s coastal waters each summer reaching a hefty 4+ pounds.
9. An Atlantic Mackerel for the record books would weigh 7+ pounds.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Take a Kid Fishing

This is a short article I wrote for the July/August 2015 edition of the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine (SAM) Newsletter....ENJOY!

Fishing and kids seem to go together better than helpless women and railroad tracks. It's one of those activities that youngster’s just pick-up easily and enjoy naturally, without any added pressure or encouragement. Put a fishing pole in the hands of a child and watch a strange transformation occur. Eyes glazed from watching too much TV are awakened, tongues wag no stop from exhilaration and little legs and arms vibrate with the excitement and anticipation of a possible catch. Even the most bored and despondent kids, will be transformed into industrious sportsmen in training, as their inquisitive minds attempt to unravel all of the mysteries of the fishing sport. As they delve deeper they will eventually come to realize that all aspects of “fishing” simply cannot be learned in a lifetime. Perhaps this is part of the attraction, the sport of fishing can be as complicated OR as simple as one desires. It need be no more complicated (unless one chooses) than a simple stick, line, hook and worm. It is a sport of the rich and poor alike and each has an equal chance of scoring a true personal trophy.

Casting and Retrieving: A four year old can be fairly proficient in understanding the dynamics of casting and reeling, and both these skills were taught to my sons soon after they began walking. Kids readily learn these introductory fishing skills, as long as parents take the time to provide instruction in a fun and supportive manner. Small “kid sized” rods and reels fit well tiny hands and short arms and are well worth the investment. With fun designs like Batman, Diego and Barbie your child is sure to go wild when they are unveiled. Even if your budget is more modest, have no worry that any kid will be entertained for hours with a stick having a bit of line attached to the end. Neither fishing nor the equipment for fishing needs to be complex for kids to become hooked. What is most important is the quality of time you spend with your child in these situations and how enthusiastic you are about being outside. Practice sessions, casting and reeling in lures, are done absent of hooks, until kids develop the motor control to cast and retrieve effectively. Even then, parents will be wise to keep a watchful and vigilant eye on an exuberant youngsters back casts. Casting is made more enjoyable for kids when you tie a plastic bait (salamanders, worms, crayfish, fish, etc) onto the end of their line. The often wildly colorful lures and combined wiggling, jiggling action make it difficult for any kid to resist exhibiting strong interest. Casting and retrieving on a lawn or driveway, affords a place for instruction that is readily accessible and free of some of the distractions found in more “fishy” situations. Parents need not worry about lures stuck in trees, on lake bottoms or anyone falling into the water. Start by having kids cast beyond a specific point, so they can increase their distance. As distance improves, have them cast lures into hula hoops to help them improve accuracy. With continued practice, 5 year old kids should be able, with guidance, to cast a hooked lure and reel in live fish, eels, mudpuppies, bullfrogs and anything else that manages to bite their hook. Once the introductory practice and preparations finally start to come together, little fishermen are afforded the opportunity to graduate to becoming big fishermen. During this transition, parents should still closely supervise and direct fishing activities but hooked lines can now be used. (*Of course kids can start MUCH younger using hooked lines, if jigging for sunfish or ice fishing and under direct parental supervision. Casting and retrieving is a completely different skill set, requiring a higher level of muscular control. Younger kids are likely not to have the physical ability to safely cast a hooked line without impaling themselves or others, therefore caution should be exercised.)

Introduce Hooks: Kids are introduced to hooks by allowing them to handle them and practice hooking them into soft plastic lures (like worms, frogs and salamanders) and then removing them. This practice allows them to understand how hooks work and helps to develop the fine motor skills necessary to hook wiggly worms, squirming grubs and soft rubber baits correctly later when in actual fishing scenarios. Be sure to describe the parts of the hook (Point, shank, barb, eye, etc.) to your child and how different size hooks and styles are used to catch different types of fish and unique fishing situations. Also, describe how a hook can be safely removed from skin and clothes, if an accident occurs, so that children do not panic should there be a mishap. At five years old they will be too young to tie mono to the hook so parents can tie the mono to a large swivel and let kids attach the swivel to the eye of the hook. Large hooks are easier for small fingers to manipulate but parents may want to switch to using smaller hooks once the fishing actually begins, depending on fish being targeted.

Casting a Bobber: When fishing, a large bobber rigged to the line helps with casting distance and allows an excellent visual reference for kids. The anticipation of watching and waiting for the bobber to go under the water is exciting for kids, when the fish cooperate.

Know the Lingo: Fishing lingo, vernacular and jargon is often picked-up by sportsmen over a lifetime of pursuing fish. These words and catch phrases (no pun intended) are unique to the sport and when uttered for the first time by young kids, utterly adorable. Imagine a four year old telling you, with a look on his face as serious as a heart attack, that he thinks he just had a “dribble” and he better reel in the line to see if it still has a worm. If that doesn’t make you smile, how about picturing a five year old approaching a perfect stranger at the boat launch and asking “Hey Mistah, whatcha usein for bait?” When you finally reach the point in your child’s fishing education, where the kiddos are having random conversations with other “rival” fishermen at boat launches, it’s important that you sit them down and have a serious heart to heart talk about two of the most important aspect of fishing, secrets and exaggeration. In these ensuing conversations, children must be taught who can and cannot be trusted with fishing secrets and to whom and when it is perfectly acceptable to blatantly lie. For parents looking to speed up their child’s education, this might also be a good time to work in the “We don’t need to tell Mommy everything” discussion. Speaking of secrets, I almost rolled off the dock last week when my five year old brought his mouth close to my ear and in a low whisper said, "Daddy, I have a fishing secret, you haftah be careful when your fishing to be quite so you don't scare away the fish". This was funny, because it wasn’t something that I had ever directly taught him but rather was most likely something he garnered himself from our quiet interactions at the lake.

Whenever possible, ensure fishing with a child is a safe and enjoyable experience. Don’t expect every second to be perfect but make sure to create scenarios that kids will want to return to again and again. If something unexpected occurs (like someone gets hooked or falls off the dock), at least make sure to salvage the day with a trip to get ice cream. The trick is to always end on a good note AND while the kiddos are still wanting more. If they start screaming and crying when you tell them its time to go home, you have done your due diligence.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Beat Summer's HEAT with DULUTH!

The hike to the summit was typical for summer in Maine, hot, muggy and buggy. Tough conditions requiring long sleeves and pants to keep the biting hordes away but also requiring a light enough fabric to allow one to remain dry and comfortable. These are not the conditions where cotton thrives, as once damp; cotton stays damp and uncomfortable and tends to rub a person in the most delicate places.

Fortunately on this day, I was trying out the Armachillo shirt and Dry on the Fly "work" pants by Duluth Trading Company. While most envision clothing from Duluth as “work wear”, let me assure you that these clothes are as suitable for use by fishermen, canoeists, backpackers and climbers.

Basically, if you plan to be outside in the oppressive summer heat, you want to be swathed in these two finely constructed Duluth products. While the shirt and pants are lightweight and breathable, they are constructed with a fabric that is incredibly tough and surprisingly soft.

The Armachillo Shirt contains “made-in-the-jade” technology and the Dry on the Fly pants are constructed with integrated UPF 40 sun protection, creating a barrier to the suns rays that will allow you to have fun in the summer sun without feeling its wrath.

Do yourself a favor this summer and bring an end to being uncomfortable. Start enjoying your favorite outdoor pursuits with clothing from your hard working friends at Duluth Trading Company!

For more Maine outdoor adventure pictures, please join me on Instagram and Twitter as I tour our amazing state protected, dry and comfortable in  "work" equipment and clothing by Duluth!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Introduce Kids to fishing

July provides the perfect opportunity to introduce a child to angling. With temperatures high and smallmouth bass feisty and plentiful, kids can readily develop a life long love of fishing during this month. Kids readily learn introductory fishing skills, as long as parents/guardians take the time to provide instruction in a fun and supportive manner. Small “kid sized” rods and reels fit well in tiny hands are well worth the investment. With fun designs like Batman and Barbie a child is sure to go wild when they are unveiled. Even if on a budget, have no worry that any kid will be entertained for hours with a stick having a bit of line and a bobber, hook and worm attached to the end. Equipment for fishing does not need to be complex for kids to have fun, what is most important is the quality time spent with a child in these situations helping them build enthusiasm about the great outdoors.

Practice sessions, casting and reeling in lures, are wisely done absent of hooks, until kids develop the control needed to cast and retrieve effectively. Even then, parents/guardians will be wise to keep a watchful eye on an exuberant youngsters back casts. Casting practice is made more enjoyable for kids when you tie a hookless plastic bait (salamanders, worms, crayfish, fish, etc) onto the end of their line. The often wildly colorful lure and wiggling action make it difficult for any kid to resist exhibiting interest. Casting and retrieving on a lawn or driveway, affords a place for instruction that is readily accessible and free of some of the distractions found in more “fishy” situations. Parents need not worry about getting lures stuck in trees, on lake bottoms or anyone falling into the water. Start by having kids cast beyond a specific point, so they can slowly increase their casting distance. As distance improves, have them cast lures into hula hoops to help them improve accuracy. With continued practice, 5 year olds should be able, with guidance, to cast a hooked lure and reel in live fish, eels, mudpuppies, bullfrogs and anything else that bites their hook.

With dozens of small mouth bass waters to choose from, in Washington County, anglers constantly inquire about which waters are the best. Over the last 25 years the Jonesboro office of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has compiled a chart averaging angler hourly catch rates and sizes of smallmouth bass from the highest rated waters Down East. If the list is closely examined a trend becomes apparent showing that the higher the catch rates the smaller the average size of the bass. When fishing with children, they are typically more interested in catching a lot of fish rather than big fish but anglers must decide for themselves which water offers the bass fishing that best suites them. Wabasses (Delorme’s The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (MAG), Map 35, C-3) and Silver Pug Lake (Map 35, D-5) boast the largest average sized small mouth bass caught with 13.6 and 12.9 pounds respectively. Schoodic Lake (Map 25, C-3) holds the record for the highest number caught per hour, with an average rate of 16 fish.

Atlantic Mackerel Fishing
If July temperatures become too hot on inland lakes and ponds, a trip to the coast to fish for Atlantic Mackerel might be more pleasant. The Eastport breakwater (Map 37, E-3) offers the perfect spot for anglers to cast from shore for these delectable fish. If the fish are schooling, success occurs easily with equipment as simple as a basic spin casting reel, medium weight fishing rod, and a diamond-style mackerel jig, Swedish pimple or any other flashy silver lure that can be found in a tackle box. Simply casting into a school of mackerel and allowing the lure to sink for a few seconds before rapidly retrieving is all that needs to be done to catch fish, usually LOTS of fish. Upon landing a fish, immediately cast back into the schooling fish as this will usually lead to multiple hook-ups for as long as the school remains in place.

Though not providing quite the same level of “sport”, lots of people fish for mackerel with “Christmas trees,” pre-made rigs consisting of several hooks attached to a main line, designed to catch several mackerel at once. Mastering fishing with one of these rigs requires anglers to manage to get all the hooks full of fish at the same time. Doing so requires not reeling in first fish hooked but instead, allowing it to swim freely about, attracting other mackerel to bite and become hooked on the open lures. Christmas trees serve as a good way to take lots of mackerel in a short amount of time but for the most fun, stick to a single lure as provides the best action-packed fight! As fun as mackerel are to catch, they are also simple to prepare for the dinner table.

Mackerel will quickly degrade in July's high temperatures, so anglers should bring along a cooler filled with ice large enough to accommodate the number of fish they intend to catch. This ensures that caught fish remain fresh until they can be processed. Young, “tinker” mackerel require simply removing the head, eviscerating and rinsing with cold water, while larger fish may require the added step of being butterflied so they lie flat enabling more even cook on the grill. Grilling is easily the most preferred method, as Mackerel tends to have a less appetizing “fishy” taste, if the oils are not allowed to drain out as the flesh is cooked.

Indian Rock Camps (AKA Camp Clearwaters), located in pristine Grand Lake Stream, will be hosting a completely free week at their camps for children and young adults (up to 40 years old) with cancer and their families. While there exist several children’s cancer camps in Maine, none allow admission by young adults, until now! Jo-Anne and Ken Cannell are happy to host this annual CELEBRATION OF LIFE in loving memory of their daughter Gretchen, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor at the age of 12 and bravely fought this fight for 14 years. The camp is free to all Maine residents and reservations honored on a first come first serve basis. For more information, please contact Jo-Anne Cannell at 207-796-2822 or 1-800-498-2821.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Wildlife Quiz - The American Mink

The American Mink (Neovison vison) boasts an impressive range stretching from the west to east coast of the United States and from the arctic tundra to South America. Through human introduction, the mink has even expanded its range to parts of Europe. Counting the tail, minks measure approximately15–18 inches in body length, with females measuring 3-4 inches smaller. An elongated and slim creature, despite the mink’s long length, they rarely exceed more than 2-3 pounds.

Coloration of individuals can vary from brown to an almost black. Mink maintain hunting territories by marking an area with a strong odor from their scent glands. While primarily preying on fish, a large part of the mink’s diet also consists of rodents, birds and a wide assortment of crustaceans and amphibians. Mink routinely kill more than they can eat and store the extra for later in their dens.

A solitary creature by nature, minks will not tolerate intrusion into their territories by other minks, males and females even den separately except when breeding. A promiscuous animal, the mink does not form pair bond but instead prefers to mate with a different individual each breeding season. The mating season begins in February with young born by June. Litters on mink young or “kits” average around 4 individuals with litters as high as 16 being recorded by minks in captivity. The kits begin hunting after eight weeks, but stay with their mothers until fall, when they become independent. For rearing young, shelter and protection from predators, mink create burrows in river banks or hollow trees.

An opportunist, the mink will even occasionally nest in burrows dug by other animals such as muskrats, squirrels and other rodents. A vicious and ferocious creature despite its relatively diminutive size, few predators prey on the mink, and they are only occasionally eaten by bobcats, fox, coyotes or owls. The average lifespan of a wild mink spans from 1 to 3 years with a vast majority of mink falling prey to disease, starvation and predators within the first six months. In captivity, minks may live as long as seven years.

Wildlife Quiz Questions:
1. What is the range of the American Mink?
2. How long is the American Mink?
3. How much does an American Mink weigh?
4. What does the American Mink eat?
5. What are baby American Minks called?
6. How many kits are in a typical American Mink litter?
7. How soon after birth can kits begin hunting?
8. What is the average lifespan of an American Mink?

Wildlife Quiz Answers: 
1. The American Mink boasts an impressive range stretching from the west to east coast of the United States and from the arctic tundra to South America. Through human introduction, the mink has even expanded its range to parts of Europe.
2. The American Mink measures approximately 15–18 inches in body length, with females measuring 3-4 inches smaller
3. American Minks rarely exceed more than 2-3 pounds.
4. The American Mink primarily preys on fish; a large part of the mink’s diet also consists of rodents, birds and a wide assortment of crustaceans and amphibians.
5. Baby American Minks are called kits.
6. American Mink litters average around 4 kits with litters as high as 16 being recorded by minks in captivity.
7. Kits can begin hunting after eight weeks.
8. The average lifespan of a wild American Mink is from 1 to 3 years with a vast majority of mink falling prey to disease, starvation and predators within the first six months.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Ticks, family Friendly Hikes and Spring Fishing

Ticks SUCK!
By June the black fly and the mosquito have both begun to take over the Maine woods. In recent years, Down East has caught up with the southern part of the state and we are now seeing a slow but steady invasion by deer ticks. One bite from a tick carrying Lyme disease has the potential to completely destroy the health and well being of an individual and has even in some cases caused death. With one in four deer ticks carry Lyme disease, according to Jim Dill, pest management specialist with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension; it is imperative that Maine residents are properly prepared to address the tick issue. While bug sprays containing Diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET) like the commercially Bens 100 and Deep Woods Off are extremely effective in keeping black flies and mosquitoes away, ticks require Permethrin. Sure, the warning label contains multiple references to developing cancer but at least you won’t die of a tick bite! Since I started using Permethrin, I can sit in the leaf litter and tall field grass all day without seeing a single tick. Just MAKE SURE to read the back of the can as Permethrin has to be applied in a very specific way and cannot be applied directly to bare skin. Yeah, I know, I know . . . but like I said before, at least you won’t die from a tick bite!

Bell’s Mountain and Crane Mountain
Thus properly equipped to fend off Maine’s voracious blood sucking insects, why not take a short hike up Bell’s Mountain and Crane Mountain at Tide Mill Farms in Edmunds (Delorme’s The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (MAG), Map 27, A-1). Both of the hikes are rated as moderate difficulty and for the effort invested in climbing the 1.2 and 1.4 mile trails are rich with rewarding views of Cobscook and Whiting Bay. Hikers should bring binoculars as the endangered Fin, Humpback, Minke, and Atlantic Right Whales frequent these waters and can sometimes be spotted from the summit. While the trails are managed by Inland Fisheries & Wildlife (IFW) both mountains are privately owned. It is certainly a privilege to have access to these mountains, so visitors should make sure to pack in and pack out any garbage. To access the Bell’s Mountain and Crane Mountain trailhead from southbound on Route 1, turn right onto Bell Mountain Road 0.3 miles after the green bridge crossing Crane Mill Brook and proceed 0.25 miles to Bell’s Mountain trailhead on left. To reach Crane Mountain trailhead, continue on Bell Mountain Road for 0.7 miles. Bear right at fork in the road and follow to the end of a short road for trailhead parking. If the gate providing access to Crane Mountain parking lot is closed, park at the Bell’s Mountain parking area and walk.

Klondike Mountain 
Another fun mountain to explore is Klondike Mountain in Lubec (Map 27, A-4). This small monolith exists as part of the “Bold Coast”, a 40-mile length of coastline stretching from West Quoddy Head in Lubec to the town of Cutler. Dramatic rough hewn granite cliffs rise almost 150 feet above the water’s edge and blow holes, caves and arches all add to the absolute splendor of this exquisite area. Several varieties of highly specialized plants including many only found in alpine or sub-arctic habitats call this area home, so great care should be taken to stay on marked trails to avoid impacting this fragile ecosystem. The hike to the summit o Klondike Mountain is rated as easy/moderate difficulty and the summit can be reached in 0.6 miles. The trail skirts along the water before rising 150 feet through forested land to a bald summit overlooking South Bay, Cobscook Bay, Lubec, Eastport and Campobello Island. To access Klondike Mountain, travel 1 mile north of Route 189 on the North Lubec Road. Look for the Klondike Mountain sign on the left. The trail begins in open field sprinkled with apple trees.

Chalk Pond
Tired of hiking and looking to pick up the rod and reel? Chalk Pond (Map 25, B-1) in Beddington is a shallow and weedy 32 acre body of water located near the intersection of Rt. 9 and 193. Access to the pond is possible via a short trail located at the pond’s extreme southwest end, off Rt. 193. As a warm water pond holding little dissolved oxygen and with a maximum depth of 19 feet, the pond is unable to support brook trout but does supports numerous pickerel in the 12-19 inch range and yellow perch, enough to provide fast action. While it is highly unlikely that the next state-record pickerel will be pulled from these waters, Chalk Pond offers fast fishing that is certain to be enjoyed by all. Just don’t forget to tell any newbie anglers in your group that pickerel pack a mouthful of razor sharp teeth!! When fishing, be sure to concentrate efforts on the eastern side of the pond as the western side is extremely shallow. With a generous daily bag limit on pickerel set at 10 fish and with no length limit, even the hungriest anglers will catch their fill if they wish to keep a few. Decapitated, gutted, wrapped in tinfoil and thrown on the coals of a fire they are a campfire treat ready in minutes.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Mom's First Turkey


After years of pursuit, Mom finally dropped the hammer on this Jake (11.5 lbs) on May 15th, 2015 at 6:30 AM. I was very happy to have been there during the event, providing purrs, yelps and clucks of encouragement to get the shy Jake to walk (hobble) the final few feet into the range of Mom's Mossberg 20g. Congrats Mom!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Turkey Season 2015 - Shot Video and Pictures

Turkeys were coming in well until at about 25 yards the two young jakes become alerted when I draw my bow. While I attempt to center on the rapidly departing twosome the yards quickly add up and my brain attempts to calculate arrow drop and lead. In the end, I have to admit that sometimes luck is a huge component of success and in this case lady luck shined. The jake still ran about 200 yards before collapsing, despite a devastating blow delivered by a RAGE broad head. Enjoy!


Jake Turkey take with PSE Stinger Bow

Jake Turkey but taken with a Bow a TRUE Trophy

Love the Color

Practice Make Perfect
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