Monday, January 7, 2013

Washington County Report – January

The Maine Sportsman - New England's Largest Outdoor Publication – Has assigned me as the writer for the magazines monthly Washington County Report. The column will highlight seasonal hunting, fishing and outdoor activities in Washington County, Maine. The copy below is the originally submitted unedited version. Enjoy! 

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Ice Fish Like a Kid Again 
By the conclusion of the holiday season, I breathe a sigh of relief that the mayhem of Thanksgiving and Christmas have finally concluded and I can relax and begin planning for the return to hard-water fishing. While it will be another month before the classic West Grand is open for ice fishing, in the meantime, there exist many small ponds that beckon me to fish their waters.

While I love catching big fish, there also exists a part of me that relishes exploring waters providing nonstop flag-popping action. Washington County provides many lakes and ponds that offer tons of fun for children or those uninitiated with the ice-fishing experience. No better way exists, to hook someone new into fishing, as few anglers can contain their excitement, when even the “trash” fish are really biting.

One of my favorite ice-fishing memories comes from pickerel fishing on Conic Lake in the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge ( in Baring. The lake is accessible by parking along the side of Route 191 and walking or snowshoeing the short distance to the lake. The Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge maintains special regulations against gasoline-powered motors anywhere within the boundaries of the refuge, so individuals wishing to ice-fish Conic Lake must walk or snowshoe into the lake (no snowmobiles) and drill holes using a hand-crank ice auger or chisel. While this might discourage individuals, I find it a distinct pleasure to fish using these “primitive” tools and it creates a deep appreciation for the gas and propane augers we have now!

While it is highly unlikely that the next state-record pickerel will be pulled from these waters, Conic Lake offers fast fishing that is certain to be enjoyed by all. Just don’t forget to tell any newbies in your group that pickerel pack a mouthful of razor sharp teeth!! While many will likely pack in red hotdogs and other classic ice-fishing fare for their day on the ice, pickerel rank in my book as delicious. With a generous daily bag limit on pickerel set at 10 fish and with no length limit, even the hungriest anglers will get their fill. Decapitated, gutted, wrapped in tinfoil and thrown on the coals of a fire they are a treat ready in minutes. Look for Conic Lake on DeLorme’s The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (MAG), Map 36, C-4.

Summit Mt. Magurrewock
In addition to the ice-fishing opportunities, the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge also maintains over fifty miles of dirt roads, closed to private vehicles. This makes these thoroughfares ideal for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Nature watching, along these byways, always seems to offer up excitement, typically treating visitors to encounters with a wide variety of woodland creatures. The refuge opens to the public daily from one half-hour before sunrise to one half-hour after sunset.

A trek to the top of Mt. Magurrewock will challenge winter hikers to a fun and challenging adventure. Though rated as a moderate climb, with a summit only 381 feet above sea level, it will still get your heart pounding, trudging up the inclines through deep snow, in awkward snowshoes and carrying a light backpack. Enjoyable views of the ice-covered lowlands treat those reaching the summit.

Maps of the various trail systems are available at the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge main office, located in Baring. Watch for the refuge boundary sign along Rt. 1 and follow the Charlotte road approximately 2 miles before seeing the Moose Horn Headquarters road on the right. The office is open Monday - Friday, from 8 a.m. - 4 p.m., except holidays. An information booth provides after-hours visitors with brochures and maps.

A reminder to hunters, the refuge only opens to deer hunting during the Maine rifle and muzzleloader season. It is closed to all other species and hunting seasons.

Eat Crow
Crow hunting start on Jan. 21st and goes to March 31st. With no limit to the number of birds taken per day, this species provides excellent shooting, with the added benefit of providing farm crops, nesting waterfowl and upland game birds with a small degree of relief from this crafty scavenger. I believe strongly in eating what you kill but some animals are difficult for even me to choke down and that includes the crow. Though I certainly have relocated my fair share of these winged vermin to heaven, I still have never been able to work up enough of an appetite to eat one. The reasoning for my distaste occurs because crows are well known carriers of disease, including the West Nile virus. To protect against possible infection always use rubber gloves when handling these avians and make sure to dispose of the carcasses in a means that does not allow access by cats, dogs or other animals.

Basic crow hunting requires a few plastic crow decoys and/or handmade silhouettes and a crow call. Place decoys in a field and a few in the nearby trees as “sentinels”. Fill a spray bottle with water and red food coloring and squirt on the snow to make a realistic “kill” area, this becomes especially effective when joined by a few turkey feathers stuck in the snow or small patch of fur.

On occasion, I have watched crows actually eat this “fake” blood. As hunters get more advanced, more crow decoys can be added and an owl decoy. This set-up works well to fire up the crows and dozens sometime respond in just a few minutes. Adding an electronic remote controlled game call adds yet another dimension to your decoy spread and increases success. It pays to have a rifle handy in these set-ups, as on occasion, I have had coyotes come running in to investigate the crow calls.

A few phone calls to local farmers will typically yield access to property for hunting opportunities, as most farmers understand the destructive power of the crow.


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