Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Ice Fishing the Final Days, Shed and Snowshoe Hare Hunting

Ice Fishing 
For ice-fishing anglers, the beginning of March marks the waning and final opportunity to hit favorite hardwater fishing hot spots. With days getting longer and the sun cresting ever higher and higher in the southern sky, ice begins to recede and by the end of the month many ice-covered lakes across the state have become impassable and unsafe to walk upon. In these conditions, it pays to have a few lakes and ponds in mind that allow access to shallow fish filled waters without use of snowmobile or ATV. These alternate locations, allow for late season angling without the risks associated with larger, deeper lakes currently undergoing various stages of defrost. This late in the season, I stick close to shore primarily targeting brook trout. This ensures that if I were to encounter thin ice and an accident to occur, I would only break through into 2-3 feet of water. When ice fishing late season brookies, it pays to modify fishing outfits to match your intended target species. Success often is easier won when heavier “salmon” or “togue” sized fishing rigs are replaced with lightweight tackle such as 4-pound leaders, BB sized split shot and miniscule number 10 sized hooks. Also using alternate baits like earthworms can entice finicky brookies into tripping flags. A small piece of worm an inch long is often the light snack trout are looking for. In freezing temperatures, be sure to keep worms in an inside jacket pocket to keep them from quickly becoming unusable. Check lines frequently, keeping ice build up to a minimum and checking to ensure bait is fresh and active. Often the act of slowly lifting and lowering lines will sometimes “stir the bait” and instantly elicit a strike.

Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, fish stocking reports indicate that 6-mile lake in Marshfield (Delorme’s The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (MAG), Map 26, B-2) was socked in 2013 with 300 10-inch, 1,950 8-inch and 50 13-inch brook trout. This 55 acre lake sits immediately adjacent to route 192 about 6 miles north of Machias. A small boat launch/picnic area is typically plowed and provides good parking and excellent access the hardwater.

Shed Hunting
Sportsmen looking for a real challenge this spring should take on the monumental task of shed hunting. White-tailed deer annually drop their impressive headgear during the months of January and February, leaving them lying on the forest floor. These dropped treasures are not only fun to collect but they are also profitable for those looking to sell them on the open market. Not a task for the fait of heart, his monumental endeavor has a low success rate but when a large shed is finally found, the excitement is paramount to actually shooting a trophy buck! Slowly patrolling the woods on snowshoes and keenly looking for the telltale distinctive “points” melting out of the snow is the usual method. Others employ the use of a dog to assist in finding sheds. Though about any dog can be trained to find sheds, “retriever” breeds, like the Labrador have a fine nose, disposition and attitude, making them perfect for a broad spectrum of sporting endeavors including locating sheds. Training a dog to find sheds is a relatively simple matter. Instead of teaching the dog to chase a tennis ball, owners substitute a deer antler. Upon retrieving and bringing the antler back to the owner the dog is richly praised and rewarded with treats. Over time, the dog associates finding and bringing sheds back to the owner with a positive experience it will want to repeat over and over. Deeryards, where whitetails cluster together during the winter season, offer a good opportunity to find sheds. Deer concentrations in these areas are much higher than the surrounding countryside and shed hunters are able to better maximize their time and efforts. Areas like those found around the area know as “Day Hill” on Route 9 in Wesley (Delorme’s The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (MAG), Map 36, E-1), provide a great starting point to begin searching. Shed hunters should remember to train their eyes to be on the lookout for Moose antlers, as occasionally these impressive racks can also be found!

Snowshoe Hare Hunting 
Thickly wooded areas not only attract wintering deer but also large numbers of snowshoe hare. Shed hunters would be well advised to carry a .22 handgun to seize opportunities, while looking for sheds, to shoot hare when the opportunity presents itself. Hunting season for snowshoe hare runs until March 31st and the daily bag limit stands at 4 with a possession limit of 8 of these delicious critters. Snowshoe’s average about 3.5 pounds and make a hearty meal for two people. Marinating or stewing is typically necessary to make snowshoe hare easily edible, as the meat contains precious little fat and tends to be notoriously tough. Time is the most critical element in successful cooking, as the meat must be very slow simmered for 2 hours or 8-12 hours of marinating employed to achieve the desired palatable effect. “Stewing” is a simple method of cooking on low heat until the meat can easily be removed from the bone. “Marinating” involves soaking the meat in wine, vinegar, lemon juice or buttermilk to tenderize it. While dozens of recipes exist, my preferred method is to cover the skinned and gutted hare in a mixture of white wine and garlic cloves and let to set overnight. The next day, red wine, a chopped onion, bay leaf, salt and paprika are added and the hare is slowly simmered for approximately an hour and a half. This process of marinating and stewing creates tender, succulent meat that knows few equals.

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