STORIES ABOUT THE OUTDOORS IN NIAGARA AS SEEN IN WNY PAPERS Sentinel

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Lewiston-Porter
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 SENTINEL "OUTDOORS IN NIAGARA" ARTICLES by Mark Daul - Outdoors Advocate

More articles on our archived page HERE


A Note from Mark Daul: The Lewiston-Porter Sentinel is a free weekly paper [Saturdays] under the umbrella of Niagara Frontier Publications [NFP] and distributed to homes and businesses from throughout the area and touts itself as "WNY's best local coverage".  The LP Sentinel is one of three local papers under this umbrella and the others are the Grand Island Dispatch and the Niagara-Wheatfield Tribune.

Periodically I write Outdoor articles for the Sentinel and they are here for those that would like to read them if you don't get this publication. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoy writing them. There will be more articles submitted to the Sentinel and as they are printed they will be put here so be sure to check back about every other week. Make sure you read the stories about E10 gasoline!.................. ENJOY!


 
Bass Fishing using Tube Jigs Osprey living among us Baby Deer Kill Possum or Opossum?  
Sea Lamprey Coyotes in Niagara More Bobcat sightings? Before iPads, Facebook, fishing filled our time Eating Crow....Really
A New Fisherman Joining Ranks! Grand Island Fishing Opportunity Beavers in Niagara?  Bobcats in Niagara Niagara River Anglers Pen Rearing
Bond Lake - Niagara County 'A tidy boat is a happy boat' Fishing & Coast Guard Encounter Squirrels Fascinate People  Alpacas in Niagara County
Fishing with Don Supon Water Witches - Dowsing Why Fish Hatcheries? Fish Stocking-see how and why Three Men in a Boat Saved

More articles on our archived page HERE


Summer Bass Fishing using Tube Jigs for bait

Bass. You can catch them from shore, you can catch them by boat, catch them on live bait, catch them on artificial bait, you can troll for them, or stillfish for them, and it makes no difference. This summer, in Western New York, we have enjoyed some of the best smallmouth bass fishing available anywhere, and we can expect it to continue right into Fall. Bass season closes on November 30th. I am talking about smallmouth bass here, and we also have largemouth bass but the “smallies” are most sought after by our local population of fishermen. Yes, largemouth are just as tasty, and just as much fun to catch. Wilson Harbor gave up a 6 ½ pound largemouth specimen last year.

The guys that are able to fish out of the Buffalo harbor on Lake Erie have been taking limits of huge smallmouth from the opening day, [3rd. Saturday in June] all summer, fishing the reefs. They use everything but the kitchen sink to latch on to those fighting warriors of the deep.  Live bait, dead bait, no bait, it didn’t make any difference. The challenge was to catch a daily legal limit of five, which in most cases would range from three pounds and up, and that would be considered big smallmouth bass!

I know I will be criticized by some, but of all the freshwater fish, I hold bass as second to none, from fishing action, right up to the frying pan and on my plate.

Those that fish closer to home, Upper Niagara, Lower Niagara, and the bar at Fort Niagara out to the green buoy can brag that there aren’t many days when you can’t get on the water and bring home a limit. Even those trolling with hard baits along the Lake Ontario shoreline extending from the Niagara River as far as Wilson are having good results.

I asked a die hard salmon/trout fisherman that was having a lull in salmon/trout, and had just recently turned his efforts to bass fishing using lighter lines and smaller bait, which fish was more fun to catch, a bass or a salmon on heavy line and off a downrigger? The answer was bass fishing off much lighter line. When you latch on to a bass, you never know what it is going to do. It will dive and dig deep, or all of a sudden change course, making you think he got away, all the while swimming to the surface, and then all of a sudden, 15-20 feet away, he’ll burst out of the water all the while you are rushing to reel in the slack line so he doesn’t get away. Sometimes, when you least expect it, the lure will come loose from the fish when he is jumping, and you pulling,  the lure will come flying back to you like it was on a rubber band. You had better duck!

My summer fishing has been fun with the bass cooperating anytime I got out with my son and grandson. I got my ears pinned back thinking I was going to use live bait and have an advantage on them because they were using artificial soft plastic baits called ‘tube-jigs.’ Truthfully, I have always been a live bait man, and always believed in it, seldom using artificial. I’ve always liked the feel of a fish grabbing on my bait presentation, and me setting the hook at the right time. This time out, I said to myself, “When in Rome, do what the Romans do, and use artificial bait just like they do.” I learned that the last time out when I got skunked using live bait, and they caught all the fish. I always have live bait with me just in case for back-up though. So this time we went out, the first thing I picked up was a tube-jig, an artificial hollow soft plastic bait around 4 inches long with little wiggly tails molded at the business end, just like they were using.

In the photo you see here, the top tube-jig skirt is a 3 inch crawdad color skirt with a ¼ ounce jig head above it. Bottom is a 4 inch Junebug color tube-jig skirt, with a 3/8 ounce jig head above it. Notice the 60 degree bend at the eye end of the hook. Hooks are size 4/0. Both have metal flakes and salt and garlic imbedded in the skirts.
 
The crawfish color bait was hot that day, but after experimenting with different colors by grandson Jesse, it seemed any color would work with him testing different ones. We started the day out going to the Johnson Drift, a slow drift along shore just north of the Peggy’s Eddy drift which is just North of Joseph Davis State Park. After Captain Dan, got the boat positioned and moving in 17-20 feet of water, the first cry out was “I GOT ONE” and that was by the captain of our ship, Dan. I’m glad I taught him so well when he was young on how to fish. Ha! He has surpassed me, and anything I could ever teach him in his younger days. He is now teaching his new methods to me and anyone else that fishes with him. Back then we never had baits like tube jigs that we are using today.

16 year old Jesse got an itch, and was nagging to go out to the bar in front of Fort Niagara to fish there. He wanted to catch bigger bass. After about an hour of putting him off, and we had nearly a boat limit, [limit is five per person] off we went, out to the bar. Once again, the captain maneuvered the boat around to get the right drift, and within minutes the first fish was landed. I don’t want to name the person that got the biggest smallmouth bass of the day, but if you look at the top of this story, and look at the authors’ name, you’ll know. Yes, it was caught at the bar just like Jesse figured; that’s where the big ones were.

You don’t need an engineer’s degree to fish with tube-jig bait. It isn’t difficult, just use a simple method.  I use a 6 ½ foot, fast action tip Fenwick graphite rod, with 6 pound test monofilament line on my spinning reel. Kind of a light outfit for most people, but I think that is where the thrill is, and using light equipment increases the thrill. Try catching a 3 pound jumping bass on that outfit and you have your hands full. Of course if I was just fishing for food, I wouldn’t be fooling around with that light equipment. Our captain is outfitted with a 7 ½ foot bass rod and bass casting reel with the new thinner but heavier pound test Fluorocarbon line. That has to be the new modern way to fish I guess.

If fishing one of these tube jigs for bass or even walleye, you should make sure you are fishing bottom, letting enough line out to be sure. Even shore fishermen use this method by casting out, make sure you are on bottom, then reel in slowly, all the while doing what the name implies, jig it. Boat fishermen, need to do the same. While drifting, reel in slowly, jig the lure or twitch it just enough to make that bass think the ‘thing’ is alive down there, all the while cranking in the line slowly. Those little tails on the business end will flutter, and that would excite any fish into biting, making it think it heard the ding! ding! of the dinner bell. When you buy the tubes make sure they are scented, don’t buy them if they are not. I had one that was used for so long, my fishing went dead until I gave it a lick and discovered the taste and scent was gone. Changed the tube and within 5 minutes I was hollering “GOT ONE!” Everything was caught using tube-jigs that day.

We all know some days, fish just don’t cooperate, and that is when you need to change methods and bait, but for now, learn how to fish with those tube jigs!


Osprey living among us

There is a magnificent bird of prey that lives among us, one that's rarely identified by anyone who truly knows what it is. Last June, I received an email from John Eddy, an outdoorsman friend of mine who sent me a link to a video showing an osprey "fishing" for its next meal.

It is truly a fascinating video if you have never seen it before. You'll see this bird in flight, locate its dinner underwater, put its feet forward with its talons spread aimed at the prey, and then drop its head like a diver does as it hits the water. It then grabs the fish under water and flies away. Another part shows it grabbing what looked like a 5-6 pound rainbow trout. I must have watched this video probably six times in a row in complete amazement.

Visit the www.Arkive.org website and find out more about this highly skilled bird of prey. There are many osprey videos to view, such as one showing a great American Eagle attacking an osprey's young chicks being fed by its mom, and so much more. Visit www.arkive.org/osprey/pandion-haliaetus/video-00.html.

I received an interesting email from Porter resident Skip Walton shortly after I wrote the deer and vulture story. He told of spotting an osprey at the north end of Dickersonville Road sitting on top of a telephone pole with a large fish in its talons. Walton commented, "I know the osprey well having lived in central Virginia for 15 years, and see them quite often on some water close to where we have a house. Just curious to know if anyone else has reported seeing an osprey in that area? I have seen them on the Niagara near Lewiston, but not that far out, and inland one half to 1 mile from the lake."

I assured Skip I would let him know if anyone else around here has spotted any.

Lo and behold, I received an email from a "mystery woman," a resident of Youngstown who was reluctant to have her name used. She said she is "an amateur naturalist and has been for some years." I believe her because her email was quite lengthy, describing the many different creatures of God that roam our backyards and woods day or night. I'll refer to them in future stories, but right now let's center on osprey.

In her email relating to this great bird, she starts by noting she is a "long standing member of the Georgian Bay Osprey Society, having originally been roped into it by a childhood buddy who was one of the founders. I've also watched osprey extensively in Florida, and once even seen a nest from which a large metal fisherman's net was hanging. She must have stolen the net and its fish!" the woman wrote.

I asked her about the osprey spotted on Dickersonville Road by Scott Walton. She responded, "I can tell you that osprey are excellent fliers and that seeing them inland, so long as there are ponds or canals (still water) containing fish, wouldn't be too strange. But they won't go very far from significant sources of fish. Dickersonville Road is still only a stone's throw from Lake Ontario and not too far from Bond's Lake."

This mystery woman told of having a nesting falcon (a merlin) on her Canadian property one season; the mother falcon screamed an annoying screech day in and day out at any bird coming within a country mile of her nest. She related, "I saw an osprey take one of her chicks. It flew right past my window and three of us saw it. The osprey carried it away, with the mother in screaming pursuit."

"She was fast, but the osprey made off with the baby anyhow."

Mother Nature at work here.

Osprey poles are erected for the purpose of helping osprey propagate in certain areas. These are tall poles, some as tall as 30 feet with a platform at the top with nesting twigs and sticks to encourage this great bird to nest. Ospreys are true "snowbirds" and migrate to Florida and warmer climes in the winter. But they always return.

In her email she offered a great idea that some civic organization could pursue. Perhaps a Boy Scout troop, maybe an outdoor club's project, it could even be an educational activity for a school project.

"There are two or three osprey 'poles' located near my Canadian property," the woman wrote, "and everybody there takes a huge interest in which nesting poles are occupied, which produce chicks, and additionally, in stewarding them to maintain their privacy and safety. It has become a community-wide bond. All to the good!"

"I would be happy to see poles along the Niagara River, since I've seen osprey both along the lower river on up to Fort Niagara," she wrote.

When I asked this woman if I could quote her on some things and use her name for a future article, she wasn't immediately in agreement. "My kids think I am already an eccentric embarrassment and that would put them around the bend, almost as much as having their friends find road kill in the freezer," she responded.

I laughed pretty hard at that statement. I thought it would be a good thing for her kids, and they would be proud of their mother for being a long-time amateur naturalist who has observed these things for many years. In asking her permission, I told her, "I'm sure your info will be very informing and interesting to the rest of my Sentinel readers."

She responded, "So, OK, you can use my name; how about just the first name (Andrea)? Or my nickname (Lynn)?"

So now everyone knows who this is mystery woman is. Her name is Andrea, and she's been a resident of Youngstown for more than 20 years.

And she has more to tell us about other interesting things, but I can't get it all in this story. Later.


 

Baby Deer Kill on Lake Road – Vulture Sighting

Saturday morning my wife and I were coming back from breakfast in Youngstown, and we passed someone in a pickup truck going in the opposite direction, and my wife noticed he had his tailgate down and what looked to her like a dead fox with its head hanging down over the tailgate. Being nosey, [I could say curious] I turned the car around to follow the vehicle to see just what it was. About a mile or so later, the guy saw me and pulled over and it was my friend Dave Gombert, who is the Deputy Town of Porter Highway Superintendent, and a guy that loves his hunting and trapping more that anyone else I know.

It turned out to be a late June or early July born white tail deer fawn, a little smaller than Bambi, and no red light on its nose. When I got out of my car Dave started telling me the story of how someone “killed his baby with their car.” Stating, “probably speeding of course, that’s why I cut the grass far back on the side of the road so these ‘idiots’ could see if something was going to cross.” Angrily, he started spitting nails. His hunting grounds are somewhere around Lake Road and that’s all I’m allowed to tell you, I know where, but I had to take the Hunters Oath. Dave was a little upset because about an hour earlier he was on a mission, and drove by his hunting grounds, and here was mom and her baby fawn standing in the field far off the side of the road just looking around. Dave was pretty proud of that moment. About an hour or so later after his mission was completed, and going back the same way, here was the baby lying on the white line in the middle of the road expired, still warm and floppy like.

Dave and I were standing at the back of the truck admiring the beauty of the markings of the recently born fawn. Still warm to the touch, and its coat was as soft as that of a new born child’s hair; it was clean, bright and pretty, with the white spots mixed in with the rest of the chestnut colored coat. As we were standing there talking, I could see the anger and the hurt in this hunters eyes. I had a sinking feeling in my belly, thinking how the mother feels, because she had to be right there with it when it happened. The supposed speeder apparently just kept right on going.  No signs of skid marks on the road just the grim looks of a crumpled up baby deer.

If you remember an earlier story about Gombert, it was about the big dog that came into range on his hunting trail camera, a camera that is mounted to a tree or a post and will takes pictures 24/7 of any movement that passes by the lens, so a hunter would know by viewing the picture if he was in a fertile hunting area or not. In that story a large Newfoundland dog, a dog that can weigh up to 150 pounds, and belonged to someone in the neighborhood was photographed. It left everyone thinking it was the big black bear that was sighted a couple of years earlier in the Town of Lewiston and again in Newfane.  That same camera keeps track of the comings and goings of any two legged or four legged critter that comes across the lens, Dave knows his hunting grounds are protected. He also knew that mom and the newborn were there too.

Being a Deputy Supervisor for Town of Porter Highway Department, Dave lives by the rules, and this little creature was disposed of in the proper manner. So if you are traveling Lake Road, keep your eye out for momma deer, she has already suffered enough grief, and probably pops is moping around in the woods too after the loss. NO SPEEDING!

Plenty of Vultures

Monday, about 9:30 am, traveling down Oneida Street near North Fourth in the Village of Lewiston, the sky was alive with a kettle of vultures circling around. As fast as I could count, I counted 18 or 20 of them just in my view. They must have had some fresh carrion on the ground they spotted, because they hunt for food in flight. There must have been enough to feed a family of these waste collectors. Referring to an earlier story from last March, I referred to them as being “waste collectors.” There was a good example; 18-20 vultures were about ready to clean up either a road kill or a dead rodent of some kind in the neighborhood, maybe someone’s yard right in the Village.  Remember, vultures circling in flight, is called a ‘Kettle,’ when on the ground in numbers it is called a venue, meaning a place to gather. [and eat]

When you see these creatures, remember they are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, and you can not harm them in any way. When they glide and soar, they are using the air currents caused from the warming air from the ground to the sky. Once in a while, they will flap their wings in flight but not often.

A lot of times, we don’t pay attention of our surroundings, and in this case probably people at home in that neighborhood, were maybe doing yard work, mowing grass, etc. never think to look up.


 

Possum or Opossum?

When famous Country singer George Jones passed away recently at the age of 81, the TV and radio broadcasters went with the tag name Jones earned during his career as “no show Jones” because in his younger years he had an alcohol problem, and didn’t show up for some of his shows.  The other tag name he earned was “The Possum” which was supposedly an inside joke about his looks, or facial features. I could never see that but there it was.

Possum or opossum, whichever you want to use is your choice. I am not a Grammarist by any means, so lets stick with possum. A possum can be regarded as being kind of ugly, but at the same time cute, even with their long pointy nose, funny ears, naked nose, and long scaly tail. Some of you older folks should remember the comic strip “Pogo,” a very popular comic strip featuring all animals as its characters, and Pogo was the center of it all. Pogo ran in newspapers through the late 1940’s, up until the very early 1990’s. A loveable character he was. All possums are not as loveable like Pogo was. Adult possums don’t hang in trees by their tails like you think, only the real young do. “Playing dead like a possum” is not folklore. They really do when frightened by a predator, and predators generally won’t eat something they didn’t kill. Possum are “marsupials” meaning an animal that carries their young in a front pouch much like kangaroos do.

One day I was walking around my neighbors’ house that was vacant at the time, and I was also checking the shoreline erosion down near his shed. I started walking back up a slight incline along the side of the shed, and all of a sudden I heard this growling and hissing. I thought, what the heck is that. I turned and looked, and here was a possum, mad as hell at me, and running in a sideways fashion after me all the while growling and showing me his sharp pointed teeth, all 50 of them, like a feral cat. The picture you see is what this guy chasing me looked like.

I did what anyone else would do, I ran like the dickens up the incline toward my own yard, and in one jump, I hit the seat of my picnic table, and the other foot got me on top of it. Thinking to myself this animal is nuts! When I got on top of the table I looked down and this little guy was still running right like he was the one being chased. He ran right by me, straight to under my shed. While normally slow, I couldn’t believe this little creature could be so fast and so brave, and I was so frightened. I sat on the table watching for him to come out from under the shed, and he never did. The thought went through my head that what if it dies under there and the stink is so bad I can’t go into my shed. It didn’t happen anyway. I got to thinking that possum might have rabies or something, and later I was told rabies is highly unlikely in possums, plus they are known to seldom bite. Possum are normally nocturnal. Actually they are for the most part, a harmless animal that roams the countryside, and backyards, always looking for their next dinner spread. Mostly a possum’s home is in trees, and you never want one under your house or porch if you have a crawl space. They will tear up anything under there, like wiring, insulation, etc. They eat a variety of foods like grubs, chicken eggs, snails, and even human garbage, so keep your garbage lid on!

Some people make pets out of them, why I’m not sure, but I would bet that is illegal. [and silly] In some southern states, possum is table fare for some families in stews, sauces, and creamed etc. The label on the can you see pictured says, “Creamed Possum, with Sweet Potatoes, Garnished in Coon Fat Gravy.” Several years ago a friend of mine took a fishing trip to Florida and brought back a can of canned possum meat for me. I didn’t believe what it was because I never heard of it before.  But I guess it was what it was, I never opened it, and if I look hard enough, its still hanging around someplace if it didn’t ferment and blow up by now. Believe it or not, all across New York State there is actually a hunting season for them that runs from October to February. There is no bag limit, and I know of no one around here that is a possum hunter. They are hunted for their fine fur, food, and sport.

About the size of a cat, these critters are not afraid of anything, not even cars. As slow as they are, they’ll wander right out in front of your car, daring you to swerve, and you won’t even know it until you feel the thump with your front tire, quickly followed by a thump of the rear tire. The next morning the Turkey Buzzards will be right there to clean up the mess. Talking about Turkey Vultures, you won’t see their majestic flights unless you look up to the sky.

Remember, “A good day fishing is better than a bad day at work,” Take that neighborhood kid fishing if you don’t have any of your own, and do not forget the elderly, they would love to go too. Be sure to visit www.OutdoorsNiagara.com for the latest in fishing information, and be sure to check the Lake Ontario webcam while you are there. It will give you live lake conditions for sailing, boating, or fishing real time. Comments, suggestions email me at MarkDaul@gmail.com


 

Three Men in a Boat Saved by Youngstown’s United States Coast Guard

No doubt everyone in the area heard about the boat that capsized out near the red buoy off Fort Niagara Saturday April 6th. The incident was reported by all local media outlets, now, here’s what really happened. According to the boat’s owner 49 year old Dan Crowner from Wellsville N.Y., the three men went out fishing about 7:30-8:00 a.m. that day and the lake had a little chop, but nothing serious. There were other boats out there fishing the same area and the fish were hitting quite well. As time went on, the chop picked up a little more into waves and not noticing the seriousness, a large wave came over the stern, and then another before anyone realized what was happening. The boat’s owner/captain for the day, Crowner, had his passengers quickly move to the front of the 19 foot Crestliner to try and balance the boat from the weight of the water. Then Crowner tried starting the 115 HP Mercury hoping to splash some of the water out the same way it got in, but it wouldn’t start right away, and that’s when the boat took a flip from another wave.

Naturally, when the boat flipped, a lot fishing equipment went into the drink with the three men. Besides Dan Crowner, his brother-in-law, 49 year old Bob Guinnip, also of Wellsville, and 59 year old fishing buddy Bruce Blank, from Andover N.Y., held on to the capsized boat until help arrived an hour or more later. Good thing the three men were wearing their flotation vests like the law dictates. Luckily, Crowner had his cell phone in his shirt pocket, and it didn’t get wet so he could call 911 emergencies. Crowner wondered why it took so many rings to 911 before anyone picked up the phone. Of course, when you are in a panic like that, three rings would have seemed like a lifetime. The Sheriff’s Department was notified, which in turn notified the ever so dutiful United States Coast Guard in Youngstown. The crew from the Coast Guard was assembled quickly, but had to trailer their rescue boat about 7 miles south to the Lewiston launch ramp to get in the water because the water level is so low, they couldn’t use the Fort Niagara ramps. Then they had to travel another 7 miles back, and out to the red buoy which is another 3.7 miles out into the lake.

While the men were struggling to climb on top of the upside down boat, Blank’s clothing was stuck on something and couldn’t get up there, Crowner was already there, and being cold himself from the 36 degree water, and seeing Blank in serious trouble, grabbed Blank, and with super human strength, pulled him free to keep him from going back under the boat. What felt like an eternity, the Coast Guard arrived, and shortly afterward a rescue helicopter appeared in the sky. The men were safely rescued but the boat had to be abandoned and left in its capsized position.

On the following Wednesday, Dan Crowner and his brother-in-law Bob Guinnip, were out searching the shoreline hoping to find their boat. Sure as heck, it was found still up-side-down near the shoreline of Four Mile Creek. While struggling with the thought of how they were going to retrieve the boat, one of my neighbors asked what they were doing, and he directed them to my house and told them there is a possibility I would know someone who could help retrieve their boat.

It was funny, here was a guy knocking at my door, and when I answered, this gentleman asked if I was Mark, I told him “yes,” he said, with an outstretched hand, “my name is Dan Crowner” I must have had a blank look on my face when he said, “I’m one of the guys that was rescued in the lake last Saturday.” He was thinking I would recognize his name, but I didn’t. I said to him, Holy Smokes! you are a lucky man to be alive. He agreed, with a hand over his heart.  He went on to tell me the story about the rescue and how much people around here in Lewiston and Youngstown, were so kind, generous and helpful. He even stressed how the people at Saint Mary’s hospital took care of them in such a professional and caring way treating their hypothermia, and how much so many other people cared about others around here, all the while commenting on how much the Coast Guard meant to them.

The only name that popped into my head for helping them retrieve their boat was Josh Stack of The Boatworks on Blairville Road in Youngstown. I called Josh and told him of the men’s dilemma and put Dan on the phone with him. Josh got over to the creek as soon as he could to assess the situation. After looking things over, he noticed gas was just starting to drip out of the boat and knew something had to be done quickly. Josh phoned the NYS Park Police and told them what was happening, and told them the only way he could get to it is if he drove his Toyota four wheeler through the walking trail in the woods so he could upright the boat. On the phone, he was told to go ahead and do whatever needs to be done quickly, we don’t want another disaster on our hands. So, Stack and his helpers, Rew Hooker, and his father Pat Stack, managed to maneuver that Toyota through the narrow trail, and was able to hook a heavy rope from the Toyota’s roll bar to the boat side rail, and upright the Crestliner. The minor gas spill was taken care of in a quick fashion, and getting that Toyota four wheeler in and out of there was a chore. Josh said a door was banged in, the front and rear fenders suffered, along with other bumps and bruises because it was muddy and the vehicle was slipping sideways, bumping into trees, while blazing a wider trail to get to the boat.

I guess you could say I am a critic of cell phones, saying hell, what did we do before we got cell phones? Here’s what we did: We went to the corner and dropped a dime to call someone. But what would Josh have done when he saw gasoline starting to leak? Run to a corner? What about the three men in the capsized boat do? Swim to a corner phone? Cell phones are an important part of our lives today, so I guess I’ll just eat crow, and shut up. But a funny thing did happen as Dan was telling me that when they were discussing things on shore after being rescued, one of the young Coast Guard men asked Dan without thinking I suppose, “don’t you have a marine radio on your boat?” Probably thinking why he didn’t use it. Dan said “Yeah, but it wouldn’t work, it was under water with the rest of my boat equipment”  Oops!

Just to keep things on an even “keel” here, Dan is not new to Lake Ontario or the Lower Niagara, and not new to boating and fishing around Lake Erie and Ontario, but fishes mostly at Chautauqua Lake where the waters there are more forgiving. He said he has been around boats and fishing with his dad ever since he was a little kid in single digits, it wasn’t a case of carelessness or anything like that, things just happened that way.

To end this story, because of rough waters, it wasn’t until Sunday morning that the boat could be towed back safely to the launch ramp, and taken to the Boatworks boat yard for further evaluation.

Lesson learned: Don’t go boating without proper safety equipment, life saving equipment, and use common sense for whatever conditions you encounter.

 

 

 

 


Water Witches around the Lewiston-Porter Area
Outdoors in Niagara

OK, you don't need an imagination here, what I am going to tell you, I believe is true. Water Witches are people that can find water, unscientifically, deep under the ground with a tree branch shaped like a Y or two wires bent in the shape of an L, made from a simple wire coat hanger, the ones I have seen. In fact, there are scientists, engineers, and professors that will argue until they are blue in the face, that you can't find water underground by using a Y stick or bent wire like an L. They'll tell you there is no scientific evidence that anyone can find water in this way.

Water Witches in more modern days are called "Dowsers," and dowsing it is said, is a very unscientific way of finding water underground. A few weeks ago the Discovery channel had a show called 'Backyard Oil' I saw men dowsing for oil, and very successfully I might add. When dowsers are looking for oil, it is called "doodlebugging." The show I saw, a man was doodlebugging, and pointed out an area to drill for oil. The show takes place somewhere in Kentucky, and a lot of these people have become what they describe as backyard millionaires, dowsing and drilling their own wells. Drilling wells can become expensive, and scientific exploration can add to that cost. Doodlebugging they found was a more accurate way of finding oil.

Dowsing goes back to ancient times, the times of the Pharaohs, Moses, and others of those eras. As in everything else, there are skeptics like those engineers, scientists and such as mentioned above. Guess what, like many of you that have experienced dowsing by doing it yourself, maybe you know someone that is actually a dowser, maybe you never heard of dowsing.

I am not a dowser, I found that out as I stood next to a friend that was one. He tried to show me how to clear my head, with a dowser stick in my hand, and walked me through the process all the while his stick was pointing to the ground showing me how his was working, and how his stick was pointing to the ground. His stick even showed which way the water was flowing underground.

A friend of mine, John "Johnnie Greengrass" Tower, who worked for the Town of Porter, was a dowser. When the sewer/water department needed to locate a waterline that was unmapped underground, he was the go-to man. He took out his divining rods, he had the L shaped devices, and would be able to tell you where that underground water pipe or drain was, and which way the water was flowing. This all sounds paranormal, something that takes place outside of scientific explanations, but here it is.

My Brother Ed, and his wife Gerri bought a house in Cambria several years ago, and every spring their basement would flood. They were warned by the former owner that this house had that problem since it was built. After a couple very wet springs, even with additional sump pumps running, the flooding always got out of control. They called a contractor to see what could be done. The contractor, Bob MacVie Construction in Youngstown, went to the rescue. After looking around the area in question, and not being able to identify exactly where the water was coming from or going to, he had an idea, but advised to get a dowser to make a decision as to exactly where to dig. A dowser was called, a lady from Lewiston that is well known for her experience, and in a matter of minutes, described to MacVie exactly where to dig, how wide, and how deep to go. She described it as an underground stream that would overflow and consequently end up flooding the basement, because it flowed right beneath the house. Lo, and behold, she was right on the money. MacVie dug and installed a large drain pipe, and diverted the water to a lower ditch, ending the problem.

Art King, a Youngstown native was another dowser known in the area. For years, King would be called on by his neighbors and friends to come to their place, dowse, and tell them where to dig for water in their yards. Again, he was the go-to man. He dowsed for his own well, dug, and found water in his back of his yard.

Dr. Paul Vendrell, an educator at the University of Georgia would visit my neighbors each summer for a couple of weeks. He was an avid fisherman, and a well schooled individual. He and I would go at it, when it came to dowsing and dowsers. He was a non-believer, and he ran with the fact that there is no scientific evidence of it being possible. He might have been right by saying there is no scientific evidence, but am saying I am right, I saw it happen in front of my own eyes.

I would like to know what other people think, and if you have had experiences in dowsing. Do you know a Water Witch? Did you ever witness it being done? Let me know. Email me at MarkDaul@gmail.com

Food for thought: If you lost your left arm, then your right arm would be left…..Huh? More food for thought: Take that neighborhood kid fishing if you don't have any of your own, and do not forget the elderly, they would love to go too. Be sure to visit www.OutdoorsNiagara.com  for the latest in fishing information, and be sure to check the Lake Ontario webcam while you are there. It will give you live lake conditions for sailing, boating, or fishing real time. Comments, suggestions email me at MarkDaul@gmail.com .
 

 


 'A tidy boat is a happy boat;' ...........U.S. Coast Guard stirring things up
Outdoors in Niagara
 
Famous 'Erie Dearie' pictured

A short while back, I wrote a story about doing some fishing for a couple of days with my son, Joe, at Chautauqua Lake in Chautauqua County. While we were having conversations, something popped in my head about walleye fishing, and out of the back of my head a memory came back about the times my fishing pal Joe Ognibene and I made trips to Port Clinton, Ohio, also known as the "Walleye Capitol of the World." A few times we hauled a boat with us and as time went by, somehow Joe got tied up with Capt. Jim Fofrich who fished out of Port Clinton. Fofrich asked if we wanted to take a trip out with him on his 25-foot SportCraft. Of course, the offer was gracefully accepted and it was free. Who wouldn't like to take a fishing trip with a seasoned charter captain like Fofrich? We did, and learned things that will never be forgotten.

Fofrich supplied all the bait, the lures, and shared his knowledge on how to fish a weight-forward spinner for walleye. A popular spinner at the time in Ohio was the "Erie Dearie." It had a special shaped lead weight on the front followed by a spinner, red beads, and then a long-shank No. 2 gold hook with a worm. The "Erie Dearie" was invented by another Lake Erie captain, Dan Galbincea, in 1961. In 2010, the spinner was purchased by a larger company, but it's still making the revolutionary Erie Dearie. The photo you see is an original Dearie from my tackle box.

The western end of Lake Erie is well known for walleye, and bass is the second most sought-after fish. Around here, we enjoy the eastern end of Erie anywhere from the Pennsylvania border to Buffalo for walleye, bass, and jumbo lake perch.

Fofrich liked drift fishing using these spinners and if the wind got too "heavy," which made drifting too fast, he brought out a sea anchor.

A sea anchor is nothing new, but this one was to me at the time. It consists of a cone-shaped bag made of light canvas or something similar, and at the top end of the cone three ropes are fastened around the circle; a long rope is attached to them, which is fastened to the boat. At the bottom of the cone is a hole in the center to let the water flow through it, much like a funnel. It was a brainy idea probably thought up by some sea faring captain, somewhere.

There is a second rope that is fastened to the bottom of that funnel, and that's for pulling in your anchor. You'll need to pull that rope in order to pull the bottom to the top to release the water, so you will need strength to it pull back in. It's like turning it inside out.

The first time we went out with Fofrich he stressed his feelings about having a tidy and clean boat, which makes for a happy boat. There were four other guys on this trip - all great fishing enthusiasts. I can remember one guy was a "Noodler" and he entertained us by telling some of his Noodling stories that day.

Noodling is the art of catching catfish, sometimes referred to as mudcats by your hands reaching underwater along the shoreline with only your bare hands far into holes and crevices. You can probably find videos of Noodlers on YouTube if you would like to see how it's done.

Another guy owned a patent on his own walleye fishing lure. Funny thing was, he never used it on this trip.

Back to the captain's "tidy boat, happy boat." If someone took a worm out of the bait box that sat on the engine cover and dropped some bedding, Fofrich would reach over, pick it up, put it in the box where it belonged, and say to everyone, "a tidy boat is a happy boat." Before long, he had us all saying it either to ourselves or singing it out loud to our own made up music.

Today, as I write this story it is singing in my head. Try it yourself; say the words while putting your own melody to the words. It sticks. It's like listening to a song you haven't heard in ages, and then when you do it sticks in your head all day. If someone of the six of us dropped as much as a gum wrapper or moved a rope out of place, someone in the crew would say, "a tidy boat is a happy boat," and it would be picked up immediately.

It was a great lesson learning that. How many times have we been out and just laid things down, or dropped things on the floor, or maybe just pulled the boat anchor in and let the rope sit to walk on or trip over? A fishing rod had to be put in its proper place; the landing net had its own place. Nothing laying around made for a safer, happy boat.

Oh, and a fish. Fofrich would never allow us to bring a fish in and just flop it on the floor. If it was to be released, you unhooked it over the side and let it go. If was a keeper, you took the hook out over the side and dropped it in the live well. Plus, the only thing you tossed into his Lake Erie was a fish or a worm, never any "junk."

I lost track of Capt. Fofrich over the years and hopefully he is still around teaching fishermen and new potential fishermen the ropes. He was a really great Lake Erie fisherman, teacher, and environmentalist.

U.S. Coast Guard loses its fury on western Lake Erie

Talk about stirring things up. Charter boat operators on the west end of Lake Erie got a lesson from the U.S. Coast Guard recently when some over-reacting Guardsman crew pulled a captain over after a day of fishing. They were seeking documents as proof if his boat was made in the U.S. All his other documentation was in order except for being able to produce proof of where his boat was manufactured. When he couldn't produce it, he was warned that he could be fined $40,000 for the first offense, and a half-million for any further offenses. The captain had to leave his vessel docked for five days while things got straightened out. He claims he lost nearly $3,000 while in port.

The boat this captain owns is a SportCraft like the one Fofrich ran, and these boats were made in the U.S., however he had no documentation. The law the USCG was enforcing is an old 1920 law that is called the "Coastwise Trade Act," also known as the "Jones Act." The act was formed back in 1920, just two years after World War I to protect American shipbuilders against foreign competition, mainly large ships. In those days, the act was more concerned with shipping of merchandise in U.S. coastal waters, never a tiny little vessel like a Great Lakes fishing boat. After lawyers got involved and the Charter Captain Association got rolling, the Coast Guard apparently decided it was a bad move, and is backing off for now.

 


What kind of fish has no jaws but prey on fish many times its size?

Outdoors in Niagara
Mark Daul

Wonder no more, the answer is here. Some will argue they are not a fish but are “Vertebrates.” If you really want to know what a “Vertebrate” is, Google it, but, in the meantime lets treat them as a pre-historic, blood sucking fish that attaches itself to other fish and proceeds to suck the blood and the life out of fish 10 times their size. According to the NY Department of Environmental Conservation, [DEC]  “Sea lamprey have two separated fins on their back (dorsal fins) and suction disk mouth filled with small sharp, rasping teeth and a file-like tongue.”………. “The sea lamprey is a jawless parasite that feeds on the body fluids of fish.”

The sea lamprey, an eel that has created havoc with our trout and salmon fishery for years, is a parasitic creature that will attach to not just trout and salmon, but to walleye, northern pike, and many others including our native, prehistoric lake sturgeon, which by the way, are listed by the NY DEC as being an endangered species.

On the Outdoors Niagara website there is a forum where anyone can post fishing questions or facts or inquiries of any kind. It is a well read forum, mostly postings by locals. We do get visitors from around the world occasionally, and we had a person by the name of Simon McCabe from Great Britain [UK] looking to buy Lamprey eels as fishing bait in his UK stores. This inquiry from Great Britain was responded to by a local Youngstown fisherman, and nearly retired, Mike Gillis who replied “There are plenty of lampreys in the lower Great Lakes. Other than pulling them off of parasitized fish, how would one go about catching lampreys? I'm sure that we would love to export as many of these pests as we can to you.”  McCabe replied; “Hi Mike,  “What I was looking for is a commercial supplier for Lamprey. We have had contacts in Latvia and Lithuania who have supplied us in the past, but they are not able to supply. I believe that they catch them in eel traps. In the UK we use Lamprey as bait for Pike. It is considered to be very effective bait over here. We would probably need about a tonne of the suckers to get us started.” Wow, 2,000 pounds! If they are ever shipped from a supplier in the U.S. they would naturally have to be frozen and that is the way they would want them.

Then more recently, there was a posting from a rather large fishing bait supplier in Oregon saying, “I am looking to buy 3-7 thousand pounds of lamprey, trying to find a supplier for them. Please get hold of me.” This supplier is Extreme Northwest Bait Company, Lebanon OR. [http://xtremenorthwest.com ]

Sea lamprey is considered a nuisance fish to us on the eastern seaboard and every effort is being made to control them because of the damage they do to other species. The scientists have come up with a partial solution, they developed a chemical called “Lampricide” [TFM] a chemical treatment put into creeks, rivers and streams to stem the population of them in the larval stage, where the first three to six years of their life is spent in the soft bottoms of these waterways before they mature into adults and grow to their parasitic adult form.  Total life span from eggs to larval stage, to adult is said to be five to eight years. The adults die after spawning.

There was another interesting post on the Outdoors Forum by a person named “Blue Bonnett”, certainly a pen name, but he stated: “When I catch a trout or salmon with one attached, I immediately kill the lamprey. The fishery commission likes anyone who fishes the Great Lakes to report their catches to help them study these invaders. The commission is interested in the number of your catch, the species, whether your catch had an attached lamprey, or if your catch had a scar, they want to know where you were fishing. All of this information helps the commission combat these invaders by their control programs, and these programs have helped to remove almost 90% of them. Your help is needed to continue the commission’s efforts in controlling the lamprey populations of the Great Lakes.”

Years ago, when these eel were first being recognized as a threat to our trout and salmon fishery, I caught a salmon with one attached, and pulled it off the fish, then tossed it in the fish box. When I got to my shop, I put it in an aquarium with water to show people what these newly recognized critters were all about. It lasted about two weeks with no complications, and then one morning as I opened the store for the day, I noticed he/she had jumped out, right over the top of a 30 gallon aquarium with low water. Still alive, it was put back in the aquarium. Two days later, the same thing, but after this time I put a piece of ¼ inch hardware cloth over the top. The lamprey lasted about two more days before it squirmed out at the edge of the cover before he/she was found expired and squirming no more. It was an interesting thing to watch while it lasted, and for people to learn about. The kids used to stop by after school to “see the fish at the tackle store.”

Picture from the Great Lakes Fishery Commission website. Lots of info and more: http://www.glfc.org/sealamp/how.php

Please “Take a Kid Fishing,” and teach them right, like the old Chinese proverb says, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”  Comments, or suggestions for this column, contact markdaul@gmail.com or go to www.OutdoorsNiagara.com for loads of outdoor information.


A fascinating animal found in Niagara County
Outdoors in Niagara
Mark Daul

Did you ever hear of an animal that can pay for its own yearly maintenance, like veterinarians fees, room and board, and be a great pet at the same time? In Niagara County, the Lewiston-Porter-Newfane areas especially, there are some people harboring critters that can do those things, while at the same time making a hobby of raising and caring for these docile animals. Of course, there are many of these critters in other counties across the state and the country, but Niagara County has its own distinction.

These animals stand between 32 and 39 inches tall at the shoulders, weigh between 105 and 185 pounds, have straight legs when looked at from the front or the back, and each foot has only two toes. Their back legs have a 45-degree bend like those of other four-legged creatures when looked at from the side.

Looking closer, you see that their ears are spear-shaped, like those relic Indian spears we have all seen pictures of. These animals are related to the camel family, but they normally don't spit at humans like their bigger relatives do. They are known as alpacas, an animal that the Chavin culture in the Andes (Peru) in South America some 6,000 years ago harbored for meat, work, and fleece. Later, the Incas were credited with domesticating these pack animals, and they were raised for their fleece, which was woven into fine clothing, particularly reserved for royalty at the time.

It is estimated there are about 3 million Alpacas worldwide and only about 17,000 of them in the U.S. Alpacas are not used for meat production like they were centuries ago. Today they are used for the production of a highly sought-after fleece, which is higher quality, much softer than sheep's wool, lighter, stronger, hypoallergenic, and having no prickly feel like wool. They were introduced in this country in 1983.

Robert and Dee Oberlander have a horse farm on Braley Road in the Town of Porter, boarding horses for local owners. They had an extra barn that was underused and decided to get two alpacas for a hobby. In six short years the family has grown to 14.

Robert (Obie) and Dee harvest their own fleece from a herd of alpacas they harbor on their farm and keep all 14 of them. Obie says, "You never know, we keep adding to our family now and again." He added, "Holy smokes, we just adopted a Suri the other day."

There are two breeds of alpacas, and the Oberlanders favor the Huacaya, (pronounced "wa-ki-ya") because it is easier to treat and prepare the fleece for weaving. The other is called the Suri (pronounced "surrey"). The fleece of the Suri is stringy with longer curly fibers that make it harder to work with, although it feels softer and fluffier when woven.

From raising, to feeding, caring for, shearing, washing, dying, carding, weaving, and knitting; to creating hats, gloves, sweaters, scarves, capes and socks for their family and friends, the Oberlanders do it all themselves. Their herd is sheared every spring, and each animal gives up about five to seven pounds of fiber.

On a visit, I saw scarves, sweaters, capes, purses and hats, all handmade from alpaca fleece by Dee from scratch. Obie says they shear in the spring; this way the summer heat isn't so hard on their "family." The Oberlanders note there are about 20 to 22 different shades of color that alpacas have, and white can be dyed any color. White and black are the favorites among many. Dee uses a food coloring process and warns not to use clothing dyes like Ritz. She also warns not to use aluminum pots for the dye, only enamel or stainless steel. The food dyes work perfectly like they do on Easter eggs, because they both have a lot of protein.

Carding is a process where the raw fleece of the alpaca is broken up into clumps of fiber, and then aligned to individual fibers that prepare the fiber for easier weaving into strands called a "cloud." After the cloud is hand-rolled into strands, it is then separated as it is being run through the spinning process. Dee started out with hand carding, but quickly turned to drum carding. Seen in the photo, the drum carder machine is hand-cranked and makes the process much easier, putting strands into a treadle-powered spinning wheel. Dee took lessons to learn this process. Her teacher showed how it was done back in ancient times, by making yarn by hand spinning. It's an art still used today in some countries and with hobbyists.

She started out with a small spinning wheel, then graduated to a better one, then another, and finally settled on the one she is using today. Her household contains four of these wheels and all are still operable. It goes to show how hobbies can become an obsession. Her hobby occupies two rooms, one downstairs for the carding process, cleaning, drying, and storage. The upstairs room is the spinning room, where everything finally comes together.

One day while driving by I stopped and visited with the alpacas. They were friendly and unusually nosey. One after the other came over to see me. One hung around staring me in the face, and made a low, clucking, friendly type of a sound. I had a conversation with him, and he seemed to know what I was saying over the fence. I asked if he would smile at the camera, and the picture you see is what I got. What an elegant pose.

One interesting thing I learned on my visit is that alpacas are very tidy; they use a communal dung pile somewhere in a corner of their corral where they do not graze. Females have a tendency to "follow the leader." When one goes, the rest of the females line up at the same time, and go in the same place one at a time.

A few days later, I again visited the Oberlander's at their farm, and asked about that "friendly guy" that greeted me at the fence. Obie said, "Oh, you must be talking about the 'Old Man!' " He explained the "Old Man" was his very first alpaca of the pack and is a really friendly character. "He likes everybody," I was told.

Alpacas of Niagara, located on Tonawanda Creek Road in Lockport, is a large Western New York breeding farm, offering all kinds of services to other owners and breeders. Recently they held the area's first "Alpaca Fiber and Harvest Festival" at the former Amherst Museum, featuring an Alpaca fashion show, a first in Western New York. Among the many assorted vendors, there were live alpacas and dozens of vendors with handmade and selected imported alpaca products.
The farm includes an Alpaca Shop where you can purchase alpaca knitted goods with an emphasis on locally produced, hand-made, and made-in-the-USA items. Visit their website for more information and location: www.alpacaniagara.com .

Those with elementary-aged children might want to think about taking a trip to visit these friendly alpacas. The Oberlanders welcome children and would show them all about these ancient beasts of burden. The alpaca is a clean and fascinating creature, and children could even take them for a walk without being spit upon. Phone Dee at 716-745-3173 for arrangements in the spring; maybe you can even watch the shearing and learn how that is done.

Yes, the great outdoors is where it's at. Enjoy it frequently.
 

Fish stocking: See how it's done and why

New York state operates 12 fish hatcheries throughout the state, raising muskellunge, walleye, brook trout, brown trout, lake trout, rainbow, Coho and Chinook salmon.

Money is all derived from license fees and in each state throughout the U.S., a 10 percent flat federal tax is collected on recreational goods, from the Wallop-Breaux Tax Act. Everything purchased is taxed from fishing tackle, guns and ammo, boats, gasoline, etc. The federal tax collected is then doled out to each state, with amounts depending on license sales and the land and water area in each state on a 60-40 split. This program was initiated by sportsmen and conservationists to provide the states with funding for fish and wildlife management and research, habitat acquisition and sportsmen educational programs. In other words, sportsmen pay their own way, not just fishing, but hunting, too.

On Saturday, April 9, there will be a state Department of Environmental Conservation hatchery truck arriving to stock a load of baby brown trout, numbering roughly 4,440, at the Lewiston Landing. These tiny tots will be about 8-9 inches when stocked. The truck should arrive at about 10:45 a.m. The trucks are large, equipped with oxygenated tanks, and if you go bring a camera and stay out of the way of the workers. Releasing these fish doesn't take long, so get there early in case the truck arrives early. It's a good event for the kids to learn about, and maybe a good thing for a school project.

When you see how small these little brown trout are when they are stocked - then grow in size up to 30 pounds - you will be amazed. A New York state-record brown tipped the scales at 33 pounds, two ounces, caught in Lake Ontario, in June 1997. These baby browns were incubated and raised at the Rome Fish Hatchery north of the city of Rome, east of Oneida Lake. Annual fish production in New York alone reaches 1 million pounds of baby fish, salmon, trout, etc., raised and stocked in freshwater waters throughout the state. Why? Two good reasons, and off the top of my head: to improve and sustain recreational fishing, and to restore native species that once called our waters home.

Pictured is a little brown trout that jumped out of the tank at a stocking site in Wilson while attempting to transfer it to his new home.

Other spring hatchery trout stocking in Niagara County waters will be taking place through April and May. Gill Creek and Hyde Park Lake will see almost 2,500 brown trout introduced in April, plus another 100 browns and 200 rainbow stocked at Oppenhiem Park pond in Wheatfield. This spring, Olcott and Wilson will receive 12,500 rainbow trout and 22,180 brown trout each. All counted here is a total of almost 77,000 fish in Niagara County alone, with more to come. Actual stocking dates cannot be determined very far ahead of time because of weather, maturity, hatchery schedules, water temperatures, etc. Another thing that should make local fishermen happy is if there are surplus fish in the hatcheries, they are directed to our area waters; stocking dates go unannounced.

As spring arrives, stocking of area waters gets into full swing along Lake Ontario and the Niagara River. The Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Association starts their pen raising project with Chinook salmon and rainbow trout, as does the Niagara River Anglers Association pen raising steelhead (rainbow) trout. Wilson has a loose association of dedicated fishermen that created a highly successful pen-rearing project a few years ago in 12-mile Creek. These projects are all volunteer-based, and the work done by dedicated sportsmen. The rearing of these newborn fish get imprinted to these waters, and after being released the great majority return as adults to waters that is familiar to them, spawn, and this gives sportsmen a run for their money and efforts. A great cycle.


The squirrel represents different things to different people
Outdoors in Niagara
 Mark Daul

Whenever I hear the word "rodent," right away I think of mice and rats, but in the rodent "family" there are many different sizes and types of relatives. All rodents have the distinction of having a single pair of incisors in both the lower and upper jaws, especially made for gnawing.

I have several rodents that entertain me, but they are much larger than their lower class relatives of mice and rats that are not "good entertainment." A couple other mammals you are probably familiar with are those timber dwelling chipmunks, house pets like guinea pigs, and of all things, the beaver.

I have gray and black squirrels, a nuisance pest to many people especially if they infiltrate your house, usually in the attic. These visitors can be removed and shut out, and are not welcomed back. They are the smartest four-legged critters you will ever get to know, and their acrobatics are better than those Chinese acrobats we see on TV. Watch them for a while playing, making heroic jumps, climbing up and down trees, chasing one another and making all kinds of playful chattering noises.

In the mid-afternoon on those hot summer days, it's siesta time. They like to stretch out in a spread-eagle position on the flat surface of the fence or on the roof of the shed or on a tree branch and just take life easy. They get up early in the morning, eat, play, rest and then eat again in the evenings. Yes, squirrels close their eyes when they sleep.

I'm sure everyone has some backyard squirrels. Mine, I turn into friends. They get so friendly I can sit on my back porch and they'll come visit looking for a handout. Seldom do I let them take food out of my hand because it's not really a good idea. Their eyes are placed in their heads where they can't see too well up close, and you can accidentally get nipped. They'll reach up with their front feet and try to knock your offering out of your hand, and those little feet have claws like needles that will prick you, not realizing they could hurt you. So many times they hear the back door open, and right away there could be two, three or even four of them rushing up the steps looking for me. At least I like to think it's me they are looking for, but it's really the handout of old bread or crackers, and sometimes I'll offer peanuts in the shell. Squirrels in the U.S. are not known to cause rabies.

My grandkids think grandpa's squirrel colony is cool. Gramps doesn't have to get his pets shots, clean up after them, be home to feed them, no vet bills, they eat and drink for nothing, and yet when he comes outside, they are there to greet him.

They are hard to identify and put names to, but I had some identifiable friends. One was named "Chips" (pictured), because of two chips out of the tip of his left ear. He was the friendliest of all.

Then I had one named "Gimpy." He was a guy with a deformed front leg that he couldn't use, but he did quite well with just three legs. He held his food in his left paw while eating. He did have trouble climbing trees, but he did it. "Chicken" was so named because he was the scaredy-cat of the bunch. He would come near, but never up to the porch to see me. He would sit on the picnic table and stare at the others and me. Then there was "Blackie," obviously because he was a friendly black squirrel, and once in a while, he would bring another black friend, but the friend wouldn't get involved.

My backyard gang was numerous at times and I don't know what kind of lifespan they have. But when spring comes each year it seems all my old friends are gone or maybe they found a better feeding spot.

Speaking of feeding I had my own "miniature Nik Wallendas" when I hung my bird feeder on a long thin wire from the plastic coated backyard clothesline. Squirrels would climb up the tree, and tightrope the clothesline out to the feeder, slide down the wire and help themselves to the birds' sunflower seed. I quickly found that wasn't a very good idea to keep my friends from raiding the bird's precious sunflower seed. I thought I was smart using the thin wire, thinking the wire won't allow them to grip it, but they were smarter than me. They just put those little feet to work grabbing the wire tight, and slowly slide down, then jump to the ground when done.

After buying different so called "squirrel-proof" bird feeders over the years, I solved the raiding problem by driving a 2-inch galvanized pipe in the ground and mounted my common, wooden feeder on the very top. They could still climb the pipe and get up there until I cut a piece of aluminum drip edge I had laying around, and attached that in an upside-down cone shape near the top of the pipe under the feeder. That works really great, stopped them in their tracks, no more stealing from the birds. If you do this, make sure there are no trees or other objects close by, they can climb and jump to the feeder. They are very smart, and I have seen them jump as far as five feet, and as high as four feet.

Hunting squirrels is a challenging sport. In New York State, from Sept. 1 to Feb. 28 hunters get out in the woods to hunt squirrel from sunrise to sunset. Hunters are allowed a daily bag limit of six, and they make a good meal when prepared correctly. Most hunters are good wild game cooks, and they advise to never broil or grill a squirrel; they will get chewy like the tongue of your shoe. Young squirrels can be roasted, fried, boiled or in soups. The old guys probably should be simmered or crock-pot style cooked until tender.

Cleaning them for the pot can be tricky, and I watched this being done once, but I didn't learn a thing except let an experienced person do it for you. Maybe search YouTube for a video. You must have a valid small game license to hunt squirrels.

Mepps, a large U.S.A. company that makes fishing lures, and in particular spinners, has a squirrel tail program. They buy squirrel tails from hunters and other individuals and use them for dressing on the hook behind the spinner. Apparently fish like this little added attraction and squirrel tails do the best job in providing a pulsating action provoking fish to bite. The company pays as high as 26 cents each for premium tails. Of course there are rules you need to follow. Go to their website for the details at http://www.mepps.com. Even if you don't fish, the website is interesting, and you can see what the added attraction looks like. You can even request their free lure catalog there.

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Outdoors in Niagara
Mark Daul

Bond Lake – A Hop, Skip, and a Jump Away – Bring Paper 

Niagara County’s Bond Lake Park, is a 531 acre park facility, located off Lower Mountain Road outside of Lewiston. The lake area itself was once a limestone quarry site back in the late 1800’s spanning into the very early 1900’s before it closed. Today it is a nature-themed park and is open to the public. Fishing, hiking, canoeing, picnicking, skiing, sledding and so much more, and not more than 20 minutes away from any resident of Niagara County. One thing, in the Lake area especially, there are NO restrooms, a real shame for a public park as nice as this. If you picnic at one of the two beautiful picnic pavilions, be prepared to solve your own problems with your family. I would think the Niagara County lawmakers could come up with a couple of bucks for a couple of facilities, that can be bought or rented pretty reasonably. I took a short 25 foot walk up one trail and was met with stale toilet paper on each side of me; nice for kids & ladies huh? In the meantime, bring a roll and go where the bears go, in the woods, after all, maybe that’s what “nature-themed” means. [No, there aren’t any bears.]

The picture of the girl wearing the great big smile is because she is out fishing with her parents. Not fishing for exotics, just ‘out’ fishing! Not fishing in a big lake, not fishing from a boat, but fishing off shore at Bond Lake.

The little fishergirl in the picture, is Brandi Love Fischer, a 9 ½ year old [going on 25 yrs. her Mom says] that I met at Bond Lake fishing with her parents. When I asked her name she promptly told me ‘Brandi,’ then I asked “how old are you Brandi?” gleefully, she said ‘10’while she was baiting her own hook for another cast. Her proud stepdad, Russ, told me she does everything by herself, and sure loves fishing. In about 5 minutes her mother caught a fish and Brandi took it off the hook for her, and then before she released it, she held it up like she was going to give it a big fat kiss. The fish wiggled unexpectedly, while she was holding it, and Brandi let out a little scream like 10 year olds do, it was an unexpected surprise. After her cute theatrics, she leaned over and put it back in the water for another day. Just from that, you can see Mom and Dad are good teachers. Its things like this little story that makes my day.

I often get asked by people where there is a good safe place to take kids fishing, where they’ll catch fish, be safe, and learn to fish without a boat. Those are good questions for sure, especially the last one. I can tell you, we have lots of places around here to do that. Quite often I’m asked about the real young ones, from 3 to 7 years old. Although any age is a good age, I say if they can stand up on their own, start then. Sometimes attention spans are narrow, so when you are out, take them around and explore other things. Frogs, birds, salamanders, butterflies, trees, are all things that they will remember for the next trip. I realize all parents are not necessarily up on fishing, and the other things the great outdoors has to offer, but what better way to learn than when teaching your children, and you’re learning things for yourself at the same time. I find a lot of parents, including single parents, would rather have their kids in organized sports where the teaching and coaching is done by someone else, sometimes even by strangers. Team sports are wonderful, but nothing compares to getting out on your own, learning on your own, and as you grow up, there is just you and a fish, and the outdoors. Fisher people when fishing are strictly one on one, just “the fisher and the fish.” The fisher tries to figure out how those fish think, while the fish is looking for a simple meal, and at the same time outsmarting the fisher. Like scoring a touchdown or a home run in little league, the fisher gets a thrill, but all kids can’t score touchdowns or home runs, so guess what, all kids can catch a fish!

Starting out, remember you won’t get much fishing in yourself, not until the youngster gets comfortable with baiting their own hook, and taking their own fish off the hook. Some take longer than others, but if you show the proper way to do it right from the start, they will want to learn like you did, or you can learn together.  Maybe you are not a very good fisherperson yourself, so what, bring a couple of old rags with you, something like an old terrycloth washcloth or an old bath towel torn into pieces for your hands. They will help you keep your fish under control until you unhook it, and get it back in the water. Getting the fish back in the water is the first lesson in “Catch & Release.” Releasing fish unharmed back into the water is a good lesson, because it is protecting what we have for the future fishermen/gals.

So your trip starts out on the right foot, be sure to bring sun lotion, insect repellant, a snack of some kind and a liquid. You might even want a Band-Aid or two, just in case. The experts say between 11:00 am and 2:00 pm in the afternoon are the hottest times of a day, so avoid those times. It’s always best to go early.

Take a trip to your neighborhood tackle store and pick up a 4 or 5 foot spincast rod & reel for your child for starters. Cost is 10-15 dollars for child size starter set for 3-5 year olds. You don’t want anything too long or you will be untangling line cast after cast. and pulling line out of trees. A 6 ½ or 7 foot hand-me-down rod is fine, if you have an older learner, but make sure it works good. Kids are fast learners so you don’t want defective tackle, then their interest is driven away. Of course, you can buy bait, worms in most cases, in many of these shops and other places along the road. But the very best thing to do, is go out with the child the night before, go digging for worms yourselves, or spray your lawn an hour or so before dusk, and pick them off the grass after dark. They are free then.  Or you can even try a small ball of fresh bread on your hook.

When kids start out, they don’t want big fish to scare them, they just want the thrill, a little sunfish or rock bass will do fine. It’s like hitting that home run I talked about. This is a good time to teach them about their surroundings, and taking care of those surroundings. Make sure they don’t leave bait containers, sandwich wrappers and other junk lying around. Have the kids pick up any containers, or debris that might be left behind, not you, they won’t learn a thing if you do it for them, remember someday they’ll be fishing without you. If there is junk around other people left, make that part of the cleanup too, the kids don’t mind, they will feel even more important, and will learn a good lesson.

After all this about taking kids fishing, don’t forget the elders, they would just love to tag along on a simple little fishing trip too!


Outdoors in Niagara
Mark Daul
Note: Picture is of author

Fishing With Don Supon

Who is Don Supon? That’s your first question I’ll bet. Let me tell you, and bring you up to date. He lives in Niagara Falls with his wife Myra. Don is a retired school teacher, and outdoors enthusiast from the git-go. Don owns a deer camp in the Southern Tier that he maintains and visits often. It has trail cams set up so when he is not at the camp, he can watch what wildlife activities appear before the cameras in his absence. He has shown me cam pictures of turkey, bear, coyote, and of course, deer. Hunting has always been one of Don’s major pastimes and I’m glad, because now I have some venison in my freezer.

We met several years ago, when we were both younger and doing our separate things, never really getting into deep discussions. Having the same acquaintances, and the same interests, our relationship increased as we bumped into one another on occasion, and volunteering for the betterment of outdoor activities. Now, neither of us do much volunteering, at our age, but still help out wherever we can.  Both of us always remind people to get out and enjoy the outdoors. As the saying goes, and its origin is uncertain; “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That's why it is called the present.”

Don and I took up fishing together a couple of years ago, and we enjoy each others company, mostly. By mostly, I mean when we get out fishing together, I am mostly out fished by him. We are both nuts for perch fishing and that is what we ‘mostly’ do. A couple of years ago, Don was looking for someone to fish the spring trout and salmon derby with and I volunteered. When I said I’d fish it, the weather was pretty nice, so I paid my entry fee and signed up for the event. The day we went out, the weather changed. We got out in the lake and set up around the green can [buoy] off the mouth of the Lower Niagara. I froze on our way out and froze when we settled down after putting our rigs out, then froze on the way back to shore. The wind was blowing from the northwest, with a wet drizzle, until the sun broke. Even then it was still cold, the wind has no mercy. We trolled for hours and all the while I’m thinking to myself, this is the reason why I gave up on this type of fishing many years ago. From then on, I will always remain the ‘sunshine man,’ the type that only goes fishing when the sun is shining and the thermometer reads over 65 degrees. Don owns a salmon/lake boat equipped with all the bells and whistles, a roof with side curtains, and now his lake fishing is all done with a new fisherman learning the ropes, Dave Anastasia, a Ransomville resident.  I said learning, but I know Dave catches on fast, especially from a good teacher.

The fish you see me holding in the picture isn’t mine, I’m just holding it for Don, like all good guests should do for the host. I’m dressed in layers with a good quality wind and rain resistant Sterns jacket on with a hood, and if this was in color, you could see my hands are beet red.

A few days ago, it wasn’t over 65 degrees, and the sun wasn’t shining even though Don Paul on Channel 4 said it was going to be, we took our chances and went to the Lewiston Landing. At 7:45 am, we paid our $7.00 launch fee to the ever congenial Harbor Master, Pat Mahoney. Pat was surprised to see us and launching my ‘Outdoors Niagara’ boat there. I told him neither of us is in any shape to launch the boat, drive up the hill to the parking lot, then walk back down those long steps, go fishing, come back off the water, go back up those dreadful steps to bring the trailer back down for the boat. Whew! Mr. Congeniality, Mahoney, said “Gee, all you need to do is ask. I can pick you up and drive you down after parking the trailer in the lot, then drive you back up to the parking lot to get your vehicle.” Aha, Don was ahead of all of us. He and I came in two vehicles, Don lives in Niagara Falls, and I live in Youngstown. We met at the parking lot, and Don parked his truck in the handicap spot at the launch. We launched the boat so when we take the boat out of the water, all he had to do was drive up the hill and bring the car and trailer back down. Good thinking on his part, but one of us still had to park boat and trailer above. Don volunteered to do that and walk back down to the boat. Isn’t he a wonderful ‘volunteer?’

Let me tell you about our perch trip that day. Of course, we were both excited to be out on the water. Don sat up in the bow, and I in the stern. I had to run the motor, set the anchor, and make sure we were in the right spot with Don Paul’s reportedly 15 to 20 mph wind blowing from a southerly direction. Anchors don’t hold too well in that wind, but it finally did catch something on the bottom, and did its job. We moved to another spot, dropped the anchor, grabbed something again, but when we went to move, the anchor was stuck solid. Thinking I needed to cut the anchor rope to get free, I fired up the 25 hp Mercury, and slowly pulled the anchor free.

Perching was good for the guy up front. He was catching double headers on his $1.19 perch rig and I was catching nothing on mine from the back of the boat. Being the nice guy that Don is, he said, “Mark, move up about 20 feet, just opposite the dock over there” I pulled the anchor, moved up, dropped the anchor again, and started fishing. By moving up, now I’m fishing where he was dropping his line at. Good deal I thought, now I can do some catching in his spot. Not so, I never got a touch. The fish followed him those 20 feet and continued pestering his bait offerings even though we were using identical baits. Jokingly, I said to Don, how about taking my rod, catching me a fish, then hand the rod to me, and let me reel it in. As time went on, and silence was bliss, whenever Don caught an undersized fish, he would throw it toward my line, like saying “you want a fish? here’s one for you, now catch it.” Really rubbing it in I thought. Then Bam! I caught a legal size bass on my minnow. Yeah, it went in the cooler for my wife, she loves bass. About 10 minutes later, again, Bam! This time a really nice size bass, I was really excited latching on to two fish in a matter of 10 minutes. As I was looking at the strain on my light line and watching it, I saw it moving to the surface with the fish pulling it, then, it decided to show off, and go acrobatic. It broke water, winked one of those red eyes at me, even though fish don’t close their eyes, this one winked.  After showing me how pretty his colors are, he spit the hook back at the boat. I think it was still airborne when it did that. I know it was big, and as friend, and outdoor writer, now deceased, Joe Ognibene used to say, “if it got away, you can make it any size you want it to be.” He was right. Ok, lets say the one I lost had to be a State record fish. Ha!

I guess fishing took up a good part of my life, and at this time of life, it is really great to have a fishing friend to share the days with, get out and sit on or near the water, have some conversation about anything, go home and think about your next outing.

Remember to take a kid fishing, and don’t forget the elderly, they love it too.

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Outdoors in Niagara
Mark Daul

Does Niagara have Beavers? Yes, it does! 

Although mainly a nocturnal animal, beavers can be spotted occasionally during the day, and their homes or “lodges” I suppose they can be seen around the County along different streams and creeks. There is a “lodge” along the park trail at Four Mile Creek in the State Park; along your walk on the path, you can see trees that are chomped upon by these little lumberjacks. I must admit, this summer I haven’t taken my walks along Four Mile creek, but in prior years I have seen many beaver signs and the gnawing of trees.

I live about 1,500 feet west from the mouth of Four Mile Creek. In the calm evenings, when the sun is about ready to drop down into the lake, occasionally we can watch one or two beavers taking a cruise along the lake shoreline, probably exploring their surroundings. You don’t hear them coming, you’ll just see a big “V” in the water as they are swimming by.  If you startle them they will raise that big paddle-shaped tail of theirs and slap it on the water and take a dive, then you won’t see them anymore that evening.  The slap is loud, and it is to warn others to beware of danger. The extreme low water levels in the creek this year may have affected their habitat as we haven’t seen any since early spring. The water is so low you can walk across the mouth of the creek where it enters the lake.

One time this area was great beaver country, and a great asset to Native Americans. They used beaver pelts for bartering in the 17th century, trading to Europeans for metal tools and implements. The Europeans used the pelts for clothing and hats. It is said back in those days upper class Europeans separated the fur from the skin to be used in the production of felt to be made into hats by using poisonous mercury. Hat makers were called “hatters” and after time they would become sick and disorientated from absorbing the mercury, thus the expression “mad hatters” or “mad as a hatter.” In New York State beaver populations dropped in the 1800’s, to where they were nearly extinct, but made remarkable recoveries in the 1900’s by proper management by the DEC. Trapping and transferring them to better habitat, and management of hunting and trapping seasons kept them to desirable levels.

Recently, Ed Rogers of Youngstown told me he saw beavers cruising down the river some mornings around 6:00 am while walking his dog on Water Street near the Youngstown Yacht Club. He said the Villa Apartments on the river in Youngstown had a problem with them chewing on young trees about 7-8 years ago, and to prevent additional damage, they put screening around the base of the trees. Rogers said he walked down the river to see where they were going or where they came from, and as he tried to follow them, they just disappeared.

Last fall, a hiker down in the gorge trail sent me the photo seen here of a large felled tree and two more large ones that were gnawed through, proving that beavers are occupying that section of the river. These trees are right on the edge of the water. If you are adventurous, a day spent hiking the gorge trails can be very rewarding. Forgetting a camera for the hike would be a sin. Look at what this hiker saw! Carry a fishing rod too; there are lots of places to fish.

In February of this year, Ray Dietz, husband of Town of Porter Historian, Sue Dietz, was hiking in the Niagara Gorge on the Canadian side and came across some maple trees that were being dined on by these semi-aquatic rodents. I don’t know if they swim from the U.S. to Canada but they better have papers, or at least phone CANPASS!

The industrious beaver is considered good for the environment, but at times they are considered a nuisance.  Beavers will burrow in the banks of rivers and lakes building their lodges that sometimes turn into dams along streams. They can transform landscapes with their dams; building beaver ponds and marshlands and turn them into habitat for fish, birds and other four legged critters. However, they can also do damage to man made structures, contaminate water supplies, and cause crop damage to farmers with their dams. The law says you may not remove or interfere with a beaver dam unless you have a permit from the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation. In New York State, beaver control is managed by the NYSDEC. Hunting and trapping season for beavers in our part of the state is from November 1, 2012 to April 7, 2013, and there is no bag limit. You can check all the details at www.nysdec.ny.gov, and while you are there, check the information they have on beavers.

Please don’t forget to get those kids out fishing. You will be surprised at the excitement YOU will have watching them land a fish or two. Teach them well.


Outdoors in Niagara
Mark Daul

Before iPads, Cell Phones and Facebook, Fishing Filled Our Time

Occasionally I bump into a long time friend of mine and we get into some great conversations, and a few evenings ago was no different. Bob Rougeaux and I were natives of Niagara Falls, and, now we both live in the Town of Porter. We both went to Sacred Heart grade school at the same time, and both had similar after school passions. We didn’t have anything near what occupies kids today, like all those sophisticated electronics. We had tube radios, 12 inch B&W televisions, and yes, TV’s had tubes too, and test patterns that came on at midnight. Our telephones were the rotary dial kind that kids of today have trouble trying to operate and big hands and little hands on our watches. Does anyone know where there is a pay phone on a corner somewhere today? Friday nights were the big night for TV in my neighborhood with the Friday Night fights; first, wrestling was on TV from Memorial Auditorium in Buffalo, with Yukon Eric, Gorgeous George, and a guy named Farmer Don, who always brought a pig with him into the ring. One guy had a ring name like, “The Little Flower of Italy,” a bad guy. The next program on Friday nights was boxing. I can remember some legends like Jersey Joe Walcott, Sonny Liston and Joe Louis “The Brown Bomber,” because they were my Father’s favorites, and so was Gillette Blue Blades, Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer, and the cameo girl “Genny.” Betcha some of you old guys remember the name “Willie Pep.”

Times sure have changed, but basic fishing remains the same as it ever was. Back then, all that was ever needed was a stick, a hook, some line, and that could even be a piece of string, plus a weight to bring it all down to where the fish were. A bobber could be just a twig lying around the creek side or an old bottle cork you found lying around the house. Sometimes our weights would be an old spark plug or a nut that was lying around the garage. Bob and I were into the days when we would fish Hyde Park Creek for bullheads and rock bass with our “equipment.” It was never called it fishing tackle because that is what they sold in stores like Noah’s Ark and Western Auto, or Behren’s Tackle Shop on Pierce Avenue. There was no money for that. Bob and I fished at the same age, but separately. Bob fished all around Hyde Park Lake, and I fished the creek at the “rocks,” which were two big rocks at the edge of the creek right near greens number 7 on the golf course at that time. We never fished together because I didn’t know he liked fishing after school and Saturdays, neither did he know that I did.

Sometimes worms were picked for bait out of the back yard or we packed some “Wonder Bread” as Bob called it. Yep, Wonder Bread, the kind that “builds strong bodies 8 ways.”  The bread had to be fresh so you could roll it up in tiny balls and it would stick on your hook. Two or three of slices were all you would need for half a day. Toss that tasty treat out and there would be an underwater battle between the bullheads and the rock bass. Big bullheads were kept to bring home and brag to the neighborhood kids what you caught. How cool is that! My father would put water in our concrete stationary tub in the basement for my fish, and they would keep for a few days, and eventually we would give them to Mr. Say, a neighbor two doors away, who would eat anything that could swim including eels.

Those were the early days of fishing for us, and eventually we graduated into bigger things, like getting new rods & reels, along with real sinkers and hooks with no rust. Boats came later. Then we needed tackle boxes to keep all our stuff in. Through our growing years and later, it was a rare occasion Bob and I would see one another because raising families, paying mortgages, and things like that occupied much or our time, but it was agreed, we always managed to find time to fish through those years.

In our conversation, Bob started rattling off all the places in Ontario, Canada he traveled to catch walleye. “Walleyes like that” as he stretched out his hands showing me how big, and his eyes almost popped out of his head with his expressions. You would swear he just caught it at that moment while talking about them. Bobcaygeon Ontario, a small community located on the Trent-Severn waterways in Ontario Canada, was at the top of his list. Then his memory exploded and started rattling off the names of the guys he traveled with. Names like, Obie Brown, John Smeal, Fire Chief Ted Forrester, among others. The others I couldn’t remember fast enough. All these names were fellow Niagara Falls firefighters of which Bob Rougeaux has retired from.

Eventually, Bob graduated into the salmon fishing scene on Lake Ontario for a while, but walleye and some bass fishing sticks in his heart today, right along with his stick and string and Wonder Bread.

I went over to Bob’s house hoping to get a picture of him holding a fish up or fishing or something for this story, and he said,  “don’t have any, I never had one, in those days we weren’t into picture taking.” This reminds me to tell my readers, “don’t go fishing without a camera!” You will wish you had.

My short story turned into a long one here, but what I am trying to convey, is I agree with cell phones, iPads, notebooks more organized sports than we ever had, and whatever, but in this new day and age, I also strongly feel there are things in life that many of these children are missing out on today, and that is experiencing the outdoors and the lifelong memories. There is so much to do, not just fishing or hunting, there is a world full of adventure out there for them, and along with those adventures are memories that will last until the day they pass. As Bob and I say, as long as we can still stand up and take nourishment, our memories will continue to carry us through a lifetime of participating in the great outdoors.

My message is to always take a kid fishing, but how about the elderly people that would enjoy it too. Some of them have no transportation, or even fishing equipment, and would give you their right arm to have an opportunity to wet a line once more in their life. Kids and elders both like to feel included, catching a fish can be secondary, just being out there is the great reward.

Your comments and suggestions are welcomed, use your electronic gadget and email me at: MarkDaul@gmail.com  or sentinel@wnypapers.com . If you want some fishing hints and updates locally, go to www.OutdoorsNiagara.com 

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Outdoors in Niagara
Mark Daul

A New Fisherman Joining Our Ranks!

When I was coming home from the coffee shop after chatting with the guys and listening to some fishing stories the other day, one of my neighbors, Dan Argona, was in his driveway fiddling around with his boat. I stopped, and asked him how the fishing was treating him lately. He couldn’t complain he said, it was a little bit slow, and we both agreed, probably because of the high temps we are experiencing, might be what is making the bass sluggish and not too hungry. “But I’m still catching fish” he said, and the little moss that was there didn’t seem to matter. Dan got a new Crestliner boat last year that is worthy of the Lake Ontario chops and his boat never sits too long. He has it all equipped for Spring trout and salmon fishing, and now that the bass season is here, Dan has been trying his luck with Bass in the river and the mouth of the river, and on the bar in the lake. He often takes his brother or another friend out fishing, and privately, I regard him as the newest Lake/River Guide because he has been so successful in such a short time.

In our little chat, he said to me how he enjoys my articles in the weekly Sentinel, and likes how at the end of my articles when I always suggest to whomever is reading it, to “Take a Kid Fishing.” Well, he did, and the experience was more than words can express. Dan took his son, Phil, Phil’s friend, Justin Tomaszewski and Justin’s son Tyler, six years old fishing one day. Little Tyler had never fished before, and for his first time ever fishing, and from a boat. The quartet fished around for a while, and when the first fish hit, Tyler had the honor of reeling in the first of the day, with the help of his dad. The next bass caught was a muscular 3 pound smallmouth bass, and Tyler was handed the rod & reel to wrestle this scrappy finned critter, and shortly after hooking it, the 6 year old said, “dad, you have to help me!” It was a tough one for a youngster at that age.

The third and biggest fish of the day happened to be the fish you see in the picture. It is a good sized sheephead, [freshwater drum] and considered by some to be the world’s most useless fish. Not true. They were put in our waters by our creator, and he knew what he was doing. When fishing is slow, slow, you can always count on a sheephead swimming by, and giving you a thrill at the end of your line, not knowing what it is until you fight it up to the side of the boat. Bring it in the boat and usually it will croak similar to a frog, and I have seen grown men stand back from one, wondering what the heck that noise is, shy about getting too close.  Not to get too technical, the noise is believed to be made from the fish’s earbone, called an "otolith." People think these fish are not good eating, well, they don’t taste like a bass or walleye, but if you put them on ice immediately, clean them like any other fish, and being an oily fish, they are actually good smoked. The way I have had them after being smoked, is chopped up like you would a tuna salad, with the same ingredients, and spread on crackers. After you try one, you will want to keep one once in a while for a tasty snack on your next fishing trip. Carp can be done the same way. I know what some of you guys are thinking; you want to ask “how do I get them lit to be able to smoke ‘em?” Ha, old joke.

Let’s get back to Tyler, the newest fisherman joining our ranks. Dan said, “Tyler had his hands full and gave it all he's got” when tackling the surprised sheephead, and it turned out this youngster wasn’t about to give up. After this “croaker” got in the boat, Tyler was exhausted and said, “I think someone has to get the next fish.”

Dan said, “I had more fun watching him and seeing his excitement! Priceless, is the correct phrase! I think we have a new fisherman on board.” The newest fishing Guide, Dan Argona, added, “this will be a day Tyler will never forget” then after thinking, he added, “it’s a day I’ll never forget!”

There ya go! Go to it. Find a kid then take them fishing, and it doesn’t always necessarily, need to be a boy, girls love to fish too. Believe me. Always remember to bring a camera!

 Comments and suggestions, email me at MarkDaul@gmail.com  or contact the Sentinel at Sentinel@wnypapers.com.

As a footnote; those “otoliths,” also known as earstones, work on a fish much like our own ears, helping us keep our balance and navigate. All freshwater fish have them. In the early days, this small, hard oval-like material was crafted into prized lucky charms, and worn around the neck.

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Outdoors in Niagara
Mark Daul
Picture is of Danny and son Jesse

Bass Fishing – A Niagara River Adventure – Coast Guard Encounter

Last Saturday my grandson Jesse, son Danny, and I went on a little fishing excursion for bass on the Lower Niagara. It was a bright, no wind, and event filled day as it seemed the fish wanted to show off. Danny latched onto the first fish, and it was a monster. Apparently, he was fishing with a dull hook because he got it to the edge of the boat and the fish winked at him, jiggled his head, spit the hook, and swam away. He must have told the others to watch out for plastic motor oil colored tube jigs and to don’t be fooled, stay away from those things. After that, the little ones that didn’t listen would come around once in a while and bite one.  They were put back in the water while we waited, for the big boys. Forty minutes later the bigger guys moved in and we invited some for dinner. Six of them came.

I’m sure you have all heard of the stories about the guy in the front of the boat gets all the fish while the guy in the back struggles. Well, I was the guy in the back. The guy in the middle was my grandson, Jesse, and he struggled with me. It was the guy in the bow with the hot hand. If we turned the boat around, putting the front where the back was, it was the same, the guy in the bow was nailing them. I just can’t figure that out. Jesse did well, as he enjoyed the ride, while listening to his father’s advice on how to jig his rod, and how to concentrate. It didn’t matter, same bait, same place, same results for him, nada.

While we were fishing, we saw the Coast Guard checking boats, and eventually they came around to us, pulling up alongside of our “vessel,” we were greeted with, “how’s the fishing?” After that introduction, they asked, “when was the last time your boat was boarded?” [for inspection] Captain Danny of our vessel, told him “about two weeks ago.” They wanted to know if we had the paper showing it was boarded. Our Captain showed it, the young Guardsman passed it to his commanding officer, or coxswain, who inspected it with a magnifying glass, handed it back and thanked us. Then all they wanted to see was three life preservers, after that we chatted. Part of that conversation was about why the Canadian law enforcement officials are pulling American boats over that wander into their waters. They said our U.S. State Department has been working on it, trying to resolve this issue in someway, but the Canadian officials have not responded. We questioned about not landing, and just passing through. They told us if you wander over there, don’t shut off your engine to drift or anything like that, just to keep your motor running. Never thought to ask about sailboats moving with their sails only. When the Coastguardsmen were getting ready to part, they said “please start your engine so we can hear it.”  By that gesture they wanted to make sure they weren’t driving away leaving us stranded, I suppose.

We continued to fish along the shore just north of Joseph Davis Park near the pipeline that comes from CWM, which is a good hotspot, and is frequented by smallmouth bass. For naysayers, the pipeline has no water flow now and when it does, it’s like one day, once a year. I remember when that pipeline was going in, a CWM official saying that water coming out of there was so pure, he offered to drink a glass of it for his audience. He’s not with us anymore, and I often wondered if he ever did take a sip.

After we caught all the fish in that location we decided to take a trip to the Coast Guard drift, and try our hand there. As we traveled north, we spotted two boats together near the middle of the river, and we thought they were partying. As we got closer, we saw a large black pontoon boat with small blue lights flashing and a tiny, what looked like, a 4x6 maple leaf flag on a stick, waving off the stern. Yup, some American citizen, a dad, with is wife and young son about 8 yrs. old were pulled over, and being questioned/harassed by the Canadian authorities. Maybe dad took them out and they were fishing on New York’s Free Fishing Days weekend? [June 23-24] We were wondering how many others have been pulled over today and ticketed or fined. Sometimes I wonder if all this continued enforcement is in the name of Canadian Homeland Security or if it’s just another money grab, trying to balance the budget. I’ll bet it’s the latter. For you that don’t have a clue where the international border line is, get a map or Google it. One example, where the Youngstown sailboats are moored, there is a thin strip of water between them and the border. Look it up.

Anyway, as we approached Youngstown, the water had whitecaps on it and it was too rough for our boat with the wind blowing from the west, so we headed into the ramp.  We only kept one limit and took it home, cleaned them, and had a fresh smallmouth bass dinner with some leftover macaroni salad my wife made the day before. Well, she called it macaroni salad, but it had everything in it but the kitchen sink, and that included tuna fish, and Green Giant peas. Umm, no more leftovers.

One last thing, Our U.S. Guardsmen don’t hassle Canadians or others, only if landing on U.S. soil, then it is handled by the U.S. Border Patrol. I would really like to compliment our Niagara Station United States Coast Guard for being so courteous and efficient, in doing the job they were sent out to do. When they come up to you, greet them as they will surely greet you, but have all your safety things ready and up to date and you’ll be on your way in a flash. Also, I live by the lake, and I frequently see those young men out there in any weather, any time, searching for, or saving lives, risking their own. Good to have you around! Thank You.

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Outdoors in Niagara
Mark Daul
Picture is of  Steve Drabczyk tossing feed pellets to baby fish

IS IT A STEELHEAD OR A RAINBOW TROUT?- Niagara River Anglers Pen Rearing

OK, you heard it here. What is a steelhead trout and a rainbow trout? Around here in our watershed, you could say they are the same, and people like to call them all “steelhead” it just sounds better maybe. Genetically they are both the same.  A rainbow trout is a trout that spent its entire lifetime in freshwater and a steelhead is a fish that grew up in saltwater such as the Pacific Ocean, and come back to streams to spawn. Now I’m going to confuse you. All steelhead are rainbow trout, not all rainbow trout are steelhead. Steelhead is the name given to rainbows that migrate to the ocean, [Pacific, in particular] grow, and come back to the streams to spawn. Got that? Confused? Really, who cares at this point but to simplify, if the fish did not have access to the Pacific it would be called a Rainbow trout. Who cares anyway?  Ask ten different fishermen and you will get ten different answers. They look the same, catch the same, cook the same, and are fantastic on the palette, baked, smoked, fried, on the grille or even canned. Fresh run trout are a gorgeous looking fish, and I feel only a brook trout could surpass it for being the best looking freshwater fish in the universe.

The Niagara River Anglers Association, in cooperation with the NY DEC on Thursday April 12, stocked 10,000 fingerling [baby] steelhead in their rearing pen that is located in Youngstown at the Youngstown visitor’s overnight boat slip. A fingerling is about as long as your finger. A mans finger that is, and ladies, you won’t qualify. If you want to see this operation, take a ride down Water Street and just before you get to the bottom of the hill, make a sharp right. Go down that short road to the end and the project is right there. Drive very slowly down that road as workers are putting boats in their moorings for the season. Don’t go in the fenced area to the pens.

The Anglers is one of the pioneers in pen rearing trout and salmon in New York State. There are a total of seven projects dotted all across Lake Ontario from Rochester to the Niagara River and all managed by volunteers from fishing clubs. Plus, there are a group of guys in Wilson NY that is headed up by Captain Mike Lis, Wilson Councilmember Brad Clark and a handful of dedicated volunteers.  They manage a highly successful project as does the dedicated members of the Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Association [LOTSA] who have been doing this for several years also.

The reason for volunteers to work so hard and give of their time in rearing projects is to maintain a fishery for their sport, and down the line, hopefully, many of these fish will spawn naturally creating an even better fishery for future generations.

The reason for pen rearing is that these fish, [salmon too] get imprinted to the waters where they were raised as babies other than the fish hatchery, grow into what they call “smolts” [a little more grown up] then they move out to the big waters of the lake, grow, and return to the waters they came from to reproduce and complete their life cycle. Scientists call that “homing” Each stream has a unique chemical composition, a distinctive odor, and somehow they return home with the help of their maker in the sky.  Anyway, that’s all you need to know for now about imprinting and “smolts.”

I visited the NRAA pen project this week with its project volunteer chairman Captain Steve Drabczyk from Lewiston, and his right hand man, Ed Garcia. Drabczyk told me it will be about another approximately 2 more weeks before these fish will be released. They have already grown about two inches since being put in the pen Drabczyk said. These pen projects are a very intensive project that requires planning, preparation of pens before the baby fish arrive, and then after they arrive they need to be fed five times a day, every day, starting at 7:00 am, every three hours by an army of feeding volunteers. The feeding schedule needs to be strictly followed. They are fed prepared fish pellets like they get in the hatchery, and that trains these little guys to feed on their own so when they reach the wide open waters, instinct takes over and off they go fending for themselves. Feed is measured out ahead of time so as they grow, and requiring more feed, they get the proper amounts that are pre-planned by DEC biologists. If you would like to help in any of these projects, these volunteers would love to add even more volunteers. Email me and I can put you in contact with any of these fish masters.

The Anglers pens, in a couple of weeks or days, will see an additional inoculation of Chinook [commonly known as a King] salmon in their other side-by-side pen. These babies will be fed, imprinted, and released in the same way as the steelhead [Steelies] are, and then released in about 3 weeks to go on their merry journey, all in tip-top shape and all imprinted. The average, freshwater raised, lifespan of a Chinook salmon is 3 to 4 years, and most common size caught in New York State is between 15 and 35 pounds; however the NYS record King was weighed in at an astounding 47 pounds, 13 ounces, in the Fall of 1991.

“So what, if you have caught a Rainbow trout, it may also be a steelhead.”

Smolt about to be released > 

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Outdoors in Niagara  
Mark Daul

Eating Crow…….really

Sometime ago, I wrote this story about crows. My story routine is, I hand it to my wife for story content, and to make sure all the T’s are crossed and the I’s are dotted. When she finished reading it, I said, “well?” she crinkled her nose, and said she didn’t think the story was interesting enough. A couple of weeks later I was sitting with a couple of guys shooting the breeze, and a crow conversation started. I told them about this story I wrote, and they were all ears when I told them about it. When I went home, and after thinking about it, I dug the story up out of my computer, and I thought if these guys thought crows were interesting, then others should be too. So, here it is:

Crows always fascinated me since I was a young kid. The neighbor down the street had a pet crow called “Ansy” and a pet rabbit. They both were well taken care of, but it was Ansy that always had my attention. I swear that crow knew me when I would come around to the back of the house. It would get excited when he or she would see me, and my dog, Pete. It would start talking and saying things like “hellooo” or “hie” for hi. Or sometimes it would “chirp” fluctuating between high tones and low tones, probably mimicking other backyard birds. It also seemed like it would ask me, “what time is it?” I never knew if it was a he or she, but it was a cool bird. At that time, my mother had parakeets, and they had a much larger vocabulary than this crow, but it was the crow that had my attention. Ansy had a great big homemade cage that was fastened to the porch railing. It didn’t fly because its wings were clipped so it couldn’t, but it sure could get around with short flights and hops. It would flutter down off the porch railing, hop over to me, follow me around, and be my friend. It liked Pete, and Pete was pretty proud that Ansy would allow him to give him/her a ride. Pete was a medium sized mongrel, kind and gentle. Sometimes they would just stare at each other and Ansy would repeatedly say hie. I knew where the food was kept, and Ansy knew that I knew. It would stand tall, look at me, spread its wings out, make talking noises, and let me feed it and pet it. I felt we bonded whenever I visited, and it sure liked my peanuts when I brought them, but dry dog or cat food was a regular diet feed for this birdie. [And the rabbit too.] I am sure when it squawked and cawed, it was telling me something, and sometimes I guess I would make up in my mind what it was saying, and I would talk back.  When our visit was over, I would apologize and tell him he had to go back in its cage, and understanding me, I would guide him back to it, and he would gladly hop right back in.

The story about how Ansy became a pet, was that the neighbor found this crow when it was very young on the ground apparently falling out of its nest, but no nest was visible, and suffering some kind of trauma. He comforted it, nursed it, and they became friends. However, it is not recommended to rescue any wildlife because sometimes they are better off being left alone, and, rescuing Ansy was back in the “old days” maybe before laws were made to prevent illegal possession of wild creatures.  The belief, at the time, was Ansy would be able to talk better if his tongue was split, but that seemed to be cruel and mean, so my neighbor never did that. Ansy eventually talked anyway.

During the fall and winter, just before dark, a couple of my friends and I would venture out to the Niagara Falls Golf course [Hyde Park] at the very end of North Avenue. Across the green there was a woods where the creek would flow through, and at night the crows would gather in huge flocks, probably in the thousands, way up in the trees where they would make all kinds of noise cawing among one another, just socializing.  We would make crow noises back at them and all of a sudden all those crows would turn silent for a few moments then start socializing all over again. We thought that was fun. It is said crows are the most intelligent birds in all of North America and I am a believer. A flock of crows is called a “murder” of crows to be precise, and that has a good story too. Folklore has it that crows will gather and decide the death of another crow, and the other thought is, that they would circle in large numbers where other animals or people were expected to die.

Crows are very sociable, often when you see them in groups, they are families. Crow, are seen all over North America and around here you will see them in corn fields, golf courses and other places, including your backyard, and you often see them on the road feeding on a dead mouse or other kind of carrion, but they will eat just about anything. On the roads you might see one or two feeding on carrion, and maybe three, four or more, sitting up on the power lines looking down waiting for their turn, more than likely, they could be siblings.

They say wild crows don’t collect shiny objects but, Ansy would collect mostly bottle caps, and it would especially like Christmas tree tinsel it would find in the gravel driveway. Back then most Christmas tinsel was made of fine shiny metal strips like lead. Ravens are the birds that love to collect. They’ll find things from anyplace and hide them somewhere. Ravens and crows are identical in color and shape, but the raven is about 1/3 larger in size than its counterpart.

Hunting Crows in New York State is legal, and a hunting license is required. It is legal from September 1 to March 31 and only from Friday thru Monday from sunrise to sunset between those dates. Besides shotgun, rifles are permitted on hunts. Although the PETA people are against killing crows or anything else that has “meat,” crow hunting is considered a great sport and a necessary one for controlling these sometimes huge flocks that can become destructive, and a vehicle to support various diseases such as the West Nile Virus.  Hunters call crows with mechanical hand callers or with electronic bird callers, and are quite successful. Even predator callers are successful into making the crows think a predator just made a kill, and now there is something for all to eat. Calling crows can be fun and a great adventure for youngsters, and spring will be here shortly so that is the time to get out, look around you and see what Mother Nature brings you. It’s also time to get to your sporting goods store, and take a look at the crow decoys and calling aids that are available, and even learn your own hand calling techniques. Don’t forget to take the young‘uns. Discover the outdoors!

So, the crux of my story is, yes, I ate crow once, have you? Delectable. /Comments to this story: email markdaul@gmail.com  

More articles on our archived page HERE



Outdoors in Niagara
Mark Daul
Picture below submitted by Joe DiMino, Lewiston, taken with his trailcam

Residents Report More Bobcat Sightings …… Maybe Canada Lynx?

From the time I wrote the bobcat article until now, a lot of people have come up to me and said “gee, I think I’ve seen one of those things too.” I agree, they are so fast, it is hard to believe your eyes if you do see one.

Needless to say, I feel a lot better after writing in the Sentinel about bobcats in the Niagara area. Now I know I’m not alone about what I saw. My friend, Mike Gillis, should rest easier too, knowing that our sightings collaborated our stories with what we saw were bobcats.

The emails and replies were fantastic as you can see, as you read down further.

Someone asked about the Canada Lynx being mistaken for a bobcat. Yes, they could, but highly unlikely to be found around here. They are similar in appearance, same food habits, same delights for dinner, and habitat the same, and they even have the short tails and the pointed ears with the black fluff at the tip. They are a little larger in size, but extremely rare in New York State. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service [USFWS] has them on the endangered species list all across the contiguous United States, since early 2000. They are more docile than the bobcat, and habitat destruction, and competition with the more aggressive bobcat as the reason given for being on the endangered list. Obviously, bobcats are more adaptable to their surroundings.

George Green, a Lewiston resident who lives on Mt. Hope Road, between Garlow and Walmore roads, sighted one in his back yard, and his wife, and daughter are witnesses. George said he has deer and other wild creatures visit his backyard, and the night of his sighting, he went out on his back porch with his night vision scope to see what he could see, and he saw an animal on the hill in the back. George said he looked at it and thought, “What the hell, looks like a bobcat!” He called his wife to take a look and asked her what she thought it was. “As she was looking through the scope, I stepped out on the porch that turned on the motion light, and it lit up the area, and sure enough it had the brownish color and lighter colored belly, little tail and pointy ears.” George said, “the light went out and we waved to turn it back on, but the animal had gone on the other side of the hill, and all we could see were eyes and ears.” George’s mother lives next door, and has chickens, and she had noticed some have been missing lately. She said some roost in a small tree, and some roost in the barn where the door is always open. Aha, just what these critters eat for their midnight snacks! Chicken! I’ll bet that barn door will be closed from now on.

Joe Kilmer emailed me and said he saw the bobcat article in the Sentinel, and it jogged his mind about his story.  In mid October, Joe and his wife Marie, went out one evening around 10:00 o’clock on their way to Bandanas for a bite to eat.  They left Youngstown via Main Street, to Jackson Street, as they approached the curve to Old Lake Road, he started to accelerate and saw eyes glowing in the road way.  The object was low to the ground, no tail, stubby face and pointy ears, it happened so fast.  It was heading into the Fort, and he said, “I could not believe what I thought I saw or did not see.” First, he thought it was it a fox, and turned around as fast as he could while explaining to Marie what he thought he saw. Joe said he pointed the car into the road to the Fort with his headlights shining, and saw nothing, it was gone that fast. Joe said, “I might have doubted what I thought I saw until today after reading your article. I have also doubted my wife’s and father-in-law’s sighting less than a year ago in the back field behind his house on Dickersonville Road, south of Langdon Road.” 

Joe DiMino, from Lewiston, and I talked, and he reported recording bobcats three different times on his trail cam, at his hunting cabin down near Wellsville NY.  He said the first one he saw was recorded on his Trail-Cam in August just this past summer, and another in October, then the third in November. Also in November, while he was bow hunting, about 25 yards away, one ran across his path. He said it went so fast he couldn’t get his camera out of his fanny pack quick enough, but he knew right away what it was.

Jim White emailed me and said one crossed right in front of him on Upper Mountain Road a while back, and there is no mistaking it was a bobcat. White also said there were reports of a Black Panther in the area, but that is highly unlikely here in NYS according to the NYS DEC: “No cougar [AKA panther, puma, cougar] sightings documented in New York State.”

Thanks to everyone that responded to the bobcat story, it was very interesting for sure, and it was fun doing it.

Lewistonian, Jerry Farrell, and I, attended a Niagara Pioneers Sportsman’s Club meeting recently, and he gave the members a quick synopsis of his purple martin, and other bird tagging activities over the past 25 years at the 3-F Club on Swann Road.  I made notes, and took in as much as I could, and asked Jerry if I could contact him if I have anymore questions regarding his purple martin tagging efforts for a future Sentinel article. Being the sportsman, and the only federally licensed bird bander in the area, he agreed wholeheartedly. Watch the Sentinel for a purple martin tracking story reported by a nationally, and internationally known local bird expert.

Fishing updates can be found on www.OutdoorsNiagara.com and if you would like to add your thoughts or would like to read others thoughts on the local fishing scene, follow the link to the Outdoor Forum. On the website you will find an archive of Sentinel Outdoor Stories. If you have something you would like to add here please email me at MarkDaul@gmail.com 

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Are There Bobcats in Niagara?
Outdoors in Niagara
Mark Daul

I recently wrote an article for the Sentinel about Coyotes. I met a friend in Youngstown at Melloni’s Market Place, and he told me he had read the article, and asked if I heard anything about bobcats in the Niagara area. That discussion brought me back to a time when I thought I saw one on the roadway, about 150 yards away looking at me from the road. I didn’t see the whole animal up close, nor did I recognize it from that distance, and it looked like an overgrown housecat or a stray field cat, but as I drove closer it sauntered off into the field at the side of the road. I kept my eye on that spot, and as I approached the area where it disappeared, then all of a sudden I could see its hind end and the short tail, and in about two jumps, it was gone. About a month or so after that, I was in Bandana’s on Lake Road, and a friend and I got into a conversation about different things, and he mentioned he spotted what he thought was a bobcat near his house, but had only gotten a glimpse also. We both live in the same general area around Bandana’s, and our description of what we saw were similar, short spotted tail, and brownish hind quarters. After our sightings, I did some investigating with area sportsmen/hunters to learn if they ever spotted any creatures around here that would meet that description, and no one ever even heard of one around here. Time has passed and I forgot all about my sighting until my friend in Melloni’s Market asked me about these ‘cats.

When I got home my curiosity made me Google bobcats in New York. These wily, secretive felines are interesting and live a good life, mostly nocturnal, but can be seen in daylight at times, and sighting one is extremely rare. Their diet is similar to a coyote, believe it or not: rabbits and rodents, birds, insects, even fish and they have been known to prey on deer just like its coyote friends in the wild. They are natural born survivors and live around 12-13 years, and according to some sources, 6 to 8 years. Males are usually between 32 and 37 inches long and weigh about 28 pounds. The ladies of this species are anywhere between 29 to 34 inches and the petite little things hit the scales at an average of 15 pounds. It had to be a male that I spotted, it was big.

From descriptive pictures I have seen, colors vary from yellowish brown, light gray, reddish brown, and buff brown, probably like the one I saw the back end of. They are spotted along the sides, some more than others, and the tail is between 6-8 inches, multi colored, spotted, black on top and white on the bottom. “Bobcat,” so called because of it’s “bobbed” tail. The face is cute and bright looking, with furry black tufts at the top of their sharp pointed ears, long fur at its cheeks and whiskers like your domestic cat. They like to make their homes in secluded places like rock piles, brush, hollow trees & logs and ledges where they can pounce on their prey sight unseen. They don’t like human activity and keep to themselves. Predators are few, deaths occurring mostly from diseases [rabies] or from their prey, in self defense. If you are out in the winter or spring you can tell bobcat tracks by their looks and size. Showing four toes without claws they are about two square inches, which are larger than you house feline, and if they are running, the stride is between 4 and 8 feet.

Hunting and trapping bobcat is not permitted in Central and Western NY, the eastern part of the state allows hunting and trapping but check the laws. Season opens on October 25th.

So, are there bobcats in Niagara? According to the people I talk to, it is highly unlikely, but what was it my friend and I saw? I think we saw a bobcat, more than likely, we both saw the same one. I you have had a sighting in your travels or spot one in your future travels, I would be interested in knowing, please contact me. Maybe if you want to actually see a live bobcat, you need to find a zoo with one, but if you do have a sighting in the wild, by all means get a hold of the DEC office in Buffalo and if you can, get a picture to verify your sighting so it can be recorded. [Buffalo- 716-851-7201]

For up to date fishing reports in our area be sure to check out www.OutdoorsNiagara.com  for the latest. Right now, steelhead fishing in the Lower River is going quite well, if you are fishing from shore or boat, fishermen are using eggs, egg sacks, Kwikfish and a variety of spinners and spoons. Wilson and Olcott pier fishermen have been very successful. If you have something to add contact me at markdaul@gmail.com  or go to the Outdoors Niagara website and you will find an archive of my recent Sentinel articles there on the “L-P Sentinel” Page.


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Outdoors in Niagara
By Mark Daul

A Grand Island Fishing Opportunity

Last week, when it was so hot the trees were whistling for the dogs, my wife and I took a little car ride. We were actually headed for the Canal Fest in the Tonawanda's, but never got over the South Grand Island Bridge; we got sidetracked by visiting Grand Island, a place I haven’t fished from in years. I heard about the brand new fishing dock called Fisherman’s Landing, located at the southern tip right near the south Grand Island Bridge on East River Road. Hoorah! What a great place for shore fishermen. I didn’t go there to fish, just to see what the place looked like. There is handicap parking right near the dock safety rail, and non-handicap parking is just above the hill. I could see down in the clear water that this could be a bass haven for shore anglers just outside the weedbed. When we arrived there was a lone fisherman named Steve trying his luck. When I approached him and asked, “How’s the fishing” He replied, “No fish, but fishing is good.” I thought, now there is a person I could like, telling it like it is. I asked Steve if he lived around here, he said “no, I’m from Depew.” “How did you find this place Steve?” He replied, “I was driving over the bridge and spotted this dock so I drove around to take a look, I had my fishing rod in the car, went looking for bait, and found a gas station that had a sign ‘Live Bait.’ I got some bait, and so far, I only caught a couple tiny rock bass ” It was 94 degrees that day on the car’s digital temp gauge, and the fish seem to lay low on days like that, just like people do.

When I was talking to my new found friend, Steve, I asked if I could take his picture while fishing or tossing his rod out. He said, “no, I’d rather not.” I told him I write articles for WNY Newspapers, and in particular, the L-P Sentinel. He still didn’t want his pic taken so I looked him in the eye and said, “I’ll bet I know why!” A big grin came across his face, and he said, “think so?” then I told him, “I’ll bet you are playing hooky from work!” With a broadened grin and a chuckle he said “Yup, you’re right!” So I let it go at that. How many of us have done the same thing on a summer day.

After checking out the huge amount of tiny newborn minnows and larger shiners traveling the edge of the dock, I thought, with bait fish like this in here, there has got to be a load of smallmouth bass lurking just outside the weed beds looking for a fast meal, maybe even a northern pike or two. The picture showing the dock is looking east showing the south bridge. Notice how nice the dock is paved and the garbage receptacles placed there. Handicap parking is ground level, just about where I’m taking the picture from. No seating, so bring a lawn chair.

After our investigation of the new Landing, we hopped in our car and headed down East River Road to Whitehaven to get on the Thruway and pulled into a McDonald’s. Seemed like a good idea to stop and get a bite at that time of day. We pulled in the parking lot and spotted TC’s Tavern next door. Surely they have air conditioning and food, so we drove through McDonald’s lot and right into TC’s. We were greeted by Sarah, the very congenial barmaid, whom we found out later was named “Miss Tease” by Dale, a patron who moved over to give us his seat at the bar. I thanked him and told him we came in to cool off, and he said “Yeah, it’s about time we got some nice weather isn’t it?”  I had to agree, our winters are just too long around here. In our short stay, and being complete strangers, it seemed like we knew all the people in there forever. To top it all off, Dale had printed across his T shirt “Fandemonium” the favorite saying of Van Miller, the former radio voice of the Buffalo Bills. Among the eats, TC’s has burgers, chicken fingers, beef on weck, that Sarah says is outrageously good and highly recommended. Looks like a good clean place for locals to hang out with three flat screen TV’s, a pool table, darts, and a new “Touchtones” internet jukebox. We’ll go back.

I suspect Grand Island people are reading this column and not to sound like a broken record on this subject, but if you fish or boat off the West and Southwest Island area, be sure you know your border waters. Canadian law enforcement has been brutal. In a nutshell, if travelling in Canadian waters, do not shut your motor off and drift, you will be illegal according to them. Don’t touch the underwater soil with a sinker or anchor or you will be breaking the law, and subject to a $1,000 fine.  If you plan on doing that, you need to notify the system called CAN PASS. If you haven’t heard of this before now, call this number 1-888-226-7277, and you can ask about it, and also register at that number if you plan on entering or landing. I wonder how this works out for the swimmers at Beaver Island. There, you could swim out and immediately turn into a foreigner in another country. Silly isn’t it?

I have a lot of great things to say about Grand Island’s fishing opportunities and there’s no room in this column today, but that will be a subject of a future column for sure.

Always remember one thing, take a kid fishing and don’t by-pass the elders who can’t get out. They like fishing too! Always bring a camera.

In case you were wondering, the Fishermen’s Landing was paid for by Niagara River Greenway funds and the NYS Local Waterfront Revitalization program.

In the photo above, it is showing the south Grand Island bridge from the fishing platform
 


Coyotes that roam Niagara County

by Mark Daul
Outdoors in Niagara

Niagara coyotes are described as the Eastern coyote (canis latrans), and the theory is they migrated to New York state in the late 1930s and early '40s. In the 1970s they became very abundant across the state, and in some pockets they over-populated.

They are an admirable animal to just sit and watch. Coyotes are very smart, wily, adaptable, and good hunters, eating small rodents and rabbits, and in summertime they add grass, berries, large insects and birds at times. Coyotes are mostly nocturnal, and they love cats that are left out at night, so make sure your pets are safe and sound. Raccoons get blamed for a lot of things that coyotes can get into, and they can tip your garbage can over in a jiffy and feed just like the raccoons.

Coyotes are about 4 to 5 feet long including the tail; about the size of a mid-sized German Shepard, and weigh 35 to 45 pounds with long thick fur and bushy tail. Color varies and the ones I have seen are generally dark tan and black. Coyotes may be seen alone or in small groups. They are often spotted crossing the Robert Moses Parkway anywhere between Lewiston and Fort Niagara, and oftentimes during the day in late summer and fall, when the adults send their offspring away to fend on their own, find their mates, and take up a new territory.

I live in a neighborhood where there are virtually no dogs, and many times this time of year, I go out in the morning only to discover piddle on my car tires and against my shed and other objects in the yard. It's a sure sign I had visitors through the night marking their territories. I have never seen one in my yard, but I know it was them casing my territory. I never found any feces, but if I did I would know what to look for, as it is made up of what they eat; parts of animal hair and bones, and pieces of nuts and fruits, things they can't digest. Through the winter snow coverage they can hear a mouse tunneling under many inches of snow and then pounce on it for another meal. In the spring time when food gets scarce they have been known to take down a new born fawn to get a couple of meals out of, or even freely eat off a dead deer along the roadside.

Rabies are rare in coyotes with only a few cases reported in New York state. But they are known to show aggressive behavior sometimes, so you should always be cautious if walking your dog through a wooded or grassy area; they like to show off their superiority toward other dogs. You should report any aggressive behavior to the state Department of Environmental Conservation or a nearby police agency and let them handle it. Dogs and coyotes do not interbreed.

Getting close to Mother Nature is a great thing, and many of us are blessed to be able to get outdoors in Niagara to enjoy the solitude, especially with winter snows approaching where we can get out and actually track a lot of winter creatures. Coyote tracks can be a little confusing; they look similar to medium-sized dog tracks. Sometimes when tracking you will see where one caught his meal and a scuffle ensued only to see feathers and bones left. You may even hear the eerie howls and yelps of the lonesome coyote in the wind. (They can be heard up to three miles away on a quiet day or night and favorable wind.)

These critters don't hibernate and they hunt all winter. Hunting them is regulated, and you can hunt or trap them in New York state from Oct. 1 to March 25. And you must purchase a small game license to do so. There are no limits on what you take and you don't have to report your harvest.

There is a wonderful story about coyotes on the Outdoors Niagara website written by local outdoorsman Mike Gillis, a lifelong resident of Youngstown. He goes a little more in depth where he actually encountered these creatures of nature. For more, visit www.outdoorsniagara.com/coyotes.htm.

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NOTE: This article was a letter to the editor of the Niagara Gazette on November 17 2011

More light on the ethanol fuel controversy

Mark Daul
Youngstown NY

Bob Confer’s column of October 11th pertaining to E-10 fuels was unfairly attacked by Chris Thorne, Public Affairs Director of Growth Energy. Who is “Growth Energy you might ask?” Growth Energy is a proactive group of American ethanol producers……of course biased as I can see. Confer was merely expressing pitfalls of EPA mandated E-10 fuels and warning of the approaching E-15 fuels that are being blamed for costly repairs to some older motor vehicles in particular outboard motors, lawnmowers and such. Confer related the rising prices of food, and Thorne disputes that fact, but that is a whole different argument. Neither Confer nor Thorne addressed the real problem and that is with fuel separation and shortened fuel storage life which happens in gasoline containing 10% ethanol or even the E-15 [15%] that will soon be crammed down our throats.

Phase Separation describes what happens to gasoline containing Ethanol when water is present. When gasoline containing even small amounts of Ethanol comes in contact with water, either liquid or in the form of humidity, the Ethanol will pick-up and absorb some or all of that water. When it reaches a saturation point, the Ethanol and water will Phase Separate, actually coming out of solution and forming two or three distinct layers in the tank. This separation it is said, can occur anywhere from within two weeks to ninety days. Once separation has happened in your tank, the only way to eliminate it is to completely drain the tank and start over with fresh fuel.

In older engines Ethanol-Blended gasolines can raise havoc, but Mr. Thorne didn’t mention that either. However, he did say “Ethanol is a high-octane solvent; and will actually keep your engine cleaner than older MTBE fuels, extending the life of your boat or outdoor engine.” [MTBE replaced lead as an octane enhancer]. He didn’t say older motors [eg., boat motors prior to 2007] can be destroyed by metal corrosion, deterioration of rubber and plastic fuel components resulting in clogged fuel filters, carburetors and in some cases, fuel injectors. He didn’t say anything about composite fuel tanks being weakened, or lowered fuel mileage, this means that the more Ethanol found in fuel the worse your fuel economy will be. You use more gallons of fuel containing Ethanol to go fewer miles. Another note here is the Federal Aviation Administration along with some engine manufacturers, has prohibited the use of automotive Ethanol-Gasoline blended fuel due to safety issues and engine damage.

I have to agree with Mr. Thorne about these blended fuels creating “jobs that can’t be outsourced”. I can assume it has created thousands of U.S. Ethanol manufacturing jobs just like engine repair shops are going full steam repairing motors that can’t take this product even though it has been marketed since the 1970’s, but back then we had a choice. Now the EPA mandates that since January 2011, all gasoline stations carry Ethanol laden fuel. According to the New York Times, [July 2011] “Food manufacturers and cattle and chicken farmers say the government’s support for Ethanol is, in effect, pushing up food prices.” But not so, according to Chris Thorne, who said, “There is no evidence that Ethanol results in higher food prices”. I guess it all depends on who you want to listen to, a newspaper writer or a proactive group of corn/Ethanol producers.

Field corn was projected by the USDA at $3.25 per bushel in 2007-2010 compared to $2.00 a bushel in 2000-2005. Fuel blenders have been getting Federal Government subsidies to the tune of 6 billion a year. Those subsidies come from our pockets. But wait! The Senate voted 73-27 in June to cut annual tax credits for blenders of ethanol. The vote was largely symbolic since the amendment was attached to a bill that failed. There was talk about fuel being blended right at the gas pumps, but gas station owners are reluctant, even though the Feds want to give out grants to subsidize them. Oh, more subsidies!

Whatever way you look at this problem, remember “Phase Separation” is a mean result of this blended fuel and if you are storing your lawn equipment, motorcycle, boat or whatever, remove all the remaining fuel you have in your tanks and start fresh next season. One thing you can do for a short term is close off all tank vents and that will help prevent outside air moisture from entering and spoiling what you do have. The only good fuel additive that I am aware of is K-100 by Kinetic Labs., and is available in many local gas outlets. However, don’t wait until you have the problem, it won’t work; use it regularly to prevent the problem.

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