Outdoors Niagara introduces Bob Confer's Outdoors  ~   

An Outdoors Niagara Exclusive!

OUTDOORS NIAGARA is pleased to introduce Bob Confer as it's newest contributor to our website. Please read his articles and judge for yourself. We think you will be very pleased not only with the content of these articles that have a fresh new style of writing. Thank You Bob and best "fishes" in your new career!  ........  Confer's email address is at the bottom of this page.

Additional Note on August 16th.: We are extremely pleased that Bob Confer's Outdoors is featured in 
N. Y. Outdoor News Magazine and pleased that Bob is doing well and is well accepted. Please take time to read Confer's articles here to learn and enjoy!


Bob Confer's Outdoors        

I am an avid outdoorsman, pursuing a number of rural activities from fishing to hunting to camping. It is only fitting that I combined these loves with my love for writing. Currently, I am working on articles for outdoor magazines and newspapers. I was raised on the family spread in rural Gasport, NY. I still live there to this day. In such an environment the outdoors naturally became one of my passions. I love fishing, hunting, camping, observing wildlife...just being outdoors.

On this page is several freelance articles I've written regarding the outdoors.  More will be added over the coming months. New York Outdoor News - a bi-weekly newspaper distributed throughout NY - has brought me on as a contributing writer. Make it a point to grab a copy of this great newspaper.  [see below]


Bob Confer's Outdoors Index to all articles ~ Latest Articles start from #1 on down 

1.] EIGHTEEN MILE CREEK ~ NIAGARA COUNTY'S OTHER WORLD-CLASS WATER  .......  Best FALL /SPRING Fishing
2.] FISHING THE SLOP: BUCKETMOUTHS IN THE SALAD  
3.]
GREAT NIAGARA RIVER FISHING, FROM SHORE! ..............ATTENTION NIAGARA ANGLERS from SHORE!
4.] KID'S STUFF: GETTING 'EM STARTED IN THE OUTDOORS     
5.]
CONNECTING ON FARMLAND BIRDS: WIDE OPEN EXCITEMENT
       
6.] ALLEGHANY COUNTY AND GENESEE RIVER
7.] TROPHY BASS IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD   
8.] PART OF NY HISTORY, THE ERIE CANAL OFFERS FINE FISHING, TOO    
9.] GO BASSIN’ FOR HAWG TROUT 
10.]  IN DEFENSE OF THE COAST GUARD 

SEE HOW YOUR GUN RIGHTS ARE BEING STOLEN  By Bob Confer

NEW!  [11/25]  "Guns for the people"   GO HERE  By Bob Confer

Is the United States Coast Guard our enemy?    
GO HERE and find out what Confer says!

Back to Outdoors Niagara Home

 The past, present, and future of NY's 
assault on gun ownership
GO HERE


Attention Niagara Anglers from shore!

GREAT NIAGARA RIVER FISHING, FROM SHORE!  
By Bob Confer

You could swear you're in some strange foreign land. Before you runs a turbulent river nearly a half-mile wide in places, exceeding speeds of 30 miles per hour and topping at 68 just below a majestic falls. You are surrounded by impressive cliffs in excess of 100 feet in height. Strange sea birds flitter about. There's not another human in sight. You are taken aback by the raw power and majesty of Mother Nature.

Is this the Amazon? The Nile? No, this natural wonder is the mighty Lower Niagara River, right here in Niagara County New York. It is nature at its rawest, but found amidst civilization, and accessible to all.

PERFECT FOR SHORE FISHING

For the many landlocked anglers who don't own a boat, having access to prime fishing is often quite difficult. This is not the case with the Niagara River. Shore anglers have miles of access and they can be just as successful as boat anglers, what with fish swimming in every nook and cranny of the river.

In many cases with the Niagara shore anglers have the edge over boaters, especially in the Whirlpool and Devil's Hole area. No boat can traverse this stretch due to dangerous Class V and Class VI rapids. This is the most exciting area to fish in terms of both angling success and from a visual standpoint.

Not only is it beautiful and strange with its wild, churning waters, but the huge boulders and slower - but still fast - waters immediately near shore are teeming with fish. Access can be had by parking at either of the State Parks - Whirlpool or Devil's Hole - located just north of the City of Niagara Falls. It is a wonderful trip, hiking down an impressive staircase of more than 300 steps carved into the face of the gorge. At the base of the steps a footpath follows the river, and from that path you can access many impromptu paths that lead to angling hotspots.

If the descent into and ascent out of the gorge is too physically demanding for you (which it is for many anglers), more relaxed fishing can be had further downstream thanks to the New York Power Authority. They maintain a fishing platform next to the Niagara Power Project in Lewiston. This platform is accessible by parking in the lot off of Hyde Park Boulevard and walking down a NYPA service road located off the lot. Of great benefit to all, this pier is handicap accessible and a wonderful place to take the kids. The only caveat is that you should bring a long-handled net to horse the fish up from far below.

More shore fishing can be had downstream at Artpark. This spacious fine arts facility and parkland located in the quaint village of Lewiston offers ample parking and footpaths that are relatively easy to traverse thanks to a considerably smaller and less dangerous gorge to navigate as compared to that in the Whirlpool area. The water here is much slower and easier to fish, so much so it affords one the chance to fly-fish.

SAFETY FIRST

The most important thing to remember when fishing the Niagara River is safety. Danger exists around every corner and the River must be respected.

It is strongly advised that when fishing in the Whirlpool and Devil's Hole a life vest is worn, even though you are shore fishing. One slip up will suck you into the river and you have a slim chance of coming out in one piece due to the rapids, boulders, and roily waters. It is also advised that young children wear a PFD when fishing from the NYPA pier in the event of a worst-case scenario of them falling off the pier.

Hyrdopower operations on both sides of the border also make the river considerably dangerous. The electrical generation facilities transfer massive volumes of water early in the morning and by 8:00 AM the water starts rising quite rapidly in the river. The narrow section of the river around Devil's Hole may rise by over seven feet, and anyone not paying attention will get stranded on a boulder or, worse yet, pulled into the river.

The wider areas by Lewiston are less dangerous as the water will rise by maybe a foot or two, but this can still prove problematic for those wading in this slower stretch. This raising and lowering of water levels also creates slipping hazards, as exposed rocks will become iced-over in the winter and will offer up greasy algae in the summer. Watch your step!

YEAR-ROUND ANGLING

The Lower Niagara River is as a world-class fishing destination, and is arguably the greatest freshwater fishing locale in North America. It offers phenomenal trophy fishing every month of the year.

For those not keen on hardwater fishing, the free-flowing Niagara boast of open water all winter long, no matter how harsh the weather. A winter excursion has the potential to net you rainbow and lake trout. Though the angling is not as fast and furious as it is in other times of the year due to the fishes' decreased metabolisms, it's still relatively solid and a great way to beat Cabin Fever.

Fishing for these two species - especially lakers - really picks up in the spring. In April and even into May, lakers could be considered abundant in the Artpark area and can be caught with ease on spinners or white jigs. Despite the common belief, lakers are great fighters and become even more so in the fast water.

As the waters warm up in late-spring and summer the lakers head to deeper waters or into Lake Ontario and the angling for them is replaced by warm water fishing. Smallmouth bass and panfish can be caught in abundance, with the Whirlpool/Devil's Hole area being your best bet for bronzebacks. Naturally a hard fighter, the rapids will make these muscular beasts truly taxing on your forearms. As an added benefit, you may latch into the occasional walleye as the population of this tasty fish has grown rapidly in the Lower Niagara in recent years. Don't rule out the occasional salmonid either, as the water is still cool enough for smaller trout and salmon to be caught from shore.

The fall months are really when shore fishing reaches its peak in the Niagara. Thousands of trout, king salmon, and coho salmon head into the river in wasted effort to spawn. Fishing for these giants can be fast as they are quite abundant and are willing takers of spoons, spinners, and spawn. Fishing in the fall can be quite tiring, too…you'll be fighting the current and scrapping with 20-pound salmon. Realize that fish over 30 pounds are not uncommon, so heavy tackle is a must!

The Lower Niagara River has something for everyone. Great scenery. Great fishing. It's just a great place to be! For more information about the mighty Niagara contact Niagara Tourism and Convention Corporation through their website: www.niagara-usa.com  or this website: www.outdoorsniagara.com

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Who the heck is Bob Confer? GO HERE to find out more

 

EIGHTEEN MILE CREEK: 
NIAGARA COUNTY'S OTHER WORLD-CLASS WATER 

By Bob Confer

Niagara County is home to none other than the mighty Niagara River. One would think that with such a majestic natural wonder and world-class fishery in its borders all other Niagara County fisheries would take a back seat to it.

This is not necessarily the case. Eighteen Mile Creek, in the town of Newfane, is held in high esteem in fishing circles throughout the world for a trout and salmon fishery that equals - and even rivals - many of those found on America's West Coast. From September through April (and sometimes May), Eighteen Mile Creek is home to runs of chinook salmon, coho salmon, steelhead, brown trout and the occasional atlantic salmon.

The health of the fishery is guaranteed by impressive public and private efforts. There is very limited, almost insignificant, spawning that takes place in the creek, so the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation essentially manages the waterway as a tourist destination through some very heavy stocking. Over 185,000 salmonids were stocked in the creek and its harbor in 2005 alone.

The locals have helped to maintain the effectiveness of this stocking through the construction of a fish crib in Olcott Harbor. They rear young salmon in this pen and then release them months later. This "imprints" the creek on the fishes' minds, ensuring that they return to Eighteen Mile Creek when they are of spawning age.

Where to fish

Discounting the Niagara River, Eighteen Mile Creek is the county's largest tributary to Lake Ontario, its watershed covering over half the county. Despite the creek's size, the salmonid fishery is limited to one stretch that's just over a mile in length. A small hydroelectric dam in the hamlet of Burt prevents all lake-run fish from moving on.

The angling hotspot is Fisherman's Park, which is accessible from a sizable parking lot located off Route 78. The park encompasses a quarter mile stretch of water that comes from the dam. Compared to the rest of Eighteen Mile Creek this section is the shallowest, fastest and easily the most productive as the impenetrable dam more or less forces the fish to stack up in this section.

That being said, it's the most heavily-fished section. In the fall it is not uncommon to encounter over one hundred cars in the lot and a scene in the creek reminiscent of the elbow-to-elbow fishing in the Salmon River's Black Hole.

Do not let this deter you, for as ridiculous as it may sound, there are enough fish for everyone! Despite such conditions, it is not uncommon for an angler to catch a few 20 or 30 pound salmon in a few hours of fishing. Throw in a mixed bag of steelhead and brown trout and it makes for a great outing. Just get there early to stake your claim and you'll be fine. Even with the throng of humanity, you'll have fun. You'll find most fishermen there to be friendly and you'll have some great camaraderie while on the water.

Before heading into Fisherman's Park make it a point to read your syllabus. Most of Eighteen Mile Creek has some very strict regulations which are meant to limit foul hooking and make it a more sporting affair. The Park is heavily patrolled by DEC officers, so you are only tempting fate if you decide to ignore the laws and snag fish.

Between Fisherman's Park and the lake there is almost no shore fishing as the creek is surrounded by steep cliffs. But, you'll find plenty of access (and fish!) at the two piers which come out of Olcott Harbor. The mouth of the lake does not fall under the Eighteen Mile Creek regulations so you'll be able to cast spoons and spinners, which can result in a mixed bag that includes the aforementioned salmonids as well as lake trout, whitefish, and the occasional trophy pike following these schools of fish.

When to fish

The salmon/trout fishing at Eighteen Mile Creek is great from early-fall right through the spring.

The fall months offer the most exciting fishing. The salmon and browns start moving up the creek in September. Pier casters typically hook into these fish as early as Labor Day and by the third week of September good numbers of fish can be found at Fisherman's Park.

The fishing kicks into high gear in October and throughout that month Fisherman's Park will be chock-full of gigantic chinook salmon. On certain days, following a good rain or a specific moon phase, the salmon runs are actually frightening as the creek will be loaded from bank to bank with brutish salmon breaking water and charging through the shallows. If this is what you're after, you should definitely schedule your trip to the area during this month.

The Chinook fishing peters out around mid-November with some stragglers caught as late as December. This does not mean that the fishing goes downhill. It remains stellar as the chinook's numbers are replaced by thousands of cohos that will linger through December and many more thousands of steelheads and browns that will call the creek home right through the winter and spring.

Eighteen Mile Creek's steelhead fishery in one of the most impressive in the US. From November through April five-pound fish could be considered abundant and fifteen pound fish are not uncommon.

Thanks to the faster flows in Fisherman's Park, it is rare for the water to develop a layer of ice. So, it is fishable all winter…a great way to beat cabin fever!

In early spring the fishing once again peaks, this time off the piers. In late-March and early-April there are days when the fishing can be absolutely astounding with a mixed bag of fish caught in good numbers.

Where to stay

There are quite a few cabins and lodges available for rent in the very quaint town of Newfane. But they can go fast, especially during the peak and during tournaments, so book early. For information about where to stay, visit the town of Newfane's full-featured website at www.olcott-newfane.com 

If you find that all rooms are taken, fear not. The city of Lockport is less than a half-hour away from Newfane and there are more than enough hotel rooms to go around. For info about lodging in Lockport visit the city's official site: http://elockport.com 

For more information

It's always best to research the conditions at Eighteen Mile Creek. If you are curious about water levels or whether various runs have started or peaked, there are numerous venues of information available.

Bill Hilts, Jr, maintains the very informative toll-free Niagara County Fishing Hotline at 1-877-FALLS-US (ext. 4). Bill updates the hotline weekly, offering the most up-to-date reports and stories of fishing success.

Bill's report, as well as those of many others, can also be found only at the very impressive Niagara area fishing website maintained by Mark Daul at www.outdoorsniagara.com  

Make it a point to visit Eighteen Mile Creek sometime over the next six months. Upon doing so, you will discover why it is a world-renowned fishery.


 

FISHING THE SLOP: BUCKETMOUTHS IN THE SALAD
By Bob Confer

As the summer progresses and the waters warm, many smaller ponds and some shallow lakeshores across New York become choked by thick weeds. Floating mats of green slop cover many a body of water, making the waters unappealing to the eye and a turn-off to most anglers.

These weedbeds should not be looked at with such disdain. They offer some of the most fantastic largemouth bass fishing around and are at once productive and exciting.

The Biology of Weedbeds

Largemouth bass are attracted to slop for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, the biomass supported by these weeds are what bring in the bass. The incredible volume of plant life on the water’s surface and below it attract the entire aquatic food chain. Slop brings in the most microscopic of organisms which consume the plants and are then consumed by insects and small fish which are then consumed by larger fish which ultimately are consumed by bass. Mats of slop are thriving environments with bass as the king.

Bass also choose slop as homes based upon heat. Slop typically grows in the shallowest and warmest of waters, which bass prefer. Bucketmouths are said to desire temperatures in the range of 76 to 87 degrees, which in New York can only be achieved in the shallowest of waters.

In a slight contrast to this, the slop also provides much needed cover from the sun. Intense heat and direct sunlight can stress fish, with some biologists citing UV as being as damaging to fish as it is humans. Therefore, during the dog days of summer, the bass take to slop as means to at once get the heat they need while hiding from the sun’s direct rays and also any predators – like a herons or ospreys – that may be scoping out the shallows.

This being said, slop offers you the chance to fish all day long, even on the most intense of summer afternoons when most anglers have called it quits, preferring sunrise and sunset angling pursuits.

Heavy Equipment Required

In most cases, standard bass tackle cannot be used while slop-fishing. It’s too light to handle the stress of hoisting a trophy bass and a few others pounds of weeds along with it. Therefore, you need to think heavy…really heavy.

Many slop anglers use large saltwater-style reels because they can operate the reel as a glorified winch. It offers the power, line retrieval speed and impossibly-tense drag required to horse a fish out of such weedbeds. This reel should be outfitted with heavy line, minimally 14 pound test with 17 to 20 pound line being best.

The pole should be a heavy-action rod, a glorified pool cue, but one with a fast tip that allows for a quick and powerful hook set.

Tackle

Some great catches can be had with plastic worms rigged texas-style. Use a larger worm, something 6" to 8" in length. This allows you to drag the worm on top of the slop which then moves the slop, triggering airborne bass strikes. Smaller and lighter worms would never allow you to achieve the necessary surface disturbance.

A benefit of using worms is that you can drop the worm into the various open holes found throughout the slop beds. Just be careful as to not get the worm snagged by being too creative with underwater movement in these holes. Be conservative.

Worms, unfortunately, do not have a good hook-up percentage because the hook is so embedded in the worm’s body. So, when the bass swallows the worm and weeds, you need to rip the hook through the worm and plant life, figuratively keeping your fingers crossed that you can still set the hook.

This is why the lure of choice should be a weedless surface lure.

Many anglers swear by the cute, soft plastic floating frogs and mice which have the hooks at the sides of their bodies. These do allow some success, but in many cases prove to be too light to upset the slop.

The best lure is a "floating spoon", like Heddon’s Moss Boss. This lure floats, has the weight necessary to move surface weeds, and has a huge exposed hook that increases the hook-up rate significantly. At first glance one may believe this hook design would catch weeds. It does not as the lure is designed in such a way that it lands body-down, hook-skyward on every cast.

Angling tips

When throwing any of the above lures at the bass, there are a range of specialized tactics that must be used.

When casting it is absolutely necessary that you close the bail before the lure ever hits the water. It lessens the impact of the lure upon the weeds and ensures you can start retrieving as soon as the lure lands. Both objectives are needed because they ensure your lure does not get gummed up with weeds, because even the most weedless of lures are not 100% weedless.

It is important you vary your retrieval speed. Work the lure slowly. Bring it in quickly. You can even attempt to retrieve it at full speed. Bass that live in the warm waters of slop have fully-optimized metabolisms and reactions and will strike at variety of speeds, whichever may at the time tickle their fancy.

Once a bass ingests your lure through the weeds, you need to think rather than react. Immediate hook sets will fail every time. You need to give the bass time to bust through the slop, suck in the lure, turn it in his mouth, and spit out the weeds. Therefore, you need to be unusually patient and wait anywhere from 2 to 2.5 seconds before setting the hook.

In order to set the hook and fight the fish your drag must be set so high that you cannot budge it (hence the need for a larger reel). Really slam that hook home and set directly upwards and never right or left as you need leverage and power to set the hook through the weeds.

Never let your rod tip down or bring it sideways while fighting a bass. You must always keep the fish’s head up. If it is given the chance to turn it will, using its leverage and the weeds around it to rip the lure right out of its mouth.

Practicing the above tactics is a great way to take advantage of some of the most exciting and different fishing of the year…and it guarantees you will catch some of the largest bass that a body of water can offer.


 

GREAT NIAGARA RIVER FISHING, FROM SHORE!  
By Bob Confer

You could swear you're in some strange foreign land. Before you runs a turbulent river nearly a half-mile wide in places, exceeding speeds of 30 miles per hour and topping at 68 just below a majestic falls. You are surrounded by impressive cliffs in excess of 100 feet in height. Strange sea birds flitter about. There's not another human in sight. You are taken aback by the raw power and majesty of Mother Nature.

Is this the Amazon? The Nile? No, this natural wonder is the mighty Lower Niagara River, right here in Niagara County New York. It is nature at its rawest, but found amidst civilization, and accessible to all.

PERFECT FOR SHORE FISHING

For the many landlocked anglers who don't own a boat, having access to prime fishing is often quite difficult. This is not the case with the Niagara River. Shore anglers have miles of access and they can be just as successful as boat anglers, what with fish swimming in every nook and cranny of the river.

In many cases with the Niagara shore anglers have the edge over boaters, especially in the Whirlpool and Devil's Hole area. No boat can traverse this stretch due to dangerous Class V and Class VI rapids. This is the most exciting area to fish in terms of both angling success and from a visual standpoint.

Not only is it beautiful and strange with its wild, churning waters, but the huge boulders and slower - but still fast - waters immediately near shore are teeming with fish. Access can be had by parking at either of the State Parks - Whirlpool or Devil's Hole - located just north of the City of Niagara Falls. It is a wonderful trip, hiking down an impressive staircase of more than 300 steps carved into the face of the gorge. At the base of the steps a footpath follows the river, and from that path you can access many impromptu paths that lead to angling hotspots.

If the descent into and ascent out of the gorge is too physically demanding for you (which it is for many anglers), more relaxed fishing can be had further downstream thanks to the New York Power Authority. They maintain a fishing platform next to the Niagara Power Project in Lewiston. This platform is accessible by parking in the lot off of Hyde Park Boulevard and walking down a NYPA service road located off the lot. Of great benefit to all, this pier is handicap accessible and a wonderful place to take the kids. The only caveat is that you should bring a long-handled net to horse the fish up from far below.

More shore fishing can be had downstream at Artpark. This spacious fine arts facility and parkland located in the quaint village of Lewiston offers ample parking and footpaths that are relatively easy to traverse thanks to a considerably smaller and less dangerous gorge to navigate as compared to that in the Whirlpool area. The water here is much slower and easier to fish, so much so it affords one the chance to fly-fish.

SAFETY FIRST

The most important thing to remember when fishing the Niagara River is safety. Danger exists around every corner and the River must be respected.

It is strongly advised that when fishing in the Whirlpool and Devil's Hole a life vest is worn, even though you are shore fishing. One slip up will suck you into the river and you have a slim chance of coming out in one piece due to the rapids, boulders, and roily waters. It is also advised that young children wear a PFD when fishing from the NYPA pier in the event of a worst-case scenario of them falling off the pier.

Hyrdopower operations on both sides of the border also make the river considerably dangerous. The electrical generation facilities transfer massive volumes of water early in the morning and by 8:00 AM the water starts rising quite rapidly in the river. The narrow section of the river around Devil's Hole may rise by over seven feet, and anyone not paying attention will get stranded on a boulder or, worse yet, pulled into the river.

The wider areas by Lewiston are less dangerous as the water will rise by maybe a foot or two, but this can still prove problematic for those wading in this slower stretch. This raising and lowering of water levels also creates slipping hazards, as exposed rocks will become iced-over in the winter and will offer up greasy algae in the summer. Watch your step!

YEAR-ROUND ANGLING

The Lower Niagara River is as a world-class fishing destination, and is arguably the greatest freshwater fishing locale in North America. It offers phenomenal trophy fishing every month of the year.

For those not keen on hardwater fishing, the free-flowing Niagara boast of open water all winter long, no matter how harsh the weather. A winter excursion has the potential to net you rainbow and lake trout. Though the angling is not as fast and furious as it is in other times of the year due to the fishes' decreased metabolisms, it's still relatively solid and a great way to beat Cabin Fever.

Fishing for these two species - especially lakers - really picks up in the spring. In April and even into May, lakers could be considered abundant in the Artpark area and can be caught with ease on spinners or white jigs. Despite the common belief, lakers are great fighters and become even more so in the fast water.

As the waters warm up in late-spring and summer the lakers head to deeper waters or into Lake Ontario and the angling for them is replaced by warm water fishing. Smallmouth bass and panfish can be caught in abundance, with the Whirlpool/Devil's Hole area being your best bet for bronzebacks. Naturally a hard fighter, the rapids will make these muscular beasts truly taxing on your forearms. As an added benefit, you may latch into the occasional walleye as the population of this tasty fish has grown rapidly in the Lower Niagara in recent years. Don't rule out the occasional salmonid either, as the water is still cool enough for smaller trout and salmon to be caught from shore.

The fall months are really when shore fishing reaches its peak in the Niagara. Thousands of trout, king salmon, and coho salmon head into the river in wasted effort to spawn. Fishing for these giants can be fast as they are quite abundant and are willing takers of spoons, spinners, and spawn. Fishing in the fall can be quite tiring, too…you'll be fighting the current and scrapping with 20-pound salmon. Realize that fish over 30 pounds are not uncommon, so heavy tackle is a must!

The Lower Niagara River has something for everyone. Great scenery. Great fishing. It's just a great place to be! For more information about the mighty Niagara contact Niagara Tourism and Convention Corporation through their website: www.niagara-usa.com  or this website: www.outdoorsniagara.com

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KID'S STUFF: GETTING 'EM STARTED IN THE OUTDOORS
By Bob Confer

The outdoor sports are facing an unknown future.

Hunting and fishing license sales are decreasing at an alarming rate and many analysts are fearful that the population of hunters will be half of what it is now by the year 2020. According to surveys conducted by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the average hunter is now 42 years old and that average continues to rise.

These factors point to one thing: the sports are failing to recruitment new participants. Historically, the ranks of sportsmen were maintained by impressive numbers of youth and young adults who, following in their parents' footsteps, became outdoorsmen themselves.

This is no longer the case. There are far too many diversions for today's youth. With so many advances in technology, kids have become veritable shut-ins, scorning the outdoors and preferring to play video games, surf the Internet, use their cell phones, or watch the hundreds of channels available on cable or satellite TV. Youth have a disinterest in the outdoors because it does not fit into their pop culture.

But, all is not lost. By focusing on a variety of tactics mentioned here, you can still get your children to participate in outdoor activities and ultimately, become your best friend afield.

START YOUNG

Cornell University recently introduced a study in which they had determined that in order to get people actively involved in the outdoors you have to get them involved early and often. Their findings have indicated parents most expose their children to a myriad of active outdoor pursuits before the age of 11.

This 11-year "deadline" is crucial based upon childhood development. If the teen years are reached without outdoor pursuits it will be too late as this is a time when the youth strive for acceptance amongst their peers. As teens they begin to become sponges for pop culture and then rabidly take to the earlier-mentioned electronic pursuits.

That being said, the elementary school age period is a perfect time in which to really hammer home the importance of outdoor activities. Take your child outdoors and make it active and fun. Cornell's Nancy Wells, an environmental psychologist, says domestic pursuits like gardening and animal husbandry work to a point, but the greatest benefit of one day turning these kids into environmentally-aware outdoorspeople is garnered from wild activities such as camping, hiking, and fishing.

Make it fun and the kids will become addicted to the outdoors!

EDUCATE

It is also true that today's younger generations don't take to outdoor sports based upon messages they receive in school or from media and entertainment. From an early age they are taught that guns are bad. Lessons learned in schools lean towards an "environmentally-conscious" approach, indicating all life is precious and implying hunting and fishing are evil. These kids are also bombarded with animal rights commercials and messages in the more liberal films and television of today which indicate the same.

As a parent you must open up discussions with your children to determine if this is what they have been taught or are led to believe. Educate them on the safety and history of firearms. Make it a point to debunk the animal rights myths. Explain what hunting and fishing mean to you.

A child's education and belief system is just as dependent on you - if not more so - than it is upon schooling.

JOIN THE SCOUTS

Traditionally, boys and girls alike gained an interest in the outdoors because of their fathers. Outdoor pursuits had been passed down from generation to generation…if a father hunted his son did as did his.

This domino effect has been strained in recent years because of the growing number of divorces and broken homes. The kids who are the victims of divorce have a limited exposure to the male element in their lives, living only part-time with their fathers. Thusly, time spent with the father is make-up time for that which was lost and the outdoors become an afterthought.

To correct this problem, it is important to get kids involved in outdoors organizations, specifically the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts programs. The Boy Scouts, being a male-dominated program, gives the boys the male guiding hand they may be lacking as well as constant involvement in outdoors activities, what with monthly campouts and annual summer camps. The Girl Scouts may be lacking the male factor but the GSA has become more active in camping and hiking in recent years, which is just what the girls need.

Not only do these groups expose kids to the outdoors, they also introduce them to like-minded peers who they may develop strong friendships with, giving him or her an added incentive and a companion for fishing, hiking, and hunting.

TAKE YOUR KIDS WITH YOU

Youth take more to fishing than they do to hunting. This may be in direct relation to the early exposure concept assessed by Cornell. Adults are more apt to take kids fishing at an early age, because its "easier" and the kids can handle it.

These same adults may also be unsure about taking young kids along as hunting companions because of their inability to remain silent, thus scaring away wary deer or turkeys. So, unfortunately, the kids don't get to see hunting in action till well into their teens when they can remain silent or carry a gun a field. By then, it may be too late.

To get a youngster indoctrinated in hunting, you as a hunter should take up game that does not require silence and allows movement. You could take a kid rabbit, grouse, or fox hunting. Such hunting is active, allows the kid to be noisy, and allows you to expose the kid to hunting (sans gun) as soon as he/she can handle walking in the woods. That early exposure is key to planting the seed for later interest.

All of these tactics, coupled with a greater focus on getting kids outdoors, will guarantee that you can turn your child into a hunter or fisherman. By carefully exposing youngsters to the same hobbies that you have, you will give them an interest bound to stay with them for the rest of their lives.

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CONNECTING ON FARMLAND BIRDS: 
                                                 
WIDE-OPEN EXCITEMENT
 
By Bob Confer

The wild turkey in New York State is an ever-evolving bird.

When the Department of Environmental Conservation began reintroducing turkeys throughout the State in the early 1960's it was culling from flocks of birds that had crossed the border into Southwestern New York from Pennsylvania. These were birds of Appalachia, birds of big woods.

New York's flocks remained as such for decades. But, in the 1980's, things changed. The wild turkey's range exploded and the birds moved north and east. The birds had adapted their behavior to fit the New York landscape. These vagabond birds began to frequent smaller woodlands and took up residence in farm country where there existed a great deal of crops and insects that could keep them feed all summer and through the most difficult of winters.

In the early 1990's, the wild turkey went from being an anomaly on the Niagara Frontier and agricultural Finger Lakes region to becoming a common sight. The sportsmen who had whet their appetites traveling to the Southern Tier for forest birds now had birds in their own towns, maybe in their own backyards.

These turkeys have proven to be a slightly different bird, requiring an alteration in tactics that had become tradition in turkey hunting circles. It's time to break tradition and focus on tactics that will help you bag a trophy turkey in Rural New York.

SCOUTING YOUR TROPHY

Pre-season scouting has always been touted as a key to success for spring hunts. A late-April jaunt into the woods allows you to determine where exactly the birds may be as woodland turkeys tend be slightly nomadic, basing their movements on the availability of mast crops from the previous growing season. In such scouting efforts it is necessary to cautiously cover a lot of ground on foot, while calling in earnest at the same time with hen calls and owl hoots alike.

Farmland turkeys cannot be scouted in the same manner as their woodland cousins as the aforementioned tactics could actually prove quite detrimental. The woodlots of farm country tend to be relatively small, sometimes just five to twenty acres in size. Walking through such woodlots in search of your quarry can flush them out of the area and can prove traumatic enough that they may not come back to that specific woodlot. You must make it a point to keep your spring turkey woodlots off limits, not only to yourself, but to others if at all possible. The less the birds are molested the better.

That's not saying that scouting should not undertaken. It's actually a more important tool for farm turkeys. They are considerably more nomadic than forest turkeys as their movements are dependent on the availability not just of woodland mast crops, but agricultural offerings as well. Scouting should be done in a slightly different manner, actually taking more effort than standard methods. Farmland turkey becomes more clandestine, utilizing a year-round form of avian espionage that requires you to interact with people.

Turkeys are perceived by most people - sportsmen and non-sportsmen alike - as a remarkable sight. People are fascinated by their size, behaviors, and often-sizable flocks. So, in farm country where the birds are quite visible to all as they feed in roadside fields they become a topic of conversation. In small towns word gets around pretty well, too. Much like a turkey detective, make it a point to strike up conversations about local sightings in the usual rumor mills, places like diners, barbershops, and churches. You can assess the availability of birds through this method, which you should utilize all winter long. If people can lead you to a large winter flock there is a very good chance that even a few of those birds will remain in that wooded area through the spring.

You will also need to log some miles on your vehicle in the fall prior to your spring hunt. Keep an eye open for fields of crops which can easily have leftovers strewn about in the harvesting process. This can supply food to turkeys throughout the harsh winter months. If you can find fields of corn and green beans adjacent to sizable woodlots you have a good chance of discovering the home of your next trophy.

All of the above is contingent upon getting permission to hunt the birds. If you play your cards right you should have nearly a half-dozen woodlots scoped out in the scouting process. Ask permission well before the season opener. Chances are these all won't be managed by the same farmer. Therefore, you will need to develop a relationship with the farm's owners. In most cases, farmers will willingly allow you to hunt turkeys. The birds are nowhere near as popular as deer to the hunting public at large, so your chances of getting denied are very small. As a matter of fact, you should prepare yourself for some good-natured ribbing, as many farmers might inquire, "Why would you want to hunt those stupid birds?"

SETTING UP FOR THE HUNT

Farmland turkeys tend to be showier and more visible than woodland turkeys. This is because woodland birds are more of an auditory creature, relying on the acoustics of woodlands and forested valleys to propagate their calls for long distances. Farmland turkeys cannot use such methods as efficiently, because their calls and gobbles travel smaller distances due to poor acoustics. Their sounds get muffled by the windy, open air in fields and by the many background noises associated with agrarian American…farm equipment and the sounds of civilization like cars, homes, and barking dogs, all of which can travel considerable distances and really aren't a part of the equation for big woods turkeys.

So, farmland turkeys rely on their vision to get mates. Hens will stroll forest edges and toms will put on impressive fanning displays in fields. Some toms will fan for hours on end in a relatively small area, making themselves very noticeable and attracting hens from a wide area. It can also attract some hunting pressure as well, since the birds are so visible on a regular basis.

That being said, it is necessary for farmland hunters to set up on a forest edge, just a few feet away from the field. Unless the woodlot is in excess of fifteen acres you should not dive far into the woodlot as you would were you hunting a forest bird. Position yourself in a corner so you can watch the woodlot's interior and get good coverage of the adjoining fields.

Many forest hunters can get away with not using a decoy. Such is not the case with farmland birds. Based upon the importance of visualization to these birds, a decoy is a necessary tool, and is absolutely required to insure your success. Set the ersatz hen up in the field, at your furthest effective distance within shotgun range. This is so it stands out and does not get lost in the forest backdrop were it to be too close. Improve your chances with a second or even third decoy between you and that bird.

BRINGING THE BIRD IN FOR THE KILL

Rural turkeys are a different breed. Were you to call like maniac in a forest setting you'd probably be accused of overcalling and chances are you wouldn't bag a tom, especially an old one in excess of twenty pounds. But, "overcalling" is par for the course for farmland turkeys.

By design they are less confused by an overabundance of calls, not because they seem less wary than their forest brethren, but because of the aforementioned need to visualize their mates due to poor acoustics. By relying on their eyes and so rarely being able to hear calls for any sort of distance, when they are given the chance to hear calls the farmland tom's testosterone really starts to flow. Calls are so unusual to their standard means of hooking up, that they just brim with sexual frustration. Their heads will become deep, nasty blood red. They will gobble incessantly. They may even display for hours on end, never moving from their staging area out in the field.

Keep calling. You need to keep that bird's attention, you need to keep the pump primed, and you need to ensure that you have that tom's attention above all. Thing is, being a visual creature, once he actually sees a hen he may ditch you, no matter how worked up you made him. This is why a decoy is so vitally important. It adds a visual cue to your incessant calling.

As a perfect indication of the importance of over-calling farm birds, one of the nicest toms I ever bagged took almost two hours to call in as he was debating between me and a hen that was walking about just a quarter of a mile away in the same hay field as he. After nearly two hundred calls to him and an amazing (and utterly thrilling) 185-gobbled responses, I took down the 21-pound beast and it's 10-inch beard.

Farmland turkeys are a different breed. They require slightly different tactics than those employed for the turkeys of large forests. Adjust your gameplans accordingly and chances are you'll put yourself into position for remarkable experience in the field, one you won't soon forget.

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ALLEGANY COUNTY'S TERRIFIC TROUT FISHING: 
                                                          
THE "GENNY" AND MORE   

By Bob Confer

Allegany County is, quite simply, a sportsman's paradise.

Tucked among the Allegheny foothills in southwestern New York, it is home to nearly 60,000 acres of public land. It has a picturesque mix of forests and farmland and boasts nearly two-dozen streams and rivers that are stocked with trout on an annual basis or have been stocked in recent years.

Add to the mix countless other smaller and unnamed brooks which support populations of native brook trout or transients from the larger bodies of water and you have yourself a very remarkable trout fishery.

THE GENESEE RIVER

Allegany County's primary watershed is the Genesee River, which cuts right through the center of the county. It is a remarkable river that starts in the mountains of Pennsylvania and works it way to Lake Ontario. The Allegany County section of the Genesee offers a varied fishery for even the most finicky of trout anglers thanks to its wide-ranging physical makeup: over its length it sports rapids, long stretches of riffles, slow-moving meanders, and countless deep pools. By traveling even just a half-mile upstream or downstream you could find yourself on what would seem to be an entirely different body of water. And, with 18 miles of public fishing rights available there is more than enough access available to find a stretch you can call your own.

The Genesee supports an extremely healthy population of trout with brown trout being the predominant specie followed by rainbows and a smattering of wild brookies. This fishery is maintained by extensive stocking with over 26,000 trout anticipated for stocking in 2006. A few major feeders - like Dyke Creek - also receive substantial stocking which in total account for nearly another 5,000 trout that could easily enter the waterway.

According to DEC Region 9 Fisheries Biologist Joseph Evans, the Genesee is one of the most popular inland trout streams in New York State and he attributes this in part to special management practices employed by the DEC, which are highlighted by a year-round season and a no-kill zone.

The seasonal trout angling regulations on the Genesee are in stark contrast to the rest of the county and most of New York State which generally follow the April 1 to October 15 standard. From the dam in Belmont upstream to the Pennsylvania state line you may fish for trout year-round on the "Gennie". There is a daily creel limit of 5 fish, with no more than two longer than a foot. This special season affords sportsmen the chance to fish as a nice way to break up their day during deer season. In a relatively mild winter - much as this has been - it also gives hardcore anglers a means by which to satisfy their cabin fever. As a matter of fact, winter fishing can be very productive on the Genesee. Over the past couple of months quite a few anglers in the Wellsville area have caught trophy-sized trout. Some of the beasts have not only approached, but have modestly exceeded, the magical 20" mark.

There also exists within this year-round zone a very special 2.5 mile stretch that travels downstream from the Route 19 bridge in Shongo. This section is under catch-and-release, artificial-only regulations. This unique management philosophy has created a very intriguing fishery in this stretch filled with deep pools and very cold water. The locals speak of trophy fish galore in this stretch and the DEC and Trout Unlimited both tout this area as being comparable to the remarkable trout fisheries of the Western United States. For trout purists this no-kill zone ranks as one of New York's premier destinations, a veritable angling jewel.

MANY MORE CHOICES

Allegany County is much more than the Genesee. On busy weekends - especially those in April and May - you can escape the crowds on the Genesee by heading off to any of the other streams in the county. No matter where you are in Allegany County you are never more than 15 minutes away from a trout stream. The potential is nearly limitless and there is something for every angler who appreciates trout fishing. Some streams run through secluded forests, others through beaver-created swamps, and many more wind through rolling hills and agricultural settings that you often see in paintings.

Among these creeks, the Little Genesee is the best. Not only does it get stocked with over 4,000 fish on an annual basis, but it also has many holdover trout that do breed on their own thanks to the fine gravel present in many stretches of this creek. The Little Genesee has many adventurous brush piles and pools and 12" fish could actually be considered quite common here, a remarkable accomplishment for any trout stream.

The Little Genesee, despite its name, is not a tributary of the Genesee. As a matter of fact, it has the unique distinction of being the only major Allegany water that does not ultimately flow to Lake Ontario. The Little Genesee winds it way to the Allegheny River, the water of which ultimately finding a home in the Gulf via the Mississippi. The Little Genesee is in the southwest corner of the county, running through the town of Bolivar and featuring nearly four miles of public fishing rights.

Some of the other more popular streams in Allegany County that are worth your attention include Dyke Creek in Wellsville, Black Creek in Birdsall, Cryder Creek in Whitesville, and Rush Creek in Rushford, the latter receiving a fair run of beefy rainbows in the spring from Rushford Lake.

ALLEGANY TOURISM

The trout is such an integral part of the Allegany economy that it is widely promoted in tourism circles. The Wellsville Lions Club runs the popular Greater Wellsville Trout  Derby every April. This event brings in thousands of participants from not only Western New York, but from the entire United States and Canada . As an example, last year’s derby attracted nearly 3,000 participants from 14 states and provinces. This is a family-oriented event that takes place on the mighty Genesee with all anglers sharing good times and competing for 450 tagged trout which equate to over $34,000 in prize money. This year’s derby will take place on April 29th and 30th. For more information visit www.trout-derby.com

If you are looking to visit Allegany County to take advantage of this splendid fishery or any other of the fine natural resources, you will find the Allegany Office of Tourism and Culture to be most helpful. They can provide you a detailed outdoors travel guide and their personable staff can direct you to camping areas and angling hotspots. They can be reached at 1.800.836.1869 or online at www.alleganyco.com

Make it a point to hit the water in Allegany County this spring. You won’t be disappointed and, as a matter of fact, you are guaranteed to be pleasantly surprised.   

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TROPHY BASS IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD 
By Bob Confer

A five-pound largemouth bass is considered the Holy Grail of bass angling to many New York anglers. Such a bass is an uncommon catch in New York and even the most skilled of anglers may catch only a dozen such beasts in a lifetime. Down South the climate is more conducive to producing huge bass and a five-pound fish can actually be considered a common catch.

But, fear not! This climatic situation does not mean that you have to travel far in search of a trophy fish. Chances are, there is a trophy bucketmouth in your neighborhood, perhaps in your own backyard….just find yourself a farm pond. Farm ponds - though small in stature - consistently produce the largest bass in the state. The reasons are three-fold: temperature, food, and pressure.

Largemouths grow large in the South thanks to very high water temperatures which keep their metabolisms at a high level of performance. New York farm ponds produce this same sort of effect due to their small size. The water temperatures of shallow ponds may exceed those of larger bodies of bassy water by some five to ten degrees. This increases the growth rate of bass at a somewhat astounding rate. New York's big-water bass may take 8 to 10 years to reach trophy size, while the more-hyper farm pond bass may take only 5 years to attain this weight. Therefore, ponds have the potential to produce large numbers of fat, healthy, young (read "less mortal") bass than do lakes and rivers.

Going hand-in-hand with this temperature benefit is the plentitude of biomass found in farm ponds. The shallower, warmer waters allow more plants to take root, in turn causing the whole food chain to take off, from the smallest microscopic organism to the sunfish, the latter being the primary foodstuff of pond bass. The biomass in many farm ponds may achieve even more ridiculous levels of density due to runoff from adjacent fertilized fields. This heightened availability of preyfish allows the warm-water largemouths to satisfy their jacked-up metabolisms, hence their trophy sizes.

Attainment of trophy size would not be possible were it not for the lack of fishing pressure. Nearly all farm ponds are located on private, posted property. It's generally the case that the landowner and immediate family are the only folks who fish these ponds and quite often these anglers are merely inexperienced children. So, pressure is both minimal and suspect at best. Therefore, these somewhat unmolested bass live quite a while and are willing takers of presentations offered by skilled anglers.

Finding these diamonds in the rough is a treasure hunting experience in itself. A topographic map is necessary as many ponds are off the beaten path, perhaps down a farmer's lane or near far-off fields that require irrigation. Unfortunately, many topographic maps have not been updated in a good many years; some have not been updated since the early 1980's. Fortunately, the wonders of modern technology can lead to the bass of a lifetime because the Internet offers a great tool for finding farm ponds. The New York State Geographic Information System can be accessed online at www.nysgis.state.ny.us/. This website allows you to view photographic aerial views of every inch of the state. These maps were updated within the past few years so you will be able to find farm ponds both new and old.

Once you've scoped out a potential site getting permission is the next step. Farmers are a good lot and will generally allow you to fish if you kindly ask for permission. When asking, make it known how you discovered the pond so that the landowner does not assume you were snooping around his or her property. Make sure you inquire about general ground rules and the fishing harvest rules, determining if you can take your trophy home with you or if the landowner strictly follows catch-and-release.

Once permission is granted you can concentrate on the task at hand of catching the bass you have always dreamed of. Pond fishing requires heavy equipment because most farm ponds have substantial amounts of thick weeds. Use at least a medium heavy rod and 12 pound test. Tackle needs are quite basic. Plastic worms and slop lures such as Moss Bosses and floating frogs will catch many a bass. Keep a spinnerbait or two on-hand as well.

Among the advantages of fishing farm ponds is the ability to do some surface fishing. Unlike their big water brethren, the untouched bass in farm ponds will willingly take topwater lures. So, keep a few hula poppers, jitterbugs, and Slug-gos in your tackle box and be prepared for the time of your life. As if catching a trophy bass isn't enough, doing so on topwater adds a certain flair to it, making it a moment you will truly never forget!

Make it a point to fish a local farm pond this summer. These little waters can offer some truly gigantic bass in a serene, relaxing setting. Who said you have to go to Florida for trophy bass? There are many trophies swimming around New York. There may even be a wall hanger in your own neighborhood!

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PART OF NY HISTORY, THE ERIE CANAL OFFERS 
FINE FISHING, TOO 

By Bob Confer

More often than not, the lack of accessibility to fishable water is cited as the key reason why many people don't fish on a regular basis. But, there exists a body of water in New York State which can readily smash this misconception. It traverses the state for some 350 miles, is connected to over 170 more miles of networked waterways, supports hundreds of miles of adjoining trails, and is within 25 miles of 80% of the upstate population. This accessible, marvelous water way is none other than the Erie Canal.

The most famed portion of the 524-mile New York State Canal System, the Erie Canal was opened in 1825, serving as that century's key trade route, opening up the West to settlement and economic development. It sped the flow of resources from the Midwest to the Atlantic and within 15 years of its opening made New York City the busiest port in the America's, moving more goods than Boston, Baltimore and New Orleans combined.

With its economic boom long since gone thanks to rail, roads, and air, the Canal has made a comfortable transformation to a recreational destination. Numerous towns dot the waterway, many of which tout the Canal's uniqueness and their own historical quaintness. Boats of all types and sizes frequent the Canal. Hikers, bikers, and joggers have made the adjoining trail system a very popular stop. The Canal is now managed by the New York State Thruway Authority, an organization that has made a concerted effort to market the waterway both nationally and internationally.

Despite the Canal's recreational uses being well-known and well-advertised, one of the greatest recreational pursuits of all-time - fishing - has become an afterthought. The Canal is perceived by many anglers to be a dirty waterway, devoid of all but rough fish. It is also looked upon as a poor angling choice due to its artificial and uniform channel-like appearance. Adding further to this stigma is the fact the Canal is drawn down or dewatered every winter, which tends to make one believe a healthy fishery could not be sustained.

Such stereotypes are unfounded. Michael Wilkinson, Senior Aquatic Biologist for the Department of Environmental Conservation says, "although the Canal does not appear "overly" fishy in some sections it does provide fishing opportunities…smallmouth bass, rock bass, and sheepshead are quite common." You will also find a smattering of largemouth bass, walleye, northern pike and crappies throughout the Canal. Furthermore, being that it is book-ended by the Upper Niagara River and the Hudson River, and fed by numerous waters in between, the Canal has become home to any number of fish that frequent those waters. So, the occasional hook-up with trout, salmon, or even muskellunge is not out of the question.

More than just quantity, the Canal produces quality as well. For proof, one need look no further than the leader board in 2004's Erie Canal Derby, an family-style event that has been going on since 1991. Last year, anglers in Niagara and Orleans county caught a 4 pound smallmouth bass, a 5 pound pike, and an 8 pound walleye; all decent fish no matter the water!

Not only do you have an endless supply of fish to chase, you have a nearly endless means by which to do so. Totally unlike the situation with most bodies of water within our borders, the land-based angler has an incredible amount of access. The entire canal system supports over 240 miles of trails, including the continuous 100-mile long Heritage Trail that runs through Western New York. Entrance to these trails can be had at any number of bridges in the 200 villages, hamlets and cities that border the Canal. A good portion of the shoreline along these trails is tree-free, affording the chance to cast to your heart's content. Such ease of accessibility coupled with a rather refined environment - many of the trails are of well-maintained soft gravel - makes a trip to the Canal a great place to get youngsters into fishing. This is further proved by the founding tenets of the aforementioned Erie Canal Fishing Derby. When asked about this increasingly popular derby, founder Steve Harrington said, "Just about anywhere you go there is plenty of accessibility to fish the Canal because of its banks. Whether young or old, disabled or handicapped, you can fish and have fun." He added that the Canal's accessibility and the derby "brings families together, getting them to do something together for enjoyment".

Much more than just a shoreline fishing destination, boating can be another peaceful means by which to fish the Erie Canal. It is navigable May through October and there are over 80 public and private marinas throughout the state. A pass is required by all motorized boats and there are certain periods when the Canal is open for business, giving larger boats the chance to navigate through the locks and under lift bridges. So, before hitting the water make sure to do some research via the Thruway Authority's website, www.canals.state.ny.us.

Getting to the fish is easy. Catching the fish is just as easy. Much of the canal's fairly uniform shoreline is supported by large rocks that were deposited by those who toiled in the Canal's construction. These rocks provide shelter to very healthy populations of crayfish and minnows that ultimately end up supporting the upper end of the aquatic food chain. Therefore, to catch the Canal's gamefish bounty it is imperative that you offer an attractive presentation in such rocks, and there are no better lures for this task than soft plastic twisters and crankbaits.

The old stand-by of many a tacklebox - 3" white twisters - work wonders in the Canal. They can be slowly bounced among the rocks, getting into the cracks and crevices where the crayfish hide and the bass and walleyes hunt. Hang-ups will be numerous, as is always the case when jigging in rocks, but break-offs will be minimal. By walking upstream or downstream it is very easy to dislodge your jig.

Small, crayfish-hued crankbaits work equally as well in the Canal. The best method is to walk the shoreline and cast downstream - parallel to the shore - retrieving the crankbait rapidly and bouncing it off the rocks in five feet of water or less. This method will produce smallmouths all day and walleyes at dawn and dusk.

Other methods work quite well, too. In the dog days of Summer, small surface lures cast in the shallows prove quite effective on bass in the evening. Live worms and minnows jigged amongst the rocks or besides structural walls under bridges, docks and guard gates has produced many a decent fish. Spinners cast along the shoreline are great at catching bass, but, beware, they are more apt to snag as compared to the more buoyant crankbaits.

The Erie Canal is truly an asset to New York State. It helped make us what we are, one of the most powerful economies in the world. It offers unlimited recreational potential and historical value. And, it is home to a very diverse, very exciting, and very accessible fishery, one that will please everyone, from the youngest of anglers to the most-experienced of outdoorsmen. So, get out and enjoy what the Erie Canal has to offer. You won't be disappointed.

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GO BASSIN’ FOR HAWG TROUT

By Bob Confer

New York State is absolutely swamped with inland trout streams. Thousands of these pristine waters can be found in the Allegheny foothills, Catskills, and the Adirondacks . Most receive an annual stocking of hatchery trout. No doubt you are familiar with these waif-like youngsters: seven to nine inch skinny trout that are at times so easy to catch you begin to wonder if you have a future as a professorial angler.

Toward the end of April, though, these dreams of fame and fortune have been shattered and replaced with frustration. Thanks to a month of great fishing pressure the number of fish has dwindled down to nothing. You begin to wonder why you waited all winter for this.

In reality, that stream that you dabble in still has much more to offer. Almost every one of these streams hold a few hefty trout. With a little work you can tangle with trout in excess of twelve inches, brutes that are feisty on ultralight tackle and tasty in the pan.

At times bigger trout are quite easy to catch - so easy you can be quite successful by using tactics commonly directed at largemouth bass. Here are the top four bassin’ tactics for hawg trout:

MOVE

In the fishing shows so common to cable television we always see our hero (Roland Martin, Bill Dance, et al) speeding away in his souped-up bass boat. His plan of attack is to move a good distance away from everyone else to waters less fished.

That same mentality can be applied to trout fishing. Your typical trout angler parks his vehicle next to a bridge or DEC access lot and walks 5 minutes upstream or downstream. One could guess that over 90% of the trout anglers fish within 1/8 of a mile of these access points. The key to catching bruiser stream trout is to become the minority 10%. As the old saying goes, 10% of the anglers catch 90% of the fish.

Walk fifteen minutes from your car. Better yet, walk a half hour away and fish your way back. You’ll be amazed by the amount of unfished waters out of shotgun range of the access points. Deep pools…log jams…riffles. All of these will be yours and only yours.

And what better home could there be for a nice trout? Fish in these areas have very few anglers to bug them. And, most importantly, trout in these stretches have plenty of mass-building food because the constant wading and barrage of split-shot sinkers in the most fished areas tends to drive minnows to these more pristine locales.

BIG BAITS EQUAL BIG FISH

Look at the lures that readily catch big bass: the jig and pig, the spinnerbait, and the Zara Spook. These lures are meaty, an absolute mouthful for a four pound bass. Big baits catch big fish. Bass don’t reach great size by eating inch-long minnows.

This principle also applies to stream trout nearing a pound in weight. They don’t reach that size by eating microscopic insect hatches, so put away that fly rod. While you’re at it, put away the cans of corns and little earthworms. If you want to catch the biggest trout in any stream you must use salted minnows and nightcrawlers.

What’s more efficient for the fattest of trout…fighting current to eat a few minute bugs, or lurking in cover to ambush a two-inch minnow? Big trout need a lot of big servings to sustain themselves; it’s not rocket science. Pitch salted minnows (or live minnows) into and you’ll come up with some decent trout.

There is only one bait out there that can rival a minnow and that’s a nightcrawler. When I say "nightcrawler" I mean those long, fat, meaty slobs that you find on your lawn on a wet spring night. The bigger the nightcrawler, the better. Even a nine inch trout can devour a whole ‘crawler. It is the ultimate bait: large profile, lots of movement, stink, and great taste (to the trout).

FISH THE TIMBER

Bass fisherman lunker bass are structure-oriented fish. Big hogs lurk in or near fallen trees, tree roots, and logs. It gives them a hiding spot from which they can ambush unsuspecting preyfish. Big trout use this same hunting technique.

Most streams see a substantial flow of water in the spring thanks to melting snows and spring rains. These mini-floods have enough power to carry sticks and logs downstream until they bump into an obstruction. This creates a build-up of vagrant timber and, in turn, underwater brush piles. This becomes a great hiding spot for trout.

Fishing these brush piles requires the "three plenties": plenty of tackle, plenty of nightcrawlers, and plenty of patience. You’re going to lose a lot of tackle and bait because hang-ups are guaranteed. Thankfully, hooks, sinkers, and crawlers are dirt-cheap. Be patient, because when you lose tackle you will lose your temper. Don’t let it get to you. Any veteran angler will tell you that the biggest trout in any stream will be found in brush piles.

ONE WORD: PLASTICS

Look into the section of your tackle box devoted solely to bass. You probably have twenty pounds of soft plastics in there, everything from plastic worms to soft stickbaits. Soft plastics are deadly on bass…and trout, too.

Come June, stream waters have warmed considerably and trout metabolism is heightened. The trout have lost their finnickiness and will willingly take soft plastics. There are three soft plastics that are great for trout…small crayfish (to 2.5"), white twister tails, and the small tube jigs used on panfish. Simply find a deep hole and jig to your heart’s content. This routine will be effective until the end of the season, quite often out-producing spinners and live bait. In fact, this technique is great for the purists who prefer not to use live bait.

Simple bass tactics applied to stream trout. Simply deadly. Use these four ideals in the upcoming trout season and you’ll see the size and numbers of your catches increase dramatically. 

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