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OUTDOOR SCENE 
By Joe Ognibene
Joe Ognibene is a local sportsman who has been 
covering the outdoor scene since 1957.

Ognibene's column is syndicated and 
appears every week in the Niagara Sunday Gazette,
 Lockport Union Sun & Journal, Tonawanda News, and the Medina Journal. 
The Niagara Gazette is the area's leading 
outdoors sports information newspaper.

Make sure you read the story of
"OLD PANTS" Here, before you leave.

1925 - 2009

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Joe Ognibene's "Outdoor Scene" column is celebrating it's 51st year in 2008.
Think about it. 51 years! Congratulations Joe ~ Spectacular, and Thank You

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OUTDOOR SCENE
By Joe Ognibene: 51 year veteran outdoor
 

Sunday September 28 2008  

Ognibene's Final Column - 51+ year career comes to an end.  

           It has been said that all things must end and that includes outdoor columns, namely this one, which ends with today’s publication. I did not come to this conclusion lightly. Let me explain why it is time for me to bow out. My right knee, which I have used, misused and abused over the years, needs replacing. Later this week that will be done and then I enter a period of rehabilitation during which time we will be teaching the new knee how to walk. This means I will be on the shelf, so to speak, and unable to be out and about to gather information to write an informative column.

          Another reason is now that Mary is gone I don’t want to spend the winter rattling around by myself in this big, lonely house. There are too many memories in every room. I have decided as soon as I am allowed to drive the fishing rods will be packed and I will be heading south to chase large-mouth bass. If the sports department wants I can send back periodic reports from Florida and maybe mention any Niagara Falls snowbirds I run across.
 
          Leaving something that has been a very important part of my life for the past 51-plus years is not the easiest thing I have ever done, but I look back with pride and satisfaction knowing I did my best. Not everyone agreed with some of the stances I took and that is understandable, but I like to think I told it like it is. The New York Bowhunters will not be inviting me to their social functions and will no doubt be happy to see me fade away. This column may fade away but the drive to legalize the crossbow will not and sooner or later it will come about. Their argument against the crossbow is the same argument presented by longbow and re-curve enthusiasts when the compound was introduced. I enjoyed writing articles that exposed PETA for the bunch of hypocrites and weirdoes they are.

          Another thing that I am quite proud of is my plunking down $5 to become the first charter member of Niagara River Anglers Association when Mark and Joan Daul told me about it. This is an organization that did what many said could not be done, restocking the Niagara River with walleye that many are catching today. Thanks to the late John Long who donated land for rearing ponds NRAA became the model for other clubs throughout the state to do the same. Now the club has fallen victim to the curse that has befallen other organizations, cliques have formed and dissension is rampant within the group. We can only hope that common sense among the members eventually prevails and NRAA once again becomes the grand and proud organization it once was.

           It has long been my belief an outdoor column should do more than tell readers how to catch a fish or bag a deer. There are too many problems involving hunting, fishing, trapping and, most important, gun ownership that must be brought out into the open. I have tried to alert my readers when legislation needed either support or opposition on subjects involving our outdoor activities. I make no apologies for the political toes I stepped on over the years. They needed stepping on. The column fulfilled its obligation when it drew attention to the sad shape some area launch ramps were in. A few were repaired and others replaced. If this column were to continue it would still thump the drum for blaze orange for all deer hunters. No, I do not advocate mandatory wearing of blaze orange, but I sure do recommend it. Movement not blaze orange is what spooks deer. Now that rifles are allowed in our Southern Tier someone wearing camo and crawling through the brush could be spotted over the sights of a 30:06 and that might not turn out well.
The column sometimes sounded like the town scold when telling everyone to be careful of guns, ladder stands, wading unfamiliar streams, climbing over fences, careless use of a bow and any other blockhead stunts many of us have all pulled at one time or another. It is heartening to see other have taken up the cry for signs to be erected in the lower Niagara River Gorge warning everyone of the deadly danger that rushing water presents. The average tourist has probably never seen water raging as it does in the gorge and the temptation to get close can be tragic.

        This column joined many others in calling for adoption of the Great Lakes Compact by our federal government to assure the waters of our Great Lakes are not exploited and sold to the highest bidder. Earlier last week the U. S. Congress voted to approve the compact and was given assurance the president would sign it. The Great Lakes are now safe from diversion but still need protecting from our own stupidity by ignoring conservation efforts and not halting pollution. In the years to come there is no doubt efforts will be made to undo the compact and vigilance is needed by all the states bordering the Great Lakes as well as Canada
.
       There are many problems in our outdoor world at present and in the future that calls for a voice that refuses to be stilled. Let’s hope someone comes along with a “fire in their belly” to point out what needs attention, correction or elimination and screams to high heaven about it. That’s what I think I’ll miss most, no longer rocking the boat. To all my readers, Thank You, it was one “helluva ride.”
Joe Ognibene”

Mark Daul's Note: We will all miss your column Joe. Your weekly column has been an inspiration to young and old for generations and has always been something to look forward to each week and at one period in time, twice a week. You are right Joe, it's been one "helluva ride" for all of us. Thank you so much for everything on behalf of all of us.

 

OUTDOOR SCENE
By Joe Ognibene: 51 year veteran outdoor
 

Sunday September 21 2008  

            The all terrain vehicle is one of the most versatile machines that an outdoorsman could ask for. You can use it to haul equipment to a cabin, drag a few deer out of the woods, run hunters up the hill in less time than it takes to think about and save old legs from complete collapse. It can also kill you.

           Lately there have been a slew of ATV accidents and most should not have happened. In the past few weeks eight accidents involving ATVs have been reported, two of which were fatalities. Cited as major causes of accidents are speed, inexperienced drivers and alcohol. There have been reports of children as young as eight-years-old driving full size ATVs with tragic consequences. There is no eight-year-old who knows what to do in an emergency situation on a speeding powerful machine. Three-wheeled ATVs are no longer sold in this country and it is feared the four-wheelers have given drivers a false sense of security. Coupled with driving without a helmet and a few beers under his or her belt some drivers think nothing of going upwards of fifty miles per hour on barely marked trail. Most accidents happen on little used country roads where traffic is light. This is when caution is tossed to the winds and chances are taken. When three or four men, young or old, gather with a powerful machine under them testosterone takes over and challenges are issued. Why we men brag about a machine someone else made and we foolishly drive like it’s Saturday night at the stock car races is beyond me. The only thing we prove is that we had the down payment. Any father or mother who would allow their young children to drive an ATV should be charged with endangering the welfare of a child. Snow-mobiles have their share of accidents too, but being thrown into a snow drift is much easier to take than a concrete road surface. If you or any of your party will be using an ATV this deer season caution should be observed at all times. Whatever you do don’t carry a loaded shotgun or rifle as an ATV is treated the same as any moving vehicle. Treat it with respect and care and an ATV can be a valuable tool. Treat it carelessly and you could end your deer hunting trip as a patient in a hospital, or worse.

          With any luck at all the Great Lakes Compact will be ratified by the U.S. House of Representatives later this month followed by the president’s signature. There is some concern about allowing water to be taken from the Great Lakes to be bottled for sale in five-gallon containers. The language of the agreement between Great Lakes states and Canada might allow such a thing to happen. The effort to contain Great Lakes water within the Great Lakes basin has taken 10 years to get to this point and it would be a catastrophe and might never come about if this became a sticking point. Let us hope this is not a ploy to allow final decisions to be made after the fall elections in the hope that south-western states gain control of congress. New Mexico is already on record calling for a national water policy. That means, tap into the Great Lakes and send the water out west.
No one knows why sales of licenses, hunting, fishing and trapping, are up this year about 75,000 over last. It could be that many deer hunters are planning on putting venison in the freezer for winter. Add a few geese and ducks along with a rabbit or two and the grocery bill could be dramatically reduced.
The fall pheasant season doesn’t open until October 18 in Western New York but if you want to hunt for them in Joseph Davis State Park on Saturday Oct. 25 and November 1, you will need a special permit. You can get the permit by mailing a post card to: Mary Kay Dugan, Niagara Frontier State Parks, Regional Operations Office, P O Box 1132, Niagara Falls, NY 14303. On the post card put your name, address, phone number, back tag number and the date you wish to hunt. Forget about sending more than one card as all cards will be entered in a computer to avoid duplication. There will be 126 birds released in the park.

        Zebra and quagga mussels continue their relentless march across the country and have now been reported in Utah. Most of the states now report the presence of the tiny zebra mussel shells that clog water intake pipes and threaten the bottom rungs of the aquatic food chain. It is unlikely the spread of either mussel, brought to this country in the holds of ships from the Caspian Sea, can be stopped.
This coming weekend the Hew York Power Vista will be the location for one of the finest wildlife festivals in the state. There will be hundreds of various animal exhibits, most alive, numerous hands-on displays, talks by experts, a fishing pond stocked with live trout, fishing tackle furnished, and the whole show and parking are free. Hours are 10 a.m. till 5 p.m. both days at the New York Power Vista, Lewiston Road, next door to Niagara University. It’s a show not only will you enjoy but is something your youngsters will be talking about all winter.

Go To Straight Talk "Straight From The Field" 
Learn from experts Bill Joseph and Dave Elliott

"Be an Outdoors Niagara Booster"

OUTDOOR SCENE
By Joe Ognibene: 51 year veteran outdoor
 

Sunday September 13 2008  

         We aren’t too far from the bow-hunting season and it would be a good idea to check things out now to be ready on opening morning. The season opens for bow hunters is October 18 and indications point to what could be a successful season for most hunters. It will be a success only if what they do before opening day what needs to be done.

        It’s hard to believe that many hunters, both bow and gun, still use homemade ladders consisting of a few boards nailed into a tree to get onto a platform they call a stand. The boards nailed in last season are not to be trusted this year due to the tree’s growth that probably loosened the nails and deteriorated the wood. Screw-in tree steps are inexpensive and a lot safer than a nailed-in board, but a ladder stand is best. Sending an arrow towards a deer calls for an unrestricted path and a small twig or leaves can send the arrow in a different direction than aimed. If the hunter has his tree stand established and has decided on which direction might be coming from then a shooting lane should be made. That means twigs, branches or leaves that might interfere with the arrow’s flight have be removed. Bowstrings don’t last forever and it is not pleasant when one snaps at full draw so have yours checked by an expert and replace if recommended.

        Now is the time to do a little practicing to not only sharpen your shooting eye, but to also limber muscles that might have gone a little flabby. The advice given by most professional trainers is to start out slowly and gradually increase the number of pulls and length of your draw. If you haven’t done any shooting since last season you will be surprised on how difficult it will be to pull at full draw until you limber up those unused muscles. It would be wise to change positions and distances while target practicing unless you have a guarantee a deer is going to do exactly what you want it to do. If this will be your first year hunting with a bow it would be a good idea to talk with someone who has “been there, done that” to keep your mistakes at a minimum. Be more than careful while carrying broadhead hunting arrows, they are sharp and unforgiving. Sporting goods stores and catalogs are filled with the whistles and bells you can outfit a bow with, but not all are needed or necessary.

         Fall salmon fishing has gotten off to a slow start but should pick up soon. Chinook and coho are beginning to head into all the creeks along Lake Ontario and around here the two top streams are the lower Niagara River and 18-Mile Creek. The other creeks on the lake, 10-Mile, Four-Mile, Keg and Johnson’s will all give you some great salmon and trout fishing. Brown trout along with rainbows will be chasing salmon to gobble their eggs when they spawn out. The more rain we have the better as it will keep the creeks filed with water giving the fish a better chance of going far inland. An exciting spot to take a youngster would be keg Creek on Route 18, east of Olcott three miles. There is a large pool alongside the road where some huge salmon have been taken. During the fall run usually a large number of brown and rainbow trout are also taken from the pool. There is a riffle at the downstream end of the pool and the kids will be fascinated to watch salmon wiggle over wet rocks into deeper water.
 
         The most popular stream, lower Niagara River, has many spots to try. Park at Artpark, walk down the steps and head upstream to a large culvert that descends from the top of the escarpment. It has always been a productive spot and there is no reason why it shouldn’t still be. Devil’s Hole is where most fishermen head for or the fishing platform at the base of the Robert Moses Power Plant. If you fish the platform you can drive your car down, unload your buddies and tackle and someone has to drive the car back up to the parking lot. If you fish in the Devil’s Hole be aware the water rises quickly once the intake gates on the upper Niagara are closed and more water allowed to flow over the Falls filling the river. Don’t be stupid and try wading out to gain an advantage, unless you have a death wish. Boaters will be fishing close to shore and their lines and shore fishermen’s are going to tangle. Be patient and cussing out the other fellow isn’t going to solve a thing.

         On Saturday, September 20, a one-day Walleye Classic will be held and you can sign up either at A-1 Bait, Grauer Road, or at www.Ourdoorsniagara.com  where you can get all the details. The classic will be held at the same time as Fish Odyssey.

         Reserve the 27th and 28th of this month for the Wildlife Festival to be held at the Niagara Power Project’s Power Vista. There is no charge and parking is free. Hours both days will be 10 a.m. till 5 p.m. There will be plenty of wildlife, such as Golden Eagles, capuchin monkey, owls, hawks, pheasants white deer and much more. The youngsters in the family will be fascinate by Mike Randall, well-known weatherman from WKBW, who won’t be talking about weather, but will show his talents as a magician, puppeteer and story teller. The Niagara River Anglers will once again feature their fishing pond loaded with trout youngsters can try for with furnished rods and bait. It will take most of the day to take in all the sights and exhibits and you can get something to eat along with soft drinks while there. This is a premier event and it’s something you or your children shouldn’t miss.

         The “record” Coho salmon many outdoor writers reported on last week turned out to be incorrect. One of the fish was eventually identified as a Chinook, the other, a, whoops, Coho-Chinook hybrid. That means a world record Coho is still swimming in Lake Ontario.

Go To Straight Talk "Straight From The Field" 
Learn from experts Bill Joseph and Dave Elliott

"Be an Outdoors Niagara Booster"

OUTDOOR SCENE
By Joe Ognibene: 51 year veteran outdoor
 

Sunday September 7 2008  

             It hardly seems possible that we are well into September and still haven’t fulfilled all our summer plans. Maybe next year we can get an earlier start, but for now let’s think fall salmon. By now you have probably heard about a possible world record Coho salmon  caught in Lake Ontario, not the Pacific Northwest.

            A Pennsylvania fisherman caught the 33-pound, seven ounce fish while onboard a charter boat out of Oswego. On the same day another Coho weighed in at 32-pounds, nine ounces was recorded from the same area. The weight of the potential world record Coho exceeds the present record holder by three ounces and has captured the New York record, but will take a few months before world record status is verified. It hasn’t been all that many years since Coho and Chinook salmon were introduced into Lake Ontario and we now hold the world’s record. The fish was caught on a flasher and cut bait trolled 43 feet deep over 73 feet of water.

            Not only will the lucky fisherman receive the accolades of the fishing fraternity but manufacturers of the rod, reel, line, lure and whatever else they can think of will beat a path to his door with fistfuls of cash. Look for pictures of the fish and fisherman in next year’s fishing catalogs. The charter boat captain will make out pretty well too. After all, future customers will hope lightning will strike again if they get on the lucky boat. It would have been even nicer to report the fish had been taken in Niagara County waters on board a local charter captain’s boat. It’s still possible as fish continue to grow throughout their lifetime and there could be a future world record Chinook or Coho in Lake Ontario that is gorging itself and will eventually be taken from the lake or Devil’s Hole.

            With heavy salmon action almost on us it would be wise to put some new line on your reels and check out the guides on your rods. After a summer of casting one or more of the guide liners could have popped out or had grooves worn in them and should be replaced. If you know how to rewind guides take the old one for comparison so you get the exact size replacement. Otherwise, have an expert do it for you. Replacing line is a no-brainer and you don’t need an expensive line winder to do the job. Thread the line through the guides and onto the reel with a bit of sticky tape and simply toss the spool into a pail of water. The idea of the tape is so that if the fish takes the reel-full of line let him have it rather than chancing a snapped rod. The reason for the pail of water is so the line un-spools correctly and goes on the reel arbor in the same direction as it came off. Use your thumb and a finger to put some tension on the line as you crank, you don’t need much.

            Tackle stores are filled with various types of lines and for the most part they will all do the job, but for heavy duty fishing braided line is superior. Braided line has little, if any, stretch and is more sensitive than monofilament. When setting the hook the less stretch the better. It is thinner than monofilament, size for size, and will last much longer.  It is more expensive than monofilament but in the long run worth the extra cost. In the monofilament category you’re going to find a bewildering array of choices. Buy the best you can afford, as the differences aren’t all the great despite claims of the manufacturers. When salmon are on a spawning run I doubt very much they pay much attention to the color of the line so discount color as a factor in your choice. Color could be a factor when fishing for easily spooked trout in a small stream, but it takes more than color to spook a salmon in the Niagara River. Always remember that when fishing Devil’s Hole or any stretch of the lower Niagara River your lure and line will come in contact with sharp rocks that could knick the line. A knick means whatever the line test was it is now lessened a great deal. A 20-pound test line with a knick in it could be reduced to less than 5-pound test. You increase your chances of a successful trip if you check the first 20 or more feet or line before casting. Simply run the line through your fingers and if you feel a knick cut the line to eliminate that end.

            Don’t be surprised if while on the lower Niagara River you’re stopped by Canadian authorities and checked out. Mike Fox and I were pulled over and when Fox questioned why, as his GPS indicated we were in U.S. water, we were told his GPS must not be accurate and the one in the Canadian boat would be the one used. Words were exchanged, tempers flared and that didn’t help matters. From that point the officer called for every bit of identification and safety item he could think of. He three shot shell like flares to fit the flare gun on Fox’s boat were not acceptable in Canada, something about meters or centimeters. To be legal you must have six of those shot shell sized flares or three regular marine flares. Then the officer asked to see Mike’s flashlight. That’s when I asked why a flashlight is needed on a bright, sunny day. The officer said it could be used to alert anyone on shore if help is needed. There was no sense in arguing over such ridiculous reasoning, after all, he was wearing the badge and who needs an international incident. The only bright spot of the trip was the more than 15-pound catfish Fox caught.

 

Go To Straight Talk "Straight From The Field" 
Learn from experts Bill Joseph and Dave Elliott

"Be an Outdoors Niagara Booster"

OUTDOOR SCENE
By Joe Ognibene: 51 year veteran outdoor
 

Sunday August 31 2008  

         On Monday morning the special goose hunting season kicks off and until it ends on September 25 hunters will be allowed eight birds a day. The regular Canada goose hunting season opens on October 25 and the limit drops to five a day, but not everywhere throughout the state. Rather than go through a long explanation of where you can take five migratory geese and where only three a day are allowed go to www.dec.ny.gov and get a copy of the regulations or from a license issuing agency, if they have any.


        In the 2008-2009 Hunting and Trapping guide on pages 72-73 you will find a map of Wildlife Management Units that will help you to find boundaries between areas where bag limits differ. Changes have been made and you should be aware of where the new boundaries are. The DEC web site will tell you which WMUs allow which limits. It can be a bit confusing so take your time and study the boundaries carefully. Most of Western New York is included in the five a day limit on Canada geese when the regular season opens on Oct. 25. The reason for the increase in the bag limit during the regular season is because it is known migratory and resident geese sometimes mingle for a while before the migrants head south. Whether they are visiting with long lost relatives or not is unknown, but it is impossible to tell a migrating goose from a resident one. The duck-hunting season will also open on the 25th of October. Your current hunting license, HIP number and migratory bird stamp are valid until October 1 when you must renew everything.


         Many of us are still wondering why some Canada geese decided to stop migrating and stay in the north. We still have large numbers of migrating geese that stop in our area, namely at the Tonawanda-Iroquois Wildlife swamp east of Lockport, rest for a short time before continuing south for the winter. The same happens in the spring when the migrants stop in the swamp to rest and then head for northern Canada to breed. It seems strange but the migrants keep going and it is unlikely many of our resident geese join them. Along about the second week of October the migrants begin appearing and unlike our resident geese migrants fly higher and in a more organized manner. Their precise “vee” formation seems to be more orderly and their haunting call as they fly overhead reminds us frail humans summer has passed and we should prepare for winter’s onslaught.
 
          The law requires a shotgun that can hold only three shells, one in the chamber and two in the magazine, and most autoloaders come with a wooden plug so you can’t overload. Don’t do what some hunters who should know better do and use shot shells of smaller caliber to act as a plug. I know for a fact that 20guage shells being used as a plug in a 12guage gun can detonate when the gun is fired. Luckily the fellow who stupidly did such a thing had facial bruises and a ruined, brand new A5 Browning shotgun. A simple wooden dowel or stout twig cut to the proper length to fit the tube will work just fine.

           A lame duck administration that is partial to big business could wreak havoc on our environment if allowed to go through with what is proposed. The Bush administration wants to give power to governmental agencies to decide if projects they wish to build or issue permits for will endanger any plants, animals or part of our environment. This means the Fish and Wildlife Agency would be ignored and bypassed. Can you imagine how the strip mine industry would react if given the opportunity to walk away from land stripped when the coal runs out by declaring the affect “marginal.” Each agency would be allowed on their own to declare what is or is not a marginal threat to wildlife, plants or environment. Put enough marginal affects together and it could spell disaster for a large part of the country. With all the hot air coming from both candidates for president it’s strange nothing such as this is ever mentioned.

          An archery shoot will be held at the Wilson Conservation Club, Route 425, on Sunday mornings starting at 9a.m. The shoots will be held September 14, 21, 28 and October 5.They will be McKenzie target shoots, 20 of them, and cost is $5 for members and $8 for non-members. Children under 12 are free. Food and drinks will be available. The shoots are open to the public. Show up with your bow and target arrows and sharpen your shooting eye for the upcoming season.

         Salmon are beginning to show up in the lower Niagara River and the fishing platform at the base of the Robert Moses Power Plant is as good a spot as any to try. During early morning hours they can be seen rolling on the surface in Devil’s Hole. With salmon nearing spawning time it won’t be long before the lower gorge becomes the hottest place in town for fishermen. Remember that the level of the river changes rapidly once the intake gates on the upper river are closed. Forget wading out for your fish, the current is swift and ever changing.
 
         Last week’s bass fishing trip on Lake Erie was slow due to the east wind that was blowing. It must be that the old saying, “fishing is least when wind in the east” is true. Four hours of trying netted two piddling smallmouth, four gobies and a lumpy boat ride. I shoulda stood in bed.

Go To Straight Talk "Straight From The Field" 
Learn from experts Bill Joseph and Dave Elliott

"Be an Outdoors Niagara Booster"

 

OUTDOOR SCENE
By Joe Ognibene: 51 year veteran outdoor
 

Sunday August 24 2008  


           The recent tragic incident of a young girl from the New York City area who slipped into the raging water of the lower Niagara Gorge should serve as a reminder to all those who will soon be fishing the gorge for salmon that this is a very dangerous place to be in. Witnesses said the youngster ventured onto a sloping rock to cool her feet at the outfall of the Whirlpool, slid on the slippery rock and was swept away by the rushing water. It’s a tragedy that should not have happened.

          It is unlikely the girl had ever seen water as turbulent as in the Niagara River Gorge and did not realize the danger it presented. We all like to get close to the water’s edge it’s a human trait that can have disastrous and deadly consequences. Those of us who have fished the gorge for salmon have seen fishermen who have taken unnecessary and foolhardy chances with their lives trying to gain an advantage in their attempt to catch a fish. The trail is narrow with broken rock underfoot. It can be extremely slippery and many times fallen trees have to be gone around. Walking the trail while carrying fishing rods, net and a tackle box makes the walk all the more difficult. From Devil’s Hole upstream to the Whirlpool the bank drops away and the trail is perilously close to the edge. Slip and you can almost guarantee you will not be coming back. Fishing from a wet rock at the Whirlpool is not the wisest thing a fisherman can do. The rocks are constantly being doused with the spray from the turbulence and in the excitement of battling a salmon you could take that step that could end your life. Besides, if you do hook a salmon in the Whirlpool chances are you will not be able to land it. The fish will immediately head downstream and you will not, believe me, be able to turn him as the strength of the fish and the speed of the current will beat you every time.

           Most sensible fishermen fish Devil’s Hole where they have a reasonable chance of taking their fish. Even there some fishermen do some stupid things, such as wading out into the water at the head of the hole and standing on rocks 50 or 60 feet from dry land. They may not know it but those rocks will be covered with about five feet of water in a short time once the intake gates on the upper Niagara are closed and more water flows over the falls. Crawling onto abutments at the downstream end of the Robert Moses Power Plant is not the wisest thing they could do either. The lower Niagara River Gorge is no place to be wading as you would the Wiscoy or any of our Southern Tier streams.
No one knows how many tourists wander into the gorge from either Devil’s Hole or Whirlpool State Park not knowing of the dangers that are at the bottom. It is my feeling large signs should be erected warning of the potential dangers not only at the top of the gorge, but also along the trail. If the state would allow it erecting signs warning of the danger could be a worthwhile project for the Niagara River Anglers to undertake. It would be impossible to make the trail safe as winter’s snow and ice causes rock erosion and mudslides that constantly change the profile of the trail. If this season will be your first time fishing in the gorge remember it a dangerous and unforgiving area and everything is stacked against you if you take chances. The fish hasn’t been born yet, and never will be, that’s worth risking your life over
In case you hadn’t heard yet licenses for 2008-2009 have been on sale since August 18. You can purchase your Deer Management Permit at the same time as you do your new licenses. Approximately 530,000 permits will be available for this upcoming season. Your current license expires on October 1. If you have reached the age of 65 you qualify for a senior sportsman’s license that includes fishing, small game and big game hunting privileges for $5 per year. Also for those 65 or older a lifetime license is available that includes hunting, fishing, big game and turkey for $50. This means you can move to anywhere you want and still receive your lifetime New York license to use whenever you return to the state. The license will be mailed to you yearly.

           Selling black crappie could be costly for two Rochester brothers, Alex and Robert Doughty, and fish market operator Sungkyo Choi, all face hefty fines and possible prison time. They were caught with more than 1,000 of the small fish. Possession of undersized fish and illegal buying and selling protected fish are charges lodged against the three men. Value of the fish was estimated at more than $1,500. Most of us have caught crappies from Lakes Chautauqua or Black and though they can be fun to catch in early spring they are a nuisance to clean and not all that great in the eating department.

          Expect to be given a “once over” if you’re out on either of our lakes by various law enforcement agencies. The Border Patrol, sheriff’s department, U. S. Coast Guard, DEC Patrol along with Canadian boats are cruising the lakes looking for suspicious activities. The stops are random and take only a few minutes if you have your licenses in order and the boat has all the required equipment. Check yourself out before leaving the dock and you have nothing to worry about.

Go To Straight Talk "Straight From The Field" 
Learn from experts Bill Joseph and Dave Elliott

"Be an Outdoors Niagara Booster"

OUTDOOR SCENE
By Joe Ognibene: 51 year veteran outdoor
 

Sunday August 10 2008  

        With salmon fishing looming on the not to distant horizon the wise fisherman will begin checking his equipment so that when the day comes he or she will be ready. Rods, reels and line require attention and repair or replacement if needed. The rods and reels will probably not need replacing, but there is a good chance the line does.

        Go into any tackle store and the choice of lines can be bewildering. It seems everybody and his uncle makes fishing line and each and every one will claim to be the best money can buy. Let me tell you a little secret. Much of the fishing line on the market today is made by a very small number of manufacturers. The Okey Doakey line company might make a clear monofilament line today and package it for Whoosis Tackle Company and tomorrow package it for Whatisname Company. They might change the color, but that’s about all. The same is true for fly-fishing line as only a few companies make their own fly line.

         To cut through the confusion about fishing line it would be safe to say there are limited types of fishing line to consider, monofilament and fluorocarbon of which there are many varieties, and braided, made of man made, cloth like fibers. Monofilament comes in a wide variety of sizes and strengths. Each line company will assure you theirs is the best and will help you catch the most and heaviest of fish. You can choose between monofilament, fluorocarbon, fluorocarbon and nylon, copolymer and a few others. Straight mono and fluorocarbon are most popular. You can buy either in colors that disappear in the water, very fine diameter, low stretch, abrasion resistant, high impact strength and whatever other superlatives the sales force can come up with. So far as testimonials by fishing tournament winners is concerned, they are being paid to extol the virtues of a particular line, so take it with a grain of salt. T o be on the safe side buy the best you can afford, as the name brands are all pretty much the same. They may brag about low visibility in the water or low stretching, but when it comes right down to it, it’s doubtful if seeing a fishing line will spook a hungry bass. About the only time a fishing line might spook a fish is when you’re fly-fishing. Regardless of the pound test a mono line it is going to stretch some, especially when you set the hook. The heavier tests won’t stretch as much, but they will stretch some and that’s why serious salmon fishermen choose a braided line. Braided line is made of manmade fibers and has practically no stretch at all.

          The diameter of braided line is much smaller than the same pound test in mono or fluorocarbon, which means more can be stored on a reel. It casts well and is not affected by sunlight as mono or fluorocarbon is. When using braded line you must be careful making knots as it is so slick a normal knot can easily slip apart. The Palomar knot is your best bet. Also be very careful when knotting as you could cut a finger when tightening. When a fish hits a simple flick of the tip is enough to set the kook. Braided line is more expensive than mono, about double, but well worth the added expense in a longer life.

         Either mono or braided will work for you, but if you’re going after large fish, salmon, muskies or walleye, I would recommend braided line. Color is not important because it eventually washes off. Follow manufacturers directions on knotting leaders made of mono to braided line, it can be tricky.

         Congratulations to Ron Mrzygut, winner of last week’s Big Bass Contest sponsored by A-1 Bait and OutdoorsNiagara.com  Mrzygut entered two bass that weighed in at 7 lbs, 9 oz. Paul Brown placed second with 7 lbs, 4 oz. and Rich Domin came in third with two fish weighing 7 lbs, 3 oz. Considering this was the first of what is hoped to be many more Big Bass Contests 62 entries were received. Judges said many fish that weighed three or more pounds were entered. A-1 and Outdoors Niagara are planning a Fall Walleye Classic to coincide with Niagara County Derby on Saturday, September 20. More details as they become available.

        Another invasive threat to our fishery is being fought in the eastern end of the state in the hope that it can be eradicated before it spreads. Northern snakeheads, a predatory invasive fish has been found in wetlands near Slate Hill, in eastern New York. DEC officials are using Rotenone, a pesticide that kills fish, in a nearby lake and streams to kill off the snakeheads. Fish from Ridgeway Lake were netted prior to the application of rotenone and stored in a holding tank until the effects of the poison wears off. Snakeheads are an Asian import and threaten the majority of native fishes as they eat whatever they can catch. They can lay up to 50,000 eggs at a time and can lay up to five times a year. The effect of rotenone breaks down within two days and is not considered harmful to humans of any animals that might eat fish carcasses. If the snakeheads are not eradicated they could migrate into the Hudson River and from there into the interior of the state and then just about anyplace in the country. That’s all we need, another unwanted Asian pest in our waters.

See a video on these Northern Snakeheads HERE

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OUTDOOR SCENE
By Joe Ognibene: 51 year veteran outdoor writer

Sunday May 25 2008  Be sure to vote in our NEW Mini-Poll HERE  NEW QUESTION!     

          A bill authorized by Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte (D-Lewiston), which prohibits the sale of fish taken by sport fishermen has passed the Assembly. At present the law allows the sale of fishes that are not subject to statewide minimum size limits or seasonal restrictions. DelMonte said, “Currently the state does not do enough to protect our commercial fishermen.” This means when and if the bill becomes law fishermen can no longer sell bull heads, yellow perch, American shad, sun fish, blue gills and any other fish that has a size limit to it or is seasonal. It is not uncommon to read about unscrupulous sport fishermen catching large numbers of the aforementioned fish and selling them to restaurants, especially yellow perch, shad and bullheads. The practice is carried on mostly in the larger cities throughout the state with New York City the most notorious. A fishing license is issued so the bearer can enjoy fishing, not a shortcut to making a couple bucks.

         If you are a senior citizen you can launch free of charge at any of the local state launch ramps during weeks days only. On Sundays and holidays you pay the same as anyone else. Simply show your driver’s license or birth certificate to the attendant on duty.

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OUTDOOR SCENE
By Joe Ognibene: 51 year veteran outdoor writer

Sunday May 11 2008  Be sure to vote in our NEW Mini-Poll HERE  NEW QUESTION!               

This May 11 column condensed on May 18th and saved because of it's contents.

       The firearms industry heaved a collective sigh or relief recently when a federal appeals court dismissed an eight-year old lawsuit against the industry. The lawsuit, filed in 2000 by then-mayor Rudy Guliani, tried to hold gun makers liable for criminal misuse of their product. The court decided Congress “intended to protect from vicarious liability members of the firearms industry who engage in the ‘lawful design, manufacture, marketing, distribution, importation or sale’ of firearms.” The court stated that the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, enacted in 2005 is constitutional and the lawsuit should have been dismissed sooner.

         Suing gun makers for criminal actions by someone who misuses a gun would be the same as suing any of the automobile manufacturers for auto accidents the kill or injure someone. How anyone can lay blame on the manufacturer for misuse of a product is hard to fathom. It’s one thing to blame the maker of a defective or shoddy product, but blaming the maker for stupid, careless or criminal actions of anyone using the product is ridiculous. Speaking of shoddy products, the following might be of interest.

           A hearty “attaboy” to fellow outdoor writer, Bill Hilts Jr., on being elected to the board of directors of Outdoor Writers Association of America. It is an honor well deserved and Bill is ideal for the job. The only problem with such an honor is you have to go to all those meetings instead of going fishing.

 

 

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OUTDOOR SCENE -  "A CLASSIC"
By Joe Ognibene: 51 year veteran outdoor writer

Sunday March 30 2008  Be sure to vote in our NEW Mini-Poll HERE  NEW QUESTION!

"OLD PANTS"

      About 25 years ago I wrote a column about an old pair of hunting pants that for years had hung on a nail in the cellar. I mentioned how they had served me well until the waistline had shrunk a bit and the rips let in the cold and the stains got worse. That’s when I hung them on a nail in the cellar and forgot about them for years.

         It was about five years later that I noticed them hanging there all dusty, covered with sawdust and mold on what used to be leather patches on the knees and seat. I got to thinking, “those pants served me well and shouldn’t be just hanging on a nail.” I found a respectable hanger, brushed the dust and sawdust off, turned the worst stains to the wall and re-hung them near some deer racks taken while wearing the old pants. I wrote a column about those old pants in 1982 that the late John Long said he very much enjoyed reading about “Old Pants.” I ran across “Old Pants” the other day while in the cellar and was surprised when he greeted me, “Hey, you old geezer, I see you’re still on the right side of the grass.” I had to smile and then said, “I see you’re holding your own and don’t look a day older than back in ’82.”

       That’s when I really looked Old Pants over and got to remembering. Remembering days gone by when the whole world of hunting and fishing stretched out in front of me like a never-ending highway. Back when working the second shift, grabbing a couple hours of sleep and heading out to a goose blind by 4:00 a.m. was not unusual. Back when I insisted on driving deer so the “older guys” could sit on a watch. Wading an ice cold Wiscoy was not a problem, afternoon naps unheard of, no hill too difficult to climb and snow, ice, rain and wind were minor things taken in stride. Those were what I called my halcyon days and I thought they would never end, as many of us thought the same.

        Back then Old Pants had a waistline of 30 inches and wasn’t a bit snug, His knees and seat were double with a leather covering to turn away thorns, thistles and briars. I crawled on my belly after geese, waded icy creeks to retrieve downed ducks and bulled through briars without a thought to what was happening to Old Pants. They were my favorite pants and I wore them constantly. Ideal for helping dig a flower garden, change oil in the driveway, shoveling snow, shingling a roof or gutting out a deer. That’s where the first serious stain came from, an eight-pointer taken when Old Pants was almost new. Then oil changes in the driveway added a few more and the first rip came when my north end was too high while wriggling under a barbed wire fence. I figured the bloodstain could be called a badge of accomplishment so I never did bother to try clean it.

         As the years rolled by the rips became more frequent and I noticed Old Pants was beginning to show his age. It seemed to me that his waist had shrunk and the many rips I had tried to sew were letting in the cold chilling legs that weren’t getting any younger. That’s when I replaced Old Pants and relegated him to the cellar. I mentioned some of the things we had done together to Old Pants, heard him sigh and then he said. “Well, we both had us a time didn’t we?” “Now that we’re octogenarians is as good a time as ever to look back with a smile or two. Think back to those great days on the top of Cameron Hill, the farm in Lyndonville chasing wild geese with “Bud” McCabe, the poker games at the Gasport Conservation Club meetings and getting lost in a briar patch outside Arcade.” “Yep,” he said, “those were good days and I told you then you would never have a pair of hunting pants that could replaced me.” Old pants was right, I never have found any that fit as well, could take the punishment Old Pants did and feel as though they were a part of me.

       Old Pants told me one of the things about getting older is that your memories of things that happened grow fonder. Thinking back now the Wiscoy was cold, damnably cold, and wriggling on my belly to shoot a goose couldn’t have been fun. Getting hooked on barbed wire meant a trip to the emergency room for a tetanus shot and slopping hot oil on my legs while under a car meant a rap on the head when backing away. That’s when Old Pants said, “ I see you’ve got more than 50-years of writing in back of you now, but then, you always were long winded.” He said, “I told you back then Father Time was creeping up on us and he’s going to be the winner.” I thought then of the fellows I hunted with on the top of Cameron Hill, Al, George, Bernie, Woody, “Butch” Ramming and a few others whose names escape me. My long time deer hunting partner, Harold Rhinehart, is gone along with Leonard “Bud” McCabe and many of us still miss John Long and his crinkly smile. Most of all, I miss Mary, my wife of 35 years and the joy of being married to her and the fun times we had.

         She repaired Old Pants many times after some of my escapades. We tramped all over the country together, climbed mountains in Montana, fished the Bow River in British Columbia, tented in the bush in northern Ontario, caught sockeye salmon in Alaska, ate Mexican food in Albuquerque, fished the surf at Cape Hatteras and generally raised hell from one end of the country to the other. Now I’m glad I was a photographer and have photos galore of our life together along with some of the fellows who were also a part of my life.

        Old Pants then said, “With any luck at all we’ll both last a few more years and our memories with only get better and more treasured.” I told him that I suppose that’s some consolation, but it sure would be nice if we could start all over again.

 

 

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OUTDOOR SCENE
By Joe Ognibene: 51 year veteran outdoor writer

Sunday March 23 2008  
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        Now we wait. Wait for a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court on what the country’s founders meant when they wrote the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The amendment states, “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” I think the first argument about the meaning of the amendment started the day after it was written and hasn’t stopped yet.

        For many of us who enjoy hunting or target shooting we feel it means we have the constitutional right to own guns. For others it means only those who serve in some form of militia should be allowed to have guns. The case argued before the court earlier this week was to decide if the ban on handguns in the District of Columbia is a violation of the Constitution’s Second Amendment. The ban was struck down earlier this year and the appeal of that decision is now being decided.

        We are all familiar with the arguments against anyone owning handguns, rifle or shotguns. The books are filled with laws and restrictions that hinder law-abiding citizens, but are ignored by persons intent on criminal activities. In this state a permit is required to buy or carry a handgun and getting the permit is not easy. In New York City it is next to impossible to acquire a handgun permit. The law in New York is so stringent that police officers from elsewhere are not allowed to carry their service handguns while in the city. Another example of a gun restriction that works against the law abiding is one in Los Angeles that allows owning and possessing a shotgun in your home just as long as it is unloaded and locked with a trigger guard. That gun would be little, if any, help against someone trying to enter your home through a window in the middle of the night.

         The hue and cry about the number of gun deaths in this country is never ending. Deplorable as senseless gun deaths are, the numbers pale when compared to deaths allegedly caused by hospital mistakes in this country. It has been reported that in an average year almost 100,000 deaths are caused by errors within hospitals. It has only been in the past few weeks the public has been made aware of the problem. As far back as 1999 it was reported that about 12,000 people die annually from unnecessary surgery. Why has it taken this long for this to become public knowledge and where was the media all this time? Most were practicing “band wagon” journalism and joining the crowd in condemning guns and gun ownership because it was an easy story to cover. Most had never hunted, handled or fired a gun and were concerned only with a sensational “byline” story about guns and the havoc they can cause. Those of us who own guns deplore senseless killings and don’t want guns in the hands of irresponsible or mentally unfit persons, but we don’t always know who might fit into those categories or how to make the decision.

          I feel the court’s decision will uphold the overturning of the D.C. ban and could have repercussions across the country. Gun laws throughout the country are a Hodge pot of conflicting and ambiguous regulations that can differ from town to town within a state or county. A ruling by the court could help decipher many of those confusing regulations. A ruling should come down sometime in mid-summer and some of us will be pleased while others will wonder where this country is headed for. Whichever way the ruling comes down those bent on criminal activities will not be affected. Only law-abiding citizens will feel the impact, one way or the other.

         One of the first acts by Governor David A. Paterson was to sign the Great Lakes Compact, which many have been calling for. We now wait for four other states that border the Great Lakes to sign on and that will then make it more difficult for water-hungry states to take our water. The eight states that border the Great Lakes are at odds with the Bush administration over deep cuts dealing with Great Lakes water quality and other environmental issues in the 2009 budget. About 16 percent, or roughly $56 million was eliminated from the budget that called for $354 million.

           We must not relax in our efforts to keep Great Lakes water right where it’s at and safe from exploitation. Don’t for one moment think it could not be moved south or west because it could be done very easily. If we can move oil from Texas to New York via pipelines sending water the same way would not be a problem. Already southwestern states are hoping New York loses enough in population to lose seats in federal government. Then it would an easy matter to defeat any proposals to keep Great Lakes water within the confines of the eight states that border them. Of course, before any other state can siphon our water they will have to contend with Canada, which borders the lakes. I doubt if our Canadian neighbors will appreciate seeing Great Lakes water being shipped out with the possibility of lowering levels of the lakes to the detriment of shippers and fishermen, commercial and sporting.

          Envious eyes are looking at our Great Lakes because there is money to be made by selling or shipping water and that’s as good a reason as any why we can’t let our guard down.

 

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OUTDOOR SCENE
By Joe Ognibene: 51 year veteran outdoor writer

Sunday January 27 2007  Be sure to vote in our NEW Mini-Poll HERE  NEW QUESTION!

NRAA in danger of destruction

        I am sure most of you know why I stopped writing the column at the end of December. Since mid October I was more concerned with caring for and helping Mary, my wife of more than 35 years, in her battle with colon and liver cancer. She lost the battle earlier this month.

        Mary and I spent much of the past 35 years enjoying traveling, hunting and fishing, fixing up the house, tolerating and loving three cats, two dogs all the kids and generally enjoying our lives together. Her version of fishing was to dangle a hook with a bit of worm on it in shallow water and catching rock bass. If a larger fish came along she would jerk the bait away from it. When she did hook a fish it was my job to unhook it and put it back and was always told, “don’t hurt it.” Hunting meant kicking dry leaves and admiring wild flowers. We never got much game when hunting together, but we did enjoy each other’s company.

         I’m told the emptiness and heartache lessens in time. I hope so. Meanwhile, I will try to get back into the swing of things and put meaning back into the column. My deepest thanks to all those who sent cards, visited the funeral parlor or called. Your support meant more than you know. Lest I forget, my everlasting gratitude to the staff and attendants at Lockport’s Hospice House who made Mary’s final days as comfortable and pain free as possible. They helped her to leave with dignity for which I am grateful.

         For the past year I have tried to avoid mentioning a subject that most members of the Niagara River Anglers Association are aware of, but have done little to rectify. I refer to the rift within the club that if allowed to continue will surely destroy what has grown to be one of the finest fishing clubs in the state. Bluntly put, there are two factions warring within the club, one group supporting NRAA founder Mark Daul and the other club president Paul Jackson. The rift showed itself markedly at the recent 25 Anniversary Dinner where I was told I was the only charter member there. I expected to see many of those who in the early days of the club were instrumental in forming, guiding and working to make NRAA what it is today, but they weren’t there. The dinner was not a victory dinner for the Jackson followers it was a celebration of accomplishments over a quarter century by all members. More members, especially charter members, should have been there. Of the slightly more100 people at the dinner I’m told only 40 were club members.

         It is not the intention of this column to side with either group in the dangerous splitting of members at the expense of the club’s well being. There has seldom been any organization in history that was free from internal dissension. Our first president, George Washington was castigated by Thomas Jefferson his one-time loyal supporter. France’s Louis 16th was condemned to the guillotine by former loyal supporters. Catherine the Great of Russia was betrayed by those she had placed in power and Abraham Lincoln was derided and ridiculed by members of his own cabinet. The NRAA joins an illustrious group battling dissension and discontent within itself. I don’t advocate kiss and makeup, it will never happen. What I am saying is the welfare of NRAA takes precedent over personal feelings. Dislike each other all you want, but keep NRAA out of it. This is too fine an organization to be ripped apart by petty personal feelings. NRAA has lasted this long and should last many more years and will if members remember the club is not about individuals, it is about individuals working together towards a common goal, making NRAA the top club in the state.

         It appears by month’s end you will be required to carry governmental approved identification to re-enter this country after a trip out of it. This means on your return from a quick visit Aunt Matilda in Niagara Falls, Ontario, you had better have proper identification or you might not be allowed back into the country. The blockheads in Washington have been more concerned on how to keep us out of our country than what happens when someone doesn’t have the identification Big brother says we must have. From everything I have read about the upcoming identification requirement not one word has been mentioned about those uniformed about it. There will be no problem leaving the country, just getting back in. I can see it now, the rejects at our border huddling together in the middle of the Rainbow Bridge, or the traffic jam at any of the bridges as cars filled with tourists coming back from a visit to Canada are refused entry. Your boat could be stopped in either lake if you are spotted approaching the U.S. side of the border and be asked for “your papers, please,” by an overzealous border guard. How about fishing around Ontario’s Navy Island and then coming back to the launch at Big Six Creek? I predict what could be the biggest border tie-up in history this summer if Washington is allowed to carry out their hair-brained scheme.

        Your non-resident, Ontario, Canada, Conservation Fishing License has gone up in price. It now will cost you $41.17 for the one-year license. Call 1-800-667-1940 and have your credit card handy. It takes about three weeks before it’s delivered by mail. Avoid any possible hassles this spring by sending for it now.

 

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OUTDOOR SCENE
By Joe Ognibene: 50 year veteran outdoor writer

Sunday December 9 2007  Be sure to vote in our NEW Mini-Poll HERE  NEW QUESTION!

The Great Lakes Compact Revisited

            Hardly a day goes by that a news article about the Great Lakes and the problems they face does not appear in the news. The greatest problem facing our lakes is the possibility that one day other states will run pipes up to one or more of them and siphon our water away. If oil can be piped from Texas to northern refineries water can be sent to other states the same way.

             This column has been clamoring for years that the Great Lakes Compact must be ratified by congress so that other states can’t take our water. The compact has the approval of most of the Great Lakes governors and the question is why aren’t they all on board. New York is one of the states that has not yet signed the compact although public sentiment is all for it. The present laws are inadequate to protect our water and keep it here at home where it belongs. Schemes to load tankers with our fresh water for

           Arabian countries have been nipped in the bud both in this country and in Canada . The compact must be ratified before the census in 2010 could see a congressional shift with 25 House seats taken from Great Lakes states and given to states from drier parts of the country. That would be like giving a thief a license to steal and then we can kiss the Great Lakes goodbye. Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico , one of many running for the presidency, would be delighted if the compact were not signed. He has suggested a “national water policy,” claiming “ Wisconsin is awash in water.” He and governors from the South and Southwest are drooling over our Great Lakes waters and will do their utmost to have it diverted to them.

            It has been estimated that the water level in Lake Ontario will fall almost 14-inches by 2030. Lake Erie it is estimated will fall almost four feet in that period. If other states were allowed to draw water from any of the Great Lakes it influences the levels of all of them. Can you imagine Lake Ontario with almost 14 inches of water gone? Or Erie almost four feet lower than it is now. Reefs that are now under water would be readily seen and a lot of  props and boats will be scraping bottom. The shoreline of both lakes would not be the same as today. Boat docks would be high and dry and look like photos of some southern lakes that are almost bone dry.

             The lower water levels would interfere with fish spawning and our walleye fishery now making a dramatic comeback in Lake Ontario could be wiped out. The lower levels would be conducive to rapid warming which would be ideal for largemouth bass but not for walleye. The more that 140 exotic species that were brought to this country in ballast water would more than thrive and competition for remaining forage would be fierce with our game fish coming out second best. We have time to save our waters if everyone makes an effort to have the Great Lakes Compact ratified by the state and Congress. Let your conservation club know you want them to work towards that goal. Call you local representatives and ask them what they are doing about it. I have the feeling some politicians are dragging their feet on this in the hopes that by protecting entities that want to ship our water to some other state they will land a cushy lobbying job one day. I have heard that this is done in political circles. If any of you have the opportunity, ask any of the hopefuls running for the presidency if they are for or against the Great Lakes Compact, if they know anything about it. Expect a lot of double talk, hemming and hawing, but not a straight answer.

      Our salmon season is winding down rapidly and from now until the flowers bloom in spring trout will be the targeted fish. All trout with the exception of lake trout are fair game all winter. Lakers will open on New Years Day. You are limited to three trout or salmon a day in any combination. The combo may not include more than two lake trout of which only one may be between 25 and 30 inches. The other one can be any length. Only one Atlantic salmon included in the three fish limit and rainbows must be a minimum of 21 inches.

 

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OUTDOOR SCENE
By Joe Ognibene: 50 year veteran outdoor writer

Sunday December 1 2007  Be sure to vote in our NEW Mini-Poll HERE  NEW QUESTION!

         It could be mid-summer of 2008 before the U. S. Supreme Court hands down its verdict on whether an individual has the constitutional right to own a firearm. Last March the U. S. Court of Appeals found that a Washington, D. C., law prohibiting anyone from having a handgun in their home violated the Second Amendment of the U. S. Constitution. The Second Amendment assures an individual the right to “keep and bear arms”. Almost since the amendment was written arguments have broken out about whether it meant individuals in a “well regulated militia” or simply someone who wanted to own a firearm. The anti-gun crowd leans towards the “well regulated militia” position while the rest of us oppose that thinking.

          In 1939 the Supreme Court ruled against an individual owning a sawed-off shotgun. Since then many state courts have also ruled against anyone owning a handgun unless they have a permit or are licensed. Some states do not require either. When the final decision is handed down next summer it could mean the end to restrictive gun laws throughout the country or it could mean tighter and more stringent ones. We who enjoy hunting and shooting fervently wish the ruling goes our way and the Constitution is once adhered to and we will have no worries about handing in our guns. As we all know if the time ever comes when all guns must be surrendered to law enforcement agencies only the law abiding will do so, the unlawful will be delighted to know they will have easy pickings as there is no chance they will surrender their guns.
        
           At present many hoodlums are concerned whether the home they are thinking of burglarizing might have a homeowner with a loaded 12-guage shotgun or .357 caliber handgun nearby. There are those who ask if every teenager stealing a stereo should be shot. That teenager could easily be carrying a knife or gun and if caught burglarizing a home might use it with tragic results. Later he might stand weeping before a judge saying he didn’t mean to hurt anyone, he just wanted the stereo. Guns laws have proven to be unworkable and Ontario, Canada, is an example. In Ontario the law required every long gun owner to register it with law enforcement officials. Earlier this fall the province repealed the law saying it was a bureaucratic nightmare, was prohibitively expensive and did nothing to curb crime. In Mississippi the requirement that citizens must retreat from an intruder before they can use deadly force was thrown out and replaced with the “Castle Doctrine” law. The same law has been enacted in 19 other states. Simply put, “Castle Doctrine” means if you are an intruder in someone’s home in the middle of the night you stand a good chance of being shot before anyone asks what you are doing there. In Jackson, Mississippi, in one week shots were fired at burglars with three being killed, one injured and one escaping. Watch for burglaries in Mississippi taking a dramatic downswing. There is nothing like someone taking a shot at you to convince you to find another line of work.

       We see PETA, (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) is in the news again with their claim the Buffalo zoo is responsible for the deaths of three polar bears. Autopsies have shown the bears died of natural causes and diseases, not from any neglect on the part of the zoo attendants. Once again PETA sends out a loud clamor in the hopes of adding members and more money into their coffers. This is the outfit that claims to protect and love animals but the Center for Consumer Freedom says PETA has killed more than 14,000 dogs at its animal shelters.

        Not long ago cats and dogs picked up by PETA workers for placement in good homes were killed in the back of a van and tossed into dumpsters. A condemnation of dedicated zoo workers from an out fit that is headed by a woman, Ingrid Newkirk, who claims eating meat is the No. 1 cause of global warming, according to Ducks Unlimited. She says the cattle we raise for human consumption spew out methane gas and is a bigger problem than CO2 ‘because the cattle are belching and doing other things that sends methane into the atmosphere.” Who can take seriously anything the head of an organization who wants her body parts, not cremated ashes, scattered from the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, India and France. The officials at PETA must know the Buffalo zoo, and most other zoos in the country are in need of money but I haven’t heard of them giving any to any deserving zoo. I wonder if any of the gullible people who donate money to this bunch of exhibitionists know where the money really goes. I’ll bet the head honchos of PETA dread that question.

        Much of the fault of animals in zoos dying is due to the actions of the idiot fringe among the general public. There are people who think it funny to throw garbage into animal cages that could include cans, bottles, half eaten hot dogs and even lit firecrackers. Children’s toys have been found in stomachs of animals that have needed emergency surgery simply because parents did not keep close watch over their little darling. The majority of zoos in this country, Buffalo zoo included, are well run by conscientious professionals on shoestring budgets. If PETA wants to do something about zoos they can stop their nonsense and stupid unfounded accusations and help the zoos pay their bills.

 

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OUTDOOR SCENE
By Joe Ognibene: 50 year veteran outdoor writer

Sunday November 25  2007  Be sure to vote in our NEW Mini-Poll HERE  NEW QUESTION!

          In our neighboring state to the south, Pennsylvania, their governor suffered a setback in the rejection of two gun control measures he was touting. Despite a personal appeal from Governor Rendell the state House Judiciary Committee rejected bills that would have limited handgun buys to one per month and the other would have empowered local governments to enact their own gun control laws. How did the Pennsylvania hunters ever elect Rendell? Can you imagine the chaos throughout the New York if each city, town or village was allowed to make gun laws? You could go to jail just by driving through a town with restrictive gun laws. Here is another example why we should keep a critical eye on elected representatives and get rid of the ones who want to run things in ways that are contrary to what the public wants.

We will have more to say about upcoming Supreme Court hearings on gun laws and the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in a following column.

 

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OUTDOOR SCENE
By Joe Ognibene: 50 year veteran outdoor writer

Sunday October 7  2007    Be sure to vote in our NEW Mini-Poll HERE  NEW QUESTION!

         On Saturday the archery deer season opened and, sad to say, we still are not allowed the use of a crossbow to take deer. For many who at one time enjoyed waiting in a tree stand for a deer to come by day has lost all meaning because the ravages of time or infirmity has robbed them of the ability to pull a bowstring. Recently Bill Conners, outdoor columnist for the Poughkeepsie Journal, wrote that the “turf war over crossbows is just plain silly.”

        Most outdoor writers, and he too, mention that those who can no longer pull a bowstring are forced out of bow hunting because a “small but vocal group of bow hunters refuses to get out of the way and let the Legislature legalize the crossbow.” That small but vocal group Conners refers to is New York Bowhunters. Whenever it appears legalization of the crossbow might come about they organize a flurry of telephone calls to Senator Carl Marcellino, the one holding up voting on legalization by not allowing it to come to a vote. It is obvious NYB is well organized and proves Adolph Hitler was right when he wrote, “a well organized minority will always defeat the disorganized majority.”

        In this ongoing fight over legalizing the crossbow the disorganized majority must realize the most important issue is the right to choose what you want to use to hunt deer and then demand it. I like using a 12-gauge, semi-automatic shot gun for deer hunting. That does not give me the right to deny you using a pump 16-gauge shotgun simply because I like the 12-gauge semi-autoloader. Conners goes on to write, “they, NYB, do not want the numbers of hunters in the woods during archery season to grow.” “That having someone hunting a few hundred feet or a few hundred yards from you using a crossbow will somehow impact the quality of your hunt is absurd. If two hunters are more than a few yards away from each other, they probably wouldn’t know that the other fellow has even released an arrow.”

        In his column Conners mentions what this column has many times, that a modern compound bow is a not a “traditional” bow. It never has been or ever will be. The same is true of the crossbow. The hue and cry against the crossbow is the same that was heard back in the mid 60s when compound bow first arrived on the scene. When the crossbow is legalized, and it will be, many thousands disabled or elderly former archers will gladly pick one up and rejoin the sport. When that time comes, and it will, members of NYB might have to have counseling to get over the shock of having to hunt at the same time with those who disagree with their selfishness.

To read lots more crossbow information on Outdoors Niagara including Bill Connors column and a recent column by Daniel James Hendricks, Crossbow Advocate go here: Crossbows In New York State  Outdoors Niagara Exclusive!

 

 

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OUTDOOR SCENE
By Joe Ognibene: 50 year veteran outdoor writer

Sunday September 2  2007            Be sure to vote in our NEW Mini-Poll HERE

       Yesterday John Long Sr. was buried and the many of us who mourn his passing will long remember him as a sportsman, hunter, fisherman, gentleman and basically one of the nicest human being you could ask to know. One of the traits that immediately struck people meeting John for the first time was how his eyes would seem to squint and sparkle when he smiled. And he smiled a lot. I always enjoyed his greeting, “Hey, old man, how ya’ doing?” His handshake was firm and you knew he was sincere when he said, “It’s been a while, it’s good to see you.” He was one of those few people who had charm to spare. Many times I heard him say, “You’ll never guess who I ran into the other day,” then mention a mutual friend we both had lost track off.

      The list of organizations and endeavors he headed are too numerous to list here. Suffice to say, whatever task he took on he not only did it well but he became its leader. It was John Long who made available the land the Niagara River Anglers use for their walleye rearing program. I never hunted with John in his Quebec hunting camp although I fished with him on fly-in trips to Northern Ontario and Quebec and joined him and his longtime friend the late Senator John Daly fishing for salmon on Lake Ontario. Both were easy to get along with in the confines of a boat.

      John suffered a stroke recently and was hospitalized briefly before being sent to Lockport’s Niagara Hospice. He will be sorely missed and I am sure wherever Niagara sportsmen gather John Long stories will be swapped with fondness, smiles and joy for many years to come. It has been said for as long as a man’s name is remembered he will never be forgotten. Rest easy, John, it was a pleasure and a privilege to have known you.

      

 

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OUTDOOR SCENE
By Joe Ognibene: 50 year veteran outdoor writer

Sunday April 29 2007 

          Back in spring of 1983 a few members of the Niagara River Anglers Association met at the Sand Docks in Lewiston after dark to dip for smelt they had decided to eat minutes after catching. That was the beginning of what is shaping up to be a community event that is growing with each passing year. That’s when the word got out that fresh dipped smelt are delicious.

          In ’83 Mark Daul, club president John DeLorenzo and vice president Jim DeLorenzo, Don Phillips and his wife, Rich Rotella, Mike George, Harold Edwards and a few other cub members arrived at the Sand Docks shortly after dark and began dipping. Some years there were ice floes to be pushed aside and care had to be taken that a larger floe didn’t knock a dipper into the frigid water. Usually George or Daul tended a Coleman gas stove on the dock and smelt right out of the river were slit up the belly, cleaned and tossed into a frying pan of hot oil. After the first year or two more and more visitors showed at the docks to see what was going on. They were invited to partake of the tasty fish and after they told friends in the ensuing years the crowd got larger.

          The original intent of the smelt fry was to entice new members and the event was mentioned prominently in this and other local outdoor columns. We got new members along with volunteers to dip and cook. It’s long been my belief that cooking smelt is how Mike George got the title of NRAA Chief Cook. There are stories galore that can be told of the years of dipping and one of the funniest was the year the wind was howling. Trying to keep the stoves going was difficult until Mark Daul got the bright idea of putting the stove in his van. It worked out fine and batches of smelt were cooked and everyone enjoyed the feast. What Daul didn’t realize was while the fish were frying grease was spattering the inside of his van. He said the van stunk of fried fish for about two weeks. Over the years the crowds got to be too large for the amount of smelt dippers could provide and some were bought locally, some were provided by members who went to Lake Simcoe in Canada to bring back buckets of them and other members dipped in the river for a couple of days before the event.

          Now the Lower Niagara Region Chamber of Commerce, NRAA, Village and Town of Lewiston and Silo Restaurant are official hosts. Lewiston mayor Richard Soluri came up with the idea of letting everyone know of the world class smelt dipping in Lewiston. The festivities will begin at 6:00 p.m. and everyone is invited. There is no charge. NRAA club members and volunteers will be dipping smelt as soon as it’s determined the evening run has started. The Silo Restaurant will offer additional food and beverages and there will be musical entertainment by “Barbed Wired” at Waterfront Park. Beginning on Monday other restaurants in Lewiston will offer smelt on their menus. Look for the fish flag outside participating restaurants.

         For those who would rather dip for smelt away from the crowds just about any location along the lower river will have smelt cruising by. You don’t have to go far out into the river as the fish are very close to shore. Most streams that empty into Lake Ontario will have smelt in them. Wait until dark to begin dipping and as the night lengthens the dipping gets better. Check your nets carefully as you could net trout or other game fish. Put them back carefully. Most tackle stores have smelt dipping nets that meet legal requirement of less than 14 inches in diameter. There could be some ice flowing, but the larger floes seem to have broken up. The water will be cold so dress accordingly and be extra cautious, you don’t want to slip into the Niagara River at this time of year.

         

 

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OUTDOOR SCENE
By Joe Ognibene: 50 year veteran outdoor writer

Sunday April 9 2007   

       Despite the disappointing change in weather conditions many of us are chomping at the bit to get the boat in the water or start wading a favorite stream. There is still a lot of ice in Lake Erie to melt away before the ice boom at the head of the Niagara River is removed to open the river for fishing. Then all that ice has to travel down the river, over the Falls, through Devil’s Hole and the length of the lower Niagara into Lake Ontario before things can get started.

      In case you haven’t yet heard, the lower Niagara River at the mouth as it empties into Lake Ontario has once again become a walleye hotspot. In years past the sand bar in front of Fort Niagara is where most headed to catch blue pike, one of the tastiest fishes that you could catch. Back then, the late 30s and early 40s, the yellow pike, what we called walleyes back then, was sometimes tossed back in preference of the blue pike. The blue is now considered extinct, although every now and then claims are made of one being caught, but not much comes of it. 

Go to the Blue Pike pages for history on the Blues on this website HERE!

       The rule of thumb back then was, if you wanted to catch lots of blues you fished the sand bar. If you wanted big yellows you headed up river and fished the shoreline from just below Lewiston down to Peggy’s Eddy, site of Joseph Davis State Park. Some of the boaters who have been out for trout during the past winter have caught walleye, but have been quiet about it. You are allowed one walleye from the lower Niagara, 18 inches or more, until the first Saturday in May when the limit rises to 3 a day. 

       Another top walleye spot in where the river empties into the lake. Follow the bottom as it rises from the depths of the river onto the sand bar. Walleye are hanging on the edge waiting for whatever drifts down to waiting mouths. Planer boards come in handy at this time of year when walleye are chasing minnows close to shore. A shallow running Rapala or similar lure works wonders on the south shore of Lake Erie, it should do the same on Lake Ontario. Walleye could be chasing minnows in water too shallow for your boat’s prop, but a planer board would do the trick. Outside of Four Mile Creek could be a hot spot.

       A favorite tool of drifting walleye fishermen has long been the drifting iron. A drifting iron is simply a rod of brass about 18 inches in length with a weight attached to take it down. A clevis is located close to the top and from there a baited leader is tied. The idea is to let the tip of the brass rod touch bottom now and then allowing the bait to travel just off bottom where most fish find their food. Few of us make drifting irons any longer, but you can buy them for a few dollars at most tackle stores. The advantage of a drifting iron over a dragged pencil lead is, that the slender brass rod rarely gets hung up in rocks. If we get better weather and the ground warms gathering a few night crawler worms is probably the best bait you could use. We hesitate to recommend minnows due to all the restrictions because of the risk of spreading VHS, a disease affecting fish that is rampant throughout the Great Lakes. Any lure with lots of wiggle to it colored with some red and silver should work just fine.

       We can fish for bass all year now, catch and release, but Ontario still has a closed season on small and large mouth bass with an exception starting this year. In Ontario during the closed season you are not allowed to target bass. In that province the season on large and small mouth bass will open on the fourth Saturday in June instead of the last Saturday. This gives fishing Ontario water for bass an extra week this year. If you received your Ontario fishing license by mail and noticed the Fishing Regulations booklet is dated 2005-2006 don’t be upset. This booklet applies to 2007 until the 2008 booklets come out next year.

       Heartiest congratulations to fellow writer Bill Hilts Jr. and long-time friend John Long, who have both been inducted into the New York State Outdoorsmen Hall of Fame. Hilts, outdoors specialist with Niagara Tourism and Convention Corporation, is a past president of New York State Outdoor Writers and done an exemplary job of advertising Niagara area as one of the top fishing spots in the country. Long, who has spent a lifetime working for the benefit of Niagara’s sportsmen is also a past president of New York Outdoor Writers. He has served on many committees and boards that have the state’s environment and sportsmen in mind. Long, years ago, made his land available to the Niagara River Anglers Association to build their walleye rearing ponds.

 

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OUTDOOR SCENE  WEEKLY

Sunday January 7 2007 

By Joe Ognibene                                   

ABOUT OGNIBENE'S FIRST 50 YEARS!

         It seems like only a short time has passed since this column began and it’s hard to believe it is now in its 50th year of publication. A great many things have changed in our outdoor world since the day in 1957 when Bob Lowe, sports writer at the Gazette, asked how things were in the hunting and fishing world. At that time I was the only one on the editorial staff who did either. I began telling him and he cut me short and said, “Write it down for me.” I did, and that’s how it started.

         Lowe used my written account in his Sunday column and words can’t describe the thrill of seeing what I wrote in print. It was exciting to write of the fishing and hunting we had, which was not anywhere near what we have now. We did have some pheasant hunting, although it had been declining and in 1957 was declining faster. Our fishing left much to be desired and the once plentiful blue pike were non-existent in Lake Ontario with walleyes almost gone. Perch fishing had fallen off, bass seemed to have left the area and bullheads we caught had ugly looking ulcers on their heads. A few short years after the column began stories about pollution began appearing in news stories. We who fished the Lower Niagara River and Lake Ontario knew something was drastically wrong when we noticed dead fish and how murky the water was and how badly it smelled.

       At that time I was a photographer at the Gazette and took a picture from the top of Burt Dam of the pool below. It was covered with detergent foam and you could not see water. Another photo I took was at Olcott along the beach where the U.S. Army had erected signs putting the bathing beach off limits to military personnel and their dependents. At the time Fort Niagara was a working army installation and an outbreak of hepatitis was noticed among the soldiers and their families. The source was traced to raw sewage that entered from 18-Mile Creek. Toilets that were flushed on either side of the creek in Olcott drained directly into the creek with no treatment whatsoever.

        On our hunting scene by the end of the 60s and into the early 70s pheasants were becoming a fond memory. Deer hunting was fair in the southern Tier, but in Niagara County deer were few and far between. Wild turkeys were a bird of Pennsylvania and other states. Canada geese were hunted in November when migratory flocks passed through on their way to milder regions. Then we heard of fantastic fishing in Michigan where pacific Chinook salmon had been stocked and many of us headed there to see for ourselves. The monsters we caught and brought back sent others to Michigan and salmon fever swept the area. In a few years we had our own stockings of salmon and you know the rest of the story.

          It was in the 70s when I drove to Kent, near Rochester, to photograph the release of 12 wild turkeys. I had the thrill of holding one in my arms just before release. That was one of the first stockings in these parts and it would be an understatement to say the stocking program is a success. We now have wild turkeys in every corner of Niagara County and also in some of our residential areas. Matt Duffy, of Lewiston, was visiting Grandpa Frank Mirabelli who lives on the escarpment when he called grandpa to look out the kitchen window. Four turkeys were strutting around the Mirabelli backyard, the first Duffy had ever seen.

          A modern sewage system was installed that cleared up the sewage problem in Olcott, foaming detergents have been banned and now 18-Mile Creek is known as one of the country’s finest trout and salmon streams. With abatement programs in force industries have been forced to drastically reduce polluting our land and water and things are much cleaner than in the past. Mike Brown, a reporter at the Gazette, broke the story of Love Canal and a cleaner environment was suddenly on the mind of the nation.

         The future is not all rosy however, new curses has befallen us with zebra mussel, spiny water flea and other exotics imported to this country in ballast water in ships from Europe. The latest blow that will be devastating to our Great Lakes is the tremendous population growth of Asian carp that threatens to decimate the fishery. These are some of the reasons why this columnist feels the greatest responsibility to my readers is to report of the many things that need correcting. It would be nice to write of only great fishing trips, trophy bucks, clean up of polluted streams, sudden demise of Zebra mussel, Asian carp and the other exotic pests along with abatement of global warming. I’m afraid it isn’t going to happen in my lifetime or yours, if it ever does.

          In summation I can say the past 50 years have seen more changes than I can recount here. Many Canada geese throughout the northeast have decided not to bother migrating and stay around all year. Their numbers are so high a special early fall season calls for a limit of eight a day! The Niagara River Anglers Association has brought the walleye fishing back to the lower Niagara River and the re-establishment of the wild turkey in Niagara County is almost unbelievable. If the weather for the rest of winter continues as it has so far wild turkeys could be as plentiful as ring-neck pheasants once were.

         Some of my readers have told me their grandfathers used to read the column. Maybe, with luck, in time some will say their great-grandfathers used to read it. I look forward to the next 50 years.

Thank you Joe! Splendid job through all the years I have been reading you and that probably spans 45 of those 50 years! You forgot to mention all the non-fisher people and hunters and housewives that read you every week. It's like something they look forward to in the Sunday papers.

I'm looking forward to the next fifty years too!

Mark Daul

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      OLD NEWS: [October 2006] By this time you have probably received your copy of the Niagara River Anglers Association’s News and Views and have read the notice on the inside facing page from President Paul, who writes of the retirement of Mark Daul, founder of NRAA, long time editor of News and Views and creator and administrator of the club’s web site. Daul takes exception to the announcement claiming he did not retire, but outright quit. He also claims the notice he wrote for inclusion in News and Views was not included in the latest issue. Daul explains his position and gripe with the club’s president on web site  where his letter can be read. http://www.outdoorsniagara.com/sosmart.htm

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NOTE: This story is left here on this website because of the lesson taught by this tragic incident. Our sympathies are with the families of Captain Steve White and Lauren Barsamian. Please read this story and let it be an enlightenment to anyone venturing into the Devil's Hole area of the Niagara River.

Sunday October 16 2005
Joe Ognibene

Devil's Hole lesson taught ~ With tragedy
This story is left here for all to learn from others tragedies. 

       Of the many boats that have ventured into Devil’s Hole during the fall salmon runs over the years the inevitable happened recently when a boat capsized and two people were declared missing and presumed drowned. Charter Captain Steve White and one of two passengers, Lauren Barsamian of New York City, were swept away by the turbulent current of the water between the power plants on both sides of the lower Niagara River. Charter Captain, Joseph V. Marra Jr., said he heard cries for help and maneuvered his boat to rescue John Rice, of New Jersey, Ms. Barasmian’s companion.

        Marra told authorities he almost grabbed onto the woman, but she was pulled under by the strong whirlpools that abound in the area. Would-be rescuers lost sight of White as he too was swept under. Coast Guard officials said White was a licensed charter captain. The boat he was operating was a 19-foot Starcraft. The location where the trouble occurred was the area between the power plants where deep whirlpools are not uncommon. Those of us who have fished Devil’s Hole many times know the stretch well and do our best to avoid a particularly large whirlpool that constantly appears in the center of the river. The stretch between the power plants is not where fishing is done, but if a fisherman has a large salmon on the line many times the boat will drift into the danger zone while the fight is on, sometimes with the engine not operating.

        It’s tragic the incident happened, but maybe some good can come of it. It would be a wise idea for anyone venturing into Devil’s Hole to wear a life preserver. They’re uncomfortable, but could keep you afloat until someone comes to your rescue. Being a strong swimmer does you no good in the currents found in and below Devil’s Hole. Boat size and configuration are also important considerations. It would not be advisable to head into Devil’s Hole in a boat any shorter than a 17-footer with a deep-V hull and a wide beam. Any outboard engine less than 50-horsepower would not be advised. The usual practice when fishing Devil’s Hole is to drift through the hole, but start the engine as soon as you come to the upstream end of the Robert Moses Power Plant and head back into the hole. When leaving the hole you should be under power strong enough to allow you to steer around whirlpools you will see in your path. You won’t need full throttle power, slightly more than half-throttle should do. The current usually calms by the time you get to Artpark. A bass boat with its almost flat bottom is definitely not the type of boat to take into Devil’s Hole. We can only hope that such an accident never happens again.

 

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