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MassWildlife monthly September 2017

Get the latest news and seasonal updates from MassWildlife

Fall trout stocking
September marks the start of fall hunting seasons
Restoring loons to Massachusetts
Summer fisheries research
Legislative hearing scheduled for September
Father and son tie for new bowfin state record
The Big MOE
Massachusetts Junior Conservation Camp finishes right on target

Fall trout stocking
More than 60,000 rainbow trout that are 12 inches or longer will be stocking across Massachusetts this fall. Fall stocking season will begin around the last week of September and be completed by the second week of October depending on water temperatures. Anglers will be able to view daily stocking reports by visiting Mass.gov/Trout. Anglers can search for a specific waterbody or town using the sortable list, or explore new fishing spots with the map feature.

September marks the start of fall hunting
The return of cooler weather means many Massachusetts sportsmen and women will head into the woods for hunting season. Massachusetts residents may be wondering where and when hunting will be taking place this fall. Hunting season dates and regulations are published annually in the Massachusetts Guide to Hunting, Freshwater Fishing, and Trapping. Early Canada Goose and Black Bear hunting seasons open statewide on September 5, while fall turkey, archery deer, and pheasant seasons open during October. Click here to review a hunting season date summary. Hunting on Sunday is not permitted in Massachusetts. MassWildlife lands, including Wildlife Management Areas, Wildlife Conservation Easements, and Access Areas are open to hunting. Find out more about MassWildlife lands using the MassWildlife Lands Viewer. Most state parks and forests are open to hunting, and many towns allow hunting on municipal lands. Research the property you plan to visit beforehand to learn if hunting is allowed.

Hunting is a safe activity and non-hunters should feel comfortable using the woods at any time of year. Although hunting accidents are extremely rare, wearing blaze orange will help minimize your chances of being mistaken for game animals during the hunting season. While hunters are required to wear blaze orange during certain seasons, all outdoor users who are in the woods during hunting seasons should wear a blaze orange hat or vest as a precaution.

Restoring loons to Massachusetts
This summer marks the 3rd year of Restore the Call, an initiative spearheaded by the Biodiversity Research Institute (BRI) to study Common Loons and restore them to their former breeding ranges in New England. In partnership with the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife), Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, Maine Audubon, and New York Department of Environmental Conservation, Restore the Call relocates loon chicks from Maine and New York into the Assawompset Pond Complex in Lakeville, Massachusetts. Historically, loons nested on these waterbodies before the species was extirpated as a breeding bird in Massachusetts in the late 1800s. As a result of this project, chicks translocated to southeastern Massachusetts are expected to return to that region to breed as adults in 4–6 years, thereby establishing a new breeding population in the state.

Massachusetts is currently home to approximately 45 territorial pairs of loons with the majority nesting on Quabbin and Wachusett Reservoirs. Most of the other nesting loons are on waterbodies between the two reservoirs, and because loons are notoriously poor dispersers, it may take them decades or longer to recolonize the Assawompset Pond Complex. BRI and partners are hoping to jump start a population in southeastern Massachusetts, an area that could see dozens of nesting loons in the future.

Loons are brought from Maine and New York, where they have a robust population, and placed in pens at the new site for a time before release. In the pens (also known as hacking pens), the birds become acclimated to their new home but have limited contact with people while in the pens to ensure they don’t become dependent on people or associate them with food. Over the first two years of the project, 16 juvenile loons were translocated and released on the Assawompset Pond Complex. The goal this year is to bring in another 10 juvenile loons from Maine. So far this year, 3 juvenile loons have been translocated and placed in the hacking pens, and one of those birds has already been released onto the lake.

In an exciting development this summer, one of the translocated loon chicks from a prior year has recently been observed foraging on the release lake with two other juvenile loons. Sometimes juvenile loons return from wintering grounds to their natal lake or nearby lakes to socialize and feed as early as one year after fledging. “This is one of those cases,” says Lee Attix, BRI’s lead loon researcher in Massachusetts. “Although only one-year-old, this banded juvenile loon gives us confirmation that it has returned to the release lake versus the natal lake, and we hope it is the harbinger of a new breeding population for the area. In my 21 years of studying loons, this is the most significant finding.” The documentation that this bird has returned to the release area and is accompanied by other loons provides great hope that this species soon will be nesting again in southeastern Massachusetts, after an absence of over 115 years!

Summer fisheries research
Each summer, MassWildlife fisheries biologists take to the water to sample the Commonwealth’s rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds for fish. Biologists gather information on fish species at each location in order to evaluate the quality of recreational fishing opportunities and to monitor overall ecosystem health. Waterbodies are typically surveyed on a 10–15 year rotation to track changes in fish communities over time. Large rivers sampled this summer include the Bass, Chicopee, Concord, Coonamessett, Herring, Hoosic, Housatonic, Manhan, Nashua, North Branch of the Nashua, Quaboag, and Swift rivers. Over twenty lakes and ponds were also sampled across the state.One of the many highlights of the summer sampling effort was an encounter with hundreds of healthy trout in the Swift River – including a 17 lb., 33" Brown Trout!

Fish are collected through electrofishing by boat, barge, or backpack. Electrofishing equipment consists of a small generator and control box used to produce a small, localized electrical field in the water. Fishes within the field are stunned just long enough to be captured with a net and placed into a live well. Biologists then identify, weigh, and measure the fish before returning them back to the water. Temperature, pH, conductivity, and other information about the waterbody are also recorded. Fisheries biologists use this data to evaluate the health of fish populations. Fish health is assessed by calculating a ratio of weight to length, known as condition factor. Fish that weigh more than average for any given length are considered in good condition. Fish lengths can also be used to approximate age classes. By noting the relative number of individuals in each age class, biologists can determine if species are recruiting younger individuals into the population and assess reproductive success. The health of fish populations within a particular lake or stream can then be compared to other waterbodies in the state.

Massachusetts anglers can use the information collected in these surveys to learn more about fishing opportunities in a particular area. MassWildlife has also been hard at work collecting new bathymetry data in lakes and ponds, which will be released to the public as a paired depth map with pond information like depth, fish summaries, and access and ramp information.

Father and son tie for new bowfin state record
On August 6, David Souza of Berkley, age 54, caught an 8 lb. 1 oz. Bowfin out of the Taunton River to break the state record. Just two days later, his son, Jake Souza, age 19, caught another 8 lb. 1 oz. Bowfin out of the same river to tie his father for the state record. David’s catch was 27 3/8" long with a 13" girth, while Jake’s was 26 ¾" long with a 13 ¾" girth. Both fish were brought to a MassWildlife office where they weighed in at 8 lb. 1 oz. and were certified by fisheries biologists as the new state records. Catch and Keep State Records are recorded by weight.

In 2015, Bowfin were added as an eligible fish to MassWildlife’s Freshwater Sportfishing Awards Program. Most Massachusetts anglers have never caught one of these prehistoric battlers – and in fact many anglers have never even heard of this fish and wouldn’t know one if they caught one. But the Bowfin is gathering an increasing number of fans who admire its outstanding fighting qualities, exotic appearance, large potential size, interesting life history, and its propensity to strike baits and lures. Currently, Bowfin populations are limited to the Connecticut River and Taunton River drainages and a few isolated ponds throughout the state. The minimum weight is 6 pounds for adults and 4 pounds for youth to be eligible for the Catch and Keep category of the Sportfishing Awards Program. The Catch and Release minimum length is 26 inches. To learn more about Bowfin, check out a recent featured article in Massachusetts Wildlife magazine entitled, “Bring on the Bowfin!”.  

Anglers who believe they have broken a state record by weight must present their fish in its entirety (whole) to qualified fisheries personnel at MassWildlife Field Headquarters in Westborough or at any of the five MassWildlife District offices. In 2015, a catch and release category was added to the Sportfishing Awards Program. Since then, MassWildlife has also recorded catch and release state records. Anglers may submit their catch and release catches for consideration by measuring, photographing, and releasing their fish on site.

Legislative hearing scheduled for September
A legislative hearing held by the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture will take place on September 18 at 11 a.m. at MassWildlife’s Field Headquarters, 1 Rabbit Hill Road, Westborough MA 01581. The hearing is open to the public and will focus on hunting and fishing bills. When hearing information becomes available, it will be listed at https://malegislature.gov/Committees/Detail/J21/

Family fun at the Big MOE
Experience the Massachusetts Outdoor Expo (The Big MOE) at the Hamilton Rod and Gun Club grounds in Sturbridge, MA on Sunday, September 17, 2017 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Rain or shine. For the past 20 years, this FREE, family-oriented event has celebrated outdoor skills, nature, art, and wildlife. With over 45 activity stations, there’s something for everyone at The Big MOE. Stations include:

  • Shotgun, airgun, and rifle shooting
  • Fishing and fly tying
  • Kayaking
  • Archery
  • Tomahawk throwing
  • Birds of prey
  • Petting zoo
  • Birdhouse building and other crafts
  • Mountain biking

For a complete listing of activity stations, please visit www.FawnsExpo.com. All stations are supervised and provide a unique, hands-on experience for people of all ages. Participants will be asked to sign a Liability Release Form.

Convenient, off-site parking is located at the Sturbridge Business Park at 660 Main Street (Rte. 20) and FREE shuttle bus transportation will run nonstop from the Business Park to the Big MOE throughout the day. On-site parking is reserved for volunteer staff and those requiring handicapped access (plate required).

Massachusetts Junior Conservation Camp finishes right on target
Since 1949, the Massachusetts Junior Conservation Camp (MJCC) has provided young people with a unique experience of conservation, shooting sports, and outdoor recreation education. The 12-day program introduces girls and boys ages 13 to 17 to the ethical responsibilities of hunting and fishing in order to foster careful stewardship of natural resources.

The Annual Graduation Ceremony was held in August, where awards for the Camp Competition Day were presented and congratulations were offered by Stephen Johnson, MJCC Board President; Ron Amidon, Commissioner of the Department of Fish and Game; Jack Buckley, MassWildlife Director, and Lt. Tara Carlow of the Massachusetts Environmental Police. These winners included:

  • Shotgun: 1st place Mathieu Ouellet (Worthington); 2nd place Andrew Lachtara (Southwick); 3rd place Daniel Comeau (Carver)
  • Scholastic Steel: 1st place Liam Donahue (Belchertown); 2nd place Andrew Lachtara (Southwick); 3rd place Adam Perreira (Dighton)
  • Rifle: 1st place Andrew Lachtara (Southwick); 2nd place Mathieu Ouellet (Worthington); 3rd place Aiden Downey (Marlborough)
  • Archery: 1st place Joey Deprey (Granby); 2nd place Tyler Joe (Andover); 3rd place Andrew Lachtara (Southwick)
  • Black Powder: 1st place Lane Hughes (Lanesboro); 2nd place; Graham Goodhind (Pelham); 3rd place Daniel Comeau (Carver)
  • Fishing Derby: 1st place Shanna McCarty (Lakeville) – 16" Largemouth Bass; 2nd place Dennis Cross (Barre) 15" Chain Pickerel; 3rd place Hayden Page (Sutton) 14.5" Largemouth Bass

“We greatly appreciate the support of our camp partners,” said Stephen Johnson, President of the MJCC Board. “We are especially grateful for the long term commitment to Conservation Camp by MassWildlife, the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), the Environmental Police, and the Gun Owners Action League (GOAL). This year’s contributions of outdoor equipment for program instruction by Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s were very welcome.” In addition, Johnson noted that nearly 90% of campers’ tuitions were funded by local and regional sporting clubs and civic organizations.

Much of the MJCC curriculum is a hands-on experience; campers learn how to safely use firearms, archery, fishing, navigation and camping gear. Courses in hunter education, safe boating, and shooting certification are offered. MassWildlife biologists and DCR forestry professionals provide instruction in wildlife, forestry, and fisheries management. Fishing, hiking, outdoor cooking, navigating with GPS and compass, and survival skills learning are provided by experienced outdoor instructors. Evening programs with naturalists and other conservationists round out the program.

If you’re interested in becoming a camper, sponsoring a camper, or working as camp staff, please visit the Junior Conservation Camp website for more information.

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