Something Fishy

Something Fishy
t Doesn't Get Much Better

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Plenty of water in breeding grounds means plenty of ducks in the fall

Retrieving a downed duck can be a challenge. A good, well-trained dog can make the task easier and hunting more enjoyable.

Duck hunters can anticipate plenty of birds to hunt this fall and winter, assuming the weather continues to cooperate.
North America’s spring duck population is down slightly from record levels, but pond counts are up 24 percent over last year, according to the 2013 Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat. 
The survey, which has been conducted annually since 1955 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Canadian Wildlife service, puts the breeding duck population at 45.6 million, the second-highest level ever recorded. 
“We started with high numbers of breeding ducks, and we have great water in the right places for renesting and duckling survival,” said Frank Rohwer, president of Delta Waterfowl. “Duck production should be excellent.” 
Of the 10 species cited in the survey index, only American wigeon and canvasbacks showed an increase from 2012. Wigeon breeding numbers sit at 2.64 million, up 23 percent from 2012 and two percent above the long-term average for the species. Canvasbacks showed a modest increase of four percent, with the population estimated at 787,000, well above the threshold to have an open season. 
“Wigeon, a species which had many folks concerned about a long term decline have now increased two years in a row,” said Joel Brice, vice president of conservation for Delta Waterfowl. “It is nice to see canvasbacks back to near record populations.” 
Mallards were at 10.37 million, down two percent, but still 36 percent higher than the long-term average. Despite the overall decline, mallards increased locally in the Eastern Dakotas, Southern Manitoba and Southern Saskatchewan. 
Gadwalls dipped seven percent to 3.35 million, but the population remains an impressive 80 percent above the long-term average of 1.86 million. 
Biologist expects strong bird production due to the May pond counts, which is critical to nesting and rearing young.
May pond counts, an index of wetlands across the survey area, were tallied at 6.89 million, a significant and important 24 percent increase over 2012.
“We started with good water, and it got better with rains in May,” Rohwer said. “All research shows that renesting effort and duckling survival are tied to good water conditions.”
May ponds were up 59 percent in the Eastern Dakotas, 44 percent in Southern Manitoba, 40 percent in Southern Alberta and 6 percent in Southern Saskatchewan. 
“Southern Saskatchewan and the Eastern Dakotas are the holy grail for prairie duck production as they hold a very high number of breeding ducks,” Brice said. “This year, duck numbers and wetland conditions are excellent in both places.”
“A number of our staff were concerned in April about the late spring, delayed nesting and a poor frost seal which resulted in poorer than normal run off. However, then the rains came. These rains helped recharge and sustain the small, temporary wetlands that drive duck production. The presence of these wetlands will drive the renesting rate and significantly improve duckling survival.”
Renesting rates are important because many areas of the breeding grounds have poor hatching rates. In drier years, such as 2012, hens that lose a first nest to predators are far less likely to make a new nest and lay more eggs.
“Last year, wetland conditions eroded over the course of the breeding season which is very common, this year conditions improved markedly with spring early summer rains,” Rohwer said. 
Good production translates into a lot of young ducks.
“Young ducks are far more likely to decoy and respond to calling,” Rohwer said.
Indiana is not on a major duck flyway, however many migratory birds pass through the area, and find their way along the Wabash and Ohio Rivers. Posey County’s  Hovey Lake is a major waterfowl hunting area.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Bluegill: Midwest's most popular fish

Lawrence Taylor with a dark-colored bluegill (bream).

Picking a favorite fish is easy for many people. It’s a largemouth bass. Others would ask, “Do you mean to catch or eat”?
For most people in the Midwest, the answer would be “bluegill”.
Bluegill are regionally known as bream (Southeast), brim, sun perch, blue sunfish and copper belly. There also are many popular ”sunfish cousins” such as redear and stumpknockers. 
They are plentiful, fun to catch, and very good eating.
Bluegill probably vary more in coloration than any other sunfish, depending on the water in which they are found. The basic body color ranges from yellow to dark blue--some almost appear black. If you catch them in a relatively sterile quarry, they may look nearly transparent. The adult sides usually are distinguished with six to eight vertical, irregular stripes or bars.
They range is size depending on water and age. In Northern waters, gills grow a little over an inch a year and a three-year-old fish may be four to six inches in length, and a nine-inch fish may be eight years old. In the South, gills usually spawn more often and grow much faster. Some may reach up to four inches in one year. A half-pound bluegill is a nice fish, and anything over a pound is a lunker.
The Indiana record bluegill is three pounds, four ounces and was caught  back in 1972 by Harold Catey in a Green County farm pond.
Bluegill originally were found from Minnesota to Lake Champlain on the East coast and south to Georgia to Arkansas, however their popularity for farm pond stocking has spread them to much of the South and also further west.
Quiet, weedy waters are preferred by the fish. The smaller gills will be found in shallow water close to shore, and the larger fish like nearby deeper water in the daytime, but will move into the shallower water in the morning and evening to feed.
Bluegill first spawn when the water temperature reaches about 67 degrees, and in the spring they are active just prior to and during the spawn. Depending on the area, they will spawn several times during the summer. However, the first spawn usually is most productive for anglers.
The females lay their eggs in nests located in beds, which may contain only a few or many nests. After the female lays her eggs, she leaves and the male protects the nests for several days. Of the fish caught on nests, nearly all will be males.
A bed of spawning gils can be a delight for a fly fisherman. If the water is shallow enough, they will usually rise to hit poppers, especially in the evening. Otherwise wet fllies or ultra-light leadheads will take them on deeper beds. The females will generally be found in deeper waters nearby the nests.
Rarely will you find or catch a single bluegill. Where you find one, there will be more.
Bluegill have small mouths and small hooks are needed--like Tru-Turn 6 or 8 Aberdeen hooks. Thin wire hooks are the choice for live bait because the bait will live longer and be more attractive to the fish as it squirms. Hooks with long shanks are easier to remove from the small mouths, especially if it swallows the hook.
Bluegill are good eating. They have white, firm flesh. Most fillets aren’t large, but battered and deep fried they are delicious. However my parents never filleted the fish. They simply cut off the head, gutted the fish, and took off the scales. The whole fish was fried and the meat was taken from the fish with a fork. Of course, you had to be careful and watch for stray bones.
Hush puppies, cole slaw and baked beans will top off a meal.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Fourth of July busy for boaters

Fourth of July weekend is the busiest boating time of the year, and caution is important to insure safety. Life jackets are a must for youngsters.

Traditionally, the Fourth of July holiday is the busiest boating weekend. It can be a lot of fun. It can be dangerous.
Boaters will take to the water for relaxation, including fishing, cruising, skiing, swimming, and watching fireworks. It’s a time to reflect on our independence and the freedoms we enjoy, including celebrating in the great outdoors. Many locations have over-the-water fireworks displays, and the exploding shells are beautiful from a boat.
However, congested waterways can be hazardous, and common sense, planning and cautions can make for an fun Fourth, and not a tragic holiday.
 The BoatU.S. Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water says that making a few extra preparations ahead of time will go a long way towards increasing your family's and friend's safety and fun on the water.
Here are eight tips that will help you stay safe this July Fourth holiday:
Planning is an import element of a good weekend, yet it often is overlooked.
Kids need life jackets and correct size jackets. Everyone wants to be on the boat this holiday weekend, but do you have the right-sized life jacket aboard for any visiting kids?  An adult needs an adult jacket and children need jackets that fit them, and not slip over their heads.
 July Fourth is the one time a year many fair-weather boaters - who may rarely navigate in the dark - venture out after the sun goes down. They stay out to see the fireworks.  The most reported type of boating accident is a collision with another vessel so it's a good idea to keep your speed down, post an extra lookout, and ensure all your navigation lights work.  A spotlight is a must, and ensure all safety gear is readily available and life jackets are worn.  Be extra vigilant about not running over anchor lines in crowded fireworks viewing areas, and don't take shortcuts in the dark. Be especially careful, if you are on the Ohio river. Current can be a problem as well as push boat barges.
Wear life jackets. Many people think they are a nuisance. Wrong. I personally like the self-inflating type that are light weight and not hot. Almost three-quarters of all fatal boating accident victims drowned, and of those, 87 percent were not wearing a life jacket. Accidents can happen very quickly, sometimes leaving no time to don a life jacket. 
Don’t overload your boat. Resist the urge to invite more friends or family to the fireworks show than what your boat was designed to carry.  Heavily loaded small boats, and those with little freeboard such as bass boats, are more susceptible to swamping from weather or wake action associated with heavy July Fourth boating traffic.
It’s one of the longest days of the year, and a great one to enjoy. If you are going to have an alcoholic drink, make sure you have a designated driver, who knows how to properly drive the boat. A full day in the sun will increase alcohol's effects on the body, so it's better to wait until you're safely back at the dock or home before breaking out the libations. (Kentucky law prohibits boat operators or passengers from drinking alcohol on the water.} 
Also bring lots of water, and check the weather reports to avoid storms. The long-range forecast at this writing does forecast possible thunderstorms.
Know how to get back into the boat. A fall overboard can turn into a life-threatening situation pretty quickly, especially for small boats without built-in boarding ladders. 
Don’t run the engine with swimmers in the water. Raft-ups, or groups of boats tied together in a protected anchorage, is a great way to spend the holiday with fellow boating friends, especially at today’s gasoline prices. 
However boaters should never run an engine, or a generator for that matter, with swimmers in the water near exhaust ports or props. 
Whether you boat or just enjoy a picnic and fireworks, the weekend should be a fond memory, not an unhappy one. Be safe.