Sunday, March 30, 2014

SPRING HAS ARRIVED........I THINK?

    Spring has just officially arrived here in New Brunswick but I don't think anyone told the big guy upstairs yet. This winter arrived early and is determined to stay until the last bell. The weather has been staying cold and now we have another storm coming that promises to pound areas of the Maritimes. I've been crossing my fingers hoping that this system will slide by the Grand Lake area without leaving too much precipitation in its wake. It seems things are running about two weeks late at this point and we have already postponed our trip to the Miramichi River for the spring salmon opener on the 15th of April. There is no way the river will be open by then. It's still frozen from bank to bank the full length of the river. This causes considerable problems for outfitters and guides alike because of cancellations and delays and it shortens the spring season which translates into lost revenue. Hopefully, the weather will moderate soon and give our deer herd AND citizens a break after this long winter.

    Although most people are hoping for warmer temperatures, this winter has been great for the ice fishermen. Most of the locals have been taking full advantage of these cold temperatures and have been hitting the hard water with enthusiasm. One of my fishing buddies decided to put a shack out on McLeod's Pond this year and he had a little help from a couple of other friends. This location proved to be a good choice because the village of Chipman kept the area ploughed and sanded and that helped with getting off of the road and getting on and off the ice. There is certainly lots of ice with about two feet measured on the pond. This is a photo of George P. in his shack that I took when I stopped in for a visit.
 George and his fishing partner were having a hard time catching fish so I asked him what they were using for bait and he motioned to a can of corn nibblets. When I seen that I exclaimed "George, don't you know that fish aren't vegetarians!" George and his partner "Dag" got a good chuckle out of that and Dag mentioned that he had a bottle of power bait and I told him that would be better than corn nibblets. Dag baited up with the new bait and started jigging. I then asked if they were chumming and they replied that they were...religiously. I looked down at the holes and saw some French fries and some other assorted fast food and took into laughing. "You've got these fish spoiled George!" I said and just at that moment Dag says "I've got one." I told Dag to haul it up and what came up through the hole caused us all to explode in laughter. Here is a photo of Dag with his catch.
 Poor old Dag got an awful ribbing on that one. It turns out it was a sack full of salad of some sort and I told Dag that mess would be better off in the garbage. He dumped the mess and continued fishing as George and I teased him mercilessly. I have always found that some kind of natural bait such as angle worms or minnows work well when ice fishing. Cut bait can also work well for certain species. One thing I DO know is anything vegetable or canned doesn't work.
    McLeod's Pond is a fairly small habitat and I asked George if he released the fish he caught and he replied "What fish" and we all got a good chuckle over that. All joking aside, these smaller areas can be fished out quickly as we have seen these past few seasons as this area gets more popular with fishermen from away. Catch and release is definitely the way to go for a sustainable fishery. I asked Dag and George if they had anything else  that a fish might eat and they replied that they had some power bait worms. I told Dag to try a couple of those so he tied a couple on and started to jig. After a few minutes Dag whooped " I've got one". Yeah, right. George and I were waiting for Dag to haul up another salad plate or maybe an old boot but lo and behold, up comes a pickerel! I guess Dag had the last laugh that day. Here is a photo of the pickerel Dag got.
 This pickerel wasn't trophy size but on a slow day it was a good fish to break the ice. George and Dag picked up a couple of perch later on and decided to call it a day. George asked me if I would be interested in setting up a little local tournament next year because he said the village offered to keep the area ploughed and sanded and would support a local tournament. I told George I was definitely interested and we would plan an event for next season.

    At the other end of Grand Lake,  Matt Banks and his fishing buddies were running around pounding holes in a couple of different areas but final settled in at a spot on Maquapit Lake. Matt and his buddies take their ice fishing serious and have a permanent shack set up on Grand Lake and use a good portable to travel around to other areas. These guys are rigged with electronics and live bait and a good knowledge of the four lakes area so they usually do quite well on their fishing excursions. Matt and the boys fish for a variety of species but seem to like pickerel fishing probably because pickerel will usually co-operate when you find them and offer up the right bait. Here is a photo of Matt with a very nice trophy sized pickerel taken at Maquapit Lake.
 This fish represents the upper end in terms of the size of fish caught in the four lakes area. Matt wanted to keep some for a feed so he kept two of the bigger ones and he asked me how he should do them up for the pan. I told him the easiest way was to clean and scale the fish and just steak it up and fry the portions up with seasoning. Another option is to fillet the fish but that takes a bit of skill to avoid the Y bones that pickerel have. Here is a photo of the two fish Matt and his fishing partner kept for supper.
 These two fish show what size pickerel are available for fishermen who know where to go and what bait to use. fishermen shouldn't expect to get fish this size on every outing but 20 inch+ fish are usually taken every time out, if they are taking.

    The New Brunswick Big Game Club held an antler show and scoring session recently at the bowling ally in Chipman and it was very well attended with over three hundred people through the doors. This was a fund raiser for the Chipman Fish and Game Club and the Chipman Bowling Ally and according to the organizers it was a great success. There were lots of volunteers on hand to help with scoring and many other chores but because of the large number of racks brought in, some didn't get scored but any heads that looked promising were given priority because the club wanted to get as many new additions for the book as possible. The last count I heard was thirty new moose and deer heads were entered into the New Brunswick record book. That's pretty good considering the size of the geographical area they were drawing from. The best in show went to Bob Northrup with his father-in-laws non-typical deer head that was taken in the Bronson area. This head was taken by the late Bill Davidson who is a former Mayor of Chipman and a brother to my good friend Allen Davidson. Billy's rack scored in the 180's non-typical which is a pretty good score but Allen scoffed and said that deer didn't hold a candle to his 302 Lb. dressed buck that he killed many years ago in Cumberland Bay. Allen said that the deer was so old his horns were starting to rot! I seen a photo of this deer that Allen had and the deer was on the back of a big old Pontiac car and it was hanging over both ends and it dwarfed Allen who was posing beside it. If I can ever get a copy of that photo I will post it on my blog. The next photo shows some of the nice deer heads brought in for the show.
 One of the more impressive sets of moose horns was brought in by an old friend from Minto who killed a tremendous bull on a hunt with his brother. Roger "Spunk" McGraw and his brother |Morris harvested this bull in the Bronson area a few years ago and just had it scored and I believe it placed in the top ten in the province. Regardless of its placing, this is a very impressive set of horns and after viewing the photos of the hunt, I don't think it would be an exaggeration to say this was a 1200 lb. bull. The butcher that did their moose up said it was the biggest moose he had done in 25 years. Spunk told me they had 710 lbs. of meat after it was all said and done. That is one BIG moose! Here is a photo of that set of horns.
 There were several large sets of moose horns brought in including a nice one that was taken by Sam W. last season in the Bronson area. This area was a veritable game haven at one time. It held good numbers of deer, moose and birds but lately it seems the moose are the only species to survive and thrive after the heavy wood harvesting done over the last twenty years. A group of hunters from the Moncton area have been setting up in the Coy Brook area each season and pretty much stay for the length of the season. They don't seem to be taking many deer but they do pick up a few birds and seem to enjoy the camaraderie of their group of hunters at their little encampment. The next photo shows Sam W's. 19 point moose rack.
 The next photo shows one of the odd non-typical racks that was brought in for display. I'm not sure whose rack this was but it drew considerable interest because of its odd configuration.
 As I said, this was a great show but due to the large number of racks,  they didn't all get scored. I brought in three sets but I only got one set scored that went in the book at 168 and change. The other two sets were retrieved from a barn and I brought them in more for display but at least one set would make the N.B. book as a typical. The new book published by the NBBGC is the fourth edition and is a very well done addition to the previous ones with many color photos and stories included. I can't give the club members enough credit for their efforts and I would be remiss not to mention George Chases name as well as Bill Hanson. These two gentlemen are considered the Deans of the deer hunting fraternity here in New Brunswick and these accolades are well deserved. Kevin Burgoine is one of the younger hunters continuing the tradition that George and Bill started and Kevin has two animals in the book and he's just getting started! Here is a photo I coaxed out of George Chase
 and he was kind enough to take a few seconds to pose for me. George and his crew worked tirelessly all day and are to be commended for a job well done.

    The government recently announced it is providing a substantial amount of wood to be made available to the big forestry companies for harvest in the near future. This announcement was greeted with mixed reviews because the wood is coming from buffer zones and deer yards because that is about the only wood that's left that hasn't been utilized. I'm not going to get into the whole thing because I have worked in the industry for longer than I care to remember and I'm not a hypocrite so I'll just say if you want to do any research into the subject don't look to the mainstream media but look at YouTube and the Internet if you want to get the facts on this issue.

    Looking forward, I am recommending would-be spring salmon fishermen watch the weather forecasts and keep an ear out for what the locals are saying concerning the timing of ice out for the Miramichi River. We have already cancelled the week of the 15th and if I were a betting man, I would be looking to the end of April for the spring break-up if I were a sport planning a trip this spring. Ken and I have some very nice bears waiting safely in their dens for the weather to warm up and rouse them from their deep sleep. Again, I would expect the season to be a week or two late in getting started so please keep this in mind when booking a hunt this spring for bear here in New Brunswick. I have my eye on one particular old boar that has BOOK written all over him.

    If any sport is looking for a guided trip for any of our species at a very reasonable cost please shoot me an e-mail or give me a call at my contact information and we will iron out the details for a trip to the beautiful Grand Lake region for the adventure of your choice.

    Until then, this is Dale Bauer saying 'Happy Trails to You.....Until we Meet Again!'

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