Outdoors doings were diverse and outcomes were varied for anglers and hunters in 2013.
Shooters, gun owners and collectors and all with an interest in firearms and the outdoors saw an extreme variety activities throughout the year.
Fishing pursuits proved positive for Great Lakes anglers.
Lake Erie perch, walleye and steelhead trout trips were rewarding for both numbers and sizes caught.
Perch numbers remain high, with sizeable schools of younger year classes showing as soon as boaters could get onto open waters. The deep-water fishery out of Sturgeon Point, Cattaraugus Creek and Dunkirk Harbor continues.
Savvy boaters know that these bigger ringbacks travel in packs. Perch can be caught virtually everywhere the sonar readings reach 40 feet or so.
Typically, Western Basin walleye move along the Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York shoreline after spawning in shallows off Port Clinton, Sandusky Bay and points west.
This past year, early warming of eastern Great Lakes waters had walleyes off spawning beds and heading east earlier than usual and schools moved in Canadian waters directly to the Buffalo area.
Barcelona and Dunkirk boaters saw good numbers of walleyes during the early Southtowns Walleye Tourney, but contest competitors, charter boaters and recreational anglers alike saw a Buffalo Harbor bonanza starting early in June and continuing after the Cystic Foundation’s BassEye Challenge in late June.
Techniques and baits varied. Both trollers and drifters did well. Worm harnesses prevailed for both chuggers and wind workers.
Given the number of young fish produced from several recent year classes, this Erie walleye fishery could be good for years to come.
Perhaps the most impressive fishing revival has to be Lake Erie’s steelhead trout presence. Cattaraugus Creek Outfitters noted, “After several below-normal years of steelhead runs it looks like our streams are finally back on track. This fall the Lake Erie tributaries experienced the strongest runs they’ve had in four years.”
Trout season is closed on Cattaraugus Creek in Seneca Nation of Indians land from Jan. 1 to March 1. New York State waters can be productive throughout the winter and early spring.
Recent regulation changes now allow anglers on Lake Erie tributary waters to use two flies as terminal tackle.
Two Lake Ontario fishing ports have gained national prominence. In 2012, the World Fishing Network selected Olcott Harbor in Niagara County as its Ultimate Fishing Town.
In June of 2013 the networki chose Point Breeze in Orleans County as its Ultimate Fishing Town for this year. The honor is based on a site’s abundance of fish stocks, the variety of species available to anglers and its year round appeal.
Lake Ontario’s Olcott and Oak Orchard ports offer all that. From perch along piers and slips to king salmon over 500-foot depths in open waters, Ontario’s fisheries thrive.
Curiously, the king salmon fishery, especially the bigger kings, was only so-so this season, according to charter captain Bob Cinelli of Bob Cinelli Sportfishing. “We had a great year on 2-year-old kings in 2012, but that didn’t translate into bigger fish in 2013,” Cinelli said.
Charter captains saw many rough-weather days in the spring and many windy weekends during the summer, but fish catching was good.
Cinelli sees prospects for a good run of kings during the 2014 season.
For shooters and gun owners and collectors, passage of the NY SAFE Act (Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement) in January and a U.S. District Court court judge in Buffalo ruling the act constitutional on the last day of the year imposed restrictions on sales and certain firearms models, some of which had been family possessions for decades.
The only questionable feature of the NY SAFE Act the judge deemed improper was the seven-round clip/magazine requirement.
Stephen Aldstadt, statewide president of SCOPE (Shooters Committee on Political Education), while pointing out the restrictions and failings of the SAFE Act, said, “SCOPE membership more than doubled in 2013 as a result of this act; seven committees have been formed across the state.” By SCOPE rules, a newly formed chapter must first function one year as a committee before being approved as a chapter. For more information, go to scopeny.org.
The deer year
The deer tally for opening weekend of big-game season at the Department of Environmental Conservation Deer Check Station in Holland was down about 30 percent from the 2012, but numbers improved as the weeks progressed.
Many a trophy buck will be on walls as mounts from the 2013 season, but the most outstanding personal trophy taken has to be an albino buck Emily Staniszewski, 14, of Batavia took in Sherman on Nov. 11 while bow hunting with her dad, Ed Staniszewski.
Dad carefully dressed out Emily’s 3-point buck so that it could be nicely done in a full mount. Not only was Ed proud of his daughter’s first archery-season deer, her deer was taken where dad had gotten his first buck with a bow years earlier.
Ingenuity and milestones marked hatchery efforts in 2013.
The Seneca Nation of Indians walleye hatchery began its stocking program in 2012 and the facility expanded its production in 2013. Manager Shane Titus noted the entire hatchery is a self-contained “green” operation. The site is on a hillside on Hatchery Road above the Allegany River.
The DEC Hatchery at Caledonia did some sprucing and continued production of trout stock in preparation for its 150th Anniversary in 2014.
Hatchery Manager Alan Mack is on the premises throughout the year and can arrange group tours by appointment with a call to (585) 538-6300.
Two prominent club leaders died in 2013.
New York Walleye Association lost a devoted leader and friend Aug. 12 with the passing of Jim Borucki. Jim was not a founding member of NYWA, but he served as longtime president and a founding developer of the club’s popular Amara-Can fishing derby.
Wood and Brook Sportsmen Club in Alden benefitted from more than 40 years of volunteer club work George Schadel contributed. He died at age 77 on Dec. 2. Schadel served as a hunter safety instructor for nearly 50 years and was instrumental in conducting National Hunting and Fishing Day events at the Wood and Brook club.
After an early spring, mild summer and some hot-and-cold fall weather, conditions up north brought flights of snow buntings weeks before their early-winter arrivals in Western New York. These birds travel in large, tight flights and synchronized shifts in their wing movements often look like a snow storm on a clear, calm day.
Snowy owls arrived somewhat early but in greater abundance along field edges from areas in Buffalo eastward to Rochester. Look for an oversized red-tailed hawk wearing a white mask, but don’t ask “who?” A snowy owl will just stare and prowl. We watched one at the Genesee County airport last Sunday during a snowy afternoon.
Happy, healthy and rewarding outdoors ventures in 2014.