The most persistent fall on record is finally coming to its overdue conclusion. With bitter determination, it succeeded in staving off winter’s attack, and is now allowing spring to assert its mild self. Who needs winter anyway? I know some of you have been thinking it and I don’t begrudge you your opinion, I’ve got plenty of them, just ask. I and many others, who enjoy and even depend on winter’s presence, having taken one last rueful look back at lost opportunities, are focusing our eternal optimism to the warm season to come. C’est la vie, Que sera, sera, life goes on and all that stuff!
Spring is imminent, but not quite here by my reckoning. The snow and ice are all but gone, shirtsleeve weather has graced us, but I have not yet seen nor heard the telltale signs that I have always associated with the arrival of spring. As of this writing, I have not seen any red winged blackbirds or heard the call of the spring peepers. I watched frogs bounce across the road last week, and huge flocks of blackbirds settling in farm fields, looking to refuel after a long flight - but no flashes of red or peeps from the swamp. It could happen any day though - keep your eyes and ears peeled.
Frogs and toads and salamanders, Oh My!
A great way to celebrate the arrival of spring is to participate in the annual Big Night. “What is that,” you ask? Big Night is not an actual, single date on the calendar, but an event that occurs on numerous nights starting in late March and running through the middle of April. On rainy nights, our amphibious friends will wake from their winter slumber and make their way to vernal pools and wetlands to engage in the serious business of meeting members of the opposite sex and making copies of themselves. On the way to their romantic rendezvous, you can observe hundreds, nay, thousands of hopeful frogs, toads and salamanders hopping and crawling across roads. The Department of Environmental Conservation welcomes the help of thousands of volunteers that don their rain gear and head out to observe, identify and count the critters on these nights. The DEC uses the observations to map the distribution and abundance of populations to better manage and protect these important and vulnerable species. Participating in this annual event is a fantastic way to learn more about your local environment and to introduce your children to nature in a fun and educational way. To learn more about how you can participate, go to www.dec.ny.gov/lands/51925.html where you can find out what it takes to be a volunteer.
April Fish’s Day
April 1marks the statewide opening of New York’s trout season. This is cause for celebration for the tens of thousands of anglers who will trek to their favorite stream to pit their skill and patience against the whims of the rainbows, browns and brookies residing within. Due to the anemic winter we just experienced, the odds are in our favor of finding very fishable conditions in the local waters. Most years, anglers have to contend with snow-covered banks and near-flood conditions. Unless we have a late season surprise or biblical precipitation between now and then, opening day will be easy by comparison. When you head out to catch your limit of opening day trout, leave your dry flies at home and bring nymphs and streamers instead. The water will be cold and there won’t be any insect hatches to bring the trout to the surface. If you’re not a fly fisherman, drift a worm into pools or cast a spinner to likely hiding spots behind rocks and snags where trout will find shelter from the current. Be persistent, because you may have to make numerous casts to the same spot to entice stubborn fish. You will also want to take extra tackle because you’re not losing lures - you’re not fishing in the right spots! Get your mind right by attending the ‘Fishmas Eve’ celebration on March 31 at The Parting Glass on Lake Avenue, Saratoga Springs. Hosted by the Adirondack chapter of Trout Unlimited, this celebration of the wonders of cold water fisheries will put you in the company of fellow fishing fanatics with fantasies of fish flip flopping frantically for freedom, Pfewwww. There will be prizes, fly tying and appetizers and a special raffle for an Orvis Helios 2 rod. For a meager $10 donation or $5 plus three of your favorite flies or a single killer spinner, you can join these ardent anglers from 7 to 10 p.m. and get your game face on.
If pan fish are more your style, you can thank the early ice out for the early start of the spring fish fry season. Fishermen are already hitting the local waters for big bluegills, crappie and perch and are leaving with a mess of fish to clean. Saratoga Lake is already giving up crappie and ‘gills to local anglers. The fishermen I’ve talked to say that patience is a virtue at this time but the fishing will get better as the water warms and the fish get more active. Try fathead minnows under a bobber in six to 10 feet of water for crappie; then switch to one of the ice fishing jigs that didn’t get enough exercise and tip it with a small piece of worm or a spike to catch bluegills. The places I would go are the north end of the lake in the Franklin Beach weed beds, or the southern end of the lake, at Browns Beach. If you enjoy catching but not keeping, try your luck fishing the Hudson River at lock 5 in Schuylerville. The perch are biting and you never know what’s going to tug on your line in the river.
Whatever type of fishing you prefer, remember that the water is still very cold, and a slip or dip can result in a very uncomfortable and potentially dangerous situation. Use caution around the water and wear a personal floatation device whenever you’re on it. Not only is it a good idea to wear your life preserver while boating, it’s the law until May 1. No fish is worth risking your life, for so play it safe and smart.
I almost forgot to mention that this year’s trout stocking reports are available on DEC’s website - broken down by county and region, so you can check out your favorite ponds and streams and see what the state put in. Other organizations, towns and counties will also be adding to the numbers of fish stocked in these waters so get ready for some fine fishing fun.
Tim Blodgett, owner of Saratoga Tackle & Archery, can be reached at 518-584-3952. The store has a new location, at 111 Green St, Schuylerville. For further information, visit Saratogatackle.com or find Saratoga Tackle on Facebook.