Killing winter with thoughts of Opening Day

This certainly has been a winter to remember, especially February and March with the extreme freeze they put on our area.

It also goes without saying that such adverse conditions will also have an effect on Connecticut’s wildlife as well as its fish population in some of the smaller, shallower ponds.

As you read this column, hopefully we are in a more warming trend as we wend our way toward the Opening Day of yet another trout season in Connecticut. Admittedly, over the years since I was a kid fishing the waters of the Quinnipiac River on Opening Day of trout season, things have warmed up a bit.

When we were kids fishing the Quinnipiac River, our favorite spot was a grassy meadow under the high tension wires just above Red Bridge that, over the years, has become overgrown with brush and saplings. Back then, having ice form on the eyes of our fishing rods was not at all unusual because we almost always had a frost on Opening Day of trout season.

Things have warmed up a bit since then, but I guess if you were really realistic about the warming changes in our world, things have been warming up since before the days of the dinosaurs.

Now as winter finally relinquishes its cold grip on our area, its severity has increased the chances for potential fish kills in shallow ponds and lakes, according to the DEEP Inland Fisheries Division. They say that conditions have been similar this winter to those experienced three years ago when DEEP received numerous reports of dead fish in lakes and ponds as ice cover finally receded. These die-offs, termed “winterkill,” are typically natural events that vary in severity from year to year depending on existing conditions.

“Winterkills occur most frequently in very shallow, nutrient-enriched ponds that are subject to abundant growth of aquatic vegetation,” said Peter Aarrestad, Director of DEEP’s Inland Fisheries Division. “Conditions conducive to winterkill arise when heavy snow cover over ice inhibits sunlight penetration, thereby preventing aquatic plants and algae from producing oxygen via photosynthesis. This process is the sole means of oxygen creation under ice-encrusted ponds. The greater the load of dead and decaying plant material, the more rapid the loss of oxygen and the more quickly fish can be stressed by low dissolved oxygen levels. The fish typically die during the winter and are only observed following ice out.”

Winterkills that occur in larger lakes are rarely serious in the long run because those lakes support thousands of fish per acre. Usually fish survive, either in the lake or in connecting waters to repopulate the lake.

More severe winterkills that result in elimination of all or nearly all of the pond’s fish community are more likely to occur in very small ponds, which are often privately owned. Pond owners who experience winterkill are advised that, in the future, shoveling off some of the snow cover to allow light penetration may stave off potential winterkill conditions.

Anyone observing abnormally high fish mortalities during or after this spring can notify the DEEP Inland Fisheries Division at the Headquarters in Hartford (860) 424-3474, the eastern District Office in Marlborough (860) 295-9523, or the Western District office in Harwinton (860) 485-0226.

The public is also advised that any fishkills observed in rivers and lakes, ponds and streams any time of the year can be reported to the Inland Fisheries Division at the numbers listed above. Biologists will discuss the caller’s observations and determine is a field investigation is warranted.

While most fishkills are natural occurrences, some have been attributed to accidental or unauthorized human actions such as chemical releases, agricultural runoff, flow modifications or poorly designed or conducted management activities.

Anyone reporting fishkills is asked to provide as much detail as possible concerning location, time and date, estimated size, numbers and types of fish involved and other site-specific information, and if possible, photographs or digital images.

While penning this column, I took a walk around Mirror Lake on March 28 when the ice finally left Mirror Lake entirely ice-free. I did so because of some of the comments that have been issued regarding Mirror Lake and its fish population. Because it is not what you would call a deep lake, I figured that it might fall into the possible “winterkill” category because of water contamination from waterfowl.

Amazingly, in two trips around the shoreline of the lake, I did not find one dead fish floating anywhere. I found that interesting because so many “knowledgeable” people have condemned the DEEP Inland Fisheries interest in stocking the lake with trout and catfish.

I have to confess that while I do not possess the knowledge, the fisheries biologists I have talked to have, and they favor the stockings. So unless there is real proof from the protesters that the water is unfit for fish, I will support the Inland Fisheries in its efforts.

The only visual contamination I found was on the shoreline of the downwind side of the lake (the wall by the tennis courts) which was filthy with plastic bread wrappers, coffee cups, soda cans and plastic water bottles left in the water or shoreline by people who simply don’t know better or don’t give a rat’s behind about leaving an area cleaner than they found it.

As I said, I’ll leave it up to the folks that have the knowledge on the subject to decide if the issue on any trout stocking, although there are a few individuals who think they know more about this then than those in charge.

Oh, and for your information, I happened to hear the comment about the stocking of trout into Mirror Lake means that there will now be ice fishing on Mirror Lake. I don’t know where the individual got his information, but nothing could be further from the truth! All he had to do was look at the 2014 Connecticut Angler’s Guide page 34 where it says that Mirror Lake (Hubbard Park Pond) opens for fishing the third Saturday in April (April 19, 2014) and closes to all fishing in November 2014.

THANK YOU, THANK YOU

Thank you to everyone that turned out March 29 in support of the CT Shooting Sportsmen For St. Jude/Meriden Rod & Gun Club Annual St. Jude’s Day on the club grounds in South Meriden.

The gang at the Meriden Rod & Gun Club outdid themselves once again in this super endeavor to help cure children suffering from childhood cancer and other catastrophic diseases. Having been involved with this event since its beginning, I know the work that these sportsmen put into insuring that this fundraiser will be a success and this year was no different.

Wait a minute! It was different this year. We opened the gates to the event under the dire threat of rain and this does not bode well for an outdoor happening. But guess what? You completely ignored the rain and God Bless You for that.

I had said in an earlier column that we would run rain or shine because that insidious villain childhood cancer does not care if it rains when he takes a child from the loving arms of those that love them. I could not believe my eyes at the sight of the line of vehicles that came down Ravens Lane to support our event.

And a huge thanks to Country 92.5 FM for letting their listeners know and thanks to the Meriden R-J for the great coverage they did on the St. Jude’s Day. Honest sportsmen using legal firearms to help kids suffering the ravages of childhood cancer: If that’s not newsworthy, then what is?

HIGH ROCK SHOOTING

The High Rock Shooting Association Junior Club recognized their latest Distinguished Expert, Bianca Malaspina, at a recent meeting.

Bianca is the first female to be so honored in the club’s history. She is a resident of Prospect and a junior at Holy Cross High School in Waterbury.

The Junior Club of High Rock Shooting Association teaches young shooters in their Winchester/NRA Marksmanship Qualification Program. This program is a progressive safety education-based platform that encourages young shooters to hone their skill and development in the marksman sport.

The Distinguished Expert rating must be witnessed by an NRA member or an NRA instructor or coach. Each Junior Club athlete works with a qualified and accredited coach to develop their skill and have this accomplishment witnessed.

The High Rock Shooting Association Junior Club had six athletes finish to Distinguished Expert: Mike Gierula, Ben Dobler, Zack Boutot, Brandon Cleland, Bianca Malaspina and Matt Mallon.

The High Rock Shooting Association Junior Club membership is mixed between boys and girls. There are six coaches whose experience totals over 100 years on qualified firearms shooting. The coaches are led by John Cleland, George Martin, Mike Carpentieri, Alan Laidlaw, Tim Curran, Tom Silvia and Joe Majoros.

HAM SHOOT MERIDEN ROD & GUN CLUB

There will be a Ham Shoot ($10 Gift Certificates) at the Meriden Rod & Gun Club next Sunday, April 13, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., rain or shine. (Shotgun 12 or 20 gauge.)

That’s it gang, think Opening Day fishing! See ya’ and God Bless America and watch over our troops wherever they may be.



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