Monday, February 18, 2019

MID-WINTER REPORT FOR GRAND LAKE AND AREA

    This has been a typical Maritime winter so far here at home on Salmon River. We had a short January thaw that caused smaller streams and brooks to spill over their banks and broke up some parts of the larger rivers and caused the ice to run and pile up on the flats. Localized flooding was reported in some areas but the worst the Grand lake area suffered was a few basements got flooded and water built up on the roads in low spots causing treacherous driving conditions. One curious observation was deer and other wildlife heading for the roads during the rainstorm that accompanied the thaw. There were many comments on social media and observers thought this happened because the soft snow was causing the animals a lot of difficulty navigating in the forest. Our town deer herd in Chipman was seen and photographed around the village in different locations gathered on roads and this was causing motorists some problems. Here is a photo I plucked from a post that shows a small herd gathered on the road in the Redbank area of Chipman during the storm.

 I also scared another group of deer off the highway while travelling to Cambridge Narrows on the western side of Grand Lake. Another motorist also commented that they saw this same group on the day I was travelling in this area. Here is a photo of that group of deer that I scared off of the Fowler Road. You can see the TCH overpass in the background.
This is another photo of deer heading for the road during the January thaw.
 Although not in our area, a person also reported a large group of about fifty sea gulls on a highway near Bathurst. I guess strange weather also causes strange behavior in wildlife.
    I travel to many areas near home and I visit the Boistown/Doaktown area on a regular basis in the summer and winter. I was visiting friends earlier in the month and was thrilled to see Leroy S.feeding his herd of deer he has visiting during the winter months. Leroy has been feeding a group of deer in his yard that has grown to around twenty-five including six big bucks with horns ranging in size from eight points to a monster twelve pointer. Leroy knows these deer individually and he told me it's not hard to tell who the boss is. The biggest buck will dominate the food source even though Leroy spreads the food out. He says this definitely helps but the big buck will still get pushy at times. I asked Leroy if he hunts the deer and he said that feeding them and being in such close contact with the deer, he can't bring himself to kill one. He said he can't even kill one when he goes away to deer camp with his buddies. Keep this in mind if you are a hunter and decide to feed deer. You may find yourself in a place you didn't bargain for. Leroy was a life long hunter up until he started feeding "his deer". Here is a short video clip of Leroy feeding the deer as I pulled up in his yard. 

  I asked Leroy if the coyotes bother the deer any and he told me he kills about six or eight every year when they move in on the herd. He said if he didn't hunt them they would be taking some of the deer out for sure. Apparently, they will dog them hard when they get on the food. Here is one of the smaller bucks with eight points. Click on the picture to enlarge.
 

The ice fishing season is in full swing in our area and most other places in New Brunswick. Coastal areas and the Saint John area concentrate on smelt when ice fishing but hake is quickly becoming more popular with fishermen, especially in the Saint John area. Many fishermen are going out from their smelt shacks to the deeper water to fish for hake during their outings. The hake are usually found in deeper water than smelts but in the same locale so it's usually just a walk out to the deeper water and drilling a few holes and you are in business.
    Around Grand Lake and near home on Salmon River, ice fishermen usually target pickerel and perch but we also have burbot, rainbow smelt, landlocked salmon and whitefish in fishable numbers. This photo shows a fisherman from the Cumberland Bay side of Grand Lake who caught a nice landlocked salmon while fishing for burbot recently.

In years past, ice fishermen would congregate around Goat Island and at times there were upwards of one hundred shacks set up in a small community. The fishing was pretty good at times and the government helped with access by keeping the roads plowed out so that even fishermen with cars could reach the island. With that many shacks and everyone chumming, there were good numbers of fish around and it wasn't unusual to catch multiple species on any given day. Night fishing for burbot and smelt was quite popular during that time but with recent changes to the rules, that will remain a thing of the past. Too bad really. What is needed for the Grand Lake ice fishery is an association whereby members would pay dues and the monies put towards paying someone in the private sector to plow roads and keep access open for the members and public. With the growing interest in this sport, I can see this happening sooner rather than later.
    The number of tournaments is growing each year and when weather permits, attendance is good. I fished the first leg of the Tri-Lake series at the Key-Hole with my buddy George Palmer and his son in-law Doug Barton. We had a pretty good day with about a dozen pickerel and a couple of perch hooked and released. George had the biggest pickerel at 19.75 inches followed by Doug with one coming in at 19.5 inches. These fish weren't big enough to get on the board but we still had some fun. I caught seven fish myself and not one was over 18 inches! That's fishing. Here is a photo of George and I landing a fish.
 It was a cold day so it was nice that we could drive the trucks out to our spot. It saved a lot of work and we could jump in the truck to warm up once in a while.
 As you can see from the photo, we had that end of the pond all to ourselves and I thought we would have caught some bigger fish since this end doesn't get fished as hard but sometimes the best made plans don't work out. Still a great day on the ice.
    I had my Grandson Jack out for an afternoon and we managed to catch a couple of pickerel near home on Salmon River. I got a small one at first and Jack had been telling me he was getting bites but I wasn't sure if that was what was really happening or if he was catching the lip of the hole when he was jigging. I checked his bait after it happened a couple of times and the bait was gone so I thought he might be getting bites for real. After re-baiting and getting back in business, it was just a few minutes before he let out a whoop and said "Fish on!" I yelled for him to pull it up because I wanted him to get used to doing it on his own and sure enough, up came a nice pickerel. It was about 21.5 inches and Jack was a happy fisherman!
 After a quick measurement and photo Jack slid the fish back down the hole. I like the fact he has no problem letting them go. Start them young and it will stay with them when they get older. Here is another photo of Jack with the smaller one I caught.

    My buddy George and I also fished the inaugural Jill Knox Memorial Tournament at French Lake a couple of weeks ago. This new tournament was organized by a well known fisherman from the Grand Lake area,Will Redmond. Will was good friends with Jill who passed away recently at a very young age. Will wanted to do something in remembrance so because Jill liked to go ice fishing , he thought this tournament would be just the thing to host in her memory. There were some prizes for biggest pickerel overall and a draw prize for odd species. The bulk of the entrance fees went to the SPCA in Jill's name. The tournament was well attended and although it was tough fishing, I managed to catch a chub for entry in the odd species draw. No luck there either but it was still a good day and for a good cause. Kudos to Will and his helpers for sponsoring this event. Here is a photo of the winners of that tournament.

    I got out fishing a few times by myself and had some good luck catching pickerel near home on the ponds.This short clip shows a visitor, Ivan R., hauling up a nice pickerel during one outing.

 Here is a photo of me with another fish I got on the same day.


 We like to release most of our pickerel because we believe this species isn't given the respect it should have as a game fish. Pickerel take a long time to grow to trophy size (over 20 in.) and it is easy to clean them out of smaller habitat such as the small ponds and back guts here at home on Salmon River. We will keep a fish once in a while if it is a bleeder just because we don't believe in wasting Natures bounty and my good friend and neighbor, Wes Hargrove, loves a feed of winter pickerel. The next video clip demonstrates this fact.

 This next short video clip was taken earlier on the same day when I got the first fish. I had fished a previous day without a bite so I moved over one hundred meters and changed bait and technique and landed seven on this day. It pays to change things up sometimes.

    There are at least two more tournaments coming up that I'll get a report on as soon as I get the information. If our weather holds steady, there will be good fishing well into March. The ponds and coves still have around two feet of ice. That amount of ice  usually means safe fishing unless we get an extreme thaw. Knowing local conditions is very important for safety reasons and that's a good reason in itself to hire a local guide if you're unfamiliar with the area you want to fish. Our motto is always "Safety First!"

    I happened to notice a series of photos in a great Facebook site named New Brunswick Upon Days Faded. These photos were about the pioneer Lemon family who settled on the Gaspereau River in the late 1800's--early 1900's. The original farm house is still standing and is in very good shape. Howard Lemon was the most recent owner and would have been a grandson of the original settlers. Howard recently passed away after a long, full life and was in his nineties when he died. I found these photos very interesting because the Lemons worked in the woods and had logging camps in the Gaspereau country and also outfitted hunting expeditions during the season. It has been said that Grover Lemon killed one of the last caribou in the Gaspereau River area and that head still resides on the wall of the homestead, as far as I know. Here are some of the photos I borrowed from the site I mentioned previously that depict some family members at their camps.

From the looks of the following photos, their camps were well stocked with provisions and had a designated Cookie ie. the gentleman with the apron on.

As I said, most times these camps served double duty housing woods workers during the winter months and sports during hunting season.

The next photo shows a sport posing with a black bear that was taken and tacked out on an outside wall to be cured. This was a common practice back in the day.
The next photo is the caribou head that one of the Lemons took before this species was exterminated from this part of the country. 

I'm guessing that this head was done by old Gideon Brown in the early 1900's because he was the only practicing taxidermist in the area at that time that I know of. Gid, as he was called, had a beautiful farm at the Bronson crossroads where he farmed, lumbered,  hunted, trapped and did taxidermy work for locals and sports of that era. The original homestead has been beautifully restored and much of the original furniture has still survived. The present owners are to be commended for their efforts in this regard because many of these historic places succumb to the rigors of time and fall to the wayside to make room for more modern buildings.
    I acquired two dilapidated old mounts of deer that hung for years in the big barn at the Lemon homestead. I knew Mary Lemon, Howard's wife, quite well and I bought many items from her when she would have her yard sales during the summer months. On one occasion, I mentioned killing a big buck in Bear Brook which is a nearby little tributary of the Gaspereau River and she asked me if I would be interested in these old heads hanging in the barn. I jumped at the chance and got the two heads from Mary at a very reasonable price. They were in such terrible shape I tore the mounts apart and just salvaged the horns. it was very interesting to see how these mounts were made from scratch. The neck was formed from a carved board wrapped with excelsior and twine to build it up to size. Plaster of Paris was used around the face with cut pieces of sheet lead for ear liners. I kept the old glass eyes because they would be around one hundred years old and would make great mementos. I was very careful handling the old hides on these mounts because many times they were cured with arsenic if a brain tan wasn't used. Arsenic kept the bugs at bay but was a dangerous method to use. I have the horns from these mounts at home and I was struck by the mass both of these sets exhibit. They obviously came from huge bucks and this was back in the days when deer were just starting to show up in this part of the country. These were NOT farm fed deer but were big woods bucks taken in some very rugged country. Here are the photos of those horns.

This second set has a narrower inside spread but still carries the same great mass as the first one.


    In closing this report, I want to remind my non-resident readers to put in for bear tags this month until February 28th. This guarantees you will have tags for your hunt and simplifies the process of buying your tags. We still have openings in prime time if any hunters are interested in joining our European hunters coming from Germany. We are looking forward to seeing Nils again and his buddy Manfred who will be coming for the first time. We have some choice baits again this year in Zones 17 and 18 so don't hesitate to shoot me an e-mail or give me a call. I can also be reached through our Facebook page. Here is a link for applications for the draw. https://www2.gnb.ca/content/dam/gnb/Departments/nr-rn/pdf/en/Wildlife/BearNonResFactSheet.pdf  There are lots of tags available in both Zones we hunt and you are guaranteed to get drawn in Zones 17 and 18. We also have do-it-yourself hunts for residents who don't have the time or knowledge of how to bait and hunt bears. This is a great opportunity to hunt bears at a reduced price. We do all the work. You do the shooting!
    The application period for non-resident moose is also open until April 4th so if any sports are interested in this hunt,  please apply in the same fashion as for the bear application. Be aware that all non-resident hunters MUST have an outdoor card number before applying or buying any licences to hunt in New Brunswick. Here is the link for the non-resident moose application. https://www2.gnb.ca/content/dam/gnb/Departments/nr-rn/pdf/en/Wildlife/MooseNonResidentFactSheet.pdf  Success rates are near 100% for non- residents for both of these species in our Zones 17 and 18. For more information on either of these hunts just reach out to me through the channels provided.

    Until next time, this is Dale Bauer saying "Happy Trails to You....Until we Meet Again!"

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