Sunday, September 30, 2012

Pennsylvania WCOs To Enforce State ATV Regulations

As Pennsylvania bow hunters take to the woods during the first of two antlered and antlerless archery deer seasons (Sept. 29-Nov. 12, Dec. 26-Jan. 12), the state Game Commission has taken action to ease one of archers' greatest annoyances.

Some riders of all-terrain vehicles routinely violate laws restricting their access to state-maintained hunting grounds. Unauthorized ATV use is one of the most frequent violations encountered by Wildlife Conservation Officers, but state law requires WCOs to contact other law enforcement authorities in some ATV cases. Offending operators often get away to destroy more habitat and disturb more wildlife.

A regulation passed last week during the Game Commission's fall meeting permits WCOs to enforce requirements regarding registration and insurance carried by operators on state game lands and private properties enrolled in the agency's Hunter Access Program.

"Illegal ATV operation is a major source of wildlife habitat destruction across the state, and these violations are often accompanied by ATV classification offenses, such as a lack of registration or insurance," said Carl Roe, Game Commission executive director, in a written statement. "This amendment will ensure safe and effective enforcement of these requirements occurring on lands under Game Commission ownership, lease, agreement or control."

Pennsylvania Bill Resulting From Disagreements Over Deer At Issue

Just in time for archery season, we've got another argument about white-tailed deer on our hands.

On Oct. 2, the House of Representatives State Government Committee is scheduled to vote on House Bill 2073. Sponsored by Rep. David Maloney of Berks County, it would put the Pennsylvania Game Commission under the authority of the Independent Regulatory Review Commission. That group would review every proposed wildlife regulation and recommend to lawmakers and the governor whether they are acceptable or not.

Make no mistake — this is all about deer.

Maloney has been highly critical of the Game Commission’s deer program and said last fall he believes the agency is being unresponsive to hunters. This could change that, he said then.
But now, with word out that the bill might be amended to put the Fish and Boat Commission under review, too, some sportsmen are rallying against it. The Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs will on Monday ship a letter to members of the State Government Committee asking that they vote against the bill. It’s also asking hunters to carry the same message to their local lawmakers.

“We’ve heard that the members are being flooded with emails. We hope to keep that pressure up,” said Melody Zullinger, former executive director of the Federation who now consults with the group.

The letter notes both the Game and Fish and Boat commissions already have to conduct their business publicly. Adding the Review Commission would just slow things down, to the point that the Game Commission in particular would have to set seasons and bag limits more than a year in advance.

“Members of IRRC (a purely political group, appointed by legislators, with absolutely no expertise or experience in wildlife management, habitat management or sportsmen’s issues, and who may or may not be anti-hunters) and the legislature will get final say on every single proposed regulation,” the letter reads.

“Just by failing to act in a timely manner ... they could literally cripple our agencies’ ability to effectively manage our wildlife resources in a manner conducive to sportsmen’s and/or the resources’ best interests.” The letter is signed by president Chuck Lombaerde.

Stan Rice, moderator of the forum, also opposes the bill because it would impact regulations for all species, along with things like game lands purchases.

“Oppose the deer program if you must. Hate the Game Commission if you must. But understand, this bill is deadly poison to our sport in this state,” Rice said.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

PA Game Commission Board Seeks To Expand Mentored Youth Program For 2013-14

FRANKLIN, Venango County – The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave preliminary approval to a regulatory change to expand antlerless deer hunting opportunities under the Mentored Youth Hunting Program (MYHP) for the 2013-14 license year. 

“Sporting organizations and other interested groups have continued to express an interest in having the Game Commission expand the MYHP opportunities,” said Ralph A. Martone, Board President. “These groups support this proposed change in regulations to permit the transfer of no more than one Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) permit to a mentored youth hunter per license year. 

“This change, along with the recent addition of fall turkey hunting to the MYHP, creates a wide range of opportunities for young hunters.

Martone noted that this action will not significantly affect the DMAP antlerless deer harvest and is consistent with the goal of providing additional mentored youth hunting opportunities. Also, it will work in the same manner as the recent change in regulations to allow adult mentors to transfer one Wildlife Management Unit-specific antlerless deer license to a mentored youth.

If the change is given final approval at a subsequent Board meeting, beginning in the 2013-14 license year, adult mentors would be authorized to transfer one DMAP harvest permit issued to them to an eligible mentored youth.  The DMAP harvest permit must be valid for the property on which the pair is hunting, and in the possession of the adult mentor at all times while hunting antlerless deer.  Adult mentors may transfer the DMAP harvest permit to mentored youths only after the youth harvests an antlerless deer.  A mentored youth may receive by transfer no more than one DMAP harvest permit each license year. 

As is the case with antlerless deer licenses, a mentored youth is ineligible to make direct application for a DMAP harvest permit.

“Since 2006, Pennsylvania’s hunters have been taking advantage of a remarkable opportunity to introduce those under the age of 12 to hunting through the Mentored Youth Hunting Program, and we have seen a steady increase in the number of MYHP permits issued,” said Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director. “Hunting is deeply woven into the cultural fabric that defines Pennsylvania, and it is important that we recruit new hunters to carry on this tradition.”

Roe noted that the logic behind the MYHP is simple and clear: create expanded youth hunting opportunities without compromising safety afield. In 2009, the first year a permit was required to participate in the MYHP, the agency issued 28,542 permits.  In 2010, the agency issued 30,790; and, in 2011, the number of permits issued increased to 33,514.

For more information on the program, visit the Game Commission’s website ( and put your cursor over the “Hunt/Trap” button in the menu bar at the top of the page, click on “Hunting” and then click on “Mentored Youth Hunting Program FAQs” in the “Related Links” section.  Information also is included on page 15 of the 2012-13 Pennsylvania Hunting and Trapping Digest

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Pennsylvania's Archery Season Is Ready To Open

This is not the time of year when those who operate archery shops get to take it easy.
Quite the opposite is true.

Pennsylvania’s statewide archery deer season opens Saturday and runs through Nov. 12.
More than 300,000 archers will be in the woods at some point over that time.

Many of them — at times, seemingly all of them — have been pounding local archery shops lately. There is a mix of veterans and those new to archery, said Jay Peake, owner of Peake’s Archery in North Huntingdon.

All are excited about the coming season, he said. “Oh yeah, everybody’s talking about the deer on their trail cameras,” he said. “The pictures I’ve seen, there are two and three bucks in every one, it seems. A lot of nice bucks, too.”

Successfully bagging a deer with a bow requires paying attention to detail, though, he and others say. For starters, archers need to understand the limitations of their equipment and skill level, Peake said.

Pennsylvania Game Commission regulations allow hunters to use longbows, recurves and compounds with a draw weight of at least 35 pounds. Also legal are crossbows, so long as they have a minimum draw weight of 125 pounds.

Equipment meeting those standards can fling an arrow or bolt quite a ways, Peake said. But there are limits to the distances at which archers can be shoot them accurately, he said.
“I’d say 20 to 30 yards, that’s about the maximum most people should be shooting,” he said. “I don’t encourage shots over 40 yards.

“You’ve got to hit them where they live. Otherwise, they might die, but when?”
Hitting an animal “where it lives” means focusing on shot placement, said Bob Fedrizzi of Acorn Archery and Pro Shop in New Castle.

Broadheads kill not by causing shock, as do bullets. They kill by causing hemorrhaging, or bleeding, he said. Knowing that, archers need to be precise in aiming behind the front shoulder.

“You need to cut blood vessels. And the lungs contain the biggest group of blood vessels,” Fedrizzi said. “The lungs are the biggest and best target. “A quartering away shot is a good shot. A broadside shot is a good shot. A quartering toward you shot is not a good shot. You need to hit them behind the shoulder.”

Gun hunters sometimes shoot deer in the neck and other places. Those aren’t targets appropriate for archers, added Wayne Smith of Smith Arrows and Archery Supply in Worthington. Aim for the vitals alone, and you will get the deer you’re after, he said.
“If you make a good shot, a deer likely won’t go more than 100 yards,” Smith said. “But you’ve got to hit them right.”

Hunters killed an estimated 336,200 deer in Pennsylvania last year, taking all deer seasons into account. Archers took an estimated 83,830 of those.

Wildlife management unit 2B, which surrounds Pittsburgh, accounted for more deer taken by archers than all but one of the state’s 21 other units. Unit 2D — which takes in all of Armstrong County and parts of Butler, Clarion, Indiana, Jefferson, Venango and Westmoreland — ranked fourth in overall harvest. Unit 2C, which takes in all of Somerset and parts of Bedford, Blair, Cambria, Fayette, Indiana and Westmoreland, ranked fifth.

Unit 2D ranked second in archery buck harvest, though.
If history repeats itself, there will be deer for the taking locally. Archers just need to make their shots count.

“I think it will be a good year,” Peake said

Survey: Hunters, anglers aren’t afraid to spend money

By Bob Frye Pittsburgh Tribune Review

Pennsylvanians like their wildlife. And those who hunt and fish in particular aren’t afraid to spend money on it. 
The 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation is proof of that.

The survey came out a few weeks ago. More recently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which puts it together every five years, released some more state-specific details.
They don’t address Pennsylvania or any other state alone. Results of that kind will be forthcoming in the next several starting in December.

But the most recent data released shows that participation in wildlife-associated recreation — hunting, fishing and wildlife watching — increased in 28 states between 2006-11. The Mid-Atlantic region, which includes Pennsylvania, saw increases in the number of hunters, anglers and wildlife watchers.

Pennsylvania ranked fourth in the nation in the number of hunters with about 775,000 in 2011, the report adds. Only Texas, Wisconsin and New York, in that order, had more.
The state also ranked fifth in number of wildlife watchers, with nearly 3.6 million. California, Texas, Florida and New York ranked one through four, respectively.

Sportsmen have been growing as a percentage of the overall population, the report states. Hunters and anglers spend lots of money, too, far more than the typical wildlife watcher, the report adds.

“Examination of expenditures shows that while sportspersons are a smaller proportion of all recreationists, they spend almost twice as much in total as wildlife watchers. About two thirds of all wildlife-related expenditures have been for hunting and/or fishing in 2006 and 2011,” the report reads.

The average angler nationwide spent $1,262 in 2011, the average hunter $2,484. The average wildlife watcher, by comparison, spent $765.

“These preliminary regional and state-level estimates illustrate the continued importance and impact of fish and wildlife resources to each state, region and the nation as a whole,” the report reads.

Overall, the survey found that 38 percent of all Americans 16 years of age and older participated in wildlife-related recreation in 2011, an increase of 2.6 million people over 2006. Participation in fishing increased by 11 percent and in hunting by 9 percent.

“Hunting, fishing and wildlife watching are part of our national heritage, and the trip- and equipment-related spending of participants forms significant support for local economies across the country,” Fish and Wildlife Service director Dan Ashe said.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Game Commission Looking Into Deer Deaths in Northwestern PA

Nationwide distribution of acute or chronic
hemorrhagic disease in wild deer.
HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania Game Commission officers are investigating the cause of death for nearly a dozen white-tailed deer found by agency employees on the Pymatuning Wildlife Management Area in North Shenango Township, Crawford County. Epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) is suspected, which has been confirmed in Beaver and Westmoreland counties and is suspected in Allegheny and Cambria counties.
Game Commission biologists will attempt to collect samples for testing at the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study at the University of Georgia, which has confirmed deer mortalities from four different strains of the EHDvirus in 15 states this year.
The Game Commission will continue to gather samples from other dead deer being found in Pennsylvania. Samples must be collected within 24 hours of the animal’s death to be viable.  Once the results are available, which normally takes around two weeks, the Game Commission will release the findings to the public.
            “Once again, we are suspecting that the deer died of EHD, based on our field investigations and the fact that EHD already has been confirmed in the southwestern portion of the state,” said Dr. Walter Cottrell, Game Commission wildlife veterinarian.  “There are no management actions or practices to prevent or limit mortality caused by EHD.
Fortunately, EHD should be curtailed with the first hard frost, which will kill the midges that are spreading the disease.”
 EHD is a seasonal disease and the affected local deer herd can rebound quickly. It is one of the most common diseases among white-tailed deer in the United States, and is contracted by the bite of insects called “midges” or “no-see-ums.”  The virus of EHD usually kills the animal within five to 10 days, and is not spread directly from deer to deer.  While EHD is not infectious to humans, deer displaying severe symptoms of EHD may not be suitable for consumption.
Game Commission Northwest Region Director Keith Harbaugh is urging residents to report sightings of sickly-looking deer, particularly those found near water, by calling the Region Office at 814-432-3188.  The Northwest Region serves Butler, Clarion, Crawford, Erie, Forest, Jefferson, Lawrence, Mercer, Venango and Warren counties. Residents in other counties are encouraged to contact their respective Game Commission Region Offices. For contact information, go to the agency’s website ( and click on “About Us” and “Regional Information.”
In 2011, EHD was confirmed in Northampton and Erie counties.  EHD was confirmed in southwestern Pennsylvania in 2007 and 2002. It also was suspected to be the cause of death in nearly 25 deer in Adams County in 1996, but tests conducted at that time were inconclusive.
“Pennsylvania deer do not usually live long enough to span the time between outbreaks, so they are do not have immunity when the next outbreak comes along, and the disease will be fatal,” Dr. Cottrell said.
Information on EHD can be found on the Game Commission’s website ( by clicking on the “EHD Info” icon in the center of the homepage. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Bull Creek Now Has Drinkable Tap Water!

With the installation of a new water treatment system in the clubhouse Bull Creek now has water you can drink out of the taps!  To prove it here are two photos below!

Mark Trocki makes the first pot of coffee with Bull Creek tap water.  No deaths have been reported!

Club President Bill Shaginaw drinks straight from the tap.  At last report Buck was feeling just fine!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Debate Over Changing Trout Program Coming To Pittsburgh

By Bob Frye Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Trout that won’t stay put in flowing waters might affect what happens to those in still ones.
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has spent a lot of time in recent years studying the issue of “trout residency.” It’s been trying to find out whether trout stocked in streams prior to opening day are still there weeks later when anglers can actually fish for them.
Fishing Loyalhanna Creek in Southwest PA
The answer sometimes has been no.
The best way to address that is by stocking problem streams as close to opening day as possible, said Dave Miko, chief of the commission’s division of fisheries management. But that’s not always possible.
That’s where the lakes come in.
There are almost four dozen impoundments statewide managed under the early-season trout stocked waters program. That includes North Park Lake in Allegheny County; Brady’s Run and Raccoon lakes in Beaver; Duman Dam and Lake Rowena in Cambria; Dunlap Lake and Virgin Run in Fayette; Bessemer Lake in Lawrence; Laurel Hill in Somerset; Canonsburg Lake in Washington; and Upper and Lower Twin, Northmoreland, Donegal and Keystone in Westmoreland.
They get stocked with trout in January or February, remain open to fishing throughout March, then close for the first two weeks of April, when they get their final preseason stocking.
Stocking them that late doesn’t make sense, said Leroy Young, director of the commission’s bureau of fisheries.
“Those fish in lakes aren’t going anywhere,” he said. “We’re tying up a lot of truck trips for lakes that are closed systems when we need them to address streams with residency problems.”
The solution that will be put before commissioners when they meet in Pittsburgh on Oct. 1 and 2 is to remove those lakes from the early-season program and open them to year-round fishing, instead. They still would get stocked with as many fish as ever, Young said. But they would get their preseason fish earlier in spring so that problem streams could be stocked later.
“We really think this would improve catch rates for more anglers over a wider area and is the best use of angler dollars,” Miko said.
This idea was pitched before, in 2008. The board didn’t go for it then, concerned that too many trout would die from catch-and-release fishing and that opening-day crowds at lakes would suffer as a result. The commission hasn’t seen either problem at other waters already open to year-round fishing, though, Young said.
“This is a relatively minor change that can really help us,” he said.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

More Deer in Southwest PA Dying From Disease

By Stacey Federoff Pittsburgh Tribune Review

Above the idyllic surroundings of Mick Goodman’s 23 acres in the hills of Hempfield, the farmer has noticed more vultures circling.

Goodman, who is raising about 40 white-tail deer on his farm, said deer inside his fences and outside in the wild have been dying from Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease, or EHD, a viral infection.
Mick Goodman feeds a a two and a half year old whitetail buck named
Justified on September 7, 2012 on his farm near New Stanton.
Several deer on Goodman's farm have recently succumb to
epizootic hemorrhagic disease or EHD, a viral infection that is
almost always fatal in deer. At the time this photo was taken,
Goodman was concerned about the amount that Justified had been
panting which he says seems to be an early symptom of the
disease process. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review

“These animals suffer like no other,” he said. “It’s a nasty disease.”
Goodman said he believes nine deer in his herd were infected with EHD, including two that survived thanks to a “very potent respiratory drug.”
The Pennsylvania Game Commission, which regulates wild deer, has suggested that the only way to eradicate the disease is to wait for the first hard frost.
Goodman said he is concerned that in the weeks until then, more of his animals could die of the infection. He believes more research should be done to determine what is causing its spread and to better manage it.
“If it was the beef cow that had this or the hog that had this, the state Department of Agriculture would be throwing money at this,” he said.
The agriculture department regulates livestock, including the 696 farms across Pennsylvania that raise elk, deer and moose.
David Griswold, assistant director for the department’s Bureau of Animal Health and Diagnostic Services, said because EHD has been confirmed only in 2002, 2007 and 2011, its sporadic nature makes it difficult to treat or vaccinate against.
“It’s out there in nature, and there’s only so much you can do to take the deer away from the outdoors,” he said.
The disease has been found in at least 10 other states, includingWestern states such as Montana, Oklahoma and Kansas, as well as West Virginia and Delaware.
Biting Midge
A midge, or biting fly, carries the disease when it bites one animal then flies to another.
The game commission is waiting for test results sent to the University of Georgia’s Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study from three deer — two from Greene and Ohioville townships in Beaver County and one from Summerhill Township in Cambria County — believed to have been infected by the virus.
Confirmed samples are hard to collect because after a deer shows symptoms, the animal usually dies within eight to 36 hours, said Jerry Feaser, press secretary for the game commission. Signs of the disease include respiratory distress, swelling, fever, excessive salivation, lethargy and loss of appetite.
It is not related to Chronic Wasting Disease, which has similar symptoms, and is more communicable.
George Hazard, president of the Pennsylvania Deer Farmers Association, said a vaccine has been developed, but it may ward off only one strain of the mutating virus.
He compared it to pneumonia in humans, which affects each person differently.
“Sometimes, you can save the animal; sometimes, you can’t,” he said. “It depends on your system and how it combats the diseases.”
Deer are difficult to vaccinate, Griswold said, and many farmers do not have the facilities to administer an injection to each animal every year.
For farmers, insecticides costing $120 per gallon are available but are not completely effective, because wild deer could bring the biting flies close to a fenced-in property, Goodman said.
Griswold suggests keeping deer from roaming near wet areas, where the flies congregate, and instead use artificial water sources.
Feaser said the flies travel on warm air currents, most prevalent when major hurricane-force storms begin in the South and travel to Pennsylvania.
“When they get here, there’s not the immunity built up within our population to fend off this disease,” Feaser said. “(The flies) can’t live at this latitude, and the first cold frost comes in and — bang — it’s gone.”
Hazard, who has a herd of about 150 animals on his 100-acre farm in Mifflintown, Juniata County, said it’s difficult for farmers to accept that advice and watch the animals suffer.
“Most of us are hunters, and we care about the deer, more so than most people do,” he said. “Dog, cat, deer, I don’t care what it is, you should take care of those animals. It’s our responsibility to take care of them.”
Because the first frost in Pennsylvania usually doesn’t occur until the end of October, Griswold said hunters beginning archery season in the area on Sept. 15, or statewide after Sept. 29, could run into sick or dead deer during their treks.
The game commission asks hunters and residents to report any suspicious deer by calling its regional office at 724-238-9523.
While EHD is not spread from deer to deer without the midge and it is not infectious for humans, hunters should steer clear of animals that might be infected, Feaser said.
“If you know it’s not a healthy animal, don’t eat it. It’s just a common-sense philosophy,” he said.
In the coming weeks, Goodman said he’ll just wait for the morning he can wake up to a thin coating of ice marking the midges’ death knell.
“I’m praying for a hard frost, early frost, to save my animals,” he said.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Game Commission To Hold Drawing For Elk Licenses

HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe said the agency’s public drawing for the 2012 elk hunting licenses will be webcast beginning at 10 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 14. To view the drawing, a “Live Elk Drawing” icon will be posted on the agency’s website ( for individuals to click on and watch the drawing.
“Each year, tens of thousands of individuals apply for an elk license,” Roe said. “Unfortunately, not all of them can make it to the public drawings. And, due to financial limitations, we are only able to send notification letters to those who were selected to receive an elk license. By webcasting the public drawings, more people can view this drawing without having to travel to the agency’s Harrisburg headquarters.”
Beginning at 10 a.m., the agency will conduct the public drawing to award 65 elk licenses. Roe also noted that those who have submitted applications can check to see if they were selected, by Sept. 21, thanks to the Pennsylvania Automated License System (PALS).
Presently, the status for all individual applications for elk licenses is listed as “Pending.” Once the database is updated, which is expected no later than Sept. 21, those who were selected for an elk license will see the status changed to “Awarded,” as well as the designation of the Elk Hunt Zone and whether they were awarded an antlered or antlerless elk license. Those not selected will see the status changed to “Unsuccessful.”
To access the information, go to the Game Commission website (, and click on the blue box in the upper right-hand corner of the homepage. Click on the “Purchase License Permit and or Application/Replace License and or Permit” option, which includes the ability to “Check on the status of any Lottery Application,” scroll down and click on the “Start Here” button at the bottom of the page. At this page, choose one of the identification options below to check your records, fill in the necessary information and click on the “Continue” button. Click on the appropriate residency status, which will display your current personal information. At the bottom of the page, choose the “Check on the status of any Lottery Application” button, and then hit “Continue.”
“While this may seem like a lot of clicking and box checking to get to the information, the system is designed to protect an individual’s personal information, while at the same time enabling that person to check on the status of his or her applications, as well as their antlerless deer license applications,” Roe said. “Prior to PALS, the only way to know for sure that you were awarded an elk license was to attend the public drawings, wait for a letter in the mail or to call the Game Commission.
“This year, thanks to PALS, we will be able to update the data files for each individual awarded a license shortly after the public drawing is completed so that they will be able to see for themselves if they were drawn for one of the licenses.” 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Low, Warm & Clear: Change Tactics To Catch Fish During Drought Conditions

ERIE, Pa. -- At a sidewalk vantage point near the Perry Monument on Presque Isle, about 10 yards of muck and a few dead weeds separate tourists from the waters of Misery Bay. At the beaches, rocky breakwaters that are normally a brisk swim from shore are connected to the peninsula by strips of sand.
Lake Erie, the eleventh largest lake in the world by surface area, is temporarily shrinking as a Midwest drought starves the lake of 13 inches of water and counting.
Closer to home in Southwest Pennsylvania, water levels are down in most impoundments, some boat launch ramps are closed and many creeks have been reduced to dark pools separated by trickles. And while dams on the Allegheny, Beaver and Monongahela rivers release water to maintain downstream navigation channels, boaters are learning to navigate around once-submerged obstructions in familiar waters.
Beneath the surface, however, macroinvertabrates still commingle, little fish still find food and bigger fish continue to feed and locate sufficiently oxygenated water. Despite low water levels throughout the region, the state Fish and Boat Commission reports no substantial fish kills related to the drought.
Aquatic life adapts to low water. To catch fish, anglers must adapt, too. Low, clear and warm water makes fishing more difficult, but it doesn't necessarily put the kibosh on catching fish. Keith Edwards, northwest region education coordinator for Fish and Boat, said anglers need to understand what's happening under water and change tactics to fit the conditions.
"I'd recommend common sense," he said. "If you fish in a familiar area and retrieve your plug and it's full of weeds, that's no fun. It makes sense to change your routine -- find deeper water where there aren't so many weeds."
When the water drops, the locations of some prime aquatic habitats change. Low water often warms, releasing some of its oxygen. To locate game fish in drought conditions, discover places where forage fish find cover near oxygen-rich water.
Lake Erie fishing is slow for many anglers returning to specific GPS coordinates. But perch and walleye guides are putting their clients on fish by tracking the depths at which fish are schooling. Smallmouth anglers still plugging familiar shorelines are running aground, while those concentrating on still-submerged near-shore structure are cleaning up, particularly out of North East.
With little water flowing in from the tributaries, most regional impoundments are down. In clear lakes, anglers targeted deep creek channels and road beds near incoming water or submerged springs.
Cross Creek Lake in Washington County is down nearly 3 feet, but Mike Milvet of Cross Creek Bait Shop said the launching ramp is in good shape and last week smart anglers were finding fish.
"Bluegills were suspended in 12 to 16 feet and guys were pounding them with jigs and maggots," he said. "Walleyes 23 and 24 inches were caught trolling silver Hot 'n Tots in 18 feet, and a couple of guys caught largemouths 16 and 19 inches using 4-inch rubber worms."
To maintain navigation levels, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been releasing water from its regional reservoirs: six on the Allegheny River, four on the Beaver River (feeding into the Ohio) and three on the Monongahela River. As a result, all of those lakes are below summer pool levels -- Youghiogheny Reservoir, with its dam on the Fayette and Somerset county line, is down 20 feet.
"We didn't get that much snow and this was a very dry summer, plus because of the drought we've had to release water," said Corps spokesman Dan Jones. "Some of our reservoirs are down 10 feet or more. So as far as recreational boaters go, some hazards that during a normal summer might be 10 feet below the surface -- sandbars, tree stumps -- are now only 2 feet away. Below the dams, however, those water releases help with the quality of water for fishing and for other wildlife."
In fact, some of the best trout fishing in the region, said Bob Phillips of International Angler fly shop in Robinson, has been in the tailwaters of Youghiogheny Dam.
The bottom-release dam gives the river a welcome injection of richly oxygenated water that's always a crisp 40 to 47 degrees -- perfect for temperature-sensitive trout.
East Branch Clarion River dam is also bottom release.
Elsewhere in the region, said Phillips, anglers on water-deprived creeks should stick to deep, dark pools and anywhere the water gets a jolt of fresh oxygen. In general, think smaller.
"Low, clear water means you really have to streamline your terminal tackle. Smaller flies and lighter tippets generally work better, especially on slower moving pools," he said.
In low water more than ever, keep quiet.
"Guys don't think about this, but when you make movement in the water, the fish can sense that," he said. "When it's low, particularly, you don't want to be wading real heavily, or you'll put them down."