Sunday, October 23, 2016

Gill Lice On PA Brookies

By Bob Frye

Gill lice on finGill lice have made an appearance in Pennsylvania.
The parasite – which attaches to the gills of brook trout – was discovered recently in Wolfe Run in Centre County. A subsequent investigation found evidence of them in nine other waters, too.
All had been stocked by the same cooperative nursery, said Brian Wisner, director of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s bureau of hatcheries.
The commission euthanized all of the brookies the nursery had left and replaced them with rainbow trout, which seem resistant to the bugs.
What will become of those streams in the future is harder to say, though, apparently.
Jason Detar, chief of the commission’s division of fisheries management, said there’s been limited research done on gill lice. What is known, he said, is that they’re resistant to chemical treatments and hard to control.
“We’re concerned about this,” he added.
The parasites attach to the gills of individual fish, impacting their ability to process oxygen and causing stress. Some Wisconsin research suggests they show up most often in dry summers in warm water, and can impact survival of young of the year fish, thereby hurting populations, he added.
No one can say what the long-term implications of their presence might mean, though, he added.
Commissioner Bill Sabatose of Elk County said fish with the lice pose no threat to people, however.
“They are safe for human consumption. That’s a fact,” Sabatose said.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Squirrel hunting promises action-packed experience

The perfect quarry for starting out kids in the woods, that's how they often are described.
And true enough, they are that.
But to hear their fans across the country tell it, squirrels are a whole lot more, too. They are a fine game species in their own right, one that's fun to hunt and tasty on the table.
Nate Wilder certainly is a fan.
The Raleigh, N.C., man has a website — — devoted entirely to hunting the tree climbers. It attracts visitors from all over the East Coast, including Pennsylvania, he said.
Like him, all of them are passionate about squirrel hunting, he said.
“There's a lot of allure to it to me,” Wilder said.
The reasons why are numerous. He likes squirrel hunting because of the camaraderie. He likes it because, unlike deer hunting, there's no need to worry about things like scent control. He likes it because he can move around a bit, rather than having to sit in one place for hours on end.
And as much as anything, he said, he likes the action.
“A lot of guys, if they're hunting deer, depending on where they're at, they pull the trigger once and they're maybe done. I like knowing that, potentially, I'm going to be able to pull the trigger a lot,” Wilder said.
He and a friend did that a lot last year, taking approximately 150 squirrels.
That same potential exists here.
There are some localized areas of the state where timbering has made a dent in squirrel habitat, said Matt Lovallo, supervisor of the game mammals section for the Pennsylvania Game Commission. But generally speaking, the state is home to lots of mature mast-bearing trees like oaks and hickories.
As a result, there probably are more squirrels out there for the taking than at any time in recent decades, Lovallo said.
“Statewide, I think you can say that,” he added.
Pennsylvania's season on squirrels opened Oct. 15 and runs through Nov. 26. It comes back from Dec. 12-24 and Dec. 26-Feb. 28.
Hunters can take fox, gray and red squirrels, with a daily limit of six combined.
Anyone who bags a few is in for a treat, so long as they're handled correctly, said Travis Gameson of Norman, Okla. He is a member of the “Okie Squirrel Busters” team that won 2016's Squirrels Unlimited World Champion Squirrel Cook-off ( last month in Arkansas.
Gameson's team produced a fried squirrel ravioli. Other competitors made everything from squirrel-stuffed mushrooms to squirrel sliders. All those giving away samples had lines of people eager for a taste, he said.
Most liked what they tried, he said.
“Squirrel meat is certainly not very gamey at all,” Gameson said. “It's a mild meat.”
That's not surprising, he said. For being technically rodents, squirrels are clean animals that feed largely on acorns, hickory nuts and the like.
Their flesh can be tough, though, he said. Squirrels are all muscle, so they are best cooked slowly.
Often, that means cooking them until the meat can be pulled from the bone, he said.
But done that way, and perhaps ground and mixed with something like bacon or pancetta to provide moisture, they're very good, he said.
“Squirrel is a type of meat you can just get really creative with. You just need to get a mess of them and start experimenting,” he said.
To get a “mess,” Wilder starts by “hunting the food.” He looks for stands of oaks and hickories then grabs a seat.
“Most of the time we go in right before daybreak and we're still. We sit and see what happens,” he said. “Usually we're pretty successful.”
Andrew Lewand of Rochester, N.Y., a field staffer with FoxPro, the Pennsylvania-based game call maker, said he sometimes gets squirrels by sneaking quietly through the woods. He looks for “cuttings,” or acorns and hickory shells that show evidence of squirrel feeding, and listens for leaves, nuts and debris falling from the tops of trees. All of that indicates active squirrels, he said.
Later, in late-morning and early afternoon, he falls back on another trick, using a squirrel call. The barks it reproduces sometimes sparks squirrels to respond.
“That's a pretty effective tactic, a more aggressive one, that can pay off when the action slows down,” Lewand said.
Both prefer to use a .22 rifle over a shotgun, firing standard velocity hollow point rounds. The relatively quiet report of such a gun is less intrusive and alarming to squirrels, they agreed.
It also hones precision shooting abilities, Lewand said. Squirrel hunting is great practice for many other types of hunting, he added.
“Dad called it deer hunting in miniature. The woodsmanship skills you learn squirrel hunting transfer to hunting deer and really anything, for that matter,” he said.
Gameson agrees and said he makes a point of hunting squirrels early each year, before big game seasons fill the calendar, in part to scout for whitetails.
“It's a great way to start a hunting season,” he said.
And end one and fill in all the time between, Wilder added.
“Yeah, they're mainly what I key on,” Wilder said. “When I want a lot of meat, I shoot a deer. But squirrels are it for me. We really look forward to it.”
Bob Frye is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via Twitter@bobfryeoutdoors.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Fish and Boat Commission spawning bass experiment

A decision made this past week may change the future of Pennsylvania fishing.
Next spring, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission is going to allow the state's organized bass anglers to hold a tournament or two on an inland lake during the bass spawn. If all goes well, the commission indicated, such events could become a regular part of the state's fishing scene.
That's a departure from existing rules.
Right now, springtime bass fishing — from April 16 through June 17 this year — is OK only on a catch-and-immediate-release basis, with no tournaments permitted.
That's meant to protect fish guarding eggs.
Andy Shiels, chief of the commission's bureau of fisheries, said some research shows that removing bass from nests on northern lakes leads to almost immediate predation by bluegills, rock bass and the like.
“I think our biggest concern as biologists, on the science side, would be removing those fish from their nests,” Shiels said.
Pennsylvania's ban on spring tournaments long has existed, with one notable exception. They are allowed on Pymatuning Lake, which straddles the Pennsylvania-Ohio border. No one with the Fish and Boat Commission or Ohio Division of Wildlife, which co-manage the lake, has suggested the fishery is suffering as a result.
Bass anglers have noticed.
“It gets hammered with fishing pressure, and still it just keeps getting better as a bass fishery,” said Ben Bilott of North Huntingdon, president of PA BASS Nation. “We're not sure how well a fishery is doing is really related to when fishing is occurring.”
Ohio fisheries officials agree.
Matt Wolfe, a biologist with the Division of Wildlife, said that agency allows bass tournaments during the spawn — on Pymatuning and all of its inland lakes — because they seem to cause no ill effects to bass on a population-level scale.
“It might seem like a lot of fish when you have a 100-boat field and each of them brings in six bass. OK, that's 600 bass,” Wolfe said. “But that's a drop in the bucket compared to how many spawning bass there might be in a population.
“From our standpoint, we don't see any implications.”
There's an economic side, too, said Josh Giran, vice president of PA BASS Nation. Right now, that organization travels out of state to hold springtime tournaments. Giran said competitors spend about $560 each, not counting fuel. Given the size of the typical field, he said that's putting $40,000 per event into the hands of others.
“I'd really like to keep it here in the state of Pennsylvania,” Giran said.
Fish and Boat Commissioners apparently agree. They directed agency staff to develop rules allowing springtime tournaments next year.
What form they'll take, where they might be held and how many would be allowed have yet to be determined.
Anglers may have to make concessions early on, however.
Shiels said staff is leaning toward requiring anglers to make any spawn season tournaments catch, photo and release events. That means competitors would have to weigh or measure fish right where they were caught, then immediately release them into the water rather than run them to a weigh-in station.
That's how most kayak bass tournaments are run these days, he said.
“I think that's the way of the future anyway,” Shiels said.
Such a rule probably would force a group like PA BASS Nation to run a springtime tournament as a benefit event rather than a qualifier, Bilott said.
“When there's money on the line, you can't allow for the chance of someone cheating, or even the perception that someone might be able to cheat,” he said.
But the group might be willing to start out that way to get this idea rolling, he added.
The commission's intent is not to allow unlimited bass fishing by all anglers during the spawn, board president Glade Squires said. It's looking to try this with just a few registered tournaments on some of the state's bigger lakes, like perhaps Raystown, as an experiment in cooperation with competitive anglers.
“I think there are ways we can work with them,” he said.
Bob Frye is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via@bobfryeoutdoors.