Well, it’s another dismal year. At the start of 2021, we were hoping things would be better than in 2020, but it wasn’t. We remained a divided nation, arguing over wearing masks, Covid photos, social distancing, the 2020 presidential election and more. We almost lost our democracy on January 6, reached 800,000 Covid-related deaths, were still plagued with one variant after another of Covid, experienced great resignation causing shortages of services and products, which in turn have resulted in high consumer prices. There was fighting in commercial planes etc. etc. And, oh yes, let’s not forget the devastating fires, floods, tornadoes and hurricanes.
Personally, other than during the war years, I can’t remember a worse time for our nation. Day after day we were besieged with bad news, which made it difficult to be positive and optimistic.
Hopefully over the past year this column has distracted us from some of the negativity that constantly surrounded us. So what were the most interesting topics covered in the past year? Sadly, I can’t cover them all, but here are a few of the more memorable:
To start January on a positive note, we visited two Berkshire Natural Resources Council properties: its 550 acre Clam River property in Sandisfield and its Old Mill Trail in Dalton / Hinsdale and recommended readers are doing the same. MassWildlife reported record or near record harvests of deer, bears and wild turkeys in 2020. Yet; During this month we mourned the loss of Raymond “Skip” Whalen, a highly respected outdoor athlete who has received numerous awards from the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen (BCLS) and other sporting organizations.
In February, we covered several ice fishing stories. Young Allison caught a 25 ½ inch, 4 lb 2 oz chain pickerel in Lake Laurel for which she is sure to receive a bronze pin in the MA Youth Sportfishing Award category. Jamie Pollard of Hinsdale caught a 15.8 lb, 32 ¼ inch long brown trout in the Stockbridge Bowl. It will surely win the Gold Pin in the Sport Fishing Reward Program. There was a 6lb 14oz largemouth bass caught in Laurel Lake by 11 year old Nolan Bloomrose of Blanford. He caught it in a Whitetails Unlimited ice fishing derby and he will also win a bronze pin.
In March, MassWildlife announced that there were 13 Berkshires Gold Pin winners across multiple fish categories in the Sport Fishing Reward Program. Joshua Christman of Pittsfield was named MA Adult Catch and Keep Angler of the Year. Eight of the 13 gold pins were won by Joshua or his 7 year old daughter Alice or 5 year old son Gabriel.
I also wrote a column recalling memorable scenes of ice fishing on our lakes last winter featuring an ice boat and a unicycle.
In April, we congratulated Henry Sweren on his election as Chairman of the MA / RI Board of Trout Unlimited (TU). Later this month, we mourned the loss of Paul Ouellette of Lanesborough, a well-known fly fisherman and deer hunter in the area. He had received awards from the BCLS and the Taconic TU. We also did an article on the Keystone Arches in Becket / Chesterfield.
In May, there was an article about bald eagles succumbing to rodenticides. We covered the Wild Acres Fishing Tournament. Young Gabriel Christman pulled a 21 1/2 lb carp out of Laurel Lake. We covered a trout research program conducted by MassWildlife on the Swift River.
In June, we wrote an article about Mark Markham and the 10 pound brown trout he caught in Lake Onota. Joshua Christman pulled out a few more of the same size as well. There was an article on a rare turkey taken from Mount Greylock by Karen Fachini from Pownal, VT. He had 7 beards!
In June, we ran an article about the Youth Outreach Fishing Tournament at Reynolds Pond in Cheshire. There was an article about the wild tiger trout swimming in our local waters. Additionally, a large bovine fish was removed from Lake Onota that month by Crystal Taylor. There was an article called “Poachers’ Heaven”. These were the ridiculously low fines and penalties imposed on those who break the fish and game laws. It was in June when we looked at the potential increase in licensing fees for MassWildlife. A couple of friends and I had a wonderful fly fishing trip in the AuSable River.
In July I wrote an article about fly fishing in the Westfield River years ago and my use of the Jew’s harp to try and get another fisherman out of a fishing hole I wanted to fish in. . Remember the sounds – “Boing, boing”. Shame on me! There was an article about a 7-9 pound smallmouth bass, captured by Michael Fabrizio, which came out of Onota Lake.
And then there was Raymour. He was the duck with the damaged beak that convinced Lake Onota shore resident Ron Smith to hand-feed him for about 2 years. Ironically, this duck disappeared the same day the article appeared. For 3 weeks people searched for him high and low, but to no avail. It is believed to have been taken away by a resident bald eagle. My hopes were heightened recently when I received a report of his sighting. But when I heard the sighting was from a guy who also said he saw Elvis Presley last fall at a barn dance in Berlin, NY, well….
In August, there was an article about the prescribed burns from MassWildlife. In addition, there was an article on Beginner Luck by Anglers (Luis Martinez from Ortonville, MI) who caught a record Chinook (King) in Lake Michigan. He weighed 47.86 pounds and was 47.5 inches tall. Unfortunately that month we learned that another eagle and other birds had fallen victim to rodenticides / pesticides.
In September, there was a follow-up article on the Keystone Arches. We learned that MassWildlife has agreed on its new license and new fee schedule. There has been an announcement of another deer disease spreading across the country, epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD). A large carp was hauled out of Lake Onota by Anthony Barone. There was an article about the many land acquisitions and conservation restrictions in the Berkshires by MassWildlife and an article speculating on why people fish.
In October, there were two articles on Yellowstone National Park. The first involved the local fishermen, lawyer Mike Shepard, Craig Smith, Paul Knauth and me fly fishing there. Craig cleaned our clocks by consistently catching the biggest and the biggest fish every day. The second trip was a sightseeing tour with my wife Jan and I. There was a touching article on the bird dog written by Gary Scarafoni titled “Angie’s Last Retrieve”. Also an article on some friends fishing for big speckled trout in Labrador and the possibility of catching a world record there. Jeff Vincent hit the “grand slam” while fishing the Salmon River in New York City which feeds Lake Ontario. He fished for brown trout, rainbow and king trout, coho and an Atlantic salmon.
In November there was an article about paraplegic deer hunters and that 3 deer had been captured by them in the Berkshires. News broke this month that Covid has been discovered in the country’s deer population. A stone bench was created on Lenox Mountain in honor of the late George “Gige” Darey. George Wislocki offered a toast in his honor. There was an article on “Precious Deer Hunting Memories”. Oh, how they linger.
In December, we received news of how recently passed infrastructure legislation will provide funding for, among other things, the removal and replacement of barriers that will help fish migrate upstream to spawn. We wrote an article on manual pulling of water chestnuts at Three Mile Pond by DFW staff. Also, an article on the fight to the death of two large deer who desperately entangled their antlers during the fight. Sadly, we lost two notable sports columnists, Frank Sousa of the Springfield Republican and Mark Blazis of the Worcester Telegraph and Gazette.
Thank you for taking the time to read the columns last year and I hope you will visit them again this year. God willing, I will always throw them.
Let’s hope and pray that things will turn out better for us this year.
Happy New Year and be careful!