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Hunter’s Corner: Snow fleas and the Meredith Rotary Ice Fishing Derby



For the Monitor
Monday, February 06, 2017

Last month when I attended Tim Moore’s ice fishing seminar he mentioned the top fishing month was March and what stimulates the bite is snow fleas. I brushed it off liken them to the grunion runs on the California coast. Boy, was I wrong.

If you don’t read the New Hampshire Wildlife Journal you are making a major mistake. In the Jan.-Feb. issue nature columnist Lindsay Webb had an excellent and informative article on, you guessed it, snow fleas.

2015 was the 150th anniversary of Fish and Game. In 1865 much of the state’s fish and wildlife had been hunted, trapped and fished to extinction. A concerned legislature took action and established the first Commission on Fisheries. And so, it began.

The commission evolved into one composed of one member from each county and one from the seacoast given the special needs of the coast. Each member must be a stake-holder, that is they must hold a fishing, hunting or trapping license. The commission establishes policy, approves hunting, fishing and trapping regulations. All policy and regulation are acted upon from staff recommendations. They also approve some financial transactions and nominate an executive director.

Nine years ago, the Legislative Budget Assistant office conducted a performance audit highlighting what was perceived to be deficiencies. Some of the recommendations were to make the commission as an advisory body, changing the name and changing the composition of the commission. The department and commission did not concur with many of the findings but agreed to work with the legislature to address issues raised.

Most agreed that changing the name to address the expanded role made sense but is was cost prohibitive given the paucity of funds in the current budget. Changing the role to an advisory body was the most contentious suggestion and after nine years the legislature has yet to come up with financing alternatives. The only change that went through was the Hike Safe card which is working out pretty well to recover search and rescue costs. Of course, this kind of makes Fish and Game into an insurance company so in keeping with some of the thinking, shouldn’t there be an insurance agent on the commission?

In the past, Fish and Game has gone through two major kerfuffles. The first happened when it was suggested that New Hampshire have a morning dove season, the same as Rhode Island. The barricades were manned with pitch forks a blaze. Residents were threatening to post property. As a result, the proposal went down in flames. Battle two was the proposed bobcat season. Never mind that Maine, Vermont and even Massachusetts have a bobcat season, this was the perfect opportunity for the well-financed anti-hunting and anti-trapping organization, the Humane Society to pull off a victory they could not pull off in Maine in their anti-bear hunt and trap efforts.

So, what is the latest move? SB 48 and HB467.

SB 48 would establish a commission to study changes to the Fish and Game Commission and Department. HB 467 would directly affect the commission and the department. Both are equally misguided. The current proposed budget for Fish and Game would result in the reduction of over a dozen Fish and Game employees. Fish and Game is responsible for bringing in millions of tourist and sportsmen and sportswomen dollars into the New Hampshire economy every year. You might think that rather than being the pawns for the Humane Society, the legislature might step up to the plate and solve the financial problems that were identified nine years ago.

Next weekend marks the 38th year of the Meredith Rotary Fishing Derby. The Meredith Rotary has already emailed that the current ice conditions given the cold weather snap are great. One of the best aspects of the derby is that you can fish in any New Hampshire public body of water and there are seven eligible fish species to enter the contest. This is a great time to enjoy a winter wonderland and share it with friends and family.

I am sure you have seen the conservation license plates or “moose plate” but where has the money gone once it hit the till at Fish and Game?

Stream restoration of Warren Brook in Alstead: The flood of 2005 devastated southwestern New Hampshire. Warren Brook was particularly hard hit. The latest restoration project involved 900 feet of Warren Brook. The project was spearheaded by the Cold River Local Advisory Committee along with the Town of Alstead and other partners. The project will reduce erosion into Warren Brook and the Cold River and provide improved fish habitat for the long term.

Restoration of aquatic connectivity in Falls Brook in Swanzey improved the habitat for a high-quality wild brook trout population. The Cheshire County Conservation District, USDA-Natural Resources Service, Trout Unlimited and other partners removed an undersized, flood prone culvert that was a barrier to most fish and aquatic wildlife.

Other projects include protecting and restoring threatened and endangered wildlife and keeping common species healthy.

Bob Washburn can be reached at hunterscorner@aol.com.