Hunter’s Corner: Plenty for non-fools on April 1, too
Well, we seemed to have survived April Fool’s Day. Some of the pranks pulled off bordered on the incredibly stupid and may result in criminal charges. I think some of it is a result of a most difficult winter and people trying to let off a little steam.
My own April 1 started with a trip to City Hall to pick up Nutmeg’s 2014 license. It helps that the clerk and staff are well familiar with Nutmeg, since our noontime walk takes us right by the clerk’s windows. Next it was off with Robb to retrieve my boat, which had been in storage at New Hampshire Motor Speedway since November. The original pick-up date was March 27, but given to snow and ice conditions, it was delayed a week. Debbie from operations explained that last week there was an ice dam in front of the entrance door and the boat couldn’t make it out, anyway.
In a normal winter anyone who waited until March 31 to remove a bob house would have had a serious problem getting it off the ice. Not so this year, which is why it is a date-specific take-off and not a function of ice-out.
On the plus side, April 1 was the opening of salmon season. While I haven’t done a tour of the lake, early hot spots are the bridges at Long Island, Governor’s Island, the Merrymeeting flowing into Alton Bay, and the Winnipesaukee River flowing through Laconia. Water levels of the Winnipesaukee River have been reported as low because of work being completed on the dam. As for the rest of us, the prospects don’t look good for getting on Winni until well into May.
The 32nd annual Winni Derby will be held May 16-18. The latest ice-out on record is May 12, and given the current depth of the ice, it is projected to beat the record. That said, it looks like we may be fishing ice lines for the derby. The water right after ice-out is loaded with leaves, twigs and branches, which is an advantage for the salmon. The advantage for the angler is that the salmon will be up on top. I anticipate lots of salmon will be boated and this year’s winner will be a 5-plus pound salmon.
So what’s it going to take to boat the winner? I would give the edge to tandem streamer flies. Maynard’s Marvel, the Red Gray Ghost, the Barnes Special and the most unlikely looking fly, the PJ Special, top my list as likely producers. The PJ Special is a bare hook with red fly material attached. When talking with knowledgeable anglers of the big lake, the color red is important because the salmon are not on a feeding run but will be aggressive in certain color combinations.
Close behind would be Sutton spoons and Mooselock Wobblers. There are other lure combinations that have worked in the past, but not so close to ice-out. The sad thing about Sutton spoons is that they are no longer in production. An engineering friend of mine suggested that you could make your own version from the top of a Campbell soup can because it was aluminum on one side and tin on the other in days past. Sadly, today’s soup can tops wouldn’t make it. Whatever your choice of streamer flies, lures, plugs or live bait, ice-out is an exciting time to fish for salmon.
Ah yes, I would be remiss if I neglected to mention the other April 1 happening. Fish and Game recommends taking down your bird feeders on April 1. Bears emerge from their winter nap fiercely hungry. With the forest carpet blanketed with snow, access to any remaining food like beech nuts and acorns is limited to southwestern slopes. This was a particularly good year for deer winter survival, so there would be limited carrion to feast on. This leaves bird feeders, improperly stored pet food, and grills that have not been properly cleaned. The olfactory prowess of the black bear is incredible. They will hone in on anything that casts off an aroma. You would do yourself and the bears a favor by taking down the bird feeders, securing trash and carefully storing pet food.
A friend likes to drive around at night to view deer. The other night he spotted in excess of 50 deer. Included were several small fawns that couldn’t weigh more than 35 pounds. From now until green-up, they will be at risk. While this is one small example of deer survival this winter, it bodes well for the overall health of the herd.
The Capital Area Ducks Unlimited annual banquet and fund raiser will be held at the Grappone Center in Concord on April 18. Doors open at 6 p.m. For more information, contact the Capital Ducks at NH.ducks.org or call Mike Nolan at 413-348-8106. This is always a fun-filled evening and helps support and improve waterfowl habitat.
(Bob Washburn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)