Hunter’s corner: Good times, good fishing at Winni Derby

For the Monitor
Published: 5/30/2016 2:30:29 AM

Our weekend at Naswa was a smashing success. This is the seventh year Naswa has promoted the derby and it is ironic that seven years ago the derby was cancelled. Right now, the 2017 derby is on life support. The derby marks the beginning of the summer tourist season in the lakes region, and after a less than stellar winter season, the tourist industry could have used the boost a derby would have brought to the region.

We had 11 in our group, which I think set a record for us. The magic depth was 10 feet and the magic lure was DB Smelt. One pair of anglers used shiners because there were no smelt available. One salmon was caught on a red-gray ghost streamer fly, and one was caught with a Sutton spoon. The Sutton Company has been pretty much shut down by EPA restrictions. I am surprised that Sutton doesn’t shift production to Asia, where they have less environmental restrictions. Sutton spoons have been an early season favorite, especially the 44 when trolled in the prop wash. The 44 imitates a wounded bait fish as it flutters through the prop wash.

Salmon fishing will start to decline as water temperatures increase and the weekend boat traffic drives the salmon down. Your best chance of landing a salmon and/or lake trout is getting on the water early in the morning to catch the early bite. Salmon fishing will continue to decline until the thermal inclines set up. If we have a summer that NOOA is predicting to be hot and dry, the inclines should set up in July rather than August in most years.

Robb and I had a total of five hook-ups, eight if you include smallmouth bass when Robb’s trolled lure got too close to a rock pile. Robb joked about us having a magic map which shows where each species is located in Winnie. ‘RBT’ stands for rainbow trout, ‘S’ stands for salmon, ‘WF’ means white fish and ‘LT’ stands for lake trout. All told, Robb caught two salmon and a lake trout and I caught a salmon. We had brought my vacuum sealer and our plan was a simple one – clean and scale the fish and then place it in the freezer when vacuum-sealed. We helped out other anglers with the sealer also.

The big winner was Big Ed who caught a football-sized rainbow trout and a 2.2 pound salmon. I beat out Robb, who caught a 2.1-pound salmon with my 2.2-pound salmon which tied with Big Ed. Big Ed and I tied for second and third place in the camp pool.

Next year, there should be a tiebreaker rule where if two fish weigh the same, length comes into play. My salmon was 20 inches in length and Ed’s was 19 inches. Robb, on the other hand, kept up the family tradition of checking in the smallest fish on the board. That was my distinction last year.

I had a chance to talk with Ted Walski about how the current turkey season was progressing. The opening was on a Tuesday, and the hunting conditions were not encouraging owing to rain.

Besides that, the numbers are holding up with 2015. There are 60 turkey registration sites. What Ted does is survey key registration striation stations and compare them to last year. This is not exactly scientific, but it’s what Ted has to deal with.

Later, after the spring turkey season closes, the 60 stations will submit their reports and the data has to be reviewed, much of which is suspect.

Generally, some units are reporting higher, and some are on track for hitting the same targets to meet or exceed last year’s numbers. The early green up gave turkeys an advantage.

As Ted pointed out, when the leaves sprouted out; they became a sound-proofing system for gobblers, in that when you hear a tom gobbling, he is probably closer to you than you think.

Ted lives in Walpole, so he is pretty much an expert on southeast and southwest New Hampshire. A key problem is the lack of sound forestry practices being executed in this area. If you don’t have responsible tree harvesting, you create two problems; the habitat will not support game and non-game wildlife, and deer in particular become backyard deer. All of those luscious shrubs and other vegetative matter become a deer feeding zone.

The other down side is the winter deer survival rate. Where at one point in time you might have six to eight deer surviving in a wintering area, you might have upwards of 25 to 30 deer attempting survive. As each winter arrives, the deer are feeding on hemlock at higher and higher levels, which means in future years, the survival rate will diminish.

Ted and I are in total agreement that the poorest managed WMUs in the state are E 1, E 2 and E 3. For those of you not familiar with the Wildlife Management Unit designations, this is the White Mountain National Forest. This area is managed for primitive camping and hiking and not for the wildlife that no longer inhabits the units. I have long said that a crow flying over the White Mountain National Forest had better be packing its own rations, otherwise it won’t complete the trip.

A reasonable forestry management plan could easily accommodate game and non-game species requirement for sustaining needs. Fish and Game has concluded in its recent game management plan that maintaining and restoring habitat is key to achieving game management goals.

I spoke with my brother last week and the conversation drifted to the three tourists in Yellowstone who spotted what they thought was an abandoned bison calf that had been born recently. Bison calves are easily spotted, as when born, they are yellow in color.

These three nimrods proceeded to put the calf in their trunk and take it to the nearest ranger station. Bison, moose and deer, along with other animals tend to their newborn calves and fawns the same way. They are born scent-free, and they tend to limit the time they spend with their charge so as not to give them their scent.

If someone has contact with the calf or fawn they will give it their scent and the mother sensing this will no longer have contact with it. In the case of the bison calf, rangers had no choice but to euthanize it.

We are right in the middle of our birthing season. Animals may appear to be abandoned, but in reality, they aren’t. According to Fish and Game, young wild animals (including mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians) typically have their best chance of surviving when they are in their own natural environment.

“Picking up young animals is an error in judgment,” wildlife biologist Dan Bergeron said. “People think they’re doing a good deed, but they are often removing the animal from the care of its parents and potentially exposing themselves to the risk of disease. Your actions may result in the animal having to be euthanized for rabies testing.”

My advice is to take a picture and leave it alone. There are licensed rehabilitators, but they don’t need the extra business taking in what was thought to orphaned wildlife, when, in fact, they aren’t.

(Bob Washburn can be reached at


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