An Ice Fishing Primer

January 14, 2015

The January cold has set in, the ice on lakes and rivers thicker by the day. The ice fishing season is here.

For those unfamiliar with ice fishing, for those who think it is crazy to stand in the cold waiting for a fish to bite, its aficionados will tell you the sport has considerable appeal.

Katherine Beauchene caught a nice chain pickerel at the 2014 Burr Pond State Park fishing derby in Torrington, sponsored by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. The free event, to be held again this year on Feb. 7, attracted more than 700 people. Click to enlarge.

Katherine Beauchene caught a nice chain pickerel at the 2014 Burr Pond State Park fishing derby in Torrington, sponsored by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. The free event, to be held again this year on Feb. 7, attracted more than 700 people. Photo courtesy of Mike Beauchene. Click to enlarge.

Especially on a mild January or February day, with no wind and a temperature of say, 30, and the sun shining, it can be magical on the ice.

“I love to be out there,” said Mike Beauchene, a supervising fisheries biologist with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. “It feels good to be out and getting that dose of vitamin D. It gets you out of the house and gives you the benefits of being outdoors.”

Beauchene’s agency hosts free ice fishing classes throughout the state during January, with experts explaining what equipment is needed and how to fish through the ice.

The agency also sponsors two ice fishing derbies for families, free, with all equipment and bait provided. The first will be held at Patriots Park in Coventry Jan. 31, the second at Burr Pond State Park in Torrington.

Last year some 700 to 800 people showed up for the derby at Burr Pond on a mild, sunny day.

“People can just show up, get a little tutorial, start fishing and hopefully be successful,” Beauchene said. “The big part is they get out and get to enjoy a little of the fresh air Connecticut offers.”

My story on ice fishing in Connecticut appears today on CTNOW.com. Here is the link:

Considerable information on fishing regulations and events is available through the DEEP website. On the left rail choose Learn to Fish for information on ice fishing classes throughout the state in coming weeks, and information on the two fishing derbies. On the right rail, under Featured Links, choose Angler’s Guide for all regulations covering fishing in Connecticut including ice fishing.

A Winter Walk in Middletown

December 16, 2014

gravestone

A poignant gravestone inscription in the historic Riverside Cemetery in Middletown. Click to enlarge.

Mindful that we need exercise even in the oh-so-busy month of December, consider a winter walk among the holiday decorations and the historic sites and buildings in downtown Middletown.

The Middlesex County Historical Society makes it easy to get a sense of the city’s history with a Middletown Heritage Trail brochure highlighting 20 notable sites, some of them right on the city’s mile-long Main Street, others within a few blocks of Main.

Middletown is one of the oldest cities in the state, with a rich history well worth a morning or afternoon of sidewalk sauntering. Its booming maritime economy in the late 18th Century made it Connecticut’s most populous community at the time.

With the downtown shops decorated the holidays, a couple of restaurants on every block, and historic sites aplenty, December is a good month for a long stroll that gets you out of the house and into the crisp winter air. The weather in coming days should be ideal, with temperatures into the high 30s or 40s.

Don’t miss the Riverside Cemetery, cared for by the Middletown Old Burying Ground Association. It is the city’s oldest graveyard, the resting place for many early residents of the community.

You’ll need to borrow the key to the cemetery gate, available nearby at the fire station at 533 Main St. The cemetery itself is behind the well-known O’Rourke’s Diner.

Many of the markers convey poignant messages from centuries gone by. “Here lies one dead which in her life was my loveing (sic) pious wife. Abigail Harris died May the 22, 1723.”

There are many other sites to see, including General Mansfield House and a Civil War Monument at the other end of Main Street. Take the time to walk over to the Connecticut River, only a couple of blocks from Main. My column describing in more detail a history walk in downtown Middletown appears today in The Hartford Courant.

A Good Day in the Great Meadows

December 15, 2014

Fellow Capitol Bird Club members Bob Capers, Steve Kotchko and Alan Ponanski participating in the National Audubon Society's annual Christmas Bird Count yesterday. Click to enlarge.

Fellow Capitol Bird Club members Bob Capers, Steve Kotchko and Alan Ponanski participating in the National Audubon Society's annual Christmas Bird Count yesterday. Click to enlarge.

A mild day in Connecticut yesterday as the National Audubon Society’s annual Christmas Bird Count was conducted in the Hartford area. It was my 30th year participating in the count, in its 115th year this year.

The event is conducted throughout North America, this year from Dec. 14 to Jan. 3, in about 2,300 defined count areas, which are 15-mile-wide circles. The Hartford-area count extends 7.5 miles in all directions from the Old State House in Hartford, and includes all or parts of many Hartford suburbs.

I’ve been part of the crew monitoring the Great Meadows in Wethersfield, along the Connecticut River, all these years, the past 28 as part of the Capitol Bird Club, a small bird club made up mostly of Connecticut journalists. Yesterday, I participated with fellow club members Steve Kotchko, Bob Capers and Alan Polanski. Steve is one of the regional captains in the Hartford Count.

A brown creeper in Wethersfield. Photo by Steve Kotchko. Click to enlarge.

A brown creeper in Wethersfield. Photo by Steve Kotchko. Click to enlarge.

We had a good year, identifying 42 species, up from 36 last year when the count fell on a snowy day. Among the highlights were a peregrine falcon, a brown creeper, and a winter wren, species we do not see every year on the count.

Information gathered in the Christmas count helps keep tabs on long-term changes in bird populations both in the Hartford area, and throughout North America.

Here is a list of species we saw:

Goldfinch, House Sparrow, Downy Woodpecker, Mourning Dove, House Finch, Chickadee, Starling, Crow, Cardinal, Junco, White-throated Sparrow, Carolina Wren, Blue Jay, Robin, Hermit Thrush, Canada Goose, Tree Sparrow, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Winter Wren, Red-tailed Hawk, White-breasted Nuthatch, Titmouse, Mallard, Ring-billed Gull, Rock Pigeon, Song Sparrow, Grackle, Flicker, Red-winged Blackbird, Peregrine Falcon, Kingfisher, Herring Gull, Black Duck, Great Blue Heron, Mute Swan, Hooded Merganser, Brown Creeper, Great Black-backed Gull, Bald Eagle, Cowbird, Common Merganser, Hairy Woodpecker.