Dreaming of a moose hunting trip
by Ron Kolodziej

Jan. 1 of every year I turn the corner and begin spending less time reminiscing about what I did the previous year and instead go into high gear making plans for the new year, though it’ll still be tough referring to 2012 as “last year.” I wonder how many times I’ll put 2012 on my correspondence over the next few weeks before I get on track with 2013?

There are a lot of critters I haven’t hunted — primarily because I have no inclination to — and that would include the grizzly or brown bear, elk and others, but one critter I’ve always wanted is a moose.

You may recall my telling you about my experience with the Maine Moose Lottery, which I eventually abandoned, but there are other places, namely Newfoundland, where moose are even more plentiful. While the trip north is a bit more expensive, it can be tripled up with a caribou and/or black bear tag as well.

I’ve already taken two caribou and eight black bears and I don’t plan to hunt them again, so the moose will be my only choice for the jaunt. Though already booked, the hunt is still a long way off, but that’ll just about do it for big game animals for me, if the weather cooperates and I’m lucky enough to get one. I’ll even settle for a cow just to get some moose meat in the freezer.

I suspect we’ll eventually see moose hunts here in New York state, but they’ll be limited and are a long way off. I don’t want to wait for one and, if hunters are chosen on the basis of a random draw, past experience tells me I won’t be one of the lucky ones anyway.

I learned that lesson with the Maine Moose Lottery after a dozen or more years of trying and failing. In any event, according to DEC there are several areas here in the North Country where moose populations have grown considerably and are at about the limit of their range’s carrying capacity. If possible, those will be the areas targeted for the hunts.

LAKE HERRING STOCKED

Last week the Department of Environmental Conservation began stocking lake herring in Lake Ontario’s Irondequoit Bay. Until the 1950s the lake was home to a diverse group of whitefish that included as many as seven species that occupied varying depths of the lake. Each had generally found their own niche in the lake but only three such species are known to remain — the lake whitefish, round whitefish and lake herring.

Recently DEC announced the first re-introduction of the bloater, a deep-water whitefish, into the lake. Lake herring occupy and spawn in shallower water relative to the bloater and they spawn earlier in the winter.

FOOD FOR SALMON

Trout and salmon that feed primarily on alewife can experience reproductive failure, as I cited in my Aug. 23, 2009 column. The arrival of alewives in the lake about 50 years ago effectively sealed the fate of the Atlantic salmon, because it became one of the salmon’s primary prey species. Here’s where it gets a bit technical.

Salmon need thiamine to effectively produce viable eggs and young, but the alewives contain an enzyme called thiaminase which destroys thiamine and causes the early death of newly hatched salmon. However, recent reductions in alewife populations in Lake Ontario, coinciding with an increase in native prey fish, appears to be having some positive effects on Atlantic salmon populations.

Predator species that feed on native species such as the bloater or lake herring are less likely to experience reproductive failure.

A GROUP EFFORT

Lake herring were once an important prey fish in Lake Ontario and supported important commercial fisheries that collapsed in the early 1950s, largely due to over-harvest. In the New York waters of Lake Ontario, lake herring historically spawned in Irondequoit Bay, Sodus Bay, Sandy Pond and Chaumont Bay. Recent research has documented lake herring spawning only in Chaumont Bay.

The juvenile lake herring stocked last week in Irondequoit Bay originated from eggs collected by DEC staff in Chaumont Bay during November and December 2011. The hope of the agency and its partners — including the U.S. Geological Survey, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and The Nature Conservancy — is to restore self-sustaining lake herring populations to Lake Ontario.