The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has proposed a number of interesting changes to freshwater fishing regulations and is seeking angler feedback. Here are some of those proposed changes, specifically those that apply statewide or to waters in area counties.
Statewide: Increase the minimum size for muskellunge from 30 to 40 inches and change the statewide opening date for that species from the third Saturday in June to the last Saturday in May.
Essex County: Increase the minimum length for lake trout in the Essex Chain of Lakes from 18 inches to the statewide size limit of 21 inches.
Hamilton County: Delete the special walleye and trout regulations for Algonquin Lake.
The above represent merely a sampling of the proposed regulation changes, and some also refer to other species, seasons, baitfish and other topics. For complete information you should go to http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/91959.html on the web. At that site you'll find a more complete listing of all the proposed changes as well as the rationale for each and how to comment on them.
NUMBER 56 IS AGING
What is alleged to be the oldest living wild black bear in the United States is rapidly aging and is becoming frail, according to researchers. Known simply as Number 56 because that's the number on the sow's collar, the Minnesota bruin is now 39 years old and showing every bit of her age. She was first collared in 1981 at the age of 7.
The average age of a bear killed by a hunter in Minnesota is less than four, but hunters are well aware of Number 56 and have given her a pass many times over the years. In her lifetime she's had an estimated 26 cubs but at least 80 percent of them have not lived beyond six years of age. She last gave birth at age 26. The average age of a wild black bear is considered to be about 18 years.
It's well known that bruins in captivity have made it to 40, but Number 56's age makes her a rarity among wild bears and Minnesota Department of Natural Resouces officials are monitoring her carefully but discretely. She apparently has lost much of her sight and hearing, allowing researchers to come downwind of within 10 feet of her before she becomes aware of their presence.
They credit her longevity to a stronger than normal wariness of humans and she's never been inclined to raid garbage cans or bird feeders, though she has been known to come into bait piles. Baiting bears is legal in Minnesota.
According to our DEC, the oldest bear ever taken here in New York state was a 42-year-old specimen taken by a hunter in the Adirondacks. It was an old bear, but I suspect there's an equally old, or even older, bruin wandering somewhere in our mountains.
In last week's column I told you about Horton Crossbows closing its doors rather suddenly. Well, it's official -- Ten Point Crossbow Technologies now owns Horton. What that means for the Horton brand and the design thereof I have no idea, but Ten Point representatives have said that since they in reality bought only selected assets of the Horton Company, and not the company itself, Ten Point "will not continue to service or make any of Horton's products." However, Ten Point hopes it can create a new Horton brand some day.
Still on the subject of crossbows, I'm certain you're aware of the crossbow bill passing in the NYS Senate but dying in the Assembly. I fear the result may be the same next year when it's reintroduced.
Regardless of whether or not you use a crossbow for hunting, would even consider doing so or just don't care, the consequence of this failure to pass is what concerns me. At a time when all sportsmen need to stick together to attract the attention of a largely unfriendly Senate, Assembly and governor, this bill polarized hunters into disparate factions and has had counter-productive results.
For all intents and purposes it's off the books for this year and it's unlikely you'll see any crossbow big game hunting this coming season. Add that to the apparent demise of Horton, arguably one of the country's top crossbow manufacturers, and you can see we're taking a step backward.