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Bass fishing, trail running and turtle watching

June 21, 2008
Joe Hackett, outdoors columnist

Finally, anglers can catch a keeper. When the regular bass season opens on Saturday, June 21, fishermen across New York state can keep up to five bass a day, provided they are at least 12 inches in length.

Traditionally, bass season has always opened statewide on the third Saturday in June. However, in an attempt to deal with declining license sales and create further angling opportunities, the state Department of Environmental Conservation implemented a second season for bass last year.

The new season, which began on December 1 following the close of the regular season on November 30 is strictly for 'catch and release' for anglers using artificial bait. That season ends June 20.

The new regulations, enacted last year to allow for year-round bass fishing, were ultimately prohibited in portions of the North Country, including the waters of Franklin, Jefferson, St. Lawrence and Hamilton counties.

Bass are a blue collar fish, the most commonly pursued species in North America and the angling equivalent of whitetail deer.

In New York state, 60 percent of all anglers surveyed revealed that they targeted bass, nearly double brown trout, the next most popular species. And, NY bass anglers spent nearly 4.6 million days on the water annually.

Despite such numbers, bass remain one of the Adirondacks' most underutilized and least appreciated natural resources.

Bass are an overlooked fish that is often scorned by anglers who prefer to pursue trout or salmon. However, bass can provide some of the most exciting angling available. Many of our local waters have strong populations of largemouth and smallmouth bass.

Bass respond well to a variety of baits, lures and jigs. They can also provide extraordinary action on a flyrod, below the surface or on the top water with poppers.

Smallmouth bass can be found in ponds, lakes and rivers. They coexist well with trout in colder waters. Largemouth bass prefer warmer, weedy waters and are rarely found near trout.

Both species are voracious feeders and provide a fine fight. Smallmouth are best known for their leaping, head shaking defense while argemouth will hunker down or sound to battle the angler.

Commonly fished with rubber worms, jigs, spinners, crankbaits and spinner baits, bass are also vulnerable to live bait such as minnows, nightcrawlers and crayfish.

Anglers should be aware of, and abide by, the new restrictions on the use and transportation of baitfish enacted by the DEC to protect against the spread of Viral Hemmorhagic Septicemia (VHS).

Trophy size for smallmouth bass begins in the four-pound range, with largemouth trophies tipping the scales at six pounds or better.

Bass are often sought for sport, with catch and release practiced by most anglers. However, they do provide good table fare and taking one or two home will not impact the resource.

Saranac Lake has quietly become a mecca for bass anglers, as anglers learn of the friendly atmosphere and the tremendous fishing available on an extensive waterway accessible from the center of town.

Saranac Lake's bass population provides the same opportunities that the West Branch of the Ausable and its trout fishery brings to Wilmington. In fact, national outdoor magazines consistently rank the two communities in the top 10 waters for their respective species.

With lake water temperatures nearing the 75 degree mark, bass should be active on the surface and along the shorelines, chasing minnows and insects in shallows or around trees and structures.

Here's a few bass waters to try out: Lower and Middle Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake and Raquette River, Joe Indian Pond, Cranberry Lake, Barnum Pond, Meacham Lake, Rainbow Lake, Long Lake, Jones Pond and Forked Lake.

Adirondack Trail Run

On Saturday, June 21, The Mountaineer in Keene Valley will host the 4th annual Great Adirondack Trail Run.

Originally conceived in 2005 as an event similar to their winter offerings, the Mountainfest and the Backcountry Ski Festival, the folks at The Mountaineer began the Great Adirondack Trail Run as a charity event to support the Ausable and Bouquet River Associations.

The event offers two trail runs. Both are designed as self-supported wilderness runs with no aid stations or support crews.

The main event is a strenuous 11.5-mile run with 2,900 feet of vertical gain and 3,100 feet of loss covering a route along the backside of Hopkins Mountain and descending to Keene Valley via private roads. It starts at 9 a.m., with runners leaving in a staggered start out of respect for the public trail portion of the run. The run, which starts and finishes on private land, is already full with a list of 60 registered runners.

But there is no need to be discouraged since there is also a 3.5 mile Fun Run. It begins at Baxter Mountain Tavern on Rt. 9N and follows a course that is entirely on private land near Baxter Mountain which ends in the Valley. The Fun Run, which begins at 10 a.m. am is open to all, young or old, trail runner or hiker.

The runs will be followed by a celebration of spring with great food, beer, raffles and more starting at 11 a.m., with awards at 2 p.m. The public is invited to attend.

The Mountaineer has expressed gratitude to the state of New York and to the private land owners involved for allowing this event to be hosted.

Sponsors for the event include Patagonia, Salomon, Montrail, La Sportiva, Julbo, Vasque, Darn Tough, Nathan, Trail Runner Magazine and the Lake Placid Pub & Brewery.

Snappers on the road

Travelers are urged to use caution when traveling on dirt roads, as snapping turtles are now on the move.

This is their breeding season, when female snappers venture to sandy areas to make a nest and lay their eggs. Often they will establish a nest on a dirt road or in the sand and gravel along the shoulders of paved highways. Such nesting locations often leave the eggs vulnerable to passing motorists, as well as paddlers and anglers who park on the side of a road to access the water.

Frequently, the nesting locations are near lakes, bogs or wetlands.

Common snappers, the largest of our indigenous turtles, frequently measure 12 to 14 inches across the shell, with some growing nearly a foot and a half in length.

On average, an adult snapper weighs about 30 pounds, but specimens tipping the scales at 50 to 60 pounds are not uncommon. They feed heavily on a diet of plants, insects and aquatic life, including fledgling waterfowl and can grow 2 to 4 inches a year.

Although not particularly aggressive towards humans, snappers are quick to defend if provoked. Curious onlookers should be forewarned that a snapper can project its head and neck the entire length of their shell, in the blink of an eye.

If they must be moved, turtles can usually be herded away. Under no circumstances, should you attempt to grab a turtle by its tail, since its head can reach back that far too. The only safe way to remove a turtle, other than herding, is to let it clamp a stout stick in its jaws and drag it away.



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