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Wildflowers are blooming, blackflies are buzzing

May 30, 2009
By Joe Hackett

The freshness of lilacs again scents the mountain air as wildflowers continue to bloom and blackflies to buzz.

Herons haunt the marshes while kingfishers chatter along the shorelines and hawks ride the thermals. Bird life is never so evident as it is in the spring.

Memorial Day weekend has launched the official beginning of the new tourist season and the Whiteface Toll Road is open again for a new season. So is the Whiteface Mountain Bike Center, which offers riders the unique and challenging opportunity to tackle the mountain's ski slopes while they're covered in green.

Article Photos

The cold, clean mountain streams of the Adirondacks often harbor small, colorful brook trout that have a heritage beginning in the time of retreating glaciers. These remote waters provide the fish with a cool refuge in the heat of the summer.
(Enterprise photo — Joe Hackett)

Along the nearby AuSable, a rash of hatches has recently occurred, prompted by warm weather that finally edged water temperatures into the ideal range. Caddis flies have combined with mayflies and stoneflies to provide trout with a steady diet of topwater offerings. Anglers have been busy!

On the ponds, activity has slowed a bit, as bright days have kept fish down and off feed. With such conditions, I've found success along the shorelines littered with downed trees and similar structure. Trout tend to congregate in the shelter of the trees, where they can find protection in the shadows from the danger of ospreys, eagles and other fish-eating birds.

Minnows gather in such areas, which also provide safe cover for frogs, salamanders and insects to lay their eggs. Dragonflies hatched out on several area ponds over the past week. Anglers fortunate enough to recognize the opportunity took some fine brook trout specimens trolling dragonfly nymphs.

Over the next month, the fly hatches will be prolific, with Green Drakes in the air by Fathers Day weekend followed by the popular Hexegenia hatch toward the end of the month. June is a buggy month and trout like bugs.

Searching for brookies on small, mountain streams

In recent weeks, I've taken to the hills in search of brook trout. I've been climbing along the shoulders of some of our lower elevation mountains - searching the headwaters of small, mountain streams for brook trout. They aren't for dinner, just for fun.

I was prompted in this pursuit after reading about the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture (EBTJV). The EBTJV is the nation's first pilot project under the National Fish Habitat Initiative, which directs locally driven efforts that build private and public partnerships to improve fish habitat.

The project was initiated as studies revealed that brook trout populations are imperiled throughout their entire Easter Range.

New date shows that brook trout have been eliminated or greatly reduced throughout almost half of their historical habitat in the East, according to an assessment by Trout Unlimited and a coalition of state and federal agencies.

Known as brookies, squaretails or speckles, they are considered by many to be the most beautiful of all freshwater fish. Richly colored, these finned jewels are typically much larger in spirit than in size.

The EBTJV report claims that "Although they have historically been found in rivers and streams stretching from Maine to Georgia, environmental and land use pressures have largely relegated the remaining isolated populations to the headwaters of high elevation streams."

So that is where I began my search for remnant populations and I found them. I discovered them in the mountain brooks on Scarface and MacKenzie, along the shoulders of Whiteface and Ampersand.

Far up these hills, brookies could be seen skittering for protection in depths of little pools or coursing through the shallows to hide under the rocks.

They fell easily for worms and chased dry flies dragged across the surface. Most were tiny specimens, with verticle parr marks along their sides dividing the bright blue halos surrounding their crimson speckles.

I was encouraged that they were still so prolific. It is good information which speaks well of our region's water quality.

It was also a lot of fun to retreat from the ponds and the busy, larger rivers, to search for the little jewels.

Local outdoor writer inducted into Hall of Fame

Outdoor writer, Dennis Aprill of Schuyler Falls has joined the ranks of such presdigeous outdoor travelers as Saranac Lake's Bob Brown, Tupper's Nellie Staves and Plattsburgh's Bill Weld as the newest North Country member of the New York State Outdoorsmen Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Fame, located in New Hartford, honors New Yorkers who have made significant contributions to New York's outdoor heritage.

His nomination was sponsored by the Lake Champlain Chapter of Trout Unlimited.

Aprill has been a Plattsburgh Press-Republican outdoor columnist for the past 20 years. During that time, he has garnered numerous awards for writing and photography.

An avid hunter, hiker and angler, he is also on the faculty at Plattsburgh State University and the author of four books.

"Aprill's interests and his ability to write and photograph them reflect his understanding and concern for New York's natural environment," Steve Dubrey, president of the Lake Champlain Chapter of Trout Unlimited, said in a statement.

In a ringing endorsment of his committment to journalism, Aprill has consistently managed to produce a fresh, full page of timely information for the Sunday edition of the Press Republican for over 20 years.

It is a task that he has accomplished without ever missing a week. This effort alone is worthy of induction.



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