Loon migration is a sure sign of transition

Autumn brookies typically display colors that reflect the fall season. (Provided photo — Joe Hackett)

Whether you choose to spend your time in the company of a lake, river or pond, or upon a lonely mountaintop deep in the forested wilderness, the first few weeks of October always usher in the high holy days of the sporting season. It’s a time of ever-changing landscapes backdropped by dark stillwater lakes and framed by the long, limp limbs of tamarack and spruce.

As the season advances, many of the larger waters provide a base camp for an ever-increasing population of loons that continue to chortle and chuckle in the silence of the Adirondack morn.

Little Clear, a brood pond for landlocked salmon located near Lake Clear, regularly hosts one of the largest “loon rafts” in the region. It should come as no surprise as it’s strictly off limits to anglers. It is also one of the many stops loons will take on the large lakes, reservoirs and rivers along the route to their winter destination.

Their numbers will increase as water temperatures continue to plummet, until they finally take off and migrate south to saltwater wintering areas along the East Coast, where they will adapt to the salt water environment. The exact date of the annual southern departure is rarely consistent, due to factors that include the availability of food, a lack of predators and the safety of their ever-growing numbers.

The most important factors affecting the loons departure is the weather. Loons are vulnerable to the advancement of early ice since they require a long stretch of open water to get airborne. Even a thin skim of ice can make it difficult and dangerous for them get airborne. However, once they’re in the air, loons are powerful fliers, capable of flying nonstop for more than 200 miles in less than 24 hours.

While wintering along the East Coast, loons easily adapt to the saltwater environment, and find available food by preying on fish, crabs, shrimp and similar seafood.

Readers can follow the progression of the current status of Adirondack loon migration on the Adirondack Cooperative Loon Program’s website, which is located at https://www.adkloon.org/migration/.

I’ve spent many quiet autumn nights in camp, listening to the laughter of loons as it blends with the barking of Canada geese, high in the dark night sky. It is a wildwood symphony that’s impossible to duplicate with any musical device. Toss in a chorus of coyotes yippin’ and yappin’, a few shinin’ times, a few starvin’ times and a wildwood symphony offered up by the lunatic fringe.

Afloat and afield

By the time this paper hits the stands, there will be fewer than two weeks left in the trout season, and it’s been an odd year, with both lakers and brookies already on the spawn in lakes and ponds all across the region.

It’s been more than two weeks since I first encountered roving schools of male brookies, decked out in their finest finned pageantry. With brilliant crimson speckles, hooked jaws and fins trimmed with bright white stripes, male brook trout are unrivaled among freshwater finned creatures.

I’d dare say when properly prepared and presented, brook trout would easily rank among the finest fish to ever grace a table. Their brilliant colors, combined with the pageantry of their wilderness settings, continue to make brookies the “wonders of the wilderness.”

While trout and salmon currently hold the top niche on the sporting scene, there are a wide variety of birds and waterfowl — ranging from ruffed grouse, woodcock and wild turkey — that have hunting dogs tugging on the shirt tails of sportsmen and sportswomen alike.

In less than a fortnight, the tables will turn as the annual deer season advances through archery, crossbow, black powder and finally the regular rifle season.

Although I always purchase a sportsman’s license to follow the season as it flows through the various downstate seasons, I want to spend a bit of time fishing on the Boquet River this year, where salmon from Lake Champlain will have the first full season of unfettered access to the upper reaches of the river since the late 1700s.

Salmon season will continue into the new year, as regulations allow anglers to fish from the mouth of the river in Willsboro upstream to the first barrier impassable to fish, which is at Wadhams Falls on the main flow of the Boquet and near Reber on the North Branch.

I’ve fished and paddled on the river for more than 50 years. I swim it, paddle it and skate on it during the winter. Whenever I’m over that way, I always stop in at the old family homestead to poke around the brooks and rivers that will always serve to preserve my youth. It’s a sweet tonic that I simply can’t resist.


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