J.E. This Morning

It was 35 degrees as I left the house in a drizzle this morning. Maybe it is because days like this remind me of my early days of bowhunting, but I love to be in the woods on days like this. It was very quiet walking, and I startled the wood duck pair as I checked on them in the beaver pond.

The effects of winter were very evident. The young white pines, 2’ to 8’ in height, were still not upright. They were almost all still bent in a bow position after being buried by the heavy wet snows. The ground was almost carpet smooth as all the leaves were matted flat. Every hardwood sapling that was off the beaten path had been browsed.

The good news is I saw some encouraging signs. First were some fresh deer and moose droppings. Later I would find significant sign of what I’m sure is our resident cow moose. We have watched her grow from a six-month-old three years ago, and it is encouraging that she appears to have made it through a tough winter. She has spent most of her life not very far from Buck Knob, and it appears she wintered there. There were tons of droppings on the south-facing slopes, where you could just picture her lying in the rising sun’s rays this winter. I thought I heard her trotting off in front of me, despite the quiet conditions. A very fresh pile of droppings confirmed what I thought. I hope it was her we caught on the video last fall, baying for a bull to show up. I further hope that the big bull that showed up 25 minutes later caught up to her. I think you can bank on that. So with a little luck, we may witness our once little girl becoming a mother. If we are real lucky maybe twins.

I checked the camera on Buck Knob, and was not encouraged as photo after photo was caused by wind and shadows when the last two were of a doe and a yearling.

Doe and Yearling at Buck Knob

Doe and Yearling at Buck Knob

It is great that they made it through the winter, but she doesn’t look pregnant. She should have driven the yearling off if she was going to give birth soon. Does should be dropping their fawns anytime from now until the end of May with the youngest of them giving birth last.

If a winter is really tough, the does will lose their embryos in an effort to survive themselves. The number of fawns seen in the spring and summer are key to assessing the winter mortality.

WLAGS

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Sam’s First Pike

Our mission was to put a check mark beside another species of fish on Sam’s life list. Mission accomplished, but not without some hair-raising moments and some promising news.

On the latter, after seeing a road-killed doe in Croydan, I told Sam and Tony to keep their eyes peeled as I thought the conditions were right to see some deer. Did we ever! 32 live and 2 more road kills. Mother Nature gave these deer the necessary tools to survive this awful winter, thankfully.

Then there was the woodchuck who decided to cross the interstate right in front of us as we were bombing along at 65 mph, towing a boat with not a car in front or in back of us for as far as one could see. I still don’t know how we missed him.

The boat ramps were the cause of much anxiety. They were covered with several inches of mud from the spring runoff.

Several Inches of Mud on Boat Ramp #1

Several Inches of Mud on Boat Ramp #1

No one else had attempted to launch at either of the two ramps we checked. We gambled on ramp #2. I knew launching would be easier than loading, but we needed to get this done. It seems every time we plan a pike trip something gets in our way. I knew this was prime time if not prime conditions, so we took a shot.

Having never fished here before, we knew what to look for, but would we find it? We needed setbacks or backwaters where the pike would hopefully still be in the warmer waters after spawning.

A mile or so down river, we saw cattails on the east side and they lead us to a small opening that lead to a small pond. It took a while to assess the situation, but once we did, we hit a home run.

Tony and Sam had a couple of hits and follows, which in water 1’ to 3’ deep is exciting in itself, especially when the hits happen just 5’ or so feet from the boat. First you see what looks like a torpedo following inches behind the lure, and then a swirl or an explosion that can actually get you wet.

I made a cast within inches of the shore, was solid into something immediately and thought briefly that I was hung up on a log when the log started moving! I knew I was seriously under gunned. I was using my lightest bass rod with 6# test, and this fish was going to have his way with me and dictate the fight. Long story short after a prolonged battle, Sam managed to get the fish head first into my brand new–but too small–net. There was much high-fiving going on. The fish was released as quickly as possible but not before Tony got nicked by one of its many teeth on a knuckle.

For a change, we had a camera and a scale on board, which I decry as omens of bad luck, but we did manage to weigh it and get some photos before the release. He or she, was 32” and 8.3#.

32”, 8.3# Pike

32”, 8.3# Pike

Sam and Tony would miss a couple more fish, Tony having one fish bite through his line and make off with his lure before he hooked up for real a little later, just as the bail spring on his reel broke. Thankfully it did not inhibit his ability to land the fish. It was 28”, legal size to keep, and weighed 5.5#.

Tony's 28”, 5.5# Pike

Tony’s 28”, 5.5# Pike

Now it was Sam’s turn, and sure enough he came through as we were approaching “the bottom of the 9th.” A very respectable 20” pike. He could now put that check mark on his life list.

Sam's 20" Pike

Sam’s 20″ Pike

I won’t bore you with the details, but I would say that getting the boat on the trailer, which never would have happened on anything but a full roller trailer, was difficult but that was nothing in comparison to getting the boat out of the water and up the ramp.

The Boat Ramps Were the Cause of Much Anxiety

The Boat Ramps Were the Cause of Much Anxiety

It took 4WD low and some luck, but we got it done. As so often happens on these trips, it turned more into an adventure than a fishing trip.

Mission accomplished.

WLAGS

J.E. Tour

This was the first morning in months that I was able to get to all the stands. I had hoped to go shed hunting, but the remains from 3″ of heavy, pasty, snow made that almost futile.

I found yet another balloon. Why so many find their way here in such a remote place is beyond me.

I did see one set of fresh moose track heading for Buck Knob from #3 stand. No deer tracks anywhere! The biologist from Keene found 24 coyote-killed deer in 10 days. Northern New England may have lost as many as 25% of their deer herd this winter.

I took a few photos as I set up the camera on Buck Knob.

A Well-Camouflaged Camera at Buck Knob

A Well-Camouflaged Camera at Buck Knob

Dana's Buck Knob Blind

Dana’s Buck Knob Blind

Here is a photo of moose rubs while looking through the rungs of stand #3.

Moose Rubs

Moose Rubs

 

I counted 14 rubs within view of the stand. Tony found two sheds within view of that stand, and I found one a couple of years ago.

WLAGS

Beaver Pond

I was right about the wood ducks! On April 10th, I wrote “I’m sure wood ducks and other waterfowl will be there shortly.”  Today I saw the proof. Here it is:

Wood Ducks in the Beaver Pond

Wood Ducks in the Beaver Pond

This next photo is of some of the beaver work. The photo shows them to have taken down and dragged away some sizable beech trees.

Beaver Work

Beaver Work

The tree to the left is from the stump on the left that got hung up in branches and didn’t fall over. The trees were 14” to 16” in diameter, 30’ to 40’ tall, and god only knows what they weighed. There wasn’t a trace of the trees from the other stumps!

WLAGS

Ice Out Report

I checked the following waters today:

Deering – ice out

Franklin Pierce – ice out

Granite Lake – ice out

Gustin – 2% out

Island – 1% out

Loon – 25% out

Millen – 5% out

Newell – 5% out

 

Ice Out on Deering Today

Ice Out on Deering Today

Based on a comparison of previous years for those ponds, my prediction of April 24th is looking pretty good.

Deering for example, usually goes out about 8 to 10 days before Island.

However there have been years when Island has gone out just 2 days after Deering.

WLAGS

Fishing in Mass. with Marty

These photos of Marty and I are from a Monday fishing trip to Comet Pond in Mass.

Marty with a Brown

Marty with a Brown

Despite steady winds from 20 to 25 mph with gusts to 40 mph, we had some success.

We were using my VPS (Village Pond Special) flies in light olive and dark brown in sizes 12 to 14.

Another Brown

Another Brown

We caught five browns and four rainbows. Most were about 14”, and the two biggest were 15”.

A Rainbow

A Rainbow

Not bad considering the wind.

WLAGS

Beavers

I pride myself in my observation skills, but this one I missed.

You might remember me commenting on the beavers dragging beech and maples across Rte. 1 to the brook. I thought this was all about food, but it wasn’t. Much of what they were doing was to repair the old dam.

The pond is filling up, and will once again be a magnet for wildlife. The otter, the reason I went there today, has already taken full advantage of the pond. On the down side, he has eaten about every brook trout in the brook and pond. The up side is that a moose has already checked the place out along with a pair of geese. I’m sure wood ducks and other waterfowl will be there shortly. It will be on the dining out spots list of every mink, weasel, fisher cat, deer, and raccoon in the area. To say nothing of the songbirds that will benefit from the insects and fruits.

The beavers are using the old lodge as a dining room for now, with the main lodge down near our boat launch. I think that will change as the summer and human activity grow nearer. I think that then they well might restore the old lodge, which is in the upper most portion of the photo.

Old Beaver Dam

Old Beaver Dam

They have built a series of smaller dams between this one and the lake. I am hopeful that someday, they will move further upstream to dam up the older, larger pond sight. It is prime with food and far enough off the beaten track that it would serve them well for years.

I set up my best camera on the dam to hopefully get some photos of them and the otter. That is, if he hasn’t literally eaten himself out of house and home.

WLAGS