• Outdoors May 7, 2014

    Owen Sound local Adam Pettengill with his very first wild turkey harvest.  Pettengill's bird was taken on a piece of public land in Bruce County early last week.If you are a local outdoorsman or woman, chances are you have been spending quite a bit of time in the woods or on the water over the past couple of weeks. Between the ice leaving Owen Sound Bay, the opening of inland trout season, and the arrival of spring turkey hunting, there seems to be so little time to accomplish so much in the outdoors.

    The opening of inland trout season was reported to be one of the best on record. Steelhead, which were delayed in their spring migration due to frigid temperatures and heavy ice conditions, were plentiful during the opening weekend in late April. Reports also suggest that the Saugeen River is still serving up a steady supply of fresh trout that are headed upstream.

    The Ontario Steelheaders and Lake Huron Fishing Club managed to reach their spring quota for the annual “trap and transfer project” in just less than four days. 1000 adult steelhead were trapped by the two clubs at Denny’s Dam and transported up river to prime spawning gravel in tributary waters near Hanover. The LHFC, SSA, Bruce Peninsula Sportsman Association and the Ministry of Natural Resources also managed to collect their allotment of Saugeen steelhead eggs for their hatchery programs as well. These eggs will be fertilized and raised in hatcheries before they are stocked into local waters for the benefit of anglers. With any luck, this bountiful spring season, and these successful spring efforts will contribute to maintaining a strong fishery in the years to come.

    The Georgian Triangle Anglers Association just wrapped up their 34th annual Spring Trout Derby. Local Owen Sound charter boat ace Tony Degasperis took home top honors in the salmon division with a spring Chinook tipping the scales at 10.76lbs. Degasperis also boxed the 3rd overall salmon, claiming two of the available three salmon prizes. Degasperis credited his Hotfish spoons for helping put the salmon in the boat. Reports from the derby suggested that local anglers landed a great deal of salmon between 5 and 8lbs, but fish larger than 10lbs were rare sight for most. In the Rainbow Trout category, Owen Sounder Chris Yates took home the top prize with a steelhead weighing in at 9.68lbs caught off Leith. Ray McInnis landed 9.32lb Rainbow in Collingwood Harbor that was good enough for second place. Jody Steinke secured third place in the division with a ‘bow landed in Colpoys Bay that tipped the scales at 9.12lbs.

    This derby has been a tradition for over three decades, and rumors suggest that the prize money for next year’s event will grow with even more attractive payouts for the top three fish in each division. The GTAA uses money raised by this event to carry out numerous conservation works, including extensive stream rehab, and the stocking of Brook trout, Brown trout, and Rainbow trout in Georgian Bay and watersheds across the “triangle” region.

    Sudbury resident Brendan O'Farrell travelled to Grey-Bruce to hunt turkey with Josh Choronzey.  He harvested this fine mature gobbler on opening morning on Grey County public forest.

    In terms of quarry in the field, the first week of the Spring Wild Turkey season has been a barnburner. Some of you may remember that I reported in my last column that there was a good possibility that local turkey flocks had suffered greater loses than normal due to the severe winter. Well, I must confess that it seems that I was wrong…for the most part. Overall, the weights of male birds weighed in at Watson’s Tackle and Lake Huron Rod and Gun appear to be on par with those brought in last season. However, reports from local hunters suggest there was some higher than normal winter mortality, but only in a localized sense. Birds in the northern and western portions of the Bruce Peninsula seemed to take a beating, with flock sizes down, and a noticeable lack of yearling females in the population. The severe winter also appears to have limited the overall beard growth of many gobblers, a side effect caused when the beards freeze and break off in heavy snow while toms are feeding. Thus, turkey populations definitely felt the weight of winter, with young hens bearing the brunt of the punishment, but the mature strutters at the top of the pecking order seem to have been least affected and made it through to spring relatively unscathed.

    Overall leader in the Great Gobbler Contest is Peter Scholz, who’s tom scored 78.875 typical points. Peter’s bird weighed 23lbs, sported a whopping 13 ¼” beard along with spurs of 1-1/2” and 1-7/16”. Heaviest bird overall is a 25.875lb monster weighed in by Nick Fragiskatos. Many of the heaviest birds have been reported from the South Bruce area of the contest. The Top scoring Ladies Turkey is currently held by Kaylan Hicks whose gobbler notched a total of 63.7 points. There have been a little over 800 entrants in the ever-popular contest, with 169 birds entered after week one. Reports from the field suggest many birds are locked in on hens, and with the warming temperatures, heavy breeding is taking place. As hens begin to nest, an increase in gobbling activity will be seen and more mature birds will fall victim to sly calling on the part of the hunter.

    With May finally bringing about some more spring-like weather, now is an excellent time to spend time outdoors. Hike a trout creek and dangle a worm for a brook or brown trout. Pick some of the fresh leeks that are beginning to emerge from the forest floor. Take in the wonder and beauty of the woods as the trilliums blossom, a breathtaking annual event that should be happening across Grey-Bruce over the next few weeks. Hunt a turkey or troll up a salmon, just get outside! While you’re at it, be sure to include a youngster in your outdoor time. It seems like the average age of my outdoor fraternity is growing older and there is no better way to protect what we love than to introduce the next generation to the outdoors. The kids may even be thankful to get outside after our long winter. Spring is finally here!
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