Trout-Stocking, Turkeys And A Little Clarification

It’s spring, signs everywhere.

Trout-stocking trucks from the Connecticut Valley and Western Wildlife districts are rolling through Recorder country, depositing fresh, lively, colorful brookies, browns and rainbows from Pioneer Valley hatcheries at Montague, Sunderland, Palmer and Belchertown. No word on this week’s schedule, but ponds like Cranberry in Sunderland and Puffers in North Amherst have already been visited by Valley District trucks at least once thus far. Meanwhile, the Western District has thrown caution to the wind and stocked the upper Deerfield River from Florida to Buckland for Mohawk Trail anglers.

The upper Deerfield usually gets stocked before the lower because, once a fish is placed in the lower river below Station No. 2, just above Bardwell’s Ferry connecting Conway and Shelburne, there’s nothing to stop them from being washed into the Connecticut River and out of play for Deerfield River anglers. Of course, that’s the bad news. The good news is that many trout seeking refuge from spring high-water events also find their way into popular fishing tributaries like the Bear and South Rivers and Dragon and Hawks brooks, where they can thrive and offer wooded pursuits for hip-booted stream fishermen or, then again, find their way back into the Deerfield once the water settles down.

So, don’t assume that spring flooding always removes stocked trout from the lower Deerfield. That’s a myth. Once acclimated, stocked trout can find refuge and remain available in the river system throughout the fishing season by moving in and out of the better tributaries. And don’t think you can just forget about these fish even if thy do wind up in the Connecticut, where they never stay long. Those fish stay in play by finding their way into tributaries, some of them small “unstocked” brooks feeding the Connecticut, such as boyhood South Deerfield streams like Clapp and Sugarloaf brooks, longtime secret little gems to which big trout can find their way. Particularly enticing for anglers are the wide, deeply-incised outflows, which dig back into riverside terrain from the Connecticut riverbank.

Expect stocking crews to stick to their longtime pattern of hitting the lakes and ponds first, soon after ice-out, then the smaller upland brooks, and finally the larger streams, such as Fall and Sawmill rivers, and major rivers like the Deerfield, Millers, Green and North. The spring-stocking schedule always ends Memorial Day Weekend, after which hatchery managers assess their inventory for the potential of one additional bonus stocking of surplus trout, which sometimes includes brood-stock lunkers for the grand finale.

Meanwhile, on the wild turkey front, our state game bird of the first Plymouth Colony Thanksgiving feast many centuries ago had a splendid mild winter with lots of food on the ground for the taking due to minimal snow-cover and plentiful hard and soft fall mast crops. A credentialed hilltown spotter reported just Tuesday that large flocks of turkeys congregated and stayed in the hardwoods over the winter, taking a mix of bountiful nuts and berries from the forest floor. This natural, nutritious food kept the birds healthy, and the shallow snow eliminated the threat of deep, powdery snow mortality that occurs when the big birds fly down and get mired. Either that or, knowing what awaits them in the deep, fluffy snow, wise old birds of both sexes have been known to remain in the roost too long, weakening quickly in the cold due to lack of food, and perish. There should have been none of that this winter, and spring hunters will be the beneficiaries, with many big, mature toms in full strut for the taking by veteran hunters who know what they’re doing.

It seems that anthropologist/archaeologist Dr. Peter A. Thomas received undeserved credit here last week for work performed at what was referred to as WMECO/West Springfield. Thomas said he had no knowledge of any such project and definitely had no hand in it if it was conducted. This space was told long ago by a trusted source that, thankfully, Dr. Thomas had led an archaeological salvage project at a deep-history construction site facing obliteration around the old 17th-century Pynchon Plantation of Agawam. Well, last week’s mention here was the first Thomas had heard of that supposed salvage project. Oh well. It would have been easy to double-checked with him before publishing it as one of his Pioneer Valley accomplishments. Dr. Thomas needs no embellishments for an already impressive list of accomplishments.

Roger “Hezekiah” Ward of Buckland chimed in last week on the Quabbin rattlesnake-stocking controversy:
“I have seen snakes traverse water at speeds probably faster than they could travel on land. If I was the one who had to make the decision about the Quabbin island, I would say no in the interest of public safety.”
Not through, he then offered this little tidbit:
“Some time ago, around Nov. 1, 1966, I took the forest-fire power wagon from Mohawk State Forest to a fire in the town of Leverett, where we fought a fire on a mountain that was called Rattlesnake something or other. I can’t remember the exact name but believe it was listed as Rattlesnake something on the topo maps as well. Later, when talking with Leverett natives, everybody was familiar with the rattlesnake name. Perhaps there’s an old-timer who could help you, but if LEVERETT IS ANYTHING LIKE BUCKLAND, old-time natives are an endangered species.”
Well, Heze, no need for an old-timer on this one. I’d bet my Sweet 16 side-by-side you’re referring to Rattlesnake Gutter, an area of Leverett passed through by the Sawmill River and Rattlesnake Gutter Road.

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