Based on regular weekly dispatches from SI bureaus and special correspondents in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and overseas; and on reports from fish and game commissions of the 48 states and Alaska
FREEDOM FOR QUAIL
Most wildlife biologists agree that stocking pen-reared birds is an expensive and often unrewarding method of bolstering depleted game bird populations. Far more, they point out, can be accomplished through habitat improvement alone.
A forceful vindication of this thesis is furnished by the Virginia Game and Inland Fisheries Commission. As part of a long-term plan to demonstrate that habitat improvement benefits both game and landowners, the commission in 1949 acquired rundown Haw-field Plantation in Orange County. At that time there were only 16 coveys of quail on its entire 2,764 acres.
May 6, 1956
Commission field workers stocked no birds and exercised no predator control. They simply proceeded to reconstruct Hawfield as a farm, with special attention to fringe cover that would not only prevent erosion but afford protection and food for game.
Results have been startling. Hawfield today is an efficient, productive farm that is also stuffed with quail. At last count the commission located 75 large coveys and estimates that in dense cover areas there are still more.
If Virginia has helped prove what habitat improvement can do, a Massachusetts biologist has dramatically highlighted the unhappy alternative.
Conducting his experiments on quail-rich Cape Cod, Massachusetts Biologist Tom Ripley, a month before hunting season, released five pen-reared coveys of 20 birds each in cover that was already supporting a native quail population. Checking with dogs, Ripley found that only 34 stocked quail survived until opening day.
Ten of these were shot in season and by January, 14 more had expired. This represented a 90% mortality, yet during the same three-month period native quail in the same area suffered a much lower 39% mortality.
"By the time most pen-reared birds learned how to act like quail," comments Ripley, "it was too late even under favorable habitat conditions."
SLAM ON HEADS
William A. Fisher (above), a Bellingham, Wash, dentist, is one of a handful of dogged sportsmen who have successfully hunted all four species of North American mountain sheep. Shown here with his trophy heads, Dr. Fisher stands between a Dall Sheep (left) and a Desert Bighorn. A Stone Sheep hangs at top right flanked by a Rocky Mountain Bighorn, a recent kill which completed Fisher's sheepish grand slam.
The dream of many a light-tackle angler visiting the Florida Keys or the West Indies is to take a permit. This powerful member of the pompano family is a shy and rare visitor to shallow subtropical flats, where it feeds much like a bonefish. The current world record fish weighed 42 pounds 4 ounces, but a permit of any size is considered a trophy and more anglers than not return home without one. Still, there are those exceptions which keep angling hopes alive and last week Michael Gottlieb of Miami was one such.
Fishing the flats around the Bahamian island of Bimini one morning, Gottlieb, on spinning tackle, 10-pound test line and a live shrimp, hooked and boated a 31-pound permit. Then, after lunch, blissfully contemptuous of precedent, he went out again with his guide, "Bonefish" Sam Ellis, and caught another, this one 29 pounds 10 ounces. "It's not a record," Gottlieb reflects, "but it's sure a once-in-a-few-lifetimes."
CRANE IN CONFINEMENT
After four distressing failures, Josephine is trying again. Josephine, a whooping crane at the Audubon Park Zoo in New Orleans, laid an egg last week, and wildlife fanciers are in a state of joyful, albeit restrained, anticipation. The restraint stems from the fact that Josephine and her mate are the only two whoopers in captivity and that Josephine, although willing, has faltered as a mother. Her record so far lists three broken eggs, one four-day-old chick mysteriously missing. Since no whooping crane has yet been hatched and raised under hothouse conditions, and since only 28 still survive in the wild (SI, March 12), Josephine is very much on the ornithological spot.
Considering that 20 centuries ago Macedonian anglers were matching the hatch on the River Astracus with wool and hackle, a hundred years in the history of fly fishing is only a few lines from an epic. But a hundred years in the exacting handicraft of fashioning fly rods is a respectable span, and this year the Charles F. Orvis Co. Inc. in Manchester, Vermont is observing its 100th anniversary.
The Orvis Co. was founded in 1856 by Charles F. Orvis, a 5-foot 3-inch Yankee with intense pride in his business. Asked once: "You the feller that makes fishin' poles?" Orvis replied: "Sir, God makes poles. The Orvis Company makes fishing rods."
When Orvis died, the enterprise was carried on by his two sons, Albert and Robert, but by the late 1930s both were over 80, and the company was floundering in a sea of mounting costs.
In 1940 D. C. Corkran, a crack golfer who once set a new qualifying record in the National Amateur, bought the Charles F. Orvis Co. for approximately $3,000 and bought right into trouble.
World War II broke and a government order suspended production of fishing rods. Corkran weathered that by manufacturing bamboo ski poles for the Army. With peace, fibre glass moved to the front as an inexpensive, rugged rod material and bamboo was prematurely relegated to limbo.
D. C. Corkran, however, now in his 60s, is an energetic and determined individual. He purchased the Orvis Company with the conviction that anglers would always appreciate fine workmanship and pay for it. He not only continued to make traditional bamboo rods but improved on tradition by impregnating them with a bakelite resin, to increase their durability.
Today Orvis' gross annual sales in rods and a great variety of tackle probably reach the six-figure mark, and Charles F. Orvis, who may occasionally pay a ghostly visit to the Battenkill, is undoubtedly pleased.
SO—season opened (or opens); SC—season closed (or closes).
C—clear water; D—water dirty or roily; M—water muddy.
N—water at normal height; SH—slightly high; H—high; VH—very high; L—low; R—rising; F—falling.
WT50—water temperature 50°.
FG—fishing good; FF—fishing fair; FP—fishing poor; OG—outlook good; OF—outlook fair; OP—outlook poor
BLACK BASS: FLORIDA: Despite some rainfall across central Florida last week, many lakes are critically low and at presstime some were on emergency basis, with state Fresh Water Fish Commission allowing unlimited catches. Best fishing last week in central state was Lake Pierce, east of Dundee. In north Florida best bass fishing is at St. John's River near Welaka and Crescent City where shiners and black eel baits were producing limits to 8½ pounds. OVG if and when rains come.
SOUTH CAROLINA: Spoons and spinning lures are producing frequent limits (eight) at Lake Murray; agent attributes fast action to rising water, says most bass are in 2- to 3-pound class.
NORTH CAROLINA: FG and OG for fresh-water ponds in Hatteras and Dare County mainland areas as bass are taking fly-rod surface lures enthusiastically. Currituck area also improving and OG.
CALIFORNIA: Windy weather slowed fishing on lower Colorado reservoirs last week but OVG, especially for big bass. Last week Shasta and Clear lakes were producing on plugs trolled at six-to eight-foot depth, but surface lures should get results now.
MISSOURI: Lake Norfork is in fine condition and deep-running plugs are producing good to excellent catches, but best fishing in state is at Lake Bull Shoals where last week 64 black bass weighing 6 pounds or better were reported: five weighed more than 8 pounds.
TENNESSEE: Bass fishing is at season's peak in middle and east Tennessee; largemouths are taking top-water lures in Douglas and Cherokee lakes and smallmouth fishing is best in recent years at Norris Reservoir. FVG at Center Hill Lake, where local talent is taking 1- to 2-pound smallmouths off shallow points on polar bear hair flies tipped with pork rind. In general, OVG.
MISSISSIPPI: Local experts doubt that anyone will top the 9-pound 1-ounce largemouth caught by H. R. Johnson of Gulfport two weeks ago in Happy Lake, a small public lake northwest of Gulfport. The fish, a whopper by Gulf Coast standards, was caught on a midget plug.
LOUISIANA: FG and OG in ponds throughout southern Louisiana.
KINGFISH: FLORIDA: Although kingfish run was supposed to have passed Tampa three weeks ago, party boats ran into a big school at No. 2 buoy at entrance to harbor last week, and since then boats have been bringing in catches of 50 or 60 kings caught trolling with white minnows or spoons. However, season is late and schools will probably have moved on by now. In northwest Florida several large schools are reported 20 miles offshore and are expected to hit in closer when wind dies. In Miami area charter boats report scattered catches of kingfish but no big concentrations.
TROUT: NEW YORK: First warm weather last Saturday brought torrential runoff and raised Beaverkill and Esopus rivers to near-flood stage. By now Beaverkill may be in fair shape and trout should be taking Quill Gordon and Hendrickson nymphs, with good dry-fly fishing on same patterns in immediate offing. Esopus probably will not be at peak until mid-May but such feeders as the Beaverkill, Little Beaverkill, Chichester, Woodland Valley and Silver Hollow streams should be in fair-to-good condition now. Adirondack area rivers are still several weeks from good fishing as runoff will continue until mid-May. In southwestern New York most streams are high and roily, but Merle Haight of Jamestown managed to creel a 4-pound 14-ounce brown from Clear Creek near Randolph.
MASSACHUSETTS: Warm weather last Saturday led to mob scenes on eastern Massachusetts lakes and ponds, with unconfirmed report of 5-pound rainbow from Walden Pond topping local fish stories. Bay State's reclaimed trout ponds are paying off this season with several fish over 20 inches taken from Goose and Chatham ponds on Cape Cod. Bigger trout are starting to show at Cliff Pond in Nickerson State Forest. Agitation growing throughout state for year-round trout season to avoid concentrated stocking program and opening-day mob scenes. Farmington River produced several limit catches on bucktails and nymphs, and water levels were dropping in most western streams; OP/F.
NEW HAMPSHIRE: Only southern part of state is ice-free and weather has delayed stocking in some waters, but SO May 1 and 340,000 legal trout have been planted.
PENNSYLVANIA: Good hatches of Hendricksons reported from Yellow Breeches and other central Pennsylvania streams, and OG/VG for fly-fishermen if weather stays good.
MICHIGAN: FP/F in western areas from Boardman River south and in eastern Michigan's Au Gres and Au Sable areas, but north-central area of lower peninsula provided some bright spots as hundreds of fishermen made limit catches in Pickerel, West Lost, West Twin and Hemlock lakes in Pigeon River Forest District. Top lake this area was Louise (see "Fish Box"). Almost all fish caught on worms. OG if warm weather continues but snow is still in swamps on Sturgeon, Pigeon and Black rivers and rain could still trigger floods.
CALIFORNIA: An estimated three-quarter million anglers celebrated statewide opening day last Saturday with weatherman cooperating after midweek storms and FG despite high, murky waters. Top roadside waters in northern California were San Francisco's Lake Merced, Feather River, Lake Almanor region's Battle and Cow creeks, Pit and upper Sacramento rivers. On east slope of the Sierra, Crowley Lake gave up hundreds of limits to an estimated 7,000 anglers with top fish an 8½-pound brown taken on troll by Ralph Zolph of Lindsay, Calif.; fewer lunkers were reported than at last year's opening, probably due to confusion on new live bait restrictions. In south, most popular lake was Cachuma where 85,000 anglers found spotty fishing in murky water; lake is 25 feet higher than last year and trout are scattered. Within 100 miles of Los Angeles hot spots were Arrowhead, Big Bear and Little Rock lakes; west and east forks of San Gabriel River are generally improved after recent planting of bigger trout. In general, OG/VG.
IDAHO: As high water hit entire state to wreck steelheading, anglers found FF/G for rainbow trout at Thousand Springs near Hagerman and below Strike Dam on Snake River. Malheur Reservoir is open and OVG, but don't try this unless you have four-wheel-drive car. In general, OF.
WASHINGTON: Biggest opening day in state's history saw an estimated 400,000 fishermen catch an estimated 3,100,000 trout; game department check of 53,711 anglers revealed average take of 7.76 trout per man. Twenty-five lakes in Columbia Basin produced 44.5% of trout taken in state, and Blue Lake in Grant County produced 90,385 fish to 3½ pounds for 7,532 fishermen; Park Lake in Grant County produced same high average. Other top lakes on opening day were Deep Lake in Grant County, Clear Lake in the Bald Hills in Thurston County, Sylvia in Gray's Harbor County, Cottage in King County, Windmill in Grant, Liberty in Spokane and Tan wax in Pierce, in order of productivity. Biggest trout of opening day was 7½-pound rainbow from Deep Lake. In western Washington, Lake Shoecraft in Snohomish County and Twin Lake in Kitsap County averaged 10 fish per man. Other hot lakes were Sixteen, Cottage, Walker, Deer, Toad, Hummel, Battle Ground and Blue. Most anglers caught their fish on single eggs or worms or trolling with spinner and worms, with fly-fishers in definite minority. Squalicum and Samish lakes FP; Samish OF for silvers to 12 inches.
NEW MEXICO: SO May 1 and OVG in higher mountain areas. Rio Grande between Taos and Colorado line reports FVG, with some moss still in water but clearing fast, and some nice browns being taken on dark wet flies and worms.
WISCONSIN: As SO April 28 wintry weather kept all but hardiest fishermen at home. Brule River was N and C but air temperatures in high 20s iced guides and made monofilament line unmanageable. FP and OP until weather and water warm.
OREGON: As SO April 28, FF despite showers and cloudy weather; coastal areas provided many limits of cutthroat trout from coastal streams and upper tidal waters; hot spot was Siletz River with boat and bank fishermen taking easy limits. Willamette Valley streams were disappointing with small and scattered catches. Detroit Reservoir on upper Santiam FF/G. Deschutes River in excellent condition from Wickiup Reservoir downstream to mouth of Crooked River and FG with several large browns reported caught on worms, and several limits taken on flies; OF.
NEW JERSEY: FF/G on South Branch of Raritan between Hoffman's and High Bridge and on Flat Brook. 4½ miles downstream from Route 206 Bridge.
Among last week's outstanding catches: a 360-pound STURGEON caught by Wilfred Cravens of Walters Ferry, Idaho at Swan Falls in the Snake River near Boise; a 7¾-pound SMALLMOUTH BASS caught at Tennessee's Center Hill Lake by Don Smith of Chattanooga on a plug; a 73-pound SAIL-FISH caught by Mrs. Lawrence Bowditch of Manhasset, N.Y., on nine-thread line and three-ounce tip off Key West; a 9-pound 28-inch RAINBOW TROUT caught in Michigan's Lake Louise by John Moorhead of Gaylord, Mich.; a 41-pound CHANNEL BASS caught in surf at Hatteras Beach by Harold J. Williams of Wynnewood, Pa.; a 43-pound CHANNEL BASS caught in surf at Oregon Inlet by Dr. Walter Spaeth of Elizabeth City, N.C.; a 9-pound 12-ounce BROWN TROUT caught in Washington's Lake Ten by Ray Pittman of Clear Lake, Wash.; a 2,500-pound BASKING SHARK harpooned by Harry Gilbert of Brentwood, B.C. and shot after two-hour tussle.