Plenty to reflect on, and look forward to, for sportsmen

OBSERVER Photo by Gene Pauszek Limit catches of yellow perch were scarce after June locally in 2016.

Happy New Year!

Here’s hoping for good health, good hunting and fishing, good fortune and great times spent with family and friends.

Taking a look back on 2016, I’d like to point out some of the highs and lows of last year.

Shutting down and “moth balling” the NRG power station located in Dunkirk sent ripples of apprehension throughout the community. In addition to the obvious tax base and jobs it provided, it’s warm water discharge was eliminated, which over the years provided a wildlife haven for fish and waterfowl, and place to hunt and fish for those who pursue them. A notice posted in the OBSERVER about the continued possibility of repowering the plant leaves a glimmer of hope that will hopefully arrive soon.

Wind and weather were constant reminders of how fragile we humans are. Many of the walleye tournaments which take place in the surrounding area were impacted by windy conditions that often proved uncomfortable, to say the least, for offshore fishermen.

The yellow perch fishery saw some of the biggest yellow perch anglers have ever seen coming to the net during the early springtime months, but after mid June, limit catches became scarce for even the best of our local fishing talent. The same could be said for trophy-sized walleye.

Walleye exceeding 10 pounds were a staple for our fishing professionals, but those numbers continue to decline. On the bright side, the numbers of smaller-sized walleye, due to productive year classes of spawning walleye, saw some of the best overall catches per fishermen in recent years (just a side note, walleye anglers, barring any major misfortune, can look forward to possibly an even better fishing experience in 2017).

Turkey hunters noted a decline in bearded bird sightings, but look forward to a recovery of the wild turkey population locally. Catfish are gaining in popularity, and becoming more widespread in Lake Erie. Early reports hint that the deer harvest was slightly higher in 2016, but this column has seen an increase of some of the biggest buck racks in recent years.

Weather conditions from 2015 slowed the harvest and an increase of hunters became more selective and saw an increase in the trophy buck potential for many.

Chautauqua County played host to the Associated Great Lakes Outdoor Writers (AGLOW) and New York Outdoor writers this year, providing numerous pleasant memories and successful column features to help stimulate New York Tourism with a focus on our area.

Several events continued to help our youth become excited about outdoor activities: The Chautauqua County Sports Fishery Advisory gave away close to 50 fishing outfits to youths around the county, Cassadaga Lakes had another great event, with nice weather to boot, for their event as well as the Con Club’s Take-A-kid Fishing event. The Chautauqua County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs gave away thousands of dollars worth of free Lifetime Sporting licenses to Chautauqua County youths, and continue to do so with the generosity of sponsors and supporters. The crossbow season appears to be an improvement as well as the increase in youth hunting participation. We are seeing more women getting involved in hunting and fishing too.

Remember our men and women in the service of our country our “dearly departed” and hope and pray for a better future for all!

Gene Pauszek is an OBSERVER outdoors columnist. Send comments to sports@observertoday.com

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