For you turkey hunters or wildlife lovers, the Game Commission again is seeking help from the public in surveying wild turkeys in August to get a handle on production statewide.
The third-annual Pennsylvania Wild Turkey Sighting Survey begins Aug. 1.
Through the month of August, turkey sighting reports can be made at www.pgc.pa.gov by clicking on “August Turkey Sighting Survey” in the Quick Clicks section, or through the Game Commission mobile app available at the Google Play Store or Apple’s App Store. To report through the app, select “Turkey Sighting Survey.”
The public is encouraged to report any turkeys observed during August. Information submitted helps the agency analyze spring turkey production. Participants are requested to record the number of wild turkeys they see, along with the general location, date and contact information should agency biologists have any questions.
“The turkey survey enhances our agency’s internal survey, which serves as a long-term index of turkey reproduction,” explained Mary Jo Casalena, Game Commission wild turkey biologist. “By reporting all turkeys seen during each sighting, whether it’s gobblers, hens with broods or hens without broods, the data help us determine total productivity, and allow us to compare long-term reproductive success.”
Many factors including spring weather, habitat, previous winter-food abundance, predation and last fall’s harvest affect wild turkey productivity. The 2017 statewide turkey population was about 216,800, which is similar to the previous five-year average. Pennsylvania’s turkey population in the early 2000s reached its peak of about 280,000 birds because of agency restoration efforts through wild trap-and-transfer efforts, habitat improvement, and fall-turkey-hunting-season restrictions.
It then declined sharply to levels below 200,000. Since 2011, it has been fluctuating between 204,000 and 234,000, depending on summer reproduction and fall harvest.
“Every turkey-sighting report made to the Game Commission during August helps to improve wild turkey conservation in the Keystone State,” Casalena emphasized.
Since we’re in the dog days of summer and with constant rain storms, fishing has been put on hold for most local anglers, at least stream and river anglers where waters haven’t had a chance to recede and become fishable. And for those who take home a few fish for dinner, it may be interesting to find out what fish make the best table fare.
According to the Outdoor Hub, if you ask 10 different anglers what their favorite wild fish to eat is, you’re likely to get 10 different answers. The closest general answer is on the polling website shareranks.com, which, with more than a thousand virtual votes, offered the best list of top 10 wild fish that deserve a place on your table.
Given that the source material being an internet poll, the answers tend to generalize and several large families of fish have been grouped together. The polls also tend to favor more popular fish, but the number-one answer is surprising and one I disagree with as it’s my favorite fish to eat, and the only one my wife will eat. Here is what was found.
Many of you may be surprised that halibut ended low on this list, especially as many anglers familiar with halibut would have rated it much higher. By itself halibut has a very mild, subtly sweet flavor. Its lean, flaky meat is very versatile and can be cooked in a number of ways, and halibut cheeks are especially prized as the most tender part of the fish.
Good old perch. Many people count white perch among their favorite fish for its flaky texture and and mild taste.
8. Red snapper
Oily, moist, and fairly mild with a sweet flavor, the red snapper is a fish that is hard to mess up.
7. Yellowfin tuna
Yellowfin tuna, or ahi, is one of the more coveted fish on the list, especially by chefs specializing in sashimi.
The poll doesn’t differentiate between different species of trout, which is curious, since there is a world of difference in taste between each. Some anglers keep away from lake trout, which they describe as “muddy” and too oily for the effort, while others love them. Of course, rainbow trout often ranks among one of the tastiest fish to keep.
5. Sea bass
High in fat and low in the dreaded fishy flavor, sea bass is best grilled, poached, or steamed.
Much like halibut, walleye is incredibly versatile and can be made into pretty much anything. Fans of this fish often compare it favorably to chicken and say it is very easy to prepare. Walleye is especially popular in Minnesota, where the fish is eaten more than any other state in the United States because they have an excellent walleye fishery.
It’s not surprising to see salmon in the top three of this poll. Possibly one of the most overused fish in the country, salmon still enjoys a stellar reputation for its firm, flaky flesh and mild flavor.
Dorado – or mahi-mahi – is a great-tasting fish that has lean pink meat with a mild sweet flavor. They are also prized by anglers for their acrobatic prowess on the line.
1. Whitesaddle Goatfish
You might not have heard of this one before, and frankly we were a bit surprised to see it on top of the poll. We would have figured one of the more familiar fish, such as salmon or mahi-mahi, would win. However, the whitesaddle goatfish took número uno as the tastiest fish in this poll.
Also known as kumu, one of the few places you could fish for this species is Hawaii, and spearfishing is generally preferred.
They are apparently unique among fish because they taste a lot like shrimp. They are also pretty expensive, so it might be better to dive for your dinner instead.
There you have it. I’m sure you have your own favorite and it appears saltwater species outnumber freshwater picks. As for my preference. 1. Halibut, 2. Mahi Mahi, 3. Salmon (good for the heart), 4. Tuna, 5. Sea Bass, 6. Walleye, 7. Red Snapper, 8. Perch (especially through the ice during ice fishing season), 9. Trout, 10. Never ate it, never heard of it – sorry Whitesaddle Goatfish.
Our popular and most fished Little Lehigh Creek, has a problem according to this press release from the PA Fish & Boat Commission. It reads as follows:
After confirming the presence of the aquatic invasive species (AIS) known as New Zealand Mudsnail (Potamopyrgus antipodarium) in Little Lehigh Creek, Lehigh County, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) is reminding anglers and boaters that cleaning their gear is the easiest, most effective means of preventing its spread to other waters.
PFBC biologists collected Mudsnail specimens this month in Little Lehigh Creek west of Emmaus, PA near the Wildlands Conservancy. New Zealand Mudsnail expert Dr. Edward Levri of Penn State and PFBC Lead AIS Ecologist Bob Morgan confirmed the identity.
New Zealand Mudsnails are very small, measuring less than one-quarter inch, with a relatively long, narrow, spiral shell that is generally brown to almost black in color. Like other aquatic invasive species, they disrupt ecosystems by rapidly multiplying and competing with native species for space and food.
“Based on studies conducted in western U.S. streams, if the population grows quickly, they could become the dominant organisms in the benthic – or bottom dwelling – community, upon which many other species depend for food,” said Morgan, the PFBC’s ecologist who studies aquatic invasive species. “The first known occurrence of the New Zealand Mudsnail on the Atlantic slope of the Eastern U.S. was discovered about five years ago in Spring Creek, Centre County. Whether there is a connection with the infestation in Little Lehigh Creek is unknown at this time, but hopefully future genetic studies will give the answer. The effects of the snail in Atlantic slope streams on higher organisms, such as fish, are not certain at this time.”
New Zealand Mudsnail has spread to Europe, Asia, Australia and North America. They were discovered in the Snake River in Idaho and Wyoming in 1987; in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River in 1991; and in Lake Erie about 4 miles north of Presque Isle Bay in 2007. Additional populations were found in a small stream near the Niagara River in New York in 2008 and in another Lake Ontario tributary in 2011. New Zealand Mudsnails have recently been found in the Gunpowder River in Maryland and in the Musconetcong River in New Jersey (near Riegelsville, PA) which is a tributary of the Delaware River.
“Spring Creek and Little Lehigh Creek have at least one thing in common – they are both heavily fished streams, with anglers travelling to them from all over,” added Morgan. “Given the presence of the Mudsnail in other areas of the country, it’s not surprising they have been found here. As with many aquatic invasive species, they are nearly impossible to eradicate once established. This is even more difficult with the Mudsnail because it usually takes only one small snail to be able to produce offspring. But we must do our best to slow its spread to other waters.”
Anglers and boaters are urged to “Clean Your Gear!” before leaving a waterway and entering another one. New Zealand Mudsnails require some specialized disinfection measures. Gear should be visually inspected and any clinging matter should be removed and disposed of in the trash. To kill Mudsnails, three methods are effective. Gear can be frozen for a minimum of eight hours, or it can be soaked in very hot water with detergent - maintained at 120°F to 140°F - for ten minutes. This last method is not recommended for Goretex®.
Also, a 2005 study by the California Department of Fish and Game showed that Mudsnails can be killed by soaking gear for five minutes in a one-to-one solution of a commercial product, Formula 409® Cleaner Degreaser Disinfectant, and water. After soaking gear for five minutes, thoroughly rinse it with plain water. Simply spraying gear with the disinfectant or the mixture does not work. Also, general cleaners such as regular off-the-shelf Formula 409 have not been shown to be effective against Mudsnail.
If you suspect that you have found New Zealand Mudsnail (or any other AIS) in another waterway, please report your information at: http://pfbc.pa.gov/forms/reportAIS.htm . When reporting an AIS sighting it is very important to include as much information as possible including close-up photos of the organism, the exact location (GPS coordinates work best), a description of what you found, and your contact information.
For more information about New Zealand Mudsnail, visit https://seagrant.psu.edu/section/fact-sheets-brochures and scroll down to the Mudsnail link.
For you non-birders who dabble in occasional bird watching, you may have noticed a flurry of red-headed birds at your feeders that, for the novice watcher, resemble sparrows. These are actually House Finches that have some interesting history to their appearance in the states. Females, however, do not have any red coloration and do resemble sparrows to a point. House Finches are also similar to Purple Finches that have more red coloration over their bodies.
According to the Birding Wire, House Finches are one of the most common birds at feeders and in the fields across the United States. But their distribution and ecology have been altered by people. Historically, they are a bird of dry habitats in Mexico and the American Southwest. These colorful finches were popular with pet dealers who marketed them as “Hollywood Finches” back in the early 1900s.
To avoid prosecution under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which protects wild birds, bird sellers on Long Island, New York, liberated their House Finches during the 1940’s. The rest, as they say, is history. From this humble beginning, House Finch populations exploded and the species progressively expanded their range across the country from east to west and north to south until they merged with the original western population.
Today, House Finches are conspicuous in most neighborhoods. They consume sunflower, safflower and Niger seeds at feeders and sometimes nest in hanging planters and other structures in yards. They are one of few birds that feed their offspring on plant foods only, primarily regurgitated seeds. Most seed-eating birds feed insects to their nestlings as a protein source.
House Finches are susceptible to an eye disease called avian conjunctivitis, which causes their eyes to become red, runny and swollen. First recorded in Maryland in 1994, the bacterium may cause the finch’s eyes to swell shut, resulting in blindness. Some birds recover, but most die from starvation or predation.
If you have House Finches at your feeder, sooner or later you’ll see a male that is colored more orange or yellow than red. This is a case of “you are what you eat.” Red, orange and yellow colors in birds come from ingested pigments, called carotenoids, in the bird’s diet. So that orange- or yellow-tinted male House Finch actually has been consuming something that changed the color of its feathers.
House Finches are residents across most of their range, but some northern and eastern birds migrate. They range from southern Canada to southern Mexico and across the United States.
In the West, House Finches inhabit open dry areas and woodland borders, but throughout their range they favor urban habitats. They are less likely to be found in expanses of forests or grasslands.
House Finches form pairs during winter and may stay together year-round. Males display to females using a flight-song display that includes song, slow fluttering wing beats and graceful aerial dives. Males also hop near females while drooping wings, raising tail, and singing. Males may offer food to females during courtship. Sound familiar?
House Finches construct their nests on ledges of man-made structures and in coniferous and deciduous trees. They may build their nest on rock ledges, even in and hanging flower pots. Their bowl-shaped nests are built with fine grasses and materials and lined with even finer, soft materials such as animal hair. Their clutches are usually two to six white to pale blue eggs, sometimes speckled. Some House Finches may nest more than once per season. Their incubation period is from 12 to 14 days and nestlings are altricial that hatch featherless except for fine down along feather tracts, eyes closed and helpless. But they grow quickly, fledging in 12-19 days.
While some avid birders stop feeding birds in the summer as native foods are often available, many maintain feeders just to see and enjoy the company of our fine-feathered friends.
This past Thursday, the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission transported 15,800 brown and brook trout fingerlings from their Bellefonte Hatchery to the Lil’ Le-Hi Trout Nursery, located on Fish Hatchery Road in Allentown.
The latter is often referred to by many as the Lil’ Le-Hi fish hatchery, but it’s really not. A hatchery, by definition, hatches baby trout from eggs while a nursery receives the baby fish, feeds them and takes care of them while they grow to legal size to be stocked in area waters.
“These fingerlings eat three-five times a day,” said Jim Schneck, one of several volunteers at the nursery and a member of Pioneer Fish & Game Association. “We feed the fingerlings “baby food” – meaning fish meal that is processed ocean fish like herring and menhaden mixed with nutrients. Once they get larger they’re fed smaller fish pellets, then gradually move on to the larger pellets and the size folks buy here to feed trout. This is a favorite chore for kids visiting the nursery.”
The Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission (PF&BC) says when the trout first hatch, they’re fed food pellets the size of black pepper flakes. As the fish grow and get bigger, so do their food pellets.
At the Lil’ Le-Hi Nursery, Schneck and other volunteers from local sportsmen’s clubs like Lehigh Fish & Game and others, pitch in to clean the raceways and tanks, and they grade, sort and separate the trout by size. This way the larger, more aggressive trout, don’t interfere (or eat) the smaller trout.
These new arrivals, claims Schneck, will average between 14-20 inches in two years after which they will be stocked in area waters.
This past March, the nursery had to destroy between 7,500-8,000, 14-20-inch rainbow trout due to gill lice. Because of that, rainbows were not in the mix delivered to the nursery.
Gill lice is a fish parasite or tiny crustacean that attach to the gills of trout and other fish. The lice look like tiny bits of rice and are found inside the gills. They then feed on the trout’s blood and can infect other fish in a stream. Despite the untasteful name, the PF&BC says trout with gill lice are not harmful to eat.
The Lil’ Le-Hi rainbow trout that were destroyed, hasn’t been the only incident of this problem. The first case was reported last fall in Center County when both stocked brook and wild trout were found to be affected. Others were found in Lancaster County stocked trout and during this past winter, some rainbow trout were caught in Deep Creek Dam in Montgomery County that were affected. Most of the affected trout came from a private trout hatchery, not from a state hatchery.
According to the PG&BC, gill lice can affect the trout’s breathing and will slow down the fish’s development. And it’s a shame, especially with annual trout stocking numbers declining, that the Lil’ Le-Hi Nursery had to destroy these sizable and colorful rainbows.
On a trout side note, and in a phone interview with Mike Kauffman, PF&BC fisheries biologist, he mentioned that trout will no longer be stocked in Leaser Lake. The reason. Few anglers are catching them.
We reported this in a previous column after talking to several Leaser anglers on opening day. At that time, not one trout was caught or even seen caught by anglers either from shore or boat. The anglers interviewed believe the huge muskies in Leaser ate the trout. Upon relaying this to Kauffman, he opined that it was unlikely because the lake is stocked a week before the opener, and muskies couldn’t have devoured over 1,000 trout in a week. So for the time being, Leaser will revert to catch-and-release bass, panfish and muskie fishing.
With the sweltering heat we’re having, outdoor sportsmen are thinking about cool drinks and air conditioning, certainly not about hunting.
Well, if you want to purchase an antlerless license for the upcoming hunting seasons, better mark your calendar for Monday, July 9 as that’s the first day to apply for an antlerless license for the area you wish to hunt.
Keep in mind only valid license holders may apply for an antlerless license. So if you haven’t done so already, buy your 2018-19 hunting license that will allow you to apply for an antlerless license. And the PGC notes that there is a slight change in the antlerless process.
According to the PGC, Pennsylvania residents are given preference in applying for antlerless licenses and nonresidents may submit their first applications a week later, beginning Monday, July 16.
The application dates identified in the Game Commission’s 2018 Pennsylvania Wildlife Calendar do not represent the beginning of the application period.
There have been some slight modifications to the pink envelopes in which antlerless license applications are sent. The check boxes on the face of the envelope, which identify whether one, two or three applications are being sent, and whether the applicants are residents or nonresidents, have been grouped in one box. And peel-and-stick strips on the edges of the envelope have replaced the moisten-and-seal adhesive. Otherwise, the envelope essentially is the same. And the old envelopes still will be accepted by county treasurers.
Resident applicants need to make checks and money orders payable to “County Treasurer” for $6.90 for each license they seek. The fee for nonresidents is $26.90 per license.
A list of participating county treasurers and their addresses is provided by issuing agents when licenses are purchased and can be found within the 2018-19 Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest, which can be purchased with a license or viewed online.
Applications that are incomplete or sent without proper remittance will be rejected and returned to the applicant. Applications received before the Monday start of any round also will be returned to sender.
In any WMU where antlerless licenses remain, resident and nonresident applicants may apply for a second license beginning Aug. 6, and a third license Aug. 20.
Applications during these rounds are accepted by mail only, and must be mailed with proper remittance in an official pink envelope, which ordinarily is provided by the license-issuing agent at the time a general hunting license is purchased.
In most parts of the state, hunters are limited to purchasing a total of three antlerless licenses.
However, in WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D, an unlimited number of licenses can be obtained. Each hunter may apply for only one license per round in those WMUs until Aug. 6, when an unlimited number of applications can be submitted. Only three applications can be mailed in each envelope.
If licenses remain, over-the-counter sales begin Aug. 27 in WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D, and Oct. 1 in all other WMUs.
Nick Hromiak has been an outdoors and automotive writer for over 30 years. He's been published in numerous national and state-wide outdoor magazines and newspapers.