Encounters with ferocious fishers

Rick Brockway

Earlier this week I got a news release from the DEC concerning fishing. There are newly-proposed regulations that may affect fishing for crappies and sunfish next year. Right now it’s only a proposal and public comments are requested.

I have always thought that there was a limit on crappies and sunfish, which includes blue gills, of only keeping 25 per day.

This news release says that the limit of 50 will be reduced down to 25 per day. Maybe I had the wrong information or my brain is failing as I get older.

I’ve always stayed with the 25-fish limit, but I know guys who would take 25 today, 25 tomorrow and another 25 every day thereafter. And I know a pair of brothers (any of you who lived or fished in the area know who they were), who fished every day, catching their limits. So from either Goodyear or Canadarago Lakes they took 50 fish a day. Gosh, that’s a lot of filleting.

The new proposals will raise the minimum size limit of crappies that you can keep from nine inches to ten. Now I’m no expert, but the biologists feel it will improve quality fishing opportunities.

In addition, they want to implement an eight-inch minimum and a daily limit of 15 sunfish in both Goodyear and Canadarago Lakes as well as a few others in other parts of the state.

Some fishermen feel that increasing or adding minimum lengths will just cause a catch-and-release scenario. It will for a while, but that reminds me of a fishing trip I took many years ago.

After I left Wells and moved back down to this area, I always wanted to go back to Thirteenth Lake in the Adirondacks. Friends of mine told me it was full of landlocked salmon just waiting to be caught. Now, that was 40-plus years ago. I know that because I was married to my first wife, and my son Randy was only about four years old at the time. My brother-in-law and his family joined us, and we camped in the large pines near the lake shore.

In the morning Jim and I took his boat and started trolling for fish. It wasn’t long before the first fish was on. The trouble was that the fish was 14 inches long and they had to be 15 inches to keep.

A couple hours later we had caught and released about a dozen salmon all an inch or two under the size limit. We finally pulled in our lines and went to shore only to be met by the local forest ranger. He was surprised by the number of fish we had caught. It was obvious because most of them lay on their sides, dying on the surface of the lake.

He checked our licenses, and we discussed our fishing tackle. I actually gave him one of my Number 3 Leatherstocking Lures. After a few minutes he told us that they probably would have made a great lunch if we grilled them over an open fire. His next statement surprised us. He looked at his watch and said, “My wife is expecting me for lunch in about twenty minutes. I promised her I wouldn’t be late. I won’t be back until tomorrow. I’ll stop by then and see how you did.”

That quote is close to what I could remember after all those years, but we took the hint. We took the boat out and gathered the dead fish. He was right. They tasted great, and we consumed all the evidence.

The next day he returned, but we had given up fishing. There was no use killing more undersized fish. He thanked us for not trying to catch any more and told us to come back next year when they’d probably be bigger. But life changes, and we never got back to that lake.

But crappies and sun fish and not like those salmon. You can catch and release them without any problem. Yes, they are great to eat, but the new regulations will just make the fishing better. They’re also really fun to catch on light tackle or a fly rod.

I think it’s a great move by the DEC. Let’s improve the fishing for the generations of fishermen to come.

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