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Canal will open for season on May 17 with no tolls for boaters

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 March 2019 at 10:21 am

File photo by Tom Rivers: The lift bridge in Medina is pictured in the background of this photo that shows The Big Apple, a sculpture by Richard Bannister.

The State Canal Corp. announced that the boating season for 2019 will go from May 17 to Oct. 16, and again won’t include tolls or fees.

Additionally, many locks and lift bridges will operate on demand from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. from May 17 to Sept. 11, the Canal Corp. announced on Thursday. That includes all seven lift bridges in Orleans County.

The hours of operation for the 2019 season are as follows: May 17 to Oct. 16 from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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DEC will discuss trout and salmon fisheries at ‘State of Lake Ontario’ meetings

Posted 21 February 2019 at 8:06 am

Press Release, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation

Photo by Tom Rivers: A fisherman walks on west side pier at the Oak Orchard Harbor in this photo from May 3, 2015.

The public will have the opportunity to learn about the State of Lake Ontario fisheries at public meetings to be held in Niagara, Monroe, Oswego and Schenectady counties in March.

“Lake Ontario and its tributaries provide world-class angling opportunities that are generating substantial recreational and economic benefits to towns and cities along the lake,” said Basil Seggos , DEC commissioner. “The State of Lake Ontario meetings provide an excellent opportunity for everyone interested in the lake to interact with the scientists who study and manage its fisheries.”

New York’s Lake Ontario waters comprise more than 2.7 million acres. The open lake, embayments and tributaries support thriving populations of sportfish, including trout, salmon, bass, walleye, yellow perch and panfish. A recent statewide angler survey estimated more than 2.6 million angler days were spent on Lake Ontario and major tributaries, resulting in an estimated economic value of $112 million annually to local communities.

The meeting dates and locations are:

Monday, March 4: 6:30 – 9 p.m. at the Rochester Institute of Technology campus (Chester F Carlson Center for Imaging Science), Rochester, Monroe County. The meeting is co-hosted by RIT and the Monroe County Fishery Advisory Board.

Thursday, March 7: 6:30 – 9 p.m. at the Cornell Cooperative Extension Building, 4487 Lake Ave., Lockport, Niagara County. The meeting is co-hosted by Niagara County Cooperative Extension and the Niagara County Sportfishery Development Board.

Thursday, March 14: 6:30 – 9 p.m. at SUNY Schenectady County Community College, Stockade Building, Room 101, 78 Washington Ave., Schenectady, Schenectady County.

Tuesday, March 19: 6:30 – 9 p.m. at the Pulaski High School auditorium, 4624 Salina St., Pulaski, Oswego County. The meeting is co-hosted by the Eastern Lake Ontario Salmon and Trout Association.

Staff from DEC and the United States Geological Survey will make a number of presentations, including updates on the status of trout and salmon fisheries in the lake and its tributaries, forage fish, and stocking programs.

The meetings will provide ample time at the end of the scheduled program for the audience to ask questions and interact with the presenters. Information about DEC’s Lake Ontario fisheries assessment programs can be found on the DEC’s website.

For further information contact Christopher Legard, NYSDEC Lake Ontario Unit Leader at the Cape Vincent Fisheries Research Station, (315) 654-2147.

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DEC proposes fishing changes for Lake Ontario, tributaries

Staff Reports Posted 5 February 2019 at 9:06 am

Photo by Tom Rivers: Anglers are pictured in the Oak Orchard River in Carlton on Oct. 19, 2018.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is seeking feedback from area fishermen on proposed regulation changes for New York’s Great Lakes, including an extended open season for lake trout on Lake Ontario.

The proposed changes are designed to safeguard and expand certain fish populations while also enhancing anglers’ continued enjoyment of one of the state’s premier fisheries, the DEC said. The majority of the proposals are a direct result of DEC’s work with anglers during the past year to identify desired outcomes for Lake Ontario’s fishery.

Potential regulation changes include:

• Extending the open season for lake trout and decreasing the daily creel limit for rainbow trout/steelhead on Lake Ontario and the Lower Niagara River, moving the start date from Dec. 1instead of Jan. 1. The season would be closed from October 1 through November 30.

Rationale: Anglers targeting rainbow trout/steelhead in the Lower Niagara River frequently catch lake trout. Since lake trout spawning is largely over by the end of November, opening the lake trout season on December 1 will provide anglers with additional opportunities to harvest trophy lake trout without jeopardizing lake trout restoration efforts.

• Increasing the minimum size limit for rainbow trout/steelhead on Lake Ontario tributaries from 21″ to 25″ (excluding the Lower Niagara River).

Rationale: This potential change is intended to prolong high quality rainbow trout/steelhead fishing opportunities through the winter months, while still allowing anglers the opportunity to harvest a trophy fish. Anglers have noted smaller rainbow trout/steelhead in recent years, and declining rainbow trout/steelhead fishing success as the winter season progresses.

• Decreasing the brown trout daily creel limit and increasing the minimum size limit for rainbow trout/steelhead on Lake Ontario tributaries from 3 fish per day to 1 fish per day (excluding the Lower Niagara River).

Rationale: This potential change is intended to prolong high quality brown trout fishing opportunities through the winter months, while still allowing anglers the opportunity to harvest a trophy fish. Fishing effort on Lake Ontario tributaries can be intense each year from fall through spring, and maintaining high quality brown trout fishing opportunities relies on anglers releasing a high proportion of their catch.

• Decrease the daily creel limit for rainbow trout/steelhead on Lake Ontario and the Lower Niagara River from 3 fish per day to 2 fish per day.

Rationale: Rainbow trout/steelhead provide the primary sportfishery in Lake Ontario’s tributaries from November through the following spring. This potential change is designed to increase numbers and sustainability of rainbow trout/steelhead in the tributary fishery by reducing open lake harvest during periods when Chinook fishing success in the lake declines and more anglers specifically target rainbow trout/steelhead.

Following a review of public comments received and further evaluation this winter, DEC may advance these proposals for formal adoption in 2020. DEC welcomes and encourages feedback on the regulation changes currently under consideration.

To view these and other proposals and provide input, visit DEC’s website (click here). Comments will be accepted through Feb. 28. Comments and questions can also be directed to Steve LaPan, Great Lakes Fisheries Section Head, at: New York State DEC, P.O. Box 292, Cape Vincent, NY 13618.

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Famed outdoorsman will highlight Christian Bowhunters annual meeting

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 22 January 2019 at 9:36 am

Provided photo: Hank Parker is a popular host of an outdoor show and is a member of three halls of fame for fishing, hunting and the outdoors.

MEDINA – Merle Fredericks has two passions in his life – bowhunting and sharing his love of Jesus Christ.

In 1992 he found a way to combine those passions when he joined Christian Bowhunters of America.

In 2003, he founded a local chapter of Christian Bowhunters of America, called the Bow Bending Believers. He is currently executive director of CBA on the national level and serves as chairman of the CBA board of directors.

In addition, he has chaired the local chapter since its inception. John Curtin of Medina is vice chairman, Fredericks’ wife Mitzi (who is also a bow hunter) is chapter secretary and Jeff Robinson of Lyndonville is treasurer.

It has become customary for several years for the local group to sponsor a dinner with a noted speaker. This year, the 15th annual dinner and seminar will take place Feb. 1 at Oak Orchard Assembly of God, 12111 Ridge Rd., and will feature Hank Parker, host of Hank Parker’s Outdoor Magazine and co-host of Hank Parker’s Flesh and Blood.

There are 400 tickets available. Fredericks anticipates the event will be a sellout. For more information, call Fredericks at (585) 765-2839.

Parker is well-known in the hunting and fishing world. He has a love for bow hunting and has completed the wild turkey Royal Slam and has harvested many Pope and Young whitetail deer and elk. In 2005, Parker and his two sons began televising their hunts. Both his shows are currently airing on the Outdoor Channel.

Over the years, he has been honored by being inducted into the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame, the Legends of the Outdoors Hall of Fame and the International Game Fish Association Hall of Fame. Parker also loves sharing his testimony of what the Lord has done in his life, Fredericks said.

Parker joins a long list of speakers from all over the country, who present an outdoor-themed program and then conclude with a gospel message. These have included Dan Fitzgerald, Charles Alsheimer, Jimmy Sites, Russell Thornberry and the very popular Phil Robertson from Duck Dynasty.

Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. and the seminar will begin at 7 p.m.

The evening will feature free door prizes, a free ladder tree stand giveaway, free venison smoked sausages and jerky, a taxidermist, Pope and Young scoring booth and raffles.

In addition to the annual dinner, the Bow Bending Believers hosts a youth event in the summer (last year at the YMCA in Medina) to teach kids how to shoot archery equipment; and an annual 3D shoot in late September at the Yates Carlton Sportsmen’s Club in Lyndonville.

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Canal Corp. will waive tolls for recreational boats the next 3 years

Posted 12 December 2018 at 10:24 pm

Photo by Tom Rivers: A boat heads west on the Erie Canal in Albion on Oct. 5, 2017.

Press Release, NYS Canal Corp.

The New York State Canal Corporation Board of Directors today approved a continued waiver of tolls for recreational vessels through 2021, following two years of toll-free travel that saw increases in canal traffic.

The tolls, $25 to $100 depending on the size of the boat, had been waived in 2017 and 2018 to celebrate the Erie Canal bicentennial and the 100-year anniversary of the New York State Barge Canal, now known as the New York State Canal System.

“We had initially waived the tolls for special occasions, but the increased patronage of the canals is also a cause for celebration,” said Gil C. Quiniones, president and CEO of the New York Power Authority, which oversees the state Canal System. “Come spring, we hope even more boaters will find out why the canals make for a unique experience on the water.”

Tolls will continue to be collected for commercial vessels.

Motorized pleasure boat traffic on the state Canal System increased 3 percent over last year as boaters took advantage of tolls being waived. Such vessels—the most-common type on the canals—were recorded traveling through Canal System locks and lift bridges 71,529 times during the 2018 navigation season, compared to 69,362 lockings in 2017.

The figures account for each time a boat goes through a lock or under a lift bridge, not the actual number of boats. If a boat travels through several locks it would be counted as locking through each time.

In a related move, the New York State Canal Corporation today announced the navigation season dates for recreational vessels for 2019-2021. Each year, the season will begin the Friday of the week before Memorial Day and end the Wednesday after Columbus Day. For example, the 2019 season will run from May 17 to Oct. 16. The dates are in line with the navigation seasons for the last two years.

“We sought to have a more predictable schedule for the thousands of boaters who use the canals,” said Brian U. Stratton, Canal Corporation director. “Announcing the dates now will provide mariners, communities and business interests along the canal corridor with ample advance notice to plan itineraries and events.”

The navigation season is designed to optimize conditions and productivity for critical maintenance and capital work that can only be performed when canals are closed. Traditionally, the canals have been kept open later in the year when very little boating occurred, forcing Canal Corporation employees and contractors to compact work schedules and work in more dangerous conditions.

The new schedule allows for increased productivity, while continuing navigation during periods when the overwhelming majority of boaters have historically used the canals – with the greatest usage between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

The Canal Corporation also announced it is reviewing the hours of operation during the navigation season in response to feedback from recreational boaters, vessel operators, and canal businesses. Operating hours for 2019 will be announced in April.

The dates are subject to change based on weather conditions and water levels.

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DEC has photo contest seeking images of women hunting

Posted 27 November 2018 at 1:14 pm

Press Release, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation

Photo courtesy of DEC: Mandy Baily and her lab Boone are out hunting.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos announced the beginning of a statewide photo contest, “WomenHuntFishNY,” to celebrate women hunters in New York State.

“Women are the fastest growing segment of adult hunters and DEC is excited to provide a forum to share their experiences with others interested in hunting and outdoor recreation in New York State,” said Commissioner Seggos. “Hunting is a proud tradition in New York and we hope this new contest will inspire the next generation of hunters and conservationists to take up the sport and grow the hunting economy in the state.”

Women who hunt in New York State are encouraged to share their photos via the DEC social media Dropbox at DEC welcomes photos of all aspects of safe and ethical hunting, including: preparing to go afield, the act of hunting, after the hunt, and with family members.

The deadline for contest entries is Dec. 31. However, the DEC encourages hunters to share and send photos to the agency any time of year.

Winning entries will be featured in next year’s New York State Hunting and Trapping Regulations Guide, and may appear in a future issue of the Conservationist magazine, social media posts, the DEC website, and other outreach.

According to the most recent National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, women make up more than 25 percent of all anglers, a number that has increased over the last several decades. While the proportion of hunters who are women is smaller relative to fishing, the percentage of female hunters has also steadily risen in recent years.

According to DEC records, nearly 50,000 women are licensed to hunt in New York State.

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Tree stumps will be removed along canal this winter

Posted 18 November 2018 at 6:19 pm

Press Release, NYS Canal Corp.

Photo by Tom Rivers: This photo from last week shows a line of tree stumps along the Erie Canal towpath just week of the Brown Street bridge. A year ago, the Canal Corp. cut down trees along the towpath.

ALBANY – The New York State Canal Corporation has announced that work has begun on the latest phase of an embankment maintenance program for the Erie Canal in Monroe and Orleans counties that will enhance the canal’s safety and security.

Crews have begun surveys to mark canal property lines and wetland areas. That will be followed by clearing and brush mowing of the embankment as well as stump removal, packing and grading. That work is scheduled to begin Nov. 26. In some areas, drains will be added and the outboard slope strengthened with stone and filter blankets to capture water seepage. The work is expected to be completed next spring.

“The safety of those who live and work near the Erie Canal is our top priority,” said Brian U. Stratton, Canal Corporation director. “This program can provide property owners with the peace of mind that they deserve.”

The work is being done along the canal from Medina in Orleans County, east to Brockport in Monroe County. It follows the removal last year of vegetation in that area along the embankment, which holds in the water over elevated stretches of the Erie Canal.

Vegetation was removed in accordance with guidance from the Federal Emergency Management Administration, Army Corps of Engineers and Association of State Dam Safety Engineers. The consensus among these experts is that trees have no place on embankments, as their root systems can cause seepage and potentially lead to erosion and potential embankment failure that can cause catastrophic damage and loss of life.

Following up on sessions that have been held in Albion and Brockport, the Canal Corporation will hold public meetings early next year to gather input from the public on the final phase of the embankment maintenance program, the best ways to maintain a visual aesthetic along the embankment and to provide property owners with vegetative screening for privacy. The Canal Corporation will soon hire a consultant to provide options for how that can be accomplished without compromising the embankment’s structural integrity.

The embankment surveys are being done by Ravi Engineering and Land Surveying of Rochester. The stump removal, packing and grading will be done by Hohl Industrial of Tonawanda and Tioga Construction of Herkimer.

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National preservation organization shares concern about fate of canal tugboat

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 21 October 2018 at 8:30 am

File photo by Tom Rivers: The Urger was in Holley on Oct. 6, 2015 for a visit by fourth-graders.

A national preservation organization is shining the spotlight on a 117-year-old tugboat that could be removed from the canal waters and become a dry-dock exhibit at a Thruway rest area in Montgomery County.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation highlighted the Urger in its Fall issue, and deemed the boat “threatened.”

“More than 100,000 schoolchildren have boarded the Urger, and it is considered the unofficial ambassador of the canal system,” National Trust stats in its magazine, Preservation.

The Erie Canal was opened in 1825, nearly 200 years ago. A century ago marked the completion of the Barge Canal, when the Erie was widened.

The Urger visits canal communities and serves as a teaching tug. It is especially popular with fourth-graders who are learning New York State history, and how the Erie Canal turned New York into the Empire State.

“The Preservation League of New York State has expressed concern for the Urger’s fate because it believes turning the tug into a dry-land exhibit will likely require removing parts of its historic fabric and boring holes into its hull,” National Trust said. “The vessel will be dry-socked this winter, and PLNYS hopes the New York Power Authority and NYC Canal Corporation will reconsider their plan to remove it permanently from its historic context.”

Fourth-graders from School No. 2 in Rochester visit the Urger in October 2015. The boat is an ambassador for the state’s canal system.

​The  New York State Canal System has been designated a National Historic Landmark due to its span, scope, and historic integrity, the Preservation League said.

“The historic vessels related to the NYS Canal System are a significant component of the system’s integrity,” the League said. “The National Historic Landmark designation recognizes the importance of the canal fleet and canal vessels to the New York State Canal System.”

Launched in 1901, the Urger entered canal service in 1921. ​For more than sixty years she moved barges, dredges, and derrick boats on the Erie and Champlain canals. Retired from heavy work around 1984, she returned to active service in 1991 as an ambassador for New York’s Canal System, calling at ports from New York City to the Canadian border and west to Lake Erie. She was the traveling centerpiece for countless canal festivals and events across the state and hosted over 100,000 students on school field trips during a 25-year period. Listed on the National Register since 2001, she is one of the oldest operable tugboats in the country.

The Preservation League has an online petition for people to send to support keeping the Urger as an active canal vessel. For more information, click here.

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The Oak draws fishermen from several states in pursuit of the King

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 October 2018 at 11:03 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

CARLTON – These fishermen try to catch salmon and trout in the Oak Orchard River this afternoon.

Many of the anglers were participating in the 16th fly fishing tournament at St. Mary’s Archer’s Club. There were 53 participants in the three-day tournament with prizes awarded for the biggest Chinook salmon, brown trout, steelhead and Atlantic salmon. A 25-pound, 5-ounce Chinook salmon led the derby.

The Archer’s Club said there were participants from several states, including New York, Maine, Massachusetts, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Hawaii, Ohio and Arizona.

The anglers said the fishing was good, but it hasn’t hit its peak yet because the water is a little too warm. When the temps drop, they said more fish will be in the Oak Orchard River.

Shane Smith helps his son Beckett, 8, try to reel in a Chinook salmon, also known as a King salmon. The fish managed to slip the hook and get away. Smith, who is from near Harrisburg, Pa., has been coming to the Oak Orchard annually for about 30 years. His other son Ben, 13, is at left with the net. Ben was on the leaderboard for five different fish in the three-day tournament.

Even if the fish are elusive, anglers say they enjoy being in the outdoors, especially when a blue heron passes by.

The Oak Orchard River is a popular spot during the fall and also in the early winter.

One fly rod is set down for a break in the action today.

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Some leaves are changing, but most trees are still green

Photos by Tom Rivers: The leaves on the trees at Letchworth State Park are just starting to change colors or reaching midpoint in some areas. The leaves are farther along in northern New York.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 6 October 2018 at 6:58 pm

Beautiful colors for fall foliage are starting to appear around most of the state, according to I LOVE NY. In Orleans County and Western New York, the leaves are just starting to change, according to I LOVE NY.

Near-peak foliage is expected this weekend in some areas of the Adirondacks, while near-peak colors will emerge in the Thousand Islands-Seaway region and parts of the Catskills, according to observers for I LOVE NY.

In Orleans County, spotters in Albion are expecting 25 percent color change with average shades of gold and red starting to pop, I LOVE NY said in its fall foliage report.

Letchworth State Park in Wyoming County, shown this afternoon, will be a hotspot as the colors change on the trees.

Courtesy of I LOVE NY: This is the NY fall foliage map for week of Oct. 3-9.

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