Monday, April 21, 2014

Salmon River Reservoir Thawing

Spider Rybaak

Kayaking the Salmon River in Redfield.

The nicest thing about severe winters like the one we just had is the pay back feels so good. Last weekend, Oswego County finally saw some global warming, with temperatures soaring into the high 70s, and folks stepped outdoors in droves to break their cabin fever. The Salmon River Reservoir saw loads of the weary gather on its banks to usher in spring by watching winter cry itself away.

While the Mad River, and both branches of the Salmon were too high and cold for average anglers to even think of fishing, their tributaries and the smaller creeks pouring into the reservoir were much more manageable. The water was so frigid, however, the fish weren’t into chasing after the bait, so you had to bump their noses with a garden worm to get them to hit. With all the run-off, that was kind’a hard and everyone interviewed for this story admitted to getting skunked.

Still, the mood was upbeat. “That leaves more for next month, when the brooks and rivers will not only be easier to get to, they’ll be easier to fish,” predicted Joe, a Pulaski native who wouldn’t divulge his last name.

A lot of bottom anglers tried their luck at the mouth of the Salmon River in Redfield. Fishing off the south bank, just below the County Route 17 bridge, they didn’t catch dinner, but were treated to spectacular natural scenes like glacier-sized floes sweeping downstream, the dalliance of bald eagles, and kayakers.

The channel below the public fishing access site’s platform at the northern County Rte. 17 bridge was mostly iced over and unfishable. However, several groups came to do everything from catch rays and play frisbie to relax in the fishing platform’s comfortable seats and take in the sounds and sights of the ice’s death throes.

A couple deer came around, too. They were just as surprised to see all the people as we were to see them, and bolted, jumping onto the spongy ice in their bid to reach the woods on the north shore. It held. But a couple spots of open water stood between them and the bank.

The lead deer jumped into the first opening, and the smaller one followed. Swimming over to the edge of the ice on the other side, the bigger doe struggled to get a toe-hold. Everyone feared the worst. A loud, collective sigh of despair swept over the reservoir.

Somehow, the struggling pair managed to climb onto the floe, slipped and slid their way across the porous ice, jumped into the second opening, and climbed out again.  Reaching the other side, they disappeared into the trees.

We hit County Rte 2.  The woods along the road were blanketed in snow.

Turning onto Dam Road, we headed for Salmon River Falls. Ice sculptures chiseled out of the snowbanks by the warm breeze lined the way. Susan decided to strike off for what would probably be her last jaunt through snowy woods this season. She thrilled in snowshoeing with just the shirt on her back.

The Salmon River Falls drew even larger crowds. The parking lot was full. But that didn’t matter because the trees were bare, and the awesome power of this magnificent cataract was easily visible from the road.

And there’s more. Although Monday’s warm weather whittled away at the ice and snow, the evening’s freezing temperatures, followed by Tuesday’s snow, sculpted the northeastern edge of Oswego County into a fresh winter wonderland.

It won’t last, however, probably not much past Easter, so get out there and enjoy while you can.
Susan Rybaak last-chance snowshoeing at the Dam Road. 

Deer heading for the Upper Reservoir's north shore.
Making it to the other side.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Chuck Parker: Sportsman Activist

Spider Rybaak

Tucked into the northeastern corner of Lake Ontario, claiming the entire western half of Oneida Lake, etched by the Oswego and Salmon Rivers, the finest salmonid streams in the Lower 48, and watered by numerous productive streams and brooks, Oswego County offers some of the best fishing in the Western Hemisphere. 

 Small wonder, then, that it spawns some of the finest conservationists in the country.

Take Chuck Parker, for instance. An avid hunter and angler, the Texas, NY resident believes political activism is every sportsman’s responsibility, and practices what he preaches.

Parker traces the roots of his activism to the Mad River Club, which he joined in 1989. Ever since, he’s served in numerous conservation-minded sportsmen groups in every capacity from secretary to president, and reached the top when he was elected to the presidency of the New York State Conservation Council (NYSCC) a couple years ago, an office he still holds.

Parker describes the NYSCC as an advocacy group dedicated to promoting sportsman’s issues.

“One of our greatest concerns is legislation out of Albany,” says Parker. “We have advisors on the New York State Conservation Fund Advisory Board and the New York State Fish and Wildlife management Board,” he adds.

True conservationists, the NYSCC’s membership knows man is an integral part of the natural order, and graciously accepts responsibility as steward of the environment.

The NYSCC’s website states: “For over 80 years, the NYSCC Inc. has been a leader in advocating the wise use and management of NY’s valuable natural resources to ensure that they are protected for our children’s children.”

In this vein, NYSCC member clubs offer a wide variety of outdoor activities designed to acquaint kids with the great outdoors, including 4 H Youth Shooting Sports Programs, Youth Fly-fishing, the Oswego County Envirothon, Oswego County Soil and Water’s Annual Conservation Field Days (open to 5th graders) and the Plant a Tree program.

Parker has been a Hunter Safety Instructor since 1993, and states, unabashedly, “We stand opposed to the New York Safe Act. We would like to see it overturned.”

And that’s to be expected, considering the group’s respect for the natural order, and its acceptance that man is on the top rung of the food chain.

Parker feels the greatest threat facing hunting and fishing is the lack of activism among outdoorsmen. “I’m involved with a lot of good sportsmen but the problem is 7 out of 10 don’t belong to a sportsmen’s club, so they don’t advocate for our right to hunt and fish.”

His solution:  “Get your friends to join a sportsman’s club and teach your children the importance respecting our natural environment as well as how to safely enjoy all that is has to offer.”

Chuck Parker was named as one of The Syracuse Post-Standard's "Heroes of Conservation" in 2011.