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Business soars with birds and bugs

May 31, 2008
Joe Hackett

Clear skies and warm temperatures offered ideal conditions for paddlers, hikers and anglers over the long, holiday weekend. However, recent wet weather has been a boon for bugs, as I discovered on a recent outing through the Seven Carries route in the St. Regis Canoe Area. Although bugs were negligible on the water, clouds of black flies would amass at the portages, eagerly awaiting the arrival of fresh blood. There, the black flies would swarm unsuspecting paddlers and particularly seemed to favor travelers carrying a boat who lacked a free hand to swat them away.

On the carry to Bog Pond, I crossed paths with a young couple whose eyes were nearly swollen shut with bites and sported cheeks that looked like cranberry muffins.

Whether pale from fright or loss of blood, I couldn't determine; but they cursed the bugs and complained that camping should entail more than "huddling in the tent against the hum of attacking insects, where there is no escape even from the invisible ones that come through the screens to bite you!"

Like a stinging cold snap in February or an unbearably muggy night in August, the annual Adirondack invasion of flying pests is often viewed as a peculiar penance that residents are willing to endure for the privilege to live is such a beautiful region.

Locals have learned to swat the black flies, wipe away the punkies and tolerate deer flies that orbit their skulls. Indeed, there are certain types of flies which are considered to be a valuable tourism resource. They attract both trout and a variety of trout enthusiasts. A particularly fortunate few have also learned that not all flies are bad.

The appearance of the first hatch of Hendrickson mayflies generally serves to jump start the flyfishing season. A series of mayfly hatches throughout the season continues to bring traveling anglers to local waters.

Other winged creatures draw similar attention, particularly in the spring with the return of birdlife ranging from loons, ducks and geese to hawks, ospreys and eagles and continuing to encompass songbirds such as sparrows, wrens and warblers.

The reappearance of such creatures is likely as valuable to our tourism based economy as the return of the Hendrickson mayfly. Surveys have revealed that upwards of 18 million 'birders' regularly travel in their pursuit and contribute over $30 billion in the process.

The Adirondack region regularly attracts enthusiasts to annual birding festivals in Hamilton, Franklin and Essex counties and the Paul Smiths Visitor Interpretive Center is set to host one of the largest such events over the weekend of June 6-8.

The 6th Annual Great Adirondack Birding Celebration (GABC)

will offer trail walks, canoe trips, exhibits, lectures and the popular Teddy Roosevelt Birding Challenge. It begins at 2 p.m. on Friday, June 6 with a Boreal Ecology Hike, led by John Brown, at the Paul Smiths VIC.

The Great Adirondack Birding Celebration is free and open to the public. It is sponsored by the Adirondack Park Agency, Adirondack Park Institute, Adirondack Explorer, Adirondack Regional Tourism Council,

Franklin County Tourism, High Peaks Audubon Society, Hohmeyer's Lake

Clear Lodge, Olympic Regional Development Authority and St. Regis Canoe Outfitters.

The Paul Smiths VIC is located 12 miles north of Saranac Lake on Route 30. For more information about the VICs and the Great Adirondack Birding Celebration, log on to the centers' Web site at or call (518) 327-3000.

Troublesome geese

I have noticed an alarming trend affecting (or infecting, depending on your outlook) local waters again this season.

The population of resident Canada geese continues to grow at an alarming rate. Goose populations are increasing on many local waters ranging from small ponds to larger lakes to remote beaver ponds.

In the spring, geese are very aggressive in the presence of goslings and their incessant honking can ruin the peace and solitude of the day. Geese have high reproductive success since both partners defend the nest equally.

This problem is especially magnified on smaller waters where their protective behavior during the breeding season is most noticeable. On a recent journey through the Fish Creek area, Canada geese defended their territory with hissing, honking and low flying passes at paddlers.

On one short stretch of the stream, I watched one couple swinging their paddles in an attempt to ward off attacking geese so they could continue their downstream journey. They nearly dumped their boat in the process.

The Fishing Report

This report is somewhat abbreviated due to the fact that very little detail is needed to describe the best area fisheries. Simply put, there is good fishing nearly everywhere as area fisheries have really turned on.

Conditions are just about ideal and barring heavy rains or an extended drought; the fishing should only get better as the season progresses. Fly hatches are on schedule and trout are taking well.

The AuSable River is living up to its reputation as one of the premier trout streams in the nation while the pond fishing for brook trout is just about peaking.

The fishing for brook trout, on both fly and spin tackle remains was excellent. Hatches of dark Hendrickson mayflies continue to bring trout to the surface, while lake trout still chase offerings in relatively shallow depths.

The arrival of the first major dragonfly hatch of the season occurred this past week. It was welcomed by both the hungry trout and the fly bitten fishermen that angle for them. Hopefully, the dragonflies will quickly put a dent in the black fly population.

Pike fishing enthusiasts continue to have success as the fish prowl the weedy shallows of the Saranacs, and walleye fishing continues to be productive on Tupper Lake. The Raquette River continues to uphold it's reputation as one of the region's premier walleye fisheries.

The Saranac Chain of lakes has reportedly produced several nice walleyes this season, though only a few fishermen target this species on the lakes. As anglers begin to recognize the quality of the resource, I expect this trend will change.

On several recent cold mornings, the mist on the ponds and lakes has kept anglers off the water until the sun got high enough to burn it off while late evening hatches on the rivers have kept anglers busy into the dark hours of the night.

Bullhead fishermen can be found with lanterns glowing along the shores of many area lakes as they sit comfortably in lawn chairs awaiting another bite.

Though bullhead are not considered a trophy fish, they certainly are on the dinner table. Most evenings there are lanterns shining from the banks of Lake Flower, Moody Pond or Lake Colby.

The West Branch of the Ausable River is in good shape. Blue winged olives are coming off in the mornings, although they are very weather dependent and tend to favor cooler, overcast days.

Hendricksons are on the wane, while caddis hatches have been prolific with anglers reporting clouds of them on the river. Varieties include dark brown caddis, with olive bodies, tan caddis, even little black caddis.

For anglers seeking rivers a little less crowded after the long holiday weekend, the St. Regis River near St. Regis Falls and the Boquet River near Elizabethtown and Wadhams offer good alternatives to the Ausable. Likewise, anglers should check out the numerous sections of the Saranac River and it's North Branch as well as the East Branch of the Ausable. These waters are far less pressured than the West Branch, yet they are just as productive for the quality and quantity of their fish.



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