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An Adirondack Autumn: cold and colorful

September 27, 2008
Joe Hackett, outdoors columnist

Autumnal changes are accelerating across the Adirondack landscape as diminishing daylight hours and temperatures in the low 20s speed up the process. Hillsides have already attained a wonderful brilliance of yellows, crimsons, reds and orange to bring splendor to the hills. These colors, contrasting with an evergreen background, help to bring an unusual vibrancy to the scene.

While the official date of the autumnal equinox fell on Sept. 23, it will likely be the full moon on Sept. 29 that truly marks the change of seasons. Seasonal change will be most apparent in the movements of fish and wildlife, as diminishing hours of daylight are detected and transmitted to their pituitary gland.

These changes trigger the migration of birds, the mating seasons of mammals and the spawning periods of many fish species. Fish and game are more active during seasonal transitions and the most dramatic changes occur during the spring and fall. These changes can trigger sexual responses such as reproduction and the development of eggs, as well as migration and feeding instincts.

This, in turn, also triggers increased movement and feeding binges by normally less active fish, birds and wildlife which combine to make autumn the Holy Days for sportsman.

All things Adirondack

There is a great deal of news to catch up on from across the park which includes the recent acquisition by the Adirondack Nature Conservancy of the vast Follensby Pond tract near Tupper Lake.

This historic parcel, home of the fabled "Philosopher's Camp" of Lowell and Emerson, includes over 14,000 acres surrounding the 1,000 acre Follensby Pond. The property also includes over 10 miles of shoreline on the west bank of the Raquette River stretching from Moose Creek a mile above Raquette Falls and downstream a few miles beyond Axton Landing.

Follensby Pond, which retains a viable trout fishery to this day, was the original hacking site for the highly successful reintroduction of

bald eagles.

The TNC worked closely with the McCormick family to insure the integrity of the property, which will eventually be added to the Forest Preserve.

Floatplane access to the Lows Lake Primitive Area is still a hot issue with the Adirondack Park Agency. At the agency's September meeting, action was tabled regarding the DEC's proposed permit program that would extend floatplane access to the area for another 10 years.

The process began when a coalition of environmental groups, which includes the Adirondack Mountain Club, the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks, the Sierra Club and the Residents' Committee to Protect the Adirondacks, filed a lawsuit against the Department of Environmental Conservation over the proposed permit system.

The coalition wants the DEC to abide by the original 2002 unit management plan which directed DEC to enact regulations to discontinue floatplane use in the Low Lake primitive area by January 2008.

The APA will revisit the issue at it's upcoming October meeting. Despite the removal of floatplanes, the Lows Lake Primitive Area will still be a motorized lake as long as three inholdings remain in private hands.

When I visited the region this summer, a pontoon boat operated by the Sabattis Boy Scout Reservation ventured up the lake each morning and evening to pick up and drop of campers on a small island in the middle of the lake. Even if DEC enforces the ban on floatplanes, the region will not be a wilderness as long as inholdings remain and cars, trucks

and motor boats can still drive to the properties.

In other news, DEC has announced that Rollins Pond Campsite will close to the public on September 29 for work on the electrical system. However, the public boat launch on Rollins Pond and access to Whey Pond will remain open to the public.

The nearby Fish Creek Pond campsites will remain open through Oct. 26 and the lands will be available during the upcoming hunting season.

Trout, moose and

Leaping landlocks

For the majority of the past week, I've been on the ponds angling for brook trout.

Currently in the pre-spawn mode, the trout are becoming increasingly aggressive as they begin to stage up for the spawn. Anglers should work the fringes of shallow bays and shorelines which hold dead and downed trees looking for pods of male brookies. Typically these fish will exhibit territorial behavior and strike flies or lures presented in the 7- to 15-foot depth range.

Lake trout have also begun moving into shallower waters as the temperatures drop. Currently, they can be found in depths of 15 to 20 feet, but as waters continue to cool down and breeding instincts kick, they will move onto the shoals.

Anglers will also find landlocked salmon and brown trout active at this time of year, especially in and around inlets and tributaries. It is common to see landlocked salmon exploding completely out of the water at this time of year, especially on waters such as Lake Clear, Lake Colby, Moose Pond and along the tributaries to Lake Champlain.

I'm often asked about such landlocked behavior. It seems that while on the spawn in the fall, leaping salmon are feeding or taking insects out of the air. On the spawn however, salmon no longer feed. Their stomachs are empty. They only hit flies or lures out of territorial

aggression rather than a need to feed. On the spawn, which is a once-a-year event, these fish have a one-track mind to breed.

Biologists believe that leaping may be a method to release of pent-up energy or reassurance that they still maintain the energy to breed.

Whatever the case may be, I've witnessed salmon missile three feet out of the water at a distance of less than a rod's length. It is both a startling and thrilling behavior which always provides an incentive to make just a few more casts.

Moose on the move

With the breeding season commencing, moose are again on the move. And as the rut progresses through October, bull moose will again be looking for love in all the wrong places. Often, the wrong place is a highway.

As the local moose population continues to grow, the likelihood of encountering these massive animals increases exponentially during the fall.

While deer-car accidents usually end up with a crumpled fender; moose-car accidents often end up crushing the car roof or worse. Due to their long legs, collisions with moose can result in the animal crashing through the windshield and at nearly 1000 pounds, the results can be deadly. Moose will often hold their ground and due to their long stride; they can move from a shoulder to the center of a road in very, short order.

As former Region 5 DEC Wildlife Biologist, Ken Kogut explained: "Moose accidents will usually total the car. I've become much more cautious after seeing what they've done to vehicles. I find myself driving much slower, especially at night!"

Moose can cover up to 50 miles a day in search of a mate, especially after dark and their eyes do not reflect light like a deer's. "

"Their eyes glow like a lit cigarette," Kogut explained. "Not at all like a deer's, which can alert you of their presence from a great distance."

Additionally, their coat, which is a dark chocolate color and offers no contrasting colors, makes them even more difficult to see in the dark.

As moose populations expand across the park, the likelihood of car/moose encounters will continue to grow. The only good news is that moose, like a bear or deer when fatally struck by a vehicle, become the possession of the driver. That makes for a lot of moose steaks!



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