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Outdoor writers visit Lake Placid

October 3, 2009
Joe Hackett, Enterprise outdoors columnist

After enjoying nearly two full weeks of outstanding weather that was highlighted by blue skies and bright sunshine for September, our luck was bound to run out.

The past week has featured a series of dark, overcast days with a dreary drizzle backdropped by fall foliage that is near peak.

While the foliage is well along in the Lake Placid area, the valleys of the Boquet, AuSable and the Saranac are still far off peak, which will likely arrive by Columbus Day weekend as usual.

Outdoor writers visit the region

For the 12th time since the organization was founded in 1967, the New York Outdoor Writers Association will return to the Adirondacks for their annual convention.

The group, which represents over 100 active members, meets each spring and fall in a different location around the state. They're happy to return to Lake Placid.

Members come from diverse backgrounds that include newspaper, magazine, radio, TV and Web based publications as well as public relations reps, lecturers, photographers, tourism officials, spokesmen for advocacy groups and the editors of national and international publications.

What they share is an appreciation of the outdoors and a desire to share their experience with others. This will be the group's sixth visit to Lake Placid, a location that always draws a crowd.

Over the weekend, association members will be getting out to enjoy all of the natural treasures and pleasures that the region has to offer. They'll be hiking and fishing, paddling and photographing, hunting and climbing. They'll be visiting local venues to gather information for future stories, but most of all, they'll be having a good time.

In the tradition of such fabled outdoor writers as Stoddard, Sears and Murray, the visiting writers will be sharing tales of their Adirondack adventures with a wide audience.

If you run across a writer, feel free to share a tale or point them in the direction of a good one. They'll be seeking stories of authentic, Adirondack experience, the same type of adventures that continue to attract travelers from around the globe to Lake Placid, the "sportiest town in the country."

Going Batty

Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department biologists monitoring bat populations returning to caves and mines this fall have reported dramatic losses in bat numbers.

Earlier this year, scientists asked people not to enter caves and mines used by wintering bats in Vermont and New York because of "white nose syndrome."

Biologists with the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, state Department of Environmental Conservation, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sought the assistance of the caving and spelunking community to help limit the spread of the new disease, which has spread throughout the Northeast and as far south as southwestern Virginia.

White nose syndrome has affected numerous caves in New York, including one near Chapel Pond in St. Huberts, where bats were being hit by vehicles along state Route 73 this spring. The disease was noted when sick bats were observed flying from their caves during the daylight hours.

In a stunning reminder of the deadly effects of the bat disease, Vermont department biologists, working with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service personnel, observed on Sept. 10 what appears to be a near complete devastation of the bat population at the Elizabeth Mine in Strafford, Vt.

Since 2002, bat biologists have monitored the Elizabeth Mine every September when the bats "swarm" at the mine opening before they enter hibernation.

As recently as 2006, over 950 bats were captured by department biologists in a three-hour survey. Two weeks ago, only one bat was captured in a survey using the same methods.

"Once considered the second largest bat hibernacula in Vermont, and maybe New England, this mine appears to have lost nearly its entire bat population," said Scott Darling, wildlife biologist for the department. "The near absence of any bats during our annual survey was so astounding that I had to return a few nights later to confirm this tragedy."

The results at Elizabeth Mine are a wake-up call that the disease is having swift and dramatic effects on this region's bat populations," said Darling. "The time to address this issue on a national level is now."

Soft baits hard on trout

I recently read a report in the Journal of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife regarding ongoing efforts to discourage the use of traditional "soft baits."

The Department is encouraging anglers to protect Maine's fish by changing from soft plastic lures to biodegradable ones.

Maine fisheries biologists have reported finding increasing numbers of angled trout and salmon with indigestible soft plastic lures in their stomachs. Soft plastic lures are most commonly used by bass anglers. However, bass often share waters with trout and salmon. A majority of the soft plastic baits currently on the market are manufactured with petrochemical products.

According to studies, a discarded soft plastic lure consumed innocently by a brook trout from the bottom of a freshwater shoal likely remains in the fish's stomach for the rest of its life and may cause health issues such as ulcers and weight loss.

There is a lot of veterinary medical evidence that foreign bodies in the digestive tract cause ulcers, weight loss, and anorexia. In addition to the chemical toxicity of ingested soft plastics, these lures also occupy space in a trout's stomach which limits the amount of space available for natural food.

According to the Maine IFW Journal, there are estimates that as much as 20 million pounds of soft plastic are being lost in freshwater lakes and streams annually in the U.S. The average life expectancy for these soft plastic lures is more than 200 years.

Earlier this season, a friend reported finding the remains of a plastic lizard in the stomach of an emaciated lake trout. Although small lakers are usually skinny, this fish was abnormally thin, and it had a large chunk of plastic in its stomach.

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is cooperating in several studies on the effects of soft plastic lure ingestion by trout and salmon.

One recent study conducted at Unity College found that 65 percent of brook trout voluntarily consumed soft plastic lures if they simply were dropped into water.

"We found that fish retained the lures in their stomachs for 13 weeks without regurgitating them," according to Dr. Danner, a Unity College researcher. "They also began to act anorexic and lost weight within 90 days."

In August of this year, L.L. Bean retail stores made the decision to no longer offer traditional soft plastic lures. Instead, the retailer now offers only biodegradable alternatives.

According to an L.L. Bean public relations representatives, biodegradable alternatives cost about the same as traditional soft plastic lures, are just as effective and durable, and break down naturally in water within 60-90 days and within 30 days in a fish's stomach.

The new assortment of biodegradable alternatives closely mirrors the broad assortment previously represented by the traditional soft plastic lures L.L. Bean had been offering.

A new entry into the market is Big Bite Baits of Eufala, Ala. which sells a full line of BioBaits that are made of a 100 percent biodegradable soft material that contains all natural ingredients. The BioBaits line is only 6 months old and the baits are 100 percent natural materials.

With the look and feel of conventional soft plastic lures, BioBait releases scent into the water at a much higher rate than traditional plastic.

The lures are loaded with naturally derived fish attractants and contain no petroleum products and no fish-repelling chemicals.



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