A cold, white Christmas storm decked the boughs with nearly a foot of fresh powder across the Adirondacks, and the snow and cold has continued to hold sway over the region, with accumulated deposits measuring well over a foot.
Backcountry skiers are currently enjoying nearly ideal conditions, with a solid base supporting the fresh cover and solid ice cover making for safe stream crossings. In the upper elevations, snow depths are already topping four feet.
With the arrival of below zero temperatures, ice quickly seized the surface of most area lakes and ponds, and hardwater anglers weren't far behind. With reports of current ice thickness varying from 4 to 7 inches, the ice fishing season is off to a good start.
A family of skaters takes advantage of the frozen ice on Lower Cascade Lake.
(Photo — Joe Hackett)
Despite the lure of early ice, which often produces some of the best fishing opportunities of the season, anglers are advised to use caution, especially in the areas around inlets and outlets.
Mandatory safety equipment should always include ice picks, a throw rope and a seat cushion or similar throw device. Although experienced ice anglers will likely never have need for such items, there's always a chance that somebody else will.
I've already received reports of good fishing around Paul Smiths, Lake Clear and Tupper Lake. Veterans of the cold wars recommend concentrating on the shallow weedy areas when jigging for perch, and tipping the tip ups with a live shiner on short lines just under the ice for salmon and pike.
Washington State bans
lead fishing tackle
A month after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) denied a petition calling for a national ban on the manufacture, use and processing of toxic lead in fishing gear, the state of Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission has adopted regulations to prohibit the use of lead fishing weights and jigs, along with a ban on fishing flies containing lead.
The F&W commission rejected an alternate proposal submitted by the American Sportfishing Association and four other national and regional recreational fishing organizations, which incorporated a comprehensive community-based scientific study of loon and waterfowl mortality and an education program for fishing and boating enthusiasts to minimize disturbances and threats to loons and other water birds. The new regulations will go into effect May 1, 2011.
Earlier this year, the American Bird Conservancy, the Center for Biological Diversity and a coalition of conservation, hunting and veterinary groups joined to petition the EPA to ban lead in fishing tackle, as well as in bullets and shot for hunting, under Section 21 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).
In August, the EPA denied the petition relating to lead in ammunition because the agency does not have the legal authority to regulate this type of product under the TSCA. In rejecting a petition requesting a national ban on lead in fishing gear, the EPA questioned, "Whether a national ban on lead in fishing gear would be the least burdensome, adequately protective approach to address the concern."
It is interesting to note that several years ago, New York joined most New England states in restricting the use of lead in fishing tackle. However, a recent press release highlighting the successful reintroduction of bald eagles in the state notes, "the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department thanked public volunteers, including anglers who donated fish to feed the young eagles."
Don't mess with Texas Horned Frogs
In May 2010, the Texas Christian University rifle team won the school's first-ever NCAA Rifle National Championship.
In the effort, the TCU Horned Frog Team topped a West Virginia University team that was heavily favored to repeat its 2009 title, which was the 14th NCAA Rifle national championship in their team's history.
Most notable in the achievement is the fact that the TCU rifle team was comprised entirely of women. It was the first time in the history of the event that an all-female team has taken the NCAA Rifle national championship crown.
In collegiate competitive shooting, there are no separate men's or women's teams. A total of eight teams qualified for the finals, which took place at TCU's home range in Ft. Worth, Texas.
Following their stellar NCAA championship performance, five members of the TCU rifle team received All-American honors.
Annie got her gun, and now girls just wanna' have fun
Annie Oakley, born Phoebe Ann Moses on Aug. 13, 1860 is possibly the most renowned female shooter in the history of the sport. According to her biography, at the age of 7, Annie taught herself to shoot an old muzzleloader in order to feed her fatherless family. Soon, she was selling game meat to local merchants and developed such a reputation that a Cincinnati businessman persuaded her to compete in a trap shoot against the famed marksman, Frank Butler.
Annie won the contest, knocking down 25 birds to Butler's 24. A year later, Butler returned to propose marriage to the 16-year-old sharpshooter. Together, they spent the next 50 years thrilling audiences throughout North America and Europe with her shooting skills.
They worked with circuses and vaudeville shows, but eventually her fame was cemented while touring for 17 years with Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show, where she earned the nickname "Little Miss Sure Shot" from another performer, the famed Lakota Sioux war chief Sitting Bull.
Annie died on Nov. 3, 1926, at the age of 66, and her legendary markmanship skills were celebrated in numerous stage, movie and television productions.
Today, her legacy lives on, and not just on Broadway. Her legend has been revived in numerous gun shops, shooting ranges and gun clubs across the country.
Evidence of the rapid rise in women shooters is everywhere. According to a recent Consumer Reports Money and Shopping Blog survey, female respondents overwhelmingly revealed that they'd be "thrilled to receive boots, purses, pajamas and guns," when asked what they'd like to receive for Christmas gifts this year.
Surveys that track consumer purchasing and lifestyle trends point to data that indicates firearms were one of the most popular choices for females this holiday season. Gun dealers across Florida claim they have witnessed more women shopping for guns and training this holiday season than ever before.
Firearms instructors at a facility in Palm Beach revealed that their most popular firearms training program for women is The Urban Shotgun, a course designed for home defense. The number of woman taking firearms self-defense instruction and applying for concealed-carry permits topped the charts for most of 2010. Female enrollment in the National Shooting Sports Foundation's "First Shots" program and the NRA's "Women on Target" initiative set new records in 2010.
However, women are not interested in guns solely for personal defense purposes. A recent National Sporting Goods Association survey reports the number of females participating in hunting and shooting sports has continued to increase at a record pace.
Between 2003 and 2008, women hunters grew by an impressive 3.5 percent, to nearly three million. Currently, single women constitute the fastest-growing demographic in the shooting sports industry.