The Oneida Daily Dispatch (Oneida, NY)
Fishing rights, sale of walleye highlight local news
If you thought that the controversy over potential sale of walleye from Oneida Lake was settled by Governor Hochul’s veto of the poorly written bill earlier this year, think again. To what degree the controversy over Native American fishing rights is connected, is unclear. And what remains a mystery is the DEC Commissioner’s action telling representatives of the nine recognized tribes/nations this past winter that they could freely catch what they want during supposed open season.
In case you missed the earlier flak, the NYS State Legislature unanimously passed a bill that was loosely and poorly written but in essence would give Native Americans the right to sell game fish such as walleye from Oneida Lake. There were no in
cidents but sportsmen’s groups and others such as the Oneida Lake Association were alarmed about the potential of such an action.
That bill was vetoed and people assumed that the status quo was resumed. Native Americans are legally entitled to a free fishing license and there was no local discord or problem.
In early April when walleye started their spawning run up streams including Scriba Creek or Fish Creek a potentially explosive series of events occurred. On Saturday, April 2 two individuals who identified themselves as Native Americans (Mohawks) from the St. Regis Reservation at the St. Lawrence began spearing walleye that were congregating in Scriba Creek a few yards upstream from the hatchery. DEC Environmental Conservation Officers quickly showed up and issued tickets as well as confiscated the fish.
On Tuesday, April 5, a larger group came to the creek. Six or seven were in the water spearing walleye below the dam while at least that number were also waiting on the bank. This time several state troopers as well as DEC ECOS arrived. After considerable discussion at the scene, the Mohawks insisted that they had the right to fish wherever, whenever, and however they liked. The ECOS contacted their superiors in Albany and were instructed to let the individuals go without issuing any tickets. That evening 123 known fish were taken.
About the same time the scenario was being repeated at the dam on Fish Creek at Mcconnellsville. Mohawks from the Reservations on the American and Canadian side were involved and claimed that they had the right. Law enforcement were there to prevent any incidents, but had been told not to take any action to interfere with the spearing or number of fish taken.
DEC ECOS who have been “cut off at the knees” in this situation blame higher ranking officials, including DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. It seems that last winter Commissioner Seggos called representatives of the nine recognized tribes/ nations and told them they could do whatever they wanted, and without any restrictions of limits during the fishing seasons. Adding insult to injury, these incidents of spearing are taking place a month before the walleye season opens.
Not only have ECOS been ordered to ignore these violations, the DEC has essentially ignored the situation by placing some posted signs around and closing the hatchery. They issued a press release that even by modern bureaucratic standards is a model of b.s. It says absolutely nothing except that they are monitoring the situation closely, blah, blah. I will save it in my medicine cabinet in case some situation says to “induce vomiting.”
The Oneida Lake Association and other sportsmen’s groups are concerned about potential impacts on the fishery and insist on transparency in discussions. They repeat that they have no issue with Native American members but are opposed to harvest practices by any individual, group, or nation that negatively affect the fishery. Two big questions loom:
(1) Why would Cmsr. Seggos issue such a dumb, irresponsible statement?
(2) What makes Cmsr. Seggos think that he has the authority to give such blanket permission for an important action? Sportsmen across NYS deserve answers to these questions.
You might wonder why we are making a big deal over a few hundred fish. Keep in mind that this sets a legal precedent. What other groups think that they deserve this privilege or permission to act in a similar manner? What is next? …netting or what other action? Is such action limited to walleye or some fish in less abundant supply? Does impact on the resource or management of fisheries matter? These and other questions, along with respect for fisheries professionals, and law enforcement call for transparency in discussion and honest answers.
Oneida Lake Association Meeting
The O.L.A. Annual Meeting will be April 27 at 7:30. Members can attend by “virtual” meeting via Zoom or in-person. Either way you can participate and be eligible for prize drawings. The in-person meeting will be held at Millard Hawk Elementary School in Central Square. In addition to updates on the crisis at the hatchery described above, there will be reports on the fish cultural station, Shackleton Point Research Station, law enforcement, fishing regulations changes for various species, including walleye, a report by the Region 7 Fisheries Manager, and Conservationist of the Year award. Members are urged to renew membership or new members can join.
Adirondack Advisory Muddy Trails
The DEC this week urged hikers to postpone hikes on trails above 2,500 feet until the high elevation trails have dried and hardened. As snow and ice continue to melt at high elevations, steep trails pose a danger to hikers due to thick ice and deep, rotten snow. Despite recent warm weather, high elevation trails are still covered in slowly melting ice and snow. These steep trails have thin soil that becomes a mixture of ice and mud. The remaining compacted ice and snow are slippery and will not support weight. They are difficult to hike and the adjacent snow is prone to “postholing.”
Hikers are advised to use extreme caution on low elevation trails where they will encounter thick mud, slushy snow, or flooded areas. Lower elevation streams are susceptible to high waters and flooding. Stream crossings are dangerous and hikers are susceptible to hypothermia. Hikers are asked to avoid all trails in the High Peaks above 2,500 feet for their own safety and to avoid causing damage. See the DEC website for a lists of hikes below 2,500 feet as well as updates on conditions. Fishing Report Brown trout continue to cruise the Lake Ontario shoreline in early morning. Once the sun gets high, they head for deeper water. Because they are spooky in shallow water, long trolling lines are called for. Michigan stingers or thin stickbaits work best.
Planer boards help get your lures out away from the boat and motor noise. Follow the pattern of trollers going east from Oswego Harbor.
Further west the formula is similar from the Niagara Bar to Olcott. Most of the action comes from brown trout in the 2 — 4 lb. range. Best action comes from three inch stickbaits and Dream Weaver slim spoons in Goby patterns. Most of the fish are taken in 8
— 12 feet of water using stickbaits back 100 — 150 feet off planer boards, or spoons down 5 feet on downriggers and 60 feet back.
Preparations For Turkey Season
Veteran hunters are getting their gear in order, practicing their calls, and patterning their shotguns. Now is the time to do the serious scouting. Hens have specific locations where they prefer for nesting. They start moving to these areas in late April. Where the hens are will determine where the gobblers will be. Areas that hens typically look for include good food supply, and adequate ground cover for nesting as well as for the poults once they hatch.
Avoid temptation and leave the regular calls at home. The last thing that you want to do is call in a tom with yelps, etc. and then “educate” or spook the bird. Even in their tiny brain the idea that a hen calling is a fake makes a big impression.