Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Steward Q & A (11/12/09 - 11/18/09)

During my time on the Salmon River I, Salmon River Steward Liz Wolff, have been asked many questions about my experiences. Now that I am on the brink of finishing my time as a steward I'd like to answer those questions and reflect on some of the best moments of the season.

Q: What is your favorite part of being a Salmon River Steward?

A: For me, the most rewarding moments are when I can provide people with information that they didn't previously know. Sure, it's great to have a conversation with someone who is knowledgeable about the river, but when I educate to make a difference, that is when I feel true stewardship occurring. Of course my other favorite part of the job is my "office," or the Salmon River itself. I love being outside rain or shine, and spending time in the resource area beats spending time in a real office any day.

Q: What was your best experience while working on the Salmon River?

A: I really enjoyed helping out and giving educational programs at the Salmon River Fish Hatchery during spawning season. I came in knowing next to nothing about pacific salmon and was quickly submerged in a wealth of information that I had to absorb quickly in order to present it to other people. I liked interacting with the various school groups that visited the Hatchery, they always had the greatest questions, especially the younger kids.

A frost coating at Sportsman North foreshadows the cooler weather to come. Photos by Salmon River Steward Liz Wolff.

Q: If you could change one thing about the Salmon River what would it be?

A: Though I am always explaining the carry-in/carry-out regulations to visitors, there is sometimes litter that still gets left behind. I hope that in the future everyone can practice good stewardship and encourage fellow anglers and visitors to pick up litter along the river or in parking areas. The vast quantities of balled up fishing line are especially dangerous for fish, turtles, and waterfowl. I would like to see the Salmon River preserved and litter-free.

The Salmon River Falls Unique Area, a must-see location in the Salmon River Corridor. Photos by Salmon River Steward Liz Wolff.

Q: Where would you spend all your time on the River, if you could?

A: To be honest, I would probably alternate between a few places. The Salmon River Falls Unique Area comes to mind first. It is amazing to have such a scenic jewel so close by. Next I would choose the Upper Fly Fishing Area. This short stretch of river is pristine and provides some great hiking opportunities. I've also met some really interesting people while monitoring the Upper Fly. My third and forth locations would be the Pineville Fishing Access and Schoeller/Paper Hole because I love taking photos of bridges (For the blog, obviously!).

Bridge at Pineville Fishing Access Location during peak foliage. Photo by Salmon River Steward Liz Wolff.

Q: What is the most interesting thing you learned about fish?

A: Learning about the process of imprinting was very cool. I never really understood how salmon returned back to the place they were born so that they could spawn. When fish are raised at the Salmon River Fish Hatchery they are eventually put into a smolting pond and they go through a physiological change during which they imprint on the water from the Salmon River, the Hatchery, and Beaver Dam Brook. During imprinting fish memorize the chemical attributes of a body of water. They then use their keen sense of smell to return to that location later in life.

An angler proudly holds up a steelhead caught in the Lower Fly Fishing Area. Photo by Salmon River Steward Liz Wolff.

I've immensely enjoyed my time as a Salmon River Steward and I hope I have the opportunity to work in the area again in the future. Thank you for reading the blog all these weeks, and for your continued support of the Eastern Lake Ontario Dune and Salmon River Stewards Program!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Studying the Past, Looking to the Future (11/5/09-11/11/09)

On Thursday, November 5th I attended the Eastern Lake Ontario Dune and Wetland Conference at the New York State Fairgrounds. The workshop's purpose was to reflect on past management strategies and plan for the future stewardship of the Eastern Lake Ontario Dune and Wetland Area (ELODWA). Attendees of the meeting included members of The Ontario Dune Coalition (TODC) which represent a variety of groups such as The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, The Nature Conservancy, New York Sea Grant, Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Jefferson County Soil and Water and several private landowner associations, to name a few.

Views of Lake Ontario from Black Pond Wildlife Management Area, part of the ELODWA, during the summer of 2009. Photos by Eastern Lake Ontario Dune Steward Liz Wolff.

The discussion kicked off with a presentation about, "New York's Eastern Lake Ontario Dune and Wetland System: Guidelines for Resource Management in the 21st Century," a report prepared by Geoffrey Steadman that can be found here. After reviewing the progress of TODC's past initiatives, we were asked to break into groups and brainstorm ideas for future projects that would benefit the ELODWA. Suggestions covered a broad scope of issues enveloping everything from the management of invasive species, to the creation of an educational Visitor's Center along the eastern shore.

I enjoyed attending the meeting because I had the opportunity to contribute feedback from a steward's point-of-view. In the future, I would like to see public education programs expand so that all visitors to the eastern shore will grasp the complexity of human impacts on natural resource areas. The understanding of ELODWA as a unique and fragile system will help to ensure its continued protection for years to come.

Purple Jelly Drops or Ascocoryne sarcoides (top) and Armillaria Root Rot or Armillaria mellea (bottom) located at Trestle South along the Salmon River. Photos by Salmon River Steward Liz Wolff.

I am nostalgic about my times as an Eastern Lake Ontario Dune Steward, I and was happy to spend the early part of my week discussing the future of the resource areas that I've grown to love. Now though, I am back in "river mode," and am preparing for the conclusion of my term as a Salmon River Steward. While the upper sections of the river, specifically around Altmar, NY, have been relatively busy, finding anglers to talk with down river has been a challenging task. Anglers that I have spoken with, however, are pleased with the number of fish coming into the river during this early part of the steelhead run. An interesting fact that can impact angling success is that specific weather conditions and times of day are better to fish for steelhead than others. For example, steelhead do not like bright light, so when it is sunny outside the best time to fish is during the first and last hour of daylight. When the skies are overcast, steelhead are more likely to be active all day. The recent streak of sunny weather may be why fewer anglers have reported having good luck. Knowing the fish's behavior and preferences can help make any fishing trip more successful!

An angler catches a brown trout in the Upper Fly Fishing Area. Photo by Salmon River Steward Liz Wolff.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Transitions (10/29/09 - 11/4/09)

Perhaps one of most attractive places along the Salmon River Corridor is the Salmon River Falls Unique Area. Last week Salmon River Steward Greg Chapman and myself, Salmon River Steward Liz Wolff, took a drive up to the falls to do some end-of-the-season pickup and leaf raking. I also took the opportunity to hike the Gorge Trail which is the very steep path used to access the riverbed area. I had never gone down the Gorge Trail before, but I quickly realized that it can be dangerous, especially at this time of year when fallen leaves and precipitation make the rocks slippery.

Left: River Steward Greg Chapman rakes leaves at the Salmon River Falls Unique Area. Right: Gorge view of Salmon River Falls. Photos by Salmon River Steward Liz Wolff.

Another location at which visitors should use special caution is the top of the falls. Even while Greg and I were cleaning up, we had to remind some sightseers that they could not stand within 15 feet of the edge. Later on, Greg and I talked with a few more visitors: however, these individuals were eager to see anglers along the river and wanted to know what the closest access site was. We directed the people to the Upper fly Fishing Zone where, although salmon season is ending, greater numbers of trout fishermen are coming to the Salmon River in preparation for prime steelhead and brown trout opportunities in the coming weeks.

Top: Brown trout caught at the Paradise Pool. Bottom: Anglers along the Upper Fly Fishing zone.
Photo by Salmon River Steward Liz Wolff.

Anglers in the Upper and Lower Fly Fishing Zones, specifically, have already begun catching beautiful trout for several days now, and are hopeful that this will be another plentiful season of fishing. In conversations along the river, Steward Greg Chapman has heard positive feedback about regulations limiting how many steelhead can be taken. Each angler is allowed to take one steelhead per day; this limit has noticeably increased the number of steelhead trout in the river. Many of the fishermen Greg spoke with also practice catch-and-release fishing, a habit that helps maintain a world-class fishery at the Salmon River.

View of the Salmon River Estuary. Photo by Salmon River Steward Liz Wolff.

Unfortunately, as salmon season comes to a close so to does Greg's time as a River Steward. Before leaving Greg would like to say a few words,

"After two years working in this region, I can say I'm going to miss it. I've really enjoyed getting to know the resource areas (both the Salmon River and the Eastern Lake Ontario Dunes), and the people who work and enjoy spending their time here. I certainly would not mind finding another job in this area; barring that, I'll definitely be back to visit. It will be interesting to see how these areas, that receive such heavy recreational use, while still being ecologically complex and sensitive, will continue to evolve to meet the needs of their natural inhabitants and human visitors alike."

Greg has been a fantastic steward as well as colleague. We wish him the best in the future and thank him for all the great work he's done over the last two years!