We mark this second birthday with 61 new followers and over 24,000 page hits! And we thank the 32 staff, interns, and partner organizations who have shared their passion for State Parks through the blogs that they have written. We also want to recognize our partnership with the New York Natural Heritage Program who helped in initiating this feature and continues to provide support.
We look forward to continuing our celebration of State Parks in the months to come in Nature Times. Hope to see you soon at one of our Parks or Historic Sites!
In the northeast, winter days can seem to drag on after the holiday season. Snowstorms seen to occur every three days and a constantly blowing wind chills the air to -10oF. It’s the type of weather that makes you wonder why humans don’t hibernate. While we can’t control the seasons; winter will always bring shorter days, the moon will revolve around the earth and the earth will revolve around the sun, we can change our mindset and that is what maple sugaring is about.
The maple sugaring season is almost a spiritual experience that lifts you through the last doldrums of winter. It ignites every sense. Imagine hearing the taps of sap into a metal bucket hung on a tree, the sweet steam lifting off the evaporator immersing your nose in warmth, the crackling fire fueling the evaporator, and of course the sweet taste of liquid gold. The whole experience does not occur unless the right weather conditions are present.
Hudson Valley Sugar Farm at the Taconic Outdoor Education Center, photo by Marlena Vera-Schockner
The release of sap in the spring is a sign that the trees are finally waking up from their winter rest. The ideal sap running conditions are warm days and cold nights. This temperature fluctuation causes the sap to run up and down the tree each day. The maple season may only last for as little as ten days, but they are an intense ten days. Intense because of the time needed to collect and boil down the sap, and it is the boiling down of the sap that takes the most time.
Do you ever wonder why pure maple syrup tends to cost five times more than pancake syrup? It because it takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of pure maple syrup! There is a lot of energy involved to boil down the sap that contains 2% sugar to the sticky syrup containing 66% sugar content. Everyone around helps collect sap, tend to the evaporator, and bottle syrup. Tremendous effort goes into each gallon of syrup and it is all worth it in the end. There is no better feeling than creating something from start to finish and enjoying your success with the ones you cherish.
There are signs in nature that tell you when the maple season is over. The temperature stays above freezing during the night ceasing the sap to run up and down the tree. The buds on the trees start to burst open and the sap turns cloudy and is less sweet. A natural siren goes off-spring peepers serenade the woods as they emerge from their winter hibernation. It’s a bittersweet ending for the sugaring season. The transformation of sap to syrup is over for the year, but now the forest has come back to life and it is time for spring.
Ice fishing opportunities abound in New York State. Winter anglers can catch a variety of fish; primarily perch, sunfish, pickerel, northern pike and walleye. In addition, many waters throughout the State are open to fishing for trout, lake trout and landlocked salmon.
Ice fishing requires doing a little homework. Learning about the equipment needed, proper clothing, safety precautions, the water you want to fish, and fishing regulations are all part of a successful, enjoyable winter fishing experience. Accompanying a friend on an ice fishing outing or visiting a tackle shop in a popular ice fishing area can be great ways to learn about the skills and equipment needed. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) ice fishing webpage also has some very good information to help you get started and lists some of the waters where you can ice fish. Pay particular attention to the ice safety section. There are also a number of free fishing clinics held in New York each year, including ice fishing clinics.
DEC and State Parks will co-host a free ice fishing clinic from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday, February 17, at Glimmerglass State Park in the town of Springfield, Otsego County. The event will be moved to the public boat launch at Canadarago Lake just south of Richfield Springs on NYS Route 28 if there is not sufficient ice on Otsego Lake. Find out if the clinic is going to run by contacting Glimmerglass State Park at 607-547-8662.
In order to ice fish, you must first cut a hole in the ice. An ice auger is a good way to accomplish this. Ice augers come in a variety of sizes, so try to use an auger that is appropriate to the species of fish you are after. You will also need an ice scoop to clean slush and ice chunks out of the hole after it is cut.
Ice fishing methods include “jigging” with short, light fishing rods and using tip-ups. There are many different kinds of jigging poles and tip-ups available. Jigging involves the use of a jigging rod and either an ice jig or a small jigging spoon which is often tipped with a piece of bait. Spikes and mousies (maggots) are a good bait to use for smaller panfish, while minnows are often used for larger species. By jigging your bait (raising the rod tip up and down a few inches), you help attract fish to your bait. Generally, you will jig the bait a few times, then pause for a few seconds. Fish usually take the bait during the pause.
A tip-up is basically a spool on a stick that holds a baited line suspended through a hole in the ice. When the bait – usually a minnow – is taken by a fish, the pull on the line releases a signal, such as a red flag.
Placing the tip-up, photo by DEC Fisheries
Tip-up ready to catch a fish, photo by DEC Fisheries
Fish in similar areas you would during other seasons: weed lines, humps, depth changes, points, or other structure. Contour maps can help you find some of these places. Early morning or late afternoon tend to be the most productive times of day to fish.
Proper clothing is critical for safe ice fishing outings. Dress warmly, paying extra attention to your head, feet and hands – dressing in layers is essential.
You may not see any snow when you look out the window right now, but winter is here and now is the time to think about all of the outdoor activities it brings. One of the best ways to experience the natural beauty of New York in the winter is on a snowmobile, exploring The New York State snowmobile trail system which crisscrosses 45 counties through woods, fields, towns and our State Parks. Snowmobiling is a fun, family-friendly way to enjoy winter scenery and wildlife, especially for those people with disabilities who are unable to do strenuous activities like cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
With over 10,000 miles of public trails, there’s something for everyone to enjoy from local loops to weekend getaways. A Google Earth map of the trail system is available on the snowmobile page of the State Parks website. Many of our parks have trails connecting to the statewide trail system. And some parks, like Allegany State Park, not only have over 60 miles of groomed trails, they also have winterized cabins which are open year-round for a warm winter weekend retreat.
If you’re new to the sport, or have never been on a snowmobile before, the New York State Snowmobile Association is teaming up with State Parks to offer Take a Friend Snowmobiling events where you can learn more and take a free snowmobile ride, conditions permitting. An event is scheduled at Selkirk Shores State Park on January 31, 2015. Necessary equipment will be provided; participants are urged to dress appropriately for outdoor weather conditions.
State Parks recommends all snowmobilers attend a certified New York State snowmobiling safety course, and never drink & ride!
Every winter, thousands of anglers take to New York’s frozen waters in quest of their ice fishing bounty. Ice fishing can be a relatively easy and inexpensive way for the entire family to enjoy some mid-winter outdoor fun. Terrific ice fishing opportunities can be found within or in close proximity to many state parks; with several free fishing clinics and derbies occurring each year that introduce new ice fishing anglers to the sport. Chances are one of these hard water fishing opportunities is close to you!
Ice fishing does not require a lot of expensive gear to get started, especially compared to other winter sports like skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling. Unlike open water fishing, you don’t need a boat to get out on the water…just a nice pair of insulated winter boots. Once out there, you can use all sorts of tools to get through the ice to access your fish, including axes, ice spuds, augers and power augurs. Fishing techniques include actively fishing with small jigging rods or setting tipups (fish traps) rigged with live bait (e.g., shiners or suckers). Many types of fish are active and feeding under the ice throughout the winter months, including bass, pike, walleye, trout and panfish.
To learn all about the basics of ice fishing and what you will need to get started, visit the NYS DEC webpage for “Ice Fishing Basics.”
When you feel you are ready and dressed appropriately for New York’s winter weather, come out and join our OPRHP and NYS DEC staff and volunteers at an ice fishing clinic or derby near you!
Coming up in February, there are two ice fishing clinics scheduled for Central New York – February 22, 2017 at Otsego Lake, Glimmerglass State Park and February 26, 2017 at Lakeland Park (Cazenovia Lake), Cazenovia. Both clinics are free fishing day events, with no fishing license required for participants. For more information on the 8th annual ice fishing clinic at Glimmerglass, call 607-547-8662 or visit the State Parks calendar. For more information about the ice fishing clinic at Lakeland Park, contact Judy Gianforte, Cazenovia Preservation Foundation, 315-877-1742.
Click below to watch a video of Anna & Izzy Hughes catching their pickerel. (Note: You must be using Internet Explorer in order for the video to stream properly).
Click below to see another angler Derek Conant from Otisco catching his first fish through ice on Otisco Lake.
Post by Tom Hughes, photos by Tom Hughes and Matt Fendya, videos by Tom Hughes.