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Rod, Gun & Game Outdoor Column: Cuba Lake offers fishing experience

Forrest Fisher writes a weekly column for The Sun newspaper.
One short ride around the perimeter of Cuba Lake in winter will offer a splendid view of colorful ice-fishing tents, lean-to’s and keep-me-warm inventions that keep anglers out of the chilly winter wind that we often experience here in Western New York. The “ice fishing huts” are all occupied with anglers willing to spend a day on the hard water surface hoping to find crappie, yellow perch, bluegill, walleye and some very large northern pike.

The Cuba Lake fishery is regularly monitored by NYS-DEC Region 9 fisheries staff, with recent surveys completed in 2003 and 2011. The purpose of the survey is to assess the status of gamefish and the health of the lake, while monitoring growth rates and size of populations for largemouth and smallmouth bass, walleye, northern pike and the multiple panfish species.

Yellow perch are the most abundant panfish in Cuba Lake, indicated by an electrofishing catch rate of 355 fish/hour during the 2011 survey. In 2003, rock bass were incredibly abundant, but very few were caught in the 2011 survey, though DEC reports that anglers are catching lots of rock bass too, indicating that rock bass numbers are higher than this survey results suggest.

When compared to other large lakes in Western New York, Cuba Lake is generally less productive in terms of pounds of fish/acre, which means that for the same age fish, the fish are generally smaller in Cuba Lake that other comparative lakes. Don’t sell Cuba Lake short though, sampling indicates that Cuba Lake should provide quality recreational angling opportunities throughout the 2013 season and into the coming years.

Winter anglers report that crappie fishing can be extremely productive near the eastern end of the lake, with fish often found just below the ice on some days, but more commonly, closer to the bottom. Live minnows are the preferred crappie bait, though many anglers tip tiny ice jigs with waxworms to catch their fair share of the prized tablefare species.

Survey results for walleye and smallmouth bass indicate these species are still the dominant predators in the lake. Since the New York State discontinuation of walleye fry stocking in 1999, the walleye population has been supported by natural reproduction and data shows walleye to be very abundant, indicated by an electrofishing catch rate of 43 walleye/hour.

The majority of walleye captured were yearlings from the 2009 year class, though anglers report small and big fish are present. The absence of adult fish in the shocking survey was likely the result of those fish being less vulnerable to electrofishing gear at the time of sampling, which was more suitable to capturing bass than walleye. Walleye growth rates in Cuba Lake are relatively slow.

Seventy-seven smallmouth bass were collected, resulting in an electrofishing catch rate of 26 fish/hour. This is somewhat lower than in 2003 (39/hour), but still represents an exceptional fishery when compared to the NYS average. The survey shows it takes about five years to reach the minimum legal size limit of 12 inches for a smallmouth bass.

The largemouth bass population has been on a steady decline for the last decade and showed no difference in 2011. This is may be due to competition with northern pike, which were illegally introduced to the lake in the early 1990s. Winter anglers using tip-ups and medium-sized chubs will find northern pike to 20 pounds can be taken here.

NYSDEC Region 9 fisheries staff plans on repeating this fisheries survey in 2016. Have fun and stay warm!

Firearms require personal responsibility

Many folks are getting tired of hearing about firearms and the new firearm rules for New York State and the federal government, while some folks could care less one way or the other.

There are rumors that the new firearms rules will be enforced by Homeland Security, usually a helpful organization for people who have experienced a tragedy, but recent records reports by manufacturing facilities shows that Homeland Security is purchasing 7,000 fully automatic firearms and several million rounds of ammunition, armored troop carriers and more. There are many questions from folks who keep track of such records that are circulating all around the country.

On the flip side of fear by the general public, firearms manufacturers, retailers and ranges joined forces in a letter to the Connecticut Legislative Task Force on Gun Violence Prevention and Children’s Safety to reinforce a publicly stated commitment to be part of the process to help ensure effective answers are found to the criminal misuse of firearms.

Connecticut is considering a range of gun-control measures the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) and the industry are working both publicly and behind-the-scenes to ensure the story is heard by educating legislators, media and the public. Ongoing and extensive firearms safety efforts, including Project ChildSafe, which the industry has provided more than 35 million firearm safety kits to gun owners nationwide and ongoing work with the Veterans Administration to assist armed service members returning to civilian life are provided gun locks and safety kits.

The NSSF states that the central issue involved with violence in which a firearm is misused is the unauthorized access to the firearm. The letter from NSSF was signed by the CEOs of Colt, Smith and Wesson, Stag Arms, Mossberg, Ruger, Cabela’s and Savage Sports Corp., who were among the more than 60 signatories that also pointed out the history and ongoing economic impact in Connecticut. NSSF has worked to help others understand that much needs to be done to keep America safe from firearms misuse.

Instantaneous retail point-of-sale criminal and mental health background checks were the invention of the industry in the late 1980s, years before they became mandatory under federal law. There have been over 147 million background checks since 1998. Over 300 million firearms are owned by almost half the households in America (47 percent). Firearms ownership among law-abiding citizens has undeniably increased and over the last 30 years, despite the growth in firearms ownership, the homicide rate has declined by 50 percent.

Violent crime has dramatically decreased to record lows not seen since the early 1960s. Since 1999, NSSF we has distributed over 35 million free gun locks to cities and towns all across this nation as part of the Project Childsafe program. This program also provided safety brochures urging gun owners to securely store their firearms away from children and unauthorized adults, as is also the law in Connecticut.

While there are many ways to solve an issue and create a strong trust among shareholders and interested parties, one New York City lawmaker is proposing yet additional restrictions for anyone that wants to own a gun. Brooklyn State Assemblyman Felix Ortiz has proposed a new law that would require the purchase of $1 million dollars of liability insurance for firearms owners. Current gun owners would have 30 days to purchase the insurance and police would have to be notified if the gun is stolen or lost. There restrictions for insurance would not apply to law enforcement personnel.

When I visited Alaska last summer, I was surprised that no permit was required to buy a firearm or handgun, no permit was required to carry the handgun concealed — only the NICS check was required. Returning to New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo has passed the NY SAFE Act during a recent midnight session that adds a ton of new firearms ownership rules to already complicated firearms laws and there is quite a difference.

The bottom line on firearms ownership is personal responsibility. If you own a firearm, only you can assure that safe storage and use of that firearm at home or anywhere else. Every gun owner must be totally responsible for the use (or misuse) of their firearm by you or anyone else. If you intend to use that firearm for personal protection, target shooting, hunting or as a collector, you are responsible to maintain safe control of that firearm. End of story.

Albany bus trip

On Feb. 28, a rally for more effective discussion regarding the NY Safe Act will occur in the Legislative Office Building in Albany at the State Capitol at 10:30 a.m. Locally, the Erie County Federation of Sportsmen group is offering transportation departing from Eastern Hills Mall, departing at 4:30 a.m. To make reservations as a passenger, visit www.eriectyfsc.org/events/2013/gunrally.htm, call 510-7952 or e-mail rich@weloveoutdoors.org. Other groups, including the New York State Shooters Committee on Political Education (NY-SCOPE), are also organizing transportation and plan to meet at the Southgate Plaza for 4:30 a.m. departure. Visit www.donationpages.com/directory/EventEcard/1610 to learn more.

Outdoors Calendar

Feb. 23: WNY Safari Club Youth Duck and Bluebird House Project, 8 a.m., Winter’s Rigging Headquarters located in North Collins (2110 Route 249), adults can bring youth to build duck or bluebird house for distribution at events/schools, lunch included, call Marvin Winter at 984-2773.

Feb. 23: Gun Raffle, Southtowns Walleye Assoc., 5895 Southwestern Blvd., Hamburg, noon-5 pm, $220 donation, for tickets call Franklin Thompson at 553-7630.

Feb. 23: Southtowns Ducks Unlimited Annual Banquet, Creekside Banquet Facility, 2589 Union Rd., 6 pm, call George Rockey at 674-3075.

Feb. 24: WNY Winter 3D League Archery Shoot, open to public, 8 am-3 pm, GlenCoe Conservation Society, 9869 Foote Rd., Glenwood, call Dave Procknal at 337-0733.

Feb. 27: Trap Shooting, West Falls Conservation, 55 Bridge St., West Falls, open to public, 7 pm, call Dave at 652-8509.

Feb. 28: WNY squirrel, cottontail rabbit seasons close (southern zone).

Feb. 28: Gun Rights Rally to Albany, bus trip toe NYS Legislative Office Building (LOB), call Rich Davenport for bus ride information at 510-7952.

March 1-3: Rochester Sportsmen’s Show, Monroe County Fairgrounds, Henrietta, visit online at www.rochestersportsmansexpo.com.

March 2: Erie County Federation of Sportsmen annual banquet and awards dinner, Father Justin Knights of Columbus Hall, Cheektowaga, call 655-0975 for tickets.

Send outdoor events 10 days in advance to nugdor@yahoo.com.
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