Spauling Outdoors by Jack Spaulding
As stories go, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) Fish of the Year contest is always a long one – not in words, but in inches.
This is because annual winners are selected on the length of fish caught and submitted to the DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife. In 2014, 78 entries resulted in 33 winners for 31 species. There were ties in two categories – bluegill and crappie. Winning entry lengths ranged from an 8.5-inch green sunfish caught by Gregory Zentz at Pit 26 in Greene-Sullivan State Forest, to the 52.5-inch flathead catfish Eric Spicer muscled out of the White River in Jackson County.
There were two multiple winners in 2014 – Luke Kosnik (brown trout and walleye) and Brian Waldman (buffalo and hybrid striped bass). And there were repeat winners, such as Robert Ecenbarger of Fort Wayne, who turned in the top cisco catch for the fourth straight year. Tristan Weaver (36.3-inch steelhead trout) and Jeff Armstrong (20-inch common carp) won the same categories in 2013.
Another consistent winner is David Ben Mullen, who lives in Central (Harrison County). He claimed honors in 2014 for the longest blue catfish at 50 inches. It’s the fourth time in the past five years he has won.
Lake Michigan was once again the biggest producer of winners with four – Kosnik’s two catches, plus a 40-inch king salmon (Bret Rocchietti) and a 20-inch smallmouth bass (Alex Neel).
Fish of the Year winners receive a certificate and patch from the DNR. A complete list of the winners, rules of the contest and an entry form can be found online at www.in.gov/dnr/fishwild/3577.htm
Now is time for wildlife
Outdoor lovers can beat cabin fever and help local wildlife by tackling habitat improvement projects as our winter is winding down. Late winter is the best time to pursue many wildlife habitat projects.
The ground is often dry or frozen, the timing prevents conflicts with nesting wildlife in spring and managing wooded and shrubby areas is easier to do before leaves emerge and sap begins to flow. Some winter habitat management ideas for helping our furry and feathered friends in the coming year:
•Conduct woodland edge enhancement and fencerow rejuvenation. Winter is the best time to cut brush, limbs and trees for “feathering” edges between mature woodlands and grasslands, wetlands or agricultural areas.
•Create forest openings. Forest openings benefit numerous wildlife species, and now is the best time to make such openings.
•Make brush piles. Brush piles create escape-cover for game birds, songbirds, small mammals and many other forms of wildlife. Piles placed close to transitional areas between habitat types provide increased benefits.
•Build and hang nesting boxes. Winter is a great time of year to buy or build nesting boxes and strategically place them.
•Clean and maintain nesting boxes. If you already have nesting boxes, clean them in preparation for spring use.
•Now is the time to frost seed. Winter soil conditions are optimal for planting small seeds. Common frost-seeding species include introduced legumes such as clovers, alfalfa and birdsfoot trefoil. Frost seeding also can be effective for warm-season grasses, wildflowers and food plots.
•Employ sodium supplementation: Rabbits are one of many mammals benefiting from sodium supplementation. Crush salt blocks and distribute the fragments along field borders and habitat edges.
Late winter and early spring is when mammals benefit most from sodium supplementation. Sodium supplementation is not to be confused with using baits, lures or attractants while hunting, which is illegal.
Further information on species and habit is at www.in.gov/dnr/fishwild/2352.htm under “Landowner Assistance.”
You may also contact your district wildlife biologist, listed at www.in.gov/dnr/fishwild/2716.htm
Woodcock Walk on March 11
Watch the American woodcock emerge from the woods into fields to perform a mating dance at Monroe Lake’s Woodcock Walk on March 11. The dance, along with a distinct call, is part of the male woodcock’s courtship behavior.
Monroe Lake naturalist Jill Vance will lead a walk to a woodcock dancing ground at Fairfax State Recreation Area at 7:30 p.m. The Woodcock Walk is free, but limited to 12 people. Registration is required by March 8 at www.bit.ly/woodcock2015
Property admission is free during the winter. Fairfax is located on Monroe Lake at 9301 S. Fairfax Road, Bloomington, IN 47401 and information about the location can be viewed online at www.in.gov/dnr/parklake/2954.htm
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of Farm World. Readers with questions or comments may contact Jack Spaulding by email at email@example.com or by writing to him in care of this publication.