Woods and Waters An outdoor blog by John McCoy

Feds expand W.Va.’s wood duck bag limit

Officials of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have finally given West Virginia’s wildlife managers what they wanted.

Effective with the upcoming waterfowl season, three of the five ducks in each hunter’s daily bag limit can be wood ducks. Before the change, the maximum was two woodies.

Read more about the change, and get the feds’ most recent report on duck numbers, in this Sunday Gazette-Mail article.

Upshur men arrested for spotlighting

Two Upshur County men have learned the best way to poach a trophy buck is not to do it next to someone’s house.

In the early morning hours of Aug. 6, a Rock Cave resident notified authorities that he had heard gunfire near his home. Sgt. Marshall Powers and Deputy Dewain Linger of the Upshur County Sheriff’s Department answered the call, along with Division of Natural Resources conservation officer Jeff Craig.

The officers discovered that a large buck deer had been spotlighted and shot. The poachers took the buck’s head, with antlers still in velvet, and left its carcass in a nearby field.

After a brief investigation, the officers cited 32-year-old Heath Foster of Rock Cave for spotlighting, hunting during a closed season, carrying a loaded gun in a motor vehicle, and shooting within 600 feet of a residence. Foster’s alleged accomplice, 32-year-old Terry Pumphrey of Ireland, was cited for spotlighting, hunting during a closed season, illegal possession of wildlife, and conspiring to commit a hunting violation.

Year in and year out, the Bluestone Wildlife Management Area ranks as one of the state’s top public lands for fall turkey hunting.

This year, officials at nearby Bluestone State Park have decided to cut hunters a break. From late October to mid-November, they’ll offer discounted mid-week cabin rates to turkey hunters.

The discount, 30 percent, is nothing to sneeze at. The fall turkey season in Summers County runs from Oct. 25 to Nov. 1. The season in nearby Monroe County runs from Oct. 25 to Nov. 22.

Details can be found here at the Division of Natural Resources’ Web site.

What will happen to W.Va.’s state fish?

In the last two Sunday Gazette-Mail outdoors pages, I’ve delivered a two-part series on brook trout in West Virginia — the species’ history, its decline, and attempts to restore fisheries damaged by environmental insults.

Part I outlined the actions that pushed brookies from an estimated 95 percent of their former habitat. Part II detailed efforts by resource agencies, corporations and volunteers to fix what had been ruined.

The day after Labor Day should be memorable – and maybe a little disappointing, too – for anglers who like to fish at the Winfield Locks off U.S. Route 35.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will temporarily close the popular fishing-access area downstream of the dam on Sept. 2 so that construction crews can improve the site.

Planned improvements include pavement for the gravel parking lot, additional stabilization of the riverbank, and an access walkway from the parking area to the riverbank that meets required accessibility standards.

In the past, the only access to the area had been by a steep set of steel steps that led from the parking lot to a set of fishing piers at the dam’s base.

Corps officials expect the construction to take four to six months, depending on weather and the Kanawha River’s water levels. Fishing on the Eleanor side of the locks will remain open throughout the construction process.

Sometimes the good guys win!

West Virginia’s Elk River trout fishery got a huge reprieve last night (July 29) when the Pocahontas Public Service District voted 2-1 to build a proposed sewage treatment plant away from the upper Elk’s floodplain.

The vote in favor of Site 7, at the foot of Snowshoe Mountain on Snowshoe Resort property, effectively kills a plan to build in the floodplain at the junction of the Elk’s two major tributaries. It also avoids the need for a 4-mile pipeline that would have carried raw sewage through an area pockmarked with sinkholes, caves and underground voids.

If the plant gets built according to plans drawn up by Clarksburg-based Thrasher Engineering, water discharged from the facility will be double-filtered and cooled to prevent polluting Big Spring Fork, the Elk tributary that drains the Snowshoe area.

DNR employee puts ’sole’ into his work

Think you have a tough job? Try John Rebinski’s. He slogs through rain-soaked forest thickets just to watch where rainwater goes.

Armed with the knowledge he gathers, he identifies places where remote headwater streams can be treated with limestone sand to counter the effects of acid rain.

Rebinski’s work, as highlighted in this Sunday Gazette-Mail feature, has helped restore brook trout fishing to streams once considered lifeless.

Effective today, July 28, a 2 1/2-mile section of Williams River Road in Webster County will be closed for paving. Crews will widen the roadbed, and will blacktop the final unpaved section of the road.

Details of the closure can be found here.

This week’s Gazette-Mail column explains how last-minute changes to the site and design of a sewage treatment plan could affect the Elk River’s nationally renowned trout fishing.

The Pocahontas Public Service District will meet July 29 to decide the issue. Here’s hoping that cooler heads prevail.

Rock snot: Even worse than the name sounds

An exotic alga known as didymo, or “rock snot,” has been discovered in Maryland and might be headed for West Virginia.

As described in the Sunday Gazette-Mail, didymo coats the rocky bottoms of trout streams and chokes out the insects trout feed upon. Maryland officials believe fishermen are spreading didymo by failing to wash their waders after fishing infected streams.

Apparently, the organism can live for quite a while in the felt soles of anglers’ wading shoes. Great! Something else to worry about…