Friday, November 19, 2010

Picking up Trash is REEL Fun!

 LOTAC member, John Wehrle, holding up a bag of trash he collected while fishing the Salmon River

If anyone happened to be fishing along the Salmon River on Saturday, November 13th, they probably noticed something different. I’m not talking about the fact it was 60 degrees in the middle of November (I know, I couldn’t believe it either!), I’m talking about the number of fishermen carrying large trash bags along the river.

These environmentally-friendly fishermen were all part of the Lake Ontario Tributary Anglers Council’s (LOTAC) inaugural Catch and Clean Fishing Tournament on the Salmon River.

The 53 anglers had two tasks – to catch fish AND clean up the river. No fish could be entered in the tournament unless the participant brought back a 30-gallon trash bag full of garbage collected along the river.

I arrived at 7 a.m., expecting to take a few photos and be on my way. A few of the LOTAC guys had other plans in mind when they volunteered their friend and fellow LOTAC member, Mike Carota, to take me on a drift boat trip instead. When they asked me if I would prefer to go on the boat, I was faced with a grueling decision - stand along the shore taking a few photos trying desperately not to fall in, or cruise down the river on a 60 degree day in a drift boat. My job is tough, but somebody has to do it! Mike’s friend and LOTAC member, John Wehrle, joined us.

We launched the drift boat in Altmar where, much to my surprise, the parking lot was full! I had to check the calendar on my phone to make sure it was indeed November, because I thought this many people only fished during salmon season in September and October. Certainly these people were confused, and didn’t realize salmon season was over. I must have had a dumb-founded look on my face, because Mike and John explained that steelhead fishing was almost as popular as salmon fishing and the river can be just as packed. All of my years growing up in Pulaski and I NEVER knew that! Strike one against the girl who grew up on the Salmon River.

Along my little cruise, I had the opportunity to fight a steelhead and guess what, I won! (I have to give credit to John for actually landing the steelhead. I wasn’t so lucky in that department). For those of you with a working knowledge about fishing, I caught the steelie on a center pin rod. If you don’t know what a center pin rod is and you want to find out, then you’re reading the wrong blog.

Due to my impeccable fishing skills, I could have landed a lot more fish had I not been so enthralled by my surroundings. I couldn’t put my camera down because around every corner there was at least one angler, if not more, involved in a battle with a feisty steelhead or rainbow. It was common to hear celebratory shouts and the ever-popular phrase, “fish on!”, and to see cell phones and cameras capturing images of trophy fish. Sometimes, Mike or John would lend a net and a helping hand to anglers we passed by.

To be quite honest, I always thought that fishing on the Salmon River was cut-throat, but on my drift boat trip I was proved wrong (strike two). I witnessed nothing but polite, congenial anglers who were all willing to help each other out. There were no arguments, people moved out of the way when someone had a fish on, drift boats respected the anglers standing in the river and vice-versa, and most people initiated friendly conversation.

I could go on and on about how great the fishing was, and how great of a time I had, but let’s not forget about the main purpose of the tournament – to clean up the river. I bet you’re wondering how much trash was collected. I think the photo below will answer your question!

After the garbage collection, the competitors headed to Fox Hollow Salmon River Lodge for dinner and awards. (Owner, Roger Wolfe, graciously donated his time and space to help out with the tournament). While the LOTAC members judged the fish and figured out the winners, Roger cooked all of the competitors a delicious meal.

The awards went to:

Longest Trout – Jeff Waner, Empty Hook – 31”

Grand Slam Award (1 Steelhead, 1 Brown, 1 Salmon) – Jay Stuckey

Limit Award (3 trout mixed, and 3 garbage bags filled) – John Lively

LOTAC Pride Award (excellence in trash clean-up and angling, displaying exceptional motivation and attitude) – James Dibble

Congratulations to everyone who participated and thank you to the generous business owners who donated prizes and gifts to be raffled off: Fox Hollow, Cortland Line Co., TFO, Orvis, Erie Outfitters, Great Lakes Steelhead Company, King Pin Reels, Rockford Outfitters, Empty Hook Charters, Cabela’s, Ithaca Rod Co. and more!

It’s definitely a relaxing, enjoyable environment on the river – and now it’s a clean environment thanks to LOTAC and all of the participants of the tournament. This tournament reminds us that anglers should be careful stewards of the land and do their best not to leave trash behind, which will help keep the Salmon River one of the greatest sport fisheries in the country!

 LOTAC members L-R: John Wehrle, Erik Munro, Jeff Lowden (Founder), Ryan Munro, Mike Carota, Jim Kirtland (President), Jim Rood & Jay Lowden

 The start of our drift boat trip in Altmar.

 Just a little bit closer!

 Gorgeous day on the Salmon River

 Mike and me, fishing from the drift boat

 Another fish on!

 We found LOTAC member, Jim Rood, during our travels

John, collecting trash along the riverbank

 These nice anglers posed for a photo while we drifted by!

 Mike found a yellow bucket!

 John took a break from collecting garbage to fish for a while

 Mike helped Kevin Parry from Vermont land his trout.

 We met Kevin on the river - a nice guy from Vermont who comes fishing every year with his high school friends!

 We were getting ready to leave when one of Kevin's friends had a fish on, so Mike stayed behind to lend a hand.

 Nice catch!

 Approaching the trestle pool

 Mike's turn to fish, John's turn for net duty

 Mike showing off his catch

 Using a center pin reel for the first time. *Notice the life preserver - safety first!

 We spotted some trash bags in the background! Good work guys!

 Another gorgeous shot of the river.

 On our way to Pineville

 LOTAC!! If you're interested in joining visit their website for details!

 This guy will have enough photos of his fish to create an entire album

 Here is the proof! I caught a steelhead - the third one I've ever caught!

 Of course John gets some credit too!

 Time for dinner and awards. Some of the participants back at Fox Hollow Salmon River Lodge.

 Eating and hanging out

 Busy day at the lodge.

Just a few of the great donations used for raffle prizes.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Enjoying the ‘Good Old Days’

R & J's Good Old Days Petting Zoo.

For those of my followers who aren’t aware, I am pregnant – 8 and a half months along to be exact (which explains the lack of blogging adventures from me this year). This will be my last blog until after I come back from maternity leave. You won’t have to wait long, however, because the minute I’m back I plan on missing deer, not catching fish, and tripping over air just for your amusement!

I had to make my temporary blogging departure a good one. Since no one would let me shoot any animals while pregnant, I chose to spend a day petting them. (I know that sounds harsh – but remember my actual hunting record. I don’t see many frightened animals when they cross my path – or any for that matter).

I invited my friend Autumn, her three children, and my 12-year-old friend, Hunter (you may remember her from my letterboxing adventures), to go to R & J’s Good Old Days Petting Zoo with me.

Our tour guide, young Lauren Klein, met us at the beginning of the first barn and so began our journey. We first viewed pigs (huge, fat ones) and their adorable little piglets. Then we saw a goat, and what looked like an ox crossed with a camel. It’s 2010 and I figured anything was possible, although I’m not sure why anyone would want to breed those two animals. As it turns out, the ox-camel creature was in fact a zebu. They are domestic breeds of oxen found in India. Somehow this guy made it all the way to Mexico, NY!

Cute little piglets!

These animals are spoiled!

This is what a zebu looks like! I should have gotten a better picture of his hump.

Before leaving the first barn we saw some more pigs (and some more cute little piglets in the maternity ward), a rooster, donkeys and more goats.

Evan feeding the donkeys.

Hanging out with the pigs in the maternity ward :)

Our next stop was the barn where the kids could interact more closely with the animals. As we entered, we were greeted by a friendly pot-belled pig named Cheeto. The kids got to hold chicks, little bunnies, rabbits and watch a tortoise move. The excitement of watching a tortoise move two steps in twenty minutes is indescribable, so I’ll spare you all the astonishing details.

Greeted by Cheeto!

Eion and Evan playing with an adorable little bunny.

I think he wants one! Sorry mom!

Not so sure she does.

I'm pretty sure this is an angora rabbit - but don't quote me on that!

Employee Donna Woodruff hands a chick to Hunter.

He was plotting his escape here, he tried right after I took the photo but was unsuccesful.

Beautiful little creature.

Lauren using cheetos to bribe Cheeto to "sit". He listens better than my dogs!

The boys loved the tortoise!

After the tortoise excitement, I found Hunter in the goat pen wrangling up a goat. It was the closest thing to a rodeo I’ve seen in years. Instead of following suit of the younger kids, and holding out a handful of feed hoping that a shy little goat will finally come over to her, she took matters into her own hands. Luckily everyone survived and there was a big payoff for the goat at the end when Hunter gave him a handful of delicious treats.

He thinks he's safe...

Not for long! Hunter caught him!

Next we met Joe the Camel. Can I just say that camels are MUCH bigger in person. I guess I don’t get out much, but I always pictured a camel as the size of a pony, or a donkey. I was wrong. It’s a good thing I do these blogging adventures, because I learn a lot. I also learned Joe had a fondness for my friend’s stroller.

Joe tried to eat Ben...

...but he opted for the stroller instead!

We stopped by the llama and alpaca corral, where I watched Merle the llama try to put the moves on everyone who walked by. He made you feel like the only one, until you walked away and he was planting kisses on the next person. What a Player.

Merle's first kiss attack on Hunter.

Probably his 4th or 5th kiss by this point.

Hunter had to have a little chat with Merle to let him down gently, he just wasn't her type.

So he moved on to me!

The Mrs. looked on disapprovingly while she watched over their little one. Looks like Merle is sleeping in the dog house tonight.

Cutest little alpaca I've ever seen!

Straight out of a Dr. Suess book!

After we left the llamas and alpacas, probably breaking Merle’s heart, we headed over to the elk pasture. The kids had a blast feeding bread to the elk, especially the bold ones who stuck their faces between the openings in the gate to get closer to the food.

The kids waiting for the elk to run down the pasture for feeding time.

They loved bread!

Why hello there.

"Feed us!!"

I never realized how beautiful elk were until seeing them up close.

No animals were as bold as the cows that followed us on our last adventure of the day – the hayride. A few of them tried to get up on the wagon to get the food. It’s a good thing they don’t have the coordination to accomplish such a task or else Hunter would be wrangling cows – which are much bigger than goats.

He chased us down the trail.

He ran to the end and waited for the tractor to stop. He knows what comes next!

He kept trying to get up on the wagon.

Roger, owner of R & J's, gives in to one of the cows and feeds him some bread.

Someone needs to teach them not to beg.

While the cows continuously attempted to get on the wagon, we got to throw food to the fallow deer. There were tons of them and they were beautiful! There were some spotted, light brown and even some white deer!

All of the different colored fallow deer!

These were the brave deer, the rest hid in the back hoping a piece would fly to them.

Happy little fallow deer.

Finally, after exhausting the food supply, we headed back to the farm. The cows showed no interest in us by this point and left to go hang out under the shade of a big tree. When we got back to the farm we did the most logical thing after a rough day of hanging out with animals – we got some grub at the food mobile! No adventure is ever complete unless a hearty meal comes after. In our case the hearty meal was French fries and soda. I said hearty not healthy. They also had hamburgers, hot dogs, fried dough and much more!

Hunter waits for her food at the food mobile.

I want to thank the owners of R & J’s, Roger and Janet Delong, for providing such a great time at their petting zoo. It’s such a hidden little gem in Oswego County. They just opened this past year and if you haven’t been there yet – then you need to get moving! Admission is very reasonable and there is so much to do that even the adults have fun. They are open on weekends, and their address is 590 Co. Rte. 41, Mexico, NY 13114 (they are on the corner of Co. Rte. 41 and Spath Rd.). Their website is

I can't forget to mention they have pony rides!

They have many more animals, like this buffalo above, I just didn't have time to photograph them all or write about them. Make sure you check it out for yourself!