As October winds down, we can certainly split the month into two halves weather wise.
The first half was colder than normal but more importantly very windy. It was so windy, many of the harbors up in the western end of Lake Erie dropped five feet or more as the wind pushed the water out of them. The lake is already down from a dry summer and fall and the week long gale force winds from the southwest blew a lot of the water out towards Buffalo. It certainly stirred up the main lake water color and the dangerous winds kept most of the fishermen off the lake. To put it mildly, it was more like duck hunting weather than it was fishing weather.
Then midway through the month, when most of the state opened for the waterfowl season, the weather flipped on a dime. Calm winds and warm weather returned creating a lousy opening week for the duck season. However, the fishing on Lake Erie, as well as area lakes, has resumed and the fishing for both perch and walleye has been phenomenal. It doesn’t matter what end of Lake Erie you are on, eastern, central, or western basin, the fishing has been great the last two weeks.
Perch are being caught on emerald shiners and the size has been tremendous. It’s easily been the best perch season in several years. The walleye are putting on their fall feed as they start making their eggs for the spring spawn and they are being taken on just about every kind of crankbait that you can think of as they fill up on shad. Even bank fishermen are doing well on the rocks at night and that will continue to improve as the water gets colder. If you are looking to put some more great tasting fish in the freezer to get you through the winter, now is a great time to head to Lake Erie and get it done.
• The 2022 survey of acorn abundance on selected Ohio wildlife areas shows an average of 39% of white oaks and 37% of red oaks bore fruit, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife. The long-term average for white oak production is 37%, and 54% for red oak production. I can attest that the acorn production on our property has been fruitful to say the least.
Acorns come in two basic types: red and white. They are divided into these groups based on the type of oak tree. Red oak acorns take two years to develop, and the acorns are bitter, containing a large amount of the chemical tannin. White oak acorns take only one year to develop and have a sweeter taste. These differences cause periodic fluctuations in statewide acorn abundance. Low mast production years are a normal part of this cycle, and wildlife readily adapt to find alternative food sources.
Each summer, Division of Wildlife employees scan the canopies of oaks at selected wildlife areas to determine the percentage that produced acorns as well as the relative size of the acorn crop. This is the 18th year the Division of Wildlife has completed the mast survey. Statewide, the proportion of white oaks bearing acorns (38%) was the same as last year, while the percentage of red oaks with acorns (37%) was down 12%. All results, including tables and historical numbers, are available at wildohio.gov.
In addition to determining the presence or absence of acorns, observers estimate the percentage of each tree’s canopy that contains acorns. The average crown coverage for white oak acorns this year was 9%, near the long-term average. For the second year in a row, average crown cover of red oaks decreased, averaging 10% statewide, compared to the long-term average of 19%. This year, white oaks had higher mast production in the southern part of the state, while red oaks did better in the northern part.
As a critical food source for many forest wildlife species, acorn abundance has been linked to body condition, winter survival, and reproductive success. A year with low acorn abundance causes deer and other wildlife to move around more in search of food. In areas with poor acorn production, wild animals are more likely to feed near agricultural areas and forest edges. Deer, turkeys, squirrels, ruffed grouse, blue jays, raccoons, woodpeckers, foxes and more seek out and eat acorns throughout the fall and winter.
Deer hunters can use acorn survey information to improve hunting success. In areas where acorns are an important part of the deer’s diet, mast availability can affect deer movements and ultimately hunter success. In poor mast years, deer are forced to use other food sources, and travel distances between feeding and bedding areas may be longer. Hunters may key in on travel corridors and alternate food sources.
Oak trees have value beyond food and shelter for wildlife. Collect mature acorns in the fall and place them in a bucket of water. Keep the ones that sink and discard any that float, as those won’t germinate. Store the remaining acorns in the refrigerator or outside for at least eight weeks in the winter months. Plant the acorns under a shallow covering of soil in the early spring, water regularly, and enjoy seeing your new oak trees grow!
Until next time, Good Hunting and Good Fishing!
Ken Parrott is an Agricultural Science teacher with Northmor High School.