Plenty of Walleye, Bass, and Turkey – but No Ring-necked Pheasants in New York

  • NYS Pheasant-rearing farms reduced from 7 to 1, then Avian disease hit this year. All the breeder birds had to be euthanized.
  • Walleye fishing in Eastern Lake Erie is HOT and crowded after dark right now. Respect the other fellow in a nearby boat.
  • Turkey hunting in Western NY is GOOD – The season runs May 1 – 31. 2 birds/season bag limit. 
Ringneck Pheasants in the wild are scarce in many states, but well-managed conservation programs raise them and return them to country farm fields.  Joe Forma Photo

By Forrest Fisher

As a kid growing up in farm country, my family raised more than 50 chickens each year. This effort supported our family and most of our neighbors with all the eggs everyone needed, and I made about 5 cents on each dozen for delivery. That was a nice piece of change in 1955. My dad had built a multiflora rose fence borderline around the chicken pen to help keep the birds inside and to help with free feed for the chickens. Chickens love to munch on the flower and hip fruit of the hardy rose plant. Little did we know, though we learned, that wild ring-necked pheasants also love the fall fruit of the multiflora rose bush. At times, we had 20 to 30 pheasants in with the chickens! They were everywhere. They stole and enjoyed the rose fruit designed to save my dad some cost on chicken feed. In the 1950s, an overabundance of live and roadkill pheasants was a common sighting. You could see ring-necked pheasants along roadsides everywhere. Then DDT and other pesticides contributed to their egg-softening demise, and state hatcheries were implemented to help replenish the birds to their native stock numbers. Pheasant hunting was and is a favorite NYS hunter sport. At one time, New York supported seven pheasant-rearing facilities, but not anymore.

New York State (NYS) reduced its fleet of ringed-neck pheasant farms from seven to one over the last several years. They put all their eggs in one basket to coin an age-old phrase. In NYS, I often ask, “What happened to common sense?” In a state where the annual economic impact from hunters and anglers is just under $5 billion per year, it is hard to figure out why NYS lawmakers and management folks decided to save a few dollars in the state budget this way. According to the NY Outdoor News, of the 550,000 hunters in New York, a survey showed that about 40 percent had hunted ring-necked pheasants over their lifetime.

Lake Erie nighttime walleye action near Buffalo, NY, is hot for trollers using shallow-diving stickbaits. Matt Nardolillo photo.

A recent outbreak of Avian Flu resulted in the total population demise of more than 6,000 NYS pheasant breeder birds at the lone, remaining Reynolds Game Farm in Tompkins County near Ithaca. This one and only farm with a mission to raise and release pheasants into the NYS wilds is now in quarantine for four months per USDA regulations. Ugh. This eliminates the chance for a rapid recovery before pheasant hunting season. Pheasant hunting is a fall season activity, with season dates of Oct. 1 – Dec. 31 in northern portions of WNY, Oct. 15 – Feb. 28 for southern WNY portions, and Nov. 1 – Dec. 31 in the Adirondack and Long Island zones. The exact specific zones are defined in the game syllabus. The demise of the 6,000+ breeders also means eliminating the approximately 40,000 birds raised from their eggs that will be lost. So sad! The loss of these birds also eliminates the DEC “day-old-chick” program where conservation groups, especially 4H kids from across the state, pick up the young chicks and raise them to adulthood in private facilities, then release them on property open to public hunting. Such areas include wildlife management areas, state parks, multiple-use areas, and other areas. The NYS Conservation Council, the Erie County Federation of Sportsmen, and many other conservation groups across the state are asking for a more responsible approach to pheasant rearing in New York State. According to a note I received from pheasant advocate Linda Suchocki, our Pennsylvania neighbors raise and release more than 200,000 pheasants each year. She says, “The Reynolds facility employs nine workers, and only four are full-time. NYS needs to do better in a state where fishing and hunting supports 56,000 jobs and contributes more than $600 million in state and local taxes.” It’s hard to disagree with Suchocki.

Nighttime Dunkirk walleye action is hot west of Dunkirk Harbor. Captain T. J. Yetzer photo

The fun-adventure news for the start of this month has more to do with walleye fishing and turkey hunting, as both NYS fish and wildlife seasons opened last Monday, May 1. The weather has not helped! Just when we think the weather gods are on our side, a cold blast from the north swirls in to shut down the crocuses, the budding apple blossoms, the fishing and the turkey hunting. It did help muddy up the front foyer, though. We can grow some veggies there right now. Friends of Toto, we’re not in the Land of Oz yet. Yea, thank goodness. The down days of nature help make the up days much bigger and brighter. The good stuff is right around the corner. We all know that. Despite the nasty weather, anglers did get out, and hunters too. It pays to be tough, and thank goodness for waterproof outerwear!

If you’re fishing, respect the other guy if dozens of other boats are trolling the same fish-packed zone in the Athol Springs section of Lake Erie – where all the female walleye come to spawn and all the male walleye remain to eat their own hatchings – after nightfall. Who said nature was kind?! Most walleyes caught there early in the season are smaller males from 18 to 22 inches, but they are tasty critters for the frying pan. The same is true for the Shorewood Shoal portion of Lake Erie between Van Buren Point and Point Gratiot to the west of Chadwick bay marina in Dunkirk.

Hunting turkey is done in full-body camo and gun, too, so PLEASE be sure of your target and beyond. Everyone is sitting on the ground in full camouflage, sounding like a hot bird looking for a girlfriend. Be careful and be sure before you squeeze the trigger. This year is starting as an excellent turkey year. The spring turkey harvest in NY averages about 18,000 birds, but yield varies based on the number of participants and the success of turkey hatchlings in previous years. Remember this: it’s spring, and the deer ticks are here and everywhere in abundance. DO NOT GO IN THE WOODS OR PARKS WITHOUT PROTECTION. Apply Permethrin (Sawyer Products) on all your boots, shoes, and exterior camo clothing. Use Picaridin (Sawyer Products) on any exposed skin. Each of these cost only $12-$13 at Walmart. If you find a deer tick embedded in your body, use tweezers to very carefully get it out. Send it to Ticknology, 1612 LaPorte Ave., Fort Collins, CO, 80521. For more info, Google them or call 970-305-5587. The cost is $35, but you’ll know if you need to follow up with medical treatment for Lyme disease. Lyme disease is a killer!

This spring, the DEC expects a better turkey harvest than last year. Good luck in the woods. Related, the DEC is looking for help from turkey hunters in a study of NYS ruffed grouse. DEC is asking turkey hunters to record the number of ruffed grouse they hear drumming while hunting turkeys afield. This will help the DEC track the distribution and abundance of this native bird. For a free survey form, go to the DEC website) or call (518) 402-8883. To participate in the DEC Summer Wild Turkey Sighting Survey (or other wildlife surveys), visit the DEC “Citizen Science” page (

On the Outdoor Honor Roll: the NYS Outdoorsman’s Hall of Fame (NYSOHOF) will induct 12 new members at their annual banquet set for Theodore’s Restaurant in Canastota, NY. The list of sponsored, well-deserving applicants is always long. These guys typically volunteer hundreds of hours each year. Locally, three members made the honorable selection criteria. Tom Fischer and Larry Jones are among the local erie County recipients. For more than 20 years, Tom Fischer has volunteered to be the fishing tackle and gear guy for the Erie County Federation of Sportsman Teach-Me-To-Fish clinics catering to hundreds of kids yearly. Fischer also organizes other youth events and fuels optimism and leadership at such youth events for kids of all ages. Larry Jones pioneered Niagara River musky restoration when this species was in trouble in the 1990s. Among many other volunteer efforts, Jones started the Niagara Musky Association in 1993. The club became an integral part of the Strawberry Island restoration effort, now declared a National Park. And also, a longtime friend of mine and many others, Gene Pauszek from Chautauqua County, was awarded induction posthumously. Pauszek was the gruff-speaking but colorful and friendly outdoor columnist for the Dunkirk Observer. He was a life member of the Chautauqua Conservation Club, a leadership generator type of person, and an officer with many southern-tier conservation groups that supported youth activities. He founded the Take-A-Kid fishing program in Dunkirk, and his enthusiasm for fishing and Lake Erie conservation were no match. To attend the dinner, email or call 315-829-3588.

Speaking of youth programs: the National Wildlife Federation advocates spending at least one hour each day outdoors in nature. Their website “Kids and Nature” ( provides ideas for reconnecting kids with the many benefits of the great outdoors. Good for both mental and physical health, spending time outdoors is also fun and helps kids build a connection to nature.

Share in the peace and fun of the outdoors soon.

God bless America.

When Technology and Purpose meet Steelhead Angler Passion…at G. Loomis

  • Loomis unveils new Steelhead Rod offerings with IMX-PRO STEELHEAD Series.
  • Blending different modulus materials was one key to dynamic rod development.
  • Light in weight, sensitive, durable, affordable, warranty protection.
Lake Erie tributary streams in Chautauqua County, NY, offer easy angler access to big stream fish. Matt Nardolillo photo

By Forrest Fisher

If you’re among the lucky ones chasing chrome in a Great Lakes or ocean-bound tributary stream, you already know that we anglers are only as good as our tools. Rod, reel and line are among these. Having the right rod in hand provides distinct advantages. At the ICAST 2022 new product show, G. Loomis introduced the IMX-PRO STEELHEAD rod. Loaded with technology and purpose, this new tool will enable anglers to maximize their effectiveness on the water with exacting standards.

Steelhead fishing isn’t a pastime for most steelhead anglers. It’s an obsession. Forged from experience, passion, and often a healthy pinch of optimism, hardened steelhead anglers in the Great Lakes Region often slog through extreme weather swings from autumn through winter and into spring, when the fish are in those tribs. As you might expect, no two steelhead streams fish the same, as each tributary can require a unique application of tactics, techniques, and specialized tackle to slide the odds of fish-catching into the angler’s favor. The rod is perhaps the most important tool in collecting steelhead-catching tools.

Steelhead anglers find the new IMX-PRO STEELHEAD rods offer ease of handling and improved sensitivity on the water. The rod series is offered in multiple stream gear options, including center-pin rods. 

The new IMX-PRO STEELHEAD is a collection of cast, spin, float, and center-pin action options built to meet the exacting requirements of modern steelhead fishing. The Loomis technology exclusive multi-taper design yields a lightweight library of steelhead-specific rods with precisely-defined lengths, powers, and actions that strike the perfect balance between durability and performance. With MSRPs of $365 to $635, this rod series provides anglers with the specific tools needed to secure success on the water.

IMX-PRO STEELHEAD fishing rod features:

  • Multi-Taper Design
  • Fuji Alconite Guides
  • Premium Cork Handles
  • Fuji Reel Seats
  • Handcrafted in Woodland, Washington, USA
  • Limited Lifetime Warranty

About G. Loomis: We exist to heighten angler experience through creating tools that expand tactical opportunity, boost effectiveness, and enhance natural ability. We develop solutions for experienced hands designed to complement capability. We strive to expand what’s possible to achieve the unattainable. Our DNA is comprised of three equal parts: Technology, Innovation, and Design. Since 1982, we’ve contributed innovative materials and manufacturing technology to the angling community. Examples include early graphite construction, advanced guide trains, Multi-Taper Design and advanced resin systems. Visit