Berkshire Woods and Waters: Meet your new Fish and Game Commissioner

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Ron Amidon of Templeton has recently been appointed by Governor Charlie Baker as the new commissioner of the Department of Fish & Game (DFG). He replaced former Commissioner George N. Peterson, Jr., who decided to step down and spend more time with his family. The DFG oversees the state's marine and freshwater fisheries, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, plants, all endangered species and the habitats that support them.

Amidon, whose career has been in large-scale construction management, has spent over 30 years actively involved in the Commonwealth's sporting community. He has served as the President of the Otter River Sportsmen's Club, Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Worcester County League of Sportsmen's Clubs, President of the Gun Owners Action League, and Moderator of the Massachusetts Conservation Alliance. He is also heavily involved with Ducks Unlimited and Trout Unlimited, and has a strong interest in identifying cold water habitats for trout, protecting wildlife habitat and supporting restoration of upland bird habitat. He is known and respected across the state as a staunch defender and protector of our outdoor sports heritage.

I have the good fortune to be able to call Ron a friend. I first met Ron and his wife Rena a few years back while camped along the banks of the east branch of the Westfield River in Chesterfield. My wife Jan and I met and took an immediate liking to them. Through conversations, it didn't take long to learn that Ron is a staunch defender of our hunting and fishing heritage and protector of the environment. He doesn't just talk about these issues, but takes action as witnessed by his commitments listed above.

He's not a bad fisherman, either, as the attached picture shows. That wild brook trout, which he caught on a fly rod and quickly released, weighed more than 7 3/4 pounds. The picture was taken while Ron and a group of anglers fished the Minipi River system in Labrador last year. Local attorney Michael Shepard of Dalton and I were in that group.

You get to know a guy that you share a lodge with in the middle of God's Country. In the early twilight hours, sipping a steaming cup of coffee while waiting for the guides to wake up, Ron and several of us would discuss hunting and fishing issues of the day. Having gotten to know Ron better, I can't think of a more qualified person to head up the DFG.

In stepping down, Peterson, who had served as the commissioner since February 2015 said: "I am very grateful to Governor Baker for giving me the opportunity to serve as Commissioner of the Department of Fish and Game. I will cherish the time I spent working directly with the professional staff on the issues I deeply care about — habitat conservation, fisheries management, ecological restoration and enhancement of public access to the Bay State's wildlife, lands and waters and outdoor activities such as fishing and hunting."

Prior to his appointment as commissioner, Peterson had served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives for 20 years — representing the 9th Worcester District — and was the Assistant Minority Leader when he left the House of Representatives. He is an avid recreational fisherman and hunter. He is also a U.S. Army veteran.

Outdoor sportsmen could always count on Representative Peterson to support and promote their causes on Beacon Hill, and were very appreciative of his accomplishments as the commissioner. While commissioner, he came out here to the Berkshires on numerous occasions to attend various functions and was on a first-name basis with many of us. I'm sure you will join me in thanking him for his service in our military, in our House of Representatives and as Fish and Wildlife commissioner, and wish him the best in the future.

HVA Paddle Trip

On Tuesday, July 18, the Housatonic Valley Association will have a Beginners' Paddle Trip from 4:30 to 7 p.m. There will be a free introduction to canoeing on a flatwater stretch of the Housatonic River in Glendale. Instruction will be provided by a certified instructor and canoes and equipment will be provided. Learn how to safely enter and exit a canoe, the basic strokes and how to steer. Program support is provided by Housatonic Heritage. Preregistration required. More information provided upon registering. Call HVA at 413-298-7024 or email adixon@hvatoday.

Report Fish Kills This Summer

With the warming up of our lakes and ponds, fish kills may occur. The sight of dead and dying fish along the shores of a favorite pond or river can be distressing and can prompt concerns about pollution. However, according to MassWildlife, the vast majority of summer fish kills reported are natural events.

Natural fish kills are generally the result of low oxygen levels, fish diseases, or spawning stress. Depletion of dissolved oxygen is one of the most common causes of natural fish kills. Water holds less dissolved oxygen at higher temperatures. In shallow, weedy ponds oxygen can be especially low as plants consume oxygen at night. Spawning of fish such as sunfish and largemouth bass in late spring and early summer occurs in shallow waters along the shores. These densely crowded spawning areas become susceptible to disease outbreaks, especially as water temperatures increase. The result is an unavoidable natural fish kill, usually consisting of only one or two species of fish.

To be sure there isn't a pollution problem, it's always best to report fish kills to the Environmental Police at 1-800-632-8075. A MassWildlife fisheries biologist will determine if the kill is a natural event or the result of pollution. When pollution is the suspected culprit, MassWildlife notifies the Department of Environmental Protection, which then conducts a formal investigation of the water and affected fish to determine the source of pollution.

Questions/comments: Berkwoodsandwaters@roadrunner.com. Phone: 413-637-1818.

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