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Perch biting as legislature lags; Crossbow bill passes Senate, but is caught up in Assembly

Ever see those bumper stickers "I'd rather be fishing?"?

With perch schooling heavily in the deeper waters of Lake Erie and the bite just right now, pending crossbow-hunt legalization tactics loom as an attention-getting interruption to the fun of a fishing season.

Crossbow controversy

This past week, Sen. Patrick Gallivan's crossbow bill (S-6747a) passed the Senate on Wednesday with a vote of 37 to 18. Good news for crossbow advocates. Anti-crossbow activists also got a boost this past week with the introduction of an alternative bill to the companion Assembly for S-6747a.

Buffalo Assemblyman Sean Ryan introduced a companion bill (A9682) to the Gallivan Senate crossbow bill, which would grant the Department of Environmental Conservation management of crossbow hunting-season use.

The New York Bowhunters (NYB) anti-crossbow faction seems to take every means possible to bar this device from any open bow season. To further that effort, a bill (A10583) from Assemblyman Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst) would void DEC control of crossbow use and impose basically the same ban on crossbow use NYB lobbyists succeeded in imposing two years ago.

In a "Red Alert" NYB has sent out this notice: "The archery season as you know it will cease to exist unless you act."

Sadly, this is the same sad scare rhetoric applied some 40 years ago when longbow hunters worked to ban the introduction of compound bows in hunting fields.

Today, a compound bow is comprised of virtually the same "gun-like" mechanisms NYB critics see as too advanced technology in a crossbow: A trigger on a mechanical release, a let-off that allows bows to less than one-fifth their power pull, illuminated sights, stabilizers, you name it.

Bill Hilts Sr., longtime crossbow advocate reacting to Sweeney Assembly bill version and to the NYB position, writes: "The NYB position is simple. They have no objection to anyone hunting in the bow season as long as they hunt the way the NYB want them to hunt: Vertical bows only for hunting in the NYB woods, hunting their deer during their season. It is as simple as that."

Ed Belbas, bow course instructor at Niagara County Community College, responded in even more powerful language. Belbas writes:

"The NY Bowhunters association is hereby nominated for PETA's (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) Anti-Hunting Organization of the Decade.

"Through the selfish and greedy efforts of their leadership to fight crossbow hunting and youth firearms hunting they have saved PETA hundreds of thousands of dollars to help eliminate hunting and have the woods silent and open to their 2,000-3,000 members.

"Their wisdom in recommending seasons setting could probably save NYS thousands by eliminating the DEC and laying off their personnel. Now if they branch off to a bowfishing group they could eliminate the fishery personnel. After all, if they can set seasons the way they want them, why keep the DEC."

Tom Povhe, area New York Crossbow Coalition (NYCC) coordinator, writes:

"I have a problem with how Assembly bill A10583 has been written. Not only has this bill stripped the common sense language out of Senate bill (S-6447a), it has added a section that prohibits the Department of Conservation from enacting any regulations that would allow the use of firearms, muzzleloaders or crossbows before or during archery season. The bill goes even further and limits youth hunting days during archery season, to youth archery days only.

"This would limit the DEC from enacting any regulation impacting archery seasons, which would limit the agency's ability to effectively and responsibly manage the deer population which has a direct impact on the State's ecosystem."

As regular readers know, I fully endorse all other efforts the NYB organization conduct. As a bow shooter and hunter for more than 20 years before NYB was formed more than 20 years ago, I have written columns promoting all positive pursuits of anglers, hunters, trappers, shooters, and other outdoors folk, encouraging membership and participation in NYB and all other sporting groups' activities.

The anti-crossbow stance taken by key leaders, however, suggests an exclusivity denying access to too many in this state. NYB antis see the NYCC as a "splinter group" of only a few, with the implication that it is mainly a Western New York effort.

In fact, the newly formed NYCC has reached a membership of nearly 500 statewide. NYB membership has declined basically inverse to its public appeal to ban and later to control crossbow use.

To voice your opinion on the two Assembly bills concerning DEC crossbow regulations-setting forward comments to any or all of these assembly persons:

* Assemblyman Robert Sweeney: Sweeney@assembly.state.ny.us 631-957-2087.

* Speaker Sheldon Silver: Speaker@assembly.state.ny.us 21 12-1420.

* Majority Leader Ronald Canestrari: CanestR@assembly.state.ny.us 518-455-4474.

* Minority Leader Brian Kolb: KolbB@assembly.state.ny.us 315-781-2030.

* Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos: skelos@nysenate.gov 516-766-8383.

Do not expect to contact these representatives directly, but your words left with a staff member will at least let legislators know your take on this issue.

To review the NYCC and NYB positions, go to nycrossbowcoalition.com and newyorkbowhunters.com.

After all that, you could head to an enjoyable place to fish and to get away from "issues."

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Perch pleasantry

Lake Erie offers anglers one great place to fill the freezer with perch fillets.

And, with the right medium-light tackle, you can get in on some fun fish fights with jumbo yellow perch schooling in deeper open waters between Buffalo and Barcelona.

Most of the recent action takes place either side of Cattaraugus Creek and mainly west of Sturgeon Point. Thursday morning I finally got away long enough to put in a few hours in pursuit of Erie perch while most boat launchers were in search of 'eyes for entry in the ongoing Southtowns Walleye Association's annual tournament.

Even with most walleye entries coming from the Barcelona end of New York's lake waters, a goodly number of boaters headed out of Sturgeon Point that morning for both ringbacks and marble eyes.

The walleye run looked promising but for now ringbacks reign.

Upon reaching the launch ramp I ran into Ted Malota, a Hamburg regular on the perch and walleye circuit and his partner Ernie Miller, Boston Valley veteran Erie angler.

Both had done well west of the point, and Malota shared a thin-wired spreader he said was "hot on the perch." Fixed with a small, chartreuse-colored Colorado spinner blade above each hook, this device proved nice.

For years I had used these spreaders but gradually switched to the vertical crappie-type rig. Not this day.

Malota's spreader put close to a limit in my cooler; Miller and he headed home with a 100-fish limit by mid afternoon, releasing another 50 or so that didn't measure up as "slobs."

Perch schools showed well at depths of 52 to 56 feet on Thursday. Walleye schooling has been good close to shore at Buffalo and the eastward movement of 'eyes shows progress daily.

This deep-water perch fishery may continue through most of the summer, as it did last year. Boaters may have to be nomadic and tinker with terminal-tackle types, but perch sizes and numbers make this a must for an angling outing sometime soon.

When it comes to debating crossbow legalization and tricky legislative tactics, I'd rather be (perch) fishing.

odrswill@gmail.com