July 8 – 14, 2022Vol. 24, No. 5

Fishing, Foraging, and Hiking

The Laskey family, including Gail Laskey of Fairfield (farthest left) and grandniece Orla Gail (held by her mom), at the French Mountain trailhead.

by Pete Kallin

It’s hard to believe this is already the fifth column of the summer. We have finally gotten some cooler weather and a bit of much-needed rain that has both cooled the lakes a bit and stimulated the growth of wild berries and mushrooms in the woods. This is the time of year when there is a wide variety of free food in the woods if you know what you’re looking for. Last week I picked wild strawberries, red raspberries, and blueberries, as well as yellow chanterelle mushrooms and cattail spikes on some of the 7 Lakes Alliance properties (and Blueberry Hill State Park) I was visiting.

In addition to a lot of gourmet cooking for free, I have been getting some of the berries into the freezer and drying some of the mushrooms for future use. The wild strawberries are tiny, but each berry has as much flavor as much larger cultivated berries. The cattail spikes (male flowers of the cattail plant) taste almost like corn on the cob if boiled for 5 minutes and then buttered and salted.

I am on the Stewardship Committee of the 7 Lakes Alliance and spent a couple of days last week hiking some of the local trails to make sure they were safe to hike. While at French Mountain, I met eight descendants of Peter Bickford who was a member of the Massachusetts Militia during the Revolutionary War, when Maine was part of Massachusetts. The Matron of the Daughters of the American Revolution clan was Gail Laskey (née Bickford) of Fairfield who was leading family members from Florida and Texas who had come together to celebrate the birth of the newest member of the family, Orla Gail , who was named for “Aunt Gail.” Gail grew up in Oakland and has been hiking French Mountain for over half a century.

I also managed to get some fishing in and watched some of the loon chicks learning to swim and dive already. It’s fascinating to watch Mother Nature in action. As I was trolling slowly one calm day, I saw a hatch of mayflies coming off the water. I was watching one of the mayflies flying the same speed as the boat about 6 feet to my left. Suddenly a large dragonfly came up from behind and caught the mayfly and then veered of with its lunch in its mouth. Later that morning I caught a large — only 29″ but over 10 pounds — fat northern pike.

Above: Wild blue­berries and cattail spikes. Left: Wild straw­berries and chanterelles.

As I headed home to clean fish, I stopped at Minnesotan Lynn Matson’s dock to see if he wanted a fresh northern filet. He did and told me I could clean the fish right on his dock, which I did. As I cleaned up his dock afterwards, I threw the carcass and skin into the lake about 15 ft off the dock in about 10-15 feet of water. When it hit the water and sank, a nearby loon that had been watching me made a beeline for it, which I though was a little strange. I’ve often had seagulls grab carcasses and have had loons or ospreys grab live fish I’ve thrown back, but I have never seen a loon go for a dead one. As I watched the loon for a while, I realized it was coming up and down with what looked like crayfish and small fish that I suspect were attracted to the fish carcass. The loon seemed to be using the carcass for bait! I don’t recall seeing that before but will watch for it in the future.

Take advantage of the rest of the summer and get out on the lakes or hike or bike in the hills. And take a kid along. You will be creating memories that will last. 7 Lakes Alliance is hosting many interesting events, which are in the Community Calendar elsewhere in this paper. More info is available at the 7LA website. Pick up a map of the local trails from the 7 Lakes Alliance at the Maine Lakes Resource Center. Individual trail maps for most of the trails can be downloaded from their website.

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