Monday, March 29, 2021

Rule changes coming to WNY trout streams


April 1st is always a big day for anglers -- opening day of trout season.


While we have a year-round fishery for trout on the Great Lakes, many fishermen and fisherwomen still look forward to plying the waters flowing from and between Western New York’s hills and mountains. While stream trout might be much smaller than their lake-run counterparts, they are warier and tastier. Being surrounded by the tranquility of farmland and forests adds to the experience.


This Thursday, and for the next 2 months, anglers will take to the Southern Tiers’ waters in great numbers. The locals will gets some casts in before or after work. The out-of-towners, the “campers”, will make their pilgrimages on the opener and on weekends.


Most of them, whether the waterway is in their backyard or in their daydreams, might not know that some dramatic changes are coming to the sport. This year, April 1 doesn’t mark just the beginning of a new season, it marks the beginning of a new era.


Last Wednesday, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced the finalization of new regulations. DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said about them, “These regulations not only extend fishing opportunities, but also balance the desires of New York State's diverse trout stream anglers with our responsibility to manage these resources to their fullest ecological and recreational potential.”  


Among the most impactful changes are revised daily creel limits. For the traditional season that runs April 1 through October 15, there is a limit of 5 trout per day with no more than 2 longer than 12 inches for waters categorized as Wild or Stocked. Wild-Quality or Stocked-Extended waters now see a limit of 3 trout per day with no more than 1 longer than 12 inches. Waters now designated as Wild-Premier will have a creel limit of 1 per day, any size.


To determine what category your favorite stream or river falls into, make it a point to read the new fishing syllabus. Do not -- I repeat, do not -- use the guide you might have picked up when you renewed your license. The new ones will be available at licensing outlets the second week of April. In the meantime, it’s critical that you go to the DEC’s website and download the April 1 version. The web address is


While looking through the document, you will notice a welcome change. Stream trout anglers will be afforded year-round fishing statewide, but, from October 16 through March 31 (the “offseason”), you will have to use artificial lures only and it’s all catch-and-release.


I strongly suggest you pay especially close attention to the many revisions impacting the Genesee River as it flows through Allegany County from the PA line to the dam in Belmont. This stretch of the Genny is incredibly popular. Not only do locals line the bridges and parking areas, but visitors come from all over the country to pursue trout in what can be compared to some of the best trout rivers in the western US.


Many Genesee anglers are unaware of the new regulations and they might not be keen on some of them.


For starters, the no-kill, no-bait zone in Shongo that had been in place since 1990 has been extended a mile or so downstream to the big bridge on County Road 29 in Willing/York’s Corners. That will impact countless fishers and families – that bridge and points south provided an incredible stretch of roadside access; it was easy for a family to park the minivan, unload a couple of chairs, and have the kids dunk worms in an attempt to catch dinner. No longer can they cast bait or keep fish right there. That same spot is also overrun with anglers during the Wellsville Trout Derby – they will be in for a rude awakening when the derby resumes in 2021. 


Outside that zone, the creel limit has been changed to 3 fish, with only one a foot or more in length. This Wednesday marks the last day of the old rules (5 fish, 2 can be 12 inches or more). It’s a far cry from the turn of the century laws that, perhaps excessively, allowed 10 trout.


Last, but not least, the Genesee River had been, for a few decades now, one of the few inland trout streams in the state in which you could pursue and keep trout all year long. Those winter dinners will be a thing of the past, as, going forward, all off-season trout must be returned to the water.              


This columnist loves the Genesee River. While I am saddened that my favorite roadside spot for the kids will no longer allow the simplicity of baitfishing, and that I will no longer have tasty table fare in December, I appreciate what the Commissioner, the DEC, and the Region 9 fisheries team are doing to protect the fishery. When I go to the Genny I am amazed by the size of the rainbows I catch and see -- there are no other trout streams I know of in New York without direct access to a lake that produce so many fish in the 18” to 24” range with some outliers, like the one I caught last year, in excess of 26”. That’s a world-class fishery. The DEC is making sure it stays that way.


So, before you hit the water in the coming days and weeks, read up on what you can, cannot do.


Changes are coming…changes that are necessary to ensure only the best for the fish and we who target them. 



From the 29 March 2021 Greater Niagara Newspapers and Batavia Daily News

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Allow physicians to administer Covid vaccines

New York has done a fair job of getting the state’s residents vaccinated. To date, 22% of New Yorkers have received a last one dose of a vaccine and 11% have completed their vaccine series.


Despite that, things could be better.


We’ve heard far too many reports of navigation, access, equity, and trust issues that have prevented people from getting vaccinated without struggle or at all.   


Consider technologically-disadvantaged seniors who’ve had difficulty navigating the online registration process. It’s so bad of experience that groups of volunteers have popped up across the state who go to seniors’ homes or hold registration clinics at town halls to help walk them through the process.


Or, what of those souls with preexisting conditions that are deadly when combined with Covid? Many of them have had to obsess about standing in line at a public clinic with dozens of complete strangers who could get them sick, a concern also shared by seniors.


Then, there are the rural residents. The local press has covered extensively the low vaccination rate in Allegany County and similar numbers in the GLOW counties. So, the state ramped up efforts to bring more shots to those people and, by not mandating residency, permitted those clinics to be overrun by shot-seekers from cities and suburbs, negating the very purpose of those clinics.


That takeover also speaks to the desperation had by many. Consider how many of your family and friends have traveled hours across the state to get a shot at the state fairgrounds or wherever else they might be available -- some Western New Yorkers have traveled as far as Potsdam.


Then, there’s the inability to get minorities vaccinated at an acceptable rate. Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and Native Americans have all received shots at a clip far below that of Whites. Chalk that up to specific communities being underserved and also the hesitancy some populations are said to have in the shot and any government-run process. 


All of the above are significant obstacles.


How do we overcome them?


Two words: Access and trust.


New Yorkers of all ages, races, and socioeconomic backgrounds deserve access to a vaccine and to have trust in it and the system. That can be furthered by more access and trust: New York government has to grant vaccine access to primary care and family physicians and trust them to get the job done.


Maybe it’s a sense of control in time of crisis, perhaps it’s a hunger for glory in the same, the state has been stingy when it comes who gets to the vaccine inventory. New York’s state-run and county-run clinics, hospitals, and select pharmacies have gotten almost all of the shots. As it stands, hardly any vaccines have made it to doctors’ offices.


In this case, the success of vaccination deployment could improve dramatically if government realized it’s not the solution…it’s just part of it. Many hands make light work, especially when they are experienced hands. We’d all be better served if primary care was allowed to do its thing.


I reached out to my friend Dr. Jason Matuszak, a primary care and sports medicine physician who is also President of the 7,000-member New York State Academy of Family Physicians (NYSAFP) to verify that I wasn’t thinking wrongly about this.


Dr. Matuszak affirmed that physicians are committed to partnering with the State and administering vaccines. The NYSAFP has been in contact with the Governor’s office and the Department of Health to offer their services as a supplement to the state’s and counties’ efforts.


He assured me that receiving, storing, and administering vaccines is old hat to physicians. In a normal year, they are the largest reporters of vaccinations given to either the New York State or New York City vaccine registries. Most primary care offices already run flu vaccine clinics, efficiently administering thousands of doses in short order. They also have the advantage of being able to administer vaccines during every routine office visit.


By being that traditional outlet for vaccines, they can help calm fears and overcome struggles had by their patients.


Take seniors, for example. Dr. Matuszak referenced a Kaiser Foundation study that indicated 96% of Medicare beneficiaries (seniors) say they have a usual and preferred source of care (their “own” doctor). It is so much safer and convenient and far less stressful for a senior just to call up Jason, say they’d like a shot, and visit his office.


Or, what of people of color, whom Governor Cuomo rightfully notes die from Covid at higher rates than their white counterparts? The NYSAFP believes distribution of vaccines through community based primary care practices is the best way to equalize access. Those medical practices have established relationships and trust with their patients and, in most cases, those physicians and other providers live in and look like their communities (this columnist would say that the same can’t be said for government-run clinics that pop-up in those places, which is detrimental to public health goals).


As for rural residents, family physicians are their health network. They don’t live near hospitals or sprawling multi-faceted clinics. They don’t have large community centers where the state could one day appear. What they do have is their country doctor. In many locales – like the Southern Tier or the Adirondacks -- this is the only way to administer vaccines. It doesn’t make sense to drive hours for the shot when it can be given in their community.   


I encourage state officials to take up the NYSAFP on their offer to be a trusted partner in this process. They can remove barriers, improve access, add efficiencies, and bring trust to the termination of this pandemic. They’ve been wanted, they’ve been needed by their patients. And, with President Biden’s recent announcement that there will be sufficient vaccine supply for all adult Americans to have access by the end of May, the state, too, will want and need their services. Empower that network of care…now.


From the 15 March 2021 Greater Niagara Newspapers and Batavia Daily News


Monday, March 8, 2021

Texas storm will put the freeze on the economy


Last month, Winter Storm Uri really put a beating on Texas, crippling its electrical grid and damaging homes and businesses.


Almost a month after the storm first unleashed its deep freeze, Texans are still reeling from the effects.


And so are all Americans.


Well, producers are now.


Everyone else will later.


Despite being 1,200 miles from Houston, my coworkers and I can speak to that. We are on week two of what will be a prolonged crisis at Confer Plastics. We can’t get enough plastics material to make our products.  


Texas’s businesses, like homeowners, were given little to no notice about the widespread shutdown of the grid and the institution of rolling blackouts. Those most impacted were the petrochemical companies. Among them were those that make polyethylene and polypropylene, the most commonly used plastic materials. Those resins appear in everything from packaging of food and cleaning supplies to medical equipment to automotive parts to durable consumer goods. At the peak of the event, 80% of North America’s PE and PP capacity was shut down. At press time, only 20% of that has come back.


In a region where hurricane impacts are common, material producers can plan for that. You know a hurricane is coming. You shut down in advance. The sudden and prolonged electrical outage caught everyone off guard and now they are suffering the consequences. Had ERCOT (the electrical liability commission serving Texas) given advance notice of their strategies, resin plants could have disabled their facilities accordingly. Instead, that flick of the switch happened while everyone was still in full operation.


The damage has been significant. Water and steam, used to crack the carbon molecules, froze inside equipment. The raw materials that were going from gas to solid or had already become so stopped moving. Machines were damaged and pipes were gummed up. It’s so bad that many of the pipes throughout those vast industrial complexes have to be cleaned out manually; no easy undertaking as it seems like there are miles of pipes there. The majority of resin plants won’t be back online until the first week of April.


Supplies that were already stressed because of the demands of the staycation and Covid economies have sunk to unprecedented levels. What will be at least six weeks of lost or crippled production of materials is a significant hit for all goods and packaging manufacturers throughout the country that use those plastics.


The majority of available plastics will be diverted to the essentials – medical supplies and food packaging - while everyone else battles in a free-for-all. I know of a fellow who consults 6 general packaging companies, 5 have gone down. Automotive executives worry of critical supply issues coming to the fore this month.


And, here in North Tonawanda, I’ve already temporarily laid off 40 people and more may follow. Things are so dire that we actually declared force majeure (negating contractual/delivery requirements due to an act of God), something never done before in our 48 years of business, even with 1970s oil embargoes, the Blizzard of ’77, the Great Recession, and Covid.


If my fellow manufacturers and I are reeling from it now, that means retailers and consumers will be in the coming weeks and months. Store shelves could become empty of cleaning supplies with nothing to hold them. The inventory of new cars could scale back dramatically, worsening the production crisis they face now with microchip supplies. Consumer goods, whether its tools, toys, and even the swimming pool products my team makes, will be vacant from store shelves and the warehouse shelves of e-commerce giants. It will be eerily reminiscent of the early days of the Covid crisis when shelves were bare of food, disinfectants, and toilet paper.


On top of that, prices will rise dramatically in the coming months because of the Texas shutdown. Recently, this column addressed the growing threat of inflation. This adds to it. Right now, because of this supply and demand war, our material costs more than three times what it did a year ago. Those prices are expected to stick for the next few months.


What does that mean? Let’s take a heavy plastic part like a kayak for example. That same kayak costs $30 more to make, just in plastics alone, than it did last year. That gets passed on to retailers, who then pass it on to consumers, after their mark-up. All said, your average consumer might be shelling out an extra $40 to just cover the plastics cost of that one item. Now, think of everything you buy made of or stored in plastic.


This shows you how deeply-connected we all are. The failure of ERCOT to properly prepare for and manage an extreme weather event, which then became an extreme social and economic event, was more than a pebble setting off ripples in a puddle (Texas)…it was something akin to a boulder falling into a small pond (the United States). The impact is significant and it is one that will roil the national economy’s waters for months.  


From the 08 March 2021 Greater Niagara Newspapers and Batavia Daily News