Outdoors: Clarification reached on state boat launches

Jerrod Vila's outdoors column
Boaters are seen at the Saratoga Lake State Boat Launch in this 2016 file photo.
Boaters are seen at the Saratoga Lake State Boat Launch in this 2016 file photo.

Categories: Sports

There has been an absolute endless discussion over the fact of whether or not state boat launches are open or closed.

Finally, some type of clarification has come of this and, in fact, upon review, it will indeed be allowed to operate. Charter boats and guiding are still considered non-essential though and may not operate with clients.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont announced late last week that marinas, boatyards and marine manufacturers are open for personal use, as long as strict social distancing and sanitation protocols are followed:
New York State recognizes the importance of recreation and continues to encourage the public to get outside locally and responsibly to prevent the spread of COVID-19. To support the alignment of policies in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut and the region’s ongoing response to COVID-19, on April 18, ESD updated guidance on marinas and the use of boats that removed the temporary suspension on the use of boat launches for recreation.

Access to DEC and state parks boat launches will be allowed if strict adherence to the CDC/NYSDOH guidelines for preventing the spread of colds, flu, and COVID-19 is followed:

  • Try to keep at least six feet of distance between you and others.
  • Avoid close contact, such as shaking hands.
  • Wash hands often or use a hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid surfaces that are touched often, such as rails, posts, and tie off cleats.
  • Wear masks in public when appropriate social distancing cannot be maintained.


After careful consideration, The Reid Hill Fish and Game Club has ultimately decided to postpone any scheduled events until further notice, including the extremely popular children’s fishing derby held in mid-May.

Tentatively, the next large event will more than likely be the club barbecue, which typically occurs in early September. As a side note, anyone who purchased raffle tickets through any representative of the club should hold on to them as they are still valid and the raffle will be held. If you happen to lose them, no worries. There is record of whom has what numbers so everyone is in the clear. Stay safe out there everyone.


It is that time of year again, springtime foraging for wild edibles is just starting to begin. Morning temperatures starting off in the 20s are not helping the foraging situation much, but in time, it will come, it always does.

Ramps, (wild leeks or spring onions) as they are sometimes called, are starting to pop up. I harvested a good handful for a nice meal the other day while fishing along the Battenkill. Albeit they are not full size yet, they sure were delicious.

Ramps are probably my favorite springtime wild-foraged item. Ramps can be utilized in a variety of culinary ways, from a simple saute or straight up grilled with a mild char, to incorporating them into a vinaigrette or even a pesto. I would compare them to a garlicky onion if that makes sense.

The entire plant can be consumed, and both the white bulbous part and green leaves each have a slightly different flavor aspect. I will get more in depth with actual recipes in a future column once they are more prevalent and begin to mature locally.

Walking in to check on a few fiddlehead locations led only to disappointment, as they have not even begun to sprout up yet. Usually, by this point, most are almost past prime.

This just goes to show how cold of a spring it has been and how conditions can vary considerably from year to year. However, no worries. They will be up at some point, perhaps in a week to week and a half, they will begin to pop. 

Morels, on the other hand, are the most elusive of the trio. They begin to appear as ground temperatures get into the lower 50s. A couple weeks back, late afternoon ground temperatures were approaching 48 to 49 degrees. But with the cold days and snow, more often than everyone would like to see in the last week, ground temperatures have dropped back down into the lower to mid-40s for highs. So it will still be a couple weeks yet for Morels. 

Another springtime mushroom I harvest every so often is the plentiful pheasant back or dryad’s saddle (cerioporus squamosus). It is a bracket fungus that grows on wood.

If you have ever turkey hunted or ventured into the springtime woods, you have more than likely seen this mushroom. If found super young, they are pretty good, having a fairly strong and rich earthy flavor that some may find a little much, but I find them enjoyable with something hearty and of substance, like red meat to compliment and hold up to the strong mushroom flavor.

Finding these particular mushrooms very young and tender is crucial to them being at all palatable. Once older, they become extremely tough and not all that appetizing. In this state, they can be used to make a stock that can be incorporated into other dishes such as risotto to impart a fantastic deep mushroomy flavor.

Please, please, please be absolutely, 100%, beyond the shadow of a doubt sure of what you have prior to consuming any wild mushrooms.


The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation announced that its first-ever, online Hunter Education Course is drawing big numbers from across New York State.

Since going live on April 15, more than 23,000 people registered to take the online course and more than 6,000 have completed it.

“Thirty-nine percent of the people who completed the course are women, 35% are between the ages of 11-20, and seven are over 70 years old,” said the DEC in a press release.

Just about 3/4 of the takers are either youth or women, which I feel is a solid step in the future of continuing the hunting tradition.

DEC is offering the online course, with the same coursework provided in the traditional classroom, due to the ongoing response to COVID-19 and designed to give first-time hunters an opportunity to get certified before the spring turkey season, which begins May 1 and today for youth season. The course, which is only open to state residents will run through June 30. Those who take it must be at least 11 years old. However, you have to be 12 to get a hunting license in New York.

DEC has partnered with Kalkomey Enterprises to offer the online course. See the DEC website to register and for more information. The course costs $19.99.

There have been numerous questions arising about a bowhunting course and a trapping course going fully online, but at this time, there are no similar, completely online safety courses being offered by the DEC.

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