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Outdoor Journal: Remembering a great conservationist in Brewer

Outdoor Journal: Remembering a great conservationist in Brewer

Ed Noonan's weekly outdoors column
Outdoor Journal: Remembering a great conservationist in Brewer
A New York State DEC honor guard stands in front of a tribute to conservationist Wayne Brewer, who recently passed away.
Photographer: DEC Photo

New York State lost one of its great conservationists recently with the death of Wayne Brewer, 69, a former DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer (ECO), nature enthusiast and outdoor writer from Seneca County. 

In 1975, Brewer attended the first-ever Basic Training School for ECOs, where he won the Director’s Award for the highest grade-point average. Just two years later, Brewer was awarded the prestigious Conservation Officer of the Year award. 

Brewer went on to help create DEC’s criminal investigation unit, the Bureau of Environmental Conservation Investigations (BECI), and was instrumental in the development of many of the investigative procedures still in use today. In addition, Brewer headed up “Operation Berkshire,” a two-year long undercover operation that targeted the illegal trafficking of black bear gall bladders from the northeastern United States to Asia that resulted in more than 1,000 charges. Operation Berkshire helped establish the standard for undercover surveillance and day-to-day operations of fish and wildlife enforcement in New York.  

At just 31, Brewer became the youngest person promoted to Captain in DEC’s history. As an ECO, he served in the Finger Lakes, New York City, Long Island and Albany. He was promoted to Director of the Division of Law Enforcement in 1997.

Although Brewer retired from DEC in 1999, he continued his work with the environment and wildlife through his 20-year career as an outdoor writer. He will be greatly missed, but we will honor his legacy by continuing the conservation and preservation efforts he fought for his entire life.

The thoughts of the entire DEC family are with the Brewer family at this difficult time.


On the day before the Great Sacandaga Fisheries Federations Ice Fishing contest, ECOs Jason Hilliard and Robert Higgins conducted a night patrol of the Great 
Sacandaga Lake Fisheries derby and Walleye Challenge, and located tip-ups that were left out overnight unoccupied, which is a violation of the Environmental Conservation Law. They also found a 32-inch northern pike being kept alive and stored in the ice next to an unoccupied fishing shanty. 

The officers assumed the fish might be entered in the contests, so ECOs Hillard and Keith Kelly returned to the shanty the next morning to interview the angler. When asked how he was doing, he “proudly” told them about catching a big northern pike that morning. After the ECOs told them about seeing the pike last night, he admitted to entering the fish which violated the contest rules. For his cheating/breaking the law, he was ticketed for leaving fishing lines unattended, and the officers shared the ticket with the contest board, which got him disqualified from the tournament. 

ECOs Shane Manns, Steve Shaw, Rob Higgins, Brian Toth, Paul Pasciak and Mark Cline also patrolled the events along with Fulton County Sheriff’s Patrols focused on public safety and compliance with fishing regulations for the thousands of people in attendance. They issued tickets for unattended tip-ups, unregistered motor vehicles and riding ATVs with no helmets. They also assisted with an ATV and a snowmobile that went through the ice during the weekend.


The Great Sacandaga Lake Fisheries Federation Ice Fishing Contest attracted 375 adults and 18 children. There were four winners in the perch, pike and trout based on the length inches of the fish. The cash payout for each of the four winners were: $300, $200, $150 and $100. 

Pike winners were Cam Oathout (Fort Johnson), 40 7/8; Gene Greco (Edinburg), 38 1/2; Cam Oathout (Fort Johnson), 36 3/8 and Chris Caputo (Gloversville), 35 5/8. Winners in the Perch category were Dom Demaria (Amsterdam), 14 3/8; Paul Spranger (Canajoharie), 14 1/4; Aiden Mussen (Northville), 14 1/4; and, Hayden Benton (Gloversville), 14. Winners in the trout category were Josh Rigo (Broadalbin), 20 1/8; Jerrod Vila (Amsterdam), 17 7/8; Mike Fancher (Gloversville), 15 3/4. Fancher also took fourth place in this division with a 14 1/2 trout.  

Note: On the same day and at the Great Sacandaga Lake, the Walleye Challenge fishing contest was being held. Cash prizes totaling $18,300 were awarded hourly. I have not yet received the result of this contest. When I receive the results, I will let you know.


A funny thing happened to me at the Tuesday evening nickel poker game at the Beverly Beach (Florida) Surf Side Estates club house last week. As a newcomer, I was introducing myself to the seven other players at the table when Ray Sauter laughed and said “the Ed Noonan from Saratoga! I live in Saratoga, also, and have been reading your column for 30 years.” Ray is a hunter and fisherman and invited me to join him on an Atlantic Ocean charter fishing trip and showed me several photos of the fish he caught on the last trip. 

My response: I’m in.

Now, closer to home, Rotterdam angler Jeff Budka bought a bucket of live bait and headed for Collins Lake. This little 59-acre lake has bass, bull heads, panfish and, an occasional pike. And on this particular day Jeff hooked up and landed a big one. The pike hooked into a 39 incher. Nice catch, Jeff.

One half-hour before sunup in a few days, I will be settling in a ground blind in the Osceola turkey woods in Florida with my guide Bill Henry. I have taken 10 Osceola in the 10 years I have hunted with Bill. I am very confident that No. 11 will be heading back to New York with me.  Last year, our hunt was over less than an hour after sunup.

Reach Gazette outdoors columnist Ed Noonan at [email protected].

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