Sportsman’s Corner: The other spring pest

Close up shot of poison ivy leaves, with bright new leaves showing red edges

Close up shot of poison ivy leaves, with bright new leaves showing red edges FILE PHOTO

Published: 06-06-2024 1:28 PM

Modified: 06-11-2024 3:45 PM

By Mike Roche

Last week, this space whined about some of the things that make life in May unpleasant. One of the most miserable was not mentioned and, needless to say, reared its ugly head.

Everyone reading this has a poison ivy (or poison oak) story and a quick trip into the area just outside of my mowed lawn ended up with my wrists and arms making contact with some poison ivy. It was my own fault. What had started out to be a quick digging operation found a large stone and ended up being a longer and more difficult task than anticipated. A smart man would have worn his tall muck boots, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. The boots were on, but short pants and a T-shirt were no protection at all. There had also been ample time to kill the poison ivy early in the year, but that did not happen either. Not mowing the back of the lawn did not impact the poison ivy and deer, turkeys and other birds and wildlife are enjoying that space.

Poison ivy usually has three green leaves on each stem. It can grow close to the ground or as vines and this writer finds that it tends to favor white pines. You sometimes note dark spots on the leaves. Those are sap that has been exposed to air. Hanging clusters of flowers are greenish-white to cream-colored and it is found in all 50 states. And yes, the rainy conditions that have been the pattern over the past several months have been beneficial to poison ivy growth. Look out for the telltale three-leaf cluster!

Poison ivy rash is caused by an allergic reaction to an oily resin called urushiol (u-ROO-she-ol). This oil is in the leaves, stems and roots of poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac. Any activity near poison ivy can result in skin rash and some people seem to be more sensitive. We found the Calamine – although you look hideous with it smeared on your skin – did seem to be the most effective at promoting healing. The itching was a constant bother and the limitations on outdoor activities a huge inconvenience. Many sources stated that you can treat mild cases of poison ivy rash at home with soothing lotions and cool baths, but you may need prescription medication for a rash that's severe or widespread – especially if it's on your face or genitals. We all know the stories about the outdoors people who contacted poison ivy while relieving themselves in the woods. Ouch!

This has also been the time of the annual “yellow wind,” which is known to those of us who live near stands of tall white pine trees. The trees produce copious amounts of yellow pollen and when a breeze blows, it looks like yellow clouds. Everything outdoors gets covered by the pollen, but fortunately, it will soon pass. Then we can wash our cars and hose everything else off.

Trout fishing remains very good and fly fishermen are having a great time with a variety of wet and dry fly patterns. Stocked ponds are loaded with hungry trout as well. Keith Rich sent me some pictures of big stripers he has been catching in Maine, and the coast from Rhode Island to Maine has been enjoying a strong striper run. There have also been reports of good fishing for fluke and blackfish (tautog) and bottom fishing for cod and haddock has been good on the charter boats. Lots of choices including great action locally for both largemouth and smallmouth bass.

Quabbin boat anglers continue to enjoy good fishing for lake trout and landlocked salmon with the water temps staying down and high-water levels making most places quite accessible. Largemouth bass and smallmouth bass anglers are taking some big fish. The big ones are always females, and they are just finishing up spawning in the shallows. Topwater action is coming and there are few thrills that match the explosive splash as a bass grabs a surface lure, particularly on a moonlit night.

This has also been a banner year for flowering shrubs, ornamental fruit trees and spring flowers. It also seems that Lady Slippers are doing well. I think everyone knows that you should leave this rare and beautiful flower alone and not pick it. They are a joy to encounter in the spring woods.

This writer is hoping to get away to Maine for some bass fishing this month and is frantically going through my tackle. Life was a lot simpler when it was a Rapala during the day and a black Jitterbug at night. Not as expensive either! Will load more tackle than I will ever use into the boat (it has lots of storage) and try to enjoy myself.

Mike Roche is a retired teacher who has been involved in conservation and wildlife issues his entire life. He has written the Sportsman’s Corner since 1984 and has served as advisor to the Mahar Fish’N Game Club, counselor and director of the Massachusetts Conservation Camp, former Connecticut Valley District representative on the Massachusetts Fisheries and Wildlife Board, has been a Massachusetts Hunter Education Instructor and is a licensed New York hunting guide. He can be reached at