The Elkins Fish and Game Club was established in 1894. Below is a brief history of our organization.
By the end of the 19th century, logging, farming, industry, and tourism had begun to take its toll on some of the more accessible natural resources in New Hampshire. A small fishery in the little mill village of Elkins was no exception. Pleasant Lake was only about five miles from the train station at Potter Place, and was renowned for its trout and salmon fishing. Several small summer hotels had sprung up to accommodate the increasing number of seasonal visitors and sportsmen, and the summer camps had begun to dot the shoreline. The scythe factory and sawmill, that depended on the lake for water power, had been drawing down water levels in the lake during spawning seasons for years, and had begun to have a serious impact on the reproduction of both game and forage fish.
A group of devoted sportsmen, comprised of both locals and summer visitors, decided that something needed to be done. The product of their concern became the Elkins Fish and Game Club. The club was first formed in 1894, and the club charter was filed August 31, 1909, making it the first chartered fish and game club in the State of New Hampshire.
The club's original purpose was to acquire and hold real estate on which dams and ponds would be built to raise fish fry, for the stocking of Pleasant Lake. In the years that followed, the club raised Chinook salmon in a pond below the outlet of the lake, and brook trout in rearing pools just above one of the inlets. The club was the only source of stocking of Pleasant Lake, until the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department took over the responsibility.
When the mills closed, what is now PSNH acquired the dam at Pleasant Lake, along with the water rights, but never developed it for power production. In 1949, the Elkins Fish and Game Club bought the dam and surrounding property (known as Melendy Park), in order to control water levels in the lake as well as access to it. For nearly thirty years, club members maintained the dam and regulated the water level. Finally, the cost of maintenance and potential liability from a failure, convinced the club to give the dam and water rights to the Town of New London.
In the intervening years, the focus of the club had begun to change somewhat, along with the interests of its membership. A piece of land was acquired on the outskirts of town situated in both New London and Wilmot, and a shooting range was established. This became the principal activity of the club for many years. Eventually however, interest waned, and the shooting range became overgrown.
In the early 1990s, the club experienced a resurgence of interest, and its membership and scope expanded dramatically. The range was totally reclaimed and revamped, adding a new berm and a covered shooting platform. New procedures and training standards for range qualification were established, and events for area groups began to be sponsored. (The range is open to members and their guests only, however, subject to proper certification.) Increasing interest in archery, and the generosity of an abutting land owner, also led to the development of a 3-D archery course next to the range, spread over an area of about twenty five acres. The course is comprised of 18 target positions, in a wide variety of woodland settings. The archery course is open to the public (for a small fee) during the spring and summer months, and the club periodically hosts traditional archery shoots.
The club initiated an active wildlife habitat management program, starting with what has become one of the largest privately sponsored Wood Duck nest box programs in the State, maintaining boxes in local marshes. Each winter, volunteers install new boxes as required, and replace nest materials in the old boxes, while keeping a tally of the success rate, area by area. In addition, club volunteers worked to release apple trees on land owned by The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, planted deep winter food sources in power line right of ways and clear-cuts, and reclaimed upland bird habitat on state owned WMA land. In the past the club has also been involved in the NH Fish and Game Department's smelt restoration program, making egg frames, transferring eggs from collection sites to lakes in need of smelt, and traveling to upstate New York to assist in the capture of smelt, for release in New Hampshire waters. Club members periodically assist local conservation officers with beaver problems and "getting the word out" on current rules and regulations.
In 1993, the club became a partner in a group organized to raise money for the acquisition of a large wetland in New London, known as the "Low Plain Marsh". The group was comprised of the Ausbon Sargent Land Preservation Trust (who led and coordinated the effort), the New London Conservation Commission, the NH Fish and Game Department, and the Elkins Fish and Game Club. Together they were known as the "Low Plain Alliance", and raised a total of over $300,000 from local, state, federal and private sources, for the purchase of a 100 acre tract of land. Combined with other contiguous parcels already held by the town of New London, this made a total of nearly 200 acres of wetland available for public hunting, fishing, and recreation, in perpetuity. The club is currently active in the maintenance of the Low Plain trail, mowing the grassy overlook area, trimming low hanging branches, maintaining the kiosk, signs, and markers, monitoring the water levels at the dam, installing and maintaining wood duck boxes, and keeping the trails and the observation decks in good shape.
Also in 1993, the club started sponsorship of local area boys and girls to attend the Barry Conservation Camp. Anywhere from one to ten children are sent each year so that they can appreciate the outdoors and learn about fishing, shooting, hunter education and many other programs. In 2013 the club sent its 100th child to the camp, and continues to sponsor children each year. Over 130 children have been sponsored so far. In March of 2011, the club took on the sponsorship of the Coyote Den Cabin at Barry Conservation Camp. The club has performed maintenance on the cabin, making small repairs, painting, putting up curtains, cleaning up, and performing other tasks, such as the installation of new windows and doors in the cabin in 2013, and the purchase of new mattresses for the bunks in 2016.
The club is committed to the preservation of fish and game, supporting conservation of forests and streams in the interests of fish and game, and to support and promote the sports of archery, fishing, hunting, shooting and all related activities. It is the goal of the club to disseminate information related to these interests and to help future generations to appreciate and perpetuate these activities.
Our thanks go out to Peter Stanley for writing this history for the club.