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Tagged catfish will be added to this spring's stockings at Family and Community Fishing Ponds across Arkansas.

Tagged catfish will be added to this spring’s stockings at Family and Community Fishing Ponds across Arkansas.

Tagged catfish stocked across the state
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Family and Community Fishing Program is continuing their efforts to get families involved in fishing with a tagged catfish campaign. Thousands of channel catfish from the AGFC’s warm-water hatchery facilities are currently being stocked at several locations around the state.
Each of Arkansas’s Family and Community Fishing Program catfish stocking locations have 10 catfish tagged with special Family and Community tags. Anyone that catches a tagged fish will receive prizes. Winners also will be entered into a grand prize drawing for a canoe, two life jackets and paddles. Second prize will be a catfish rod and reel, tackle box loaded with catfishing gear and an assortment of fishing tools. Third prize will be a tackle box with fishing gear and fishing tools.
Family and Community Fisheries Program Coordinator Ben Batten said a similar effort was first organized during spring break of 2012 and was a huge success. “This is the third year for this promotion, and it keeps getting bigger and better every year. The chance at a canoe certainly takes it up a notch,” he noted.
A new canoe will significantly enhance angling opportunities at many of the small to medium-sized lakes, which are rather prevalent near several cities.
Anyone catching a tagged fish from Family and Community locations should send the tags to the AGFC Family and Community Fishing Program, 2 Natural Resources Dr., Little Rock, AR 72205. Include your name, address, phone number, location and date of catch. Only one entry per person. Tag returns must be postmarked by July 3, 2014. Incomplete or illegible information will not be accepted. For more information on the Family and Community Fishing Program, go to http://www.agfc.com/familyfishing.
Urban Deer Hunt Applications available April 1-May 1, 2014. Click here for more information.

Urban Deer Hunt Applications available April 1-May 1, 2014. Click here for more information.

The first step in a unique but demanding form of Arkansas hunting – urban deer hunts – opens April 1. Potential hunters can register online at http://www.agfc.com/licenses/pages/permitsspecialurban.aspx.

Hunts will be held Sept. 6 through Jan. 31, in eight communities – Fairfield Bay, Bull Shoals, Russellville, Fort Smith-Barling, Horseshoe Bend, Lakeview, Heber Springs and Cherokee Village. Hunting is with archery equipment only – longbows, recurve bows or compound bows. Crossbows are not allowed.

The hunts are cooperative events with the communities, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and the Arkansas Bowhunters Association. Registration closes on May 1.

Hunters also must meet a list of requirements:

  • Attend an urban hunt orientation and pay the $50 annual confirmation fee, which includes membership in the ABA for liability insurance purposes. A portion of the registration fee also goes to support Arkansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry.
  • Pass the International Bowhunter Education Course. A list of scheduled IBEC classes and orientations can be found at http://www.agfc.com.
  • Pass a shooting proficiency test.
  • Possess a valid Arkansas (resident or nonresident) big game license. Hunters must be at least 16 years of age.
  • Possess a valid Urban Bowhunting Permit issued by AGFC. The permit will be valid for all the urban deer hunts for the year.

The urban hunts themselves have more requirements, such as:

  • Hunters must hunt on public land or have written permission from landowners.
  • Hunters must shoot from stands that are at least 10 feet above the ground.
  • No walking, stalking or use of ground blinds is allowed.
  • Hunting must be at least 50 yards from designated trails or parks.
  • Without written permission, hunting must be at least 50 yards from any occupied dwelling.
  • The first deer taken must be a doe, and must be donated to Arkansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry. All other deer harvested may be either-sex.

There are some unique perks to participating in one of the seven urban deer hunts:

  • There is no bag limit or antler restriction.
  • Deer harvested in urban deer hunts are considered bonus deer and do not count toward the hunter’s seasonal bag limit.

For a complete list of urban deer hunt rules and scheduled IBEC classes and orientations, visit http://www.agfc.com.

A little change in location can save a fortune in fuel costs for anglers and boaters.

A little change in location can save a fortune in fuel costs for anglers and boaters.

As gasoline costs rise, many people ditch their plans for fun in the sun and ride out the summer at home. A few adjustments in habits and maintenance measures can keep the cost of your boating fuel low. Here are a few tips to stay on the water all summer without flatting your wallet:

Go local: Your favorite lake or river might be an hour or two away, but there are fishing opportunities within a 30-minute drive of practically any place in the state. A 30-minute drive becomes a 1 hour round trip, which can cut your gas costs in half.

Small can be sweet: Smaller lakes and rivers are often overlooked by anglers who fish out of bigger boats, but they are gold mines for quantity and quality of fish. Some of Arkansas best big bass opportunities can be found on smaller lakes, such as Lake Atkins and Lake Monticello. The state record bass came from 330-acre Mallard Lake in northeast Arkansas. Plus, they take much less gas to travel from one point to the next once you’re on the water.

Lighten the load: It’s one of easiest things to do to save on gas, and it applies to just about every boat on the water – ski boat, cruiser, sailboat or fishing rig.
Before you leave home, take a good look at what you really need and clear out all that junk under the floorboards, in lockers or in less-used storage areas. And, if the boat is already in in the slip, remember that water weighs over eight pounds per gallon. Carrying more than necessary in freshwater and waste tanks is a waste of money.

Get a tune-up: An annual engine tune-up, whether you do it yourself or ask a marine professional, is a must for any powerboat owner. It’s also likely to save you a fortune in gas money over the course of the boat’s life.

Check the prop: Take your motor’s prop to a marina, dealer or local prop shop to reshape or file away any dings. A well-tuned propeller makes a boat more fuel efficient.

Check trailer tire pressure: Underinflated tires wear quicker and increase the amount of drag on the tow vehicle. Too much tire pressure causes the trailer to bounce, which can cause damage to the boat and tow vehicle’s drive train. Check tire pressure for proper inflation

Cover it up: While on the road, use a tight-fitting cover to reduce wind drag. The cover also helps keep the boat clean and protects it from the weather.

Slow down: You might be in a hurry to get to the lake, but a 5-mile per hour decrease in towing speed will result in a noticeable drop in fuel consumption.

Pay less for gas: Gasoline is going to be cheaper in town than right on the highway exit; boat dock fuel is extremely expensive compared to either. Fill up on the road en route to the lake or river, and you’ll save money.

gunlocks

The AGFC is teaming up with the National Shooting Sports Foundation this weekend to help keep curious kids safe. Each AGFC nature center around the state will be distributing free gun safety cables to visitors Saturday, March 22 and Sunday, March 23.
Visit http://www.agfc.com/Pages/eventsAll.aspx to learn more about events coming to each nature center this month.

The annual Arkansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry bass tournament will be held March 29 at Lake Hamilton in Hot Springs. Click here for details.

The annual Arkansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry bass tournament will be held March 29 at Lake Hamilton in Hot Springs. Click here for details.

The annual Arkansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry bass fishing tournament will be held March 29 at Lake Hamilton near Hot Springs. All proceeds from the tournament go to the organization toward its mission of feeding less fortunate Arkansans while promoting needed harvest of deer in areas where the herd is out of balance.

Prizes include $2,000 for first place, $1,000 for second place, $500 for third place and $250 in merchandise from Zimmerman’s Sport Center for fourth place. The Entry fee is $100 per boat.

For more information, contact Steve Wilson at 501-304-6305 or Ronnie Ritter at 501-282-0006. Tournament sponsors include No-Way Pulpwood, Greeson’s, Zimmerman’s Sports Center, Legacy Printers and Supplies, and Academy Sports and Outdoors.

Entry forms are available at online at www.arkansashunters.org.

AGFC wildlife officers discovered an illegal cockfighting ring near Kelso March 2.

AGFC wildlife officers discovered an illegal cockfighting ring near Kelso March 2.

Wildlife officers with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission arrested 29 people on March 2 after discovering a cockfighting ring in Desha County. Officers were investigating several vehicles parked near a canal on Hilburn Road just off Arkansas Highway 138 near Kelso.

AGFC Corporal Chuck Willis and Wildlife Officer First Class Jonathan Byrd were on routine patrol when they found a large group of people surrounding what they later determined to be a cockfighting ring. After contacting the group, several people fled the area on foot. The fleeing individuals eventually returned to the scene.

There were 29 adult men and 2 juveniles at the scene. The adults were charged with cruelty to animals, a Class A misdemeanor. The juveniles in the case were not charged.

A court date was set for April 1 at 9 a.m. in Dumas District Court. If convicted, the defendants could face up to a year in jail and a fine up to $1,000. There were 10 individuals who were charged with Fleeing a Wildlife Officer with a total bond of $2,200.

Officers found 20 live chickens and 10 dead chickens at the scene. The wildlife officers also found farm equipment believed to be stolen. The equipment had an estimated value of $5,000.

The Desha County Sheriff’s Office and the Arkansas State Police assisted with the arrests. The case has been turned over to the Desha County Sheriff’s Office.

AGFC begins potential land purchase process

LITTLE ROCK – During the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s February meeting, Commissioners approved the first step in the potential development of an education and recreation area near Jasper. Commissioners approved a budget increase of $10,000 for the real estate appraisal and other real estate costs involving the 42-acre site.
The AGFC will apply for a Land and Water Conservation Fund grant from the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism to help pay for the potential purchase of the land. The land was appraised for $277,000 in September 2007. The land is located on Arkansas Highway 7 north of Jasper.

The potential new facility would feature a diverse ecosystem of the area’s unique geography. Plans would include a paved trail, pavilion, fishing piers, wildlife observation blinds, canoe launch areas and other amenities.

During the Commission’s committee meeting reports, the Commission discussed the results of the 2013 AGFC employee morale survey performed by Responsive Management of Harrisonburg, Va. The survey included specific questions from the 2012 survey so that a direct assessment of trends in employee attitudes could be made. More than 400 employees provided feedback for the project.

Among the significant findings in the survey were:

  • 85% of employees either strongly agree or moderately agree that the overall direction of the agency is benefitting fish and wildlife resources in the state. This rating was 56% in 2012.
  • The percentage of overall satisfaction (very satisfied and somewhat satisfied responses combined) for “morale within the agency” climbed from 15% to 68%.
  • Since 2012, employees are less likely to think that personal and political interests influence the direction of the agency, and are more likely to think that scientific data and field information influence the direction of the agency.
  • The percentage of respondents who rated the agency’s job performance as “excellent” went from 17% in 2012 to 33% in 2013.

AGFC Director Mike Knoedl said that the results were very good, but the agency still has unfinished business. “I have no doubt that 2014 will be a particularly busy year, and we still have an enormous amount of work to do. The Commission hired me to improve the morale of this agency and that is what I am duty bound to do. I want you to know that I never forget what a great honor it is to work for you and to be given this responsibility and I sincerely appreciate the diligent work each of you do every day,” Knoedl said.

Click here for Responsive Management’s news article on the survey: http://www.responsivemanagement.com/.

In other Commission business:

  • Myron Means, AGFC bear program coordinator, gave the Commission an overview of the 2013 bear harvest. During the 2013 bear hunting season, 184 males and 104 females were harvested. Archery hunters harvested 134 of that total, and 192 bears were taken on private land. Madison, Pope and Johnson counties lead the state in number of bears harvested. Means also pointed out that nuisance bear calls answered by the AGFC totaled 64 in 2013. The number of calls spiked at 314 in 2007.
  • Discussed a presentation from AGFC Elk Program Coordinator Wes Wright on the 2013 elk harvest. Wright told the commission that 18 elk were harvested on public land and 22 elk were harvested on private land. The harvest was down from a year ago when a record 44 elk were harvested during the 2012 hunting seasons.
  • The Commission also approved purchase of 98 vehicles at a cost of $2.4 million to replace aging vehicles in the fleet.
  • Approved the second $300,000 payment, of a total $800,000 grant, to The Nature Conservancy for the Cache River Restoration Project. The project is aimed at restoring a portion of the lower Cache in Monroe County to its natural channel.
  • Approved a budget increase of $300,000 to renovate the Central Office in Little Rock.
  • Approved a funding agreement for a new shooting sports facility with the City of Warren. The AGFC agrees to provide just over $312,000 for the construction of the facility.
  • Approved a budget increase of $433,500 from wildlife restoration federal grant funds and a budget transfer of $144,500 from state funds to purchase equipment for Frog Bayou and Steve N. Wilson Raft Creek Bottoms WMAs, complete green-tree reservoir assessments on various wildlife management areas and construct a work center on Gene Rush WMA.
  • Honored three wildlife officers for their completion of continuing education at the Criminal Justice Institute. The three officers were James Montgomery, Frank Sigman and William Start.
  • Honored Kirsten Bartlow, of the AGFC Communications Division, for being named the 2013 Arkansas Trails Council Professional of the Year. Bartlow works with various local governments and agencies on construction of wildlife viewing and water trails.
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