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During its regular monthly meeting last week, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission agreed to a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposal to transfer 2,355 acres of Clay County land in the St. Francis River Basin to the agency. Commissioners authorized AGFC Director Mike Knoedl to sign the Quitclaim Deed for transfer to the agency.

In the future, the Corps will transfer an additional 10,293 acres in Craighead, Greene and Poinsett counties to the AGFC. The Corps originally acquired the land along the St. Francis River as part of the St. Francis River Basin flood control feature of the Mississippi River and its tributaries. For more than 25 years, the AGFC has been managing the Corps-owned land as part of the St. Francis Sunken Lands WMA and the Dave Donaldson Black River WMA.

In other business, the Commission:

  •  Accepted a proclamation by Gov. Mike Beebe to start free fishing weekend at noon, June 6, and end at midnight, June 8. Licenses will not be required for fishing in Arkansas during that period.
  • Approved the grant of game law conviction fines, for Fiscal Year 2013, to the county where it was collected. A total of just over $632,000 was collected.
  • Honored Marilyn Doran as the Project WILD Facilitator of the Year for Arkansas.
  • Approved a budget increase of $147,000 to develop the AGFC’s Delta Heritage Trail in Desha County.
  • Approved reduced daily creel limits on Lake Chicot and Cane Creek Lake during their drawdown period.
  • Approved renaming a Kings River access after long-time local river guide J.D. Fletcher. The access will now be called the J.D. Fletcher Kings River Highway 62 Access. The access is in Carroll County.
  • Denied an application from the Spring Valley Anglers Rod and Gun Club requesting a permit to privately stock trout in a six-mile segment of Spavinaw Creek in Benton County.
  • Approved a $488,500 budget transfer to acquire a 120-acre tract from Robert L. Hixson Jr. The land will become part of Bayou Meto Wildlife Management Area. Approved a budget transfer of $62,000 to be used to upgrade the video surveillance system of the AGFC central office in Little Rock.

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Click here for our weekly waterfowl reports.

Click here for our weekly waterfowl reports.

AGFC.com has everything you need to anticipate the next wave of ducks heading for The Natural State. Everything from aerial survey data to predictions of waterfowl movements throughout the country is right at your fingertips. We even give habitat conditions for all AGFC wildlife management areas popular with duck hunters, to give you an idea of the water levels and food avaialble for ducks before you drive out there. Just click http://www.agfc.com/hunting/Pages/HuntingWaterfowlReport.aspx to get started.

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Winter trout stockings will begin Nov. 18. Click the image for locations.

Winter trout stockings will begin Nov. 18. Click the image for locations.

The AGFC Fisheries Division will stock all Family and Community Fishing Program trout locations around the state between Nov. 18-22, just in time for a Thanksgiving weekend trip to the pond. Check the following link for trout stocking locations: http://www.agfc.com/fishing/Pages/FishingProgramsFCFStock.aspx

Each location will also receive some trout with fluorescent pink tags. Anyone catching a tagged fish should keep the fish and call the number on the tag for directions on how to turn their tag in for a special prize from the AGFC.

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Public input is a crucial component of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s process for setting hunting and fishing regulations. Meetings are part of the AGFC’s annual hunting-regulations process, providing hunters with the opportunity to make comments and proposals on the 2013-14 hunting seasons. The meetings will be held 7 p.m.-9 p.m., Jan. 29, at the following locations:

  • Calico Rock AGFC Regional Office, 1125 Highway 56, Calico Rock, 877-297-4331
  • Fayetteville Ozark Electric Cooperative Corporation,  3641 Wedington Drive, Fayetteville,  866-253-2506
  • Hope AGFC Regional Office,  7004 Highway 67 East, Perrytown,  877-777-5580
  • Jonesboro Forrest L. Wood Crowley’s Ridge Nature Center,  600 East Lawson Road, Jonesboro,  877-972-5438
  • Little Rock AGFC Central Office 2 Natural Resources Drive, Little Rock,  800-364-4263
  • Monticello AGFC Regional Office 771 Jordan Drive, Monticello,  877-367-3559
  • Mount Ida Montgomery County Courthouse 105 Highway 270 East, Mt. Ida,  877-478-1043
  • Russellville AGFC Regional Office 1266 Lock and Dam Road, Russellville, 877-967-7577

Written comments may be submitted at any of the meetings or mailed by Feb. 28 to the AGFC, attn: Hunting Regulations Proposals, 2 Natural Resources Drive, Little Rock, AR 72205. There will be a brief presentation starting at 7 p.m. followed by oral comments from the public. After the meeting, AGFC personnel will be available to answer questions.

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Kids found on the water wearing their life jackets may get a special ticket for ice cream this summer, courtesy of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and Sonic restaurants.

In an effort to promote kids wearing life jackets, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Wildlife Officers will be issuing special citations on the state’s waterways this summer. The citations will reward youths for being “caught” wearing their life jackets.
These “citations” will entitle the youth to a small ice cream cone from Sonic. Five thousand of these special coupons were donated by Sonic to help make the summer more enjoyable and add an extra incentive for doing the right thing.
AGFC Boating Law Administrator Stephanie Weatherington said she hopes the program will reinforce the need to wear life jackets for personal safety.
“We feel this will motivate kids to do the right thing and put on their life jackets,” said Weatherington. “We are very excited to emphasize how important it is to wear life jackets and it’s also the law,” she added.
Many people drown because they fall out of a boat and are not wearing a fitted life jacket, Weatherington says.
“Some don’t believe they need one because they can swim. Others may wear one that has dry rot or is not the right size. The most important thing about riding in a boat is to wear a life jacket,” she said. “By law, anyone 12 or younger must wear a life jacket while in a boat. Also, all vessels must have at least one approved life jacket for every person on board. There must also be a throwable floatation device on any vessel 16 feet or longer,” she explained. “We hope this will also encourage the parents to also wear their life jacket,” Weatherington added.
AGFC wildlife officers will be handing out these rewards throughout the summer on all Arkansas lakes, rivers and streams as they enforce all of Arkansas’s boating and fishing laws.

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Paul Crowder poses with his 16 lb., 5 oz. Arkansas State Record.

Paul Crowder poses with his 16 lb., 5 oz. Arkansas State Record.

Almost 36 years to the day, Arkansas’s largemouth bass state record has finally been broken. On Tuesday, Paul Crowder of Forrest City set the new record on Lake Dunn near Wynne. Crowder’s lunker weighed 16 pounds 5 ounces, breaking the old record by just a single ounce.

Aaron Mardis of Memphis had held the state record since March 2, 1976. Mardis’ 16 pound 4 ounce fish was caught on Mallard Lake near Manilla in Mississippi County. Crowder broke the record on the afternoon of Feb. 28 using a plastic 6-inch Mann’s jelly worm with a bullet sinker and plastic rattle in tequila sunrise. He was using an Enigma rod and reel combo purchased from Bass Pro Shops. Crowder caught the fish on Trilene 14-pound test line.

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Fisheries Biologist Lee Holt certified the fish on a certified scale at Hayes Market in Wynne. The fish measured 26½ inches in length and was 22¾ inches in girth. Crowder said that he had been fishing all day for catfish without any luck.

“I made a cast and set the rod down to take a look at my catfish rods when I noticed the rod was just about out of the boat,” he said. “I was able to grab it just before it went out of the boat,” he added.

It was the only fish he caught all day. It only took about eight minutes for Crowder to reel the record into the boat.

“I didn’t have a net, so it took me five or six tries before I was able to lip it and get in the boat,” he explained.

The 80-acre lake is located in Village Creek State Park in Cross County. The AGFC is going to test the fish to see what genetic strain of bass it is, according to Assistant Chief of Fisheries Chris Racey.

“We are going to take samples to determine if the fish is a pure northern strain or if it has Florida bass genetics,” Racey explained.

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A pipe bomb was found on the McIlroy Madison County Wildlife Management Area on Saturday, Jan. 14. The device was located on Madison County Road 1254 in northwest Arkansas.

A caller to the Madison County Sheriff’s Office notified authorities of the device. A wildlife officer from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission helped the sheriff’s deputy locate the bomb.

A bomb squad from the Bentonville Police Department disabled the 18-inch bomb using a water cannon. The object was made of PVC pipe with wooden fins, a nose cone and two eye hooks.

The bomb parts were collected as evidence by the sheriff’s office. The bomb was found a short distance off of the county road on an embankment. It appeared to be filled with gunpowder pellets, a shotgun shell and firing pin.

According to officers with the bomb squad, the device could have been set off by someone picking it up and could have been lethal up to 50 feet. The Madison County Sheriff’s Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are investigating.

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Landowners and agricultural producers interested in cost-share programs are invited to attend the Southeast Arkansas Agriculture and Wildlife Workshop in Lake Village. The workshop will deal with wildlife habitat, cover crops, water management and conservation practices that retain agricultural productivity.
Natural resource professionals with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Ducks Unlimited, Natural Resource Conservation Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will discuss wetland management, quail management, agricultural programs unique to the area, and other conservation programs offering financial incentives.
Michael Budd with the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program says the workshop is being held in hopes of creating more wildlife habitat, better management of existing habitat, create new habitat and to improve water quality. “We also want landowners to know what cost-share programs are available to them, how and why to enroll, and what they can expect long-term,” Budd said. “This is a great opportunity for landowners to meet the conservation professionals in the area who provide funding, technical assistance, and who can help landowners through each step of the process” he added.
According to David Long, Private Lands Coordinator with Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, many times farmers have croplands and other lands that are hard to farm or are low in productivity that they would like to figure out other income sources for these low yielding agricultural lands. “Most are not aware of the many state, federal and private programs that provide significant financial incentives and income opportunities to improve or create wildlife habitat on private property,” Long explained. “In addition, program changes occur regularly that normally result in better benefits for landowners and place new practices in the toolbox. Our workshop will cover all the programs available to assist landowners in conservation practices to improve fish and wildlife habitat and show them the money to improve their farm operations and many times increase cash flow.”
Salt intrusion in catfish ponds is causing production problems for many farmers, Long noted. “Many are looking at and enrolling in income producing programs such as found in the Wetland Reserve Program (pays up to $1,500 per acre for conservation easements and the Continuous Conservation Reserve Program which pays yearly rental payments (up to 15 years), $100 per acre up-front payments and other incentives. These programs will be covered in detail at the Feb. 1 workshop in Lake Village,” he said.
The workshop will be held on Feb. 1 at the Lake Village Fire Station #2, starting at 10 a.m. A free lunch will be provided following the session. For more information, and to RSVP by Jan. 25 to secure a seat and the lunch, please contact Sheila Pieroni at the Chicot County Conservation District at 870-265-5312, ext. 3.

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The main gate at Sheffield Nelson Dagmar WMA has been reopened, allowing small game hunters and duck hunters access through the main road.
The WMA is still closed to deer hunting, as it lies in AGFC Flood Prone Region D. For more information on flood prone zones, visit http://www.agfc.com/hunting/Pages/HuntingFloodProneRegions.aspx

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In the heart of elk country, Commissioners with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission toured several projects designed to benefit not only Arkansas’s elk herd, but numerous species of wildlife. The Commission was in Harrison last week for its monthly meeting.
The Commission observed elk in Newton County’s Boxley Valley and habitat projects in the recently purchased parcel in Richland Valley. Numerous bull elk put on a show for commissioners by bugling and herding cows in the picturesque Buffalo River country of north Arkansas.
Biologists with the agency told the commissioners about various habitat enhancement projects such as prescribed fire and restoration of native grasses. Biologists emphasized that the habitat improvements attract elk to public property, but also benefit species such as turkey, black bears, dove, songbirds and white-tailed deer.
In other business, the Commission:
*Heard a presentation on repairs to Lower White Oak Lake. The 50-year-old lake is a popular destination for many anglers and is managed as a trophy Florida largemouth bass fishery. Earlier this year, the lower gate on the water control structure began leaking significantly. Currently the lake is 4.5 feet below normal levels due to the leak and evaporation. Replacement of the gate is estimated at $205,500.
*Approved a budget increase of $3 million to be used in restoration of damages to AGFC facilities statewide from the spring 2011 tornadoes and floods. The Federal Emergency Management Administration will reimburse 75 percent of the amount to the AGFC. The remaining 25 percent will come from the State of Arkansas emergency funds and insurance proceeds.
*Approved a $26,000 grant to Arkansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry. The goal of the AHFH is to help feed hungry Arkansans by hunters donating harvested deer to the organization. The deer are then processed and delivered to the many feeding agencies and organizations across the state. Last year the organization provided 70,000 pounds of venison to people in need.
*Approved up to $1 million to help fund development of a revised state water plan. Money for the plan will come from gas lease revenue. The plan will be developed by the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission with input from the AGFC.
*Approved an amendment to the Memorandum of Agreement between the AGFC and Arkansas Department of Rural Services for the Wildlife Recreation Facilities Pilot Program. The amendment includes an additional $500,000 for the program during the 2011-12 fiscal year.
*Approved an amendment to the Memorandum of Agreement with Arkansas Parks and Tourism Department and Arkansas Department of Rural Services for the Wildlife Trails and Recreational Facilities Grants. Up to an additional $1 million will be available for the project.
*In partnership with the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, the AGFC was recently awarded a $1,509,012 Recovery Land Acquisition Grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The grant will benefit three federally-endangered species by providing funds to purchase a 1,688-acre tract of habitat along the bank of the lower Saline River in Ashley County.
*Approved a budget increase of $45,000 to help fund sampling requirements and laboratory fees related to chronic wasting disease in the state’s deer and elk populations. Money will come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
*Approved a budget increase of $200,489 to add new projects within the Big Woods of Arkansas Habitat Conservation Planning Grant. The projects will benefit six federally-listed endangered species including the ivory-billed woodpecker, red-cockaded woodpecker, interior least tern and the fat pocketbook, pink mucket and scaleshell mussels.
*Approved a budget increase of $26,618 to benefit federally-listed threatened and endangered species. The money will be used to perform pathogen testing in the Ozark hellbender and for projects related to bats that are threatened by white-nose syndrome.

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