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The Forrest Wood Cup is coming to Lake Ouachita, August 20-23.

The Forrest Wood Cup is coming to Lake Ouachita, August 20-23.

Fifty of the best bass anglers in the world will converge on Hot Springs, Aug. 20-23, to participate in the Forrest Wood Cup, the championship event for the FLW bass fishing tour. Aside from local amenities for fans and anglers to enjoy, Hot Springs has a lot to offer in the way of its fisheries.

Lake Ouachita boasts more than 970 miles of shoreline from the upper reaches of the Ouachita River to Blakely Mountain Dam. Ravines, islands and creeks add plenty of nooks and crannies for anglers to get away from crowds and find a few hidden gems. More than 40,000 acres of clear, blue surface water cover rocky bluffs, flooded forests of 100-foot tall trees and submerged vegetation.
“A lot of anglers who have fished here before will remember the deep aquatic vegetation,” said Brett Hobbs, district fisheries supervisor for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. “But the vegetation saw a large die off about six years ago.”
Hobbs said the vegetation is beginning to come back in some areas, particularly the Rabbittail and Cedar Fourche areas on the north shore of the lake.
“Both of those areas have a pretty good mix of hydrilla and Eurasian water milfoil,” Hobbs said. “Big Blakely Creek on the far northeast side of the lake has a lot of hydrilla and some coontail, as well.”
These aren’t the only possible areas to find vegetation and anglers who locate a patch or two away from the crowd may have found a gold mine.
In addition to all the natural cover and structure, the AGFC worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Arkansas Black Bass Coalition to place dozens of brush piles throughout the lake in prime locations to congregate bass, crappie and other sport fish. Anglers can visit www.agfc.com, click the interactive map link to zoom into Ouachita and locate the blue fish attractor icons. GPS coordinates are available to download through the map’s tools icons in the top right corner of the screen.
“Most of those brush piles were cedar trees placed in the North Fork arm and around mid-lake,” Hobbs said. “I fully expect a few tournament fish to come from some of these deeper brush piles.”
How deep is too deep? Hobbs has some advice about that, too.
“I recently completed a dissolved oxygen profile on the lake, and across the lake, once you hit 21 to 22 feet, there isn’t enough dissolved oxygen to sustain many fish,” Hobbs said. “Black basses should be holding near the thermocline, but may be located early in the morning feeding in the shallows or chasing shad at the surface at any time.”
Other than submerged vegetation, the Rabbittail area might have another X-factor for anglers – a little boost of Florida bass genetics. As part of a strategic management plan, Florida-strain largemouths were stocked from 2007 to 2014 in this area of the lake.
“This was something black bass anglers requested,” Hobbs said.
While the jury is still out on whether the stockings will have any effect on Lake Ouachita bass, it’s worthy to note that the first of those stockings are now seven years old.
“It will be interesting to see if we were able to get some of those Florida-strain genes in the bass population at Ouachita,” Hobbs said.
The lake isn’t just an angling paradise, it’s a great destination for wildlife watchers as well. The Lake Ouachita Vista Trail offers 45 miles of mountain biking and hiking paths on the south side of the lake, stretching from a trailhead at Avery Recreation Area below Blakely Mountain Dam. There’s also a special 1.25-mile watchable wildlife loop with an elevated boardwalk that is Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible at Denby Bay. For more information, visit www.lakeouachitavistatrail.com.
Be sure to visit http://www.flwfishing.com/tournaments/2015-08-20-forrest-wood-cup for a list of events scheduled around the Forrest Wood Cup, including what could be the largest FLW fishing expo ever.
Proposed season dates are available for review and comments. Click here to view.

Proposed season dates are available for review and comments. Click here to view.

Although staff recommendations for this year’s waterfowl season dates were formally proposed during the July Commission meeting, public comments prompted the Commission to look into an alternative set of dates for public review.

View proposed season dates and make comments

Spinning-wing decoys have been a hot topic on Arkansas Wildlife Management Areas in recent discussions.

Spinning-wing decoys have been a hot topic on Arkansas Wildlife Management Areas in recent discussions.

The duck hunters’ debate over spinning-wing decoys goes on.

A recent survey by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission attempted to provide a clear picture of the controversial issue. The result was a nearly even division between yes, maybe and no. There was nothing close to a consensus on the use of spinning-wing decoys.

The survey was intentionally aimed at hunters who had obtained Sweet 16 Wildlife Management Area permits for the 2014-15 season. These permits are required on 16 WMAs in an effort to determine hunter use of the areas.

In the survey, 1,774 hunted waterfowl on an Arkansas WMA during the 2014-15 season. Of that number 1,283 (72.3%) were Arkansas residents.

Among Arkansas residents who responded, 631 said spinning wing decoys should not be banned on WMAs, 144 had no opinion, 489 said they should be banned.

Question: In your experience, do spinning-wing decoys affect your hunt satisfaction while hunting on WMAs? Answer: Positive effect, 545. Negative effect, 536. Also, 363 hunters said the spinning-wing decoys had no effect, and 312 had no opinion.

But only half of the surveyed hunters replied to the waterfowl hunting questions. Presumably, the others did not hunt ducks or geese last season.

A decade ago, the AGFC outlawed the use of spinning-wing decoys after multiple requests by hunters, the first Mississippi Flyway state to do so. But other states did not follow Arkansas’s lead, and the ban was dropped.

But most hunters acknowledged they had used spinning-wing decoys. Question: Did you use a spinning-wing decoy while hunting on these WMAs during the 2014-15 season?
Answer: Always, 290 hunters, sometimes, 1,090 hunters and never, 373 hunters.

Check your WMA deer hunt permit status and pay for your permit by July 20.

Check your WMA deer hunt permit status and pay for your permit by August 6.

 

ALERT: First WMA Deer Hunt Draw Complete

The first drawing for the AGFC’s WMA deer hunts has been completed. Email notifications were sent out to all successful applicants on July 7. Successful applicants have until 11:59 p.m. August 6 to pay for their permits. All unclaimed permits will be forfeited and will be used for a second drawing for all applicants who were unsuccessful during the first draw. The second drawing will take place August 13. To check your permit status and pay for permits, visit the link below:

Check Status and Pay for WMA Deer Hunt Permit

See how the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission produces more than 1 million trout per year for stocking into state waterways at the AGFC’s Jim Hinkle Spring River Fish Hatchery at Mammoth Spring.
On the YouTube channel, you’ll also find everything from interviews with first time deer hunters, to tailwater trout fishing, to elk viewing in the Boxley Valley, to Mississippi River catfishing as well as the agency’s 100th anniversary tribute “A Century of Conservation.”
Be sure to subscribe to the channel, so you’ll be notified whenever a new video is posted.

Click here for details.

Fishing Derbies will be held at each of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Hatcheries, Saturday, June 13, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

If you’ve ever wanted to wet a line but didn’t want to spend the money for a fishing license, this weekend is your time to give it a try. By special proclamation of Gov. Asa Hutchinson, anyone, resident or nonresident, may fish without a license or trout stamp from noon, Friday, June 12, to midnight, Sunday, June 14, 2015.

Chris Racey, chief of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Fisheries Division, said, “It’s an excellent opportunity for friends and family to get together and enjoy the great sport of fishing.”

All other fishing regulations, including daily limits, remain in effect during Free Fishing Weekend. Visit agfc.com for a free download of the 2015 Arkansas Fishing Guidebook

In addition to the license waiver, each AGFC hatchery has reserved special locations for free kids’ fishing derbies from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, June 13. Children 12 and younger may bring their own tackle and bait to their local hatchery to catch and keep up to three fish per child.

“We host kids’ fishing derbies at all five of our state fish hatcheries each year to provide an opportunity for children to catch fish in a fun and safe environment,” Racey said. “We hope many children will catch their first fish at one of our hatchery derbies and go on to become lifelong anglers.”

Click for Hatchery Locations for Free Fishing Weekend Derbies

Urban Deer Hunt regulations now may be different from city-to-city. Check with the hunt coordinator for each hunt's details.

Urban Deer Hunt regulations now may be different from city-to-city. Check with the hunt coordinator for each hunt’s details.

Important changes have been made to the urban deer hunt program this year. For the last few years, hunters who qualified under a standardized set of program guidelines were allowed to hunt in all participating cities. However, each city is now allowed to amend certain rules to the hunts to increase safety and effectiveness of this method of deer population control near urban settings.

Ralph Meeker, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s assistant deer program coordinator, said, “We felt that each city should have some flexibility with regards to implementing a safe deer hunt within their boundaries. Some rules will remain the same; however, rules that pertain to the use of crossbows, hunting stand requirements, season length and the minimum age of its participants will be left up to the city.”

The hunt coordinators for each city also have changed:

  • Hunters wishing to participate in the Bull Shoals or Lakeview hunts should contact the Bull Shoals Urban Bowhunters Association’s President Bill Craker at bsurbanbowhunt@yahoo.com.
  • Hunters wishing to participate in the Cherokee Village, Russellville, Fairfield Bay, Horseshoe Bend, Heber Springs or Hot Springs Village hunt should visit the Arkansas Bowhunters Association website at http://www.arkansasbowhunters.org/UrbanHunt in order to register online or contact the ABA’s urban deer hunt coordinator J.D. Crawford at jd@arkansasbowhunters.org.

The perks to participating in these urban deer hunts haven’t changed. 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. All deer harvested must still be checked to the appropriate urban deer zone either online at http://www.agfc.com, by telephone at 866-305-0808, or by using the AGFC smart phone app.

Meeker explained that the overall goal of the Urban Deer Hunt Program is to safely reduce deer-human conflicts within cities. “By providing some management flexibility for the cities and a liberalized set of harvest guidelines, we hope to be able to accomplish that. We will leave it up to the cities to ensure that the best and most ethical hunters are utilized,” he said.

To do so, all cities conducting an urban hunt will still require the hunter to pass a shooting proficiency test, participate in a pre-hunt orientation and have passed the International Bowhunters Education Program course. Hunters interested in participating in the 2015 urban deer hunts should contact the appropriate urban hunt coordinator listed above in order to get the date, time, and location of those tests and orientations.

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