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Fishing for Catfish

Protecting yourself from the heat and sun should be top priority for summer anglers.

Fun in the sun often brings to mind pictures of relaxing on a boat, enjoying all the Arkansas outdoors has to offer. Whether you’re catching bass, crappie or bream, or just catching a few rays, it’s important to keep in mind that too much of a good thing can be damaging to your health.

Overexposure to the sun and indulging in too many alcoholic beverages top the list of dangers that can turn an otherwise relaxing trip to the lake into a nightmare. Each year, wildlife officers and other first responders are called to boat ramps and banks throughout the state in response to someone who’s had a little too much of either.

Tod Johnson, Assistant Boating Law Administrator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, says with the varieties of sunscreen and products available to fight against overexposure, there’s really no reason not to take a little extra precaution on the water.

“You know, when I was younger I remember running around in the hot sun in blue jean cutoffs all day without thinking about sunscreen, but we’ve learned a lot since then,” Johnson said. “I wouldn’t let my daughter go out without some sunscreen on. Not just for sunburns, but because we know repeated exposure to the sun can cause long-term damage to the skin and even skin cancer.”

Johnson says he’s seen the shift in thought from sun-worshiper to informed outdoorsperson, particularly in middle-aged and older anglers. But younger anglers also are paying a little more attention to old Sol’s impact.

“I see a lot more boats out there with canopies or tops nowadays,” Johnson said. “Even the bass boats we patrol in all day have retractable canopies to block the sun. And you see more anglers wearing thin, long-sleeved shirts made of UV-protective materials. Some die-hard anglers have even adopted wearing lightweight facemasks and gloves to prevent too much exposure to the sun.”

Johnson says people wanting to cover up should pay attention to the UV protection rating of the clothes they choose for days on the water.

“A plain cotton shirt doesn’t block all the UV rays, but new materials that do protect you are lightweight and comfortable enough to wear all day,” Johnson said.

Sun not only stings the skin, but it saps your body of moisture, which can cause dehydration. Sugary or carbonated drinks can magnify the drying effect of the exposure to UV rays. It’s always smart to have some extra drinking water nearby and remember to take an occasional drink, even if you don’t feel all that thirsty.

“Alcohol isn’t something to rehydrate with, either,” Johnson said. “A lot of people may think a cold beer or alcoholic beverage will work, but alcohol actually reduces the amount of water that gets into their cells.”

Aside from contributing to dehydration, alcohol impairs judgment and can cause very dangerous situations for boaters and their passengers. The effects of alcohol are more potent when out in the summer heat because of natural stress factors like the sun, wind and waves rocking of the boat.

“A person who might have a drink or two at home and not feel anything may discover that same amount of alcohol really impairs their response time, balance and judgment when they combine it with the common surroundings of summer boating.”

This summer, be safe. Take the simple steps that could save your life. Summer heat and alcohol are such mundane things that their dangers are easily overlooked. Bring plenty of water, wear sunscreen or protective clothing and pay attention to what your body is telling you. If you decide to drink, be aware of the added effects of the sun and don’t operate the boat. A designated driver is just as important on a boat as he or she is in a car.

Rainbow trout caught on spinner

MOUNTAIN HOME — The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission will host a special public workshop from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., August 3 at the Vada Sheid Community Development Center in Convention Center Rooms A and B to begin reviewing the trout management plans for the Bull Shoals and Norfork tailwaters. The center is located on the Arkansas State University Mountain Home campus.

The current trout management plans for the 92 and 4.5 mile trout fisheries on the White and North Fork of the White Rivers below Bull Shoals and Norfork Dams were developed in 2007. Management actions outlined in the plans were implemented, and the AGFC is trying to determine if these strategies have worked and whether public expectations of the fishery have changed.

“As part of our continued effort to keep the public involved, we want to give concerned anglers and stakeholders the opportunity to give input on the direction of the fishery,” said Christy Graham, Trout Management Supervisor. “We want to make sure these fisheries are the best they can be and are meeting the expectations of our anglers.”

The public meeting is the first step of the revision, which is scheduled to occur every five years in the future.

Progress of the tailwaters’ management plan revisions will be posted on http://www.agfc.com throughout the process. For more information, contact Graham at 877-425-7577.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission will hold special public meetings during March to introduce proposed changes to management practices on many popular wildlife management areas for waterfowl habitat.

The meetings are part of the AGFC’s ongoing effort to keep the public informed about habitat degradation in many wetland areas, particularly artificially flooded bottomland hardwood forests known as greentree reservoirs that produce the finest duck hunting experience in the United States.

“Hunting on greentree reservoirs draws duck hunters from all over the country to The Natural State,” said Luke Naylor, waterfowl program coordinator for the AGFC. “But over decades, those forests have slowly changed, and our management must change with them if we are to continue this great tradition of hunting flooded timber and providing waterfowl with the habitat they need.”

Many hunters have become accustomed to constant high water being available near the opening day of waterfowl season, but according to growing scientific research in Arkansas and other states with greentree reservoirs, the practice has damaged many of the trees that produce the acorns ducks need.

“Flooding before a tree is dormant, and doing so consistently, causes damage,” Naylor said. “And most hunters will tell you there often are plenty of green leaves on the trees during the opening weekend of duck season. We need to begin managing our greentree reservoirs to follow more natural flooding patterns, which typically occur later and fluctuate from year to year.”

The AGFC also has produced a mailing, which describes the situation in detail. It will be delivered to each Arkansas resident who has purchased a waterfowl stamp in the last three years and each non-resident who has purchased a non-resident waterfowl WMA permit in the last three years. A digital version of that mailing is available at http://www.agfc.com/hunting/Documents/GTR.pdf.

“There has been a lot of talk lately about many other aspects of duck hunting on Arkansas’s famous public WMAs,” Naylor said. “But this change is much more important. This is to protect and re-establish the habitat that originally drew ducks to these areas. Without that, Arkansas’s famous green timber duck hunting could very well become a thing of the past.”

Public meetings will be held at the following dates and locations:

Stuttgart
6-8 p.m., March 9
Grand Prairie Center, Salon B
2807 Highway 165 South
Stuttgart, AR 72160

Searcy
6-8p.m., March 14
Searcy High School Cafeteria
301 N Ella,
Searcy, AR 72143

Little Rock
6-8 p.m., March 16
AGFC Headquarters Auditorium
2 Natural Resources Drive
Little Rock, AR 72205

Jonesboro
6-8 p.m., March 28
Nettleton High School Fine Arts Center
4201 Chieftan Lane
Jonesboro, AR 72401

Russellville
6-8 p.m., March 30
Doc Bryan Lecture Hall, Arkansas Tech University
1605 N. Coliseum Drive
Russellville, AR 72801

AGFC nature centers are full of great gifts for outdoors enthusiasts.

AGFC nature centers are full of great gifts for outdoors enthusiasts.

Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday are all behind us, but that doesn’t mean the opportunity to grab some gifts for your holiday shopping. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has some of the best gifts for that hard-to-buy outdoors enthusiast on your list, and you’ll be contributing to the state’s wildlife resources at the same time.

Sounds like a deal

Every 3-year subscription to Arkansas Wildlife between now and January 1, 2017, will include a free wireless bluetooth speaker.

Every 3-year subscription to Arkansas Wildlife between now and January 1, 2017, will include a free wireless bluetooth speaker.

What’s even better than a year’s worth of award-winning stories and photography delivered to your door? How about three years’ of entertainment with an added special gift to boot? From now until Jan. 1, every three-year subscription to Arkansas Wildlife magazine will come with a free Bluetooth-enabled wireless speaker sporting the magazine’s title on one side and the AGFC logo on the other. The speaker hooks up wirelessly to any phone or tablet with Bluetooth capability to provide excellent sound-quality to your favorite music and includes a microphone to be able to talk back through it when taking a phone call. One surface of the speaker has a special coating that allows it to cling to glass and other smooth surfaces while playing to keep it out of harm’s way. Just purchase a three-year subscription or three-year gift subscription to Arkansas Wildlife magazine and we’ll ship the speaker to the subscriber’s address.

Click here to order gift certificates for the AGFC's Conservation License Plate.

Click here to order gift certificates for the AGFC’s Conservation License Plate.

Plate up some conservation

It doesn’t matter if your secret Santa is a birdwatcher, bowhunter or both, a gift certificate for an AGFC conservation license plate is the perfect gift to show their love of the outdoors. License plates featuring northern cardinals, black crappie, deer, squirrels and a host of other wildlife species are available at Department of Finance and Administration offices all over the state. Just visit http://www.agfc.com/aboutagfc/Pages/AboutConservationLicensePlates.aspx to purchase as many gift certificates as you need to outfit your friends and family with plates of their choosing. The certificate costs $35, $25 of which is placed into the AGFC Conservation Scholarship Fund to help Arkansas students become the next generation of biologists and conservationists.

Two books for $10

Buy the AGFC's 180-page photo history book and cookbook together for an incredible savings.

Buy the AGFC’s 180-page photo history book and cookbook together for an incredible savings.

While supplies last, the AGFC will be offering it’s 180-page hardcover photo history book, “A Century of Conservation,” and it’s Centennial Cookbook, “A Celebration of Conservation,” together for $10 at AGFC nature centers and the Little Rock Headquarters. You can also cash in on a great deal if you order online at http://www.agfc.com, to get both great books delivered to your door for $13. Act quickly and we’ll throw a 100-year Anniversary Baseball Hat in your order for free.

“A Century of Conservation” is the story of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s first 100 years. Read along and discover how the state went from scarcely more than a few hundred deer to a booming population approaching the million-deer mark, not to mention the comeback of Arkansas black bears, turkeys and elk. Stunning photographs and a few stories you probably haven’t heard make this journal a must-have for anyone interested in the outdoors, hunting, fishing or Arkansas history.

“A Celebration of Conservation” includes some of the AGFC employees’ favorite concoctions of everything from wild game to fancy desserts. Mouth-watering recipes will have your taste buds working overtime and make this cookbook a weekly go-to for your kitchen reading. Visit http://www.agfc.com/store/Pages/Merchandise.aspx to order both books.

Bring the outdoors inside

In addition to the gifts above, the AGFC’s four nature centers throughout the state each have a gift shop full of outdoors-oriented items for the nature lover and die-hard outdoorsperson on your list. Shirts, hats, coffee mugs and a variety of smaller gifts are available at reasonable prices in each center, as well as books and other educational material on the outdoors. While you’re there, take in some of the sights and sounds of the center and ask the staff about some of their excellent programs available to the public throughout the year for free. Everything from photography to nighttime “owl prowls” are possible. Click http://www.agfc.com/education/Pages/EducationNatureCenters.aspx to get started finding a nature center near you.

Youth hunters harvested nearly 9,500 during the two-day 2016 youth hunt.

Youth hunters harvested nearly 9,500 during the two-day 2016 youth hunt.

Cooler temperatures and the first good signs of rutting activity beckoned well for the first youth hunt of the 2016-17 deer season last weekend, and Arkansas’s young guns did not disappoint. Hunters harvested 9,429 deer during the two-day season.
According to Cory Gray, deer program coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, the harvest is lower than last year’s 12,000-deer youth hunt, but is very similar to the 2014 season, in which youth hunters took just over 9,700 deer.
Since the development of internet and telephone checking, biologists and the public can see the harvest in real time by visiting https://www.ark.org/agfc/gamecheck/reports.php. According to checked numbers, Arkansas’s deer harvest is at about 51,000 deer statewide. Again, this is below last year’s harvest of 64,000, but on track with the year before, which had 53,000 deer checked by this point in the season.
The slow start to this season has had a few hunters concerned. But Gray says things should balance out as cooler weather sets in and more hunters enter the woods.

Cooler weather had deer moving for the morning of the hunt.

Cooler weather had deer moving for the morning of the hunt.

“We often see hunting seasons start off slowly, but quickly catch-up as the season progresses,” Gray said. “The opening weekend of modern gun season and the week of Thanksgiving will be crucial periods for state harvest.”
The AGFC will be continuing to monitor for the spread of chronic wasting disease during opening weekend of modern gun season by manning 25 biological sampling sites within 10 counties in northern Arkansas. Biologists ask all hunters who wish to voluntarily submit their deer for sampling on Nov. 12-13 to bring any checked deer from Boone, Carroll, Johnson, Logan, Madison, Marion, Newton, Pope, Searcy and Yell counties to one of the following sites:

Boone County

  • Alpena Community Building, 107 Highway 62 E., Alpena
  • Anderson’s Propane, 8563 Highway 7 N., Harrison
  • Anderson’s Store, 12181 Highway 62 E., Harrison

Carroll County

  • Carroll County Fairgrounds, 104 County Road 401, Berryville

Johnson County

  • Haggarville Grocery, 11925 SR 123, Lamar
  • McCormick’s One Stop, 7823 Highway 103, Clarksville
  • Oark General Store and Café, 10360 County Road 5440, Oark

Logan County

  • New Blaine Fire Dept., 9 Highway 197 Loop, New Blaine

Madison County

  • Combs Store and Café, 10342 Highway 16, Combs
  • McIlroy Madison County WMA headquarters, Highway 23

Marion County

  • Pyatt, Crooked Creek Access, Highway 62 W., Pyatt
  • Yellville City Park, Highway 14, Yellville

Newton County

  • Arkansas Forestry Commission Office, Route 1, Box 275, Western Grove
  • National Park Service Maintenance Shop, HCR 73 Box 176B, Marble Falls
  • Ponca Elk Education Center, Highway 43, Ponca
  • USFS Office, 18360 Highway 16 W., Deer

Pope County

  • Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department Storage Facility, Sand Gap (1 mile south of Highway 7/16/123 intersection)
  • City of London Maintenance Shop, 3731 SR 333, London
  • Downtown Mini-Mart, 102 W. Main St. (Highway 64/105 intersection), Atkins
  • Fountain’s Grocery, 36386 Highway 27, Tilly
  • USFS Big Piney Ranger District Office, 12000 SR 27, Hector

Searcy County

  • Arkansas Forestry Commission, 602 Highway 65 N., Marshall
  • Misty’s Conoco, 6542 Highway 65 N., Leslie

Yell County

  • Ouachita Livestock Market, 12115 N. State Highway 7, Danville
  • Yell County Wildlife Federation, 10035 Wildlife Lane, Dardanelle

Hunters outside of these 10 counties may contact a veterinarian from the list provided at http://www.agfc.com/hunting/Documents/CWD/CWDVets.pdf if they wish to learn the CWD-status of deer they have harvested. However, the hunter will be responsible for the cost of these tests outside of the 10-county CWD Management Zone.

Hunters must be 6 years old to legally tag and check deer in Arkansas.

Hunters must be 6 years old to legally tag and check deer in Arkansas.

Hunters are advised to report any deer that looks sick to the AGFC at 1-800-482-9262. AGFC photo.

Hunters are advised to report any deer that looks sick to the AGFC at 1-800-482-9262. AGFC photo.

A list of veterinarians who have expressed interest in collecting samples and testing hunter-harvested deer for chronic wasting disease has been published on the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s website at http://www.agfc.com/hunting/Documents/CWD/CWDVets.pdf.

All results from the tests will be shared with the AGFC, but it is the responsibility of the hunter to pay any fees associated with using one of the listed veterinarians to process samples.

The AGFC will test hunter-harvested deer taken from the CWD Management Zone (Boone, Carroll, Johnson, Logan, Madison, Marion, Newton, Pope, Searcy and Yell counties) on a voluntary basis during opening weekend of deer season (Nov. 12-13).

AGFC staff will be collecting CWD samples from hunter-harvested elk Nov. 12-13 in the CWD Management Zone. AGFC Photo.

AGFC staff will be collecting CWD samples from hunter-harvested elk Nov. 12-13 in the CWD Management Zone. AGFC Photo.

According to Cory Gray, AGFC deer program coordinator, the AGFC’s deer team developed the list of vets to offer hunters outside of those counties or those who harvest deer outside of opening weekend the opportunity to test their deer if they wished.

“We can’t test every deer harvested in the state, but we do want to offer an option for hunters who are concerned with the possibility of the deer they harvested having CWD,” Gray said. “While a CWD test is not a food safety test, it may put some hunters’ minds at ease about serving it to their family.”

The recent detection of chronic wasting disease has many hunters concerned about the safety of eating venison, but there shouldn’t be any reason to worry. Hunter-harvested venison is still one of the healthiest forms of protein you can find, free of preservatives, steroids and other chemicals that can be found in some farm-raised foods.

“There isn’t any confirmed case of CWD spreading to any species outside of the cervid family (deer, elk, moose and caribou),” said Cory Gray, deer program coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. “But the World Health Organization and Arkansas Department of Health both advise against eating any animal known to have CWD.”

Hunters shouldn’t eat any animal showing obvious signs of any illness.

“Any hunter anywhere in the state who sees a deer showing symptoms of CWD should report it to 1-800-482-9262,” Gray said. “We can dispatch someone to collect samples from that animal and will let the person reporting know the outcome of the tests.”
Gray says biologists have collected thousands of samples during summer throughout the state, and the extended search for CWD will begin to slow once the first week of modern gun season has ended.

“We anticipate reigning back on our sampling beginning Nov. 18,” Gray said. “We’ll still be collecting samples from sick deer, but road kill samples will drop to weekdays during normal business hours.”

Hunters may voluntarily submit their deer for CWD testing to a list of veterinarians available at www.agfc.com/cwd. AGFC photo.

Hunters may voluntarily submit their deer for CWD testing to a list of veterinarians available at http://www.agfc.com/cwd. AGFC photo.

Hundreds of trees found new homes in Greers Ferry Lake as fish habitat thanks to a huge cooperative effort by the AGFC and Corps of Engineers.

Hundreds of trees found new homes in Greers Ferry Lake as fish habitat thanks to a huge cooperative effort by the AGFC and Corps of Engineers.

A fleet of habitat barges and support boats led a cooperative effort between the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and the Army Corps of Engineers to place a literal “ton” of new habitat in Greers Ferry Lake earlier this month.

Five of the AGFC’s habitat barges, one habitat barge from the Corps, backhoes, skidders, excavators and support boats all converged on Choctaw Recreation Area to create and place extra-large brush piles in the west end of the lake. The brush piles were constructed of large cedars removed from the campground at Choctaw as part of a wildlife enhancement project. In all, 300 cedars were removed, bundled and placed in key points of the lake to serve as fish attractors and aquatic habitat.

“We were able to enhance 18 sites,” said Tom Bly, AGFC fisheries supervisor in Mayflower. “Six were existing fish attractors that were freshened up, but 12 were entirely new places where we sank these large piles of cedars. All were within 3 miles of Choctaw Recreation Area.”

Most brush piles were placed in 20 to 25 feet of water, where they can be the most benefit to fish and anglers on a year-round basis. While the attractors make it easier for anglers to locate fish, they’re also important additions to the lake for fish.

Invasive cedars were removed from the campgrounds at Choctaw Recreation Area in early October.

Invasive cedars were removed from the campgrounds at Choctaw Recreation Area in early October.

“Any fish that relates to natural shoreline cover can use these attractors,” Bly said. The structures will be coated with algae, which attracts small insects and minnows, which are food for larger fish. The complex cover also offers shelter from larger predators, so you will see forage fish hiding within the maze of branches. Larger predator fish, like bass, crappie and walleye will stay close by to ambush those smaller fish.”

The locations of all habitat sites were recorded with GPS units and will be available through the AGFC’s interactive map at http://gis.agfc.com/ soon.

According to Bly, the habitat enhancement was a pilot project for a new approach fisheries managers will use in enhancing the state’s waters for fish and anglers. One or two large-scale habitat projects will be selected each year, and the AGFC’s entire Fisheries Management Team will work together and work with partners to benefit the resource like never before.

“We had 25 AGFC employees and a half a dozen Corps employees working together over two days to get the job done,” Bly said. “The area had been prepped and some cedars removed two weeks prior, but nearly all the aquatic habitat work was done in two days without injury or equipment malfunction.”

Downed cedars were used to create and enhance 18 fish attractor locations within 3 miles of Choctaw Recreation area on Greers Ferry.

Downed cedars were used to create and enhance 18 fish attractor locations within 3 miles of Choctaw Recreation area on Greers Ferry.

Bly says sinking brush for habitat is a regular job for fisheries biologists, and anglers will continue seeing smaller-scale habitat projects continue throughout the state, but these large-scale, all-hands-on-deck habitat improvements should enable fisheries managers to make an even larger impact for the benefit of fish and anglers in some of Arkansas’s larger reservoirs.

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