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FORT SMITH – The long-awaited relocation of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Fort Smith Regional Office will be complete by the end of the month, and the doors to the complex are expected to open June 11. The old office location, located on Taylor Avenue, will close June 4 to begin the move-in process.

The new office, near the Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center, will house offices for 15 staff members as well as temporary work stations for an additional 12 staff members who regularly report to the office from the field.

AGFC Director Pat Fitts says the new office will be a welcome change and will make it much easier for the public to speak directly with staff about any issues they may have on a local level.

“They are moving from a World War II-era building, which has served them well, but was in need of many improvements to accommodate their current needs,” Fitts said. “And moving the regional office closer to the nature center just makes good sense so that people can find everything they need at a single location.”

The address of the new regional office is 8401 Massard Rd., Fort Smith, AR 72916. The phone number will remain 877-478-1043.

REYDELL – Barbed-wire fencing or any other obstruction to boating cannot be placed across navigable waters in Arkansas, per state law and sometimes federal law, depending on the water body. Not only is it illegal, but it can also present a safety concern to boaters. However, situations do arise at times where landowners or lessors of hunting and fishing property mistake their rights on waters that legally are considered navigable and open to the public.

Such was the case in April when a bass angler trying to fish on Little Bayou Meto found a barbed-wire line cutting off access to a backwater. Little Bayou Meto flows directly into the Arkansas River near this small Jefferson County community.

State and federal agencies came together to get the problem resolved. Arkansas Game and Fish Commission biologists, the AGFC’s Environmental and Legal divisions, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other entities were able to rectify the situation in favor of Arkansas anglers.

“It was good coordination between our divisions, the Corps [of Engineers] and others, and done in a timely manner, a little over two weeks,” said Colton Dennis, who supervises the AGFC’s Black Bass Program and who was initially contacted by the angler, who was confused as to why the area would be closed. The area has been fished regularly by the public in the past, especially when the river is high, according to Diana Andrews, the Fisheries district supervisor over this region of Arkansas.

The angler provided photos of the blocking wire, and Dennis forwarded that information up the chain at AGFC, which included Justin Stroman, an environmental coordination biologist who works often alongside the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on various issues. Stroman’s first thought was that these backwaters would constitute “a section 10 of the federal Rivers and Harbors Act water body,” as it appeared it was a backwater directly connected to the Arkansas River. State law, Arkansas vs. McIlroy, also defined navigability, saying that a landowner – even one owning both sides of the river or who has title to the riverbed – does not have a right to restrict the public from using the surface water on a navigable stream.

Stroman suggested contacting the Arkansas Attorney General’s office and the Commissioner of State Lands, along with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers enforcement.

John Marks in the AGFC Legal Division concurred with Stroman’s assessment, based on what was known, that the water appeared to qualify as navigable “under relevant legal tests. If navigable, the state owns everything below the ordinary high water mark, and this fence should be removed.  It may also be subject to the federal regulatory jurisdiction of the (Corps of Engineers).”

Stroman said it eventually was both a federal and state issue. While the person who placed the barrier was not known, it was determined that the land in question adjacent to the stream recently had changed hands. Vincent Gregory of the Corps made contact with the new owner, who said he would have the fencing removed.

The AGFC checked on the problem May 8 and confirmed that the barbed wire had been removed.

Not only was the barrier in question Uninformed landowners and others who may use the adjacent waterway need to determine its status as navigable before putting up dangerous lines across it to impede access.

Stroman said, “Somebody could have been running on plane in their boat, maybe early in the morning in fog, and it could have snuck up on them and basically clothes-lined them.”

LITTLE ROCK – Getting out on the water and learning what it takes to stay safe doesn’t have to cost a lot, and in some cases, doesn’t have to cost a thing. Here are two ways to save on Boater Education before heading out for a weekend of fun in the sun.

Take the online course between May 19 and May 26

Boat Ed, the vendor who provides the online version of Arkansas’s Boating Education Course, will be offering a special discount to anyone who completes the program from May 19-26 to help promote National Safe Boating Week.

Participants just need to enter NtnlSfBtngWk2018 in the discount code section when they pay their course fee at www.boat-ed.com

Alex Hinson, Boating Education Coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission says the discount will reduce the normal $24.50 price by 30 percent for people who sign up and complete their course during the promotional date.

 

Find a traditional in-person Boater Education course

Hinson says instructor-led classes still are offered throughout the state at no cost to the student, if they prefer to go that route. Class sites and times are available at https://register-ed.com/programs/arkansas/37.

“We eliminated the need for the in-person exam for people who took the online test last August, but we understand that not everyone can afford to spend money on their certification, particularly larger families,” Hinson said. “The 6-hour instructor-led class is still very popular and a great way to be able to interact more with the instructor.”

Anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1986, and of legal age to operate a motorboat or sailboat, must have successfully completed an approved AGFC Boating Education Course and carry proof while operating a motorboat or sailboat on Arkansas water. Visit http://www.agfc.com/education/Pages/EducationBoating.aspx for more information about Boating Education in Arkansas.

LITTLE ROCK – Commissioners unanimously approved a group of regulations today, effectively setting the season dates and bag limits for the 2018-19 hunting season for all species. The 2018-2019 Arkansas Season Dates are:

Deer

Archery:
Zones 1,1A, 2 3, 4, 4A, 4B, 5, 5A, 5B, 6, 6A, 7, 8, 8A, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 16A, 17 – Sept. 22, 2018-Feb. 28, 2019.

Muzzleloader:
Zones 1, 1A, 2, 3, 6, 6A, 7, 8, 8A, 10 and 11 – Oct. 20-28 and Dec. 8-10, 2018.
Zones 4A, 5A, 14, and 15 – Oct. 20-28 and Dec. 15-17, 2018.
Zones 9, 12, 13, 16, 16A and 17 – Oct. 20-28 and Dec. 29-31, 2018.

Modern Gun:
Zones 1, 1A, 2, 3, 6, 6A, 7, 8, 8A, 10 and 11 – Nov. 10-Dec. 2 and Dec. 26-28, 2018.
Zone 4 – Nov. 10-11 and Dec. 26-28, 2018.
Zone 5 – Nov. 10-11, Nov. 17-18 and Dec. 26-28, 2018.
Zones 4A, 5A, 14 and 15 – Nov. 10-Dec. 9 and Dec. 26-28, 2018.
Zones 4B and 5B: Nov. 10-18 and Dec. 26-28, 2018.
Zones 9, 12 and 13 – Nov. 10-Dec. 16 and Dec. 26-28, 2018.
Zones 16, 16A and 17 – Nov. 10-Dec. 28, 2018.

Private Land Antlerless Only Modern Gun Deer Hunt:
Statewide on all private land – Oct. 13-17, 2018.

Special Youth Modern Gun Deer Hunt:
Statewide – Nov. 3-4, 2018 and Jan. 5-6, 2019

Waterfowl

Early Teal Season:
Statewide – Sept. 15-30, 2018.

Early Canada Goose:
Statewide Sept. 1-30, 2018.

Duck, Coot and Merganser:
Nov. 17-25, Dec. 6-23 and Dec. 26, 2018-Jan. 27, 2019.

Canada, White-fronted, Snow, Blue and Ross’s Goose:
Oct. 27-29, Nov. 17-30, Dec. 2, 2018-Jan. 27, 2019.

Special Youth Waterfowl Hunt:
Dec. 1, 2018 and Feb. 2, 2019.

Bear

Archery:
Zones 1 and 2 – Sept. 22-Nov. 30, 2018.
Zones 3, 4, 5, 5A, 6 and 7 – closed

Muzzleloader:
Zones 1 and 2 – Oct. 20-28, 2018.
Zones 3, 4, 5, 5A, 6 and 7 – closed

Modern Gun:
Zones 1 and 2 – Nov. 10-30, 2018.
Zone 5 – Nov. 24-Dec. 2, 2018.
Zone 5A – Nov. 17-Dec. 2, 2018.
Zones 3, 4, 6 and 7 – closed

Special Youth Modern Gun Bear Hunt:
Zones 1 and 2 – Nov. 3-4, 2018.
Zones 3, 4, 5, 5A, 6 and 7 – closed.

Mourning, White-Winged and Eurasian Collared Dove

Statewide – Sept. 1-Oct. 28 and Dec. 8, 2018-Jan. 15, 2019.

Wild Turkey

Zones 1, 2, 3, 4B, 5, 5B, 6, 7, 7A, 8, 9, 10 and 17 – April 8-23, 2019.
Zones 1A, 4, 4A, 5A and 9A – April 8-16, 2019.

Special Youth Turkey Hunt:
Statewide (except WMAs): April 6-7, 2019.

In addition to season dates, many regulations were changed to offer more access and opportunity to hunters for 2018-19. Air rifles are now legal to hunt deer during modern gun deer season, as long as they fire a single, expandable projectile .40-caliber or larger, are powered by an external pump or tank and produce at least 400 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.

“We have really worked hard to simplify and liberalize regulations as we can to make hunting less intimidating and allow people to focus on what’s important when they’re out in the woods,” said AGFC Director Pat Fitts.

Waterfowl hunters on wildlife management areas again will have an extra hour after shooting time ends at noon to be off inundated waters, in response to massive public support. Also the daily bag limits for all WMAs will match the statewide bag limit of six ducks.

Many changes also have liberalized seasons or limits on individual WMAs during deer season, and the process to apply for a private land elk permit has been simplified to run through the same online system as other drawn permits. The alligator hunt tagging and checking process also saw some major streamlining, and Alligator Zone 2, comprising south-central Arkansas, will be opened for the first time this year. A complete list of changes and justifications for those changes is available at https://www.agfc.com/en/resources/regulations/code.

Andy Goodman, chief legislative aide for Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s office, read a proclamation signed by Hutchinson declaring the time period from noon, June 8 until midnight June 10 as Free Fishing Weekend in Arkansas. During this time, all license and permit requirements to fish in the state are lifted, allowing anyone to get out and enjoy fishing without the purchase of a license or trout permit. All other fishing regulations, including bag limits and size requirements for certain bodies of water are still in effect during Free Fishing Weekend. Information on fishing regulations are available in a current Arkansas Fishing Guidebook.

In other business, the Commission:

  • Signed a memorandum of agreement with the Arkansas Department of Transportation to bring 640 acres of ARDOT wetland mitigation property into the AGFC’s system of wildlife management areas to open access to public hunting.
  • Accepted a land donation of 7 acres of waterfront property upstream from Rim Shoals from Hugh McClain of Mountain Home.
  • Approved the purchase of 0.68 acres near Winkley Shoals on the Little Red River for a future public fishing access.
  • Approved the removal of outdated and obsolete inventory with an original cost of $575,940 and a current net book value of $52,966.

JASPER – Twenty-nine lucky hunters will find out if their application for an Arkansas elk permit was successful at the Buffalo River Elk Festival, June 23. Biologists are trying to make it easier for the rest of us wanting to take an Arkansas elk who are willing to put in a little legwork and handshaking to make it happen. Beginning May 15, Private Land Elk Permits will be available on http://www.agfc.com.

Private land elk hunts always have been a bit of a challenge to participate. A certain number of tags were given to landowners who met specific acreage requirements based on survey data and information submitted to the AGFC Elk Program. Landowners then had to choose which person would get each tag.

“We’re routing all permit applications through the online license system,” said Wes Wright, elk program coordinator. “The application fee will be reduced from $35 to $5, any hunter will be able to purchase a private land elk tag from May 15 until the day of their hunt. It will be up to them to acquire the landowner’s permission.”

Wright says the switch also helps eliminate some of the paper permits a hunter had to carry. The private land elk hunt permit will simply appear as a code on their license.

While the formal quota for the hunt will be set at the Commission’s May 17 meeting, Wright expects no change in the quota from last year.

“The quota typically is 12 bulls and 40 antlerless elk,” Wright said. “Hunters must call the Wildlife Hotline (1-800-440-1477) each morning to find out if the quota has been reached. Once it has, the season is closed.”

Wright hopes the changes to the process will encourage more hunters to talk to landowners about accessing their property to hunt elk, particularly antlerless elk.

“We have had issues filling the antlerless side of the private land quota in the past,” Wright said. “This change may help get permits in the hands of hunters who will take a cow elk, provided they still get landowner permission.”

As with any type of hunting, hunters on private property must have a signed copy of the landowner’s permission to hunt, unless that person is an immediate family member. An example Permission to Hunt Card is available in each year’s Arkansas Hunting Guidebook.

Blue CatfishJONESBORO – The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Family and Community Fishing Program has added more access to fishing for northeast Arkansas residents. ASU Pond, south of Centennial Bank Stadium on the campus of Arkansas State University, will be stocked monthly a minimum of eight times a year as part of the program, according to FCFP director Maurice Jackson.

“It was three years in the making to get that location,” Jackson said. “It’s the only Family and Community pond without restrictions in this area, which means that anyone can fish it regardless of age.”

The AGFC also stocks a pond at the Forrest L. Wood Crowley’s Ridge Nature Center, but the fishing is restricted to children under 16, seniors and the disabled. “Once a teenager turns 16, he or she can’t fish there anymore. Arkansas State University has over 14,000 students, so it will be a great opportunity for the students as well as the city.”

The pond is about 3-5 acres in size and the AGFC will stock 1,000 fish a month. Between March and October, the species is catfish that are grown in Corning at the Wm. H. Donham Hatchery. From November to February, the fish stocked will be trout raised at the Jim Hinkle/Spring River Hatchery in Mammoth Spring.

Jackson said a special Family and Community Fishing Program event is being planned for November following the first trout stocking. The first catfish stocking was Thursday, April 19.

The Jonesboro addition to the FCFP pond and lake roster is the second in the past month. In March, the program added White Hall Community Pond in southeast Arkansas to the lineup. Its size is similar to the Jonesboro pond, and Jackson said it replaces the Pine Bluff Regional Park pond stockings, which were halted due to the pond leaking.

“This is a great addition for Jefferson County,” Jackson said of adding the White Hall pond. “It’s right on the city limits with Pine Bluff, it’s that close. It is also a nonrestricted lake where everyone can fish.”

The White Hall pond will be stocked monthly beginning in May with 500 catfish, and trout will be stocked in place of catfish from November to February. Like Jonesboro, the pond will get a minimum of eight stockings a year, Jackson said. White Hall Community Pond “is on the radar” to have a special event marking its inclusion on the Family and Community Fishing Program stockings. Jefferson County is also served by the Martin Luther King Jr. Pond in Pine Bluff, which hosts several events with the AGFC’s help.

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