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02142018boatLITTLE ROCK – Renewing the registration for your boat or registering your boat for the first time now includes an extra step, one that’s intended to prevent fraud or theft.
The 90th General Assembly of Arkansas passed Act 694 in 2015 to comply with federal regulations mandated by the U.S. Coast Guard. The law requires all boats registered in Arkansas to have verified proof of a valid hull identification number. Verification may be a legible pencil rubbing or a legible printed photograph of the number. The law was given an effective date of Jan. 1, 2017, to allow the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration time to mail a letter explaining the process with all renewal notices issued.
The purpose of a boat’s HIN is identical to the vehicle identification number on cars and trucks – both mark the vehicle or vessel with a unique number that can help prevent fraud and theft. Unfortunately, a standardized system was not in place in Arkansas to collect these numbers, hindering that purpose.
“We have roughly 200,000 registered boats in Arkansas,” said Capt. Stephanie Weatherington, boating law administrator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. “When the DFA did a search in their database before the law went into effect, nearly 116,000 of those boats had either missing or incorrect HINs.”
Weatherington has received many calls about the specifics of the law, including the seemingly outdated “pencil rubbing or printed photograph” requirement. With modern technology why wouldn’t showing a digital copy work?
“The physical image or rubbing is supposed to be attached to the file at the DFA,” Weatherington said.
Owners of boats that do not have an HIN should contact Weatherington to work through the process of getting a new one issued. Using the boat’s make and year, she can track down the manufacturer and get a new number issued. If it is a homemade boat, she can issue a HIN after proper proof of construction.
“If it’s a remodel of an old hull, it still has to be looked up by that manufacturer, but in the rare case that it was built from the ground up by hand there are added requirements to issue the HIN,” Weatherington said. “According to Coast Guard regulations, invoices of materials used and photographs of the construction must be supplied for a homemade vessel.”
Weatherington warns that in some rare cases, a new HIN cannot be given because the vessel’s origin cannot be determined. This means that a new boat owner cannot register the boat.
“Two major things to look for when buying a boat are to make sure that HIN is on the outside of the back of the boat, right of the motor, and that the seller can give you a copy of their registration,” Weatherington said. “If those two requirements can’t be met, buyer beware.”
Contact Weatherington with any questions regarding boat registration in Arkansas, 501-223-6379.

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01172018AWTVIf you missed an episode of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s television series, Arkansas Wildlife, you still can tune in to catch it online. The first three seasons are available, in their entirety, at the show’s YouTube page.

If you were too busy hunting or fishing during the regular season to catch one of the shows, binge-watching on the YouTube channel is a great way to keep your mind on the outdoors as we approach the last few weeks of hunting season.

Trey Reid, the show’s host, says he’s received many positive comments from the show, and hopes to keep the momentum going into the next season, airing this spring.

“We appreciate all the guests who have invited us along to create the show,” Reid said. “But our biggest thanks goes to Arkansas Wildlife’s supportive and enthusiastic viewers, who have made our show a huge success.”

Highlights from season three include an exciting hunt for white-fronted geese, a young man’s first deer, and smallmouth fishing on the Caddo River and Greers Ferry Lake. Along the way, segments will show off some of the AGFC’s work on shad stockings, habitat improvement, monitoring Arkansas’s Canada goose population and what the AGFC does to bring trout and catfish to urban communities, so everyone has a chance to fish.

Visit www.youtube.com/c/arkansaswildlife to catch up on the action.

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Frog Bayou WMAThe Arkansas Game and Fish Commission added more than 2,220 acres of access for hunters and anglers in 2017. Land for waterfowl hunting, upland game and bat conservation highlight the improvements for wildlife. A state-of-the-art weigh-in facility in Northwest Arkansas, new access for paddlers on Crooked Creek and additional bank fishing opportunity on one of the AGFC’s oldest lakes round out some of the improvements for 2017 for anglers.

 

Frog Bayou Jumps to Three Times its Size

Frog Bayou Wildlife Management Area in Crawford County has quickly become one of the most popular public lands for waterfowl hunting in the western half of the state. Popularity can lead to crowded conditions in small WMAs, but thanks to a partnership with the Trust for Public Land and Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration grants, the AGFC nearly tripled the size of this popular waterfowl-hunting and wildlife-viewing destination in June 2017. The purchase of 1,390 acres adjacent to Frog Bayou WMA has been pursued by the AGFC for many years, and thanks to a recent sale of the property, this land is now available for the public.

“Expanding Frog Bayou has been a high priority,” said Luke Naylor, AGFC waterfowl program coordinator. “But many complications with multiple ownerships surrounding the property had made it difficult to pursue until recently.”

The Trust for Public Land facilitated adding the property to the WMA by securing a purchase agreement with the landowner, acquiring the property and conveying to AGFC as grant funding became available. This enabled the AGFC to go through the proper channels to secure Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration funds. The total purchase price of the property was $4.54 million, 75 percent of which was brought in through Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration funds.

 

Public Quail Habitat a Stone’s Throw from Central Arkansas

The Commission reinforced its commitment to northern bobwhite management at its March 2017 meeting when it purchased 989 acres of fields and upland habitat bordering a portion of the Camp Robinson Special Use Area in Faulkner County. The new area is named Stone Prairie WMA, and will be managed separately from the Special Use Area.

“Stone Prairie has an ideal mix of open lands that lend well to our northern bobwhite initiative,” said Steven Fowler, assistant chief of the AGFC’s Wildlife Management Division. “It’s proximity to Camp Robinson (special use area) makes it a good fit to expand hunting opportunities in that area.”

 

Bat Restoration Leads to Gulf Mountain WMA expansion

Although the Diamond Pipeline was surrounded by controversy in 2017, hunters will see some new land on Scott Henderson Gulf Mountain WMA thanks to mitigation requirements derived from its path. A 240-acre tract of land bordering the WMA in Van Buren County was added in an effort to offset the impacts the project may have on habitat available for the threatened northern long-eared bat. Diamond Pipeline LLC, in consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Arkansas Field Office, contributed $5.1 million to work with state and federal agencies, non-profits and private landowners to acquire, restore and protect an estimated 3,000 acres of forested northern long-eared bat habitat in perpetuity. The species has been documented on the 240-acres added to Gulf Mountain WMA, but recreational activities will not conflict with the habitat requirements of the species.

 

Anglers and AGFC Partner at Prairie Creek

Teamwork with local anglers was the key to a major improvement for Beaver Lake bass anglers this year with the addition of an impressive weigh-in facility at Prairie Creek.

“Prairie Creek is the most utilized access on Beaver Lake,” said Jon Stein, AGFC fisheries biologist for northwest Arkansas. “It has a six-lane boat ramp and a parking lot that can handle tournaments as large as 190 boats.”

Stein says the project began after local anglers spoke to him and Colton Dennis, the AGFC’s Black Bass Program coordinator, explaining their need and willingness to help in the project. He was able to secure a grant through the federal Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Fund.

“Anglers came forward to pledge their commitment to the project,” Stein said.

In all, anglers contributed $32,500 worth of in-kind donations to the project and the AGFC contributed $41,250 of funding. This was enough matching money to secure $221,250 from federal grants to bring the total project cost to $295,000.

The facility has a 24-foot-by-36-foot pavilion and 42-foot laminated wood amphitheater. Two holding tanks are for anglers to keep their fish in while they wait to weigh-in. Water from the lake will be pumped into the tanks and an air blower will aerate them to ensure fish stay as healthy as possible during weigh-ins.

 

George’s Creek Access Makes Crooked Creek a Faster Float

The section of Crooked Creek between Snow and Kelly’s Slab not only harbors huge smallmouth, but also is one of the most picturesque stretches of stream in the state. A new access on Old U.S. Highway 62 west of Yellville will make it possible to enjoy without investing an entire day.

“If you want to fish that stretch, you are looking at a good 8 to 10 hours from put-in to take-out,” Mike Cantrell, AGFC regional maintenance contract coordinator, said. “Our new access on George’s Creek splits that float almost in half, making it much easier to get out for an afternoon or morning float when you don’t have a full day to fish.”

According to Cantrell, people parked along the Old U.S. Highway 62 just upstream and dragged their canoes and kayaks a few hundred yards downstream to meet up with Crooked Creek.

“At the new access, people can pull right down to the water on the concrete ramp and unload their canoes instead of dragging,” Cantrell said. “We even built a canoe loading ramp and handicapped access.”

Users can unload canoes at the ramp, put in all their gear and walk the canoe down the sidewalk before driving their car back up to the parking area. The added feature makes getting into the water much easier and helps keep things moving when a few groups are trying to get in the water at the same time.

In addition to the ramp, there’s roughly 6,000 square feet of parking and a 1,000-foot section of road connecting the access to Old Highway 62.

The project, funded by marine fuel tax dollars and Sport Fish Restoration Funds, was dedicated in May to Mark Oliver, the recently retired chief of the AGFC Fisheries Division, who pursued this access for many years to make it a reality.

 

Lake Conway Access Adds Reach for Bank Anglers

Anyone who has driven over the Arkansas Highway 89 Bridge at Lake Conway has likely seen a boat or bank fisherman nearby searching for crappie. During fall and winter, this area can become extremely crowded with cars, as many people have learned that the deep water of the channel congregates slab-sized crappie during cold weather. Unfortunately, this means many cars parked along the highway, creating a dangerous situation. But the Commission’s purchase of 1.3 acres near the bridge in March 2017 may improve things dramatically for shorebound anglers looking to enjoy a day on the bank.

Tom Bly, AGFC district fisheries biologist in Mayflower, says anglers have always parked along the bridge’s right-of-way established by the Arkansas Department of Transportation and walked to the water to fish, but a small piece of land adjacent to that area became available a few years back, and was finally able to be purchased last year.

“Right now it’s just a cleared and bushhogged piece of land,” Bly said. “But we plan to put a parking lot in there that can hold 10 to 15 cars. The bank will be accessible from the location as well, and we hope to include a handicapped-accessible fishing pier in the future with an intensive habitat project around it.”

Although boat launching will not be possible from the new access, Bly says there may be enough space to launch a canoe or kayak at the area, but his main goal in the access is to increase bank-fishing opportunities and safety for anglers looking for a quick trip to the water.

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Stock the RockCold weather means cold water, and that means the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is busy stocking Family and Community Fishing Program ponds with rainbow trout for anglers to enjoy.

“We’re right in the middle of stocking up ponds across the state with trout from our Spring River hatchery in Mammoth Spring,” said Clint Coleman, FCFP assistant coordinator. “Not only that, but we have special tags on some of the trout that anglers can send in to the AGFC to claim an extra prize. We’ll also have a grand prize drawing for fly-fishing rods and reels, fishing clothes and other angling gear.”

The FCFP also will host a special trout-fishing clinic at the Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Jan. 25, to teach people how to tackle the challenge of trout fishing and a special fishing event at MacArthur Park Pond in Little Rock from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Jan. 27, to try their hand chasing rainbows.

“Many people hear ‘trout fishing’ and think it’s too complicated to give a try, but nothing could be further from the truth,” said Maurice Jackson, FCFP coordinator. “Fishing for trout can be as simple as a cane pole and bobber, or as complicated as hand-tied flies and fly rods, depending on how in-depth a person wants to get. For most of us just looking at having a good time and catching some fish to eat, trout are a great fish to target.”

Anglers 15 and younger do not need a license or trout stamp to fish in Arkansas, and the derby is free. Anglers 16 and older are welcome to fish as well, but they must have a valid AGFC fishing license and trout stamp, available to purchase at www.agfc.com/buyalicense. Anglers must bring their own bait and tackle, and chairs or coolers to sit on are strongly encouraged.

Coleman says trout stockings will run through February, but once spring rolls around the water in the ponds will be too warm to support these coldwater fish. Then the ponds will receive channel catfish raised and grown to catchable sizes in the AGFC’s warmwater hatcheries.

Visit www.agfc.com/familyfishing to find a local pond, see when it was last stocked, and learn more about the Family and Community Fishing Program.

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01102017Christmastree      LITTLE ROCK – Little Rock’s Christmas tree, which spent the holiday season wowing visitors on Capitol Avenue and Main Street, borrowed a page from New York City’s tree this year, with a small twist. Rockefeller Plaza trees historically have been used as lumber for Habitat for Humanity homes. Little Rock’s tree also was used for habitat, but it will stay true to The Natural State’s motto. The habitat it creates will benefit one of Little Rock’s family fishing destinations.

The tree, a 40-foot white fir, was cut into sections and placed in Western Hills Lake in Southwest Little Rock Saturday, Jan. 6. Thanks to the Downtown Little Rock Partnership, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission staff were able to collect the large sections of brush and transport them to where they will offer enjoyment to many anglers over the next few years.

Western Hills Lake is part of the AGFC’s Family and Community Fishing Program, which stocks eating-sized trout and catfish in cities to make it easier for every Arkansan to wet a line and bring home a healthy supper.

“The lake is beautiful and deep, and I really see us doing some amazing things in our partnership with the owners of the area,” said Clint Coleman, assistant coordinator of the program. “This Christmas tree habitat is a great way to get the ball rolling on habitat, and it’s a great way to give this tree one more chance to add to the habitat of a natural system.”

The state capitol tree isn’t the only opportunity to increase habitat from Christmas leftovers. Each year the AGFC designates special drop off locations throughout the state, where people can leave their trees so they may be used as fish attractors.

“We will sink these trees in nearby lakes as time allows toward the end of January, but until then, we really want anglers to be able to use them to make their own fishing hot spots,” said Coleman, “I’ve seen a lot of good trees at some of the drop off locations that would make a great crappie mat or brush pile for bass.”

Coleman says all it takes to create a hot spot out of these trees is some rope and something to weigh them down.

“Parachute cord and cinder blocks are good choices that will get the job done cheaply,” Coleman said. “If you can, it’s best to sink at least 5 or 6 trees at a spot, so the pile continues to attract fish for a few years.”

Anglers should contact the owner of the lake or reservoir where they wish to create their own fish attractors to ensure they are legal. Some water-supply reservoirs do not allow the placement of natural cover, and the U.S. Corps of Engineers asks that people call ahead to ensure the cover will not interfere with the operation of their reservoirs.

“We encourage anyone who wants to sink a tree in an AGFC lake to call the district office over that lake as well,” Coleman said. “The regional biologist may have some good suggestions on places to sink the brush or ways to help out.”

Some AGFC lakes that would benefit greatly from the increased habitat are lakes Elmdale, Bob Kidd, Charles, Frierson, Sugar Loaf, Upper White Oak, Wilhelmina and Barnett.

Visit  https://www.agfc.com/en/fishing/where-fish/public-fishing-areas to learn more about these lakes. For more information about the Family and Community Fishing Program visit www.agfc.com/familyfishing.

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Sinking Christmas trees as fish habitats in a channel off the Arkansas RiverOnce the wrapping paper has been thrown away and the last drop of egg nog has been consumed, few people have a use for that evergreen tree that graced their home during the holiday season. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has a new job for those leftover trees – as fish habitat.

The AGFC has drop-off locations across the state to let your old Christmas tree have a second life as underwater cover.

Clint Coleman, assistant coordinator for the AGFC’s Family and Community Fishing Program, says the Christmas tree program functions just like a “take-a-penny, leave-a-penny” tray, except it’s for fish.

“Anyone who wants to drop off a natural tree can place it at a location on the list, and anyone who wants to sink a few trees to create their own little honey hole can do that as well,” Coleman said. “You just need to bring your own parachute cord, wire, rope and cinder blocks to sink the trees.”

Coleman says artificial trees are not allowed at the drop off locations, and all trees should be cleaned of ornaments and tinsel before being dropped off.

Christmas trees typically only last a year or two before all that’s left is the main trunk, so Coleman suggests anglers sink groups of trees together. This way, the site is still attractive to baitfish and sport fish long after the smaller branches and needles have rotted away.

Trees can be dropped off at any of the following locations until the end of January:

Central Arkansas

  • Arkansas River – Alltel Access beneath the I-30 Bridge
  • Greers Ferry Lake – Sandy Beach (Heber Springs), Devils Fork Recreation Area and Choctaw Recreation Area (Choctaw-Clinton)
  • Lake Conway – Lawrence Landing Access
  • Harris Brake Lake – Chittman Hill Access
  • Lake Overcup – Lake Overcup Landing
  • Lake Barnett – Reed Access
  • Lake Hamilton – Andrew Hulsey State Fish Hatchery Access Area

Northeast Arkansas

  • Jonesboro – Craighead Forest Park Lake boat ramp
  • Lake Bono – Boat Ramp Access
  • Lake Dunn – Boat Ramp Access
  • Lake Poinsett – Dam Access Boat Ramp
  • Lake Walcott – Crowley’s Ridge State Park Boat Ramp Access

Northwest Arkansas

  • Beaver Lake – Highway 12 Access and AGFC Don Roufa Hwy 412 Access
  • Lake Elmdale – Boat Ramp Access
  • Bob Kidd Lake – Boat Ramp Access
  • Crystal Lake – Boat Ramp Access

Southeast Arkansas

  • Lake Chicot – Connerly Bayou Access Area
  • Lake Monticello – Hunger Run Access
  • Cox Creek Lake – Cox Creek Lake Access Area

Southwest Arkansas

  • Bois d’Arc Lake – Kidd’s Landing or Hatfield Access
  • Millwood Lake – Cottonshed, White Cliffs Recreation Areas and the Millwood State Park ramp on the point
  • Dierks Lake – Jefferson Ridge South Recreation Area
  • DeQueen Lake – Any U.S. Army Corps of Engineers boat ramp
  • Gillham Lake – Any U.S. Army Corps of Engineers boat ramp
  • Lake Greeson – New Cowhide Cove and Self Creek Recreation areas
  • Camden – AGFC Regional Office on Ben Lane
  • Upper White Oak Lake – Upper Jack’s Landing
  • Magnolia – Columbia County Road Department Yard on Highway 371
  • El Dorado – City recycling center drop-offs: one behind Arby’s and one on South Jackson
  • Smackover – Recycling Drop-Off Center (these will be transported to El Dorado)
  • South Fork Lake – South Fork Lake Access
  • Terre Noire Lake – Terre Noire Lake Access
  • Hope – AGFC Regional Office on Hwy. 67 East

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Trout  fishing on the White near Buffalo CityNative to Europe, the German brown trout found in the tailwaters of Beaver, Bull Shoals, Norfork and Greers Ferry dams, typically start their spawning run during fall and winter, offering die-hard anglers a chance at some fantastic fishing. But biologists ask anglers to keep a conservation mindset when chasing these gems of the tailwater so everyone will be able to enjoy them for years to come.

Chief among fishing faux pas with the wading community is the destruction of trout nests, called redds, which serve to keep the population going.

Christy Graham, trout program coordinator, says anglers should be aware of spawning activities and the damage caused when redds or spawning trout are disturbed.

“The AGFC Trout Management Program recommends anglers be mindful of spawning activity during this time of the year and to be careful when wade fishing to avoid trampling over redds,” Graham said. “Anglers should also be aware that there are some seasonal regulations in effect that coincide with the brown trout spawning season on both the White and Little Red Rivers.”

Trout are nest guarders, and they can be nest robbers. Removing a large brown trout from the redd it is guarding not only can cause harm to an already stressed fish, but enables predators, including other trout, to destroy the redd. Simply walking through a trout redd can have disastrous results, which is why the Bull Shoals Catch-and-Release Area along Bull Shoals White River State Park is closed to angling from Nov. 1 to Jan. 31 each year. An additional area becomes catch-and-release angling only during this time, to ensure spawning trout are not removed from the tailwater during the spawn.

According to Graham, trout redds can be identified fairly easily. They appear as clean, oval patches of small to medium-sized gravel and are typically 2 to 3 feet in diameter. The gravel in them is typically lighter-colored than surrounding gravel. There may be a small depression or mound, where gravel has been excavated and deposited over the eggs.

Fishing the trout spawn can produce some exciting action because extremely large brown trout tend to show themselves a bit more and become more aggressive during this time. But many dyed-in-the-wool trout anglers will avoid fishing for spawning fish entirely. Rainbow trout and cutthroats often produce some exceptional fishing on egg patterns and corn during this time because of their tendency to capitalize on brown trout eggs that become dislodged from nests and float downstream.

“If you do end up fishing around spawning areas for browns, there are a few things you can do to lessen the damage caused by angling during this time,” Graham said. “We always want anglers to use the best possible catch-and-release practices, but it’s even more critical during the spawn.”

Graham says aside from avoiding the spawning fish entirely, anglers can help provide next year’s fish by following a few simple steps. Avoid snagging fish, no matter how tempting it can be to “set the hook a little early.” Use barbless hooks to minimize damage to the fish’s mouth and land the fish as quickly as possible. Wet your hands to land the fish and minimize the amount of time it stays out of the water, so that it may return to its redd as soon as possible.

Visit http://www.agfc.com/en/fishing/sportfish/trout for more information about trout fishing in Arkansas.

 

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