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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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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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Old Christmas trees are ideal cover for many species of game fish.

Old Christmas trees are ideal cover for many species of game fish.

Once 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.

Jason Olive, AGFC assistant chief of fisheries, says the small spaces and dense cover offered by fresh Christmas trees make excellent nursery habitat for small fish.

Christmas trees at AGFC drop-off locations are available for any angler to sink.

Christmas trees at AGFC drop-off locations are available for any angler to sink.

“In ponds where we’ve sunk Christmas trees, we’ve seen increased growth in smaller fish,” said Olive. “Young bass, crappie and bream and baitfish all benefit from the cover, and larger gamefish will be attracted to the smaller fish.”

Anglers are welcome to remove trees from drop-off locations to create their own fish attractors. Olive suggests using parachute cord and cinder blocks to weigh trees down.

“Sink groups of Christmas trees together,” said Olive. “Within two to three years, you won’t have much left except the trunks, but when we drained Lower White Oak Lake in Ouachita County recently, we saw several nice piles of Christmas tree trunks that were still good fish habitat after 12 years of being in the water.”

Trees should be clean of all ornaments, lights and tinsel before they are dropped off. Artificial Christmas trees should not be used as fish habitat, either.

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 Dunn – Boat Ramp Access.
  • Lake Poinsett – Dam Access Boat Ramp.

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.
  • 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.

 

Sink Christmas trees in bundles, so the pile of trunks can attract fish long after the branches have rotted away.

Sink Christmas trees in bundles, so the pile of trunks can attract fish long after the branches have rotted away.

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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers worked with the AGFC and local anglers to place new habitat in Greers Ferry Lake.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers worked with the AGFC and local anglers to place new habitat in Greers Ferry Lake.

The AGFC worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to complete a small habitat project on Greers Ferry Lake over winter. An expansion at Eden Isle’s parking area left many large stumps and rood wads to be discarded. Instead of burning or grinding them, the Corps loaded the wads on the AGFC Habitat Barge to be placed in the lake for fish attractors and cover. The GPS coordinates to these stumps, as well as all AGFC fish attractors, are available on the AGFC Interactive Map. Click http://gis.agfc.com/ to see more.

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Old Christmas trees are ideal cover for many species of game fish.

Old Christmas trees are ideal cover for many species of game fish.

Cover is a key component to any hot angling prospect. Unfortunately, as lakes and rivers age, the woody cover once left under the water decays and washes away. Smart anglers know that a little work in the winter “freshening up ” their favorite honey hole can pay huge dividends throughout the year, but finding and cutting down the trees can be a bit of a chore.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has special “Christmas Tree Donation Centers” where people can drop off their tree. Instead of going to a landfill, these trees can be used by local anglers to add some cover to their favorite fishing holes. All you need is some rope and a weight to sink the tree and you have a nice mat of cover that will last for a year or two in your favorite fishing location.

Trees can be dropped off or picked up to be used at the following locations:

  • Lake Hamilton – Andrew Hulsey State Fish Hatchery Access Area.
  • Cox Creek Lake – Cox Creek Lake Access Area.
  • Lake Chicot – Connerly Bayou Access Area.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • Arkansas River – Alltel Access beneath the I-30 Bridge.
  • Lake Pickthorne – Near the boat ramp.
  • 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.
  • Jonesboro – Craighead Forest Park Lake boat ramp.
  • Lake Elmdale – Boat Ramp Access.
  • Bob Kidd Lake – Boat Ramp Access.
  • Crystal Lake – Boat Ramp Access.
  • Lake Willastein – Maumelle near the boat ramp access.
  • Bois d’Arc Lake – Kidd’s Landing or Hatfield Access.
  • Grandview Lake #1 – Grandview Lake #1 Access.
  • Grandview Lake #2 – Grandview Lake #2 Access.
  • Lake Dunn – Boat Ramp Access.

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Don't have enough land to improve your local deer herd? Talk to neighbors and form a cooperative.

Don’t have enough land to improve your local deer herd? Talk to neighbors and form a cooperative.

Partnering to improve your deer herd

By Daniel Greenfield, AGFC Private Lands Biologist
Landowners or managers often encounter various limitations, such as the size of their property, limited resources or number of participants. Instead of trying to manage deer alone on a few acres, branch out to create a deer management cooperative.

Cooperatives can be composed of as little as 500 acres made up of a few landowners or consisting of several thousand acres with a larger group of landowners or members. Usually, larger cooperatives are more effective because of their ability to better manage deer over larger areas while sharing equipment, ideas and collecting needed data.

Many properties that are managed for deer are not large enough to cover the deer’s entire home range. A deer’s average home range covers around one square mile, so managing on less than 640 acres can be difficult. By working together, landowners with smaller acreage can control and manage the entire home range of a deer to see results in producing better quality deer.

Smaller property owners also may not have the equipment necessary to manage the habitat to improve it for wildlife, but they can share equipment, manpower and ideas to reach their management goals more successfully. Increasing the size of a property that is being managed for deer can also increase the amount of data being gathered such as observation data, antler measurements, weights and age structure. This data can then be interpreted by a biologist to form a management plan for the entire cooperative property.

The most enticing reason to partner with neighboring landowners is free management assistance from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. The AGFC’s  Deer Management Assistance Program is a free program to assist deer clubs and landowners in managing their deer herd and habitat. But the minimum acreage to qualify for assistance is 500 acres in the Arkansas River Valley, Ozark, Ouachita and Crowley’s Ridge regions and 1,000 acres in the Gulf Coastal Plain and the Mississippi Alluvial Valley. (The yearly deadline to enroll is July 1.)

Private Lands Biologists can conduct a site visit on your property, discuss your management goals, provide habitat recommendations and develop a custom plan to fit your deer management objectives. The PLB can educate members on how to collect deer data accurately. The data can then be used to manage the deer herd on a yearly basis. PLBs are very knowledgeable in all aspects of habitat management such as forest stand improvement, prescribed burning, food plots, native warm season grass habitat and other practices that benefit deer and a wide range of wildlife.

For more information on cooperatives and improving your land for wildlife, contact an AGFC Private Lands Biologist at: Fort Smith-877-478-1043, Harrison-870-741-8600-ext. 114, Hope-877-777-5580, Calico Rock-877-297-4331, Little Rock-877-470-3650, Brinkley-877-734-4581, Jonesboro-877-972-5438 and Monticello-877-367-3559.

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