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Arkansas Outdoors
Arkansas Outdoors Weekly Newsletter
Arkansas Game and Fish Commission
Randy Zellers 501-223-6406, e-mail: randy.zellers@agfc.ar.gov
 
December 21, 2016 

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Arkansas Outdoors Newsletter to take a few weeks off
 
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Outdoors and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Weekly Fishing Report will not be produced Dec. 28 and Jan. 4 because of the holiday season. Following this week’s publication, the next issue of the AGFC’s electronic news release package will be Wednesday, Jan. 11. The Weekly Waterfowl Report will be issued through the holidays.
Bowfisherman sets new shortnose gar record
 
WARD – Bryson Harpole of Ward didn’t only set a new bar for shortnose gar in Arkansas’s fishing records on Nov. 1, 2016; he crushed the old record for unrestricted tackle. His bowfishing catch from Cypress Bayou WMA weighed an impressive 11 lbs. 12 oz., and measured over a yard long at 36.8 inches. The previous record, held by Robert Perkins of Conway and taken in Craig D. Campbell Lake Conway Reservoir in 1998 was 6 lbs. 12 oz.

“This gar was nearly double the old state record, and was much larger than most shortnose gar we see,” said Matt Horton, habitat biologist at the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Mayflower office. Horton says the species rarely gets much larger than 4 pounds, and larger specimens can closely resemble spotted gar, so extra precautions were taken to ensure a positive identification.

“In some cases, the lack of spotting can be the only way to positively identify shortnose, and in larger specimens of spotted gar, their spots can fade and are very hard to see,” Horton said. “We had a few biologists, including our gar expert, Eric Brinkman, positively identify the fish through photographs and in person to make sure it was a shortnose.”

The catch also surpassed the 9 lb. 6 oz. shortnose gar record for hook-and-line angling. Unrestricted tackle methods of take include bowfishing, snagging, and passive fishing devices such as trotlines and yo-yos.

“The IGFA doesn’t recognize bowfishing as a legitimate capture method for hook-and-line records,” said Horton. “But I believe Mr. Harpole was looking into other organizations that qualified bowfishing records to see if he could claim a world record with the catch.”
New trout regulations for Little Red River in effect Jan. 1
 
HEBER SPRINGS – Anglers visiting the Little Red River below Greers Ferry Dam in Heber Springs will find a few new regulations in place when they hit the water in 2017.

The Commission voted unanimously to approve many changes which were adopted to help protect the world-famous trout fishery and spawning areas. The regulations were presented to the Commission in October, and public surveys were conducted throughout October on www.agfc.com to gather public input before the final vote.

The following regulation changes are effective Jan.1, 2017:

• The 16- to 24-inch protected slot limit for all trout species on Greers Ferry Tailwater has been removed, and a five-fish daily limit with only one trout over 16 inches allowed has been instituted.
• The no culling regulation has been expanded to cover all species of trout on the Greers Ferry Tailwater. Once a trout of any species is caught and placed on a stringer, in a fish basket or in a livewell, it must be kept and counts toward an angler’s daily limit.
• Mobility-impaired anglers may now fish on Collins Creek downstream of the wooden vehicle bridge in JFK Park.
• The JFK and Mossy special regulations areas have been converted into year-round catch-and-release areas.
• The Cow Shoals Seasonal Catch-and-Release Area is now a year-round catch-and-release area.
• Fishing times at Cow Shoals Catch-and-Release Area are from 30 minutes before sunrise until 30 minutes after sunset from Oct. 1-Dec. 31. 
All trout regulations for 2017 will be available in a copy of the 2017 Trout Fishing Guidebook, which is currently at the printer and scheduled for delivery during the first week of January.
Donate your Christmas tree to boost angling action
 
LITTLE ROCK – 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.

“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 weight the 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
• 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
• 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
Electronic license option coming to Arkansas hunters and anglers soon
 
LITTLE ROCK – Hunters and anglers will be able to carry most of the necessary licensing paperwork on their mobile devices in 2017 if the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission goes through with the expected approval of its new computerized electronic licensing plan at its January Commission meeting.

Tony Davis, chief of the AGFC’s Internet Technology Division, said the plan is in the 30-day public comment phase and will be voted on by the seven-member Commission at the next monthly meeting. If approved, the electronic licensing program would be rolled out April 1.

It will allow hunters and anglers the opportunity to obtain licenses on mobile devices and carry PDFs of the licenses on mobile devices that will suffice as proof they are properly licensed. All necessary paperwork, with the exception of deer tags and turkey tags, can be carried electronically without having to have the actual paperwork on their person: Hunter Education card, Boating Education card, HIP registration, state duck stamp, Sweet 16 WMA hunting registration, and so forth. For duck, squirrel and other game hunting that doesn’t require the paper tags, everything needed for legal hunting can be accessed on your phone, Davis said.

“We’re trying to make it easier to sell licenses, that’s the reason for this change,” Davis said. “The more convenient it is to get more hunters into the woods and anglers on the water, then we’re doing our job. They can buy their license on a mobile phone easier than coming here (to the Little Rock headquarters) to buy it.”

Outside vendors such as Walmart stores will still be available for hunters and anglers to purchase licenses, where the information will be logged into the AGFC’s website and paperwork printed at the vendor location, while still available on a mobile device. Walmart, Davis said, currently sells 64 percent of the Arkansas hunting and fishing licenses. The AGFC will send out a new package of vendor applications and train the vendors in how to operate it after the new plan is approved.

Federal duck stamp purchases will still require a physical stamp. Purchasers can buy the federal stamp along with the state paperwork and still have 45 days before they must have the physical stamp on their person.

The change is part of an overhaul and rebranding of the entire website at the AGFC.

The licensing system in place now on the site allows for hunting license registration on the internet, and buyers receive a confirmation number that is good only until the paper copy arrives, including their deer tags. With the change, licenses and paperwork including deer tags can also be printed out on an 8-inch by 11-inch sheet of paper and carried by the hunter.

“It’s going to increase license sales,” Davis said. “It will give people an easier way to do it. We have seen the number of license sales drop over the past five years and our efforts are to help turn that around.”

Another interesting aspect of the new licensing program is an auto-renew feature that allows the buyer simply to check a box and automatically renew the license each year. Missouri and New Hampshire are among the states already using the system that will be part of the new AGFC website in April. The system was created by Sovereign Sportsman’s Solutions of Nashville, Tenn.

“On the site you’ll be able to buy merchandise, our publications, licenses, do game check. All that is part of one system, a one-stop shop where if you need something from the Game and Fish Commission, it’s right there. The new system will be responsive for mobile devices and tablets,” Davis said.
Commission approves data-sharing agreement for non-governmental conservation organizations
 
Commission approves data-sharing agreement for non-governmental conservation organizations LITTLE ROCK – The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission approved a measure that will make it easier to work with non-governmental conservation agencies to help recruit new hunters, anglers and conservationists during its meeting Dec. 15.

According to Tony Davis, AGFC chief information officer, the agreement will open communication between organizations such as the National Wild Turkey Federation and the AGFC. This will let them share information on members and people who attend workshops and education programs on either side, so that both groups will be able to follow up with participants and offer additional guidance to learn more about the outdoors. The first agreement has been made with the NWTF, and Arkansas is the pilot program for this new endeavor.

Corey Dunn, NWTF district field supervisor for Arkansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma, says he is excited about the new opportunity.

“We really think this will benefit everyone in recruiting new hunters, which is one of the NWTF’s main goals,” Dunn said in a committee briefing Monday regarding the agreement.

In other business, the Commission:
• Recognized Wildlife Officer First Class Steve Paul of Hot Spring County as this year’s recipient of the Shikar-Safari Club International’s Wildlife Officer of the Year. The presentation was made by Mike and Kay Breedlove of Shikar-Safari.
• Recognized eight employees with a total of 180 years of service for their commitment to the people and natural resources of Arkansas.
• Approved the removal of equipment and inventory with an original value of $37,891.30 and a current net book value of $6,598.09.
• Approved a budget transfer of $70,000 from the gas revenue fund to the capital fleet budget for the purchase of two vehicles.
• Heard the first reading of proposed regulations changes to license system requirements involving point-of-sale license vendors.
• Approved a permanent easement on Holland Bottoms WMA to the City of Jacksonville for water utility work.
• Approved a permanent easement on Lester Sitzes III Bois D’Arc WMA to the Southeast Arkansas Water Facilities Board for water utility work.
Arkansas Game and Fish Commission
2 Natural Resources Drive | Little Rock, AR 72205 | (800) 364-4263 - (501) 223-6300 | www.agfc.com
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