(Updated August 29, 2018)
TWRA to host public meetings
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is seeking public input regarding deer management in Tennessee at three public meetings in September. Meetings will be held in West, Middle and East Tennessee on Sept. 4-5-6.
All members of the public are welcome and encouraged to attend. The agency is particularly interested in getting feedback from those who experience impacts (positive or negative) from deer or the management of deer. This includes hunters, farmers, motorists, wildlife viewers, homeowners, or anyone else with a vested interest in how deer are managed in the state. Input received at the meeting will be used to inform the development of a 5-year strategic plan for TWRA's Deer Management Program.
The meetings will be held at the University of Tennessee-West Tennessee Ag Research and Education Center at 605 Airways Boulevard, Suite 104 in Jackson (7-9 p.m.); Lane Agri-Park Auditorium at 315 John R. Rice Boulevard in Murfreesboro on Sept. 5 (7-9 p.m.) and at the University of Tennessee-Plant Biotech Building in rooms 156/157) on 2505 E.J. Chapman Drive in Knoxville (7-9 p.m.).
Fishing proposals preview and Elk hunt participants
A preview of the commercial fishing and sport fish proclamations was presented and the participants in the 2018 elk hunts were during the August meeting of the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission. The meeting was at the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency's Region II Ray Bell Building.
In addition, winners of the 14 drawn permits to hunt elk on North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area or private lands within the Elk Restoration Zone were announced. Brad Miller, TWRA elk program leader made the announcement during the first day's committee meetings. This will include seven quota permits for the archery only hunt Sept. 29-Oct. 5. One permit will be drawn for the youth hunt Oct. 6-12. There will be six permits drawn for the Oct. 13-19 where participants will have the option to use archery, gun, or muzzleloader.
Since the elk hunt was implemented in Tennessee in 2009, one of the permits for the gun hunt has been donated to a Non-Government Organization which again is the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation. For the first time this year, a raffle for the permit replaced an online auction held previously to determine the additional participant.
Also, TWRA Fisheries Division Chief Frank Fiss presented the proposals for the sport fishing and commercial fishing regulations. Following the meeting, a public comment period will be held for the proposals that were presented. The regulations will be set at the September TFWC meeting to be held in Knoxville.
Kirk Miles, Region III wildlife coordinator, made a report on the sandhill crane permit drawing held in Rhea County and the duck blind drawings held at 10 locations earlier this month. Chris Richardson, Assistant Director, previewed potential provisions and concepts to be included in the commercial paddlecraft general permit rule.
Rob Southwick, from Southwick and Associates, was a guest presenter. Southwick and Associates is a market research firm, specializing in the hunting, shooting, sport fishing, and outdoor recreation markets. He provided an analysis of TWRA licenses. The agency also presented its fiscal year 2019-20 budget recommendations to the commission.
Jumping into boat not so funny anymore
Fish jumping into the boat sounds like a dream come true for some anglers -- until you've experienced it firsthand. That's exactly what's happening on some Arkansas lakes connected to the Mississippi River, and it's causing a lot of concern.
Asian carp, particularly silver carp and bighead carp, have invaded many of these lakes. Silver ones have a tendency to leap from the water when startled by the sound of passing boats. With adults weighing up to 50 pounds, that can create an extremely dangerous situation for boaters.
Diana Andrews, fisheries supervisor for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission in Monticello, says the fish were found in Lake Chicot in Chicot County in 2005. By 2007 they had grown large enough to cause an issue with boating and recreation on the lake.
"We have had many reports of near misses and strikes from anglers and pleasure boaters," Andrews said. "And one boy was struck so badly in 2008 while tubing that the impact knocked him unconscious and broke his jaw."
The AGFC has opened commercial fishing seasons on Chicot and other lakes to entice commercial anglers to help remove the carp, but the market for these Asian fish is small.
Asian carp originally were imported from Southeast Asia in efforts to keep wastewater treatment facility retention ponds clean and to reduce organic matter in some aquaculture facilities. However, flooding and accidental releases from those initial ponds enabled the fish to escape into the Mississippi River system, where they have played havoc on boaters and threatened to enter the Great Lakes.
Jimmy Barnett, aquatic nuisance species coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, says other than their habit of jumping and causing a boating hazard, these carp may also have the ability to overpopulate a system and decimate the base of that fisheries food chain.
"They're not predators, but they eat plankton, which is what feeds smaller baitfish. That food gets used up by the carp instead of adding to the food chain, and the whole system suffers, including sportfish like bass and crappie," Barnett said.
Many lakes and rivers throughout the U.S. are connected, be it by meandering routes of natural free-flowing streams or man-made canals and lock-and-dam systems for commerce. However, one of the fastest ways for any invasive species to spread is by hitching a ride with boaters or anglers. One likely culprit of some transplants is through what Barnett refers to as "bait bucket stockings."
"Live bait taken from the wild can carry with it all sorts of issues," Barnett said. "Not only can the baitfish be harboring a disease or parasite they can spread to a new system, but the fish themselves may not be native."
Beginning Oct. 1 no live bait originating from the wild will be allowed to be transported outside of the body of water where it was caught or upstream beyond any dam in that body of water. The new regulation was passed last year, with an extended effective date to ensure any baitfish grower may have time to grow large enough bait to replace those most commonly caught from the wild, and ensure anglers still would have a viable option for the large live bait used for species like striped bass and large catfish.
Seasoned fisheries biologists may be able to tell the difference between some species of common native baitfish and young Asian carp, but even veteran anglers could be confused on the identification of some of these fish, especially in a bait bucket full of fish. All it takes is one net haul of invasives in the bucket to spread these species to new waters.
The buck is back on Arkansas license plates
For the third time in 19 years of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission's conservation license plate program, a white-tailed deer graces the plates of conservation-minded motorists in The Natural State.
No animal has been featured on the plate as often as deer, which is a fitting tribute to Arkansas's outdoors, according to Matt Burns, AGFC assistant chief of education.
"More Arkansas hunters pursue deer than any other species," Burns said. "The last deer sold out quickly."
Several artists have worked on plate designs over the years. The two most recent versions were crafted by Greta James, AGFC illustrator and graphic artist. James' rendition of the ideal trophy buck shows an added bit of character, a split brow tine.
Conservation license plates don't just look good; they raise money for conservation concerns – about $1.03 million last year and more than $15 million since their inception.
Act 1566, signed April 15, 1999, by Gov. Mike Beebe, created the program. According to the act, "The design use contribution of $25 shall be deposited to the Game Protection Fund to be used by the Arkansas State Game and Fish Commission for the purpose of sponsoring college scholarships related to the field of conservation, funding land purchases for the benefit of the public, and for conservation education programs."
"Last year we funded 125 scholarships to college students ranging from freshman- to graduate-level studies," Burns said. "We also paid 22 interns throughout the state with conservation license plate money."
All 19 plates are listed on the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration website, www.dfa.arkansas.gov/motor-vehicle/specialty-plates-and-placards, although not all of them remain available.
Each plate costs $35 annually, $25 of which goes to the AGFC Conservation Scholarship Fund; $10 goes to DFA. Plates may be purchased from DFA, Office of Motor Vehicles Special License Unit, and P.O. Box 1272, Little Rock, AR 72203. To purchase in person, visit Charles Ragland Taxpayer Service Center, Special License Unit at 1500 W. Seventh St. in Little Rock or any revenue office. Call 501-682-4692 for details.
One positive deer detected for CWD
Since October 1, 2017 Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP) has sampled more than 1,800 white-tailed deer across Mississippi to test for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). Since, all samples sent off for testing have come back not detected for CWD except for one positive buck that was collected on January 25, 2018, in Issaquena County.
For now, MDWFP has ceased targeted sampling operations, but continues to collect samples from road-killed or diseased deer that are reported to MDWFP by the public. MDWFP hopes to collect 5,000 deer samples from hunter-harvested deer during the 2018-2019 deer seasons statewide.
As MDWFP prepares for the 2018-2019 hunting season, we will be issuing further information regarding how test samples will be collected from hunter-harvested deer, a revised CWD management zone and how that will pertain to supplemental feeding and carcass transportation, and best management practices for carcass disposal and processing meat.