MAY 2009 NEWS RELEASES 

WEEK OF MAY 28, 2009

 

WEEK OF MAY 21, 2009

 

WEEK OF MAY 14, 2009

 

WEEK OF MAY 8, 2009

Wildlife Department offers tool for developers to protect critical prairie chicken habitat
            The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation today released its new tool designed to protect and conserve imperiled lesser prairie chickens affected by land development in western Oklahoma.
            “The tool, known as the Oklahoma Lesser Prairie Chicken Spatial Planning Tool, is a habitat-based model that quantifies the value of every acre within lesser prairie chicken range,” said Russ Horton, research supervisor for the Wildlife Department. “This tool should prove invaluable to responsible developers and planners as they search for sites where development would least impact Oklahoma’s dwindling population of lesser prairie chickens.”
            The lesser prairie chicken is identified as a species of greatest conservation need in Oklahoma and is a candidate for federal listing as threatened, range-wide. The sand shinnery and sand sagebrush native rangelands of northwest Oklahoma are crucial for survival of this species. The same area also provides some of Oklahoma’s most abundant sources of energy including wind, oil and natural gas.  Efforts to harvest this energy are projected to rapidly intensify over the next few years.
            “Oklahoma’s wind industry will provide a clean source of domestically produced energy that will contribute to our state’s future economic growth,” noted Secretary of Energy Robert Wegener. “It is critical for this industry and others impacting the prairies of western Oklahoma to utilize tools such as this.”
            Secretary of the Environment J.D. Strong added, “If the wind industry is to remain ‘green,’ and others want to demonstrate their concern for our environment, then necessary steps such as this must be taken to avoid endangering Oklahoma’s few remaining lesser prairie chickens. I strongly encourage everyone engaged in energy development in western Oklahoma to utilize this valuable new tool to plan future projects that protect, rather than destroy, one of our state’s most threatened prairie species.”
            Researchers have found that lesser prairie chickens, particularly nesting hens, avoid vertical structures because they are often used as perches by predators such as hawks, eagles and owls. Habitat fragmentation caused by a number of factors including transmission lines, roads and highways, buildings and tree encroachment into prairie habitats, as well as conversion of native rangeland to cropland or non-native vegetation, can all be detrimental to lesser prairie chickens.
            “The Wildlife Department understands that developers must consider a number of factors when planning locations but strongly encourages developers to use this tool in the planning process to minimize or eliminate negative impacts on the prairie chicken and their associated habitats,” Horton said.
            The Oklahoma Lesser Prairie Chicken Spatial Planning Tool was developed in cooperation with the Secretary of Environment, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Nature Conservancy, OSU Extension, G.M. Sutton Avian Research Center and the Playa Lakes Joint Venture.
            “Tools such as the Oklahoma Lesser Prairie Chicken Spatial Planning Tool, in conjunction with on-going prairie conservation actions, will be important to strategically conserve the prairie chicken and it’s habitat and to preclude the need to list the species under the Endangered Species Act, all while still meeting the energy needs of the United States,” said Ken Frazier, assistant field supervisor for the Oklahoma Ecological Services Field Office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
            In addition to helping determine areas where development would least impact prairie chickens, the Spatial Planning Tool also can be used in assessing the cost of developments within the lesser prairie chicken’s range, as well as to prioritize areas and costs for prairie chicken habitat restoration and recovery efforts. If it is necessary to site a project or structure in an area that will impact lesser prairie chickens, the Department hopes developers will use the tool to determine a voluntary contribution to offset the impacts of that development.
            The Oklahoma Lesser Prairie Chicken Spatial Planning Tool, available on the Wildlife Department’s Web site at http://www.wildlifedepartment.com/lepcdevelopmentplanning.htm, is provided in formats compatible with both GIS (.img) and Google Earth (.kmz). Maps in both 8.5” x 14” and 33” x 44” are also available.
            “The unique habitats found in northwest Oklahoma are invaluable to wildlife as well as to wind energy development, so the Wildlife Department and energy developers have to work together to ensure that our state’s wildlife heritage remains strong,” Horton said. “To that end, we have used the model to create maps showing areas where wind resources are suitable for development, with minimal effect or no effects at all on the lesser prairie chicken.”
            For more information about the lesser prairie chicken, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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Hackberry Flat Center to host outdoor fun for the family
            The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and Friends of Hackberry Flat are partnering to host a free family-oriented day of outdoor fun Saturday, May 9 at the Hackberry Flat Center near Frederick in southwest Oklahoma.
            The Family Fun Day will offer activities ranging from birding tours and wetland hayrides to archery, shotgun shooting, and building birdhouses for guests to take home with them, among others.
            “This will be a chance for the public to tour the new Hackberry Flat Center,” said Melynda Hickman, wildlife diversity biologist for the Wildlife Department. “We’ve got a bunch of great activities planned for the Family Fun Day, and I am really looking forward to meeting young and old alike and showing them around Hackberry Flat.”
            Along with outdoor activities, inside the Center visitors will be able to view wetland wildlife in the wetland classroom, make an edible wetland, and experience an interactive exhibit about bats in Oklahoma. Additionally, children’s book author Desiree Webber will be on hand teaching youngsters how the bison was reintroduced at the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge in her children’s book, The Buffalo Train.
            Birding tours will begin at 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. The Friends of Hackberry Flat will offer the birdhouse “make-n-take programs” at 9:30 a.m., 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. to the first 10 families at each of the programs.
            The Family Fun Day is free, and no registration is required. The event will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 9 and will run until 4 p.m.
            All activities will begin at the new Hackberry Flat Center, a facility that provides wetland classroom experiences for school groups, programs on wildlife and wildlife-related activities as well as meeting facilities for resource-oriented programs, workshops and meetings.
            Hackberry Flat WMA covers 7,120 acres of Tillman County in southwest Oklahoma. Located southeast of the town of Frederick, Hackberry Flat WMA is a combination of upland and wetland habitats. Approximately 99 water control structures, 35 miles of dikes, four miles of water distribution canals and 35 wetland units have been constructed to provide wetland wildlife habitat.
            For more information or to receive a booklet about the Hackberry Flat Wildlife Management Area call the Frederick Chamber of Commerce at (580) 335-2126 or call Hickman at (405) 990-4977. To view more information online, including a 16-page informational guide on Hackberry Flat, log on to http://www.wildlifedepartment.com
 
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Last chance to apply for Wildlife Department’s Controlled Hunts as May 15 deadline approaches
            Hunters have until May 15 to submit applications for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s Controlled Hunts program, which gives them a chance at drawing out for a bull elk, whitetail deer, antelope or other highly sought-after controlled hunt.
            Applications are completed online through the Wildlife Department’s Web site at wildlifedepartment.com.
Administered by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, the Controlled Hunts Program offers a wide variety of highly desirable hunts through a random drawing. Controlled hunting opportunities offered through the program include hunts on Department or other government-owned or managed lands where unrestricted hunting would pose safety concerns or where overharvest might occur.
            “Sportsmen have over 140 different quality hunts to choose from including elk, antelope, deer, turkey, and quail hunts,” said Melinda Sturgess-Streich, assistant director of administration for the Wildlife Department. “Thirty-two of these hunts are designed specifically for youth ages 14-16. You don’t want to miss out on these hunting opportunities, so mark your calendars to apply before the deadline of May 15.”
            All applicants, including lifetime license holders, must pay a $5 application fee to enter the Controlled Hunts drawings. The fee is paid only once per person per year regardless of the number of categories entered.
            “A single $5 fee for an opportunity to hunt elk, antelope, or deer alone is minor in comparison to the thousands of dollars that some sportsmen pay to attend similar hunts,” Sturgess-Streich said. “Plus, it’s all done online through a secure application process that only accepts applications once they have been filed correctly, which means you can’t mess up your application or your chance to be drawn for a hunt.”
            Applicants have until May 15 to apply online.
             For complete application instructions, including tips on enhancing your chances of being selected as well as a full listing of available hunts for elk, deer, antelope, turkey, quail and raccoon, log on to http://www.wildlifedepartment.com
 
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Oklahoma students attend national archery tournament; students bring home championships
            Students from Oklahoma claimed two individual national championships and several other high standings at the National Archery in the Schools Program National Tournament May 8-9 in Louisville, Ky.
            Kolt Perkins of Zaneis Elementary School near Wilson took the 6th-grade boys national championship and was the highest scoring elementary student with 292 points out of 300 and 23 bullseyes. The bullseye at the center of the target is about three inches in diameter. Perkins outscored 1,006 other elementary students to claim the first place spot and become one of the first two Oklahomans to win a National Archery in the Schools Program national championship. Perkins' score also was the highest ever achieved by an elementary boy in the history of the national tournament.
            Perkins' mother, Kelly Sue Perkins, said the Archery in the Schools program has helped her son succeed.
            “We just want to thank the schools for putting the archery program into place here,” she said, adding that Kolt “has accomplished so much” by participating in archery at Zaneis.
            Perkins' father, Kelly Lee Perkins, said archery as well as hunting has always been a pastime for Kolt.
            “He's always played with bows and arrows instead of baseballs,” he said.
            The other Oklahoman to claim a first-place win was Meredith Noland of Chickasha, whose score of 278 and 12 bullseyes was enough to claim the 4th-grade girls national championship and fifth place among all elementary girls. More than 600 elementary girls competed.
            Oklahoma also was among the top states in attendance at the shoot, with 206 shooters out of nearly 5,000 from across the country in attendance. Thirty-two states and Canada were represented at the shoot. Oklahoma students qualified for the national competition based on their individual and team scores from the Oklahoma Archery in the Schools State Shoot held in April at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City. The Oklahoma Archery in the Schools Program, administered in the state by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, is part of a national organization that introduces students to the sport of archery, in which students of all athletic abilities can learn and excel.
            “It's quite an accomplishment for Oklahoma to bring home a national championship in just its fifth year of offering the program,” said Colin Berg, education supervisor for the Wildlife Department. “Not only is this young man a gifted athlete, but he had to work hard at this sport to get this far, and this is just the tip of the iceberg for Oklahoma's involvement in this program. It has grown from small roots over the last five years to more than 180 Oklahoma schools participating in the program now. I'd say we have a lot more national championships that Oklahoma students will be bringing home in the future.”
            In addition to first place wins claimed by Perkins and Noland, other Oklahoma elementary students placed high in their categories.
            Brooks Bush of Chickasha Elementary took 5th place in the 5th-grade elementary boys category with a score of 279 and 14 bullseyes, and Hailey Pilkenton and Hadlie Barnes, both 5th-graders at Greenville Elementary, tied with scores of 277 and 13 bullseyes each. In a shoot-off, Barnes claimed fourth place. Haylie Douglas of Chickasha placed 6th in the 5th-grade girls category with 273 points and 14 bullseyes.
            In the middle school division, two boys scored in the top 15 out of 880 shooters. Danny Phillips of Maryetta Junior High in Stilwell placed 10th with 287 points and 19 bullseyes, and Will Gibson of Chandler placed 12th with 286 points and 18 bullseyes. Hannah Lawhorn of Keystone School near Sand Springs scored 32nd in the middle school girls division, with 275 points and 13 bullseyes.
            High-schoolers also scored well, taking home a 32nd and 35th place out of 926 shooters in the boys category and a 54th place out of 588 in the girls category.
            Taylor Gibson of Chandler High School placed 32nd in the boys category with his score of 287 and 18 bullseyes, and Houston Gaither of Coweta High School placed 35th with 286 points and 20 bullseyes. Tiffany Thompson of Coweta High School placed 54th in the girls category with 274 points, which included 14 bullseyes.
            Back in April, 1,085 students from 93 schools across the state gathered at the Cox Convention Center for the Oklahoma Archery in the Schools State Shoot to wrap up a season of archery practice and competition at their respective schools and to determine qualifiers for the national shoot.
            The number of students at the state shoot reflects the growth of the
OAIS program during its five years of existence. This year's state shoot saw an increase of more than 300 students over last year's shoot and almost 600 more students than were present in 2007. The state shoot also has grown so much that the Wildlife Department was forced to move it from the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond to the Cox Center to accommodate more shooters.
            “The great thing about this program is that so many kids can get involved and become very skilled at the sport of archery, which is something they will be able to do for fun for the rest of their lives,” said Lance Meek, Oklahoma Archery in the Schools coordinator for the Wildlife Department.
            The state shoot is the season finale for the
OAIS program, and qualifiers move on to the national shoot in Louisville.
            The Archery in the Schools curriculum is designed for 4th-12th graders and covers archery history, safety, techniques, equipment, mental concentration and self-improvement.
            More than 180 schools across the state have enrolled in the Oklahoma Archery in the Schools program, which offers archery to students, and grant money can make it easy for other schools to join up as well.
            “Thanks to a Wildlife Department grant, schools can now get involved in the program for a fraction of the cost of the equipment,” Meek said.
            Partial grants are available for schools to acquire all the equipment, including bows, arrows, targets and safety nets necessary to begin an
OAIS program in their communities at little cost, and curriculum and training also are available through the Wildlife Department.
            In order to be eligible for a grant, the school must send a teacher to an eight-hour workshop where they will learn how to conduct the program at their school and instruct students in archery.
            For more information on the Archery in the Schools program, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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Oklahoma Station Chapter SCI to sponsor veteran's big game hunt
            Sportsmen looking for a way to honor a military veteran can do so by encouraging them to apply for a free African big game hunt sponsored by the Oklahoma Station Chapter of Safari Club International.
            The Oklahoma Station Chapter of SCI, in partnership with Mankazana Safaris and others, will send one military veteran who received the Purple Heart decoration for service prior to May 8, 1975 on an all-expense paid, seven-day trip to Africa to hunt several big game species such as impalas and warthogs. Applicants must meet several requirements along with being an Oklahoma resident and Purple Heart recipient. To see a full list of application instructions and eligibility requirements, log on to the Oklahoma Station Chapter's Web site at oklahomastationsci.org.
            Veterans have until Oct. 15 to apply, and the results will be announced March 6, 2010.
            “The leaders of the Oklahoma Station Chapter of SCI are pleased to honor all of our armed-forces veterans,” said Mike Mistelske, current president of the Oklahoma Station Chapter. “All citizens of these great United States of America owe our many freedoms to the men and women of all generations who have served in our armed forces, giving their time, and in many cases their health or even their lives, to win and preserve our way of life. We thank them all.”
            The Oklahoma Station Chapter of Safari Club International offers support and funding to local conservation efforts that benefit the sportsmen and wildlife of Oklahoma. The chapter is a supporter of projects conducted by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, such as the Hunters Against Hunger program that coordinates the annual distribution of over 30,000 of pounds of venison to needy families. The Chapter is also a sponsor of the Wildlife Department's Oklahoma Wildlife Expo, which educates tens of thousands of Oklahomans each year on the value of wildlife and the outdoors to quality of life in Oklahoma, and an annual youth writing contest that encourages young people to share their enthusiasm for the outdoor heritage.
            For more information about the Oklahoma Station Chapter of SCI, log on to oklahomastationsci.org.
 
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Squirrel season offers unique, long-lasting hunting opportunity
            Sportsmen wrap up their turkey hunting each spring just in time to prepare for the May 15 opener of squirrel season, one of Oklahoma's most generous hunting opportunities.
            Squirrels are readily available on public and private lands all across the state. Hunters can harvest 10 squirrels daily and enjoy nearly nine full months (May 15-Jan. 31) of hunting opportunity.
            Oklahoma is home to two species of squirrel that are legal to hunt — the eastern gray squirrel, which inhabits the eastern portion of the state, and the fox squirrel, which is found statewide in suitable habitats.
            Sportsmen use several approaches to hunt squirrels, among them calling, stalking, still hunting or relying on dogs trained to hunt and locate squirrels. Both shotguns and .22 rifles are good choices for hunting small game.
            One of the number one things squirrel hunters should look for when deciding where to hunt is a food source that is producing food during the time of year that you plan to hunt squirrels.
            Foods attractive to squirrels include a variety seeds, nuts, berries, insects, pine cones and buds from a variety of plants and trees. Depending on the time of year, some foods are more readily available than others. This spring, hunters should watch for mulberry trees and other fruit trees. As early fall arrives, hickory nuts will become attractive as well as other nut-producing trees. About any tract of oaks, hickory or pecan trees can be productive.
            Additionally, hunters who use one of a variety of manufactured squirrel calls can locate squirrels quickly and even draw squirrels in closer to them, eliminating some of the guess work of deciding where to start their hunt. Hunters who use dogs generally send their dogs in the direction they wish to walk, and then follow behind while the dog locates a squirrel.
            Regardless of method, hunters have no shortage of squirrel hunting opportunities. Excellent squirrel hunting can be found on a number of wildlife management areas such as Keystone, Spavinaw Hills, Hickory Creek and many others across the state.
            Hunters taking to the woods after squirrels would also be interested to know that squirrel skins and/or tails may be legally sold and have brought up to $2 for whole skins in recent years.
            Additionally, squirrel meat makes excellent tablefare and is popular for use in a variety of recipes.
            To hunt squirrels in Oklahoma, hunters need a resident or non-resident hunting license, unless exempt, and a $5 Fishing and Hunting Legacy Permit, unless exempt. Resident hunters younger than age 16 can hunt squirrels without a license. For a complete list of squirrel hunting regulations consult the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide” or log on to the Department's Web site at
http://www.wildlifedepartment.com
 
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Invasive algae found in Lower Mountain Fork River; anglers can help prevent spread
            The recent discovery of an invasive alga in a southeast Oklahoma river serves to remind anglers of their role in helping prevent the spread of aquatic nuisance species.
            Biologists with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and the University of Oklahoma recently confirmed the presence of Didymosphenia geminata, also known by anglers as “Didymo” or “rock snot,” in the Lower Mountain Fork River below Broken Bow Lake. The invasive species is native to North America and thrives in low-nutrient, cold, flowing streams rich in oxygen, such as the Lower Mountain Fork River, the Lower Illinois River and the Blue River.
            Didymo starts out as small tufted colonies, but can grow into dense, thick mats that cover large portions of a streambed.
            “When it forms extensive mats or produces large blooms, rock snot can outcompete native algae relied on by aquatic insects,” said Curtis Tackett, aquatic nuisance biologist for the Wildlife Department. “That may not sound like a problem, except that those insects provide an important source of food for trout in the Lower Mountain Fork River.”
            Tackett said that in some cases, the reduction of available food sources for trout because of competition from invasive species like Didymo can result in smaller fish. Additionally, Didymo can clog water pipes and other flow structures as well as become quite a nuisance to anglers because of how easily it can be snagged by a fish hook.
            “Anglers can help prevent further spread of Didymo and other aquatic nuisance species, and it just takes a little bit of effort,” Tackett said. “But that effort can go a long way.”
            According to Tackett, the following measures can be taken to prevent the spread of aquatic nuisance species:
* Before leaving a river or stream, remove all clumps of algae and look for hidden fragments.
* Soak and scrub all gear for at least one minute in a two percent bleach solution, or five percent salt solution, or simply use hot water and dishwashing soap.
* If cleaning is not practical, then wait at least 48 hours before contact with another water body after equipment has dried.
* Consider keeping two sets of wading boots, and alternate their use between cleaning and drying.
* Avoid using felt-soled waders.
* Avoid wading through colonies of the algae. Breaking up the material could cause future colonies and blooms to occur further downstream.
            For more information about the Lower Mountain Fork River trout fishery, log on to the Wildlife Department's Web site at wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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“Outdoor Oklahoma” to honor Wayman Tisdale
            This weekend, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation will pay tribute to the life of former basketball great and smooth jazz artist, Wayman Tisdale. Tisdale, who passed away May 15 after a two-year battle with bone cancer, was featured on a 2006 episode of the Department’s “Outdoor Oklahoma” TV show fishing for striped bass on Lake Texoma.
            According to Department of Wildlife Conservation Director Greg Duffy, who was Tisdale’s fishing partner on the show, Tisdale had plenty of reasons for his famous grin and lots of laughs during the trip.
            “I’ve fished for Texoma stripers dozens of times, but the day we filmed the show with Wayman and his nephew was one of those special days when you literally can’t catch ‘em fast enough,” said Duffy. “During one stretch of the show, there isn’t a time when at least two fish are on the line at the same time, if not three or four. And of course you can just imagine how Wayman reacted to all of this, he was cracking jokes and making fun of himself and others the entire time. He was such a charismatic guy, and a great ambassador for anything Oklahoman - including the outdoors.”
            According to Rich Fuller, Production Supervisor with the show and former classmate of Tisdale’s at OU, Tisdale was a non-stop jokester who saw the humor in everything and everyone.
            “I think the fishing show definitely shows that side of Wayman, and how he loved to laugh and have a good time with friends and family – and catching fish the way they did that day was just incredible. It was one of those times where you never turned the camera off because of the nonstop action,” Fuller said.
            “Outdoor Oklahoma” is produced by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to not only showcase Oklahoma’s outdoor beauty and recreational opportunities such as fishing, hunting and wildlife watching, but also to highlight the people, programs and initiatives of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. Since 1976, OETA-The Oklahoma Network has partnered with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to continuously air “Outdoor Oklahoma” weekly statewide.
            The show will be aired over OETA-The Oklahoma Network at 8 a.m. on Sunday, May 24 and then again at 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 30. It can also be seen on the following channels:
     KSBI, UHF Channel 52 - Saturday, May 30 at 5:30 a.m.
     KWEM-UHF Channel 31 (Stillwater and surrounding areas) June 2, 9:30 a.m. and June 5, 7:30 p.m.
     KXOK-UHF Channel 32 (Enid and surrounding areas) May 28, 8 p.m.
 

 

 
Photo caption: Wayman Tisdale, shown here with a catch of striped bass from Lake Texoma, was a great ambassador for anything Oklahoman, including the outdoors.
 

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Oklahoma’s Free Fishing Days slated
            Anglers can fish for free June 6-7 during Oklahoma’s Free Fishing Days, which allow people to fish without state fishing licenses or permits (including trout licenses and fishing and hunting legacy permits).
            Fishing in Oklahoma normally requires a license and a fishing and hunting legacy permit, which you can purchase at various sporting good vendors across the state. Additionally, trout anglers must normally possess a trout license to fish in designated trout waters in the state.
            “Oklahoma’s Free Fishing Days provide a good chance to take someone who has never been angling on a fishing trip with you, since they don’t have to buy a license or permit to go,” said Damon Springer, Aquatic Resource Education coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “Anglers have an opportunity to draw someone to the sport who otherwise wouldn’t know what fun they are missing.”
            According to Springer, there are many accessible waters to fish in Oklahoma, ranging from lakes and rivers to urban ponds designated by the Wildlife Department as “Close to Home Fishing” waters. Anglers who don’t know where to start can turn to the Wildlife Department’s weekly state fishing report to find just the right place to go. Anglers can receive the fishing report by subscribing to the Department’s weekly news release at http://www.wildlifedepartment.com
            “The Department’s state fishing report is compiled by Wildlife Department employees and volunteers and covers lakes and waters throughout every region in the state,” Springer said. “The reports offer information about water conditions as well as which fish are biting and on what baits.”
            Anglers should note that certain city permits may still apply to specific fishing areas during Free Fishing Days.
            Oklahoma was the first state in the nation to offer free fishing days over 25 years ago and has since been followed by dozens of other states that have established similar days.
            Anglers should be aware of and abide by all Texas fishing license and permit requirements when fishing the Texas portion of Lake Texoma June 6-7. The Texas Free Fishing Day is June 6, so anglers will be able to fish both Texas and Oklahoma portions of the lake for free that day. On June 7, free fishing will only be allowed on the Oklahoma portion of the lake. Anglers must follow all other fishing regulations.


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Selman Bat Watch registration available soon
            Oklahomans looking to attend a Selman Bat Watch this summer can download a registration form beginning June 1 at wildlifedepartment.com.
            The Bat Watches, hosted by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, will be held in July and the first weekend in August at the Selman Bat Cave WMA near Freedom. The nightly exodus of at least a million bats attracts visitors to where the state's only Mexican free-tailed bat viewing occurs.
            “This is the only event of its kind here in the state,” said Melynda Hickman, wildlife diversity biologist for the Wildlife Department. “There is also limited spacing available, and since spots go very fast once registration begins, we encourage people to get signed up as quickly as they can.”
            Registration forms must be downloaded from wildlifedepartment.com, then printed and mailed to the Wildlife Department at P.O. Box 53465 Oklahoma City, OK 73152.
            The Wildlife Department purchased the area around the bat cave in 1996 because of its ecological importance to the Mexican free-tailed bat. According to Hickman, the cave is important because it is one of only five major sites in Oklahoma that is used by females to raise their young.
            Hickman says the bats provide a great service: free pest control. The bats spend daylight hours inside the cave. But most of the action is after sunset.
            “Studies tell us that the bats eat about 10 tons (20,000 pounds) of insects, moths and beetles every night,” Hickman said.
            The bats' evening emergence is the highlight of a Bat Watch, but there's more to the evening than simply watching bats. There's also learning and exploring. Buses take visitors to the Selman Bat Cave Wildlife Management Area, usually closed to the public. Visitors learn facts about bats and the prairie community. There is also an optional nature hike before the bats emerge. On Friday and Saturday evenings, staff and telescopes from the University of Central Oklahoma's Selman Living Laboratory will be at the observatory to assist stargazers.
            The Bat Watches benefit the local economy by drawing tourists from a multi-state region into Oklahoma. Hickman said Oklahomans enjoy a rare opportunity to get close to wild bats and to share their importance to the environment and the economy.
            The bat watches are limited to 75 people each night, and registration is required. The cost is $10 for adults and $5 for youth aged 12 and younger.  For more information, call (405) 424-0099 or log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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Lake records piling up this spring
            The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Lake Record Fish Program continues to grow, with several new lake records — and lakes — added throughout this spring.
            The Lake Record Fish program recognizes anglers who catch a fish that qualifies as a record setter for the lake in which it was caught. Though the program was established as a way to serve anglers and recognize significant fish, it also serves as an indicator of trophy fish production in the state's lakes.
            Since last year, the program has doubled in size and there are now twenty-eight lakes currently enrolled in the program. An easy-to-use search feature is available through the Wildlife Department's Web site to view all kinds of interesting record fish information, ranging from the size of record fish caught to what kind of bait or rod and reel was used to catch them. To access the search feature, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
            Anglers who catch a potential record from a participating lake should contact designated business locations around the lake that are enrolled as lake record keepers, or vendors. The lake record keeper may then enter the fish into an automated database via the Internet. Once it has been determined that an angler has landed a record fish, the media is notified and the public will be able to view information about the catch on the Wildlife Department's Web site at wildlifedepartment.com.
            All past and current state record fish are registered in the Lake Record Fish Program as records for their respective lakes.
            Species eligible for spots in the lake records book include blue, channel and flathead catfish and largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass in addition to crappie, paddlefish, striped bass, striped bass hybrids, sunfish (combined) walleye/saugeye and white bass. Minimum weights are set for each species included to avoid a rush of potential yet easily broken records early in the program's inception.
            For more information about the new Lake Record Fish Program or for contact information for lake record keepers, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
 
LAKE RECORDS CAUGHT AND CERTIFIED MARCH 9 – Present
 
Lake Thunderbird
Flathead catfish
Weight: 57 lbs.
Angler: Brad Adkisson
Date: May 11
Bait: Trotline
Photo link:
http://lake-record.ou.edu/fishsite/public/fishView.php?id=693

Hugo Lake
Crappie
Weight: 3.3 lbs.
Angler: Chad Moore
Date: May 7
Bait: Natural bait
Photo link:
http://lake-record.ou.edu/fishsite/public/fishView.php?id=683
 
Konawa
Largemouth bass
Weight: 9.1 lbs.
Angler: Brent Dempsey
Date: May 7
Bait: Soft plastic
Photo link:
http://lake-record.ou.edu/fishsite/public/fishView.php?id=692
 
Lake Tenkiller
Smallmouth bass
Weight: 6.4 lbs.
Angler: Monty Bollinger
Date: April 21
Bait: Soft plastic
Photo link:
http://lake-record.ou.edu/fishsite/public/fishView.php?id=674
 
Hefner Lake
Largemouth bass
Weight: 10.5 lbs.
Angler: Kevin Barnicoat
Date: April 21
Bait: Jig
Photo link:
http://lake-record.ou.edu/fishsite/public/fishView.php?id=687
 
McGee Creek
Largemouth bass
Weight: 12.2 lbs.
Angler: Ray Earley
Date: April 18
Bait: Jig
Photo link:
http://lake-record.ou.edu/fishsite/public/fishView.php?id=706
 
Canton Lake
Striped bass
Weight: 24.1 lbs.
Angler: Kevin Deal
Date: April 15
Bait: Natural bait
Photo link:
http://lake-record.ou.edu/fishsite/public/fishView.php?id=642
 
Sardis
Largemouth bass
Weight: 11.2 lbs.
Angler: Charles Carter
Date: April 14
Bait: Spinner
Photo link:
http://lake-record.ou.edu/fishsite/public/fishView.php?id=656

Sooner Lake
Blue catfish
Weight: 66.9 lbs.
Angler: Paul Shakula
Date: April 14
Bait: Processed bait
Photo link:
http://lake-record.ou.edu/fishsite/public/fishView.php?id=637


Texoma Lake
Largemouth bass
Weight: 9.9 lbs.
Angler: Andrew Blalock
Date: April 11
Bait: Hard baits/plugs
Photo link:
http://lake-record.ou.edu/fishsite/public/fishView.php?id=613
 
Skiatook
Flathead catfish
Weight: 43.6 lbs.
Angler: Nathan Coyle
Date: April 10
Bait: Natural bait
Photo link:
http://lake-record.ou.edu/fishsite/public/fishView.php?id=640
 
Fort Gibson
Crappie
Weight: 2.1 lbs.
Angler: Marshall Jones
Date: April 9
Bait: Soft plastic
Photo link:
http://lake-record.ou.edu/fishsite/public/fishView.php?id=614
 
Oologah
Blue catfish
Weight: 62 lbs.
Angler: Tom Applegate
Date: April 7
Bait: Natural bait
Photo link:
http://lake-record.ou.edu/fishsite/public/fishView.php?id=610
 
Lake Murray
Largemouth bass
Weight: 10.9 lbs.
Angler: Charles Samuel Jewell, Jr.
Date: March 24
Bait: Soft plastic
Photo link:
http://lake-record.ou.edu/fishsite/public/fishView.php?id=691
 
Grand Lake
Crappie
Weight: 2.6 lbs.
Angler: Paul J. Youngblood
Date: March 9
Bait: Jig
Photo link:
http://lake-record.ou.edu/fishsite/public/fishView.php?id=664
 
 
Plan a summer fishing “staycation” for the family
            The search is on this summer for activities that are fun for the entire family yet easy on the wallet, and officials with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation say fishing provides the answer.
             According to Jeff Boxrucker, assistant chief of fisheries for the Wildlife Department, fishing is about as economical and relaxing as it gets. The start-up costs are minimal — a rod and reel, a little bait and an appropriate fishing license are all it takes — and the sport itself is easy to learn.
            “Oklahoma has so many good fishing opportunities that one could never try them all this summer, and fishing is a great way to get away for an in-state vacation or for a one-day outing with the family,” Boxrucker said. “If you combine fishing with wildlife watching, hiking or camping, you can have a full getaway right here in Oklahoma that will be fun and memorable.”
            Fishing in Oklahoma normally requires a license and a fishing and hunting legacy permit, which you can purchase at various sporting good vendors across the state. Additionally, trout anglers must normally possess a trout license to fish in designated trout waters in the state. However, anglers fishing June 6-7 can fish without a state license during Oklahoma's free fishing days. Anglers should note that certain city permits may still apply to specific fishing areas during Free Fishing Days.
            Oklahoma was the first state in the nation to offer free fishing days over 25 years ago and has since been followed by dozens of other states that have established similar days.
            Free Fishing Days offer one way that families can enjoy an inexpensive day on the water by fishing at lakes and ponds across the state or at one of Oklahoma's year-round designated trout waters. Anglers should be aware of and abide by all Texas fishing license and permit requirements when fishing the Texas portion of Lake Texoma June 6-7. The Texas Free Fishing Day is June 6, so anglers will be able to fish both Texas and Oklahoma portions of the lake for free that day. On June 7, free fishing will only be allowed on the Oklahoma portion of the lake. Anglers must follow all other fishing regulations.
            Families who would like to learn more about fishing together can attend one of several fishing clinics held throughout the summer as part of the Wildlife Department's Aquatic Resource Education Program. Clinics are held at the Arcadia Conservation Education Area at Lake Arcadia as well as other locations in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa areas. For a full schedule of clinics, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
            Another option to explore for an easy-to-plan family fishing getaway is the Wildlife Department's Close to Home Fishing program, which offers fishing opportunities in or near urban areas. To learn more or to find Close to Home Fishing areas or other angling opportunities, log on to the Wildlife Department's Web site at wildlifedepartment.com or consult the current “Oklahoma Fishing Guide,” available at sporting goods stores or anywhere fishing licenses are sold. The sources also include tips for catching and identifying the various species of Oklahoma fish, regulations, fish recipes and more. Fishing licenses and permits also are available for purchase at wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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Free family fishing clinics slated throughout summer
            Free fishing clinics offered by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Aquatic Resource Education Program are being held throughout the summer to teach families about the sport of fishing.
            Through the Wildlife Department's Aquatic Resources Education Program (AREP), kids and adults can choose from courses held near urban areas throughout the state this summer to learn about fishing, an activity that has remained popular throughout history.
            Oklahoma has thousands of miles of shoreline along its many lakes, rivers, streams and ponds, and many of them are close to urban areas and open to the public for angling. The AREP program is designed to help people get a start in the sport so they can take advantage of the many fishing opportunities available to them.
            According to Damon Springer, aquatic education coordinator for the Wildlife Department, the free clinics will benefit families trying to learn about the sport as well as those looking for easy and affordable opportunities to spend time with family.
            “The family fishing clinics are a great opportunity for families to have an activity they can all do together,” Springer said.
            The Aquatic Resource Education Program will hold classes starting in May and running through August, many of which will be held at the Wildlife Department's Arcadia Conservation Education Area in Edmond or the Zebco Pond in Tulsa. Others will be held at local ponds in Oklahoma City and in Jenks. A full course listing is available on the Wildlife Department's Web site at wildlifedepartment.com. Pre-registration for each course is required and can be done by calling the phone number listed with each course.
            The Aquatic Resources Education Program is the Department's means to promote the sport of fishing and aquatic resource awareness as well as a way to give youth, regardless of family situation, an opportunity to learn about Oklahoma's aquatic environments and how to fish.
            Developed in 1988, the program's objectives are to increase the understanding, appreciation, and awareness of Oklahoma's aquatic resources; facilitate the learning of angling skills, outdoor ethics, and sportfishing opportunities in the state; enhance urban fishing opportunities; develop adult fishing clinics and provide information on specialized fishing techniques.
            These one-day events present information on such topics as fish identification, knot-tying, fish cleaning and cooking, fishing tackle selection and use, water safety, outdoor ethics and more.
            Most clinics, including Lake Arcadia family fishing clinics, include fishing at a nearby pond or lake.
            According to Springer, the fishing clinics will benefit youth as well as play an important role of the future of Oklahoma's outdoor heritage.
            “Children are the future of fishing,” Springer said. “We need to get them involved any chance we get. These clinics give us the chance to introduce those young and old to the sport.”
            For more information about the Aquatic Resources Education Program, log on to the Department's Web site at wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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