MAY 2011 NEWS RELEASES 

WEEK OF MAY 26, 2011

WEEK OF MAY 19, 2011

WEEK OF MAY 12, 2011

 

WEEK OF MAY 5, 2011

NatureWorks donates bronze wildlife statues to Wildlife Department
            Motorists and pedestrians along Lincoln Blvd. and 18th St. are now enjoying a momentary escape to the outdoors right in the middle of the Oklahoma City Metro.
            A plan by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to make its headquarters in Oklahoma City more accessible to persons with disabilities turned into a highly aesthetic redesign of the building’s front entrance, which now showcases a new bronze monument depicting three whitetail deer on the run.
            The larger-than-life sculptures are a donation from NatureWorks, a Tulsa-based conservation group that has supported a number of wildlife conservation projects of the Wildlife Department. The artwork was created by wildlife sculptor Stephen LeBlanc, who is passionate about the outdoors and wildlife and has traveled extensively worldwide to view wildlife in natural habitats.
            “I was very fortunate to be chosen by NatureWorks to be able to do this monument,” LeBlanc said, saying later that he feels “excited,” “elated” and “very blessed” to be part of the project. LeBlanc makes his home in Parker, Colorado.
            The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission adjourned its May meeting with the dedication of the newly renovated entrance. The whitetail statues are the latest of 22 heroic-sized wildlife monuments donated to others by NatureWorks, many of which can be seen along the City of Tulsa’s Riverside Drive.
            “It’s an honor to be part of leaving what we think is a legacy with the Department of Wildlife today,” said Dwayne Flynn of NatureWorks. “It’s just the right monument for all the conservation work done by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife with the whitetail deer. We hope that this gift will inspire those young and old to get involved with wildlife conservation.”
            NatureWorks, Inc. is a nonprofit organization dedicated to wildlife conservation and education. Projects such as the Department's paddlefish management program, duck stamp print program and centennial duck stamp print have benefited from NatureWorks' support as well as habitat work at the Harold Stuart Waterfowl Refuge Unit within the Deep Fork Wildlife Management Area (WMA) and the Grassy Slough WMA. NatureWorks is also an important supporter of the Wildlife Department's Hunters Against Hunger program — in which hunters can donate their legally harvested deer to feed hungry Oklahomans, and they have funded a project that puts Outdoor Oklahoma magazine in every school and library in the state.
            Additionally, every year NatureWorks hosts the annual NatureWorks Art Show and Sale, in which artists from across the United States and abroad are brought together to display their work. The event is known as one of the best wildlife art shows in the country, widely recognized for its outstanding art plus the opportunity it provides for visitors to meet directly with artists. Art sales help generate matching grants to assist a variety of state wildlife conservation projects.
            In other business, the Commission approved a new cooperative agreement with Weyerhaeuser Company to continue providing public hunting and fishing access on southeast Oklahoma’s Three Rivers Wildlife Management Area.
            Hunters and anglers visiting Three Rivers WMA after June 1, 2011, should be aware that the boundaries of the WMA have changed. Updated boundary maps will be made available by that date, and a map of Three Rivers WMA showing the boundary changes that will be effective June 1 is available online at wildlifedepartment.com. Changes to all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) that took effect in 2008 will remain, and the Land Access Permit required to use the area will remain at $40 for Oklahoma residents ages 18-64 and $10 for a resident three-day permit for non-hunting and non-fishing activities. The cost for the Land Access Permit for non-residents will remain at $85.
            “Weyerhaeuser Company is very pleased to continue working with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to provide quality wildlife conservation and hunting and fishing recreational opportunities to the public,” said Matt Williams, Weyerhaeuser timberlands manager for the Arkansas and Oklahoma region. “The Three-Rivers Wildlife Management Area, comprising over 200,000 acres of Weyerhaeuser timberland in southeastern Oklahoma, is an outstanding example of how a forest products company, a state agency and the general public can come together and find a solution that meets their common objectives.”
            To learn more about the Three Rivers WMA and other public hunting and fishing areas across the state, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
            The Commission also approved the adoption of a social media policy that will allow the Wildlife Department to pursue certain outreach opportunities.
            Additionally, Greg Sexton, game warden stationed in Jackson Co., was recognized for 25 years of service to the Wildlife Department. Sexton began his career as a wildlife management area assistant in northwest Oklahoma and then transferred to the Wildlife Department’s Law Enforcement Division, where he has served for 23 years.
            The Wildlife Conservation Commission is the eight-member governing board of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The Wildlife Commission establishes state hunting and fishing regulations, sets policy for the Wildlife Department and indirectly oversees all state fish and wildlife conservation activities. Commission members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate.
            The next scheduled Commission meeting is set for 9 a.m., June 6 at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation headquarters (auditorium), located at the southwest corner of 18th and North Lincoln, Oklahoma City.
 

Photo Caption: A new monument has been added to the entry of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation headquarters in Oklahoma City. The artwork, created by sculptor Stephen LeBlanc, was donated to the Wildlife Department by NatureWorks, a Tulsa-based conservation organization that has been involved in a number of Wildlife Department conservation efforts.


 
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Wildlife Department boosts southwest Oklahoma bass and crappie angling
            As water temperatures continue to warm, anglers at southwest Oklahoma’s Ft. Cobb and Lawtonka lakes are going to find plenty of new potential bass and crappie honey holes all around the banks of the reservoirs.
            Fisheries personnel with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation have been submerging hundreds of cedar trees in the shallows of the two lakes in the last few months, adding to a total of almost 1,600 trees that have been submerged there over the last three years.
            “Fort Cobb has been a great fishery for hybrid striped bass and saugeye over the last few years but has lacked an abundance of structure that largemouth bass and crappie prefer,” said Ryan Ryswyk, southwest region fisheries biologist for the Wildlife Department.
            In 2009, fisheries personnel placed about 250 shallow cedar tree brush piles in several coves of the lake in an effort to draw fish to concentrated areas and improve angling success. The piles were placed at depths ranging from two to six feet, and more and more trees were added over time.
            In addition to positive feedback and reports from anglers, biologists observed better success in their management surveys.
            “Our electrofishing survey that spring showed that the largemouth bass were indeed attracted to those piles,” Ryswyk said. “Our catch rates doubled from previous years when we electrofished the newly installed brush piles.”
            In April of 2010, angler Charles Coffman of Ardmore landed a 10.6-lb. lake record largemouth bass from one of the areas of the lake targeted with shallow-water brush piles, confirming to fisheries biologists that their efforts were helping anglers enjoy better fishing opportunities.
            Because of their success, fisheries personnel continued to add more cedar brush piles, and Ryswyk reported that after doubling their electrofishing catch rates in 2009, they have since doubled them again.
            According to Ryswyk, similar habitat work is also now underway at Lake Lawtonka, with about 200 cedar trees submerged in shallow water areas already.
            “We like the results we are seeing at Ft. Cobb — both sampling and angler success — and hope to replicate those results at Lawtonka,” Ryswyk said.
            Already Lawtonka anglers are reporting successful crappie fishing around the brush piles, and fisheries personnel for the Wildlife Department sampled a 10.1-lb. largemouth bass from a brush pile area in one cove.
            “It seems the additional cedar trees have been doing what we had hoped,” Ryswyk said. “Cedar tree brush piles themselves are not a new idea, but placing them in shallow water is a new strategy that is proving successful,” Ryswyk said. “These shallow water piles provide shallow structure for species like largemouth bass and crappie to spawn on or around. Fisherman can easily see the tops of these cedar trees sticking out of the water and can target these places to land their next fish. As the water temperature continues to warm, these areas should prove to be great crappie spots this spring.”
            On the west side of Ft. Cobb, areas where anglers can find shallow brush piles placed by the Wildlife Department include the Area 5 boat ramp cove, the Fly Inn 2 boat ramp area, and the cove 1/2 mile north of Fly Inn 2.
            On the east side of the lake, brush can be found near the Crow’s Roost East boat ramp, mile north of Crow’s Roost West boat ramp, boundary line cove, Kardokus cove, and the south bank of Marina Cove. Anglers also can fish brush piles from the Oney fishing dock near Crow’s Roost East Boat ramp or the fishing dock in Marina cove near the main boat ramp.
            According to Ryswyk, anglers should be able to take advantage of these brush piles “no matter the method, either by bank, fishing dock, or boat.”
            Invasive cedar trees spread fast and, for the amount of nutrients and space they take up, they offer few benefits to wildlife that cannot be obtained from noninvasive native trees. As a result, one of the best places for cedar trees, if not treated with prescribed fire, is at the bottom of a lake where fish will use them as cover. There, they not only provide habitat, but they also provide fishing opportunities for anglers while benefiting land-dwelling wildlife. According to Ryswyk, cedar trees placed in the lakes come from locations such as wildlife management areas managed by the Wildlife Department, state parks and municipal properties.
            For more information about fishing in Oklahoma, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
 
Crappie success
 

Photo Caption: John Perry holds up a nice stringer of crappie that was caught by rod and reel while fishing the shallow water piles in Robinson’s Landing at Lake Lawtonka. Fisheries personnel with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation have been placing shallow-water cedar tree piles in Lawtonka and Ft. Cobb lakes over the last few years in hopes of drawing fish to concentrated areas where anglers can enjoy more fishing success.
 

 


Largemouth bass sample during ODWC electrofishing surveys

Photo Caption: John Perry, fisheries technician at the Wildlife Department’s Manning Fish Hatchery, holds a 10.1-pound largemouth bass that was sampled from a shallow water brush pile at Lake Lawtonka this spring while conducting electrofishing surveys. Fisheries personnel have been placing cedar tree brush piles in shallow areas of Lawtonka and Ft. Cobb lakes in southwest Oklahoma to draw fish to concentrated areas, resulting in new fishing opportunities.
 
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Hackberry Flat WMA to host family outdoor day
            Hackberry Flat Wildlife Management Area in southwest Oklahoma serves as an outdoor destination every day of the week, but each year it also opens for a special day in the outdoors designed to bring Oklahomans closer to nature and increase interest in wildlife and conservation.
            The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and Friends of Hackberry Flat are hosting Hackberry Flat Day Saturday, May 14 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Hackberry Flat Center located near Frederick. The event is designed for the entire family, and events include everything from wildlife tours to shotgun shooting.
            Though the official event starts at 9 a.m., the day gets an early morning start at 6:30 a.m. with a birding tour for intermediate and advanced birdwatchers. Birding tours for beginners are offered at 9:30 a.m. and again at 1 p.m. Wetland hayrides into the wildlife management area start at 9 a.m. and continue on the hour until the last hayride at 2 p.m. Archery and shotgun shooting will be available, as will a number of other activities, such as learning the tricks of catching crayfish — also known as crawdads — with the Oklahoma Conservation Commission, getting close-up views of Oklahoma sport fish in an aquarium, viewing wetland wildlife in a wetland classroom, playing the “Who Eats Who in the Prairie” game presented by the Oklahoma Wildlife and Prairie Heritage Alliance, and trying out the hands-on activities provided by Quartz Mountain Nature Park.
            An interactive exhibit about bats in Oklahoma will be presented by Alabaster Caverns State Park, and a range of items made from bison parts will be furnished by the Washita Battlefield National Historic Site. Back by popular demand, families will have the opportunity to build a bird house to take home and place on their property. The Friends of Hackberry Flat and Frederick FFA members will offer the bird house 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 Friends of Hackberry Flat will have the official Hackberry Flat t-shirts for sale inside the Center, and new this year, the First Christian Church Youth Group will have a concession set-up to sell hot dogs, chips and drinks to visitors as they raise funds to help with their mission and projects.
            Participants of the Hackberry Flat Day activities are exempt from hunting or fishing license requirements and Wildlife Conservation Passport requirements.
             All activities will begin at the 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. Directions to Hackberry Flat can be found at http://www.wildlifedepartment.com . For more information, call the Frederick Chamber of Commerce at (580) 335-2126 or Melynda Hickman, wildlife diversity biologist for the Wildlife Department, (405) 990-4977.
 
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Last call for May 15 controlled hunts application deadline
            Sportsmen who have not submitted an application for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s controlled hunts program are running out of time. Online applications for the hunts will be accepted through Sunday, May 15.
            Offering once-in-a-lifetime elk and antelope hunts, highly sought-after buck hunts, and a range of other quality deer and turkey hunts, the controlled hunts program is a valuable resource for sportsmen, and the application process take just a few minutes.
            The online application process must be completed through the Wildlife Department’s website at wildlifedepartment.com. The cost is $5.
            “For just $5, you can get drawn for a bull elk hunt in Oklahoma’s rugged Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge,” said Melinda Sturgess-Streich, assistant director of administration and finance for the Wildlife Department. “The same $5 can put your name in the hat for an antelope hunt in the Panhandle, a deer hunt in some of the best habitat in the state, or even a unique gobbler hunt. You just can’t beat this opportunity.”
            The controlled hunts program offers a wide variety of highly desirable hunts through a random drawing. 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.
            All applicants, including lifetime license holders, must pay the $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.
            Applications are offered online through a secure process that only accepts applications once they have been filed correctly, and a print-out confirmation page is available for sportsmen to document their submitted application.
            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 and turkey, log on to
http://www.wildlifedepartment.com


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May 15 marks squirrel season opener
            When spring turkey season closes May 6 of each year, some hunters fold up their camouflage clothing and store away their shotgun and gear until dove season. Others keep them out, knowing that the state’s important, long-standing squirrel season opener arrives just nine days later.
            Squirrels have long been valued by Oklahoma hunters for the generous hunting opportunities they provide, the hunting challenge they pose, and for their tasty, lean meat.
            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. Gray squirrels are apt to quickly move throughout treetops, often escaping before a hunter pulls off a successful shot. Fox squirrels, on the other hand, are keen at hiding and remaining still and undetected.
            “Sometimes it’s just the slightest movement, a strand of fur on a squirrel’s tail, or the outline of the animal’s ear against the sun that reveals the location of a squirrel in a tree,” said Michael Bergin, information and education specialist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and an avid squirrel hunter. “One great thing about squirrel hunting is that you can go during every season of the year, be it during the mild temperatures of late spring or on a sunny but cold January day. You can really learn a lot about the woods as well as scout for other hunting seasons. I have discovered several places where I could hunt deer and turkeys by hunting squirrels in those areas.”
            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.
            When deciding where to hunt squirrels, a hunter should consider food sources that are available during the time of year that a hunt is planned. Foods attractive to squirrels include a variety of seeds, nuts, berries, insects, pinecones 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.
            “If you find the right wild fruit tree and sit down in the area, you could harvest several squirrels in one morning hunt,” Bergin said. “In the early fall and late in the season, I like to hunt squirrels using dogs, particularly in areas with hickory, oak and pecan trees.”
            Any one of a number of manufactured squirrel calls also can be effective, depending on the time of year in which the call is most likely to be used by squirrels in the woods. Some may be better for locating a general area that squirrels are using, while others draw attention and lure squirrels into shooting range. 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, alerting the hunter of their find by “barking treed.”
            Regardless of method, hunters have no shortage of squirrel hunting opportunities. Excellent squirrel hunting can be found on a number of wildlife management areas statewide, depending on which species sportsmen hope to find.
            Additionally, squirrel meat makes excellent table fare and is popular for use in a variety of recipes and dishes. Celebrated squirrel dishes include fried with biscuits and gravy or served with dumplings, among others. Squirrel meat is lean, and when cooked properly, should be tender and white to gray in color.
            To hunt squirrels in Oklahoma, hunters need a resident or non-resident hunting license, unless exempt. Resident hunters younger than age 16 can hunt squirrels without a license. Seasons on public lands may vary from statewide season dates. For full details and regulations consult the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide” or log on to the Wildlife Department’s website at www.wildlifedepartment.com.


 
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Young wildlife best left alone this spring
            As spring moves closer to summer, Oklahomans will inevitably begin to see a variety of young wildlife, be it young birds, squirrels, and even fawns. Sometimes wildlife offspring will appear to be abandoned, and it is common for outdoor enthusiasts to try to help them. But biologists with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation say these youngsters are better left alone.
            “If you find newborn wildlife while in your yard or in the woods that appears to be alone, chances are an adult animal is nearby and is simply waiting for you to move along so they can take care of their young,” said Melynda Hickman, wildlife diversity biologist for the Wildlife Department. “It is common for fawns to be left in a safe place while does feed nearby, and interfering with that always causes more harm than good. It’s also best to leave birds, young squirrels and other wildlife alone as well.”
            In Oklahoma, most fawns are born in May and June and start becoming visible in mid to late June.
            Young birds and squirrels can be blown out of their nests during storms as well, and even though they may appear to be alone and distressed or in need of help, an adult animal will often find and care for them.
            Biologists say it can actually be more stressful on young wildlife if people try to help.
            “It’s good when well-meaning sportsmen and outdoor enthusiasts want to help, but sometimes the best help we can offer young wildlife is to leave them alone and let nature run its course,” Hickman said.
            In most cases, it also is illegal to pick up wildlife. Log on to www.wildlifedepartment.com for more information about wildlife conservation in Oklahoma.
 
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Selman Bat Watch registration available May 31
            A blackening of the evening sky as at least a million bats emerge from their cave is a spectacle Oklahomans can see in their home state this summer.
            The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s Selman Bat Watches will be held the last four weekends of July at the Selman Wildlife Management Area near Freedom, where the Selman Bat Cave attracts migrating Mexican free-tailed bats every year just as it did 100 years ago. Each night, the bats emerge from the cave to feast on literally tons of insects, offering a visual spectacle to onlookers in the process. The cost is $10 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under.
            Each night’s viewing activities will be limited to 75 visitors who are randomly drawn from a pool of mailed in registration forms. Hopeful viewers must print, complete and mail their registration form to the Wildlife Department at Bat Watch Program, P.O. Box 53465 Oklahoma City, OK 73152 between May 31 and June 7. Only mailed in registration forms post-marked by June 7 will be accepted, and instructions for completing the form should be read carefully to ensure correctly completed registration. Successful registrants will receive an e-mail confirmation and a packet in the mail.
            “Given the popularity of this event, the Department is using this approach to streamline its registration process,” said Melynda Hickman, wildlife diversity biologist for the Wildlife Department.
            More information and details about the Selman Bat Watch can be found online at wildlifedepartment.com.
            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 serve as 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 at Selman Bat Cave 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 is more to the evening than simply watching bats. Buses take visitors to the Selman Wildlife Management Area, usually closed to the public, where they learn facts about bats and the prairie community. There also is 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.
            Additionally 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.
            For more information, call (405) 424-0099 or log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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Wildlife Department spring electrofishing survey turns up massive striper
            Fisheries personnel with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation have repeatedly surveyed a number of large fish during their annual electrofishing surveys being conducted this spring, emphasizing to anglers that now is a great time to be fishing.
            Several big largemouth bass have already been sampled by biologists from lakes like Arcadia, Lawtonka and Watonga this spring, and the newest big fish to add to the list of those sampled this year is a 41.5-inch striped bass estimated to weigh 51.5 lbs. based on measurements taken during the survey.
            The big striper was sampled during electrofishing surveys below Lake Eufaula, and if an angler were to catch the fish, it would beat the current state record by an estimated four pounds. The current rod-and-line state record striper tipped the scales at 47 lbs., 8 oz. when Louis Parker caught it from the Lower Illinois River in 1996.
            According to this week’s fishing report from the Wildlife Department, fisheries personnel who are conducting electrofishing surveys are not the only people who should be out on the water this week looking for Oklahoma’s big fish. Striper and striped bass hybrid fishing is reportedly good at Overholser, Sooner, Canton, Texoma, Foss, and Ft. Cobb Lakes, and catfish are biting at lakes all over the state as well.
            In fact, this week’s fishing report shows most species of fish are biting at lakes all over the state this week, such as at Hefner Lake in Oklahoma City, where white bass fishing is reportedly good on small spinnerbaits, crappie fishing is good on minnows and jigs at eight to 15 feet along the dam, catfish are biting good on cut bait, and bluegill fishing is excellent on worms and small jigs all around the lake.
            Every week the Wildlife Department’s fishing report provides a listing of lakes and the current fishing conditions at that location.
            “This time of year is magical for fishing in Oklahoma,” said Nels Rodefeld, information and education chief for the Wildlife Department. “The fishing report shows ‘good fishing’ at least 80 times for a number of species at lakes across the state this week, and ‘excellent’ fishing is reported in a number of places as well.”
            The reports are compiled by Wildlife Department employees and volunteers and cover lakes and other waters throughout every region in the state. Information such as lake levels, water temperatures, species being caught, locations with best fishing action and successful baits is included in the reports. Anglers can receive the fishing report by subscribing to the Department’s weekly news release at
http://www.wildlifedepartment.com


 
Photo Caption: During a recent electrofishing survey below Lake Eufaula, fisheries personnel with the Wildlife Department surveyed this striped bass, estimated to weight more than 51 lbs. and serving as a reminder to anglers that now is the time to be fishing. Pictured holding the possible new state record striped bass is Richard Snow, fisheries research technician for the Wildlife Department.
 
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Free family fishing clinics slated throughout summer
            Oklahomans can learn to fish this summer at a number of free family fishing clinics held by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation in Oklahoma City and Jenks.
            Through the Wildlife Department’s Aquatic Resources Education Program (AREP), kids and adults can take just a few hours to attend a fishing clinic, and come out with a knowledge of such topics as fish identification, knot-tying, fish cleaning and cooking, fishing tackle selection, equipment use, water safety, outdoor ethics and more. Most clinics, including those held at the Wildlife Department’s Arcadia Conservation Education Area in Edmond and at the Zebco Casting Pond in Jenks, include hands-on fishing opportunities at stocked ponds.
            The AREP program is designed to help people get a start in the sport of fishing so they can take advantage of the many fishing opportunities available to them throughout the state.
            According to Damon Springer, aquatic resource education coordinator for the Wildlife Department, the free clinics benefit families trying to learn about the sport as well as those looking for easy and affordable opportunities to spend time with family.
            Most clinics will be held at the Wildlife Department’s Arcadia Conservation Education Area in Edmond or the Zebco Casting Pond in Jenks. Others will be held at local ponds in Oklahoma City. A full listing of AREP clinics can be viewed on the Wildlife Department’s website at wildlifedepartment.com. Pre-registration is required to attend an AREP class and can be done by calling the contact number listed with each clinic.
            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 how to fish and to gain an understanding of Oklahoma's aquatic environments.
            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 sport fishing opportunities in the state; enhance urban fishing opportunities; develop adult fishing clinics and provide information on specialized fishing techniques.
            For more information about the Aquatic Resources Education Program, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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Go fishing for free June 4-5
            Reports of good angling from all over the state indicate summer fishing is coming into full swing, and Oklahoma anglers can get in on the action for free June 4-5 during Free Fishing Days. A state fishing license is usually required for most anglers to go fishing, but during Free Fishing Days, a license will not be required to fish in Oklahoma.
            Anglers who don’t know where to start can turn to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s weekly state fishing report to find just the right place to go. This week’s report says largemouth bass fishing is good at Lake Arcadia in Edmond on crankbaits and spinnerbaits; channel catfish angling is good at Lake Hefner, and the Lake Overholser report says crappie fishing is good all over the lake. In the northwest, reports for Canton Lake show good walleye fishing on night crawlers in the upper end of the lake; Bluegill fishing is good on worms and crickets around grass beds at northeast Oklahoma’s Lake Eucha; and white bass are being caught on topwater lures and wiggle-tailed 1/8-oz. grubs at Lake Arbuckle; and in the southwest, Ft. Cobb anglers are catching saugeye on crankbaits and night crawlers in the mornings and evenings. A saugeye is a hybrid cross between a walleye and a sauger that are raised at Wildlife Department fish hatcheries and stocked at various lakes.
            “Fort Cobb has been a great place to saugeye fish for the last few years,” said Ryan Ryswyk, southwest region fisheries biologist for the Wildlife Department. “In fact, it holds the current state record saugeye at 10 pounds 10 ounces caught in 2006. Saugeye are great tasting fish just like the walleye but are able to better tolerate the muddy water found in many Oklahoma lakes.”
            Every week the fishing report provides a listing of lakes and the current state of angling success at that location. The reports are compiled by Wildlife Department employees and volunteers and cover lakes and other waters throughout every region in the state. Information such as lake levels, water temperatures, species being caught, locations with best fishing action and successful baits is included in the reports. Anglers can receive the fishing report by subscribing to the Department’s weekly news release at wildlifedepartment.com

           “Free fishing days are great for anyone just wanting to try their luck at fishing for the first time or just wanting to get back into it again,” said Damon Springer, Aquatic Resource Education coordinator for the Wildlife Department. Springer also said anglers can use Free Fishing Days as an inexpensive way to take someone to fishing and a great opportunity for families “to get out and enjoy something together in the outdoors.”
            Oklahoma offers fishing in lakes and rivers, but also in urban waters designated by the Wildlife Department as “Close to Home Fishing” locations. Although state fishing licenses are not required during Free Fishing Days, anglers should note that certain city permits may still apply to specific fishing areas. Additionally, anglers fishing Lake Texoma should be aware that Free Fishing Days applies for all of the lake on June 4 but only on Oklahoma portions of the lake on June 5. This week’s fishing report says largemouth and smallmouth bass fishing is good now at Texoma on deep-diving crankbaits, spinnerbaits and plastic combination baits. Additionally, good fishing at Texoma is being reported for striped bass, white bass, crappie, sunfish, blue catfish and channel catfish.
            Oklahoma was the first state in the nation to offer free fishing days about 30 years ago and has since been followed by dozens of other states that have established similar days.
            For more information about fishing in Oklahoma, log on to the Wildlife Department’s website at wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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Oklahoma students perform well at national archery competition
            Oklahoma students continue to show the nation that, when it comes to the National Archery in the Schools Program, they are a strong contender in competition. The program held its national tournament May 13-14 in Louisville, Ky., and Oklahoma students claimed some high rankings among students across the nation. One of those was a second place ranking in the middle school girls category taken by Cheyenne Keith of Greenville Middle School, and another was a fourth place in the high school boys category taken by Brydon Edmonds from Chickasha High School.
            Keith’s second place win in a category of 999 middle school females shows the nation that Oklahoma students can compete at the highest level, as does Edmonds’ fourth place win among 1,236 high school male shooters. Additionally, Chickasha Elementary School placed fourth as a team in the elementary school category, while Zaneis Middle School took sixth place in the middle school category. These successful individual and team showings continue to solidify the legacy being built by Oklahoma students in competition through the Oklahoma National Archery in the Schools Program.
            Just last year, then 5th-grader Meredith Noland from Chickasha took her second consecutive national championship, and other first place wins and high standings have been claimed by Oklahoma students in recent years as well.
            “We send our heartfelt congratulations to all of the students who represented our great state in the national competition,” said Justin Marschall, Oklahoma National Archery in the Schools coordinator for the Wildlife Department. “It is amazing to see the instant bond and mutual respect that this program builds between students.”
            Marschall went on to encourage Oklahoma students who participate in the program to “continue challenging themselves in archery and in life.”
            This year’s national tournament drew about 6,730 youth shooters, of which 251 were from Oklahoma.
            Students involved in the Oklahoma National Archery in the Schools Program hone their concentration skills by shooting at targets from 10 and 15 meters, attempting to place their arrows into a three-inch diameter bullseye for points. Students of all ages, sizes and athletic abilities can compete at the same level for high standings and personal success.
            Oklahoma students qualified for the national competition based on their individual and team scores from the Oklahoma National Archery in the Schools State Shoot held in March at the Oklahoma State Fair Park in Oklahoma City. More than 1,150 students gathered at the site for the state shoot to wrap up a season of archery practice and competition at their respective schools and to determine qualifiers for the national tournament.
            Oklahoma is in its seventh year of participation in the Oklahoma National Archery in the Schools Program, and about 270 schools are currently participating.
            The Oklahoma National Archery in the Schools Program, administered 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. The Archery in the Schools curriculum is designed for 4th-12th graders and covers archery history, safety, techniques, equipment, mental concentration and self-improvement.
            A limited number of grants are available each fiscal year for schools interested in implementing the Oklahoma National Archery in the Schools Program. Teachers interested in learning more about the program or starting the program at their school should contact Marschall at (405) 522-1857.
            For more information about the Wildlife Department, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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Two non-residents charged with paddlefish violations
            Two men have been charged with three counts each relating to paddlefish possession violations following a traffic stop near Blackwell in April.
            Anatoly Natekin, 36, and Fedor Natekin, 27, both of Kent, Wash., have been charged with three counts each, including illegally transporting paddlefish eggs with the intent to leave the state, unlawful possession of more than three pounds of processed paddlefish eggs, and conspiracy to commit a misdemeanor.
            A rental vehicle occupied by the two men was pulled over by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol on I-35 April 23. Inside the vehicle were 305 pounds of caviar packaged in unmarked jars and several pounds of fish fillets, all believed to be harvested from paddlefish. The charges for possessing more than three pounds of paddlefish eggs and transporting them with intent to leave the state each carry a maximum penalty of one year in jail and $10,000 in fines. In addition to fines and possible jail time, courts are required to order violators to pay restitution payments in all fish and wildlife cases.
            Native to Oklahoma, paddlefish swim upstream in rivers and tributaries each spring to spawn, particularly in those rivers that empty into lakes in northeast Oklahoma where most paddlefish angling activity takes place. Anglers who flock to northeast Oklahoma each spring to fish for the spawning paddlefish are legally allowed to possess no more than three pounds of paddlefish eggs — which can be used as the primary ingredient for caviar products — and crossing state lines in possession of paddlefish eggs also is illegal.
            Game wardens with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation were called to the scene, and the two men were taken to the Kay County Jail in Newkirk. They were released April 26 after posting bond of $5,000 each. Their next court appearance date is set in September, and the evidence was cataloged and is being stored until the trial.
            “If convicted, these wildlife violators could face significant consequences for their actions,” said Bill Hale, assistant chief of law enforcement for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “This is an extreme case of violating our state’s fish and wildlife laws, but this is a good time to remind our state’s many law abiding anglers to read all regulations before going fishing this season. The Wildlife Department’s ‘Oklahoma Fishing Guide’ tells you all you need to know, and it is available free anywhere that fishing licenses are sold and online at wildlifedepartment.com.”
            Oklahoma draws paddlefish anglers from across the nation. The sport has grown into a booming recreational pastime in northeast Oklahoma, and the Wildlife Department has found a way to manage the fish and learn about the anglers who catch them to sustain long-term angling opportunities through its Paddlefish Research and Processing Center. The center is a site where anglers can bring their paddlefish to be cleaned and processed for free in exchange for biological data from the fish. Fisheries personnel with the Wildlife Department use the data to help manage the state’s unique paddlefish population, and eggs from female fish brought to the center are collected and sold worldwide as caviar, the proceeds of which are used by the Wildlife Department to fund the paddlefish program.
            The Wildlife Department is the state agency charged with conserving Oklahoma’s fish and wildlife and is responsible for enforcing laws related to hunting and fishing. More information about the Wildlife Department, including regulations for hunting and fishing in the state, is available at wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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