Meetings to discuss paddlefish

Amid growing concern over one of the state's most unique fisheries resources, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is moving to permanently adopt, emergency rules implemented earlier this year by the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission.

"The last few years anglers have become very successful at harvesting paddlefish in their pre-spawning staging areas," said Kim Erickson, chief of fisheries for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "These rules will help to maintain the health of paddlefish populations and ensure long term recreational opportunity."

Paddlefish are large, prehistoric fish found in Oklahoma mainly in the Grand and Neosho river systems. Paddlefish gather microscopic animals from the water by swimming slowly with their mouths open.

Several regulations were amended to ensure that paddlefish will be abundant for many generations to come. The daily bag limit on paddlefish taken during the spawning season was reduced from three fish to one per day. Catch and release fishing will be allowed year round until an angler keeps a fish, at which point the angler must stop snagging. The new rules define a hook used in snagging as one single hook or one treble hook and require all hooks to be barbless. Anglers will be required to tag (with name, address and fishing license number) all paddlefish and paddlefish parts until reaching their residence.

The new rules also allow non-residents to take four daily limits home and changes legal snagging hours below the dam at Ft. Gibson from "sunset to sunrise" to 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. The new rules also more clearly define the term, “in the field,” specifically, in the field means while fishing, while in the boat, on the bank, in the immediate vicinity of any river, creek, stream, lake or pond, or while transporting or carrying the fish from the waters described above to camp or from such water to the final destination. All of the changes took effect Jan. 1, 2003

Earlier this year, the Department held informal town hall meetings in Pryor and Miami to solicit angler input concerning the emergency rules. In addition, a pair of public meetings will be hosted by Wildlife Department personnel in northeast Oklahoma to discuss the rules and the status of paddlefish populations. The meetings will be held Jan. 13 at the Miami Civic Center banquet room (129 5th St.) and Jan. 14 at the Tulsa Technology Center Alliance building auditorium (801 East 91st St.). Both meetings begin at 7p.m. For more details call (405) 521-3721.


Hunting regulation changes will be discussed at meetings

Wildlife biologists with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation are encouraging hunters to attend upcoming public meetings to learn more about a number of proposed hunting regulation changes, including a proposal to extend the deer gun season to 16 days and another to create a new statewide youth antlerless deer hunt.

All of the 23 proposed changes will be detailed at the meetings, where biologists will answer questions and listen to feedback from those in attendance.

“Many of the proposals are aimed at providing additional opportunities for the sportsmen of the state,” said Alan Peoples, wildlife division chief for the Department.

The proposed change expected to generate the most interest, according to Peoples, is a proposal to open the deer gun season the Saturday before Thanksgiving and keep it open for 16 consecutive days. Currently the deer gun season opens on the Saturday before Thanksgiving and runs nine days.

“The Oklahoma deer herd has been rapidly expanding over the last several decades, and an extended season would allow hunters more time to get out and have the chance to harvest a deer,” Peoples said. “There seems to be a growing desire of not only hunters, but also landowners, for a longer season.”

Another proposal designed to benefit both hunters and the deer herd is a special three-day antlerless deer gun season in mid October for those under 18 years of age.

“The youth deer season would provide a great opportunity for young hunters to get started deer hunting,” said Peoples, “and it could help increase the overall percentage of does in the harvest. That would help improve herd health by better balancing sex ratios.”

Also included in the list of proposals are a wide variety of changes designed to clarify the language of the law, better manage Oklahoma wildlife resources and respond to hunters’ desires.

All of the following public meetings begin at 7 p.m.:

Jan. 13 - Monday

McAlester - Kiamichi Technology Center, Hwy. 69 south of Hwy. 270.

Lawton - Public Library, 110 SW 4th St.

Jan. 14 - Tuesday

Ada - Pontotoc County Technology Center, 601 W. 33rd.

Enid - Fire Department, 301 W. Owen Garriot.

Idabel - Kiamichi Technology Center, 2 miles north on Hwy. 70.

Oklahoma City - Wildlife Department Auditorium, 1801 N. Lincoln.

Okmulgee - East Central Electric Coop Building on Hwy. 75 south.

Tulsa - Broken Arrow Technology Center, E Base Room, 4600 S. Olive, 129th Ave. and 111th St.

Jan. 16 - Thursday

Canute - Heritage Center, 4-way stop.

Woodward - Northwest Electric, 2925 Williams Ave.



BancFirst makes donation to Wildlife Department Close to Home fishing program

Thanks to BancFirst, anglers in the Oklahoma City metro area will once again have the opportunity to catch rainbow trout just a few miles from home.

At the regularly scheduled meeting of the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission, David Rainbolt, president and CEO of BancFirst committed $2,500 this year to help fund the winter trout program at Dolese Youth Park Pond.

“This program has been a huge success and it would not be possible without BancFirst and the many other cooperating partners,” said Kim Erickson, fisheries chief for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “As part of our cooperative Close-to-Home fishing program with the Oklahoma City Parks and Recreation Department, trout fishing at Dolese Youth Park Pond offers a unique opportunity for anglers in the Oklahoma City metro area for young and old alike.”

More than 16,000 angler-hours (one angler fishing for one hour) were spent by Dolese visitors last year and Department officials expect the special fishery to grow in popularity over the coming years.

The trout season began at Dolese Youth Park Pond (NW 50th and Meridian) January 1 and will run through February 28 with new shipments of trout stocked approximately every two weeks. For more information about the program call (405) 755-4014.

Commissioners also accepted a donation of $8,000 from the 89er Chapter of Trout Unlimited and the FishAmerica Foundation. The funds will go towards the purchase and installation of a water quality aeration system at Dolese Youth Park Pond. The system will improve aquatic habitat for rainbow trout which are stocked in the winter.

“We are very proud to be associated with this program. It is a great way to introduce youngsters to trout fishing,” said Brian Ellis, with the 89er Chapter of Trout Unlimited.

In other business, several outstanding Department employees were recognized with annual awards.

James Vincent, southeast region fisheries biologist, received the Employee of the Year Award. Vincent helped to develop the first fishing access on Honobia Creek Wildlife Management Area and has assisted in the installation of 110 fish habitat enhancement structures. He developed a pond management plan for the Department using GIS software and was instrumental in developing several research proposals. Vincent’s enthusiastic attitude and dedication to the resource make him a true asset to the Department.

Mark Hamill, wildlife technician covering several wildlife management areas in southeast Oklahoma, received the Conservation Achievement Award. Hamill has met the challenge of the addition of several new WMAs in his district. Also serving as a reserve officer, Hamill is known as someone who can get the job done with an excellent attitude.

Bruce Burton, wildlife biologist at Deep Fork, Heyburn and Okmulgee wildlife management areas, received the received the Resource Achievement Award. Burton routinely works with other agencies to accomplish common goals, thereby diminishing Department costs.

Curtis Latham, stationed in Johnston County, was recognized as the Game Warden of the Year. Latham was recognized as a true wildlife professional who treats others both courteously and fairly. Latham completed 22 public outreach programs over the past year including the Duke Ranch Fishing clinic, which had 875 participants.

Paul Watkins, southwest regions fisheries technician was also recognized for his 20 years of service to the sportsmen and women of Oklahoma.

In other business, Commissioners voted to accept the 2002 fiscal year audit report that was conducted by KPMG. The audit showed no significant financial misstatements and reported no material weaknesses regarding internal controls. Overall the Department received a clean audit as reported by Dee Niles with KPMG.

Commissioners accepted a donation of $2,400 from the Oklahoma Game Warden Association. The donation will go to help defray the cost of airplane surveillance for law enforcement.

Dr. Terry Bidwell, from Oklahoma State University presented commissioners with the new Field Guide to Oklahoma Plants. The reference book facilitates the identification of 200 plants found in the state and should be useful to land managers, students or individuals who simply enjoy the beauty of the state’s plants.

Commissioners accepted a donation of a 1991 Ford Escort from Jason Rigsby.

Commissioners approved a land trade of 40 acres of private land for 40 acres of Department property located near the Deep Fork Wildlife Management Area. The properties have been appraised at equal values and the trade is for a disjunct parcel of the wildlife management area for a parcel within the wildlife management area.

In a house keeping business, commissioners approved a cost-share agreement with Oklahoma City for implementation of the Close to Home Fishing program.

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 February 3 at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation headquarters (auditorium), at the corner of 18th and North Lincoln, Oklahoma City at 9:00 a.m.


Blues and Rainbows Highlight Winter Fishing

It maybe cold outside, but there is still some hot fishing action to be found across the state.

“Winter time fishing is a great way to spend time outdoors,” said Barry Bolton, assistant fisheries chief for the Department. “And fishing for several for several different species can be quite productive this time of year.”

According to Bolton, wintertime is prime time for catching trophy size blue catfish. Whether you enjoy fishing with a rod and reel from the bank or setting juglines from a boat, there is a variety of locations to try your luck.

“There are many lakes and rivers to catch blue catfish, but the Arkansas River in northeast Oklahoma, Lake Texoma in the south central part of the state, and Lake Ellsworth near Lawton offer anglers an excellent chance to hook a monster catfish” he said.

Oklahoma’s six winter-only trout areas managed by the Department also offer top notch cool season fishing.

"Oklahoma is blessed with a diversity of winter trout fishing opportunities, with six winter-only trout areas and two year-round trout fisheries on the lower Illinois and lower Mountain Fork rivers," Bolton said. "These winter trout fisheries provide additional opportunities for anglers to enjoy fishing all winter long."

Stretching from the panhandle to southeast Oklahoma, these fisheries provide trout fishing in areas where warm water temperatures are not suitable for trout during the summer. They are stocked regularly from (Nov. 1 to March 31) with catchable size rainbow trout and are very popular with anglers all over the state, said Bolton.

Savvy anglers can find up to date trout stocking schedules posted on the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Web site, www.wildlifedepartment.com.

However, Bolton noted, anglers need to be aware that trout stockings are subject to change without notice due to circumstances beyond the Department’s control.

Once logged on the “Fishing” page within the Department's Web site, choose “Trout Areas” then "Stocking Schedule" for the complete schedule.

In addition to a fishing license, trout anglers must also purchase a trout license, which costs $7.75.

Just because it is cold outside, doesn’t mean you have to shiver your way through your next fishing trip. Enclosed docks can be found on many lakes and reservoirs around the state and are excellent location to catch a stringer full of crappie.

“Fishing in an enclosed dock, out of the wind and the elements, is a great way to spend an afternoon with friends and family,” said Bolton.

According to Bolton, crappie are the main quarry at the docks, most of which include brushpiles to provide cover and to attract the fish. Crappie are a favorite winter fish all across Oklahoma. They form loose schools and often when you find a fish, others are often close by. Crappie can be caught year-round and its sweet meat makes great table fare.

A list of enclosed fishing docks can be found on page 32 of the “2003 Oklahoma Fishing Guide” or by logging on to the Department’s Website at www.wildlifedepartment.com

Before heading out on a winter fishing trip anglers should remember to purchase a new annual fishing license and review the regulations by picking up a copy of the “2003 Oklahoma Fishing Guide” at license vendors statewide.


“Outdoor Oklahoma” seeks top photographers

If you love outdoor photography, “Outdoor Oklahoma’s” annual Readers' Photography Showcase offers a great chance to display your color slides, prints or digital photos in a magazine that consistently receives national recognition for its photographic excellence. Photographers, either professional or amateur, will have until March 28 to submit their best photos.

"Photographs can be of anything found in Oklahoma's outdoors from scenics to nature to people hunting, fishing and enjoying other outdoor activities," said Nels Rodefeld, “Outdoor Oklahoma” editor. "The readers’ photography issue (July/August) is very popular among photographers, as evidenced by the fact that we usually receive hundreds of outstanding slides."

According to Rodefeld, this is the first year that color prints and digital images will be accepted. Rodefeld added that original 35mm slides still offer the best color reproduction quality, but that “Outdoor Oklahoma did not want to exclude high-quality images captured on digital cameras or in print photos.

“It’s something new and certainly worth giving readers an opportunity to share their photos with fellow outdoor enthusiasts,” Rodefeld said.

The photographer's name, address and phone number need to be printed on each slide using a fine point pen or rubber stamp. Slides should not be encased in glass.

Each participant may submit up to five images and all entries will be returned undamaged. Photographers can mail their submission to Paul Moore, Photo Editor, “Outdoor Oklahoma,” Oklahoma Dept. of Wildlife Conservation, P.O. Box 53465, Oklahoma City, OK 73152. Individuals who wish to obtain their own copy of the July/August Readers Photo issue can subscribe to Outdoor Oklahoma, on the Universal License form wherever hunting and fishing licenses are sold; or via credit card by calling 1-800-777-0019. Subscriptions are $10 for one-year, $18 for two years, or $25 for three years.


Eagle Watching Event available at Kaw Lake

The cold winds of winter bring exciting visitors to Oklahoma. Each year, from November through February, the state’s reservoirs and rivers become the seasonal home for 800 - 1,500 bald eagles, where they can avoid the frozen waters of the northern states and feed on shad, carp and other fish. This large wintering eagle population, coupled with the public's fascination with eagles, has encouraged many state parks, conservation organizations and reservoir offices to hold special eagle viewing events. Kaw Reservoir, near Ponca City, annually hosts one of the largest eagle viewing events in Oklahoma.

"This year, the Kaw Lake Eagle Watch will take place on Saturday, January 18th" said Ron Folks, wildlife biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "This event will be based out of the Kaw City Community Center, located one block south of State Highway 11 in the town of Kaw City, just twelve miles east of Ponca City. We will have tour buses available, which will take visitors around Kaw Lake to view eagles. These buses will depart from the Community Center at 8:00 am, 1:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m., and each bus will have a member of the Payne County Audubon Society or a local biologist on board with a spotting scope to assist participants in finding birds."

Between 9:30 a.m. and noon, there will be a series of educational presentations related to the bald eagle and other birds of prey. These presentations will include an update on the status of the bald eagle in the state given by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, and a summary of the bald eagle reintroduction efforts in the state by the Sutton Avian Research Center. Visitors will also have the opportunity to see a live eagle up close as there will be a special appearance by "Sequoyah" a non-releasable Bald eagle which is used by the Sutton Avian Research Center for educational programs. At noon, the Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority and the Head Country Bar-B-Q will provide free refreshments while visitors enjoy the eagle displays or wait to board the tour buses.

"Kaw Reservoir hosts a large population of wintering eagles, often 60 or more birds,” Folks said. "Visitors have a good chance of seeing between six and 15 eagles in just a few hours."

For more information regarding the Kaw Lake Eagle Watch and a schedule of events, contact the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation at (405) 521-4616; the Kaw Lake Association at (580) 762-9494; or the Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority (405) 340-5047.

To get to the Kaw City Community Center, drive north on SH 77 (also 14th Street) through Ponca City to the junction with SH 11. Turn east on SH 11 for twelve miles until you reach Kaw City. Signs will guide you to the Community Center which is located one block south of the highway.

There are also nearly two dozen other eagle viewing events that will take place across Oklahoma in the months of January and February. For a list of these events, call the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Wildlife Diversity Program at (405) 521-4616, or visit the Department's Website: www.wildlifedepartment.com and click on Watchable Wildlife, then Eagle Tours.


State record brown trout landed by fly angler

If March is the best month to catch a state record largemouth bass, January may well be the best month to catch a record-sized brown trout.  Fly fisherman John D. Ball Jr., 64, landed a new state record 9-pound, 12.8-ounce brown trout Jan. 13 from the lower Mountain Fork River.

“I was fishing in Zone II when they (Army Corps of Engineers) had just stopped releasing water (through the hydro-electric turbines below Broken Bow Lake dam),” said Ball.

“Before the water started going down, I cast out to a deep hole and let my fly sink down for several seconds. At first, I thought I had waited too long and got hung on the bottom, but then my line started moving fast. After the first couple of minutes, I knew I was going to have trouble landing the big fish without breaking my line, so I alerted some hikers nearby to go get help from my fishing partner, Pete Stiles, who was fishing upstream from me about a quarter-mile.

“I guess Pete didn’t exactly know what my problem was and didn’t show up in time to help, but I finally managed to get the fish to the gravel beach after playing him for 30 or 40 minutes,” said Ball. “I can’t really tell you how I got him in without breaking my line. It got tangled up in some tree roots once and I was sure it was going to break my line, but thankfully it got free.” 

Ball’s fish topped the previous record of 9 pound, 10.5 ounces set by Jim Horton in 2001.  Horton’s fish was also caught in the month of January from the lower Mountain Fork.

Ball’s fish was caught on an olive-colored #10 size “wooly bugger” using a #7-8 sinking flyline with a 6X (4 lb. test strength) tippet. Ball’s fly rod was a G.Loomis model FR1088.

Ball, who is from Bruce, Mississippi, said he didn’t know he had a record until nearly two days after catching the fish.

“I couldn’t revive the fish to release it, so I took it to Womack’s taxidermy in Broken Bow to get it mounted. On the way there we asked someone what the record was from the trout area, and someone said it was 14 pounds. So we didn’t pursue it,” Ball said. “It wasn’t until a local trout fisherman noticed the size of the fish at the taxidermist and then tracked us down the next day on the trout stream, that we realized the record for brown trout was just 9 pounds, 10 ounces and that my fish might be bigger.”

Ball contacted Paul Balkenbush, southeast fisheries supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, who verified the weight on certified scales at K&E Texaco station in Hochatown.

“What an incredible fish, and the fact that he caught it on a fly rod makes it even more special,” said Balkenbush. “In speaking with Mr. Ball, it sounds like he’s caught quite a number of nice-sized trout over the past three years of fishing the lower Mountain Fork, so it’s no fluke that he landed this trophy. Our hats are off to him for landing it without breaking his line.”

Ball said that he and his wife make the seven-hour drive from their Mississippi home to fish the lower Mountain Fork at least twice a year. A lifelong fly fisherman, Ball grew up in Colorado where he began fly-fishing at age nine.

Brown trout, a species native to Europe, have been stocked intensively in streams throughout North America. The first brown trout stocking in Oklahoma occurred in 1991 when 575 were released into the lower Mountain Fork River. Since that time, both the lower Mountain Fork and the lower Illinois rivers have received periodic stockings of brown trout.

According to Balkenbush, anglers wanting to catch a brown trout will have an even better chance in the coming months.

“From time to time, our state fish hatcheries receive brown trout fingerlings from the federal fish hatchery system. This year we have approximately 10,000 that will be released into the lower Mountain Fork once they grow to a catchable size, so it’s never been a better time to try your luck at catching one,” said Balkenbush.

Balkenbush said another project will assist the department’s effort to provide rainbow trout to the Mountain Fork.

“We’re in the process of building a trout-rearing pen located on the Lower Mountain Fork trout area to grow small fingerling rainbow trout into a catchable size. This is going to further assist our efforts to provide more trout to the area.”

For complete information about the state’s eight designated trout areas along with special trout regulations, consult the “2003 Oklahoma Fishing Guide” available from license vendors or log onto: www.wildlifedepartment.com.


John D. Ball Jr. landed a new state record 9-pound, 12.8-ounce brown trout Jan. 13 from the lower Mountain Fork River.

Photo Cutline: John D. Ball Jr. landed a new state record 9-pound, 12.8-ounce brown trout Jan. 13 from the lower Mountain Fork River.


“2003 Oklahoma Fishing Guides” available

The “2003 Oklahoma Fishing Guide” will soon be hitting the shelves of fishing and hunting license dealers across the state. The 42-page booklet not only lists regulations governing fishing in the state, but it also contains fishing tips and a wide variety of other helpful information.

“We have made a few changes to the regulations for 2003,” said Barry Bolton, assistant fisheries chief for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “We are always looking for better ways to manage the state’s fisheries and provide the most opportunity for anglers.”

According to Bolton, before heading out on a fishing trip in the new year, anglers should be sure to pick up a copy of the “2003 Oklahoma Fishing Guide” for a complete list of all changes to the regulations.

Following are a few of the notable changes in 2003:

In the Illinois River upstream from the confluence of Baron Fork Creek and in Baron Fork Creek, Lee Creek and Little Lee Creek, smallmouth bass have a 9- to 12-inch protected slot limit and a daily limit of six, of which only one may be 12 inches or longer. Largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass have a combined daily limit of six, of which only one smallmouth bass may be 12 inches or longer.

In the Glover River, from the confluence with Little River upstream to the “Forks of the Glover,” smallmouth bass have a 12-inch minimum size limit and a daily limit of three. Largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass have a combined daily limit of six, of which only three may be smallmouth bass.

At Skiatook Lake, striped bass hybrids have a daily limit of five, of which only two may be 20 inches or longer. There is no daily limit or size limit on white bass.

At Konawa Lake, the 16- to 22-inch protected slot limit on black bass has been dropped and no size limit on bass currently applies. All black bass still have a combined daily limit of six, of which only one may be 22 inches or longer.

Several changes have made to the regulations regarding paddlefish. Anglers pursuing paddlefish should be certain to pick up a copy of the regulations for complete details.

Beginning July 1, 2003, a new license will take effect. The Blue River Conservation Passport ($13.50 for both residents and non-residents), will be required of all persons who enter or use the Blue River Public Fishing and Hunting Area, unless exempt.

Anyone with questions about fishing in Oklahoma or about state fishing regulations should contact their local game warden, or contact the Department's fisheries division at (405) 521-3721. Further information also is available at the Department’s Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com.



 Report shows fishing’s mainstream appeal and broad economic impacts

It may seem like just a way to spend a relaxing afternoon, but fishing also provides a significant boost to the state and national economy.  According to a new report on fishing statistics published by the American Sportfishing Association, angling has become one of America’s most solid industries.

The report, “Sportfishing in America:  Values of Our Traditional Pastime,” shows how fishing endures as a mainstream activity that not only permeates social and economic aspects of Americans’ lives, but also plays a huge role in our country’s successful conservation movement. The full report is available online from the American Sportfishing Association at www.asafishing.org/content/statistics/economic.

“Every time someone goes fishing in Oklahoma they help create jobs, increasing retail sales and tax revenue right here at home,” said Kim Erickson, fisheries chief for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “Most anglers don’t realize what an important contribution they are making to our economy and way of life. This report shows how far-reaching fishing is.”

Here in Oklahoma, fishing statistics support the national trend:

According to the report, more than 44 million Americans fish - 774,254 of which fished in Oklahoma.

The report shows that an impressive $484,178,493 in retail sales were generated by Oklahoma’s anglers, which rippled through the economy to generate $992 million in economic output for the state.

The Oklahoma fishing industry supports over 11,000 jobs and those workers earned $245 million in salaries and wages.

Fishing-related purchases in Oklahoma generated $27.5 million in state tax revenues and $25 million in federal income tax.

America’s 44 million anglers spend nearly $42 billion per year on fishing equipment, transportation and lodging, and other expenses associated with their sport. Their expenditures increased 33 percent over the past 10 years.  With a total annual economic impact of $116 billion on the economy, fishing supports 1.1 million jobs and generates $30 billion in wages and $7.3 billion in tax revenues each year.

A number of reports strongly indicate that fishing is identified by American families as one of the best ways to spend quality time together. A recent nationwide Harris Poll found that fishing was ranked the most popular outdoor activity in America and was the fourth favorite leisure pastime, behind reading, watching TV, and spending time with family.

Fishing also greatly supports our nation’s conservation efforts through the Sport Fish Restoration Program.  Special taxes on fishing gear and motorboat fuel channel hundreds of millions of anglers’ dollars toward state fish and wildlife conservation and recreation programs each year.

The American Sportfishing Association’s analysis is based on data from the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, conducted every five years on behalf of the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies by the Census Bureau and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.



Fur auctions coming soon

Hunters and trappers will have a chance to sell their bounty at a pair of fur auctions hosted by the First Oklahoma Trappers and Predator Callers Association.

The first auction will be held Saturday, Feb. 1 at the Agri-Civic Center, located southwest of Chandler on Route 66.

The second auction will be held Saturday, March 1 at the Creek County Fairgrounds near Sapulpa at the intersection of Route 66 and SH 33.

Both events will begin at 8 a.m., and the auction will start at 9 a.m. The buildings will also be open the day before each sale from 2 - 5 p.m. for dealer set-ups and for harvesters to store furs.

“There seems to be a lot more excitement about the sales this year,” said Bill Jackson with the First Oklahoma Trappers and Predator Callers Association. “The market seems to be in an upward trend and this could be a good year due to severe weather in the north and eastern parts of the nation. When there is deep snow and ice on the ground trappers can’t get and trap and that could increase the demand for Oklahoma furs.”

To participate in the auction, sellers must have a current Oklahoma trapping and hunting license. Sellers must also be members of the First Oklahoma Trappers and Predator Callers Assoc. Furs may be stretched and dried or "green." All bobcat pelts must be affixed with an export tag before they can be sold or shipped. Personnel from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation will be present to provide tags, if necessary.

In addition, sellers who bring furs that belong to another person must possess that person's hunting and trapping license, as well as a letter signed by that person authorizing the seller to sell his or her fur.

Likewise, fur buyers are required to possess an Oklahoma fur buyer's permit in order to purchase unprocessed fur. For more information, contact Bill Jackson or Dee Jackson at (918) 336-8154.


Elk hunt on the auction block

Hunters have a unique opportunity to not only bid on a fully guided bull elk hunt at Cookson Wildlife Management Area, but also help needy Oklahomans in the process. For the fifth year in a row the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) is auctioning a bull elk hunt, and the proceeds will go to the Hunters Against Hunger program.

Through a sealed bid auction, the hunter with the top bid has successfully harvested a trophy bull for the past four years. Last year’s winner took a 6x7 bull. The hunt, which generated over $11,000 last year, is a guided three-day hunt anytime in September, October or November (subject to availability) 2003. The broken hills and rugged landscape of Cookson Hills will challenge even the seasoned elk hunter. The hunter can choose to use a bow and arrow, muzzleloader or modern rifle.

Hunters who wish to submit a bid should fill out their name, address, day & evening phone numbers with their bid amount on a card or letter, which should then be sealed in an envelope. Bids can be dropped off at ODWC headquarters or mailed to Oklahoma Auction Elk Hunt, P.O. Box 53465 Oklahoma City, OK 73152. All bids must be received at ODWC headquarters in Oklahoma City by 4:30 p.m., Friday, March 7. The bids will be opened Monday, March 10.

Bidding is open to individuals and organizations. The permit may be transferred one time by the successful bidder. Payment must be received within 10 days of notification.

“Proceeds from the elk hunt auction will assist the Department’s Hunters Against Hunger program,” said Alan People, wildlife chief for the ODWC. “Through a network of statewide food banks that distribute donated venison to local shelters, the program has served meals to thousands of needy Oklahomans.”

For additional information about the Hunters Against Hunger program, consult the “2003 Oklahoma Hunting Guide,” or log onto the Department’s Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com.


Volunteer instructors key ingredient to hunter education

            Thousands of Oklahoma youth and adults alike were more prepared when they went afield this fall, thanks to a dedicated corps of volunteer hunter education instructors and state game wardens.

"The hunter education program has been a real success. Hunting accidents have been on the decline since 1987 when the program became mandatory," said Lance Meek, hunter education coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "More than 14,000 people go through the program each year. They learn about everything from how to safely cross a fence with a firearm to the importance of respecting both wildlife and their fellow hunters. And of course, we couldn’t do it without our volunteers."

According to Meek, becoming a volunteer hunter education instructor is a great way to give back to the community and to the resource. Over 300 clinics are held each across the state from rural outposts to the heart of Oklahoma’s largest metropolitan areas, and many are taught by volunteer instructors.

"The success of the program really goes back to all the generous and hardworking volunteers that love kids and love the sport," Meek said. “Whether you have one weekend a year to spare or you are able to help more regularly, there is a niche for everybody.”

Volunteer instructors conduct hunter education classes after completing the certification process which includes an eight-hour training workshop and test. The workshops, held at various locations throughout Oklahoma, are open to groups or individuals interested in volunteering to train and educate tomorrow's hunters.

“I would encourage every hunter to consider becoming a volunteer instructor. Everyone has something they can share with those less experienced,” Meek said. “By teaching others about the safe and ethical way to hunt, we can ensure the sport will be around for generations to come.”

A variety of literature and teaching equipment is available for certified volunteer instructors to use during hunter education classes. Individuals or groups interested in participating can find more information at the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com or they can contact Meek at (405) 522-4572.

A number of hunter education classes are available to the public this spring and it is never too early to attend a class. For a complete list of classes scheduled in Oklahoma log on to: www.wildlifedepartment.com


Report reveals top bass tournament lakes in 2002

The numbers don't lie; bass fishing is big in Oklahoma. According to the 2002 Oklahoma Bass Tournaments Report, approximately 1,375 bass tournaments were held last year. That's an average of four per day!

Not only does fishing provide a significant boost to the state's economy, but tournament anglers are also an important part of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's fisheries management team.

"In the course of their activities, tournament anglers provide biologists with hundreds of thousands of hours of fishing data every year," said Gene Gilliland, senior fisheries biologist for the Department. "While this information is of critical importance to biologists as they make management decisions, anglers can also use the same data to help plan their next fishing trip."

According to the 2002 Oklahoma Bass Tournaments Report, the average size of bass caught in tournaments was up slightly from the previous year, although the average winning weights and the total number of fish was down from 2001.

"For a second year in a row, there was a decline in the number of large fish (over five pounds) recorded in tournaments," said Gilliland. "The top 20 tournament lakes list also witnessed a number of changes, with several non-traditional lakes garnering top spots in the various fishing indicator categories."

Cooperating bass clubs submitted data from more than 690 tournaments from 52 lakes and 91 organizations in 2002. Biologists analyzed the information and compiled an overall lake ranking based on five fishing quality factors.

Kerr Lake took first place as the state's best overall tournament lake, jumping from 9th place last year.  It recorded the highest average winning weight and the third highest percent of successful anglers. Hudson took second place and McGee Creek, Ellsworth and Lawtonka, Grand, Sardis, Murray, Greenleaf and Texoma rounded out the top 10.

The largest bass reported in 2002 was a lunker tipping the scales at 10.06 pounds and was caught from Sportsman Lake during a Heart of Oklahoma Club tournament. The heaviest five-bass limit weighed 21.65 pounds from Sardis Lake during a Leflore County Bass Club meet.

The overall ranking isn't the only thing anglers should notice. If you're looking for a lake where you can catch a lot of bass, for example, you should compare lakes in terms of numbers of bass caught per day. In that category, McGee Creek was the best last year, followed by Murray and Arbuckle.

Likewise, if you wanted the best chance of catching a bass larger than five pounds, you should look to lakes with the lowest relative index of bass over 5 lbs.  Tournament anglers fishing Lake Lawtonka spent less time per bass five pounds or greater than other lakes. 

Copies of this year's 14-page Oklahoma Bass Tournaments Annual Report can be found on the Department's website

Overall, Oklahoma’s 774, 254 anglers, many of them bass fishermen, spent an impressive $484,178,493 in retail sales, which rippled through the economy to generate $992 million in economic output for the state according to a recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report. 



Results show bass virus declining in state lakes 

Certified test results received from largemouth bass samples sent to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Pinetop Fish Health Center in Arizona show that the largemouth bass virus (LMBV) in several Oklahoma lakes appears to be declining.

“These results confirm our predictions that bass populations testing positive for LMBV two years ago may be developing a natural immunity to the virus,” said Kim Erickson, fisheries chief for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “In 2000, Lake Tenkiller had 100 percent of the bass population carrying LMBV, but these latest results show only 17 percent of the bass carried the virus in 2002.”

Other lakes showing drops in LMBV occurrence between 2000 and 2002 were Grand (37 percent down to 28 percent), Hudson (42 percent down to 22 percent), and Ft. Gibson (50 percent down to 28 percent). Although largemouth bass kills were reported at all of these lakes in the summer of 2000, only at Lake Tenkiller were dead and dying bass collected to confirm LMBV was the cause.

LMBV is one of more than 100 naturally occurring viruses that affect fish. Its origin is unknown. Although the virus apparently can be carried by other fish species, so far it has produced mortality only in bass. Healthy bass can acquire the virus from contact with carrier bass, but it is still not known how the virus is activated into the fatal disease. Unfortunately, there is no known cure or prevention for LMBV.

Not all bass that have the virus die from the disease. In fact, most bass that carry LMBV appear normal. Where the virus has triggered the fatal disease, dying fish often swim near the surface and have trouble remaining upright. LMBV is not known to infect warm-blooded animals, including humans. Fish infected with the virus are safe to eat when properly cooked.

LMBV was not identified in Oklahoma until 2000. Since then, fisheries workers from the Wildlife Department have been collecting bass samples from all across the state for LMBV testing. Lakes testing positive now include Arbuckle, Eucha, Eufaula, Ft. Gibson, Grand, Hudson, Keystone, Konawa, Lawtonka, McGee Creek, Murray, Okemah, Sardis, Skiatook, Sooner, Tenkiller, Texoma, Thunderbird, and Webbers Falls. Lakes Arcadia, Broken Bow, Crowder and Holdenville have tested negative for LMBV.

Department biologists expressed optimism that LMBV in Oklahoma appears to be following a similar pattern seen in other states where it has been found.

 “The virus will run its course. Any larger bass that may have been lost from the population due to the virus will be replaced in the population by younger fish,” said Erickson.  “However, anglers should remember the key factors affecting the future of fishing are what’s occurring in the aquatic environment (habitat loss, water fluctuation, drought, etc) and not the presence or absence of LMBV. Assuming good spawning success and recruitment, quality fishing will return. We’ll continue to monitor the status of our bass populations and provide information to our anglers every chance we get.”


NatureWorks brings art to life 

Since 1991, the first weekend of March has brought some the country's most talented wildlife artists to Tulsa. The annual Wildlife Art Show and Sale sponsored by NatureWorks, a non-profit organization, has generated matching grants to assist a variety of organizations for use in state wildlife conservation projects.

Programs such as the Hunters Against Hunger program, the Harold Stuart Waterfowl Refuge Unit within the Deep Fork Wildlife Management Area (WMA) and the Grassy Slough WMA have benefited from NatureWorks generous support.

Other recipients of NatureWorks' conservation grants include the Prairie Earth Trail at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in Osage County; landscaping of the Tropical Rain Forest at the Tulsa Zoo; an outdoor classroom at a Broken Arrow school; Sally Jones Lake waterfowl enhancement at Robert S. Kerr Reservoir; printing of Oklahoma Wetland Development Areas Atlas; providing grain drills for planting wildlife food plots; and cooperating with the National Wild Turkey Federation to relocate Eastern wild turkeys near Grove.

NatureWorks has scheduled this year's art show for the Tulsa Marriot-Southern Hills, Saturday, March 1 through Sunday, March 2. General Admission for Saturday (10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.) and Sunday (11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.) is $5 for adults, with students admitted free.

For more information about NatureWorks or the art show, call (918) 296-4ART.