MARCH 2003 NEWS RELEASES 

WEEK OF MARCH 27, 2003

WEEK OF MARCH 20, 2003

WEEK OF MARCH 13, 2003

WEEK OF MARCH 6, 2003

 

Commission approves extended deer gun season

The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission approved a statewide 16-day deer gun season and a number of other deer hunting regulation changes, at its March 3 meeting.

In a 5-2 vote, the Commission approved a deer gun season beginning on the Saturday before Thanksgiving and running for 16 consecutive days. Additionally, the Commission approved keeping a 9-day deer gun season on many of the Department’s wildlife management areas.

“We have worked for years to maximize deer hunting opportunities on our wildlife management areas,” said Alan Peoples, wildlife chief for the Department. “After discussions with biologists and area managers, we feel like it would be best to open about a third of the areas to the 16-day season and keep the remaining two thirds at nine days.”

Fourteen wildlife management areas will have 16-day deer gun seasons. Those areas are: Cherokee, Camp Gruber, Dewey County (archery only), Fobb Bottom, Eufaula, Hickory Creek, Keystone, Love Valley, Kerr, Oologah, Skiatook, Sparrow Hawk, Texoma/Washita Arm and Tenkiller wildlife management areas and Lake Thunderbird State Park (archery only).

For complete season dates, zones and other details about the upcoming hunting seasons, consult the “2003 Oklahoma Hunting Guide,” which will be available this summer.

            The Commission also approved a slate of other wildlife regulations designed to increase hunter opportunity and better manage Oklahoma wildlife resources.

            The new rules include:

A special three-day antlerless deer gun season for those under 18 years of age was established. The season will be held during the third weekend in October.

            The Commission passed a rule that changes the deer archery season to run consecutively from October 1 to January 15. This will allows archery hunters to hunt on an archery license during the deer gun season.

Another significant rule change makes muzzleloading pistols, .40 caliber or larger, legal for deer hunting during the muzzleloader season.

Honobia and Three Rivers wildlife management areas (WMAs) in southeast Oklahoma are two of the most popular WMAs in the state. The Commission approved a rule that creates a three-day special use permit ($5) for residents to use these areas for nonhunting/nonfishing related activities.

            In other business, commissioners heard a trio of presentations on the Department’s efforts to promote hunting and fishing to the next generation of Oklahomans.

Bill Dinkines, assistant wildlife chief for the Department, presented the Commission with a report on the private lands youth antlerless deer hunts

“The private land youth hunts were a success all the way around,” said Dinkines. “They offered a great chance for young people to get exposed to the sport of hunting and they helped landowners in managing the deer herd on their property.”

Held in October and December, 100 youngsters participated in the hunts, which took place in 10 different counties. With a success rate of 70 percent, the majority of the participants left with fresh venison and approximately 35 percent had the opportunity to harvest their first deer.

            Landowners wanting to participate in private lands youth deer hunts in 2003 have until July 1 to sign up. For more information about the program, call (405) 521-2739.

            Commissioners heard a report from David Deckard, law enforcement training coordinator for the Department, on the 2002 STEP Outside Youth Waterfowl Hunt. Twenty-five kids, many from metropolitan areas, participated in the two-day clinic held at Oologah Lake. On the first day, the youth were instructed in the basics of decoys, duck calling, retrievers and firearm safety. The following day, participants had the opportunity to go on a guided waterfowl hunt, where several had the chance to harvest their first duck.

            Paul Cornett, Oklahoma game warden stationed in Woodward County, reported that, for the fifth year in a row, the Department’s Wildlife Youth Camp was an outstanding success. Thirty-seven kids took part in the weeklong camp, which introduced the participants to wildlife management and the day-to-day duties of wildlife professionals in a fun, activity-filled environment.

In other business, Assistant Director Richard Hatcher briefed the Commission on several legislative bills affecting the Department. Most notable were a pair of funding bills. House Bill 1419 would increase the purchase price of lifetime hunting and fishing licenses and House Bill 1663 would increase the price of annual hunting and fishing licenses. Hunting or fishing license sales are critical in providing funds for wildlife conservation in the state, as the Department receives no general state tax revenues. Funds from the sale of annual licenses go to conserving the state’s diverse fish and wildlife resources for future generations, while funds from the sale of lifetime licenses go into a protected fund where only interest can be spent.

             To stay updated on active legislation affecting sportsmen and wildlife, log on to the Department’s Web site at: www.wildlifedepartment.com

            In other business, Keith Green, Oklahoma game warden stationed in Craig County, was recognized as the National Wild Turkey Federation Oklahoma Game Warden of the Year.

            “We appreciate all the hard work Keith has done over the years for the sportsmen and the wild turkeys in and around Craig County,” said Gary Purdy, with the Oklahoma Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation.

            In housekeeping business, the Commission voted to withdraw the rule passed recently regarding the Blue River Conservation Passport so that a new rule with specific language on the cost of the passport could be established. The Commission voted to accept a new rule containing the missing language, which states the Blue River Conservation Passport shall be set at $1.00 above the cost of an annual resident fishing license. The Blue River Conservation Passport ($13.50 for both residents and non-residents), will take effect beginning July 1, 2003, and will be required of all persons who enter or use the Blue River Public Fishing and Hunting Area. Holders of Oklahoma hunting or fishing licenses will be exempt from the purchase of the passport.

            The Commission received one sealed bid of $105 per acre to lease the mineral interest on 85.24 acres in Blaine County owned by the Department. Commissioners voted to accept that bid which totaled $8,950.20.

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, and sets policy for the Wildlife Department. Commission members are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate.

The next scheduled Commission meeting is April 7 at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation headquarters (auditorium), at the corner of 18th and North Lincoln, Oklahoma City at 9:00 a.m.

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Hunting and fishing licenses sales decline

 According to a recently released financial report, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s revenue for the fiscal year to date is down $478,979. The 7.4 percent decrease is attributed to the decline in hunting license and deer tag sales across the state.

The primary funding source of the Wildlife Department is the sale of annual hunting and fishing licenses, and the Department does not receive any general state tax appropriations.

The last hunting and fishing license fee increase was in 1994, and was projected to provide sufficient revenue to meet the costs of providing services for three to four years. The increase in 1994 was only $2 per license, which was one-half of the amount requested. Inflation and the increased cost of providing services has forced the Department to cut its budget more than six percent in the last five years. In addition, the agency has maintained between 25 and 35 unfilled positions as a means of reducing expenditures.

            Two House Bills currently are being considered that would raise revenue.

House Bill 1663 by Representatives Dale Smith and Joe Hutchison and Senator Frank Shurden would increase most annual hunting and fishing license costs. To ensure youth participation in outdoor recreation, HB 1663, calls for many youth license costs to be about half of the proposed adult license prices. For example, a youth combination hunting and fishing license would be $18.50, while adults would pay $37 for the same license.

Youths 16 and older are currently required to purchase a regular annual hunting license, but the bill provides that those 14 to 18 would be eligible to purchase youth licenses. Current law provides a full-price license for hunters and fishermen 16 years of age and older.

House Bill 1419 by Rep. Joe Hutchison and Sen. Frank Shurden would increase the fees for lifetime licenses. This would not generate any direct revenue (lifetime license fees cannot be spent, they must be invested and only the interest on those investments is eligible to be spent) but would contribute to future interest income from the lifetime license trust fund.

The agency’s revenue situation has reached a critical juncture, and without additional income more cuts will be made – cuts that will affect the service the Department provides. These include:

            • Reducing the game warden force by 10 wardens across the state.

            • Reductions in game warden patrols and assistance calls, along with reductions in important fish and wildlife management activities.

• Road conditions will deteriorate; there will be fewer food plots and less overall management of the public hunting areas.

            • Reductions in the number and quality of fish that will be stocked in state waters.

            • Fewer conservation education materials for school students.

            • Rising fuel costs will mean fewer miles driven to provide services by Department personnel, unless additional revenue comes in.

To track active legislation affecting the wildlife and sportsmen of Oklahoma, log on to the Department’s Web site at, www.wildlifedepartment.com/legislation.htm

To find contact information for your local Representative and Senator, go to the Oklahoma Legislature’s Web site at www.state.ok.us/osfdocs/leghp.html.

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Coming to a creek near you

Slowly but surely, Old Man Winter is losing his icy grip on Oklahoma and that means it’s time to go white bass fishing. White bass, or sand bass as they are called, spend most of the year in our large reservoirs. However, in late March and through April they swim upstream into creeks and rivers on their annual spawning migrations.

"Sand bass should be beginning their run up creeks and rivers in the very near future," said Barry Bolton, assistant fisheries chief for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

According to Bolton, blooming red bud trees and water temperatures in the low 50's  are good signs that is time to grab a pole and friend and go fishing for white bass. Oklahoma's state fish, the white bass is an aggressive feeder, particularly during the spring spawn. White bass make excellent table fare and can be found in every large reservoir throughout the state.

"White bass can be caught on a wide variety of lures and baits,” Bolton said. “Jigs, spinners and minnows are all excellent choices during the spring."

The spring spawning run of sand bass will begin first in the warmer southern half of the state. Southern Oklahoma anglers should find some good action at Gaines Creek above Lake Eufaula and upper Mountain Fork above Broken Bow Lake. Savvy anglers have long known that Hickory Creek above Lake Texoma can produce good stringers of sand bass if the time is right.

White bass fishermen in the northern half of the state can also find plenty of fast-paced action. Fishermen may find the Canadian River above Canton Lake, feeder creeks on Lake Ft. Gibson and the Horseshoe Bend area of Lake Tenkiller to be white bass hotspots.

Anglers can keep up on where the hottest fishing is taking place through the Department’s fishing report available at www.wildlifedepartment.com

For a complete list of regulations anglers should pick up a copy of the “2003 Oklahoma Fishing Guide before heading out on any fishing adventure or log on to the Departments web site at www. wildlifedepartment.com.

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Top photos sought for “Outdoor Oklahoma’s” Readers' Photography Showcase

 

Time is running short to give “Outdoor Oklahoma” magazine your best shot. Photographers, either professional or amateur, have until March 28 to submit their best photos to “Outdoor Oklahoma’s” annual Readers' Photography Showcase.

"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.

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. 

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Crappie spawn coming soon

For many Oklahoma sportsmen, spring is the best time of the year.

After all, spring means warmer weather and a great time to get outdoors and take advantage of Oklahoma's excellent fishing opportunities. Crappie fishing is one of the most popular fishing opportunities available and the action will soon be heating up across the Sooner State.

"It won’t be too much longer and the crappie will begin moving into shallow water. The next few weeks are going to be some of the best times to go crappie fishing," said Paul Mauck, south central fisheries supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. 

According to Mauck, crappie can be found moving into shallow water to spawn once the water temperature reaches the upper 50s. Crappie spawning generally takes place in water only 18 to 36 inches deep.

“The best place to catch crappie prior to and during the spawn is around structure in shallow water. The upper areas of the reservoirs that have some brush or other cover are usually the most productive spots,” Mauck said. “Gradually sloping rip rap along dams is another good place to fish, and anglers might try a little deeper water to find fish that are preparing to move into shallow water soon."

He added that a wide variety of lures can be used, including small spinners, jigs and minnows.

"A jig and a free-floating cork is a pretty good method of finding crappie. You can bounce that jig along and won’t get hung as much," Mauck said.

There is an abundance of places to catch a stringer full of crappie. Here are a few spots to try on your next fishing trip.

Kaw Lake, near Ponca City, is known for fast crappie action all year long.

“Anglers are catching good numbers of crappie along the rip rap near the Kaw City and Washunga bridges,” said Tracy Daniel, Oklahoma game warden stationed in Kay County.

Standing timber near Beaver Creek is also a good place to catch a crappie worth bragging about.

Texoma Lake in south-central Oklahoma offers anglers the first shot at spawning crappie – the fish spawn earlier in the warmer waters of southern Oklahoma. Brush-filled coves along the north shore are excellent places to find crappie.

McGee Creek Lake, near Atoka, is worth the drive for the scenic beauty alone. The pine-covered mountains are a bonus to the good numbers of crappie that call the lake home. Anglers can find shallow water with plenty of structure in the north end of the lake.

Lake Eufaula, near Checotah, earned its nickname – the Gentle Giant. The lake has many sprawling coves along more than 600 miles of shoreline. Shallow coves with full exposure to the sun are good places to wet a line.

For a complete list of regulations, anglers should pick up a copy of the “2003 Oklahoma Fishing Guide” before heading out on any fishing adventure or log on to the Departments Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com.

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Youth wildlife camp offers fun in the great outdoors

When school lets out for the summer, many Oklahoma youth will have one thing in mind - summer camp. Youth interested in wildlife, fisheries or law enforcement can have fun and learn a thing or two by attending the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's fifth annual Wildlife Youth Camp. The camp is conducted each year by wildlife professionals including game wardens and biologists.

“The camp is really a lot of fun for the kids and they get the opportunity to learn what wildlife professionals do on a day to day to basis,” said Paul Cornett, Oklahoma game warden stationed in Woodward County. “And one of the great benefits is that it is free.”

The weeklong camp, scheduled June 1-6 at Camp McFadden near Ponca City, is open to Oklahoma youths ages 14 to 16. Applicants must turn 14 prior to June 1, 2003. Participants will attend courses in firearms handling, wildlife law enforcement, wildlife and fisheries biology, water safety, self-defense, rifle and shotgun training, waterfowl hunting, and archery.

The camp is free of charge but will be limited to 35 participants. Applicants should be interested in fish and wildlife management or law enforcement and must submit a 75-word essay explaining why they want to attend the camp, why they believe they should be selected and what they expect to learn while attending. They must also submit a letter of recommendation from a person of their choice other than a family member.

The application deadline is April 15. To obtain applications, contact the Wildlife Department's Law Enforcement Division at P.O. Box 53465, Oklahoma City, OK 73152, or by calling (405) 521-3719. Applications may also be available from local wardens or from the Wildlife Department's Web site www.wildlifedepartment.com

Simply print off the application, fill it out and mail it in with the essay and letter of recommendation.

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Paddlefish will be on the move soon

A few more heavy rains and a few more degrees on the thermometer – that is all it will take to send paddlefish on their annual spawning migration.

Paddlefish, one of Oklahoma's most unique fish, begin staging at the upper end of reservoirs in early spring in anticipation of the spawning run. As water temperatures rise and rains bring water levels up, paddlefish begin moving upstream to spawn.

Growing to over six feet long and weighing over 100 pounds, paddlefish gather algae and zooplankton from the water by swimming slowly with their mouths open.

Due to changes in their habitat, paddlefish, or spoonbills as they are often called, occupy only a small percentage of their former range in the U.S. Oklahoma, however, has maintained a healthy population of paddlefish in northeast Oklahoma. The Neosho River system and Grand Lake in particular support a thriving paddlefish fishery.

When paddlefish go on the move each spring, fishermen are not far behind them. Many anglers flock to the river’s edge to partake in this unique and challenging sport. A 50-pound paddlefish in a swift current is more than enough to get the adrenaline pumping in any angler. The fun doesn’t end when the fight is over. Paddlefish, when properly cleaned and cooked, are an excellent addition to any dinner table.

Several regulations were recently changed to ensure that paddlefish will be abundant for many years to come.

The daily bag limit on paddlefish taken during the spawning season was reduced from three fish to one per day year-round. Catch and release fishing will be allowed year-round until an angler reaches his daily limit of one and then 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 license number) all paddlefish and paddlefish parts until reaching their residence. The new rules also allow non-residents to take four daily limits home (not in a boat) and changes legal snagging hours below the dam at Ft. Gibson from "sunset to sunrise" to 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.

For a complete list of the regulation changes consult the “2003 Oklahoma Fishing Guide” or log onto the Department's web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com

 

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Angler’s Guide now available

Spring is here and it is a perfect time to get out and enjoy Oklahoma's fantastic fishing opportunities.

Before heading out anglers will want to grab a copy of the "2003 Oklahoma Angler’s Guide." The informative guide can be found in the March/April 2003 issue of “Outdoor Oklahoma” magazine, the official publication of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

"The Angler’s Guide is a great way to get ready for the spring and summer fishing seasons," said Nels Rodefeld, “Outdoor Oklahoma” editor. "It provides electrofishing results, tournament data, stocking rates and premier destinations for many popular species. Overall, it is packed with information that every angler can use.”

The magazine also features a unique look back into the past. "The History of Fishing in Oklahoma,” provides insight on the rich fishing heritage shared by Oklahomans. The Watchable Wildlife profile features a majestic bird familiar to many anglers, the great blue heron.

Individual copies of the March/April 2003 issue of Outdoor Oklahoma are available for $3 if picked up at any of the Wildlife Department's offices, or $4 by mail (mail to Outdoor Oklahoma, P.O. Box 53465, Oklahoma City, OK 73152). One-year subscriptions, which are only $10, are available by calling 1-800-777-0019, or you can print off an order form off the Internet by logging on to the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com.

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87-pound blue catfish breaks state record

Some would argue that catching a record fish is all skill and others would say it is all luck, but maybe it has a whole lot more to do with just getting out and going fishing.

“I never dreamed I would catch a record fish,” said Rusty Keeton, the newest addition to Oklahoma’s fishing record book. “I just wanted to enjoy a nice day outdoors and do a little fishing on Texoma.”

Keeton, of Ardmore, got more than he bargained for when he hooked an 87-pound, 4-ounce blue catfish near Briar Creek on the southcentral Oklahoma reservoir. His trip, on Sunday, March 16, quickly went from a relaxing morning on the water to an adrenaline-charging, muscle-aching day that he won’t soon forget.

“He hit it just like any other catfish, but when I hooked him he came right to the surface. I couldn’t believe it. I had never seen a fish like that before,” Keeton said.

The big blue hit on shad gizzards, but wasn’t going to come to the boat easily. Unfortunately, Keeton was a bit under matched for the fight.

“I have some better rod and reels, but I hooked it on a little cheap rod and reel combo. I had 25-pound test, which seems pretty strong until you hook a fish like that,” he said.

He fought the fish for 30 minutes, but he said it felt more like three or four hours.

“My arms still hurt. It was like trying to reel in a huge tree stump off the bottom of the lake,” Keeton said.

Now the hard part, he had brought the brute to the side of the boat, but without a net, he was in a quandary as to how to get it into the boat. He made several attempts and it finally came down to crunch time.

“I finally said to myself, ‘This is it, this fish is either coming out the lake or I am going in’ I just grabbed what I could and somehow rolled him into the boat,” he said.

His first instinct was to let the fish go. Keeton only keeps a few fish each year to eat and releases all the largest fish.

“I was going to put him back in the water, but I thought I better find out what the state record is,” Keeton said.

He called his wife who looked up the length of the previous blue catfish record.

“When it measured longer than the state record, I knew I had better get it weighed,” Keeton said.

He contacted Randel Currie, southcentral region fisheries technician for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The fish was weighed on certified scales at the Department’s regional office in Caddo. The huge fish weighed 87 pounds, 4 ounces and was 53 inches long. The girth was 35 1/4 inches.

            One of the best parts of the story is that the magnificent fish is alive and well at the Department’s Durant Fish Hatchery.

            “I am so grateful to Randel Currie for saving that fish,” Keeton said. “It wasn’t in the best shape, but Randel knew just what to do to keep it alive. I am so glad it has made it.”

            Department fisheries personnel are planning to transport the record blue to the Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks where it will be available for the public to view.

The previous blue catfish record of 85 pounds, 4 ounces was set by Dale Dennis who pulled the big blue catfish from Lake Ellsworth in December of 1999.

            For a complete list of record fish and the procedures regarding certifying state record fish, consult the “2003 Oklahoma Fishing Guide”. If you think you may have hooked a record fish it is important that you weigh the fish on an Oklahoma State Department of Agriculture certified scale and the weight is verified by a Wildlife Department employee.

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Rusty Keeton of Ardmore landed a new state record 87-pound, 4-ounce blue catfish March 16 from Lake Texoma.Photo Cutline: Rusty Keeton of Ardmore landed a new state record 87-pound, 4-ounce blue catfish March 16 from Lake Texoma.

Spotted gar record broken

The clear waters of Lake Arbuckle in southern Oklahoma yielded a new state record spotted gar Saturday, March 15.

Brandon Taber, of Meeker, took the 9-pound, 8-ounce fish while bowfishing in the Guy Sandy Arm of the Murray County reservoir. The fish, which measured 38 1/4 inches long and had a 13 3/4 inch girth, is the new standard in the unrestricted (non rod and line) tackle division.

The record was weighed on certified scales at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s southcentral region office in Caddo and was witnessed by Randel Currie, south central region fisheries technician for the Department.

For a complete list of record fish and the procedures regarding state record fish consult the “2003 Oklahoma Fishing Guide”. If you think you may have hooked a record fish it is important that you weigh the fish on an Oklahoma State Department of Agriculture certified scale and the weight is verified by a Wildlife Department employee.

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Wes Watkins Lake producing big bass

Early spring is the prime time to catch big bass, just ask David Smith of Tecumseh.

“Right now is the time to go,” Smith said. “As the water is warming up, the bass are moving into the shallows. I’ve caught some of them in as little as two feet of water.”

Smith said he has been fishing Wes Watkins Lake, located off Interstate 40 between Shawnee and Oklahoma City. On a recent trip he caught just two bass, although, you won’t hear him complain.

“One weighed five and half pounds and the other one weighed ten and half pounds,” Smith said. “If I could do that every time, I’d be more than happy.”

With the warming water temperatures and lengthening days, the months of March and April can be a great time of year to catch some nice fish.

“It’s always great to get out on the water on a nice day,” Smith said. “It’s even better when you can catch a few fish.”

Built in August of 1999, Wes Watkins Lake is still a relatively young reservoir. The large areas of flooded timber found on the lake provide excellent structure for bass and other fish. According Department officials, Florida largemouth bass have been stocked the past three years to bolster the trophy bass potential in the lake.

The 1,142-acre lake is operated by the Pottawatomie Development Authority, which has imposed special fishing regulations on the lake. All largemouth bass fishing is catch and release only. For more information about the lake call the Wes Watkins Lake office at (405) 964-4507.

For complete regulations or more information about fishing in Oklahoma, consult the “2003 Oklahoma Fishing Guide” or log on to the Department’s Web site at wildlifedepartment.com.

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QU youth camp slated June 1-6

Youngsters interested in expanding their outdoors skills can participate in the eighth annual Oklahoma COVEY Kids Camp June 1-6 at Camp Redlands in Stillwater.

The week-long camp, hosted by the Oklahoma Council of Quail Unlimited, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and local Quail Unlimited chapters, is open to all Oklahoma youngsters ages 13 to 16. According to Bob Hayes, camp coordinator, the camp teaches kids to better appreciate Oklahoma's natural resources and exposes them to wide variety of outdoor endeavors.

"This is the ninth year for the COVEY Kids camp and we feel the camp is getting better and better each year," Hayes said.

Attendees will receive professional instruction in archery, sporting clays, muzzleloading, taxidermy, dog training, radio telemetry, hunting safety, wildlife career opportunities, habitat evaluation, first aid and much more. Camp participants will also complete requirements for their Hunter Education card.

"We start the camp off with a ropes course that serves as a fun ice-breaker to help the kids meet each other and develop teamwork,”  Hayes said. "The rest of the camp involves different outdoor skills and instruction taught by expert volunteers who come from all over the state.”

A maximum of 35 students will be selected for this year’s camp. To apply, applicants must write a short essay explaining why they wish to attend, why they should be selected and what they expect to learn. It should also explain their involvement in extracurricular activities.

The camp costs $250 per person, although scholarship funds are available from local Quail Unlimited chapters. The application deadline is May 15, 2003.

For more information, contact Bob Hayes at (918) 542-1403.

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Turkey season outlook appears promising

The redbud trees are bursting with color and hillsides all across the state are showing hints of green. For turkey hunters, this is the best time of the year.

One of the greatest adventures in the outdoors is pursuing the wild turkey. If you have ever heard the distinct gobble of a tom turkey resonate through the early morning light, you probably are already hooked on chasing the wily birds. Oklahomans can find great turkey hunting opportunities in every area of the state.

“We had a record harvest last year, and I expect we will have another great spring this year,” said Jack Waymire, southeast region senior biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

According to Waymire, there have been several reports of winter flocks numbering 60 birds or more and even a few flocks of over 100 birds.

“These are some of the biggest winter flocks we have seen in southeast Oklahoma since the late 1970s and early 1980s,” Waymire said. “It is really great to see the wild turkeys back in such strong numbers.

“The other encouraging news is that the sex and age class distribution is in good shape, meaning that are balanced numbers of hens and toms representing all ages of birds,” Waymire said. “If hunters have had the opportunity to harvest a turkey before, it would be a good idea to concentrate on mature toms. There are quite a few trophy birds out there if hunters are willing to be patient.”

Southeast Oklahoma certainly isn’t the only place to hunt turkeys. The population of the Rio Grande subspecies of wild turkeys, found in the rest of the state, continues to grow.

“I expect we will have another great turkey season. We have had four good production years in a row and the Rio Grande turkey population is in really good shape,” said Rod Smith, southwest region wildlife supervisor for the Department. “About the only thing droughts are good for is turkey production. In dry springs hens hatch more poults and have a better chance of survival and the growing population reflects that.”

Like all game species, turkey populations can handle only certain amounts of pressure. The Land Run of 1889 turned the trickle of incoming settlers into our state into a flood. With them came increasing levels of subsistence hunting, timbering for construction of homesteads, land use changes and market logging. All of these factors contributed to the wild turkey being so rare that by 1925, most people thought that they were extinct. In the late 1940s the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation embarked on a stocking program to reestablish the wild turkey to its former range. Once birds were well established in an area, biologists then would initiate a trap and transplant program to help spread the birds over an even larger area. This program was an absolute success, in fact, to day there are huntable populations in all 77 counties.

To hunt turkeys in Oklahoma, hunters must possess a resident or non-resident Oklahoma hunting license or combination license, as well as a turkey permit. Lifetime license holders are exempt from having to purchase the turkey permit.

Hunters do not check turkeys taken west of I-35, but all turkeys harvested east of I-35 must be checked at the nearest hunter check station. For more information on regulations and bag limits, consult the “2003 Oklahoma Hunting Guide,” which are available at hunting and fishing license vendors across the state or on-line at www.wildlifedepartment.com

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 Controlled hunts books available

It is that time of year again – time for hunters to submit their applications for the 2003 Controlled Hunts. Hunters can now  apply over the internet 24 hours a day by logging onto www.wildlifedepartment.com. Not only can hunters save a stamp by applying online, they can also confirm that their application has been received as soon as they apply.

This year’s Controlled Hunts booklets are also available at hunting and fishing license dealers located throughout the state.

Applicants have until May 2, 2003 to turn in their applications. Administered by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, the Controlled Hunts Program offers a wide variety of highly desirable hunts through a random drawing. Some hunts are held to provide high-quality hunting experiences on high-profile areas where it is necessary to regulate hunting pressure. Others are held to achieve management goals for certain species, and others are held to provide hunting experiences in areas where access is otherwise limited.

            A $5 fee is required of all applicants including lifetime hunting or lifetime combination license holders and that fee is good for all 2003 Controlled hunts application for one individual. Since the fee is per person and not per application, hunters should decide to apply for all their hunt categories either by mail or online, but not both. Hunters who choose to mail in their applications must complete the processing fee payment form on page 20 of the controlled hunts booklet. Payment can be made by the following methods: cashier's check, money order or credit card.

For complete application instructions, including tips on enhancing your chances of being selected, consult the Oklahoma Controlled Hunts 2003 booklet or log on to www.wildlifedepartment.com 

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Texoma yields second state record fish

“March madness” is often used to describe the frenzy of college basketball, but a different sort of March Madness is happening to anglers fishing Lake Texoma. For the second time in less than one week a new state fish record has been broken on the southern Oklahoma reservoir; this time for smallmouth bass.

On March 22, Aaron Fridrich caught a new state record smallmouth bass weighing a whopping seven pounds, 12 ounces. Fridrich’s record catch follows on the heels of a new state record blue catfish weighing 87-pounds, 4-ounces caught six days earlier at Texoma by Rusty Keeton of Ardmore.

Fridrich, of Prague, was fishing in preparation for an upcoming bass tournament when he tied on a crankbait in the portion of the lake south of Kingston.

“I only got one bite the whole day, but the fish hit hard and made it all worth it.,” said Fridrich. “When it came up to the boat I couldn’t believe how big it was.”

Fridrich’s fish was 23 3/8 inches long and was 18 1/4 inches in girth.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever catch a state record smallmouth,” Fridrich said.  

“Smallmouth bass are native only to the Ozark and Ouchita rivers and streams in eastern Oklahoma,” said Kim Erickson, fisheries chief for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “This newest record is a testament to the success of our smallmouth bass stocking program which uses lake-strain smallmouth bass to establish reproducing populations in lakes having no native smallmouth bass.”

Erickson added that anglers also have good opportunities to hook a smallmouth bass at Skiatook, Eufaula, Murray and Lawtonka lakes.

            The previous smallmouth bass record of seven pounds, eight ounces was set by Carl Gayle who pulled the big smallie from Lake Texoma in February of 1996.

            For a complete list of record fish and the procedures regarding certifying state record fish, consult the “2003 Oklahoma Fishing Guide”. If you think you may have hooked a record fish it is important that you weigh the fish on an Oklahoma State Department of Agriculture certified scale and the weight is verified by a Wildlife Department employee.

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 Aaron Fridrich of Prague landed a new state record seven-pound, 12-ounce smallmouth bass March 22 from Lake Texoma. Photo Cutline: Aaron Fridrich of Prague landed a new state record seven-pound, 12-ounce smallmouth bass March 22 from Lake Texoma.

Smallmouth buffalo record broken

The records continue to fall. Lake Konawa, near Ada, yielded a new state record smallmouth buffalo Sunday, March 23.

Richard  Snow, of Shawnee, took the 43-pound, one-ounce fish while bowfishing in the Seminole County reservoir. The fish, which measured 39 1/4 inches long and had a 31 inch girth, is the new standard in the unrestricted (non rod and line) tackle division.

The record was weighed on certified scales at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s southcentral region office in Caddo and was witnessed by Randel Currie, south central region fisheries technician for the Department.

For a complete list of record fish and the procedures regarding state record fish consult the “2003 Oklahoma Fishing Guide.” If you think you may have hooked a record fish it is important that you weigh the fish on an Oklahoma State Department of Agriculture certified scale and the weight is verified by a Wildlife Department employee.

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Richard  Snow (right), of Shawnee landed a new state record 43-pound, one-ounce smallmouth buffalo while bowfishing at Lake Konawa along with his fishing partner Brandon Taber (left). Photo Cutline: Richard  Snow (right), of Shawnee landed a new state record 43-pound, one-ounce smallmouth buffalo while bowfishing at Lake Konawa along with his fishing partner Brandon Taber (left).