Public comment period open a few more days (January 9, 2013)

Sportsmen have until Jan. 11 to voice their thoughts online on a list of hunting and fishing-related rule change proposals. Already officials with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation say high numbers of comments have been submitted through the online public comment page at wildlifedepartment.com

Most notable among the proposed changes is one that would change the structure of the combined season deer harvest limit to include no more than two antlered deer, with only one antlered deer allowed during deer muzzleloader and gun seasons combined. Another proposal would prohibit transporting live bait from one body of water to another in the state.

"There is still time to go online and leave a comment on items that could lead to changes in our hunting and fishing regulations," said Wade Free, assistant director of the Wildlife Department. "We feel strongly that our constituents should have every chance to provide their comments, and if you have not already done so, then you'll need to log on to wildlifedepartment.com soon to do so."

To view a complete listing of proposed rule changes or to complete an online comment form, log on to wildlifedepartment.com. The online comment period will remain open until 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 11.

If comments cannot be made online, written comments will be accepted by mail until Jan. 11, 2013, at the Wildlife Department's main office in Oklahoma City (P.O. Box 53465, OKC, OK 73152).

Illinois River Fly Fishing School to offer angling course Feb. 8-9 (January 9, 2013)

Anglers interested in fly fishing can learn the sport Feb. 8-9 at the Illinois River Fly Fishing School. The clinic will be based out of Tenkiller State Park and will feature instructional sessions as well as hands-on practice on the banks of the Illinois River.

Long-time instructor Mark Patton says the clinic lays a good foundation for both amateur and experienced anglers. While he "starts from the ground up," Patton said even those familiar with fly fishing can benefit from the instruction.

The clinic will offer in depth information on equipment, tackle assembly, knots, flies, casting, and tactics and will include on-stream fishing instruction. According to Patton, participants will leave with a better understanding of fly fishing by learning how the equipment works and why it performs the way it does when operated properly. Upon completion of the Illinois River Fly Fishing School, Patton said participants will be ready to begin fishing by themselves.

"A guide right now in some places is $400 a day," Patton said. "I try to get people to where they don't need a guide."

The clinic costs $150 and includes orientation on Friday night as well as Saturday morning sessions. Anglers are encouraged to stay and fish Sunday. Spots are limited, and registration is required by calling (405) 340-1992. Meals for the event are available for $30, or participants can provide their own. Participants are responsible for their lodging and can book a stay at the state park directly by calling (918) 489-5643.

Fly rods will be available for loan on Saturday, and participants who own their own gear are encouraged to bring it with them to the clinic. Participants should dress for outdoor conditions and bring a hat, sunglasses, coat, rain gear and flashlight. The "welcome session" begins at 8 a.m., Friday, Feb. 8, after cabin check-in, and all indoor sessions and meals will be held in the community center located immediately north of the state park office. For more information or to register, call Patton at (405) 340-1992.


Hawks, Falcons and Owls! Oh My! (January 3, 2013)

Learn more about the Outdoors at the Hackberry Flat Center’s Saturday Program Series – “It’s All About Raptors” Identification Program

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and Friends of Hackberry Flat are offering a series of Saturday Morning Programs at the Hackberry Flat Center located south of Frederick.  On Saturday, January 12th the series continues with a program for those interested in learning more about identifying the hawks, falcons and owls that hunt the grasslands at Hackberry Flat. If you have ever wondered how to tell the difference between a red-tailed hawk and a rough-legged hawk this is the program for you!  Program begins at 9:30 am and includes some classroom time in the Center followed by a trip out in the wildlife management area to try out your new identification skills, in the bird blind trailer or an enclosed van, weather permitting.  Binoculars are available for participants to use.  Please be sure to dress warmly. Program will end at noon and is suitable for ages 12 years to 99.  Participants will each be given a free laminated hawk identification fact sheet.  There is no fee but reservations are required.  For more information or to make your reservation please email:  mhickman@zoo.odwc.state.ok.us or call Melynda Hickman at 405-990-4977. 

Other programs currently scheduled for the Saturday Morning Program series include Bird the annual Hackberry Flat Day, a fun-filled day for the entire family on April 20th .  Please note that participants at any of the Saturday Morning Programs are exempt from requiring a current hunting/fishing license or Wildlife Conservation Passport.

The Hackberry Flat Center offers amenities for visitors, a meeting facility for events, wetland classrooms for school children and programs to help develop outdoor skills. For more information about the Hackberry Flat Center and Wildlife Management Area including scheduled events go to   www.wildlifedepartment.com/education/hackberry_flat.htm

Wildlife Department personnel improve fish habitat in state lakes (January 3, 2013)

The cold days of winter may lead to some hot fishing for crappie at many Oklahoma lakes this year, thanks to habitat improvement efforts by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Fisheries Division.

Cliff Sager, chairman of the Department's Fish Habitat Committee and south central region fisheries biologist, said the Department manages fish attractor sites in more than 100 lakes throughout Oklahoma.

"The goal of this program is to improve angling success by creating man-made fish shelters for anglers to use," Sager said. "When water temperatures drop, crappie tend to be less active and hold tight to the brush. Wintertime crappie fishing can be hot around standing timber and sunken brush piles."

Fish tend to gather around the attractors during colder weather, and by fishing near these attractors, anglers are likely to improve their odds of success.

Sager said the Department constructs and refurbishes underwater fish attractors using various materials including trees, rocks, pallets, plastics or a combination of items. The Eastern red cedar tree, an invasive species in Oklahoma, is generally unwanted by landowners and is readily available. It is common for Department personnel to cut down these trees and use them at fish attractor sites.

The Department also uses artificial bush-like structures called spider blocks as fish attractors. Spider blocks are concrete blocks with eight to 10 black polyethylene pipes arrayed upward from the top, which makes them resemble a spider.

"These structures hold fish, don't break down over time, and are virtually impossible to get a lure stuck on," Sager said. For those reasons, spider blocks generally hold favor with fishermen and biologists alike.

During 2012, personnel with the Department's Fisheries Division rebuilt or added underwater fish attractors in several state lakes:

* Lake Thunderbird (Oklahoma City Region): About 100 trees were placed around fish attractor sites near the dam and in the Hog Creek arm.

* Lake Elmer (Northwest Region): About 200 brush piles were installed in addition to spider blocks and larger versions called tarantula blocks.

Lookout Lake (North Central Region): Cedar tree brush piles were placed in three locations in this 20-acre lake in Osage Hills State Park.

* Birch Lake (North Central Region): Spider blocks were placed at Twin Point East, Twin Point West and Birch Cove Ramp.

* Skiatook Lake (North Central Region): Ten brush shelters were refurbished.

* Healdton City Lake (South Central Region): All three brush pile locations were refurbished with new trees, a new brush pile was established, and all four sites were marked with buoys. The Department worked cooperatively with the Healdton Industrial Authority, which provided the trees.

* Broken Bow (Southeast Region): All 16 brush pile sites were refurbished with new trees. Eastern red cedars were removed from nearby wildlife management areas and hauled to the lake to create fish attractors. This was a win-win scenario for fish and wildlife. Also, about 160 spider blocks were added to existing attractor sites.

* Pine Creek (Southeast Region): Three sites were selected in Pine Creek Cove, and 100 spider blocks were divided among them and placed near the river channel. All three sites were marked with buoys.

* Hugo (Southeast Region): Spider blocks were added around the fishing dock north of the marina.

* Raymond Gary (Southeast Region): Spider blocks were added around the fishing dock.

* Crooked Branch Lake (Southeast Region): Spider blocks and cedar trees were added around the fishing dock.

* McAlester City Lake (Southeast Region): One brush pile was added near the campground area on the south side of the lake. The site is marked with a buoy, and anglers should be able to fish the site from boat or shore. Also, cedar trees were placed around the fishing dock.

* Clayton (Southeast Region): Spider blocks were added around the fishing dock.

* Nanih Waiya (Southeast Region): All four brush pile sites were refurbished.

* Wister (Southeast Region): Spider blocks were placed around the handicapped accessible fishing dock on Quarry Island. A cooperative project with Lake Wister State Park and Wister Public Schools will add about 200 more spider blocks to the lake this spring.

* New Spiro (Southeast Region): Two brush piles were added and marked with buoys.

* Old Spiro-Ward (Southeast Region): Spider blocks were added around the fishing dock.

* Fort Cobb (Southwest Region): Four additional vegetation enclosures were built at Fort Cobb to help establish native aquatic vegetation. This work is being conducted in three coves and covers more than an acre. Cages are built of coated steel mesh topped with wire to prevent fish and wildlife from eating the plants. This past summer, the water level dropped below the cages, but good plant recovery is anticipated.

To see a list of all state lakes where fish attractors are installed and to download GPS coordinates for those attractor sites, go online to wildlifedepartment.com/fishing/wheretofish.htm and click on "Fish Attractor Locations."


Bids opening on two ODWC Agricultural leases (January 2, 2013)

The Commission of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) invites interested parties to submit sealed bids for two agricultural leases in the state for use by summer and fall crops. The first lease of interest is the Lower Illinois River Public Fishing and Hunting Area, Watts Unit for a 5 year lease. This property is lease # W1, details for the Lower Illinois River lease can be found here (PDF). The second lease includes land in the McClellan-Kerr Wildlife Management Area for a five crop  year period. McClellan is lease # MK11, details on this property can be found here (PDF). Bids open February 5, 2013 and 2:00 p.m.