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March 2013


Survey efforts begin for state's unique lesser prairie chicken (March 31, 2013)

In the coming weeks, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation will begin multiple surveys for lesser prairie chickens in an effort to gather more accurate population data.

            Wildlife Department biologists and Oklahoma City Zoo personnel will conduct listening surveys from county roads in Cimarron, Texas, Beaver, and Harper counties. Biologists will listen for the bird's distinctive call at preset listening locations along the roadway. 

            Also starting soon and continuing until May, Wildlife Department contractors will use helicopters for aerial surveys throughout the lesser prairie chicken range to locate additional groups of birds as they gather on breeding grounds. The aerial survey will complement the "listening" survey by identifying birds that can't be seen or heard from the roadways. This is the second year that these range-wide aerial surveys will be conducted in Oklahoma and across the lesser prairie chicken's range.

            "The surveyors will be flying a grid pattern across the counties, but they will use common sense when flying near homes or livestock. I know whenever you have a low-flying helicopter around cattle, people will be concerned. If cattle are seen, the protocol is to go up or around," said Doug Schoeling, upland game biologist for the Wildlife Department.

            The lesser prairie chicken is a unique upland bird that has experienced sharp population declines. The Wildlife Department is working to protect the bird while also supporting responsible development in the lesser prairie chicken's habitat. 

            "The more birds that are located on these surveys, the more we can understand population status, which could help prevent the listing of the lesser prairie chicken on the endangered species list," said Schoeling.

            For more information about the lesser prairie chicken and the conservation work being done to support it, log on to

Oklahoma National Archery in the Schools State Shoot a success (March 31, 2013)

   The annual Oklahoma National Archery in the Schools Program State Shoot was anyone's game. In fact a sixth-grade student outperformed every other shooter in his elementary category as well as the middle school and high school categories to become this year's top overall shooter.  

     That's in part because archery is a sport dominated by precision and practice rather than age or brawn. That's also why the sport appeals to students of all ages, sizes and athletic abilities. It creates an environment where all students can compete at the same level for top honors. 

     Mitchell Ritter beat out more than 1,170 students from schools across Oklahoma who turned out at the Oklahoma State Fair Park in Oklahoma City March 27 for the state shoot. He scored 435 out of 450 possible. And while being the top shooter out of such a large group of students ranging from 4th to 12th grade is a big deal, the heart of the Oklahoma National Archery in the Schools Program (OKNASP) is to get students involved in archery. The event brought students together after a season of practice and competition in their respective schools as part of OKNASP, administered by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

     To help manage the sheer number of students participating in the growing program (about 400 schools statewide participate), the Wildlife Department held regional shoots across the state to establish which teams and individual shooters would qualify for the state shoot.

     Partial grants are available for schools to acquire all the equipment, including bows, arrows, targets, safety nets, curriculum and training necessary to start an OKNASP program in their communities at little cost.

     Teachers interested in learning more about the OKNASP program or in starting the program at their school should contact Justin Marschall, OKNASP coordinator for the Wildlife Department, at (405) 522-4572 or or contact Colin Berg, information and education supervisor for the Wildlife Department, at (918) 299-2334 or

     Coordinated by the Wildlife Department, OKNASP is part of the National Archery in the Schools program, which partners state wildlife agencies, schools and the nation's archery industry to introduce students to the sport of archery. The program curriculum is designed for 4th-12th graders and covers archery history, safety, techniques, equipment, mental concentration and self-improvement. 

     Top shooters in each category at the state shoot received awards and prizes, which included trophies and medals as well as new Genesis bows, archery carrying cases and targets.  In addition, the top five individual shooters automatically qualify for the national shoot in Louisville, Ky. There were also 47 teams (17 elementary schools, 16 middle schools and 14 high schools) that posted scores that qualify them to participate in the national shoot.

     The top five shooters in each age category along with their scores are posted below. Additionally, the overall top boy and girl shooters and top school teams are posted as well.


Elementary Girls


Kilah Sickler

Wayland Bonds


Riane Tuthill



Sally Kim

Houchin Elementary


Cyndyl Mondragon

Houchin Elementary


Rose Templeton





Elementary Boys


Mitchell Ritter

Ringling Elementary


Blake Crawford

Moss Elementary


James Cagle

Will Rogers Junior High


Joseph Black

Ringling Elementary


Hal Thompson

Blue Bullseye




Middle School Girls


Faith Terrell

Chandler Jr. High


Bailey Williams

Chickasha Middle School


Ambria Noman

Chickasha Middle School


Codi Tolliver

Zaneis Middle School


Maggi Smith

Maryetta Middle School




Middle School Boys


Jimmy Parham

Chickasha Middle School


Case Tolliver

Healdton Middle School


Tanner Dunlap

Morris Middle School


Justin Veach

Chickasha Middle School


Kegan Warrington

Zaneis Middle School


Tye Eagleton

Maryetta Middle School




High School Girls


Hunter Tolliver

Healdton High School


Sydney McCarthy

Okarche Warriors


Mikayla Phillips

Ringling High School


Amanda Savig

Chandler High School


Ashley Hannah

Chickasha High School


Shelby Douglas

Chickasha High School


  High School Boys


Tyler Fletcher

Stillwell High School


Braden Sedgwick

Beggs High School


Wyatt Morgan

Sequoyah High School


Adam Littlefield

Locust Grove High School


Toby Roath

Wister High School




Overall Top Female Shooter: 

Hunter Tolliver, Healdton High School, 431


Overall Top Male Shooter

Mitchell Ritter, Ringling Elementary, 435 


Team Standings:

Elementary Teams, & Locations

1st place: Wayland Bonds, Oklahoma City

2nd place: Houchin, Moore 

3rd place: Ringling Elementary, Ringling


Middle School Teams & Locations

1st place: Chickasha Middle School, Chickasha

2nd place: Chandler Jr. High, Chandler

3rd place: Maryetta Middle School, Stilwell


High School Teams & Locations

1st place: Chickasha High, Chickasha

2nd place: Stilwell High, Stilwell

3rd place: Healdton High, Wilson

Vehicle Auction (March 30, 2013)

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation will offer the following vehicles for sale at public auction on Thursday, April 18, 2013. The sale will start promptly at 6:00 p.m. in the parking lot, 1801 N. Lincoln Blvd., Oklahoma City, OK. Registration begins at 5:00 p.m.

1 2005 CHEVY PU, 1/2T EX-CAB, SWB, 4X4, POWER, AUTO, AIR 120,170 1GCEK19BX5E266789
2 2006 CHEVY PU, 1/2T CREW CAB, SWB, 4X4, POWER, AUTO, AIR 188,241 2GCEK13Z161337273  
3 2006 FORD PU, 1/2T EX-CAB, SWB, 4X4, POWER, AUTO, AIR 126,856 1FTPX14VX6KC29479 Interior Exterior 
4 2006 FORD PU, 1/2T EX-CAB, SWB, 4X4, POWER, AUTO, AIR 134,082 1FTPX14VX6KC29465  
5 2005 FORD PU, 1/2T EX-CAB, SWB, 4X4, POWER, AUTO, AIR 111,514 1FTPX14545NB70703 Interior Exterior 
6 2005 FORD PU, 1/2T EX-CAB, SWB, 4X4, POWER, AUTO, AIR 129,057 1FTPX14525NB00830 Interior Exterior 
7 2002 CHEVY PU, 3/4T REG CAB, LWB, 4X4 6.0 ltr, POWER, AUTO, AIR 129,254 1GCHK29G42E281816 Interior Exterior 
8 2006 FORD PU, 1/2T EX-CAB, SWB, 4X4, POWER, AUTO, AIR 127,532 1FTPX14V26KC29475 Interior Exterior 
9 2007 FORD PU, 1/2T EX-CAB, SWB, 4X4, POWER, AUTO, AIR 107,774 1FTPX14V17FA77909 Interior Exterior 
10 2007 FORD PU, 1/2T EX-CAB, SWB, 4X4, POWER, AUTO, AIR 122,641 1FTPX14V67FA77923  
11 2003 CHEVY PU, 3/4T REG CAB, LWB, 4X4, POWER, AUTO, AIR 120,251 1GCHK24G33E261369  
12 2007 FORD PU, 1/2T EX-CAB, SWB, 4X4, POWER, AUTO, AIR 108,244 1FTPX14V37FA77927  
13 2006 FORD PU, 1/2T EX-CAB, SWB, 4X4, POWER, AUTO, AIR 129,226 1FTPX14V96KC29473  
14 2005 FORD PU, 1/2T CREW CAB, SWB, 4X4, POWER, AUTO, AIR 109,654 1FTPW14545KD32303  
15 2007 FORD PU, 1/2T EX-CAB, SWB, 4X4, POWER, AUTO, AIR 113,272 1FTPX14VX7FA77925 Interior Exterior 
16 2004 CHEVY PU, 1/2T EX-CAB, SWB, 4X4, POWER, AUTO, AIR 141,617 1GCEK19T44E280971 Interior Exterior 
17 2007 FORD PU, 1/2T EX-CAB, SWB, 4X4, POWER, AUTO, AIR 106,488 1FTPX14V17FA77926 Interior Exterior 
18 2007 FORD PU, 1/2T EX-CAB, SWB, 4X4, POWER, AUTO, AIR 121,634 1FTPX14V57FA77928  
19 2005 FORD PU, 1/2T CREW CAB, SWB, 4X4, POWER, AUTO, AIR 109,509 1FTPW14595KD93856  
20 2000 CHEVY PU, 3/4T REG CAB, LWB, 4X4, POWER, AUTO, AIR 137,269 1GCGK24U8YZ272479 Interior Exterior 
21 2006 FORD PU, 1/2T EX-CAB, SWB, 4X4, POWER, AUTO, AIR 87,513 1FTPX14V66KC29477 Interior Exterior 
22 2002 CHEVY TAHOE 4X4 POWER, AUTO, AIR  98,366 1GNEK13Z22J187715 Interior  Exterior 
23 2007 FORD PU, 1/2T EX-CAB, SWB, 4X4, POWER, AUTO, AIR 137,679 1FTPX14V57FA77914 Interior Exterior 
24 2006 FORD PU, 1/2T EX-CAB, SWB, 4X4, POWER, AUTO, AIR 122,628 1FTPX14V46KC29462  
25 2004 CHEVY PU, 3/4T REG CAB, LWB, 4X4, POWER, AUTO, AIR 107,207 1GCHK24G54E376704  
26 2003 CHEVY TRAIL BLAZER 4X4, POWER, AUTO, AIR 93,606 1GNDT13S832312160 Interior Exterior 
27 2005 FORD PU, 1/2T CREW CAB, SWB, 4X4, POWER, AUTO, AIR 134,280 1FTRW14W45KD32304 Interior Exterior 
28 2007 FORD PU, 1/2T EX-CAB, LWB, 4X4, POWER, AUTO, AIR 141219 1FTVX14567NA46149 Interior Exterior 
29 2006 FORD PU, 1/2T CREW CAB, SWB, 4X4, POWER, AUTO, AIR 117,408 1FTPW14V76KC17535  
30 2005 GMC PU, PU, 3/4T REG CAB, LWB, 4X4, POWER, AUTO, AIR 167,447 1GTHK29U85E281781 Interior Exterior 
31 2007 FORD PU, 1/2T EX-CAB, SWB, 4X4, POWER, AUTO, AIR 118,965 1FTPX14V37NA46148  
32 2008 CHEVY PU, 1/2T EX-CAB, SWB, 4X4, POWER, AUTO, AIR 129,642 1GCEK19048Z269246  
33 2007 FORD PU, 1/2T EX-CAB, SWB, 4X4, POWER, AUTO, AIR 117,456 1FTPX14V07FA77934  
34 2008 FORD PU, 1/2T EX-CAB, SWB, 4X4, POWER, AUTO, AIR 121,936 1FTPX14V68FB41508  
35 2007 FORD PU, 1/2T CREW CAB, SWB, 4X4, POWER, AUTO, AIR 112,471 1FTPW14V87KC46561  
36 2008 FORD PU, 1/2T EX-CAB, SWB, 4X4, POWER, AUTO, AIR 105,915 1FTPX14V88FB41509  
37 2007 FORD PU, 1/2T EX-CAB, SWB, 4X4, POWER, AUTO, AIR 121,177 1FTPX14V67FA77937 Interior Exterior 
38 2006 CHEVY PU, 1/2T EX-CAB, SWB, 4X4, POWER, AUTO, AIR 145,323 1GCEK19B76Z248129  
39 2007 FORD PU, 1/2T EX-CAB, SWB, 4X4, POWER, AUTO, AIR (WRECKED) 77,730 1FTPX14V37FA77930 Interior Exterior 
40 2006 GMC PU, PU, 3/4T REG CAB, LWB, 4X4, POWER, AUTO, AIR (WRECKED) 114,516 1GTHK24U76E125532  Exterior 

Items may be inspected April 18, 2013 from 10am to 5:45pm at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife parking lot, 1801 N. Lincoln Blvd. Vehicles will be sold individually. High bidder will be required to pay the balance in full at the time of sale. If payment is not received at that time, the bid will be rejected. Titles will be furnished with cash & certified cashier’s check only. Personal checks will be accepted; however, titles will be held for 14 days. No out-of-state checks. No warranty is given or implied. The State reserves the right to reject any and all bids.

For more information call 405-521-4600 or 405-521-4618  

Paddlefish: A conservation success story (March 16, 2013)

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Paddlefish Research Center in the northeast part of the state has already processed at least 300 fish for anglers this spring.

When it comes to unusual, it doesn't get much stranger than the paddlefish. The paddlefish takes its common and scientific names from its distinctive snout, which is elongated and flattened into a "paddle" shape. One of Oklahoma's largest fish, the paddlefish feeds on tiny zooplankton (microscopic insects) and, like a shark, has a completely cartilaginous skeletal system.

The paddlefish was alive when dinosaurs were rumbling around in the late Cretaceous Period. Paddlefish are one of the most unique fish in Oklahoma. They can grow over 100 pounds and live up to 50 years. Paddlefish range throughout the U.S from Montana to Louisiana. In Oklahoma, they are found mainly in the Grand, Neosho and Arkansas River systems.

Paddlefish are caught by snagging, usually beginning sometime in March and ending in late April, during the fish's early spring spawning run. The prehistoric fish can be caught by snagging with a stout surf rod, heavy test line, and a large, barbless treble hook. Historically, paddlefish were not a highly sought after species. They were mainly caught by local anglers who fished from the banks and cleaned their fish on the spot, taking the meat and leaving the carcasses in the river or trash cans at state parks.

During the past decade, paddlefish have been increasingly in the spotlight, both as a favorite thrill for sport anglers and a target for poachers seeking to sell their eggs as caviar on the black market.

In February 2008, the Wildlife Department opened the Paddlefish Research Center at Twin Bridges State Park near Miami, Okla. The center collects important biological data, processes paddlefish fillets for anglers and salvages paddlefish eggs.

Since 2008 more than 20,000 fish have been brought to the paddlefish research center by anglers, where their fish are professionally cleaned and packaged. Workers at the center collect eggs from female fish to sell as caviar. Workers collect details on the condition of the eggs, weight, fat percentage and other data that tells biologists about the health of the fish. Once data is collected, the eggs are processed and sold as caviar. These funds are being used to fund continued paddlefish research and improve angler access. Oklahoma paddlefish caviar is dispersed throughout Europe and Asia after the critical biological data is recorded from each fish.

Most importantly, the Wildlife Department is able to gather large quantities of useful data for managing paddlefish in Oklahoma. Certain types of biological data can only be collected once a paddlefish is dead. Prior to the opening of the Paddlefish Research Center, the Department had only collected information from 240 fish since the late 1970s. The center makes it possible to collect data from thousands of fish that are already being harvested by anglers. In just a few months, biologists found themselves years ahead of where they had been in terms of researching and managing the species.

Biologists are able to get the scientific information they need for management, anglers get the meat from their fish, and the salvaged eggs are sold to pay for continued management of the resource. It is a win-win for the anglers and for the resource.

Some examples of projects funded through caviar sales:

- Sonic tracking of paddlefish populations in Grand Lake and the Spring River.

- Genetic diversity analysis research project with Oklahoma State University.

- Purchase of boats and other equipment to assist law enforcement patrolling paddlefish waters.

- Improvement of fishing access at Miami Park on the Neosho River, the low water dam at Lake Hudson and planned improvements at Twin Bridges State Park at Grand Lake.

The center is open during prime paddlefish snagging months (approximately March 1 - April 30), and anglers can bring their catch to the center for cleaning and processing. Additionally, anglers such as those fishing at Miami's Riverview City Park also can call the center to come pick up their paddlefish for processing. Anglers who take advantage of the service will take home meat from their own fish that has been safely cleaned and packaged.

The paddlefish research center is seasonally staffed by employees trained in proper handling and processing of fish products.

Paddlefish anglers are required to obtain a free paddlefish permit before fishing for paddlefish in Oklahoma. Last year around 70,000 anglers obtained the permit with a specific number that must be attached to all paddlefish that are caught and kept. The permit system provides clearer information about paddlefish anglers and helps better manage paddlefish populations. The permit is annual, and the permit number can be used on every paddlefish tagged during that period. Permits can be obtained online at


Cedar Lake produces second state record largemouth bass in under 12 months (March 14, 2013)

Cedar Lake in southeast Oklahoma has produced its second state record largemouth bass in less than one year. The new record was caught Wednesday, March 13 by Dale Miller of Panama, Okla., and weighed 14 lbs. 13.7 oz.

Miller caught the bass at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday on a Hawg Hunter Bait Co. rod set up with an Abu Garcia Revo reel and an Alabama rig. The fish measured 26 1/8 inches in length and 23 inches in girth.

"Last month, I bought a fishing license, and this month I have the state record for the largemouth bass," Miller said.

Miller said when the fish first hit his line and he set the hook, he called for help from his brother, Vonnie, who was fishing with him. He said Vonnie questioned whether there was really a fish on the line.

Miller said they "both about passed out" when they saw the size of the fish. Using their own scales, they weighed the fish, then stopped fishing and began the process of contacting the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to determine if it would officially certify as a state record.

Miller's fish breaks a state record set less than a year ago on Cedar Lake when Benny Williams, Jr. of Poteau reeled in a 14 lbs. 12.3 oz. largemouth on March 23.

"Catching the state record largemouth bass in Oklahoma is a huge deal, but it's even more significant that the state record largemouth has now been caught two springs in a row in less than 12 months' time from the same lake," said Barry Bolton, chief of fisheries for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "It speaks to the quality of fishing we have in our state. It speaks to our Florida largemouth bass stocking program. And it speaks to our state's anglers."

In addition to being the second state record from Cedar Lake, the fish adds to a tremendous run of recent Oklahoma bass fishing headlines, including the hosting of the Bassmaster Classic at Grand Lake last month and two 40-plus-pound tournament stringers reeled in during successive recent weekends at Arbuckle Lake.

The last two state record largemouth bass as well as several from the state's Top 20 Largemouth Bass List have been caught in the southern and southeast regions of the state. Fish are cold-blooded, so their metabolisms work faster in warmer conditions and they grow more rapidly. Lakes in the southeast region of the state tend to warm up earlier and cool off later in the year than in other regions, which affords these fish a longer growing season.

According to Gene Gilliland, assistant chief of fisheries for the Wildlife Department, Cedar Lake has been known to produce big largemouth bass for anglers in recent years - not only because of its southeastern location, but also because it has a history of receiving Florida strain largemouth bass through the state's stocking program.

"They grow pretty fast down in that part of the state due to the long growing season," Gilliland said. "Cedar Lake has produced several double-digit fish in the last five years. The U.S. Forest Service played a role in the success story when they renovated Cedar Lake several years ago. This renovation created a "new lake environment" that along with the Florida-strain genetics, long growing season, good habitat and abundant forage has led Cedar Lake to become an outstanding bass fishery."

Anglers who believe they may have hooked a record fish must weigh the fish on an Oklahoma State Department of Agriculture certified scale, and a Wildlife Department employee must verify the weight. For a complete list of record fish and the procedures for certifying a state record, consult the current "Oklahoma Fishing Guide" or log on to

NWTF continues long tradition of conservation donations to Wildlife Department (March 9, 2013)

At its March meeting, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission accepted a donation of $55,950 from the National Wild Turkey Federation, whose long-standing support of wildlife conservation in Oklahoma has resulted in more than $1 million in donations since 1985.

The NWTF is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving the wild turkey and other wildlife. There are more than 50 Oklahoma chapters that have helped support the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation on efforts ranging from on-the-ground habitat work and land purchases to educational projects and outreach initiatives.

"The National Wild Turkey Federation has been a valuable partner for a long time," said Alan Peoples, chief of wildlife for the Wildlife Department.

The donation will be used for a range of projects, including more than $40,000 worth of management work on state wildlife management areas. About $10,000 of the donation will go to the Wildlife Department's National Oklahoma Archery in the Schools Program, which introduces students in 4th-12th grade to competitive and recreational archery through in-class curriculum. Currently about 400 schools across Oklahoma have implemented the program, and this month about 1,230 students will compete in the state shoot at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds.

"This year is kind of special because this year we're celebrating our 40th anniversary as an organization," said Gary Purdy, senior regional director for the NWTF. "Part of that celebration is the partnerships we have with state, federal and provincial wildlife management agencies."

In the early 1900s, there were fewer than 30,000 wild turkeys in the northern hemisphere, compared to more than 7 million today. Huntable populations exist in all 77 Oklahoma counties.

The Commission also voted to increase antlerless deer hunting days in Oklahoma's Antlerless Deer Zone 10 - which includes portions of the state's eight southeastern-most counties. Effective next season, every day of deer muzzleloader season will be open to antlerless deer hunting in Zone 10. During deer gun season, antlerless hunting will be available in Zone 10 during the first Saturday and Sunday, from Thanksgiving Day through the following Sunday, and on the last two days of the season.

" Zone 10 may eventually be open to antlerless deer hunting every day of deer gun season, but we've been through some drought periods and poor reproduction in that region during the last few years," Peoples said. "This is a conservative resolution, but it's a step in the right direction."

In the rest of the state, excluding the Panhandle, antlerless deer hunting is open every day during all firearms deer seasons. Zones 2, 7 and 8 have a two-antlerless-deer limit for muzzleloader and a two-antlerless-deer limit for deer gun season.

Additionally, the Commission approved a resolution to change the daily limit of pheasants from three roosters to two. Pheasant numbers are currently down as a result of drought in the region.

In other business, the Commission approved an increase of about $1.2 million in the Wildlife Department's fiscal year 2013 budget. Highlights of the add-ons include about $300,000 for quail research and research facilities in northwest Oklahoma and $200,000 for converting Department vehicles to natural gas fuel.

Richard Hatcher, director of the Wildlife Department, recognized two Wildlife Department employees for their tenure with the agency. Jimmy Foster, communications manager, and Steve Webber, information and education specialist, were both recognized for 25 years of service.

The Wildlife Conservation Commission is the eight-member governing board of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The Wildlife Commission establishes state hunting and fishing regulations, sets policy for the Wildlife Department and indirectly oversees all state fish and wildlife conservation activities. Commission members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate.

The next scheduled Commission meeting is set for 9 a.m. April 1 at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation headquarters (auditorium), located at the southwest corner of 18th and North Lincoln in Oklahoma City.


Free resource available to bass tournament groups to help conserve fish and habitat (March 8, 2013)

Conserving fish and fish habitat and providing fishing opportunities to anglers are top priorities for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Fisheries Division, and partnering with anglers goes a long way in making these things happen.

Bass tournament anglers are an important part of the equation, since they typically travel to several lakes and land large numbers of fish during the competitions. Right now, the Wildlife Department is offering tournament participants a free resource to keep onboard their boats as a reminder of how they can protect fish and their habitat.

The Oklahoma B.A.S.S. Nation received funding from the Boat U.S. Foundation and partnered with the Wildlife Department to print and distribute a handy information card for anglers. The two-sided, 4"x6" Tournament Angler Card is made of heavy-duty plastic and can withstand exposure to the elements.

"One side displays quick tips about aquatic nuisance species and how anglers can help prevent their spread," said Curtis Tackett, aquatic nuisance species biologist for the Wildlife Department.

Aquatic nuisance species are fish, mussels, plants and algae that are not native and have the potential to cause severe economic or environmental damage. Boaters are encouraged to "check, clean, drain and dry" to help stop the spread of nuisance species.

"The other side depicts a 'Top 10 Tips for Fish Care' and how to keep bass alive for release following tournament," Tackett said. "Each card also comes with a lanyard."

Keeping fish alive is a high priority for tournament anglers, as most tournaments require that fish be alive at the weigh-in and that they be released back into the water.

Wildlife Department fisheries personnel recently helped with the live release of bass back into Grand Lake after the Bassmaster Classic weigh-ins in February. All 548 fish that were caught and weighed during the tournament were safely transported to the weigh-ins by the pro anglers and then back to Grand Lake by ODWC personnel alive and in good condition.

Tournament groups and competitive anglers interested in helping protect fish and their habitat can obtain these cards to hand out at tournaments and meetings.

"Our goal is to distribute these cards to all bass tournament anglers throughout Oklahoma free of charge," Tackett said. "If you are a member of a bass fishing club or a tournament director, please help us distribute these cards."

For more information or to obtain cards for a bass fishing group, contact Tackett at (405) 521-4623.


Illinois River Fly Fishing School offering March 15-16 angling clinic (March 4, 2013)

Anglers interested in fly fishing can learn the sport March 15-16 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 p.m., Friday, March 15, 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.


Wildlife Department monitoring Canton Lake in wake of water releases (March 1, 2013)

Over the past few weeks, water released from Canton Lake in northwest Oklahoma has been making a 100-mile trek down the North Canadian River to Lake Overholser, where it is then being diverted to Lake Hefner to be used for Oklahoma City drinking water. While the release of more than 7 feet of water is intended to boost water supplies in Oklahoma City, it could lead to significant consequences for Canton Lake, its fish population and the surrounding communities that rely on the lake's economic and recreational drawing power. Officials with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation say they recognize the issues facing the lake and will be diligent to ensure its continued viability as a fishery.

The water release was initiated by Oklahoma City Utilities, which holds the rights to drain water from the lake. Already down 9.4 feet from normal as a result of drought and two prior water releases by Oklahoma City in 2011, Canton's water level is taking a significant hit.

"Canton Lake levels are going to be very low going into the spring, and they could drop even lower this summer," said Barry Bolton, chief of fisheries for the Wildlife Department. "That can lead to a host of problems if we don't see some relief from the drought and some significant inflows of water into the lake this spring."

One of the biggest threats the lake faces is the potential for a significant summer fish die-off as a result of massive plankton blooms that rob the water of oxygen. When water levels become too low at a lake like Canton, a large plankton bloom followed by a few exceptionally overcast days with no wind to aerate the lake can kill large numbers of fish - the most susceptible being those that anglers like to catch, including crappie, walleye, bass, catfish and important food sources like gizzard shad.

A large fish kill also could impact the state's saugeye stocking program, which currently relies on female walleyes collected from Canton whose eggs are crossed with sauger sperm. The resulting saugeye are stocked in lakes across the state, and a shortage of walleyes at Canton could force the Wildlife Department to find other sources for production not just for 2013, but in the future as well.

Bolton said the Wildlife Department is keeping a close watch on the situation at Canton Lake and will continue working to maintain the fishery. This spring, fisheries biologists will continue to monitor the lake, conducting regular electrofishing surveys and keeping data on the status of the fishery. In the event of a fish kill, heavy spring rains could raise water levels and bring more fish downstream to Canton from Ft. Supply Lake and, if needed, the Department will analyze the need and possibility of restocking the lake. Additionally, while water levels are down, fisheries personnel will continue habitat work, such as adding structure to the lakebed.

Business as usual will continue as much as possible around the lake, with events like the famous Canton Walleye Rodeo still slated for May 16-19, 2013. The Walleye Rodeo has been one of the largest fishing events in Oklahoma, drawing families and visitors of all ages to the lake and boosting local economies. More information on the Canton Walleye Rodeo can be found online at

Bolton said it is too soon to say exactly how the Canton fishery will be impacted, but he emphasized that the state, its municipalities, its industries, and even its residents should continue striving to make water conservation a top priority.

"Canton Lake and the communities around it could really suffer from this," Bolton said. "But this whole thing points to a very important overriding message - that we can do a better job at conserving water resources. Sometimes water is used as if it is an unlimited resource, but the problem is that it's not. All of us can do our part to keep the importance of water conservation at the forefront."

Bolton said municipalities, industries, agencies and even households can use less water, but it starts with a mindset of conservation.

Canton Lake has historically drawn large numbers of anglers and has offered excellent fishing for several species, but it has been especially well known for its crappie and walleye fishing.

"It's crucial that we as a state start looking for solutions to making sure we do a better job at conserving water," Bolton said. "Our fisheries depend on it."

Canton Lake was impounded in 1948. To see a map of Canton Lake, log on to

Artwork to fund conservation thanks to NatureWorks show (March 1, 2013)

Sportsmen in search of paintings, sculptures, carvings or other works of art to display their interest in wildlife may be able to find exactly what they want at the 2013 NatureWorks Art Show and Sale March 2-3 at the Renaissance Tulsa Hotel and Convention Center.

NatureWorks is the Tulsa-based conservation group that hosts the art show, bringing together wildlife and nature artists from across the United States and abroad for the event. Art at the show will be for sale, which will help generate matching grants to assist with a variety of state wildlife conservation projects.

This year's featured artist is Matthew Higginbotham of Santa Fe, N.M., whose artwork focuses on landscape paintings. A listing of other artists exhibiting at the 2013 show is available on the NatureWorks website at

NatureWorks, Inc. is a nonprofit organization dedicated to wildlife conservation and education. In recent years NatureWorks donated a bronze monument to the Department as part of a plan to make the agency's headquarters in Oklahoma City more accessible to persons with disabilities and more aesthetically pleasing to motorists and pedestrians. The monument was created by wildlife sculptor Stephen LeBlanc and depicts three whitetail deer on the run. The whitetail monument is one of more than 20 heroic-sized wildlife monuments donated to others by NatureWorks, many of which can be seen along the City of Tulsa's Riverside Drive.

NatureWorks has also partnered with the Wildlife Department on a number of different conservation projects. NatureWorks recently committed $16,000 for habitat and renovation work on lands, ponds and roads in the Spavinaw Wildlife Management Area, and $8,600 for a telemetry project on Grand Lake to monitor the impact of catch-and-release paddlefish snagging on the fish's spawning success and to study delayed mortality.

NatureWorks also has supported Wildlife Department's duck stamp print program and centennial duck stamp print, and habitat work at the Harold Stuart Waterfowl Refuge Unit within the Deep Fork Wildlife Management Area (WMA) and the Grassy Slough WMA. NatureWorks also has been an important supporter of the Wildlife Department's Hunters Against Hunger program, in which hunters can donate their legally harvested deer to feed hungry Oklahomans. In addition, they have funded projects to help schools and libraries in the state receive paid subscriptions to the Department's Outdoor Oklahoma magazine.

Hours are for the NatureWorks Art Show and Sale are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, March 2, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 4. Tickets are $5, and one ticket is good for both days.

The Tulsa Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center is located at 6808 South 107th East Avenue (71st and US-169) in Tulsa. For more information about NatureWorks or the art show, log on to



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