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September 2013

 

 

Sept. 12, 2013
A service of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation


September teal, resident Canada geese seasons bring increased bag limits
With cooler temperatures in the forecast and September teal and resident Canada goose season both opening Sept. 14, hunters accustomed to going afield for these early waterfowl hunting opportunities will be glad to know that daily harvest limits for teal have increased this year.
This year, hunters can take six teal per day - up from four in previous years. The special resident Canada goose daily limit remains at eight.
"While estimated teal populations this year are below the numbers of the last couple years, it was still the third highest count on record," said Josh Richardson, migratory game bird biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
Every year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes frameworks to states for structuring their waterfowl seasons.
After an analysis of teal populations and harvest, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was open to allowing liberalizations of teal seasons this year.
"Analysis of the data showed that teal were able to sustain, at a minimum, twice the harvest pressure they currently have," Richardson said. "Since nearly all the harvest of blue-winged teal occurs during the special September seasons, the obvious way to provide more opportunity was to liberalize the September teal season."
Blue-winged and green-winged teal are the first ducks to travel through Oklahoma as they migrate southward on their traditional journey to wintering grounds in Mexico and Central and South America. They migrate quickly and don't stay in Oklahoma a long time.
According to Richardson, the best teal strategy usually involves scouting areas and being ready to hunt them as soon as a cold front arrives or immediately after.
"The stronger the front, the more birds are likely to be moving through," Richardson said.
Richardson notes that there is significantly more water available to waterfowl in Oklahoma this year than last year when, despite near record numbers of waterfowl, hunters often had challenges getting to areas with enough water for a successful hunt.
Resident Canada geese are those birds that live in Oklahoma year-round, providing a chance to hunt before migrant birds from the north begin arriving in large numbers.
Richardson said goose populations continue to remain high across Oklahoma, and production this past spring appeared to average to above average.
"Geese follow a pretty regular pattern this time of year, so finding fields that they feed in that are open to hunting should provide good action," he said. "Most often these birds spend their days within city limits, so gaining access to a roosting pond to hunt them as they return to loaf through the day is pretty difficult, but if you are fortunate to have such a location, that should provide some good shooting as well.
All waterfowl hunting is restricted to federally-approved nontoxic shot in all areas of the state, and hunters must have a valid federal duck stamp and Harvest Information (HIP) permit, as well as a state waterfowl hunting license, unless exempt. Possession of lead shot while hunting waterfowl is prohibited. For more information and complete regulations for the September teal and special resident Canada goose hunting seasons, consult the current "Oklahoma Hunting Guide," available free online at wildlifedepartment.com or in print anywhere hunting licenses are sold.
The regular state duck seasons kick off Oct. 1 in the Panhandle counties, Oct. 26 in Zone 1 (includes most of northwest Oklahoma excluding the Panhandle) and Nov. 2 in Zone 2 (everywhere else by northwest Oklahoma and the Panhandle). The regular season for Canada geese will open Nov. 2.
For more information about waterfowl hunting in Oklahoma, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.

Sept. 16, 2013
A service of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation


Duck blind drawings set for Sept. 21
Though it's still hot, it's not to early to mark the calendar for Sept. 21, when a number of drawings will be held for permits to construct permanent seasonal blinds on several lakes across Oklahoma, including Ft. Gibson, Eufaula, Webbers Falls, W.D. Mayo, Waurika, Ft. Supply and Canton lakes.
Registration and drawings for duck blinds at Fort Gibson, Eufaula and Webbers Falls will take place at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's field office in Porter, located between Wagoner and Muskogee on Hwy. 69. Registration for Fort Gibson will take place at 7 a.m., with drawings to follow at 8 a.m. For blinds at Eufaula, registration will begin at 9:30 a.m., with drawings at 10:30 a.m. Registration will begin at noon for Webbers Falls, with drawings at 1 p.m.
Drawings for W.D. Mayo will be held at 10 a.m. at the Spiro City Council chambers in Spiro (510 S. Main St).
Drawings for Waurika Lake will be held at 9 a.m. at the Corps of Engineers office at the dam. For more information, contact Kent Swanda, habitat coordinator at Ellsworth, Ft. Cobb, Mountain Park, Washita County and Waurika wildlife management areas, at (580) 595-0347.
Additionally, blind permits for Ft. Supply Lake will be issued on a first-come, first-serve basis from 8 a.m. - 9 a.m. at the Wildlife Department's northwest region office in Woodward (3014 Lakeview Dr) and for Canton Lake from 8 a.m. - 10 a.m. at the Overlook Cafe on the south end of Canton Lake dam. For more information on the Ft. Supply blinds, contact Eddie Wilson, wildlife biologist, at (580) 256-7119. For Canton, contact Thad Potts at (580) 541-5319.
Applicants for permanent blind permits must be at least 16 years of age and possess all valid hunting licenses, signed stamps and permits as required for hunting waterfowl during the waterfowl season, unless exempt. Additionally, they need a valid Harvest Information Program (HIP) Permit. Applicants must be present at the drawings to be eligible.
Waterfowl hunting blinds constructed on Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation reservoirs are classified in two categories: temporary blinds (constructed for only one hunt and removed at the end of the hunt) and permanent blinds (constructed for seasonal use). No permit is required for temporary blinds.
To learn which lakes allow permanent and temporary blinds, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.

 

Sept. 16, 2013
A service of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation

Deer management workshop scheduled for this week
Deer management is an important topic to many Oklahoma hunters, and next month sportsmen can attend a workshop to learn more about both.
The Noble Foundation's White-tailed Deer Management Workshop will be held in partnership with Oklahoma State University Extension from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 19 at the Cleveland County Fairgrounds' Frye Auditorium/Sutton Wilderness in Norman. The workshop will provide key insights into deer behavior, nutrition and biology as well as facts, myths and misconceptions about deer. There will also be presentations on deer food plant identification, population management, aging whitetails and antler development.
Registration is $15 and starts at 9:30 a.m. The cost includes lunch, and participants can also choose to register and receive a book on managing for deer in the Cross Timbers region for $35. More information is available at http://www.noble.org/events/ag/ and payment can by arranged by contacting Jackie Kelley at (580) 224-6360 or jmkelley@noble.org.
Countless properties across Oklahoma are being purchased for recreation, and many of these landowners are planting food plots and attempting to manage deer herds. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation has begun a deer education initiative aimed at encouraging sportsmen to voluntarily let young bucks walk during hunting seasons as a way to help improve age structure in the state's herd. "Hunters in the know...let young bucks grow; deer management is more than antlerless harvest" has become the slogan for the effort. In recent years, Oklahoma hunters have been harvesting increasingly greater numbers of older bucks while letting more and more young bucks walk.
The Quality Deer Management Association recently issued a report on a list of states that provided the organization with their 2011 buck harvest data, and Oklahoma was in the top five states with the highest harvest of bucks age 3.5 years old and older. In Oklahoma, 51 percent of the deer jaw bones aged from the 2011 buck harvest was comprised of deer that were 3.5 years old or older. In comparison, the national average of states from which QDMA was able to collect harvest data is about 33 percent. Oklahoma harvest data for 2012 is expected to be complete this summer.
Additionally, officials with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation report that the percent of yearlings in the total buck harvest has continually decreased as well, from nearly 70 percent in the late 1980s to just 25 percent in 2011.
There are more than 250,000 deer hunters in Oklahoma, and deer hunting is the most popular type of hunting in Oklahoma and one of the most popular outdoor activities in the state. Hunters not only enjoy the recreation of hunting but also play a critical role in the conservation of Oklahoma's deer and other wildlife. The Wildlife Department receives no general state tax appropriations and is funded primarily by hunters and anglers through their purchase of hunting and fishing licenses and excise taxes paid on certain sporting goods. To learn more, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.


Sept. 19, 2013
A service of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation

Oct. 1 marks big opening day for archery hunters
October 1 marks the opening day of archery hunting opportunities in Oklahoma.
Most popular and widely available is the deer archery season, which runs through Jan. 15 and offers the opportunity to harvest up to six deer. Adventurous archers also have the opportunity to hunt for turkeys, antelope and black bears beginning Oct. 1.
"Oklahoma really is a land of opportunity for archery hunters," said Erik Bartholomew, big game biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "Not only do we have several archery seasons opening Oct. 1, but they each provide ample time and opportunity for diligent hunters to go afield and harvest an animal."
Last year, more than 89,000 hunters took to the outdoors during deer archery season, according to the Game Harvest Survey conducted by the Wildlife Department.
"That's the third highest ever," Bartholomew said.
Bartholomew has advice for archery hunters headed to the field this year.
"Hunters may not find deer in their normal feeding patterns during the early archery season this year because of the increased rainfall we've had in parts of the state," Barthomew said. "There's so many more natural food sources available to deer this year than in recent years when drought had deer concentrating around limited food and water sources. Hunters are going to have to get out there and scout a little more."
Bartholomew also said the increased rainfall has resulted in heavier vegetation, which could also mean visibility could be lower for hunters.
"You may not be able to see deer as well this year as you could in recent years when drought has pretty much dried up much of the vegetation," he said.
Even with the challenges, the rain is welcomed by hunters and biologists, and wildlife is benefiting tremendously.
"Deer will be going into the winter in good shape this year," Bartholomew said.
With plenty of food and vegetation, deer stand a better chance of eating well and preparing for colder months ahead than they do when food is limited.
"I expect we'll have a great deer archery season this year as usual," Bartholomew said.
Deer archery hunters harvested over 23,000 deer during the 2012-13 hunting season, helping reach a total of 107,848 deer harvested last year across all methods.
While deer archery season is open statewide, antelope hunters must hunt in Cimarron Co. and that portion of Texas Co. west of state highway 136. Black bear season is open only in Latimer, LeFlore, McCurtain and Pushmataha counties.
Archery hunters harvested 16 antelope and 66 black bears last season. Antelope populations are down this year from last year. Still, a greater availability of food and water sources should benefit antelope going into the winter while challenging hunters to look beyond limited watering holes and feeding locations that have proven successful in the past.
"The prepared archery hunter will have scouted, talked to several landowners, secured the required written landowner permission they need to hunt, and will be ready for action Oct. 1," Bartholomew said.
Antelope archery season runs Oct. 1-14.
Bear hunters in southeast Oklahoma should be prepared to hunt this year in areas with plenty of natural food sources as well.
According to Jeff Ford, southeast region wildlife biologist for the Wildlife Department, the region has a great mast crop this year, which could lead to good opportunities on public lands as well as private lands.
Ford suggests hunters should not rule out hunting on wildlife management areas simply because baiting is prohibited on those lands. About 25 percent of the total bear harvest last year was reported harvested from public lands.
The upcoming fifth annual black bear archery season will continue to offer ample hunting time and opportunity to sportsmen. Archery season will run Oct. 1-20 with no set quota (a muzzleloader season with a 20-bear quota will start Oct. 26 and run through Nov. 3).
Ford says the structure of the bear season secures better opportunities for hunters compared to the first few years when quotas caused bear season to end in a matter of days or less.
"You'll have at least two full weekends and 20 days to hunt," Ford said. "You won't feel the need to rush out and getting your hunting done the first day."
More time to hunt also allows hunters to be more selective about which bears they harvest, since they won't feel the pressure to harvest a bear before a season quota is reached.
Fall turkey archery season runs Oct. 1 through Jan. 15, 2014, and hunters may harvest one turkey of either sex, statewide. It's common for deer hunters to head to the field with the proper fall turkey license in case they get an opportunity to harvest a turkey while deer hunting.
Seasons on public lands may vary from statewide season dates. Complete details and regulations for each season - including hunter education and apprentice-designated license requirements - can be found in the current "Oklahoma Hunting Guide," available free online or in print anywhere hunting licenses are sold.
To learn more about archery hunting in Oklahoma, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.

 

Sept. 24, 2013
A service of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation


Five states submit fourth draft of Lesser Prairie-Chicken Conservation Plan as alternative to federal Endangered Species Act listing
Bird populations impacted by drought should respond to coordinated approach

The fourth draft of a comprehensive conservation plan for the lesser prairie-chicken has been submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for endorsement, a plan offered by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) and state wildlife agencies in Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma. This latest version comes after extensive review and comment by stakeholders across the bird's five-state range. Once the USFWS endorses the plan, the states can begin implementing it, in hope of precluding the need to list the species under the federal Endangered Species Act.
The lesser prairie-chicken is an iconic grassland grouse species native to parts of all five states. However, long-term population declines have brought state and federal agencies together in an attempt to better manage lesser prairie-chickens and their habitats. The resulting precedent-setting plan identifies population and habitat objectives based upon the needs of the species, not state boundaries.
"For years, biologists have well-known that wildlife do not recognize state lines, which has presented management challenges for wildlife agencies," says Bill Van Pelt, WAFWA Grassland Initiative Coordinator. "Often, population goals are set based on administrative boundaries. This plan not only sets biologically meaningful population objectives, it also allows for resources to be spent anywhere within the same habitat type, regardless of the state. This should give state wildlife agencies maximum management flexibility and, ideally, preclude the need to list it."
The submittal of the range-wide plan comes at the same time the second annual statistically-valid, range-wide population estimate for the lesser prairie-chicken is being released. Analysis of the 2013 range-wide survey revealed population estimates of 17,616, down from the 34,440 birds estimated the previous year. This population decrease was predicted by biologists because of the persistent drought that has plagued the region in recent years.
Lesser prairie-chicken populations have fluctuated historically due to weather and habitat conditions. In fact, populations were so low during the droughts in the 1930s and 1950s biologists feared the species was almost extinct. However, when the rains returned, the populations rebounded.
WAFWA's Grassland Initiative collaborated with the Lesser Prairie-chicken Interstate Working Group, which is composed of biologists from state fish and wildlife departments within the range of the species, the Bureau of Land Management, and Western EcoSystems Technology, Inc. to conduct a large-scale, helicopter-based survey of lesser prairie-chicken leks across all five states. Leks are sites where the birds congregate every spring for breeding. These surveys occurred from March-May and encompassed more than 300,000 square miles.
The 2013 survey was funded by the five state fish and wildlife agencies and WAFWA with support from various partners, including oil and gas companies that support lesser prairie-chicken conservation, the Bureau of Land Management and a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
Although drought has significant impacts on game bird populations, biologists are heartened by the fact that the lesser prairie-chicken has historically shown significant resiliency to periodic climatic events. When the birds were first proposed for listing in the 1990s, the region was experiencing a severe drought. In many areas, bird populations declined by more than 60 percent, but recovered to prior levels with a return to wetter years later in that decade.
The range-wide conservation plan will help increase and enhance critical lesser prairie-chicken habitat through partnerships with landowners that will incentivize beneficial land management practices. The plan has benefitted from extensive public review and stakeholder input, including more than 70 public meetings throughout the five states in addition to online review and comment. This includes specific meetings and outreach for wind energy, oil and gas and agricultural interests.
"We don't want to see the lesser prairie-chicken designated as a federally threatened or endangered species, however in the event it is listed, we want to have a plan in place to recover the bird and get it off the list as soon as possible," said Bill Van Pelt, WAFWA grassland coordinator.
"Two critical factors for the bird are good weather and good partnerships with conservation groups and landowners," Van Pelt added. "Fortunately, drought conditions continue to improve and landowners are getting more involved at the grassroots level, both of which are encouraging signs for the future of the lesser prairie-chicken."
For more information, contact Van Pelt at BVanpelt@azgfd.gov or visit the team's website at www.wafwa.org/html/prairie_chicken.shtml, where the fourth draft of the range-wide plan and the 2013 aerial survey report are available.


Sept. 25, 2013
A service of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation

Wildlife Expo postponed, will return in September 2014
The annual Oklahoma Wildlife Expo that normally takes place during late September has been postponed this year and will be back in 2014. Instead, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation will play host to a national conference of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (SEAFWA) around the same time the Expo normally is held.
"The Wildlife Expo is an enormous undertaking on the part of hundreds of Wildlife Department employees and volunteers," said Rhonda Hurst, Wildlife Expo coordinator for the Wildlife Department. "The manpower, time, money and personnel resources required to host the SEAFWA conference would not allow us to provide the high-quality experience normally enjoyed by Expo guests. So, the Expo will be back in 2014."
The Wildlife Expo is an annual, multiday event featuring hundreds of booths and activities to introduce people to the outdoors by letting them experience it firsthand. It's usually held the last weekend in September at the Lazy E Arena north of Oklahoma City. Expo visitors have the opportunity to participate in shooting sports such as archery and shotgun shooting, float in a kayak, catch a fish in a stocked pond, ride an all-terrain vehicle or mountain bike, attend a hunting dog training seminar or even build a birdhouse to take home with them.
"We want the Wildlife Expo to remain at the top of the list of great outdoor-related events and experiences in Oklahoma, and it will be in 2014," Hurst said.
In the meantime, the SEAFWA conference will be attended by representatives from at least 15 state wildlife agencies across the southeastern United States, where some of the best minds in wildlife and fish management can share ideas, progress, research, future plans and information to help all states better manage fish and wildlife.
"We know there will be some disappointed folks who won't get to attend the Wildlife Expo this year, especially kids," Hurst said. "We're disappointed as well. But one important thing to remember is that about 50,000 students from across the state will, in a way, get to experience the Wildlife Expo all year long by participating in the Wildlife Department's various outdoor education programs offered in about 400 schools this year."
Currently the Department offers schools an outstanding suite of program curriculum including Oklahoma National Archery in the Schools, Fishing in the Schools, Hunter Education, Explore Bowhunting and now a scholastic shooting sports program. Students are learning about outdoor activities through these programs, and Wildlife Department officials hope they will take an interest in conservation as a result of the introduction they receive in the classroom.
"Of course, the concept only works if an adult is willing to take them into the outdoors on their own time, outside of the classroom," Hurst said. "That's where you come in. We're challenging you to carry the spirit of the Wildlife Expo into the fall this year by taking a youth outdoors for a fishing or hunting experience. You'll have fun and you'll create a memory for a youth while helping them see the benefit of conservation and the role that sportsmen play in it."
The next Wildlife Expo is planned for Sept. 27-28, 2014.

 


Sept. 26, 2013
A service of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation

PASSING ON YOUNG BUCKS NOW MEANS BIGGER BUCKS LATER

Taming the temptation to harvest the first thing with antlers that walks into range is not something easily done for most deer hunters. But recent data indicate that Oklahoma hunters are harvesting fewer yearling bucks.
Indeed, deer hunters are realizing that each time they pull the trigger or let an arrow fly, they are making a management decision that can influence the deer herd in the future, and make future hunts more successful, too.
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation has embarked on a public awareness campaign to influence deer hunters to think about their choice before deciding to harvest a deer. The slogan "Hunters in the know ... let young bucks grow!" is intended to emphasize that herd management means more than simply harvesting more antlerless deer.
As the Oct. 1 opening day for archery deer season nears, hunters are being reminded that when they harvest a deer, they are in essence making a wildlife management decision that can affect future successes. Through its Facebook page, the Wildlife Department recently invited deer hunters to share their stories about passing up the first buck they saw when hunting.
"My theory has always been you will never kill a big one if you kill it before it grows," Michael Musgrove wrote. "I let five smaller bucks walk; killed a 155-inch with my Matthews during primitive, and had a bigger one pass by outside of recurve range a week later."
Matt Martinsen wrote that hunting is getting better every year. "If more people just let the little-basket eights or smaller walk, the deer woods would be so much better." Martinsen passed up "at least 10 different little guys last season, and shot one buck (130 inches) and five does."
Beatrice Loftin and her husband try to practice good deer management on their hunting property, and they make judgments about a buck's age before deciding whether to shoot. "This is good practice because it allows the deer to grow so they can 'be all they can be.'"
During the first week of the 2012 archery deer season, Caryn Williams of Coweta was faced with a tough decision while hunting. "I watched a real large-bodied six-point stop about 25 yards in front of me. I had a good opportunity to take him, but I passed. Looking at his rather large body, I kept thinking, 'Wow, if this guy has this nice of a body, and he appears to be only a year or two old, by next year he should be a beautiful typical, rather-large eight-point.'
"I have never shot a buck that I would consider a wall-hanger, so I decided it would be a waste to kill him just for the meat, because next year he should be meat plus a nice trophy!" Williams wrote. "Hopefully he is growing a perfect eight or 10 points, and we will get to meet again this year!"
In March, the Quality Deer Management Association recognized Oklahoma in a report showing that bucks aged 3.5 years and older comprised 51 percent of the state's total buck harvest in 2011. Wildlife Department deer harvest data also show that the percentage of yearlings in the total buck harvest has continually declined over the years, from nearly 70 percent in the late 1980s to just 25 percent in 2011. (See accompanying graphs.)
Erik Bartholomew, the Wildlife Department's big-game biologist, said the fact that fewer younger bucks being harvested indicates that Oklahomans are enjoying good hunting opportunities.
"Hunters are better educated, and they are being more selective about what they harvest," Bartholomew said.
Hunter Drew Turner wrote that he has passed on numerous small bucks. "The most exciting thing I've ever done while hunting was let that first six-point walk on by with the intention of letting him grow."
Matt Ross made the choice to wait many times during the season. "I probably passed up more than a dozen bucks, all within bow range," he wrote. "Several were nice eight-points, just not quite old enough. I ended up shooting an old gnarly buck with a broken nose."
Despite deciding to pass up several smaller bucks, Emery Lamunyon of Luther wrote that "all in all, I had a great year!" He ended up with two nice does in the freezer.
Bartholomew said the state's 250,000 deer hunters can continue to improve the health and structure of the deer population by making conscientious decisions about what they are harvesting. "We encourage hunters to continue thinking about the bucks they are harvesting each year. Ask yourself each time you see a buck, 'Is he the one I want?' and look for opportunities to pass on younger bucks in order to wait for an older one."
The Wildlife Department urges hunters to visit its Facebook page, which is a great resource for those who want to see photos of older, larger bucks. The Department shares photos submitted by visitors, especially on "Trail Cam Tuesdays" when deer photos take center stage.
Hunter Kris Spivey summed up "letting young bucks grow" and the notion of putting some serious thought into a decision about whether to harvest a deer. "It might take three seconds, three minutes or three years, but patience will bring a big buck."

 

Sept. 30, 2013
A service of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation


Friend of Oklahoma paddlefish program honored with fisheries award of excellence
The efforts of fisheries biologists are key to the success of most Oklahoma fish and wildlife populations. In the case of the paddlefish, fisheries professionals have worked diligently over the last several years to collect extensive data that is making Oklahoma a leader in paddlefish management.
One such professional who has partnered with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation since 2002 was recently honored for a career of excellence in fisheries management.
Dr. Dennis Scarnecchia was awarded the American Fisheries Society's Fisheries Management Section Award of excellence. Dr. Scarnecchia, Ph.D and professor in the College of Natural Resources Department of Fish and Wildlife Sciences at the University of Idaho, has been an important consultant for the Wildlife Department's paddlefish program, collaborating with Department officials on research studies and providing intensive consultation.
Since 2008, the Department has contracted with Dr. Scarnecchia for the aging and growth charting of paddlefish sampled at the successful Paddlefish Research Center based out of Miami about four miles north of Twin Bridges State Park.
The Center has been collecting biological data on angler-caught paddlefish since 2008, and Dr. Scarnecchia has aged over 25,000 fish for the agency. The information helps biologists manage this unique population of fish known for their large size and flattened, elongated "spoonbill" snouts. Scarnecchia also consulted with Department officials responsible for developing a Paddlefish Research Center business plan, which includes processing paddlefish meat for anglers in exchange for biological data and eggs from harvested female fish. The eggs are processed into caviar by the Department, and then sold to buyers on the world market. Funds raised from the program are then put back into paddlefish management and related projects, such as angler access.
Scarnecchia's work with the Paddlefish Research Center has helped biologists learn critical details about paddlefish populations in Oklahoma, including age data that helped the Department know it needed to change certain laws to limit the overall annual paddlefish harvest. He also was the primary author of the Department's "Comprehensive Plan for the Management of Paddlefish in Oklahoma," which serves as a guide for fisheries personnel working with Oklahoma's paddlefish populations.
"Without the expertise and assistance of Dr. Scarnecchia over the years, our paddlefish program would not be what it is today," said Brent Gordon, paddlefish/caviar coordinator for the Wildlife Department. "That's saying a lot, since Oklahoma is known as a world class destination for good paddlefish angling."
Paddlefish can live up to 50 years and are slow to reach sexual maturity - eight to 10 years for females and six to eight years for males. They spawn during the spring by swimming upriver after rains raise water levels and water temperatures increase. All of these factors lend to how sensitive the species can be if mismanaged. Paddlefish are a prehistoric species dating back to when dinosaurs were present on Earth.
It might be expected that such a large fish would be a top-end predator, but in fact paddlefish feed on microscopic insects called zooplankton. Therefore, they are not caught by anglers using traditional "bait-and-hook" methods. Instead, they are caught by snagging, or dragging, a large, weighted hook through the water fast enough to catch one of the giants. Snagging is best done in the spring, when the fish are concentrated in large numbers in rivers while spawning.
For more information about paddlefish in Oklahoma, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.