JUNE 2002 NEWS RELEASES

WEEK OF JUNE 6

WEEK OF JUNE 13

WEEK OF JUNE 20

WEEK OF JUNE 27

 

Stay cool this summer, try trout fishing

Besides taking a refreshing swim during the sweltering Oklahoma summer, visitors to the lower Mountain Fork River and the lower Illinois River can also catch some trout at the same time.

Due to cool water releases through the dams of Broken Bow Lake and Lake Tenkiller, both rainbow and brown trout can be caught at both of Oklahoma's only year-round trout areas.

"Trout need water temperatures below 70 degrees and dissolved oxygen of at least four parts per million in order to thrive," said Kim Erickson, chief of fisheries for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC). "Through excellent cooperation of several agencies including the US Army Corps of Engineers, Southwest Power Administration and the Wildlife Department, the flow of cool water is being maintained to keep these trout fisheries going even during the hot summer."

Oklahoma boasts having a total of eight designated trout areas within easy driving distance for every resident of the state. With the exception of the lower Mountain Fork River and lower Illinois River, designated trout areas are normally stocked with trout only during the fall and winter.

"Another real plus for anglers are the facilities surrounding many of our trout areas," said Erickson. "As an example, the lower Mountain Fork trout area lies within Beavers Bend State Park, which has beautiful campsites, cabins, hiking trails and a nature center nearby.

"The lower Illinois River also has excellent camping facilities within MarVal trout camp, and there is also Lake Tenkiller State Park just minutes away," Erickson added.

Small spoons or salmon eggs, coupled with ultra-light spinning tackle, are popular baits catching trout. Contrary to some perceptions, fly fishing is not terribly difficult and need not be expensive to get outfitted with a basic fly rod and reel spooled with floating fly line.

The basics of summertime fly-fishing for trout is the subject of an upcoming episode of "Outdoor Oklahoma" TV show which will air Sunday, June 23 at 8:00 a.m. on OETA-The Oklahoma Network. Steve Burge, ODWC southeast region information specialist will learn how easy and affordable fly-fishing can be from Donny Carter, an avid fly angler on the lower Mountain Fork River.

"Outdoor Oklahoma" features such topics as fishing, hunting; and fisheries, game and non-game wildlife management. The 30-minute program can be seen on OETA-The Oklahoma Network Sundays at 8:00 a.m. and Saturdays at 6:00 p.m. "Outdoor Oklahoma" can also be seen on the following television stations: KSBI Network (greater OKC metro area), Mondays-5:00 p.m., Thursdays-10: 30 p.m., Saturdays-1:30 p.m., KTEN (south-central and southeastern Oklahoma) Sundays-5 a.m., KWEM (Stillwater), Wednesdays-8:00 p.m., Fridays-7:00 p.m. and Sundays-8:00 p.m.

For a complete listing of show times and channels in your viewing area, consult the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com or your local TV guide.

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Striped bass fishing heating up at Texoma

The waters of Lake Texoma are heating up and so is the fishing. Anglers are reporting excellent striped bass fishing on the Oklahoma/Texas border impoundment.

"The striped bass population is really in good shape right now," said Paul Mauck, southcentral region fisheries supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "Overall population abundance is above the 10-year average, however, numbers of fish over 20 inches in our most recent surveys were somewhat low due to winter-kill of threadfin shad during February 2001."

Surveys indicate that numerous stripers between 13-19 inches are abundant and 15 inch fish should be the most commonly caught by anglers. Known for their outstanding fighting abilities, striped bass are long-lived and fast growing. The Oklahoma state record striper stands at 47 pounds 8 ounces, and was caught on the lower Illinois River in 1996. Stripers are voracious predators with a diet consisting mainly of threadfin and gizzard shad.

"One of the reasons the stripers are doing so well right now is that their forage populations are also really healthy," Mauck said.

Mauck also pointed to the Texoma Water Level Manipulation Plan as an important key to the striped bass success. Wildlife Department officials cooperated with the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and other members of the Lake Texoma Advisory Committee to develop a plan that benefits all the lake users. The plan is designed to enhance fish, wildlife, and recreation on the lake and to address hydroelectric power and flood concerns at the same time.

According to Mauck, Lake Texoma, built in 1944, attracts approximately 400,000 fisherman annually.

"The great thing about Texoma is that despite its age it remains one of the most productive lakes in the state," Mauck said. "Although striped bass fishing is great, the overall fishery is well-balanced. Texoma is a great place to go after smallmouth, largemouth, crappie, blue catfish and several other species."

Recent netting data showed that striped bass populations were higher at Lake Texoma than they had been in the previous 15 years. Fisheries biologist with the Wildlife Department and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department surveyed the Red and Washita river arms of the 88,000 acre lake which showed an excellent striped bass population. Gill net catch rates, a standardized survey method used by fisheries professionals to measure fish populations, showed the last year's catch rates were the highest since 1987, and catch rates for large fish (those 20 inches or longer) were the highest since 1985.

"This is a great time to go striper fishing, the fish are back from spawning and they are looking for a meal," Mauck said.

Live shad and baitfish are excellent baits for catching big stripers. Other popular baits include white or yellow buck tail jigs, spoons, deep-running crankbaits and flashy spinners. Topwater plugs are best when stripers are schooling at the surface. Stripers will also readily consume fly patterns that imitate shad.

According to Mauck, the waters of Texoma are home to over 100 guides that can take novice and experienced anglers alike out for a great day of fishing.

Besides getting Texoma fishing reports on the Department's Web site, www.wildlifedepartment.com, additional information can be found at www.sixoldgeezers.com. The site offers fishing reports, lodging and guide information, as well as a great variety of links that can provide all the information needed for a trip to Texoma.

Those fishing Lake Texoma need either an Oklahoma or Texas annual fishing license, depending on which state's waters they will be fishing, or anglers can purchase a Lake Texoma Fishing License for $7.75. The Lake Texoma license is valid for the entire lake, and is good for both the Oklahoma and Texas sides.

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Lawton resident appointed to Wildlife Commission

Bill Phelps of Lawton was recently appointed by Gov. Frank Keating to serve on the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Phelps, who has been confirmed by the Senate, will serve as the Wildlife Commission's district six representative through 2010. District six includes Blaine, King-fisher, Canadian, Caddo, Grady, Comanche, Stephens, Jefferson and Cotton counties.

"I was fortunate enough to have a father that took me hunting and fishing," Phelps said. "I welcome this opportunity to give something back to the resources that have given me so much over the last 51 years."

Phelps has worked for Reliant Energy Arkla for 29 years, and since 1994 has served as the vice president and general manager of its Oklahoma Division. Phelps attended both the University of Arkansas-Monticello and East Texas State University majoring in agri-business.

An active member of Ducks Unlimited, Quail Unlimited, the National Wild Turkey Federation, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the National Sporting Clays Association, he is committed to introducing youth to the outdoors.

"We need to increase the opportunities for young people to enjoy the great outdoors, and we need to get more youngsters involved in hunting and fishing," he said. "The outdoors can be a lifelong passion, and it can greatly enhance your quality of life, but it has to start with that first experience."

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.

Phelps and his wife, Bece, are also active in serving the community. He serves as a board member for Habitat for Humanity and is active with both the Oklahoma State Chamber and the Lawton Chamber of Commerce. In addition, Phelps serves as vice-chairman of the Oklahoma Gas Association and is a member of the State Workforce Investment Board.

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Money available for habitat improvement

Landowners interested in improving wildlife can receive assistance through the Wildlife Habitat Improvement Program (WHIP).

"WHIP is a voluntary conservation program that benefits both wildlife and landowners," said John Hendrix, private lands biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "Not only does the program provide technical assistance in developing a habitat management plan, it also shares up to 75 percent of the project costs."

According to Hendrix, WHIP, a Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) program, has proven to be very effective in Oklahoma and across the country since its inception in 1996.

"Whether landowners have a small acreage or a large spread, there are things they can do to improve habitat for species like bobwhite quail, prairie chickens and whitetail deer," Hendrix said.

A variety of projects are eligible through WHIP, including native grass and tree plantings, prescribed fires, timber management and wetland construction or enhancement. Landowners sign agreements, lasting five to ten years, saying they will maintain the cost-share projects.

"Now is the time to sign up for WHIP," Hendrix said. "Applications are currently being accepted and the sign up period will last through June 21."

Landowners interested in more information about WHIP can contact their local NRCS office or call John Hendrix at (405) 880-0994.

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Wildlife Commission moves to protect deer

In an effort to ensure protection of Oklahoma's deer herd against the spread of the disease, the Wildlife Conservation Commission has suspended the importation of deer and elk from states where chronic wasting disease (CWD) has been identified in free-ranging deer and elk herds.

The Commission made the ruling at its regularly scheduled meeting on June 3 at Wildlife Department headquarters in Oklahoma City.

The importation suspension pertains to live animals only, not animals legally harvested by hunters in other states. The decision rises from concerns about captive herds owned by commercial enterprises and private individuals and the possible spread of diseases, particularly chronic wasting disease. CWD is an infectious disease of wild and captive elk and deer that results in progressive degeneration of the brain tissue in infected animals. First recognized in 1967, CWD is not a new disease and has been found in wild herds in limited areas of several western and northern states. There is no evidence that CWD has ever been transmitted to people, livestock or other kinds of animals.

"Although this disease has never been documented in wild deer or elk herds in Oklahoma, this is an important proactive step to ensure the safety of the native deer herd," said Mike Shaw, wildlife research supervisor for the Wildlife Department.

In other business, the Commission approved a measure enabling the Department to enter a lease agreement for office space within the Oklahoma Aquarium. Wildlife Department employees currently housed in the Tulsa regional office located on the Tulsa Fairgrounds will move operations to the Aquarium in Jenks.

"This project is becoming a reality," said David Warren, information and education chief for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "This is a tremendous opportunity for the Department to partner with the Aquarium."

The Aquarium, set to open this fall, will feature 82,000 square feet of exhibit space on 66 acres along the west bank of the Arkansas River. According to Oklahoma Aquarium Director Doug Kemper, the facilities mission is "conservation through education." He said the two organizations will be a perfect fit.

"I think this partnership will set a precedent nationwide," Kemper said. "This is the first aquarium to emphasize sportfishing and I think it is great that we are able to partner with the state agency charged with conserving Oklahoma's aquatic resources."

In the presentation of employee tenure awards, Director Greg Duffy recognized Gary Keller, wildlife technician for twenty years of service to the Wildlife Department. Keller was recognized as Wildlife Resource Professional of the year in 1999 and has taken part in many important projects including organizing the Department's land files.

In other action, Commissioners voted to approve the Department's fiscal year 2003 budget. The $26 million budget continues current operations projects. The only significant change from the 2002 budget is an increase of approximately $1 million of federal grant revenue.

"This is the same base budget as last year," said Greg Duffy, the Department's executive director. "We are proposing to leave 25 positions vacant, compared to 28 positions that were not filled last year."

The Commission voted to accept the donation of a ATV from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The ATV will be used by the Law Enforcement Division to patrol Wildlife Management Areas.

A two percent cost of living increase for retirees was also approved by the Commission, as well as an increase of $25 per month paid for health benefits.

The Commission's next regularly scheduled meeting will be at 9 a.m., July 1 at Wildlife Department headquarters in Oklahoma City.

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.

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Commission suspends import of deer and elk

The Wildlife Conservation Commission has suspended the importation of deer and elk from states where chronic wasting disease (CWD) has been identified in free-ranging deer in an effort to protect Oklahoma's deer herd against the spread of the disease.

The Commission made the ruling at its regularly scheduled meeting on June 3 at Wildlife Department headquarters in Oklahoma City.

The importation suspension pertains to live animals only, not legally harvested animals from other states. The decision rises from concerns about captive herds owned by commercial enterprises and private individuals and the possible spread of diseases, particularly chronic wasting disease. CWD is an infectious disease of wild and captive elk and deer that results in progressive degeneration of the brain tissue in infected animals. First recognized in 1967, CWD is not a new disease and has been found in wild herds in limited areas of several western and northern states. There is no evidence that CWD has ever been transmitted to people, livestock or other kinds of animals.

"Although this disease has never been documented in wild deer or elk herds in Oklahoma, this is an important proactive step to ensure the safety of the native deer herd," said Mike Shaw, wildlife research supervisor for the Wildlife Department.

Shaw said the whitetail deer is part of a rich hunting heritage in the state and also provides a significant annual economic impact. A recent survey showed the total economic impact from deer hunting in Oklahoma exceeded $600 million annually.

There is also a significant economic impact that coincides with the detection of the disease. As an example, Saskatchewan has spent approximately $30 million in attempts at eradicating the disease in infected commercially operated game farms. In Colorado, a supplemental appropriation of $300,143 has been made to help combat the disease and more appropriations are being considered.

Over the past three years biologists and veterinarians have examined 399 deer and elk taken during Oklahoma's hunting seasons as part of the CWD monitoring program. All samples obtained from animals taken from the wild have tested negative and biologists will continue to closely monitor the deer and elk herd for signs of the disease.

"This import suspension, along with the continuation of the surveillance program, will help ensure a healthy future for one of Oklahoma's prized natural resources," Shaw said.

Department personnel have worked in cooperation with the Oklahoma State Department of Agriculture, who have developed similar import suspension rules. By suspending import of potentially infected animals, the Department hopes to avoid the consequences of the disease on the health of the wild deer herd and avoid the potential costs of controlling CWD. The detection of the disease has had immense economic impact on states such as Wisconsin where the disease was discovered last year. Within the first month after detection, the Wisconsin wildlife management agency spent approximately $250,000 in control and public information efforts. The agency continues to try to control the spread of the disease and has plans to kill 15,000 animals in the focal area where infected animals have been found.

According to current research, there is no scientific evidence linking CWD to human diseases. Shaw recommends that hunters practice standard safety practices when handling any wild game including the use protective gloves when dressing animals and avoiding consumption of brain and spinal cord tissue as general precautionary measures.

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.

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Butterfly Count At Byron Hatchery WWA

Butterflies are the topic for the next watchable wildlife opportunity at the Byron Hatchery Watchable Wildlife Area. On Saturday July 6 at 9 a.m., at the Byron Hatchery Watchable Wildlife Area nature center, visitors can learn tips for butterfly identification and how to interpret their behaviors.

Following the 30 minute presentation, visitors are invited to participate in the 28th annual North American Butterfly Association Fourth of July Butterfly Count. There is a $3 fee for each count participant. This fee is sent to the North American Butterfly Association to help pay for printing and program costs. The count will last until 4 pm, weather permitting. Participants are asked to wear a hat and light-colored clothing and bring sunscreen and insect repellant. A pair of binoculars will help in butterfly identification and allow participants to minimize any injuries to butterflies through netting. Water will be provided, and participants may wish to bring a sack lunch and/or snacks.

Staff and volunteers have participated in this butterfly count for 5 years. Last year, 28 different butterfly species were recorded and a total of 1159 individuals were counted. Of note was a Mexican Sulfur and a Juniper Hairstreak. The conditions this year should make for an excellent butterfly count. The Watchable Wildlife Area is one of five areas that are counted in Oklahoma and it is one of the only areas representative of both a mixed grass prairie and an alkaline flat.

This national count program has been held annually since 1975, when only 29 counts were held. In 2001, 474 counts were held in 48 states, 5 Canadian provinces, and 2 Mexican states. Volunteers around North America select a count area with a 15-mile diameter and conduct a one-day census of all butterflies observed within that circle. The counts are usually held in the few weeks before or after the 4th of July, but the best timing for butterfly observation in each count circle varies.

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is in its fifth year of offering informational Saturday morning events at the Byron Hatchery Watchable Wildlife Area. Programs earlier this year included winter bird and Bald Eagle watching, and beginning bird watching and night walk held in conjunction with the Bird Festival. Upcoming programs include a certification bowhunting course and a fall program yet to be announced.

To get to Byron Hatchery Watchable Wildlife Area, go north two miles from the intersection of Highways 11 and 38. Turn west for one-half mile to the nature center; turn left at the sign. For more information about the butterfly program or the upcoming Saturday morning programs, contact Steve Spade at the hatchery ((580) 474-2663) or Wildlife Diversity Program in Oklahoma City ((405) 424-0099).

Selman Bat Watch Dates Filling up Fast

Perhaps the most popular wildlife-watching activity in Oklahoma, the bat watches at Selman Bat Cave Wildlife Management Area (WMA) are attracting many registrants for this summer's events.

Visitors to the Selman Bat Cave WMA register and pay a small fee (children $5, adults $8) to come and see approximately one million bats Mexican free-tailed bats leaving a gypsum cave nightly in Northwest Oklahoma. The bats emerge in the evening to hunt for insects, and the sheer numbers of little flying mammals is an amazing sight to witness.

Each evening's watch begins at Alabaster Caverns State Park, where bat watchers are taken by bus to the Selman Bat Cave WMA. The group, limited each night to 75 people, is then given a short walking tour of the area, where several good locations are available to view the bats as they leave the cave.

The bat watches are coordinated by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, and are scheduled for eight nights this summer. These dates are currently available: July 12, 13, 19, 20, 26 and 27; August 2 and 3.

For more information, or to find out how to sign up for a bat watch, Call (405) 424-0099 or log on to www.wildlifedepartment.com.

Youth hunters challenged

Forty seven youth hunters and 60 volunteers participated in this year's final Youth Hunter Education Challenge (YHEC) at the Oklahoma City Gun Range. The event was the culmination of several YHEC events held statewide this spring.

"With the increasing urbanization of our country, there is a definite need to conduct a program where our young people get a positive education in hunter safety using real-life scenarios," said Paul Conrady, Oklahoma YHEC coordinator.

YHEC is an event designed to give young hunters or shooters up to the age of 19 a chance to test their skills in shooting and hunting sport. Participants must be hunter education certified and may participate in shotgun, archery, and rifle events. They also are tested on their knowledge of wildlife species, knowledge of regulations and hunting ethics. Knowledge is tested on the hunter safety trail where participants are led through simulated hunting scenarios and must not only determine when it is legal to harvest game, but also must make correct decisions about whether to shoot at all.

The event is divided into youth and senior competitions with both groups competing at the same level of difficulty. Prizes are awarded to first, second and third place participants in each group, with additional prizes going to the young person who displays the best attitude.

"YHEC has grown to include hundreds of young people at seven or more events each year because of the hard work and passion of hunter education volunteers," said Lance Meek, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's hunter education coordinator. "It's a good chance for young people to continue their wildlife education beyond completing a hunter education course."

YHEC is sponsored by Friends of the NRA through their grant program. It first came to Oklahoma in 1997.

For more information about upcoming YHEC events contact Paul Conrady at (405) 341-6374. For more information about hunting and to find a link to the YHEC Web site, go to wildlifedepartment.com.

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Fisheries management leads to angler success

Great fishing can be found just about anywhere one travels in the state, but fisheries personnel at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife aren't satisfied yet.

"We are fortunate to have many excellent fishing opportunities, but we’re always looking for ways to ensure that fish populations are healthy and that anglers are happy," Bolton said.

According to Bolton, fisheries biologists use three basic strategies to enhance fishing opportunities in Oklahoma's lakes and reservoirs.

"The basic tools we use to help fish and fishermen are habitat management, stockings, and regulations," Bolton said.

The Wildlife Department annually stocks hundreds of thousands of fish into Oklahoma waters. Many may assume that only sportfish are stocked, but biologists also closely monitor forage fish populations as well.

Recently biologists transferred more than 203,000 threadfin shad from Konawa Lake to Lake Eufaula. The fish were stocked in the reservoir to bolster a shad population that was hit hard by cold winter temperatures two years ago. Threadfin shad are somewhat temperature sensitive and biologists periodically move shad to lakes that suffer winter kill from warmer lakes such as Lake Texoma in southern Oklahoma or Konawa Lake located near Seminole. Konawa remains warm year round due to electric power generators, water from the lake is used to cool power plant equipment, then returned to the lake.

Habitat manipulation is another important factor in successful fisheries management and several different management techniques are used on lakes all across the state.

Good anglers know that brushpiles are often excellent places to catch fish. Biologists place underwater brushpiles in coves or along barren shores to concentrate fish and then mark the new cover with buoys to make fishing just a little easier.

Biologists also plant aquatic vegetation in some lakes, this vegetation provides numerous biological benefits. The roots of these plants hold together the soil and help to stabilize the shoreline. In turn, the vegetation helps to clear up muddy water by reducing the amount of soil that washes into the lake, also breaks up wave action reducing shoreline erosion. These plants are also used as "nursery areas" for young fish. Many small fish hide from predators in the thick vegetation and grow until they are large enough to inhabit open water.

Biologists don't just work on the state's expansive reservoirs, they also work with landowners on ponds and watershed lakes. Biologists often advise on stocking rates, vegetation control, methods to clear up muddy ponds and even building new ponds.

Fishing is big business in the United States and Oklahoma is no exception. A recent survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service showed that Oklahoma anglers spent over 300 million dollars a year on equipment alone. With so many people wetting a line, regulations play an important role in protecting the resource and provide every angler with the maximum opportunity to catch fish.

"Regulations are essential tools in fisheries management," Bolton said. "The regulations must be balanced between what is best for fish populations and what fishermen want, whether it be large numbers of fish, trophy fish or specific management for a targeted species." Protective slot limits are an excellent example of regulations that were put in place to provide anglers with the best sustainable fishery possible.

These limits are special size regulations (usually for bass) that are placed on certain lakes to improve the fish population. Fish that measure within the protected slot limit must be released immediately, while fish that are either shorter or longer than the protected range may be kept.

"These slot limits are in place for two reasons: to properly balance the predator prey relationship, and to encourage harvest of small fish and to protect large fish from over harvest," said Bolton. "We monitor fish populations very closely. Both fish population data and public opinion are considered when developing regulations."

Careful management of Oklahoma's aquatic resources will help to ensure anglers have a great opportunity to hook a fish for generations to come.

For more information about fisheries management or to get an up to date fishing report, go to wildlifedepartment.com.

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    Red River fishery yields lunker striper

Just about everyone knows that big striped bass can be caught out of Lake Texoma, but Edwin Padua proved big stripers can be also be found in the Red River below the lake.

Padua recently submitted a 42-pound, 5-ounce striper to Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Angler Recognition Program. He caught the monster fish with a rod and reel using a bucktail jig below Denison Dam on Lake Texoma.

"The Red River below Lake Texoma can be a very productive area," said Barry Bolton, assistant chief of fisheries for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "In fact, many of Oklahoma’s rivers below reservoirs, or tailwaters as they are called, can be a great place to catch a wide variety of fish, that are attracted to cool moving water."

According to Bolton, anglers congregate around these areas for a simple reason, that is often where the best fishing is.

"Fishing usually picks up when water is being released from the dam," Bolton said. "Stripers, catfish and other fish begin moving looking for shad or other baitfish that come over the dam."

Bolton said that flowing water below just about any dam can produce a good stringer of fish, but some areas have gained outstanding reputations. Lake Texoma tailwaters in southern Oklahoma can be a good place to hook a big striper as well as the lower Illinois River below Lake Tenkiller. Areas below Lake Eufaula in eastcentral Oklahoma have long been known for producing big catfish and right now fishermen are catching a variety of fish below Kaw Lake in north central Oklahoma.

Bolton added that the Department’s fishing report, which is updated daily in some cases, at wildlifedepartment.com can be a great resource for anglers planning a fishing trip.

The Oklahoma Angler Recognition Program recognizes outstanding sportfishing accomplishments for both fish that are kept and those that are released. For more information about the program or to find how to apply, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.

Anglers fishing tailwater areas should be mindful of certain regulations pertaining to he types of fishing methods below dams. For example, spear fishing or snagging is prohibited in the first 1000 feet below many dams.

For a complete list of regulations pertaining to fishing tailwater areas consult the “2002 Oklahoma Fishing Guide” or log onto www.wildlifedepartment.com

 

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Photo cutline: Edwin Padua caught this huge 42-pound, 5-ounce striped bass from the Red River below Lake Texoma.

 

Water levels key to fish populations

A 10-pound largemouth is a truly impressive aquatic specimen. Besides man, it has no real predators and it will eat just about anything it can fit into its cavernous mouth. But before the bass grows to trophy size, it must make through its first treacherous summer.

Many factors must come together for a fish to grow that large, but none is more important than the first year of growth. During the first summer when a bass is no bigger that a quarter, it must dodge a wide variety of enemies from crayfish, to wading birds to sunfish and larger bass. To survive this gauntlet, young bass and many other species of fish depend on shoreline cover for protection.

"Without cover in shallow water young of the year fish are easy pickings for predators," said Garland Wright, central region fisheries supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "In particular, bass, crappie and forage fish really depend on this cover to make it through their first year."

As spring rains fall, creeks and rivers swell with runoff and water levels of ponds and lakes begins to rise. Sunfish, bass, crappie and other species move into shallow water to spawn. Once the eggs hatch, the fry move into flooded terrestrial vegetation and submerged aquatic vegetation to hide from their many predators. As long as water levels continue to rise or remain stable the tiny fish will have enough shelter and food to grow. Water levels during these months are critical to fish survival. If water levels fall too quickly, young fish are left exposed and may be eaten by larger, older fish.

Barry Bolton, assistant chief of fisheries for the Wildlife Department, pointed out the difference between spawning and recruitment.

"Just because we have a good spawn doesn't mean there will be more fish to catch in the next few years," Bolton said. "Without adequate nursery areas, many of these young fish will become food for predators."

Bolton added that one of the most damaging factors to recruitment is wildly fluctuating lake levels.

"When lake levels go up and down, it makes it really tough for these young fish to survive. Stable water levels during the summer are essential to good fish recruitment," Bolton said.

For up to date lake levels or to find a fishing report on your favorite fishing hole, go to www.wildlifedepartment.com and select the fishing link.

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Plethora of activities await adventurous Oklahomans

So much for the slow days of summer, if you're an outdoor enthusiast there is a myriad of activities to keep you busy the next few months.

From hunting shows to bat watches to fishing clinics, a wide range of events is awaiting your discovery. The Outdoor Calendar at www.wildlifedepartment.com is just the place to find out about upcoming summer activities and events. Visitors to the Wildlife Department's official Web site can find out what outdoor-related activities are going on in their area.

As the summer months move quickly toward fall there are several hunter education courses scheduled in many communities such as Owasso, McAlester, Blackwell and many other towns along the way.

A trip to northwest Oklahoma can be a fun summertime family destination. Travelers can spend an afternoon at Alabaster Caverns State Park and an evening participating in the popular Selman Bat Cave Watches. Thousands of bats pour out of the cave each evening to begin their nightly foray for insects. Participants are also given a natural history presentation from wildlife experts.

Teachers and other educators can begin preparing for the upcoming year by participating in one of the many Project WILD workshops. The classes, many of which can be taken for college credit, help teachers learn how to bring outdoor lessons into the classroom.

Find out what goes on after dark at the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge, near Lawton. The Under of Cover Darkness tours are led by park naturalists and reveal the nocturnal habits of many of refuge inhabitants.

What better way to spend an afternoon than wetting a line at your favorite fishing hole. Youngsters can learn all about fishing by attending one of the many fishing clinics held throughout the state. The free clinics teach kids how to cast a rod and reel, tie fishing knots, fish identification and kids also get a chance to try out their new skills after the clinic.

To find out more details about all these activities and more, log onto wildlifedepartment.com. If you have an upcoming outdoor event you would like to see on the Outdoor Calendar call Kristen Gillman at (405) 521-2085.

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Ft. Cobb great waterfowling destination

Whistling wings, wet dogs and north winds. These words will make most any waterfowl hunter daydream about days afield.

When it comes to Oklahoma duck hunting, one would be hard pressed to come up with a better, more reliable spot than the Ft. Cobb Wildlife Management Area near Binger. Each winter tens of thousands of ducks and geese make a migration stop or spend the entire winter in the Caddo County area. Expansive peanut fields cover the sandy soil of the region and waterfowl descend on the fields looking for peanuts leftover from the harvest.

"This is really a neat place for duck hunting, there is just an incredible amount of ducks and geese that use Ft. Cobb Lake," said Bill Bird, chairman of the Edmond chapter of Ducks Unlimited.

A late season duck hunt with Bird and fellow avid waterfowler Mike Pinto will be the featured on an upcoming episode of "Outdoor Oklahoma" July 7 at 8:00 a.m. on OETA-The Oklahoma Network.

Also highlighted on the show will be helpful information from state game warden Shelby Finney on what you need to get started waterfowl hunting and where to go to brush up on your duck identification skills.

The show will also take viewers to the Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge near Cherokee. Refuge Manager John Brock will outline what is being done on the refuge to improve habitat for migrating waterfowl. According to Brock, over 100,000 ducks and geese, as well as other species such as white pelicans and bald eagles use the refuge as a stopover point on their annual migrations.

"Outdoor Oklahoma" features such topics as fishing, hunting; and fisheries, game and non-game wildlife management. The 30-minute program can be seen on OETA-The Oklahoma Network Sundays at 8:00 a.m. and Saturdays at 6:00 p.m. Outdoor Oklahoma can also be seen on the following television stations: KSBI Network (greater OKC metro area), Mondays- 5:00 p.m., Thursdays-10: 30 p.m., Saturdays-1:30 p.m., KTEN (south-central and southeastern Oklahoma) Sundays-5 a.m., KWEM (Stillwater), Wednesdays-8:00 p.m., Fridays-7:00 p.m. and Sundays-8:00 p.m.

For a complete listing of show times and channels in your viewing area, consult the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com or your local TV guide.

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