MAY 2006 NEWS
WEEK OF MAY 25, 2006
WEEK OF MAY 18, 2006
WEEK OF MAY 10, 2006
WEEK OF MAY 4, 2006
Commissioners discuss historical wetlands in Garfield County
Wildlife Department staff presented information about an important wetland area in north central Oklahoma at the May meeting of the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The Drummond Flats area is located 15 miles south of Enid and just west of Drummond in Garfield County. Three creeks converge on the low-lying area forming a large, natural wetland.
Historically, the area has been an important migration stop for shorebirds and waterfowl. Today, the area is primarily used to grow crops or as pasture for cattle. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is currently looking into opportunities to restore this unique wetland habitat and create more opportunities for sportsmen and other wildlife enthusiasts.
Commissioners voted to endorse the concept of buying at appraised value – from willing sellers – about 3,000 acres in the wetland basin, plus up to 2,000 acres in the surrounding uplands.
“We’ve done some initial surveys of local landowners, but now we’re ready to see if some type of comprehensive purchase can become a reality,” said Alan Peoples, wildlife chief for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
Also at the May meeting, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission approved a resolution to designate June 3-4 as Free Fishing Days in Oklahoma. Oklahoma was the first state in the nation to offer free fishing days 24 years ago and has since been followed by dozens of other states that have established similar free fishing days.
"Free fishing days are a great opportunity to introduce family and friends to fishing," said David Warren, information and education chief for the Wildlife Department.
Resident and non-resident fishing licenses (including trout licenses and fishing and hunting legacy permits) are not required on the free fishing days, although anglers should note that local or municipal permits might be required on those days. Texoma Lake anglers should be aware that the Texas free fishing day is June 3 only. Anglers must also follow all other fishing regulations.
In other business, the Commission recognized Mackie Fairfield, clerk for the Wildlife Department’s Information and Education Division 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 June 5 at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation headquarters (auditorium), at the southwest corner of 18th and North Lincoln, Oklahoma City at 9:00 a.m.
Oklahoma youth shoot for success
More than 200 youngsters converged at the University of Central Oklahoma Wellness Center for the second annual Oklahoma Archery in the Schools State Tournament April 27.
Eric White, a 9th grader from Sapulpa, took home the top shooter trophy, while Coweta High School captured the team high school trophy. In a very tight match, Cottonwood School in Coalgate grabbed first place in the middle school division. South Rock Creek in Shawnee took first place honors in the Kindergarten through 5th grade team category.
“It was a very intense competition this year. These kids didn’t just come to participate, they came to win,” said Lance Meek, Wildlife Department coordinator for the Archery in the Schools program. “Everyone had a great time including the teachers. During a couple of the shoot offs at the end of the day I thought I was going to have to get ear plugs because the kids were cheering so loud.”
According to Meek, the tournament would not have been possible without a variety of important partners including the UCO Wellness Center, Sportsman’s Warehouse, Norman Archery and assistance from a number of Wildlife Department game wardens.
The tournament showcased the innovative archery education curriculum called the Archery in the Schools program. Offering a two-week long archery curriculum, the program is designed to introduce Oklahoma students to Olympic-style archery. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation coordinates the ambitious program.
To date, Oklahoma is one of 36 states that have adopted the Archery in the Schools program. In 2005, about 500,000 students across the nation went through the Archery in the Schools curriculum. With more than 50 schools and 5,000 students already involved in Oklahoma, the program is quickly gaining popularity. Wildlife Department officials expect participation to double by the end of the year.
To participate in the Archery in the Schools program, teachers must simply attend a free one-day training session conducted by certified instructors. Once a teacher has completed the training course, their school is eligible to purchase an equipment kit at a reduced cost. Some equipment grants also are available through Wildlife Department. To learn how to bring this exciting program to your school, contact:
Elementary School Division
Abigail Unruh, Morris
Brooke King, Morris
Brett Maxie, Morris
Seth Garcia, Christian Heritage Academy
Brandon Muniz, Cottonwood
Bailey Cobbs, Christian Heritage Academy
Middle School Division
Courtney Dearth, South Rock Creek
Courtney Lowry, South Rock Creek
Haley Robinson, Coweta
Hunter Rasberry, Coweta
Alex Horney, Tahlequah
Jordan Parris, South Rock Creek
High School Division
Charlie Carr, Coweta
Kelli Hefley, Coweta
Tasha Byrd, Coweta
Eric White, Sapulpa
Bobby Pitcock, Coweta
Tyler Huddleston, Coweta
Squirrel season opens May 15
What more could one ask for in a hunting season? Plentiful game, a long season, thousands of acres of public access, challenging shooting – squirrel hunting has it all. Running May 15 through Jan. 31, squirrel season is one of the longest running, and most underused, hunting seasons available in Oklahoma.
Public hunting opportunities abound in Oklahoma for squirrel hunters and both the gray and fox squirrel are abundant on many of the Department's wildlife management areas. Excellent squirrel hunting can be found on Keystone, Spavinaw Hills, Deep Fork, Hickory Creek and many other wildlife management areas. Just about any tract of oaks, hickory or pecan trees can be a productive area for hunters and you would be hard-pressed to find a small crowd of squirrel hunters anywhere.
Squirrel hunting is a perfect opportunity to introduce someone new to hunting. In fact, the more eyes the better. With their sharp eyesight and hearing, squirrels have a tendency to disappear in the tree tops.
A generous 10-squirrel limit offers a challenge to those going afield with a .22 caliber rifle. Other sportsmen prefer carrying a shotgun while going after squirrels. Another option that is increasing in popularity are pellet rifles, which through the years have become adequately powerful to deliver squirrels to the bag.
To hunt squirrels in Oklahoma, you need a resident or non-resident hunting license unless exempt and a $5 Fishing and Hunting Legacy Permit, unless exempt. Resident hunters younger than age 16 can hunt squirrels without a license. For a complete list of squirrel hunting regulations consult the “2006 Oklahoma Hunting Guide” or log on to the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com.
First successful trout reproduction documented in the Lower Mountain Fork River
For the first time ever documented in Oklahoma, fisheries biologists have documented natural reproduction of rainbow trout. The discovery was made in the Lower Mountain Fork River trout fishery below Broken Bow Lake.
“Clearly, this new information sets the Lower Mountain Fork River apart as one of the premier tail water fisheries in the nation,” said Barry Bolton, assistant chief of fisheries for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
Anglers reported observing trout spawning activity in December and January. A few months later, scattered reports began coming in of very small rainbow trout being caught by anglers.
“All of the trout that we stock are much bigger than a few inches, so we did a small survey with a bag seine,” said Paul Balkenbush, southeast region fisheries supervisor for the Wildlife Department.
In four different locations, biologists caught a total of 17 young rainbow trout.
“Due to the nature of the river – lots of boulders and swift current – there was a very limited number of places we could use our seine effectively. The fact that we were able to catch young trout in every location was very encouraging and leads us to believe that they are abundant and widespread. We are not certain of their age but they were born here,” Balkenbush said. “They may only be two or three-inches long right now, but we can say without a doubt that these are wild fish.”
The Wildlife Department first stocked the Lower Mountain Fork River with trout more than 17 years ago. Since that time the 12-mile designated trout stream has seen many habitat improvements. Additionally, thanks to the efforts of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation, the U.S. Congress passed the Water Resources Development Act in 1996 to ensure that cool water from Broken Bow Lake is released throughout the year to sustain the trout fishery.
“These young trout are, in part, a reflection of all the hard work done through a number of cooperative habitat initiatives. We could have never completed these efforts without generous donations, both in financial support and sweat equity, from several dedicated trout clubs in Oklahoma and Texas,” Balkenbush said.
Rainbow trout have very specific habitat requirements in order to spawn successfully and biologists have completed several projects to make the river more suitable for trout.
For example, the Spillway Creek area of the river was once mostly a swift and straight area, not the most suitable for trout or trout anglers. Today, the area is one of the most dynamic areas of the river. Wildlife Department personnel and their cooperators used large boulders and logs to improve the river channel creating a series of riffles, runs and pools - all prime trout habitat. The habitat efforts also trapped clean gravel in shallow areas of the river providing the type of habitat needed by spawning rainbow trout.
“This natural reproduction is certainly exciting, however we don’t know if this is a one-time phenomenon or if reproduction will occur each year,” Balkenbush said. “Hopefully, these trout will survive and grow for a couple of years and provide anglers an opportunity to catch wild fish but at this point we don’t know if that will happen or not.”
Wildlife Department fisheries biologists will monitor possible future trout reproduction and track the survival of these young trout.
In the meantime, fisheries biologists will continue improving habitat in the area through projects like the Evening Hole Restoration Project – the most ambitious stream restoration project undertaken by the Department. Following two years of research and development, biologists have now begun the huge task of renovating the area known as the Evening Hole located on the Lower Mountain Fork River. The project also includes the creation of a “new” trout stream almost a half-mile long that will connect to the main river channel and provide new angling opportunities. To learn more about the project log on to www.wildlifedepartment.com
To learn more about trout fishing log on to wildlifedepartment.com or turn to page 22 of the “2006 Oklahoma Fishing Guide.”
Photo Caption: For the first time in Oklahoma, fisheries biologists have documented natural reproduction of rainbow trout. In four different locations in the Lower Mountain Fork River trout fishery, biologists caught a total of 17 young rainbow trout.
Wildlife Department part of bird flu monitoring effort
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation will be looking hard for something it hopes to never find – avian influenza or bird flu. The Department is teaming up with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to sample more than 1,500 wild migratory birds in Oklahoma for the strain of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) referred to as H5N1 that has grabbed headlines around the world.
“To date, HPAI H5N1 has not been detected in humans, poultry or wild birds in North America. In addition, there is no known case where H5N1 has been transmitted from wild birds to humans. All that being said, we are taking this situation very seriously and will be cooperating with National and Central Flyway plans for the early detection of HPAI H5N1 in wild migratory birds if and when the virus should arrive in North America” said Mike O’Meilia, migratory game bird biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
Migratory aquatic birds are the natural reservoir for 144 subtypes of avian influenza that are generally low pathogenic strains that rarely cause signs of illness in birds or humans. However, the particularly potent strain of H5N1 bird flu emerged in domestic poultry and wild birds in Asia in 1997. The H5N1 strain is substantially different from other types of bird flu and has caused mortality in over 80 species of wild birds and resulted in the deaths of over 100 people. Most of the people who have been infected with the HPAI H5N1 virus have acquired it through direct handling of infected poultry, eating uncooked or undercooked poultry products, or through contact with virus-contaminated surfaces or materials.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center has been carefully monitoring migratory birds in the United States, primarily in Alaska, one of the most likely points for the disease to enter into North America. To date, thousands of waterfowl and shorebird samples from Alaska have been analyzed, and no evidence of the H5N1 avian flu has been discovered.
For more information on avian flu, log on to the Oklahoma Health Department's Web site at www.health.state.ok.us or the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center’s Web page at http://www.nwhc.usgs.gov/research/avian_influenza/avian_influenza.html.
Ask a game warden at WildlifeDepartment.com
Hunters, anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts can submit their questions on a wide range of wildlife law questions through the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s Web site at wildlifedepartment.com.
Game wardens are some of the most recognized employees of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. A game warden’s primary job is to enforce the fish and wildlife laws of the state. These laws ensure that all sportsmen continue to enjoy opportunities to hunt and fish for years to come.
In addition to their law enforcement duties, game wardens perform a wide range of duties in their service to the sportsmen and sportswomen of the state. Game wardens teach hunter education courses, submit weekly fishing reports from area lakes, assist fisheries and wildlife biologists in research projects, and assist landowners with technical information on fish and wildlife habitat improvement.
Becoming a game warden is no easy task. Applicants need a bachelor’s degree and must take a challenging employment exam. After prospective candidates are selected through interviews and background checks, their training begins at the Wildlife Department’s headquarters in Oklahoma City. There they undergo five weeks of intensive training including criminal law, arrest procedures and how to professionally contact the public. Next, new wardens attend 364 hours of training through the Council on Law Enforcement and Training (CLEET). After a rigorous final exam, they are then paired with a field training officer. The veteran officers work alongside the new wardens for 10 weeks before the wardens begin their first solo assignments.
Department employees about 120 game wardens, including at least one in every
county of the state. To find a warden working in your county turn to page 40 of
the “2006 Oklahoma Fishing Guide,” or log on to
DNA analysis confirms new state record black bass hybrid
The mystery fish is a mystery fish no more. DNA analysis recently confirmed that Dru Kinslow, of Oklahoma City, caught a state record black bass hybrid last March. Kinslow caught the 8-pound, 5.6-ounce bass from Veteran’s Lake near Sulphur.
When he took the fish to fisheries biologists with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, they immediately recognized it was bigger than either the current smallmouth or the black bass hybrid records. However, the brute had characteristics of both a smallmouth bass and spotted bass.
Fisheries biologists sent a small fin sample to a DNA lab which has now confirmed that fish was a cross of a smallmouth bass and spotted bass. Black bass hybrids occur rarely in nature when the spawning areas of black bass species overlap.
Kinslow was using a jig and salt craw combo when he hooked the big fish in the clear waters of 67-acre Veteran’s Lake.
“I was just trying out different lures to see what might be biting when I hooked the fish,” Kinslow said. “It fought pretty hard and went all the way under the boat. I didn’t realize how big it was until I got it in the boat.”
The fish measured 22.75-inches long and was 16.5 inches in girth.
The former state record black bass hybrid was just established this February when Sean McAllister pulled a 6-pound, 14-ounce fish from Lake Texoma.
For a complete list of record fish and the procedures regarding certifying state record fish, consult the “2006 Oklahoma Fishing Guide.” If you think you may have hooked a record fish it is important that you weigh the fish on an Oklahoma State Department of Agriculture certified scale and a Wildlife Department employee verifies the weight.
Biologists examine blue catfish populations
During a recent research project, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation fisheries biologists collected a 24-year-old blue catfish. More surprising than the fish’s impressive age was its diminutive weight. The catfish weighed only two pounds.
“That fish was not normal but, in short, we found that it takes a long time for a blue cat to grow very large. Generally speaking, it takes 13-16 years for a blue catfish to reach 10 pounds. They have a long lifespan compared to most Oklahoma fish, but they grow slowly,” said Jeff Boxrucker, senior fisheries research biologist for the Wildlife Department. “We still have a lot to learn about blue catfish, but this research will help us better understand these great fish.”
Biologists spent months gathering samples and analyzing data from blue catfish populations on seven Oklahoma lakes. However, all is not equal in the realm of blue cats. That 24-year-old, two-pound fish was caught in Lake Ellsworth in southwest Oklahoma, but this spring, biologists aged a 78-pound fish caught by an angler from Texoma that was 19 years old.
“Some fish, particularly blue catfish in certain lakes, just grow slower than others,” Boxrucker said. “In our study we found that blue catfish grow faster in Texoma, Waurika, Grand and Keystone lakes. On the flip side, they grow relatively slower in Hugo, Ellsworth and Eufaula lakes.”
Boxrucker and his fellow biologists will continue to study these unique fish in order to give fisheries managers the knowledge they need to make informed management decisions. In the meantime Boxrucker has one suggestion for anglers.
“Keep all the small blue cats that you can eat and the law allows. But consider releasing the really big fish. These trophy blues are a great resource for all anglers and because of their age they can be hard to replace,” Boxrucker said.
For more information about blue catfish research in Oklahoma log on to wildlifedepartment.com and go to “Fishing,” then click on “Fisheries Research Projects.”
June 3-4 marks Oklahoma Free Fishing Days
In case you needed an excuse to take your family fishing, here is a good one – the first weekend in June (June 3-4) is Free Fishing Days in Oklahoma.
"Free fishing days are a great opportunity to introduce family and friends to fishing," said David Warren, information and education chief for the Wildlife Department.
Oklahoma was the first state in the nation to offer free fishing days 24 years ago and has since been followed by dozens of other states that have established similar free fishing days.
Resident and non-resident fishing licenses (including trout licenses and fishing and hunting legacy permits) are not required on the free fishing days, although anglers should note that local or municipal permits might be required on those days.
Texoma Lake anglers should be aware that the Texas free fishing day is Saturday, June 3 only. Unless exempt due to age, anglers fishing on the Texas portion of Lake Texoma on Sunday, June 4 must either possess the special Lake Texoma license or a fishing license issued by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Anglers must also follow all other fishing regulations.
Top bass pros coming to Grand Lake
Over the years there have been hundreds of bass tournaments at Grand Lake in northeast Oklahoma, but there has never been one quite like this.
The CITGO Bassmaster Elite 100 Series “Sooner Run” tournament, taking place on June 1 through 4, will be one of the biggest events in the history of Grand Lake. The tournament will feature 106 of the world's top professional BASS fisherman competing for almost $700,000 in prize money, including a $100,000 grand prize.
The Elite Series is comprised of the world's top professional bass fishing pros competing in 11 events between March and September for a total of $7.4 million.
In his second year in the Bassmaster Elite Series, Terry Butcher of Talala, Oklahoma, said fishing at this level of competition is a “dream come true.”
“This is what just about every bass fisherman wants – to be able to go fishing for a living,” Butcher said.
And Butcher said he is glad to be fishing close to home.
“Its nice to not have to drive a thousand miles to a tournament,” he said. “And being on a lake I am familiar with may help a little, although the guys fishing this tournament are really good. It doesn’t take them long to find the fish no matter what lake they are on.”
With water levels up, the fishing should be good on Grand Lake said Gene Gilliland, senior fisheries biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
“There may be a very few bass on the tail end of the spawn, but most anglers will likely be looking for bass in a post-spawn pattern,” Gilliland said. “I expect the fishing to be very competitive and it could take as much as 20 pounds a day to win the tournament.”
The fact that a Bassmaster Elite Series tournament is taking place on Grand Lake is not just a coincidence.
“In this series they are trying to put the best anglers on the best lakes at the best times of the year. The selection of Grand Lake is a great testament to the bass fishery and to Oklahoma’s reputation as a bass fishing destination,” Gilliland said.
Anglers are fishing for more than just the prize money, Elite pros are competing in a points race for the CITGO Bassmaster Classic, the Super Bowl of bass fishing. Halfway through the season, Butcher is in the running for one of the 36 coveted spots in the Classic. He is currently 39th in the points race and a solid showing at Grand could move him up the points ladder.
Oklahoma will be well represented at the Elite tournament. In addition to Butcher, nine other Bassmaster pro anglers call Oklahoma home including Jimmy Houston of Cookson, Edwin Evers of Talala, Jeff Kriet of Ardmore, Kenyon Hill of Norman, Dave Smith of Del City, Bradley Hallman of Norman, Ken Cook of Lawton, Jeff Reynolds of Idabel and Tommy Biffle of Wagoner.
About 8,000 people are expected to attend the family-friendly event. Both the daily launches and weigh-ins are free and open to the public at North Beach Development Area (61201 East 270 Road). Each day the launch begins at 6 a.m. and weigh-ins take place at 3 p.m. Spectators will also have a chance to get angler autographs, participate in a kids casting contest and shop for Bassmaster merchandise. The newly-designed North Beach Development Area is located east of Wolf Creek just north of Grove.
Additionally, fans can catch all the action on ESPN2 the following weekend, Saturday, June 10 at 9 a.m.
With an estimated 1,200 tournaments held each year in the state, Oklahoma offers virtually unlimited fishing opportunities. To learn more about bass fishing in Oklahoma log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
See fish, catch fish at the Oklahoma Aquarium
The Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks is offering two-fold family fun this summer. First, families can stroll through the 200 exhibits and see exotic fish from around the world. Next, families can try their hand at catching a fish at one of the free fishing clinics coordinated by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
The Aquarium, located along the bank of the Arkansas River in Jenks, features many educational displays, highlighted by a 400,000-gallon shark tank. The facility also showcases many of Oklahoma's native fish species, including the current state record blue catfish.
Anglers will want to be sure to visit the Karl and Beverly White National Fishing Tackle Museum located at the Aquarium. The Museum houses an historic collection of over 20,000 antique lures and tackle pieces. The $4 million collection is the most complete and comprehensive collection of vintage fishing tackle in existence.
On most Tuesday and Thursday nights throughout the summer, free fishing clinics are offered at the Aquarium. The kid-friendly clinics consist of several educational stations such as fish identification, proper casting technique, outdoor ethics and knot tying. After completing the education portion, participants test their newly acquired knowledge at the Casting Pond located right out the back doors of the Aquarium.
“The family fishing clinics are always a lot of fun. We love to introduce kids and adults both to fishing,” said Colin Berg, education supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “During business hours visitors can stop in and pick up a Fishing Guide, buy a fishing license or find out about other Department services.”
For more information about the Oklahoma Aquarium call (918) 296-FISH (3474), or go to their Web site at okaquarium.org.
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s Tulsa-area offices are located at the Aquarium complex. To learn more about the free fishing clinics call the Wildlife Department’s office (918) 299-2334 or log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
Leave new-born animals alone
Good intentions do not always produce good results. Such is often the case when it comes to young wildlife. The best thing to do is to stand back, stay out of the way and let nature take care of itself.
Birds and squirrels can be blown out of their nest in storms, and although they appear alone and helpless, the parents will often find these youngsters and care for them wherever they might be. People sometimes even find whitetail deer fawns.
"It is not uncommon for a doe to leave a fawn alone while she is feeding a short distance away. The safest thing for a fawn is to remain hidden. When people interfere it can cause complications. Disturbing a young deer, no matter how good your intentions, can actually compromise the fawn's ability to survive in the wild," said Mike Shaw, wildlife research supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
In Oklahoma, most fawns are born in May and June, and start becoming visible in mid to late June.
Not only is it illegal to pick up wildlife, but you’re actually hurting its’ chances of survival. Log onto www.wildlifedepartment.com for more information about the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.