DECEMBER 2012 NEWS RELEASES

Releases throughout December (Releases latest to oldest)



New southwest Oklahoma trout fishery opens Jan. 1 (December 31, 2012)

The New Year is bringing in a new southwest Oklahoma traveling opportunity for anglers and their families looking for small-town hospitality and rainbow trout. The new Medicine Creek trout season is kicking off Jan. 1, 2013, and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation will stock the fishery every two weeks through March 15.
The Wildlife Department is partnering with the City of Medicine Park to provide a new trout fishery in a half-mile stretch of Medicine Creek from Gondola Dam downstream to the HWY 49 bridge.
"That's essentially right in town, said Ryan Ryswyk, southwest region fisheries biologist for the Wildlife Department.
The historic City of Medicine Park sits at the foothills of the Wichita Mountains, home to the famous Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge that attracts tourists from across the nation each year. It offers unique lodging, dining and shopping, hiking and entertainment opportunities and, along with the wildlife refuge, other area attractions such as scenic drives, museums, Lake Lawtonka, Lake Elmer Thomas Recreation Area, and walking trails along Medicine Creek. Along with wintertime trout, the creek also offers fishing for bass, catfish and bluegill. Sidewalks that blend into the granite rock surroundings line the bank of the creek, providing excellent fishing access without taking away from the natural beauty of the area. Many of the city's amenities are within walking distance of Medicine Creek.
Biologists say the opening of the fishery is being met with anticipation from anglers anxious to cast a line in the new fishery.
"This fishery provides a truly unique opportunity," Ryswyk said. "Being able to catch trout in a pristine southwest Oklahoma creek while a family member takes a stroll on a paved trail to a nearby dining facility for a cup of coffee is an appealing idea. And down here, it's a reality."
Anglers only need a fishing license to catch trout at the new fishery. No special trout or city permits are required, and anglers can keep six trout of any size per day. Only one rod and reel per person is permitted, and anglers can log on to the Wildlife Department's website at wildlifedepartment.com to view fishing reports for this and the state's other designated trout areas.
The new state-designated fishery comes after the Department had to stop providing trout at Quartz Mountain because of the presence of golden algae in the stream below Altus-Lugert Lake. Golden algae is a microscopic organism that, under certain conditions, can produce toxins that cause extensive fish kills. According Ryswyk, trout appear to be more susceptible to the golden algae toxins. Blooms often occur in cooler temperatures that coincide with the time of year when trout are being stocked. Once established in a water body, golden algae are there to stay, and it is not possible to predict when the next toxic episode will occur.
Along with Medicine Creek, the Wildlife Department provides seasonal as well as year-round trout fishing at several other locations across the state. These designated trout areas feature trout stockings every two weeks throughout the fishing season and opportunities to view a range of Oklahoma scenery. For more information about the state's designated trout areas, consult the current "Oklahoma Fishing Guide," available free online at wildlifedepartment.com or in print anywhere fishing licenses are sold.
Visit www.medicinepark.com to find out more about food and lodging in the Medicaine Park Area.


Christmas break a great time to complete free online hunter education course (December 26, 2012)

Nearly 7,000 hunters have already successfully completed the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's free online hunter education course since it was made available in September.
Officials with the Wildlife Department say the holiday break is the perfect time for students to become certified.
"Christmas is often a time when kids receive their first gun or bow to help them get started hunting and enjoying the outdoors," said Lance Meek, hunter education coordinator for the Wildlife Department. "While the family is together for the holidays, this is a great opportunity for parents and grandparents to sit down with their children and learn about safe and ethical hunting. The Wildlife Department's online hunter education course is the best way to do that, and it's free."
The online version is proving to be more convenient than attending the eight-hour classroom session.
The course was developed locally by CareerTech using curriculum from the Wildlife Department and the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond. The course includes readings, videos and test questions based on real-life experiences reported by game wardens and other wildlife professionals in the field. The course is available to state residents who are 10 years old or older.
Oklahoma has certified nearly 19,000 hunters in 2012 - about 4,000 more than a typical year.
Both the classroom and online versions of the hunter education course are free. Prospective hunters can log on to wildlifedepartment.com to complete the course. Students can study the curriculum online in sections and do not have to complete the entire course at once. The course covers topics such as firearms safety, wildlife identification, wildlife conservation and management, survival, archery, muzzleloading and hunter responsibility. Students must select the correct answers to test question before being able to continue to the next section.
Exemptions from hunter education certification requirements include anyone 31 or older, those honorably discharged or currently on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces and members of the National Guard. If an Oklahoma resident is exempt from taking hunter education in Oklahoma but needs a hunter education certification card to hunt in a different state, they can also complete the new course online for certification.


Wildlife Department offering free rod and reel to one lucky Facebook fan (December 20, 2012)

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is now updating more than 8,000 fans on Facebook and is asking sportsmen to help its page hit 10,000 "likes" by the end of the year.

"Go to the Wildlife Department's Facebook page today and 'like' us for a chance to win a free fishing rod and reel that we'll give away in a drawing, plus start receiving all kinds of great updates on our page," said Micah Holmes, information supervisor for the Wildlife Department. "We've already given aways all kinds of cool things to our Facebook fans, including a Buck knife and a nice pair of binoculars."

The Department is also updating about 2,200 followers on Twitter.

The Wildlife Department's regular brief updates on Facebook and Twitter provide sportsmen with information ranging from sportsmen's photos from across the state to links on timely news stories, cool videos, hunting season updates and last minute reminders.

Social media users can log on to www.facebook.com/wildlifedepartment to "like" the Wildlife Department's Facebook page and start getting updates and can receive Twitter updates by signing up to follow "OKWildlifeDept." Sportsmen who do not have Facebook or Twitter accounts can still follow the Department's accounts online.

"Facebook and Twitter are great ways for us to keep sportsmen in the know, but they are also great hubs of activity where sportsmen can go to see what other Oklahoma hunters and anglers are buzzing about," Holmes said.

The Wildlife Department also sends fish and wildlife news to more than 80,000 subscribers through free periodic e-mails, which can be received by signing up at http://www.wildlifedepartment.com/weekly_news.htm.

"And we have a lot of other great information sources like wildlifedepartment.com, Outdoor Oklahoma magazine and TV, and a range of newsletters and publications," Holmes said. "Most of this information is free, and we just want sportsmen to have it so they can get the most from our state's outdoors."



Discover to rich stream diversity of Oklahoma (December 8, 2012)

While boating and angling are a big part of the outdoor heritage in Oklahoma, few Oklahomans realize just how much diversity can be found in Oklahoma's 78,500 miles of rivers and streams. "In Oklahoma we have about 175 different species of fish," said Brandon Brown, streams technician for the Wildlife Department. Brown said the Oklahoma portion of the Illinois River has 80 species alone. "That's more native species than some entire states," he said.

Recently the Wildlife Department has shifted the focus of its streams program from stream bank restoration, such as that performed at Lost Creek on the Lower Mountain Fork River, to more of a biological focus to help justify the need for setting in-stream flows. The state's most recent "Oklahoma Water Plan" acknowledges the need to set stream flows for aquatic resource conservation, and Brown along with other fisheries personnel have been collecting data to help establish those flow standards.

"Oklahoma has a lot of different kinds of fish," Brown said. "But if we ask the average person that lives in Oklahoma to name as many species as they can, they will struggle to come up with 15 to maybe as many as 20 or 25 species. That means that roughly 85 percent of our fish are totally unknown to the average person. The problem with that is that if people don't know they exist, they don't value them."

Brown pointed to the central stoneroller as a prime example of an unknown but very important native fish. Stonerollers feed and graze on algae, scraping it from rocks in the streambed. While the central stoneroller is common and widespread across the country and in Ozark streams, many people don't know that their presence is critical to the health of the environment. Without them, a stretch of stream can become coated with algae within days, leading to poor water quality, lower nitrogen fixation and even the alteration of habitat to the point that other specie cannot use it.

With as many as 30,000 visitors to the Illinois River on a busy weekend and large numbers visiting other rivers and streams throughout eastern Oklahoma, Brown emphasizes the need to educate the public on the importance of native fish and is working to "change the way people look at streams" through his outreach efforts.

The Wildlife Department is working to establish baseline biological data, build relationships with landowners, and identify correlations between water flow and successful reproduction of native fish, such as smallmouth bass.

Log on to the streams page of the Department's website at wildlifedepartment.com to learn more about streams in Oklahoma and to view Brandon Brown's stunning underwater photos and video footage of native fish.



Bassmaster Classic is coming to Oklahoma in 2013 (December 8, 2012)

Bassmaster Classic on its way to Oklahoma, along with new facilities at Grand Lake
The Bassmaster Classic is like a Super Bowl or World Series for fishing, and the event is headed to Oklahoma this winter.

Grand Lake of the Cherokees will host the Bassmaster Classic fishing tournament Feb. 22-24, 2013. The event is expected to draw 70,000 visitors and account for more than 20,000 hotel nights in the region. Even more important, the event is expected to pump $24 million dollars into the economy of Tulsa, Grove and other communities around Grand Lake.

At its December meeting, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission heard a presentation on the upcoming Classic. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation will be involved in the event by helping with the live release of fish back into Grand Lake following each weigh-in, through booth participation at the event expo, as well as through an extensive project to help the host community of Grove to develop world class fishing, boating and tournament facilities on the lake.

With over 15 hours of national media attention on ESPN and ESPN2, the Classic will be an enormous asset to the local economies and to the promotion of fishing in Oklahoma, according to officials with the Wildlife Department. Weigh-ins will be held at the BOK Center in Tulsa, which will be filled with an estimated 15,000-18,000 spectators at each of three different weigh-in events. The winner of the Classic takes home $500,000 in prize money plus inevitable sponsorships and the most coveted prize in competitive bass fishing.

"It really is the top prize in professional bass fishing," said Gene Gilliland, assistant chief of fisheries for the Wildlife Department. "It's easily the biggest fishing event that will ever come to Oklahoma."

While expressing the magnitude of the event, Gilliland also noted that the Classic represents a tremendous opportunity for developing the region further for recreational use by anglers and boaters.

"The Bassmaster Classic is going to be a starting point for a lot of things that will be happening in the Grand Lake area and 'Green Country' in general," Gilliland said. "As big as Grand Lake is and as popular as it is, it doesn't really have big-time boat launching facilities. The City of Grove has stepped up and is cooperating with us and some other partners to try to make that possible, not only for the Bassmaster Classic, but for the future."

Wolf Creek Park in Grove is being renovated to provide six boat ramp lanes, parking for up to 300, restrooms, pavilions, a drive-through weigh-in station, courtesy docks and more. The two-phase project will result in a multi-million dollar, first-class facility for the public to use.

"This facility being built at Grand Lake is not just for the big level tournaments," Gilliland said. "But the City of Grove is trying to make something that the local fishermen can use so that they have some nicer facilities to be able to do some of their weigh-ins."

Over the course of the two-phase project, the Wildlife Department will contribute about $3 million, which will be combined with several million dollars provided by the City of Grove, Oklahoma Department of Transportation and the Grand River Dam Authority - which owns the lake. The second phase of the project could include other partners as well.
"It's a big deal," Gilliland said. "I'm hoping that the folks at Lake Eufaula and at Lake Texoma and Ft. Gibson and some of our other major reservoirs get really jealous about seeing all this, because we'd like to do this same kind of project at those lakes and put in some really first-class facilities at other places around the state."

A recent episode of the Wildlife Department's Outdoor Oklahoma TV show featuring the upcoming Bassmaster Classic can be viewed on the Outdoor Oklahoma Youtube channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/outdooroklahoma.


Public Comment Period Open (December 1, 2012)

A service of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation

Wildlife Department to open online public comment period for regulation changes Dec. 3

Starting Dec. 3, sportsmen have the opportunity to voice their thoughts online on a list of hunting and fishing related rule change proposals.

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

"This public comment period is an important opportunity to comment on items that could lead to changes in our hunting and fishing regulations," said Nels Rodefeld, information and education chief for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "We feel strongly that our constituents should have every chance to provide their comments, which is why we are providing an online comment form for those wanting to be heard on these specific subjects. We encourage you to provide your comments through wildlifedepartment.com anytime during the open comment period."

To view a complete listing of proposed rule changes or to complete an online comment form, log on to wildlifedepartment.com beginning Dec. 3. The online comment period will remain open until 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 11, 2013.

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

The Wildlife Department also will be hosting a public hearing on proposed rule changes at 7 p.m., Jan. 8 at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation headquarters auditorium in Oklahoma City (1801 N. Lincoln Blvd).