Page 4 - Jan/Feb 2022 Outdoor Oklahoma Magazine
P. 4

Off the Beaten Path

                 Off  the Beaten Path


                   Not es oN Wildlife • ou t door ti ps • r ea ders’ let t ers • eN v i roN meN ta l NeWs                                         Welcome                                          theDock!
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               By Kelly Adams,
               Communication Supervisor

                 This year, as part of the Wildlife Depart-
               ment’s annual review and revision of fishing
               and hunting regulations, the Fisheries Divi-
               sion has proposed a change to allow anglers
               to keep smaller, more abundant largemouth
               and smallmouth bass, while limiting the har-
               vest of larger bass.
                 The proposal aims to remove the 14-inch
               minimum length limit from lakes and res-
               ervoirs, and would allow anglers to keep
               only one bass greater than 16 inches daily.
               If approved, biologists anticipate a positive
               impact on the overall quality of Oklahoma’s
               black bass populations.
                 The bass length limit changes will be con-
               sidered for approval by the Oklahoma Wild-
               life Conservation Commission during its
               scheduled meeting Feb. 7, 2022.
                 Cliff Sager, Senior Fisheries Biologist with
               the Wildlife Department, said the proposal
               is designed to give anglers a better chance to   The intent of the proposed regulation change is to increase harvest of the smaller, more
               catch larger bass.                   abundant fish.
                 “Catch  and  release  has  become  very
               ingrained with bass anglers. In the most recent survey of Okla-  ment exemption, which will allow bag and size limits to deviate
               homa anglers, 69 percent of bass anglers returned all, or nearly  from those in the Oklahoma Fishing and Hunting Regulations.
               all, the bass they caught back to the water. The popularity of  Tournament anglers who possess a free exemption from ODWC
               the sport combined with the cultivated practice of catch-and-  may then keep bass longer than 16 inches until the tournament
               release of smaller bass has impacted ODWC’s ability to increase  weigh-in, after which the fish must be returned to the water.
               the abundance of larger bass.”                      To maintain focused oversight of these species, the Wildlife
                 Using data from more than 100 Oklahoma lakes, fisheries  Department a created Centrarchid Committee of 10 fisheries
               biologists have found that about 80 percent of largemouth bass  biologists with specialties ranging from reservoirs to hatch-
               in Oklahoma lakes are shorter than 16 inches. While reduced  eries. Together, they have more than 160 years of experience
               harvest of large bass is beneficial, harvesting bass under 16  in fisheries management. The Centrarchidae (sunfishes) are a
               inches can improve fisheries by reducing competition among  family of North American native freshwater fish and include
               bass, so individuals grow faster and larger.      smallmouth and largemouth bass, bluegill, and crappie. Biol-
                 Josh Johnston, Northeast Region Fisheries Supervisor, said  ogists will continue to survey and monitor population trends,
               many anglers have asked him why slot limits are not being pro-  and develop management practices that better meet the needs
               posed. “Most studies on slot limits show the angler still sees it  and expectations of Oklahoma anglers.
               as a minimum length limit, meaning they only keep fish above
               the slot. The current proposal addresses the problem with slot   To see the size structure of largemouth bass in
               limits and encourages harvesting smaller fish.”    13 popular bass-fishing lakes in Oklahoma, check
                 The proposed rule change comes with a black bass tourna-  out electrofishing data by scanning the code:

               2                                                                              Off the Beaten Path

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