MARCH 2004 NEWS
WEEK OF MARCH 25, 2004
WEEK OF MARCH 18, 2004
WEEK OF MARCH 11, 2004
WEEK OF MARCH 4, 2004
Wildlife Commission accepts donation for quail management
The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission accepted a $38,000 donation from Foundation Management Inc. for the restoration of quail habitat and quail populations in the state at its March meeting. When matched with federal aid dollars the available funds will total $138,000.
According to Alan Peoples, wildlife chief for the Department, the donation will be used to identify high priority areas where habitat restoration will be the most effective. These areas will then be the focus for outreach to private landowners to conduct various habitat improvements such as prescribed burning or planting of native grasses.
In other business, the Commission recognized 19 employees for the successful completion of the Wildlife Resource Professional Program. The program is designed to foster communication among different divisions of the Department and create more knowledgeable and efficient employees. To date 65 employees have completed the program.
Also at their March meeting, Commissioners recognized a pair of Department employees who have served 20 years each.
The following employees were recognized for their service to the Department:
· Rick Cagle, state game warden supervisor in Kingfisher County, for 20 years of service; and
· Danny Bowen, fisheries technician stationed at the Holdenville Fish Hatchery for 20 years of service.
“Over the years, these individuals have proven to be a great asset to the sportsmen, and to the wildlife resources of Oklahoma,” said Greg Duffy, director of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
In other business, Tracy Daniel, state game warden stationed in Kay County, was presented with the Oklahoma Bowhunting Council Wildlife Professional of the Year Award. According to Rob Ray with the Oklahoma Bowhunting Council, Daniel has provided outstanding service to the sportsmen of the state. Over the last year, Daniel has helped coordinate the Department’s Youth Wildlife Camp, taught 16 hunter education courses, rescued two anglers adrift on Sooner Lake, and investigated several illegal hunting cases in the area.
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 April 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.
Youth wildlife camp offers fun and learning - all at the right price
Once summer vacation begins, the last thing most students have on their mind is learning. But youth interested in wildlife, fisheries and law enforcement can have fun and learn a thing or two by attending the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's sixth annual Wildlife Youth Camp.
“The camp is really a lot of fun for the kids and they get the opportunity to learn what wildlife professionals do on a day to day to basis,” said Paul Cornett, Oklahoma game warden stationed in Woodward County. “And one of the great benefits is that it is free.”
The weeklong camp is conducted each year by wildlife professionals including game wardens and biologists. Scheduled June 13-18 at Camp Redlands near Stillwater, the camp is open to Oklahoma youths ages 14 to 16. Applicants must turn 14 prior to June 1, 2004. Participants will attend courses in firearms handling, wildlife law enforcement, wildlife and fisheries biology, water safety, self-defense, rifle and shotgun training, waterfowl hunting and archery.
The camp is free of charge but will be limited to 40 participants. Applicants should be interested in fish and wildlife management or law enforcement and must submit a 75-word essay explaining why they want to attend the camp, why they believe they should be selected and what they expect to learn while attending. They must also submit a letter of recommendation from a person of their choice other than a family member.
The application deadline is April 15. To obtain applications, contact the Wildlife Department's Law Enforcement Division at P.O. Box 53465, Oklahoma City, OK 73152, or by calling (405) 521-3719. Applications may also be available from local wardens or from the Wildlife Department's Web site www.wildlifedepartment.com. Simply print off the application, fill it out and mail it in with the essay and letter of recommendation.
Here come the martins
Many Oklahomans eagerly anticipate the arrival of purple martins. With cheerful, chattering calls, graceful flight and an appetite for insects, purple martins are welcome neighbors. They start arriving in March, so this is the time to get ready for your guests by cleaning out existing houses or setting up new ones.
“Purple martins often return to nesting areas. If you had them last year, you’re likely to attract them again,” said Mark Howery, natural resources biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
“The adult males arrive first, often within the first week of March,” Howery said. “Watch for them to fly near the house or to land on it.”
The females and young males will follow within the next two weeks. It is these later-arriving, young males that will be attracted to new purple martin houses.
“They are looking for houses that haven’t been claimed by older males,” Howery said. “If this is the first time you’ve placed a house, you should expect to see purple martins in late March to early April.”
Purple martins are among the first songbirds to return to Oklahoma. They spend the winter months in Brazil. The largest member of the swallow family, these dark, purplish birds measure up to eight inches long, have long, pointed wings, forked tails and broad beaks.
Purple martins prefer to nest near broad, open fields and meadows within one-half mile of ponds, marshes, streams or other wetlands. They dine on insects and can catch up to several hundred per hour. They eat insect pests such as beetles, moths, wasps, flies and mosquitoes.
Purple martins once nested in rock crevices and hollow trees, but for the past 400 years, they have been nesting in manmade structures, Howery said.
Native Americans and early settlers provided hollow gourds for martins to nest in. Today, purple martins in the eastern U.S. nest almost exclusively in manmade houses. To assist the modern-day purple martin landlord, houses are available commercially. These apartment style houses are made of aluminum, plastic and wood.
Howery suggests choosing a house with a porch and railing. The porch helps purple martin parents enter and leave the nest. The railing prevents eggs or chicks from falling to the ground.
"When choosing a house, consider how easy it is to lower,” Howery said. “Choose something lightweight that can be raised and lowered on a telescoping pole or by means of a pulley system.”
Non-native species such as house sparrows and European starlings harass martins and compete with them for nesting space. Repeatedly remove the nests of sparrows and starlings that establish themselves in a house.
Here is another tip to keep sparrows away from houses: plug the holes until the first purple martins are seen flying around it.
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation offers a free brochure on how to attract purple martins. To request a copy, call the Wildlife Diversity Program at (405) 521-4616 or write to us at P.O. Box 53465, Oklahoma City, OK 73152. You may also print a brochure from the Department's Web sitewww.wildlifedepartment.com
Angler’s Guide now available
Spring is here and it is a perfect time to get out and enjoy Oklahoma's fantastic fishing opportunities.
Before heading out, anglers will want to grab a copy of the "2004 Oklahoma Angler’s Guide." The informative guide can be found in the March/April 2004 issue of “Outdoor Oklahoma” magazine, the official publication of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
"The Angler’s Guide is a great way to get ready for the spring and summer fishing season," said Nels Rodefeld, “Outdoor Oklahoma” editor. "It provides electrofishing results, tournament data, stocking rates and premier destinations for many popular species. The Angler’s Guide can be an invaluable resource to help plan your upcoming fishing trips.”
Those interested in striking up a friendly dispute with their hunting and fishing partners will want to be sure to read a second installment of “The Best of Oklahoma.” The article examines some of the more often debated topics such as what is the hardest fighting fish or what is the best type of arrows for deer hunting. Readers are even invited to give their own opinions on these topics.
Bird lovers will want to read “Where Bluebirds Fly.” The article offers insight on the colorful little birds such as natural history and how to give bluebirds a helping hand by providing nest boxes this spring.
Hunters who are a getting a case of the spring turkey fever will want to check out a special profile on McGee Creek Wildlife Management Area. Not only does the article offer a great description of this scenic area, the author also reveals a few of his tried and true hunting tips for bagging a southeast Oklahoma gobbler.
The Watchable Wildlife profile features one of the state’s most unique mammals, the pronghorn antelope.
To obtain the most recent issue mail $4 (check, cash, money orders or cashier's check) to “Outdoor Oklahoma” magazine, P.O. Box 53465, Oklahoma City, OK 73152. However, one-year subscriptions are just $10 (two years for $18 or three years for $25) and are available by calling 1-800-777-0019. Additionally, you can subscribe over the Internet by logging on to www.wildlifedepartment.com
Don’t Dally for Big Bass
If visions of big bass have been leaping through your dreams all winter long, then don’t wait till the balmy days of late spring to hook up with a boss bass. Early spring can be the prime time to catch big bass. With the warming water temperatures and lengthening days, this can be a great time of year to catch some nice fish.
If you’re still a bit hesitant about braving the gusty spring winds, just take a look at the record books. The months of March and April have produced 15 of the top 20 largemouth bass in the state.
There are at least two anglers who could offer strong testimonials recommending early spring fishing. Danny Hisaw recently caught a 13.28-pound largemouth from Broken Bow Lake on a soft plastic lizard. And Rodney Genzel hooked up with a 6.94-pound smallmouth on Lake Tenkiller during a recent bass tournament.
For more information about bass fishing in Oklahoma, log on to wildlifedepartment.com and pick up a copy of the “2004 Oklahoma Fishing Guide.”
Deadline approaching soon for photo showcase
It’s not too late, but time is running short to enter “Outdoor Oklahoma’s” annual Readers' Photography Showcase. Professional and amateur photographers alike have until March 26 to submit their best shots.
According to Nels Rodefeld, “Outdoor Oklahoma” editor, the magazine is a great place for photographers to display their work.
“In fact, last year’s Reader’s Photography Showcase was recently recognized for first place in magazine feature photography by the Oklahoma Society for Professional Journalists,” Rodefeld said. "Photographs can be of anything found in Oklahoma's outdoors from scenics to wildlife, however, for this year’s showcase we’ve added a ‘Faces in the Outdoors’ emphasis. We are looking for outstanding images of people hunting, fishing and enjoying other outdoor activities.”
Slides, color prints, and digital images will be accepted. Rodefeld added that original 35mm slides still offer the best color reproduction quality, but that “Outdoor Oklahoma” will accept high-quality images captured on digital cameras or in print photos.
The photographer's name, address and phone number need to be printed on each slide using a fine point pen or rubber stamp. Slides should not be encased in glass.
Each participant may submit up to five images and all entries will be returned undamaged. Each submission should include a brief description of the photo including location taken, camera used, names of subjects and what it took to get just the right shot. Photographers can mail their submission to Paul Moore, Photo Editor, “Outdoor Oklahoma,” Oklahoma Dept. of Wildlife Conservation, P.O. Box 53465, Oklahoma City, OK 73152.
Individuals who wish to obtain their own copy of the July/August Readers Photo issue can subscribe to “Outdoor Oklahoma,” on the Universal License form wherever hunting and fishing licenses are sold; or via credit card by calling 1-800-777-0019. Subscriptions are just $10 for one year, $18 for two years, or $25 for three years.
Turkey numbers across the state are up - way up
For turkey hunters, this is the best time of the year. Hints of green are beginning to appear across the state promising that the harsh winter season is just about over and that the spring turkey season will soon begin.
Oklahoma is home to two separate subspecies of wild turkeys, the Eastern and the Rio Grande subspecies. While the two may have slight differences in appearance and habitat preferences, they have at least one thing in common - their population numbers are doing great. In fact, they are doing better than ever.
“We don’t quite have all the winter flock numbers in, but I anticipate we’re going to see an all-time high for Rio Grande turkeys,” said Rod Smith, southwest region wildlife supervisor for the Department. “We have had four good production years in a row and the population is in really good shape.”
The western half of the state has seen dry conditions for the past several years. But that is not a completely bad thing, at least not for turkeys.
“About the only thing droughts are good for is turkey production. In years when April and May are relatively dry hens hatch more poults and the poults have a better chance of survival and the growing population reflects that,” Smith said.
If you are a glass-half-empty type of person there is just one thing to take solace in.
“Along with this growing population, means that there will also be more hens. This could make it challenging to convince toms to leave hens to come to a call,” Smith said.
Not to be outdone, the Eastern subspecies found in southeast Oklahoma is also reaching all time high numbers according to Jack Waymire, southeast region senior biologist for the Wildlife Department.
“From all indications it looks like it should be another great season as long as the weather holds out,” Waymire said.
According to Waymire, the dynamics of turkey population are more than just counting numbers of birds.
“The other encouraging news is that the sex and age class distribution is in good shape, meaning that there are balanced numbers of hens and toms representing all ages of birds,” Waymire said. “It would be a good idea for veteran hunters to concentrate on mature toms. There are quite a few trophy birds out there if hunters are willing to be patient.”
To hunt turkeys in Oklahoma, hunters must possess a resident or non-resident Oklahoma hunting license or combination license, as well as a turkey permit. Lifetime license holders are exempt from having to purchase the turkey permit.
Hunters do not check turkeys taken west of I-35, but all turkeys harvested east of I-35 must be checked at the nearest hunter check station. For more information on regulations and bag limits, consult the “2004 Oklahoma Hunting Guide,” which are available at hunting and fishing license vendors across the state or on line at www.wildlifedepartment.com.
Second Lake Texoma fish kill linked to golden alga
State fisheries biologists from Oklahoma and Texas are working together to investigate a fish kill in the five-mile area between Cedar Mills and Highport Marina on the Texas side of Lake Texoma. Biologists have confirmed that golden alga is to blame.
Initial estimates place the loss at upwards of one half million fish, based on fisheries surveys conducted along the Big Mineral Arm of the reservoir March 12. Threadfin shad, an abundant forage fish, comprised the vast majority of the kill, but some largemouth bass, crappie and bluegill were also affected. Fisheries biologists had been monitoring the 89,000-acre reservoir for possible spread of the toxic golden alga since a fish kill back in January in the Lebanon pool in upper Lake Texoma was traced to golden alga.
Texas fisheries biologists were the first to discover a golden alga fish kill in inland waters in the Western Hemisphere when a fish kill was identified in the Pecos River in 1985. Since 2001, golden alga fish kills have occurred on 23 reservoirs in Texas. The toxin has also been linked to subsequent fish kills in North Carolina, South Carolina and New Mexico. Lake Texoma is the first reported finding in the Red River basin downstream of Lake Kemp, located southwest of Wichita Falls, TX.
Golden algal blooms typically occur in winter months, often leaving a golden yellow ring around the lake shoreline. Golden alga (Prymnesium parvum) is native to estuarine habitats around the world. It is not known if the alga is a native or exotic species to inland waters.
“This fish kill is of particular concern due to the fact that it took place in the main body of the lake, while the first kill was in the more isolated Lebanon Pool,” said Paul Mauck, south central region fisheries supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “When the alga blooms it kills fish by releasing toxins into the water that cause fish gills to hemorrhage. The good news is that there is no evidence to suggest the toxins are a threat to human health.”
To learn more about golden alga log on www.tpwd.state.tx.us/hab. The site includes a wide variety of information about harmful golden alga blooms, including scientific research updates, frequently asked questions and up-to-date news.
Anglers who observe fish dying in a particular area of the lake can report their observations to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s Fisheries Division at (405) 521-3721.
Pondering paddlefish pandemonium?
You have surely heard of paddlefish before. Growing to over six feet long and weighing over 100 pounds, they are hard to miss. And if you have ever thought about heading to northeast Oklahoma to tangle with this oddity then now is the time to do it.
Paddlefish, one of Oklahoma's most unique fish, begin staging at the upper end of reservoirs in early spring in anticipation of the spawning run. Recent rains have brought water levels up and paddlefish have already begun to move upstream to spawn. As water temperatures rise the fishing action is also likely to heat up.
When paddlefish go on the move each spring, fishermen are not far behind them. Many anglers flock to the river’s edge to partake in this unique and challenging sport. The Neosho River system and Grand Lake in particular support a thriving paddlefish fishery. A 50-pound paddlefish in a swift current is more than enough to get the adrenaline pumping in any angler. Anglers will need a large rod surfcasting rod with a reel large enough to hold enough line to slow down a paddlefish that can make any drag scream. The big fish are caught by snagging them with a large barbless treble hook weighted with a three to five ounce weight. The fun doesn’t end when the fight is over. Paddlefish, when properly cleaned and cooked, are an excellent addition to any dinner table.
For a complete list of the regulation changes consult the “2004 Oklahoma Fishing Guide” or log onto the Department's web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com.
Public survey helps biologists learn about Oklahoma’s tiniest visitors
It can fly backward, forward, upside-down and hover. No, it wasn’t developed by the military; it’s a hummingbird. Oklahoma’s tiniest birds are returning from their winter sabbaticals in Central and South America, and you can help the Wildlife Department learn more about them by participating in the Hummingbird Survey.
The survey helps biologists learn when different species start arriving in and departing from the state, said Melynda Hickman, natural resources biologist with the Wildlife Department. Place hummingbird feeders by April 1 and leave them up through Nov. 1 to participate in the survey. The survey asks for the first sighting date and last sighting date for the species that visit.
The ruby-throated hummingbird nests in Oklahoma and is a common visitor to feeders. Three other species - the black-chinned, rufous and broad-tailed hummingbird - are usually spotted in Oklahoma during fall migration. Participation in the survey “helps us keep an eye out for species that simply migrate through and might even reveal a new species for Oklahoma,” Hickman said.
Hummingbirds average 3.5 inches in length and weigh 2.5 to 3.5 grams, the weight of a penny. The Department provides a free brochure that includes the survey form and describes hummingbird biology, feeder basics and plantings that will naturally attract hummingbirds as well as butterflies.
For more information about hummingbirds and feeding tips, the Department’s “Ruby-throated Hummingbirds” brochure is available online by logging onto: www.wildlifedepartment.com In addition, the hummingbird survey form may also be downloaded at www.wildlifedepartment.com.
The Department’s “Landscaping for Wildlife” book, which shows readers how to attract a wide variety of Oklahoma wildlife to their properties, contains hummingbird feeder basics and details about creating a hummingbird garden. The book is available through the Outdoor Store and is $20 plus $4 shipping.
Hummingbird Feeder Basics
Hummingbirds consume half their weight in sugars every day. While their natural food source is nectar from flowers, they readily take to feeders. Here’s the basic information to know about feeding hummingbirds.
Cutline: The photograph is of a female, ruby-throated hummingbird. It is the adult male that has a ruby colored throat.
Crappie spawn coming soon
It’s a tough question. Which is more enjoyable: catching a stringer full of crappie or hosting a fish fry featuring crappie and all the fixings?
Crappie are arguably one of the tastiest of Oklahoma sportfish and crappie fishing is one of the most popular fishing opportunities available each spring. No matter what you enjoy more, catching or eating, the action will soon be heating up across the state.
"It won’t be too much longer and the crappie will begin moving into shallow water. The next few weeks should see crappie fishing really heating up," said Barry Bolton, assistant fisheries chief for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
According to Bolton, crappie can be found moving into shallow water to spawn once the water temperature reaches the upper 50s. Crappie spawning generally takes place in water only 18 to 36 inches deep.
“The best place to catch crappie prior to and during the spawn is around structure in shallow water,” Bolton said. “Anglers might try a little deeper water to find fish that are preparing to move into shallow water soon."
He added that a wide variety of lures can be used, including small spinners, jigs and minnows.
“Minnows are one of the most effective baits around, but it’s hard to beat a small, light-colored jig," Bolton said.
There is an abundance of places to catch a stringer full of crappie. Here are a few spots to try on your next fishing trip.
Kaw Lake, near Ponca City, is known for fast crappie action all year long. Standing timber near the Beaver Creek arm of the lake is a good place to catch a crappie worth bragging about.
Lake Texoma in south-central Oklahoma offers anglers the first shot at spawning crappie - the fish spawn earlier in the warmer waters of southern Oklahoma. Brush-filled coves along the north shore are excellent places to find crappie.
McGee Creek Lake, near Atoka, is worth the drive for the scenic beauty alone. The pine-covered mountains are a bonus to the good numbers of crappie that call the lake home. Anglers can find shallow water with plenty of structure in the north end of the lake.
Lake Eufaula, near Checotah, earned its nickname - the Gentle Giant. The lake has many sprawling coves along more than 600 miles of shoreline. Shallow coves with full exposure to the sun are good places to wet a line.
For a complete list of regulations, anglers should pick up a copy of the “2004 Oklahoma Fishing Guide” before heading out on any fishing adventure or log on to the Department’s Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com
Blooming redbuds can mean red-hot fishing action
For many Oklahomans blooming redbud trees are just another welcome sign that spring has sprung. But for many anglers blooming redbuds are a signal to gather their fishing equipment and head to the nearest running water for an afternoon of sand bass fishing. White bass, or sand bass as they are called, spend most of the year in the state’s large reservoirs. However, in late March and through April they swim upstream into creeks and rivers on their annual spawning migrations.
"Sand bass should be beginning their run up creeks and rivers any time now,” said Jim Burroughs, northeast region fisheries supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
According to Burroughs, rising waters after a rain and water temperatures in the low 50’s are good signs that it’s time to grab a pole and friend and go fishing for white bass. Oklahoma's state fish, the white bass is an aggressive feeder, particularly during the spring spawn. White bass make excellent table fare and can be found in every large reservoir throughout the state.
"White bass can be caught on a wide variety of lures and baits,” Burroughs said. “Jigs, spinners and minnows are all excellent choices during the spring."
The spring spawning run of sand bass will begin first in the warmer southern half of the state. Southern Oklahoma anglers should find some good action at Gaines Creek above Lake Eufaula and upper Mountain Fork above Broken Bow Lake. Savvy anglers have long known that Hickory Creek above Lake Texoma can produce good stringers of sand bass if the time is right.
White bass fishermen in the northern half of the state can also find plenty of fast-paced action. Fishermen may find the Canadian River above Canton Lake, feeder creeks on Lake Ft. Gibson and the Horseshoe Bend area of Lake Tenkiller to be white bass hotspots.
Anglers can keep up on where the hottest fishing is taking place through the Department’s fishing report available atwww.wildlifedepartment.com
For a complete list of regulations anglers should pick up a copy of the “2004 Oklahoma Fishing Guide before heading out on any fishing adventure or log on to the Departments web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com
Oklahoma Striped Bass Association gives back to the resource
For some Oklahoma striped bass fisherman the only thing they enjoy more than catching a big striped bass is giving back to the resource.
The Oklahoma Striped Bass Association recently donated $1,000 to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. These donations will be matched with federal Sportfish Restoration funds for a total project budget of $4,000.
“As a whole, striped bass anglers are a dedicated and generous group as is proven once again today,” said Bill Wentroth, northwest region fisheries biologist for the Department. “These funds will help us make the state’s striped and hybrid striped bass fishery even better.”
The funds will be used to purchase several pieces of much-needed equipment that will be used in the propagation of these popular sportfish. Truck-mounted water tanks will be purchased and used to haul striper brood stock from the lake to the hatchery where their eggs can be gathered and cultivated in hatchery ponds. Since water quality is very important in the raising of striped bass and hybrid bass fry, funds will also be used to purchase plankton nets and a dissolved oxygen meter to monitor water quality.
“The Oklahoma Striped Bass Association has certainly been a great partner with the Department over the years,” Wentroth said. “In recent years they have donated a 600-gallon hauling tank to restock threadfin shad in northern lakes and a large disk used to work the ground of dry hatchery ponds.”
The organization has also been generous in their guidance of new anglers often holding seminars for fishermen interested in giving striped bass fishing a try, Wentroth added.