A Wildlife Department heavy equipment operator uses a backhoe to stick a tree trunk with its root ball into the bottom of Dahlgren Lake. (KURT KUKLINSKI/ODWC)
Renovation continues at Dahlgren Lake in the Lexington Wildlife Management Area. During their regular monthly meeting July 6, Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commissioners received a status report from Kurt Kuklinski, research supervisor at the Oklahoma Fishery Research Lab in Norman.
Dahlgren is a fishing lake of about 30 surface acres owned by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. Kuklinski said the 64-year-old lake attracts more anglers than almost any other Department fishing area because of its proximity to the Oklahoma City metro area.
Draining the lake began in May 2015 in response to a challenge issued to employees by Fisheries Division Chief Barry Bolton to make the Department's 16 lakes the best fishing areas offered to anglers. Construction began in March 2017.
The project includes a total of $300,000 in improvements for boating and fishing access. Among those are an expanded ADA-compliant parking area, new boat ramp and courtesy dock, repair of existing fishing jetties, addition of fishing jetties, creation of access path, and repairing the slope of the bank.
Employees are also adding fish habitat structure to the lake bottom. Kuklinski described a novel technique developed on site that uses the trunk and root ball from trees that had to be removed. The trunks are inverted and pushed into holes in the lake bed, creating mushroom-looking "trees" underwater that will attract and shelter fish, and hopefully improve anglers' chances of success.
This project and similar projects are funded with grants from the federal Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program. Anglers, hunters and outdoors enthusiasts pay an excise tax when they buy certain outdoors-related items. That tax revenue is distributed back to individual states. So each time an Oklahoman buys a license or outdoors-related merchandise, he or she is supporting important conservation efforts such as installing boat ramps or increasing hunting access.
Now what's needed is ample rain and runoff to refill the lake. Kuklinski said fish stocking could begin later this year, but Dahlgren will not become a great multi-species fishing lake until 2019 at the earliest.
Also during the meeting, Commissioners recognized the employees selected as the Wildlife Division's Biologist and Technician of the Year for 2016.
Chris Parker serves as biologist for the Wister and Eufaula-Gaines Creek wildlife management areas. Southeast Region Supervisor Joe Hemphill said Parker has a positive attitude and goes beyond expectations. In 2016, he conducted 20 programs involving more than 1,150 children and adults. He conducted extensive prescribed burning on more than 19,000 acres in need of attention. He volunteers to help at several controlled hunts statewide, and he works at the annual Wildlife Expo. Parker is a reserve game warden, and he worked with local law enforcement to clean up dumpsites and get the dumping stopped.
Ira Wood is a wildlife technician at Atoka and Stringtown WMAs. In a time of need during 2016, Wood stepped up to assume the biologist's duties in addition to his own at his two areas, Hemphill said. He managed and conducted all of the controlled hunts on his area, maintained equipment, completed management projects and worked with other areas, all with a positive attitude. He is a reserve game warden and volunteers at the annual Wildlife Expo.
In other business, Commissioners:
The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission is the eight-member governing board of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The 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 Oklahoma Senate.
The next scheduled Commission meeting will begin at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017, at the Wildlife Department's interim headquarters, 2145 NE 36 St. in Oklahoma City.
Incoming Commission Chairman John Groendyke presents an award of appreciation to Commissioner John Zelbst for his service as chairman from 2013-17. (DON P. BROWN/ODWC)
Gathered for presentation of the Wildlife Division's Biologist and Technician of the Year honors are, from left, Wildlife Department Director J.D. Strong, Wildlife Chief Alan Peoples, Biologist of the Year Chris Parker, Technician of the Year Ira Woods, Wildlife Assistant Chief Bill Dinkines and Department Assistant Director Wade Free. (DON P. BROWN/ODWC)