Thursday, June 7, 2018

Become an outdoors-woman with AGFC

LITTLE ROCK – The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission will open online enrollment in this year’s Becoming an Outdoors-Woman workshop June 4-30. The workshop, which introduces women 18 and older to various outdoors activities, will be held Sept. 28-30 at the C.A. Vines Arkansas 4-H Center in Ferndale.

Matt Burns, assistant chief of education for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, says the workshop is a great way to learn about the outdoors and meet other women with the same interests.

“This weekend is about learning and building confidence in being outdoors,” Burns said. “Many women hunt and fish, but some have grown up in families that were not big in the outdoors and may struggle with where to start.”

BOW offers instruction in more than three dozen outdoor activities, including canoeing, fishing, hiking, fly-tying, archery, boating, birding, outdoor photography, Dutch-oven cooking and shooting sports. BOW instructors provide basic and advanced instruction tailored to each participant’s individual ability.

“The workshops are split equally between hunting, fishing and other outdoors pursuits, so ladies who are knowledgeable about one subject have many others to choose from and customize their experience,” Burns said. “We encourage everyone attending to sign up for a good mix of activities. Not only will they learn more, but they also will have more opportunities to meet different women and form friendships.”

Finding those outdoors companions and mentors can be the key to continuing a pursuit. Many participants go on to attend other workshops and outings offered by the AGFC together.

“We have Beyond BOW experiences scheduled throughout the year that get into more advanced aspects of hunting and fishing, and even planned birding, angling and hunting trips for women who want to keep learning but still want a little extra help getting started.,” Burns said. “We see many ladies we met at this introductory workshop sign up for the advanced events as a group.”

The BOW workshop is held at the C.A. Vines Arkansas 4-H Center in Ferndale, 15 miles west of Little Rock. Classes begin at noon on Friday and end at noon on Sunday. Raffles, door prizes and evening programs are included in the event.

The $150 registration fee includes all food, lodging, equipment and supplies.

Visit http://www.agfc.com, or visit the Becoming an Outdoors-Woman Arkansas Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/BOWArkansas for more information.

Free Fishing Weekend, derbies June 8-10

LITTLE ROCK – From noon Friday, June 8, through midnight Sunday night, June 10, no angler will need a fishing license or trout permit to fish anywhere in Arkansas.

An annual tradition sponsored by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and approved by Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Free Fishing Days furnishes many people the opportunity to enjoy the amazing angling The Natural State has to offer.

“Recruiting the next generation of anglers is always at the front of our list,” said AGFC Director Pat Fitts. “Free Fishing Weekend is a great way for every Arkansan to help us in this effort by bringing along a friend of family member to give fishing a try.”

Fitts says an annual fishing license is only $10.50, but the additional act of needing the license can be a barrier to trying out angling for the first time or for people who only want to go once or twice a year.

“Sometimes just making the extra stop to a sporting goods store or purchasing a license (at www.agfc.com) may intimidate people from giving this great thing we call the outdoors a chance,” Fitts said. “Free Fishing Weekend is a great time to get everyone out and enjoy all the work we do for them throughout the state.”

Fitts says the weekend also is great for parents with kids who want to learn how to fish.

“People under 16 don’t need a license any time, but parents don’t want to pay the extra money for a license to find out if their kids will enjoy fishing,” Fitts said. “Make it a fun family outing and you may just find out that it will be the best $10.50 you’ve ever spent to increase family time.”

If you’re looking to get the kids on a near sure-thing fishing experience, Batten also suggests visiting one of the AGFC’s five fish hatcheries from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., June 9.

“Each hatchery puts on a fishing derby the Saturday during Free Fishing Weekend,” Fitts said. “What better place to try and catch some fish than where we grow them?”

The hatchery derbies are for anglers 15 and under. Each child must be supervised by an adult. Kids may catch and keep up to three catfish (or three trout at the Jim Hinkle Spring River State Fish Hatchery). In addition to fishing fun, participants also will be able to compete in casting contests and win prizes for fish caught.

    Contact the hatchery nearest you for details on its derby:

·         Andrew Hulsey State Fish Hatchery, Hot Springs, 877-525-8606

·         Charlie Craig State Fish Hatchery, Centerton, 877-795-2470

·         William Donham State Fish Hatchery, Corning, 877-857-3876

·         Joe Hogan State Fish Hatchery, Lonoke, 877-676-6963

·         Jim Hinkle Spring River State Fish Hatchery, Mammoth Spring, 877-625-7521.

Visit https://drive.google.com/file/d/1EyRRaJ9VnUTkXsCAzPdacR1F1WaE7NUo/view for information on other fishing derbies around the state.

WMA deer hunt permit application period open

LITTLE ROCK – If you want to hunt on some of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s most popular deer-hunting destinations this fall, you’ll want to apply for a special WMA deer hunt from June 1 until July 1. 

Wildlife management areas developed and cultivated by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission offer some of the best opportunities to bag your deer during hunting season, but popular hunting areas can become crowded or overhunted without special restrictions. The AGFC conducts special draw hunts on WMAs prone to overcrowding to maintain healthy deer herds and high-quality hunting experiences.

Applicants for WMA Deer Hunt Permits must provide a $5 nonrefundable processing fee at the time of their application. If successful, they will receive their permit without the need for any additional fees. If any hunts have more permits available than applicants at the end of July, those will be available on a first-come, first-served basis in late July for the same $5 processing fee.

Each hunter may submit one application for each type of permit hunt: youth hunt, archery, muzzleloader and modern gun. Hunters who are not able to apply online may visit any AGFC regional office to apply in person.

Hunters must be at least 6 years old, and hunters applying for youth hunts must be at least 6, but no older than 15, the day the hunt begins.

Call 501-223-6440 or 501-223-6359 for more information on AGFC permit hunts.

Visit www.agfc.com to apply for a permit hunt

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

UAM COT-McGehee To Host Boater Education Class June 18-19

            MONTICELLO, AR — Representatives of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission will present a free two-day boating education class June 18-19 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the UAM College of Technology-McGehee.

          To register, contact Laura Rogers of the AGFC at (870) 888-818-6378 or larogers@agfc.state.ar.us. Registration may also be complete online at https://register-ed.com/events/view/116909.

          For information, contact Seth Bryant, project coordinator at the McGehee campus, at (870) 460-2108.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Applications for Elk Hunt Begin May 1

Brent Hohenstein
LITTLE ROCK – If you want to go after an Arkansas elk, circle May 1 on your calendar. That’s the beginning of the application period for public land permits next fall in the Buffalo River country of northwest Arkansas.

Applications are accepted through the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s website, www.agfc.com, from 12 a.m. May 1 until 11:59 p.m. June 1. The total number of elk permits available for public draw will be set during the Commission’s May 17 meeting, he expects it to be the same number as last season. Twenty-six permits will be proposed for the online draw applications and an additional three permits will be reserved for onsite draws at the 21st Annual Buffalo River Elk Festival, June 23.

Applicants for Arkansas elk hunt permits must have a valid Resident Sportsman Hunting License or must be a holder of a Lifetime Sportsman’s Permit. Hunters under 16 (as of May 1, 2017) must enter their social security number to create an account and apply, unless they have not yet been assigned one by the U.S. government. Applicants must be 6 or older as of the beginning of the hunt to participate. Anyone with 12 or more violations points are ineligible to apply.

Visit https://ar-web.s3licensing.com/ to apply. Elk permits are listed under the WMA permit section of the licensing menu. Applications require a $5 nonrefundable processing fee, but no additional fees are required of hunters who successfully draw.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Plastic’s fantastic for the crappie spawn

CAMDEN – As crappie across the state are hitting their stride, many anglers are relying on the old faithful offering of a fathead minnow or “shiner” dangling from a size 2 Aberdeen hook. There’s no doubt that there’s nothing like the allure of a real meal to fish, but many anglers do just as well using soft-plastic imitations.

            South Arkansas crappie addict Andy Yung often forgoes the minnow in favor of a jig tipped with a plastic, although he’ll be the first to tell you live bait always has a place.

 “If you can’t get bit on live bait, you usually can’t get bit,” Yung said. “But there are times when plastic baits are just as effective.”

Yung, who happens to also be the fisheries supervisor for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission at the Camden Regional Office, says his switch to soft-plastics was more a matter of convenience.

“I really just wanted to skip the extra trip to the bait shop before fishing or dealing with minnows overnight and between trips,” Yung said. “I can keep some jigs, curly tails, tubes and shad bodies stashed just about anywhere and be ready to fish as soon as I get the urge. You can even keep a pack of your go-to baits for crappie in the glove box or console of the truck and have a rod in the back in case of a last-minute need to escape during the spawn.”

Yung says there are even times that an angler using artificial lures will out-produce live bait because they are more efficient. When fish are biting, baiting up with a fresh minnow can take much longer than simply dropping your jig back to the sweet spot of a brush pile or stump line. It’s also one more distraction that can cause you to drift right into the fish, spooking them.

            Another benefit over live bait is preventing waste at the end of the day. Many anglers think they’re not doing any harm to a lake by dumping their bucket of minnows into its waters at the end of the day, but the best practice to dispose of live bait is to drain the water and empty the minnows on land.

            “It really seems cruel to just dump the minnows like that, but it’s what’s best for the lake,” Yung said. “Diseases like Largemouth Bass Virus and invasive species like silver carp and white perch (an invasive that has done damage to some Midwest fish populations) can be spread by such bait bucket stockings. Round gobies in the Great Lakes are other non-native bait bucket transplants that have really altered the lakes they’ve been introduced to.”           

Yung says he actually didn’t get to do much spring fishing when he was growing up, because he lived on a farm in northern Illinois. Spring and fall were extremely busy, so his fishing often had to take a backseat until the dog days of summer.

            “I learned to fish for crappie at one of the worst times to fish for them, but I think it made me better at figuring them out,” Yung said. “Crappie fishing is probably my favorite thing to do, so when I joined (the AGFC) I jumped on the crappie management team as fast as I could.”

            So what is the one soft-plastic bait Yung will never be caught without?

            “Different lakes and water clarities may call for different colors and lure styles, but I’ve always got the most confidence in black and chartreuse and in shad-style bodies like Panfish Assassins and Bobby Garland Baby Shads,” Yung says. “It’s like the black-and-blue bass jig for bass anglers, and it’s likely going to catch a random redear sunfish or bluegill to throw in the fish basket, too.”

            If Yung doesn’t see success with the black/chartreuse shad body, he’s also apt to try a Crappie Slider, especially if the water is clear and he’s casting to spots instead of dropping straight down on the fish.

            “Lakes like Columbia near Magnolia can get super clear; I’ve seen fish spawning 8 to 10 feet deep there,” Yung said. “If it’s like that, I want to cast that Slider and retrieve it back slowly. But lakes like (Mike Knoedl) Tri-County Lake near Fordyce have enough stain to get closer. I’ve caught crappie dropping straight down on them over fish attractors in 10 to 12 feet of water.”

Above all, Yung says the key to crappie is to keep at it. You may slay the fish one day, only to have them develop lockjaw the next, or even shut down midway through your day. To you, nothing may have changed, but something changed to them to shift their attitude.

“Change up colors and keep plugging until you find out what they want for that day,” Yung said. “It can be frustrating even to veteran anglers, but figuring out the pattern they want is one of the best feelings in fishing.”

‘Big Catch’ fishing derby and clinic returns for third year

LITTLE ROCK – The largest community fishing event in Arkansas kicks off at 9 a.m., Saturday, April 21 at MacArthur Park in Little Rock, and it’s absolutely free. Join the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Family and Community Fishing Program and Community First Alliance, Inc. at this spring’s “Big Catch” day of fun, food, fishing and prizes for the entire family.

In addition to a pond stocked with keeper-sized catfish, families can enjoy archery and BB gun shooting, compliments of the AGFC. Prizes will be given out for fish caught during the event, and the first 200 kids 12 and under to register will receive a grab bag when they arrive.

“The Arkansas Travellers will be there, and participants can win free Travellers tickets while they’re there,” said Maurice Jackson, FCFP coordinator for the AGFC. “We’ll also give out gift cards for groceries, thanks to the Food Giant in Otter Creek.”

Free health screenings will be offered, and the Pulaski Tech Culinary School will be on hand to show participants how to clean and cook the fish they catch at the derby to enjoy a healthy fish dinner.

“The fish you catch at a FCFP derby are the same quality you’d buy at the store, and there’s just something special about cooking your own catch that makes it taste a little sweeter,” Jackson said.

Hunters Feeding the Hungry will be available with other wild game treats for participants to sample and will offer some easy ways to cook some of Arkansas’s most popular game animal – white-tailed deer.

The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff’s bass fishing team will provide some loaner fishing tackle on a first-come, first-served basis but attendees are encouraged to bring their own tackle, chairs, coolers and favorite catfish bait.

“Catfish aren’t picky at all,” Jackson said. “You can use worms, prepared catfish baits, or even cut up chunks of hot dog in a pinch. Of course, prepared stink baits are usually very productive at the derbies and only cost a dollar or two at the store.”

Thanks to the many other sponsors of the event, lunch also will be provided for all registered participants.

“You can register two ways this year,” Jackson said. “We’ll be registering folks onsite beginning at 8:30 that morning, or you can register online at www.c1a.life. People are welcome to join us any time during the day, but we’ll have music, food, a community health fair and plenty of other activities to keep people busy all day long.”

If you don’t already know how to fish, don’t let that stop you from joining in on the fun. A special fishing clinic will be held at 6 p.m. this Thursday at the Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center to learn the basics.

Clint Coleman, FCFP assistant coordinator, says anyone apprehensive about fishing should come out and get a crash course in fishing at the clinic. AGFC staff will give instructions on how to cast, tie knots and choose the right baits to catch fish during the derby.

“People try to make fishing too complicated; it’s as easy as learning to tie a knot and cast a rod,” Coleman said. “The rod’s even optional if you just want to fish with a cane pole. Fishing is one of those things anyone can do, and knowing the basics ahead of time will let you focus on all the fun we’re going to have at the event.”

The workshop also is free, but registration is required. Call 501-907-0636 to register.