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 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.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Public comment survey still available at

      LITTLE ROCK – It’s not too late to make sure your voice is heard on the public comment survey concerning recommended changes to the 2018-19 hunting season.

      While many changes are simple wording clarifications, many changes are in an effort to increase hunting opportunities.

      “More than 40 percent of the staff recommendations expand hunting opportunities, and 46 percent are clarifications to code language,” said AGFC Director Pat Fitts. “We really want to focus on offering more to our hunters and remove some of the roadblocks to hunting.”

      Staff recommended opening Alligator Zone 2 (south-central Arkansas) to the annual alligator hunt and making clarifications to the code for possession of alligators and alligator hunting permit requirements.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Splitting Hairs Over Bears

HOT SPRINGS - This summer, researchers from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and the University of Arkansas at Monticello will attempt to determine whether bear zone 4, in the Gulf Coastal Plain of southern Arkansas, will join the state’s four bear zones open for hunting.

“What we hope to see from this information is whether there’s a sustainable population,” said Myron Means, AGFC Large Carnivore Program coordinator. “If it is, we’ll proceed with a hunt.”

For a six-week period beginning July 1, researchers will set up “hair traps” to figure out population densities of bears. The traps are rings of barbed wire around trees, which are baited. As bears investigate the bait, they rub against the barbed wire, which snags hairs. The hairs then can be analyzed and DNA tested to determine how many bears visited each bait site. From there, biologists can estimate total populations in the area.

Beryl Anthony WMA Obtains New Acreage

CROSSETT - Hunters in south Arkansas soon will have more than 3,600 new acres of public land to pursue their passion, thanks to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s approval to purchase a large block of land bordering Beryl Anthony Lower Ouachita Wildlife Management Area at its March 22 meeting.

The land currently belongs to The Nature Conservancy, and will be purchased at a price of $4 million. It was appraised at $5.3 million, but TNC has agreed to the discounted price to be used as a match toward federal funds in the purchase. The entire cost of the purchase will be reimbursed by federal funds, so no state dollars will be required to secure this property for public hunting use.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Box Calls

LITTLE ROCK – Many turkey hunters wouldn’t dare step into the woods next week without a trusty box call tucked in their vest. It’s usually the first call young hunters will learn to use for this coming weekend. But few know that staple of the turkey woods originated right here in The Natural State.

Henry C. Gibson, a Dardanelle farmer and manager of the Western Arkansas Hedge and Wire Fence Company, received a patent for this most trusted and copied call design in 1897. Although the call was called the Gibson Box Call, one-half of the patent was given to John Boddie of Arkadelphia. Not much is known about their partnership, but Howard Harlan, author of "Turkey Calls: An Enduring American Folk Art," speculates that Boddie may have been Gibson’s financial backer. According to Harlan, Gibson was from a modest upbringing and would probably not have had the financial resources to market the call.

The keys to this call’s continued success are its simplicity and realism. Almost anyone can make all the sounds of a hen turkey with a box call and an hour or two of practice. Even hunters who can communicate in turkey talk with mouth calls rarely walk through the woods without their version of a “squawk box” tucked away in a vest pocket. When the wind is high, these friction calls produce loud, high-pitched sounds that pierce the wind better than diaphragms or yelpers.

According to his patent (No. 574,534), Gibson stated that the call’s sidewalls and bottom should be of the same thickness, and that the ends should be much thicker. The thin sidewalls and base are where the sound is actually produced. He also stated that cedar was the preferred construction material because of its natural oils and weather resistance, but he did not list exact dimensions – most likely to continue perfecting the call under the same patent. The original mass-marketed Gibson call is highly sought after – sometimes bringing thousands of dollars at auction – and is often the centerpiece of a turkey call enthusiast’s collection.

This article originally ran in Arkansas Wildlife Magazine, the official magazine of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. A yearly subscription costs only $12 and includes the award-winning July/July calendar featuring various species of Arkansas fish and wildlife.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

UAM Forestry Students Finish Third At 61st Southern Forestry Conclave

            MONTICELLO, AR — Forestry students from the University of Arkansas at Monticello finished third in competition with teams from 14 colleges and universities at the 61st annual Southern Forestry Conclave hosted recently by Abraham Baldwin College in Tifton, Ga.

          The annual test of technical and physical forestry schools brought competitors from UAM, Georgia, North Carolina State, Auburn, Florida, Clemson, LSU, Mississippi State, Tennessee, Virginia Tech, Alabama A&M, Louisiana Tech, Stephen F. Austin, and Abraham Baldwin. Students competed in 14 physical events, including axe throwing, cross cut sawing and pole climbing, and eight technical events, such as compass and pacing, tree estimation, pole classification and photogrammetry.

          Stephen F. Austin won the overall competition for the 14th time with Virginia Tech second and UAM third.  UAM students have dominated the competition since it began in 1958, winning 31 times, 17 more than SFA.

          In the technical competition, Tyler Raines of Warren won both the dendrology (tree and shrub identification) and wood identification events. In the physical events, UAM students placed in the top three in multiple categories. Justin Ballard of Camden was second in the axe throw and represented UAM in the Stihl Timbersports competition.

          Greg Craig of Mena finished first in birling and, along with his teammate John Marcus McDowell of Crosby, Miss., placed first in the chain throw.  McDowell also took third place in pole felling.  Mikaela Farmer of Randolph Center, Vt., and teammate Taylor Gydesen, from Elwood, Neb., finished second in the women’s crosscut competition.  Farmer also finished third in women’s bowsaw, an individual event, and, along with her teammate Caleb Wilson of Elwood, Neb., placed third in Jack-and-Jill crosscut.

          For more information, contact the School of Forestry and Natural Resources at (870) 460-1052.


Members of the UAM Forestry Club display their awards from the recent Conclave competition. Pictured from left are (first row) Tyler Raines, a junior forestry major from Warren, Kaitlyn Barnes, a sophomore education major from Warren, Mikaela Farmer, a junior agriculture business major from Randolph Center, Vt., Melissa Butler, a junior agriculture major from Horatio, (second row, from left) Taylor Gydesen, a junior nursing major from Elwood, Neb., Caleb Wilson, a junior forestry major from Elwood, Neb., Zach Abbott, a sophomore forestry major from El Dorado, Greg Craig, a junior forestry major from Mena, Justin Ballard, a senior land surveying major from Camden, and Brody Nosal, a junior forestry major from Sherwood.

PAST WINNERS / Association of Southern Forestry Clubs Conclave

1958  University of Georgia (1)

1959  University of Georgia (2)

1960  UAM (1)

1961  University of Georgia (3)

1962  University of Georgia (4)

1963 University of Georgia (5)

1964  North Carolina State (1)

1965  North Carolina State (2)

1966  Oklahoma State (1)

1967  UAM (2)

1968  UAM (3)

1969  UAM (4)

1970  North Carolina State (3)

1971  UAM (5)

1972  North Carolina State (4)

1973  UAM (6)

1974  UAM (7)

1975  UAM (8)

1976  UAM (9)

1977  Stephen F. Austin (1)

1978  UAM (10)

1979  UAM (11)

1980  Virginia Tech (1)

1981  Texas A&M (1)

1982  Virginia Tech (2)

1983  Virginia Tech (3)

1984  UAM (12)

1985  UAM (13)

1986  Stephen F. Austin (2)

1987  UAM (14)

1988  UAM (15)

1989  UAM (16)

1990  UAM (17)

1991  UAM (18)

1992  UAM (19)

1993  UAM (20)

1994  Stephen F. Austin (3)

1995  Stephen F. Austin (4)

1996  UAM (21)

1997  UAM (22)

1998  UAM (23)

1999 UAM (24)

2000  UAM (25)

2001  Stephen F. Austin (5)

2002  Stephen F. Austin (6)

2003  UAM (26)

2004  UAM (27)

2005  UAM (28)

2006  Stephen F. Austin (7)

2007  Stephen F. Austin (8)

2008  Stephen F.  Austin (9)

2009  UAM (29)

2010  UAM (30)

2011  UAM (31)

2012  Georgia (6)

2013  Stephen F. Austin (10)

2014  Stephen F. Austin (11)

2015  Stephen F. Austin (12)

2016  Clemson (1)

2017  Stephen F. Austin (13)

2018  Stephen F. Austin (14)

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James L. Brewer

Director of Media Services

University of Arkansas at Monticello

(870) 460-1274

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