The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission heard the first reading of proposed changes to trout fishing regulations on the Bull Shoals and Norfork tailwaters to meet shifting perceptions and desires of anglers on those fisheries at today’s meeting.
At a briefing held Wednesday, Christy Graham, AGFC Trout Program coordinator, explained the extensive public input process that went into the formation of these proposals.
“The regulations are only a part of our Bull Shoals and Norfork Tailwaters Fisheries Management Plans that are reviewed and adapted every few years,” Graham said. “This is a process that has gone on since 2004, and includes creel surveys, angler interviews, mail surveys and focus groups to determine what the fishing public wants out of these trout fisheries.”
Graham said the latest review of the plans included two public workshops in Mountain Home which were advertised via social media, online newsletters and radio ads. More than 100 participants attended the workshops to speak about changes they would like to see in the fishery. These responses were then combined with public input from mail-in surveys and creel surveys and compared to biological data to determine what regulations and management strategies would yield the best result of what is biologically sustainable and matches the public’s interests.
“We listed possible regulations and strategies at a second public meeting in late August where attendees were able to give input on which strategies were most acceptable,” Graham said. “We also reached out to all who attended the first meeting to attempt to get their input, whether they attended the second meeting or not.”
The following recommendations have been presented to the Commission for consideration:
Restrict the harvest of trout on Bull Shoals and Norfork tailwaters to five trout, but only one fish per day being longer than 14 inches.
Reduce the daily limit on cutthroat trout on Bull Shoals and Norfork tailwaters from two fish to one and increase the minimum length of cutthroats from 16 inches to 24 inches.
Reduce the daily limit on brook trout on Bull Shoals and Norfork tailwaters from two fish to one.
Enact a five-fish limit on rainbow trout with only one of those being longer than 14 inches.
Restrict the number of hooking points when using bait on Bull Shoals and Norfork tailwaters to a single hooking point.
Remove the Monkey Island Catch-and-Release Area on Bull Shoals Tailwater.
Extend the length of Rim Shoals Catch-and-Release Area approximately two miles downstream on Bull Shoals.
The Commission also heard the first reading of a proposed temporary commercial fishing season on Old River Lake in Pulaski County. The season would run from Dec. 1, 2017 through Feb. 28, 2018, and commercial anglers would need to receive a permit from the local fisheries biologist to participate. The goal of the season is to reduce the abundant rough fish in the lake, such as buffalo and gar, to reduce competition for space and resources with sport fish populations in the lake.
The trout and commercial fishing season regulations are available for public comment on a survey at https://survey.agfc.com/index.php?r=survey/index&sid=189717&lang=en.
The Commission will hold a special meeting with a tentative date of Nov. 21, to review public comments and vote on these proposed regulations.
In other business, the Commission:
Formally accepted the resignation of AGFC Director Jeff Crow, pending the announcement and hiring of his successor, or Feb. 28, 2018, whichever comes first.
Approved the initiation of the following construction projects:
A work center facility at Bayou Meto, including staff offices, heavy equipment storage, equipment workshop and support areas.
An educational facility at the Dr. James E. Moore Jr. Camp Robinson Firing Range to house office space, equipment storage and classrooms for Hunter Education, the Arkansas National Archery in the Schools Program and other educational programming.
The extension of a water line from the Camp Robinson SUA main facility to the firing range to tie the range into city water.
Approved a minute order naming the new access to Salado Creek in Independence County to the Kramer Access on Salado Creek in honor of the family who donated 1.9 acres needed to create the public fishing and boating access.
Approved a budget increase of $800,000 to be used in development of the agency’s Hunter and Angler Recruitment, Retention and Reactivation initiative.
Recognized Chad Wicker, assistant hatchery manager at the AGFC’s Joe Hogan State Fish Hatchery in Lonoke, for his recent recognition as the Mike Freeze Biologist of the Year.
Recognized Dean Smith, Natural Resources Program Technician at the AGFC’s Joe Hogan State Fish Hatchery in Lonoke, for his recent recognition as the Fisheries Division Technical Employee of the Year.
Approved the removal of outdated and obsolete inventory with an original cost of $349,911 and a current net book value of $20,470.
Recognized 20 employees with a total of 200 years of service for their commitment to the people and natural resources of Arkansas.