Game and fish report of March 18

FELSENTHAL, Ark. (AP) - 2 of the most significant assets of Beryl Anthony Lower Ouachita Wildlife Management Area aren't always apparent.

It is 7,020 acres of prime bottomland hardwoods, and this is the type land that makes Arkansas a national leader in management of wetlands wildlife habitat.

1 of its strong points is location. Beryl Anthony Lower Ouachita is a key link, the center piece, in the south Arkansas-north Louisiana wetlands chain along the Ouachita River. Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge joins it to the north. Upper Ouachita National Wildlife Refuge joins it on the south, with the Louisiana state line separating the two tracts. Combined, the three provide major wintering grounds for ducks and other migrating birds.

Another feature of Beryl Anthony Lower Ouachita is its aesthetics. Biologist Brady Baker of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission summed it up by saying, "This is a pristine area. It is just beautiful."

Bottomland oaks, tall pines and many old cypress trees lead the varied forests of the management area, which is on both sides of the Ouachita River. About half is in Union County and half in Ashley County. Nearest towns are Felsenthal and Huttig on the Union County side, and the northern boundary of the WMA is within a stone's throw of Felsenthal Dam.

The dam with its lock was 1 of several built on the Ouachita River to allow barge traffic. An effect of the dam was flooding of the lowlands to the north, the area where the Saline River joins the Ouachita at the three-way merger of Union, Ashley and Bradley counties.

When the need for a link between the two federal refuges was realized, the Game and Fish Commission stepped in and bought the land for a management area, paying it out over several years. The management area was named for Beryl Anthony Sr., a former AGFC commissioner and long-time leader in south Arkansas's lumber industry.

Deer and turkeys live on the WMA, along with squirrels, other small game plus raccoons and other furbearers. In late fall and winter, when water is backed into the hardwood bottoms, the ducks come in good numbers. If water isn't up, the ducks are virtually absent.

Management of hardwood timber is a focus for the AGFC. To sustain the habitat, the work protects the existing young hardwood forest from disease and from year-round inundation caused by beavers and their dams, Baker said.

Access to the WMA is limited. A gravel road runs south from Felsenthal Dam along the Ouachita River on the west half of the WMA. Visitors who have found ways to get around often go to Steep Bank Creek on the Union County side, an area of old cypress trees and some surprisingly productive fishing.

Because of the difficulty in travel, deer hunting is mostly by area residents. Beryl Anthony Lower Ouachita is heavily used by waterfowl, so hunters going after squirrel and other small game are required to use only non-toxic loads, like steel, in their shotguns.

Songbirds, both resident and migrating, are abundant in the management area. Baker said a special attraction for bird enthusiasts is the large number of prothonotary warblers, the brilliant yellow and black wetland dwellers.

A boat launching ramp is at Felsenthal Dam on the Union County side, and small boats are launched on primitive dirt ramps at several other points on the river. There are two designated primitive camping areas along the access road on the west side of the WMA.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - While many people know that Arkansas bats mostly live in trees in the summer and either hibernate in caves or migrate south for the winter, not many have heard that several bat species have been found living in old, hand-dug water wells and cisterns in south Arkansas.

1 of these is the Rafinesque's big-eared bat, which sleeps in hollow trees or abandoned houses in bottomland hardwood forests during the summer, but often moves to old wells in the winter. Because of the soil around these deep shafts, temperatures inside the wells are usually relatively warm, making it a good place for this species to find refuge when night-time temperatures dip below 40 degrees.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is working to protect wells and cisterns used by bats. Last fall, in conjunction with Bat Conservation International, the AGFC installed steel covers on three wells on private land in Lafayette and Nevada counties that keep people from falling in or throwing trash down the wells while still making it possible for the bats to use them.

Landowners with large, old water wells or cisterns in southern Arkansas that would be interested in having covers placed on these wells at no charge should contact Blake Sasse, (877) 470-3650.

GREERS FERRY, Ark. (AP) - Old Christmas trees, just like yesterday's newspapers, can be recycled for beneficial additional uses.

At Greers Ferry Lake, fish habitat has received a boost from the cooperative effort of public agencies and volunteers. Christmas trees, weeks after the holiday, have been bundled and put into the lake to provide refuge to young fish and baitfish, while creating prime areas for anglers for years to come.

Matt Schroeder, district fisheries biologist for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, said Harold McFarlin of Heber Springs donated about 500 Christmas trees for use as fish habitat on Greers Ferry Lake

Getting the trees was the first step. Some intensive labor came next in tying the trees into bunches, loading them on a special vessel then sinking them in three areas that fisheries biologists found needing additional habitat underwater.

Schroder and fellow AGFC staff members Tom Bly, Matt Horton, Mike Story, and Mike Shamoon joined Jason Presley, Jeff Price, David Shoults and Bill Fulford of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and members of the Greers Ferry Bassmasters, Tim Marshall, Jeff Stevenson and Rick Cothren, to complete the project.

A key tool was a front-loading dump barge donated by Bass Pro and also used for habitat work on Beaver Lake, Table Rock Lake, Bull Shoals Lake, and Lake Norfork.

The 500 Christmas trees were placed in groups of 20 near three access areas on the lake for a total of 25 brush piles. The Sandy Beach, Devil's Fork and Frontier Canyon areas received eight, 10, and seven brush piles, respectively.

The positions of these brush piles were logged with Global Positioning System (GPS) units by the crews and will be available to the public through the Corps of Engineers.

The clusters of trees under the water provide shelter for newly born fish and also for minnows and shad that are food fish for bass, crappie, walleye and other game species in Greers Ferry Lake. The trees are far enough below the surface so they don't interfere with boat traffic, even when the lake is low.

Over 176,000 fish stocked in state's waters LITTLE ROCK Arkansas Game and Fish Commission crews stocked over 176,600 fish in Arkansas lakes and rivers during February, according to Mike Armstrong, chief of fisheries. The total stocking of fish weighed in excess of 90,800 pounds.

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