Late migratory bird seasons set by Commission

LITTLE ROCK - For the 13th consecutive season, waterfowlers in Arkansas will have a 60-day season to pursue their passion. Waterfowl season was set by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission at today's monthly meeting at the agency's headquarters in Little Rock.

Duck season dates are Nov. 21-Nov. 29, Dec. 10-Dec. 23 and Dec. 26-Jan. 31. The youth waterfowl hunt will be Dec. 5-6. The statewide Canada goose season will be Sept. 1-15 (bag limit five) and Jan. 10-Feb. 1 (bag limit two).

Duck bag limits will be no more than 6 ducks consisting of:

4 mallards

3 wood ducks

2 redheads

1 black duck

1 pintail

1 canvasback

1 mottled duck

2 scaup

Bag limits on Bayou Meto WMA were changed to allow two mallard hens instead of one and three wood ducks instead of two. The daily bag limit remains at four ducks with no more than three mallards on Bayou Meto.

Northwest Canada goose zone season will be Sept. 26-Oct. 5 with a bag limit of 2 geese. The statewide Canada goose season will be Sept. 1-15 with a bag limit of 5 geese and Dec. 26-Jan. 31 with a bag limit of 2 geese.

White-fronted goose season will be Nov. 14-Dec. 5, Dec. 12-Dec. 24 and Dec. 26-Jan. 31 with a bag limit of 2 geese. Snow, blue and Ross' goose season is Nov. 7-Dec. 24 and Dec. 26-Jan. 31 with a bag limit of 20 geese. The Snow Goose Conservation Order will be Feb. 1-April 25, 2010 with no bag limit.

A proposal to restrict boat motors to 25 horsepower on several WMAs around the state was tabled. One amendment to the proposal was offered by Commissioner George Dunklin. His amendment would allow boats on the Henry Gray Hurricane Lake and Rex Hancock Black Swamp WMAs with up to 50 horsepower motors. The commission did approve a regulation restricting boats from the Government Cypress Greentree Reservoir within Bayou Meto WMA.

AGFC trout biologist Jeff Williams made a lengthy presentation on the 2010 trout fishing proposed regulations. The main topic that Williams covered was a proposed expansion of the catch-and-release area on the North Fork River from 1 mile to 2.6 miles in length.

Williams told the commission that public meetings held since 2007 indicated that anglers on the river desired larger trout. Williams also pointed out that angling pressure on the North Fork is three times higher than any other trout water in the state. "There are over 41,000 angling hours per mile on the Norfork Tailwaters as compared to just over  11,800 angling hours per mile on the Bull Shoals Tailwater," Williams explained.

Commissioner Ron Pierce said that he would like the south end of the catch-and-release area moved back closer to the Bill Ackerman Access Area on the North Fork. Commissioners will vote on the proposals at their September meeting.

In other business, the Commission heard a proposal by Commissioner Emon Mahony to close the 2009 fall firearms and archery turkey hunting seasons.

When speaking about the recent decline in turkey harvest, Mahony said, "We've had low preliminary poult counts and the only remedy of which I am aware is to restrict the harvest."

The proposal will be voted on at the Commission's September meeting.

The Commission voted to take no action on the requested restriction of turtle harvest in Arkansas until sufficient research on the impact of commercial harvest in Arkansas and the accumulation of toxins in Arkansas turtles could be completed. The request was originally filed by a coalition including the Arkansas River Coalition, the Audubon Society of Central Arkansas, Center for Biological Diversity, the Center for Food Safety, the Center for North American Herpetology, and the Center for Reptile and Amphibian Conservation and Management.

The Commission also renamed Choctaw Island Wildlife Management Area to Freddie Black Choctaw Island WMA and Deer Research Area. The WMA lies in southeastern Arkansas and is the only AGFC-owned land between the levees of the Mississippi River. It was named for former commissioner Freddie Black in honor of his service to the Commission. During Black's tenure, the AGFC launched a successful shooting sports program, National Archery in the Schools Program and procured many new hunting lands for the public, including Choctaw Island.