LITTLE ROCK (AGFC) – The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission unanimously voted to allow the harvest of feral hogs during firearms deer, bear or elk seasons on AGFC-managed wildlife management areas during its meeting Nov. 17.
During the May 2016 Commission meeting, commissioners voted to eliminate all feral hog hunting on AGFC-owned WMAs. The regulation was placed to remove the incentive for any future illegal releases of hogs on public land in Arkansas.
"We continue to catch feral hogs that have ear notches, tags or other marks that indicate illegal releases or escapes are still occurring on or near our WMAs," said J.P. Fairhead, AGFC feral hog program coordinator. "By eliminating the opportunity for people to go back and hunt hogs on these properties, we hoped to remove the motivation behind these releases."
The regulation also was put in place to help prevent disturbance to areas with heavy hog activity while AGFC staff conducted trapping efforts to catch hogs in large groups. Added hunting pressure on hogs can make them extremely wary and scatter them, pushing the problem to neighboring landowners and making capture of the hogs very difficult.
However, not all WMAs were included in the ban. Many WMAs owned by federal agencies are managed cooperatively with the AGFC for wildlife, and these areas still allowed the harvest of feral hogs during firearms deer, bear or elk seasons.
"I think we still have some work to do explaining the reasoning behind the hog ban on WMAs," said AGFC Director Jeff Crow. "We do plan on presenting the ban on all feral hog hunting again in 2019, but for now the Commission has decided to allow shooting of feral hogs on all WMAs during a firearms deer, bear or elk season."
Commissioners also voted unanimously to approve new regulations regarding trout fishing on the Little Red River below Greers Ferry Lake.
The following changes were adopted to help protect the world-famous trout fishery in Heber Springs and will go into effect Jan. 1, 2017:
• Replaced the 16-24 inch protected slot limit for all trout species on Greers Ferry Tailwater with a five-fish daily limit with only one trout over 16 inches allowed to be retained.
• Enactment of a no culling regulation for all trout species on the Greers Ferry Tailwater.
• Allow mobility-impaired anglers to fish on Collins Creek downstream of the wooden vehicle bridge in JFK Park.
• Convert the JFK and Mossy special regulations areas into year-round catch-and-release areas.
• Convert the Cow Shoals Seasonal Catch-and-Release Area into a year-round catch-and-release area.
• Clarification of fishing times at Cow Shoals Catch-and Release Area to allow fishing only from 30 minutes before sunrise until 30 minutes after sunset.
In other business, the Commission:
• Officially changed the name of Tri-County Lake in Calhoun County to Mike Knoedl Tri-County Lake.
• Recognized Mathew Irvin, Stream Team coordinator in the AGFC Russellville Regional Office, for being awarded the 2016 Mike Freeze Excellence in Fisheries Conservation Award.
• Recognized Rachel Spaulding, Fisheries office manager in the AGFC Little Rock Headquarters, for being awarded the 2016 Fisheries Technical/Administrative Employee of the Year Award.
• Approved a budget increase of $1 million for Fiscal Year 2017 vehicle purchases.
• Approved a budget increase of $1 million for Fiscal Year 2017 capital equipment purchases.
• Approved the acquisition of 56.82 acres in Craighead County to be added to the St. Francis Sunken Lands Wildlife Management Area at a cost of $56,000.
• Awarded retiring wildlife officer, Major Andy Tackett, his service firearm and removed two additional firearms assigned to him from inventory for him to purchase.
• Recognized 11 employees with a total of 85 years of service for their commitment to the people and natural resources of Arkansas.
• Approved the removal of equipment and inventory with an original value of $1,792,464.31 and a current net book value of $54,819.21.
• Approved permanent easements totaling 0.82 acres on Holland Bottoms WMA to the Arkansas State Highway Commission for permanent drainage and right of entry to perform necessary work.
• Revised the AGFC's employee housing policy on commission-owned property.
• Approved updates to the 2016-17 capital asset master list.
• Heard a report on the 2016 Arkansas alligator season results.