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Monday, May 22, 2017, 2:36 p.m.

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ARKANSAS SPORTSMAN

AGFC proposes rules on fish bait

By Bryan Hendricks

This article was published May 18, 2017 at 2:34 a.m.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is considering several new hunting and fishing regulations to address timely topics.

A late fishing regulation proposal that will regulate the use of live, wild-caught bait to inhibit the spread of nuisance aquatic species.

The proposed new regulation reads: "It is unlawful to use wild caught baitfish unless the bait was caught within the water body being fished or in its watershed above the lake."

It will be a Class 2 violation, and the commission will vote on it in July.

Anglers will be particularly interested in the vagaries of this regulation. For example, it will enable you to catch baitfish in Lake Catherine and use it in Lake Hamilton, but you can't use baitfish caught in Lake Hamilton at Lake Catherine, which is downstream from Hamilton.

Likewise, it will prohibit transporting baitfish caught in one watershed to different watersheds. For example, you won't be able to catch shad or other baitfish in the Arkansas River to use for striper bait in Lake Ouachita or Beaver Lake. It also will prohibit catching crawdads from a creek in Saline County and using them for bait on Crooked Creek or the Buffalo River.

The regulation will not prevent anglers from transporting farm-raised bait purchased from licensed bait dealers.

Bill Posey, a Game and Fish Commission fisheries biologist, said the regulation is designed to prevent the spread of silver carp, bighead carp and black carp.

"Dams are favorite harvest locations because shad and other baitfish aggregate below dams," Posey said. "The Arkansas River has silver carp, and young-of-the-year silver carp can be in the same area."

Young silver carp can easily be mistaken for gizzard shad, Posey said. He displayed a slide showing young gizzard shad and various carps. They are distinguishable in proper light in certain numbers, Posey acknowledged, but it would be easy to overlook undesirable invasive species in a seine containing scores of fish at night or in low light.

Posey said accidental introductions aren't limited to carp. They also can include yellow bass, zebra mussels and Asian clams, as well as nuisance aquatic plants like alligator weed and water hyacinth.

For hunting, the commission's wildlife management division proposed new regulations that will affect non-resident waterfowl hunters on commission-owned wildlife management areas.

The proposals are related. One will eliminate the annual non-resident WMA waterfowl permit. That $100 permit entitles holders to hunt the entire duck season on any wildlife management area they choose.

The second proposal will reconfigure the non-resident WMA Waterfowl 5-Day Permit. The new five-day permit will be specific to only one wildlife management area. Non-resident duck hunters will be allowed to purchase no more than six five-day permits, which will limit their hunting on wildlife management areas to a maximum of 30 days.

The current five-day WMA permit costs $25. The new version will cost $30.50.

The commission's wildlife management division recently surveyed 2,090 resident and 917 non-resident duck hunters about these proposals.

According to the survey, 84 percent of residents approved of making the five-day permit specific to one WMA, and 80 percent of non-residents opposed it.

Likewise, 72 percent of Arkansas residents approved of limiting the number of 5-day WMA permits that non-residents may buy, and 80 percent of non-residents opposed it.

Interestingly, 75 percent of residents approved of increasing the fee for the five-day non-resident WMA waterfowl permit, and 43 percent of non-residents supported it.

Eliminating the annual non-resident WMA permit and restructuring the five-day non-resident WMA permit favors resident hunters who complain about the diminished quality of hunting on greentree reservoirs due to overcrowding.

The commission's legal division researched legal precedents and related policies in other states. Jim Goodhart, its chief counsel, briefed the commission on its options in February. He said the commission was on firm legal ground to adopt policies that give preferential treatment to residents.

Other states favor resident hunters regarding access to their most valuable resources, such as elk, mountain goat, moose and bighorn sheep.

Arkansas is not limiting non-resident access to waterfowl, which are migratory and ephemeral. It merely seeks to limit access to public places where waterfowl concentrate for the winter.

The commission will vote on the proposal June 15.

Sports on 05/18/2017

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Jfish says... May 18, 2017 at 8:47 a.m.

Limiting bait to prevent the spread of silver carp is like closing the barn door after the horses have left. Much larger and broader solutions should be considered and implemented if there is to be any hope of eradicating or controlling them.

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