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story.lead_photo.caption Bobby Martin of Rogers, on the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission panel of commissioners, responds to a question Tuesday night at the Jones Center in Springdale. - Photo by Flip Putthoff

SPRINGDALE -- Questions ranged from live bait for fishing to duck hunting to the need for a shooting range in Northwest Arkansas during a town hall meeting Tuesday in Springdale hosted by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

About 100 people attended the evening meeting at The Jones Center in Springdale, along with Game and Fish commissioners, wildlife and fisheries biologists, wildlife officers and commission staff.

Don Andreasen, a striped-bass fishing guide at Beaver Lake for 39 years, questioned a recent Game and Fish regulation prohibiting transferring bait fish or crawfish from one body of water to another. Many striped-bass anglers at Beaver Lake use 3- to 4-inch threadfin shad or larger gizzard shad to catch stripers. Both are considered bait fish. Before the regulation, striper anglers often caught shad in lakes where they are more abundant and used them in Beaver Lake.

Andreasen said the regulation hurts the area's striper fishing industry because it's harder to obtain suitable live bait and catch rates are lower for their customers.

Ford Overton, chairman of the Game and Fish commission, said the reason for the regulation is to prevent introducing Asian carp and other invasive species into Beaver Lake.

"The No. 1 thing is to protect the resource based on facts and data to prevent the spread of Asian carp," Overton said. The fisheries staff recommended the regulation the commissioners passed.

Bobby Martin, a commissioner from Rogers, said the vote was a difficult one, but is meant to protect Beaver Lake. When Asian carp take hold in a body of water, the entire food chain can collapse and destroy game fishing, a fisheries staff member noted.

One questioner voiced concern about a decline in the sale of hunting licenses nationwide and the need for a Game and Fish public shooting range in this heavily populated part of the state. He added "a hunter who can't shoot straight" because there is nowhere to practice "is an unethical hunter."

Martin said a shooting range in Northwest Arkansas is a "top priority" for Game and Fish. The agency has looked at four sites in the area, including one at Lake Wedington. "Finding a site, getting it open and getting it running is a challenge," Martin said.

Tabbi Kinion, Game and Fish chief of education, said a range site must meet certain criteria. It needs to be 150 to 200 acres, have the right geography and have the approval of neighboring property owners for it to be built.

She said Siloam Springs offered to partner with Game and Fish to build a range there. Possible sites were visited but none was suitable for a shooting range, she said.

A waterfowl hunter asked if the commissioners would consider allowing duck hunting season to start later and run longer into the year. Cold weather that pushes high numbers of ducks into Arkansas comes after the season closes in January, the hunter said.

A commissioner said the federal government sets parameters for duck season and Arkansas is required to close its season by Jan. 31. Fewer ducks came to Arkansas last season, he said, because the weather was warm enough north of the state ducks didn't need to migrate this far south to find food and unfrozen water.

An angler voiced concern about the number of bass tournaments at Beaver Lake. Many are held at Prairie Creek park and hundreds of fish are released back into the lake at the park after the fish are weighed. A catch and release boat that lets bass go at other areas of the lake is needed, he said.

NW News on 04/24/2019

Print Headline: Game, Fish queried by anglers, hunters at town hall

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