Here are a couple of stories from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission that came across our wires this morning.
Lake Maumelle Gets Bonus Bream Stocking
LITTLE ROCK – Bass and crappie received a boost in Lake Maumelle, thanks to a donation from a Lonoke commercial fish hatchery to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. Early last Thursday morning (March 12), personnel from the AGFC’s Joe Hogan Fish Hatchery in Lonoke stocked 290,000 redear sunfish fingerlings into the lake.
The redear, about 2.5 to 3 inches in length, were donated by J.M. Malone and Son Inc. of Lonoke. The delivery on March 12 was the first of two from a 20-acre nursery pond at the Malone commercial hatchery, containing an estimated 6,000 pounds of fingerlings. Last week’s stocking was about half that total, according to Tommy Laird, assistant chief of the AGFC Fisheries Division over fish culture. Laird said the second stocking may be this week, though no date had been finalized.
Jason Miller, the Hogan hatchery manager, said of last week’s stocking, “When we arrived at Lake Maumelle, there had been a big water temperature change in the lake, so we tempered the redear in our three trucks before stocking them.” Miller was assisted last week by Hogan hatchery technicians Robert Peterson, Clay Rushton, and Coleson Cowart.
Tempering required pumping lake water onto the fingerlings in each truck to ease them up to handle the move into Lake Maumelle, promoting higher survival.
Miller said it takes about 2 years for the redear to grow into the usual “keeper” size. For now, Lake Maumelle’s bass and crappie will enjoy their presence.
The fingerlings will mainly serve as forage for bass and crappie in Lake Maumelle and, it’s hoped, grow bigger fish for anglers, according to AGFC biologist Justin Homan, whose lake management for the agency includes the Lake Maumelle fishery. Eventually, Homan added, fingerlings that aren’t gobbled by the predator fish will grow into nice-size redear, which anglers find fun to catch and to take home for the dinner plate.
Homan said, “We could have put them anywhere, but Lake Maumelle is one of those places we’ve identified where the bass and crappie forage is limited. Stocking redear fingerlings is a good forage source.”
Homan said the AGFC may get a donation like this once a year from a commercial fish hatchery. “Oh yeah, any extra that we can receive from other sources helps,” Homan said. “It was certainly unexpected, it doesn’t happen often. The Hogan hatchery also raises redear that we stock in other lakes.”
Homan said the AGFC also stocks threadfin shad into Lake Maumelle every year. Every other year, the stockings come through the nursery pond the AGFC manages across Arkansas Highway 10 from the lake. The lake receives direct stockings on years when the nursery pond is not available.
“We plan to stock shad from our hatchery sources during the years when we won’t be able to raise a crop in the nursery pond to get an annual stocking of shad in the lake, so we’ve been looking to get more forage out there,” Homan said. “From our creel surveys at Maumelle, most anglers are fishing for crappie, bass, and sunfish. That’s what we’re focusing on in our management plan.
“Condition of predatory fish has been less than ideal there,” Homan said. “However, numbers-wise for bass and crappie, those have been pretty good lately. I’ve seen tournament reports of 20-pound stringers and large bass being caught, and several bass and crappie being caught. We’ve had some high-water years there recently, like we have had at Greers Ferry Lake and Bull Shoals Lake, and high-water years are good for reproduction.”
Now, those growing bass and crappie will have more prey species to feast upon.
Partnership promotes quail at Petit Jean
DANVILLE — The Yell County Wildlife Federation, Arkansas Tech University Fisheries and Wildlife Society and Arkansas Game and Fish Commission recently combined efforts to pave the way for better habitat on Petit Jean River Wildlife Management Area in Yell County. The team gathered for a day of work Feb. 22, removing undesirable trees on both openlands and forested areas to aid in habitat management on the area.
Craig Davis, senior technician assigned to Petit Jean River WMA, says the work done by many hands has helped wildlife management on the area tremendously.
“We had 18 volunteers come out with axes, bow saws, trimmers, and chainsaws to remove these undesirable trees and brush from some of our open land habitats,” Davis said. “They worked from 8 a.m. to noon on a Saturday and then had a great meal provided by the YCWF.”
Volunteers worked under the supervision of Drake Cooper, an AGFC technician who works regularly on the WMA.
At 15,542 acres, Petit Jean River WMA represents the largest remaining expanse of bottomland hardwood forest in the Arkansas River Valley. The area also includes many acres of uplands filled with pine and hardwoods typically found in the Ouachita Mountains. The combination of rich delta-like soils and rocky elevation changes creates an interesting combination of habitat types filled with diverse vegetation and wildlife. According to Davis, bottomlands and forested areas are plentiful, so maintaining open habitat that provides food and cover for deer, rabbits, Neotropical migratory birds, and northern bobwhite is a priority.
“We strive to keep the area as diverse as possible,” Davis said. “So regular use of prescribed fire and removal of undesirable tree species is important. With the fertile soils here, we have to burn very regularly to keep up, and this work will help us stay on track.”
Davis says the partnership between AGFC, YCWF and Arkansas Tech has been doing great work for the last five years. Each year, the students and wildlife federation volunteers ask what they can do to help, and each year they accomplish a new goal at the WMA.
“Over the past five years they’ve helped with planting trees to create a buffer between open areas and roads, helped maintain existing gates and install gate posts to prevent people from driving trucks and abusing handicapped-accessible trails and cleared fire lanes to help prepare the area for prescribed fire treatments,” Davis said. “I can’t begin to tell you how much we appreciate their partnership on the WMA. James Manatt, and the Yell County Wildlife Federation also has been instrumental in reaching out to contacts in the community to help us with our CWD efforts and identifying landowners who would be willing to improve habitat on their property through private lands biologists.”