By RANDY ZELLERS/Arkansas Game and Fish Commission
LITTLE ROCK – The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission unanimously voted at today’s regularly scheduled meeting to approve new changes to Arkansas’s regulations on recreational fishing, commercial fishing and aquaculture.
The recreational sportfishing regulations changes were announced to the Commission during its March meeting and were circulated in a public comment survey on the AGFC’s website beginning in March. The responses from that survey were then presented with official proposals during the Commission’s August Commission meeting.
Ben Batten, chief of the agency’s Fisheries Division, said 80 percent of the 46 regulations changes were clarifications, simplifications or reductions in current regulations. The other 20 percent were changes backed by scientific evidence or public input aimed at improving sportfish populations and angler experience.
A few notable changes include:
- Requiring boaters to remove drain plugs from vessels while being trailered to and from water bodies;
- Requiring trotlines and limblines to be checked every 48 hours or removed when not in use;
- Standardizing the number of free-fishing devices and yo-yos being used to 25 of each per person;
- Increasing the possession limit on fish from two daily limits to three daily limits.
- Removing rough fish gigging season dates an allow rough fish harvest by gig year-round;
- Removing the requirement to possess an alligator gar permit to fish for alligator gar (a Trophy Alligator Gar Tag is still required to keep alligator gar longer than 36 inches);
- Adding a 10-inch minimum length limit on crappie for Lake Dardanelle;
- Allowing 10 additional spotted bass to the daily limits for Ouachita, DeGray and Greeson lakes;
- Allowing twice the statewide limit of channel catfish on the Arkansas River, regardless of size, and
- Allowing unlimited recreational harvest of channel catfish on Lake Erling.
Changes to Arkansas’s commercial fishing and aquaculture regulations also were passed today. Surveys were sent to licensed commercial anglers for their comments to proposals presented to the Commission at its March meeting as well. While most regulations proposals remained unchanged, a proposal to eliminate commercial fishing on the entirety of the Strawberry River was modified to allow it only on the 13-mile stretch of the river from its mouth to Arkansas Highway 25.
Additionally, the Commission unanimously voted to approve the proposed reworking of Arkansas’s aquaculture codes to benefit the integrity of Arkansas’s aquaculture industry while protecting our natural resources. Staff worked with aquaculture producers in focus groups as well as online surveys before their official proposal to the Commission in August.
A complete list of changes is available at agfc.com/en/education/calendar/commission-meetings/monthly-commission-meeting-2020-10. All regulations will go into effect beginning Jan. 1, 2021.
Commissioners also heard the first reading of a proposed update to the Commission’s captive wildlife code to add 889 species of reptiles and amphibians to the unrestricted list and 49 species of reptiles and amphibians to the permitted list. The lists are available at https://drive.google.com/file/d/1jFh9oLlHpqLhImiPzTnFNCWC3v1LynJ5/view?usp=sharing and https://drive.google.com/file/d/1jIBlo8t0HiHWKgao3PJNHgoK-jc01cA8/view?usp=sharing.
In other business, the Commission:
- Recognized Danielle Havens, Stacey Clark and Cpl. Shannon “Mac” Davis as recipients of this year’s annual Campbell Awards for their dedicated service to conservation and their communities.
- Recognized Mike Harris with the AGFC’s George H. Dunklin Jr. Award for his work in conserving and promoting wetlands conservation and waterfowl management in Arkansas.
- Recognized Noah Wyatt with the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative’s Firebird Award for his work in promoting northern bobwhite habitat on Arkansas’s landscape.
- Recognized 18 employees representing 360 years of service to the natural resources of Arkansas.
- Heard from Jeremy Wood, the AGFC’s Turkey Program Coordinator, with an update on the state’s turkey population and the 2020 turkey brood survey.
- Granted a confiscated firearm to the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory to be used in ballistics tests for their forensics analysis needs.
- Approved the removal of outdated and obsolete inventory with a total original cost of $38,422 and a net book value of $9,428.
- Approved a budget increase of $1,000,000 to the AGFC’s fleet budget for capital vehicle purchases to replace vehicles necessary for conservation and enforcement work throughout the state.
- Approved a budget increase of $300,000 to the AGFC’s capital equipment budget to replace heavy equipment needed for conservation and habitat work throughout the state.
- Sold a surplus boat and trailer to Columbia County Rural Development Authority at fair market value to be used in the control of giant salvinia and other fisheries management concerns in Lake Columbia.
- Granted three surplus vehicles to the University of Georgia to be used in research contracted with the AGFC on chronic wasting disease.
- Revised a section to the AGFC’s vehicle policy to require any employee determined at fault of a vehicle accident in a Commission-owned vehicle to take a mandatory defensive driving class, regardless of the value of the damage caused in the accident.
A video of the meeting is available at https://www.youtube.com/user/ArkansasGameandFish.