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Commission hears wildlife, fisheries regulations proposals

BY Randy Zellers

ON 02-16-2024

AGFC Commission Meeting-72439

LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission heard the first reading of hunting, fishing and wildlife regulations proposals to be voted on for the 2024-25 hunting and fishing seasons. The changes ranged from commercial and recreational fishing, to hunting, to updates to the agency’s captive wildlife regulations.

Among the hunting regulations being considered are proposals to:

  • Eliminate the Private Land Antlerless Only Modern Gun Deer Hunt;

  • Restrict nonresidents pursuing deer with dogs to only the last nine days of modern gun season where deer dogs are allowed and limit them to one deer each;

  • Require GPS tracking collars with capabilities for behavior correction on all dogs pursuing wildlife, except retrievers while in the act of retrieving birds;

  • Allow straight-walled centerfire rifle cartridges during modern gun season in Deer Zones 4 and 5;

  • Open a special three-day “velvet buck” archery deer hunt the first full weekend of September;

  • Create a free resident turkey permit (separate from the voluntary Eastern Wild Turkey Conservation Stamp) that will be required to hunt turkeys in Arkansas; and

  • Allow nonresidents only one turkey in their seasonal bag limit and create a nonresident turkey license product at a cost of $325.

Many waterfowl hunting-specific regulations changes also were proposed, including:

  • Limiting white-fronted goose season to only be open when duck season is open.

  • Replacing the current 30-day nonresident waterfowl hunting days from a set schedule of dates to any 30 days of their choice during duck season through the purchase of up to 10 3-day Nonresident WMA Waterfowl Permits.

  • Restricting access to nonresident waterfowl hunters on WMAs while greentree reservoir infrastructure renovations are under construction.

  • Establishing a 25-shell limit for waterfowl hunters on all WMAs where Common Restriction A boating regulations are in place.

  • Allowing the take of Egyptian geese, an invasive species beginning to be seen more often in northwest Arkansas.

  • Two options for 2024-25 duck season are being considered:
    Option 1
    Nov. 23-Dec. 1, Dec. 5-24 and Dec. 27-Jan. 26 with the Special Youth Waterfowl Hunt Feb. 1-2 and the Veteran and Active Duty Military Hunt Feb. 2.
    Option 2
    Nov. 23-Dec. 2, Dec. 10-23 and Dec. 27-Jan. 31 with the Special Youth Waterfowl Hunt Dec. 7 and Feb. 8 or Feb. 8-9 and the Veteran and Active Duty Military Hunt Feb. 8 or 9

Proposed fishing regulations include:

  • Opening frog-gigging season June 1 instead of April 15 and reducing the daily limit to 10 bullfrogs;

  • Changing the 13- to 16-inch slot limit on largemouth bass in Brewer Lake and Lake Barnett to the statewide daily limit of 10, but only allowing one fish over 16 inches to be kept per day (Regulations waivers would be obtainable in the future for catch-and-release bass tournaments.);

  • Increase spearfishing daily limits to match hook-and-line limits where spearfishing is allowed; and

  • Prohibit the harvest of trout, other than rainbow trout, from 30 minutes after sunset-30 minutes before sunrise.

In addition to these proposals, the Commission also is taking public opinion on two subjects for future discussion. It is seeking input on a prohibition on all surface-drive motors (mud motors) on WMAs, and it is wanting opinions on the idea of opening statewide muzzleloader season to straight-walled centerfire cartridges of .30 caliber or greater.

Many other proposals, including captive wildlife regulations changes and WMA-specific hunting changes, are available in an online public comment survey, which will be available at from Feb. 16-March 15. In all, more than 155 regulations changes are being considered.

The auditorium at the AGFC’s Little Rock headquarters was packed with many of the partners and staff that make conservation possible. JJ Gladden, assistant chief of education, announced three special awards to educators and districts who performed above and beyond in the last year, educating young Arkansans about the natural world. [CLICK FOR PRESENTATION]

Hailey Robinson, life sciences teacher at Lincoln High School, received the Education Division’s Conservation Educator of the Year Award. Robinson not only inspires her students through in-school curriculum fostered through the AGFC, but also is the president of Trout Unlimited’s 514 chapter in northwest Arkansas. Her work with students has ranged from growing trout in an aquarium in the classroom, to taking students on fishing trips and conservation projects for fisheries and even developing a free fishing camp for students to learn how to fish. Other programs she leads include habitat programs for lakes and rock climbing with the students.

“We’re getting kids outside and doing stuff that they’re going to remember forever,” Robinson said. “They’re probably not going to remember what they did in my biology class, but they’re going to remember rock climbing with Mrs. Robinson … They’re going to remember the 8-mile canoe float down the Elk River; and a lot of this is made possible through Arkansas Game and Fish.”

Batesville School District received the Education Division’s Conservation Education District of the Year Award for their work in many conservation and recreational shooting programs offered through the AGFC.

Dr. Michael Hester, superintendent of Batesville School District, praised the educators in his district for their commitment to the many conservation programs in which the district is engaged. He equated the Batesville area as being similar to Fort Collins, Colorado, in the many outdoors opportunities available to residents and visitors.

“The Batesville culture is to get our kids out, get our people out and enjoy the beautiful nature around us,” Hester said. “I want to thank all [Batesville educators], through the programs they pull it together, and it’s just wonderful.”

Dr. Greg Pilewski, superintendent from the North Little Rock School District, and Mary Beth Hatch, an educator in the district, were honored with the AGFC’s Conservation Education Project of the Year Award for their implementation of AGFC outdoor curriculum across nearly the entire school district. Professional development classes for hunter and boater education, Fishing in the Natural State, Archery in the Schools and many other AGFC offerings were attended by multiple teachers from elementary through high school level to implement these programs in their classrooms.

“I was privileged to grow up in north-central Arkansas and I had the opportunity to play in the pond that was on my land; to go to the creek, play in caves, and have that experience,” Hatch said. “When I had children, I wanted them to have those same experiences that I have. Now I have hundreds of children from 18 years in education and I want them all to have those same experiences as well. Dr Pilewski laid out a vision for what impact outdoor education and environmental learning could have for all of the students in our district.”

In his monthly report to the Commission, AGFC Director Austin Booth continued the discussion about the many partnering organizations who create Arkansas’s conservation ethos. He spoke about the educators in attendance, as well as groups like Ducks Unlimited, and the many outdoorsmen and women who attend public meetings to be a part of conservation and come alongside the agency to move the needle.

“The flame of conservation is what drives conservation forward,” Booth said. “It lives first in the hearts of people before it does expertise or degrees. As we look at Natural State Tomorrow and the conservation work ahead, I remain more confident than ever that the flame of conservation burns brightly within all of us. The best part about conservation and the most important thing for it to thrive are people.” [CLICK FOR PRESENTATION]

The Commission recognized Keith Stephens, AGFC chief of communications, and Eric Maynard, interim chief of education, who presented the artwork for the 2024 AGFC Conservation License Plate, a barred owl. Conservation license plates are available for an additional $35 fee over the normal registration fee, $25 of which is sent to the AGFC to fund scholarships, internships and other education efforts in the state. The program has generated nearly $20.8 million for conservation education since its inception in 2000. [CLICK FOR PRESENTATION]

In other business, the Commission:

  • Recognized Deke Whitbeck, president of the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation, who presented Patricia Salisbury, AGFC licensing specialist, with a lifetime hunting and fishing license for a member of their family under 16 in a drawing of all AGFC employees who joined the Foundation in a membership drive during January. [CLICK FOR PRESENTATION]

  • Recognized Luke Naylor, AGFC Chief of Wildlife Management, who presented AGFC Deputy Director Brad Carner with the Arctic Goose Joint Venture’s Partner Appreciation Award. [CLICK FOR PRESENTATION]

  • Recognized 17 employees with a combined 365 years of experience serving the people of Arkansas and conserving the precious natural resources of The Natural State.

  • Authorized Director Booth to complete a grant agreement of $130,500 with Southern Arkansas University to expand the recreational shooting facilities at SAU’s Outdoor Campus in Magnolia. [CLICK FOR PRESENTATION]

  • Authorized Director Booth to complete the purchase of a building from the city of Mountain Home to serve as the AGFC’s permanent Mountain Home Regional Office. The building previously served as Mountain Home’s Police Department headquarters and will be purchased for $1.1 million. [CLICK FOR PRESENTATION]





AGFC Commission Chairman Stan Jones led healthy discussions on many of the proposed regulations changes during yesterday’s Commission briefings and today’s formal Commission meeting.

Hailey Robinson was awarded the AGFC’s Conservation Educator of the Year Award for her work with students at Lincoln High School in northwest Arkansas.

Dr. Michael Hester praised many of the educators in the Batesville School District for the continued implementation of outdoors curriculum throughout their schools.

Mary Beth Hatch and Dr. Greg Pilewski of the North Little Rock School District listen to student Chris Brown describe his experience with the district’s many outdoor-based curriculums that have been implemented in the last year.

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