Bait­fish reg­u­la­tion de­fended

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - COLLEGE FOOTBALL - BRYAN HENDRICKS

Chris Racey, chief of fish­eries for the Arkansas Game and Fish Com­mis­sion, re­cently up­dated a pro­posal to limit the trans­porta­tion of wild­caught bait­fish.

The re­vised pro­posal mim­ics the word­ing of an ex­ist­ing bait­fish re­stric­tion on Lake Nor­fork that has been in ef­fect since 2009. It reads, “It is un­law­ful to use live wild- caught bait­fish un­less such bait was caught within the same wa­ter­body be­ing fished or from a trib­u­tary en­ter­ing up­stream of the wa­ter­body. No bait­fish may be moved up­stream past a dam or bar­rier that pro­hibits the nor­mal pas­sage of fish.”

It also de­fines cer­tain waters where it will be pro­hib­ited to take bait­fish for com­mer­cial pur­poses, ex­cept for threadfin and giz­zard shad.

An ex­cep­tion is for bait­fish pur­chased from a li­censed dealer sell­ing only cer­ti­fied, farm-raised bait­fish.

Racey pref­aced his re­marks to the com­mis­sion by in­tro­duc­ing a pub­lic opin­ion sur­vey that the fish­eries di­vi­sion con­ducted re­gard­ing the pro­posal. Only 23 per­cent of the re­spon­dents ap­proved of the reg­u­la­tion, and 77 per­cent op­posed it.

Racey said it was daunt­ing to ad­vo­cate a pro­posal in the face of such over­whelm­ing op­po­si­tion. He de­fended the reg­u­la­tion as be­ing nec­es­sary to help pre­vent in­va­sive aquatic species such as Asian carp and ze­bra mus­sels from col­o­niz­ing more wa­ter­ways in the state. Some­times, Racey said, do­ing the right thing is not pop­u­lar.

Don An­dreasen of Rogers also ad­dressed the com­mis­sion. An­dreasen has been a striped bass fish­ing guide on Beaver Lake for 36 years, and he said his liveli­hood de­pends on catch­ing and trans­port­ing live giz­zard shad from the Arkansas River. That is nec­es­sary, An­dreasen said, be­cause Beaver Lake does not have big con­cen­tra­tions of shad that can be caught with throw nets.

An­dreasen said he catches about 500 giz­zard shad three times a week from be­low Ozark Lock & Dam to sup­ply three to six guide boats with enough bait for his clients.

“I catch about 45,000 shad a year in the Arkansas River, and I have never seen a jump­ing carp or a ze­bra mus­sel,” said An­dreasen, adding that 5-inch giz­zard shad are not avail­able from cer­ti­fied li­censed bait deal­ers.

In the sum­mer, stripers pre­fer 5-inch giz­zard shad over any­thing else, he said.

An­dreasen said he has about $250,000 in­vested in equip­ment to catch and hold bait. If the AGFC ap­proves this pro­posal, he said it will drive him out of busi­ness.

AGFC com­mis­sion­ers are al­ways sen­si­tive to claims they will harm some­body eco­nom­i­cally. Many of them own busi­nesses that are also vul­ner­a­ble to gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tions, and the com­mis­sion ap­peared ready to cave on the bait­fish reg­u­la­tion.

Racey said the en­tire striper fish­ing com­mu­nity does not op­pose the reg­u­la­tion, and that no striper guides went out of busi­ness at Lake Nor­fork be­cause of the 2009 reg­u­la­tion.

Com­mis­sioner Ford Over­ton of Lit­tle Rock ac­knowl­edged that striper guides have le­git­i­mate con­cerns, but he said the com­mis­sion’s man­date is to pro­tect the state’s nat­u­ral re­sources. He asked the com­mis­sion to con­sider the eco­nomic im­pact on lakes Hamilton, Oua­chita and Beaver if Asian carp start whack­ing boaters and per­sonal wa­ter­craft op­er­a­tors in the heads.

Com­mis­sioner Ken Reeves of Harrison floated three sep­a­rate mo­tions. The first was to adopt the word­ing of the reg­u­la­tion but to de­lay en­act­ing it un­til Jan. 1, 2019. That got two “yes” votes.

The sec­ond mo­tion was to de­lay im­ple­men­ta­tion un­til July 1. That got three “yes” votes.

The third mo­tion was to ac­cept the reg­u­la­tion as pro­posed, to be im­ple­mented on Jan. 1. That one passed with four “yes” votes. Af­ter a 30day com­ment pe­riod, the com­mis­sion will vote on it Aug. 17.

Lost in the bait­fish de­bate was an­other pre­sen­ta­tion given ear­lier in the meet­ing by Seth Row­land of Hot Springs and Howard Robin­son of Mans­field to al­low the use of big-bore air ri­fles for deer hunt­ing.

Be­fore 2014, the Arkansas Wildlife Code did not specif­i­cally al­low nor pro­hibit big-bore air ri­fles for deer hunt­ing. A few peo­ple did it with the tacit ap­proval of the wildlife of­fi­cers in their coun­ties. It was a “No harm, no foul” sit­u­a­tion.

In 2014, Row­land asked the com­mis­sion to al­low them specif­i­cally so there would be no ques­tions. In­stead, the com­mis­sion banned them for deer hunt­ing at the rec­om­men­da­tion of Todd Call­away, the AGFC’s for­mer chief of en­force­ment.

Row­land got a more en­cour­ag­ing re­cep­tion this time.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.