Kelly Bostian: State's baitfish proposal stirs discussion
BY KELLY BOSTIAN Outdoors
Tuesday, December 04, 2012
12/04/12 at 5:58 AM
Go to Kelly Bostian's blog Original Print Headline: State's baitfish proposal stirs discussion
All you have to do is go to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation website, click on the comments section and let them know what you think.
The department's annual exercise in changing and updating the state's hunting and fishing regulations under the state's Title 800 of the Oklahoma Administrative Code is under way, and the relatively new online comment process makes it a simple matter to make your thoughts known.
Proposed changes cover sport fishing, commercial harvest of aquatic species, restrictions on aquatic species introduction, wildlife rules and land management regulations. As the department notes, some of the proposals amount to little more than "housecleaning."
The two big "talkers" this time around involve baitfish and white-tailed deer.
One proposed rule would not change the season bag limit of white-tailed bucks - hunters will still be able to take two - but only one could be taken with a firearm. Currently a hunter can take one buck with a muzzleloader and one more with a rifle or a bow. The new rule would limit hunters to taking one with a gun of any kind and one with archery equipment.
The baitfish rule revolves around invasive species and the current practice of netting shad for use as bait.
A local guide and longtime member of the Oklahoma Striped Bass Association, Steve Carroll, is trying to mobilize anglers to comment on a proposed rule that would prevent use of baitfish caught in one body of water and used in a different body of water.
"It'll put us out of business," he said of hybrid and striper guide services. "I would not be able to fish on Skiatook or Sooner. Those two lakes, the shad just isn't readily available."
Gizzard and threadfin shad are the principal live bait for striper and hybrid anglers and are not available in bait shops. Sometimes the angler can cast a net in the river or lake where they plan to fish and come up with enough bait for the day, but more often than not shad are more concentrated and plentiful elsewhere and netted there as a matter of practicality.
The practice of catching bait in one body of water and fishing with it elsewhere is a concern because of invasive species, according to Curtis Tackett, aquatic nuisance species biologist with the wildlife department.
Silver carp and bighead carp, which have decimated fisheries in other regions, are making their presence known in Oklahoma, Tackett said. Responding to angler reports of seeing "jumping fish" in tributaries of the Red River, biologists surveyed streams there and found males and egg-bearing females of both species. Bighead carp also have made appearances in the Neosho River, near Miami.
"Right now it's fairly isolated. What we don't want is to transport the fish from, say, Red River to Texoma," Tackett said.
It is very difficult to tell the difference between a shad and a juvenile Asian or bighead carp, Tackett said. Other states throughout the Mississippi River drainage have passed similar rules in attempt to curb the spread of the invasive species.
"We have a responsibility to conserve native species, and invasive species are one of our biggest threats right now," he said. "We know people will oppose it and it may not get passed. We feel we have a responsibility to put it out there."
Carroll said educating fishermen is a more practical way to go.
If anglers use city water to fill their shad tanks and the only fish that go into the other lake are on a hook, then there is no danger of transplanting invasive species.
"Everybody that I know of that fishes with live bait does two things that already prohibit spread of nuisances," he said. "They use city water, so that means they won't spread zebra mussels, and no one empties out their bait tank into the lake at the end of day; that's the only way you introduce fish."
Changing the rules isn't necessary, Carroll said. "Those two little things go farther toward stopping it than what they're wanting to do," he said.
The Wildlife Department needs to hear from people on these and other issues on the proposal list. All you have to do is go to their website at tulsaworld.com/wildlife, click on the comments section and let them know what you think.