Thursday, May 19, 2005
Bill Cochran's Outdoors: Sportsmen invited to talk issues
Bill Cochran's Outdoors
- Virginia’s hunting totals produce mixed results
- A good trade: Virginia trout for Kentucky elk
- Forget the odds-makers; Salem’s John Crews believes he can win the Bassmaster Classic.
- The good and bad of the 2012 saltwater fishing season
- Column archive
Bill's Field Reports
- Virginia General Assembly goes soft on outdoor issues
- Quail Unlimited calls it quits
- Field reports archive
Hunting regulations this fall and winter will be pretty much a carbon copy of last year, with the exception that there is a good chance the use of crossbows will be legal during the bowhunting season. That will be decided during a meeting of the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries on June 23.
But in 2006, look out! Hunting laws could see major changes. The same can be said of fishing regulations.
It’s all part of a redesigned regulation review process adopted by DGIF. As I mentioned in last week’s column, the process includes seven public meetings this month and next where sportsmen will be given an opportunity to comment on regulation issues. Notice I said issues, not proposals. In some instances, matters up for discussion at this point are rather vague. DGIF is looking for input on the following issues:
SIMPLIFY LARGEMOUTH BASS LENGTH LIMIT REGULATIONS ON RESERVORIS: Catch-and-release has become so popular on largemouth bass -- as much as 99 percent in some lakes -- that officials are thinking that some length limit regulations, including slot limits, can be dropped without affecting bass populations. This would result in less complicated regulations.
IMPROVE ANGLER CATCH OF TROPHY SMALLMOUTH BASS, MUSKIE AND BLUE CATFISH IN RIVERS: The trend nowadays in river fishing is to go after trophy fish rather than concentrate on bringing home a limit. A huge percentage of blue catfish now are released and the same can be said of muskie. The DGIF wants to consider regulations that would encourage trophy fishing rather than just bringing home a mess of fish.
IMPROVE QUALITY OF STRIPED BASS AND WALLEYE FISHING IN RESERVOIRS: The once renowned striped bass fishery at Smith Mountain Lake is on skid row to the point that biologists are talking about tossing out current regulations and management practices and starting anew. The emphasis will be on catch-and-release during cool-weather months and catch-and-keep regulations during warm-weather months when survival of released stripers is low. Look for regulations that are seasonal rather than annual.
DGIF says walleye populations have improved in some lakes to the point that a population of mature fish has been established. These need to be protected since catch-and-release isn’t a strong point of walleye anglers. Look for regulations that will protect stocked fish in order to allow them to grow to a larger size before heading to the frying pan.
EXPAND TROUT FISHING DIVERSITY AND OPPORTUNITY: This means establishing more special-regulations areas. Before the put-and-take crowd thinks it is about to lose some favorite streams, let it be said that the planned expansion of special-regs would come through new water open to public fishing.
ADDRESS DEER POPULATON OBJECTIVES THROUGH ANTLERLESS DEER HARVEST: There remain sections in the state that wildlife officials feel need more doe hunting in order to meet the objectives of the DGIF deer plan. Regulating the antlerless deer kills remains the best way to adjust the deer population, up or down.
PROBLEMS ASSOCAITED WITH ARTIFICIAL FEEDING OF DEER: Walk into most any store that caters to hunters and you will see deer feeding devices and food. It is legal to feed deer on private land as long as you don’t shoot them over bait.
DGIF seems to be a bit uncomfortable with the growing feeding trend. Is it being abused? Does it increase the potential of wildlife diseases? Does it condition deer to a handout? Does it impact adjoining landowners and hunt clubs? Can it entrap innocent sportsmen who are unaware they are hunting near bait? Does it degrade fair-chase ethics? This has potential of becoming a hot issue.
INCREASE RECREATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES FOR SMALL GAME HUNTING: The big push will be for Saturday openings for small game seasons.
INCREASE RECREATIONAL OPORTUNITIES FOR BEAR HOUND TRAINING: When the bear hound training season was established in 1992 some observers predicted it would cut into the bear population. That hasn’t happened. The population has been booming. Even with an expanded season and record kills, bear damage complaints continue. Officials want to look at additional lethal and nonlethal methods of managing the bear population. One that will be examined is an increase in the hound-training season.
DEFINE A FENCE WHICH ALLOWS FOR THE UNIMPEDED MOVEMENTS OF DEER: Except for people who have a permit, it is illegal to construct a fence for the purpose of confining deer. But how high of a fence can you have without being in excess of the state’s fence regulations? That is a question DGIF wants to address.
IMPROVE TRAPPING EFFICIENCY FOR CERTAIN SPECIES: Trapping regulations have seen little change the past decade or so, and DGIF wants to take a serious look at them, especially since trap and snare efficiency has progressed.
DESIGNATION OF NON-NAÏVE AND INVASIVE BIRD SPECIES AS NUSIANSE SPECIES: Simply put, deal with mute swans because they have become problem birds.
DEAL WITH THE THREAT OF NONINDIGENOUS SPECIES TO NATIVE WILDLIFE AND HABITAT: There are 1,100 species across the country classified as nonindigenous. The snakehead fish is a high profile one in Virginia. The DGIF believes additional undesirable and nuisance species needs to be added to its black list.
COLLECTION, SALE AND POSSESSION OF WILDLIFE: Many wildlife species are collected for sale or personal use, which can result in a decline of the species, not to mention the unintended transfer of creatures between watersheds and other natural communities. While DGIF has been dealing with this challenge, it wants to do more. One thing destined for attention is the use of salamanders as bait and the sale of crayfish.
CONTINUING DECLINE OF AT-RISK NATIVE WILDLIFE SPECIES AND HABITATS: Virginia has its own threatened and endangered species that are under protection. Should there be additions to that list? If so, what?