Thursday, February 14, 2013

Bill Cochran's Field Reports: Wanted! Information on your muskie fishing

Bill Cochran Bill Cochran is a Roanoke Times outdoors columnist.


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The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries is asking muskie fishermen to keep a diary of their experiences for research purposes. Muskie are such an elusive, lone-wolf creature that it is difficult for biologists to determine their wellbeing or get a fix on angling success.

Added to the challenge, muskie fishermen are about as secretitive as the fish they stalk.

“I actually run the muskie diary through the Virginia Muskie Web site,” said Jason Hallacher, DGIF fish biologist in charge to the project. 

Information is available at

House subcommittee kills fox pen legislation

A Senate-approved bill that would have put extensive restrictions on the use of fox pens was defeated Tuesday 5-to-2 in the House Natural Resources Subcommittee. S.B. 1280 would have eliminated competition in enclosures that involved prize money or other awards, which is a big part of many field trials. The Senate had passed the measure by a 24-to-16 vote.

The proposed restrictions were supported by the Humane Society of the United States and opposed by the Virginia Hunting Dog Alliance and other sportsmen groups, some outside Virginia.

“The anti-hunters are trying to paint fox field trails as fenced-in dog fighting, which couldn’t be further from the truth,” said Jeremy Rine, counsel for the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance.

The demise of the bill allows both sides to step back and let the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries complete an ongoing study of fox pens in Virginia, something that needs to be done before any legislation is approved.

Outdoor briefs

* Dennis Campbell, well-known for his leadership of numerous outdoor and conservation organizations, has joined the Virginia Deer Hunters Association as director of field operations. Campbell, who lives in Waynesboro, has been active with the National Wild Turkey Federation on a national and state level. He also has served in leadership positions with the Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation, Return to Nature, Sportsmen of Virginia, Quality Deer Management Association and Hunters Helping Kids.

* Ocean-going striped bass have been spotted as far as 40 miles off Virginia’s coast, well beyond the three-mile line where fishing for stripers is permitted. This has made for a less than stellar winter fishery. It is so bad, that some anglers are returning to the Chesapeake Bay where the season is closed but catch-and-release is permitted.

* A total of 299 mountain lion (cougar) sightings were reported to the Eastern Puma Network in 2012. Virginia was the leading state, with 23 reported sightings. West Virginia was next with 19. Not a single state east of the Mississippi experienced a decline, said John Lutz, director of the network.

* Climate change is the most serious threat to wildlife today, according to a report from the National Wildlife Federation. In Virginia, the report says it is impacting wildlife from the mountains to the sea. Higher water temperatures are harmful to brook trout in mountain streams and waterfowl habitat in the Chesapeake Bay is being stressed by rising water levels.

* Virginia’s striped bass quota has been reduced by 14 percent by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Service, the result of recent poor hatches and a decline in numbers of fish. This isn’t expected to have any immediate impact on recreational anglers, said John Bull of the Virginia Marine Resources Commission. “We may have to do some tinkering with size limits down the road, but it is hard to say at this point when or what that tinkering would entail.”

Events, seasons, dates

* The Greater Virginia Sports and Big Game Show, Friday through Sunday, Rockingham County Fairgrounds near Harrisonburg,

* Augusta County Fishing Expo, Saturday, American Legion Hall, Staunton

* Southwest Virginia Boat Show, Roanoke Civic Center, Feb. 22-24, $7.50 adults, children free

* Twenty-sixth annual Western Virginia Sportsman Show, Feb. 22-24, Augusta Expoland, Fisherville,

* Fly fishing basics by Josh Williams will be featured April 8 at a meeting of the Tri-County Forestry & Wildlife Association at Roanoke Moose Lodge 284 located at 3233 Catawba Valley Drive (Virginia 311) in Roanoke County. Social time begins 6 p.m., followed by dinner at 6:45. Charge for the meal is $10. RSVP required, call Marian McConnell, 540-309-4707.

* Hunters for the Hungry banquet, Sept. 14, Moose Lodge on Virginia 311 in Roanoke County.

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