Process underway for third alligator season in Arkansas

LITTLE ROCK - The first step in the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission's process of the very popular alligator hunting season has just been finalized. For the past couple of weeks, AGFC field crews have been busy conducting alligator spotlight surveys all across south Arkansas.

This population data, a harvest report from last year's alligator hunt, a summary of last year's nuisance alligator activities and a report on Arkansas's farm-raised alligators will all be compiled into a single report that must be submitted to the U. S Fish and Wildlife Service by July 1. The USFWS will review the information and determine if there is cause to prohibit a conservative hunting season in 2009.

The AGFC will review the proposed hunting season dates in June with final approval coming in July. A total of 28 permits will be available with 20 of those coming through the computer draw process, Assistant Chief of Wildlife Ricky Chastain says. "In order for the hunt to take place, we must proceed with some of the administrative steps out in front of the Commission's final approval of these dates," Chastain said.

The proposed season dates for the 2009 alligator hunting season are: from 30 minutes after sunset on Friday, Sept. 18, until 30 minutes before sunrise on Monday, Sept. 22, and from 30 minutes after sunset on Friday, Sept. 25, until 30 minutes before sunrise on Monday, Sept. 28. The AGFC will begin taking on-line applications for the public land and private land at-large permits on June 22 and end the application period on July 10. Successfully drawn hunters will be notified by late July.

The mandatory hunter orientation classes will be held at the Hope Regional Office on Aug. 15, at the Monticello Regional Office on Aug. 22 and at the Little Rock Headquarters on Aug. 29. Chastain said that he strongly urges anyone interested in a chance to participate in the alligator hunt to be very aware of the important dates in this process. "We really want the public to understand how this process must be condensed into a short timeframe and to be very prepared to respond to the timelines of the application period, as well as plan ahead for the hunter orientation workshops and hunt dates if successfully drawn," he said.

The following permits will be available through the computer draw process:

ALLIGATOR MANAGEMENT ZONE 1 (SOUTHWEST ARKANSAS)

Public Area Permits - Dr. Lester Sitzes III Bois d' Arc WMA - one permit

Millwood Lake - one permit

Private Land At-large Permits - five permits

ALLIGATOR MANAGEMENT ZONE 3 (SOUTHEAST ARKANSAS)

Public Area Permits - Lower Arkansas River Complex - nine permits

Private Land At-large Permits - four permits

White River Mount Olive Access renovated to enhance fishing

MOUNT OLIVE - Renovations on a White River access point in Mount Olive, a small community in Izard County, were completed Monday as part of a river-wide effort to repair access ramps and parking lots.

"Everybody around uses that ramp," said Charles Stevens, a trout fishing guide who has lived on the White River most of his life. "They've [AGFC] done a wonderful job. We appreciate it."

Mike Armstrong, AGFC chief of fisheries, said the portion of the White River flowing through Mount Olive is a popular recreation area stocked with trout, a major reason for making the Mount Olive access point a renovations priority. Furthermore, renovations were needed to accommodate modern boats.

"The project was to replace an existing structure that was worn out," said Mike Cantrell, AGFC regional maintenance coordinator who oversaw the access point's construction. "The boats are getting bigger, and people want a better ramp to launch from."

Built in the 1960s, the access ramp was neither properly sloped nor wide enough for easy boat use in recent years before the renovations, which cost $29,103. The five-week-long renovation process entailed installing rocks for a sub-grade, or structure stabilization; setting a 20 x 83-foot concrete slap; and adding large rocks for bank stabilization. Additionally, a mobility-impaired parking space was added adjacent to the ramp.

The Mount Olive renovations were originally planned for 2008 but delayed due to excessive flooding. These renovations are one of many such projects planned along the White River to better serve fisherman and other river users.

Braided or monofilament, fishing line needs changing often

LITTLE ROCK - While looking around for a spool of monofilament line to load on to a reel or two, an Arkansas fisherman may think back to earlier times.

Before we had monofilament, one of the many wonders of the world of plastics development, fishing line was braided thread, cotton for the most part. Like Henry Ford's Model T, it came in any color you wanted as long as it was black.

That's an exaggeration. There were other colors, like green. But black seemed the predominant color of that old line. Remember, much Arkansas fishing was in muddy oxbow lakes and backwaters before the era of multiple man-made lakes came forth..

Visibility in that water was a matter of inches, not feet, and not many inches at that. Fish evidently fed by smell, not by sight.

But fishermen caught fish on the black braided line of the past. It worked fine because there was no other choice. Yes, old line became brittle and easy to break. More than one debate took place over whether braided line was stronger or weaker when it was wet, like after several casts into the water.

Some anglers today insist that braided line held up better in sun than today's monofilament does. Sunlight can make the plastic line deteriorate, experts say.

Bottom line on line: Change it. Change it even if you think it doesn't need changing. Fresh line performs better and also gives you the mental asset of knowing you are fishing with the best of equipment in regards to what connects the rod with the bait.

Panel approves purchase to expand Cache River NWR

LITTLE ROCK - The Cache River National Wildlife Refuge has received approval to buy almost 200 acres to expand in Monroe County.

U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, 1 of 2 senators on the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission, announced the purchase.

The refuge is an important stop for migratory birds and provides a rare piece of undisturbed bottomland hardwood forest land in the Mississippi Valley region.

The tract is in the lower Cache River/White River floodplain, which is prime territory for migrating waterfowl. Refuge lands border the tract on three sides, and the Fish and Wildlife Service is to restore the land so it can be used by migrating birds.

The refuge covers more than 56,000 acres in Jackson, Monroe, Prairie and Woodruff counties in east-central Arkansas.