LITTLE ROCK — Commissioners with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission heard proposals for regulations changes during three days of committee and commission meetings held last week at the Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center in Little Rock and the University of Arkansas at Monticello. Now the AGFC would like to present those same changes to hunters, anglers and other conservation-minded individuals in a special public comment form available at www.agfc.com.
These proposed changes to the AGFC Code of Regulations began long before last week’s meetings. Field staff and program coordinators throughout the agency constantly receive calls, emails and in-person communications about ways to provide a more enjoyable hunting and fishing experience in The Natural State. Harvest data and other biological data collected throughout the year also prompt the need for possible changes to season dates, bag limits and other aspects of hunting and fishing in Arkansas. Biologists compile all of these proposals and meet in teams to examine each, not only determining their merit, but also trying to determine how one change may impact many other regulations or aspects of hunting, fishing or wildlife management.
In addition to regulations proposals derived from field staff and program coordinators, some topics also were presented from AGFC administrators after receiving comments directly from members of the public.
This year’s regulations cycle includes more than 120 changes to existing code, and while some of those changes are substantial, many are simplifications or clarifications to existing code to eliminate confusion or complexity. To aid in the public comment process, members of the AGFC’s Research Division also have consolidated proposals by category. The survey allows participants to skip sections if proposals would not apply to them.
Some notable regulations proposals being considered include:
- Establish a bear season in Bear zones 3 and 4;
- Open bear archery season 10 days earlier in Bear Zones 1 and 2;
- Reduce the statewide bag limit on turkey to one bird (beginning in 2023);
- Consider opening regular duck season the weekend after Thanksgiving instead of the weekend before;
- Re-establishing a 74-day white-fronted goose season with a 3-bird bag limit (similar to 2015-16 through 2019-20 season frameworks);
- Extend boat access restrictions on waterfowl-focused wildlife management areas to include the seven days preceding the first day of the first segment of regular duck season;
- Require all boats on waterfowl-focused WMAs to operate only with motors that have “unmodified” factory exhaust systems in place;
- Restrict waterfowl hunting on Bell Slough, Ed Gordon Point Remove, Galla Creek and Frog Bayou WMAs and the Dyer Lake Unit of Ozark Lake WMA to Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday hunting only;
- Remove archery permit requirement on Maumelle River WMA;
- Continued refinements to previously adopted captive wildlife codes;
- Implement a 13-inch minimum length limit for largemouth and smallmouth bass and remove the length limit for spotted bass on Lake Norfork;
- Implement a 10-inch minimum length limit on crappie on Lake Erling;
- Require trail cameras on Commission-owned WMAs to have owner contact information displayed;
- Establish a $15/night camping fee for campsites at Camp Robinson Special Use Area that provide electric and water services;
- Establish a $5 annual camping permit in order to camp on all Commission-owned WMAs;
- Implement chronic wasting disease management regulations in Ashley, Bradley, Randolph and Union counties;
- Allow the use of repeating crossbows only during Arkansas’s firearms seasons;
- Prohibit guides from providing services while under the influence or intoxicated;
- Increase the fee for the annual nonresident hunting guide license and nonresident fishing guide license from $150 to a price not to exceed $2,500.
The survey will run until April 17, and all comments will be compiled for review and submitted to the Commission. The seven appointed members of the Commission are expected to vote on these proposals at the regularly scheduled May Commission meeting in Little Rock.