Arkansas Game and Fish Commissioners will consider extending the Rim Shoals catch and release zone by 2 miles downstream and new regulations on rainbow trout, cutthroats and brook trout to encourage growth to larger sizes on both the Norfork and White River below Bull Shoals.
The AGFC trout program yesterday released 12 proposals for new regulations for 2018, which would be considered by the Commissioners at their November meeting. The Commision will hold a formal 30 day, public comment period in early October via online survey through the AGFC website.
AGFC Trout Biologist Christy Graham in an email yesterday said that 12 proposals sprang from and were endorsed by the public Trout Management Plan review meetings held through August.
She also released a summary of the August 24 meeting which voted on the 12 proposals and you can download the Full Summary Document PDF here.
The meeting strongly endorsed a 2 mile extension of the Rim Shoals C & R zone down into Shoestring Shoal. There was also a strong push to allow only 1 trout over 14 inches in the 5 fish bag limit, and well as only allowing 1 rainbow over 14 inches on both rivers.
This would mean anglers could only keep a 15″ rainbow and a 24.5″ brown but not both.
Attached is a summary of the public workshop hosted by AGFC on August 24th. I appreciate everyone who took the time to attend the workshop that evening. For those who were unable to attend, the focus of the meeting on the 24th was to get input on possible regulation changes for the Bull Shoals and Norfork Tailwaters.
In addition to concerns about current regulations, there were a number of other concerns expressed at the August 3rdworkshop (i.e., motor/horsepower restrictions, stocking raft use, guide fees, water quality, etc.). Those issues are important to AGFC and will be addressed in the appropriate ways, whether it be through the management plans themselves or by working with other AGFC Divisions to address the issues.
However, regulation changes are often the most important and anticipated topic and that is why we chose to focus on those alone at the August 24th meeting.
Altogether, we proposed 12 possible regulations changes. The proposals were developed using both public input (from the August 3rd workshop, creel comments, and mail surveys) and biological data we have collected in recent years. The options associated with each possible regulation change are based on science and are what we believe are a good balance between what is best for the resources and diverse public interests. At the end of the evening, attendees were provided the opportunity to choose the options that they would prefer for each proposal. The attached summary includes an overview of the evening, each proposal we presented on August 24th, justification for why we presented each proposal, and the number of dots each option received under each proposal. Although there were additional suggestions from the public to revise other regulations (e.g., ban chumming, ban night fishing, extend other catch-and-release areas, etc.), we did not propose changes to those regulations for two reasons: 1) our data does not suggest that changes to those regulations are necessary (i.e., there is no evidence they are negatively affecting the trout populations); and 2) public interests are too diverse to recommend those changes.
If you were unable to attend the meeting, you will still have the opportunity to provide input on these 12 proposals. At any time, you are welcome to send me any comments/concerns related to these proposals. If you choose to do so, it is very important that you are specific when sending me comments. That is, please tell me why you would support or oppose a specific proposal. Additionally, per AGFC policy, these proposed regulations will go through a formal 30 day, public comment period. The comment period will start in early October and will be in the form of a online survey through the AGFC website. When the survey is available, I will send another e-mail reminding folks to participate and I will provide the link to the survey.
At this time, our plan is to propose the regulation changes to the Commissioners for the first time at the October Commission meeting. If we are able to do that in October, they will not actually vote on these regulations until at least the November Commission meeting. Before their final vote, they will be provided with the results (i.e., percent support/opposition) from the public comment period. Any regulations that are approved by the end of the year would take effect on January 1, 2018. Although these regulations are currently the Fisheries Division staff’s recommendations, there are no guarantees that any or all of the regulations will be approved by the Commission. However, our current Commissioners have a tremendous amount of respect for the AGFC staff and the public input process, so I am optimistic they will make the decisions that are best for the resources and their stakeholders. If there are any changes in the timeline for when the regulations arepresented to the Commission, I will let you all know.
As a reminder, the objective of both public workshops was to solicit input that will help us in revising the management plans for the Bull Shoals and Norfork Tailwaters. Over the next couple months, we will work to revise the plans and hopefully finalize them by the end of the year. Regulations that are presented this fall and approved will be incorporated into the revised plans. Once a first draft of the plan is available, I will send it out for public comments to see if there are additional objectives/strategies for trout management that you all feel we need to incorporate. I’ll keep you posted with more information on the development of the management plans as it becomes available.
Thanks for your patience as we have worked to prepare summaries of the meetings and these recommendations. Please let me know if you have any questions.
Trout Management Program | Supervisor
Arkansas Game and Fish Commission
201 East 5th St. | Mountain Home, AR | 72653