Grab a fishing rod and head for the nearest water June 6 and 7. Those are Free Fishing Days in Missouri.
Every year Missouri declares a two-day hiatus from the requirement for fishing permits for people 16 and older. The idea is to encourage nonanglers to discover why more than 1.2 million Missourians wet a line each year.
Fishing permits are unnecessary on most of the state's waters during the two-day event, with a few exceptions. Anglers at Missouri's four trout parks still need daily fishing permits, but these are issued free of charge for Free Fishing Days.
The suspension of state permit requirements doesn't eliminate the need for special permits on private fishing areas. Other statewide and local fishing regulations, such as creel and length limits, also remain in effect during Free Fishing Days in Missouri.
Come to August A. Busch Memorial Conservation Area June 6, and you can learn how to catch and release fish. You'll also have a chance to find out about recent changes in fishing regulations and much more at the 1998 Family Fishing Fair.
The event will be from 9 a.m. until noon at Lake 34. Visitors can learn about boating safety, casting, fly tying, hook baiting and bass fishing. Then you can put your knowledge into practice in the lake. For more information, call (314) 441-4554.
The annual Rottmann Fishing Clinic will be held from 8 a.m. until noon June 6 at the Twin Lakes Recreation Area on Chapel Hill Road in Columbia. Participants will learn how to catch, clean and cook fish. Games and informational booths sponsored by community organizations will lend a festive air.
For more information, call Scott Voney at (573) 884-6861, ext. 272.
Hunter education instructors and school officials in southeast Missouri are using cutting-edge technology to reach more students more efficiently.
In March, volunteer hunter education instructor Kent Bridges met with students at Puxico High School. There were 19 students in the room, but with the help of interactive satellite television technology, a total of 78 students participated in the class.
The additional students were at schools in four surrounding communities. Their classrooms were equipped with television monitors that showed every aspect of Bridges' presentation. Split-screen technology allowed remote students to see the instructor while viewing close-ups of firearms and other teaching aids.
At each of the remote classrooms, a television camera was trained on students, who could raise their hands and ask questions of Bridges, just the same as the students who were in the classroom with him.
The live television link allowed Bridges to accomplish in one 10-hour class what otherwise would have taken him 50 hours of classroom time.
Enjoy a nature tour of an Ozark stream June 5 or 26. The guided floats will take place in conjunction with two West Plains area community festivals. Cowboy poets, old-time music and stories will introduce people to the lore, features and recreations of an Ozark river. Call (417) 256-1813 for more information. For a list of nature tours planned around the state, contact Conservation Ombudsman Shannon Cave, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, 65102-0180. Phone (573) 751-4115, ext. 250.
Missourians traveling out of state this summer should be on the lookout for hitchhikers that could create environmental havoc if brought back home.
The potentially destructive stowaways are gypsy moth eggs. Gypsy moth caterpillars have voracious appetites and have caused millions of dollars of damage to trees in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina and the northeastern United States. An infestation here would be devastating to the environment, as well as the economy.
To forestall the arrival of gypsy moths en masse in Missouri, vacationers who visit the upper Midwest and the Northeast should inspect automobiles, campers, boat trailers, lawn furniture and other equipment for gypsy moth egg masses before returning home.
The masses are the size of quarters, light brown to tan colored and covered with fuzzy hairs. If you find such an egg mass, phone the Missouri Department of Agriculture's Plant Industries Division at (573) 751-5502.
To receive information about gypsy moths, including color photos to help identify eggs, larvae and adults, write to Gypsy Moth Flier, Forestry Division, Missouri Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, 65102-0180.
How much do Missouri Stream Teams contribute to quality of life in the Show-Me State? In 1997 they donated 72,000 hours of volunteer labor valued at $928,000.
However, that doesn't begin to account for the value of all the projects completed by the state's 1,052 Stream Teams last year. They planted more than 14,000 trees, stenciled more than 800 storm drains with the message "Dump No Waste, Drains To Stream" and removed enough trash from streams to fill 288 pickup trucks.
Litter pickups were the most popular Stream Team activity, followed by water quality monitoring and other miscellaneous efforts, such as maintaining computer web pages, publishing newsletters, maintaining hiking trails and administering a Girl Scout patch program. Some of the more notable accomplishments of Stream Teams in 1997 were:
Hunters and anglers say there is plenty of room in the conservation movement for Americans who don't hunt or fish.
Field & Stream magazine recently asked its readers to express their feelings about Teaming With Wildlife (TWW). This national legislative initiative would establish a federal excise tax on goods used in outdoor sports other than hunting and fishing.
Eighty-five percent of those responding to the Field & Stream survey said they support TWW. Only 15 percent said they believed the program would bolster anti-hunting sentiment.
Hunters and anglers have been paying similar taxes on their equipment since the 1930s. Proceeds from the Federal Aid In Fish and Wildlife Restoration Acts has paid for fish and wildlife habitat preservation, research and education. TWW would allow birdwatchers, amateur botanists, wildlife photographers and a wide range of other outdoor enthusiasts to help conserve the resources they treasure.
The George W. Clark Missouri State Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) recently received the prestigious G. Andy Runge Conservation Award for setting a "stellar example of what can be accomplished by a locally led conservation organization."
The Missouri Chapter of The Wildlife Society presents the award each year to an individual or group that has made outstanding contributions to conservation.
Fundraising by the Missouri NWTF chapter has helped pay for numerous state and national conservation projects. The group also has been active in conservation education.
Preliminary findings suggest that changes in length and creel limits can improve fishing for rock bass.
Conservation Department fisheries biologists are conducting a multi-year study to evaluate the effects of new rock bass fishing regulations that went into effect in 1995. Those regulations established a 9-inch length limit and a 9-fish daily limit on an 11-mile stretch of the Big Piney River.
The experiment was prompted by reports from anglers, who said they were catching fewer rock bass 7 inches and larger. After four years under the experimental regulations, more 8- and 9-inch fish are turning up in the stream.
The Conservation Department will continue monitoring the progress of rock bass. Meanwhile, other studies are gathering information about how angling affects smallmouth bass populations in Ozark streams and how smallmouth and rock bass management affects numbers of crayfish, the staple of smallmouth and rock bass diets.
Rock bass are shy fish that seldom are seen away from rocky cover during the day. Some anglers say their favorite goggle-eye areas are disappearing under a shifting blanket of gravel. In the long term, streamside land use may be critical to maintaining quality rock bass fishing.
Removal of streamside forest and gravel mining disrupt stream banks and expose new sources of gravel. Excessive gravel can make streams wide and shallow where they once were narrow and deep. Gravel also can cover the big rocks beneath which rock bass like to hide.
In the interest of maintaining positive relations, Missouri houndsmen and landowners have decided to join forces in promoting voluntary guidelines for behavior based on mutual respect. They adopted the following guidelines:
Dan Terry, spokesman for the Missouri Landowners Rights Coalition, said, "If we can promote awareness and adherence to these guidelines, it will go a long way toward minimizing trespass issues and eliminating friction between landowners and hunters."
Ted Jarvis, president of the State Coonhunters of Missouri, and Gayer Dixon, spokesman for the Missouri Coon Hunters Federation, prepared a joint statement, saying "There will always be a few individuals whose irresponsible actions make it harder for the rest to get along. Our challenge will be not to let those incidents stop the ethical majority from treating each other with the same respect and courtesy that we expect from good neighbors."
Sunset June 30 marks the opening of Missouri's open season on bullfrogs and green frogs statewide. Frogs can be taken by a variety of methods. With a fishing permit, you can take frogs by hand or handnet or with a gig, longbow or hook and line. A hunting permit allows you to take frogs with a .22-caliber rim-fire rifle or pistol, pellet gun, longbow, crossbow, handnet or by hand.
The daily limit is eight frogs, and the possession limit is 16. The season runs until midnight Oct. 31.
Eagle Days events drew a record 14,821 visitors for the 1997-98 season.
Attendance at Eagle Days events has grown steadily in recent years as more Missourians discover the thrill of seeing bald eagles in the wild and captive eagles up close in indoor programs.
1998-99 Eagle Days events are scheduled for:
Prairie Day set for June 13 at Burr Oak Woods
Discover a piece of Missouri's heritage, and learn about life on the prairie at the Prairie Day celebration June 13 at Burr Oak Woods Conservation Nature Center in Blue Springs.
The event, which runs from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., celebrates the prairie ecosystem and its place in Missouri's history.
Participants will travel through the prairie in wooden wagons drawn by horses, as a guide talks about prairie life. Other attractions include viewing live prairie animals, playing games that early prairie settlers enjoyed and meeting a modern incarnation of Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of Little House on the Prairie.
Musical entertainment will be provided by hammered dulcimer players, fiddlers and cloggers.
It's a day you won't soon forget. Prairie Day is for the family and it's free of charge. For more information call (816) 228-3766.
Apply July 1-Aug. 15 for Any-Deer and Bonus permits
Getting an Any-Deer or Bonus Deer Permit will be easier this year than ever before.
Sales of all deer hunting permits start July 1. Permit vendors statewide will offer archery deer and turkey hunting permits and firearms or muzzleloader permits for antlered deer for any unit in the state.
You'll also be able to purchase Any-Deer and Bonus Deer permits for units with open quotas (units where a drawing is not necessary).
In the 23 units where supplies of Any-Deer or Bonus-Deer permits are limited, you must buy a bucks-only permit and apply for desired "quota" permits by Aug. 15. This will place your name in a drawing for the permits.
Everyone who enters the drawing will receive notice of the outcome by mail. Those who are drawn for Any-Deer Permits will receive stickers in the mail to convert previously purchased bucks-only permits to any-deer use.
Hunters who are drawn for Bonus Deer Permits will be notified to go to vendors and purchase the permits. Any-Deer and Bonus Deer permits will be on sale through Nov. 7. After that, only buck tags will be available.
There will be no lottery in 35 of the state's 59 units. These include:
Ask the Ombudsman
Q: Are hiking trails available on conservation areas?
A: Conservation areas have a variety of trails. Areas that get heavy use often have trails that are paved and equipped with interpretive signs or self-guiding tour brochures. Trails at other areas may be marked paths or logging roads.
Missouri's Conservation Atlas lists areas with designated trails, and area brochures provide additional information. It's always a good idea to contact the area manager or nearest Conservation Department office to learn about area conditions and regulations before visiting an area.
Trails on conservation areas help people understand forests, fish, wildlife or management practices. Where use is heavy, trails guide people and help minimize damage and erosion.
Q: Does the Conservation Department provide trails for horses, off-road vehicles or mountain bikes?
A: As a general rule, horses, bicycles and ORVs are allowed only on designated roadways on conservation areas. This helps minimize erosion, plant and stream damage and conflicts with other users. Horse trails are provided at some conservation areas where their use would not threaten natural resources.
Hands-on workshops open the doors to wonderful outdoor activities
Mark your calendar for the second annual Wonders of the Outdoor World workshops Oct. 9-12 at Roaring River State Park and Dogwood Canyon Nature Park.
Workshops cover an astonishing variety of topics. You can take up to three a day.
This year's workshop topics include:
Enrollment is open to people 9 years and older. The cost is $25 for one day of classes or $40 for all four days.
For more information, contact WOW National Outdoor Recreation and Conservation School, c/o Bass Pro Shops, 2500 E. Kearney, Springfield, 65898. Phone (417) 873-5026.
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