Did you remember to renew?
Sportsmen across Tennessee have an important date coming up this weekend. It’s the expiration day of their annual fishing and hunting licenses here in the Volunteer State.
Licenses have been on sale for the last couple of weeks, but often anglers get too busy to remember and renew. They get caught up in pre-spring preparation and wind up too busy working on the boat and tackle to update their licenses.
So, remind yourself and all your buddies to update themselves this weekend, as all tags expire Saturday night. You can purchase your new licenses online at gooutdoorstennessee.com or at several local license agents. Prices are unchanged.
SMALL GAME SEASONS END
Small game seasons, such as rabbit, quail and squirrel, end each year on the last day of February. Hunters got an extra day this year as Leap Year allowed an extra day of hunting with February having 29 days.
Squirrel hunters, especially those using dogs, sure hate to see the season end. For that style of hunting, the season really doesn’t begin until December when all the leaves have fallen off the trees and they can spot the busy tails.
Rabbit hunters report a sluggish season this year as rabbit numbers were spotty and habitat continues to diminish across the region.
Quail hunting has been poor for many years as there just aren’t enough coveys left to sustain the sport anymore.
SHOOTING SPORTS SIGN-UP TIME
The Henry County No Fly Zone Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP) provides youths from grades 4-12 and college an opportunity to participate in the three main shotgun shooting disciplines — trap, skeet and sporting clays.
Henry County No Fly Zone SCTP is designed to teach the importance of safe firearms handling, responsibility, leadership, teamwork and healthy competition. Graduation from a hunter safety program is a prerequisite.
Youngeters will have four separate opportunities for youngsters to sign up to participate this year at Holly Fork Shooting Complex: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday; 1-4 p.m. Sunday; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 7; and 1-4 p.m. March 8.
Also at Holly Fork will be a Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency field day on March 21 for children needing to complete their online hunter safety course. They’re required to complete a field day of live firing sessions.
Contact head coach Dustin Mackey (417-621-1974) for additional information.
The annual Paul Steele/Johnny Johnson Memorial Bass Tournament will be March 28 out of Paris Landing State Park marina. Sponsored locally by Hulme Sporting Goods, the event will have a $2,000 first-place prize.
Big bass will guarantee $500. Even the smallest five-fish limit earns $100.
Proceeds support scholarships and community youth programs through the nonprofit Two Rivers Bass Club. Entry forms are available at sporting goods stores and marinas.
REFUGE AREAS REOPEN SOON
Seasonal closures within the Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge will end March 15. Several areas are closed off every fall and winter to provide sanctuary to wintering waterfowl. Roads and boat ramps have been blocked off as well.
Popular areas scheduled to reopen are Bennett’s Creek, Swamp Creek and the Sulphur Well basin.
PLSP TOURNEY SCHEDULE
Anglers and the general public interested in the upcoming fishing tournament schedule out of Paris Landing State Park this year will find it posted here on this week’s outdoor page.
For additional information, contact the PLSP marina office at 641-4474.
The annual Carl Perkins Center Cast-n-Blast is scheduled for April 18 at PLSP. The event will feature both a bass tournament and turkey hunt to help raise funds for the center.
The turkey hunt entry fee is $50 for a two-person team or $30 for an individual, and entry forms must be postmarked by April 15. Participants must preregister to participate.
Highest team score earns $200 plus prizes. Highest scoring bird by an adult wins prizes and high score by a youngster earns a trophy.
The bass tournament will have a guaranteed first place prize of $2,000. Payouts will be offered through seventh place.
A big fish prize of $250 will be awarded. Entry fee is $100 a boat and includes the big fish contest. Entries must be postmarked by April 14 for the fishing tournament.
For additional information, contact Carly Wheat at 642-8455 or email email@example.com. Entry forms are available at area merchants and also available at the office location at 204 N. Brewer St. in Paris.
TWRA DIRECTOR TO RETIRE
Ed Carter, executive director for the TWRA, has announced that he will retire effective May 31. He made the announcement during the February meeting of the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission.
Carter assumed his current role in 2009. He began his career in 1972 and has held positions in the divisions of Law Enforcement, Information and Education, and as TWRA Region II assistant manager. He became TWRA’s first chief of the boating division when the division was formed in 1990.
“Leaving the TWRA as an employee feels like running away from home,” Carter said. “The agency and the people in it have been such a huge part of my life and I realize I am very blessed to have been able to call it my home for many years.
“There’s no way to properly thank all the agency personnel, the commission present and past, and the many partners that have supported my career and the goals we share. So, I’ll just say thank you for now. I can’t wait to see all the future success the agency will bring forward.”
Carter’s career has been marked by outstanding accomplishments and he has received numerous awards. Two of his most recent honors were being named the Bass Pro Shops Conservation Partner of the Year and the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies’ (AFWA) top honor. He has received the Seth Gordon Award for lifetime achievement in conserving North America’s natural resources in the public trust and contributing to the programs of the association.
The commission will begin the process of hiring a new executive director. The TWRA has had only two executive directors since 1978. Gary Myers served from that year until his retirement and was succeeded by Carter.
Also, at this month’s meeting, the commission approved the 2020-21 waterfowl and migratory game bird hunting seasons. Next year’s regulations will include changing crow hunting season to add more dates in January and February. The TWRA made the proposal to the commission after public input. The commission also approved the agency’s proposal to offer two days of waterfowl hunting to veteran and military personnel, similar to what is currently offered for youth waterfowl hunt days. Federal frameworks for next year required a bag limit reduction for scaup (the little bluebill).
Chuck Yoest, chronic wasting disease coordinator, presented details on an upcoming TWRA website feature known as the Sick Deer Reporting System. The system is designed to improve deer disease surveillance and customer service.
The new tool will provide an easy way for the public to report sick deer and for staff to track and evaluate them.
Ducks Unlimited Canada representative Dave Kostersky made his annual presentation to the commission.
The TWRA and DU Canada has had a 30-year partnership for conservation. During the past year, there were more than 1,600 acres of habitat retention, more than 1,100 acres of upland restoration and almost 109,000 acres of habitat asset management.
The commission approved a change to the Boating and Law Enforcement Division’s Manner and Means proclamation. The change included that prior to moving any harvested big game species (deer, turkey, bear or elk), a hunter must tag the animal using the TWRA mobile application, the TWRA website, or a physical tag provided by the TWRA.
Tepparit Wiphatphumiprates was introduced to the commission as the 2019 Information Technology Division Professional of the Year. He serves as a software developer-lead.
The commission elected its officers for 2020-21. Kurt Holbert of Decaturville will continue to serve as chairman. Jim Ripley of Kodak is the new vice chairman, and Angie Box of Jackson will continue as secretary.
WINTER FISHING SCENE
Kentucky Lake’s fishing scene has been marred this week by the report of three missing anglers near Pickwick Dam on the southern end of the reservoir. Two high school fishing team members and their adult chaperone were reported missing last Saturday and their boat was found upside down in the tailrace on Sunday.
At midweek, a massive search was still underway as was the investigation by the TWRA.
Meanwhile, anglers have battled high water and current the past week or so throughout the reservoir. However, not all reports have been bad despite challenging conditions that ranged from cool and mild breezes to downright cold, windy and rainy.
Lake levels have fluctuated dramatically the last week or so and crested late last week near the summer pool range at Kentucky Dam. Upstream around the New Johnsonville area lake stages crested some 2 feet above summer pool and reached the 361-plus-feet range.
The TVA has been spilling water through Kentucky Dam in a large volume for several days. At times the discharge rate exceeded 300,000 cubic feet per second, which is a lot and really puts swift current in the main Tennessee River channel throughout the reservoir.
Presently, lake levels are falling but discharge rates are diminishing and TVA is projecting for that to continue throughout the weekend as it attempts to pull the lake back down near normal winter pool of the 355-feet range. At midweek, the elevation was 356 at Kentucky Dam but about two feet or so higher upstream at New Johnsonville.
Heavy rains across the TVA valley the last two weeks have sent a lot of runoff into the system. It has taken a long time to push the water through Pickwick, Barkley and Kentucky dams.
Water color had been dingy to muddy in the main channel area but sporting a good stain for fishing in most of the larger bays throughout the Big Sandy and West Sandy sector.
Surface temperatures are resting around the 48-degree range. Temperatures are expected to remain cool throughout the weekend with some moderation by next week.
A few crappie have been taken this week by anglers targeting deep ledges in the main lake area of Big Sandy and within large bays where water depths were 18-20 feet.
There were some decent stringers taken in midrange to shallow areas earlier in the week such as 12-14 feet where stakebeds produced scattered crappie.
Falling lake levels usually pull crappie back to deeper venues or structure near deep water. That appears to be what’s happening now as most of the decent stringers are coming from the deeper brushpiles in the main lake areas.
Anglers have credited several different jig skirt colors to their success ranging from fluorescent orange heads and chartreuse bodies to blue/chartreuse, neutral lead heads with sparkle skirted chartreuse skirts and some black/red at times.
Several different colors of Bobby Garland solid body jig skirts are paying dividends.
Once lake levels stabilize next week the crappie bite should improve for most anglers, assuming mild weather returns and winds subside.
Bass fishermen are pounding some gravel and rocky points where current is passing and tossing a variety of crankbaits ranging from Rattle Trap style lures to some deep divers plus Carolina rigged craws and jig and pig combos.
Shad colored variations plus crawfish shades are popular choices as of late.
Some anglers are tossing leadheads and twister tail grubs as well.
All fishermen are hoping for a change back to warmer days on the lake. Every day brings spring that much closer.
Saturday — Fishing/hunting licenses expire.
Saturday — Rabbit, quail and squirrel seasons end.
Saturday — Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP) sign-up, Holly Fork Shooting Complex.
Sunday and March 7-8 — SCTP sign-up, Holly Fork Shooting Complex.
March 15 — Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge seasonal closures end.
March 21 — TWRA Hunter Safety Field Day, Holly Fork Shooting Complex.