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2003-2004 migratory bird seasons set by commission

LITTLE ROCK - Waterfowl hunters will get 60 days of duck hunting in Arkansas. Commissioners from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission last week approved the liberal season along with a six duck bag limit for the 2003-2004 waterfowl season.

Duck hunters will be allowed no more than four mallards of which only one mallard may be a hen. The daily bag limit may also contain one pintail, three mottled ducks, three scaup, two wood ducks, two redheads, one black duck and one canvasback, but no more than a total of six ducks.

The waterfowl season will be split into three segments. The first portion will open on Saturday, Nov. 22 and continue through Dec. 7. After a four-day break, the second season will be open from Dec. 12 through Dec. 24, the final season will continue from Dec. 26 through Jan. 25, 2004.

Reports from biologists in Canada and the United States indicate that snowstorms in April and rains in May improved habitat conditions from poor to good across much of North Americaís breeding grounds. The number of ponds in the Canadian prairies has increased dramatically from the previous year. In recent years there had been a severe drought in these areas. The total May 2003 survey shows that the number of ponds increased from 1.4 million in 2002 to 5.2 million in 2003. At the same time, duck breeding pairs increased from 31.2 million birds to 36.2 million birds.

Arkansasí late migratory bird season selections are due to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by Sept. 1. The commissionís vote on the duck bag limit was split evenly with commission chairman Lester Sitzes casting the deciding vote for the six duck limit. Commissioner Sheffield Nelson requested a more restrictive limit of five ducks.

The commission also approved a 30-day canvasback season beginning on Dec. 27 and continuing through Jan. 25, 2004. Pintail season will again have a split season. The first portion of the pintail season will begin Nov. 22 and continue through Nov. 30. The second part of the season will open Jan. 5 and continue through Jan. 25, 2004. The youth waterfowl hunt was set for the Jan. 31-Feb. 1, 2004 weekend.

In other commission business:

bulletHeard a proposal from the AGFC wildlife management division concerning the establishment of a possible duck hunting zone in northeast Arkansas. Enforcement issues have arisen in the area since it is mandatory to stop all waterfowl hunting at noon on public lands. Boundary lines are not established between some state-owned and privately-owned lands between the main levees of the St. Francis Floodway. The commission will be addressing the issue at its Sept. 26 meeting in Little Rock.
bulletApproved several fishing regulations that included implementing an 18 inch minimum length limit and four fish daily limit for walleye on Beaver Lake in Carroll, Washington and Benton counties. The walleye minimum slot limit was increased on Greers Ferry Lake from 18 to 20 inches. Implemented a 10-inch minimum length for crappie on Lake Charles in Lawrence County. Approved a catch and release program for largemouth bass on Bois díArc Lake in Hempstead County. At the same time, the 13 to 16 inch slot limit was removed on Lake Hinkle.





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