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Commission adopts changes to fisheries regulations, orders

LINCOLN, Neb. – The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission adopted changes to fisheries regulations and orders at its meeting Oct. 26 in Kearney. Many of the changes will result in increased fishing opportunities for Nebraskans.

The changes to archery and snagging paddlefish regulations are:

— Applicants supplying email addresses will be notified when the draw is complete, while others should monitor their status online. Draw results will be available by March 20 for archery and July 20 for snagging permits. Successful applicants will have until April 5 for archery and Aug. 5 for snagging permits to complete the purchase of awarded permits. Unpaid permits remaining after the draw will be sold to residents on a first-come basis starting on the third Monday in April for archery and the third Monday in August for snagging permits. An applicant will lose preference points and forfeit the permit if an awarded permit remains unpaid.

— A person must be 12 years of age by June 1 to apply for an archery paddlefish permit.

The changes to archery fishing regulations are:

— It is unlawful to fish with a bow or crossbow capable of being electronically or pneumatically loaded, cocked or fired, or with a crossbow not designed to be fired from the shoulder; with an arrow that has more than one point that is barbed; and with arrows that are not attached to the bow at the time the arrow is released.

— With no exceptions, the use of crossbows is not allowed from the Gavins Point Dam downstream to the U.S. Hwy. 81 bridge.

Among the changes in sport fishing orders are:

Trout – The limits for brown trout are five in the daily bag, including only one 16 inches or longer, and 10 in possession. The limits for brook trout are two in the daily bag, including only one 12 inches or longer, and four in possession. Rainbow, cutthroat and tiger trout fall under the existing statewide limits of five in the bag and 12 in possession.

Black bass – There is no length limit on smallmouth bass, of which only one may be more than 15 inches in length, in the daily bag in the Nebraska Public Power District Canal Tailrace from the State Farm Road bridge downstream to the confluence with the South Platte River in Lincoln County.

Northern pike – The statewide daily bag limit shall include no more than one fish 34 inches or longer.

Bullfrogs – West of U.S. Hwy. 81, the bullfrog season would be open year-round, with no minimum length limit and all legal harvest methods would be legal.

Panfish – The daily bag limit at Pelican Lake in Cherry County shall include only five bluegill, of which only one can be 10 inches or longer.

Two Rivers State Recreation Area – Anglers may fish Lake No. 5 (trout lake) without a trout tag from July 1 through Jan. 31.

Catch and Release – No harvest is allowed at Flanagan Lake, Douglas County; Jenny Newman Lake, Cass County; and Baright Lake, Cass County.

The changes to sport fishing will be published at OutdoorNebraska.org and in the 2019 Fishing Guide, which will be available by the end of December.

The changes to Aquatic Invasive Species regulations are:

— It is unlawful for a watercraft to have a drain plug in place when not on the water or not in the launch area.

— If decontamination is not achieved, the Commission may remove a boat from any body of water for up to 30 days until it is decontaminated.

— It is unlawful for a boat on a body listed as infested with zebra or quagga mussels to leave the area with live fish, live baitfish or aquatic plants or any water other than from a domestic source that has not been used for holding fish.

In other business, the Commission passed wildlife regulations that clarify and define the time period for buying a deer, antelope or elk permit awarded in a draw unit as follows:

— During the first application period, applicants supplying email addresses will be notified when the draw is complete, while others should monitor their status online. Draw results will be available on or before the first Friday in July. Successful applicants will have until the third Friday in July to complete the purchase of awarded permits. Any permits remaining unpaid will be made available on a first-come basis during the second application period. An applicant will lose preference points and forfeit the permit if an awarded permit remains unpaid.

— The start date of the second application period, when permits remaining after the draw are available on a first-come basis, changed to the first Monday in August.

In addition, the Commission:

— approved the gift of the 70-acre Stevens tract in Dawes County from the William P. Stevens and Kathleen C. Stevens Family Trust as an addition to Ponderosa Wildlife Management Area;

— approved the acquisition of 501 acres in Dawes County adjacent to Ponderosa WMA and designated it an addition to the WMA, including the transfer of a Bureau of Educational Lands Funds lease containing 160 acres to Game and Parks for the term of the lease;

— approved actions to facilitate the transfer of management of recreation area facilities at Lake Wanahoo to the lake’s owner, the Lower Platte North Natural Resources District, and removed Lake Wanahoo from the inventory listing of Game and Parks managed state recreation areas effective Dec. 31, 2018; the area opened to the public in 2012;

— increased fees for select park activities, lodging and rental facilities, campsites and website reservations, which will be implemented Jan. 1, 2019; this includes a new five-tier pricing system for campsite fees, ranging from $10 to $35 a night, depending on amenities. Periodic updates of fees are needed to maintain and enhance our state parks, address deferred maintenance and meet demand for campground improvements;

— approved its 2019 meeting schedule as follows: Jan. 17-18, Lincoln; March 14-15, Nebraska City; April 23-24, Ponca State Park (SP), Ponca; June 20-21, Alma; Aug. 27-28, Fort Robinson SP, Crawford; Oct. 17-18, Omaha.

In addition, there was a public hearing for input regarding the listing and delisting of state threatened and endangered species in the Commission’s District 4 in south-central Nebraska.

Brian Piernicky, a conservation officer from Culbertson, was presented with the Shikar-Safari Club International Officer of the Year Award. The award is given to a wildlife officer from each state who has shown exemplary conduct and initiative in the performance of his or her duties.

Staff presented an update on the elk season, with 93 bulls and 53 cows harvested as of Oct. 22. One positive for chronic wasting disease was verified in Banner County out of 97 samples collected across all units.

In an environmental report, staff gave updated the Commission on topics such as the agency’s Conservation Environmental Review Tool, which launched in 2017 and is creating efficiencies for environmental review projects.

The Commission also heard staff updates on the Open Fields and Waters program and the youth pheasant hunting season.

Commissioner Norris Marshall of Kearney, representing south-central Nebraska’s District 4, was recognized for his outstanding service to the Commission from 2010 through 2019.

About Jerry Kane

Jerry Kane is the news manager with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. He can be contacted at jerry.kane@nebraska.gov or 402-471-5008.

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