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Commissioners Authorize Two Bighorn Sheep Permits for 2015

LINCOLN – The Nebraska Game and Parks Board of Commissioners authorized one lottery and one auction bighorn sheep permit for 2015 at their meeting in Scottsbluff on Oct. 23.

The lottery permit is for residents only, while the auction permit is available to residents and nonresidents. The last time the state approved two bighorn permits in one year was 2011. There is one lottery permit this year for the Dec. 2-22 season.

Staff reported that of the approximately 390 bighorn sheep in the state, 29 rams in four established herds are at or near the desired age for hunting. Staff will assess ram availability and age structure in the four herds next summer and then decide which areas the permit holders will be allowed to hunt.

In other business, the commissioners amended fishing regulations for 2015. A summary of the regulation changes:

— Trout: The daily bag limit at Soldier Creek Wilderness Area is lowered to two. This includes the Wood Reserve ponds and the middle and south forks of Soldier Creek.

— Channel catfish: The daily bag limit is raised to 10 at Gallagher Canyon Reservoir, Jeffrey Reservoir, Johnson Lake, Lake Babcock, Lake Maloney, Lake North, Lewis and Clark Lake, Midway Canyon Reservoir, Phillips Canyon Reservoir, Plum Creek Canyon Reservoir and Sutherland Reservoir. These bodies are part of a canal or river system and sustain excellent self-recruiting channel catfish populations.

— Walleye, sauger and saugeye: The daily bag limit on these species may include either one fish 15-18 inches in length and three more than 18 inches, or four more than 18 inches, and the bag limit shall include no more than one fish 22 inches or longer. This applies to the following bodies of water: Big Indian 11A, Buffalo Creek Reservoir, Burchard Lake, Czechland Lake, Glenn Cunningham Lake, Holmes Lake, Iron Horse Trail Lake, Lake Wanahoo, Lawrence Youngman Lake, Lone Star Lake, Meadowlark Lake, Olive Creek Lake, Pawnee Lake, Prairie Queen Recreation Area, Red Cedar Lake, Skyview Lake, Stagecoach Lake, Standing Bear Lake, Walnut Creek Reservoir, Wehrspann Reservoir, Wildwood Lake, Willard Meyer Recreation Area, Yankee Hill Lake and Zorinsky Reservoir. This restriction is to limit premature harvest of 9-inch walleye and saugeye scheduled to be stocked into these bodies while allowing some harvest of smaller fish.

— Northern pike: Hershey Interstate 80 Lake is added to the list of bodies with a 30-inch minimum length limit.

— Bowfin and American eel: Harvest is not allowed because of declining populations.

— Mussels: Harvest is not allowed from any river or stream east of U.S. Highway 81 because these areas contain mussel species that are declining in abundance.

— Archery fishing: The use of crossbows is allowed statewide except in the Gavins Point Dam tailwater downstream to the U.S. Highway 81 bridge.

— Two Rivers State Recreation Area trout lake: The cost of a daily trout tag is raised to $6 to help cover the cost of production.

— No live baitfish water bodies: Bennington Lake, Bowman Lake, Independence Landing Lake, Kramper Lake, Prairie Queen Recreation Area and Rat and Beaver Lake are added to the list where it is illegal to possess or use live baitfish.

— Aquatic invasive species: The White River crayfish and red swamp crayfish are added to the list of Category 1 species (potential aquatic invasive species) since they are showing up illegally in bait shops and pose a potential threat to native crayfish populations. The creeping water primrose is added to the list of Category 2 species (priority aquatic invasive species) because it has limited distribution and has shown potential to have aggressive growth once established.

— Boat inspections: It is illegal to arrive at or leave any body of water in Nebraska with water other than from a domestic source except for fire-fighting purposes. This is intended to prevent or delay the establishment of aquatic invasive species in Nebraska waters.

The commissioners also:

— Added Chat Canyon WMA in Cherry County to the list of wildlife areas with area-specific regulations.

— Approved the acquisition of 1,007-acre Jacobson Tract in Banner County and designated it Williams Wildlife Management Area. This area, located 10 miles southeast of Scottsbluff, is in the heart of bighorn sheep habitat and is home to the Hubbard’s Gap herd. The tract not only provides critical lambing and escape habitat for bighorns, it will provide hunting opportunities for white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk and turkey.

— Approved the acquisition of 1,225-acre Hastings Tract in Knox County and designated it Niobrara Confluence Wildlife Management Area. This area, located 3 miles northwest of Niobrara, is situated at the confluence of the Missouri and Niobrara rivers and adjoins Niobrara State Park. It will offer fishing access, trapping and hunting opportunities for waterfowl, deer and turkey.

— Approved an easement to the Scotts Bluff County Sanitation Improvement District No. 10 on Wildcat Hills WMA in order to expand a well house.

— Heard a staff update on the 2014 elk harvest through Oct. 20. Ninety bulls and 42 cows/calves had been taken. There have been 309 permits authorized for the season.

— Heard a staff update on the fish and wildlife report recently completed for the Niobrara River.

— Heard a staff update on mountain lion research.

— Heard a presentation from the City of Valentine about changing a lease Game and Parks has with the city on land near the Valentine Fish Hatchery.

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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