"We started stocking four different streams with rainbow trout this year to see if they will survive better than those in the hatchery stream. The first stream was stocked with 500 fish.. In order to keep track of which stream the fish are from, we've marked the fish with a little red dot right beside the eye. We are going to try and mark each stream with a different color. It will help us out, but anglers will be able to identify them as well."
Despite the drought, Turner said that it has been a successful year for raising Black River walleye. "This summer we ended up with 72,000 in Current River. We hope that the successful population is a growing trend." In Eleven Point River, walleye are stocked every four years. MDC's hope is that in 2014 there will be enough to stock annually.
Turner added that anglers should not be too concerned with fishing conditions, due to the drought. "Fishing in the river should remain excellent, regardless of the drought. Twenty percent of the small mouth bass are over 12 inches."
Turner also talked about Conservation's partnership with the Angler's Association in sponsoring yearly fishing trips for Thayer, Alton and Koshkonong students.
A total of 87 students participated in the fishing trip this summer. The volunteers that assist the children are a huge part of the fishing trips' success. Rod and reels were given to each student, courtesy of Fin to Fur and 44 tackle boxes were donated by M & M Tackle. The Anglers have already purchased 100 rod and reels from Fin to Fur for next year's fishing trips.
MDC's fisheries biologist, Andy Turner, assisted the Angler's Association with the project. "It is a good thing for the kids to get them out of the classrooms and for many, learn something new," said Turner.
Conservation Agent, Gerald Smith presented information about the current projects MDC has on feral hogs, bears and elk. "Feral hogs are an issue that we have to address. Populations have been popping up statewide. We will bait the area to trap the hogs. They do a lot of damage."
The main population of hogs in Oregon County is the northern portion, around the Shannon County line. Overall, there are not a whole lot of problems in Oregon County, but they compete against wild life and destroy agriculture fields, so they must be dealt with. "An aerial approach is the most effective for hunting the hogs. Conservation will kill a lot of them that way," Smith said.
The Conservation does not release exactly where the populations pop up, because hunters could disturb the baiting and trapping work that the Conservation does. "In the last three years, MDC has killed 544 hogs, using 560 man hours and a lot of extra money on trying to control the feral hog problem. A lot of places we are able to reduce the population. In Ripley County, there was a population of 20 and we have killed 15," said Smith.
Missouri Department of Conservation started tracking bears three years ago and is currently tracking 60 bears in southern Missouri. There are approximately 46 bears that are tracked by GPS collars. Smith reported that 16 new bears have been trapped this year. "Some may have thought it would be easy to trap a bear with the drought, but it was a tough year for bear trapping. We had 12 recaptures that MDC put new collars on," said Smith.
A bear can have an approximate 130 to 150 mile radius. "We have a bear in the Birch Tree area that was routinely going down around Koshkonong. Females usually enter a den in the late part of November and males the first part of December," add Smith. During hibernation, MDC agents will often tranquilize the bears in their dens to check for cubs, and sometimes to put new collars on them. "In Oregon County, we currently have seven bears with collars. We have been trying to get an estimated population of bears, statewide, but we still don't know."
Smith concluded his presentation with updated information about the elk restoration project. MDC currently has 61 adult elk and 14 calves in Missouri. There are three separate herds and most of them are being held at Peck Ranch (Conservation Area) in Shannon County.
During the drought this summer, Smith reported that eight adults died, two were confirmed cases of pneumonia. The elk also have GPS collars and they are free to roam. "We have some that explore but come back. We did have one at the beginning of the summer that traveled 40 miles in just a few days over the southern Ripley County. She was always a loner, never fit in with a herd. We were unable to tranquilize her, so we had to euthanize her."
Audience members were curious if elk have caused any accidents. "Arkansas has had elk for 30 years now, and has about 700. Most of the elk related accidents have happened where one vehicle is stopped in the road to observe the elk, and have another vehicle rear end it. Very few cases in Arkansas have actually made contact with elk," said Smith.
Along with MDC's presentations, the Angler's Association voted on new officers for the upcoming year. The offices are President- Jim Heiskell, Vice President- Barbara Simpson, Secretary- Juanita Jett, Treasurer- Lynette Hollis, Membership Chairman- Herman Hickinbotham, and Directors are Dwight Holman, Phillip Jett, Craig Johnson, Alan Wilson, Ed Taylor and Gus Herbold. Membership for the Angler's Association is a $10.00 yearly fee and dues must be paid by the spring meeting. The Eleven Point River Anglers Association is grateful for all of the community involvement.