State wildlife officials have temporarily halted putting trout in the Lower Illinois River near Gore.
The Lower Illinois River is one of Oklahoma’s two year-round trout fisheries, but Tuesday was the last day the river will receive any hatchery-raised trout until water issues are resolved, said Gene Gilliland, assistant chief of fisheries for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
“An act of God or an act of Congress. That’s what we need,” Gilliland said.
Both water quality and water quantity are issues, Gilliland said. Without regular releases of water from Lake Tenkiller, the river gets low and oxygen levels drop to lethal levels. State wildlife officials don’t want to add trout in the river if they are not going to live.
More rain and cooler weather would improve both. That’s the act of God, who most certainly will act more quickly than Congress ever will to solve the water woes for the Lower Illinois trout fishery.
On Oklahoma’s other year-round trout stream, the Lower Mountain Fork River in McCurtain County, the Wildlife Department is allocated water from Broken Bow Lake when needed to sustain the trout fishery.
But the agency is not entitled to any of the water stored in Lake Tenkiller to keep the trout fishing going in the Lower Illinois River. It’s all allocated for hydropower or municipal and industrial water supply.
The Wildlife Department trout stream has gotten by on a leak in the Tenkiller dam’s sluice gate that kept a small but steady stream of water in the river. But that leak has been repaired.
“Fixing the sluice gate has cost that river its life,” said Scott Hood, president of the Oklahoma Chapter of Trout Unlimited. “When they are not generating, there is not water for that river and that’s wrong.”
State wildlife officials have been borrowing water allocated to Sequoyah Fuels, but they have used all of that water to keep the stream flowing through the summer drought when there was no hydropower generation.
Cold water is released into the river when the Southwestern Power Administration is generating hydroelectric power, but that fluctuates based on power demands.
Gilliland said a solution must be found if a trout fishery is to continue in the Lower Illinois River.
“It goes back to the root problem,” Gilliland said. “All of the water in Tenkiller is allocated to somebody else.”
It would take an act of Congress to ensure that some water stored in Tenkiller Lake is allocated for the trout stream. Trout Unlimited members in Oklahoma have been lobbying for that with no success.
“It’s just amazing to me we can be in this kind of predicament,” Hood said. “Oxygen content doesn’t mean diddly squat if you don’t have water. The answer is minimum flow. The only people who can make that happen is Congress.”
Hood said Trout Unlimited chapters will continue to urge Oklahoma’s Congressional delegation to act to keep the river flowing.
“Gore has built itself as the trout capital of Oklahoma,” said Chuck Kaminski, secretary of the 89er Chapter of Trout Unlimited. “I would hate to see that go away.”
The Oklahoma City Boathouse Foundation is providing a chance to win a trip for two to the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
Thanks to the generous sponsorship of Oklahoma City Boathouse Foundation Board Member Ann Lacy, the trip is being put together by Ludus Tours and is a seven day, six night package valued at $12,800.
It includes hotel accomodations, sightseeing tours, airport transfers, transportation to the Olympic Games and more. It does not include airfare.
Tickets to win cost $100 and are on sale now and blue2011.org. The winner will be drawn at the blu VIP Party on Thursday, Sept. 29.
The blu Party is an annual fundraiser and proceeds go to support Olympic hopeful athletes as they train for the 2012 Olympics.
Tickets for the blu Party are $75 each or two for $125 and also are available online at blu2011.org.
The Chickasaw National Recreation Area near Sulphur has decreased its fee for a popular camping area because of the drought.
Antelope and Buffalo Springs, the headwaters of Travertine Creek, have stopped flowing and the creek has gone dry.
Visitors camp at the Cold Springs Campground because of the direct access to the cold swimming holes along Travertine Creek that the springs produce.
Since the springs stopped running and the swimming holes were deemed unsafe, visitors to the Cold Springs Campground has decreased significantly, park officials said.
As a result, the park will reduce the current nightly rate at the Cold Springs Campground from $14 to $7 per night.
The reduced rate begins Sept. 16 and will continue through Oct. 5 when the campground closes for the season.
For more information, call the Travertine Nature Center in the Chickasaw National Recreation Area at (580) 622-7234.
State wildlife officials may have to suspend trout stockings in the Lower Illinois River in the near future if the stream doesn’t have a sufficient amount of water.
Unlike on the Lower Mountain Fork River near Broken Bow where the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is entitled to water from Broken Bow Reservoir, the agency does not have any permanent rights for the water stored in Tenkiller Lake.
The trout stream on the Lower Illinois River near Gore depends upon the water released from Tenkiller Lake through power generations and flood control measures.
All of the water stored in the reservoir is contracted with some company or municipality for hydropower or water supply. None of the water is dedicated to the trout fishery.
Water released for the trout stream have been made possible in the past by donations of surplus water from Sequoyah Fuels, a company which no longer exists.
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation holds a temporary permit for the surplus Sequoyah Fuels water, but it is about to expire, said Gene Gilliland, assistant chief of fisheries for the agency.
The Wildlife Department already used this summer almost all of the water it could borrow anyway from Tenkiller to keep the trout stream flowing during the record drought, he said.
On Monday, state and federal wildlife officials along with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Southwestern Power Administration met to see what could be done to sustain the trout stream.
The agencies agreed to operational changes in an attempt to extend the survival period of the trout and hope for much needed rains, said Nate Herring, spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Tulsa District..
When hydropower generation is required to meet peak power demands, the Southwestern Power Administration will put a priority on generating power from Tenkiller Lake over other hydropower projects in the Arkansas River basin, he said.
SWPA also will try generating from two turbine units at half load, instead of one unit at full load, in an attempt to improve dissolved oxygen levels downstream to help keep fish alive, he said.
Gilliland said those measures may not fix the problem. Now that cooler weather has arrived, state wildlife officials are concerned that power demands will decrease, meaning there may not be sufficient water releases to keep the trout stream flowing.
“It’s now about water quantity and not water quality,” Gilliland said. “After our water runs out in the next week or so, if they are generating only in late afternoon or early evening, than that leaves the whole rest of the day and night with essentially no water flow.
“If the water stops flowing, the stream drains down and the water level gets really low. We are talking about parts of the stream bed drying up.”
Gilliland said a long-term solution must be found if the trout fishery is going to continue in the Lower Illinois.
“It goes back to the root problem,” he said. “All of the water in Tenkiller is allocated to somebody else.”
Chuck Kaminski, secretary of the 89er Chapter of Trout Unlimited, said trout anglers in Oklahoma “are holding their breath as we prepare to witness a potential die-off of all the trout in the Lower Illinois River.”
Kaminski thinks Oklahoma’s Congressional delegation should intervene to ensure there is water allocated for the trout stream.
“A long term solution for the water issue is needed, but a near term solution is a must if the fishery is to survive,” he said.
The Trosper Archery Club in south Oklahoma City will be the host Saturday and Sunday for the Oklahoma State Archery Association Target Championships.
About 100 archers from across the state are expected to compete for championships in compound and traditional bows at the club’s range.
State champions will be crowned based on styles of shooting and age groups.
The archery club range is located south of downtown Oklahoma City, a half-mile east of Interstate 35 at 2201 SE. Grand Boulevard.
The Trosper Archery Club operates and maintains a range which includes practice targets, a 3D course, a 14 target field course and a target range.
For information on the club or how to get started in archery, visit the club’s website at www.trosperarchery.com
An Oklahoma native may become the first woman ever to qualify for the Bassmaster Elite Series, the top pro fishing tour of B.A.S.S.
“I am on top of the world,” said Janet Parker, who grew up in Gore and is a 1989 graduate of Muskogee High School. “I can’t tell you how excited I am to have this chance.”
Parker, who now lives in Little Elm, Texas, took a big step toward the Elite Series with her 10th place finish on the Arkansas River last weekend in the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open in Muskogee.
The 10th place finish jumped her from sixth to second place in the point standings. If she can stay in the top five through the end of the season, Parker would be among the Open invitees for the 2012 Elite Series.
With only one remaining tournament on the Central Open schedule, Parker thinks she only needs to finish 50th or better in the Oct. 22-23 event on Table Rock Lake in Missouri to qualify.
Parker said she wouldn’t hesitate to fish the Elite Series if she gets the opportunity.
“If I can get that eligibility, I want to fish the Elites,” Parker said. “I want to make history as the first female.”
Parker, a former Women’s Bassmaster Tour pro, began fishing the Opens in 2010 after the women’s tour disbanded.
The annual drawing for duck blinds at the Stinchcomb Wildlife Refuge will be Wednesday at 8 p.m. at the Lake Overholser pavilion, 1200 East Overholser Drive.
City officials are proceeding with the drawing at Stinchomb even though the water areas are low. They are warning hunters who participate in drawing that there is no guarantee of water around blinds.
A copy of the blind site locations will be posted at the drawing. All hunting must be from designated blinds and during the waterfowl season dates.
No bank hunting or hunting from watercraft is allowed.
Participants must be age 18 and hold a city hunting permit and state hunting license to be eligible for the drawing. City hunting permits will be sold before the drawing at the Overholser Pavilion. For more information, call the Oklahoma City Police Department’s Lake Overholser station at 789-3746.
At its August meeting, the Oklahoma City Fish and Game Commission voted to recommend to the Oklahoma City Council canceling the waterfowl hunting season at Lake Stanley Draper because of the low water level.
The commission, however, may reconsider its stance at its September meeting after opposition from duck hunters such as Steve Petersen.
“Being active duty Navy, I tend to work long hours and often times six or seven days a week and living close to the lake allows me to take my kids,” Petersen said. “I can’t believe the city is using the excuse of hunters driving on the lake bed to justify canceling the season.
“The gates and roads along the east side where hunting is allowed are often closed and locked so hunters have to walk anyway when the dirt roads are wet from rain or snow. I can’t count how many fishermen and off-roaders I have seen get stuck in the mud driving on the lake bed and have to be pulled out. I have yet to see a single hunter.
“Over the last couple of seasons that I have hunted there it wasn’t very often I would even see or hear shots from another hunter.”
Tommy Biffle of Wagoner, fishing in his back yard so to speak on the Arkansas River, ran away with the Bassmaster Central Open last weekend.
Biffle boated a three-day total of 45 pounds, 13 ounces, finishing more than eight pounds ahead of second place Chris Zaldain of San Jose, Calif.
Anglers launched out of Three Forks Marina in Muskogee.
Biffle won $54,000 for the victory but didn’t get the automatic qualification that normally comes with the Central Open championship since he didn’t fish in the first Central Open earlier this year.
A sponsor committment kept him away and it cost him a trip to the 2012 Bassmaster Classic on the Red River in Shreveport-Bossier City, La.
Biffle was throwing a Biffle Bug during the entire tournament, the same thing he used to win last year’ Sooner Run on Fort Gibson Lake.
Moore’s Shonn Goodwin finished eighth in the tournament with a three-total of 29-13 and won $5,440.
Bokoshe’s finished ninth with 29-9 and won $4,080.
MUSKOGEE – Tommy Biffle of Wagoner leads after the first day of fishing Thursday in the Bassmaster Central Open.
Biffle weighed in a five-fish bag limit of 18 pounds, 12 ounces. He utilized an aluminum boat with a jet drive outboard to get into shallow areas that are holding larger fish on the Arkansas River.
“I had to go through some nasty areas with only six or seven inches of water and hard rock bottom,” Biffle said. “The fish in the river system have been beat up in practice the last week or so, so I thought I’d take my aluminum boat and get to where the other anglers can’t get and take my chances.”
Biffle leads Muskogee High School graduate Janet Parker of Little Elm, Texas, by three pounds, six ounces after the first day of fishing.
The winner of the three-day tournament earns a trip to the Bassmaster Classic. Most of the field of 136 boats is fishing a 95-mile stretch of the river.
Weigh-in Friday begins at 2:45 p.m. at Three Forks Marina in Muskogee. Saturday’s final weigh-in is at Bass Pro Shops in Broken Arrow beginning at 3:45 p.m.
Fishing in the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open begins today on the Arkansas River.
Anglers are launching out of Three Forks Harbor in Muskogee for the three-day tournament. First place earns a spot in the 2012 Bassmaster Classic.
Ardmore pro Jeff Kriet already has qualified for the Bassmaster Classic through the Elite Series, but he is fishing in the Central Open anyway to try to get his friend, Kelly Jordan, in the Classic.
Jordon was first man out on the Classic qualification points list through the 2011 Bassmaster Elite Series. If an Elite Series pro double-qualifies for the Classic, Jordon will be the first man in.
“If I was the first guy out, I’d want him to be fishing,” Kriet said. “I’d be mad at him if he’d paid up and didn’t go. I figured I’d at least give it a shot.”
Weigh-ins today and Friday are at 2:45 p.m. at Three Forks Harbor. Saturday’s final weigh-in will be at 3:45 p.m. at Bass Pro Shops in Broken Arrow.