Commission to discuss live bait fish, deer seasons

Possible changes in the use of live bait and deer seasons are expected to draw lengthy discussion at Thursday's Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission meeting in Norton.

The movement of angler-caught live bait will probably be the most controversial.

Wildlife and Parks biologist Jason Goeckler said the department worries invasive species could be transported to new waters by fishermen who catch their own bait.

Once established in lakes, Asian carp and zebra mussels could over-populate and out-compete native fish for food and provide other problems.

Goeckler said two options will be discussed.

One would basically prohibit the movement or use of any live baitfish except in the immediate area where it's caught.

The other would allow anglers to transport green sunfish, bluegill, black and yellow bullheads for bait.

Danny Kisner, an Arkansas City angler involved in the issue, says those are key baits for catching big catfish.

That would still leave those who use live shad for bait unhappy.

Paul Bahr of Ellsworth used live shad to catch the state-record 44-pound striped bass at Wilson Lake last year.

"The way I like to fish at Wilson, (not being able to transport live shad) will severely limit me," he said. "I've used other fish, but they're not optimum when big stripers eat shad about 90 percent of the time."

Bahr said he catches shad at other lakes in the spring because he can't find them at Wilson until mid-summer.

Goeckler understands Bahr's concerns, but fears what someone transporting live shad could do.

"Shad so closely resemble Asian carp, especially when they're small, we could easily see them getting moved," he said. "We feel the risks are just too high with shad."

Commissioners will also be provided with possible plans for better educating the public on fish identification.

Goeckler said he's heard little concern the department is considering tighter regulations to insure bait dealers only sell safe baitfish to the public.

Commissioners are expected to discuss the matters again at an August meeting near Great Bend, and vote on them at an October meeting in Pratt.

Chris Tymeson, agency attorney, said possible changes to deer season dates will also be discussed Thursday.

He cautioned these are public suggestions and not currently backed by Wildlife and Parks. Most have been made hoping to increase hunting opportunities.

A key change could be opening the 12-day firearms deer season the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

It currently opens the Wednesday following the holiday.

Other suggestions include moving the special season for antlerless whitetails to include the Christmas and New Year's holiday weekends.

It currently begins around Jan. 1.

Adding a week-long muzzleloader season following the traditional firearms season and a creating a weekend for hunting for antlerless whitetails with firearms in late September or October are other ideas.

Tymeson said the department will seek public input on possible changes at coming public meetings held across the state, online and at future commission meetings.

Commissioners will probably vote on a regulation to legalize Kansas trappers to catch and keep a limited number of otters annually.

Kansas has a growing otter population. Any caught in past seasons had to be given to Wildlife and Parks.

Thursday's meeting will be at the Norton Community High School Auditorium, 103 W. Woodfield.

Deer group forming — Sportsmen and landowners interested in managing for better deer herds are invited to the first meeting of a Quality Deer Management Association chapter near El Dorado on Tuesday.

Natalie Donges, one of the hosts, said this will be the third chapter in Kansas and the first in the Wichita area.

The organization promotes wise management of deer populations through selective hunting and habitat improvement. It also stresses ethical hunting and strong relationships between hunters and landowners.

The meeting is at 7 p.m. at the Deer Grove RV Park Club House, 2873 SE Hwy 54, El Dorado.

Call 316-641-0011.