COVID-19 IN THE OUTDOORS – July/August 2020

FORECAST CENTER: Saltwater – July/August 2020
June 24, 2020
NEW SALT AND FRESH REGS – July/August 2020
June 24, 2020

(Composite Image: TF&G)

Major Waterfowl Cancellation, Gun Rights Concerns, Cautious Re-Openings

FOR THE FIRST TIME in its 65-year history, the Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey has been canceled by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) and state partners due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The USFWS and CWS also cancelled participation in the American Woodcock Singing-ground Survey, Mid-Continent Population Sandhill Crane Survey, and Arctic Goose Banding Program. The U.S. Geological Survey canceled the North American Breeding Bird Survey, data from which is also important in monitoring bird abundance and regulating harvest of some species.

The May survey has been successfully completed every year since 1955 and its data used to estimate breeding population size and inform harvest management decisions for many waterfowl species.

Cancelation of these surveys will create a one-year gap in the record of waterfowl population estimates. The USFWS, in consultation with the Flyway Councils, will use long-term data from spring/summer monitoring for these species to make regulatory harvest management decisions.

“Decisions to cancel the May survey and other migratory bird monitoring this spring were based on our priority of protecting the health and safety of the American public, our partners and our employees,” said Ken Richkus, Chief of the USFWS Division of Migratory Bird Management.

Duck season regulations are based on the status of mallards in the Mississippi, Central and Pacific Flyways and on the status of four species (green-winged teal, common goldeneye, wood duck and ring-necked duck) in the Atlantic Flyway.

Because of recent changes in how harvest regulations are set, survey cancelations will not affect the 2020-21 hunting season. Proposed regulations for the 2020-21 season were based on population and habitat conditions from the 2019 breeding season and are making their way through the approval process.

For the 2021-2022 general duck seasons, Richkus said the USFWS will use the long-term data and models to predict 2020 spring abundances of ducks and habitat conditions in place of the spring 2020 data. The results from these predictions will be combined with the existing harvest strategies to determine appropriate levels of harvest for the 2021-2022 season.

Current travel restrictions in Canada, unless modified, may also affect many goose banding program efforts and surveys as well as high latitude duck banding stations this summer.

“These surveys are the bedrock of effective harvest management in North America and have helped sustain waterfowl populations and abundant hunting opportunities for over 60 years,” said Ducks Unlimited Chief Conservation Officer Karen Waldrop. “Although we will miss the anticipation and excitement that comes with the annual release of the May survey results, we don’t expect the cancelation of surveys to impact seasons and bag limits for the majority of species. The combination of healthy, robust waterfowl populations and our long-term experience with these data, gives us faith that the waterfowl management community can project populations with a high level of certainty.”

• • •

Pandemic Gun Rights Concerns

Nothing is more important than protecting ourselves and our families—especially during these times of uncertainty. Yet, some anti-gun lawmakers are exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic to deny you and your loved ones your fundamental right to self-defense and your Second Amendment rights.

These anti-gun and anti-self-defense extremists deem gun stores “non-essential,” they shut down issuance of firearm permits, and, in some locations, they have created extreme delays for background checks required for firearm transfers. Some jurisdictions have even put added restrictions on firearm transfers, making it all but impossible for many law-abiding Americans to exercise their Second Amendment rights.

All of this is happening against a backdrop of reported prisoner furloughs and law enforcement only arresting for the most serious of crimes.

Just like you, we know that’s wrong.

That is why the NRA will keep a constant watch on what is happening nationwide and will work diligently to ensure that you are able to defend yourself and your family during these unprecedented times. In the past four decades, your NRA has led the way to pass Right-to-Carry, Castle Doctrine, and—most important for the current crisis—protection against gun confiscation during declared emergencies. This time is no different.

We hope you find this website useful. Please use it to stay updated on what’s happening in your town or state and across the country. If you need help or would like to alert us to something happening in your town or state, please send us an email at [email protected].

 

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• • •

Salt, Fresh Fishery Centers Re-open

With Texas gradually re-opening, Sea Center Texas in Lake Jackson and the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens will partially re-open to public visitation on Wednesday, May 27. Both facilities will have enhanced safety measures that comply with CDC guidelines and Governor Abbott’s executive orders.

“We look forward to providing a safe, free option for children and families to explore and learn more about saltwater environments,” says Robin Riechers, Coastal Fisheries Division Director.

Sea Center Texas (SCT) will be open from 10am to 3pm Tuesday-Saturday with the following safety procedures in place:

Guests are encouraged to wear masks and maintain appropriate social distances from others outside their party and use hand sanitizer and wash their hands regularly.

No groups larger than five people are allowed, except for families or people living in the same household.

The aquariums and the outdoor wetlands area are for self- guided viewing only

The gift shop will remain closed until further notice

No public fishing, hatchery tours, or touch displays

SCT will be operating at approximately 25% capacity per the state’s executive order. This will allow up to 75 people in SCT Visitor’s Center and 138 people on the wetland’s boardwalk. As always, admission is free.

“Providing the opportunity for Texans to see and experience our fisheries and aquatic resources firsthand is at the heart of our mission” said Craig Bonds, Director of Inland Fisheries. “We are excited to be able to once again offer some of these experiences and benefits at TFFC with a partial re-opening while providing responsible human health safety measures.”

The Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center (TFFC) will be open 9am to 4pm Wednesday-Saturday and 1pm to 4pm Sunday with the following safety procedures in place:

Guests are encouraged to wear masks, maintain appropriate social distances from others outside their party, and use hand sanitizer and wash their hands regularly.

No groups larger than five people are allowed, except for families or people living in the same household.

To avoid crowding there will not be any tram or hatchery tours offered

The indoor portion of the visitor center, including the dive theater, gift shop, and Game Warden museum will remain closed.

Water fountains and vending machines will not be operational, but visitors are permitted to bring drinks and bottled water will be available for purchase

TFFC will be operating at approximately 25% visitor capacity per the state’s executive order. This will allow up to 100 people at the facility at any time. To be informed on when TFFC is nearing visitor capacity and entrance will require waiting, please follow the TFFC Facebook page and front entrance signage. Admission is temporarily reduced to the group rate of $2.50 per guest. During this partial reopening phase, visitors to TFFC can still enjoy all outside aquaria, recreational fishing (fishing poles will not be available for loan, but tackle and bait will be available), the Angler’s Pavilion, antique lure and fishing equipment exhibit, and wetland trail.

 

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• • •

Social-Distance with a Special Trout Challenge

Trout fishing on beautiful western streams is one of the greatest things a person can experience. Stunning landscapes and equally stunning fish make for memories that will last a lifetime.

“By attempting to catch native trout in 12 states anglers can enjoy the adventure of a lifetime.

Although rainbow and brown trout are no doubt the most widely sought species, they are not native to many of the streams they swim. In fact, brown trout are not even native to North America.

Both of these wonderful sportfish have their place, but so do a wide variety of native trout. That’s what the Western Native Trout Challenge is all about.

The Challenge invites anglers to help celebrate America’s western legacy. Anglers are challenged to catch native trout and char in each of the 12 participating states, at their own pace. By attempting to catch these native trout in 12 states anglers can enjoy the adventure of a lifetime.

For every $25 program registration fee, $23 goes toward helping to conserve these species. In 2020, registration fees and donations supported West Slope cutthroat trout in a project called Cottonwood Creek Fish Passage Barrier Project for Native Trout Security in Montana.

All participants will receive a full-color certificate featuring the graphic designs of noted artist Joseph Tomelleri to commemorate their catch.

Ambitious anglers can take things to the next level by catching six species in at least four states and becoming an “Expert Caster.” Those who catch 12 species in at least eight states qualify as “Advanced Caster”. “Master Casters” are those who catch and photograph 18 species across all 12 states.

 

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Follow these steps to participate:

1. Register for the challenge at westernativetroutchallenge.org Registration is available at the end of a short presentation about aquatic invasive species prevention. Cost is $25 for adults 18 and older and free for youths 17 and under.

2. Plan your journey. Be sure to buy your license for each state, and go fishing. Catch and photograph fish in their native or historic waters.

3. Certify your catch by submitting a photo and description of each trout or char and when and where you caught it.

4. Get your official certificate, hat, or medallion (depending on the challenge level you complete) and share great stories of your adventures.

 

TF&G Staff reports

 

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