Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF)
Outdoor Report

Managing and Conserving Our Wildlife and Natural Resources

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

VDGIF is an agency of the Virginia Secretariat of Natural Resources
In this issue:
  • Make Your Spring Gobbler Hunt a Safe One!
  • The Shad Are Back
    • Anglers Spend Time and Money Pursuing Shad
    • View the Shad Cam Located at Bosher's Dam
  • Regulation Amendment Process Underway
  • People and Partners in the News
    • Kids Fishing Days Scheduled Statewide
    • Fly Fishing Festival April 21-22 in Waynesboro
    • "Learn to Fly Fish" Workshop May 12 in Harrisonburg
    • Holiday Lake Forestry Camp Teaches Conservation to Teens
    • 31st Annual Youth Conservation Camp Sponsored by Soil and Water Districts
  • Be Safe... Have Fun!
    • New High-Tech Inflatable Life Jackets Are Cool and Comfortable
  • Wildlife Habitat Improvement Tip
    • "Cleaning Up" the Yard Can Help Wildlife Too!
  • In Case You Missed It...
    • Fulfillment Farms Offers Youth Turkey Hunt April 14
    • Youth Writing Contest Extended
    • Great Dismal Swamp Birding Festival May 11-13
    • Virginia Waterfowl Stamp Grant Application Period Open
    • Hunting and Fishing Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities

Make Your Spring Gobbler Hunt a Safe One!

To ensure a safe and enjoyable day afield, VDGIF recommends the following guidelines for Spring Gobbler hunting:

  • Tie a strip of blaze orange to a nearby tree to alert others of your presence.
  • When choosing a calling position, don't hide so well that you cannot see what is going on around you. Select a calling position with a good view of your surroundings and where the sun does not distort what you are seeing.
  • Never move, wave or make turkey sounds to alert another hunter of your presence. Instead, call out in a loud voice and remain hidden, until the other hunter acknowledges your presence.
  • When you harvest a gobbler, carry it out of the woods draped in blaze orange. Otherwise, another hunter might just see the bird and not you.
  • Read more about how to stay safe during your Spring Gobbler hunt! »

The Shad Are Back

Spring is upon us and the annual run of shad and herring is in full swing as they make their way into our freshwater rivers to spawn. In recent years, many anglers have been rediscovering these silvery jewels from the sea, as increasing numbers of hickory and American shad are providing exciting spring angling opportunities. American shad and hickory shad usually arrive in March in the Rappahannock and James rivers and the Americans usually hang around through May. Remember, it is catch and release only for American shad (check VDGIF and VMRC regulations).

Anglers Spend Time and Money Pursuing Shad

Last year VDGIF conducted an angler survey on the fall line sections of both the James and Rappahannock rivers from March 1 through May 31 to evaluate angler use and the economic value of this springtime fishery. In the James River, anglers fished 22,306 hours for shad, caught 32,578 hickory and 2,249 American shad, and spent $87,159 during the three month survey. On the Rappahannock, anglers fished 6,210 hours for shad, caught 15,103 hickory and 1,425 American shad, and spent $59,406. To view the full report, see the 2006 James and Rappahannock River Fall Line Creel Surveys.

View the Shad Cam Located at Bosher's Dam

The Shad Cam at the Bosher's Dam fishway provides visitors a peek into the incredible journey of anadromous fish as they return to the James River to spawn in the spring. The fishway, constructed in 1999, provides fish with access to 137 miles of the James River and 168 miles of its tributaries.

2007 Wildlife and Boating Regulation Review and Amendment Process

In 2007 the Board of Game and Inland Fisheries is conducting its Periodic Regulation Review and Amendment Process, in which it addresses all regulations administered by VDGIF. At the March 27 Board meeting, staff presented its Preliminary Recommendations for regulation amendments. The Preliminary Recommendations Public Discussion Period opened April 10 and runs through June 15. Key dates in the process can be found at the Department's Web site.

VDGIF solicits the public's participation in the regulation review process; channels for submitting comments are:

  • Online through the Department's Web site
  • E-mail sent to
  • Mailed letters sent to: Dept. of Game and Inland Fisheries, Attn: Policy Analyst and Regulatory Coordinator, 4016 West Broad Street, Richmond, VA 23230
  • Public comment at five Board meetings (March 27; June 5; July 17; August 21; October 16; all are 9 AM at 4000 West Broad Street, Richmond, VA.).
  • Meetings on request. On request and subject to availability, VDGIF staff will meet with constituent groups, local government officials, or other groups in local communities to address specific regulatory issues of interest.

People and Partners in the News

Kids Fishing Days Scheduled Statewide

More than 30 Kids Fishing Days (PDF) are being planned statewide by various organizations in partnership with VDGIF. These events are an enjoyable time for the family and a great opportunity to introduce kids to fishing in a fun atmosphere. The first one is scheduled in Front Royal on Saturday April 14, with events every weekend statewide through June 9, 2007. For detailed information on dates, locations, times and contacts, see the Kids Fishing Days schedule (PDF) to find one near you! Catch the fun! Take a kid fishin'!

Fly Fishing Festival April 21-22 in Waynesboro

Want to get started in fly fishing but don't know where to begin? The Virginia Fly Fishing Festival is the ideal place to get your feet wet in the sport. The Virginia Fly Fishing Festival is held on the banks of the South River in Waynesboro, April 21-22, 2007. Anglers from across the Mid-Atlantic attend to hear nonstop, free lectures and get tips on where, when, and how to fly fish in the Old Dominion and across the globe. The festival also features as well as wine-tasting and live music.

"Learn to Fly Fish" Workshop May 12 in Harrisonburg

The Massanutten Chapter of Trout Unlimited is sponsoring the annual "Learn to Fly Fish" Workshop May 12, 2007, in Harrisonburg, at River Rock Park beginning at 8:30 a.m. The event is for beginners or novice anglers who need a tune up. Classes provide hands-on instruction in selecting the right tackle, fly casting, knots, stream techniques and more. Participants must be at least 10 years of age and accompanied by an adult if under age 15. Participants 16 years or older must possess a valid Freshwater Fishing License and Trout License. The cost is $49 and lunch and fly fishing rods and equipment will be provided. For more info visit the Massanutten Chapter of Trout Unlimited's Web site or email:

Holiday Lake Forestry Camp Teaches Conservation To Teens

The Virginia Department of Forestry, in cooperation with natural resource conservation agencies and organizations, is accepting nominations until April 20, for the annual Holiday Lake Forestry Camp near Appomattox the week of June 18-23, 2007. Camp is held at the Holiday Lake 4-H Education Center located within the 20,000 acre Appomattox-Buckingham State Forest. This working forest provides a vast outdoor classroom for interactive learning. This unique camping experience introduces teens to the challenges, special skills and knowledge needed for managing the forest resources we use and enjoy every day. The week long camp is ideal for students who want to explore and experience activities in forestry and wildlife-related careers, or participate in forestry and wildlife judging teams, Envirothon competitions, or ecology clubs. For more information, see the Department of Forestry's Web site.

31st Annual Youth Conservation Camp Sponsored by Soil and Water Districts

The Virginia Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts (VASWCD) has sponsored a week long summer conservation camp for Virginia high school students (grades 9-12) on the campus of Virginia Tech for the past 30 years. The program brings together about 90 interested students for a week of learning about Virginia's natural resources; classes are taught by conservation professionals and faculty from Virginia Tech. Most of the instruction is hands-on and outdoors. The 2007 Camp is July 8-14, 2007. Applications (PDF) must be submitted to your local soil and water conservation office by May 8, 2007. To determine local office (based on your locality), see the VASWCD's Web site.

Be Safe... Have Fun

New High-Tech Inflatable Life Jackets Are Cool and Comfortable

Nearly all boating-related fatalities are the result of drowning and it is estimated that over 80% of fatalities could have been prevented if a life jacket was worn. With the improved technology of inflatable life jackets, there really isn't any reason not to wear a life jacket today. While the life jackets of yesterday were hot, bulky and uncomfortable, new life jackets are lightweight, compact and extremely comfortable.

Inflatable life jackets are all the rage. They come in two basic styles, "Over the Shoulder" and "Waist Belts/Packs." Both use a simple CO2 release mechanism to inflate an inner bladder. The release device comes in two styles: manual or auto/manual. You'll pay about $35 more for the automatic inflation style, but to some boaters, it's money well spent. The inflatable life jackets are U.S. Coast Guard (USCG)-approved, but you do need to check the label to determine what the rating is for each individual life jacket. A Type V rating requires the device to be worn by the person to meet carriage requirements.

Inflatable life jackets take up about one-tenth the storage room of conventional foam-filled PFDs and are USCG-approved for persons over 16 years of age who are not engaged in whitewater activities, water skiing or riding on a PWC.

Wildlife Habitat Improvement Tip

"Cleaning up" the Yard Can Help Wildlife Too!

Now is the time to plant wildflower gardens for butterflies and hummingbirds and sunflowers for doves. You can also provide important cover for birds, mammals, and other wildlife species by creating brush piles from your yard debris, such as pruned branches or downed limbs. Also, don't remove leaves! Keep leaf litter intact as a ground cover, where possible, and allow the natural decomposition process to occur. Leaves provide a home for many insects that feed other animals in the food web. Learn more »

In Case You Missed It...

Editor's note: As our subscriptions have grown to over 8,000 and new readers continue to sign up, we realize that some of our seasonal features are important and timely enough to bear repeating. So you can easily review these seasonal items, we have published them in this section: "In case you missed it..."

Fulfillment Farms Offers Youth Turkey Hunt April 14

A special opportunity for young turkey hunters is being offered by The Virginia Wildlife Foundation at Fulfillment Farms in Albemarle County on April 14. Please contact Ike Wright at (434) 286-4511 for details and registration information.

Youth Writing Contest Extended

The submission deadline for the Virginia Outdoor Writers Association (VOWA) 14th Annual Youth Writing Competition has been extended to April 30, 2007. The extension allows for the top three Youth Writing Award winners to be recognized during the Outdoor Writers Association of America Conference being held in Roanoke June 16-19, 2007. The winners will be introduced during a luncheon including about 300 national outdoor writers and editors. In addition, each of the three winners receives outdoor gear and other prizes valued at several hundred dollars.

The goal of the contest is to recognize students in grades 9 through 12 for excellence in communicating their personal experiences in the outdoors. The theme of this year's contest, "My Most Memorable Outdoor Experience," may include an experience by the writer with hunting, fishing, camping, canoeing, hiking, birding or other outdoor activity. Submissions can be made by private, public or home schooled students. For contest rules, guidelines and information visit VOWA's Web site.

Great Dismal Swamp Birding Festival May 11-13

The Inaugural Great Dismal Swamp Birding Festival is scheduled for May 11-13, 2007. This event will celebrate International Migratory Bird day with guided walks, narrated bus tours and family activities - all free! Huge numbers of migrating songbirds move through the swamp at this time of year - and you'll have a chance to experience them! The Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge is a treasure trove of wildlife and a great Virginia experience.

This event is co-sponsored by VDGIF, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the City of Suffolk and the Great Dismal Swamp Coalition. Visit the Festival's Web site or call (757) 986-3705 for information and reservations.

Virginia Migratory Waterfowl Conservation Stamp Grant Application Period Open

VDGIF is soliciting applications for the 2007 Migratory Waterfowl Conservation Stamp grant cycle. This grant is open to non-profit organizations for cooperative waterfowl habitat improvement projects in Virginia. Grant applications are due June 29, 2007, before 5:00 p.m. Successful applicants will be notified within 30 days of the submission deadline.

Spring Hunting and Fishing Events Offered for Persons with Disabilities

Virginia Wheelin' Sportsmen and VDGIF have seven hunting and fishing outings for April and May for persons with disabilities. Applications for these hunting or fishing opportunities are available online at All of the events are free and open to anyone with a disability. Participants are responsible for having all required Virginia hunting and fishing licenses.

See the Upcoming Events section for dates and locations. The application deadline is April 30, 2007. For more information, or to get an application by mail, please contact, Robin Clark at (434) 979-6154, or via e-mail at

Help Spread the News!

We hope you enjoy the new, electronic Outdoor Report and invite you to share this information with your friends and colleagues. Simply visit the Department's Web site and click on the Outdoor Report link to subscribe. New editions are sent directly to your email address every two weeks. Stay informed on issues and opportunities about Virginia's outdoors!

In upcoming issues of the new Outdoor Report, look for:

  • Leave Fawns Alone
  • Ethanol Boat Gas Warning
  • Free Freshwater Fishing Days: June 1-3, 2007
Black Skimmer. Artwork copyright Spike Knuth.

Black Skimmer
by Spike Knuth

The first close look at the black skimmer's head and bill might lead you to believe that this poor bird was deformed in some way! It has a vertically thin, blade-like bill, with its lower mandible an inch or longer than it's upper. When the explorer Samuel Champlain saw them off Cape Cod, he alluded to the bill saying it was a “matter of astonishment to many persons who cannot comprehend how it is possible for the bird to eat with such a beak.” Some of its other names are sea dog, because its call is somewhat like a barking dog, cutwater and storm or flood gull because it often feeds up in the tidal creeks at flood tide.

Skimmers are basically black above, white below. They are fairly large birds with long, narrow and flexible wings. Their tail is short and slightly forked. They have an oversized head with that unusual bill being colored a bright orange with a black tip. They are swift, agile fliers. To feed, they fly low over the water, dipping the stationary lower mandible in the water, skimming or cutting the surface seeking small killifish, menhaden and other fish, or shrimp and other aquatic organisms.

Scientists think that the ridges on their beak contain sensors which help the bird detect contact with something and alerts them as to how deep the water is. So accurate are these birds that they can skim a pond only an inch deep. Their head snaps downward when they make contact with something and they have special muscles and skull and backbone connections the provide cushioning so they don't break their necks. When they feel a fish or shrimp their head snaps down and back as their bill closes quickly on the prey. Also, the bill keeps growing because the friction of contact with the water actually wears the bill away.

Beginning in June, they nest in large colonies on the Barrier Islands and other small shell islands, called tumps by Eastern Shore natives. They often nest along with royal terns ands laughing gulls. The birds form hollows or scrapes in the sand and lay three to five eggs. If nests are destroyed they will re-nest as late as August. The hatched young are able to run about and feed almost immediately and feed on beetles, flies, and other beach organisms and regurgitated fish from the parent birds. As the young grow they begin to acquire the odd bill configuration of the adults, and by the time they fledge, they are ready to fish like the adults. Black skimmers depart Virginia beginning in September through October and return in late April.

·    ·    ·

This section of each issue of the Outdoor Report features one of the 925 animals that have been identified in Virginia's Wildlife Action Plan whose existence is at risk.

Think you can't make a difference? You can! Be wild and work with your local officials and in your local communities to conserve Virginia's wildlife resources. Find out how you can help and join our team!

April 2007

Check the Kids Fishing Days calendar for events scheduled in April!

21-22 Fly Fishing Festival, Waynesboro
21 Covey Kids Event (PDF): Educational Workshop, Quail Unlimited, White Oak Preserve, Clarksville.
20-21 Butch Trinca Memorial Spring Gobbler Hunt - Central Virginia Chapter, Charlottesville
28 Fishing Workshop (PDF), Oak Grove Lake Park, Chesapeake
28 New Kent Forestry Center Spring Gobbler Hunt I, Providence Forge
28 James River Chapter NWTF Spring Gobbler Hunt, Bedford
May 2007

Check the Kids Fishing Days calendar for events scheduled in May!

5 Virginia Wheelin' Sportsmen Spring Gobbler Hunt, Buckingham County
6 Virginia Wheelin' Sportsmen Trout Rodeo, Broadway
11-13 Great Dismal Swamp Birding Festival (PDF). Call (757) 986-3705.
12 New Kent Forestry Center Spring Gobbler Hunt II, Providence Forge
18-20 Mountain Lake Migratory Birding Festival
June 2007

Check the Kids Fishing Days calendar for events scheduled in June!

1-3 Free Freshwater Fishing Days
5 Board of Game and Inland Fisheries Meeting, Richmond
16-20 Outdoor Writers Association of America 80th Annual Conference, Roanoke
18-23 Holiday Lake Forestry Camp, Appomattox
The Department offers numerous hunting, fishing, and outdoor education programs designed for families, women, beginners and seasoned outdoor enthusiasts.
Visit Find Game, the Department's award-winning online public hunting lands locator!

For persons with disabilities: a calendar of hunting, fishing, and skill-building events, as well as areas designed for access to persons with disabilities can be found on the Department's online events calendar, accessible fishing areas page, as well as the VANWTF site.

Find out where to fish, fishing access, and much more at the Department's Web site.

For a quick reference to the season dates for hunting and trapping for all game species visit our online quick reference or refer to page 77 of the 2006-07 Hunting & Trapping Regulations Digest.
April 2007
14-May 5 Spring Gobbler Season (Hours: one-half hour before sunrise to noon)
May 2007
7-19 Spring Gobbler Season (Hours: one-half hour before sunrise to sunset)
June 2007

New Squirrel Season on selected VDGIF Wildlife Management Areas

Please consider contributing to Hunters for the Hungry through the $2 check-off when purchasing a license, or at any time through our online Outdoor Catalog.
To report a wildlife violation, call 1-800-237-5712, or email

FOR AN EMERGENCY SITUATION, contact the local game warden immediately through the local sheriff's office or police department.

Don't allow the actions of a few to tarnish the reputation of Virginia's sportsmen and sportswomen!

  • Yellow poplar breaking bud
  • Lady slippers blooming
  • Gobblers gobbling
  • Hummingbirds return
  • Largemouth bass on spawning beds


Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries
4010 West Broad Street, Richmond, Virginia 23230
(804) 367-1000 -