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 23, 2008

VDGIF is an agency of the Virginia Secretariat of Natural Resources
In this edition:
  • Merrimac Farm WMA Officially Opens Conserving Important Natural Habitat
  • If You Find a Fawn, Leave it Alone!
  • People and Partners in the News
    • Almond Honored with 2007 Morgan Award
    • Virginia Native Plant Society Hosts Wildflower Walks at Thompson WMA May 4
    • Kid's Fishing Day Events Provide Family Fun
    • Picture the Excitement! Enter the Kids n' Fishing Photo Contest
    • Local NWTF Chapters to Host Women in the Outdoors Events
    • Woods in Your Backyard Workshop for Landowners May 8 & 10
    • Invasive Freshwater Algae in Western Virginia Rivers
    • Hunting with Hounds Informal Survey Now Available
  • Hunting News You Can Use
    • Do You Have a "Spring Gobbler Tale" to Tell?
    • Muzzleloading Ignition System Regulation Amendment Open for Public Comment
  • Be Safe... Have Fun!
    • New High-Tech Inflatable LifeJackets are Cool and Comfortable
  • Habitat Improvement Tips
    • "Cleaning Up" the Yard Can Help Wildlife Too!
    • Hummingbirds Returning Soon
  • Fishin' Report
    • Shad Tagging Study
    • Catfish Stocked in Urban Fishing Lakes
    • State Agencies Gear Up for Potential Fish Health Issues
    • Sarah White's Notebook
      • New Lake and River Reports Added
      • Bill Coe's Lake Philpott Spring Report
  • Virginia Conservation Police Notebook
    • Law Enforcement Recruits Run to Keep Fit
    • Opportunities for Conservation Police Officer Recruits Now Available
    • Field Reports From Officers Protecting Natural Resources and People Pursuing Outdoor Recreation
  • In Case You Missed It...
    • Links to Recent Articles of Ongoing Interest

Merrimac Farm WMA Officially Opens Conserving Important Natural Habitat

Dedicating a significant public land acquisition and celebrating a unique partnership between the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, the Prince William Conservation Alliance, Marine Corps Base Quantico, and the McDowell family, who owned the property.

Merrimac Farm, in Prince William County, was officially opened to the public in a ceremony May 4, 2008, as the newest addition to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries' (VDGIF) statewide network of wildlife management areas. The land features more than 300 acres of diverse wildlife habitats - wetlands, hardwood forest and upland meadows - as well as access to Cedar Run.

The property was acquired earlier this year by the VDGIF with support from the Prince William Conservation Alliance, Marine Corps Base Quantico, and the McDowell family (who owned the property). As a result of this successful partnership involving state and federal agencies, local non-government organizations and private individuals, this scenic property has been permanently conserved for public use including hunting, fishing, wildlife watching and environmental education programs.

While Merrimac Farm Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is now open to the public, special managed hunts will not be available for several more months. VDGIF will use this site to demonstrate wildlife management principles and practices in an urban/suburban setting which will hopefully serve as a model for other public lands in northern Virginia. To protect the integrity of the property as well as to minimize user conflicts and negative impact on habitat, Merrimac Farm WMA will have some restrictions. Horseback and bicycle riding, use of all-terrain vehicles, dog walking and jogging will be prohibited.

A feature at the dedication was the presentation by the Virginia Native Plant Society designating Merrimac Farm as a Virginia Native Plant Society Registry Site. The designation was given not only for the large stand of Virginia bluebells and other spring wildflowers in the Cedar Run floodplain, but also for the outstanding upland forest community in the northern and western portions of the property.

The Merrimac Farm Dedication was actually an event within an event. A "twofer" if you will! Thanks to a lot of hard work on the part of the Virginia Native Plant Society (VNPS), Merrimac Farm WMA has been added to the VNPS's Registry Program and the VDGIF received a beautiful plaque in honor of this commitment to the protection of the unique wildflowers and upland forest on Merrimac Farm. VDGIF Director, Bob Duncan, acknowledged the key individuals responsible for making this important designation a reality. Charles Smith and Nancy Vehrs conducted the necessary plant inventory on site and they were guided by Kim Hosen. Rod Simmons and John Dodge are co-chairs of the Registry Program and were responsible for the actual recognition plaque for VDGIF. Also helping get this started were Sally Anderson, Nicky Staunton, and Jocelyn Sladen, all long time friends of the bluebells and trilliums! Thanks to the Prince William Wild Flower Society and the Virginia Native Plant Society for yet another collaborative project with VDGIF.

If You Find a Fawn, Leave it Alone!

It's that time of year again when white-tailed deer fawns are showing up in yards and fields and concerned citizens want to know how to help. In almost all cases, the best way to help is to simply give the fawn space and leave it alone. By giving it a wide berth, you also reduce the risk of inadvertently leading dogs and other predators to the hidden fawn. The white-spotted coat camouflages a fawn as it lies motionless in vegetation. Fawns, born from April through July, are purposely left alone by their mothers. Female deer, called does, stay away from the fawns to avoid leading predators to their location. They will return several times each day to move and/or feed their young. You probably will not see the doe at all since she only stays to feed the fawn for just a very few minutes before leaving it alone again.

Concerned people sometimes pick up animals that they think are orphaned. Most such "orphans" that good-intentioned citizens "rescue" every spring should have been left alone. Most wild animals are dedicated parents and will not abandon their young, but they do leave them alone for long periods of time while looking for food. If a fawn or rabbit has been "rescued" when it shouldn't have been, it can often be released at the same location. Parents tend to remain in the area for at least a day, looking for the lost youngster.

If a wild animal has been injured or truly orphaned, do not take matters into your own hands. You may contact a licensed rehabilitator by visiting the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) Web site. Raising a wild animal in captivity is illegal unless you have a state permit. Besides, each animal's nutritional, housing, and handling requirements are very specific and must be met if they have any chance of survival.

People and Partners in the News

Almond Honored with 2007 Morgan Award

George "Spud" Almond, a Master Hunter Education Instructor from Appomattox, is the 2007 recipient of the William Dixon Morgan Memorial Award, given annually to the Hunter Education instructor deemed to have contributed the most to Hunter Education. This year's Morgan Award recipient has been active in the Hunter Education Program since 1990 and has served as a longtime, dedicated member. Since 1990 he has volunteered over 2700 hours and has taught over 1550 students. He is a Master Instructor and has gone on to instruct and help train many other volunteers in the disciplines of shotgun, map & compass, and Outdoor Skills at the Hunter Education Courses. He is also active in most all volunteer instructor workshops. 'Spud' is a true gentleman and good friend to many of his fellow volunteers. When there's work to be done, you can always depend on him to be one of the first to show up!! And one of the last to leave!!

If you would like to learn more about opportunities on how to become a Hunter Education Instructor, or sponsoring a Hunter Education Course for novice outdoorsmen, visit our Web site.

Virginia Native Plant Society Hosts Wildflower Walks at Thompson WMA May 4

On Sunday, May 4, 2008, at 1:00 p.m., Kristin Zimet and Richard Stromberg will lead a walk at the Virginia Native Plant Society (VNPS) Registry Site in the G. Richard Thompson Wildlife Management Area to see the Trilliums and other spring flowers. To join the hike, meet at the Trillium Parking Lot on Virginia Route 638 north of Linden. Prior to the walk, the VNPS will dedicate a sign at Parking Lot 6 for the dedication of the trail and serving refreshments. The Thompson WMA has the most extraordinary stand of Large-flowered Trillium in Virginia. Because of the Trillium population, the VNPS, in cooperation with VDGIF, added the area to its registry as the state's first outstanding native plant site in 1990. Each spring, many people walk the Trillium Trail in the Thompson WMA to view the breathtaking display of Trillium, yellow Lady Slippers and the many other wildflowers that thrive in this Blue Ridge Mountain habitat. The Thompson WMA is included in the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail because it provides excellent wildlife viewing opportunities throughout the year. In the spring, tropical migrants like cerulean warblers, American redstarts, hooded warblers and scarlet tanagers return in full voice and color. The trail is dedicated to Marjorie Arundel, a longtime advocate for the preservation of native plants and a friend of the Trillium. For more information, contact Kristin at (540) 550-4044 or or Richard at (540) 631-0212 or

Kid's Fishing Day Events Provide Family Fun

More than 30 Kids Fishing Days 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. There are events every weekend state wide through June. For detailed information on dates, locations, times and contacts, see the Kids Fishing Days schedule to find one near you! Catch the fun! Take a kid fishin'.

For details, check the Kids Fishing Days calendar (PDF) on our Web site.

VDGIF Angling Education Coordinator, Chris Dunnavant, announces that the VDGIF Outdoor Education Program has many exciting and educational angling workshops coming up this fishing season! The first is a Fly Fishing Workshop on Friday, June 6, 6-9 p.m. in Dinwiddie. This is a great opportunity to get started fly fishing with sessions on Fly Casting, Techniques and Gear/Equipment. A Smallmouth Bass Workshop is scheduled for Tuesday, June 24, on the New River near Radford. Learn how to catch Smallmouth on the New River and then float/fish the New from a canoe. For more information and registration forms for these workshops visit:

Interested in hosting a fishing workshop? The VDGIF provides educational materials for educational fishing events. Just print out a Materials Request Form (PDF) found on the VDGIF Web site and mail or fax it in at least 30 days prior to your event and the materials will be shipped to you. We also have a Tackle Loaner Program (PDF) with locations throughout the state to provide rods, reels and tackle for your educational fishing event.

Picture The Excitement! Enter The Kids 'n Fishing Photo Contest

It certainly isn't hard to "picture it," kids 'n fishing that is - smiles, laughs, looks of anticipation and excitement. So, join in on the fun, catch the excitement of your child on film while fishing and enter his or her picture in the annual Kids 'n Fishing Photo Contest sponsored by VDGIF, Green Top Sporting Goods, and Shakespeare Tackle Company... celebrate National Fishing Week!

The winning pictures are those that best capture the theme "kids enjoying fishing." Children in the first through third place photographs of each category will receive a variety of fishing-related prizes. There is no need to be a professional photographer. Any snapshot will do. Winner's photos are displayed on the website and are often used in DGIF publications. Photos must be postmarked on or before June 21, 2008. For complete rules and Contest entry information, visit the Department's Web site.

Local NWTF Chapters To Host Women In The Outdoors Events

More and more women are putting new meaning into the phrase, "I'm going out with the girls", by learning to hunt, fish, camp and participate in outdoor adventures by participating in the National Wild Turkey Federation's (NWTF) popular Women in the Outdoors (WITO) program which began in 1998. The program has grown to over 30,000 members nationwide. Through this program, women try their hand at a variety of outdoor activities. The benefit of attending an event is the chance to try different outdoor activities and gear with the help of expert instructors. In addition, these one-day events allow women age 14 and older to learn more about the NWTF's mission to conserve wild turkeys and preserve the hunting tradition. Women in the Outdoors events can provide all this opportunity at a very reasonable cost, thanks to a combination of state and local NWTF chapter support and many great corporate and wildlife agency partners such as VDGIF. There are seven events scheduled in Virginia beginning May 10 in Charles City County with a spring gobbler hunt hosted by Bass Pro World Hampton WITO Chapter. Other events are scheduled for:

  • May 17 Rockbridge Chapter WITO, Lexington
  • June 14 Gander Mountain , Ashland
  • June 28 Bass Pro World WITO, Hampton
  • July 19 Augusta County WITO, Raphine
  • July 26 Bland County Many Beards WITO, Bastian
  • Aug 23 Henry County Longbeards WITO, Collinsville

For registration and event information contact: Priscilla Page, NWTF Women in the Outdoors Regional Coordinator at telephone (410) 378-2064 or on the Web:

Woods In Your Backyard Workshop For Landowners May 8 & 10

If you are a landowner who wants to learn how to effectively manage your forest and wildlife resources, the Woods In Your Backyard Workshop for Landowners is for you. The two-day workshop is in Farmville May 8, 2008 from 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. and May 10, 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. Virginia Cooperative Extension Central District Forestry & Natural Resources Agent, Jason Fisher notes that this conference is a great place to meet various natural resource professionals, learn something about taking good care of your woodland and meet other like-minded landowners.

This year's conference features VDGIF wildlife biologists and other natural resource management professionals presenting programs on basic, emerging, and traditional resource management sessions including Are You Fire Wise In Your Landscape, Land Management Techniques, Wildlife Management Considerations, Trail and Road Design, Planting Trees and Shrubs, Timber Harvesting Effects On Wildlife, and Watershed Protection, to mention a few. The two sessions will appeal to large and small acreage landowners alike. Space is limited and pre-registration is required. To learn more about conference content or registration information contact the Prince Edward Virginia Cooperative Extension office at (434) 392-4246 or For more information contact Jason Fisher at (434) 476-2147 or

Invasive Freshwater Algae in Western Virginia Rivers

Didymosphenia geminata, also known as "didymo", is a single-celled algae that is firmly established in at least three rivers below dams in Virginia: the Smith River, the Jackson River, and the Pound River. VDGIF Fisheries Biologist, Paul Bugas, notes that," Didymo is a non-toxic diatom that has the ability to colonize into long stalks and to cover entire river bottoms. Didymo has also gained an ignominious nickname, ‘rock snot', because it can break off into large pieces and drape over streamside vegetation. Anglers have become frustrated with this import because it can entangle lines and hooks, ruining a day on the water."

Didymo's native home is the Faroe Islands off of Scotland, and probably arrived in Virginia on the boots of a fisherman. It thrives in cold, clear, shallow water, just like the conditions found in our three major trout tailwaters. Didymo was "discovered" in each of these rivers during the summer of 2006 by anglers and biologists. Efforts by the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the Forest Service to monitor the amount and the distribution of this nuisance have begun. Other stakeholders, including Trout Unlimited and the Department of Conservation and Recreation, have begun an educational campaign in the Commonwealth to raise river-user awareness of didymo's potential harm. Posters, cards, fishing regulations, and websites are warning boaters and anglers to remove any algae fragments from their gear, to dry their gear completely, and to treat their gear with a dilute bleach solution to prevent the spread of this to other trout streams. Biologists world-wide are studying the short and long-term effects of didymo on freshwater fisheries, but it is still unknown how it will impact aquatic communities or if it can adapt to warmer environments. What we do know is that it is an aggravating nuisance, an economic detriment, and that it is here to stay.

Hunting With Hounds Informal Survey Now Available

The purpose of the Hunting With Hounds Informal Survey is to identify and compare the experiences of stakeholders on issues and events related to hunting with hounds in Virginia. This public input opportunity should not be construed as a chance to vote for or against hunting with hounds in Virginia; rather, it is another way relevant information can be passed to the Stakeholder Advisory Committee (SAC), Virginia Tech, VDGIF and their Board, and other decision makers about issues related to hound hunting in the Commonwealth. All issues relevant to hound hunting, whether perceived to be positive or negative, are being addressed in the informal survey. The informal survey is available to anyone who wants to take it. Although it is a valuable tool, a survey conducted in this open manner cannot provide statistically accurate estimates of public opinion on such complicated issues. For this reason, results will be summarized and considered as yet another type of public input.

For directions on taking the online Survey or taking a paper version of the Survey, visit the Department's Web site. To have a paper copy of the informal survey sent to you, please call Sarah Kozlowski at (540) 231-0961 or send an email to with your mailing address. Paper versions of the survey will be available for pick-up at VDGIF Headquarters in Richmond or any of the Regional Offices. For office locations and hours, please see the VDGIF offices page. Completed paper versions of the informal survey should be returned by May 18, 2008.

Hunting News You Can Use!

The following notes are quick reminders of things you may have overlooked in getting ready for hunting season, or reports of interest compiled from numerous calls we received recently at our information desk.

Do you have a "Spring Gobbler Tale" to Tell?

The forecast for the Spring Gobbler season in the April 9 edition of the Outdoor Report has been fairly accurate in both the predictions for warm weather and the success of a number of hunters. We have received some great photos and exciting stories from sportsmen enjoying the outdoors with family and friends at this most splendid time of year. And as we have gathered to tell of our individual experiences, one theme continues to be in the forefront- that success does not require that you harvest a bird - or even get a shot!

We want to share some of these experiences and photos with you. Note that one big gobbler weighing 24.4 pounds, was harvested by VDGIF Executive Director Bob Duncan, who is very proud of his hunting heritage. Bob has said that he, "Got more enjoyment during his hunts with some young friends - the gobbler is just icing on the cake!" The "rest of the story" is that Bob passed up a shot at a big gobbler that he ‘stumbled upon' while heading through the woods towards another gobbling bird. "I didn't feel I earned the shot," he confessed, "fair chase, ethics and setting a good example for the youngsters we are mentoring is most important."

The captions only tell a small part of the stories in the other photos. Think of your own memories of hunts considered "successful" just in being able to go! Bob adds, "If you have the opportunity to pursue shad fishing or boating or turkey hunting or simply take a hike on one of our WMA's to enjoy the wildlife and wild flowers, you really should go! You will not only enjoy the experience, but you will also return to your daily routine with a greater appreciation for all the good things that you help to make possible through your support of hunting, fishing, boating and wildlife conservation!"

Startin' Young... six year old TJ Gates harvested this gobbler while hunting with his father, Tom Gates and his cousin, Patrick Gates, April 18 at 7 a.m. in Powhatan. The gobbler weighed 19 ½ pounds, had 7/8 inch spurs, and had a ten inch beard. TJ shot this bird with his 410 shotgun with 3 inch number 4 shot. TJ had hunted with VDGIF Executive Director Bob Duncan on the Special Youth Day Spring Turkey Hunt, but they had no luck. Bob noted that, "Fortunately, TJ's Dad and cousin took him again!" This is a great experience to build family memories.

Veterans share great memories... Volunteers from the Hunter Education Instructors Association, along with the Nansemond River Baptist Church's outdoor ministry and VDGIF staff sponsored a memorable spring turkey hunt for Wounded Warriors in Sussex County on April 19. Hunter Education Instructor Rob Zepp and his wife, Cindy, worked for months to organize the event, which they hosted at their family farm. Eight wounded veterans of the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam and Korea participated in the event, in which a nice gobbler was harvested. None of the veterans had previously hunted turkey and all said they would be interested in hunting them again in the future. One of the veterans described the "adrenaline rush" of hunting as similar to what he experienced "flying choppers in Afghanistan." VDGIF Information & Education videographer, Ron Messina and photographers Lee Walker and Tim Tassitano, filmed the event as part of a series being developed for promoting outdoor adventures for veterans and persons with disabilities. Photo by Lee Walker.

Everyone shares in the excitement... as Chris Butler, with Appalachian Outdoors Television (right) shows video of the morning's hunt to first time turkey hunter Stephen Garcia from Lorton. Looking on sharing in the experience are Stephen's mother and volunteer guides Sherry and Gary Bickers. This was one of five hunting teams participating in the fifth Annual Butch Trinca Memorial Wild Turkey Hunt for Handicapped Sportsmen on April 19. The hunt was conducted with the help of 22 local members of the Central Virginia Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, the Virginia Wheelin' Sportsmen Program and VDGIF. Numerous local businesses provided equipment, facilities and supplies to assist in the success of the outing held at Carter's Mountain Orchard overlooking the beautiful apple trees in full bloom and adjacent Monticello and Charlottesville. Photo by David Coffman.

Great way to start the season! Lynette Whorley (right) proudly displays her first turkey of the season. Lynette's 21 pound turkey sported one inch spurs, a 10 inch beard, and was lured within 15 yards using a slate call and hen decoy.

Muzzleloading Ignition System Regulation Amendment Open for Public Comment

A regulation amendment has been proposed to remove the requirement that the ignition system of muzzleloading guns used for hunting bear and dear be only of the flintlock or percussion type, thereby allowing all types of ignition systems to be used on muzzleloading guns. A public comment period on this regulatory proposal opened April 4, 2008 and closes May 14, 2008. What constitutes a legal muzzleloading firearm has evolved since the first special muzzleloading deer season was held in 1973. Since that time technology in muzzleloader firearms has advanced and regulation changes have been adopted to allow modern-in-line ignition firearms, scopes, sabots, jacketed bullets, and smokeless powder. With the possibility of other ignition devices being developed in the future, VDGIF staff believes removing the reference in the regulation to a specific ignition type would be the most effective way to address future technological advancements in this area. View a summary of the proposed new regulation amendments or provide your information to comment.

Be Safe... Have Fun!

New High-Tech Inflatable Life Jackets are Cool and Comfortable

With the warming weather in spring, boaters are anxious to get back on the water. As you go through your preparation checklist, when you get to the life jackets—check their condition real good- your life may just depend on it! If they are worn, dry rotted or maybe don't fit properly, do not despair. This is a great opportunity to replace the unserviceable life jackets with new, high-tech, "cool and comfortable" inflatables.

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 yesterdays life jackets were hot, bulky and uncomfortable, the 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 using 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 $35.00 more for the automatic inflation style, but to some boaters, it's money well spent. The inflatable life jackets are US Coast Guard-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 PWC.

Habitat Improvement Tips

"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.

Hummingbirds Returning Soon

Get ready to hang out your hummingbird feeder - the ruby-throats are making their annual spring comeback. These fast-flying acrobats of the air are steadily moving their way up the east coast and have already been documented in some Tidewater areas and other parts of Virginia (view a map of the 2007 migration route). Or for some great pictures and tips about welcoming back these charming nectar seekers, see the Department's Web site.

Fishin' Report

Anglers throughout Virginia and neighboring states want to know "how are the fish bitin'?" To provide some answers, more than 25 license agents, marinas, fishing guides and bait shops have volunteered to serve as contacts for information on recent fishing conditions for primary rivers and lakes throughout the state. Sarah White, outdoor writer and regular contributor to Virginia Wildlife magazine, prepares this Fishin' Report from interviews with these contacts the week prior to publication of the Outdoor Report.

The Fishin' Report is only available as part of your free subscription to the Outdoor Report.

The rivers and lakes featured in the Fishin' Report are listed by VDGIF Administrative Regions so you can quickly locate the area in which you are most interested. Consult the regional location map to find the major river or lake you want to know about.

For regulations and conditions on saltwater fishing, visit the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) Web site.

Shad Tagging Study

VDGIF Fish Biologists are tagging American shad and hickory shad to learn more about shad populations and their spawning migration patterns in the fall zones of the James and Rappahannock rivers. Tagging began in March and will continue through May of 2008. The tag is an external "spaghetti tag" inserted in the fish near the dorsal fin (top/back) on the right side of the fish. Anglers who catch a tagged fish are asked to call the toll free 866 number on the tag to report the catch to the fisheries biologists conducting the study. VDGIF Shad Project Leader, Alan Weaver, asks anglers to, "Report the fish tag number, date, time and location of the catch, and whether or not the fish was harvested or released. You may either write down the numbers or cut off the colored portion of the tag . It is better for the fish, if released, to have the tag anchor left in the fish - it will heal over time. If the fish is released with the tag intact we may be able to gather additional information in the future." Note that American shad have a zero possession limit; hickory shad may be taken in certain areas - refer to the regulations section.

  • Green tags are being used in the Ancarrows Boat Landing area (14th St.; I95) on the James.
  • Orange tags are being used near Boshers Dam on the James.
  • Pink tags are being used on the Rappahannock in and near Fredericksburg.

The information gathered from anglers will help biologists learn more about the shad populations and spawning migration behavior. This tagging study is part of the ongoing efforts to restore shad in Virginia's Chesapeake Bay tributaries.

Catfish Stocked in Urban Fishing Lakes

The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) stocked 7,250 harvestable-size channel catfish in five (5) urban lakes on March 26 and 27, 2008. The five lakes and numbers stocked are as follows: Cook Lake, Alexandria, 1,000; Dorey Park Lake, Henrico County, 1,750; Shields Lake, Richmond, 1,750; Locust Shade Park Lake, Prince William County, 2,000; and Old Cossey Pond, Fredericksburg, 750. These stockings are part of VDGIF's efforts to continue the Urban Fishing Program; channel catfish stockings are designed to provide additional fishing opportunity during the warmer months, following the winter trout stocking portion of the program. All of the stocked channel catfish were farm-raised in Arkansas and should be excellent table fare.

Anglers are reminded that a Virginia Fishing License is required for residents 16 years and older, and a separate trout license is also needed to fish for stocked trout. Non-residents 12 and older need a Virginia Fishing License and all non-residents regardless of age need a trout license. For additional information on fishing license requirements, go to the VDGIF Web site at

For more information about the Urban Fishing Program, call the Fisheries Division at 540-899-4169, and visit our Web site for more on VDGIF's warmwater fish stocking programs.

State Agencies Gear Up For Potential Fish Health Issues

The Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries are directing numerous scientific studies and surveillance programs this spring in the western portion of Virginia in preparation for potential fish kills. Unexplained fish kills and episodes of fish with sores and lesions have occurred during each of the last four springs in the Shenandoah River system. In 2007, similar events also occurred in the upper James and Cowpasture Rivers.

The fish kills since 2004 have been unusual, affecting mainly adult smallmouth bass and sunfish. Slow fish die-offs have begun in early April and continued through May. Despite the efforts of many fish health and water chemistry experts, the causes of the fish kills remain unknown. Fish health findings suggest that multiple stressors may be involved, because the symptoms do not clearly indicate any single cause. Fish health and disease experts with the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Cornell University and Virginia Tech have found gill, liver and kidney damage; large numbers of parasites; and signs of bacterial infection. Viral studies have ruled out the likely fish viruses. Additional studies are being conducted by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and James Madison University.

If any fish kills are observed this year, the public is encouraged to provide information on the location, number and type of fish found dead or sick in the Shenandoah, Cowpasture and James River systems. Distressed fish are found mainly in eddies and shallow areas away from the main current. Anyone with information is asked to call the DEQ regional office in Harrisonburg at (540) 574-7800, or toll-free in Virginia at 1-800-592-5482. Information also can be emailed to

For the current trout stocking schedule (updated daily), see the Department's Web site.

Sara White's Notebook

With Spring warming the fish action is also heating up! We welcome the expanded reports from several new reporters. We have recently added Chickahominy Lake, Briery Creek Lake, Potomac River region, Occoquan River, Occoquan Reservoir, Burke Lake and Lake Anna. They are a great addition to the Fishin' Report and we appreciate all our reporter's up-to-date information. There are now over 25 river sections and lakes featured for your convenience each edition. As a special feature this edition, we have expanded reports from Philpott Lake by Bill Coe and for Smith Mountain Lake from Mike Snead. Thanks Bill and Mike for the great info.

Now go take a kid fishing, catch some whoppers and even greater memories!

Region 1 - Tidewater

Beaverdam Swamp: Lane Purcell reports that the largemouth bass are biting well. A recent largemouth tournament was won by partners Fernando Seminario and Mike Samules with 5 fish weighing a total of over 15 pounds. Cats are being stubborn and not responding well. Crappie, on the other hand, are really hitting, with the best lures being minnows and crappie jigs. Eight year old angler Kala Daniels landed a 2 pounder with a Barbie rod, overcoming the surrounding anglers with their loaded expensive rods. Some angers are brining in chain pickerel. The water is around 60 degrees and slightly stained.

Chickahominy River: Alton Williams of Rivers Rest tells us that cats are on the feed, attacking cut herring like crazy. Herring can be caught by the dams, and respond well to jigs. Bass fishing has been slow. A few good crappie have been fooled with minnows. The water is warming and clear.

Little Creek Reservoir: Walter Elliot says that big boy largemouth have been found 2-12 feet of water, with spinners, Super Flukes, crankbaits and jigs. Alex Booth of James City County landed a 4.13 pound largemouth; and Paul Rodrigo of Newport News brought in one weighing 5.6 pounds. Perry Veasey of James City County brought a 4.8 pound largemouth to boat. Crappie have been making themselves scarce, but Cathy Gently of Newport News landed her first citation crappie - a lunker weighing 2.3 pounds. Chain pickerel are hitting well in 2-15 feet of water. They seem to like spinners, crankbaits and minnows. The water is stained and in the lower 60's.

Norfolk Lakes: Drew Dixon of Dashell's Show Room reports that bass are on their beds and need to be a little agitated, then tempted with jigs. White perch in Nottoway are hitting Beetle Spins, red wigglers and minnows. Crappie are also going for minnows and jigs, particularly Kalin brand jigs. Stripers are few and far between. Some cats can be landed in the Nansemond River by using cut bait, especially croaker and squid. The water is in the low 60's and clear.

North Landing River and Back Bay: Dewey Mullins told me that local crappie are hitting minnows, hair jigs and Beetle Spins. Bass are sticking to the shallows and biting crankbaits and spinners. A recent bass tournament was won by Bob Glass, who landed a 6 pounder. Other angers came in with 4 -6 pound fish. A few cats have shown up, attacking cut bait and night crawlers. The Bluegill have shown up and are going for worms and Beetle Spins. The water is in the 60's and clear.

Nottoway and Blackwater Rivers: Local Guide Jeff Turner reports that on one trip to the Nottoway he landed over 100 hickory shad on spoons, and that the color of the spoon seemed to make no difference in its effectiveness. The White perch "were so thick that you could not get your bait to the bottom.' Stripers are hitting topwater lures after dark near the VDGIF boat ramp on Route 671. On the Blackwater, shad and largemouth bass angling is really starting to warm up. The waters are clear and warming.

Region 2 - Southside

James at Lynchburg: Tom Reisdorf of Angler's lane tells us that trout anglers in the mountain areas are succeeding with flies, such as the March Brown Mayfly, sizes 12 - 14 and the Olive Caddis, size 14. These flies are coaxing up the brookies. Smallmouth fishing is slow but not bad, a crayfish fly size 4 is a good bet. The shad are running in the Rappahannock. The water is clear and 52 degrees in the mountains.

Kerr Reservoir: Bobby Whitlow of Bob Cat's lake country store says that "everything" is hitting well. Bass are falling for soft plastics and spinners. Local crappie can be found near willow trees, bridge pilings and boat docks. These delicious little guys love minnows and jigs. Cat fishing is picking up with the rising water. Cut bait around the Stanton Dam is a good idea if you want to land a cat. Walleye action has slowed. White bass are attacking rooster tails and 2 inch Sassy Shad. Area stripers are responding to the same lures. The water is around 60 degrees and clear.

Lake Philpott: Local angler Bill Coe reflects on spring fishing...

Just as one sees all the flowers and trees budding and blooming around Philpott, there is also excitement under the water. All the aquatic life in the lake recognizes the turn in nature making the spring months the best months of the year for us to enjoy fishing and to enjoy nature at its best.

As the water temperature warms from the mid 40's into the 60's, the fish have four things on their mind - eating, building spawning sites, spawning, and protecting their eggs. Not only do they do this, they do so in unbelievable numbers and size at Philpott.

With the water temperature in the mid 40's to mid 50's the largemouth can be caught on numerous baits such as jigs, jerkbaits, spinnerbaits fished in deeper water in the main lake. Slow fishing, but they can be caught. As the water temperature warms to the upper 50's, the largemouth move to creek mouths where they will continue to hit the same baits. Once in the 60's, the fish begin their annual spawning.

The first spawn on Philpott is triggered by rapidly warming temperatures in the spring. When the water hits the low 60's, both the male and female largemouth, smallmouth, crappie, and bream will travel into the creek channels and the male will begin building a spawning area for the female. Should you catch a bass at this time of year with a bruised tail and mouth you have caught a male that is, has been, or has just finished building a nest but still isn't finished with his yearly task. The male of the species is most important in determining spawning success. After the nest is built the female will deposit her eggs and then the male will guard them until the hatch. It is a grueling time for the male bass chasing away other sunfish, carp, lizards, dragonfly larvae and other predacious insects that will eat or destroy the eggs. The male bass will not eat during this period but simply chases the predators and your bait away from the nest but sometimes are caught by anglers because of the hooks attached. The female is in deeper water watching all that happens. The largemouth bass spawning areas are all over the lake in sandy areas with overhanging branches as often as possible.

One does not need a boat to see this wonder of nature. Slip on a pair of polarized sunglasses and just walk around the dock areas or the edges of swim areas and I'm betting you will see exactly what I have written above. They will be right at the edge of the bank. Prime time for largemouth and smallmouth overlap in spawning sites and depth. The same prime nesting habitat will be used by bass, crappie and sunfish. There are subtle preferences. Crappie and bluegill really need substantial overhead cover before placing a nest. Smallmouth do not really care about brush and will key in on just the right rocky structure. They often use a ledge or rocky boulder area for overhead cover, but not always, and very seldom use brush to shelter their nest. Prime time for spawning at Philpott usually runs from the end to middle of April to the last week or so in June.

Region 3 - Southwest

Claytor Lake: Wyatt Blevins of Rock House Marina reports that stripers are going for live bait, specifically gizzard shad and alewives. A note to angers - alewives can be hard to find. The hybrids are schooling in the early morning hours and like buck tails and jerk baits. Crappie are hitting well on minnows and crappie jigs. Bass are on their beds and will bite "almost anything." The water is 62 degrees and clear.

Lower New River: John Zienius of Big Z's says that smallmouth fishing is going well in the river, using Rapala jerkbaits.

Region 4 - Mountain & Shenandoah Valley

Lake Moomaw: Larry Andrews of the Bait Place tells us that the fishing action is great for just about all species. Crappie over 2.25 pounds are being brought in. Both smallmouth and largemouth bass are hitting spinners in shallow water. Yellow perch are going for minnows. The water is 57 degrees and clear.

Lake Robertson: Travis Bennington reports that bluegill are hitting worms. The bass in the lake are hitting dark crankbaits and jerkbaits. The cat anglers are going home unlucky, as are those who want walleyes. The water is clear and warming.

North Fork of the Shenandoah: Lord of the flies, Harry Murray, tells us that the North and South forks of the river are clear and warming up. This is dramatically improving smallmouth fishing. The best action can be had by using streamers and nymphs, such as Murray's Hellgrammite and Murray's Black Marauder, both in size 6. The best places to fish the streams are in the deep pools and protected areas. The water is 62 degrees and clear.

The large trout streams in the Valley are really good spots for rainbows and browns. Good flies for these areas are Mr. Rapidan Streamer size 10 and Murray's Dark Stonefly Nymph size 14. The water is clear and in the mid 50's.
In the mountain streams the best technique is to approach from the heads of the streams higher up the mountain. Harry recommends the Mr. Rapidan Dry Fly, sizes and the H & L Variant, both in sizes 14 -16. Most streams are clear and range from 46 to 52 degrees.

Smith Mountain Lake: Mike Snead of the Virginia Outdoorsman writes…

The weather last week and that expected this week will continue to create challenging fishing conditions. Rapidly changing temperatures, high winds and frequent frontal activity made both fishing and boat control difficult last week. Strong, gusting winds made it hard for those fishing for stripers with live bait to control their planer boards, freelines and floats. Gusting high winds also made it difficult for anglers using small minnows to fish for crappie and for bass anglers to maneuver their boats around docks and along the shoreline. The huge temperature fluctuations and frontal activity will continue into this week. Early in the week daytime highs will only reach the low 50's yet by week's end the high daytime temperature will increase 20 degrees. The lows at night will be in the 30's through Tuesday, 40's Wednesday and Thursday, and then in the low 50's for the remainder of the week. While it will be overcast early this week, the sun will break through on Thursday and we'll have sunny to partly cloudy skies with little precipitation from then through the weekend. There will be plenty of light at night once the skies clear with a full moon on April 20th.

Bass fishing continues to be mixed. The water temperature fluctuations have caused bass that were staging to spawn to move up and then back off their bedding areas. There are reports of bass already on beds in selected areas and with the warm weather this week and a full moon on the 20th, I expect we'll see lots more move up in the next week to ten days. Meanwhile, anglers continue to catch nice fish on small jerkbaits and crankbaits. Pig and jigs and finesse plastics on Shaky Head jigs are also producing good numbers of fish. Good jerkbait and crankbait colors include silver, shad colors, chartreuse shad and a new color very close to it called "sexy shad." This color is available in lures being produced by several companies including Strike King and Norman. Jig and finesse bait colors include traditional crawfish variations with plenty of green pumpkin and brown.

Bass are also being caught early in the morning on spinner baits. Shad colored skirts like white, glimmer blue and pearl are working in clear water and a little chartreuse in the skirts will improve the bite in water that is colored or stained.

Striper anglers continue to report they are having luck on both live bait and flukes. I had the opportunity to get out of the shop and fish for a couple of days late last week and found that flukes rigged on belly weighted hooks far out-produced live bait presented on planer boards, freelines and floats. The retrieval that worked best during the day was a steady, slow one. We caught a number of stripers and several largemouth bass on flukes. Almost all of them were in the top several feet of the water column in water less than 10 feet deep or off riprap banks and shallow points. Flukes also produced fish after dark, especially within several feet of the shore. After dark, stripers also hit floating jerkbaits Rapala F-18, Storm ThunderSticks, Cotton Cordell Redfins, Long A's, pulled slowly along the surface near the shoreline.

Based on angler reports, the "night bite" this week seemed to get better for those who were out from 11:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. One of those dedicated night striper anglers, Barry Griffith, was out around 1:30 am when a large fish took his lure and started ripping off line. Barry said he knew he had a good fish on as soon as it hit his lure and noticed that the striper was acting funny, making multiple runs. When he finally got the fish to the boat he discovered the reason for the strange behavior was that his striper wasn't... a striper. It was a beautiful 9.12 pound, 23 and ¾ inch citation largemouth bass.

Fishing ought to really pick up toward the end of this week. When the water temperatures warm, bass should move back up onto spawning areas near the banks. These fish can be caught by "sight fishing." If you are not familiar with the behavior of bedding bass or how to catch them, I suggest you stop by your favorite tackle shop for information, advice, several bedding baits and a good pair of polarized sunglasses. The warmer water temperatures will also cause alewives to move to the banks at night as they start their annual spawning ritual. When the alewife move to the banks, the stripers and bass move up for an easy meal and this provides a great topwater night bite. Good baits include flukes, buck tails, large floating jerkbaits, wakebaits, chuggers and poppers.

This weekend there were several tournaments on the lake. The Smith Mountain Lake Bass Series (SMLBass) is an open tournament held each Sunday morning at the Hardy boat ramp. This week Randy Hicks and Austin Hicks had the best bag of fish and finished in 1st place. John Vest caught the SMLBass big fish. At the American Bass Anglers Tournament held on March 29th Brian Myers brought in a 5 fish limit weighing 14.95 pounds for 1st place. Brian Callaway took second with a combined weight of 13.77 pounds and caught the tournament big fish weighing 4.22 pounds.

Crappie continue to hit live small minnows, although the bite slowed and some of the larger fish have pulled back into deeper water. The best bait continues to be live minnows rigged on a gold, thin wire hook tied onto light monofilament or fluorocarbon line with a small splitshot about 15 inches above the hook. Some prefer to use a small jighead instead of the gold hook, letting the minnow propel the jighead as it swims around.

We will be finalizing and emailing our "2008 Virginia Outdoorsman Fishing Workshop" schedule out this week. The workshops will be held at the Westlake Dairy Queen in the evenings and will include a number of new topics. If you are on our email list you should receive your copy by Friday. If you would like a copy, email me at and I will send you the schedule along with a little information about the workshops. Seating is limited again this year so registration for each workshop will be on a first come, first served basis.

Mike Snead,, (540) 721-4867

Region 5 - Northern Piedmont

Fall Line of the James: Russ Cress continues his quest for shad by landing 900 this past week. They have been primarily hickory shad. They have been biting shad darts in chartreuse, and small Clouser flies (which Russ makes himself) in chartreuse and white, and pink and white. The water is 61 degrees and clear.

Lake Anna: Local guide C.C. McCotter tells us that fishing action on the lake is really picking up. Two largemouths over 8 pounds were landed in a recent weekend tournament, so the lunkers are out there! If it's bass you're going for the best bet is to vary your lures according to where you are in the lake. The midlake section is the most productive, with good lures being soft plastic stickbaits, Wacky Worms, lizards, Shaky Heads and topwater lures. If you're fishing uplake, try the Tiger Shad Lake Anna spinner and Texas rigged lizards. Wacky Worms and lizards are the top choice downlake. In that area, try looking around stumps and docks.

Stripers are active at dawn and twilight. The bigger ones seem to be around Jett's Island, Big Ben Flats and Rose Valley, Duck Hole and Gold Mine Creeks. Stripers can still be found all over the lake. In low light try live bait on sideplaners. Other effective lures are small swimbaits and soft plastic jerkbaits. Crappie have been especially cooperative lately, with a 2 pound citation fish taken from the upper Pamunkey on a Berkley Atomic Teaser Tube. Other anglers seem to be landing smaller crappie, but the big guys should return soon around beaver huts, brush, stumps, willow grass, and rocks. The water is in the upper 60's and clear.

Potomac Region by Local Guide Charlie Taylor

Potomac River - D.C.: Bass are beginning to spawn in the river. Better fishing areas now include any suitable spawning areas, such as Columbia Island Lagoon, Washington Sailing Marina, Oxon Cove, Washington Channel and the Spoils. Jig 'n pig, plastic worms and grubs and rattling crankbaits are the preferred baits. The area around Fletcher's Boathouse is thick with stripers up to 20 pounds. White perch are available in the deeper holes, while catfish action is red hot. Bottom fished baits of cut herring, are taking cats up to 20 pounds. Herring schools are thick. Shad action is good, early and late in the day.

Potomac River - Below Woodrow Wilson Bridge: Most of the bass have not moved into the creeks. Best action is found in the main river grassbeds and sand or gravel flats on the main river. Carolina-rigged plastic worms and lizards, in green and blue colors are taking good fish. Crankbaits are taking a lot of good fish, when fished on the downtide side of points with good tidal flows. Bass are also looking to spawn in the backs of the creeks, where Rapalas, twitched around the spawning flats, will take the fish. Some fish are also taking spinnerbaits, rattling crankbaits and occasionally, topwater baits. Crappie are schooled up and taking small minnows and tiny jigs. White and yellow perch may be found on the bottom in the deeper holes in some of the creeks. Fish these holes with small plastic grubs, nightcrawlers and live minnows. Catfish are suckers for cut bait, particularly herring. Fish the flats adjacent to the river channel for the trophies.

Potomac River - Upper: Smallmouth bass are biting on chartreuse plastic grubs, tiny crankbaits and small spinners or spinnerbaits. Work baits along the shoreline weedbeds during the morning and in the middle of the river during the afternoon. Topwater baits should also be good for some good fish, early and late in the day. Largemouth bass are spawning in the feeder creeks off the main river. Catfish are taking live minnows and cut bait, fished on the bottom, in the deeper holes. Lots of big, spawning bluegills may be caught on nightcrawlers, spinners, Beetle spins and flyrod poppers, around the shoreline weedbeds.

Occoquan River: Herring, shad, a few crappie and good numbers of bass are being caught here, even though the river is still high and stained. The herring and shad are found in the rocks in the back of the river, while crappie and bass are found near the boat docks and structure around the Route One Bridge. Catfish action is great throughout the river, with the larger fish coming from around the islands at the mouth of the river. Striper action is iffy, on large Rapalas, Rebel Minnows or Cordell Redfins. Some fish are taking Rat-L-Traps or Sassy Shads.

Occoquan Reservoir: Water conditions are excellent, with bass beginning to spawn. Those bass that are not yet building nests, are taking spinnerbaits in the back of main lake coves and on main lake points. Most of the bass are running 4-8 pounds. Crappie fishing is excellent, with plenty of large fish. Catfish are turning on, taking cut bait in the old river channel.

Burke Lake: Bass are building nest all around the lake. Best baits are small plastics and minnow imitators, such as small Rapalas or Thundersticks. Crappie and bass action is generally good, with bass hitting crankbaits and plastic worms around brushpiles and points. Crappie are taking small jigs and live minnows on dropoffs and over brushpiles.

Lake Brittle: A good number of bass in the 3-7 pound range, are taking lures in this lake. The larger fish are taking live crayfish. Crappie and bluegill are biting well in the clear water.

Farms Ponds: Lots of action from largemouth bass, sunfish, crappie and channel catfish. Better baits are topwater lures, bottom-fished plastic worms, flyrod poppers, nightcrawlers and live minnows. Check for spawning beds in the shallows. Fish small plastic baits through the beds or small minnow imitators over the beds.

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Virginia Conservation Police Notebook

Law Enforcement Recruits Run to Keep Fit

What were you doing on April 5, 2008? Cutting the grass, watching TV, or sleeping in? At VDGIF, 19 recruits of the 4th Basic Law Enforcement Academy were running the Ukrop's Monument Avenue 10K Run in Richmond. The recruits are completing 28 weeks of intense training to be sworn as future Conservation Police Officers upon graduation from the Academy in June. "Physical fitness is an important part of the law enforcement training," commented Major Steve Pike, who also runs with the recruits along with other VDGIF staff. Recruit race time results ranged from 47-70 minutes on this warm, but rainy day. The Law Enforcement recruits participate in physical training Monday - Friday during the 28-week academy and three days per week involve running at Byrd Park. You may want to think twice before you plan on trying to run from a Conservation Police Officer! They train right, run well and stay fit for life.

Opportunities for Conservation Police Officer Recruits Now Available

Individuals who are interested in a law enforcement career could easily find themselves migrating into the field of natural resources where exciting opportunities await them as Conservation Police Officers. Once known as Game Wardens, these public safety professionals dedicate their lives to the protection of our natural resources by enforcing laws and regulations that regulate the activities of sportsmen and women who participate in outdoor recreation.

Conservation police officers, originally called game wardens, have been serving in law enforcement in Virginia since 1903, when the Virginia General Assembly established a statewide system of game wardens to enforce wildlife laws. The title "game warden" was officially changed to "conservation police officer" by the Virginia General Assembly in 2007.

In today's more urban Virginia, conservation police officer's work often intersects with mainstream law enforcement. In the course of performing duties related to the agency mission -- enforcing wildlife, fisheries and boating laws - conservation police are now dealing with situations requiring immediate police intervention, such as drivers under the influence, reckless drivers, drug and gang activities, homeland security issues and frequent assistance to other law enforcement agencies.

For more information on VDGIF and conservation police officers, visit the Department's Web site at

To increase awareness of the activities of our dedicated Conservation Police Officers, previously called game wardens, the "Virginia Conservation Police Notebook" provides an overview of the variety of activities encountered by our officers who protect natural resources and people pursuing outdoor recreation in the fields, woods and waters of Virginia.

Region 1 - Tidewater

Wildlife Criminals handed heavy fines and jail time… Sergeant Steve Garvis and Senior Officer Marshall Crosby concluded an investigation with the convictions of two poachers on April 17 in Northampton General District Court. The two defendants plead guilty to spotlighting deer, shooting from the road and wanton waste. Fines, costs and deer replacement totaled $1,600. One of the defendants was also charged with obstruction of justice and was fined $100 and given a 33 day jail sentence (30 days were suspended). Another charge as a result of the investigation, felon in possession of a firearm, is still awaiting trial. For more information contact Lt. Ken Conger (804)-829-6580.

Region 3 - Southwest

Tip leads to poacher being nabbed with illegal electronic turkey call at bait site… Senior Conservation Police Officer Randy Hurst received information of illegal turkey baiting in the Elk Creek area of Grayson County. A surveillance of the area was conducted and two large 100 gallon feeders were located with corn scattered on the ground. During this surveillance, turkeys were spooked from the area of the feeders. Due to the distance between the feeders, Senior Officer Hurst contacted Officer Jason Harris and enlisted his assistance for opening day of the Virginia spring turkey season. At approximately 6:30 a.m., Senior Officer Hurst heard the feeder turn on and scatter corn on the ground. Soon thereafter, Senior Officer Hurst heard turkey calls emitting from the area of the feeder. Officers Hurst and Harris approached the area and located a subject sitting approximately 15 feet from with feeder with corn scattered across the top of his hunting boots. The subject had his shotgun and an electronic caller in an attempt to call turkeys to the area. Senior Officer Hurst charged the subject with hunting without a license, hunt turkey without a big game license, occupy and hunt from a baited area, and using an electronic call to hunt turkeys. For more information contact Lt. Rex Hill (276) 783-4860.

Region 4 - Mountain & Shenandoah Valley

Overt Unit Investigation leads to multiple arrests and criminal activity halted… Virginia Conservation Police Officer E. W. Herndon, Jr. received numerous complaints in the past several years from the Naked Creek area of Page and Rockingham Counties concerning a particular individual and his associates. Officer Herndon requested the VDGIF Law Enforcement Divisions Overt unit along with District 41 CPOs conduct two different special operations in that area in an attempt to apprehend these individuals in the act of committing violations.

Two years ago the main suspect of the group was making bombs to blow fish up in a pond. The bomb accidentally went off in his hand resulting in injuries to another person and himself. Page County took over the case. The suspect was recently indicted on four felonies. Officer Herndon in the meanwhile was receiving some important new information and came into possession of evidence regarding this individual and his friends with an illegal bear. Officer Herndon arrested the suspect on March 24, 2008 on the four felony indictments that had been handed down by the Grand Jury in Page County. Officer Herndon contacted Deputy Hensley with the Rockingham County Sheriff's Office and they made the decision to begin interviewing all of the suspect's known associates since he was incarcerated. Seven different individuals were interviewed from March 25-28, 2008.

During one interview, Officer Herndon located numerous racks from this past hunting season and a photo album containing photos of approximately 20 bucks and three does. In the photos were three subjects allegedly responsible for the killing of these deer. All of the deer were alleged to have been killed in Madison County on Graves Mill Road. with a spotlight and a .22 caliber rifle from October through December 2007.

This investigation also helped solve several important cases for the Rockingham County Sheriff's Department. Statements were taken in reference to the horrendous act of killing a show horse, a pet goat, the wounding of a second horse and the larceny of ATV's.

After meeting with the Commonwealth Attorney for Madison County, the anticipated charges that will placed in Madison County on three suspects are 40 counts of unlawfully killing deer by the aid of spotlight and firearm, 23 counts of shooting from a vehicle, 23 counts of shooting from a roadway, three counts of no Hunting License, three counts of no Big Game License and numerous counts of trespassing to hunt on posted property. Charges will be placed on one suspect in Page County for two counts of killing a bear during the closed season, exceeding the yearly limit, hunting after legal hours. The Rockingham County Sheriff's Dept. arrested the main suspect on April 03, 2008 on eight felony charges and numerous misdemeanors. He now faces a total of 12 felony charges in Page and Rockingham Counties.This case remains under investigation and more arrests are expected. For more information contact Lt. Kevin Clarke (540) 248-9360.

Region 5 - Northern Piedmont

Alcohol, hunting out of season, and lying about shooting yourself-get convicted felon arrested… On January 26, 2008 Officer Wayne Weller was dispatched to initially assist Chesterfield County Police Dept.(PD) with the investigation of a self inflicted gunshot wound causing the victim to be medivaced to MCV Trauma Hospital E/R. Officer Weller made contact with PD units on scene and it was determined that the gunshot victim was in fact a hunter who accidentally shot himself. Officer Weller responded to MCV Hospital/Richmond and along with Sgt. Jim Croft made contact with and interviewed the victim. The victim had shot himself in the leg. After obtaining an initial statement from the victim and interviewing the victim's wife. Officers learned that the victim had been hunting turkeys (out of season) and was possibly under the influence of alcohol. Sgt. Croft responded to the alleged scene and found discrepancies in the victim's statement. The victim stated he had been at a creek getting water from a spring when he was shot. Evidence such as lead fragments and clothing fibers were found at a gate, far removed from the spring that indicated the victim was shot at that location. Sgt. Croft was able to collect and mark significant evidence in the case and the scene was marked for follow up investigation the following day due to nighttime hindering a proper scene analysis.

Sgt. Croft and Officers Weller and Thomas Mecadon returned to the scene of the shooting to conduct a scene analysis and follow-up investigation. While Sgt Croft and Officer Mecadon documented and measured the scene collecting and identifying evidence, Officer Weller resumed an interview with the victim's wife. During the interview Officer Weller learned that the wife was covering up the fact that the victim was attempting to hunt turkeys during the closed season and that the two attempted to conspire to cover the facts of the event. Upon the conclusion of the interview of the wife and the conclusion of the scene analysis, officers responded to MCV hospital and another interview of the victim was conducted. During the interview the victim admitted to police that he was in fact trying to take turkeys and had fallen into a stream while gathering water for his home upon the conclusion of his hunt. He was returning to his vehicle and was crawling under a fence on his stomach holding his shotgun in his right hand. Upon clearing the fence he attempted to turn over onto his back in order to sit up and while still holding his shotgun with his finger on the trigger and safety off his shotgun discharged directly into his left knee. Furthermore the victim was learned to have been drinking alcohol prior to his hunt and upon the conclusion of the interview, warrants charging the victim with Convicted Felon Possessing a Firearm and Reckless Handling of a Firearm will be obtained after the victim recovers from his injuries. Possible charges of Hunting Under The Influence may also be sought based on the opinion of the Commonwealth's Attorney. For more information contact Lt. John Cobb (540) 899-4169.

If you suspect or witness a violation, report it to the Wildlife Crimeline at 1-800-237-5712.

Don't let the actions of a few outlaws tarnish the reputation of Virginia's sportsmen!

In Case You Missed It...

Editor's note: With numerous new subscribers each issue, we realize that some of the seasonal features are important and timely enough to bear repeating. So readers can easily review these seasonal items, we have retained the headlines and information links in this section "In case you missed it..."

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 the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month. Stay informed on issues and opportunities about Virginia's outdoors!

In upcoming editions of the Outdoor Report, look for:

  • What to Do with Nuisance Wildlife
  • June Squirrel Season
  • Free Freshwater Fishing Days - June 6-8, 2008
Chowanoke Crayfish. Artwork copyright Spike Knuth.

Chowanoke Crayfish
(Orconectes virginiensis)
by Spike Knuth

More than 500 species of crayfish occur in North America. These freshwater crustaceans resemble their larger marine cousins, the lobsters. Crayfish have a jointed exoskeleton, five pairs of segmented legs, and a pair of large claws called chelae. Adult crayfish of some species reach a maximum length of 4-1/2 inches. The exoskeleton is composed of two parts; the cephalothorax and the abdomen. In order to grow, crayfish must shed or molt their exoskeleton several times in their life. At those times they become soft and vulnerable to predators like certain fish, birds and mammals.

They use their legs for locomotion, feeding, defense, and reproduction among other things. Two pairs of antennae on the head perform sensory functions, and three pairs of mouth parts are used for handling, chewing, and grinding food. Their eyes are mounted on stalks. The crayfish's' claws are used for defense and for obtaining food, and their flat, flipper-like tail is used for swimming or escaping backward, backpedaling, from where we get the term "craw fishing."

The Chowanoke crayfish is a small crayfish, reaching an adult size of about 2-1/2 inches. Its colors are basically shades of tan and green with dark saddle-like patterns or markings. Its chelae fingertips are marked with orange and a band of black. They inhabit sluggish streams that flow through woodlands or swamps with sandy or gravel bottoms and spares vegetation. It may also be found in water-saturated fields, ditches or pools.

The Chowanoke's reproductive season is not well-known but its is probably similar to other crayfish. Generally, crayfish mating occurs in spring after the female molts. Sperm, eggs, along with a sticky fluid are released into a chamber formed under the female's curled up abdomen. Several hundred eggs may be carried by the female and she is said to be "in berry," because the egg clusters resemble a berry. Once hatched, the young will stay attached to the mother until after her second molt.

Crayfish are omnivorous, feeding on insects, snails, worms, algae, small fish, carrion and aquatic plants. They are nocturnal in their foraging and normally remain hidden undercover during the daylight except on dark days. Crayfish will conceal themselves amid aquatic vegetation or in underground burrows near ponds, streams, or in water-logged fields. Their burrow entrance appears as curious clay chimneys or towers made of balls of mud and usually plugged with a ball of clay.

The Chowanoke crayfish is a species of special concern in North Carolina and Virginia, although their populations are currently considered stable throughout their range, which is the Chowan River Drainage and the Lower Roanoke River Basin.

·    ·    ·

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!

The artwork used to enhance this publication is produced by award-winning Virginia artist Carl "Spike" Knuth. He is currently retired from VDGIF and continues to be active in numerous activities contributing to wildlife conservation, information and education through his artwork and writing. We appreciate his continued service and support through his exceptional talent for both illustrations and writing. Spike's artwork can be seen at the Jager Gallery, 6939 Lakeside Avenue, in Richmond.

April 2008

Check the Kids Fishing Days Calendar for Events Scheduled in April! (PDF)

27 Wildlife Center of Virginia Open House, Waynesboro.
May 2008

Check the Kids Fishing Days Calendar for Events Scheduled in May! (PDF)

3 Canoe Fishing Workshop, Gloucester. FULL.
8 & 10 Woods in Your Backyard Workshop. (Two separate sessions) Farmville, contact VA Cooperative Extension (434) 378-4246, email
10 NWTF Women in the Outdoors Event. Women's Turkey Hunt, Charles City Chapter. Bass Pro Hampton. Contact Priscilla Page at (410) 378-2064.

NWTF Women in the Outdoors Event. Rockbridge Chapter. Lexington. Contact Priscilla Page at (410) 378-2064.

17 Outdoor Beach Women Event, Virginia Beach. Contact Jimmy Mootz at
18 DEADLINE for Return of Hunting with Hounds Informal Survey, for details contact Sara Kozlowski, (540) 231-0961, or email
31 Family Fishing Day at Franklin Park, Loudoun County. Contact Mike Hall at
June 2008

Check the Kids Fishing Days Calendar for Events Scheduled in June! (PDF)

3 Board of Game and Inland Fisheries 9:00 AM, Richmond
4 Virginia Native Plant Society Wildflower Walk, Thompson WMA: contact
6-8 Free Freshwater Fishing Days, statewide.

Fly Fishing Workshop, Petersburg. Contact Dinwiddie Parks and Recreation at (804) 732-1100


NWTF Women in the Outdoors Event. Gander Mountain, Ashland. Contact Priscilla Page at (410) 378-2064.

24 Smallmouth Bass Workshop, statewide.
28 NWTF Women in the Outdoors Event. BASS PRO World, Hampton. Contact Priscilla Page at (410) 378-2064.
We have opportunities for the public to join us as volunteers in our Complementary Work Force Program. If you are interested in devoting your time and talents, apply here.

Opportunities will be posted regularly providing descriptions of available volunteer positions.

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.


The following is a partial list of upcoming seasons starting in April for the more popular species. For a complete list and regulations consult the 2007-08 Hunting & Trapping Regulations and Information.

Coyote, groundhog, & skunk: Continuous open season on private land only.
Beginning in April 2008
Turkey: Spring Gobbler (bearded turkeys only)

April 12 to May 3: 1/2 hour before sunrise until 12 noon each day statewide.

May 5 to May 17: 1/2 hour before sunrise until sunset statewide.

Please contribute 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 conservation police officer 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!

  • If you would like to become a regular subscriber to Virginia Wildlife magazine, visit the Department's Web site, call 1-800-710-9369, or mail a check payable to "Treasurer of Virginia" and send it to Virginia Wildlife Magazine, P.O. Box 11104, Richmond, VA 23230-1104. A one-year subscription or 12 issues is only $12.95. Let Virginia Wildlife magazine be your guide to the best in hunting, fishing, boating and wildlife information.

Security Reminder: VDGIF will never ask for personal information through unsolicited e-mail.


Editor: David Coffman

Web Production: David Murr, Tim Tassitano

Contributing Editors:
Julia Dixon, Carol Kushlak, Ron Messina, Sally Mills, Lee Walker

Special Feature Contributors:
Rick Busch, Donna Cottingham, Carol Heiser, Fred Leckie, Spike Knuth, Steve Pike, Vance Shearin, Jeff Trollinger, Sarah White

The electronic Outdoor Report is sent free via e-mail to more than 15,000 subscribers the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month.

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries' mission is:
  • To manage Virginia's wildlife and inland fish to maintain optimum populations of all species to serve the needs of the Commonwealth;
  • To provide opportunity for all to enjoy wildlife, inland fish, boating and related outdoor recreation and to work diligently to safeguard the rights of the people to hunt, fish and harvest game as provided for in the Constitution of Virginia;
  • To promote safety for persons and property in connection with boating, hunting and fishing;
  • To provide educational outreach programs and materials that foster an awareness of and appreciation for Virginia's fish and wildlife resources, their habitats, and hunting, fishing, and boating opportunities.


The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries shall afford to all persons an equal access to Department Programs and facilities without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, disability, sex or age. If you believe that you have been discriminated against in any program, activity or facility, please write to: The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, 4010 West Broad Street, P.O. Box 11104, Richmond, VA 23230-1104.

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