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, May 13, 2009

VDGIF is an agency of the Virginia Secretariat of Natural Resources
In this edition:
  • Honor and Remember Our Veterans Who Answered the Call This Memorial Day
  • New Look Coming for the Outdoor Report!
  • National Safe Boating Week May 16-22
  • Wild Events You Don't Want to Miss
    • Summer Angling Education Workshops Scheduled
    • Get Hooked on Fishing for Free June 5-7
    • Wheelin' Sportsmen Hosting Trout Fishing This Spring
    • Two Outdoors Woman Workshops Scheduled in June
    • Race for Open Space 3K Run/Walk June 6 in Salem
    • Birding Festival Held in Buchanan in June
    • Mountain Lake Birding Festival Cancelled
    • Ladies' Day Handgun or Shotgun Clinics June 13
    • Yuchi Tribal Homecoming Gathering at Saltville Museum June 12-14
    • Box Turtle Monitoring Workshops Offered for Teachers
    • Kid's Fishing Day Events Provide Family Fun
  • People and Partners in the News
    • Online Woodland Options Short Course for Landowners Begins June 1
    • Wildlife Center to Hold Rehabilitation Classes in June
    • Complementary Work Force Needs Trout Stocking Volunteers
    • Sportsman Groups Sponsor Youth Writing Contests
    • See Eaglets Progress on Eagle Cam
  • Hunting News You Can Use
    • Reports And Photos From Young Hunters
    • Spring Gobbler Hunting Survey Available on Website
  • Be Safe... Have Fun!
    • Stay Safe on the Water - Boat Smart and Sober!
    • Spring in Virginia, Time for Bears
  • "Green Tips" for Outdoor Enthusiasts
    • Virginia Investigators Prepare For Possible Fish Kills
  • Habitat Improvement Tips
    • Nature is Calling: New "Habitat at Home©" DVD
    • Small Woodland Owners Workshops Scheduled in Southside
  • Fishin' Report
    • Smallmouth Bass River Report Available From Biologists
    • Henrico County's Echo Park Lake Reopened
    • Got Pictures of Your Catch? Share Them With Us!
    • Kid's Fishing Day Events Provide Family Fun
    • Picture the Excitement in the Kids 'n Fishing Photo Contest!
    • Life Jackets Required
    • Sarah White's Notebook
      • Regional River and Lake Reports on Fishing Conditions
  • Virginia Conservation Police Notebook
    • Field Reports From Officers Protecting Natural Resources and People Pursuing Outdoor Recreation
  • Winning Outdoor Adventure Stories from Young Writers
    • Student articles from the Virginia Outdoor Writers Association annual writing contests

Honor and Remember Our Veterans Who Answered the Call This Memorial Day

As spring gobbler season comes to an end and we get out the fishing gear be reminded that Memorial Day is a few days away - May 25th. To all our veterans and their families and friends we honor and remember your service, courage, and sacrifice. Thank you for "answering the call" to defend freedom and preserve liberty.

Our rich hunting and fishing traditions are intertwined in your service and preserved for future generations to enjoy due to the ultimate sacrifice of so many for our benefit. Honor these veterans by pursuing your outdoor adventures with safety and courtesy for your fellow outdoor enthusiasts and appreciation for the opportunity to be out there.

New Look Coming for the Outdoor Report!

In response to reader requests, and to enhance readability, starting with the next edition on May 27th, you will receive only the Outdoor Report's table of contents by email. Articles will be available online.

National Safe Boating Week May 16-22, Time to Remember Life Jackets Save Lives

National Safe Boating Week is May 16-22, making right now the time to remind boaters to be safe on the water. First and foremost, boaters need to think about life jackets and plan to wear them. A significant number of boaters who lose their lives by drowning each year would be alive today had they worn their life jackets.

It is the law in Virginia that there must be one wearable (Type I, II, III, or V) U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) approved life jacket of the appropriate size for each person on the boat. In addition, no person may operate a recreational vessel on federal waters with any child under age 13 on the vessel unless each child is either wearing an appropriate life jacket approved by the USCG, or below deck, or in an enclosed cabin. This applies to waters in which the USCG has enforcement jurisdiction, and in Virginia that includes the Chesapeake Bay, Smith Mountain Lake, Lake Gaston, Kerr Reservoir (Buggs Island Lake), Claytor Lake, Lake Moomaw, and other inland waters that are considered navigable. VDGIF is asking boaters to make a commitment to wear their life jackets at all times while on the water.

It is recommended for anyone who operates a boat to complete a boating safety education course that is approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) and accepted by VDGIF. Virginia's new Boating Safety Education Compliance Regulation is being phased in over the next several years. The first compliance date is July 1, this year, when operators of personal watercraft ("jet skis") age 20 and younger will be required to complete a boating safety education course AND have proof of that in their possession.

If you have previously taken a boating safety education course and have your card, you are in compliance with the new regulation. Visit the VDGIF website for course information and for information about how to get replacement cards. To learn more about boating laws in Virginia and about boating education courses, visit the Department's website.

Wild Events You Don't Want to Miss

Summer Angling Education Workshops Scheduled

Summer is near and now is the time to register for VDGIF Angling Education events. Register now online, don't delay, these workshops fill up fast!

June 3 - Kayak Fishing Workshop - Pocahontas State Park, Swift Creek Lake in Chesterfield.

Receive kayak instruction and lessons on freshwater fishing at Pocahontas State Park. Instructional sessions will be followed by lunch and kayak fishing on Swift Creek Lake. Kayaking is fun, but add fishing to it and it just doubles the enjoyment. This workshop is designed for beginners and those who are new to kayaking. Get more details and register online.

June 16 - Smallmouth Workshop - New River, Bisset Park in Radford.

Enjoy canoeing and fishing on a world-class Smallmouth fishery, the New River, and receive instruction on basics and techniques for catching smallmouth bass. Get more details and register online.

June 30 - Float Fishing the James Workshop - James River State Park in Buckingham County.

Experience float fishing the historic James River by canoe and receive instruction on basics and techniques for fishing the "middle" James River. Get more details and register online.

July 28 & Aug. 25 - Flat Out Catfish Workshop I & II - James River at Pony Pasture in Richmond

Come out and wade for big Flathead Catfish on the James River at Pony Pasture in the City of Richmond with professional guide, Mike Ostrander of the James River Fishing School. This workshop is for adults 18 and over. Get more details and register online for Flat Out Catfish Workshop I and Flat Out Catfish Workshop II.

Get Hooked on Fishing for Free June 5-7

VDGIF and Virginia Marine Resources Commission have established June 5-7, 2009 as Free Fishing Days in Virginia. No fishing license of any kind will be required for rod and reel fishing in saltwater or freshwater except in designated stocked trout waters on these days.

Please keep in mind that all fishing regulations - such as size, season, catch limits, and gear restrictions - will remain in effect. Fishing is one of the best bargains around. "We have some of the best river, lake, and stream fishing in the country and we would love it if the non-fishing public would give it a try. It's fun and rewarding," said Bob Duncan, Executive Director of VDGIF, which regulates freshwater fishing.

To purchase a freshwater fishing license online - and for freshwater fishing regulations and information on lakes, rivers, boating access, and more visit the Department's website.

For license, size, season, and catch limits of saltwater species, go to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission.

Wheelin' Sportsmen Hosting Trout Fishing This Spring

The Virginia Wheelin' Sportsmen (VAWS) program has five trout fishing events scheduled for this spring. VAWS Co-Coordinators Mike Deane and Gene Simmons remind any persons with a disability that they are welcome to participate in events throughout the year. NWTF Chapters throughout Virginia have five trout fishing opportunities for anglers with disabilities through May 30. Download the 2009 Trout Fishing Application Forms and submit ASAP as registration is required for the events. The application deadline has been extended as there are plenty of openings still available. Visit VANWTF website for details.

Two Outdoors Woman Workshops Scheduled in June

The Virginia Outdoors Woman event Saturday, June 06, 2009, at Dorey Park in Henrico County, will offer workshops in archery, bird watching, fly casting, GPS and geocaching, Habitat at Home, Hiking and Backpacking 101, kayaking, and outdoor cooking. Workshop fee is $25 and includes instruction in all sessions, program materials, use of demonstration equipment, and lunch. Registration deadline is May 29, 2009! View a printable registration form (PDF) with descriptions of the sessions.

The Virginia Outdoors Woman event Saturday, June 27, 2009, on Virginia's Eastern Shore will offer workshops in Archery, Bird Watching, Basic Firearms, Fly Casting, Fishing Essentials, Hiking, Kayaking, Outdoor Cooking, and Wilderness Survival. Workshop fee is $25 and includes instruction in all sessions, program materials, use of demonstration equipment, and lunch. Registration deadline is June 19, 2009! View a printable registration form (PDF) with descriptions of the sessions.

Race for Open Space 3K Run/Walk June 6 in Salem

This 3K (yes, 3K!) run/walk at beautiful Green Hill Park in Salem June 6, will benefit the land preservation programs of the Western Virginia Land Trust. Expect fast times on this course along the Roanoke River and through the Green Hill trails. For more information, contact David C. Perry, Project Manager, Western Virginia Land Trust at (540) 985-0000. Entry fee is $20 ($25 day of) and includes t-shirt; children under 12 are free (no shirt). Awards will be given to the top 3 males and females. Please, no strollers due to the narrow trail sections.

Birding Festival Held in Buchanan in June

The Buchanan and Russell County Bird Clubs will lead bird walks during the wildlife Coalfield Folk Life Festival in Buchanan County June 5-7. VDGIF will have an exhibit and information on local trails and nature areas at the Festival.

Mountain Lake Birding Festival Cancelled

The Mountain Lake Birding Festival scheduled for May 29-31, has been cancelled for 2009 due to the loss of key volunteers and low registration numbers. Mountain Lake Resort, the New River Valley Bird Club, and Giles County are planning to hold a festival in May 2010.

Ladies' Day Handgun or Shotgun Clinics June 13

The Cavalier Rifle and Pistol Club in Hanover is hosting a choice of handgun or shotgun clinics from 9 a.m. - 1 p.m., Saturday June 13. Clinics are taught by certified instructors and includes safety instruction, base marksmanship, comfort, familiarity with firearms, handguns, shotguns, ear and eye protection and targets. Reservations are required and clinic size is limited to eight shooters per clinic. For more information, contact Henry Baskerville at (804) 370-7565 or

Yuchi Tribal Homecoming Gathering at Saltville Museum June 12-14

The Remnant Yuchi Nation of Kingsport, Tennessee, and the Museum of the Middle Appalachians announce that a Yuchi Tribal homecoming gathering will be held in Saltville, Virginia, from Friday June 12 to Sunday June 14. Yuchi Indians have lived in Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee for over 800 years. The homecoming gathering will open to the public at noon on Friday and continue through 2:30 p.m. on Sunday. The event will reenact a Yuchi hunting and gathering camp dated to the period 1750-1850. Tribe members will demonstrate Indian activities such as storytelling, dancing, hide preparation, the cooking of traditional foods, uses of traditional plants and herbs, American Indian weapons and their uses and the building of traditional Indian lean-to's. Events open for public participation will include a model tipi building contest, a women's skillet throwing contest, and friendship dancing. On Saturday the tribe will conduct a traditional "tradeblanket" event in which all persons are invited to offer for trade items such as hand crafts, pocket knives, knickknacks, etc. The Remnant Yuchi Nation is very active in educational activities. The tribe works actively in both Tennessee and Virginia to educate fourth grade students about American Indian history and traditions.

Box Turtle Monitoring Workshops Offered for Teachers

VDGIF is offering three workshops for educators interested to helping to monitoring Box Turtle populations. Participants will learn field methods and protocols, including setting up a census plot and conducting a visual survey, equipment use and maintenance, collection of morphometric data, radio telemetry, and other tracking techniques. The workshops will be held:

  • June 18 Charles City County
  • July 7 Loudoun County
  • July 16 Charlottesville

For more information, contact Suzie Gilley, Wildlife Education Coordinator at (804) 367-0188 or

Kids 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 on our website.

People and Partners in the News

Online Woodland Options Short Course for Landowners Begins June 1

The Virginia Forest Landowner Education Program announces an online short course that private woodlot landowners, of any acreage, can take in the comfort of their own home. The 12-week "Online Woodland Options for Landowners" short course begins Monday, June 1 and runs through August 14. This course is not intended for woodlot owners who have substantial experience working alone, or with natural resource professionals in the management of their woods. However, veteran landowners are welcome to enroll and may take the course as a refresher on basic management. Registration is now open on-line at the Virginia's LEAF Program website or Virginia Tech's Virginia Forest Landowner Education Program. Cost is $25 per family Text books and instructional DVDs are included. For computer requirements and other information about the course, please contact: Jennifer Gagnon, VFLEP coordinator (540) 231-6391

Wildlife Center to Hold Rehabilitation Classes in June

Amanda Nicholson, Outreach Coordinator and Rehabilitation Supervisor for the Wildlife Center of Virginia, announces upcoming "On the Road" wildlife rehabilitation classes:

  • June 6 - Galax Public Library
  • June 27 - Lynchburg Parks & Recreation

More details can be found at the Wildlife Center of Virginia's website.

Complementary Work Force Needs Trout Stocking Volunteers

Volunteers are needed in Bath County to join the VDGIF Complementary Work Force to assist with trout stocking by loading fish early in the mornings at a private hatchery, while Coursey Springs is under construction. To join CWF go to the DGIF website to sign up or contact Jason Hallacher at

Check out the latest CWF newsletter - Volume 9, March 2009

Sportsman Groups Sponsor Youth Writing Contests

The Ruffed Grouse Society (RGS) is sponsoring its Second Annual Youth Poster and Essay Contests open to youngster's ages 6-11. The theme of this year's Poster Contest is: "Show some of your favorite outdoor activities". The Essay Contest is open to children ages 12-18. This year's theme: "What person in your life has taught you the most about the outdoors," should be described in 350 words or more. To qualify, all entries must be submitted by May 31, 2009, and include a return address. Send to: Editor, Ruffed Grouse Society, 451 McCormick Road, Coraopolis, PA 15108. Owen Morgan, 12, of Wytheville, Virginia was the 2008 winner. His winning composition "To kill a grouse" also appeared in the 2008 fall issue. Read his winning essay.

The Virginia Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation is sponsoring a writing contest for JAKES (youth) members entitled "The Hunt". Simply write an essay, up to 500 words, describing a hunting or outdoor experience you've had, and how it has affected your life. Entry deadline is May 31, 2009. Prizes will be awarded in two categories, 12 and under and 13 to 17 years old. Contest entry information is found on the VANWTF website.

See Eaglets Progress on Eagle Cam

The public can follow these young eaglets as they grow by watching the Eagle Cam, a joint project of VDGIF, the Norfolk Botanical Garden and This high quality web cam provides 24-hour coverage of the nest with a blog posted by DGIF wildlife biologists explaining what's happening. The eagles can be visited in person (from a distance of course) by visiting the Norfolk Botanical Garden.

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.

Thanks for Sharing...

We received a great response from our readers with inspiring stories of new hunters - both young and old, that we want to share with you. Congratulations to the dads and moms and sons and daughters for discovering the passion for the outdoors and mentoring novice hunters resulting in wonderful experiences and memories to last a lifetime. David Coffman, Editor

Eastern Shore Gobbler Surprises Young Hunter

Tommy Hines shares this story about a family hunt in Accomack County on April 18... After a calm quiet morning in an Eastern Shore field edge, we were taking the tent blind down and ready to pick up the decoys to move and there they were, hens in the field just around the corner. Moving frantically back into place trying to get the tent out of the bag and get set up again, 12 year old Will Hines, with his father Tommy and a friend Josh Freeman, finally had the chance to see some action. The hens, by that time, were only 30 yards away and didn't even know that they were in the tent. From the distance another turkey ran in the woods and after some excellent calling from Josh that turkey came back out in the field about 160 yards away. It was a big Tom moving slowly toward the decoys. Will got ready and with the help of Josh bracing the gun on Will's knee for about 15 minutes and to me it felt like forever, here Tom comes. Josh called and the bird came right into the decoys about 25 yards away. For Will and Josh it was a successful hunt, but for a father watching it was priceless. Tom was taken and checked in at Eastern Shore Outfitters which is owned by Will's brothers and sister-in-law. It weighted it in at 22.5 lbs with 1 inch spurs and a 9 7/8 inch beard. The picture is of Will and Josh, because dad just sat there and enjoyed the hunt.

Unique Blind used at Wheelin Sportsmen Hunt at New Kent Forestry Center

On Saturday, May 2nd, 13 year old Blake Rush of Mechanicsville, harvested this nice gobbler during our New Kent Forestry Center Spring Gobbler Hunt. Virginia Wheelin Sportsmen Co-Coordinator Mike Deane had worked this bird twice during the early morning hours, but it refused to come in closer than 75 yards.

After leaving their blind around 10:30 to go help other hunters and to begin taking down the blinds, they decided to drive the New Kent Forestry Center property on the VAWS golf cart. Around 11:30, they stopped at the end of a maintenance road to make a few calls. No sooner had they stopped, and a bird sounded off 75 yards below them. All four immediately went into high gear!

Blake left his wheelchair back at the blind when he boarded the golf cart, so his brother Austin grabbed a lawnchair and set it behind the Caterpillar dozer. After setting Blake in the chair, Blake's father Kevin backed the golf cart down the road 100 yards, With Blake secure behind his "dozer blind," Austin moved back to film.

Mike started to call. The gobbler answered every call but didn't want to budge. Mike continued to call as he backed away, and this movement started to pull the gobbler closer within range of Blake's 20 gauge. When the bird changed directions and started coming in from a different angle, Austin quickly realized he had to move Blake. He sneaked back to the dozer, re-positioned Blake's lawnchair, and they prepared for the shot. Two or three gobbles later, the longbeard appeared giving Blake the shot he wanted. At 11:42 Blake lowered the boom on this beautiful gobbler sporting a heavy 10" beard.

We would like to thank our gracious hosts and partners at the Virginia Department of Forestry for allowing us to enjoy this magnificent piece of property. For more New Kent Forestry Center Spring Gobbler Hunt pics visit

Reports and Photos from Young Hunters

With the Spring Gobbler Season coming to an end, we want to know: How did you do? Send stories and photos to If we use your story that includes a youth or first time hunter, you'll receive a complementary Virginia Wildlife hat!

Zach Harris of Glen Allen shot this bird in Charles City County on the Hit and Miss Hunt Club property on April 18. The gobbler had a 10 inch beard and 7/8 inch spurs. Zach's uncle, Frank Overby, called this one in. Frank noted, "this was Zach's first turkey hunt and we were done by 7:30 a.m. He thinks it's easy. We'll wait and see next year."

Monte Jessee sent in this picture of his nine year old son, Tyler.  On Saturday morning April 18, both Tyler and my daughter Raegan were hunting with me in Rockbridge County.  At daylight, we heard several different gobblers within calling range and set up.  We saw one gobbler strutting toward us on the right and Raegan got her gun up and ready.  Immediately to our left, another gobbler made his appearance and strutted in to the decoys, right in front of Tyler's gun. The Remington 870 youth model 20 gauge barked and the gobbler went down.  Tyler's first turkey! The boss gobbler weighed 20 pounds, with a 9 inch beard, and 1 inch spurs.  Needless to say, he hasn't quit smiling yet.

Spring Gobbler Hunting Survey Available on Website

It's time to head back to the woods and fields for some spring gobbler hunting. VDGIF Small Game and Furbearer Program Manager Gary Norman, encourages turkey hunters this spring to participate in the 2009 Spring Gobbler Survey. Be sure to view the results of the 2008 Spring Gobbler Survey. Encourage your hunting buddies to also take the survey to help gather valuable data to improve turkey hunting opportunities.

Be Safe... Have Fun!

Stay Safe on the Water - Boat Smart and Sober!

The upcoming Memorial Day weekend is right around the corner, and VDGIF reminds all boaters to boat smart, boat sober, and boat safe while out on our waterways.

According to Tom Guess, VDGIF Boating Safety Education Coordinator, "Our safety message to all boaters is to wear your life jacket, do not mix alcohol and boating, and take a boating safety course."

Boaters are required by law to equip their vessels with a life jacket for each person on board and to have the life jackets readily accessible. Life jackets must also be in good condition and of the proper size for the intended wearer. "With the recent designs in inflatable life jackets, they are really comfortable, easy to wear, and most importantly, easy to use," said Guess. "So we always emphasize that a major part of boating safely involves life jacket use." Nearly all boating-related fatalities are the result of drowning and it is estimated that about 80% of fatalities could have been prevented if a life jacket was worn. Personal watercraft (PWC) operators, passengers, and skiers are reminded that they are required by state law to wear a life jacket at all times while the PWC is underway.

Also important to a safe day on the water is to boat sober. Just like driving under the influence, Virginia boating law states that a person is considered to be boating under the influence (BUI) if the blood alcohol concentration is .08 percent or higher. The penalties for BUI are substantial and the risk to yourself, as well as many others on the water, for consuming alcohol is significant.

Boaters are also strongly encouraged to take a boating safety course. Whether it's the new boater wanting to learn the rules of the waterway or the seasoned boater just wanting to update their knowledge, taking a course better prepares boaters for a safe day on the water.

Spring in Virginia, Time for Bears

From the Tidewater region to the Alleghany Mountains, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) personnel are already receiving numerous calls regarding bear sightings. With a healthy and growing black bear population, bear sightings during the spring and summer months are becoming the norm in Virginia. While the highest concentration of bears occurs in the Blue Ridge and Alleghany Mountains and around the Great Dismal Swamp, bears are likely to be seen just about anywhere in Virginia.

During the months of April and May bears have left their dens and are ending their winter fast. Bears do not eat, drink, urinate, or defecate while they are in dens. Additionally, while denning, female bears may give birth to cubs. Cubs are born weighing less than a pound and are reliant on their mother's milk. As new spring growth emerges, so do bears, and they are following their stomachs in search of food.

Bears are highly adaptable and intelligent animals and can learn to associate human dwellings with food. The best way to encourage a bear to move on is to remove the food source that is attracting it. For tips on handling potential food sources read more.

Bears generally avoid humans, but in their search for food, they may wander into suburban areas. So, what should you do if you see a bear? The most important response is to keep a respectful distance. Always remember that a bear is a wild animal, and that it is detrimental to the bear, as well as illegal in Virginia, to feed a bear under any circumstances. Even the inadvertent feeding of nuisance bears is illegal.

If you do see a bear in your area, enjoy watching it from a distance. If you experience a bear problem after taking appropriate steps of prevention, please notify your Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries Regional Office. Phone numbers for the regional offices can be found by visiting the Department's website or by calling 804-367-1000 during regular business hours.

For more information view Living with Bears in Virginia, a video produced by VDGIF.

"Green Tips" For Outdoor Enthusiasts

This section in the Outdoor Report provides tips and articles on ways you as an outdoor enthusiasts can join with others to do simple things in your outdoor pursuits that can make a big difference in keeping Virginia "green" and wildlife "wild" to benefit us all.

Virginia Investigators Prepare For Possible Fish Kills

The Virginia Departments of Environmental Quality and Game and Inland Fisheries are directing ongoing scientific studies this year in preparation for potential fish kills. Spring 2009 investigations will focus on weekly observations, continued fish health evaluations, and in-depth study of possible bacterial causes of the kills. Since 2004, unexplained fish kills have occurred in the Shenandoah River basin. During 2007 and 2008 similar events took place in the upper James and Cowpasture Rivers. No kills have been observed in these rivers in 2009, though April and May are the most likely time for occurrences.

The kills are most severe among smallmouth bass and sunfish. Many of these fish develop skin lesions before dying. The fish kills have begun in the spring when water temperatures rise above the mid-50s. A detailed summary of findings through the 2008 fish kill season is available on the DEQ website. Scientists will continue to collect water and fish samples this spring from the Shenandoah and upper James Rivers before, during, and after any disease or fish kill outbreaks.

Researchers have credited the public with providing significant assistance in the investigation. Many of the outbreaks were reported by fishermen, landowners, and other river users. Knowing the timing and location of these events allows scientists to concentrate on the areas where fish kills are active. DEQ and VDGIF ask the public to continue to report observations of diseased or dead fish. Key information includes types and numbers of fish, location, and any unusual circumstances. Digital photographs are particularly helpful. Anyone with information on dead or dying fish is encouraged to contact the DEQ regional office in Harrisonburg at (540) 574-7800 or toll-free in Virginia at 1-800-592-5482. Information and photos also can be emailed to DEQ at

Habitat Improvement Tips

Nature is Calling: New "Habitat at Home©" DVD

A new "Habitat at Home©" DVD has just been produced by VDGIF. The 40 minute program contains four segments which showcase different types of beautiful habitat gardens, with tips for improving wildlife habitat around homes in rural or suburban areas.

The first segment on the DVD is a butterfly garden in Virginia Beach, where you'll learn what the butterflies look for when they seek out nectar sources and places to lay their eggs. The second segment on a rural property in Rappahannock County features water gardens that provide a natural home for salamanders, frogs, and other amphibians, as well as the aquatic insects that support them. A shrub and woodland garden in Shenandoah County in the third segment illustrates hedgerows, bird houses, and brush piles. The final segment is a wonderful, low maintenance native plant garden in the heart of suburban Arlington.

Throughout the DVD, homeowners are encouraged to identify, remove, and replace invasive exotic species with native ones that will be much more beneficial to wildlife. The DVD is $12 and comes with an informational brochure and plant list, available through the VDGIF online store. Or, call (804) 367-2569 to place a phone order.

Small Woodland Owners Workshops Scheduled in Southside

The Woods in Your Backyard is a program to help landowners make informed decisions that impact water, wildlife populations, recreational opportunities, and forest health. The manual and workbook are designed for owners of 1-10 acres of land and show landowners how to manage their woodlot or landscape as both a sustainable and healthy ecosystem. In Virginia, 64% of our forestlands are privately owned and in the Mid-Atlantic region, at least two-thirds of forest landowners own 10 acres or less. As land is divided into smaller parcels, forests become fragmented making them a challenge to manage. In addition, corridors providing safe travel for wildlife are eliminated. Therefore, is it increasingly important that small forestland owners create and follow a land management plan that provides for sustainable forestry and wildlife management without restricting other forms of land use.

You can influence what happens in your natural area by better understanding what you have, what you want and available tools to help you accomplish your goals. For example, did you know that by selecting certain trees for firewood, you can improve wildlife habitat, scenic values and regenerate young trees, all at the same time? Two seven-hour workshops are being offered by Virginia Cooperative Extension, with assistance from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and Virginia Department of Forestry to equip small woodlot owners to learn how to manage existing natural areas and or create new natural areas.

Attendance is limited and pre-registration is required. Choose one:

May 28 6:30-8:30pm and May 30 9:00am 3:00pm; Franklin County-W.E. Skelton 4-H Educational and Conference Center at Smith Mountain Lake.

June 25 6:30pm 8:30pm and June 27 9:00am 3:00pm; Nottoway County. VA Tech Southern Piedmont Center.

To register contact Jason Fisher at (434) 476-2147 or

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) website.

Smallmouth Bass River Report Available From Biologists

Virginia has some of the premier smallmouth bass rivers in the country, and VDGIF fisheries biologists have been studying these rivers for many years. Over the years, we have learned a great deal about how these rivers and their fishy inhabitants function. There is still much we need to discover, but we do have a basic understanding of how smallmouth bass populations work in our rivers. We formed a Smallmouth Bass River Technical Committee years ago to coordinate research and management on these rivers. One of the products of this committee is the newly released Smallmouth Bass River Report (PDF). This report compares various aspects of smallmouth bass populations (and a few other species as well) among 16 different rivers (or river segments in a couple of cases). For example, anglers can compare fish populations between the Jackson River and the James River, or between the Shenandoah River and the Staunton River. In addition to numbers of fish, the report provides information regarding sizes and growth rates of smallmouth bass. It also has information on smallmouth bass survival rates and trends in spawning success. In short, we have put together a wealth of information regarding smallmouth bass rivers in Virginia. Anglers can use this to plan future adventures, or just to learn more about the rivers they fish most.

Henrico County's Echo Park Lake Reopened

Echo Lake, a 12-acre lake owned and operated by Henrico County, is now reopened to the general public. In July 2008, Henrico County temporarily drained Echo Lake to complete a habitat improvement project. The project included construction of a small settling basin above the lake and the removal of 14,500 cubic yards of accumulated sediment material from the main lake. The project has greatly improved habitat for various fish species and will help to control the aquatic vegetation problems throughout the lake.

A complete draining of the lake was needed to complete the project, so fish populations in the lake were greatly reduced. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) plans to restock the lake over the next few years. Sunfish will be stocked in the lake in 2009, while bass and catfish will be restocked in 2010 and 2011. To facilitate the recovery of the fish populations, the lake will temporarily be managed under a catch-and-release-only fishing regulation.

Questions regarding fisheries management at Echo Lake can be directed to Johnathan Harris, District Fisheries Biologist with VDGIF, at (804) 367-6764. More information about all Henrico County lakes and parks can be found at the following sites:

Got Pictures of Your Catch? Share Them With Us!

How was your last fishing trip? Did you take pictures of your catch? Send them to us and share it with the world! Here's how:

  1. Email your photos to us and we'll post them on our "Virginia Fishing" group on the photo-sharing website, Flickr.
  2. Or, if you already have an account on Flickr, join the group and submit your photos. It's easy!

No matter how you send in your pictures, please remember to include the species, date, and location of your catch. If you know the length and weight, please include it.

Kids 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 on our website.

Picture the Excitement in 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 Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, 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. Winning pictures will also be posted on the VDGIF website, the Outdoor Report and may be used in a variety of VDGIF publications. There is no need to be a professional photographer. Any snapshot will do. For rules and entry information visit our website.

Life Jackets Required

Virginia's life jacket laws require that there must be one wearable (Type I, II, III, or V) USCG approved life jacket of the appropriate size for each person on the boat. All boats, except for personal watercraft, canoes, kayaks, and inflatable rafts, must carry one USCG approved Type IV throwable ring or seat cushion. In addition, if you are boating on federal waters where the USCG has jurisdiction, children under the age of 13 must wear a life jacket unless below deck or in an enclosed cabin.

Sara White's Notebook

Remember - Free Fishing Days, June 5-7, 2009!

Region 1 - Tidewater

Mid Point Potomac: Warbird Outdoors (804) 878-3111. Terry Olinger reports that bass are hitting "really good". They are spawning but still catchable. Crankbaits are good as are spinners and chatterbaits. Where they are spawning, try soft plastics in green pumpkin. Crappie are doing well on minnows and jigs. Cats are going for cut bait. Bluegill are responding to crickets and worms. Stripers are being fooled by cut bait. The water is stained and 67 degrees.

Lower Potomac: J.G. Sports (571) 436-7521. Joe Hawkins tells us that bass are hitting "really well" on Rattletraps and Shaky Head worms. No word on crappie. Cats are attacking cut bait, beef liver and clam snouts (probably an acquired taste). The water has been very muddy, 56 degrees and warming.

Virginia Beach: Captain Jim Brincefiled (443) 336-8756. Captain Jim says that drum are being fooled by peeler crabs and chowder clams. Tautogs are catachable, but out of season, so it's catch and release. Stripers are around the bridge tunnel. Croakers are in the James and York, going for squid and blood worms. The water is clear and 61 degrees.

Beaverdam Swamp Reservoir: Park Ranger Eddie Hester. Kate Murray of Gloucester caught a bass that was 4 lbs. 12 oz. and 19 in. long. Justin Breaud also of Gloucester landed a bass that was 5 lbs. 12 oz. and 22 in. long. Bruce Lenz of Newport News caught two crappie that were 1 lb. 13 oz. and 16 in. long, the other 1 lb. 12 oz. and 14 in. long. The chain pickerel seem to be everywhere on the lake the anglers are telling me. Bass fishing should pick back up after the spawn. Beaverdam Park will hold its next bass tournament on May the 16th. Water temperature is 71.5 degrees and the water is slightly stained, at full pool.

Chickahominy River: River's Rest (804) 829-2753. Charlie Brown let me know that a recent tournament held by Christian angling organization, Fishers of Men, was a big success. Youngsters were involved; and out of 26 teams, 13 landed the 5 fish limit. The largest fish was 5 lbs. 7 oz. and the largest 5 fish catch was 14 lbs. 8 oz. The tournament held on Saturday, and was the really the first angling action on the lake, as the rain had made fishing hard. The water is slightly stained and warming.

North Landing River and Back Bay: West Neck Marina (757) 426-6735. Dewey Mullins reports that bass are hitting well, with 3 largemouth lunkers over 6 lbs. being brought in. Spinners, top water, and plastics are your best bet. Crappie are slow. White perch are good on minnows, small spinners, and nightcrawlers. Bluegills are plentiful on worms. Only a few cats have been landed. The water is clear, high and in the 60's.

Norfolk Lakes: Dashiell's Show Room (757) 539-7854. Drew Dixon says that bass are biting "right and left". Crankbaits, spinners, and top water plugs are your best bet. Crappie are hot on minnows and jigs. Cats are hitting in the Nansemond. Bream are going for crickets. The water is warming and clear.

Blackwater/Nottoway Rivers: Riverkeeper Jeff Turner Fishing on the Nottoway and Blackwater this week is off due to high river levels. Some largemouth can be caught in the back of the coves but most are spawning right now. The added water will make lure presentation for bedding bass difficult at best. One could still catch some catfish with the water up like it is, but the rest of the fishing is going to have to wait till the water calms down. It is a great opportunity right now for canoeing or kayaking on either river. High water levels will negate the need for many portages. Just remember to take bug spray, the deer flies are here and they will find you.

Region 2 - Southside

James at Lynchburg: Angler's Lane (434) 385-0200. According to Tom Riesdorf, the very high river level has kept anglers away. The water is muddy and warming.

James at Scottsville: Local Guide L.E. Rhodes (434) 286-3366. According to Mr. Rhoades, the past week was a "total blowout". A too high and muddy river has kept folks from fishing. The water is muddy and warming.

Kerr Reservoir: Bob Cat's Lake Country Store (Condensed from Bob's web page report). Stripers are plentiful in and around the Dan and Staunton rivers. They are going for jumbo minnows and swim baits. Some big flatheads are coming in on cut bait and shad. Crappie are going deep and attacking jigs and minnows. Some good sized ones (up to 1 lb. 8 oz.) have been brought to boat. Bass are still spawning and like topwaters. The water is clear and warming.

Lake Gaston: Holly Grove Marina (434) 636-3455. Craig Karpinski reports that bass are slow, but responding to topwater lures. Cats are going for cut bait. No word on crappie. Stripers are slow but can be fooled by cut bait or trolling with bucktails. The water is slightly stained and warming.

Smith Mountain Lake: Virginia Outdoorsman (540) 721-4867. Blaine Chitwood says that the bass are on their beds and are responding to Texas rigged worms, soft plastics and Shaky Head worms. Crappie are around brush piles and docks and are going for minnows and jigs. Cats like stink bait and cut baits. Stripers are good off the banks at night with Thundersticks and F18 Rapalas. The upper lake is stained, while the lower is clear; the temperature is 69 degrees.

Holliday Lake: Willard Mayes, our man in the boat, writes, I had the old pony ready to go about 7:15 Friday morning and made the trip to Holliday Lake near Appomattox. We got there just a little before 9 a.m. and were on the water around 9:30 a.m. No wind that morning at all so I dug out the fly rod and tried to find the hungry bluegill. From what I could tell they were not on their beds, or if they were, we could not find them. The person fishing with me was using worms and crickets, and he caught 6 bluegill and a 3.8 in. warmouth. I was able to find 15 bluegill, 8 to 10 in., that wanted to feast on my popping bug, as well as one warmouth. I also had trouble with bass, eight to be exact 2, 11 in. and 6 of them 12 inches and little over. The wind started blowing that afternoon around 15 mph, which made it a little hard to handle the fly rod. I did throw back several smaller bluegill, from 3 finger to hand size that appeared to be full of roe. I did not see where they were starting to clean the beds. I talked with two other boats that were bass fishing and both said they had a good day.

Region 3 - Southwest

Claytor Lake: Rock House Marina (540) 980-1488. Wyatt Blevins told me that bass are biting well off the banks. Soft plastics are a good bet, particularly in natural colors, like green pumpkin or ox blood. Crappie are slowing down. A few cats have been landed, but nothing big. Most of the lake is clear and in the mid 60s.

Lower New River: Big Z'S (540) 639-1651. John Zienius reports that the rain has made the river too high to fish, but that in a week or so things should be fine. The water is very muddy and warming.

Region 4 - Mountain and Shenandoah Valley

North Fork of the Shenandoah: Murray's Fly Shop (540) 984-4212. Harry says that the smallmouth rivers are too high and muddy to fish; as are the large stocked streams in the Valley. The high mountain streams are okay if you approach from the stream head. For detailed updates, go to Harry's website.

Lake Moomaw: Local Guide Mike Puffenburger (540) 468-2682. Mike reports that the waters are stirred and full of debris, which makes for poor fishing. In a few days, things should be back to good conditions. The water is muddy and 65 degrees.

Region 5 - Northern Piedmont

Local Blogger Steve Moore ( reports that the shad run on the Rappahannock River is wrapping up with few anglers still in the game for the "poor man's tarpon". Anglers report fewer fish caught with most being earlier in the morning or later in the evening than normal. The hot colors continue to be orange, chartreuse, gold, with white emerging as a strong recommendation. Over on the Rapidan River, fishing is tough as the higher water volume pushes flies and spinners downstream quickly; making it difficult to fish the small plunge pools. Trout are actively taking dry flies with Adams and Mr. Rapidan in size 16 being good choices. Use size 12 streamers or 1/16 oz. spinners in the deeper pools. For the best luck, wait for the water levels to return to normal. There are still plenty of stocked trout in the Robinson River that are anxious to grab size 10 streamers or spinners, with sparkle patterns in silver and gold. Nymphs have not been productive. The fish hold in the deeper runs on the shaded banks. Smallmouth bass have become active downstream from Banco over the last week and are hitting on size 12 streamers fished deep in the current seams. The recent heavy rain has turned the Occoquan Reservoir a solid chocolate brown. Fish are hanging 8 to 10 feet below the surface in the 66 degree water with the best action close to the banks on dark plastic worms and spinners. The thick water will make your trip an exercise in frustration; you may want to wait a few days for the water to clear.

Lake Anna: C.C McCotter. With plenty of rainfall early in the month, Lake Anna is cool and slightly high. Water temperatures are around 70 on the surface. What this means is that all species continue the spawning cycle. Striper, largemouth bass, crappie, and now the lake's sunfish, are spawning. Shallow water fishing is the key. Here's what you can expect for your next visit.

Bass: Most fish in the down lake region are finished spawning. Fry guarding is going on around docks so you'll see a lot of bass chase your lure but then head back to their fry cloud. A Berkley Power Jerks had, a drop shot and a Berkley Hollow Belly Swimbait are three great choices this month for the down lake region. If you cannot get the fish to bite on these, try a Carolina-rigged straight-tail worm fished just off docks in 10 feet of water. Bass are still spawning in the mid lake region. Fry guarding is also ongoing in this region. Docks and stumps are key areas. If you know where the mid lake willow grass lines are, you can do well there, too. The smaller soft plastic jerkbaits are good here tossed to docks on bright days. Add some casts to stumps on cloudy days. The best action is around the mouth of Sturgeon Creek. Pigeon Creek is also worth a look as is the mouth of Contrary. Up lake did get a little muddy from all the recent rain, however this just made for better spinnerbait fishing. A Tiger Shad is great in the space behind the grass lines around the Holiday Mill Bridge. Fishing in the North Anna and Pamunkey Branch spawn in very shallow water, often right on the bank. They are difficult to spot so pitching a lizard to the banks where stumps and small rocks are present is a good idea. Expect a decent topwater bite to develop in about two weeks, starting in the down lake region first.

Striper: Three main areas are holding the fish: the Rose Valley region, the Stubbs Bridge region and down at Dike III. In each place you can catch the fish on soft plastic jerkbaits, hard and soft swimbaits and live bait. Early morning is excellent at Dike III for casters using topwater plugs. Striper fishing will get better and better as we head into June as the late spawners school on known spots and feed aggressively on herring and shad. As they do so, the fish will be more apt to take an artificial offering like a Zara Spook or other big topwater plug.

Crappie: Fair fishing now that the season's biggest fish are done spawning and the smaller specks take their place on the grass lines, docks and brush piles. The bigger females are hungry by now. Fish for them from 8-12 feet deep using tube jigs or slip bobbers and minnows. Brushpiles will begin to draw plenty of fish now. There are still some fish on mid lake and up lake grass lines.

Sunfish: Bluegills and shellcrackers will spawn this month. You'll find the bluegills in sandy areas, usually in a protected cove away from any moving water. The shellcrackers will spawn on rocks and leaf litter. Use popping bugs for the bluegills and sinking flies/red wigglers for the shellcrackers.

Lake Anna: Local Guide Jim Hemby (540) 967-3313.

Bass: Fish spawn and post spawn patterns now. Mid lake and down sight fishing is great; a friend just won a tournament with over 20 pounds looking for fish around a marina. The gizzard shad are spawning on rip rap and big bass are feeding on them, especially when the wind blows. Big swim baits and size #8 willow leaf spinner baits are catching these fish.

Striper: Fishing is incredible as is evident with our recent catches. The stripers are in full spawn and are crushing big gizzard shad pulled on planner boards over flats 25 feet or less. Recent catches can be viewed on our website journal. Artificial baits that are working now are topwater Redfins, Spooks and Pencil Poppers thrown on points in low light conditions.

Crappie: All crappie have spawned and have retreated to the 6 to 15 foot depths holding on brushpiles, bridge pilings and ledges hitting 1/8 oz. jigs. Also deeper brush piles are producing nice slabs.

Tidal James: Local Guide Mike Ostrander (804) 938-2350. Capt. Mike Ostrander of the James River Fishing School, is looking forward to the muddy water receding and clearing up enough for fishing to start. Once the river is fishable, look for sunfish, bass, and catfish action to heat up.

Tidal James: Local Guide Captain Joe Hecht Fat Cat Guide Service (804) 221-1951. The hickory and American shad are moving back out of the river after spawning in the James. Herring continue to bite on Sabiki Rigs and the white perch are biting really good around the city of Richmond. The stripers are still biting on live herring and sassy shads. The blue catfish are slowing down because of the spawn. The smaller blue cats are biting on cut shad and herring. The conditions up river above the city are poor because of the rising waters due to the abundance of rain, but when the river level lowers the smallmouth bass fishing should turn on.

Lake Orange: Darrell Kennedy, Angler's Landing (540) 672-3997. The water is clear with temperatures in the 70s. Largemouth bass and crappie are halfway through the spawn. Spawning action is still occurring shallow, but those who have finished spawning can be found on the points and in the mouths of spawning coves. Shellcrackers and bluegills are starting to spawn along the shore.; try night crawlers and red wigglers. Louis Compton of Orange caught three nice walleyes ranging from 2 lbs. 8 oz. to 3 lbs. 8 oz. Catfishing is picking up throughout the lake on live bait and chicken liver.

NOTICE: All anglers are reminded to acquaint themselves with a good description of the northern snakehead fish. If you should manage to catch one of these exotic imports, please kill it immediately and report the catch to either the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries or the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

View video about the snakehead

Get your kids hooked on fishing!

Got Tips?
Got Tricks?
Adventure Stories?
The one that got away?
The one that didn't?

email your material to
and it might get used in the Fishin' Report!

Virginia Conservation Police Notebook

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 3 - Southwest

CPOs Assist State Police with ATV training... Immediately following the Jaccard manhunt in Wythe and Pulaski Counties, Captain Greene with the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and Captain Childress with the Virginia State Police recognized the need to train together to better enhance joint operations in the field and to become familiar with each agencies capabilities and operational procedures. With that in mind, on April 22 and 23, Officer Troy Phillips and Senior Officer Jeff Pease with the VDGIF conducted ATV training for 25 Virginia State Police special agents. These agents were from special units and included personnel from BCI, DEA Drug Task Force, Undercover, and the Tack Team. Senior Officer Pease coordinated with Lt. Jerry Davis, of the Virginia State Police, to facilitate the training. The instructors provided the basic ATV operators course that all VDGIF personnel who operate ATV's are required to take. The training included ATV nomenclature, pre-operation checks, rider equipment and safety, and static demonstrations of proper ATV mounting and operator posture, braking and throttle, body positioning when negotiating turns and hills, and concluded with a trail ride. For more information contact Lt. Rex Hill at (276) 783-4860.

Region 4 - Mountain & Shenandoah Valley

Officers remove rowdy adults at kid's fishing day... On April 18th 2009, the Rockingham County Parks and Recreation Department hosted their annual Kid's Fishing Day at Silver Lake in Rockingham County. Virginia Conservation Police Officers Billhimer, Harold and Ham attended the event to meet and assist the children who were 15 years of age and younger. Over $3,000 in donated prizes ranging from Wii systems, bicycles and fishing gear were given out to the youth involved in the event. Roughly 1,200 fish were stocked with many of the youth catching fish throughout the day. The event also offered free pizza and goodie bags making sure no one left empty handed!

During the Silver Lake event a number of verbal warnings were given by attending law enforcement officers and by the Rockingham County Parks and Recreation Staff to ensure the Kid's Fishing Day was safe and fun for the 200 plus kids who attended the event. Officer Ham issued three summons to one individual over the age of 15 who falsified information to participate in the event, The summons were issued for fishing without a license, fishing in trout waters without a trout license and for fishing during the closed season. Officer Ham, later that same day, encountered an adult individual who was fishing without a child nearby. Officer Ham approached the male fisherman as he was in the process of reeling in a fish. Officer Ham asked the person to hand the pole over to one of his children who had returned to the fisherman's side. The subject refused to do so stating that he wasn't going to lose the fish. Officer Ham advised the person he was going to issue a summons for fishing during the closed season. The subject then became irate and began using excessive profanity in front of several children who had up to that point been enjoying the fishing activities. Officer Ham took the violator into custody for Breach of the Peace and fishing during the closed season. For more information contact captain Kevin Clarke at (540) 248-9360.

To learn more about Virginia conservation police officers visit the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries website.

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!

Winning Outdoor Adventure Stories from Young Writers

As spring gobbler season comes to a close, many young hunters probably experienced the lessons in patience that Jesse Hawthorne relates in the following story. Jesse is a senior in the Collegiate School in Richmond and notes that his experience has him looking forward to the next season and the adventure it holds. This story is one of the Top 5 Entries in 2008-09 Virginia Outdoor Writers Association High School Youth Writing Contest.

Patience Pays

By Jesse Hawthorne

Great writers have described New York City as filled with life and diversity. These great writers have never entered the turkey woods. Had they, they would be greeted with more life and diversity than in any city. One of my most memorable hunting experiences took place in the swamps of southeastern Virginia. The area is well known for its peanuts, swamplands, and unfortunately, mosquitoes. It is here that I find myself in my dreams as I recall a turkey hunt that will forever remain in the back of my mind.

As my father's black F-150 rolls to the edge of the field where the rows of peanuts meet the rows of tall oak trees on the edge of a swamp, my hands become sweaty and my heart begins to race. We haven't even started the hunt and I am experiencing these symptoms. We step out of the truck in the waning moments of darkness just as the woods awake. The first sounds that strike my inner ear are the faint bellows of bullfrogs. My feet crunch the small strip of grass as we near the edge of the woods. Then the woods become alive. Within minutes, every bird within two miles makes his presence known by emitting his call. Thousands of different sounds reach my eardrum and my heartbeat quickens. The streets of New York are meager in comparison to the hustle and bustle of first light in the turkey woods, and the diversity of sounds exceeds the diversity of people in the city.

The one bird that we are after has yet to make a sound. The tired owl makes its last hoot in the early morning and then it happens. The great bird's gobble resonates through the canopy. It's ineffable to describe the flood of emotions that engulf my body. So we set off. The tom gobbles again and the same flood engulfs me. We sit and wait. Bill Day, my father's hunting companion, makes a few clucks from his slate call and the bird gobbles, asserting his dominance. This cycle repeats itself, again and again. With each gobble it becomes obvious to me that the tom is making no effort to close the gap. Time passes slowly as airplanes, geese, and crows fly over and the turkey gobbles in response. An hour passes and still the tom hasn't budged. Pain and agony reach my rear end after fifteen minutes of sitting and it only escalates. The mosquitoes search for the slightest hint of skin. Buzzing around my face and eyes, they land and I can only blow air at them. Our patience is wearing thin as is the amount of blood in my face.

My father and Bill Day continue calling, reaching deep within their arsenal of sounds to try and coax the tom. Our patience is almost at the breaking point when an idea strikes. Both men use their slate calls simultaneously with a series of purrs and clucks. The bird gobbles again, louder and closer. My mind races and my eyes dart from tree to tree in search of the turkey for I know he is on his way. Straight in front of me a ray of sunlight strikes the white head of the approaching tom. My body is quivering and the pain in the seat of my pants disappears as does my worry of getting malaria. My focus is entirely on the task at hand and that task is to harvest this magnificent turkey. He gobbles and I know he is locked in on where the hen is supposedly located. He reaches another ray of sunlight and unfolds his feathers. The light refracts from his feathers and he glows just out of range. One more soft call from my dad and the bird continues to me. My sweaty hands prove to be no obstacle in pulling the trigger. The turkey flops and finally dies. I have to restrain myself from screaming with joy as I see the turkey on the ground.

My quest was over and I had nothing left to do but celebrate. Undoubtedly the hardest turkey hunt I've had the pleasure to be on turned out a success. Not because of the turkey lying dead on the ground, but because of the work and patience that we three hunters put into this hunt. Today I can only delve into my memories to think of this awesome hunt with the joy in knowing that turkey season is just around the corner.

Top 5 Entry 2008-09 Virginia Outdoor Writers Association High School Youth Writing Contest by Jesse Hawthorne a senior at the Collegiate School in Richmond.

For information on the VOWA High School Youth Writing Contest or the Collegiate Undergraduate Contest visit the VOWA website:, or contact VOWA Writing Contest Chairman:

David Coffman, Editor, Outdoor Report
VA Department of Game & Inland Fisheries
POB 11104 Richmond,  VA 23230
Telephone (434) 589-9535, Email:

In upcoming editions of the Outdoor Report, look for:

  • New Look for the Outdoor Report!
  • Summer Squirrel Season
  • Nature Camps for Summer Learning
Artwork copyright Spike Knuth.

Barking Tree Frog
(Hyla gratiosa)

By Spike Knuth

The "Be Wild! Live Wild! Grow Wild!" section in the May 2009 edition of Virginia Wildlife magazine features the "Miracles in a Spring Pool" studying the fascinating life cycles in the world of amphibians. Amphibian comes from the Greek word, "amphibios," meaning "double life." It refers to the fact that amphibians begin life as aquatic creatures with gills and metamorphose into air-breathing animals with lungs. Amphibians include salamanders, frogs, and toads. Their life cycle is relatively short, making observation possible from beginning to end.

The barking tree frog (Hyla gratiosa) is the largest of our tree frogs, the family Hyla, ranging in size from 2 to 2-3/4 inches. It is a stocky frog with thick, leathery, rough skin, covered with little bumps like a football. Its head is relatively large and its "hands" are large with big disks on its fingers for gripping. The outer fingers are slightly webbed while its feet are webbed to the fourth toe.

Barking tree frogs range in colors from a bright yellow-green to dark green or brown of varying shades and usually spotted or marked with brown, edged in a darker color and with scattered spots of white or yellow. They can change their colors, and a frog that is a bright yellow-green can change its color to dark green in a short time. The legs and arms are banded and its lighter undersides are edged in dark brown.

With the arrival of warm weather groups of barking tree frogs, called "choruses," of about 20-25 individuals gather at ponds, streams, or other water sources to breed. Usually it is a permanent body of water beneath open forest canopies. Their mating call is uttered from high in the tree tops and is described as a single "doonk" or "toonk," repeated at intervals of a second or two. From a distance the combined calls are likened to the distant barking or baying of dogs.

Breeding takes place from March to August, usually after a heavy rain. The females lay about 2,000 eggs, which are deposited individually over the bottom of a pond. The resultant tadpoles, like the adults, are the largest of all the family Hyla found in the United States, measuring 34-50 mm.

Barking tree frogs inhabit the tree tops near water during the warm months, but in dry weather and in winter they burrow in the ground under roots of trees or shrubs, clumps of grass or other vegetation. They are mainly nocturnal, usually sleeping in cool, shaded spots during the day. Presumably they feed on insects of various types.

They are widely distributed from southeast Virginia to southern Florida and Louisiana, with isolated populations in the northern parts of the Gulf States as well as Kentucky and Tennessee. While it is known to be common in most parts of its range, it is rare in Virginia and is classified as a species of special concern. It occurs on the Coastal Plain and Piedmont with specimens having been observed only in Chesterfield, Isle of Wight, Mathews and Surry counties.

Its favored habitat in Southeast Virginia also contains valuable timberlands of native pine, and alteration of these habitats through logging as well as other human land development have been the primary threat to this species.

Give 'Em a Break

Amphibians need a stress break, especially during breeding season. Do your part to preserve water quality by not applying fertilizers and herbicides close to ponds, lakes, streams, and wetlands. Also critical to their survival: don't introduce any species fish, reptiles, even other salamanders to these bodies of water.

For more information on endangered or species of special concern in Virginia, refer to the book, Virginia's Endangered Species by Karen Terwilliger, sponsored by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, and published by McDonald and Woodward Publishing Company, Blacksburg, VA 24062.


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 "Be Wild! Live Wild! Grow Wild!" section of each issue of Virginia Wildlife magazine highlighted here in the Outdoor Report each edition, features one of the 925 animals that have been identified in Virginia's Wildlife Action Plan whose existence is at risk.

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.


If you would like to become a regular subscriber to Virginia Wildlife magazine, visit the Department's website, 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.

    May 2009

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

    15-17 Become an Outdoors-Woman, Appomattox, Holiday Lake 4H Center. Check DGIF website for details
    25 Memorial Day
    June 2009

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

    2 VDGIF Public Board Meeting
    3 Kayak Fishing Workshop - Pocahontas State Park, Swift Creek Lake, Chesterfield. Check DGIF website for details
    5-7 Free Fishing Days
    6 Race for Open Space 3K Run/Walk for Western Virginia Land Trust, Green Hill Park, Salem, Western Virginia Land Trust
    6 Virginia Outdoors Woman, Dorey Park, Henrico County. Check DGIF website for details
    12-14 Yuchi Tribal homecoming, Museum of the Middle Appalachians, Saltville
    13 Two Ladies' Day Clinics, Cavalier Rifle & Pistol Club. Contact by email.
    16 Smallmouth Workshop - New River, Bisset Park in Radford. Check DGIF website for details
    21 Father's Day
    27 Virginia Outdoors Woman on Virginia's Eastern Shore, Cape Charles. Check DGIF website for details
    30 Float Fishing the James River, James River State Park. Check DGIF website for details

    by Marika Byrd

    American Beavers

    American Beavers (Castor canadensis), the largest rodent found in North America, have dark brown, lustrous back and side fur, which is lighter on its belly and chest. According to VDGIF Furbearer Project Leader, Mike Fies, the waterproofing comes from castoreum, an oily substance from the scent glands. The elongated, ping-pong paddle-size tail has leathery scales with sparse, course hair--a wonderful rudder when swimming or slapping the tail to signal danger is close. The large, back feet have five webbed toes that make them so graceful in water but utterly wobbly walking on land. The tiny front feet help hold sticks for gnawing or carrying stones and sticks; 20 chisel-sharp teeth grow throughout life, helping gnaw down 200 trees annually. The small ears, nose, and transparent eyelids, similar to goggles, makes it easy to remain underwater for 15 minutes before surfacing. They are generally gentle and are intelligent.

    A 6 foot, domelike home, called a lodge, consists of branches, sticks, grass, rocks, or even old shoes. Five tunnel entrances and exits go to the "residence." The "layered cake" is held together as they use their paws and noses to smear on mud. Beavers are true to their mate and share rearing of one to four kits, babies, born in springtime; Imagine a family colony living together peaceably in the lodge's underwater access. In the spring and summer, the herbivores eat vegetation and in winter from their storage of bark and small twigs stored in the lodge underwater.

    Many in the animal kingdom can thank beavers for creating and helping to preserve the wetlands, which also helps to prevent erosion, elevates the water table, and purifies water when they act as "earth's kidneys." Only mankind can surpass the beaver-Mother Nature's Engineer--when it comes to changing the landscape. The American economy is helped when beavers do their thing, which allows other species to bring life and enjoyment to the biodiversity it creates.

    The Northern Piedmont, mountains, and coastal plain of Virginia in the lower, less rocky portions of streams to headwaters with steep gradients and rocky bottoms is where to look for these mammals, according to the VDGIF Species Information. Go visit this playful, useful, but sometimes destructive mammal to enjoy seeing it in nature.

    • Virginia Boating Safety Education Requirement
    • In 2007, the Virginia General Assembly enacted a law establishing requirements for boating safety education. This requirement will be phased in over several years.
    • Virginia Boating Safety Education Compliance Requirement
      Phase-in Schedule
      Operators must meet the requirements as follows:
    • Personal Watercraft (PWC) "Jet-Ski"
      PWC, age 20 or younger, July 1, 2009
      PWC, age 35 or younger, July 1, 2010
      PWC, age 50 or younger, July 1, 2011
      PWC, ALL ages by July 1, 2012
    • Motorboat (MB) 10hp and greater
      MB, age 20 or younger, July 1, 2011
      MB, age 30 or younger, July 1, 2012
      MB, age 40 or younger, July 1, 2013
      MB, age 45 or younger, July 1, 2014
      MB, age 50 or younger, July 1, 2015
      MB, ALL ages, July 1, 2016
    • For more information visit:
      Boating Education classes
    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 website.

    May 2009
    1 First Quarter
    9 Full Moon
    17 Last Quarter
    24 New Moon
    30 First Quarter
    June 2009
    7 Full Moon
    15 Last Quarter
    22 New Moon
    29 First Quarter

    The following is a partial list of upcoming seasons starting in October for the more popular species. For a complete list and regulations consult the 2008-09 Hunting & Trapping Regulations and Information.

    Coyote, groundhog, & skunk: Continuous open season on private land only.
    • Turkey: Spring Gobbler May 4-May 16, ½ hr before sunrise until sunset
    • Squirrel: Spring Season, June 6-20, some Wildlife Management Area only, See regulations.

    All hunters (whether licensed or exempt from being licensed) who plan to hunt doves, waterfowl, rails, woodcock, snipe, coots, gallinules or moorhens in Virginia must be registered with the Virginia Harvest Information Program (HIP). HIP is required each year and a new registration number is needed for the 2008-2009 hunting season. To register for HIP, visit or call 1-888-788-9772.

    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!


    Security Reminder: VDGIF will never ask for personal information through unsolicited email.

    Missed an edition of the Outdoor Report? Want to reread an article you really enjoyed? Be sure to check out our complete archive of past editions!

    Editor: David Coffman

    Contributing Editors: Marika Byrd, Julia Dixon, Ron Messina, Lee Walker

    Staff Photographers: David Coffman, Ron Messina, Tim Tassitano, Lee Walker

    Special Feature Contributors:
    Stacey Brown, Rick Busch, Tom Guess, Carol Heiser, Fred Leckie, Spike Knuth, Steve Pike, Vance Shearin, Jeff Trollinger, Sarah White

    Executive Director: Bob Duncan

    The electronic Outdoor Report is sent free via email to more than 22,000 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 -