In this edition:

Celebrate Freedom Responsibly

This edition of the Outdoor Report posts in between Fathers Day and the 4th of July Independence Day holiday. These two holidays have special meaning to all of us who enjoy and appreciate our rich outdoor traditions of hunting, fishing, boating, and seeking adventure and inspiration in our wonderful wild places. We have some great stories of families sharing outdoor adventures that may give you some ideas for future summer outings. As we prepare to celebrate our Nation's birth of freedom July 4th, remember that with freedom also comes responsibility. Do your part to ensure our freedom to pursue our great outdoor traditions is not jeopardized by irresponsible actions.

Safety and courtesy are free, use them generously as you share the outdoors with others. This week we proudly graduate 20 new Conservation Police Officers who take an oath to serve you. They serve to protect you and the resources we all use and enjoy from those who act irresponsibly and break the law. Remember they are there to protect your freedom to enjoy the outdoors — support them in their important work by setting a good example and seeing that others around you do their share to enjoy the outdoors safely and ethically.

David Coffman, Editor

Increased BUI Enforcement - June 26-28, 2009 - Operation Dry Water

Governor Proclaims Operation Dry Water: June 26-28

Governor Timothy M. Kaine has proclaimed June 26-28 for the participation of Virginia law enforcement agencies in the national weekend effort to enforce and detect boating under the influence to detect, deter, and educate all boaters in order to reduce injuries and fatalities resulting from boating under the influence. Read the official Proclamation (PDF).

Boating Under the Influence is dangerous. Nationwide over 20% of boating-related fatalities are a result of alcohol use. Sun, wind, noise, vibration, and motion intensify the effects of alcohol, drugs, and some medications. They can slow reaction times, impair vision and lead to boating accidents. Also, operating a boat with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of .08% or higher is illegal. Penalties may include fines, jail, impoundment of boats, and loss of boating privileges. Remember to celebrate the 4th of July Independence Day holiday weekend safe and sober whether on the water or on the road.

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 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 & August 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.

Wood Duck Box Workshop at New Kent Forestry Center July 18

The Virginia Department of Forestry and the Virginia Waterfowlers Association have partnered to host a Wood Duck Nesting Box Workshop Saturday, July 18, 9 a.m. - noon at the New Kent Forestry Center near Providence Forge. This hands-on workshop has space for 30 participants, including children and adults, with lunch included.

The Virginia Waterfowlers Association will provide an educational presentation, instructors, wood duck box kits, and nails for participants. Participants will be required to bring hammers. PRE-REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED. To register, or for more information, contact Todd Cocker by email:, or call (804) 317-8058.

Mother & Daughter Outdoors Weekend August 14-16

This event is designed primarily for women. It is an excellent opportunity for anyone nine years of age and above to learn the outdoor skills usually associated with hunting and fishing, but useful in a variety of outdoor pursuits. This event is for you if: you would like to get your family involved in outdoor activities and need a place to start, you have never tried these activities but have hoped for an opportunity to learn, or you are a beginner who hopes to improve your skills. Registration fee is $90 per person; the registration deadline is 5:00 PM on July 24, 2009. See registration form for more information (PDF).

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

Senior Officer Billings Named Boating Officer of the Year

Senior Conservation Police Officer Wes Billings has been named Virginia's Boating Officer of the Year 2009, and with that he has been nominated for the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) Boating Officer of the Year 2009.

Senior Officer Billings has served as the VDGIF representative to The Friends of Claytor Lake, a group dedicated to preservation and safety of Claytor Lake, for 13 years. Officer Billings organizes activities on Claytor Lake with the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary that include patrol coordination; Operating Under the Influence enforcement efforts and safety violation reporting; search and rescue operations; boater safety issues at the State Park fireworks display; public outreach programs; and patrols of areas of the lake that receive frequent complaints about boater or personal watercraft operation. He has built a strong working relationship with the Auxiliary by working closely with them and by attending monthly meetings of the Flotilla.

Billings served as the Department's representative on the Appalachian Power Company (APCO) navigational aid study. He assisted with the drafting of the Navigational Aids on Claytor Lake document that was submitted to and accepted by APCO. The document is now being used as the primary resource for the placement of navigational aids along the 22-mile impoundment.

In the course of his work he patrols the New River in a six-county area from the North Carolina state line to the West Virginia state line. He has made boating arrests in seven jurisdictions. He consistently leads the district in number of boat inspections, boating arrests, and boat patrol hours. Arrests include Operating Under the Influence, reckless operation, underage and reckless operation of a personal watercraft, no wake violations, safety equipment and lighting violations. In addition to powerboats, Billings has also patrolled by canoe and kayak. Congratulations on this well deserved recognition.

Scouts Complete Lake Robertson Conservation Project

VDGIF's Project Engineer, David Krisnitski, loves it when a plan comes together. Through Mr. Krisnitski's coordination, on Saturday, May 9, 2009, a group of nine scouts and two adult leaders of Troop 236 from Roanoke, descended on the outlet of Lake Robertson in Rockbridge County and literally jumped into the creek. Seven hours later they had successfully removed approximately 15 cu. yds. of gravel, cobbles, and boulders from the stream below the dam that had formed a bar below the outlet pipe of the dam and was obstructing water flow away from the dam. One component of safe dam operation is to have unimpeded flow of discharge water away from the outlet pipe thereby reducing the risk of detrimental erosion at the toe of the dam.

On the scout side, the project was organized by Don Sipher, Scoutmaster, of Troop 236, to fulfill a requirement for conservation service hours required of scout groups attending Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, NM. The troop will be sending 18 of its members to Philmont in July for a 10-day, 85-mile mountain backpack experience. Mr. Sipher is also the Virginia Regional Vice President for Froehling & Robertson, Inc, and has been the primary contact between VDGIF and his company under a term contract for dam consulting services. Under this contract, Mr. Sipher had previously performed an inspection of the Lake Robertson dam and knew of the condition in the outlet channel of the dam and what was needed to rectify it.

So, when the need of the Department met the need of Troop 236, a plan was born and carried out. As a result of the labor provided by the scouts, the water level in the outlet channel below the dam was lowered approximately 18 inches and free flow of water from the outlet pipe of the dam was restored.

Youth Compete at 24th Hunter Education Challenge at Holiday Lake

During the first weekend in May, the VDGIF Hunter Education Staff and over 68 volunteers conducted the annual Hunter Education Youth Challenge at Holiday Lake 4-H Center in Appomattox. Over 100 youth up to age 18 competed in archery, shotgun, rifle, map and compass and wildlife/outdoor knowledge tests. The Junior Team Champions were from Scott County and the Senior Team Champions hailed from Powhatan County. Congratulations go out to all participants. This is the 24th year that the challenge has been sponsored by VDGIF.

New Hunter Education Volunteer Instructors Trained

The VDGIF Law Enforcement Division's Hunter Education staff and volunteers have been very busy so far this year, planning and conducting several events for the Department's volunteers and constituents. In March, the staff and 12 experienced Hunter Education volunteer instructors conducted a new instructor workshop at Holiday Lake 4-H Center in Appomattox. Forty-seven new instructors from around the state were trained to teach the basic 10-hour class to the public. This class included the 20 new Conservation Police Officer recruits currently in the Department's academy.

During the last weekend of March, the staff and more volunteer trainers conducted an advanced training workshop at Holiday Lake. Twenty-four classes were offered to 113 volunteers to enhance their knowledge and teaching skills. A one day Advanced Training is scheduled June 27 at Hungry Mother State Park in Marion. An additional Advanced Training Workshop is scheduled for September 18-20 at Holiday Lake.

Women Learn Outdoor Skills at BOW Workshop

On May 15-17, sixty women from Virginia , North Carolina, and Maryland descended upon the historic Holiday Lake 4-H Educational Center near Appomattox Courthouse for the annual Becoming an Outdoors Woman (BOW) weekend. The Friday - Sunday event featured courses in ATV riding, Shotgun Skills, Handgun Skills, Fishing, Ropes Courses, Kayaking, Wilderness Survival, Archery, and dozens of other skill based activities. The Saturday night raffle is always a lot of fun as is the moonlight hike around the lake. The May weather provided comfortable temperatures during the day and night, and bluebird skies abounded, at least until the skies opened with moderate to heavy showers Sunday morning. Even the rain couldn't dampen the spirits of the adventurous group.

The "BOW" program is sponsored by the Outdoor Education Program of VDGIF and is designed to introduce women to outdoor recreational activities. There is a special emphasis on the agencies' core mission elements. Many of the past participants in the "BOW" weekends have become avid sportsmen, anglers, and boaters. Several participants have displayed a high level of proficiency and are now serving as volunteers and instructors for Agency programs and sponsored events.

Virginia Chapter NWTF Updates Website

Robin Clark, President of the Virginia State Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) is proud to announce the completion of a major update of their website that will provide more Chapter's event information and the latest news. NWTF also partners with VDGIF to sponsor numerous events for their JAKES [youth], Women in the Outdoors and Wheelin' Sportsmen program for disabled persons. NWTF also is a leading sportsmen's conservation organization promoting scientific wildlife management, research, ethics, and law enforcement. The revamp of the website provides video and photo galleries for promoting and recording events. If you already have the site bookmarked, you will need to delete the old bookmark, and create a new bookmark with this site. Check it out:

Wildlife Center to Hold Rehabilitation Classes in June - July

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

June 27 - Lynchburg Parks & Recreation

July 18 - Sandy Bottom Nature Park, Hampton

July 25 - Lord Fairfax Community College, Middletown

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

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.

Final Board Action Sets Regulations Amendments for 2009-10 Hunting & Trapping Seasons

On February 27, 2009, the Virginia Board of Game and Inland Fisheries proposed amendments to 37 of the Commonwealth's hunting and trapping regulations for the 2009 and 2010 hunting and trapping seasons. During the period of March 11, 2009 - May 11, 2009, the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries received more than 2,200 public comments on the proposed regulation amendments. Final action on the proposed regulation amendments took place at the Virginia Board of Game and Inland Fisheries meeting held on June 2, 2009. The following is a summary of the Board's action on the proposed regulation amendments. The 29 proposed regulation amendments approved by the Board will take effect on August 1, 2009. For specific details on the approved regulations, refer to the Hunting and Trapping in Virginia digest which will be available in late July. Details of the regulation changes will be featured in the July 8th and 22nd editions of the Outdoor Report.

Summer Varmint Hunting Safety Tips

If you're planning to go varmint hunting this summer, you need to keep a few things in mind to ensure you have a rewarding and safe experience. If you're wearing camouflage, it should be lightweight. You'll also want to put on some bug repellent to ward off ticks, chiggers, gnats, and mosquitoes. Learn to identify poison ivy (leaflets three let it be!) and avoid contact with the shiny green leaves and hairy vines. Note that you can also get a rash from handling clothes that have come in contact with this prolific plant - abundant along fence rows and field and woods edges. If you have walked through a patch of poison ivy, wash those clothes to remove the oils which cause the itchy rash. Snakes are also out and about with the warmer temperatures, so be alert. If it is a very warm, sunny day, take sunscreen and plenty of liquid to stay hydrated.

As always, practice basic firearm safety. Treat every firearm as if it were loaded, only point at what you intend to shoot, and clearly identify your game and what is beyond. So spray on a little bug juice and take a youngster varmint hunting — you can teach some good basic shooting skills to a novice shooter in a more relaxed setting, hone your own skill level and help out a farmer. Remember common courtesy and ask permission first… you might just get invited back for deer or turkey hunting in the fall!

Apprentice Hunting License: A New Way To Get Involved in Hunting

New regulations recently passed by the Board provide for numerous opportunities this upcoming fall season to take a new or novice hunter in the field to experience the many benefits hunting offers. There are now both a Youth Deer Hunting Day on September 26, 2009, and a Youth Turkey Hunting Day on October 17, 2009. If they do not have their hunter education class completed, an Apprentice License can be purchased by a new hunter. However, apprentice hunters are reminded they still have to comply with this education requirement before legally purchasing a state resident or nonresident basic hunting license. Be sure to check out the new Apprentice Hunting License video VDGIF has posted to its website. The video is an overview of how the new Apprentice Hunter program works. Watch the video and consider becoming a mentor to a friend or family member who's always wanted to try hunting.

What are you waiting for? Call toll-free 1-866-721-6911 for more information.

Be Safe... Have Fun!

Planning and Preparation Needed for Safe Summer Adventures

Skeeters, ticks, and snakes, oh my! If you stop to think about all the critters and conditions that can possibly make your summer outdoor activities miserable, you may make a big mistake and stay home. With a little planning, preparation, and the proper gear, you can minimize the discomforts that come with any outdoor adventure. The old saying "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," relates directly to you and your outdoor plans. There are some basic safety precautions directly related to summer heat and critter activity that warrant your attention. This article is based on my experiences, including mistakes, the past 30 years camping, canoeing, fishing, and exploring our wonderful wild places.

David Coffman, Editor

Clothing: dress for the conditions you plan to encounter, then take additional items in case conditions change. Consider wearing pants that have the zip-off legs to give some protection in case you encounter brush, poison ivy (leaflets three, let it be!), or ticks. Same advice for shirts - take a long sleeve - it may get cooler if out after sunset. Wear light colors, they are cooler and do not attract mosquitoes like dark shades. Carry a small folding poncho for sudden downpours. Wear a hat to provide shade. Use sunscreen, even if you already have your tan.

Water: have plenty of liquids to prevent dehydration. As an Eagle Scout, the motto "Be Prepared" has helped me and my companions out of unforeseen circumstances on many occasions. I offer a personal tip for long drives. Always take a cooler with ice and a variety of liquid refreshments in your vehicle on any trip 5 miles or 500. With heavy traffic just about anywhere you go these days, a traffic stopping incident, or breakdown may strand you for hours, miles away from any refreshment. Keep a couple of bottles of water, or sports drink, and some packaged snacks in your vehicle just in case. You may just make someone's day, including your own. Be aware of the symptoms of heat stroke and heat exhaustion - these conditions can kill. Keep hydrated and do not over do it. Know your physical limits. Rest or get in shade to prevent heat stress.

Critters: wear insect repellant. There are many kinds on the market, so read up on benefits and precautions of the various kinds. Note the proper method to remove ticks (PDF) to prevent infection. If you happen to encounter a snake, it's best to leave it alone. Many species of snakes, including venomous ones, are very beneficial to humans. Snakes are not aggressive and only bite in self defense, or if provoked. If bitten by a venomous snake, stay calm and seek medical attention immediately. Most venomous snake bites in Virginia only result in some swelling and discomfort. Bee, wasp, and hornet stings pose a greater risk, especially if you are allergic to them. If you are allergic, keep the proper medications with you, and tell your companions in case you need medical assistance. Rabies gets a lot of attention in the summer. If during the daytime, you see a fox, raccoon, or other mammal that is normally nocturnal and elusive acting aggressively or strangely, keep away. Contact local animal control authorities or the police immediately with the location of the animal.

Finally, always let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return. These days with cell phones, SUVs, and GPS, we have gotten somewhat complacent on this basic safety rule. Murphy's Law is lurking out there - no cellular signal, dead batteries, twisted an ankle - insert your own excuse here. No wildland adventure is without some risk - it's why we call it "wild" and part of the appeal of venturing outdoors! If you take simple steps to be prepared, have the proper gear for the conditions and take basic safety precautions, you optimize your chances for a great wildland experience. Now go out there and have fun, seek adventure, respect and enjoy our great wild places.

Stay Safe on the Water - Boat Smart and Sober!

With the summer boating season upon us, VDGIF reminds all boaters to boat smart, boat sober, and boat safe while out on our waterways. All boaters should:

Remember safety and courtesy are free, share them generously!

"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.

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 hayfields 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. 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 such as dogs or coyotes to their location. The white-spotted coat camouflages a fawn as it lies motionless in vegetation. By giving it a wide berth, you also reduce the risk of inadvertently leading predators to the hidden fawn. Does 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 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 locate a licensed wildlife rehabilitator by calling the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) dispatch at 804-367-1258 (24 hours, 7 days a week). You may also visit the VDGIF website for that same information.

Raising a wild animal in captivity is illegal unless you have a state permit. Each animal's nutritional, housing, and handling requirements are very specific and must be met if they have any chance of survival. Feeding the wrong food to a fawn can make it very sick and possibly lead to its death. Cow's milk will induce very severe diarrhea in fawns.

The best advice for someone who wants to help wildlife is to keep it wild. Once we interfere, we reduce the opportunity for animals to be cared for by their natural mothers and we increase the risk of harming our wildlife heritage.

Save Time, Money and Gas - Plan Your Summer Vacation for Virginia

With rising gas prices this summer, consider visiting Virginia on your vacation this year. There is a good reason why our Commonwealth is a top tourist destination - there are thousands of attractions, outdoor adventure opportunities and natural and cultural history opportunities to explore right here at home! Rediscover why Virginia is for Lovers! This year celebrates the 40 anniversary of the popular 'Virginia is for Lovers' slogan.

To help plan your Virginia adventure, visit, a website dedicated to environmentally friendly travel in Virginia. The new site has convenient links to Virginia state parks, outdoor adventure programs, the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail, eco-friendly events, 140 green lodging facilities, restaurants, attractions, and travel tips. "Virginia Green is a new and important focus for our tourism industry, as we work to educate ourselves and improve upon how we treat the natural habitat that helps make Virginia a top travel destination," said Alisa Bailey, president and CEO of the Virginia Tourism Corporation. "It's smart business sense for Virginia and will help preserve and protect our natural heritage for future generations of citizens and tourists."

Notes for Young Nature Explorers

This new section features articles and tips of interest to youngsters to encourage them to get outdoors and explore nature. With school out for the summer break, learning can continue with the types of experiences that cannot be found in books, the internet, or video games. Observing and exploring the natural environment can be exciting, interesting, and fun. The Virginia Wildlife calendar lists natural events that can serve as a "lesson plan" to get students outdoors exploring, observing, and having fun while learning about the woods, fields and streams and the fascinating plants and animals that share these habitats with us. Each edition we will bring you ideas on topics, natural occurrences, and events to spark your interests in exploring nature. Make it a family affair!

Outdoor Blogs and Websites Provide Nature Adventure Info For Kids

For excellent information on getting youngsters interested in exploring and learning about nature there are several blogs and websites to review:

Kids Discover Nature by Jodi Valenta

Nature Observations from the Byrd Nest by Marika Byrd

Black Rat Snake

Mention the word "snake" and many individuals shy away in fright as they know very little about reptiles. The black rat snake (Elaphe obsoleta obsoleta), also known as eastern rat snake, blacksnake, chicken snake, or pilot snake, is one of the more common creatures in Virginia's farm lands, forests wetlands, and remote city woodlots. They like to slither around trees, shrubs, even flowerbeds, seeking a place to hide. Rat snakes generally are shy, freeze when they feel in danger, are not chasers, and will let you pass by. The adults will coil and rattle their tails in the dead leaves for protection. They quickly hide or go into the water, where they travel well. This reptile can travel great distances just after sunset, is a good climber, and can capture mice, small rodents, frog, chipmunks, moles, and birds around farms and abandoned buildings so they do not do costly harm to the farming crops each year.

Rat snakes can grow to six feet, their slender, solid, shiny black body has a wedge-shaped, small brain head, with white, red, orange or yellow areas that show between the scales. The belly has a "checkerboard" pattern of gray or brown on white or yellow, according to the VDGIF Wildlife and Fish Information Service. The warming days in April signal black rat snakes to end their long winter sleep. In July they lay five to 25 fertilized eggs, known as clutches, hiding them in rotting logs, hollow trees, mulch, abandoned burrows, or sawdust mounds. The hatching of baby snakes begins in late August or September.

They are not violent and have a harmless bite, but they will bite when provoked—so it is important not to step on, grab, or hit the rat snakes, or any snake for that matter—just move away and each go their way in peace. John Kleopfer, VDGIF Wildlife Diversity Biologist/Herpetologist, says, "They are one of the few snakes that can tolerate or even benefit from moderate human disturbance. Highway mortality [death] and people killing them out of ignorance are probably their greatest threat." It is illegal to intentionally kill a snake in Virginia.

VDGIF's recently updated and reprinted "A Guide to the Snakes of Virginia" is now available through the agency. This 32-page full-color booklet presents all of Virginia's 30 species of snakes in an attractive and educational "field-guide" format. It also includes snakebite information, provides answers to frequently asked questions about snakes, and suggests what you can do to protect or control snakes in your yard and home. Another good reference is The Reptiles of Virginia by Joe Mitchell. Get to know more about snakes, have less fear of them, do not make them endure further bad treatment or bullying, and share your world with them as you do other wildlife.

Habitat Improvement Tips

Habitat Cost Share Funds Still Available for Landowners

Landowners looking to improve wildlife habitat using cost-share assistance funds for all conservation partners have ample opportunity with over $700,000 still available for Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program sign-ups in Virginia. VDGIF Small Game Project Leader Marc Puckett, notes that over half of these funds are available for early-succession habitat. These funds must be spent by the end of the Federal FY 2009, which ends in October. Sign-up for all programs has been slow due primarily to a stagnant economy. All these programs work by landowners paying up front, then getting reimbursed after work is complete. The initial contact for landowners for WHIP funds is the their local USDA Service Center (under US Government listings in the phone book, or at the NRCS / FSA websites).

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. Attendance is limited and pre-registration is required.

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.

New Record Hybrid Striped Bass Caught In New River

The State Record Fish Committee of the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries has certified a new state record hybrid striped bass/white bass weighing 13 pounds. This fish was caught from the New River on May 13 by Robert Rakes of Christiansburg, Virginia. This represents the first-ever entry for this category, which required a minimum weight of ten pounds to qualify. Mr. Rakes has been a lifelong hunter, but only started fishing about a year ago. He became interested in fishing for striped bass a few months ago, but, despite extensive effort, had not caught a striper or a hybrid prior to his record fish. Not a bad first fish! He was bank fishing in the rapidly flowing water below Claytor Lake Dam. Both striped bass and hybrids are stocked in the lake above, and some make their way through the dam to the New River below. The fish hit a Rapala Super Shad Rap and took him for a wild ride in the swirling waters before succumbing after a ten-minute battle. Hybrids are well-known for their strength and are very popular game fish for that reason. Although Mr. Rakes didn't know what species he had at the end of his line until he brought it ashore, he knew it was big so he kept the drag loose in the hopes that it wouldn't break the line. Although hybrids can be confused with striped bass, he and his friends were fairly certain that the fish was a record hybrid. Had it been a striped bass, it would not have been anywhere near the current state record of 53 pounds, 7 ounces, caught in Leesville Reservoir. So, he was relieved when VDGIF Fisheries Biologist Bill Kittrell confirmed that his fish was indeed a hybrid and certified scales verified the weight at 13 pounds. Go to the Department's website for a current list and photos of Virginia's state record freshwater fish and more information about the trophy fish program.

Millions of American Shad Stocked in Virginia Rivers

The Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries, a contracted fisheries consulting firm, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin teamed up to continue stocking American shad in several of Virginia's coastal river systems this spring. As recently as the 1960's, American shad still supported one of the largest fisheries in Chesapeake Bay. However, dams, pollution, habitat destruction, and overfishing caused the species to decline dramatically in the 1970's. In response, the fisheries in both Virginia and Maryland were closed. Because shad were not showing signs of recovery in the James River, a re-stocking program was initiated in 1992. With the help of watermen, adult shad have been collected each spring in the Pamunkey River, which still supports a relatively healthy spawning run. These fish have been stripped of their eggs and milt, and the fertilized eggs were used to produce fry for stocking the James River.

During April, the James River upstream from Richmond was stocked with a total of 3.8 million fry. This brings the grand total stocked in the James since 1992 to 108 million. Embrey Dam in the Rappahannock River was removed in 2004 to allow migrating anadromous fish such as American shad to re-access historical spawning grounds upstream of Fredericksburg. To promote the recovery of this spawning run, restoration stocking was initiated there in 2003. The Potomac River, which has the healthiest run of American shad in Chesapeake Bay, has been used as the source of fish for stocking the Rappahannock. A total of 2.7 million fry were stocked in the Rappahannock River upstream of Fredericksburg during May as part of this on-going effort, which brings the total number stocked since 2003 to 26.2 million. Approximately ½ million shad fry were also stocked in the Potomac River to compensate for the eggs taken to stock the Rappahannock.

Both the James and Rappahannock rivers now support more American shad than they did prior to the initiation of the Restoration Program, but the goal of restoring these spawning runs to historical levels is still a long ways off. For more information regarding this program, please check out our Shad Restoration Program website or contact Dean Fowler, VDGIF Shad Restoration Program Coordinator, at 804-367-6796.

Catfish Stocked In Urban Fishing Lakes

The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) recently stocked 7,250 harvestable-size channel catfish in five (5) urban lakes. 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 Virginia and should be excellent table fare. Anglers are reminded that anyone 16 years of age and older will need a fishing license and the urban program daily creel (harvest) limit for catfish is four per day; anglers under the age of 16 need no license. For more information about the Urban Fishing Program, call the Fisheries Division at 540-899-4169.

Got Pictures of Your Catch? Share Them With Us on Flickr!

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.

Rules for submitting photos to the group:

  1. Photos must be of fish caught in Virginia.
  2. Photos must not depict unsafe practices.
  3. Please do not publish personal information (last names, addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses, etc.).
  4. Please do include the species, location, and date of catch!
  5. Only submit photos for which you have permission to post online. For example, any minor pictured must have documented permission from his or her parent or guardian in order to appear in the group. By submitting a photograph of your child, you are giving VDGIF permission to post the photo on the Flickr "Virginia Fishing" group.

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.

Anglers Be on the Lookout for Fish Kills

With the warmer summer temperatures, fish kills are possible with the most severe die-offs among smallmouth bass and sunfish. Many of these fish develop skin lesions before dying. Scientists continue to collect water and fish samples this season 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 their investigations. 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 DGIF 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 A detailed summary of findings through the 2008 fish kill season is available on the DEQ 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.

For more information on boating water safety and the BoatU.S. Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water go to For details on Virginia's laws or to take a boating safety course, check out the DGIF boating website.

Sara White's Notebook - Regional River and Lake Reports on Fishing Conditions

Region 1 - Tidewater

Beverdam Swamp Reservoir: By Ranger Eddie Hester. The fishing this weekend has been excellent. The bass are being caught in large numbers with some bass weighing up to 6 lbs. The catfish have started to feed and some nice cats are being caught. There's plenty of sunfish to be caught on the floating fishing pier and around the shoreline.

The results for the June 20th Beaverdam Bass tournament are as follows. First place went to the team of Steve Harger and Woody Cosby with a winning weight of 20.05 lbs. Second place went to the team of Jerry Jenkins and Ricky West with a weight of 16.02 lbs. Third place was won by Mark Chalkley and Scott Elliott with a weight of 13.00 lbs. Forth place went to the team of Jerry Hogge and Jerred Hogge with a weight of 12.09 lbs. The team of Orece Robinson and Riley Williams took fifth place with a weight of 12.05 lbs. The big bass of the tournament was caught by the team of Steve Harger and Woody Cosby weighting in at 6.06 lbs. The water temperature is 82 degrees with good clarity and at full pool.

Lower Potomac: J.G. Sports (571) 436-7521. Joe Hawkins' wife Judy tells us that looking for bass in grass beds is a good idea. Throw top water in the morning and plastics later in the day. No word on crappie or cats. Perch are attacking the top water lures. The water is clear and 68 degrees.

Virginia Beach: Captain Jim Brincefiled (443) 336-8756. Captain Jim told me that croaker and spot can be found at Hampton Roads. Flounder are hanging out at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. Spanish mackerel are at Cape Henry. A good bet there is the Golden Clarke Spoon trolled or retrieved very fast. Cobia can be had at Bluefish Rock. Black drum are being landed at Latimer Shoals. Waters are clear and warming.

Chickahominy River: River's Rest (804) 829-2753. Charlie Brown reports that there have been several successful bass tournaments, with 2 lbs. to 5 lbs. being landed; mainly on soft plastics. Some big cats have been fooled by chicken livers and Eagle Claw Catfish Biscuits. No word on crappie. Perch are hitting well on jigs and worms. The water is stained and 80 degrees.

North Landing River and Back Bay: West Neck Marina (757) 426-6735. The incomparable Dewey Mullins says that bass have been plentiful. Try top waters, plastics and spinners. White perch are hitting small spinners, beetlespins, and night crawlers. Bluegills are hot and attacking beetlespins and night crawlers. Crappie have been few and far between. For cats try bottom rigging with cut bait. The water is clear and in the high 70s and rising.

Norfolk Lakes: Dasheill's Show Room (757) 539-7857. Drew Dixon reports that the bass have been hitting well on jigs soft plastics and crankbait. Crappie have been slow, if you toss them a minnow they might respond. Bream have been especially plentiful and Wayne Ivey, who was fishing with his girlfriend Toni Copeland, landed 21 fish, fifteen of which were citation size. Wayne found luck with crickets. Cats have been landed on the Nansemond River with cut bait. Water is clear and in the upper 70s.

Blackwater and Nottoway: By Riverkeeper Jeff Turner. Fishing in the Nottoway this past week and into next week on the upper Nottoway will remain slow due to high water conditions. On the lower river the effect is not as noticeable, but fishing will remain off also. On the Blackwater the story is the same. Upper river fishing is poor and lower river not as bad, but not great either. High rainfall events have flushed out swamps on the upper BW causing decaying matter to wash into the river. This material has a high BOD or Biological Oxygen Demand causing dissolved oxygen levels to plummet below 4ppm, especially with the addition of high water temps over 80 degrees. If I had to pick for the upcoming week, I would try the lower end of the BW early morning. Remember to take your bug spray.

Friends Enjoy Chesapeake Bay Action on Fathers Day Trip

Photos by David Coffman

With the Piedmont rivers "up and muddy" from all the recent rains, a group of friends made their way to the Chesapeake Bay for some Fathers Day fishing. Brothers Justin and Bryan Wimmer from Dale City caught plenty of "doubles" while fishing for croaker and spot along with their dad, Bob, and grandpa, Ronnie Page, from Fluvanna. The eight adults and three youngsters in the family and friends trip caught a variety of fish and crabs. Nathaniel Fisher excitedly helped his dad, Craig, net a 28 in. shark caught on squid and bloodworms. Nathaniel and grandpa Dave Fisher landed some flounder and toadfish — yuk. The group has made this an annual "first trip of the summer" event with Capt. Jim Thompson on the "Jim-an-I" out of Deltaville. Capt. Jim plans to "come inland" to take a deer hunting trip with the group this season. He hopes the hunters are as good finding deer as he is locating good Chesapeake Bay fishing grounds. If you have not tried a Chesapeake Bay fishing trip, you are missing a real fun adventure for young and old, novice or experienced angler. For information on charter boat trip opportunities visit the Virginia Charter Boat Association website.

Region 2 - Southside

Brunswick Lake: Our man in the boat Willard Mayes Writes: 6-10-09 Had eye lid trouble this morning, they did not want to open; so I took the short trip to Brunswick Lake instead of going to Holliday Lake or Briery Creek. I got to the lake about 10 a.m. and fished with the fly rod and a #10 yellow popping bug from the dock toward the dam. I kept 44, five to seven inch bluegill and threw back 42. I had, had enough by 4 p.m. and put the fly rod up and fished with the spinning rod as I came back to the dock. Caught and kept 8 crappie between 9 and 13 inches, Throwing back 2 six inchers.

Holliday Lake: 6-15-09 No eye lid malfunction this morning, so headed to Holliday Lake in some awful showers all the way to Farmville, since TV weather did not show any rain up that way. We ran out of the rain just before Farmville and got to the lake about 9:30. Pumped many gallons of water out the boat before launching it and my partner, Jimmy had kept his crickets and worms in the truck so they did not drown ahead of time. Fished the shoreline from the dock to the flats catching 21 very nice bluegill from 8 to 11 inches on my fly rod and #10 white popping bug with the cricket man picking up 12. While in the flats I picked up the spinning rod and my standard lead head and twister tail and caught one 12 inch crappie, 2 bass, one 12 and one 14 inch along with a 2 lb. + channel cat. I threw back 8 of the standard blue gill from 4 to 6 inches before we called it a day around 4:30. We made the right decision because no rain fell on us, but had plenty of rain here at home.

James at Lynchburg: Local Guide L.E. Rhodes The James continues to be high and stained. We will get out of this weather pattern we are in and the fishing will be great. I've started hearing reports that the Flathead's are hitting. Anglers have had success using cut bait-live bait-shrimp and night crawlers. The tributaries continue to be fishable. Smallmouth have been boated using Huskey Jerks-Sort Plastics-Tiny Torpedoes. Fly Anglers are being successful throwing bait fish and grub patterns.

Kerr Reservoir: Bob Cat's Lake Country Store (434) 374-8381. Bobby Whitlow told me that while most bass are in the deeper waters if you can find a mayfly hatch the topwater fishing is really good. Crappie are on the deep brush, occasionally going for minnows and jigs. Cats are liking a varied diet so try live shad, shrimp, chicken livers or night crawlers. The water is slightly stained but clearing up and in the uppers 70s.

Claytor Lake: Mike Burchett of Rock House Marina reports that stripers are hitting well at night, especially on planer boards with shad. Look for them at the lower end of the lake. Other good lures for local bass are broken back thundersticks, Yum Money Minnows and swimbaits. Bass are off the beds and responding to drop shot plastic worms. Cats are picking up the river, hanging out on the flats and going for trolled night crawlers and spinners. The water is in the low 80's and clear.

Lake Gaston: Holly Grove Marina (434) 636-3455. Craig Karpinski reports that while daytime bass angling is slow nocturnal anglers are having luck. During the day try top waters at night go for buzzbaits and diving Rapalas. Crappie have moved on depths of five to 10 feet and will go for a live minnow. Cat fishing has been very good with fish from 48 to 51 pounds being landed. Go in darkness armed with chicken livers and clam snouts. The water is clear and in the low to high 70s.

Smith Mountain Lake: Virginia Outdoorsman (540) 721-4867. At night, the alewives continue to move up along the shoreline and spawn they usually start to move up around 11:30 p.m. This past week the night bite has been good for bass and mixed for stripers. Large floating jerkbaits like the jointed Thunderstick, Cotton Cordell Redfin, Rapala Original F-18 and X-Rap are still good choices when retrieved very slowly next to the shoreline. It is important to replace the saltwater hooks that come standard on most of these lures with sharp, strong, number 2 Gamakatsu or Owner treble hooks. Bass are also hitting dark colored floating worms like those by Deep Creek, V&M and ZOOM. Large plastic worms with ribbon or paddle tails are good choices at night, especially for bass. Daytime striper fishing has improved, but it continues to be mixed. Striped bass are being caught at numerous locations around the lake, but the lower and mid lake appear to be the most productive. Most stripers caught in the daytime are hitting live bait or Umbrella rigs. This past week several stripers were caught on shiners rigged on downlines around 18 feet below the surface. Stripers continue to break near the surface around the lake can be caught on topwater lures like Striper Strikes, large Rebel Pop-R's, Spooks and Sammy's as well as on swimbaits, flukes and bucktails.

Black bass can also be found under and around docks where Yamasenko sinking worms are working. Small shaky head jigs and drop shot rigs with finesse worms and crawfish imitating plastics are producing bass around deep water docks and rock. Bass are also hitting topwater lures.

The Virginia Federation Nation (FNV) Junior Bassmaster State Tournament will be held on Leesville Lake this year. This trail is for anglers 11 to 18 years old. The Southern Division qualifier will be on July 11 and 12 and the FNV State Tournament will be held on August 1st and 2nd.

The forecast is for a continuation of seasonal weather patterns, but temperatures will be cooler than those experienced last week. The rain last week brought mud into the upper lake and creeks, staining the water. The water in the lower lake is still clear. Early this week the daily high temperature is expected to be in the 70s. The lake is just slightly below full pond and all ramps are operational except Sunset Cay (old Campers Paradise) which is closed until further notice. The waters are stained to good at 80 degrees. Boat safely, good luck and tight lines.

Region 3 - Southwest

Lower New River: Big Z'S (540) 639-1651. The effervescent John Zineas says that Claytor Lake has been very slow due to floating debris. The river is good at times and at times too high. Please call ahead for river conditions. If fishable, the fishing is good. Bass are hitting pig&jigs, jerk bats and Senkos in green pumpkin or silver/white. Crappie have been slow but some lunkers have been landed on minnows and jigs. Cats can be found in the upper river at the headwaters of Claytor Lake. Rumor has it that they like chicken livers. Muskies are thriving in the river as some bass anglers have found to their consternation. For deliberate musky angling try an inline spinner. Water is slightly stained and warming.

Region 4 - Mountain and Shenandoah Valley

Lake Moomaw: Local Guide Mike Puffenburger (540) 468-2682. Mike reports that bass angling is fair to good, with dark plastics and crankbaits being effective. Yellow perch are picking up now, and like alewives. Trout fishing is good early and late with alewives and small spoons.

North Fork of the Shenandoah: Harry Murray (540) 984-4212 Harry says the smallmouth streams in the South Fork of the Shenandoah are discolored, but should be fishable by the 26th (but check website before heading for the stream). Streams in the North Fork are full but fishable. Best flies are Murray's Eel size 4 and Olive Marauder size 6. The water is 72 degrees and slightly discolored. The stocked streams in the Valley are full but fishable, with the best flies being Murry's Crane fly Larva size 10 and 12 and a Casual Dress size 10 and 12. Water is clear and 65 degrees. The mountain streams are fishable at the head. The best flies are Murry's Flying Beatle size 14, Murrays Sulfur Dry Fly sizes 15 and 18 and Mr. Rapidan Parachute sizes 14 and 16. The waters are 57 degrees and clear. Harry reminds you to check the site before heading out.

Region 5 - Northern Piedmont

Local Blogger Steve Moore ( / Fishing the North Branch of the Potomac) reports increasing levels of frustration with the constant rain and its impact on the smallmouth fishing. With every rain, the rivers swell, turn a deep chocolate brown and push the start of the smallie season another week down the road. The Rapidan and Rappahannock are both almost 2 feet over the maximum save level for wading and running a deep brown that is causing anglers struggle to find a color that describes both the situation and the fishability; milky, cocoa, dark, dirt? The North Fork, South Fork and Main Stem of the Rivanna are also blown out. No matter how you frame it, until the water goes down and the intense rain stops, the Piedmont rivers will be owned by those who would rather hold a paddle than a fishing rod. If you just have to fish for smallies, go to the headwaters of the rivers to get on the water before it collects the silt. The Robinson between Syria and the Route 29 bridge near Culpeper is lightly clouded with anglers catching smallies and panfish on large, size 12, dark nymphs. While the rain destroys the smallie action, it extends the mountain trout season. The streams on the east slope of the Blue Ridge are running large at a crisp 56 degrees and continue to be productive. The trout are taking the normal summer range of dry flies, nymphs and small streamers with Harry Murray's patterns all being clear winners. Anglers who fished the Rose River in the Park reported good results in the deep pocket water that starts 2 miles in from the lower trailhead. The challenge continues to be presenting the fly before the higher than normal volume of water blasts it downstream. The trout have to be as agile as the angler!

Lake Anna: by local Guide and Author C.C. Mc Cotter. Plenty of rain and some cool temperatures have created conditions on Lake Anna not often seen this time of year. Recent warmer weather will push fish into summer patterns quickly, though. Here's what you can expect for your next visit.

Bass: Lake Anna largemouths are still shallow in many areas near willow grass, however as the water temperature finally crests 80 degrees and stays up, these bass will begin to move deeper and relocate on brushpiles, rockpiles and deep, shaded docks. Focus your efforts in the mid lake and up lake region with crankbaits and plastic worms for the best odds. The lower end of the lake does have fish available, but they are concentrated in very small areas like around Dike III. The extreme upper end needs to settle down from the recent rains but should begin to be productive in early July for anglers casting soft plastic jerkbaits, buzzbaits and pitching worms.

Striper: Excellent fishing when you can locate the schools of fish. A good Lowrance depth finder is a must now. Hot zones have been from The Splits down to the mouth of Sturgeon Creek. Anywhere in this region where there are 30-38' flats next to the main channel can harbor large schools of stripers. Trolling deep diving Redfins has been productive as has down lining live herring. The Toothache spoon vertical jigging bite is just about here, too.

Crappie: Fish have gathered back on deep brush in the mid lake and lower up lake region and can be caught on slip bobbers and minnows in 14 to 20 feet. Up lake fish are shallower and holding on bridge pilings, docks and brush piles. You can use a 1 in. Bass Assassin in this area.

Lake Anna: : Jim Hemby Lake Anna Striper Guide Service (540) 967-3313. Stripers: The Stripers are now schooling from the splits down to the dam. In low light conditions they are starting to blow bait out of the water, use pencil poppers and chuggar type baits when you see this action. By far the best way to catch the stripers is with herring. My clients are catching 50 to 100 stripers a morning on downlines. Bass: Post spawn conditions exist now. For low light conditions work topwater chuggars over 10 to 20 feet of water on points and humps, in the sun the bass retreat to the ledges and brush piles. Crappie: Locate structure in 15 to 30 feet of water and use small jigs and minnows. Catfish: They are biting everywhere, get your bait close to the bottom and hold on!

Lake Orange: By Darrell Kennedy at Angler's Landing (540) 672-3997. The water is clear with temperatures around 80 degrees. All the fish seem to be in a summer pattern. Largemouth bass are aggressive on top water early and late in the day. In the middle of the day, soft plastics and live bait are your best choices in depths of 8 to10 ft. of water or around drop offs. Crappie have congregated around the fish attractors and the fishing pier being taken on live minnows. The walleye bite is excellent on cloudy, rainy days with crankbaits and live minnows. Cat fishing is strong throughout the lake on chicken liver. Noteworthy, Glenn Knight of Gordonsville brought in a 4 lb. 12 oz. walleye on the 16th, using a crankbait. Lewis Seymour of Orange, caught a citation largemouth bass on the 18th weighing in at 7 lb. 12 oz. 24 in. long, using a soft plastic bait. The fish was released to be caught another day.

Mid Point Potomac: Warbird Outdoors (703) 878-3111. Terry Olinger reports that bass are hitting well on top waters and soft plastics, with green pumpkin being a good color to use. No word on crappie. Cats are hitting well on cut bait and clam snouts. Bluegill are going for night crawlers and crickets.

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 »

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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.

CPO Academy Graduates To Begin Field Assignments

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) Basic Law Enforcement Academy will graduate it's fifth class of officers Thursday, June 26, 2009. In all, 20 new conservation police officers will be sworn-in at the ceremony. These officers have completed an intensive 28-week training program that included more than 200 courses. They will take up their assignments across the Commonwealth and proceed with field training under the direct supervision of field training officers. VDGIF undertook establishing its own training academy in order to tailor the program to the specific needs of conservation police officers. In the next edition of the Outdoor Report we will list the newest conservation police officers and the areas where they will be assigned.

VDGIF Executive Director Bob Duncan notes, "This is a very impressive group of individuals. Their training has been rigorous both physically and mentally. We are so fortunate to have this caliber of people joining us at the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries."

Region 4 - Mountain & Shenandoah Valley

DUI and firearms leads to arrests... On May 17, at approximately 2:53 a.m., Officer Billhimer heard gunshots and then observed a vehicle accelerating past his residence. Officer Billhimer made a traffic stop on the vehicle occupied by three suspects. Officer Billhimer smelled an odor commonly associated with an alcoholic beverage coming from the suspects. The passenger was concealing a .223 semi-automatic firearm beside his right leg and the door. Officer Billhimer seized the firearm and began his investigation. The driver was arrested for DUI and the passengers were arrested for drunk in public. Once at the Rockingham County Jail, the driver refused a breath test and he received an additional charge for refusing a breath sample. Officer Billhimer interviewed the suspects at the jail and they gave written statements admitting to shooting road signs with a .223 firearm in an area with occupied houses. Additional warrants were obtained for reckless handling of a firearm and destruction of property. For more information contact Lt. Ronnie Warren 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 summer has officially begun, and schools are out, many folks head for the great outdoors for vacation. As Holly Kays describes in her story, "With a Notebook in Hand", putting the inspiration experienced during an outdoor adventure into words can be difficult, but simply trying to find the right words can be a rewarding journey in itself. She offers some valuable observations and suggestions from her experience. Holly submitted her story while a sophomore at Virginia Tech, double majoring in Natural Resources Conservation and English . This story was awarded second place in the 2008-09 Virginia Outdoor Writers Association Collegiate Undergraduate Writing Contest with the theme - "My Most Memorable Outdoor Experience."

With a Notebook in Hand

By Holly Kays

"I have never seen such a perfect landscape before. Recently emerged from the crowded family minivan, I now stand on the edge of Jackson Lake, watching the Grand Tetons rise from the green valley opposite me with primitive jaggedness, expending their entire 13,000 feet of elevation in sheer cliffs and pointed peaks. Even in June, streaks of snow cover the mountain-tops, a drape that hides their elegant ferocity as unsuccessfully as a Santa beard hides the sharp-angled sinew of a tough old man."

I pause my typing, trying to recall this moment, looking for the words to describe exactly what I had felt as I stood on the pebbly beach of Jackson Lake, looking up at mountains fiercer and more beautiful than anything I had ever seen. This family vacation out west, a mere twenty days carved from a summer buried three years in the past, stirred something inside me, something that I have since struggled to express adequately in writing.

As I stood at the base of such high, ruggedly perfect mountains, I experienced the heightening of a sense that has lived in me my entire life. For me, nature has always induced feelings of awe and wonder, as well as an uncontrollable desire to touch, feel, smell, and understand. I felt this desire even as a toddler, escaping to the neighbor's yard to investigate the rocks in their driveway and slipping outside when Mom wasn't looking to crawl through the wet grass of our yard. As I got older, my interactions with nature became more scientific. I learned to identify local bird species and searched for their nests, checking them with regularity. When my family went hiking, I frequently brought up the rear due to my need to overturn every rock in search of salamanders. I was interested in all kinds of insects, especially caterpillars, and of these, especially monarchs. Every August and September, my plastic Dollar Tree bug cages were home to multiple monarchs in various stages of metamorphosis.

Through the investigations of my childhood, and, I admit, of my young adulthood, I learned much about the natural life of the Mid-Atlantic temperate region. I could tell the difference between the nests of catbirds, robins, and bluebirds, was able to demonstrate how a threatened black swallowtail caterpillar would unfurl slimy, putrid-smelling orange antennae, and could conclude firmly, based on personal observations, that the red-striped salamander was the most common species of salamander in the Appalachians. But I learned something else as well; I learned that the world is far too large and biology far too complex for me to ever know it all.

For every bird whose nest I could identify, there were four species I had never even seen, and for each species of caterpillar I had successfully raised into a butterfly or moth, there were ten species I had never held in my pink-lidded bug cage. Though I had never wanted to conquer nature with violence or smother it with concrete, I had tried to master it enough to reduce its mystery to orderly columns of facts. Now I was forced to admit, as countless others had done before me, that nature is unconquerable.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with wanting to learn, and I still absorbed information about the adaptive mechanisms of trees, the overwintering habits of ladybugs, and the 17-year reproductive cycle of cicadas with fascination. Nature still enthralled me, but at the same time I realized that it is too vastly intricate to be completely chartable. If it is impossible to unravel the Maker's nature, doesn't it follow that His creation should be the same way?

Earlier, my focus had been knowledge. Now, I sought to find definition. The outdoors— trees and flowers and the sense of deep mystery that lived with them—meant something to me. They gave me the peace that comes from the presence of something more beautiful and perfect than I could ever be. Before, I had held this feeling unexplored as I pursued the knowledge I wanted. Now, realizing my inability to define the universe with facts, I approached the outdoors seeking to understand, rather than to conquer.

Now, I experienced nature with a notebook in hand.

I had always enjoyed writing, and I had always been good at it. Even as a 7-year-old, I would declare enthusiastically, when asked, that I was going to be an author when I grew up. However, that choice often seemed incompatible with my zeal for the outdoors. My first stories were about boys and mice making friends and lost dogs coming home. I wrote these stories under fluorescent classroom lights and in the concrete-walled basement that housed my parents' computer. Writing cut me off from the leafy woods and raspberry bushes that waited outside.

Eventually, I discovered that my new desire to understand what nature does to me fits perfectly with my love of writing. Sparked by a subject that fascinated me far more deeply than the trite storylines I first used, my writing improved to something I could be proud of. Now a college student, I continue the marriage of the two subjects with a dual major: creative writing and natural resources conservation. I love both studies, and I can see them working together in my future, whether I end up writing nature articles for magazines or describing the world I love in full-length books.

For the present, my body sits in front of the computer while my imagination stands at the base of the Grand Tetons and my mind searches for the words to describe the moment. The perfect words do not come, but I find something close, just a shade away from the purity of soul that I experienced. As I continue to type, I do not feel failure. I have learned before that nature is unconquerable. It will always evade my attempts to define it. I can only try and hope to come close.

This entry in the Virginia Outdoor Writers Association (VOWA) 2008-09 Collegiate Undergraduate Writing Contest by Holly Kays won Second Place. Holly was a second year student at Virginia Tech pursuing a double major in Natural Resources Conservation and English. She notes, "I have enjoyed writing since my childhood and would like to pursue a career writing for magazines. In particular, I am interested in magazines dealing with nature, travel, and Christianity." Holly has had articles published in the College of Natural Resources newsletter and other magazines. For information on the VOWA Collegiate or High School Youth Writing Contests 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: