In this edition:

The Turkeys are Gobblin' and the Fishing is Heating Up!

This April 28th edition has spring in full bloom and with warm sunny days and ample April showers gardens and food plots are being tilled and seeded to renew the cycle of planting and harvest. This is the traditional season when freshwater fishing action really heats up in lakes and rivers across the state. We've posted the Kids Fishing Day calendar, so look for an event near you and plan for some family fun. The turkeys are still gobblin' and the fishing is getting better by the day.

Spring turkey hunting is a fantastic way for families to experience the excitement and natural beauty of the forest. From all the emails and phone calls that have been coming in from around the state it looks like the families are having some great success pursuing thundering gobblers. For the Miller family from Dayton, a recent family turkey hunt resulted in a great memory with their son Dakota getting his first turkey. His sister Daphne had gotten her first turkey during last seasons special Youth Spring Turkey Hunt Day.

Read about the Miller's hunting adventure and stories of other successful young turkey hunters in Hunting News You Can Use Section. Be safe and have fun enjoying the blossoming of Spring.

David Coffman, Editor

Fishing, Wildlife Diversity, and Boating Regulation Amendment Process

The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the Board of Game and Inland Fisheries review and amend all of the Virginia regulations governing wildlife and boating biennially, in two separate processes, with different regulations being under review in alternating years.

In 2009-2010 the Virginia Board of Game and Inland Fisheries is conducting its Fishing, Wildlife Diversity, and Boating Periodic Regulation Review and Amendment Process, in which it addresses and considers possible amendments to all Virginia state regulations governing inland sportfish and fishing, wildlife species other than those hunted, fished, or trapped, and boating.

Wild Events You Don't Want to Miss

Kids Fishing Day Events Provide Family Fun

More than 35 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.

Holiday Lake 4-H Center Offers Hunter Skills Weekend May 14-16

The Virginia Hunter Education Association, in partnership with VDGIF and Holiday Lake 4-H Educational Center, is offering a Hunter Skills Weekend May 14-16, 2010. Designed to bridge the gap between the basic Hunter Education course and actual hunting experiences, the event will offer specialized training in the use of hunting firearms and archery equipment, hunting techniques for deer, turkey, waterfowl, and small game, and other useful woodsmanship skills. All instruction is provided free; participants pay only for meals and lodging. To find out more, or to register, visit the Holiday Lake 4-H website or call (434) 248-5444.

Becoming an Outdoors Woman Workshop in Madison May 14-16

The VDGIF Outdoor Education Program will host a Becoming an Outdoors Woman workshop at Graves Mountain Lodge in Madison County, May 14 -16. This program is designed primarily for women whose outdoor exposure has been limited. The three-day event (Friday through Sunday) offer a variety of four-hour classes geared towards beginners. Participants can choose from shooting sports, angling, boating and a host of other educational courses. The courses offered may include, but are not limited to, introduction to shotgun, rifle, archery, hunting techniques for game species, fly-fishing, bass fishing techniques, boating, camping, hiking, wilderness survival, and outdoor cooking. Graves Mountain Lodge offers rustic yet comfortable settings in the Blue Ridge Mountains adjacent to Shenandoah National Park. Participants in the Becoming an Outdoors Woman programs must be at least 18 years of age. Registration is required through the VDGIF website. For more information, contact Jimmy Mootz at 804-367-0656 or jimmy.mootz@dgif.virginia.gov.

Ladies' Day Rifle - Shotgun Clinics June 5 in Hanover County

The Cavalier Rifle and Pistol Club in western Hanover County is hosting a choice of Rifle (22 rimfire) or Shotgun clinics from 9 a.m. - 1 p.m., Saturday, June 5. Clinics are taught by certified instructors and includes safety instruction, basic marksmanship, comfort, familiarity with firearms, firearms, 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 H.Baskerville@comcast.net.

Wood Duck Box Workshop at New Kent Forestry Center June 12

The Virginia Department of Forestry and the Virginia Waterfowlers' Association have partnered to host a Wood Duck Nesting Box Workshop Saturday, June 12, 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: goosesmacker@aol.com, or call (804) 317-8058.

Support Your Sport!

Check the Upcoming Events calendar for numerous outdoor skills training workshops around the state sponsored by youth oriented organizations like VA Hunter Education Association, NWTF JAKES, 4-H Shooting Sports Clubs and others dedicated to continuing our rich hunting heritage to a new generation. Also make a small "investment" in the future of our hunting heritage by attending a local fundraising event by one of many sportsmen conservation organizations that partner with VDGIF throughout the year. These events are carried out by fellow sportsmen in your community and most of the funds raised go to local projects to improve habitat, teach children outdoor skills, ethics and safety. The events are family oriented and you will have a great time and meet new friends - you may even win a shotgun or find a new place to hunt or fish. Remember sportsmen pay for conservation!

The following is a listing of events that our partners have asked us to post:

People and Partners in the News

Disabled Sportsmen and Wounded Warriors Participate in Numerous Spring Hunts

The Virginia Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation Wheelin' Sportsmen program has sponsored spring turkey hunts for disabled sportsmen, veterans and wounded warriors throughout April and May. For details on these and other events and hunt event applications for future programs, visit the VANWTF website. Are you interested in volunteering to assist with an event or have a friend that is interested? Visit the Virginia National Wild Turkey Federation Web site to find numerous links to opportunities and information. View the Spring 2010 Virginia Wheelin' Sportsmen Newsletter for further information on programs, events and opportunities or visit the website.

First Wheelin' Sportsmen Gobbler Hunt Celebrates 5th Anniversary

The Central Virginia Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation celebrated the fifth anniversary of the first Wheelin' Sportsmen spring gobbler hunt originally held in Albemarle County in 2005. Hunt Coordinator Sherwood Londeree from Fluvanna County worked with over 20 volunteers to organize this 'Spring tradition.' The hunt is now named in memory of Butch Trinca, who harvested the first gobbler during the first hunt for disabled sportsmen on Carters Mountain. Butch's enthusiasm for hunting was an inspiration for other disabled sportsmen and the volunteers who share their time and experience to guide and assist their fellow hunting buddies. For the exciting story of this memorable hunt, read Tom Reese's article of his experience on the VA NWTF website.

Fly Fishing Festival in Waynesboro Biggest Ever

The 10th annual Virginia Fly Fishing Festival held April 17-18 on the banks of the South River in Waynesboro, lured anglers from across the Mid-Atlantic with nonstop free lectures and tips on where, when, and how to fly fish in the Old Dominion and across the globe as well as wine-tasting and live music. VDGIF Outreach Manager Lee Walker reported the crowd was fantastic and the many activities and exhibits were very interesting for novice and experienced anglers of all ages.

Record Number of Animals Admitted To Wildlife Center For Medical Care During 2009

The Wildlife Center of Virginia, an internationally acclaimed teaching and research hospital for wildlife and conservation medicine located in Waynesboro, admitted a total of 2,534 animals for treatment during 2009 – injured, ailing, and orphaned wildlife from all across Virginia. The 2009 caseload was the highest number of patients treated at the Center since 2004.

For more information on the most "notable" cases of 2009 and information of successful rehabilitation and release of patients back into the wild, read the full news release on the Wildlife Center's website, or contact Randy Huwa at (540) 942-9453 or rhuwa@wildlifecenter.org.

Amanda Nicholson, Outreach Coordinator and Rehabilitation Supervisor for the Wildlife Center, announces that an "On the Road" Rehabilitation class is scheduled for Saturday, July 17, 2010, at Lynchburg Parks and Recreation, in Lynchburg. The classes will cover:

For more information, including class descriptions and costs, visit the Wildlife Center of Virginia's website.

Complementary Work Force Offers Variety of Opportunities for Service

If you are looking for a fulfilling volunteer opportunity, consider joining the VDGIF Complementary Work Force. The program benefits the agency, its constituents, and the wildlife and fisheries resources of Virginia in many unique and rewarding ways. It provides opportunities for you to share your talents, gain new skills and work experience, and make new friends, all while working in some of the most beautiful locations that Virginia has to offer. Volunteers may donate time on a regular, occasional, or even seasonal basis, depending on their availability. For more information about the program and current activities read the Spring CWF Newsletter. To apply to be a CWF volunteer, please visit our website.

CWF State Coordinator, Susan Alger is retiring in May after 30 years service with VDGIF, most of it in Law Enforcement. She plans to continue in community service and, yes, work with VDGIF as a CWF volunteer. The July 2010 edition of Virginia Wildlife magazine will feature the activities and accomplishments of the CWF program.

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.

Apprentice Hunting License is a Great Way to Begin the Spring Gobbler Season

With Spring Gobbler season underway and early Spring Squirrel season June 5 – 19, 2010, it's a great time to introduce a youngster to the sport by getting an Apprentice Hunting License. An Apprentice License can be purchased by a new hunter before successfully completing the Department's hunter education course. 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 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. It's not just for kids!

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

Check the UPCOMING EVENTS calendar for numerous hunter training workshops around the state sponsored by youth oriented organizations like NWTF JAKES, 4-H Shooting Sports Clubs, VA Waterfowlers Association and others dedicated to continuing our rich hunting heritage to a new generation

Spring Gobbler Hunting Season Dates and Tips

Share your Hunting Photos and Stories With Us...

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.

Keep sending in great photos of smiling young hunters. Also, any unusual pictures or stories from any hunters are considered for posting. The pictures need to be in good taste for publication—minimal blood, classic pose, etc. Our award-winning professional photographers offer a few tips on composition of your photos so as to capture the moment with a good photo—consider background, good light, contrast, and have both young hunter and mentor in the photo, especially father-daughter, or mother-son, etc. Any firearms pictured MUST be pointed in a safe direction.

Send us the basic information to dgifweb@dgif.virginia.gov for a caption including: names, age, hometown, location and date of harvest, county, private, or public land, first deer, doe or # antlers, turkey, coyote, bow or gun specifics, comment from the young hunter or mentor.

David Coffman, Editor

Special Youth Spring Turkey Hunting Day April 3

What better way to get young people excited about spring gobbler hunting than to show some photos of success by young hunters.

Greg Singleton shares a story of the joy and excitement that comes by mentoring a young hunter...

Greg Singleton from Springfield sent in this story of a successful hunt when he took his teenage neighbor Chad Jackabon, harvesting his first turkey on the April 3 Special Youth Turkey Hunting Day. But here's the rest of the story... this was Chad's third turkey hunt ever. Last season, Chad accompanied me on two turkey hunts. On his first hunt, we worked 4 birds, but couldn't get them closer than 45 yards. Later that morning, Chad passed up a bearded hen that came within 15 yards. I applauded Chad's conservation decision to let the hen walk. On his second hunt, we worked one bird, but could not seal the deal. But on April 3 of this year, Chad persisted. After unsuccessfully calling in a couple of birds in the early morning hours, Chad and I put in some miles, walking to places we had never been within our assigned hunting area on Marine Corps Base Quantico. Finally at 10:45, after hitting the box call, a bird sounded off just below us in a bottom, about 100-150 yards away. I offered to move in closer, but Chad suggested we set up immediately and start calling, so we did. Well, Chad had the right idea. The bird was closer than I thought, and after answering a few calls, the bird went silent. We decided to wait for a while to see if the tom would surprise us by coming in without gobbling, and after about 10 minutes from his last gobble, sure enough I could see the birds head moving in our direction. There was a blowdown between us and the bird, and Chad couldn't see the bird well enough to shoot. We both kept really still, and that gave the bird time to come out from behind the blowdown, offering Chad a 20 yard shot. When Chad took the shot, I waited to see his reaction. After putting the gun on safe, he jumped up and shouted for joy, much as I did with my first bird many years ago. It was a great day in the woods: one I will not forget. The gobbler weighed 19 lbs.and had a 8 ¾ inch beard with 5/8 inch spurs. Congratulations Chad!

Mike Puffenbarger with Maple Tree Outdoors in Highland County sent us these two photos of novice turkey hunters success this Spring. Puff notes, "You're never too old, or too young to experience the thrill of spring gobbler hunting!"

Spring gobbler hunting is a great family activity as Jason Miller's wife, son and daughter can confirm with this story of his son's first gobbler...

"We arrived on the ridge top over looking the James River in Nelson County at 6 a.m.. My wife, Renee and two kids Dakota, and Delanie, were still in the truck, as I gathered all the equipment that the four of us need on a spring gobbler hunt. As I finished with snacks and drinks I heard the first gobble. I quickly told my family to get out and listen. He gobbled again just in front of the truck. We grabbed our stuff and headed in the gobblers direction. We set up on him just between an old beaver pond and the mouth of a small hollow. We listened to him gobble for over an hour and finally he flew out at around 8:15. I yelped and cut, he gobbled. I called again and he gobbled, but it was much farther away. I called again and he was just about out of hearing distance. So we walked up the ridge where we had heard the turkey, trying to get around him… but we had no luck.

At around 9 a.m. we walked back to the truck so we could try another place. After walking about 100 yards, we stopped and called and a gobbler cut me off. We quickly set up just off the logging road. Dakota and I sat up on the left side and Renee and Delanie sat up on the right. I was trying to get my friction call out of my vest and Dakota said "there he is!" I quickly looked down the road expecting to see a gobbler, but all I saw was a hen. I said "DON'T SHOOT that's a hen!" The gobbler gobbled and he sounded much farther down the road . We moved about 50 yards down the road and I started yelping and cutting. I heard him spit and drum, so I told everyone to get down. I made a soft yelp and we could see his tail feathers appear about 30 yards to the left of the road. He strutted back and forth for what seemed to be an hour, but was only a few minutes. Finally, Dakota got a shot! It was the best hunt for all of us. Dakota got his first turkey and the whole family was there to share it with him."

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 2010 Spring Gobbler Survey (PDF). The survey is a daily log of biological information and hunting success. Additionally we ask participants to complete a survey of their attitudes about a number of questions at the end of the season. The survey form can be downloaded from our web-site or by emailing gary.norman@dgif.virginia.gov or call (540) 248-9360. Encourage your hunting buddies to also take the survey to help gather valuable data to improve turkey hunting opportunities.

Remember, only 38 days until the Spring squirrel season begins,
June 5-19 , 2010! See our website for details.

Tips for Preserving Your Trophy Gobbler

Goooobbbbllleee...Goooobbbllleee... For the lucky hunter who harvests a trophy gobbler this spring see the tips from taxidermist, Todd Rapalee of Rapalee Taxidermy in Goochland, on how to prepare your bird for mounting. The most important step that many hunters overlook is: DO NOT field dress your turkey. Deliver it to the taxidermist within hours after the harvest or place the bird neatly in a large plastic bag and freeze it until it can be delivered to the taxidermist. Review the full article in the March 24, 2010 archived edition.

For information on taxidermists, visit the Virginia Taxidermists Association website.

Safety and courtesy are free, share them generously

Be Safe... Have Fun!

Make Your Spring Gobbler Hunt a Safe One!

To make your spring gobbler hunt successful and safe, hunters need to take some basic precautions to protect themselves and protect others. Always let someone know where you are hunting and when you plan to return. Know where others may be hunting in your vicinity and never assume you are "the only one hunting there." Hunt defensively and make sure of your target and beyond before pulling the trigger. ALWAYS use basic safe firearms handling practices. Safety and courtesy are FREE, use them generously and always. To ensure a safe and enjoyable day afield, VDGIF recommends reviewing basic safety practices with your hunting companions, young and old, novice and experienced alike, each time you go afield. Get more tips on how to stay safe during your Spring Gobbler hunt!

Hunt safely, responsibly and ethically.

View the new Safety PSA »

Stay Safe on the Water - Boat Smart and Sober!

The upcoming summer boating season is right around the corner, and 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.

Morel Mushrooms, A Different Kind of Hunting

Hummingbirds Returning Soon

Get ready to hang out your hummingbird feeder — the ruby-throats are making their annual spring comeback. These fast-flying acrobats of the air are steadily moving their way up the East Coast and have already been documented in some Tidewater areas and other parts of Virginia (you can view a map of the 2010 migration route at hummingbirds.net). Check the VDGIF website's "Hummingbird Tidbits" for some great pictures and tips about welcoming back these charming nectar seekers.

What To Do With Nuisance Wildlife

Let's face facts... those cute and cuddly critters we see in the wild can also be a nuisance if they decide to move in with you or overstay their welcome. Vance Shearin, who staffs the Information Desk at the VDGIF Headquarters in Richmond, hears that complaint a lot. He notes, "We get a lot of calls on nuisance animals and nuisance furbearers especially in the spring and fall. Someone calls in and may have a fox in the yard, squirrel in the attic, raccoon in the garage, or beavers cutting down trees or flooding a road with their dam. Many of the callers are under the false impression that we will come and remove the wildlife for free as a public service. They are often unaware that they may have to pay a private trapper if they don't want to dispatch the animal themselves."

VDGIF Furbearer Biologist Mike Fies advises, "Nuisance wildlife laws and regulations are complex. Most of the complexity is due to the different Code [of Virginia] Sections that pertain to various wildlife situations. Landowners are permitted to trap and shoot some species of nuisance wildlife at any time. However, you should check with the VDGIF to make sure you are complying with all laws and regulations before taking action. The VDGIF provides assistance by instructing people how to handle their own problem depending on the circumstances, or putting them in contact with private individuals who can provide trapping services for a fee." Property owners need to be aware that it is illegal to capture and relocate wildlife without a permit. Relocating nuisance wildlife would simply move the problem to someone else's property. A list of trappers who handle nuisance animals is available on the VDGIF website. For information on non-lethal alternatives for nuisance wildlife problems visit The Center for Human-Wildlife Conflict Resolution.

The Code that is enforced by VDGIF states, "A landowner may shoot fur-bearing animals except muskrat and raccoons, upon his own lands during closed season. When beaver are damaging crops or lands, the owner of the premises, his agent, or tenant, may kill the animals, or have them killed. A landowner and members of his immediate family may kill rabbits or squirrels for their own use during the closed season. Fur-bearing animals include beaver, bobcat, fox, mink, muskrat, opossum, otter, raccoon, skunk, and weasel." Animals that are a threat to public safety, like a potentially rabid fox, or aggressive coyote should be reported immediately to the local animal control officer or police.

For more details on how to handle nuisance wildlife read When Wildlife Overstays its Welcome by VDGIF Habitat at Home Coordinator Carol Heiser.

Be a Sweetheart to Wildlife

You can make a difference by helping to support the management of Virginia's wildlife. When you complete your Virginia state income tax form, you can be a sweetheart to wildlife by simply marking the Nongame Wildlife Program check off box and filling in the amount of your donation. Your contribution will help support essential research and management of native birds, fish, and other nongame wildlife.

Notes for Young Nature Explorers

This section features articles and tips of interest to youngsters to encourage them to get outdoors and explore nature. Observing and exploring the natural environment can be exciting, interesting, and fun: plus provide the types of experiences that cannot be found in books, the internet, or video games. 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 adventure!

Butterfly Gardens: Critical Habitat - Now is Time for Planning and Planting

By Marie Majarov, Majarov Photography, www.majarov.com

Butterfly Gardens offer beautiful blossoms that will bring a wide variety of butterflies and even hummingbirds flocking to your yard. Now is the time for you and your family to do some planning and planting for a wonderful wildlife show – and help save our butterfly treasures as well.

Some flowers provide rich nectar, important food sources for our fluttering friends, while others are host plants offering places for butterflies to lay eggs that will hatch and develop into fascinating caterpillars that munch on the plant leaves before transforming into chrysalids from which, almost magically, glorious butterflies emerge. VDGIF website "Creating A Butterfly Garden" by Master Naturalist Donna Cottingham will give you many suggestions for native plants, both annuals and perennials, and describes which plants are hosts for various butterfly species. The new Habitat at Home© DVD will also provide you with many helpful ideas. (see details of this DVD in Habitat Improvement Tips section)

This year is a particularly critical time to plant a butterfly garden as one of our loveliest and most recognizable butterflies the large, brilliantly-colored, orange and black Monarch, already in danger with their summer habitat shrinking, has had a devastating winter at their overwintering sites in Mexico. Monarch scientist Dr. Lincoln Brower estimates that monarch population numbers are now at an all time low. Gardens with Monarch host plants, milkweed, and nectar sources are called Waystations. Your help is essential in saving this beautiful butterfly.

Marie Majarov and her husband Milan are Clinical Psychologists, nature enthusiasts, and members of the Virginia Outdoor Writers Association. They maintain a butterfly garden and bluebird trail at their home in Winchester, VA. Inspiring children, both young and old, about the wonders of nature and encouraging the preservation of our precious natural resources is their dream for Majarov Photography. More about their work can be seen at www.majarov.com.

Nature Observations from the Virginia Wildlife Calendar

Look at the 2010 Virginia Wildlife Calendar for when these nature events occur in early May:

Answers to April 14 edition quiz for nature events in early April...

Get your copy of the 2010 Virginia Wildlife Calendar here.

Habitat Improvement Tips

Forest Landowner Workshops scheduled for May-June

Whether you are interested in converting lawn to forest, creating wildlife habitat, or providing a useful outdoor space for your family, these workshops are for you. The workshops will take participants through the manual, The Woods in Your Backyard, exploring planning and implementation of various land management concepts and tools. A Resource CD will also be available. All workshops are 2 sessions, a week apart for homework completion. For more about manual go to nraes.org.

Woodlots, large or small, are a vital resource for all. Additionally, woods provide a myriad of other benefits such as carbon sequestration, improved air quality, wildlife habitat, biomass opportunities, recreational outlets and more. Owners of even just a few acres can make a positive difference in their environment through planning and implementing simple management practices.

The workshops will use the award winning, The Woods in Your Backyard: Learning to Create and Enhance Natural Areas Around Your Home, to equip owners of 1-10 acres to be better stewards of their property. The full-color, 139-page manual helps users identify goals for their land, and offers guidance to achieve them.

Workshop locations & times
Each workshop is 2 sessions

Rappahannock workshop:
May 12 & 19, 1:30-4:30 p.m.
Location: Rappahannock County Library
4 Library Rd., Washington, VA
Kenner Love, Extension Agent
(540) 675-3619 klove@vt.edu

Warrenton workshop:
May 20 & 27, 6:30-9:00 p.m.
Location: Fauquier County Extension Office
24 Pelham Street; Warrenton, VA
Fauquier: Tim Ohlwiler, Extension Agent
(540) 341-7950 tohlwile@vt.edu

Culpeper workshop:
June 1 & 8, 6:30-9:00
Location: Culpeper County Library
271 Southgate Shopping Center,
Culpeper, VA
Carl Stafford, Extension Agent
(540) 727-3435 ccstafford@vt.edu

"Tree Cookies Etc." Landowner Newsletter Available On-line

Adam Downing, Virginia Cooperative Extension Agent Forestry & Natural Resources - Northern Region in Madison County has completed a new edition of the electronic newsletter for forest landowners, "Tree Cookies Etc."

Learn about forestry, wildlife, water quality and other natural resource management issues and tips to manage your woodlands for multiple uses and benefits.

Grab Your Hammer- Help Build Wood Duck Nest Boxes in New Kent

Join volunteers from the VA Waterfowlers Assoc for a Wood Duck Nest Box Building Workshop June 12 at the New Kent Forestry Center near Providence Forge. Contact Todd Cocker for details and registration. goosesmacker@aol.com, or call (804) 317-8058.

Habitat at Home© DVD Now Available

The Habitat at Home© DVD features the yards of four homeowners in different parts of the state who have removed invasive plants, reduced their amount of lawn, added water features, and planted flowering perennials and shrubs. VDGIF Habitat Education Coordinator Carol Heiser advises, "Native shrubs in particular are an excellent choice for wildlife, because they support native insects that make up a critical part of the food web. Native plants are better adapted to our growing conditions and are much easier to maintain than non-native ones. So many of our neighborhoods lack the kind of native plant diversity that wildlife really needs. You'll be surprised at the number of birds and other wildlife that use native shrubs. Visit our website to purchase your own copy of the 40-minute DVD!

Read the feature on planting a butterfly garden by Marie Majarov in the Notes for Young Nature Explorers section.

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. Mandatory Saltwater Angler Registry: Effective January 1, 2010, there is a new requirement that saltwater anglers obtain a federal registry number by calling 1-888-674-7411, or online at www.CountMyFish.noaa.gov.

The new 2010 Freshwater Fishing in Virginia (Fishing Regulations) book has been published and a copy can be obtained at the upcoming fishing and hunting shows, all license agents and Department offices. VDGIF Fisheries Division Director, Gary Martel, notes, "This publication not only contains the fishing regulations, but an extensive 'Let's Go Fishing' section, with information about major sport fish, public fishing lakes, major fishing rivers, and the trout stocking program. Also, you can find information about fish citations, state records, angling education programs, exotic species, and more." The Freshwater Fishing Regulations section, including the complete Trout Fishing Guide, on our website have also been updated for 2010.

Spring Time Is "Shad Time"

The annual run of shad is underway. American shad and hickory shad are in the James River at Richmond and in the Rappahannock River at Fredericksburg. Fishing for hickories usually winds down in late-April in the James and early-May in the Rappahannock. Americans may be caught through the end of May, but most are gone by the middle of the month. Remember, it is catch and release only for American shad (check VDGIF and VMRC regulations).

The American Shad Restoration Project is also underway to collect American shad eggs and stock fry as part of a cooperative effort to replenish shad stocks in the James and Rappahannock rivers. The Pamunkey River supplies the broodstock for the James stockings and the Potomac provides the broodstock for the Rappahannock stockings. Since 1992 over 108 million shad fry have been stocked in the upper James and since 2003 over 25 million have been stocked in the upper Rappahannock.

Fish passage progress continues throughout Virginia. American shad and blueback herring have been found 28 miles upstream of the former Embrey Dam by our biologists. Hickory shad and striped bass have also been found in the upper Rappahannock. The Boshers Dam fishway on the James is once again operating for the 2010 spawning run.

VDGIF is also continuing the Shad Tagging Study in 2010, tagging American shad and hickory shad to learn more about shad populations and their spawning migration patterns in the fall zones of the James and Rappahannock rivers. Tagging is planned through May of 2010. The tag is an external "spaghetti tag" inserted in the fish near the dorsal fin (top/back) on the right side of the fish. Anglers who catch a tagged fish are asked to call the toll free 866 number on the tag to report the catch to the fisheries biologists conducting the study. We ask that you report the fish tag number, date, time and location of the catch, and whether or not the fish was harvested (would apply to hickory shad only below the fall line) or released.

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.

Safe Boating is No Accident—Wear your Life Jacket and Take a Boating Safety Class

Attention boaters, VDGIF has begun to phase in Virginia's boating safety education requirement and wants to remind boaters that as of July 1, all operators of personal watercraft (PWC), including Jet Skis, Sea Doos, and other PWCs, age 14 to 35 will need to have proof of boating safety course completion onboard while operating the vessel. PWC operators must be at least 14 years old. To find out more about the boating safety requirement, the rest of the phase-in for Virginia boaters, or to find a boating safety course, visit the Department's website

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 BoatUS.com. For details on Virginia's laws or to take a boating safety course, check out the DGIF boating website.

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

Region 1 - Tidewater

Little Creek Reservoir: Contributed by Park Supervisor Robert "Doc" Eveland. (757) 566-1702. The lake is at full pool, slightly stained, with surface temps in the mid to upper 60s. Smaller bass, pickerel and perch can be found in backs of coves, with the larger fish continuing to hang out in deeper water. Reports of numerous fish being caught, however, few big ones at this time.

Beaverdam Reservoir: Contributed by Eddie Hester, (804) 693-2107. Fishing this past weekend was slow here at Beaverdam. Anglers are catching bass, but, most of the fish are 1 to 3 lbs. and folks are having to work for them. Crappie fishing is still good with reports of decent stringers of them being caught. Anglers are catching a lot of chain pickerel with some going 3 lbs. or better. The sunfish should start to pick up in May with some of the bigger sunfish being caught as they go on the beds in June. Beaverdam will hold its first moonlight fishing on Friday May 7, 2010. The park will be open till 12:00 pm. Water is at full pool, stained and 69 degrees.

Virginia Beach: Captain Jim Brincefield (443) 336-8756. Captain Jim told me that there are plenty of croakers in the James and they are attacking squid and Fishbite. Flounder can be found around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, and like cut fish and squid. Red and black drum are showing up at Fisherman's Island and are going for crabs. The water is 58 degrees and clear.

Chickahominy River: River's Rest (804) 829-2753. Charlie Brown reports that there is not much word on bass. A few crappie have been brought to boat, mostly with minnows. The cat fishing is good, with 30 to 50 pounders being landed. No word on perch or bluegill. Some cat anglers accidently brought up (and then released) a 30 lb. striper on fresh herring. This water is slightly stained and around 71 degrees.

North Landing River and Back Bay: West Neck Marina (757) 426-6735. According to Dewey Mullins "everybody should be able to get a fish". Bass angling is "outstanding", as they go for top waters, spinners and soft plastics. Crappie are somewhat scarce, but this should change soon; and those that are landing them are getting good sized ones. Plenty of cats are being brought to boat, but they tend to be small. Cut bait is a good choice. The white perch are schooling up and some big ones are biting. The water is clear and in the low 60s.

Norfolk Lakes: Dasheill's Show Room (757) 539-7854. Lee Dixon says that the bass are hitting hard. Try plastic worms and top waters in the early morning and afternoons. Crappie fishing is also good, with some citation sized lunkers being fooled by minnows. No word on cats. White perch are in the Nottoway and are going for red wigglers and small beetlespins. The water is clear and in the low 60s.

Blackwater and Nottoway: By Riverkeeper Jeff Turner www.blackwaternottoway.com Clean Rivers Day 2010 started off with gloomy skies and rain. However over 100 hardy souls braved the bad weather to help clean-up areas in and around the Chowan River Basin. We had teams everywhere from in city ditches, roadside ditches to boats on the rivers. People from age 5 on up got out and made a difference in the community. With totals still coming in more than 2 tons of trash and debris was removed from the environment. One group leader told me that it was amazing how we got in gear after such a gloomy beginning. She stated 'Once we got busy everybody forgot about the weather and got down to the business of cleaning up.

This was our 9th year in row doing Clean Rives Day. It seems now in the last couple of years we are collecting less and less trash out of our waterways, and hey, I'm not going to complain about that!

Upper and Lower Tidal James: Local Guide, Captain Mike Hoke, Life's Revenge Guide Service, (804) 357-8518. Captain Mike has no word on bass. He landed a lot of perch on blood worms and White Mister Twister Tails on a 1 inch jighead. Crappie are biting very well on minnows. He has landed some big cats on hickory shad and herring. Most of the stripers he has landed have been in the 7 lb. to 8 lb. range, but he did get a 30 lb. lunker on live herring. The water is clear and 65 degrees.

Upper and Lower Tidal James: Local Guide, John Garland, Screaming Reels Fishing Charter, (804) 739-8810. No report this edition.

Region 2 - Southside

Holliday Lake: Contributed by our man in the boat, Willard A. Mayes. The weather was too pretty to be working so I thought it was time to check out the monsters in Holliday Lake. I got to the lake a little after 10:00 a.m. to find the water a little cooler than the water in Gordon or Brunswick lakes but clear to about 8 feet, almost like fishing in a well. I fished the fly rod all day even though the wind was in excess of 20 mph. The ripples in the water caused me to miss more fish than I want to own up to. I put 10 bluegills in the boat from 7 inches up to 11 inches. I also got two bass of 12 inches. I think it will be several weeks before the bluegill will be bedding in this lake.

Sandy River and Briery Creek: Contributed by Longwood College Fishing Club's Jack Pollio. No report this edition.

James at Scottsville: Local Guide L.E. Rhodes www.hatchmatcherguideservice.com, (434) 286-3366. Fishing continues to improve. Look for smallmouth staging near their spawning grounds. Some males have been sweeping beds. I look for the next couple weeks to see the bass on the beds. Please refrain from fishing to bedding fish; they are going to be stressed enough without having to do battle with an angler! There are enough bass around staging without us having to fish the beds. If you happen to catch one off the bed get it back in and at the bed as quickly as possible. Fish have been boated using soft plastics fished on the bottom. Crank baits and spinner baits have also boated smallmouth. Cast past your intended target and swim your offering into the "strike zone". Fly anglers have success with bait fish and crayfish patterns. Again swim your pattern into the strike zone. The fish have been taking baits softly so pay attention to your line and feel the take. I've heard reports of some great flathead fishing happening now. 25 to 30 lb. catches are not uncommon. Creek chubs and river bream have been the baits of choice I'm told.

Kerr Reservoir: Bob Cat's Lake Country Store, (434) 374-8381. Taken from the Bob's website.

Striper: Striper fishing seems to be better in major creeks like Rudds/Butchers, Panhandle and Grassy Creek due to the main channel being muddy. There are reports of lots of fish being caught with some fish measuring around 30 inches. Fishermen are using swimbaits like "Creme Little Fishie", Storm, Lake Fork magic minnow and Mister Twister shads. The fish seem to be holding on the main lake points. The fish should be making a major move to the rivers for their spawn in the next few days.

Bass: Heavy rains have brought the lake levels up to 306 ft. making for some fun fishing. There are reports of lots of fish being caught with an occasional 4 pounder mixed in. Most fishermen are using spinnerbaits, plastic worms, lizards, brushhogs, Senkos, trickworms and Horny toads. Water temperatures have reached the 60s, so a few fish should be spawning now. The fishing is good in most of the major creeks.

Crappie: Fishing still remains good. Things have changed a little with all the water we have in the bushes now. More than likely we have had a major spawn on the northern arm of the lake like Buffalo, Bluestone and river arms. Mid lake creeks remain the same with spider rigging remaining good and some fishermen using the one pole method, pitching to the bushes with a cork and minnow. We still have a major wave of fish to move into the shallows and lots of fish to be caught. Good colors now are Cajun cricket, chart/white, blue/chart, John Deere green and pink/white.

Catfish: River areas are clearing up nicely and the fish are moving in. Fishermen can find fish in heavy log jams and current breaks using bream, crappie, goldfish, menhaden and shad as bait. Fishermen are reporting catching nice size blues in the 10 to 20 lb. range in the mid to back of major creeks.

James at Lynchburg: Angler's Lane, (434) 385-0200. Doug Lane says that the smallmouth bite is heating up. Flies in crawfish patterns are a good bet as are the Crazy Dad, size 4 and the Bow River Bugger, sizes 4 and 6, in assorted colors. Trout are going for caddis imitations. The feeder streams are good places to look for trout. The water is clear and in the mid to high 50s.

Lake Gaston: Holly Grove Marina (434) 636-3455. Craig Karpinski reports that bass are hitting well. When they are suspended off the points, try jerkbaits and plastic worms. If they are on the beds, try plastics and bugbaits. Crappie are moving to deeper waters, but will go for a small minnow. Catfishing has been steady, with chicken livers and cut bait being good choices. Yellow and white perch will go for small minnows and small spinners. The water is slightly stained and warming.

Lake Gaston Health Advisory: The Virginia Department of Health has issued an advisory on walleye fish consumption due to mercury contamination in Lake Gaston. Recent fish tissue sample results from the North Carolina Division of Public Health show mercury levels in walleye fish exceed the amount considered safe for long term human consumption. VDH advises the consumption of no more than two meals a month of walleye taken from Lake Gaston. Virginia's advisory stretches from John H. Kerr Dam downstream 18 miles to the Virginia-North Carolina state line. For additional details, visit the VDH fish consumption advisory page.

Smith Mountain Lake: Contributed by Mike Snead. Virginia Outdoorsman, (540) 724-4867, www.virginiaoutdoorsman.com. Spring fishing patterns continue to unfold and many species of bait and game fish are moving up into shallow, warmer water to spawn. Male bass can be observed near nests and females seen holding up under docks or near shoreline structure. Some anglers are catching crappies trolling long lines with small jigheads and roadrunner lures. The warmer water has brought the alewives up along the shoreline at night. When the alewives move to the bank at night and begin their annual spawning ritual by flipping close to the shoreline at night, it brings the bass and stripers up into shallow water looking for an easy meal. One good lure, especially late in the day, is the bucktail which can be fished with or without a fluke trailer. Another good lure is the fluke rigged on a quality jighead, EWG or belly weighted hook. Flukes can be used to catch both stripers and bass during the day and stripers at night. Some of the best fishing of the year for bass, stripers and the occasional flathead catfish can be found at night this time of year when they come to the shoreline looking for the spawning alewives.

There have been a number of bass tournaments at Smith Mountain Lake over the past several weeks and there are others scheduled in the coming weeks. The most recent was the Bassmaster Elite Tournament. Skeet Reese dominated that event with a four day, 20 fish total weight of 78 lbs. 1 oz. and the big fish which weighed 6 lbs. 9 oz. For further details about these and other tournaments or to have the results of your event included in future reports, please stop by or call Virginia Outdoorsman Sporting Goods.

Region 3 - Southwest

Claytor Lake: Rock House Marina, (540) 980-1488. Mike Burchett reports that the bass are on their beds and will go for a Smallie Beaver. Stripers are biting at night on top water Thundersticks and Redfins. Crappie are going for small minnows and jigs. No word on cats. Bluegill are around the docks and like nightcrawlers. Starting May 4th and going until September, there will be a Rock House Marina Tuesday Night Tournament every week. For more info call Mike at the above number or email him at mikeburchett@rockhousemarina.com. The water is slightly stained and in the low to mid 60s.

Use Common Courtesy and Commonsense at Busy Boat Ramps...

This a very busy time of the year on our waterways. Ramps are crowded and tempers can flare. Do your part to keep things safe and calm and here are a few tips that can help with that. Don't wait till you back down the ramp to get your boat ready to launch, do that in the parking lot. Likewise when you pull your boat out of the water until you get off the ramp go secure your rig for travel, don't do it on the ramp.

Lower New River: Big Z'S (540) 639-1651. John Zienius says that bass fishing is picking up. Crankbaits and imitation crawfish are good bets. No word on crappie or cats. The muskies are almost done with their spawn and are getting active. Try big spinners and jerkbaits. The water is clear and in the low to mid 60s.

New River: Tangent Outfitters, (540) 257-0415. Shawn Hash told me that bass angling is hit or miss, but you can try soft plastics, jerkbaits and crankbaits. Muskies are plentiful and going for jerkbaits and deep diving crankbaits. Soon fishing will be "flat out really good". The water is clear and in the high 50s to low 60s.

Young Angler Enjoys Trout Heritage Day At Lincolnshire Lake... Conservation police officer James Hale met a young angler named Jonah Blackwell while patrolling Lincolnshire Lake in Tazewell County on April 3, 2010. Lincolnshire Lake was stocked with trout by VDGIF employees as part of Trout Heritage Day. When officer Hale arrived, he counted 66 men, women and children fishing the impoundment. Jonah had one of those magnetic personalities. He was very excited to be checked by the "Game Warden" as he called the officer. He told all about how he caught his brown trout all by himself and what a fighter it was. Officer Hale offered to take photos of Jonah and send them to his parents. Jonah's Dad thanked the officer for his kind attention to his son and for taking the time to be Jonah's buddy for the event.

Region 4 - Mountain and Shenandoah Valley

North and South Forks of the Shenandoah: Harry Murray (540) 984-4212 www.murraysflyshop.com. Lord of the flies, Harry Murray, told me that smallmouth fishing in the North and South forks of the river is very good indeed. His son Jeff and another angler had hold of, but lost, a really big one. Good flies are: the New Murray Magnum Bluegill, size 4; and the New Murray Creek Chub, size 4. The water is clear, 67 degrees and at a good level. The stocked streams in the Valley are also good places to fish, with Passage Creek East of Edinburg, and Big Stoney Creek West of Edinburg being particularly good locations. Good flies are: Murray's Olive Strymph, size 10 and the Beadhead Red Squirrel Nymph, size 12. The water is 61 degrees, clear and at a good level. Fishing in the mountain streams is excellent. The best idea is to start at the trail heads on the top of the mountains. Good flies are: Murray's Little Yellow Stoneflies, size 16; Murray's Professor, size 14 and Murray's Yellow Drake, size 14. The water is very clear and 54 degrees. For more information check out Harry's site, which is updated weekly.

Lake Moomaw: Local Guide, Mike Puffenbarger, (540) 468-2682, www.mapletreeoutdoors.com. Puff reports that the turkeys are still gobblin', and the bass are starting to bite good. Gary Mitchell age 70, harvested his first gobbler and then landed a big bass fishing in the afternoon - quite a day!!.

Region 5 - Northern Piedmont

Piedmont Rivers: Local author Steve Moore, SwitchFisher.com / New Book Wade and Shoreline Fishing the Potomac River) reports that the shad fishing on the Rappahannock hit the peak and will slow down over the next couple weeks. Even though the quantity caught is starting to decline, that does not deter the crowds of anglers who line the shore and wade into the river from the Route 1 bridge in Fredericksburg continuing along Riverside Drive up to the rapids at the lower end of Laucks Island. The best shoreline fishing for shad is at Old Mill Park as well as on Riverside Drive above Mill Island. The hot colors remain unchanged from the last report; try lime or orange. Just in time for the end of the shad run, the water temperature in the Rappahannock has pushed above 60° and the bass are starting to move. Pay attention to the USGS gage in Fredericksburg since the best wading is when the gage is below 2.44 feet. If you wade, you should wear a PFD and exercise caution when the water level is high. It looks like the temperature is holding above that magic number on the Potomac as well, but the river is running far too high to wade. If you fish the Potomac from a boat, please remember that Maryland regulations apply and you must wear a PFD until May 15th. The Little Falls Gage will give you the current temperature reading. The trout fishing in the Piedmont area is at its peak. Most of the stocked waters hold fish (check the stocking report) and the mountain streams are running full and strong. The water temperature is a perfect 50° in the clear streams that run off the eastern slope of the Blue Ridge. Brookies are hitting anything that moves with fish being caught on nymphs (Hares Ear or Copper John) and dry flies (Adams, March Brown, Mister Rapidan and attractor patterns). In particular, the Rapidan is fishing well from Camp Hoover all the way down to Graves Mill. In the mountains, a short walk away from parking area will put you on the least pressured water, You should be able to find fish from the Moormans up through the Hughes and Rose / Robinson Rivers as well as Passage Creek in the north.

Lake Orange: Contributed by Darrell Kennedy of Angler's Landing (540) 672-3997. The water is clear with temperatures in the mid 60s. Largemouth bass and crappie are in all phases of the spawn. Some are in the process of spawning, some have finished, while others are waiting on the full moon, which will be appearing on Wednesday, April 28th. The full moon this weekend should bring a great catch. Some nice walleye have been caught on crank baits, and live bait. Catfishing remains strong throughout the lake on live bait and chicken livers. Bluegills and shell crackers are just getting ready to move up. Pan fish are moving up shallow to eat the bass and crappie eggs with some nice stringers coming in.

Mid Point Potomac: Warbird Outdoors, (703) 878-3111. Terry Olinger says that bass fishing is okay, with spinners and crankbaits being your best bet. Crappie are really hitting hot on minnows. Cat fishing is good on cut bat and clam snouts. (Someday I'm going to ask a catfish for a really good recipe for clam snouts). No word on stripers. Yellow perch are responding well to minnows. The water is clear and 65.

Lake Anna: Contributed by C. C. McCotter, Local guide and Editor-In Chief, Woods & Waters Magazine, (540) 894-5960. No report this edition.

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

Stripers: Fishing is as good as it gets... stripers are beginning to gather to spawn, we are catching larger fish now and plenty of them. Concentrate your efforts in the upper half of the lake. In the next couple of weeks we will catch our largest fish of the year. Check out our daily catches on JimHemby.com.

Bass: Bass are SHALLOW, sight fishing at its best. Put your trolling motor on high and cruise the shallows with polarized glasses to catch some of the largest bass of the season.

Crappie: The crappie are still shallow, work any dock above Hunters Landing, grass beds on the North Anna and brush piles in 10 feet of water or less to fill your cooler.

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!

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Winning Outdoor Adventure Stories from Young Writers

Whether hunting, fishing, camping or hiking, outdoor adventure shared with family members can create lasting memories. For 16 year old Kayla Bretzin, a Junior at Loudoun Valley High School in Leesburg, her most memorable outdoor experience was a camping trip with her family that included hiking, fishing, campfire stories and cooking over open flames. Whether finding peaceful solitude exploring the stream and woods with her brothers, or catching fish in the lake, sharing time afield offers many rewards. Kayla entered her article in the 2007-08 Virginia Outdoor Writers Association High School Writing Competition and placed in the Top 15. Kayla has captured the excitement, serenity, and fond memories that come with a family camping trip.

My Most Memorable Outdoor Experience: Camping

By Kayla Bretzin

Waking up to the sound of birds chirping a going to sleep in front of a crackling fire is only a small portion of what makes up camping. Confronted with the ever-changing atmosphere and the slow-paced world of nature makes us change our outlook even if it is only for a day or two. On top of this being surrounded by the nature, that we try so hard to separate ourselves from, is what makes camping such an enjoyable experience.

The six of us loaded up our equipment into our old, weather-beaten van. With our vehicle full to bursting we were on our way on our camping trip in Pennsylvania. Though a considerable distance, we kept busy and were excited with the anticipation of the coming week. Arriving at the grounds in mid-afternoon we began immediately to unpack the car and set up the tents. Having completed this we were free to explore our environment and I went out eagerly to the lake to survey the fishing areas. Fishing was probably one of my favorite things to do while camping because it can be both relaxing and exciting.

Sitting out at the lake drinking up the sun, I would sit and wait for that moment when the line became taut, suddenly called to attention, my heart would begin to pound. I would reel with all of my might, thinking, "This must be a big one!" Then after all that work, I pull out the scrawniest and most sickly looking fish I'd ever seen. After sizing it up for a few seconds I'd chuckle to myself and toss it back into the murky lake water and ready my hook for another catch.

On this particular camping trip there were many trails available for hiking. I found this activity to be very enjoyable because my brothers and I would always go off the trails exploring the various crevices and scaling the variety of rocky formations that protruded from the ground. Coming back to the campground after a long hike my father would light a fire. Once it was blazing we would cook hot dogs and grilled cheese, and roast marshmallows. While you are camping the "cuisine" is always delicious because it has that nice smoky flavor cooked right in. But it also helps that you are ravenous by the end of the day and would enjoy just about anything. After eating we read stories around the campfire, enjoying the fiery glow and the quiet wind through the trees. Moving only when the smoke would start to billow in our direction stinging our eyes and clogging our throats. Then we finally returned to our cave-like tents and went to sleep.

Camping is a time when families can bond and experience nature for themselves and not just through the TV. Because there are so many activities to choose from camping can be enjoyable for anyone. I have found that I enjoy many aspects of camping including fishing, hiking, and telling stories around the campfire. Also because we do so much camping has become an unforgettable experience for me as well as my family.

This entry in the Virginia Outdoor Writers Association (VOWA) 2007-08 High School Writing Competition by 16 year old Kayla Bretzin, a Junior at Loudoun Valley High School in Leesburg , placed in the Top 15. For information on the VOWA Collegiate or High School Youth Writing Competitions visit the VOWA website: www.vowa.org, or contact VOWA Writing Competition Chairman:

David Coffman, Editor, Outdoor Report
VA Department of Game & Inland Fisheries
POB 11104 Richmond, VA 23230
Telephone: (434) 589-9535, Email: david.coffman@dgif.virginia.gov

In upcoming editions of the Outdoor Report, look for: