In this edition:

Leap Into Outdoor Adventure This Season...

February is special this "LEAP YEAR" with an extra day on the calendar... how do you plan to spend this bonus day opportunity?!? This February 22nd edition has a long list of "wild events" upcoming that offer a variety of opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts. There are outdoor events, training workshops and indoor sportsman's shows that feature seminars, exhibits, demonstrations and contests promising fun and exciting new activities for everyone in the family. More importantly take along a youngster or a friend that you can introduce to the great outdoors. Join with your fellow sportsmen and support one of the many conservation organizations that support these events. Each edition of the Outdoor Report contains examples of organizations that partner with VDGIF staff to provide opportunities to get folks involved in outdoor activities, supporting conservation programs and making our wild Virginia a great place to live and seek outdoor adventure. So if you have cabin fever, it's your own fault! Go to a show, training event or your local outdoor gear store and get something new to try out in your next outdoor adventure... you have an extra day this month- have fun and enjoy the time afield!

Be aware of the legislative process...

For years VDGIF has posted bills of interest on our website for our users to see. Also for years, people have provided feedback after the legislative session concluded that they were unaware of pending bills that would affect them if passed. We are trying to improve the public's awareness regarding the legislative process by adding this article in the Outdoor Report. Please feel free to share this information with others who may be interested in our mission. There is a lot of legislative action scheduled this Session on issues that may affect you as an outdoor enthusiast, landowner, or concerned citizen. Be informed and engage in the process as desired. The Agency is not advocating any positions by sharing this information and we welcome your comments on the value of this channel of communication.

David Coffman, Editor

Legislation Update...

It is crossover time in the Virginia General Assembly which means that all the bills passed by one house have moved to the other house and start the process all over again. There is a lot of legislative action scheduled this year on issues that may affect you as an outdoor enthusiast, landowner, or concerned citizen. To keep you informed we have provided several links related to legislation that may be of interest to you. The latest information on the bills that could affect VDGIF and our mission is posted on the VDGIF website's legislative page. There are currently 45 bills and amendments referenced on that page, 16 of which are still under consideration by the General Assembly. The legislative session is scheduled to wrap up on March 10.

The most appropriate way to express your opinion about these bills, or any other legislation, is through your local delegate and/or senator. For more information about your legislators and how to contact them, visit the Virginia General Assembly website. You may also contact the Virginia General Assembly's Constituent Viewpoint Comment line toll-free at 1-800-889-0229 (804) 698-1990 in Richmond.

VDGIF Launches Android Version of Hunt Fish VA App

Continuing its commitment to mobile technology users and serving as a benchmark for innovation for outdoor regulatory and enforcement agencies throughout the nation, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) is once again partnering with Virginia Interactive (VI) to offer the Android version of its popular, award winning Hunt Fish VA mobile app.

Officially released February 6, 2012, the new Hunt Fish VA mobile app for Android is available free from the Android Market. The online tool allows Virginia sportsmen and sportswomen to search a wide variety of Virginia hunting and fishing related information on their smart phones. Some of the app's numerous capabilities include:

VDGIF had previously launched the Hunt Fish VA mobile app for Apple's iOS devices in July 2011 and was later recognized at the 2011 Governor's Technology Awards, held annually at the Commonwealth of Virginia's Innovative Technology Symposium. Since its release, the iOS version has been downloaded over 7,000 times and remains a five-star rated app in the Apple's iTunes store.

"With the success of the original iOS version and because so many sportsmen have been asking for an Android version, we are very excited about launching the new Hunt Fish VA app for Android. We love the idea that we can reach the thousands of hunters, anglers, boaters, and wildlife enthusiasts while afield or afloat!" said Bob Duncan, VDGIF Executive Director.

Technology savvy sportsmen are growing in number with many relying on smartphones and tablets to conduct the everyday business of life. Fish and wildlife agencies would be remiss to ignore the growing trends toward mobile technologies and with the release of the new Hunt Fish VA mobile app for Android; VDGIF has elegantly continued its tradition of leadership in mobile application development.

Virginia Interactive is the result of a mutually beneficial contractual relationship established between the Virginia Information Technology Agency's (VITA) and Virginia Interactive, LLC. Virginia Interactive, a subsidiary of NIC, manages the portal and develops eGovernment solutions for the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Fishing, Wildlife Diversity, and Boating Regulatory Issues Public Comment Period

During the Fishing, Wildlife Diversity, and Boating Regulatory Issues Public Comment Period, February 6 through March 6, 2012, VDGIF is soliciting citizens' comments on regulatory issues, which were developed by staff based in part on recommendations by, or concerns from members of the public.

Next Edition Two Weeks Away March 14...

Since we post the Outdoor Report on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month, the next edition will be in two weeks, March 14. This 'extra week' in the calendar will be well spent taking advantage of β€œLeap Day February 29 and getting out and enjoying the warm spring-like temperatures. We're busy at the hunt club getting ready for planting our food plots and scouting for spring gobblers.. We look forward to getting your photos and stories of your outdoor adventures with friends and family for the next edition. Have a safe and enjoyable beginning of spring.

Wild Events You Don't Want to Miss

February - April Sportsmens' Shows Set Dates and Locations

The five regional outdoor sportsman's shows scheduled for February - April 2012 have set their dates and some have changed locations. These annual "Break the cabin fever and beat the winter blues" events feature seminars from the experts, exhibits, demonstrations, and contests, promising fun and exciting new activities for everyone in the family. Experienced and novice sportsmen can try the latest in new equipment and learn about new places to enjoy Virginia's great outdoors from the pros. All the shows feature activities for kids to spark their interest in outdoor adventures. See the latest in specialized equipment and partnership programs offered by sportsman's organizations. VDGIF staff will be on hand to provide information on hunting and fishing opportunities and agency programs to manage fish and wildlife resources. Each show offers something different, so check each show's website for all the details.

25th Western Virginia Sports Show at Augusta Expoland Feb 24-26

Have you ever seen a big grizzly bear up close? Welde's Big Bear Show grizzlies who have appeared on live TV shows, commercials, and special events throughout North America, are returning by popular demand featuring 6 different bears throughout the three day 25th Western Virginia Sport Show at Augusta Expoland February 24-26. The show will feature other hunting and fishing celebrities including Harold Knight, co-founder of Knight & Hale Game Calls. Country music sensation Aaron Tippen will be performing Saturday. Charlie O'Brien - from Mossy Oak's Deer T.H.U.G.S. TV Show will share his decades of experience spent managing, tending, growing and hunting whitetail deer. National Champion Turkey Caller and home town favorite, Lance Hanger, will be on hand to demonstrate his winning techniques and give tips on hunting a big gobbler this Spring. Howard and Jason Caldwell will demonstrate Falconry featuring their "Raptors Up Close" program for conservation education of these fascinating birds of prey.

Founder and Show Manager Mark Hanger proudly notes, "Our show is a truly unique event. We proudly feature more outdoor celebrities, displays, and vendor categories than any event in the region. At our family friendly event, you can view the latest hunting and fishing equipment, arrange a dream hunting or fishing trip, enter contests, catch rainbow trout, participate in the latest interactive activities, enjoy dozens of game displays, shop with over 200 vendors, eat great food, and enjoy a variety of free seminars by well know celebrities and TV personalities. There will be seminars, exhibits, demonstrations and contests promising fun and exciting new activities for everyone in the family. Experienced and novice sportsmen can try the latest in new equipment and learn about new places to enjoy Virginia 's great outdoors. The show features activities for kids to spark their interest in outdoor adventures. See the latest in specialized equipment and partnership programs offered by sportsmen's organizations. The VDGIF will have Conservation Police Officers and Hunter Education Safety and Complementary Work Force Volunteers on hand to answer questions and provide information on hunting and fishing opportunities and Agency programs to manage fish and wildlife resources. Visit the show's website for all the details.

VDGIF To Host Archery in the Schools Program State Tournament February 25

VDGIF is conducting the Fourth Annual National Archery in the Schools Program Tournament on Saturday February 25, 2012, at Meadow Event Park, the new State Fairgrounds near Doswell. This tournament is the "culminating event" for Virginia schools participating in the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP). Last year, more than 200,000 Virginia students at more than 550 schools participated in archery instruction during their PE classes throughout the school year. The National Archery in the Schools Program promotes student education and participation in archery. The program's focus is designed to teach International style target archery in 4th through 12th grades as part of the in-school curriculum. Before presenting archery instruction to their students at school, teachers must successfully complete an 8-hour instructor certification training program referred to as BAI, Basic Archery Instructor. Certification is conducted by VDGIF Outdoor Education staff and VDGIF-certified volunteers. Currently over 550 schools, and 1270 teachers have been trained.

For more detailed information, visit the Department's website. For more information and to get your school and teachers involved in NASP, contact VDGIF Outdoor Education Supervisor and Virginia State NASP Coordinator Karen Holson at (804) 367-6355 or Karen.Holson@dgif.virginia.gov. Also, be sure to check out the NASP video and Virginia Wildlife feature article!

Tidewater Retriever Club Hosts Young Dog Training February 25

The Tidewater Retriever Club is hosting a seminar featuring a new approach to Puppy and Young Dog Training for Field, Hunt Test and Obedience on Saturday February, 25. The seminar is being presented by professional retriever trainer Pat Nolan who operates Ponderosa Kennels, in Smithsburg, MD where he has developed revolutionary new methods to teach obedience and hunting and field skills and abilities. The seminar will be held at the All Dog Adventures Training Building, located at 4111 West Clay Street in Richmond. Cost of the seminar is $70 for Tidewater members and $75 for non-members. Seminar cost includes coffee and pastries and lunch. Material presented will be valuable in training dogs at all levels of age and venue. Electronic training dollars are not a part of this Seminar.

Information on Pat Nolan training can be found at www.trainingretrieverpuppies.com and on YouTube

For Registration to reserve your space, contact Linda M. Downey at (804) 794-8212, (804) 837-9308, or email: linda.tidewater@hotmail.com.

Virginia Trappers Annual Fur Sale March 10 at Augusta Expoland

The Virginia Trappers Association Annual Fur Sale is scheduled Saturday, March 10 at Augusta Expoland in Fishersville. This will be an auction forum with a 3% commission on all fur sold. The sale will start at 8 a.m. The building will be open at 6:30 a.m. for dealer set up and pre-registered sellers. Pre-registration is open March 1-10 by calling Ed Crebbs (540) 832-2708 or email: edcrebbs@yahoo.com. For more information visit the Virginia Trappers Association website.

Friends of Phelps Wildlife Management Area Work Day March 18 - Meeting March 21

The Friends of C.F. Phelps Wildlife Management Area (WMA) have scheduled a meeting on Wednesday, March 21 at 7 p.m. The group will meet at the Sumerduck Ruritan Club at 5335 Sumerduck Road, Sumerduck, VA 22742. On Sunday, March 18 from 8 a.m. to noon the Friends group is hosting a Work Day with lunch provided! To view what the Friends group has been doing, visit the Friends of C.F. Phelps WMA on Facebook at Friends of C.F. Phelps Wildlife Management Area and see photos of our Work Day and Tour of Phelps. For more information on the Friends of C.F. Phelps WMA or to be added to the distribution list for meeting reminders and notes, contact Patricia Wood at pwood12@earthlink.net or friendsofcfphelpswma@gmail.com.

Basic Trapper Training Course March 24 in Stanardsville

The Virginia Trappers Association (VTA) is sponsoring the Basic Trapper Training Course, Saturday, March 24, from 7:45 am to 5:30 pm at the South River Preserve on RT 230, one mile north of Stanardsville in Greene Co. This class is free, but pre-registration is required. All youths under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. There will be hotdogs and hamburgers provided for lunch or bring your own. Chairs are in short supply so if you have a folding chair you might want to bring it. Students should also bring boots for the water section.. For directions and pre-registration contact: Charlaine Crebbs at (540) 832-2708 or Ed Crebbs at ed.crebbs.1949@gmail.com. For information on VTA and other training and trapping opportunities, visit their website.

Upland Classic Bird Dog Events Set for March 31-April 1

March 2012 ends the 2011-2012 season for Upland Classic bird dog events here in Virginia. The National Championships for the entire Upland Classic Series nationwide, takes place in early March out at the Talbot Wildlife Center near Springfield, Missouri, and several members of the Virginia organization will travel to Mount Vernon, Missouri to compete in these events with the top dogs from all over the country. Virginia dogs have won some of these events in the past, and we are hoping that with good luck and a safe trip, our Virginia participants can bring home some trophies again.

After the National Championships Virginia's bird hunters start in again with hunting events here in Virginia for the 2012-2013 season. The first event is on Saturday and Sunday, March 31st and April 1st. It will be a "Chukar Hunt" at Liberty Corners Farm near Charlottesville. It is a long dry spell for bird hunters from March to November so the first event of the year, which is held as Spring approaches, is a special occasion. This year VUCS is holding an "all chukar" event to make it even more exciting. Chukars are tough!

If a woodchuck "chucks", does a chukar "chuckle"!? Some of us would argue that they can! After following a good dog into the field and locating a hidden chukar, at the subsequent rush of wings and shotgun report, one may think that they hear a "chuckle" emanating from the bird quickly disappearing over the horizon! I cannot swear to it, but I think I have heard this sound. Chukars are fast, and they explode into the air much the same as a bobwhite quail, only they are bigger and make more noise. They are just plain hard to hit, and they don't come down easily. You have to hit them hard. That is the challenge! That is part of the reason that they are so much fun to hunt! The other part is that they definitely make excellent table-fare.

All Virginia bird hunters are welcome to come join the fun at the "Upland Classic Chukar Hunt". (You will need a Virginia small game hunting license) The event will be in Esmont, Virginia, south of Charlottesville and just a little West of Scottsville. Upland Classic events mimic safe hunting, and participants are divided into fields of competitors with similar experience so that it is a fair competition and a lot of fun. For more information about the event or, directions to Liberty Corners Farm, contact Ben Norris, bgnorris@cox.net or 804-694-5118.

Celebrate Trout Heritage Weekend with the Kids in Madison April 7

The Rapidan Chapter of Trout Unlimited and VDGIF partner with Graves Mountain Lodge the first Saturday in April for Trout Heritage Day and Kid's Fishing Day. Several hundred trout are stocked along a private section of the Rose River, solely for children under the age of 12 to experience the joy of fishing. This popular event is just Saturday this year since Sunday April 8 is Easter, so sponsors agreed to make it a one-day affair for this year. Come join us on April 7 to support Kid's Day and Trout Heritage Day at Graves Mountain Lodge in Madison County adjacent to Shenandoah National Park. Check the vdgif website for details.

Shotgun Shooting Clinic at Holiday Lake April 14

Join us for a fun day of learning to safely shoot a shotgun. This clinic is designed for individuals 12 years of age and above. You will be treated to a day of hands-on instruction by experts in the sport. Registration fee covers use of all equipment needed to participate in the workshop. If you currently have your own shotgun, feel free to bring it and we'll show you how to safely use it. The Workshop is to be held at the Holiday Lake 4H Education Center near Appomattox on April 14, from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM. The program is being presented in cooperation with Wilderness Discover, Inc. and the VDGIF Outdoor Education Program.

Session Topics include:

There will be detailed instruction in firearms safety, 1:1 coaching on a live fire range with certified shotgun instructors by the National Rifle Association. The cost is $60 per participant and includes ammunition, targets and loaner shotguns. Pre-registration required. Deadline for registration is April 5, 2012. To register go to www.trackingsurvival.com or call (877) 614-5289.

12th Virginia Fly Fishing Festival Celebrated in Waynesboro April 21-22

Fly anglers from across the country will celebrate the 12th Annual Virginia Fly Fishing Festival on April 21-22, 2012. Held on the banks of the South River in Waynesboro, the Virginia Fly Fishing Festival is the largest outdoor fly fishing event in the country that offers on-stream instruction. Only here can you learn all the latest techniques from the experts and then walk right over to the river and try them for yourself. The festival features small-group casting classes with fly fishing and fly tying experts from across the Mid-Atlantic. Members of the Federation of Fly Fishers will help children catch native brook trout from an on-site Children 's Catch and Release Tout Pool and then release them into the South River (with the help of their parents). Members of the Tidal Potomac Fly Rodders Club, the largest FFF Club in Virginia, will also provide paid spey casting classes and offer basic fly tying tips to beginners.

The highlight of the weekend is the Festival Foundation Dinner sponsored by Dominion, at which the festival committee presents the 2012 Virginia Fly Angler of the Year Award. Visit the website for ticket information and other details. This year, our festival sponsors include Temple Fork Outfitters, Dominion Resources, Subaru, Orvis, Hanover Fly Fishers, Natural Retreats, Augusta Health, DuPont Community Credit Union, Blue Ridge Outdoors, Eastern Fly Fishing, the City of Waynesboro, Montana Fly Company, Blue Ridge Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, South River Fly Shop,Virginia Sportsman, Appomattox River Company, Virginia Living, Mid-Valley Press, Tidal Potomac Fly Rodders, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and Waynesboro Downtown Development Inc. The festival is also delighted to have the Herring Alliance as this year's conservation sponsor.

There will be raffles, live music and fun for the entire family from beginner to expert angler. The Virginia Fly Fishing Festival is a one-of-a-kind event: Monies received from sponsors, vendors, ticket sales, and raffles are used to cover the cost of next year's festival with the remainder going to the Virginia Fly Fishing Festival Foundation, which promotes conservation and stream restoration projects. Daily admission to the festival is $20 per person, and the festival runs from 9 AM-5 PM on Saturday and Sunday. For more information about the festival, visit www.vaflyfishingfestival.org.

People and Partners in the News

Virginia Master Naturalist Blue Ridge Foothills and Lakes Chapter Offers Certification Classes Beginning March 6

The classes will be held at the Franklin Center in Rocky Mount, Tuesday evenings from 6:00-8:30 PM beginning March 6 until May 24th. Additional field trips will be held on Saturdays March 17 & 31, Apr 14 & 28 and May 5 & 19. The location of Saturday field sessions will vary based on the topic being presented. The total cost of the program, including materials, is $100. This fee also entitles each participant to a one-year membership in the BRFAL Chapter of the VMNP.

The BRFAL training program is designed to prepare individuals as Certified Virginia Master Naturalists for the statewide corps of master naturalist volunteers carrying out the VMNP mission of "providing education, outreach and service dedicated to the beneficial management of natural resources and natural areas within their communities". As such, it will provide the background knowledge and opportunity for skills development necessary to be effective as a volunteer Certified Virginia Master Naturalist.

To become a Certified Virginia Master Naturalist, a trainee must:

To maintain certification, a Certified Virginia Master Naturalist must complete an additional 8 hours of advanced training and 40 hours of service annually.

Space is limited for this course which covers topics such as: aquatic and terrestrial ecology; taxonomy of plants, mammals, fish, insects, amphibians, reptiles and birds; geology and soil science and others. If you, or someone you know, are interested in participating please visit the website below. Perhaps a home-made "gift certificate" would be welcome.

Application forms and additional information, including the draft syllabus on the Virginia Master Naturalist Program and the Blue Ridge Foothills and Lakes Chapter, can be found at: www.brfal.org. For other questions about the Virginia Master Naturalist Program and/or BRFAL Chapter, please call (540) 365-4613 or contact us through the website.

Wildlife Center of VA Announces Schedule for "On the Road" Rehabilitation Classes Starting February 25

Amanda Nicholson, Director of Outreach for the Wildlife Center of Virginia announces their full schedule of "On the Road" introductory wildlife rehabilitation classes can be found online.

Saturday, February 25
Shenandoah University, Winchester (and via teleconference in Ashburn)
Introduction to Raising Orphaned Mammals
Introduction to Raising Orphaned Birds

Saturday, March 10
Richmond, VA
Classes TBD

Saturday, March 31
Bridgewater College, Bridgewater
Classes TBD

Saturday, June 30
Lynchburg Parks and Recreation, Lynchburg
Wildlife Capture, Restraint, Handling, & Transport
Introduction to Raising Orphaned Mammals

Mason-Dixon Outdoor Writers Assoc. Holding Annual Conference March 16-18

The Mason-Dixon Outdoor Writers Assoc. will hold their Annual Conference in Columbia , MD March 16-18, 2012. VDGIF is a Supporting Member of M-DOWA and will feature exhibits on Agency programs and outreach publications including the Outdoor Report, Virginia Wildlife Magazine and website. The Conference attracts communicators and resource managers and conservation organization representatives from the Mid-Atlantic region covering 6 states. There will be informative seminars including presentations about MD State Park's black bears, and a roundtable discussion on "Selling the Outdoors."The panel, consisting of representatives from major outdoor retailers like Bass Pro Shops, LL Bean, REI, and Dick's Sporting Goods, will discuss how they get their customers hooked on the outdoors through programs and product offerings. Best selling "Historically Correct Fiction" author Kenny Kieser, will present ideas and successful programs to take kids fishing recognized by the National Fresh Water Hall of Fame. There will be craft improvement seminars on "Sharpening Your Writing Skills and challenges of Suburban Deer Management. Of special interest to boaters, Ryck Lydecker, AVP Boat US, will wrap-up the Conference Sunday morning discussing "Ethanol Case Study: Lobbying on Behalf of Boaters." Most gasoline in this county is 10-percent ethanol, but environmentalists want that ratio doubled. Modern boat engines cannot operate properly on such a fuel mixture. Those who claim that they haven't had a fuel separation problem, at least once since a 10-percent ethanol ratio was mandated in gasoline some years ago, are lying. Now, with a proposed increase in ethanol content, fuel separation is only the tip of the iceberg. The stroke of a pen in Washington could make your relatively new outboard motor obsolete! In fact, a tank of fuel with a high percentage of ethanol could destroy the engine. Find out what the problems are and what boating lobbyists are doing about it. Here's a story that affects boaters and anglers from coast to coast. Don't miss out on it!

The Mason-Dixon Outdoor Writers Association (M-DOWA) is a not for-profit organization, founded in 1957, to foster professionalism and improved knowledge of craft among outdoor communicators in all fields of media and members of the outdoors industry who are Supporting Members. M-DOWA promotes outdoor education, wise use of our natural resources and ethical standards of journalism. Visit their website for more information: www.mdowa.org

VA Outdoor Writers Hold Annual Meeting in Charlottesville March 28

The Virginia Outdoor Writers Association, Inc., (VOWA) will recognize the winners of the 2011-2012 Bass Pro Shops High School Writing Competition and College Undergraduates at the 2012 VOWA's Annual Meeting held March 28, at the Doubletree in Charlottesville. Winners and their families will be recognized, awards made, and prizes given. The first place articles will be published in a future issue of the VA Department of Game & Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) Virginia Wildlife magazine, and other publications will consider articles as appropriate. The best of the articles submitted will be selected for publication in the bi-monthly VDGIF online newsletter the Outdoor Report and regional supporting member sportsmen publications. VOWA represents professional writers, editors, photographers, videographers, agency and conservation organization communicators, and outdoor related businesses who strive to improve their craft and increase knowledge and understanding of the outdoors and its enjoyment. Visit the VOWA website for more information and how to become a member or supporting member.

Hunters for the Hungry Announces New Fund Raising Raffles for 2012

Hunters for the Hungry has a critical need for both donations of venison and funds to pay for processing. Food banks need donations now more than ever. Hunters are providing much needed protein to Virginia's needy families by donating a deer, or a portion of it, to Hunters for the Hungry. The potential exists to receive, process, and distribute 400,000 pounds of venison annually providing 1.6 million servings to the less fortunate across Virginia. Since Hunters for the Hungry was founded in 1991, more than 4.7 million pounds, equal to 18.2 million servings, of venison have been distributed in Virginia. In tough times, hunters continue to share the wealth of their harvest. Hunters can also contribute by donating $2 to Hunters for the Hungry when they purchase their hunting licenses. Another valuable contribution is to also pay the $40 tax deductible processing fee for the deer they donate. The non-hunting public is also encouraged to donate money to Hunters for the Hungry to off-set the cost of processing the donated venison. Share the bounty in any way you can in these tough economic times. There are numerous other ways for sportsmen to 'give back' to their sport, their neighbors and their communities featured in the articles throughout this edition.

Fund Raising Coordinator Gary Arrington expressed appreciation to the many folks and organizations that have supported and helped with the raffles and other fund raisers in past years. He noted, "These funds raised are critical in paying for the processing of the donated venison and supporters continue to be a blessing to our program and to all those whose lives are touched by what you do! For every $5 ticket we sell, we can provide 25 servings of venison to needy men, women, and children."

Tickets are still available for the Outdoor Adventure Raffle for 2012 that has a first ever TOP PRIZE of an ALASKAN FISHING ADVENTURE FOR 2 - it is about 10 days with about 7 days of fishing, meals, lodging, and AIRFARE! To be scheduled in 2012! This trip package is over $6,000 in value!

Drawing to take place on March 1, 2012, between 4 pm and 5pm at the Hunters for the Hungry Office located at the Sedalia Center, 1108 Sedalia School Road, Big Island, VA.

To view the actual photos of the electronics package items, check out the website and if you would like to purchase some of these tickets and / or would like to help us sell some of these please let us know! We could so use your support in these special fund raising efforts!

Hunters for the Hungry volunteers will be staffing booths at all the upcoming sportsman shows. Stop by and show your support by making a donation, purchasing logo gear and apparel, or buying raffle tickets... someone has to win -- it may be you!

Sportsmen and Conservation Organizations Hosting Annual Award and Fund Raising Events

A number of sportsmen and conservation organizations that partner with VDGIF throughout the year are hosting annual award and fund raising events during the summer months. If you are a member of one of these groups we appreciate your support of our aligned missions and volunteer efforts to improve opportunities for all outdoor enthusiasts and conservation of our wildlife and their habitats. If you are not a member of one of these organizations, we encourage you to find an organization that shares your views and join and support them. It is the strength in numbers that will allow us to preserve and continue our treasured outdoor traditions, be it hunting, fishing, boating, or viewing wildlife. The following is a listing of events that our partners have asked us to post:

Partner Organizations Working Together For Wildlife

In recognition of the yearlong celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program (WSFR), we are featuring the VDGIF partner organizations that support our Mission. WSFR is one of the most significant and successful partnership approaches to fish and wildlife conservation in U.S. history. The "WSFR 75 – It's Your Nature" celebration brings together federal and state fish and wildlife agencies; the hunting, shooting, angling, and boating industries; and conservation groups to mark a milestone of partnership success that has led quality wildlife-related outdoor opportunities. This also marks the beginning of a new era in wildlife conservation, during which the partners will establish new goals for fostering and maintaining partnerships to continue conservation and outdoor recreation into the next 75 years and beyond.

The VDGIF is pleased and honored to have the support of numerous non-profit conservation organizations, outdoor industries and local businesses that are dedicated to wildlife conservation and education. Through the involvement of thousands of citizen volunteers, as well as a financial commitment to a variety of agency projects, outdoor organizations have supported wildlife conservation efforts that benefit all Virginia sportsmen and women. We encourage everyone to support these organizations and to become active participants in one or more of these groups. In this section of the Outdoor Report we spotlight one of these partner organizations, highlighting the groups programs and activities that support us in our Mission "working together for wildlife."

VA Museum of Natural History Recognizes Suzie Gilley for Outstanding Education Efforts

The Virginia Museum of Natural History (VMNH) held the 25th Annual Thomas Jefferson Awards ceremony at the Library of Virginia in Richmond February 9, 2012. This was the first year that the awards ceremony was held in the Capital to help bring state-wide attention to the Southside Virginia institution. The natural history museum has been in Martinsville since it was founded as a private institution in 1984. VMNH offers educational programs and exhibits throughout Virginia, such as in state parks and provides summer workshops for teachers on a variety of science and cultural based subjects. Suzie Gilley, VDGIF Project Wild Coordinator, was the recipient of the prestigious "Thomas Jefferson Medal" for significant and outstanding contributions to Natural Science Education presented by the VA Museum of Natural History's Thomas Jefferson Foundation.

VDGIF Executive Director, Bob Duncan, was called on to accept an award on behalf of the National Wild Turkey Federation, the "William Barton Rogers Award" (Mount Rogers) for their very successful partnership in the creation of the "Living Off The Land" exhibit featured at the VA Museum of Natural History's headquarters in Martinsville. From e June 2011 to February 2012, VDGIF, NWTF and other sportsman conservation organization partners joined with the VMNH to produce the very popular "Living off the Land " exhibit. The exhibit demonstrated how wildlife, hunting and fishing provided food, clothing and shelter for native tribes, pioneers and a growing population from pre European settlement to present day. The exhibit also showed how conservation practices and land management implemented in the turn of the last century have sustained viable populations of many wildlife species adding to the rich history, culture and conservation ethic of the area. For more information on VA Museum of Natural History programs and mission visit their website at: www.vmnh.net.

Living Off the Land Exhibit Closes February 25, 2012

This is the last week to view the special exhibit, developed by VMNH staff in partnership with VDGIF and sportsman organizations to highlight the many ways in which humans depend on nature for a wealth of resources, as well as economic, recreational, and aesthetic benefits. The exhibit will include information about Virginia wildlife, modern and ancient hunting and fishing methods, and the evolution of the rifle. The exhibit will also include examples of Native American and prehistoric clothing, shelters, tools, and pottery.

About the Virginia Museum of Natural History

As the state's museum of natural history serving the entire Commonwealth and beyond, VMNH has award-winning exhibits, ground-breaking scientific research and collections, and innovative educational programs for all ages. With its outreach education programs, online resources, and traveling exhibits and displays, the Virginia Museum of Natural History is truly an institution without walls.

VMNH Mission: To interpret Virginia's natural heritage within a global context in ways that are relevant to all citizens of the Commonwealth.

VMNH has developed a strong reputation for significant research and important collections, which now number more than 10 million items. Research at VMNH, led by its seven doctoral curators and curators emeritus, focuses on studies of Invertebrate Paleontology, Vertebrate Paleontology, Recent Invertebrates, Archaeology, Mammalogy, Marine Science and Geology. While the museum's primary geographic strengths are in Virginia and the Southeastern United States, the collections and research programs span the globe. The museum's innovative education programs reach students, teachers, and the general public statewide and throughout the region. From "at-the-museum" programs to outreach education programs that bring the museum to locations across the Commonwealth, the museum's education programs are correlated directly to the Virginia Standards of Learning. In addition to its important programs in research, collections, and education, the museum also features award-winning permanent and temporary exhibits both at the museum and through remote sites. Along with the museum's permanent exhibitions, the current special exhibits Living off the Land and Documenting Diversity help to translate the museum's groundbreaking scientific research into easily understood language and concepts that supplement and highlight the Virginia Standards of Learning. From the permanent exhibit galleries Uncovering Virginia and How Nature Works to the new Hahn Hall of Biodiversity and the Fossil Overlook, the museum's exhibits connect visitors to the stories of Virginia's natural past, present and future.

For more information on VA Museum of Natural History programs and mission visit their website at: www.vmnh.net

Been There - Done That! Can't Wait to Go Again...

Editor's note: One of our New Year's resolutions was to get out in the field as much as possible and participate in a variety of the great events and activities that we write about each edition of the Outdoor Report. In this new Section called "Been there – done that! Can't wait to go again...", here's the 'rest of the story' from staff and partner observations participating in these memorable events...

First Deer Hunt... Memories to Last a Lifetime!

Most of the buddies in my hunt club have grown children and only a few grandkids that already hunt. We talked at pre-season workdays in September about trying to find some youngsters who have never gone deer hunting. With the school holiday breaks over Thanksgiving and Christmas, we began looking for some 'willing candidates' who were not traveling over break, or would forgo sleeping in to get up at 5 a.m. and head for the woods for the chance to hunt deer or turkey- maybe an elusive coyote. While visiting family in my native Shenandoah County hometown over Thanksgiving, my 12 year old great nephew, Ian Alsberry, came up to me and to my surprise asked if I would help him pick a gun out of the catalog for Christmas as he had decided he wanted to go hunting. I asked why all the sudden interest in hunting? He simply replied, "All my friends at school hunt and have great fun doing it. They have a 4-H Hunting Club at school, so I want to do it too." Peer pressure from other kids can be a powerful motivator.

So I looked him straight in the eye and asked, "What you doin' the week after Christmas? He said, "Nothing I know of." "Here's an offer for you- I have a deer hunting rifle at home that my dad, your great-grandfather, taught me to hunt with and after he died, I decided to keep it for other kids to learn to hunt with. You and your Mom come to my home in Fluvanna after Christmas for a few days and I will teach you how to shoot the rifle safely and accurately. Then we can deer hunt for a day or two. Without hesitation Ian and his Mom both replied, YES!

Since he is twelve, Ian needs a license and a required Hunter Education Class, but with the short time frame, I suggested that getting him an Apprentice License was the perfect solution. The next 5 weeks there were the typical emails and telephone calls-- what to wear, when to arrive, what's the weather, websites to visit to learn about deer hunting and traditions, laws, tactics, do's and don'ts, etc. It was great to see the excitement building in both beginner and 'old timer'. Final plans were made at Christmas once weather, work schedules and other logistics were arranged.

We'll save the details of the next 2 days of practicing safe handling and shooting with the youth sized rifle, making a deer hunting gear pack, reviewing tactics, preparing snacks and meeting new friends to help with the novice hunt. Although Ian is somewhat shy and reserved, he was a joy to take hunting as he was courteous, respectful, eager to learn, caught on quickly and a fine young sportsman in the making. As the photos show, we all had a great time and all of us learned some things. Although no shots were fired, Ian did not mind as he got to experience all aspects of the hunt as we helped skin and butcher a neighbors kill, watched trappers skin beavers, ride 4-wheelers and share stories of hunting adventures past. Several old timers and some experienced teenagers got to share the experience with a young boy and the thrills and adventure of his first deer hunt. We've invited him back for spring gobbler season in April... and gave him a box call to start practicing.

For more information on the benefits of an Apprentice License for a novice hunter visit our website.

For another inspiring story on the importance of mentoring young hunters and sharing family traditions read, "Making Hunting Memories" by VDGIF videographer Ron Messina in the February edition of Virginia Wildlife magazine.

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.

Safety and courtesy are free, share them generously

Planning to Take a Youngster on a Spring Gobbler Hunt? Schedule a Hunter Education Class Now!

Now is the time to enroll in a Hunter Education Class for spring gobbler season. Class schedules are available on the VDGIF website. Hunter Education is mandatory for all hunters age 12 and older.

Don't forget about the special Youth Spring Turkey Hunt that will take place on Saturday, April 7, 2012, for youth age 15 and under. Youth hunters between the ages of 12-15 must have appropriate valid hunting licenses. Hunters under the age of 12 are not required to have a license, but must be accompanied by a licensed adult. See the Department's website or Hunting & Trapping in Virginia Regulations and Information digest for more information on Hunter Education requirements. The youth turkey hunt is a great way for an experienced hunter to introduce a youngster to the great outdoors. If you cannot schedule a hunter education class before the season begins, there is the option of getting an Apprentice Hunting License. See article below for details.

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, and others dedicated to continuing our rich hunting heritage to a new generation.

Volunteer VDGIF Hunter Education Instructors do much more than teach the required Hunter Education Courses, they also develop and assist with outdoor skills training events such as Becoming an Outdoor Woman workshops, sportsman show exhibits and other Special Youth Hunts throughout the year for deer, rabbit, waterfowl, squirrel and much more. To become involved as a Hunter Education Instructor, contact Sgt. David Dodson at david.dodson@dgif.virginia.gov. Please include your locality in the e-mail.

Remember, only 45 days until the Youth Spring Gobbler Turkey Hunt Day, April 7, 2012! See our website for details.

Share your Hunting Photos and Stories With Us...

We're looking for some good deer, squirrel, rabbit, bear, and turkey hunting photos from youth, or novice hunters. Congratulations to those who have taken the time and commitment to mentor a young or novice hunter-- the dads and moms, uncles, aunts, grandparents, or friends for discovering the passion for the outdoors and providing this most important opportunity for developing new traditions, 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

License Options for Novice Hunters

Take a look at an Apprentice Hunting License for a friend or family member that wants to try out this rewarding sport this season. 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 on YouTube. The video is an overview of how the Apprentice Hunter program works. Lee and Tiffany Lakosky, stars of the Outdoor Channel program, "The Crush with Lee & Tiffany," have a special video message to take the time to introduce a friend or youngster to the great outdoors with an Apprentice Hunting License.

Licensed adults who take a novice hunting with an Apprentice License should be vigilant to ensure that hunting safety rules are followed at all times. It is best if the licensed adult does not carry a loaded firearm, so that the focus can stay on the apprentice. Teach new hunters to be safe from the start!

There are youth and family-friendly events throughout the year all across the state, where you can go to get information and the right gear to make your outdoor adventures safe, successful, and fun. Visit your local sporting goods store or sportsmen event and properly prepare for a great hunting season with family and friends.

Remember to make a donation to Hunters for the Hungry when you purchase your licenses through the convenient check-off option- give $5 to show you care for those in need!

Volunteer VDGIF Hunter Education Instructors do much more than teach the required Hunter Education Courses, they also develop and assist with outdoor skills training events such as Becoming an Outdoor Woman workshops, sportsman show exhibits and other Special Youth Hunts throughout the year for deer, rabbit, waterfowl, squirrel and much more. To become involved as a Hunter Education Instructor, contact Sgt. David Dodson at david.dodson@dgif.virginia.gov. Please include your locality in the e-mail.

Be Safe... Have Fun!

Winter is Good Time to Take Required Boating Education Course

All Personal Water Craft (PWC) operators, 14 years of age and older, and all persons age 30 or younger operating a 10-hp or greater motorboat, are reminded they are required to complete a certified Boating Education Course by July 1, 2012. VDGIF Volunteer Boating Safety Education Instructor David Aitken, from Louisa, advises that February-March are great times to take an approved course before the spring warm-up gets boaters anxious to get back out on the water. Instructor Aitken adds, "It's easy to locate courses being offered near you by visiting the Boating Safety website for details and a list of courses being offered throughout the state." Volunteer Boating Safety Education Instructors will be staffing an exhibit and a Boating Safety Course at the 8th Annual Orange County Sportsman Expo at Orange County High School February 18-19, 2012. For more information on the Boating Education Courses being held throughout the state, or to find one of David Aitken's classes, visit the Boating Education Section in the sidebar for more information on Boating Education classes statewide.

No Burning Before 4 p.m. February 15 Until April 30

The Commonwealth's 4 p.m. Burning Law goes into effect February 15th – the start of spring fire season in Virginia. The law prohibits burning before 4 p.m. each day until April 30th if the fire is in, or within 300 feet of, woodland, brushland or fields containing dry grass or other flammable materials.

"This law is one of the most effective tools we have in the prevention of wildfires," said John Miller, director of resource protection at the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF). "Each late winter and early spring, downed trees, branches and leaves become 'forest fuels' that increase the danger of a forest fire. By adhering to the law and not burning before 4 p.m., people are less likely to start a fire that threatens them, their property and the forests of Virginia."

A violation of this law is a Class 3 misdemeanor punishable by up to a $500 fine. In addition to the criminal violation, those who allow a fire to escape are liable for the cost of suppressing the fire as well as any damage caused to others' property.

In 2011, there were 829 wildfires that burned 12,072 acres of forestland in the Commonwealth. This was a seven percent decrease in the number of wildland fires compared to the number (897) of fires in 2010. The amount of acreage burned increased 42 percent when compared to 8,485 acres that burned in 2010.

To learn more about how to protect yourself and your property, visit www.dof.virginia.gov.

"Green Tips" for Outdoor Enthusiasts

This section in the Outdoor Report provides tips and articles on ways you as an outdoors enthusiast 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.

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.

Do You Use a Wildlife Management Area or Fishing Lake?

New Facilities Access Permit Required in 2012

Effective January 1, 2012, a Facility Access Permit will be required when using any Department-owned Wildlife Management Area or Fishing Lake not located on Department Wildlife Management Areas . Such permit shall not be required for any person holding a valid hunting, fishing or trapping license or a current certificate of boat registration issued by the Department or persons 16 years of age or younger. The Facility Access Permit requirement does not apply to Department- owned boat ramps on Department-owned Wildlife Management Areas or fishing lakes, and segments of the Appalachian Trail on Department- owned land. The Facility Access Permit fee is $ 4 for a daily permit or $23 for an annual permit. The Facility Access Permit may be purchased online or at any license agent.

For more information, visit the Access Permit section on our webpage.

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!

Virginia's Woodpeckers

By Marie Majarov

Majarov Photography

Woodpeckers are fascinating birds, and winter is a great time to observe them. Putting out a special bird treat is fun and will attract woodpeckers as well as many other birds to your yard.

Eight species of woodpeckers can be found in our commonwealth. All have stiff tails that serve as props to help this sturdy species cling to tree trunks in an upright position so they can easily use their chisel-like bills to dig for insects and excavate tree holes for nesting. While most birds sing to attract mates and protect their territory, Woodpeckers are drummers! Tapping their bills rapidly in a variety of distinctive rhythms is their form of communication.

Pileated woodpeckers (the one that most closely resembles the cartoon "Woody") and hairy woodpeckers, both fairly large birds with vivid red atop their heads, are the most reclusive of our residents preferring large tracks of forest away from disturbance. Red-headed woodpeckers are found most frequently in swampy, wet areas. One woodpecker species, the red-cockaded, is considered endangered and can only be found in very old growth pine forests in the southeastern region of our state.

Smaller downy woodpeckers with a conspicuous white tuft above their bills, and handsome red-bellied woodpeckers (their red belly spot is actually quite small, you need to look carefully) will often visit at feeders. Occasionally, a hairy might join them. Northern flickers, more brown in color with unique spots and bars, prefer to dig for insects in more open areas and below feeders. Yellow-bellied sapsuckers, winter visitors rather than residents, will also nibble at your bird treats, although their favorite activity is drilling rows of holes up and down tree trunks to dine on sap and eat nearby insects.

The Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail, particularly Sky Meadows State Park on the Mountain portion of the trail offers wonderful opportunities to see many of these impressive woodpeckers.

Marie Majarov and her husband Milan are nature enthusiasts and members of both the Virginia and Mason-Dixon Outdoor Writers Associations. 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. Marie is also a Virginia Master Naturalist. More about their work can be seen at www.majarov.com

Virginia Naturally Website Link to School Environmental Learning Programs

Visit the Virginia Naturally website now for ideas on nature learning activities. Teachers, there are also ideas for workshops and training available for your continuing education and getting a start on environmental lesson plans for the next semester.

Make a Special Bird Treat

The following recipe is a great food mixture for birds that can be smeared on tree bark, fence posts, the wood in a wood pile, or pine cones hung in the yard where they can be seen from your windows. This mix provides a supplemental source of fat energy and nutrients to the birds. Making the mixture is fun, inexpensive and something the whole family can join in.

First, in large bowl, stir together:

  1. 1 part flour
  2. 3 parts yellow corn meal
  3. 1 part bird seed
  4. a handful of raisins
  5. a handful of shelled peanuts

Then add 1 part of lard or peanut butter and stir until the mixture holds together in one big ball. (Or, you can substitute bacon grease that's been rendered and chilled, but do not use shortening.)

This mixture will attract nuthatches, chickadees, tufted titmice, brown creepers, woodpeckers, mockingbirds, and even bluebirds. Keep a record of the different species of birds you observe, it's fun, and educational for "children" of all ages. The birds will appreciate it too!

Nature Observations from the Virginia Wildlife Calendar

Look at the 2012 Virginia Wildlife Calendar for answers to these wildlife related questions for early March:

Answers to February 8th edition quiz for nature events for early February...

Get your copy of the 2012 Virginia Wildlife Calendar here.

Habitat Improvement Tips

Wildlife Habitat Workshop in Loudoun County March 18

The Orange Hunt Club is sponsoring a late afternoon seminar on conservation and habitat on Sunday, March 18th at 4:30 PM in the Middleburg area of Loudoun County, 20 miles north of Warrenton. Seeing quail, turkey, waterfowl, eagles, fox, and other wildlife out the window of your home, or down the path as you and your neighbors walk or ride your territory, is one of the pleasures of country living. The purpose of this two hour presentation is to show you how easily we can all help to bring the rural "country" living benefits back to our community. Speakers will be James Barnes, Sustainable Habitat Program Manager for the Piedmont Environmental Council and David Bryan, Private Lands Wildlife Biologist with the Quail Recovery Initiative of VDGIF, VA Tech, CMI, and NRCS. James and David will come share their expertise on how to create habitat and food sources for a multitude of birds and mammals. You can make your farm more natural, and maybe more private. Pre-registration is requested by contacting David Bryan (david.bryan@va.usda.gov; 540.899.9492 x101). The location will be set based on the number of participants, so we need your contact information if planning to attend. Snacks will be provided.

Quail and Wildlife Management Workshop in Sussex County March 23

The VDGIF is partnering with several sportsman and conservation organizations to host a Quail and Wildlife Management Workshop on Friday, March 23, 2012 from 9:30 am to 3:00 pm/ at the Joyner /Grey/Yale Ruritan Club in Sussex County, located at 24210 Courthouse Rd., Yale, VA 23897. Come join us and learn how to make the most of your property for quail, deer, turkey and more. The workshop is FREE , but registration is requested in advance to help plan for meals and handouts.

Featured speakers include:

Mike Jones (NRCS Retired) – "What it really takes to succeed"

Bob Glennon (VDGIF/NRCS Private Lands Wildlife Biologist) – "Beyond programs – property evaluation and landowner attitudes"

Galon Hall (NRCS State Wildlife Biologist) – "Correcting landowner misperceptions and mistakes"

Marc Puckett (VDGIF Quail Recovery Initiative Coordinator) – "Virginia's quail recovery initiative"

Featured Landowner and Property field tour: Owen Strickler – Perhaps the largest single private land management project in Virginia, Owen will share his experiences and offer advice for success. We will tour portions of Owen's property and discuss techniques along the way.

Dress for the field. A sponsored lunch will be provided. To register, call Marc Puckett at (434) 392-8328, or email him at: marc.puckett@dgif.virginia.gov.

Quail Biologists Eager to Assist Landowners and Hunters

In January 2011 as part of implementing the VA Quail Action Plan (VQAP), five new pairs of field boots hit the wildlife habitat dirt. These boots belong to Virginia's first cooperatively hired Private Lands Wildlife Biologists. Marc Puckett, VDGIF Co-Project Leader for the Quail Recovery Initiative (QRI) reports that this unique program represents a joint hiring effort between the Conservation Management Institute at Virginia Tech, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, they are the first of their kind in Virginia. Similar, highly successful, programs have existed for several years in Missouri, Kentucky, North Carolina and other states. They represent the closest partnership ever between the cooperating agencies. Jack Bricker, State Conservationist for NRCS and Bob Duncan, Director of the VDGIF, signed an agreement formalizing the partnership December 2009. The new biologists work daily with partners in the agricultural community – one critical to wildlife nationwide. Their primary role is helping private landowners develop wildlife habitat through a variety of financial incentives programs.

VQAP was the impetus for this successful partnership. In its first year of implementation, the hiring of the 5 new biologists was a major goal of the VQAP. The biologists spend a great deal of their time working on early-successional habitat – a habitat type that benefits not only bobwhite quail but dozens of early-successional species including pollinating insects.

These wildlife biologists can be contacted for habitat assistance at the following USDA Service Centers:

Large-scale habitat restoration and education are the key elements of the VQAP. The Virginia Quail Council was established as a coordinating group of conservation organizations and agencies actively supporting the Virginia Quail Action Plan through the promotion and application of land management practices and programs that increase the quality and quantity of quail habitat on agricultural and forested landscapes.

A copy of the Virginia Quail Action Plan and Virginia Quail Council members can be viewed on the Department's website. For information on the bobwhite quail, and activities and accomplishments of the Quail Recovery Team read the latest edition of The Bobwhite Bulletin (PDF). Also view the video, "Answering the Call: Virginia's Quail Recovery Initiative."

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!

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.

Reports from the field officer's notebook...

Region I – Tidewater

Duck Hunters Caught Shooting After Hours... On January 21, 2012, Conservation Police Officer Woodruff was patrolling Sussex County in an area that he had been receiving illegal hunting complaints for the past three years. Upon arrival Officer Woodruff observed and followed fresh tire tracks to a pond. Officer Woodruff observed six hunters in the pond talking and joking until the end of legal hunting hours. After legal hours passed, the hunters began calling and shooting ducks. The six hunters hunted for 40 minutes after legal hours before coming to shore. Once ashore, Officer Woodruff recognized two of the hunters as those he had previously charged for shooting across the road, hunting from a vehicle, trespassing to hunt, and possession of marijuana. Officer Woodruff issued summonses to the four adults for hunting after hours and also issued four warnings to the two juveniles who were hunting with them.

Surveillance in a No Wake Zone Leads to Multiple Charges... On January 24, 2012, Conservation Police Officers Adams and Wilson responded to a hunting complaint in Charles City County on Queen's Creek. The Officers set up surveillance in a no wake zone and observed several duck hunters violating the no wake zone and shooting waterfowl while under power in their boat. Further investigation revealed that the hunters were hunting without hunting licenses, without state waterfowl stamps, hunting with unplugged shotguns, without PFDs onboard, hunting within 500 yards of a licensed blind, hunting without HIP numbers, hunting without Federal Migratory stamps, operating a motorboat without a boating education class and without a registration for their motorboat. Charges were placed for the multiple violations.

Region II – Southside

Law Enforcement Officers Team with Hunter and Treestand Safety volunteers for exhibit at Roanoke Huntfest... During the weekend of January 27-29, District 22 Conservation Police Officers, Hunter Education Specialist Crystal Weidman, K-9 CPO Richard Howald and CPO Eric Rorabaugh worked the new Huntfest sportsman show at the Roanoke Civic Center. Over 100 vendors including VDGIF and the Virginia Hunter Education Association displayed their products and spoke to the attendees about their services. CPOs and Hunter Education Instructors answered questions and promoted safe hunting with the 4000 sportsmen families attending the three day event. CPOs displayed law enforcement equipment and literature including a patrol vehicle. The VDGIF volunteer Treestand Safety Team displayed treestand safety exhibits and spoke with the attendees about hunter education courses and safety techniques. K-9 CPO Richard Howald and his partner Scout gave a well attended seminar with Scout stealing the show demonstrating his remarkable skills tracking and retrieving evidence.

Region III - Southwest

Tip Leads to Locating Illegal Trophy Elk Taken During Closed Season... On November 24, 2011, Conservation Police Officer T.E. Hayes received information from a concerned citizen concerning an elk that was believed to have been killed during the closed season in the Roda section of Wise County. Through the course of his investigation, Officer Hayes was able to determine that the elk had been checked in and had been reported to the Check Station as being killed legally in Scott County. Officer Hayes obtained the suspect's name, address and contact information. Officer Hayes and Sergeant Sutphin made arrangements to meet the suspect at his residence in the Big Stone Gap area. Upon arriving at the residence, the officers observe a 5 x 5 bull elk in the back of a pickup truck. Officer Hayes identified two suspects that had been involved in killing the elk out of season. During the course of the suspect interviews, Officer Hayes obtained statements from both suspects admitting that the elk had in fact been killed in the Roda section of Wise County, not in Scott County as they had reported to the Check Station. Charges were placed against both suspects for killing an elk during the closed season and conspiracy to kill an elk during the closed season and trespassing to hunt without written permission.

Region IV - Mountains & Shenandoah Valley – Northern Piedmont

Officer Harold at the Right Place, at the Right Time... On February 9, 2012 Virginia Conservation Police Officer Beth Harold was conducting trout patrol on the South Branch of Potomac River in Highland County. While citing a fisherman for having no trout license, the subject's father came up to the Officer and his son and began rambling and speaking incoherently. After trying to determine what he was talking about and the reason for the change in behavior, the son said "this is weird, he wasn't acting like this five minutes ago; maybe we ought to just head home." Home to the gentlemen would mean traveling across four mountains, for at least an hour and a half, with no cell service. Officer Harold asked some basic first responder questions and then suggested taking him to the medical center a few minutes away, if for nothing else than to have his vitals checked. The son agreed that would probably be best and started packing up. Officer Harold led them to the medical center, advising if they needed assistance while en route, to flash his headlights. She called ahead to the medical center to let them know they were en route and was told to bring him in the back. After arrival, Officer Harold left a card on the son's vehicle window; she then left the medical center. The son called shortly thereafter to let her know that when they got into the Medical Center his father started seizing. They thought he was having a stroke or had blood on the brain. The patient was flown to and is now at UVA Hospital. The son called back again to thank Officer Harold for being there. He said that was the best thing that happened to him all day, stating he thought it was fate that she was there at that time and didn't leave him and his father alone to deal with an unknown situation.

K9 Teams

K9 Jake Finds "Lost" Ducks and Firearm to Nab Illegal Hunters... On December 31, Conservation Police Officers Travis Murray and Megan Vick with K9 Jake were on patrol on the Eastern Shore. While checking a boat ramp for waterfowl hunters, the officers heard a single shotgun shot nearby. Upon investigation, officers found some goose decoys in a field which led to a path through the woods with endless marsh and multiple duck blinds. Officers decided to leave the area and make a mental note to check back. As they were walking back to their patrol vehicle, multiple shots were fired in a much closer proximity. The Officers located vehicle tracks through the field and followed until they located three individuals in the marsh looking for ducks. Officer Murray approached the individuals and observed one leaving the area towards the wood line. As Murray made contact with the two remaining hunters, Officer Vick and K9 Jake entered the marsh and were immediately greeted by a black lab belonging to the hunters. Luckily Jake and the other lab had no disagreements. Officer Murray informed Vick that one hunter didn't want to be checked and took off into the woods. While heading across the marsh to track the fleeing hunter, Jake located a Merganser the hunters were searching for. Murray continued interviewing the two hunters while walking back to their vehicle location. Jake then began to track in another direction through the woods, down the wood line where the track later intersected Officer Murray, the two hunters and the black lab again. The two hunters were stating they didn't know why their friend ran, but they were certain he was back at the house. Vick called Jake off the track and all went to the house where no third hunter was found. Murray obtained more information and K9 Jake was returned to point of intersection where Vick stopped the track. Prior to starting the track again, the fleeing hunter's friend yelled out, "They have a dog and he's going to find you, just come on out." The officers started to hear brush crashing and finally the missing hunter emerged. Murray questioned where his gun was, he stated he left it in the woods and would show us. Vick requested to let K9 Jake locate it, and he found it completely hidden under some straw. After violations were discussed the hunters stated they shot a black duck earlier and could not locate it, Vick volunteered Jake to find it for them, and he did. A total of 4 charges were placed for license and waterfowl stamp issues.

K9 Teams Add Unique Capabilities to VDGIF Law Enforcement Efforts

If your child was lost in the woods, wouldn't you want Jake on his trail?
One day you may be really happy to see Jake!

Help support the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries' Wildlife K9 Team, by making a donation through the Wildlife Foundation of Virginia.

Make a Donation to the K9 Team at: www.vawildlife.org/k-9.html

In May 2011, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries launched a K9 Team. The members of the new K9 Team are: from Portsmouth in Tidewater region, K9 Officer Megan Vick and her partner Jake; from Appomattox County in Central Virginia, K9 Officer Richard Howald and his partner Scout; and from Rockingham County in Western Virginia, K9 Officer Wayne Billhimer and his partner Justice.

The three dogs, all Labrador Retrievers, underwent intensive training in Indiana, and they, and their handlers, are now working the woods and waters of Virginia. Justice, Scout and Jake focus on wildlife-related activity, including wildlife detection, tracking, and article recovery. They have had much success already, and will be invaluable to the law enforcement and educational efforts of VDGIF.

The Wildlife Foundation of Virginia has partnered with VDGIF on this special initiative. Your tax-deductible donation to the Wildlife K9 Team will help provide food and veterinary care for these great dogs.

Watch for updates in the Outdoor Report on events where you can meet members of the new K9 Team and see demonstrations of their remarkable skills used in enforcement of wildlife laws and search and rescue.

These CPO reports show the value of concerned citizens, landowners and true sportsmen in providing tips to law enforcement officers on suspected violations by lawbreakers who give other hunters an undeserved bad reputation. Don't let the actions of a few outlaws tarnish the reputation of Virginia's sportsmen!

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

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

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.

For regulations and conditions on saltwater fishing, visit the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) website. New Saltwater Fisherman Identification Program (FIP) Requires Angler Registration Starting January 1, 2011: The Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) will implement a free state saltwater angler identification program as of January 1, 2011. Purchasers of annual Virginia saltwater fishing licenses do NOT have to register. The Virginia Fisherman Identification Program (FIP) will require unlicensed saltwater anglers aged 16 and older to register and receive an identification number annually. Adult anglers who fish for anadromous or marine species in freshwater must also register. There is no cost for registration. Online registration is available on VMRC's website. To register by phone, call toll-free 1-800-723-2728. For more information, visit VMRC's website or contact VMRC at (757) 247-2200.

The new 2012 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. 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 2012.

Moratorium on River Herring Fishing Now in Effect

On January 1, 2012, a moratorium on River Herring fishing went into effect. The VA Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) states that the purposes of the moratorium are to rebuild the Virginia stocks of River Herring and to comply with the requirements of the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Shad and River Herring. It is unlawful for any person to possess any river herring in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Fishermen that traditionally fish for river herring with hook and line, dip nets, cast nets, gill nets or any other gear should be aware of this fishing closure and not purchase a gear license if they were only interested in fishing for river herring.

For more info on the regulation establishing the moratorium visit the VMRC website.

Supplemental Largemouth Bass Stockings Planned for Back Bay

DGIF working to restore top trophy bass fishery

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) will initiate a three-year largemouth bass stocking project in Back Bay, beginning in late May of 2012. An experimental stocking of approximately 75,000 surplus largemouth bass fingerlings was initiated in 2009. It is through the post-stocking sampling, results, and ultimate success of that project that DGIF was able to justify a large-scale stocking that will attempt to improve, and ultimately aid in restoration of, the largemouth bass fishery Back Bay.

An official stocking request has been made to American Sportfish Hatchery (ASH) in Alabama for approximately 125,000 fingerling (1-2 inches long) largemouth bass that will be stocked in Back Bay in late May of this year. These bass will be F-1 hybrids, a cross between the northern strain largemouth bass and the Florida strain largemouth bass. Both strains are the same genus and species of largemouth bass, with just a slight variation due to temperature and climate.

DGIF does not have any concerns with stocking these bass in Back Bay, primarily due to the fact that nearly 100% of the bass in the mid-Atlantic are hybrids to some degree. Pure strains of largemouth bass simply do not exist in the mid-Atlantic, east of the Mississippi River, as largemouth bass are not native fish to the mid-Atlantic or even east of the Mississippi, excluding some regions of Florida. As with the previous stockings, these fingerlings will be chemically marked to allow DGIF staff to track their movement, survival, and distribution within the bay.

Back Bay was noted in the late 1970s as one of the top trophy bass fisheries in the nation. This outstanding bass fishery peaked in 1980, when 240 citation-sized largemouth bass (bass that weighed at least eight pounds) were reported to be caught in the bay. In recent years, Back Bay has undergone a tremendous recovery in terms of water quality and the growth of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV). The growth and coverage of SAV is near levels not seen since the early 1980's, and the fisheries populations have shown a positive response to this increased and improved habitat. In the near future, DGIF staff will be sending out additional updates on the actual stocking timeline.

Do You Use a Wildlife Management Area or Fishing Lake?

New Facilities Access Permit Required in 2012

Effective January 1, 2012, a Facility Access Permit will be required when using any Department-owned Wildlife Management Area or Fishing Lake not located on Department Wildlife Management Areas. Such permit shall not be required for any person holding a valid hunting, fishing or trapping license or a current certificate of boat registration issued by the Department or persons 16 years of age or younger. The Facility Access Permit requirement does not apply to Department- owned boat ramps on Department-owned Wildlife Management Areas or fishing lakes, and segments of the Appalachian Trail on Department- owned land. The Facility Access Permit fee is $ 4 for a daily permit or $23 for an annual permit. The Facility Access Permit may be purchased online or at any license agent.

For more information, visit the Access Permit section on our webpage.

The Fishing Spot

by Chris Dunnavant, VDGIF Angling Education Coordinator

Greetings folks! My name is Chris Dunnavant and I am the Angling Education Coordinator and Director of the Angler Recognition Program here at VDGIF. My travels with the Agency as well as my personal fishing exploits have taken me all over the Commonwealth to experience great fishing and meet some really neat and talented people. In this new feature of the Outdoor Report, I will be sharing a variety of fishing information including fishing tips & hotspots, interviews, stories, program news and much more. I hope to pass along to you some of the wonderful opportunities afforded to me as an angler that may help improve your skills and at the least, provide some enjoyment. After all, Fishing is Fun!

Bass Pro Shops to Host Spring Fishing Classic, February 24 Through March 11

Spring is just around the corner and it is time for the Spring Fishing Classic at Bass Pro Shops. The event takes place from February 24 through March 11 at Bass Pro Shop stores nationwide. Last year over 5 million people attended the events and by looking at the scheduled activities and offerings, this year should be bigger and better.

The Spring Fishing Classic will be in full swing at both Virginia stores located in Hampton and in Ashland, just north of Richmond. The latest fishing tackle and equipment will be available with sales and daily specials. The deals include rod and reel trade-ins where you can turn in your used equipment for discounts on new gear. The rods and reels will be donated to not-for-profit groups who provide fishing opportunities for kids. There will also be daily door buster specials at impossible to beat deals.

Besides the great deals, the SFC is where families can take advantage of outdoor skills workshops, sit in on educational seminars and listen to professional field experts – all for free. Kids' activities include a stocked catch and release pond, kids fishing seminars and craft making. Adults will enjoy the many educational fishing seminars including BASSMaster University featuring Virginian Chris Daves, Judy Wong and Timothy Horton. Visit www.basspro.com/classic for details and a schedule of events at your nearest Bass Pro Shops. Be sure and visit the larger than life aquarium in both store locations containing many species of native fish (pictured below).

March 2-4 is vendor weekend at the SFC and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries will have an educational booth with free educational fishing materials and temporary tattoos and decals for the kids. DGIF Fisheries Biologists will be on hand Saturday and Sunday to answer any questions you might have about the conditions of your favorite fishing spot or other fishing related questions.

Regardless of the weather forecast, the Spring Fishing Classic looks to be 17 days of guaranteed fun and great deals. Come out and see for yourself, it promises to be a great time to gear up and prepare for fishing season. I will be at our booth during the vendor weekend and I hope to see you there. Please come by the DGIF booth and say hello, I would love to hear about your latest catch!

Listen for "The Weekly Wildlife Segment" with Chris Dunnavant, Saturdays, 9-11 am during the "The Weekend" with Anthony Oppermann on Richmond Sports Radio 910 – WRNL –AM. Listen to the latest or past segments on the YouTube channel, theopps83.

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.
The Memories Are Always Bigger Than the Fish
Buy your fishing license today.

Remember the excitement? The rush? A picture is worth a thousand words, but sharing the memory of catching that first fish with your family or friends is priceless. Why wait? Start your memories today and buy your fishing license.

Go to HuntFishVA.com, call 1-866-721-6911, or visit your nearest license agent.

If you have already purchased your 2011 fishing license, we would like to thank you for helping to support Virginia's wildlife and natural resources.

Don't miss out on a great fishing season.
Your License Dollars Support State Conservation Efforts

Sarah White's Notebook

Attention Readers – If your favorite body of water is not covered in the Fishin Report, and you are a guide, tackle shop owner, marina or just a devoted angler; please drop me a line and we will see about adding your bi-weekly or periodic reports in the e-newsletter by telephone or email contacts. You can reach me, Sarah White at fishing_report@hotmail.com.

Region 1 - Tidewater

Little Creek Reservoir: Contributed by Park Concessionaire Diane Priestley, (757) 566-2277, hhhatlcr@aol.com. March is HERE and the Creek looks good; the water temperature is 48 with a visibility of 16 ft. I was in the Hospital last week, but I do have a small report thanks to the anglers at Little Creek. Bass at 4 1/2 lbs. were caught on the grass line. Try sinking jerkbaits silver/black, gold/black and blade baits. I was told they were also taking white spinnerbaits worked slow along the grass line. Crappie over 1 lb. came in to the dock, small minnows and jigs worked well. With the very mild winter the spring bite will start soon if not sooner. Starting March 1st we will be at the park 7 days a week. It's time to renew season passes. LOOKING FORWARD TO SEEING YOU ON THE CREEK.

Beaverdam Reservoir: Contributed by Eddie Hester, (804) 693-2107. Fishing continues to be good at Beaverdam. Anglers are catching bass, crappie and chain pickerel. There's lots of baitfish hanging around the pier right now. I believe this is the reason fish are congregating at the pier. Most anglers using live minnows are having good luck. Anglers are catching fish at other spots on the lake, but the fishing pier seems to be one of the hottest spots on the lake.

Beaverdam will host the first Big Bash series Tournament March 17, 2012. For more information, visit our website at ww.gloucesterva.info/pr or call the Park Ranger Station at (804)693-2107.

Cat Point Creek: Contributed by our new reporter Penn Burke of Spring Shad Charters (804) 354-3200. No report this edition.

Virginia Beach: Captain Jim Brincefield (443) 336-8756. Captain Jim says that some big stripers are biting at Cape Henry. They are going for trolled mojos or parachutes. Please remember that stripers caught in the Chesapeake Bay must be released. Those landed in the ocean you can keep: the limit is 2 fish at 28 in. or longer. The water is 45 and clear.

Back Bay: Local angler Tom Deans. No report this edition.

Chickahominy River: River's Rest (804) 829-2753. According to Charlie Brown, so few anglers have been out his way, there is nothing to report. The water is slightly stained and 42 to 43 degrees.

Chickahominy Lake: Contributed by our new reporter, Captain Art Conway of Conway's River Rat Guide Service, (804) 746-2475 out of Ed Allen's Boats and Bait. Chickahominy Lake mid-day water temperatures were in the low to mid 40s in the lower and upper lake and in the mid to high 40s in the major creeks on Wednesday. The lake level was a little less than a foot above the top of the dam. The water was dark and a little cloudy but not muddy in the lower lake. Blue cats and a few crappie were still in some of the winter holes, especially up the lake, and were hitting blade baits and minnows. Crappie, bass, pickerel, and bowfin were in the channels in major creeks and were hitting trolled live minnows, Wright Bait Co. curlytail grubs, and suspending jerkbaits. Fishing with Capt. Conway, Malcolm Turnbull had 13 crappie, 3 pickerel, 1 blue cat, and 4 bass. Capt. Bill Buck had 5 crappie, 1 pickerel, and 1 bass.

North Landing River and Back Bay: West Neck Marina (757) 426-6735. Dewey Mullins reports that fishing is good. Many bass are being fooled by cranks, spinners and minnows. Crappie action is slow, but a few big ones have come in on minnows, jigs and small spinners. Cats are really going for cut bait, night crawlers or minnows. Not much word on bluegill. Both yellow and white perch are eating "anything you throw at them", especially minnows. The water is dingy and in the low to mid 40s.

Norfolk Lakes: Dasheill's Show Room (757) 539-7854. Drew Dixon told me that the bass bite is good, try soft plastics and jigs. Some big slabs are going for minnows and jigs. Cats are hot for cut bait and chicken livers. Big yellow perch are attacking small spinners and jigs. No word on bluegill. The water is clear and in the low 50s.

Blackwater and Nottoway: By Riverkeeper Jeff Turner www.blackwaternottoway.com. I was on the Nottoway below the VDGIF Route 671 ramp the 17th and 18th. I caught 2 stripers that were 20 inches by jigging a blade bait. While doing that, I also caught three nice largemouths with one nearly going 3 pounds. I tried for shad but had no hits. I saw a friend of mine out there and he was tearing up the speckle, eight good on minnows. I heard that folks are catching white perch at the mouth of the river right steadily, so evidently they are on the march up river. I just want to remind people that this time of year, a lot of people anchor and fish in the middle of the river. In small rivers like the Blackwater and Nottoway that have a lot of blind curves, boat operators need to be mindful of that and back off the speed. Getting to your next fishing hole fast is not worth endangering the safety of others.

Upper and Lower Tidal James: Local Guide, Captain Mike Hoke, Life's Revenge Guide Service, (804) 357-8518. According to Captain Mike cats are really going for shad. Minnows and jigs will get you a good slab in the creeks. Some big bass have been landed on minnows by crappie fishermen. In the Chickahominy and Pamunkey Rivers, yellow perch are really heating up for small to medium minnows. The water is clear and the temperature is fluctuating.

Upper and Lower Tidal James: Contributed by Capt. Mike Ostrander, James River Fishing School, Discover the James, (804) 938-2350. No report this edition.

Region 2 - Southside

Ft. Pickett Reservoir: Contributed by our man in the boat Willard A. Mayes. Any day over 60 in January or February has got to be a fishing day, so I thought it was time to see if there were any hungry fish in the reservoir at Ft. Pickett. It was after 11 before I got to the lake and had the boat in the water, Two other boats were already fishing in the deeper water around the aeration lines so I fished down the first one heading to the first cove on the left from the ramp. I picked up one 8 inch crappie and one 7 inch bluegill along the way to the flats. The water was not as cold as it could be this time of year, but it had a between brown and green stain with visibility to about 2 feet. I fished the flats but did not catch a single fish or any along the shore line either, so I headed back to the deeper water and the aeration lines. I tried a pumpkin seed twin tail for awhile but I caught two bass, a 9 in. and an 11 in. so I got it off real fast and went to twin tail chartreuse and would catch one every now and then. The wind was blowing toward the ramp, so I would go up lake and allow it to blow me back toward the ramp and fish along the way, Now all of you know by now that I am not going to fish to long without using my favorite purple twister tail that I have only been able to find at Dances Sporting Goods in Southpark Mall. Fishing really picked up as soon as I went to it only. I had the boat back on the trailer by 4:15 and headed home with 29 Crappie, 8 to 10 inches, 4 six and seven inch blue gill, 2 bass and 1 yellow perch. I did bring 30 crappie home. One 10 inch crappie I got by picking up a cork that I found floating along with it. I can only guess at the story that person is telling about how big the fish was that broke his line. The fish was swimming along with about 50 feet of what appeared to be 6 lb test line. He was using a 16 oz lead head with an orange and white twister with the cork about 6 ft deep. I guess it worked at least once. I caught all my fish from 5 to 8 feet deep with the bait almost at a stop, retrieve and then stop again and allow it to fall and they would be on it when you started again.

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. Not much to report on this go round. The weather has been a rollercoaster ride. The river is in good shape and should start to fish well. Look at the mouths of creeks or a spring influx as these will be warming the water temperatures first. Spinnerbaits, crankbaits, and jigs will all be productive as we move into the spring.

Kerr Reservoir: Bob Cat's Lake Country Store, (434) 374-8381. Brandon Gray reports that crappie are going for minnows trolled in the creeks. There are some big slabs out there and Bobcat's is "selling minnows by the pound". Bass action is heating up with cranks and rattletraps. No word on perch. The cat bite is okay with cut bait, shad and crappie fillets. A few stripers have been landed on bucktails or trolling with live bait. The water is stained to clear and 47 to 51 degrees.

James at Lynchburg: Angler's Lane, (434) 385-0200. No report this edition.

Lake Gaston: Holly Grove Marina, (434) 636-3455. The marina is closed for the season. It will reopen in February. The gas pumps will work with a credit card. Boats are still available for rental, just call ahead and leave a message.

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.

Bass: Fishing has been very good and in recent tournaments, anglers find they must bring five bass weighing in excess of 17 pounds to the scale in order to finish in the top three or four. Bass continue to be caught on a variety of different lures and techniques. Deep diving, suspending jerkbaits (Staysee, DD Pointer) cast and retrieved on points are a good choice this time of year as are larger flutter spoons (Strike King). Bass feeding on baitfish will hit both of these lures as well as swimbaits and other plastics. Slow rolled spinnerbaits (Nichols) are producing bass around the outside edges of deepwater docks, in submerged stump fields on points and the edges of submerged drop-offs.

The new Alabama rigs are producing bass and other fish here in Virginia. For those that have yet to see these rigs, the Alabama rig is very similar to the small, very lightweight umbrella rigs used behind planer boards by striper anglers here for years. The Alabama rig is built with slightly lighter wire in its five arms and lures are attached to it without the use of leaders. The Alabama rig is designed to be cast and retrieved using braid line and a medium heavy to heavy action bait casting rod. There are a variety of different lures that can be used on these rigs. Probably the most popular is the swimbait, as the Alabama rig is designed to resemble a small school of baitfish. Other lures including spinner baits, flukes and grubs rigged on jigheads are also successful. Some anglers are reportedly rigging the Alabama rig with plastic creature baits or worms and dragging it along the bottom like you would a Texas rig. I recently ordered several Alabama like rigs that are significantly smaller and lighter than those used for bass and will be testing them out for crappie, white perch and other fish over the next couple of months. While certainly controversial, I believe this will be one of the hot lures this spring and it is likely here to stay.

Bass continue to be caught this winter by anglers vertically jigging with spoons like those by Berry, Hopkins, Cotton Cordell and Kastmaster. Good jigging locations include the edges of steep points, submerged deep water bluffs, river channels and around the edges and tops of submerged timber and laydowns. The dropshot is another effective presentation technique for suspended fish, especially those sitting a foot or two above the bottom of the lake. When bass are found sitting on the bottom, especially around natural rock, the traditional pig & jig with a heavy football head is a good choice.

This past weekend, the Daleville team of Danny and Trevor Towe won the tournament with five bass that weighed an incredible 20 lbs. 5 oz. Charlie Fochtman and his son Charles Jr. of Moneta, placed second in this event with a total weight of 17 lbs. 13 oz. Third place honors in this past weekend's tournament went to Jim McCullough and Ronnie Lemons with a total weight of 17 lbs. 3 oz. The tournament lunker was a huge largemouth bass that was caught by the team of Douglas Eubanks and James Jordan. This past weekend's tournament big fish weighed an incredible 6 lbs. 13 oz. The weight and quality of the bass caught by the anglers competing in this series were excellent all winter. This was one of the best winter series conducted in years. Congratulations to all the anglers who have supported this series by competing in it and especially to its organizer, Tournament Director Phillip VanDerVeer.

Striper: Fishing continues to be mixed. One day the fish are feeding actively and readily caught and the next they can be found in good numbers, but prove almost impossible to catch. Fishing with live bait continues to be very effective. When stripers are located using electronics or diving seagulls, vertically jigging with spoons and flukes rigged on heavy jigheads can also prove to be very productive. There continue to be large schools of baitfish in the middle and upper sections of the lake and when there is plenty to eat and the stripers are not feeding, getting them to hit a spoon or a fluke can prove challenging. Several anglers report they are catching striped bass off primary and secondary points very early in the morning, in the evening and at night casting and slowly retrieving medium size, deep diving jerkbaits (Redfin, Long A, Thunderstick, Pointer). Anglers continue to catch stripers trolling. A number of stripers have been caught over the past several weeks by anglers pulling Umbrella rigs, swimbaits and deep diving crankbaits behind their boats with either their gas or electric trolling motors. During the daytime, most stripers continue to be located and caught in the main channel and the larger creeks from 15 to 70 feet below the surface. Occasionally, anglers will find a school of striped bass further back in one of the larger creeks, especially when large schools of baitfish are also there early and late in the day. Casting, counting down and retrieving lures like lipless crankbaits, vibrating blade lures, swimbaits and flukes can be an effective technique this time of year whether stripers are found shallow or deep.

Crappie: The crappie bite is reportedly good. I am not a crappie fisherman, but in talking to several anglers who are, I learned the bite has been pretty good this winter. According to them, small live minnows continue to be the bait of choice, but have been harder to find this winter because there are fewer tackle shops open and selling live shiners. These same anglers reported that the crappies are being found suspended in deep water brush from 8 to 25 feet below the surface and that when minnows were not available very small, lightweight jigheads with plastic Bobby Garland trailers and tiny flutter spoons have been producing good numbers of quality fish.

The water is fair to clear and 45 to 49 degrees. Tight lines and enjoy the continued fair weather.

Region 3 - Southwest

Claytor Lake: Contributed by Mike Burchett of Rock House Marina, (540) 980-1488.

Bass: Water temperatures are in the low to mid 40s. The Alabama Rig has proven that it is the bait to throw. I have weighed in four limits of five fish over 20 lbs this week. The biggest bass weighed in on an Alabama Rig was 7 lbs 11oz. Rig up the A-rig with paddle tail swim baits. Dublin Hollow and Peak Creek seems to be the best spots. Deep Points and Bluff walls in Peak Creek seemed to be the hot spots but the rig was catching fish thru out the lake. Due to the weight of the A-rig you need to throw it on a 7 ½ med heavy – heavy action rod with the reel spooled with at least 50 lb. braid. The Rock House has all the A-rig gear needed to get you going. Jerkbaits like the Lucky Craft Pointer, Luck-E-Strike RC Stick, and IMA's Foxy Fry is also catching bass very well.

Striper: The action is picking up in Peak Creek with everything from umbrella rigs, trolling live bait, and casting artificial lures working.

Catfish: I haven't heard anything on the cats.

Walleye: I have heard that the Walleye action is very good in the upper section of the lake/river. The Allisonia section seems to be the best to find the "eyes" stacked up in deeper holes. The Guardrail section in the river is a good place to throw roadrunners and bucktails.

Crappie/Yellow Perch: The yellow perch are really starting to turn on with small jig heads tipped with a live minnow being the best choice.

Bluegill/Panfish: Bluegills are starting to become sparse as the water cools down.

Lower New River: Big Z'S (540) 639-1651. John Zienius says that the smallmouth bite is "slow, very, very slow". Muskies, however, are being more cooperative and attacking castable Alabama Rigs. The same outfit will land you a largemouth on Claytor Lake. The water is clear and 38 to 45 degrees.

Upper New River: Contributed by Captain Forest Pressnell, (540) 818-5274, New River Charter. Cold weather has drastically dropped the river temperature to the low to mid 30s. Consequently the fishing for all species has been slow but the water has remained clear. That may change with this 9 in. snowfall melting off which will increase turbidity. The walleye spawn is just around the corner so we'll keep our fingers crossed fair weather prevails and the water temperature starts increasing soon.

New River: Tangent Outfitters, (540) 257-0415. No report this edition.

Top New River: Contributed by local guide Richie Hughes, owner of New River Trips LLC. The weekend before last was very cold up here on the Top New (Mouth of Wilson toFries). Ice temporarily formed on the creeks but several days of temperatures in the 50s solved that. We caught some nice trout later in the week; the bass and sunfish even joined the action suggesting that the fish are starting to get stirred up. Snow is predicted for Sunday, but, again, higher temperatures predicted later in the week should rectify that problem. Fishing conditions should be good again later in the week and the weekend.

Use common courtesy on the river and at landings... Blackwater and Nottoway Riverkeeper Jeff Turner advises if you're boating or fishing on the river this spring please remember that a lot of people fish anchored in the middle of the river this time of year. So, please slow down around those blind curves and don't wake people hard when they are fishing. At the boat ramps please don't prepare your boat to put in on the ramp or prepare your rig for going home on the ramp. There is usually lots of room in the parking lot. If you're in your boat waiting for the boat ahead of you to get out of the way, remember, don't make it harder on them by cruising back and forth in front of the landing at ¼ throttle and throwing a 3 ft. wake. You're only going to make him mad and take longer to get their boat on the trailer, plus it's against the law! Be courteous and respectful of others, after all we all want a safe and enjoyable trip to and from the river.

Region 4 - Mountains & Shenandoah Valley - Northern Piedmont

North and South Forks of the Shenandoah: Harry Murray (540) 984-4212 www.murraysflyshop.com. Harry told me that smallmouth bass streams are too cold to fish. The stocked and delayed harvest streams, however, are good places for an angler to be right now. Passage Creek, East of Edinburg, has been recently stocked and is giving very good rainbow action. Fish small nymphs and streamers along the stream bottom below the riffles and in the deep pools. Good flies for rainbows are: Murray's Olive Caddis Pupa, sizes 12 and 14; Murray's Dark Stonefly Nymph, sizes 12 and 14; Mr. Rapidan Streamer, size 8; and Murray's Pearl Marauder, sizes 10 and 12. The water is clear, at a good level, and 42 degrees.

Lake Moomaw: Contributed by local anger Bill Uzzell. No report this edition.

Lake Moomaw: Local Guide, Mike Puffenbarger, (540) 468-2682, www.mapletreeoutdoors.com. Check Puff's website and his articles in Woods & Waters Magazine for updates on Lake Moomaw fishing action and opportunities. Winter has made its appearance here in western Virginia with very little snow fall till this last weekend's storm. But it was shot lived with temps back into the 50s this week and melting fast. Puff notes, "Lot's of activities in the woods with maple syrup producers running sap lines and making ready for another sap season. Seems blaze orange has give way to woolrich plaids and carhartts. With the Highland County Maple Festival just around the corner (March 8-10 & 15-17) spring will be here before you know it." Come up to Bolar to our store and maple syrup making shop at Southernmost maple to get some great country cookin', local crafts, fresh maple syrup, information on fishing the VA Highlands, spring gobbler hunting and tips on cooking wild game, "From the Kill to the Grill.".

Piedmont Rivers: Local author Steve Moore (Wade Fishing River Guidebooks covering the: Rappahannock, Rapidan, Upper Potomac, North Branch Potomac; Blog: SwitchFisher.com) I've packed it in for the winter. Fishing has wrapped up and now all I have to keep me going is the promise of the Spring thaw. I'll be back on the water in late February or early March depending on the weather. Books are available online to order for winter reading. It's never to early too start "scouting" for those new promising fishing spots. Use my books to do the preliminary search for great fishing throughout the Virginia Piedmont region.

Lunga Reservoir and Rappahannock River: Contributed by local angler Scott Torgerson. I headed out to Lunga Reservoir on Quantico late Monday morning to check things out for a couple of hours and try out my new electric trolling motor. The good news is that my new trolling motor worked wonderfully...lots of extra power to get me around even with the very breezy day. I also found the water to be in great shape; nice and clear with 4-5 feet of visibility and about 45 degrees. On the bad news side, I only caught one small chain pickerel while checking out several main lake points and tossing a few crankbaits and slow retrieve jerkbaits. Not a great start to my 2012 fishing season...but it IS a start! Good luck to one and all.

Lake Orange: Contributed by Darrell Kennedy of Angler's Landing (540) 672-3997. Angler's Landing is closing for the winter and will reopen in March.

Lake Anna: Contributed by C. C. McCotter, McCotter's Lake Anna Guide Service, (540) 894-9144. No report this edition.

Lake Anna: Contributed by Local Guide Jim Hemby (540) 967-3313. No report this edition.

Attention Readers – If your favorite body of water is not covered in the Fishin Report, and you are a guide, tackle shop owner, marina or just a devoted angler; please drop me a line and we will see about adding your bi-weekly or periodic reports in the e-newsletter by telephone or email contacts. You can reach me, Sarah White at fishing_report@hotmail.com.

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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Winning Outdoor Adventure Stories from Young Writers

When asked what outdoor experience inspired an interest in the environment, many college students will relate experiences from their childhood that inspired them to appreciate the natural world and want to be a part of the conservation of these wild places and the creatures that inhabit them. Often there is a 'special' place in the woods or fields near home that offered a glimpse into the unknown, mysterious and yet compelling wild , natural places. For Zaynah Akeel an undergraduate at Virginia Commonwealth University, it was just that sort of place and experiences looking for a place ,outdoors that provided solitude to read, but discovered much more than found on the pages of the book. The VCU co-ed is currently pursuing degrees in Sexuality, Gender, and Women's Studies and English with a minor in British Studies. Zaynah relates her childhood experiences noting, "Growing up in upstate New York with very little "civilization" near me, I escaped my house by walking outside and reading books. Nature played a huge role in raising me, keeping me sane in a way and promoting my growth as an individual. I like to tell people that my 'best friend', until I moved, was the huge boulder in our backyard, under which some animal had made a burrow – this was one of the best places to read, and I loved it and missed it more than most things about our old house after we moved. I look forward to graduating in the spring 2012, and hope to move to New England to write and possibly open a feminist book store."

Woods Walk: A Journey of Immature Self-Discovery

By Zaynah Akeel

My ankles would be scratched and bitten, but I kept walking through the brush. I knew those shoes were ridiculous, walking in the woods behind my house in flats was a stupid idea. It wasn't an idea, really. It happened of its own accord. Anyone who spends most of their days in their house getting into arguments with family members, anyone like this would take the opportunity to take a walk in the woods, flats or no. A 10-year-old girl, who should be reading inside and had been content to do that until this point, I suddenly felt the need to be somewhere my mother wasn't.

I didn't tell her I was leaving - I went quietly out the basement door and walked through our backyard. I stopped at the pond, man-made, choked with the brightest green algae and rimmed with willows my brothers would hit each other with to watch the ends explode with white fluff. A small box turtle sneaked a look at me through the stalks, though I chose to take no notice of it. I looked up at the cloudless sky, a light slate grey with the cold onset of spring, and I wrapped my thin sweater tighter around me and crossed my arms against a slight breeze. I realized I'd brought my book with me, a comfort against the cold and being alone. Perhaps my mother would be too busy trying to get my brothers to clean up after themselves that she wouldn't notice that I was gone. I stopped only for a short moment as I realized that she would see me if she looked out of the living room windows. I felt fear suddenly rush through me at the thought of her coming outside and calling me in. Run, my body said. So I did, bounding over tall grass to the edge of the trees where I would be safe from view, where I could get lost and where I always had to be careful.

Walking in the woods was something warned against. Alone in the woods, one might get lost, turn an ankle and be stranded, get attacked by a wild animal and never be able to say goodbye to loved ones. I heard my mother's voice ring high-pitched in my head, calling me downstairs to help her with the laundry. When did it become my job to wash my brothers' dirty underwear? I crawled over a fallen tree, toward the tiny slipping sound of a brook flowing into the pond, follow water and you won't have to worry about getting lost so much. My mother always knew where I was, what if she called the police in fear that I'd been kidnapped?

I stopped to catch my breath and to keep these thoughts at bay. If I stopped myself from doing things for fear of my mother being angry about it, what kind of person would I turn into? I shuddered at the thought, not only of the response to this question but at the strength it took from a child, so used to following orders, to say no to an authority so dearly respected for a short lifetime. I slipped one of my shoes off and stepped into the brook, onto a stone slick with green, darker, though, than the pond where the water had to contend with runoff fertilizer from the nearby golf course. The water shocked me with a cold bite, but I refused to stop. I sat down and took off my other shoe, placing both feet on the rock. I watched as tiny colonies passed, a small group of tadpole-sized fish, a few loner toads or frogs, and several crickets or grasshoppers leaped around me. The ground seemed to crackle with the movement of thousands of tiny little live things. You're not by yourself, stupid, I heard from them.

That space made me feel like myself for a moment; an individual who had opportunities to take advantage of, choices to make that would change the course of my life. A child of parents who protected above all else and who dealt with an incredible awkwardness as a result of this combined with my own under-developed personality, I wanted the freedom I'd only read about until then - the ability to go out and dig a hole in the backyard or throw rocks - a freedom so readily allowed to my two younger brothers. I realized that this moment of clarity was something all humans underwent, a tiny light that went off for all of us at some point. I felt connected to everyone then, though connected in the utter loneliness of the experience. A revelation unlike any I'd experienced until then, I made mental note of the instant. Cherish this, I thought, as I opened my book and began reading, as my feet numbed in the water and I moved to cross them underneath me.

The Virginia Outdoor Writers Association (VOWA) annually sponsors a High School and Collegiate Writing Competition with the theme of "a memorable outdoor experience." The contests are now accepting stories with a deadline of February 13, 2012. We encourage you to write your most memorable hunting, fishing or other outdoor adventure story and enter the contest. For information on the VOWA Collegiate or High School Youth Writing Competitions visit the VOWA website: www.vowa.org.

In upcoming editions of the Outdoor Report, look for: