Fishing and small game regulations highlight Natural Resources Commission meeting

SUMMERSVILLE, W.Va. – West Virginia’s Natural Resources Commission gave final approval to small game seasons with amendments and made final decisions on a change in designation for several West Virginia streams in the 2023 fishing regulations Sunday.

The amended regulations for coyote hunting included clarification on night hunting.  Coyote hunters may hunt at night year round with any color artificial lights or night vision technology, including image intensification, thermal imaging, or active illumination.  This would require notification of the local DNR office or Natural Resources Police when hunting on private land only September 1 through December 31.   Hunters must have written permission from the landowner and notification requests must be made no less than 24 hours prior to the requested date of hunting.

Commissioners agreed to changes to the 2023 fishing regulations as proposed earlier this year with three exceptions.  Assistant Chief for Fisheries Mark Scott asked the Commission to table three of the streams set to change status.  Those included making Dunloup Creek from the Route 25 Bridge downstream to the New River catch and release.

“Several private landowners were opposed and wanted the put and take stocking to continue.  They would not be opposed to a different catch and release section while maintaining the put and take fishery. DNR will do more research or just short the length of the proposed catch and release and make a future regulation recommendation,” Scott told the Commission.

The commission also acted to table a proposed catch and release section on Shavers Fork from Fishing Hawk Creek downstream to the confluence of Rich Bottom Run.

“Numerous club members contacted us not in favor of the regulation change. The property is owned by a timber company and leased to a private club for hunting and fishing.  The club would consider posting the property if regulations changed,” Scott said.

The final adjustment approved by the Commission to the proposed fishing regulations involved tabling creation of a delayed harvest section two miles downstream of US Route 220 at Eagle Rock and extending downstream one mile.  It would replace the current catch and released section.

According to Scott, the DNR heard from numerous anglers who indicated they experienced excellent fishing in the catch and release section year round and did not favor the delayed harvest.  DNR will conduct additional research and determine if a different regulation supports biological findings.

 

AIR RIFLES

The Commission approved changes to the upcoming controlled hunts on state parks to reflect a new law approved by the Legislature which would allow for the use of certain caliber air rifles in those hunts.

Commissioners okayed use of the air rifles, with minimum caliber, for the controlled hunts this year at Beech Fork, Cacapon, and two hunts at North Bend State Park.

 

FROG GIGGING

Commissioners approved the addition of the term “gigging” into language of the frog season in West Virginia.  The vote was technical to clear up the “method of taking” to be used in the season.

 

BUCK LIMIT

A handful of public comments to the commission favored lowering the state’s buck limit from three to two.  During the Commission’s previous meeting it was determined the measure would be revisited in April 2023 after the 2023 sectional meetings.

Although some sportsmen lamented the delay, Commissioner Jeff Bowers pointed out Section 20 of the state code required the process.

“I fully understand the frustration in getting something passed.  It’s not always DNR.  Chapter 20 states we have to hold at least six meetings each year, for the purpose of letting people be heard and getting feedback.  This is what was approved and required by the Legislature.” said Bowers

He noted a sharp rebuke commissioners endured recently over an attempt to make changes to the Cranberry River catch and release section.

“That’s the big issue with the buck limit,” he said.

 

COMMISSIONER CHAMBERS RESIGNS

Longtime Commissioner B.K. Chambers of Romney this week turned in his resignation from the Commission.   There was no mention of the reason for Chambers’ stepping down.  His replacement, by code, will be recommended to the Governor by DNR Director Brett McMillion.   There was no timeline given for his replacement.

Commissioner Bowers offered a public thanks for Chambers’ service.

“I wanted to publicly thank Commissioner Chambers for his years of service to the DNR.  He served 30 years as a law enforcement officer and 18 years as Commissioner,” said Bowers.

 

LAW ENFORCEMMENT UPDATE

Colonel Bobby Cales, head of the Natural Resources Police provided the Commission with a broad overview of the work in the past year by the agency’s law enforcement arm.  Part of the presentation included a history of the agency which is this year celebrating its 125th anniversary .

Commissioner Jeff Bowers noted in the past law enforcement updates were part of all commission meetings, but were discontinued several years ago.  He suggested bringing them back for one meeting a year to keep the public connected to the work of the law enforcement section.

 

DONATION

West Virginia Deer Association made a presentation of 36 trail camera packages to the DNR’s law enforcement section.  The cameras, six per district, include cell phone capability and will be used for monitoring and law enforcement investigation.  WVDA President Jeremy Preston made the presentation saying support of the DNR’s law enforcement was part of the mission of their newly formed organization.

Preston also used the opportunity to promote the groups Whitetail Deer Summit Wednesday, August 3 at the Days Inn in Flatwoods from 6pm to 9pm.  Speakers include West Virginia DNR Deer Project Leader Brett Skelly and Wildlife Disease Specialist Ethan Barton.

 

NEXT MEETING

The fourth and final Natural Resources Commissioner Meeting of 202w will be Sunday, October 30 at 1 p.m. at the Days Inn in Flatwoods.





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