LITTLE ROCK — A colorful longear sunfish will be featured on next year’s Arkansas Conservation License Plate, as announced at today’s regularly scheduled meeting of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
The plate, designed by AGFC Graphic Artist Greta James, showcases the color of one of Arkansas’s most charismatic and often overlooked species of gamefish.
AGFC Fisheries Chief Ben Batten said the longear sunfish was chosen because of its bright blue and orange markings that rival the colors of many fish found in coral reefs and saltwater and its prominence as many Arkansas youth’s first catch.
The Conservation License Plate program began in 2000 and has provided more than $18 million for scholarships and conservation education efforts in Arkansas since its inception. The program has topped $1 million each year since 2008. The longear sunfish is the fifth aquatic species to be featured on a Conservation License Plate. The previous four were largemouth bass (2002), rainbow trout (2005), black crappie (2012) and smallmouth bass (2015). It will be available beginning in January at Department of Finance and Administration offices throughout the state.
Commissioners also had the opportunity to speak to Arkansas Senator John Boozman, a recent recipient of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership Award. Boozman addressed the Commission from Washington via online conference call to express his dedication to conservation through his work on the Migratory Bird Council and as ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Boozman also referenced the importance of the AGFC Director Austin Booth and the Commission’s work to protect and enhance Arkansas’s flooded timber and the vital role it plays in waterfowl conservation on a national scale.
“When we’re all working together and we’re on the same track, it really does make a big difference so I appreciate your leadership on that,” Boozman said.
The Commission also unanimously approved to instate a “catch-and-release” regulation for all game fish species in Mercer Bayou in Sulphur River Wildlife Management Area. The fishery recently underwent a renovation which required a temporary drawdown. Before the drawdown was complete all limits were removed from the lake to allow area anglers to make the most use of the resource. As it refills, game fish species must now be allowed to reestablish healthy populations to rebuild the health of this productive waterbody in southwest Arkansas.
Commissioners also joined Director Booth in recognizing Mark Hooks, Cpl. Ryan Nast and Randi Prater as this year’s recipients of the AGFC’s Campbell Awards for their dedicated service to conservation and their communities.
In other business, the Commission:
- Heard from Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation President Deke Whitbeck on The results of the recent South Arkansas Outdoor Social at the Southern Arkansas University’s Laney Farm, the status of the AGFF’s Outdoor Society membership and the recently launched Get It for Game Wardens initiative to help provide for AGFC wildlife officer needs throughout the state.
- Heard from AGFC Biologist Mark Barbee on the 2021 Arkansas Alligator harvest.
- Approved the use of Marine Fuel Tax funds to partner with the Arkansas Department of Transportation to construct a concrete boat launching ramp, parking area and access road at the Highway 59 Illinois River Access in Benton County.
- Awarded retiring AGFC Wildlife Officer Lt. Scott Watkins his service sidearm.
- Awarded retiring AGFC Wildlife Officer Sgt. Mike Mchee his service sidearm.
- Approved the removal of outdated and obsolete inventory with a total original cost of $12,427 and a present net book value of $2,705.
A video of the meeting is available at https://www.youtube.com/user/ArkansasGameandFish.