Woods and Waters An outdoor blog by John McCoy

As freshman seasons go, Ginny Thrasher’s is going to be hard to top. Not only did the Virginia native lead West Virginia University to another national title, she won the NCAA air rifle and smallbore titles in the process. To top all that, she flew down to Rio and captured the women’s 10 m air rifle gold medal!

To win, she had to outlast two shooters from China, including the defending Olympic air rifle gold medalist.

At WVU, they teach rifle-team members to shoot “the center of the center of the center” of each target. Looks like Ms. Thrasher got the message.

The video, taken from the NBC Olympics feed, is by Geoff Coyle of WV Illustrated.

That’s a lot of poachin’!

nrplogoWow.

Eight men from West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle are facing 77 charges of illegal bear hunting. West Virginia Natural Resources Police filed charges against the men after a months-long investigation into their alleged violations. Here are the details, from the Division of Natural Resources’ news release:

ROMNEY, W.Va. – Natural Resources Police Officers have completed an investigation that has resulted in the arrest of eight men on 77 charges of violations of West Virginia game laws involving the illegal hunting of black bears. The investigation began in September 2015 when an illegal bear baiting site near Mount Storm in Grant County was reported to the DNR District 2 office in Romney.
Lead investigators Sgt. G.M. Willenborg and Senior Natural Resources Police Officer A.D. Kuykendall, assisted by natural resources police officers from Mineral, Grant and Pendleton counties, completed the investigation and filed the charges. The alleged illegal bear hunting violations occurred between May 2015 and September 2015. Charges have been brought against the following individuals and are pending in court. The charges identified are allegations and any defendant is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
Mark Allen Lampka, Jr. of Mount Storm, West Virginia, was charged with violations ranging from (2 counts) illegal trapping of bear, (4 counts) illegal killing of bear, (6 counts) illegal possession of bear, (2 counts) spotlighting bear, conspiring to violate Chapter 20 of the West Virginia State Code, hunting without permission, hunting bear during closed season and other game law violations. These charges were brought in Grant and Mineral counties.
Daniel Boddy of New Creek, West Virginia, was charged with (2 counts) illegal killing of bear, (2 counts) illegal trapping of bear, (4 counts) illegal possession of bear, spotlighting bear, conspiring to violate Chapter 20 of the West Virginia State Code and other game law violations. These charges were brought in Grant and Mineral counties.
Chad Fridley of Mount Storm, West Virginia, was charged with illegal killing of bear, spotlighting bear, (2 counts) illegal possession of bear and conspiring to violate Chapter 20 of the West Virginia State Code. These charges were brought in Grant and Mineral counties.
Steve Thomas Lyons, Jr. of Elk Garden, West Virginia, was charged with illegal killing of bear, spotlighting bear, hunting bear with use of bait, illegal possession of bear and conspiring to violate Chapter 20 of the West Virginia State Code. These charges were brought in Grant and Mineral counties.
Dustin Knaggs of New Creek, West Virginia, was charged with illegal killing of bear, spotlighting bear, illegal possession of bear and conspiring to violate Chapter 20 of the West Virginia State Code. These charges were brought in Mineral County.
Terry Kuh of Maysville, West Virginia, was charged with spotlighting bear, hunting bear with use of bait, illegal possession of bear, illegal taking of bear during closed season and conspiring to violate Chapter 20 of the West Virginia State Code. These charges were brought in Grant County.
James Scott Kuhn of New Creek, West Virginia, was charged with hunting bear with the use of a trap, illegal possession of bear, and conspiring to violate Chapter 20 of the West Virginia State Code. These charges were brought in Mineral County.
Ronnie P. Bothwell of Burlington, West Virginia, was charged with hunting bear with the use of a trap, illegal possession of bear and conspiring to violate Chapter 20 of the West Virginia State Code. These charges were brought in Mineral County.

 

 

Mark Blauvelt (right) and fishing partner Ryan Lawrence with Blauvelt's 59.88 state-record blue catWhen Mark Blauvelt released the heaviest blue catfish ever caught from West Virginia waters, he fully realized his shiny new state record might be short-lived.

“At just 60 pounds, that fish has plenty of room for growth,” said Blauvelt, who caught the gigantic blue cat (which officially weighed 59.88 pounds). “I wanted to release it so someone else might have a chance to catch it.”

The chances that some angler might land the very same fish are probably slim, but there are other blue cats in the Ohio and Kanawha Rivers that might easily eclipse Blauvelt’s name from the record books. Four record-breaking fish have been caught from the Ohio in the past five years. In just half a decade, the record skyrocketed from 32 pounds to 44 pounds to 52 pounds and now to almost 60.

Blauvelt (on the right in the accompanying photo) caught the fish during the May 14 Cabela’s King Kat Tournament, held on the Ohio and lower Kanawha. It earned the New Lebanon, Ohio, resident and  tournament partner Ryan Lawrence the prize money for the biggest fish, but wasn’t enough to win them the tournament. The first-prize money went to a team that had caught an impressive stringer of trophy flathead catfish.

(Photo courtesy Zach Loughman)After a year’s worth of consideration and review, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials have decided that the Guyandotte River crayfish (Cambarus veteranus) is in danger of extinction.

The species, which exists only in isolated segments of Wyoming County’s Pinnacle Creek and Clear Creek, will now have the full power of the federal  government protecting it from threats to its remaining habitat.

USFWS officials also have placed the Big Sandy crayfish (C. callainus) on the list of threatened species. The Big Sandy species exists in a sizable portion of the upper Tug River watershed in West Virginia, and in several Tug/Big Sandy tributaries in Kentucky and Virginia.

Detailed information can be found in the latest USFWS publication on the listing.

WVU freshman makes Olympic shooting team

Olympian Ginny Thrasher (West Virginia University photo)West Virginia University freshman Ginny Thrasher is on her way to the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Thrasher, the reigning NCAA champion in both smallbore and air rifle, won the women’s 50-meter three-position competition at the recent U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Smallbore in Fort Benning, Ga.
The Springfield, Va., native was among 16 shooters in contention for a single slot on this year’s U.S. team. She became the third WVU female shooter to make it to the Games. Ann-Marie Pfiffner competed in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, and Jean Foster competed in the 1996 Atlanta and 2000 Sydney Olympics.

 

Wildlife calendar racks up another award

Image courtesy W.Va. Div. of Natural Resources
Image courtesy W.Va. Div. of Natural Resources

West Virginia’s annual Wildlife Calendar is a little like the West Virginia University rifle team — it just keeps winning and winning.

The calendar’s latest honor is the Gold Award from the Calendar Marketing Association. This marks the second time West Virginia’s calendar, produced by the state Division of Natural Resources, has captured the top honor. In addition to the two golds, the calendar has won a slew of silver and bronze awards through the years.

DNR officials began publishing the calendar in 1985. It always features original wildlife art produced, for the most part, by Mountain State artists. It also is packed with information — natural history facts, hunting and fishing regulations and articles about fish and wildlife.

This year’s competition featured hundreds of calendars from around the country. According to a DNR release, awards were based on “the superiority of the artwork, readability, information quality and originality.”

That’s one honkin’ big bobcat!

Photo courtesy of Jon Rogers
Photo courtesy of Jon Rogers

What would you do if you stepped out onto your deck one morning and found that a bobcat had dragged a deer carcass almost to your back door?

Jon Rogers, who lives just south of Charleston not far from Corridor G, didn’t haul the carcass away. Instead he set up a trail camera nearby in the hope he might capture a photo or video of the critter responsible for the carcass. He didn’t have to wait long. The cat returned to feed on the carcass, and Rogers ended up with some nifty still photos and video clips.

As you can tell from the accompanying photo, the bobcat turned out to be a really big one. Rogers said he sent a picture to a Division of Natural Resources official, who told him that it was one of the biggest he’d ever seen.

(Photo courtesy Westernbass.com) Greg Gasciel with his new Michigan state-record smallmouth bass.
(Photo courtesy Westernbass.com)
Greg Gasiciel with his new Michigan state-record smallmouth bass.

A note to West Virginians who like to fish for smallmouth bass: A new state-record bronzeback just might be lurking somewhere in the waters of the state.

I can’t offer proof, of course, but I can offer evidence that even the longest-standing state records can be broken. Last Sunday, a Michigan man caught a 9.33-pound, 24.50-inch smallmouth from Hubbard Lake in Alcona County. Greg Gasiciel was bait-casting with a green grub when the big fish hit.

Michigan’s previous record of 9.25 pounds had stood for 109 years. That should give hope to anglers in the Mountain State, where the smallmouth record has stood for 44 years.

It was in 1971 that a fellow named David Lindsay caught a 9.75-pound, 24.25-inch bronzeback from the South Branch of the Potomac in Pendleton County. No one has yet come close to breaking the record, but if the Michigan fish is any indication, it’s possible.

west-virginia-dnr-logo1West Virginia’s state government is in the midst of some belt-tightening, but Division of Natural Resources officials say sportsmen probably won’t notice any change in the agency’s fish- and wildlife-related programs.

“I think we’ll be able to continue with no major impacts being felt by the public,” said Paul Johansen, chief of the DNR’s Wildlife Resources Section.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin ordered state agencies to implement an across-the-board 4 percent cut, but Johansen said the cut applies mainly to funding drawn from taxpayers.

“We receive very little of that ‘general revenue’ money,” he explained. “Most of our money comes from ‘special revenue’ sources, such as fees paid for hunting and fishing licenses.”

Only a tiny fraction of the agency’s budget comes from the state’s general-revenue fund. Johansen said the lion’s share comes from hunting- and fishing-license fees and from the federal government’s Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program.

“Certainly, we’ll abide by any of the cuts that apply to us, such as the ban on nonessential travel. We don’t engage in nonessential travel anyway, but we will certainly be watching our travel budgets,” he said.

While Johansen said the DNR’s major programs will remain unaffected, one minor one might suffer some ill affects. The Upper Mud River Wildlife Management Area gets its funding from general-revenue sources, and so is subject to Tomblin’s 4 percent cutback.

“We’ll have to adjust the budget for Upper Mud. budget cuts for upper mud…one area we have that is funded primarily through general revenue sources….admin of WMA…will be taking 4 percent cut there, will have to adjust accordingly. There might have to be some reductions in the hours that the area’s recreational facilities are open,” Johansen said.

(DNR photo) Ryan Bosserman with a 61.8-pound, 50.2-inch bighead carp from the Ohio River.
(DNR photo)
Ryan Bosserman with a 61.8-pound, 50.2-inch bighead carp from the Ohio River.

If anyone needs evidence that invasive Asian carp are making it into West Virginia waters, they need only to check out the adjacent photo.

It shows Ryan Bosserman, acting manager of the state’s Apple Grove Fish Hatchery, holding a 61.8-pound 50.2-inch bighead carp. The fish was found dead (or nearly so) recently in a lock chamber of the nearby Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam. Corps of Engineers employees alerted the folks at the hatchery, and some of Bosserman’s assistants retrieved the fish.

Although two Asian carp species — bighead and silver — have taken over entire ecosystems in some of the Ohio’s lower tributaries, Division of Natural Resources biologists believe that won’t happen in West Virginia’s Ohio and Kanawha rivers because the rivers’ currents are too strong. The fish tend to favor slow-flowing waters.

One thing’s for certain, though: The Ohio seems perfectly capable of growing really large specimens, at least of the bighead species.