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G&F Digest: Minn. Youth Angler Hooks Big-Money Catch

Also: “Hoot-Owl” restrictions in Mont., free hunting in Tenn., burn bans in La., quail project in Calif.

G&F Digest: Minn. Youth Angler Hooks Big-Money Catch

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With forecasters indicating that a crazy heatwave gripping much of the nation may abate with some cooler weather next week, September is around the corner. And with the hope of mourning doves, early teal and bowhunting success looming for next month—along with chilly morning temperature readings—here’s this week’s edition of the Game & Fish Digest.

Another Big-Money Catch

Last week, we told you about a record-setting $6.2 million payout for a blue marlin catch at the 50th Annual White Marlin Open on the Atlantic near Ocean City, Md.. This week, there’s another big-money catch, albeit a long way from the saltwater, thanks to a 14-year-old Minnesota angler who reeled in some cash.

Days away from his freshman year of high school and a few weeks from hockey season, teenager Connor Halsa was hoping to land a few walleye according to Des Moines, Iowa TV station KCCI. When he felt resistance on the other end, he set the hook and reeled in a wallet stuffed with $2,000 in cash.

With a business card inside showing that it belonged to Iowa farmer Jim Denney—who reportedly lost the wallet overboard a year ago—the young angler returned the wallet and its contents to the grateful owner, noting that it was the right thing to do.

"Yeah, to be nice to everyone and like, give back to people," Halsa said in the TV station's report. "We didn’t work hard for the money, he did, so it was his money."

To show his gratitude for the gesture, Denney bought Halsa a personalized cooler and took the teenager and his family out to dinner. And maybe the Iowa farmer even left a good tip on the table, even if the bills were still a little damp.

Montana Lifts Most Hoot Owl Restrictions

In a sure sign of fall’s approach, the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks announced this week that it was lifting all fishing restrictions and closure on rivers in Montana, with the exception of "hoot-owl" restrictions—which prohibits fishing each day between 2 p.m. and midnight because of warm water conditions—continuing on for the Madison River and Sun River.

FWP officials note that on the Madison River, hoot-owl restrictions continue in effect from the confluence with the Jefferson River to the Warm Springs Fishing Access Site. And on the Sun River, hoot-owl restrictions are in effect from the mouth of Muddy Creek to the Highway 287 bridge.

With warming weather and water conditions, the trout-fishing paradise has had to use hoot-owl restrictions a lot in recent summers. The agency notes in a news release that such angling restrictions are "implemented based on several considerations: stream flow, water temperatures, angling pressure and other angling restrictions in the area that may divert use to waterways where circumstances are increasing stress on the fishery."

Before long, anglers will likely see the remaining hoot-owl restrictions lifted in the cold-water fishery capitol of the Rocky Mountain West. Until then, for current information on restrictions and closures, go to the FWP website for the latest.

Squirrels, Deer Bring Free Hunting Day in Tennessee

Squirrel season starts Saturday, Aug. 26 in Tennessee. And with it, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is holding its annual "Free Hunting Day" where residents will be able to chase bushytails without a license. While hunter education requirements remain in place, the TWRA hopes that the free hunting day—in which resident hunters are exempt from hunting licenses and Wildlife Management Area permit requirements—will serve as a bridge to help veteran hunters get out and enjoy the sport and introduce friends and family to the pastime.

According to a TWRA news release, hunters can harvest up to 10 squirrels a day from the opening day of squirrel season through March 15, 2024. Usually closing on the final day of February, the season-ending date was extended to mid-March last year by the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission.


Also this week in Tennessee, the state’s three-day archery-only on private lands, only antlered-deer hunt will open, running Aug. 25-27. TWRA notes that the only exception is in Unit CWD, where guns and muzzleloaders are allowed and select public ground is open to hunting.  Hunters should note that harvested deer count toward the season bag limit in Tennessee, which is two antlered for the state’s deer units, except for Unit CWD where the bag limit is three. TWRA indicates that fluorescent orange is required in Unit CWD.

TWRA also notes that Unit CWD counties have not changed from 2022 and include Chester, Crockett, Fayette, Gibson, Hardeman, Haywood, Henderson, Lauderdale, Madison, McNairy, Shelby, and Tipton counties. The agency says that CWD Positive or High-Risk counties outside of Unit CWD (Carroll, Decatur, Dyer, Hardin, Henry, Wayne, and Weakley counties) are in Unit L for hunting regulations, but hunters must still follow CWD carcass transportation and feeding restrictions.

Burn Ban Limits Louisiana Dove Hunters

Dove season is approaching its Sept. 2 start date in the Bayou State, but a popular management tool isn’t available to hunters this year according to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF). With an intense summer of high heat and lower rainfall than normal, the statewide burn ban in place means that hunters can’t burn dove fields in preparation for opening weekend in a few more days.

While burning fields can make available food more accessible to doves, which feed on small grains and native seeds, the use of controlled fires to produce more bare ground can’t be used in 2023. The LDWF says that "a good alternative to burning is to mow or bush hog a field. In order to create the clean ground desired by doves, the residue can be raked, shredded, or lightly disked; heavy disking will cover too much of the seed."

The agency also reminds hunters that although it is legal to manipulate planted grains for doves, it is not legal to add grains to a field and hunt over them. For updated information on the burn ban in Louisiana, visit the Louisiana Department of Agriculture & Forestry website.

Vibrio Cases Rise

The name vibrio vulnificus sounds like something out of a Hollywood space alien film. But the popular term "flesh-eating bacteria" certainly conjures up something other than popcorn and a trip to the movie theater, grabbing attention and producing ominous headlines when serious cases are reported.

Those scary stories have been on the rise in recent days as media reports indicate that as many as 12 people have died in recent weeks from vibrio infections, including three in the Connecticut/New York region, along with deaths reported in North Carolina and Florida, according to CT Insider.

Five of those deaths have been in Florida, where vibrio cases have grabbed more headlines than usual in recent months. In addition to the bacteria’s annual presence every year, particularly in the warmer months, cases have been on the rise since Hurricane Ian’s destructive rampage last fall. Last year, there were 17 vibrio deaths and 74 cases in Florida, an increase potentially caused by the hurricane’s landfall impacts.

A naturally occurring phenomenon in warm saltwater and brackish environments, vibrio cases are rare but can be deadly serious for those who have compromised immune systems from things like liver disease, cancer, diabetes and heart disease. The Center for Disease Control notes that "Vibrio vulnificus can cause particularly severe and life-threatening infections. Many people with V. vulnificus infections require intensive care or limb amputations, and about 1 in 5 people with this infection die, sometimes within a day or two of becoming ill."

Prevention tips from CDC include avoiding raw or undercooked oysters and shellfish, staying out of saltwater and brackish water if there's a wound or someone has had recent surgeries, piercings or tattoo work, covering wounds with waterproof bandages, washing wounds and cuts with soap and water if exposed to seawater or raw seafood and its juices, and seeing your medical provider quickly if you develop a skin infection after coming into contact with saltwater, brackish water, raw seafood, or its juices.

Outdoors enthusiasts like saltwater anglers, beach-goers and even waterfowl hunters looking forward to early teal season can also wear clothing, shoes and waders to protect skin from cuts and scrapes while fishing or tossing duck decoys this fall.

While it's true that some people can get serious infections, officials indicate that there are only 100 to 200 cases reported across the nation each year. While vibrio infection chances aren't zero, they aren't very high either.

"Most people are not going to get a vibrio vulnificus infection," said Dr. Sandra Gompf, a professor of medicine with USF Health's Division of Infectious Disease and International Medicine, in a Bay News 9 report.

Short Casts

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has announced that it is once again asking hunters to provide mountain quail samples for a California Conservation Genomics Project and for the department’s own genetic library. The CDFW indicates this work is a continuation of a mountain quail study project started last year. As the study continues, CDFW will accept samples from throughout the native mountain quail range, but the agency is particularly interested in mountain quail from Southern California, including the following mountain ranges: Santa Lucia, Diablo, San Gabriel, San Bernardino, Santa Ana, Laguna, southern Sierra Nevada, Tehachapi and east toward the Cottonwood Mountains and Panamint Range. … With miserable late-summer heat and the potential threat of epizootic hemorrhagic disease looming into early fall, officials with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission are asking the public to report any unexplained illnesses or deaths of white-tailed deer, elk, pronghorn antelope and bighorn sheep in the state. With Nebraska suffering from abnormally dry to exceptional drought conditions, as well as triple-digit heat, this time period puts the state's big-game animals at risk due to midges, gnats, and congregating near water sources. State officials say that any sighting of unhealthy big game animals or unexplained deaths should be reported to the nearest Nebraska Game and Parks Commission office, including locations at Alliance, Bassett, Kearney, Gretna, North Platte, Lincoln, Omaha and Norfolk.

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