A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Art Lander’s Outdoors: News and observations for the new year for state’s anxious hunters and anglers

January is a pivotal month on the outdoors calendar, a time when anglers and hunters look back with fond remembrances and look forward in anxious anticipation.

The onset of winter weather with its cold rains, north winds, snow and temperatures below freezing, bring on a serious case of “cabin fever.”

Thoughts of warm spring mornings chasing wild turkeys, standing waist-deep in a beautiful green stream casting for smallmouth bass, a summer night on the lake, or a glorious fall day on the treestand as deer appear through colored leaves, fuel our daydreams.

Use the downtime to think back on the time spent outdoors with family and friends in the past year, and get organized and focused on the new year ahead.

Here’s some news and observations:

• Tomorrow is the last day of Christmas for the Fishes tree recycling program.

The annual program of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) helps create habitat for fish. The trees are tied together, weighted and sunk in lakes as fish attractors.

Natural Christmas trees may be dropped off at more than two dozen locations across the state. Visit fw.ky.gov, for dropoff locations.

Remove lights, ornaments, tinsel, or any other decorations from trees that will be donated. Tree collection is between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

• Anglers who can’t wait for spring can monitor water levels by logging onto the U.S. Geological Survey website for Current Water Data for Kentucky.

Click on the Statewide Streamflow Table to access water levels for rivers in the state’s major river basins. Recent heavy rains and snowmelt have created un-fishable conditions on most waterways.

Check levels periodically to find out when river levels stabilize. That will let you know when it’s time to start fishing for sauger, walleye, muskies, striped bass, and other cool-water fish species that begin to get more active as the days lengthen and temperatures moderate.

Rainbow Trout (KDFWR illustration)

• Anglers near urban areas can take advantage of a KDFWR program that stocks rainbow trout in 43 small lakes in 26 counties.

Late January and February are prime times to catch trout from these lakes.

The KDFWR website lists the trout stocking schedule for Fishing in the Neighborhoods (FINS) lakes across the state.

• Small game hunting seasons for rabbit, quail and grouse continue through January, into February across the state.

To view the small game hunting dates and other regulations, consult the Kentucky Hunting and Trapping Guide.

Fox Squirrel (Photo by Gary Eslinger, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

• Now is the time to make plans for spring plantings on property being managed for wildlife.

Finish seasonal mowings, cut tree limbs from along woodland trails, decide where your spring plantings will be, order forage seeds (clover), and service tractors and other equipment used to plow and till plots in the spring.

• If you would like some land management suggestions from private lands wildlife biologists sign up to receive the monthly e-newsletter Wild Know-How from KDFWR.

The e-newsletter helps landowners manage for deer, wild turkey, small game and other wildlife.

To subscribe, visit fw.ky.gov.

• Use bad weather downtime to spend a few hours in your “outdoors cave,” cleaning firearms and/or organizing fishing and hunting gear.

Make a list of items needed for fishing or hunting this year, such as new fishing line, lures, rod and reels, ammunition, hunting clothes or waders.

Warm weather will be here before you know it. Think spring!

Art Lander Jr. is outdoors editor for the Northern Kentucky Tribune. He is a native Kentuckian, a graduate of Western Kentucky University and a life-long hunter, angler, gardener and nature enthusiast. He has worked as a newspaper columnist, magazine journalist and author and is a former staff writer for Kentucky Afield Magazine, editor of the annual Kentucky Hunting & Trapping Guide and Kentucky Spring Hunting Guide, and co-writer of the Kentucky Afield Outdoors newspaper column.

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