PIERRE, S.D (KELO AM). – The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission has proposed several rule changes for game refuges and use of public lands and public waters.
The GFP Commission will consider changing two game refuges to waterfowl refuges and eliminating three waterfowl refuges.
Reid Lake State Game Refuge is an important area for migrating waterfowl. The proposal would reclassify the refuge as Reid Lake State Waterfowl Refuge and allow limited opportunities for upland game hunting.
White Lake State Game Refuge would be reclassified as White Lake State Waterfowl Refuge and the unit boundary would be modified making this a waterline waterfowl hunting refuge and offering additional opportunity for upland game hunting.
Stink Lake State Game Refuge, Dry Lake State Waterfowl Refuge and Bullhead Lake State Waterfowl Refuge would be removed from refuge status.
With current water conditions at Stink Lake State Game Refuge waterfowl have ample places to rest and this area is surrounded by Walk-In Areas and lands enrolled into the James River Watershed CREP. Dry Lake State Waterfowl Refuge is surrounded by Game Production Areas and Lake Poinsett to the south. Pass shooting for geese does not occur like it did in the past, thus the refuge doesn’t serve its intended purpose anymore. Bullhead Lake State Waterfowl Refuge is no longer needed because of current high water conditions in the area.
Another proposed GFP Commission rule change involving public lands would prohibit bait stations on lands owned by the department and on properties managed and classified by the department as Game Production Areas, State Parks, State Recreation Areas, State Lakeside Use Areas, State Nature Areas and State Water Access Areas.
Current rule does not allow a person to establish, utilize or maintain a bait station from Aug. 15-Feb. 1 to attract any big game animal. In recent years, there have been instances where persons have placed a bait station on GFP lands and later resulted in enforcement actions as individuals hunting over the stations have claimed not to be maintaining them. There are also instances where a hunter may not be aware of a bait station and place themselves in a precarious situation. To eliminate these situations and other associated concerns with bait stations, GFP has recommended that bait stations be prohibited on these lands.
The GFP Commission proposed changes to use on several public waters.
Boating would be prohibited from Sept. 1 – Dec. 31 to Oct. 20 – Dec. 31 at Reid Lake in Clark County. A later start will allow for additional fall fishing opportunity while still serving its purpose to minimize disturbance to waterfowl during the peak of the fall migration.
A proposal for Spring Creek Marina on Lake Oahe would designate the water within 20 feet of the floating tire breakwater structure as a “no swimming zone.” The cabling and anchoring system that holds the breakwater structure in place represents an underwater hazard that makes swimming unsafe near the breakwater. The “no swimming zone” in the balance of the bay would also be removed.
Boundaries of the existing “public swimming zone” at Shadehill Reservoir in Perkins County would be amended to now include the waters fronting on the north side of the reservoir beginning 150 feet from shore directly in front of the picnic shelter and extending 250 feet to the east along the shoreline. A boat ramp was installed several years ago on the east side of the swim beach. The beach no longer has a bathhouse associated with it, thus the need for a more accurate zoning description. The proposed changes would also create a buffer zone for people trying to launch boats.
Also at Shadehill Reservoir, the boundaries of the existing “no wake zone” around Ketterlings Point would change. This area has become a popular spot for both swimmers and boaters. The boat ramp sits on the east side of Ketterlings Point and once boaters leave the boat ramp, they tend to travel along Ketterlings Point. Complaints have been received regarding boats, including personal watercraft, that travel too close to people swimming in the water. Most of these vessels are operating outside of the existing “no wake zone” that is set 100 feet from shore. Extending the existing “no wake zone” to 150 feet from shore would serve to better protect swimmers and water enthusiasts from boats that are underway.
The Commission made three changes to rules pertaining to operation of motorboats and watercraft. These changes incorporate federal navigation rules of the road to make them more consistent and complete to line with national standards. GFP rules would be repealed in favor of the federal rules.
Federal regulations have required capacity plates on mono-hull boats less than 20 feet in length (except sailboats, canoes, kayaks and inflatables) since 1972. Unfortunately, there are still many boaters that are not complying with the regulations. Law enforcement officers encounter vessels being operated while overloaded on a regular basis. Additionally, GFP receives numerous calls from the boating public regarding the laws and regulations related to capacity plates on vessels. The adoption of this rule will allow law enforcement to better address overloading instances that occur on the water and enable agency staff to more effectively respond to inquiries from the boating public. At the same time, this regulation will reinforce the importance for the boating public to understand capacity plates, their meaning and the potential safety issues that arise when boats are overloaded. Capacity is based on an established maximum number of people the boat is capable of holding, carrying capacity by weight and horsepower of the boat.
A citizen-initiated proposal was put forth by the Commission to allow that skin of cottontail rabbits, red squirrel or gray squirrel may be offered for sale or purchase. The Commission responded to a request from a taxidermist who pointed out that clients who wanted to mount cottontail rabbits and squirrels were not within current rules. Since cottontail and squirrel are not specifically listed in state law as species that plumage and skin can be sold, a rule would need to be added to allow the exception to make it legal to mount and sell these two game animals the same as is currently allowed for upland game birds.
The Commission also established the 2014 East River and West River Special Buck hunting seasons with no changes from 2013.
West River Special Buck will run in conjunction with the West River Deer hunting season and will have 500 resident and 500 nonresident licenses available. East River Special Buck will run the same time as the East River Deer season with 656 resident licenses available.
These proposed rule changes will be finalized at the March 6-7 GFP Commission meeting, which will be held in Fort Pierre at the Holiday Inn Express.
Rule proposals may be reviewed and public comments submitted through the South Dakota Administrative rules website at https://rules.sd.gov/default.aspx by clicking on Game, Fish and Parks.
In addition, individuals may comment on any of the proposals by sending a letter to South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission, 523 E. Capitol Ave., Pierre, S.D. 57501.
Comments on proposals will be taken until 5 p.m. CST March 5. To be included in the public record, please include your full name and city of residence.
For those who would like to comment in person on these proposed rule changes, the GFP Commission will host a public hearing beginning at 2 p.m. CST on Thursday, March 6, as part of their meeting.