Archives for March 2019

ATU, AGFC Study Little-Known Fish Species

Researchers at Arkansas Tech University are working with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission to learn more about the habits of sauger swimming in the Arkansas River.

If you just had a curious look on your face after reading the word “sauger,” you’re probably not alone.

The sauger is a species of fish that is a cousin of the walleye, which is known for its fantastic flavor. While sauger and walleye have followings as large as crappie and bass angling up North and in the Midwest, they are pursued by a relatively small group of anglers in the southern states they inhabit. The Arkansas River holds the largest population of sauger in the state, but few anglers know much about the species.

“I occasionally get photos from anglers asking what the fish was that a person caught in the river while fishing for crappie and bass,” says Frank Leone, fisheries supervisor at the AGFC’s Russellville regional office. “Most of the time, people will ask if it’s a snakehead, and I have to explain to them that it’s not only a native fish, but a good one at that.”

The comparison may be a fair assessment to people who have seen neither but only heard descriptions of the invasive snakehead. Both have a mottled brown and bronze coloration and both have teeth, but that’s where the similarity stops. Sauger are much more streamlined than snakeheads, have peg-like teeth instead of the snakehead’s sharper triangular teeth.

Perhaps the reason for the lack of the species’ popularity comes from the relatively short window when anglers are truly able to pursue them. Each winter, sauger move upstream in the Arkansas River to find rocky, shallow areas to spawn. The many dams along the river that keep navigation open for commercial and recreational traffic hinder their progress, forcing most to congregate and spawn along the rocks just below each lock and dam. Grizzled old-school anglers have learned this pattern, and will walk to these riprap-covered areas to cast crappie jigs, minnows and other offerings when the current is right to collect some sauger for a midwinter fish fry.

But outside of the spawning cycle, no one really knows what happens to these mysterious fish on the Arkansas River.

That’s where Arkansas Tech Graduate Student Peter Leonard comes in.

He has been working under Dr. John Jackson, head of the ATU Department of Biological Sciences and professor of fisheries science, to track Arkansas River sauger throughout the seasons to learn more about the species. Leonard has worked with Leone on two studies concerning the species to help fill in the voids regarding the species’ use of habitat throughout the year and angling effort directed at sauger.

“The exploitation study was conducted using tags on fish collected during the spawning run of 2017,” Leonard said. “We caught sauger when they were concentrated, placed reward tags on the fish and released them. Anglers who caught the fish later could call the phone number on the tag and receive a cash prize for their catch.”

Leone says tag and recapture studies are used fairly often in fisheries work to determine how many fish anglers catch and keep from a population.

“If you have a certain amount of tags on fish, and anglers turn in a certain percentage, then you can use that to figure the rate of fish being caught,” Leone said. “While they are on the phone, we ask a few questions about where it was caught, if they kept the fish and if they were targeting that species, in particular, to give us a better picture of what’s going on out on the water.”

According to Leonard, 340 tagged fish were released below the dam that separates Lake Dardanelle and pool nine of the Arkansas River and below Ozark dam at the upper end of Lake Dardanelle early last spring.

“We have had very few tag returns so far, telling us that the exploitation rate for sauger last year was very low,” Leonard said.

Leone added that although the last two years saw high flows that could have disrupted angling effort, the results of the tag returns reinforce much of the anecdotal evidence he has had over the years that recreational fishing pressure has very little impact on sauger populations in the river.

“Flow rates are just something you have to deal with any time you study an aspect of a river fishery,” Leone said. “It’s part of the natural world, so you have to be prepared for events that are outside of your control.”

One interesting finding during the tag returns was the extreme distance from the release point in which some anglers found tagged fish.

“Most of our tag returns have come from below Barling dam above the next pool upstream from Dardanelle,” Leonard said. “In some cases the fish moved through two lock and dam systems to get to that destination.”

The second part of Leonard’s research reinforced some of those findings. In addition to fish with reward tags, researchers implanted special acoustic transmitters into sauger caught below Ozark dam and tracked the signals throughout the year to keep an eye on where the fish spent their time outside of the spawn.

“You rarely hear about people targeting sauger, but never hear about it any time other than winter,” Leone said. “So we wanted to learn where these fish went during the rest of the year to see if there were any habitats they relied on that we needed to keep in mind for conservation work.”

The telemetry equipment used in the research is very similar to sonar, but keys in on a specific frequency unique to each transmitter.

“We tracked individual fish as they moved around in the system,” Leonard said. “Most would stay within about 15 miles of where they were released, but a few travelled more than 100 miles upstream during the course of the year.”

Leone and Leonard agreed that, for the most part, sauger remained in the open river habitat, relying on current breaks in deeper, fast-moving sections when they are not concentrated for the spawn, which explains why few anglers find them outside of that window.

“Bass, crappie and other species most anglers are targeting will move to areas out of the current, so most of our anglers aren’t fishing where the sauger live long enough to have an appreciable catch rate.”

Leonard still has some data to compile for the study, and hopes to complete his thesis work on the project soon.

“We will go back and analyze the findings to determine fine-scale habitat types to recreate and protect once the study is complete and has been reviewed,” said Leone.

This article was written by Randy Zellers, assistant chief of communications for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

Early Registration Begins March 25

The Office of the Registrar has announced the schedule by which current students may register for 2019 summer, fall and winter intersession classes at Arkansas Tech University.

Early registration is for currently enrolled students based on the number of credit hours earned prior to the start of the current semester. Students must consult with their advisor before registering in classes. Appointment schedules are posted near advisors’ offices.

Distance learners and night students should contact their advisors to discuss the process for registration.

Students currently enrolled for the spring 2019 semester may register according to the following schedule:

  • Monday, March 25: All graduate students and undergraduate students with 90 or more earned hours
  • Thursday, March 28: 55-to-89 earned hours
  • Monday, April 1: 26-to-54 earned hours
  • Wednesday, April 10: 17-to-25 earned hours
  • Wednesday, April 17: 16 or fewer hours

Registration instructions, registration and academic calendars as well as other helpful information such as graduation information and the end of course exam schedule are available at http://www.atu.edu/registrar/.

A.C.A 6-60-105 (formerly Act 852) requires each four-year, state-supported institution of higher education and each two-year, state-supported institution of higher education to provide each student with electronic access to the following information annually before the student registers for classes:

  • The top 25 percent of certificates and degrees reported by the institution in terms of the highest full-time job placement and highest average annual earnings in the year after certificate or degree completion; and
  • The bottom 10 percent of certificates and degrees reported by the institution in terms of the lowest full-time job placement and lowest average annual earnings in the year after certificate or degree completion.

View Arkansas Tech University’s summary.

This report does not include ATU graduates who are employed by the federal government or military, who are self-employed or who are employed outside of the State of Arkansas. As such, this report should not be used to calculate or assume unemployment rates.

View the full report from the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services.

Brass Faculty to Perform March 26

Clayton Maddox, Evan Mino and Dr. Sean Reed, faculty members in the Arkansas Tech University Department of Music, will offer a brass recital on Tuesday, March 26.

The performance will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Witherspoon Hall, 407 West Q Street in Russellville. Admission will be free and open to the public.

Maddox and Mino are visiting lecturers of music at ATU, while Reed holds the rank of associate professor of music.

Maddox will play the tuba during the March 26 recital. Mino’s instrument of choice will be the horn, and Reed will perform on trombone. They will be accompanied by piano players Dr. Tim Smith and Kimiko Yamada.

Pieces scheduled for performance include compositions by Michael Baker, Luciano Berio, Vitaly Buyanovsky, Michael Davis, Eric Ewazen, James Grant, Peter Meechan and Charles Small.

The evening will conclude with Maddox, Mino and Reed performing Ewazen’s “Eaglehawk” as a trio.

Visit www.atu.edu/music to learn more about the ATU Department of Music.

Lip Sync Battle Scheduled for March 27

Arkansas Tech University students will let the star inside them shine during the second annual lip sync battle presented by ATU Student Activities Board on Wednesday, March 27.

The event will begin at 7 p.m. in Witherspoon Auditorium. Admission will be free with a valid ATU identification card.

LaBrian Phillips won the inaugural competition in 2018. The team Game of Tones captured the runner-up prize.

Learn more about the 2019 ATU lip sync battle.

Robson to Bring Slam Poetry to ATU March 26

Arkansas Tech University Student Activities Board will present an evening with Carlos Robson on Tuesday, March 26, at Baswell Techionery.

The event will begin at 7 p.m. Admission will be free with a valid ATU identification card.

Robson is a spoken word poet, playwright and teaching artist.

He has competed in local, regional, national and international slam poetry competitions. Robson won the national poetry slam championship in 2007 and 2008 as a member of the North Carolina-based team SlamCharlotte.