The calendar turns over this Wednesday.
Before we celebrate the new year, we outdoors enthusiasts have a few details we must attend to — details that will keep us out of trouble.
First, most of us will need to purchase new hunting, fishing and trapping licenses.
West Virginia’s duck and goose seasons won’t end until Jan. 31. The squirrel and grouse seasons continue until Feb. 29. The bulk of the trapping season extends to Feb. 29, and the beaver-trapping season won’t end until March 31.
Those aren’t the only ones.
The Mountaineer Heritage Season — a deer- and bear-hunting season for primitive-weapons enthusiasts — is scheduled for Jan. 9-12. An extended wild boar season, for firearms and archery, will be held Feb. 7-9.
And, of course, West Virginia’s fishing seasons extend year-round, so anyone hoping to kick the new year off with a quick trout- or muskie-fishing trip will need a 2020 license.
With all those things in mind, Division of Natural Resources officials have launched a promotion they hope will encourage people to buy licenses.
From now through Dec. 31, anyone who purchases a 2020 sportsman license (hunting, fishing and trapping combined) will have a chance to win a free lifetime hunting and fishing license.
The licenses may be purchased at participating retailers, or online at wvhunt.com. Everyone who purchases a license will automatically be entered in the contest.
Anglers who venture out on or after New Year’s Day should be aware that a few fishing regulations have changed.
First and foremost, anglers on several popular West Virginia trout streams will no longer be allowed to use minnows as bait. In fact, they won’t be able to use any sort of fish as bait.
The idea behind the new regulation is simple: to protect the endangered candy darter, a small bottom-dwelling fish.
Eight major streams and all their tributaries will be affected. The list of major streams includes the East and West Forks of the Greenbrier River; the Gauley River upstream from Curtin Bridge; the Cherry, Cranberry and Williams rivers; Camp Creek and Manns Creek.
On those streams, the only fish legal to keep will be trout and other game fish. Non-game species (suckers, darters, sculpins, minnows, etc.) will be off-limits.
Walleye regulations are changing, too.
On the Elk River upstream from Sutton Dam, and on the Gauley River upstream from Summersville Lake, a 20- to 30-inch slot limit will be in effect. Anglers will be able to keep two fish per day. Both must fall outside the 20- to 30-inch slot, and only one can be longer than 30 inches.
The same regulation will go into effect Jan. 1 on all tributaries of the following rivers: Bluestone, Coal, Elk, Greenbrier, Gauley, Kanawha (upstream of Winfield Dam) and New.
The new year also brings a new creel limit for Ohio River walleye, sauger and saugeye. Because anglers often mistake one species for the other, officials are implementing a 6-fish daily aggregate limit for all three. Only two of the six fish can be walleye, and both must measure at least 18 inches in length.
Also, the creel limit for muskie, tiger muskie, northern pike and pickerel will be reduced to one fish a day; the length limit for tiger muskie will be set at 30 inches;
And a four-fish, 15-inch minimum aggregate limit will go into place for hybrid, white and striped bass at Bluestone, Beech Fork and R.D. Bailey lakes.