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Archive for the ‘Fishing’ Category

Bullfrog season runs April 15-Dec. 15 each year.

Bullfrog season runs April 15-Dec. 15 each year. Photo by Mike Wintroath.

April 15 marks one of the most stressful deadlines in America – tax day. It also marks the kickoff to one of the most exciting summer pursuits in Arkansas bayous, the opening of bullfrog season.
Bullfrogs can be found across Arkansas, but the heaviest concentrations usually are found along the many ponds, slow-moving streams and fish farms in the east half of the state. It may take some door-knocking and asking for permission, but many small, private ponds can prove worth the effort once you break out the gigging gear.

Fish farms and small private ponds make up the bulk of Arkansas's frog hunting destinations. Photo by Mike Wintroath.

Fish farms and small private ponds make up the bulk of Arkansas’s frog hunting destinations. Photo by Mike Wintroath.

Some froggers don waders or rubber boots to ease along the banks as quietly as possible, but many slide silently along in an aluminum johnboat or kayak, using only an electric trolling motor or a sculling paddle to get close to the easily spooked amphibians.
It’s possible to sneak up on a frog or two during the day, but the real action takes place at night, when spotlights and headlamps come into play. The reflective eyes of bullfrogs will shine brightly at the water’s edge, and the beam will daze the frog enough that a careful sneak can get you within arm’s reach. Then a fast stab with a gig or a quick grab of the hands will nab the fat frog before it can hop or swim away.
It’s usually a good idea to scan the bushes along the banks before making an approach on a frog as well. Plenty of spiders set up shop along the shore’s edge to catch their prey, and the webs can be a bit of a nuisance. More than one snake also has fallen into an unsuspecting frog gigger’s johnboat, causing him to nearly walk on water trying to get to the shore. Most water snakes are harmless and should be left alone, but that doesn’t make you feel any safer when they slide off a branch and thump down in the bottom of your boat.

A long gigging pole comes in handy when chasing frogs from a boat. Photo by Mike Wintroath.

A long gigging pole comes in handy when chasing frogs from a boat. Photo by Mike Wintroath.

Gigging frogs is more akin to hunting than angling, but participants need an Arkansas fishing license to participate. The limit is 18 bullfrogs per day, which runs from noon to noon. Along with grabbing them by hand and gigging, frogs may be taken by hand net, hook-and-line, spear or bow and arrow. Firearms and air guns may not be used.
Most folks who fry up a mess of frog’s legs may use the old “tastes like chicken” phrase to get a newcomer to try the delicacy. It usually doesn’t take any further prodding to get someone to eat more once they’ve tried them. Col. Sanders can’t compete with the tenderness and flavor of fresh frog’s legs done right.

 

 

 

 

Frog giggers may take up to 18 frogs per night and must have a valid fishing license. Photo by Mike Wintroath.

Frog giggers may take up to 18 frogs per night and must have a valid fishing license. Photo by Mike Wintroath.

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The tailwater below Greers Ferry Dam was home to the world-record brown trout for nearly two decades. Just because that record was broken doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of big fish and big action to be had on the Little Red River. Check out this “Talkin’ Outdoors” segment of anglers chasing the big bite on the Little Red.

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Adult zebra mussels up to 2 inches wide were found on a pontoon boat before it could be transported to Norfork Lake.

Adult zebra mussels up to 2 inches wide were found on a pontoon boat before it could be transported to Norfork Lake.


 

Thanks to the sharp eyes of a marina and boat transport service, Arkansas Game and Fish Biologists intercepted a vessel carrying hundreds of invasive zebra mussels on Jan. 6, 2016, before it could be launched in Norfork Lake.

Jeremy Risley, district fisheries supervisor for the AGFC said the boat had been housed in a marina slip at Bull Shoals, which has been infested with zebra mussels since 2007.

“The owner of the boat had just purchased it and had contracted the marina to move it to Norfork,” Risley said. “When the men who worked for the marina saw what they thought were zebra mussels on the boat, they called us to come out and inspect it.”

zebra mussels cause millions of dollars in damage each year to water intake structures and boats throughout the United States.

zebra mussels cause millions of dollars in damage each year to water intake structures and boats throughout the United States.

Upon inspection, the boat had many adult zebra mussels attached to its hull, motor and in its bilge area. Some of the mussels were as large as 2 inches. All zebra mussels will be removed from the boat and the vessel will require power washing and a 30-day drying period and final inspection before the boat can be launched into Norfork Lake.

To date, there have been no confirmed sightings of zebra mussels in Norfork Lake, Table Rock Lake or Beaver Lake, but the zebra mussels in Bull Shoals Lake saw a large population increase in 2014 and 2015. One adult female can produce between 10,000 and 50,000 larvae (called veligers) each time it spawns, and the species can spawn up to 5 times per year. It is still unclear how zebra mussel infestations will impact the overall health of the fishery, but they can cause native mussel populations to decline and cause serious damage to water intake pipes and other equipment left in the water. A report by the U.S. Department of State in 2009 estimated the total cost in the United States of the zebra mussel infestation from 2010 to 2020 at $3.1 billion.

“I really want to say thank you to the men who spotted the zebra mussels and called them in,” Risley said. “Any time you see something like this that doesn’t look right, it’s always best to ask for help to make sure you’re doing the right thing.”

Visit cleandraindry.org to learn how you can help stop zebra mussels and other invasive species.

Visit cleandraindry.org to learn how you can help stop zebra mussels and other invasive species.

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Old Christmas trees are ideal cover for many species of game fish.

Old Christmas trees are ideal cover for many species of game fish.

Once the wrapping paper has been thrown away and the last drop of egg nog has been consumed, few people have a use for that evergreen tree that graced their home during the holiday season. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has a new job for those leftover trees – as fish habitat.

The AGFC has drop-off locations across the state to let your old Christmas tree have a second life as underwater cover.

Jason Olive, AGFC assistant chief of fisheries, says the small spaces and dense cover offered by fresh Christmas trees make excellent nursery habitat for small fish.

Christmas trees at AGFC drop-off locations are available for any angler to sink.

Christmas trees at AGFC drop-off locations are available for any angler to sink.

“In ponds where we’ve sunk Christmas trees, we’ve seen increased growth in smaller fish,” said Olive. “Young bass, crappie and bream and baitfish all benefit from the cover, and larger gamefish will be attracted to the smaller fish.”

Anglers are welcome to remove trees from drop-off locations to create their own fish attractors. Olive suggests using parachute cord and cinder blocks to weigh trees down.

“Sink groups of Christmas trees together,” said Olive. “Within two to three years, you won’t have much left except the trunks, but when we drained Lower White Oak Lake in Ouachita County recently, we saw several nice piles of Christmas tree trunks that were still good fish habitat after 12 years of being in the water.”

Trees should be clean of all ornaments, lights and tinsel before they are dropped off. Artificial Christmas trees should not be used as fish habitat, either.

Trees can be dropped off at any of the following locations until the end of January:

Central Arkansas

  • Arkansas River – Alltel Access beneath the I-30 Bridge.
  • Greers Ferry Lake – Sandy Beach (Heber Springs), Devils Fork Recreation Area and Choctaw Recreation Area (Choctaw-Clinton).
  • Lake Conway – Lawrence Landing Access.
  • Harris Brake Lake – Chittman Hill Access.
  • Lake Overcup – Lake Overcup Landing.
  • Lake Barnett – Reed Access.
  • Lake Hamilton – Andrew Hulsey State Fish Hatchery Access Area.

Northeast Arkansas

  • Jonesboro – Craighead Forest Park Lake boat ramp.
  • Lake Dunn – Boat Ramp Access.
  • Lake Poinsett – Dam Access Boat Ramp.

Northwest Arkansas

  • Beaver Lake – Highway 12 Access and AGFC Don Roufa Hwy 412 Access.
  • Lake Elmdale – Boat Ramp Access.
  • Bob Kidd Lake – Boat Ramp Access.
  • Crystal Lake – Boat Ramp Access.

Southeast Arkansas

  • Lake Chicot – Connerly Bayou Access Area.
  • Cox Creek Lake – Cox Creek Lake Access Area.

Southwest Arkansas

  • Bois d’Arc Lake – Kidd’s Landing or Hatfield Access.
  • Millwood Lake – Cottonshed, White Cliffs Recreation Areas and the Millwood State Park ramp on the point.
  • Dierks Lake – Jefferson Ridge South Recreation Area.
  • DeQueen Lake – Any U.S. Army Corps of Engineers boat ramp.
  • Gillham Lake – Any U.S. Army Corps of Engineers boat ramp.
  • Lake Greeson – New Cowhide Cove and Self Creek Recreation Areas.
  • Camden – AGFC Regional Office on Ben Lane.
  • Upper White Oak Lake – Upper Jack’s Landing.
  • Magnolia – Columbia County Road Department Yard on Highway 371.
  • El Dorado – City recycling center drop-offs: one behind Arby’s and one on South Jackson.
  • Smackover – Recycling Drop-Off Center (these will be transported to El Dorado).
  • South Fork Lake – South Fork Lake Access.
  • Terre Noire Lake – Terre Noire Lake Access.

 

Sink Christmas trees in bundles, so the pile of trunks can attract fish long after the branches have rotted away.

Sink Christmas trees in bundles, so the pile of trunks can attract fish long after the branches have rotted away.

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Watch how Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Biologists search for and research one of Arkansas’s oldest fish species. The alligator gar has been found in fossil records dating back 100 million years. These giant gar are becoming less common in The Natural State, and biologists are working to keep the species swimming in Arkansas waters.

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The Forrest Wood Cup is coming to Lake Ouachita, August 20-23.

The Forrest Wood Cup is coming to Lake Ouachita, August 20-23.

Fifty of the best bass anglers in the world will converge on Hot Springs, Aug. 20-23, to participate in the Forrest Wood Cup, the championship event for the FLW bass fishing tour. Aside from local amenities for fans and anglers to enjoy, Hot Springs has a lot to offer in the way of its fisheries.

Lake Ouachita boasts more than 970 miles of shoreline from the upper reaches of the Ouachita River to Blakely Mountain Dam. Ravines, islands and creeks add plenty of nooks and crannies for anglers to get away from crowds and find a few hidden gems. More than 40,000 acres of clear, blue surface water cover rocky bluffs, flooded forests of 100-foot tall trees and submerged vegetation.
“A lot of anglers who have fished here before will remember the deep aquatic vegetation,” said Brett Hobbs, district fisheries supervisor for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. “But the vegetation saw a large die off about six years ago.”
Hobbs said the vegetation is beginning to come back in some areas, particularly the Rabbittail and Cedar Fourche areas on the north shore of the lake.
“Both of those areas have a pretty good mix of hydrilla and Eurasian water milfoil,” Hobbs said. “Big Blakely Creek on the far northeast side of the lake has a lot of hydrilla and some coontail, as well.”
These aren’t the only possible areas to find vegetation and anglers who locate a patch or two away from the crowd may have found a gold mine.
In addition to all the natural cover and structure, the AGFC worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Arkansas Black Bass Coalition to place dozens of brush piles throughout the lake in prime locations to congregate bass, crappie and other sport fish. Anglers can visit www.agfc.com, click the interactive map link to zoom into Ouachita and locate the blue fish attractor icons. GPS coordinates are available to download through the map’s tools icons in the top right corner of the screen.
“Most of those brush piles were cedar trees placed in the North Fork arm and around mid-lake,” Hobbs said. “I fully expect a few tournament fish to come from some of these deeper brush piles.”
How deep is too deep? Hobbs has some advice about that, too.
“I recently completed a dissolved oxygen profile on the lake, and across the lake, once you hit 21 to 22 feet, there isn’t enough dissolved oxygen to sustain many fish,” Hobbs said. “Black basses should be holding near the thermocline, but may be located early in the morning feeding in the shallows or chasing shad at the surface at any time.”
Other than submerged vegetation, the Rabbittail area might have another X-factor for anglers – a little boost of Florida bass genetics. As part of a strategic management plan, Florida-strain largemouths were stocked from 2007 to 2014 in this area of the lake.
“This was something black bass anglers requested,” Hobbs said.
While the jury is still out on whether the stockings will have any effect on Lake Ouachita bass, it’s worthy to note that the first of those stockings are now seven years old.
“It will be interesting to see if we were able to get some of those Florida-strain genes in the bass population at Ouachita,” Hobbs said.
The lake isn’t just an angling paradise, it’s a great destination for wildlife watchers as well. The Lake Ouachita Vista Trail offers 45 miles of mountain biking and hiking paths on the south side of the lake, stretching from a trailhead at Avery Recreation Area below Blakely Mountain Dam. There’s also a special 1.25-mile watchable wildlife loop with an elevated boardwalk that is Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible at Denby Bay. For more information, visit www.lakeouachitavistatrail.com.
Be sure to visit http://www.flwfishing.com/tournaments/2015-08-20-forrest-wood-cup for a list of events scheduled around the Forrest Wood Cup, including what could be the largest FLW fishing expo ever.

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See how the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission produces more than 1 million trout per year for stocking into state waterways at the AGFC’s Jim Hinkle Spring River Fish Hatchery at Mammoth Spring.
On the YouTube channel, you’ll also find everything from interviews with first time deer hunters, to tailwater trout fishing, to elk viewing in the Boxley Valley, to Mississippi River catfishing as well as the agency’s 100th anniversary tribute “A Century of Conservation.”
Be sure to subscribe to the channel, so you’ll be notified whenever a new video is posted.

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