Archive for the ‘Fishing’ Category

Life jackets ticket to sweet rewards

Kids wearing life jackets on boats at Greers Ferry lakeLITTLE ROCK – Wildlife officers throughout Arkansas will be looking to hand out some of the sweetest citations an angler could ask for this summer. Thanks to Sonic Drive In, AGFC wildlife officers will be armed with 10,000 special “ice cream citations” for youths on Arkansas waters when they’re caught wearing their life jackets.

According to AGFC Boating Law Administrator Stephanie Weatherington, these special tickets entitle youth who receive them to a small ice cream cone from their local Sonic restaurant.

“We’ve been able to offer this program for the last six years,” Weatherington said. “Some officers have a few already, and we’ll really ramp things up as we get closer to Independence Day weekend.”

Weatherington says adults with those kids may even get a special citation if the wildlife officer sees them leading by example.

“It’s important that everyone wears a life jacket,” Weatherington says. “Even people who think they can swim well can fall victim to drowning if they are tossed overboard far from shore or fall into the water unconscious.”

Many people drown because they fall out of a boat and are not wearing a fitted life jacket, Weatherington says.

“Some don’t believe they need one because they can swim. Others may wear one that has dry rot or is not the right size. The most important thing about riding in a boat is to wear a life jacket,” she said. “By law, anyone 12 or younger must wear a life jacket while in a boat. Also, all vessels must have at least one approved, wearable life jacket for every person on board. There must also be a throwable device on any vessel 16 feet or longer,” she explained. “We hope this will also encourage the parents to also wear their life jacket, so everyone can have great memories of a day on the water,” Weatherington added.

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vilonia fishing derby

Free fishing derbies will be available at all AGFC hatcheries on Saturday, June 9 for all youth 15 and younger.

LITTLE ROCK – From noon Friday, June 8, through midnight Sunday night, June 10, no angler will need a fishing license or trout permit to fish anywhere in Arkansas. 

An annual tradition sponsored by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and approved by Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Free Fishing Days furnishes many people the opportunity to enjoy the amazing angling The Natural State has to offer.

“Recruiting the next generation of anglers is always at the front of our list,” said AGFC Director Pat Fitts. “Free Fishing Weekend is a great way for every Arkansan to help us in this effort by bringing along a friend of family member to give fishing a try.” 

Fitts says an annual fishing license is only $10.50, but the additional act of needing the license can be a barrier to trying out angling for the first time or for people who only want to go once or twice a year. 

“Sometimes just making the extra stop to a sporting goods store or purchasing a license (at http://www.agfc.com) may intimidate people from giving this great thing we call the outdoors a chance,” Fitts said. “Free Fishing Weekend is a great time to get everyone out and enjoy all the work we do for them throughout the state.”

Fitts says the weekend also is great for parents with kids who want to learn how to fish.

“People under 16 don’t need a license any time, but parents don’t want to pay the extra money for a license to find out if their kids will enjoy fishing,” Fitts said. “Make it a fun family outing and you may just find out that it will be the best $10.50 you’ve ever spent to increase family time.”

If you’re looking to get the kids on a near sure-thing fishing experience, Batten also suggests visiting one of the AGFC’s five fish hatcheries from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., June 9.

“Each hatchery puts on a fishing derby the Saturday during Free Fishing Weekend,” Fitts said. “What better place to try and catch some fish than where we grow them?”

This year, all hatchery derbies will be held for anglers 15 and under. Each child must be supervised by an adult. Kids may catch and keep up to three catfish (or three trout at the Jim Hinkle Spring River State Fish Hatchery). In addition to fishing fun, participants also will be able to compete in casting contests and win prizes for fish caught.

Contact the hatchery nearest you for details on its derby:

  • Andrew Hulsey State Fish Hatchery, Hot Springs, 877-525-8606
  • Charlie Craig State Fish Hatchery, Centerton, 877-795-2470
  • William Donham State Fish Hatchery, Corning, 877-857-3876
  • Joe Hogan State Fish Hatchery, Lonoke, 877-676-6963
  • Jim Hinkle Spring River State Fish Hatchery, Mammoth Spring, 877-625-7521.

Visit https://drive.google.com/file/d/1EyRRaJ9VnUTkXsCAzPdacR1F1WaE7NUo/view for information on other fishing derbies around the state.

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Blue CatfishJONESBORO – The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Family and Community Fishing Program has added more access to fishing for northeast Arkansas residents. ASU Pond, south of Centennial Bank Stadium on the campus of Arkansas State University, will be stocked monthly a minimum of eight times a year as part of the program, according to FCFP director Maurice Jackson.

“It was three years in the making to get that location,” Jackson said. “It’s the only Family and Community pond without restrictions in this area, which means that anyone can fish it regardless of age.”

The AGFC also stocks a pond at the Forrest L. Wood Crowley’s Ridge Nature Center, but the fishing is restricted to children under 16, seniors and the disabled. “Once a teenager turns 16, he or she can’t fish there anymore. Arkansas State University has over 14,000 students, so it will be a great opportunity for the students as well as the city.”

The pond is about 3-5 acres in size and the AGFC will stock 1,000 fish a month. Between March and October, the species is catfish that are grown in Corning at the Wm. H. Donham Hatchery. From November to February, the fish stocked will be trout raised at the Jim Hinkle/Spring River Hatchery in Mammoth Spring.

Jackson said a special Family and Community Fishing Program event is being planned for November following the first trout stocking. The first catfish stocking was Thursday, April 19.

The Jonesboro addition to the FCFP pond and lake roster is the second in the past month. In March, the program added White Hall Community Pond in southeast Arkansas to the lineup. Its size is similar to the Jonesboro pond, and Jackson said it replaces the Pine Bluff Regional Park pond stockings, which were halted due to the pond leaking.

“This is a great addition for Jefferson County,” Jackson said of adding the White Hall pond. “It’s right on the city limits with Pine Bluff, it’s that close. It is also a nonrestricted lake where everyone can fish.”

The White Hall pond will be stocked monthly beginning in May with 500 catfish, and trout will be stocked in place of catfish from November to February. Like Jonesboro, the pond will get a minimum of eight stockings a year, Jackson said. White Hall Community Pond “is on the radar” to have a special event marking its inclusion on the Family and Community Fishing Program stockings. Jefferson County is also served by the Martin Luther King Jr. Pond in Pine Bluff, which hosts several events with the AGFC’s help.

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MARIANNA – Much needed repairs to the boat ramp at Bear Creek Lake in Lee County may put a damper on some fishing plans this spring. Contractors working with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission will be renovating the boat ramp on the east side of the dam, which will require the ramp to be closed for roughly six weeks, beginning Monday.

Justin Homan, AGFC fisheries supervisor out of the Brinkley Regional Office, says the repairs have come at a bad time for anglers this year, but are necessary to continue offering access to this treasure of east Arkansas. The previous ramp had many cracks and seams at the bottom end of the ramp that made launching a boat very difficult and hazardous to trailers, particularly during low water levels.

Owned by the U.S. Forest Service, Bear Creek Lake has a 9.9 maximum horsepower limit. Owners of boats with motors larger than this must disable the motors to be able to fish on the lake. Despite this restriction, Bear Creek is seen by many area anglers as a hot spot for bream and bass.

“We had a local bass tournament that took a 23-pound five-fish limit to win,” Homan said. “I plan on breaking out my jon boat and 3 hp motor myself to make sure I don’t miss out on some great bluegill and redear fishing that’s coming up.”

Homan says anglers willing to launch a smaller boat or kayak will still be able to access the lake, and Mississippi River State Park rents out kayaks and aluminum boats with trolling motors that people could use if they don’t own one.

“The timing of the closure is unfortunate, but with a little creative thinking, some resourceful anglers are likely to cash in on some fantastic fishing,” Homan said. “Hopefully the ramp will reopen in time to cash in on the bream spawn in early summer.”

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02212018taggedcrappieHUGHES – Horseshoe Lake, an oxbow once part of the Mississippi River in eastern Arkansas, has long been noted for good crappie production, but recent studies have shown a mostly smaller, younger fish population. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is in the second year of a project to determine the cause of crappie mortality, and anglers can help.

The AGFC has placed reward tags on many crappie, with each tag being worth anywhere from $5 to $100, according to Justin Homan, an AGFC district supervisor in Brinkley. Anglers who catch a tagged crappie can report the tag to the AGFC claim the reward value. After removing the tag, they may keep the fish or release it, whichever they would normally do.

Results from the tag returns will help fisheries biologists determine if the low numbers of large, older crappie in the lake are the result of angler harvest or natural causes, Homan said.

“The sampling we’ve done the last two years, what we’ve seen is, we’re having good catch rates, catching a lot of fish from Horseshoe Lake, but we’re not seeing the bigger fish in our samples,” Homan said. “There appears to be very few fish age 3 and over, of the ones we’ve sampled. There are a lot of smaller fish. Most of the fish are 1 or 2 years old. We think they are just not surviving long enough to grow into a larger fish.

“Through the crappie management plan and our sampling, it’s led us to look at angler harvest,” Homan said.

Determining catch rates by anglers will help determine what the AGFC does next at Horseshoe Lake in terms of crappie management. Currently, the daily creel limit on Horseshoe Lake is 50 crappie, a figure that has been in effect for several years at Horseshoe Lake and between the levees of the Mississippi River. When that limit was established at Horseshoe Lake, crappie were considered overcrowded.

Numbers from sampling have indicated that  60 percent of the lake’s crappie will die before age 2, and 60 percent of those surviving fish will not reach age 3.

“We want the anglers to report the tags and send them in,” Homan said. “We’ll want to know, did you harvest it or throw it back? Answers to these questions will help us plan a course of action to improve the crappie size in the fishery.”

Similar angler sampling programs have been used on such lakes as Harris Brake and at Craig D. Campbell Lake Conway Reservoir, he said.

The AGFC provides a public ramp access to Horseshoe Lake on its western end. Horseshoe Lake is accessible off U.S. Highway 79 at Hughes by taking Arkansas Highway 38 east to Arkansas 147, which runs alongside the west and northwest portion of the lake. Highway 147 also runs due north to Interstate 40, just west of West Memphis.02212018taggedcrappie

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02212018atipHOT SPRINGS – Anglers looking for the next place to take a fishing trip can narrow their search to some of Arkansas’s best bass waters with a quick visit to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Black Bass Program web page.

The Black Bass Program works with bass fishing clubs and tournament circuits across the state to gather tournament results throughout the year. The information is then compiled into a single report that ranks bodies of water according to certain criteria.

Percentage of anglers who catch a weighable bass, average weights, number of bass per day, pounds of bass per day and average angler hours to catch a 5-lb. or larger bass are all indicated in the report.

Jeff Buckingham, assistant black bass program coordinator for the AGFC, says the partnership can provide valuable data to both tournament directors and biologists.

“Angler catch data is already being collected by the tournament officials, it’s just a matter of putting it all together,” Buckingham said. “We can use this in addition to the data we gather through our sampling efforts to see some interesting trends.”

Buckingham says one trend that becomes apparent after looking at decades-worth of data is that anglers are getting much better at catching more and bigger bass during tournaments.

“The percent of anglers who weigh-in a bass, weight per angler and overall average weights have increased steadily over the years the program has been in place,” Buckingham said.

The report also offers tournament directors valuable insight on lakes as they build their yearly schedules. Lakes with high average weights and lakes with high angler success typically mean happy anglers, so an obvious approach is to focus on the lakes that rank high in those areas. A little deeper digging in the report also can yield some good information.

“Some tournament directors want to fish on lakes that don’t receive a lot of pressure,” Buckingham said. “All lakes receiving reports, even if it’s only one, are listed in the final report in addition to the top-ranked lakes. From this a director can get an idea of how many tournaments were there.”

The months in which tournaments are held also are ranked, to help directors schedule tournaments during times when catch rates and weights will be highest. Last year, December, February and March scored as the top three months for holding tournaments, while September and October, months when many clubs try to hold championships, scored very poorly.

Buckingham says that participation in the program has grown during the last few years, but there’s room for every bass fishing club in the state to submit their data as well.

“The more data we have, the more complete the information will be,” Buckingham said. “And participating is as simple as filling in a card or an online form with the weights and numbers you’re already writing down to conduct the tournament. You can even enter it right there from your phone.”

Contact Buckingham at Jeffrey.buckingham@agfc.ar.gov, call 877-525-8606 or visit www.agfc.com/atip for more information on how to participate in the Arkansas Tournament Information Program and a list of recent ATIP summary reports.

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