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Sixth graders, teachers, parents and high-school volunteers from Vilonia all enjoyed a day of outdoor learning at the Camp Robinson Firing Range in Mayflower Tuesday, May 10.

Sixth graders, teachers, parents and high-school volunteers from Vilonia all enjoyed a day of outdoor learning at the Camp Robinson Firing Range in Mayflower Tuesday, May 10.

Nearly 270 sixth-grade students from Frank Mitchell Intermediate School in Vilonia were the first anglers to enjoy the latest improvement to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s shooting range in Mayflower at their annual fishing derby Tuesday.

Jodi Brewer, a sixth grade teacher at the school who coordinates the derby with the AGFC’s Hooked on Fishing-Not on Drugs program, said the derby continues to improve each year.

“I remember fishing in a derby when I went to Vilonia, but it went away for a while,” Brewer said. “We started it back up about five years ago and have had the event ever since.”

Brewer says restarting the event took a lot of trial and error.

“The first two years, we brought the kids out and just fished with some cane poles,” Brewer said. “During our second year, the kids fished all day and caught maybe four fish and a stick. Some even mentioned that they would have rather been in school. That’s when we called Dawn Cook with HOFNOD to learn how to do it better.”

Cook, HOFNOD coordinator for the AGFC, said she has a lot of schools come to workshops and learn how to keep their students interested during these all day events.

“You have to have a lot of different activities to keep them interested,” Cook said. “But that takes a lot of people and commitment from volunteers.”

Coach Will Black gave students some last-minute reminders about casting before they hit the water.

Coach Will Black gave students some last-minute reminders about casting before they hit the water.

In addition to teachers from the school, close to 100 parents and 25 high school students volunteered to help with the many stations needed to put on the huge event. Some led fun exercises such as scavenger hunts and fish bingo, while others baited hooks, untangled lines and helped release fish. Some parents even set up a cleaning station to filet fish if the students wanted to bring home their catch.

Cook says one of the best things about setting up fishing derbies like this is that all the students stay busy having a good time while they’re learning about different subjects. Those stations disguised as bingo and scavenger hunts actually are teaching the students fish anatomy and regulations. Other stations have more obvious subjects, such as smoking prevention and alcohol and drug abuse awareness.

“All of our HOFNOD materials are aligned with state education frameworks,” Cook said. “So it makes it easier for teachers to meet their needs while letting the kids have some fun.”

The lessons aren’t only crammed into a one-day derby. Teachers at Frank Mitchell Intermediate School present materials from HOFNOD trainings throughout the school year to teach many subjects. Before the students load up on the bus, they’ve had at least a few basic casting lessons in their Physical Education class.

“We have a set of rods and reels for the class to learn on in PE class,” said Will Black, physical education teacher for fifth and sixth grade at Frank Mitchell. “We also spend a lot of time playing a backyard bass game, where students cast at and catch fish-shaped targets to collect points.”

Brewer says the derby also is an excellent team-building exercise for most students.

“We have some kids that have ponds in their backyard at home and fish all the time, and then we have some who have never learned to cast a rod and reel,” Brewer said. “What’s really neat is that here, you’ll see some kids that never really interact with each other at school work together to help each other out catching fish.”

The pond where the students spent their time also is the result of an ongoing work in progress. While the range has always had one pond that hosted derbies, the new pond features a central island, dozens of artificial fish habitats and a clean shoreline ringed with soft grass.

“The pond actually is the borrow area from when the range’s berms needed to be rebuilt years ago,” said Grant Tomlin, range development program coordinator for the AGFC. “Clifton Jackson, former Family and Community Fishing Program Coordinator wanted to make it a location for that program, but it was surrounded by a thicket and a lot of people didn’t even know it was here.”

This was the first derby held at the new pond and the first class to attend Vilonia's new middle school after the school was demolished by a tornado in April 2014.

This was the first derby held at the new pond and the first class to attend Vilonia’s new middle school after the school was demolished by a tornado in April 2014.

AGFC staff worked to clear all the thick brush away and establish a more inviting shoreline. They also moved a culvert to build up a walkway around a low section of the pond that was always too swampy to walk around. But the pond still had a few problems.

“Each summer, the pond would just about evaporate away,” Tomlin said. “We’d get a dry spell and the water would just seep out, but at the end of last year, it was still holding a little water.”

Thanks to an extremely wet early spring, the new pond is actually a foot or two above its target level. Tomlin hopes the pond has established a firm enough bottom and will continue to be a great attraction to the range.

“It is open to youth 16 and younger whenever the shooting range is not operating,” Tomlin said. “Mondays, Tuesdays and any time after 4:30 p.m. the rest of the week.”

Visit http://www.agfc.com/hofnod for more information about Hooked on Fishing — Not on Drugs.

For information on the Camp Robinson Firing Range in Mayflower, visit www.agfc.com/aboutagfc/Pages/AboutFacilitiesRobinsonFR.aspx.

High school students volunteered to help bait hooks and teach about conservation at the derby.

High school students volunteered to help bait hooks and teach about conservation at the derby.

 

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Fishing Derbies will be held at each of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Hatcheries, Saturday, June 13, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

If you’ve ever wanted to wet a line but didn’t want to spend the money for a fishing license, this weekend is your time to give it a try. By special proclamation of Gov. Asa Hutchinson, anyone, resident or nonresident, may fish without a license or trout stamp from noon, Friday, June 12, to midnight, Sunday, June 14, 2015.

Chris Racey, chief of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Fisheries Division, said, “It’s an excellent opportunity for friends and family to get together and enjoy the great sport of fishing.”

All other fishing regulations, including daily limits, remain in effect during Free Fishing Weekend. Visit agfc.com for a free download of the 2015 Arkansas Fishing Guidebook

In addition to the license waiver, each AGFC hatchery has reserved special locations for free kids’ fishing derbies from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, June 13. Children 12 and younger may bring their own tackle and bait to their local hatchery to catch and keep up to three fish per child.

“We host kids’ fishing derbies at all five of our state fish hatcheries each year to provide an opportunity for children to catch fish in a fun and safe environment,” Racey said. “We hope many children will catch their first fish at one of our hatchery derbies and go on to become lifelong anglers.”

Click for Hatchery Locations for Free Fishing Weekend Derbies

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Fishing derby to benefit Mayflower tornado victims

The AGFC and "Tackle the Storm" will be working Sunday, July 27 from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m., helping anglers put the Mayflower tornado behind them.

The AGFC and “Tackle the Storm” will be working Sunday, July 27 from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m., helping anglers put the Mayflower tornado behind them.

The April 27 tornado devastated Mayflower and Vilonia and stripped many residents of their homes and belongings. Three months later, the non-profit Tackle the Storm Foundation seeks to give a little something back to Arkansans who were affected by the storm.

Tackle the Storm, a charity spawned in the wake of devastating tornadoes in Joplin, Mo., and Tuscaloosa, Ala., in 2011, will be at the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Dr. James E. Moore Camp Robinson Firing Range 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, July 27 to give away fishing tackle to children and families who lost belongings in the tornado.

The AGFC will stock catfish in the firing range ponds at 524 Clinton Rd., and participants will be able to use their new fishing tackle to catch the fish. Lunch also will be served.

Tackle the Storm seeks to ease the burden of storm-affected children and families by awarding free fishing poles, or as the foundation calls them, “the magic wands of childhood.” The foundation’s mission is to help tornado victims use fishing to escape the destruction and sadness that follows catastrophic natural disasters.

For more information, contact Jim Alexander at 501-269-1368.

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Tagged catfish will be added to this spring's stockings at Family and Community Fishing Ponds across Arkansas.

Tagged catfish will be added to this spring’s stockings at Family and Community Fishing Ponds across Arkansas.

Tagged catfish stocked across the state
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Family and Community Fishing Program is continuing their efforts to get families involved in fishing with a tagged catfish campaign. Thousands of channel catfish from the AGFC’s warm-water hatchery facilities are currently being stocked at several locations around the state.
Each of Arkansas’s Family and Community Fishing Program catfish stocking locations have 10 catfish tagged with special Family and Community tags. Anyone that catches a tagged fish will receive prizes. Winners also will be entered into a grand prize drawing for a canoe, two life jackets and paddles. Second prize will be a catfish rod and reel, tackle box loaded with catfishing gear and an assortment of fishing tools. Third prize will be a tackle box with fishing gear and fishing tools.
Family and Community Fisheries Program Coordinator Ben Batten said a similar effort was first organized during spring break of 2012 and was a huge success. “This is the third year for this promotion, and it keeps getting bigger and better every year. The chance at a canoe certainly takes it up a notch,” he noted.
A new canoe will significantly enhance angling opportunities at many of the small to medium-sized lakes, which are rather prevalent near several cities.
Anyone catching a tagged fish from Family and Community locations should send the tags to the AGFC Family and Community Fishing Program, 2 Natural Resources Dr., Little Rock, AR 72205. Include your name, address, phone number, location and date of catch. Only one entry per person. Tag returns must be postmarked by July 3, 2014. Incomplete or illegible information will not be accepted. For more information on the Family and Community Fishing Program, go to http://www.agfc.com/familyfishing.

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Fishing Derbies will be held throughout Arkansas June 9, in celebration of Free Fishing Weekend.

Free Fishing Days of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission begins this weekend. Free Fishing Days will start at noon Friday, June 8, through midnight Sunday, June 10. No sport fisherman, resident or non-resident, will be required to have a fishing license or a trout permit to fish anywhere in Arkansas during these times.

An annual tradition, Free Fishing Days furnishes many citizens and visitors with an opportunity to enjoy the popular outdoor activity. Free Fishing Days are part of the National Fishing Week celebration. Mark Oliver, chief of fisheries for the AGFC, said the annual event is a lot of fun for employees as well as the public.

“We want to encourage Arkansas people as well as visitors who come to our state, who may not be fishermen, to give it a try. We especially encourage parents to go fishing with their kids. Young people under 16 don’t need a fishing license anyway, and if their moms and dads will go along, it can make a family outing that they’ll all enjoy,” Oliver explained.

How do you get into fishing? Oliver suggested that beginners make a stop at a sporting goods outlet, a boat dock or one of the AGFC regional offices for pointers on the basics of fishing in Arkansas. Open houses and fishing derbies for youngsters are planned at the state’s five fish hatcheries June 9 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information on the derbies, phone the AGFC Fisheries Division office at 501-223-6371. For other fishing derbies around the state, click on www.FishingDerbies.com.

Youngsters 12 and under will be allowed to fish with the supervision of an adult. Children may catch and keep up to three catfish (or three trout at the Jim Hinkle Spring River State Fish Hatchery). The derbies will feature casting contests and prizes.

Derbies will be at:

  • 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.

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Kids from around the country will be on the Arkansas River, Saturday, May 12, for the High School Fishing Championship. The Bass Federation, in partnership with FLW Outdoors, and the North Little Rock Visitors Bureau will be hosting the 2012 Student Angler Federation Arkansas high school fishing state championship. The event will be held Saturday, May 12 on the Arkansas River launching out of the Alltel Ramp in North Little Rock.

The championship is a two person team event for students in grades 9-12. Registration for anglers and their coach, who will provide the boat they compete in, is online at www.HighSchoolFishing.org. Check-in begins at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, May 11, at the Riverside RV Park located just east of the Alltel Ramp, with a mandatory rules briefing starting at 7 p.m. Teams should preregister online or by phone in advance to avoid late registration fees.

“The city of North Little Rock is excited the SAF Arkansas High School Fishing State Championship has returned for a second year,” Sports and Special Events Coordinator at the North Little Rock Visitors Bureau, Shannon Harris, said. “The event has grown since last year, which gives more people the opportunity to know what North Little Rock has to offer. This is great for our city and the entire downtown area.”

Students and parents can go to www.HighSchoolFishing.org for details on the Student Angler Federation and to sign up for the championship. The winning two-person team from each state championship will advance to an FLW Outdoors/TBF High School Fishing Conference Championship held in conjunction with the National Guard FLW College Fishing Conference Championship. Those winners will advance to the FLW Outdoors/TBF High School Fishing National Championship held in conjunction with the National Guard FLW College Fishing National Championship in the spring of 2013.

All SAF members and state championship participants qualify for the largest event in high school fishing, the 2012 High School Fishing World Finals to compete for thousands of dollars in college scholarships and prizes. Each team that qualifies for a conference or national championship will receive a travel allowance to help offset expenses. The national champions will each receive a $5,000 scholarship to use at the university of their choice.

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