By Staff Sgt. Russ Scalf
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
It’s time to grab your bobbers and dust off the old cane pole; spring has arrived in Arkansas.
In reality it’s far more serious than that. Fishing is big business in Arkansas. For those who are new to the area, or just don’t know, the Natural State is home to some of the best fishing in the world. Arkansas waters support more than 25 species of fish that inhabit equally diverse locations.
Fishing opportunities abound in central Arkansas. According to Ben Batten, a biologist with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, the state has several programs designed to encourage participation in the sport, from anglers of all experience levels.
The Family and Community Fishing Program, which is within Batten’s purview, is designed to enhance and create fishing destinations in urban areas. Essentially, their mission is to provide great fishing opportunities to all Arkansans.
“The first two weeks of April, we’ll be stocking fish in about 30 locations around the state,” said Batten. “There are several places near Little Rock Air Force Base where we will be stocking. Paradise Park Lake in Jacksonville, which butts up against the base, just got added to the program and will receive approximately 500 catfish in April, May, June and October. That’s in addition to the bass and panfish already in the lake. There are also two locations in Sherwood. Sherwood community pond is one, on Kiehl Ave. The other one is a gem, about a mile away called Cherrywood Lake.”
Batten stressed that many of the locations chosen for the program are in family-friendly parks, with playgrounds and other activities for children. Growing a new generation of anglers is important to the quality of all fisheries.
“There are definitely some things that parents can do to make fishing more enjoyable for children,” said Batten. “Parents should do things like keep the trip short and make it fun. You should bring plenty of snacks and drinks. Fishing is about slowing down, enjoying nature and teaching patience. I encourage parents to put their cell phones away and really talk to their children. I catch myself doing the same thing and have to remember what nature is all about.”
If that isn’t enough incentive to cast a line, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has additional programs to sweeten the deal. June 7-9 will be a free fishing weekend around the state, where new anglers have the opportunity to try out fishing before purchasing a license. On June 8 the Joe Hogan State Fish Hatchery, which is just a 30-minute trip to Lonoke, will host a children’s fishing derby.
“The derby is a great thing to go to,” said Batten. “They do hourly prizes for the biggest fish; the biggest fish caught last year was about nine pounds. It’s pretty fun to see a 6 year-old drag in a 6-or-7-pound catfish.”
If you’re still not hooked, the state also runs a promotion that offers prizes for catching tagged fish.
“We place bright neon tags near the dorsal fin of the fish,” said Batten. “We put 10 per location in every location we manage around the state. If you catch a tagged fish, there is a phone number on it that will give you instructions on how to mail it to Game and Fish. Everybody who mails in a tag will have a prize package mailed to them. There is fishing gear, baits and other items. At the end, we do a drawing and give away a grand prize. Last year we gave away a mini pontoon boat. This year we are hoping to do at least three large prizes and then some smaller ones as well.”
The same program just awarded a two-night stay and a guided fishing trip on the Little Red River, as a result of the winter trout tagging promotion.
Additional information on Arkansas Game and Fish Commission programs and stocking dates can be found at www.agfc.com, as well as the state rules and regulations to make any trip memorable and responsible.