Oct. 4, 2017
Jim Harris Managing Editor Arkansas Wildlife Magazine
Martin Luther King Jr. Park Pond is stocked eight times a year by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, four times with catfish and four times with trout. The last catfish stocking of the year will coincide with a big new fall event: the Pine Bluff Get Youth Outdoors Day on Saturday, Oct. 21.
The big day, sponsored by the AGFC’s Family and Community Fishing Program, is a family-focused event with free fishing and prizes, archery and air gun ranges, music and a free lunch of hot dogs and hamburgers.
To prepare for the catfishing derby, the Governor Mike Huckabee Delta Rivers Nature Center will hold a catfish clinic Saturday, Oct. 7, from 10 a.m. to noon. The clinic is free, but registration is required. Call 870-534-0011 to sign up.
The Arkansas AFL-CIO’s Union Sportsmen’s Alliance area chapter will have 75 members on hand to feed the participants lunch as well as provide bait and fishing instruction. Pure Fishing, an outdoors merchandise company that partners with the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance around the country, will give away free fishing gear to the first 250 children ages 15 and under.
The Oct. 21 fishing event will run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The pond is at 1140 Oakland Park Drive on the northwest side of Pine Bluff. While the Family and Community Fishing Program has held other events in Pine Bluff, usually in the summer, this is the latest one scheduled and it marks the AGFC’s last stocked catfish derby for 2017. Beginning in November, the focus turns to trout stockings.
“We’ve had our most productive year ever for the program, 25 separate events so far,” said Maurice Jackson, the Family and Community Fishing Program coordinator. “We were already planning a catfish stocking with 1,000 catfish this month in Pine Bluff and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance called us wanting to do an event.”
Children 15 and under do not need a fishing license, but all must be accompanied by a parent, guardian or chaperone. AGFC employees, including those from the Delta Rivers Nature Center, will provide instruction and conservation education at the event.
“Normally, people are busy during the fall with football and other activities, and this was something we wanted to offer to maybe change up the monotony and get kids and their families out in the outdoors,” Jackson said. “It’s a good time to do this in Pine Bluff with [the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff] football team being off that week. We do very few fall events because of all the other activities going on, but this is kind of a test to see if we can get more youths involved and more parents out. We have nearly 40 locations around the state where we’ve held Family and Community Fishing events in the past, but there will be no other [AGFC fishing] event going on that day in the state.”
The stocked catfish are raised at the AGFC’s Joe Hogan State Fish Hatchery in Lonoke. There will be no fishing allowed on Martin Luther King Jr. Park Pond for the 24 hours leading up to the event, Jackson said. AGFC wildlife officers will be patrolling the area before the derby.
Jackson will lead the Oct. 7 clinic at the Delta Rivers Nature Center, where participants can learn how to tie proper knots, which baits to use, and other key information about catfishing.
Jackson said he hopes the Get Youth Outdoors Day, with the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance volunteers’ help, becomes an annual event in Pine Bluff.
“We’d also like to do more events like this in other cities around the state,” Jackson said. “If someone wants to partner with us, they can. Just contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.”