March 18, 2020
Jim Harris Managing Editor Arkansas Wildlife Magazine
LITTLE ROCK – Bass and crappie received a boost in Lake Maumelle, thanks to a donation from a Lonoke commercial fish hatchery to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. Early last Thursday morning (March 12), personnel from the AGFC’s Joe Hogan Fish Hatchery in Lonoke stocked 290,000 redear sunfish fingerlings into the lake.
The redear, about 2.5 to 3 inches in length, were donated by J.M. Malone and Son Inc. of Lonoke. The delivery on March 12 was the first of two from a 20-acre nursery pond at the Malone commercial hatchery, containing an estimated 6,000 pounds of fingerlings. Last week’s stocking was about half that total, according to Tommy Laird, an assistant chief of the AGFC Fisheries Division over fish culture. Laird said the second stocking may be this week, though no date had been finalized.
Jason Miller, the Hogan hatchery manager, said of last week’s stocking, “When we arrived at Lake Maumelle, there had been a big water temperature change in the lake, so we tempered the redear in our three trucks before stocking them.” Miller was assisted last week by Hogan hatchery technicians Robert Peterson, Clay Rushton and Coleson Cowart.
Tempering required pumping lake water onto the fingerlings in each truck to ease them up to handling the move into Lake Maumelle, promoting higher survival.
Miller said it takes about 2 years for the redear to grow into the usual “keeper” size. For now, Lake Maumelle’s bass and crappie will enjoy their presence.
The fingerlings will mainly serve as forage for bass and crappie in Lake Maumelle and, it’s hoped, grow bigger fish for anglers, according to AGFC biologist Justin Homan, whose lake management for the agency includes the Lake Maumelle fishery. Eventually, Homan added, fingerlings that aren’t gobbled by the predator fish will grow into nice-size redear, which anglers find fun to catch and to take home for the dinner plate.
Homan said, “We could have put them anywhere, but Lake Maumelle is one of those places we’ve identified where the bass and crappie forage is limited. Stocking redear fingerlings is a good forage source.”
Homan said, the AGFC may get a donation like this once a year from a commercial fish hatchery. “Oh yeah, any extra that we can receive from other sources helps,” Homan said. “It was certainly unexpected, it doesn’t happen often. The Hogan hatchery also raises redear that we stock in other lakes.”
Homan said the AGFC also stocks threadfin shad into Lake Maumelle every year. Every other year, the stockings come through the nursery pond the AGFC manages across Arkansas Highway 10 from the lake. The lake receives direct stockings on years when the nursery pond is not available.
“We plan to stock shad from our hatchery sources during the years when we won’t be able to raise a crop in the nursery pond to get an annual stocking of shad in the lake, so we’ve been looking to get more forage out there,” Homan said. “From our creel surveys at Maumelle, most anglers are fishing for crappie, bass and sunfish. That’s what we’re focusing on in our management plan.
“Condition of predatory fish has been less than ideal there,” Homan said. “However, numbers-wise for bass and crappie, those have been pretty good lately. I’ve seen tournament reports of 20-pound stringers and large bass being caught, and several bass and crappie being caught. We’ve had some high-water years there recently, like we have had at Greers Ferry Lake and Bull Shoals Lake, and high-water years are good for reproduction.”
Now, those growing bass and crappie will have more prey species to feast upon. Video of the stocking is available on the AGFC Facebook page.