Oct. 27, 2021
Jim Harris Managing Editor Arkansas Wildlife Magazine
FORT SMITH – The Fort Smith Boys & Girls Club and Arkansas Game and Fish Commission will be sponsoring a free Family Fishing Derby at Wells Lakes, adjacent to the AGFC’s Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center, on Saturday, Nov. 6.
The event will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The AGFC will be stocking the lake with catfish and bream, including some tagged fish that, if caught, will result in prizes for lucky anglers. Free Lil’ Angler rods and reels will be handed out to children, and loaner poles also can be checked out from the Nature Center. A lunch and a drink will be provided to all the attendees.
Everyone is invited to join the Boys & Girls Club members and their families, and members of Girls Inc. also are invited.
Bennie Westphal, vice chairman of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and a native of Fort Smith, said he has been working with the AGFC’s Education Division, led by Education Chief Tabbi Kinion, to set up the event with the Boys & Girls Clubs. “We have four Boys & Girls Clubs (locations) and we serve a lot of underprivileged kids,” Westphal said. “We’re excited about this coming up.”
Arkansas River Valley Nature Center staff are planning to visit Boys & Girls Club locations in the days leading up to the event to teach the kids how to rig the fishing poles and offer fishing tips.
Pradco Fishing, a fishing lure and accessories company based in Fort Smith, has donated hooks, weights and bobbers, thanks to Pradco’s Bruce Stanton, Westphal said during the Oct. 21 monthly Commission meeting in Little Rock.
“A buddy of mine, Ralph Duda, has a patent on kids fishing rod-and-reels; he’s donated 2,000 of those,” Westphal said. “These poles are no-tangle. The line actually goes up in the middle of the rod, and we have a bunch of those (to give away).” Duda is the chief executive officer of Lil’ Anglers LLC, in Springfield, Missouri.
Wesphal added at the Oct. 21 meeting that he and Education Division personnel recently met at the Arkansas River Valley Nature Center to firm up plans. “They’re going to put some catfish in and close Wells Lake for a week (leading up to the event). We’re going to tag some of the fish so that will encourage some of the parents to come out and win some money prizes off the fish. We’ll have free food for everybody; we’re excited about that. I think that it will be a fun event in our city on that weekend. We’re just praying for good weather.”
The AGFC’s Fishing Education Program is scheduled to bring its mobile aquarium to the event. The nature center also has plans for a fish-cleaning demonstration.
The lake is at Wells Lake Road at Chaffee Crossing. For more information, call the Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center at 479-452-3993 or the Fort Smith Boys & Girls Club at 479-782-7093.