June 1, 2022
Jim Harris Managing Editor Arkansas Wildlife Magazine
LITTLE ROCK – Not only will the fishing in Arkansas be free on the weekend of June 10-12, but the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission will provide plenty of free opportunities around the state for kids and adults to fish on Saturday, June 11.
The AGFC’s four state fish hatcheries – Andrew H. Hulsey Hatchery in Hot Springs, Joe Hogan Hatchery in Lonoke, C.B. “Charlie” Craig Hatchery in Centerton and William H. Donham Hatchery in Corning – again will be open to the public for the traditional fishing derbies on the Saturday of Free Fishing Weekend. Each hatchery will have a pond stocked with catfish, and all ages are welcome from 8 a.m. until noon.
“We’re doing family derbies now at the hatcheries,” J.J. Gladden, Assistant Chief of Education, said. “We want good family fun, everybody going out and having a good time together.”
Some bait will be provided at the sites, but all participants will need to bring their own fishing equipment (rod and reels, hooks, bobbers and so forth). The Jim Hinkle Spring River Hatchery will not be part of the June 11 event because of ongoing renovations there.
New this year at the hatcheries will be a Fishing 101 class at the four participating hatcheries, to be held from 4:30-6 p.m. on Friday, June 10. “We’ll have people at each one of those hatcheries to teach people who might need some help so they can be ready for the derby the next day. For the Saturday derbies, we’re scaling those back to be more hands-on, basically teaching participants who need a few tips such as the way to tie a knot, bait a hook, and teaching them the proper techniques.”
All anyone has to do is register. The Fishing 101 classes will be capped at each location to 50 participants, but the Saturday derbies will have no limit for participants. The AGFC was able to bring back its hatchery derbies last year as COVID-19 protocols began easing, and Gladden is hopeful even more families will take advantage of the opportunities this year.
“We had good participation last year,” Gladden said. “We set a cap for locations but we had really good attendance and we’re hoping to improve on these events with all we learned last year.”
To register for Fishing 101 or the next-day hatchery derbies, visit https://www.agfc.com/en/education/calendar/annual-event/free-fishing-weekend-statewide-2022/
If you’re unable to make one of the hatchery fishing derbies, there still are 30 fishing derbies scheduled around the state with the AGFC’s Fishing Education program. A list of fishing derby locations can be found at www.agfc.com/fe.
“Those are all partner derbies where we have partnered with a city, a chamber of commerce, a city’s parks and recreation department, Arkansas State Parks, the U.S. Fish and WIldlife Service or the U.S. Forest Service,” Gladden said. “Some of those will be kids-only events as far as fishing, but they want the families out to participate, too.”
AGFC hatcheries will be stocking catfish in the participating derbies for June 11. One trout derby is planned for Mirror Lake at Blanchard Springs.
Free Fishing Weekend allows anyone of any age to fish in Arkansas for free from noon Friday, June 10, to midnight Sunday, June 12, as proclaimed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson. No fishing license or trout permit is required. Other laws regarding the body of water being fished must be followed.