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Arkansas fish hatcheries ready to host families for Free Fishing Weekend derbies

BY Randy Zellers

ON 06-06-2022


June 6, 2022

Randy Zellers

Assistant Chief of Communications

LITTLE ROCK – Thanks to a proclamation by Gov. Asa Hutchinson, anyone may fish in Arkansas without a fishing license or trout stamp from noon Friday, June 10, through midnight Sunday night, June 12.

An annual tradition sponsored by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and approved by the governor, Free Fishing Weekend gives many people the opportunity to enjoy the amazing angling The Natural State has to offer.Girls with their catch at an AGFC fishing derby

At $10.50 a year, Arkansas has one of the least expensive fishing licenses in the country, having not seen an increase since 1984 (the year Apple computers debuted the Macintosh). But even that fee is waived for this weekend as a way to remove as many barriers as possible to enjoying the outdoors.

In addition to license and trout permit requirements being waived, each of the AGFC’s four warmwater hatcheries will host a family-friendly fishing derby Saturday from 8 a.m.-noon. Traditionally, these derbies were only for anglers 12 and younger, but recently the AGFC raised the age limit, and eventually did away with it altogether. Now, anyone who registers at is welcome to join in the fun.

“Recruiting new anglers isn’t just about getting the kids interested, but starting new family adventures,” JJ Gladden, AGFC assistant education chief, said. “I’ve personally worked at these derbies for years, and while it’s always a great time for the kids, we sometimes saw the kids wanting their parents or older siblings to join in the fun. Now they can.”

Gladden says the derbies are always a highlight of the year for hatchery staff, as it gives them a chance to showcase their work and see the smiles on the kids’ and parents’ faces firsthand.

“This is really the only time of the year you’re going to get to fish right where we’re growing these catfish,” Gladden said. “Grab a rod-and-reel, some bait and a comfortable chair and come join us. You’re going to want to bring a cooler or bag to take home the fish you catch, too. Each angler is allowed to bring home up to three catfish to celebrate at the end of the day with a cookout or fish fry at home.”

Click the links below to register for one of the four hatchery derbies taking place this weekend:

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