Habitat barges and hatcheries produce banner year for Arkansas anglers
Feb. 1, 2023
Assistant Chief of Communications
LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission hatchery system and its partners stocked more than 14.6 million fish into Arkansas waters last year, even with a massive renovation project limiting the output of the Jim Hinkle Spring River Fish Hatchery in Mammoth Spring. Add to that more than 650,000 cubic feet of cover placed in fish attractors throughout the state last year and Arkansas anglers have plenty to cheer about.
Tommy Laird, AGFC assistant chief of fisheries over the agency’s fish hatcheries, said the majority of stockings last year again revolved around forage species to bolster growth in sportfish.
“More than 3 million threadfin shad and 2 million fathead minnows were produced through the hatchery system last year,“ Laird said. “These species don’t just serve as an immediate food source to bass, crappie and other predators. They are stocked more as a source of broodstock in reservoirs in times when the forage population takes a downturn.”
Bluegill and redear serve dual roles in the forage fish equation, as they not only are prey species for bass and other larger predator species, but they also make terrific table fare and exciting trips for anglers. More than 2.2 million of these two species also saw stockings through the AGFC hatchery system.
Black bass saw the next-highest total behind the forage species, with nearly 3 million bass stocked throughout the state in 2022.
“We stocked 2.5 million Florida largemouth bass to help genetics in some lakes, and more than 460,000 northern largemouth bass to help offset poor spawning efforts in other lakes,” Laird said. “We also raised 8,698 smallmouth fingerlings as part of our effort to establish this species in Lake Catherine.”
Coldwater anglers saw 1.8 million rainbow trout added to Arkansas trout fisheries as well as about 65,000 brown trout and brook trout, thanks to the help of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service trout hatcheries and other partners.
“We still grew out a lot of trout in our state-owned hatchery system, but trout production is a combined effort from all our partners to get the most for our anglers,” Laird said.
As always, Arkansas anglers enjoyed literal tons of catfish throughout the year, thanks to the work of crews on the AGFC’s warm water hatcheries. More than 661,000 catchable-sized channel catfish were distributed throughout the state, both in family and community fishing locations and various other ponds where fishing derbies and events took place.
Fisheries management crews kept the chainsaws running throughout 2022 as well, placing and enhancing 375 fish attractor locations throughout the state. Each location enhanced saw the addition of several large trees and brush piles, which creates a complex web of cover for small fish to hide and larger fish to use as ambush cover.
If the average brush pile measures 12 feet by 12 feet and stands 12 feet tall, that would total 648,000 cubic feet of brush added to Arkansas lakes, about the same volume as three Goodyear Blimps.
“That’s a pretty conservative estimate,” Vic DiCenzo, AGFC assistant chief of fisheries, said.
“There were likely many more fish attractors enhanced over the course of the year, but 375 were documented to be updated on the AGFC’s interactive map.”
According to DiCenzo, AGFC fisheries staff spend time adding cover to marked brush piles and popular fishing piers in their regions whenever they can, and many of these efforts likely go unrecorded.
“The ones documented on this list had GPS coordinates with them to make them easier for anglers with boats to find them,” DiCenzo said. “Nearly 130 of these sites came from a single large-scale project on Bull Shoals in December.”
Anglers interested in downloading the coordinates for these brush piles can find them on the AGFC interactive map or download the files directly through the fish attractor web page at agfc.com.
Final 2022 AGFC Fish Stockings by Species
Channel Catfish 661,505
Blue Catfish 1,718
Northern Largemouth Bass 461,901
Smallmouth Bass 8,698
Redear Sunfish 775,583
Threadfin Shad 3,194,836
Golden Shiners 167,873
Fathead Minnows 2,219,500
Grass Carp 18,062
Striped Bass 480,358
Hybrid Striped Bass 148,425
Black Crappie 552,307
Brook Trout 24,420
Brown Trout 40,299
Rainbow Trout 1,844,393
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