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Private reservoir, streamside landowners can get up to $10,000 to share the water

BY Randy Zellers

ON 02-02-2024

Bass Fishing302584

LITTLE ROCK — Arkansans routinely boast that The Natural State has more than 600,000 acres of lakes and ponds dotted throughout its landscape. While anglers have hundreds of thousands of these acres available for public use, many large reservoirs and oxbow lakes remain in private ownership with no public access. A new program offered through the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission offers landowners incentives to open their doors to limited fishing access on these areas thanks to the Arkansas General Assembly and approved by the Arkansas Legislative Council.

The amount of payment is determined by the number of acres (10 acres minimum) or stream miles being opened to anglers. The access will be granted only through limited public drawings to prevent overuse of the area and keep traffic at levels that will not interfere with the landowner’s enjoyment of their property. Bodies of water with the means to launch a boat also will receive additional funding. In addition to the incentive payments, the AGFC will provide signs and trash pickup to ensure the area remains in good condition.

“We’re willing to work with landowners however they need to make the experience positive for them as well as the public being allowed to fish,” Tommy Laird, chief of the AGFC’s Fisheries Division, said. “We’ll also come out and work with you on a management plan for your body of water, including daily limits and slot limits to fine-tune the fishery to meet your goals.”

According to a survey conducted in 2017 by Mississippi State University, 47 percent of Arkansas anglers fish from the bank. This program can open up entirely new possibilities for those anglers who don’t need a boat or kayak to enjoy a day on the water.

“Landowners with small reservoirs are some of the first folks we were thinking about when we built the parameters for this program, but there are many other options that may increase even more fishing access,” Laird said. “Landowners bordering smallmouth streams, trout tailwaters and larger oxbow lakes with little to no public access also would be prime candidates for the incentive program.”

The Public Fishing Access to Private Waters Incentive is one of nine practices unveiled earlier in January as part of the AGFC’s new Conservation Incentive Program. Through this program, private landowners can apply for and receive reimbursements and payments for certain practices to help promote wildlife and fisheries habitat and access throughout the state. The CIP is a one year pilot program for calendar year 2024 that was funded through the Arkansas General Assembly and approved by the Arkansas Legislative Council.  In order to efficiently initiate and deliver this pilot program, applications meeting the specific eligibility criteria for each practice are being approved on a first come, first serve basis.

Visit  for more information on the Conservation Incentive Program and how to apply for the Public Access to Private Waters practice.





Waterfront landowners with boat launching facilities are eligible for additional payments to allow public access through limited draws.

Many young anglers’ first fishing experiences come from a small reservoir or stream.

According to a 2017 survey, 47 percent of anglers in Arkansas fish from the bank.

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