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State and federal partnership keeps fish flowing in Arkansas despite shutdown

BY Randy Zellers

ON 01-10-2019


Jan. 10, 2019

Randy Zellers

Assistant Chief of Communications

MAMMOTH SPRING — Arkansas anglers will continue to see world-class fishing in The Natural State’s cold-water trout streams, even during the current shutdown of federal government facilities, thanks to cooperation between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

The vast majority of trout swimming in Arkansas waters originate in Greers Ferry and Norfork National Fish Hatcheries, which are run by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. These hatcheries were put in place to provide trout for anglers throughout the south, and particularly for the cold tailwaters created by the many dams along White River impoundments in Arkansas. The cold water coming from the bottoms of large Corps of Engineers reservoirs makes the section directly below the dam uninhabitable by native warmwater fish. To mitigate the loss, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provides trout, which are more tolerant of the cold water.

The current shutdown in the federal government has forced the three hatcheries providing trout to Arkansas to run minimal operations, which means some of their long-distance stockings would have to be postponed. But thanks to a continued partnership with the Jim Hinkle Spring River State Fish Hatchery run by the AGFC, those trout will be delivered on schedule. AGFC trucks have stepped up to haul the trout to longer destinations to help out their federal partners during their time of need.

Christy Graham, trout management supervisor for the AGFC, says the hatcheries work together on many projects, helping each other out whenever they can.

“Even though it’s not a high-pressure time for trout fishing, we want to make sure anglers continue to enjoy the quality of fishing Arkansas is known for,” Graham said. “They have helped us out a lot during the years, and we’ve run trout for them in the past when they needed us. It’s just a great partnership to make sure our anglers are taken care of.”

Melissa Jones, manager of the Jim Hinkle Spring River State Fish Hatchery, has been busy coordinating trucks and manpower to work the extra hauls into the AGFC’s lineup, but says the two hatchery systems have always helped each other in times of need.

“They would step up to help us if we needed it,” Jones said. “There’s always something that can go wrong, and having this great partnership has always benefited our anglers.”

So far, the AGFC has delivered trout to the tailwaters of Bull Shoals and Beaver lakes from the national hatcheries.

“There are a few trout fisheries in Arkansas that are stocked 100 percent by the federal hatcheries in Arkansas,” Jones said. “Those fisheries are dependent on regular stockings to continue providing fish for Arkansas anglers.”

In addition to the fish being stocked, the effort also will help keep things on schedule at the national hatcheries when operations resume. As the younger trout in the hatchery grow, they must be transported to new tanks and stages of development.

“Space is always at a premium on a hatchery,” Jones said. “Setbacks now can mean delays in future stockings, so we wanted to help however we could to make sure things continued to run smoothly.”

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