Habitat and fish added to Arkansas waters by the truckload in 2023 | in the fresh air

Habitat and fish added to Arkansas waters by the truckload in 2023 |  in the fresh air

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission biologists created nearly 200 semi-truckloads of fish attractants in 2023, and hatchery trucks kept up the pace, pumping more than 9.1 million game and baitfish into Arkansas waters to boost fishing efforts.

According to Matt Schroeder, AGFC fisheries area coordinator, habitat crews placed or enhanced more than 447 fish attractant sites last year with a variety of materials.

“The type of attraction varied from groups of Christmas trees and artificial plastic structures to giant piles of cedar trees and huge commercially made corals from Mossback Fish Habitat,” Schroeder said.

With an average area of ​​about 12 feet by 12 feet, and a height of about 12 feet, the total is about 772,416 cubic feet of fish attractants placed in Arkansas lakes, enough to fill nearly 200 semi-truck containers.

Brush wasn’t the only habitat added to Arkansas lakes last year either. Biologists have also put a lot of effort into bringing the lakes back to life through vegetation projects. Lake DeGray and Greers Ferry Lake have seen the continued use of floating “Arkansas cubes” filled with coke to promote these beneficial aquatic plants. DeGray, in particular, has seen notable increases in aquatic vegetation in the past few years, and AGFC fisheries biologists hope to expand the program further in 2024 in a new partnership with the U.S. Corps of Engineers.

“We also planted water willow in two ponds on the Arkansas River to continue adding this valuable water cover in areas where it was washed out by the stream,” Schroeder said.

Primary carriers deliver

Nearly 2.5 million black bass were stocked last year from AGFC hatcheries, with Florida largemouth bass taking first place with a production of 1.99 million. Although most lakes in Arkansas can produce more bass in any given year than the entire AGFC spawning system, the goal of bass stockings is not necessarily to add more fish to your catch.

“When we stock Florida bass, we focus on changing the genetics of the lake population to increase their potential,” said Vic DiCenzo, AGFC assistant chief of fisheries. “We have a lot of bass in most Arkansas lakes, and these Florida lakes will actually replace other bass that would otherwise be there. We are looking for those Florida ones to grow and reproduce with the population that is already in the lake and increase the growth potential.”

A group of Arkansas fisheries still needs an occasional boost in bass numbers, so hatcheries are still raising 396,557 large northern breed fish to stock in areas where biologists have seen spawning problems.

“The Arkansas River is a good example of a fishery that can still benefit from additional stocks of large northern bass,” DiCenzo said. “The current in high flow years can really impact spawning in some pools that don’t have enough standing water. Previous research has shown that our stocked fish make up a notable percentage of the annual fish population when this happens and help restore river bass populations.” A little faster when conditions are right.

Northern largemouth bass are also stocked in replenished lakes when the lake is no longer suitable for Florida bass.

“Poinsett Lake is too far north for Florida bass to thrive, so northern bass were stocked there to help stimulate the population after the replenishment was complete,” DiCenzo said.

Setting the table

AGFC hatcheries continue to produce fish food for those little ones as well. According to Jason Miller, AGFC assistant chief in the agency’s Aquaculture Division, they have produced 1 million threadfin fish, 2.05 million bighead minnows, and 114,000 golden shiners to bolster the forage base of lakes across the state. An additional 933,095 bluegill and 219,623 red sunfish were stocked. Not only do these two species serve as forage for bass and other game fish, but they also make excellent fishing targets for people looking to dip a cricket into their local lake.

“All in all, you’re looking at 4 million or so forage fish to chase, like bass, crappie and other fish species,” Miller said. “Most of these species reproduce abundantly, so the impact on the food chain is much greater than the original numbers we stock.”

Trot-tastic numbers

Even as the state’s Jim Hinkle Fish Hatchery underwent major construction work last year, AGMC staff were still able to stock 571,712 catchable-sized rainbow trout. Miller says good things are on the horizon now that the hatchery is back in full swing.

“I spoke with the hatchery manager a few days ago, and he said they have over 700,000 trout on site right now,” Miller said. “Before the renovation, they were only able to hold 450,000 or so. They’ve also been able to use their hatch at the facility for the first time in a few years, so they’re quickly preparing to get more trout to Arkansas anglers.”

Catchable-sized trout from the AGFC’s only cold-water hatchery are stocked at 43 sites in Arkansas, including Family and Community Fishing Program sites, and the White, Norfork and Spring rivers. Federal hatcheries add significantly to this number, stocking the Norfork, White, Greers Ferry and many of the state’s seasonal fisheries.

“If you add the numbers from federal hatcheries, we’re talking about 1.9 million rainbow trout in the state who were ready to fight from the day they got into the water,” Miller said. “And don’t forget all the brown trout that spawn naturally for anglers to chase.”

Growing memories

Anyone who has had the opportunity to visit one of AGFC’s four warm-water hatcheries during Free Fishing Weekend knows the amount of work and dedication the staff puts into raising catchable-sized catfish. Every year the hatchery opens its doors for a day so people can chase catfish during a special fishing derby to celebrate the event. But this is just a small sample of the catfish fishing opportunities that hatcheries provide. Last year, the AGFC stocked 418,301 catfish across the state. Nearly half of these fish have been bred to catchable size for use in fishing derbies, special events and to support dozens of Family and Community Fishing Program sites throughout the spring and fall.

“Just like trout, catfish are ready to be caught the minute we put them in a lake or pond,” Miller said. “Our process is exactly the same as many commercial catfish farms, so the fish you catch is great for the dinner table, too.”

Detailed report on the gray eye

The annual walleye project at CB “Charlie” Craig Fish Hatchery in Centerton boasts a great year producing members of the river-loving perch family. Fish loaned from the Kings River produced 799,235 walleye that were stocked in Fort Smith, Beaver, Norfork and Bull Shoals lakes.

“A lot of those fish went into the Bull Shoals nursery pond last year,” Miller said. “We rotate where the walleye project is focused each year, and south Arkansas lakes should see an increase in walleye stockings in 2024.”

(Signs for translation) Outdoors

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