Crooked Creek's fishing is responding

Crooked Creek's fishing responding to renovation work

YELLVILLE (AGFC) – Crooked Creek is back.

The fishing on one of north Arkansas's most heralded streams is on the upswing although not yet to the glory status of a few decades ago. Extensive renovation of the habitat in the Kelley's Slab area is nearly completion, and more smiles are beginning to appear on anglers going after smallmouth bass and the other Crooked Creek denizens.

The renovation work has been five years in the making. Kelley's Slab itself was part of the problem. Another issue was the major bank erosion caused by the harmful effects of the 2008 flood.

Crossing at Kelley's Slab was the only route to the Fred Berry Conservation Education Center, and high water made it inaccessible about 60 days a year, said Steve Filipek, assistant fisheries chief with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. A new bridge solved this.

Kelley's Slab was a bottleneck to fish travel. Many species moved upstream to spawn but could not get past the concrete barrier and the two culverts that constricted water flow to the point it was too much for the fish to navigate.

David Evans, AGFC Stream Team coordinator for northwest Arkansas, directed the work by AGFC personnel to correct the problems.

Evans said, "We used some trees that were right there, black walnuts. We pushed them into the creek at an angle so the root wads were on the bank and were covered by rock and soil. The tops went into the water. When we surveyed fish in this spot before the work, we found none. After the trees went into the creek, we found fish around them the same day. The fish came to the trees."

Crooked Creek has an international reputation for smallmouth bass fishing. Area anglers know there are more than smallmouth to be caught. Largemouth bass, Ozark bass, bluegill, green sunfish, longear sunfish, channel catfish, yellow bullheads and flathead catfish are also found in the creek. Occasionally, trout come upstream from the White River, and a few black crappie have been found, but these are uncommon, said Marilyn Duran, manager of the Fred Berry Center.

Ken Richards of Just Fishing Guides said current water levels are in the good fishing and floating range with flows at Kelley's. "Water temperatures are heating up and smallmouth fishing should be heating up as well. Water temperatures have ranged from 50 to 61 degrees. When the temperatures stay in the 60-degree range, the fishing should be on."

For fly fishermen, Richards recommends crawdad patterns such as the crazy dad, creek creature, sparkle grub and the simple craw. Natural colors like green, brown and tan are best, but have chartreuse, black and white handy, Richards said.

The slab has been notched to allow fish travel, Evans said, and additional work is in progress on it. A walk-in access with steps from a parking area down to the creek is being built.

Money to handle the Crooked Creek project included federal stimulus funds.