Two prize fish landed on first day of Hot Springs fishing challenge

HOT SPRINGS (AGFC) – Two of the 53 prize-winning fish were caught Tuesday on the first day of the $50,000 Hot Springs Fishing Challenge on Lakes Hamilton and Catherine.

The first prize-winning fish, worth a $250 prize, was caught at around 4 p.m. Tuesday off of the dock at the Andrew Hulsey Fish Hatchery on Lake Hamilton.

The second, a walleye worth $500, was caught late Tuesday night below the Highway 7 Bridge on Hamilton, according to Steve Arrison, CEO of Visit Hot Springs, which is sponsoring the Challenge, which began Tuesday and runs through sunset July 31.

Clifford E. Ashley Sr. of Hot Springs caught the first prize fish, a bluegill, using a Georgia red wiggler, Arrison said. The fish carried tag No. 124.

"There was a slight delay in verifying the fish," Arrison said, "due to the fact that Mr. Ashley had locked his keys — and the $250 fish — in his car when he drove over to the fish hatchery office to report his catch.

"However, all ended well when Arkansas Game and Fish Commission employees at the hatchery helped Mr. Ashley retrieve his keys and the prize winning fish."

Arrison said he received a call at 11:30 p.m. Tuesday notifying him that the $500 walleye, carrying tag No. 27, had been caught.

"That one was caught by Josh Brown of Benton," Arrison said. "He was using a June Bug worm when he reeled in the cash."

"Fish No. 22, which we call Big Al, is still out there," Arrison said. "Whoever lands Big Al will get $10,000. Plus, the $5,000, one $2,500 fish and 20 $1,000 fish are still out there waiting to be caught. Not to mention 19 more fish worth $500 apiece and nine more worth $250 each."

The Hot Springs Fishing Challenge is open to anyone with a fishing pole and a valid Arkansas fishing license, Arrison said. "The fish that we released into the two lakes April 30 were nine largemouth bass; nine bluegill, nine catfish, nine striped bass, nine crappie, and eight walleye."

The fish have tags with a phone number and a prize number on them. When one of the prize-winning fish is caught the angler must call the phone number and present the fish with the tag attached.

"Anybody with a fishing pole can win, no matter what their age, skill level. It doesn't matter if the fish is caught while fishing from a boat, from the bank or from a dock. Kids under 16 don't have to have a valid Arkansas fishing license, but those age 16 and older need the valid license," Arrison said.

For more information on the fishing challenge, call Steve Arrison at 501-321-2027 or visit