By Ronnie Weston| August 2, 2012 at 5:33 PM CDT - Updated June 28 at 2:36 AM
HOT SPRINGS (AGFC) – The $50,000 Hot Springs Fishing Challenge on Lake Hamilton and Lake Catherine has been extended until August 31.
"We conferred with our friends at the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission's Andrew Hulsey Fish Hatchery, and they agreed it would be fair to extend the Challenge beyond the original July 31 deadline," said Steve Arrison, CEO of Visit Hot Springs, which is sponsoring the fishing contest.
"They agreed the extended period of extremely hot, dry weather could have affected the number of prize fish that have been caught, especially crappie," Arrison said. "Everyone has responded so positively to the Challenge we thought it would be a good idea to let people keep on fishing for ‘Big Al' and the rest of the cash fish."
So far, 13 prize fish had been caught and reported to VHS for prizes.
Fifty-three tagged fish were released for the Fishing Challenge into Lake Hamilton and Lake Catherine on May 31. Six different types of fish were tagged by experts from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission: Bluegill, crappie, channel catfish, largemouth bass, walleye, and striped bass (some tagged were large hybrid striped bass). At the end of the day Wednesday, two bluegill, three walleye, one crappie, three largemouth bass, three striped bass (two of them hybrids) and one channel catfish have been caught —all on Lake Hamilton.
"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 fish, one $2,500 fish and 15 $1,000 fish are still out there waiting to be caught. Not to mention 13 more fish worth $500 apiece and nine more worth $250 each.
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.