Where do Arkansas' abundant fish come from?

Where do Arkansas's abundant fish come from?

LITTLE ROCK (AGFC) – Fish are nearly everywhere in Arkansas – lakes, rivers, streams, creeks, ponds, swamps. But what produces them?

There are three sources here in 2013.

First and by far the most effective is natural reproduction. Nature puts the fish in the Natural State and guides their reproduction and proliferation.

Second are the fish raised in the five hatcheries of the Arkansas Game and Fish commission and three hatcheries of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Third are the nursery ponds of the Game and Fish Commission on many of the lakes in the state.

Natural reproduction is given a helping hand by fish biologists, technicians and volunteers, concerned anglers, in the form of maintaining and improving habitat. These efforts range from extensive renovations of lakes and streams to simple projects like tying a weight to a discarded Christmas tree and sinking it in the water.

Both AGFC fisheries personnel and private citizens build and put in place artificial fish shelters. These provide places for baby fish to use while growing to adult sizes. The also give cover to other adult fish.

Fish habitat work across Arkansas takes other forms, too, like cleaning up the water and the shorelines. The Game and Fish Commission has Stream Team operations all over Arkansas in which volunteers join the agency's personnel in picking up trash from paper to foam food containers to tires and household appliances. Cleaner water means better fish spawning.

Young fish are stocked into waters in all Arkansas counties from fish raised in the hatcheries and the nursery ponds. These stockings are supplements to natural reproduction with an exception. Rainbow trout are a put-and-take fish species in Arkansas since there is little natural reproduction. The trout were introduced decades ago when the construction of dams on rivers wiped out the native warm water fish downstream from them.

Game and Fish Commission hatcheries are at Lonoke, Corning, Mammoth Spring, Centerton and Hot Springs. A fleet of special trucks transport their young fish to waters all over the state. Federal hatcheries are at Mammoth Spring, Norfork and near Heber Springs.

Arkansas makes heavy use of nursery ponds. Brood fish use these to produce crops of specified species. When ready, gates are opened, and the fish go directly into the water to boost the numbers of fish from natural reproduction.

Fish raised in nursery ponds are usually game species like crappie, largemouth bass, channel catfish and red-ear bream. But sometimes forage species like threadfin shad are produced to supplement the food fish in a particular lake.