MAMMOTH SPRING (AGFC) – Thanks to an agreement between the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and the Mammoth Spring National Fish Hatchery, trout are once again being stocked in the upper section of the Spring River.
Last August, an annual fish health inspection detected infectious pancreatic necrosis, a virus that can be fatal to fingerling trout at the Jim Hinkle Spring River State Fish Hatchery. Biologists temporarily halted stockings from the hatchery to test trout in the system and prevent further spread of the disease. As an added precaution, staff abandoned stocking fish above the hatchery in an effort to break the cycle of the virus returning to the facility through its water supply.
"No fish were stocked between Dam 1 and Dam 3 for about six months, and fishing declined," said Melissa Jones, hatchery manager at the AGFC's Jim Hinkle Hatchery. "We've been able to work out an agreement to bring trout back to the upper section of the Spring River."
The Mammoth Spring National Fish Hatchery has agreed to provide disease-free trout to the upper section of the Spring River for the next three years.
"This will provide anglers those fishing opportunities they're used to without further contaminating the hatchery's water supply with IPN."
The national hatchery will stock 11-inch trout, which is the standard for all Arkansas's rainbow trout stocking efforts.
Staff at the Jim Hinkle Hatchery has implemented strict bio-security measures to eliminate IPN from the facility, and has resumed stockings in the Spring River from Dam Three to Many Islands Campground, Below Bull Shoals Dam, Mirror Lake at Blanchard Springs, the Narrows Tailwater and seasonal family and Community Fishing Program locations.
Jones says the virus did cause some losses in fingerling fish at the hatchery, which resulted in a 25 percent loss of production. However, Greers Ferry National Hatchery and Norfork National Hatchery also supply many trout for the Little Red River and Norfork tailwaters, so anglers should find plenty of fish waiting for them at all of Arkansas's famous trout waters.
"We currently have a creel survey at many trout angling destinations to see if catch rates will be impacted by this change in production," Jones said.