LITTLE ROCK (AGFC) – The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission accepted five changes to trout fishing regulations proposed for the Bull Shoals and Norfork tailwaters at a special meeting via teleconference at the AGFC Headquarters in Little Rock.
The proposals are part of ongoing revisions to the formal trout management plans for the two tailwaters. During the last year, biologists have collected creel surveys, biological samples and mail-in surveys as well as held public focus group meetings to determine the best course of action for the trout fishery to meet the desires and expectations of the public. The regulations were presented to the Commission in October, and have been open to public comment for the last 30 days.
The following regulations were passed for trout fishing on the two tailwaters:
The daily limit on all trout species combined is five, but only one of those fish may be 14 inches or larger.
The daily limit on cutthroat has been reduced to one, and the minimum length for that species is now 24 inches.
The daily limit on brook trout has been reduced to one.
When using natural (corn, worms, sculpin) or scented bait (PowerBait) on the Bull Shoals and Norfork tailwaters, anglers may only use a single hooking point.
The Monkey Island Catch-and-Release Area on Bull Shoals Tailwater has been removed.
An additional regulation to extend the Rim Shoals Catch-and-Release Area approximately 2 miles downstream was removed from the proposals before the vote, essentially declining the proposal.
Commissioner Ken Reeves of Harrison said he received a petition since last Wednesday’s Commission meeting with 133 signatures opposed to the extension of the catch-and-release area. He also felt that the catch-and-release area would be an undue restriction to increase the size of trout in the tailwater, when the proposal to restrict an angler from taking more than one trout over 14 inches was already being passed for that effect.
“I’m very hesitant to restrict the public’s right to enjoy the White River,” Reeves said. “We spend a lot of money to stock trout and it’s for everyone.”
Reeves also had concerns that the restrictions would remove the ability of private property owners to take their children or grandchildren to the banks of the river, catch some trout and eat them, thus possibly damaging the heritage of fishing and the property value of the landowners bordering the proposed catch-and-release expansion.
According to creel surveys conducted on the Bull Shoals and Norfork tailwaters, 71 percent of trout angling taking place is catch-and-release.
“In a sense, the entire tailwater already is 71 percent catch-and-release,” Reeves said.
Reeves also spoke up about the “outstanding job” on the part of the AGFC Trout Program Coordinator Christy Graham and the public in coming together to create the proposals presented to the Commission.
“It really bothered me not to go with her recommendation,” Reeves said of the Rim Shoals Catch-and-Release Area proposal. “But I think she’s done a fantastic job, above and beyond the call of duty.”
The Commission also approved a temporary commercial fishing season on Old River Lake in Pulaski County to run from Dec. 1, 2017, to Feb. 28, 2018. Commercial anglers must receive a permit from the local fisheries biologist to participate. The goal of the season is to reduce the abundant rough fish in the lake, such as buffalo and gar, to reduce competition for space and resources with sport fish populations in the lake.