Arkansas Game and Fish Commission fisheries biologists can't catch a break.
In the summer they were raked over the coals by commercial striper fishing guides after proposing a regulation restricting the transportation of wild-caught baitfish from one waterbody to another. The legislature even got involved and stirred considerably more excitement than fishing-related matters usually generate.
The fisheries folks did it again last month by revamping trout fishing regulations on the White River below Bull Shoals Dam and on the North Fork of the White River below Norfork Dam.
The new proposals are intended to enhance all elements of trout fishing in these world-renowned waters. Both rivers have produced multiple line-class world records for various species of trout, but record-class trout have become scarce in recent years.
Now that minimum flows have been established on the rivers, they have the potential to regain their momentum and maybe become better than ever.
The new proposals, along with an enhanced stocking regimen involving trout raised at the Game and Fish Commission's Spring River hatchery, intend to produce bigger trout and more of them while still allowing anglers to keep rainbow trout to eat.
Currently, an angler may keep five rainbow trout per day with no minimum length limit. The proposed regulation would maintain the five-rainbow limit, but an angler would be allowed to keep only one trout per day larger than 14 inches.
Christy Graham, the Game and Fish Commission's trout program coordinator, said that the average size rainbow trout stocked in the White and North Fork rivers is 11.5 inches long. The average rainbow trout that anglers keep is 12 inches long. She said that the agency will stock fewer rainbow trout in the White River in 2018, but will increase the size of stocked trout to 12-13 inches.
The minimum length limit for brown trout and cutthroat trout will increase from 16 inches to 24 inches, with a daily creel limit of one.
The minimum length limit for brook trout will increase 14 inches, with a daily creel limit of one.
If you keep any one species of trout that meets the minimum length limit, you will not be able to keep any other trout species that meets the standard for that particular day. In that case you will only be able to keep rainbow trout smaller than 14 inches.
A big controversy erupted over a separate proposal to expand the Rim Shoals Catch-and-Release Area by two miles. That area is about one mile long and is one of the best sections to catch trophy trout.
A companion proposal eliminates catch-and-release regulations for the Monkey Island area because they have not contributed to appreciably bigger fish there.
Several people expressed their opposition to expanding the Rim Shoals Catch-and-Release area Wednesday during the Game and Fish Commissions' monthly work meeting in Little Rock. One opponent said expanding the area would discriminate against minorities and benefit only rich white people (a dysphemism for fly fishermen).
Some opponents also insist that restricting trout harvest in that section of water will hurt the trout guide fishing industry. That accusation is traditionally the most dependable way to bend the will of the Game and Fish Commission.
On one hand, expanding the Rim Shoals Catch-and-Release area would impose catch-and-release regulations on only about 5 percent of a 90-mile stretch of trout fishing water from Bull Shoals Dam to Guion.
On the other hand, expanding the catch-and-release area seems unnecessary from a fisheries management standpoint. Increasing the minimum length limits will accomplish much of the desired result on the entire river. A 24-inch trout is a very big fish, and casual anglers don't often encounter fish of that size. Therefore, a 24-inch minimum length limit essentially accomplishes the same thing as a catch-and-release regulation for brown and cutthroat trout.
As an admirer of rainbow trout and the energetic, acrobatic way they fight, I would love to see bigger rainbows in the Bull Shoals and Norfork tailwaters.
As an admirer of cutthroat trout, I would love to see them bigger, and more of them, too. The biggest cutthroat I ever caught, coincidentally, was at Boswell Shoal in 2006 while fishing for smallmouth bass. The 16-inch cutthroat bit a Zoom Tiny Lizard on a 2/0 hook.
I caught my biggest brookie -- a 15-incher - in West Virginia in 1995. I'd love to break that record in my home state.
The AGFC proposals to this effect seem reasonable.
Sports on 11/19/2017
Print Headline: Trout fishing proposals cause more excitement for biologists