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The spectator sports world is shut down indefinitely, but the Outdoors sports are healthy and open for business.

We don't intend to sound flippant about a serious public health crisis, but we need respite and entertainment, and there is no better place for the body and soul than in the fields and forests of Arkansas in the springtime.

Getting started is easy. A $10.50 resident fishing license entitles an Arkansas resident to fish all of the state's public waters for an entire year. If you want to fish for trout, you will also need to buy a $7 trout fishing permit.

If you don't have a boat or kayak, you can enjoy decent bank fishing at popular and productive fishing waters. For example, there is a fishing pier at the boat launch ramp on the Big Maumelle River at Pinnacle Mountain State Park. You can also fish from the bank all along the Little Maumelle River at Pinnacle Mountain State Park between Highway 300 and the main parking area at the foot of the mountain.

When we were in college, my friends Dan Hedges (a longtime employee of the State Crime Lab) and Maurice Gilmore staged a two-man fishing tournament at the Little Maumelle ramp. It started over a lunch bet over whether fly fishing was a more productive fishing method than spin fishing. Hedges fished with a fly rod and Gilmore fished with a spinning rod. I was there, and I was astonished at how many fish they caught in that spot fishing almost side by side.

There is also a public fishing pier on Lake Hamilton at the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission's tournament facility at the state fish hatchery, and also on Lake Ouachita at Twin Creeks Recreation Area. Lake Dardanelle State Park has a public fishing pier at the visitor center, but you can fish from the bank on most of the state park. The jetty at the boat ramp can be an excellent place to catch fish.

Accessing the best fishing spots requires a boat. It needn't be a fancy or expensive boat. You can find aluminum flatbottom boats for less than $500 -- sometimes much less -- any day in the classified ads of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. You can usually find small, gas-powered outboard motors for very reasonable prices, too. You can also use electric outboard motors to operate small boats and canoes.

If you're reluctant to commit to that level, a fishing kayak is a versatile compromise. Excellent kayaks are available at nearly any price point. I recommend a sit-on-top model because it is easy to mount and dismount, and it is more conducive to fishing. Most have integral rod holders, and many have internal storage for tackle and other fishing gear. Specialized models are designed for use with electronic graphs. Hobie kayaks have internal recesses to protect transducers from damage.

Best of all, sit-on-tops are stable and most user friendly, so the whole family can enjoy them.

You won't go far or fast on a big Corps of Engineers reservoir with kayaks or electric motors, but they are perfect for small lakes like those owned by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. Acre for acre, these are the most productive fishing lakes in the state for largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill and catfish.

Despite their excellent fishing, Game and Fish lakes are lightly pressured. I will never forget fishing Lake Conway on Memorial Day with Billy McCaghren, a professional angler from Mayflower. We were the only anglers on the entire 6,700-acre lake, and the fishing was phenomenal.

Other small lakes are Lake Overcup near Morrilton, lakes Hinkle and Truman Baker near Waldron, Lake Ola-Dale near Ola, Lake Charles (Lake Charles State Park), Lake Frierson (Lake Frierson State Park), White Oak Lake (White Oak Lake State Park), Cane Creek Lake (Cane Creek State Park), Lake Fort Smith (Lake Fort Smith State Park), as well as lakes Dunn and Ashbaugh. There are also a lot of municipal city reservoirs that are open to fishing, and you can usually have them to yourself, which means you're not at risk from being in a crowd.

The world will ease back to normal in time, but until then, treat yourself to the best the Natural State has to offer. You might find you prefer your new lifestyle.


In Thursday's review of Memories of Spring by Ron Jolly, we mistakenly wrote that Jolly is a Mississippi resident. He actually lives in Alabama. Jolly also said that signed copies are available for $30.

Sports on 03/15/2020

Print Headline: Fishing a fun way to ride out coronavirus outbreak


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