LITTLE ROCK – “Is it bass season yet?” and “I can’t wait until it’s warm enough to get the boat out of storage and go fishing,” are two statements common in many parts of the U.S. that Arkansans may find confusing.
Unlike anglers in other states where lakes freeze and protective seasons actually limit the amount of time an angler can pursue certain species, fishermen in The Natural State are blessed with year-round opportunities to catch whatever species they desire, so long as they stay within the daily limits, according to a news release from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
With abundant opportunities to wet a line any time of year, some anglers still temporarily trade the fishing rod for a rifle or shotgun. Some may not visit the water in search of fish until next spring, but others pause only long enough to get a few deer, ducks and squirrels for the freezer. This year’s dry, warm conditions have stretched their angling interest a bit longer than usual.
Chris Racey, AGFC chief of fisheries, is one of those all-season, all-species anglers who says current weather patterns have definitely extended his time on the water when he’d normally be chasing deer or ducks. Racey usually has at least one deer in the freezer by Thanksgiving from hunting public land not too far from his Little Rock home. But this year is a bit of a different story.
“I’ve been fishing for four of the last six days of the holiday season,” Racey said. “I haven’t even filled a deer tag yet, but I’ve still got the fishing bug.”
Racey began the week with his nephews and niece at MacArthur Park in Little Rock, catching rainbow trout the AGFC stocks in winter as part of its Family and Community Fishing Program.
“The ponds are stocked with catfish throughout the summer,” Racey said. “But in fall and winter, we can stock cold-water fish to give anglers a chance to catch trout without traveling to one of Arkansas’s famous tailwaters. The program holds a special place in my heart. It’s not only a place where many young anglers start fishing, but it’s where I started working for the AGFC years ago.”
The next day, Racey switched to warm-water fish on Lake Conway in Mayflower, where he and the kids caught more than 100 bream fishing near the Highway 89 Bridge.
“There were a lot of people out there using the new area that we purchased for access earlier this year,” Racey said. “It was great to see all of the use the area is getting so quickly. And the warm weather had everyone thinking about panfishing.”
After he and the kids parted ways, Racey still hadn’t had enough. He tackled the middle fork of the Saline River for smallmouth, then wrapped up his holiday weekend with more bream catching at Conway for a late-season fish fry.
“Jackelyn (his wife and avid hunter and angler in her own right) was ready for some fish of her own after the hefty haul of bream earlier in the week,” Racey said.
Arkansas deer hunters are still keeping pace with recent seasons, and once some rain and cold weather kicks in, duck hunters will be ready to fill the skies with steel, but for now, fishing is as hot as ever, no matter what temperature the thermometer reads.
Visit www.agfc.com for more information on the Family and Community Fishing Program, or any fishing location in Arkansas.