Catch a Rainbow!
This article was
published by the Baxter Bulletin Newspaper January 18, 2011.
Upbeat About Trout
and Fish Commission Biologist Paul Port
grins big as he lifts a 32-inch German
brown trout counted in a recent fish
sample from the White River. All fish
counted and measured in the sample were
and North Fork rivers are
teeming with fish of all sizes.
An analysis of an October sample
of trout taken from the rivers shows managed
fisheries producing world-class brown trout and an
abundance of hatchery-grown rainbow trout in 11- to
12-inch lengths, says Arkansas Game and Fish
Biologist Jeff Williams, head of the Arkansas Trout
"It looks good, in my opinion,"
Williams said during an interview at his office last
week. "We saw good numbers, good sizes and healthy
fish, and one brown (trout) that measured 32
The leviathan brown came from
the Rim Shoals catch-and-release area. Williams said
he expected the area, containing some of the best
habitat on the White, to produce the biggest fish.
The biologist said he was encouraged again recently
by an angler report of another 32-inch brown caught,
recorded and released by a patron of a local guide
The samples were separated by
location on the White River. Williams said the
White, from a catch-and-release area below Bull
Shoals Dam and 15 other sample sites between the dam
and the confluence of the Buffalo River, produced
fish at a rate of 232 fish an hour — on a par with
previous samplings. In the mix, biologists counted
119 German brown trout, 113 rainbow trout and three
of the cutthroat strain.
Twenty-six percent of the brown
trout sampled on the upper White exceeded 14 inches
in length. About 4 percent exceeded 24 inches,
The sample showed again that
Arkansas trout are drawn to the colder 5-mile
stretch of the North Fork of the White that flows
from Norfork Dam. Biologists counted 429 fish an
hour during the shock sampling. Of that number, 256
were brown trout ranging from 9 to 20.5 inches long
with an average length of 13 inches.
The North Fork hour sample also
included 173 rainbow trout, 32 cutthroat and six
"The North Fork is
still an angler's best chance for catching the Ozark
Grand Slam (a creel containing a specimen of all four
of the major trout species)," Williams said.
Sample areas from the confluence of the
Buffalo to Calico Rock and from Calico Rock to Guion
produced, as usual, 50 percent to 75 percent fewer
brown trout than the colder upper tailwaters. The
Buffalo River to the Calico Rock sample area contained
a number of stocked rainbow trout comparable to the
rainbow upriver. Williams said the fish naturally
migrate upstream or to colder waters.
The biologist said the sample
once again revealed a trout population that does not
grow like its competitor strains. The rainbow trout
gains about 2 inches a year from the average length
at stocking of 11-inches.
Brown, brook and cutthroat trout
can grow up to 6 inches a year, he said.
Williams said the 11-inch
stocker rainbow trout remains good strain for
put-and-take management plans and anglers who want
to harvest fish to cook. But keeping the fish and
feeding them in hatchery environs until they grow to
the 11-inch length clearly results in a fish that
does not forage well when released into the rivers,
thus poor growth rates by comparison to the other
strains that somehow retain wild foraging instincts,
An experiment with the wily
McConaughy trout strain continues in the White,
Spring and Little Red, Williams said. The McConaughy
is a challenge to grow to a length larger than 3
inches in the hatchery because of the fishes'
instincts to stay at the bottom of hatchery pens.
Stockers released at 3 inches also are vulnerable to
being eaten by larger fish.
Williams said biologists also
recently completed a freeze branding experiment with
brown trout released to the Beaver Dam tailwaters,
Bull Shoals Dam tailwaters, Spring River and North
A total of 38,000 fish were
marked with a nitrogen freeze brand that the fish
will retain throughout their lives. Fish bearing the
brands in future fish samples will provide
biologists a better understanding of how the fish
performs in the various waters as well as how fish
length correlates year to year.
Williams said the October sample
also will provide a baseline that may show in
subsequent samplings how new fishing regulations on
the North Fork that nearly doubled the size of a
catch-and-release area impacts the size of fish in
A new harvest minimum length of
24 inches for brown trout is also a new factor in
the management plan that will come into play with
Ron and Debbie
P.O. Box 96