Catch a Rainbow!
This article was published by the Baxter Bulletin
Newspaper January 18, 2011.
Upbeat About Trout
Game 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
The White 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 Program.
"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 inches."
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 service.
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
percent of the brown trout sampled on the upper
White exceeded 14 inches in length. About 4
percent exceeded 24 inches, Williams said.
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 brook trout.
"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
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.
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
and cutthroat trout can grow up to 6 inches a
year, he 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,
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.
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 Fork.
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.
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 that river.
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 future samples.
Ron and Debbie Gamble
P.O. Box 96
Cotter, Arkansas 72626