Free Fishing for Spring Break 2020

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, in cooperation with Gov. Asa Hutchinson, voted during a specially called meeting today to waive all fishing license and trout permit requirements for residents and nonresidents starting this weekend at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, March 21 through 11:59 p.m Sunday, March 29.

The special waiver is in response to the extended spring break by many schools and voluntary measures suggested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to practice “social distancing” to slow the spread of the Novel Coronavirus currently affecting the world.

“Anglers have always practiced a type of ‘social distancing’,” said AGFC Director Pat Fitts. “We just call it ‘going fishing.’ Being outdoors in the fresh air is healthy and it’s the perfect remedy for cabin fever and the restlessness that may come from being cooped up at home. I encourage everyone to look at the current situation as a time to reconnect with nature instead of locking themselves inside. Now is a great time to get outside and build some lasting fishing memories.”

Only the license requirement has been waived for all persons, except those whose fishing privileges are currently suspended; all other fishing regulations, such as daily limits and any length restrictions by species, will remain in place during this time.

Andrew Parker, Vice-Chairman of the Commission complimented staff for working so quickly to organize the effort.

“Hopefully, it will provide some relief to the full-blown anxiety that everyone is feeling,” Parker said. “It does heed the call the governor has made to go outside, keep social distance, but go outside and enjoy the outdoors. Fresh air does everybody good.”

The announcement comes just as some of the best fishing of the year is occurring in The Natural State. White bass, walleye and crappie are moving shallow to spawn where they can be targeted by anglers from shore as well as by boat. Largemouth bass also are beginning their annual spawning cycle, which stimulates their feeding and makes them easier to catch. Warmer weather also makes it much more comfortable to enjoy a day spent alone or one-on-one with a family member or friend at the lake or river.

“We’re blessed with fantastic fishing for everyone,” Fitts said. “And fishing can be one of the least expensive ways to enjoy the outdoors. Equipment can be as simple as a hook, line and some worms you dig up from the yard or garden. Cut a piece of cane for a pole or invest in a modest rod and reel to get your lure out a little further, either way, you just might find out that fishing suits you.”

Fitts says fishing also brings the added benefit of being able to harvest some of the best-tasting, healthiest protein available anywhere. With grocery stores running a little lean on some meats, a meal of fresh fish is an excellent way to enjoy the fruits of your day of social distancing.

Free Fishing Weekend Starts Friday

For one weekend a year in Arkansas, folks 16 years of age and older aren’t required to have a fishing license or trout permit to fish The Natural State. Arkansas’s annual Free Fishing Weekend will run from noon Friday through midnight Sunday night. Children under 16 don’t need a license anytime to fish, but this special weekend is a perfect time for adults and kids to get out together on Arkansas’s water sources.

If you’re looking to get the kids on a near sure-thing fishing experience, Ben Batten, the AGFC’s assistant chief of Fisheries, suggests visiting one of the AGFC’s five fish hatcheries from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. The hatcheries will be holding derbies for anglers 12 and under. Each child must be supervised by an adult. Kids may catch and keep up to three catfish (or three trout at the Jim Hinkle Spring River State Fish Hatchery). In addition to fishing fun, participants also will be able to compete in casting contests and win prizes for fish caught.

Check out this video about Arkansas’s Free Fishing Weekend

Free fly-fishing classes set for Heber Springs

Some of the regular contributors to the weekly Fishing Report who keep everyone up to date on the state’s trout fishing opportunities also provide the chance for trout novices or anyone else who wants to expand their horizons to learn how to fish for trout and to learn to tie flies for casting on the trout waters. One of those is Greg Seaton of Little Red Fly Fishing Trips, who has a free fly-fishing class set for February.
Seaton says the four consecutive weeks of classes begin Thursday, Feb. 16, and will run each Thursday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church in Heber Springs. The class is open to all beginning and novice fly-fishing enthusiasts (older youths and adults). Younger youths are welcome if accompanied by an adult. No fishing tackle is required, but if anyone has a question about their personal rod, reels or flies, bring them to the class and Seaton will answer any questions. The class will be held at church’s Family Life Center.
Those planning to attend should contact Seaton in advance (call 501-690-9166 or visit his website) to reserve a spot. If you cannot attend all the classes, Seaton still urges you to register and feel free to attend the classes you can. There is no cost for the classes.