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.