Kayak-Fish­ing Program Films On Elk River

IN­TER­NET TELE­VI­SION SHOW MAY BOOST ECO­TOURISM IN MCDON­ALD COUNTY

McDonald County Press - - FRONT PAGE - Keith Bryant kbryant@nwadg.com

The crew from “Hooked on Wild Wa­ters,” a web-based show that high­lights kayak fish­ing in var­i­ous lo­cales, made their way down one of McDon­ald County main wa­ter­ways on Fri­day. The episode is set to re­lease near the end of Novem­ber.

ELK RIVER — The crew from “Hooked on Wild Wa­ters,” a web-based show that high­lights kayak fish­ing in var­i­ous lo­cales, made their way down one of McDon­ald County main wa­ter­ways on Fri­day.

The episode is set to re­lease near the end of Novem­ber.

Shawn Cooper, pres­i­dent of the McDon­ald County Cham­ber of Com­merce, said this episode of the show could ben­e­fit the area by pro­mot­ing it as an eco­tourism des­ti­na­tion. Ad­di­tion­ally, he said, the show should be a great op­por­tu­nity to ed­u­cate the pub­lic about bass — par­tic­u­larly with how long it takes for one to grow and, as a re­sult, how im­por­tant it can be to let them go.

“That’s our whole goal — to con­serve what we have,” he said.

The show’s host, Char­lotte, N.C., res­i­dent Drew Gre­gory, said the area has some­thing worth tak­ing care of.

“We’ve seen a lot of beau­ti­ful scenery, most no­tably the clear wa­ter al­lows us to see all the fish — and be­lieve me, there are a lot of fish,” he said.

He and his crew were cov­er­ing about eight miles of the Elk River — which is fed by Lit­tle Sugar Creek — but they were be­ing care­ful not to dis­close ex­act lo­ca­tions be­cause they didn’t want to blow up any lo­cals’ fish­ing spots, he said.

In the first few miles, he said, he and his co-host, Arkansan pro­fes­sional fish­er­man Stet­son Blay­lock, caught about 15 bass.

“We love this area, we’ll def­i­nitely be back,” Gre­gory said. “I come to the Ozarks at least once a year.”

While shoot­ing their show, Gre­gory met up with a pair of re­searchers from Ok­la­homa State Univer­sity Depart­ment of Fish­eries, Shan­non Brewer and Andrew Tay­lor.

Brewer, who has a Ph.D. in stream ecol­ogy, land­scape

“It’s a good river, there’s a lot of fish here, there’s a lot of life. I think it’d be a great place to bring the fam­ily. It’s one of those places where if you don’t hear about it from some­one or re­search it on your own, you’d never know it was here.”

Stet­son Blay­lock Pro­fes­sional fish­er­man

ecol­ogy and fish­eries sci­ence, said she does a lot of work in this area, which in­cludes tag­ging and track­ing fish as well as tak­ing DNA sam­ples and mon­i­tor­ing pop­u­la­tions. She also did her Ph.D. work on small­mouth bass.

“I like Amer­ica’s fa­vorite sport fish,” she said.

They’re im­por­tant to the ecosys­tem, she said, be­cause they sit near the top of the food chain. While they pri­mar­ily con­sume cray­fish, they will eat just about anything else in the wa­ter, mean­ing ev­ery­thing in­ter­acts with them.

More­over, she said, they can oc­cupy a wide ar­ray of un­der­wa­ter habi­tats.

One par­tic­u­larly spe­cial part of the lo­cal ecosys­tem, she said, is the Neosho small­mouth bass, a sub­species of small­mouth bass ex­clu­sive to the McDon­ald County area.

Its spots, she said, are slightly dif­fer­ent in shape and it has been shown to be ge­net­i­cally dis­tinct from other small­mouth bass.

Pro­fes­sional fish­er­man Blay­lock said that, while kayak fish­ing was a sig­nif­i­cant change of pace com­pared to his pow­er­ful bass boat — and some­thing he’s never done on cam­era be­fore — it was a good time.

“Fish­ing’s all the same, you’re still try­ing to catch the big­gest fish you can.”

Fish­ing is at its most sat­is­fy­ing, he said, when he man­ages to pre­dict where the fish are and catch them in the same spots.

Kayaks do pro­vide some ben­e­fit, he said, be­cause they dis­turb the wa­ter less and make it eas­ier to creep up on fish and slip into tight spa­ces.

Fish­ing in the Ozarks, he said, was a good ex­pe­ri­ence. The Neosho small­mouth bass, he said, was an in­ter­est­ing fish to reel in. They’re not as ag­gres­sive as a lot of bass, he said.

The Elk, he said, proved to be an ex­cel­lent fish­ing lo­ca­tion, with good scenery to boot. The peo­ple in this area, he said, have ac­cess to some­thing spe­cial.

“It’s a good river, there’s a lot of fish here, there’s a lot of life,” he said. “I think it’d be a great place to bring the fam­ily. It’s one of those places where if you don’t hear about it from some­one or re­search it on your own, you’d never know it was here.”

KEITH BRYANT/THE WEEKLY VISTA

Andrew Tay­lor, who re­cently earned his Ph.D in fish­eries and aquatic ecol­ogy, shows a Neosho small­mouth bass. The main dis­tinc­tion be­tween this small­mouth bass and oth­ers, he said, is the shape of the splotches on its body. This sub­species, he said, is ge­net­i­cally dis­tinct from other small­mouth bass and ex­clu­sive to the area sur­round­ing McDon­ald County.

KEITH BRYANT/THE WEEKLY VISTA

Drew Gre­gory, host of Hooked on Wild Wa­ters, left, keeps an eye on his line while Jason Adams with Ozark Moun­tain Trad­ing Com­pany pad­dles a kayak and Zach Burkhart with Dig­i­tal Alchemy records video.

KEITH BRYANT/THE WEEKLY VISTA

Tay­lor demon­strates how re­searchers typ­i­cally catch fish, us­ing an elec­tri­fied wand pow­ered by the bat­tery pack strapped to his back. The elec­tric­ity, he said, tem­po­rar­ily par­a­lyzes the fish and causes them to float to the sur­face, then re­searchers can pick out the ones they want with a net.

KEITH BRYANT/THE WEEKLY VISTA

Shan­non Brewer, as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor at OSU Fish­eries, left, stands by while co-re­searcher Tay­lor takes a fin trim­ming from a small­mouth bass.

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