Kayak-Fishing Program Films On Elk River
INTERNET TELEVISION SHOW MAY BOOST ECOTOURISM IN MCDONALD COUNTY
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Shannon Brewer, associate professor at OSU Fisheries, left, stands by while co-researcher Taylor takes a fin trimming from a smallmouth bass.