Big­ger brook­ies con­sid­ered for tail­wa­ters

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST/TELEVISION -

Arkansas Game and Fish Com­mis­sion’s trout man­age­ment team worked with the Greers Ferry Na­tional Fish Hatch­ery in He­ber Springs to clip off a fin on each of 14,300, 9-inch brook trout to be re­leased into the Bull Shoals and Nor­fork tail­wa­ters later this month.

The loss of a fin may seem coun­ter­pro­duc­tive to fish sur­vival, but the fin-clip­ping ef­fort is part of a larger project to de­ter­mine the ef­fec­tive­ness of larger trout be­ing stocked in the tailwater.

Brook trout have been stocked in Arkansas since 1994 at a size of 6 inches. Re­cently, the trout man­age­ment team has worked with the hatch­ery to grow out the trout to 9 inches be­fore re­lease. Christy Gra­ham, su­per­vi­sor of the trout man­age­ment pro­gram, said the trade­off for fewer, but larger trout, be­ing stocked may in­crease the amount of trout that make it to catch­able size.

“Creel and elec­trofish­ing sur­veys con­ducted over the last 10 years in­di­cate very few of the 6-inch brook trout stocked sur­vive very long af­ter stock­ing,” Gra­ham said. “We hope in­creas­ing the size to 9 inches will give an­glers a bet­ter op­por­tu­nity to catch these trout.”

Gra­ham said the clipped fins pose lit­tle harm to the fish, and en­able bi­ol­o­gists to ac­cu­rately de­ter­mine when a fish was stocked. This in­for­ma­tion is vi­tal to de­ter­mine the suc­cess of stock­ing as well as the growth rates of the fish.

“Typ­i­cally some fish would have to be sac­ri­ficed to de­ter­mine age through other means,” Gra­ham said. “But this mark­ing en­ables us to track the growth rates and sur­vival of stocked fish and re­lease it to be caught by an­glers.”

The min­i­mum length limit for brook trout is 14 inches and an­glers may keep two per day. Arkansas is the only state in the South­east to stock rain­bow, brown, cut­throat and brook trout. Catch­ing one of all four species in a sin­gle day is a feat known as the “Ozark Slam.”

Gra­ham en­cour­ages an­glers who visit the Nor­fork and Bull Shoals tail­wa­ters to at­tend pub­lic work­shops in Au­gust to be­gin the re­view of the trout man­age­ment plan for these tail­wa­ters.

“We will have an­nounce­ments soon on where and what times these work­shops will be held, but the dates will be Au­gust 3 and 24,” Gra­ham said.

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