Arkansas Ozarks Fishing-Bull Shoals Lake-White River-Buffalo-North Fork-Norfork

Catch and Release Trout Areas

Although wild brown trout in Arkansas tailwaters currently reach world record proportions, the once spectacular size of rainbow trout in the 1950s and 60s has declined over the past 30 to 40 years. In an attempt to provide an opportunity to catch rainbow trout of at least four pounds, five tailwater catch and release areas totaling 5.5 miles were selected based upon studies in 1992-93 which indicated that although rainbow growth rates remained close to historical levels, angler harvest was rapid. These areas were implemented January 1, 1995.

Rainbow trout populations in the catch and release and surrounding standard regulation areas were monitored through pre and post-regulation Peterson mark and recapture electrofishing samples. Angler use and success were determined for two areas on the Bull Shoals Tailwater through an angler creel survey.

Based upon spring and winter 1996 samples there were 26 to 85 times more rainbow trout of at least 16 inches in four of the five areas with catch and release regulations versus standard regulation waters or to the baseline condition. In portions of the tailwaters with the standard regulations of 6 fish/day and no rainbow size limit, virtually no rainbow 16 inches or larger were captured. Catch and release areas yielded estimates of up to 1,187 and 266 rainbow/mile of at least 16 and 20 inches respectively. Population samples in the Greers Ferry Tailwater catch and release area have yet to show that the regulation is working. Possible explanations include poor sampling efficiency due to depth and relatively lower fishing pressure on the surrounding standard regulation waters.

The Bull Shoals Tailwater creel survey revealed that from April 1995 to March 1996 anglers fishing in catch and release areas had 2 to 3 times better rainbow catch rates than in the tailwater as a whole. Catch and release anglers also caught 6 to 24 times more 16- 18 inch rainbow trout. Annually there were 8-68 times more 16- 18 inch rainbow trout/mile caught in the catch and release areas. In the Bull Shoals Dam catch and release area it was estimated that there were 10,032, 16- 18 inch rainbow landings during an 11 month period of the creel. Although initially the Bull Shoals Tailwater catch and release areas received relatively IOW fishing pressure, it appears that pressure has increased since March 1996.

Based upon the information determined in the two year evaluation period, management recommendations will likely include additional catch and release areas or the expansion of current areas. Additionally, areas chosen will need to be suitable for effective sampling and in portions of tailwaters with at least moderate fishing pressure.

Relase in process just below Bull Shoals Dam

Catch-and-Release Tips

  • Don't play the fish to total exhaustion while attempting to land it.

  • Hold the fish in the water as much as possible when handling it, removing the hook and preparing it for release.

  • When removing the hook, don't squeeze the fish or place your fingers in its gills.

  • If the fish has swallowed the hook, don't pull it out. Rather, cut the line as close to the hook as possible, leaving the hook inside the fish.

  • When releasing the fish in the water, hold it gently until it has become reaclimated. Move it slowly back and forth to help it regain and maintain its equilibrium.