The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission heard the first reading of proposed changes to trout fishing regulations on the Bull Shoals and Norfork tailwaters to meet shifting perceptions and desires of anglers on those fisheries at today's meeting. At a briefing held Wednesday, Christy Graham, AGFC Trout Program coordinator, explained the extensive public input process that went into the formation of these proposals.
“The regulations are only a part of our Bull Shoals and Norfork Tailwaters Fisheries Management Plans that are reviewed and adapted every few years,” Graham said. “This is a process that has gone on since 2004, and includes creel surveys, angler interviews, mail surveys and focus groups to determine what the fishing public wants out of these trout fisheries.”
Graham said the latest review of the plans included two public workshops in Mountain Home which were advertised via social media, online newsletters and radio ads. More than 100 participants attended the workshops to speak about changes they would like to see in the fishery. These responses were then combined with public input from mail-in surveys and creel surveys and compared to biological data to determine what regulations and management strategies would yield the best result of what is biologically sustainable and matches the public’s interests.
“We listed possible regulations and strategies at a second public meeting in late August where attendees were able to give input on which strategies were most acceptable,” Graham said. “We also reached out to all who attended the first meeting to attempt to get their input, whether they attended the second meeting or not.”
The following recommendations have been presented to the Commission for consideration:
Restrict the harvest of trout on Bull Shoals and Norfork tailwaters to five trout, but only one fish per day is longer than 14 inches.
Reduce the daily limit on cutthroat trout on Bull Shoals and Norfork tailwaters from two fish to one and increase the minimum length of cutthroats from 16 inches to 24 inches.
Reduce the daily limit on brook trout on Bull Shoals and Norfork tailwaters from two fish to one.
Enact a five-fish limit on rainbow trout with only one of those being longer than 14 inches.
Restrict the number of hooking points when using bait on Bull Shoals and Norfork tailwaters to a single hooking point.
Remove the Monkey Island Catch-and-Release Area on Bull Shoals Tailwater.
Extend the length of Rim Shoals Catch-and-Release Area approximately two miles downstream on Bull Shoals.
The Commission will hold a special meeting with a tentative date of Nov. 21, to review public comments and vote on these proposed regulations.