“I hope this email finds you all having a Happy New Year,” says Christy Graham, cold water fisheries biologist for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. . “The purpose of this communication is to give you all a little bit of information on how the Federal government shut-down could affect our trout fisheries across the state.”
“ As many of you know, we stock trout from both State and Federal Facilities. Those include the Spring River State Fish Hatchery (owned by us, the AR Game and Fish Commission) and three US Fish and Wildlife Service Hatcheries (Norfork, Greers Ferry, and Mammoth Springs). All four facilities are equally important when it comes to stocking fish across the state and stocking is definitely a collaborative effort between all parties. This year, the federal facilities will supply about 57% of the trout stocked in the state, whereas AGFC will stock the rest. Some tailwaters (e.g., Greers Ferry, Norfork, and Beaver) rely 100% on stockings from the federal facilities, whereas others, like Bull Shoals Tailwater, are stocked by both state and federal facilities. Hopefully, that gives you an idea of the importance that both agencies have to trout stocking in AR.
“That being said, the shutdown has resulted in a limited capacity for the federal hatcheries to complete their work. It is my understanding that they are working with skeleton crews to feed fish and perform other necessary daily activities at the hatcheries. While this is ongoing, stocking from the federal facilities will occur on a very limited basis in most areas. That may mean that certain areas get no fish at all, or that stocking will occur less frequently. AGFC personnel have already reached out to the federal facilities and we have offered to help them haul fish as much as we can. In fact today, Spring River personnel hauled fish that were supposed to be stocked by Norfork Hatchery.
“Later this week, AGFC will hauling fish from Norfork to the Beaver Tailwater. It's possible that the other two facilities may request help as well. Our Spring River Hatchery folks, under the guidance of Melissa Jones, are an exceptional crew and I am confident that they will continue to do everything they can to help out our federal partners. Although I understand that this may be very concerning to some folks, I assure you that we are going to do our very best to limit the impacts this situation could have on your angling trips. Once the shutdown is over, any fish that were not stocked will be stocked ASAP and the numbers will be caught up to date. As needed, AGFC will also continue to help our partners during that time.
“It is not my preference or desire to engage in a political debate about this shutdown. If you have concerns, my recommendation would be for you to call your respective Federal Congressional office to express those concerns and how this could affect your livelihood and/or recreational opportunities. Please let me know if you have any questions. I'll do my best to answer them.