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Anglers can find additional golden rainbows in White River

NORFORK – More golden rainbow trout have been stocked in the White River system below Bull Shoals Lake dam. About 500 of the rainbow trout that have a color variation making them appear a bright golden yellow were part of a shipment of 10,000 rainbow trout stocked Monday from the access here to other points upriver toward the dam.

The rainbow trout were bought from and delivered by Crystal Lake Fisheries of Ava, Missouri. The purchase was made possible by a Federal Emergency Management Agency reimbursement to the state for flooding on Spring River and damage caused to the Jim Hinkle/Spring River Fish Hatchery at Mammoth Spring in 2017, according to Christy Graham, the AGFC’s trout program coordinator. The Hinkle hatchery has not operated at full capacity since the flooding.

The AGFC bought 60,000 rainbow trout, which included a few thousand of the color-variant golden rainbows (about 5 percent of the total), from Crystal Lake Fisheries last year and is buying an identical amount this year, to be delivered over the next three months. While most will go into the White River in coming months, 15,000 will be stocked in the Spring River, Graham said. Likely more golden rainbows will be included.

The golden rainbow trout proved immensely popular to state trout anglers upon being stocked last year. This particular color-variant of rainbow trout was developed at the Missouri commercial fish hatchery. The fish has the distinct pinkish stripe down the middle of its body like a regular rainbow trout, while the rest of the color varies from a pale white to light yellow to a bright golden yellow that gleams underwater. Otherwise, they are a rainbow trout in every way.

“They are the same species genetically as a regular rainbow trout that we stock. They are just a color variant of a rainbow trout,” Graham said. It also should not be confused with the California golden trout, she notes, which is a completely different species and isn’t found in this region.

About 2,000 rainbow trout were stocked Monday at AGFC’s east Norfork access off Arkansas Highway 5, at the confluence of the White and North Fork rivers. Additional stocking of 8,000 rainbow trout occurred upriver. Crystal Lake’s fish stocking trucks included a loose rubber piping extending from the tanks that allowed the trout to move 50 feet or so to the water without touching the gravel bank. “This keeps them from coming into contact with parasites and any of the other bad things that might bother them,” said Ross Hutsell, who delivered the trout to Norfork. Other stockings Monday occurred at four other access areas: Bull Shoals State Park, White Hole, Cotter, and Buffalo City.

Also, this particular stocking coincided with about 5,000 rainbow trout from the Jim Hinkle/Spring River Hatchery that were stocked from the same Norfork access and down to Calico Rock. These stockings occur regularly throughout the river system, Graham said. In this case, Kent Coffey, an AGFC technician, took about 2,500 trout on a pontoon boat and released them between the Norfork access and the Reds Landing Access about 4-5 miles downriver. Then, Coffey reloaded his boat and netting with another 2,500 trout from the hatchery fish truck and proceeded downriver to Calico Rock.

“This allows us to better disperse the rainbow trout over a larger area of the river,” Graham said. “The stockings from Crystal Lake are in one spot and what we call direct stocking. Some of the fish will disperse, but most will stay in the area they were stocked. Some, though, will move a good distance.”

The average size of the Spring River-raised rainbows is 12 inches. The Norfork National Fish Hatchery also produces rainbow trout for stocking. But neither the Hinkle Hatchery nor the national hatchery produces golden rainbow trout. Monday’s stocking was the third time golden rainbow trout have been stocked in the White River. The AGFC purchased rainbow trout from Crystal Lake in 2008 after a flood affected the Hinkle hatchery, and that stocking included some golden rainbow trout.

While most angler reports of catching golden rainbow trout last summer were between the Bull Shoals State Park and Norfork, where the fish were stocked, one angler reported catching a golden rainbow, which he photographed and forward to the AGFC, further down the White River from Calico Rock.

The limit for trout on the White River below Bull Shoals Dam, including golden rainbow trout, is five trout per day. Anglers may keep only one trout longer than 14 inches.