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Fisheries professionals focus on shorebound angling access

LITTLE ROCK – Fishing automatically conjures images of days spent on the boat, but according to a survey conducted for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, 47 percent of Arkansas anglers fish from the bank. And the AGFC is tackling shoreline access with renewed fervor as a result.

Jason Olive, assistant chief of fisheries for the AGFC says the survey was part of the new direction fisheries managers are going to include more public input on how they prioritize their efforts on the ground and on the water.

“The survey was conducted through the mail in 2017,” Olive said. “Mississippi State University won the bid for the contract and has an extremely good record in human dimensions research in the conservation arena. We wanted to know more about all our anglers, not just those avid ones who speak the loudest. And some of the results were very surprising.”

Fishing can be as simple or as difficult as a person chooses to make it. High speed glitter rockets for boats and perfectly tied flies presented on a graceful cast both have their place in fishing, but those are not the only segments of anglers the AGFC must consider. At its core, fishing is as simple as digging up some worms and enjoying a day on the bank.

“With the results of the survey in mind, we redirected some funds specifically to improve bank fishing access throughout the state this year,” Olive said. “We already have bank fishing access at hundreds of fishing locations, but added funds could make bank fishing great in these areas again.”

Biologists devoted an additional $50,000 this year to cleaning up, repairing and otherwise improving access for anglers interested in watching a bobber from the side of the lake.

Some notable improvements for bank anglers completed this year include the removal of shoreline vegetation and underbrush at Bob Kidd Lake in Washington County as well as parking improvements and road repairs to the shoreline.

The Norfork Access to the Norfork River in Baxter County received a repair to the walkway and steps leading to angling access along the river.

In Union County, Calion Lake saw the renovation of two popular fishing jetties, with additional gravel added to provide better parking, walking and fishing conditions.

AGFC staff in northeast Arkansas repaired the decking and handrails to one of Lake Ashbaugh’s fishing piers and improved the roads around the levees to create better access to 2 miles of shoreline at the lake. Additional tree and brush removal along the shore filled two roles – created habitat for fish attractors and provided areas to fish comfortably. Upper and lower lakes Hogue also saw the placement of shoreline brush as fish attractor sites to clear the shoreline and bring bank anglers and fish closer together. Lower Lake Hogue’s fishing pier also saw much needed repairs from the additional funding.

In central Arkansas, much of the bank angling improvements revolved around the new Highway 89 bank access on Lake Conway. The property was purchased last fiscal year, but improvements to the site are creating a premium bank-fishing destination with parking for up to 30 vehicles. A floating fishing pier and additional fish attractors should be in place soon thanks to the additional funding. Staff in central Arkansas also were able to replace a walking bridge at Lakeview Landing on Lake Overcup with a permanent culvert to offer improved access to an existing bank fishing area.

Southwest Arkansas fishing improvements included three fishing trails around AGFC lakes – Bois d’Arc Lake, South Fork Lake and Lake Terre Noire. The trails run along sections of productive shoreline and offer anglers a chance to walk-in far beyond a single pier or bank.

Many other improvements have been made or are in progress throughout the state thanks to this reinvigorated effort to offer everyone a chance to wet a line.

“Every angler is important and we want to make sure we are providing more and better fishing opportunities across the state for everyone,” Olive said. “We thank everyone who took the time to complete surveys that were mailed to them for their honest answers, and we plan to continue reaching out to fishing license holders in various ways to solicit their input.”