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White River anglers finding gold in their rainbows

COTTER — Anglers on the White River below Bull Shoals Dam have struck gold in the last few days, thanks to a recent stocking of 7,500 rainbow trout, which included some with a golden color variation.

Christy Graham, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission trout management program coordinator, says the fish were stocked May 6, and anglers already are beginning to share posts of the golden fish they have caught.

“Golden rainbow trout cause a lot of excitement because they are something that looks completely different from the rest of the fish anglers catch,” Graham said. “It is just another unique opportunity that anglers will have over the next few months when trout fishing.”

Golden rainbow trout are a color variation of rainbow trout that some fish producers stock as a novelty for anglers. States such as West Virginia have caused quite a buzz by intentionally stocking these bonus fish during their fishing seasons. Arkansas does not have any true golden trout, which are native to California. Anglers catching these pale orange rainbow trout can keep them just as if they were a normal rainbow. All rules for rainbow trout apply to golden rainbows as well.

Graham says the stocking, which included standard rainbow trout as well as the golden variety, was part of a federal reimbursement from 2017 when a flood decreased the Jim Hinkle State Fish Hatchery’s ability to produce trout. The loss of hatchery production from flood damage reduced the number of rainbow trout stocked in the state by 25 percent.

The AGFC has been able to purchase roughly 60,000 rainbow trout from a private fish farm in Missouri with the reimbursement. Those trout will be split up over the next three months (15,000 per month) and distributed throughout the White River from Bull Shoals Dam to Norfork. The remaining 15,000 fish will be stocked in the Little Red River.

Another 60,000 rainbow trout will be purchased in 2020 from the reimbursement and follow the same stocking schedule.

“The flood at Spring River was unfortunate and had a significant impact on our anglers. We’re happy to be able to provide this additional opportunity for the next couple of years to offset that loss.”

Graham says this is not the first time golden rainbows have been stocked in Arkansas tailwaters.

“After a flood loss in 2008, rainbow trout were purchased from a private fish farm, which also had the golden variety mixed in,” Graham said. “Any of those fish would be 11 years old by now, and would be easily differentiated between this recent stocking effort.”