Arkansas: Raising Trout Permit Will Result in More Rising Rainbows

By Chris Horton, Midwestern States Senior Director

On March 25, a final vote is expected on Arkansas SB 486, a bill that would increase the fees for an Arkansas resident and non-resident trout permit for the first time in more than three decades.

Introduced by Arkansas Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus member Senator Missy Irvin, SB 486 is a priority for the Caucus during Arkansas’s 92nd General Assembly.

The cost of a resident trout permit has remained at $5 since 1987. The bill would increase a resident permit to $10 and a non-resident permit from $12 to $20. Funds from this increase will be dedicated only to trout hatchery production, and trout management in the state. With these funds, the $4.5 million needed for renovations to the Mammoth Springs Hatchery would be paid for in five years.

Not native to Arkansas, trout were introduced in 1951 in the White River basin by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission to mitigate for the loss of the native smallmouth bass fishery. Cold-water releases from the Bull Shoals and Norfork dams virtually eliminated native fish populations in more than 90 combined miles of the White and Norfork Rivers. The stocking was a success, and the trout thrived in the new cold, nutrient rich waters. Arkansas soon became known for its world-class trout fisheries. Today, trout fishing in Arkansas generates an estimated $180 million in revenue annually. 

However, rainbows, cutthroats and brook trout, with the exception of brown trout, do not naturally reproduce in Arkansas and require annual stockings to maintain fishable populations. While both the Norfork and Greers Ferry Federal Fish Hatcheries supply a good number of trout annually for the state, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Mammoth Springs Trout Hatchery is in desperate need of an overhaul, producing only about 50% of the trout it did 44 years ago.

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