AGFC Aims to Boost Largemouth Bass Populations in the Arkansas River
Anglers who love bass fishing in the Arkansas River have probably noticed the largemouth species becoming more difficult to hook as the population has dwindled in the last few seasons.
Area fishermen wondering if their ability to find largemouth bass was fading can breathe a small sigh of relief, as years of electrofishing samples and data from fishing tournaments have proven the local population is shrinking.
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) took notice of this and recently took action to counteract the shrinking largemouth bass population.
Per the AGFC, the largemouth bass population has suffered in recent years due to increased flow and flooding along the banks. This flooding has contributed to the river being cut off from the bass’s natural spawning waters, depriving the fish of a safe place to spawn.
In an effort to support the population, AGFC released 103,882 largemouth bass fingerlings into the water. Commission staff say this should improve the raw population of the river by something like 10-17%.
The main problem causing the population shortage is flooding because a high-water level is what moves sediment and blocks off entrances to natural backwaters which are the bass’ preferred spawning habitats.
To go along with the raw population boost, AGFC workers spent time restructuring the banks of the river in an attempt to provide better, safer spawning habitats for the bass. By opening up new channels and backwaters, future bass populations should recover as they spawn more frequently and more successfully.
A team of seventeen AGFC staff and volunteers also planted 1,500 water willows along the shoreline. Water willow serves two important purposes: providing shelters for fish to hide from predators, and also preserves the shoreline by moderating the current, preventing too much silt from being carried away during high water events or fast flows.
This season’s population should stabilize, but AGFC Fisheries supervisor Frank Leone says a true population rebound will take time.
“Anglers may catch a few more fish in future years from this stocking, but this is much more about filling the gap in the 2022-year class to help stabilize the population so it is ready to rebound when the flow allows a good spawn,” Leone told the AGFC’s website.
The spawning population is still unfavorable as long as the river is overflowing or flooding. The best the AGFC can do for now is keep the population in check while it waits for more favorable spawning conditions to truly recover.