LITTLE ROCK – Thanks to a proclamation by Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Thursday, anyone may fish in Arkansas without a fishing license or trout stamp from noon June 12 through midnight June 14. The proclamation was read at Thursday’s online commission meeting by Megan Perkins, agriculture and commerce liaison to Hutchinson’s office.
An annual tradition sponsored by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) and approved by Gov. Hutchinson, Free Fishing Weekend gives many people the opportunity to enjoy the amazing angling The Natural State has to offer. This will be the second time Arkansans have had the opportunity to enjoy fishing without a license in 2020. During the initial closure of schools, amusement parks and museums because of concerns for the spread of the coronavirus, commissioners worked in concert with Hutchinson to waive the requirement of a fishing license for nine days in late March.
“At $10.50 a year, Arkansas’ fishing license is one of the nation’s least expensive; it’s less than three cents per day,” says Ben Batten, chief of the AGFC’s Fisheries Division. “But even that fee is waived for this weekend to help get people outside for a fishing trip.”
Batten says June is an excellent time to fish, and this year has shaped up to be a good one with many people enjoying a return to the water.
“We’re seeing increased traffic at many of our lakes, particularly the smaller and mid-sized lakes the AGFC owns,” Batten says. “Even weekdays have been consistently busy as people have learned fishing and the outdoors are an ideal temporary getaway from our current issues in the world.”
Unfortunately, continued concerns for COVID-19 have interrupted one of the most popular annual events that typically take place during Free Fishing Weekend. All fishing derbies at AGFC hatcheries have had to be canceled to help continue suppressing the spread of coronavirus.
“We are heartbroken over the decision we have had to make to cancel the hatchery derbies,” says Tommy Laird, assistant chief of the AGFC’s Fisheries Division who leads the agency’s five freshwater fish hatcheries. “Everyone at every hatchery really takes pride in those derbies, as it is one of the only chances we have to show everyone where we work and what we do. Thousands of people show up to the hatcheries throughout the day, and there’s just no way to accommodate that many people without breaking social distancing recommendations.”
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