AGFC stocks 9.3 million fish in 2019
Flooding, high waters impacted populations last year By Randy Zellers
AGFC Communications LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas Game and Fish Commission hatcheries produced and stocked more than 9.3 million fish during 2019 to improve fishing conditions for Arkansas anglers in 2019.
Tommy Laird, AGFC Assistant Chief of Fisheries who coordinates the efforts of four warmwater hatcheries and one coldwater hatchery operated by the agency, says last year was a typical production year despite some setbacks caused by flooding in spring.
“The flooding we saw in some parts of the state eliminated the contribution from some of the nursery ponds on some lakes,” Laird said. “But in high-water years, boosts to natural reproduction from the thousands of acres of additional spawning habitat can often outweigh the shot-in-thearm our nursery ponds may give, so that’s not entirely a bad thing.
In a lake with abundant habitat and stable water levels, Mother Nature can produce many more fish than our hatchery system.”
Fluctuating temperatures also played havoc on the hatcheries’ abilities to get certain species to spawn.
“Our Florida bass broodstock did not get good spawns last year, and we were worried about meeting our production goal,” Laird said. “We did get some younger bass to spawn late and stocked our growing ponds at lower densities than usual.
To our surprise, we saw much higher than normal survival rates of those fish as they grew in the ponds.”
Laird explained that only 40 to 50 percent of Florida largemouth fry that go into a hatchery pond actually make it to fingerling size. The rest are typically eaten by larger fry from the same spawn. However, with the lower stocking rate, the hatcheries saw survival rates of 60 percent and higher, which allowed them to surpass their stocking goal of 1.4 million Florida largemouth bass stocked in the state.