Fishing Effort and Harvest of Smallmouth Bass in a Small Arkansas Ozark Stream

Stream fishing for black bass (Micropterus spp.) is a popular outdoor recreational activity in northern Arkansas. After construction of a new access area on Crooked Creek, Arkansas in 2017, anglers expressed concerns about increased fishing pressure and possible overharvest of smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu). In 2019, we conducted a creel survey (60 sample days over six months) at five public accesses, including the new access, on a 35-km section of Crooked Creek. We also tagged 195 fish in an associated one-year exploitation study to address requests for stricter regulations and mandatory catch and release for smallmouth bass. Estimates of fishing pressure (20,521 h) and smallmouth bass catch rates (1.13 fish h–1) were both high. We saw high tag reporting rates (61%) during the first two months of the exploitation study. Smallmouth bass harvest was negligible, but the results of this study indicated that anglers caught smallmouth bass multiple times per year; thus, fishing-related mortality may still affect the popula- tion. Because low harvest rates limit the ability of regulations to improve fisheries, removing two special regulation areas currently managed with more restrictive regulations may be justified for Crooked Creek. Future research looking at the effects of multiple catch-and-release events on a large portion of the population in a small stream may prove helpful in managing these fisheries.

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