Fishermen don’t have to go far in the winter to feel the spirited fight of a rainbow trout.
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission stocks ponds and lakes in cities across the state with trout. The first fish go into waterways around Thanksgiving once the water is cool enough for these fish to survive. Game and Fish brings more trout to these urban fisheries about once a month through February.
Winter trout are part of the Game and Fish Family and Community Fishing Program. Channel catfish are stocked from March through October in lakes that are part of the program.
In Northwest Arkansas, anglers can fish for trout at Lake Bentonville, Lake Springdale, Murphy Park lake in Springdale and Lake Atalanta in Rogers.
In Fort Smith, trout are stocked at Torraine Lake, Wells Lake and Carol Ann Cross Pond. In Van Buren, the municipal pond gets trout. Anglers 16 and older need an Arkansas fishing license and trout permit. The daily limit is five trout.
Trout are also stocked at Lake Brittany in Bella Vista by the Bella Vista Property Owners Association. Bella Vista property owners and their guests are allowed to fish Lake Brittany. The association purchases rainbow trout from a commercial hatchery. Golden trout are occasionally caught at Brittany.
Rainbow trout are a fish for every style of angler. Fly fishermen lob delicate fishing flies they tie themselves. Beside them, anglers lounging in folding chairs fish with whole-kernel corn, worms or nightcrawlers. Casters who prefer lures do well with small spoons, jigs or crank baits. Small is key in the trout-fishing game.
Brad Talley of Springdale used a combo approach when fishing at Lake Springdale on Dec. 26. He cast a white jig with a smidgen of prepared trout bait on the hook. Berkley Power Bait or Gulp bait are two popular prepared baits.
His fishing buddy, Gene Rosenblum of Springdale, lifted a stringer of trout from the water.
“A lot of people here use corn, and they do pretty well with it,” Rosenblum said.
Talley especially likes the spacious public fishing dock at Lake Springdale. Talley fishes from a wheelchair, and it’s easy for him to roll onto the dock.
Rosenblum put the stringer back in the water just as Joe Needham of Fayetteville landed a foot-long trout he caught with Power Bait.
Up the highway at Lake Bentonville, Dylan Richey and Alexis Vidal were among the anglers fishing from shore on a sunny, warm Saturday the day after Christmas. The lake hugs the north end of the runway at Bentonville Municipal Airport. Anglers can watch planes land while they fish from shore or in a canoe or kayak.
At Lake Atalanta on Dec. 7, Alan Bland of Rogers and his fishing buddy tried a not-so-scientific trout fishing experiment. Berkley Power Bait seems almost irresistible to trout. Small black or brown jigs are good trout lures.
The night before fishing, Bland’s buddy placed a handful of 1/16th-ounce jigs into a half-full jar of Power Bait hoping the jigs would soak up the bait’s scent.
The next day on the water, Bland fished with a jig stored in the Power Bait jar while his buddy used a nonscented jig. The result: Bland caught four trout while his pal caught none.
The pair fished from a canoe at Lake Atalanta. Paddlecraft and boats with electric motors are allowed on the lake and at Lake Bentonville.
Most trout stocked for winter fishing are raised at the Game and Fish Jim Hinkle Spring River State Hatchery in Mammoth Spring. About 500,000 trout are raised there each year, said Gayla Mullins with the hatchery staff.
Trout are also obtained from a federal trout hatchery at Lake Norfork Dam near Mountain Home and a federal hatchery at Greers Ferry Lake dam near Heber Springs. Game and Fish trucks with special fish-holding tanks deliver trout around the state.
At Mammoth Spring, trout are started as tiny eggs. They’re raised to a size of 12 inches and ready for catching. It takes 12 to 14 months for a rainbow trout to reach 12 inches, Mullins said.
There’s a side benefit of these stocked trout. Largemouth bass routinely feed on rainbow trout, and these bass can grow big. Some huge largemouths prowl the depths of Lake Atalanta, said Jon Stein, district fisheries supervisor with Game and Fish.