The Little Red River below Greers Ferry recently saw a few extra brook trout in August, thanks to a surplus of fish at the Greers Ferry National Fish Hatchery.
Hatchery staff released 860, 9-inch brook trout into the Greers Ferry Tailwater, which were left over after stockings were completed for the Bull Shoals and Norfork tailwaters.
“About 3,000 brook trout were stocked in the Norfork Tailwater, and 5,735 were stocked below Bull Shoals Dam,” said Kyle Swallow, trout management biologist for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. “After our scheduled stockings, the hatchery had some brook trout leftover. We were happy to stock them in the Greers Ferry Tailwater as outlined in the Greers Ferry Tailwater Management Plan.”
Swallow says under the current management plan, the Little Red River only receives brook trout if there are surplus fish available after stocking the White River and Norfork Tailwater.
“We just have not seen the return on brook trout in angler catches or electrofishing samples that we would like to see for the amount of fish stocked,” Swallow said. “Nearly 5,000 brook trout were stocked in 2014and in 2015, we only collected 15 of them. That was the most I have seen collected in one sampling location since I started working here 8 years ago. No brook trout were stocked in 2015 and in 2016,we didn’t collect a single brook trout in any of the Greers Ferry Tailwater samples. This tells us that survival of 6 inch brook trout is low.”
This low return has prompted an increase in the size of brook trout stocked from the hatchery. Instead of stocking 6-inch brook trout, the hatchery raises those fish a little longer and waits until they are 9 inches long before stocking.
“We’re hoping to increase survival of those fish by stocking them at a larger size,” Swallow said. “But the lower density of brook trout still will make them a bit of a rarity for anglers, especially on the Greers Ferry Tailwater.”
Swallow says he’s heard some anglers talk about catching a few brook trout since the size increase on the White River and Norfork last year, and hopes the same holds true for the ones stocked in the Little Red River.
“We know from our angler surveys that they enjoy having the extra opportunity to catch an occasional brook trout in the Greers Ferry Tailwater, so we hope these see some increased survival and end up on the end of an angler’s line one day,” Swallow said.