July 23, 2022

I received a post from the Arklahoma Trout Unlimited yesterday about the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) Trout Management Program seasonal tagging event on Dry Run Creek this week.  This is part of a project to evaluate the growth and movement of trout on Dry Run Creek and Norfork Tailwater.  A total of 730 trout were collected, of which 85% were Rainbow Trout. There were 104 new trout tagged and 60 trout recaptured that were tagged during previous events.  Highlights included a 24 inch (60 cm) Rainbow Trout that was recaptured for the seventh time in three years, and a 30 inch (75 cm), 17 pound (7.7 kg) Brown Trout that has been recaptured 4 times and has grown 7 inches (17.5 cm) since it was tagged in 2020.  There will be one more tagging event this fall, which will conclude this three year project. The data collected on growth rates and trout movements will help to evaluate the current regulations on Norfork Tailwater and determine which environmental factors (e.g., flow, temperature, dissolved oxygen) may be driving trout movements.  Dry Run Creek is located next to a fish hatchery.

When I looked online, I found Norfork National Fish Hatchery is in the mountainous terrain of north Arkansas near Mountain Home.  It was established in 1955 and opened in 1957.  The hatchery is a result of the construction of dams on the White River, which altered the waters from a warm-water system to a cold-water system.  Norfork is the largest-producing federal hatchery and is the largest trout hatchery in the country.  The cold-water hatchery is used primarily to produce trout to restock the tailwaters below Norfork, Bull Shoals, and other dams.  The hatchery is responsible for raising three species of trout, rainbow (Oncorhynchus mykiss), brown (Salmo trutta), and cutthroat (Oncorhynchus clarkii) which are all members of the Salmonidae family.  The hatchery also provides trout to reservoirs and in cooperation with state game and fish agencies distributes fish throughout Arkansas and nearby states.  

In August 1989 the hatchery was offered a challenge grant to build a park along Dry Run Creek.  By that November the committee had recruited input from representatives of advocacy organizations for several disabilities and settled on design criteria of the park to be for those confined to wheelchairs and the blind.  Dry (Branch) Run Creek carries the hatchery effluent (32 million gallons/day) and has large numbers of large migrating trout, along with beaver, mink, muskrat, and other animals that use or live in the stream.  It is well shaded and has an easily navigated trail system. The main aspect of the park was an elaborate “ramp” to allow the disabled (and anyone else) to get to the water level. The AGFC accommodated the project by allowing the wheelchair bound to fish on a catch and release basis.  A total of US$91,000 was raised and construction began in August, with the dedication ceremony on October 28, 1990.  This catch and release stream is one of the top streams in America and designed to accommodate easy access fishing for the mobility impaired and youngsters under the age of 16. 

Thoughts:  Dry Run Creek starts at the hatchery and runs roughly 3/4 mile (1.2 km) to its confluence with the Norfork River.  With its specially designed walkways, ramps, and fishing platforms, the Dry Run Creek construction project completed in late 2010 made it even easier to navigate the waters by both land and water allowing the angler to stalk the huge trout living in the depths of Dry Run Creek.  The creek is not only catch and release, only artificial lures with a single, barbless hook are allowed to fish.  The park has allowed the hatchery to reach out to a fishing community normally restricted from our rivers and streams as well as spark the excitement of the next generation of fisher people.  Through fish stocking they have given the rest of the fishing community hours of enjoyment on these beautiful tail waters and throughout the state.  I would call it a win/win.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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