Gone Wild

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Published on: Aug. 2, 1997

Last revision: Oct. 27, 2010

limit is one 18-inch or larger trout.

  • North Fork of the White River in Ozark County from the upper outlet of Rainbow Spring to Blair bridge. This is a large, floatable river with more wild rainbows than any stream in the state. Below Blair bridge, the length limit drops to 15 inches, bait fishing is allowed and the Conservation Department stocks brown trout.
  • Eleven Point River in Oregon County from its confluence with Greer Spring Branch to Turner Mill is a large river containing a good population of wild rainbow trout and a few hatchery rainbows that migrate from the stocked stretches downstream. Below Turner's Mill you can fish for a mix of hatchery and wild trout and use any type of bait, lure or fly.
  • Mill Creek is a small, wadable stream in Phelps County. Wild rainbows inhabit the entire stretch from Yelton Spring to its confluence with the Little Piney River. Public access is available on about four miles of stream owned by the U.S. Forest Service.
  • Spring Creek is another small stream in Phelps County. Wild trout live from Relfe Spring to its confluence with the Big Piney River, and public fishing is available on the lower three miles of stream on U.S. Forest Service property.
  • Blue Spring Creek, south of Bourbon in Crawford County, holds wild rainbow trout within the Blue Springs Creek Conservation Area. It is a small stream that will challenge your casting accuracy!

The following streams are managed under catch-and-release regulations.

  • Crane Creek in Stone and Lawrence Counties, upstream of the Quail Spur Crossing on Stone County Road 13-195. The Wire Road Conservation Area provides public access to a good wild trout population on about three miles of stream.
  • Barren Fork Creek in Shannon County holds a population of wild rainbow trout from County Road A-D to the confluence with Sinking Creek.

The Circle of Life

by Kevin Meneau

What does catch-and-release fishing mean to you? Should you release every fish caught, fish you don't intend to eat or all fish of a certain species? Ask ten anglers and you'll probably get ten different answers - some with heartfelt conviction.

Strong catch-and-release proponents feel all fish deserve release. Others feel mandatory catch-and-release is not needed and infringes on their rights. However, under normal circumstances some catch-and-release and some harvest is the best way to manage most fish populations and ensure the continuation of sport fishing.

Harvesting some fish is often a good idea. It ties sport fishing to our ancestors through the pursuit and use of fish as food. Most people understand the logic of fishing for something that is nutritious and delicious. Most also realize fish are a renewable resource. In some situations, the harvest of small, slow-growing fish from overcrowded populations (sunfish, bass, etc.) is necessary to improve the growth rate of the remaining fish.

Voluntary catch-and-release is a good idea in many situations. If fish are properly handled and not deeply hooked, they'll survive being caught and perhaps give other anglers the enjoyment of catching them. As fishing holes get more crowded, catch-and-release helps ensure quality fishing. In some instances, mandatory catch-and-release is needed to allow a fish population to replenish itself or to protect an outstanding fishery from overharvest.

Espousing one philosophy (mandatory catch-and-release or intensive harvest) over the other drives a wedge into the angling community and does the sport of fishing a disservice. Fishing is a great pastime. Let's not let our enthusiasm for any particular philosophy of fishing create the mistaken impression in the minds of non-anglers that fishing may not be a legitimate recreational opportunity and wise use of our renewable natural resources.

In the movie The Lion King we heard about "the circle of life." The phrase suggests the interaction of everything in our natural environment (including us); everything relates to everything else. Fish need bugs. Bugs need plants. Plants need water and so on. When part of the circle is lost, the system is damaged and risks extinction.

So it is with sport fishing. Throughout history, humans have been predators in the circle of life. And we still are. To deny it is to deny our existence within the natural environment and our rightful place within the circle of life. We could lose track of how natural systems function and make poor decisions on how to maintain them.

Fishing is a wonderful sport. It allows for personal choices on many fronts (tackle, methods, etc.) including catch-and-release and harvest philosophies. Understanding both strengthens angling and helps anglers better appreciate our sport.

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