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Fishing Made Accessible with the Arkansas Tackle Loaner Program

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Fishing is one of the most popular hobbies in the country, and Arkansas has a strong tradition and rich history related to fishing. The state is home to a wide variety of fish species, including largemouth bass, catfish, crappie, trout and walleye, and fishing is also very good year-round, thanks to our mild climate.

With over 600,000 acres of lakes and 90,000 miles of rivers and streams, there are so many great fishing spots to choose. My husband and I have been fishing together for over 20 years. Recently, we’ve enjoyed exploring different lakes, rivers and ponds with our 6-year-old son. Fishing is the perfect family activity and a great way to get outside for a bit.

Unfortunately, the cost of fishing equipment is a factor that keeps many Arkansans from getting out on the water. But, thanks to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, the state’s Tackle Loaner Program makes it easier for everyone to go fishing.

In 2009, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, in partnership with the Arkansas Public Library Commission, set out to make getting a rod and reel as easy as checking out a library book. Concerns over the lack of access to fishing gear for people who couldn’t afford it prompted the commission to seek a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The grant was combined with individual and corporate donations to develop a program that allows individuals to check out rods, reels and various essential fishing gear to enjoy a day on the water.

How To Use The Tackle Loaner Program

Since 2009, over 100 locations have been added to the program. Typically based around popular public fishing spots, loaner locations include state parks, campgrounds, AGFC offices, libraries, city parks and more. Checking out the equipment is simple.

  1. Find a Tackle Loaner Program Location near you.
  2. Visit the desk to check out your equipment. (You’ll need an identification card, and some locations may require a small deposit which you will get back when you return the equipment.)
  3. Go fishing.
  4. Return the equipment before the end of the loaner period.

It really is that simple! Each reel comes with a small bag of supplies that may include bobbers and hooks. You’ll need to supply bait, which can sometimes be purchased at the loaner location. Or you can dig some worms in your backyard or gather leftovers such as hot dog pieces or bits of meat from your fridge.

If you are new to fishing, most tackle loaner locations will provide a few minutes of basic instruction to help you get started.

Who Should Use the Tackle Loaner Program

  • People who are new to fishing. The program is a great way to try fishing without investing in equipment. It’s also a great way to try out the gear before you buy it.
  • People who can’t afford to buy fishing gear. The program provides free fishing gear to people who need it and makes fishing accessible to everyone.
  • People who want to learn more about fishing. The program offers fishing education classes and workshops. Throughout the summer, kids can participate in Hey! Let’s Go Fishing at Craighead Forest Park with the Forrest L. Wood Crowley’s Ridge Nature Center staff every Friday morning. Other similar programs exist throughout the state.
  • People who want to get out on the water and enjoy the outdoors. The program provides a great opportunity to get out and enjoy the natural beauty of Arkansas.

FAQs

Q: Who can use the tackle loaner program?
A: Anyone can use the program. Typically, a library card or ID is required to get started. Children may need to have an adult with them.

Q: What is the cost?
A: There is no cost to check out the rod and reel. Some locations may require a small deposit, but many do not.

Q: Do I need a fishing license?
A: In Arkansas, everyone ages 16 and over must have a valid fishing license, except for the annual free fishing weekend, usually held the first weekend in June.

The Future of the Tackle Loaner Program

In its 14 years, the program has been a huge success growing from a handful of locations to over 100, where thousands of fishing rods have been checked out and so many great memories have been made.

The commission is always on the hunt for new locations to place equipment. If you have a location in mind or are interested in sponsoring a site, you can contact the commission for more information.

Fishing In Arkansas

Check out these articles to make the most of your time on the water and help you select the best fishing spots in Arkansas.

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Julie Kohl works from home as a writer and virtual assistant while raising her young son. A former Yankee who was "converted" to the south by her husband, Julie has grasped on to rural life in a sleepy, blink-your-eyes-and-you'll-miss-it town in central Arkansas. Julie loves adventure. Not necessarily "scare-your-pants-off" adventure but the kind where you seek out new and exciting things. New foods, new places, new experiences. On her blog, Seek Adventures, Julie shares about the outdoor and travel adventures of her family as they camp and standup paddleboard across the South. You can also learn more about her writing on her site Seek Adventures Media.

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2 responses to “Fishing Made Accessible with the Arkansas Tackle Loaner Program”

  1. Debbie says:

    Interesting article. I’ve lived in Arkansas most of my life and did not know this good information!! The link to available loaner areas does not work.

  2. Hi Debbie! I had trouble with the link on my laptop, but I could see it on my phone. Here’s the link again: https://www.agfc.com/en/education/onthewater/fe/tackle-loaner-program

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