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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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