Fishing Challenge begins May 1

The Eighth Annual Hot Springs Fishing Challenge on Lakes Hamilton and Catherine begins Wednesday, May 1, and runs through Wednesday, July 31.

Sponsored by Visit Hot Springs in partnership with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Andrew Hulsey Fish Hatchery, the challenge will feature 71 orange-tagged fish. Participation is free for anyone with a valid Arkansas fishing license, according to Steve Arrison, CEO of Visit Hot Springs.

“One of those fish, which we always call “Big Al,” will be worth $15,000 cash to anyone who can reel him in,” Arrison said. “In the history of the Challenge, Big Al has only been caught one time — on June 22, 2017, by Pete Clark of Malvern. It was a largemouth bass in Lake Hamilton.”

Largemouth bass, bluegill, channel catfish, white bass and bream all will have tags, so anglers of all species can join in the fun. There’s no telling what species Big Al is from year to year.

Big Al has been so elusive that clues to his whereabouts are given out if he’s not caught by June 1. Clues will be given June 1, July 1 and July 26, Arrison said.

“There also will be 70 more chances to win prize money,” he said. “There will be four fish — two in each lake — worth $5,000 each, and 46 worth $1,000 each. Twenty fish will bring $500 each for the lucky anglers who catch them during the challenge dates.”

Again this year, the challenge will feature a free-fishing weekend bonus prize. In addition to the lifting of the fishing license requirement June 7-9, any $500 tagged fish caught on these days will be worth an additional $500 bonus.

Jeff Newman, manager of the Andrew Hulsey Fish Hatchery, said, “Any $500 fish caught during Free Fishing Weekend, June 7 through June 9, will have that amount doubled to $1,000.”

“Free Fishing Weekend is an annual tradition sponsored by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and approved by Gov. Asa Hutchinson,” Newman said. “Free Fishing Weekend furnishes many citizens and visitors an opportunity to enjoy the amazing angling The Natural State has to offer.

“Residents and nonresidents may fish this weekend from Friday at noon until midnight Sunday without fishing licenses or trout permits. Regulations for Arkansas waters apply; daily limits, slot limits, and length limits must be observed.”

“We are continuing our great partnership with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, which has worked so well for us for the last six years,” Arrison said. “The AGFC staff at the Andrew Hulsey Fish Hatchery on Lake Hamilton has been spectacular in selecting, tagging and releasing the prize fish.”

Contact Arrison at 501.321.2027 for additional information.