AGFC begins major renovation of its hatchery in northeast Arkansas


MAMMOTH SPRING, Ark. – Major renovations are underway at a popular Fulton County hatchery.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission celebrated a successful partnership with trout fishermen on Friday, September 24, to begin major renovations at the Jim Hinkle Spring River Fish Hatchery in Mammoth Spring.

The hatchery is the only state-owned hatchery in Arkansas dedicated to producing trout. According to AGFC manager Austin Booth, the hatchery trout provide fishing opportunities in an area much larger than the Spring River.

“The fish in this hatchery don’t just go up to 140 miles of downstream trout water,” Booth said. “They’re also going to 42 places across the state for little boys and girls to fish in their communities’ ponds and catch some nice trout.”

The hatchery was once able to supply up to half of the 2 million rainbow trout stored in the state each year, with the remaining trout coming from federal hatcheries. But over the years the hatchery has seen wear and tear.

While regular maintenance and refurbishment of the dam that controls the water entering the hatchery has kept much of the infrastructure operational, many larger components, including the facility’s metal silos, need to be replaced.

AGFC hatchery deputy manager BJ Vandiver said some of the metal silos had to be taken out of production completely for safety reasons.

“The metal has corroded so much over the years that we have seen holes forming on the sides of the tanks,” Vandiver said. “When we harvest the trout, we have to go down into the tanks, and you can see where some of the metal was starting to warp and the groundwater around the tank was seeping in again. We just had to take it offline.”

The renovation will replace these old metal silos with round concrete tanks which should last much longer. Water supply and disposal systems will also be redesigned to use water more efficiently and promote a cleaner environment for fish.

When complete, the hatchery should be able to return to its old production levels of 1 million trout per year.

The renovations are expected to cost $ 6.7 million. Thanks to the support of trout fishermen and local stakeholders, the AGFC was able to generate an additional $ 2.06 million for the renovation. Additional funds to achieve this goal were approved by the Commission at its July meeting.

Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony, AGFC President Bobby Martin said more than $ 180 million is generated annually for the savings of cities near famous fishing destinations. Arkansas trout, much of that income coming from tourists.

“If you’re a trout fisherman, this place is on your bucket list,” Martin said. “We are very proud to be here today and to make this announcement which we know will benefit not only fishermen but the people of Arkansas as well.”

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