THE 2018 FISH EDITION
ARKANSAS WILD AGFFâ€™S
OUTDOOR HALL OF FAME
NOODLING FOR CATFISH SWEET SPOT ON THE SALINE RIVER
making memories since 1958.
1777 river road | lakeview, arkansas 870-431-5202 | email@example.com gastons.com | lat 36 20’ 55” n | long 92 33’ 25” w
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IN THIS ISSUE ARKANSASWILD.COM
EASY KNOT TYING
A Stronger Knot for Less Re-Tying
CATFISHING BY HAND A Murky Underwater Adventure
The Fish that Won’t Stop Spawning Stories
A SECRET FISHING HOLE PHOTO BY NOVO STUDIO
Central Arkansas Smallies
THE BIG ONE
For Six Decades, Gaston’s has Kept Rolling on the River
AGFF’S OUTDOOR HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES
Jim Hinkle, Ellen Moorhead Fennell, Randy Young, and Legacy Award Recipients J.B. and Johnelle Hunt DEPARTMENTS
10 OUTDOOR ESSENTIALS 42 ARKANSAS MARINAS 44 EVENTS 46 ARKANSAS ORIGINAL
4 | Arkansas Wild ¸THE 2018 FISH EDITION
On the cover: Clint Gaston casts his line into the White River on a July evening. Photo by Novo Studio.
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E H T W O N T! U O WE K E D I S IN S R O O D T OU
MADISON HEDRICK has worked as a
writer and editor for over ten years. Fishing runs deep in her blood, though; her father, Mark, made sure she caught a fish before age two and could use a spinning reel by four.
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ARKANSASWILD.COM | 7
FROM THE CONTRIBUTING EDITOR
BRING ON THE FISHING
Fishing for big browns on the White River is Jill Rohrbach’s favorite pastime.
Fishing is a great outdoor pursuit because it can be enjoyed alone or with others and from the shore or by boat. You can dig up worms in the dirt for bait or go buy the latest lures and gear. Either way, you’ll likely find success. While we anglers all seek a tug on the end of our line and a trophy fish to boast about, there’s more to it than that. The joy of fishing is also in the scenery of the cypress trees in the Delta bayous, the morning fog lifting off the streams running through the Ozark Mountains, the wide and rolling Arkansas River and the glistening waters of a honey hole cove on an Arkansas lake. One of my favorite memories is standing by myself in the middle of the White River below Bull Shoals Dam, fly rod in hand, as sleet rained down making a melodic sound when it hit the water. But I also treasure the memory of a fishing excursion on Lake Norfork with a bunch of girlfriends as we fished for walleye with a guide. The Natural State offers so many different waters and varieties of fishing that we should all feel pretty spoiled. We should also not take it for granted. In this Fish Arkansas, a special feature issue of Arkansas Wild, we pay homage to folks who definitely don’t take it for granted and, undoubtedly, have contributed to conservation of the state’s resources and supported initiatives aimed at youth. I’m happy to get to introduce you to Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation Outdoor Hall of Fame Inductees Jim Hinkle, Ellen Moorhead Fennell, Randy Young and the Legacy recipients J.B. and Johnelle Hunt. This issue is also deep in the water with features on sport fishing, catfish noodling, knot-tying and much more. Also, sixty years is worth talking about when it comes to Gaston’s White River Resort and its impact on Arkansas. We have the honor of an exclusive interview with Clint Gaston, in which he reminisces about his memories of times past and his family’s heritage. Enjoy the read and get ready to be inspired to go fishing.
Jill Rohrbach Contributing Editor Jill Rohrbach is a travel writer for the Arkansas Tourism Department. She also freelances for regional and national publications and websites. While she’s a proud board member of Trout Unlimited Chapter 514 in Northwest Arkansas, Jill is game for fishing for any species, anywhere she gets the opportunity.
8 | Arkansas Wild ¸THE 2018 FISH EDITION
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ARKANSASWILD.COM | 9
GEARING UP FOR FISHING
When temperatures rise, it’s time to pull out your summer fishing gear—boat included! Madison Hedrick, lifelong fishing enthusiast, offers her suggestions for keeping snacks cool, people safe from an accidental fall into the water and skin protected from the sun. Plus, what’s the best device for putting out a fire or securing your boat to the dock? Read on to find out!
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10 | Arkansas Wild ¸THE 2018 FISH EDITION
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EASY KNOT TYING TYING A KNOT THAT’S LESS LIKELY TO BREAK MEANS LESS TIME SPENT RE-TYING YOUR LINE
ishing can be fun for everyone, and it is never too early or late to learn. You can buy the best rods and most expensive baits, or own the fastest boat with the best gear, but there are some things you can’t buy—like the ability to quickly and efficiently tie a strong knot that makes the most out of your gear. Fishing line has come a long way in the last 20 years—you have fluorocarbon, monofilament, and the new “super lines.” Unfortunately, if your knot isn’t up to snuff, all the technology in the world can’t save you from breaking off “the big one.” So, I did some research and found the knots that were most recommended for braided, monofilament and fluorocarbon line. If someone tells you their knot is 100%, they are lying. All fishing knots are weak because contorting line in hard turns creates tension and weak points in the knot itself—it is due simply to physics, and we can’t control for that. Interestingly enough, the weak point is usually the first hard turn at the top of the knot, where the main line attaches—leaving a clean break. Let’s take a look at how to tie two of the most recommended knots—one is for the highly recommended braid-to-swivel/hook/lure knot and the other is for tying line-to-swivel/hook/lure.
BRAID-TO-HOOK: Palomar Knot 1. Double 6 inches of line and pass end of loop through eye of hook. 2. Tie a loose overhand knot with hook hanging from bottom. 3. Hold the overhand knot between your thumb and forefinger, and then pass a loop of line over the hook. 4. Pull on both the standing line and tag end to tighten the knot down onto the eye. Cut the other end and close. 12 | Arkansas Wild ¸THE 2018 FISH EDITION
PHOTOGRAPHY: MADISON HEDRICK
BY MADISON HEDRICK
LINE-TO-HOOK: Improved Clinch Knot 1. Thread the line through the swivel and double it back. 2. Twist the line 5 to 7 times and thread the end through the loop. 3. Pull the short end and main line to tighten the knot. 4. Trim off any excess line.
ARKANSASWILD.COM | 13
Noodling guide Chris Barnes holds a 30-pound catfish.
CATFISHING BY HAND AN ADVENTURE IN STICKING YOUR HAND UNDERWATER AND INTO THE MURKY DEPTHS
ccording to my guide on a recent catfish noodling expedition, Native Americans were catching big fish by hand well before European arrival on these shores. Whether you call it noodling, hogging or grabbing, 44-year-old Chris Barnes has been pursuing sizable catfish by hand for nine years now. His experience and expertise have garnered television appearances on the Outdoor Channel, Animal Planet and Catfish Kings. He has hosted would-be noodlers from Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Texas, Florida, Louisiana and even Australia at $200.00 per head. When Arkansas Wild approached me last winter about taking a trip with Chris come summertime, I said, “Sure, why not?’ At the same time, the thought of sticking my arm in a dark, submerged hole seemed counter-intuitive. But it was still a long way off before I’d have to face my trepidations. In previous years, the AGFC has set noodling season from June 1 through October 31. In 2018, the opening day was moved to May 15. Around that time, I got a call from Barnes asking if I was ready to give hogging a try. I screwed up my best poker face and once more answered, “Sure, why not?” In a phone conversation just before our trip, Barnes mentioned he’d have to find a replacement fishing partner because a big fifty-plus pound flathead had broken his regular buddy, Larry Kussman’s, hand 14 | Arkansas Wild ¸THE 2018 FISH EDITION
the previous week. I said, “You could have gone all week without telling me that.” Apparently, when Kussman wrestled the monster from his hidey-hole with both hands stuffed in its mouth, the big fish spun, snapping the bone in the middle of his left hand. When Barnes showed me Larry’s x-ray, I said, “I could’ve gone all week without seeing that.” I caught up with Barnes and his 33-year-old friend Adam Weaver early the morning of June 8. Launching the boat, I noticed that either of the two stout fellows would make two of me. As we broke out of a side channel to embark onto a wide expanse of open water, Barnes pulled back on the throttle and let the boat drift. A pastor at Warren’s Grace Cowboy Church, he began our trip with a moving prayer for the Lord’s blessing and safe returns. That done, he pushed the throttle to the stops and we cut a wake across the glassy surface. Arriving next to a heap of riprap and rubble piled against the shore beneath the waterline, Barnes warned me not to leap into the dark waters. It’s better, he suggested, to ease over the side slowly, slipping in. Ominously, he said, “I’ll tell you why later.” For the first couple of holes, I watched from the dry comfort of the vessel, camera at the ready, while Chris and Adam worked together to explore the secret places where large catfish lay. Male fish
PHOTOS: RICHARD LEDBETTER
BY RICHARD LEDBETTER
This is where the BIG ones are... Adam Weaver holds a fresh-caught 20-pound flathead hauled from its lair.
first enter a crevice to sweep and pack the mud in preparation for the female to come in after him and lay her eggs. Once her roe are deposited, she leaves and the male returns to fan and protect the nest until their progeny hatch. The guys carried varying lengths of cane pole with them to prod and explore the various openings with the idea of discovering what large quarry may hide within. Once they determined whether a big catfish was occupying the nest, it was time to reach in for the prize. They worked together to guard alternate entrances to the same cavern to prevent their prey escaping by a different route. Though Barnes has fished most of the more than 200 hiding spots on that body of water, catfish will wallow in different spots from day to day, drastically altering the dynamic of any given hole. Accordingly, it’s important to check the details of a spot before beginning the hunt. Early in our long day each of the pair landed nice thirty-plus pound flatheads at two separate locations. Even though regulations allow fishermen to keep five fish per person, my hosts caught and released the fish following a photo op. Then it was my turn to try. Chris explained how to go in with both hands spread wide and arms locked in up to the elbows to block the entrance, where he stationed me. He reminded, “Defense wins the game.” On his mark we took deep
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ARKANSASWILD.COM | 15
Top to bottom: Chris and Adam check out a potential catfish hole. Adam and Chris dive for monster catfish in the shallows.
NATIVE AMERICANS WERE CATCHING BIG FISH BY HAND WELL BEFORE EUROPEAN ARRIVAL ON THESE SHORES. 16 | Arkansas Wild ¸THE 2018 FISH EDITION
breaths and submerged. Both arms in the hole, I waited for a catfish to chomp down on one of my hands. It didn’t exactly work like that. After a short spell we both came up for a fresh breath. He asked, “Did you hear the thumping? That’s him biting at the prod stick. If you listen close you can hear the fish’s heart speed up just before he chomps down. It’s normally a steady pulse, but it’ll race just before he bites.” Catching our breath, we went under again. Eventually, a big flathead swam against my hand and held still long enough for me to force a thumb in his mouth. Overly excited, I popped up, fish in hand and held him out of the water looking in his eyes. That soon proved poor technique. With a quick twist he slipped free of my thumb grip, leaving the digit only slightly worse for wear. On my next attempt, I was wiser. With Adam blocking one exit and Chris prodding the fish from another opening with a cane pole, the 20-pounder finally swam into my grasp. This time I pushed my right hand in a gill while forcing all four left-hand fingers in his mouth. Holding what I believed was a death grip, I hauled him out. Overly confident, I forgot the vital step of wrapping both legs around the critter beneath the surface until he stopped struggling. Instead, I snatched him to the surface, again looking my subject eyeball to eyeball for a brief instant, before he gave a twist and was back in the water. Remarkably, the fish swam a quick circle around all three of us before diving back in the same hole from whence he came. Recognizing my mistake and more determined than ever to redeem myself, I repeatedly reached back in his lair, trying to snag him again. But he was better educated as well. He flashed past my grip every time for the better part of the next hour. Before we knew it, we’d spent eight-hours climbing in and out of the boat, wading in water and mud beneath a glaring summer sun. In the end, he evaded my efforts and remained safe in his hole. But I figure that’s just a good excuse to make another trip soon. On our way to the dock, Barnes explained why you don’t leap into the water from the boat. Slipping off his shoe, he showed the scar on his left foot. “Five years into noodling, I jumped out of the boat like I’d done a thousand times and a broken-off stick under the water went clean through my foot, shoe and all.” Due the unsanitary nature of catfish domain, he spent the next seven days in Baptist Hospital loaded up with antibiotics, combatting the potentially fatal infection. I appreciated him waiting to share that part of the story until we were done. To book passage on a noodling expedition check out arkansasnoodling.com or Facebook @ chrisbarnesarkansasnoodling.
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THE FISH THAT WON’T STOP SPAWNING STORIES
PHOTOS COURTESY OF MARK SPITZER
BY MARK SPITZER
Mark Spitzer holds a grinnel caught at Grassy Lake near Mayflower, Arkansas.
owfin, or “grinnel” as they’re called in Arkansas, are a prehistoric, bone-headed, air-breathing, eely-finned, monster-fanged fossil-fish dating back to the Jurassic period that fishermen love to hate. Grinnel are right here, right now, swimming all over the state. Yet for the million-plus years they’ve been around, nobody knows much about them. In fact, bowfin biologists are just discovering that there are actually different genetic-specific populations—so now there’s even more to be freaked out about. They steal bait, break fishing poles, get in the way of crappie and bass, and cause general havoc when they’re caught. They slap back, smack tackle all over the place, and because they’re pure muscle, they’re almost impossible to hold. But that’s why, on rod and reel, they’re epic to do battle with. I once fought one more in the air than in the water. That bowfin kept leaping six feet into the sky and pealing out line. It was like fighting a berserk tarpon pumped up on steroids and road-rage and bathtub crank— which is why they should be considered “sport fish” rather than “garbage fish.” That thought aside, bowfin don’t get much longer than three feet or weigh more than 20 pounds, but that’s the size of a hefty salmon. They’ve got these unearthly, barbley nostril-nozzles that add a dragon-like quality, and when it comes spawning time, the males turn a bizarre shade of neon lime-green—which is a defense mechanism, because who wants to eat a fish glowing from nuclear waste?
…THEY’RE EPIC TO DO BATTLE WITH.
18 | Arkansas Wild ¸THE 2018 FISH EDITION
TO DINE OR NOT TO DINE (ON BOWFIN)
four big ones in Point Remove and he was set on finding out if they were really that horrible. He flayed eight flanks, and being a chemist, he decided to soak them But the bowfin’s most effective defense mechanism is in saltwater overnight to leech out any impurities. In the fact that they’re the worst-tasting fish in existence. the morning, he stuck his hand in the bucket, and I’ve tried various methods with nothing but failure. to quote him verbatim, “It wasn’t anything but goop! The last time I beer-battered one, it tasted like a Just pure liquid! I had to throw it all away.” combination of what I can only imagine as soggy A few years back I was researching bowfin for a cardboard and fermented possum. fish book and I needed to catch one to complete the What bowfin are good for, though, are stories. Like chapter, so I called an emergency meeting of our the story my friend the wildlife writer Keith “Catfish” “Fishing Support Group.” So Minnow Bucket, Pancho Sutton once Narwhale, Turkey Buzzard subjected me to. and I set out on Grassy Seems there was Lake in two canoes. We this fishing camp threw out a bunch of down south, and noodles and jugs and every day the paddled away. A few hours fishermen went out later, we went back. We and brought back caught one nice bowfin fish, and the camp which had pretty much cook, Ol’ Cooky, given itself a heart attack well, he’d cook by hauling that jug all ’em right up. But over the slough. It wasn’t one day Ol’ Cooky going to make it, so Turkey decided he was Buzzard decided to get gonna go fishing. it stuffed. When it came So he went out back from the taxidermist, and caught himself though, there was a red a grinnel and spot painted on its tail. brought it back. Now here’s the thing It was 10 pounds, about bowfin tails: The and the fishermen Robert “Turkey Buzzard” Mauldin shows off his grinnel catch from males have an ocellus, made fun of him. which is commonly Grassy Lake. But Ol’ Cooky called an “eyespot.” It’s put that grinnel basically a black splotch on the grill and he put onions and spices on it--and surrounded by a blazing orange-yellow corona. the fishermen started coming around. Their salivary Scientists speculate that this defense mechanism glands got excited, and everyone wanted some. But Ol’ makes predators think they’re looking a larger fish in Cooky, he told them, “I’m gonna eat my share first, and the eye, so they don’t attack. But in the 40-odd years then y’all can have some.” So they watched as he ate the I’ve known bowfin, I’ve never seen a red spot in addition whole dang fish, and then he was done, and nobody got to the ocellus. nothing. We ribbed Turkey Buzzard for years. Nevertheless, This story, of course, was told in the spirit of the he still insists that the grinnel he now proudly Ozark oral tradition, so it took half an hour to tell. displays on his wall has unique DNA. Even to this day, When it ended, I fell right into Catfish’s trap. “What?” he continues to argue that the photos he showed the I cried. “You expect me to believe he ate a ten-pound taxidermist are evidence of a natural mutation. But fish all by himself?” But Catfish, he just sat there the more he makes that argument, the more we laugh. grinning back. This case, however, is now closed, because I Speaking of cooking bowfin, have you heard the one recently found a picture of Turkey Buzzard showing about the recipe for bowfin on a plank? You take a cedar the other side of that fish, which doesn’t have a red plank, soak it all night in pickle juice, place your bowfin spot on it. Meanwhile, the eyespot appears on both filets on it, sprinkle with salt and pepper and lemon sides, which means that while flopping around in the juice, then cook low and slow on an open fire. When it’s boat, that bowfin picked up some sort of red speck or done, you throw out the fish and eat the plank. a drop of blood that was forever immortalized in the But seriously, folks, my fishing pal Turkey Buzzard taxidermied fish. once tried his hand at cooking grinnel. We’d caught Go figure. Go bowfin!
ARKANSASWILD.COM | 19
Go to clintonarchamber.com to explore shopping, events, and activities in the Clinton area.
Motels & Cabins Best Western Hillside Home Town Inn Super 8 Cabins on the Cove
20 | Arkansas Wild ¸THE 2018 FISH EDITION
Fishing Float VBC
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Walmart Deb’s Fashion Downtown Boutique Sweet & Unique Candy & Craft Designs
Marina Furgersons Choctaw Marina
Camping & RVs Choctaw State Park Tri State Marketing
Greers Ferry Lake in Van Buren County is located on Clinton’s doorstep. With 40,500 acres, this lake is an amazing choice for year-round fishing. The lake is fed by three rivers and a number of creeks, providing ample habitat for a number of game fish. This breathtaking lake offers anglers from beginners to experienced fishermen plenty of great fishing opportunities. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission stocks the lake with every game fish native to the state of Arkansas. You can find largemouth and smallmouth bass, spotted bass, white bass, crappie, walleye and channel catfish here. Bass are abundant during the spring, summer and fall (especially during the spring spawning). During the winter you can catch huge walleye, which spawn from late February to Mid March. Hybrids can be caught on the lake 11 months out of the year. There is also great crappie fishing. Greers Ferry Lake is home to the world-record walleye and a number of state record fish. This lake can be challenging and anglers need to think outside the box at times, but the rewards are well worth it. Fishing in Clinton is not just limited to Greers Ferry Lake. With two of the lake’s main tributaries within 10 minutes of the city, it is easy to see why Clinton is your fishing destination. The South Fork and the Middle Fork of the Little Red both provide amazing views, but fishermen will enjoy the fact that with locals, the only argument between the best smallmouth fishing in the state is between the South Fork of the Little Red River and the Middle Fork of the Little Red River. Both rivers provide an abundance of smallmouth bass, especially in the spring spawning, and also rock bass, shadow bass, warmouth, and perch. Thanks to seasonal access restrictions, these rivers are not overfished. Typical access to the upper sections of these rivers is through the wet season and there is spot availability through the summer, with most of the fishing holes only accessible by kayak or canoe. With an abundance of lodging opportunities and a number of retail shops and restaurants it is easy to see why anglers are making Clinton their go-to fishing destination. With enough activities to keep the family busy and a full-service marina six miles from town, Clinton is uniquely set up to provide a full family outing. Clinton is located 40 minutes north of Conway on Highway 65 and is ideal for day, week, or weekend trips. Go to visitgreersferrylake.org for our free area guide.
Festivals Natural Bridge of Arkansas Gateway Twin Cinema South Fork Nature Center
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PHOTOGRAPHY: MIKE O’BRYANT
A one-lane bridge leads drivers to some of the best fishing in Central Arkansas.
A SECRET FISHING HOLE CENTRAL ARKANSAS SMALLIES BY LANCE RILEY 22 | Arkansas Wild ¸THE 2018 FISH EDITION
This large pool provided more diversity in species of fish that included smallmouth, largemouth, spotted bass, bream and gar.
ith a little effort, you can still find good fishing during the hot Arkansas summer. Since early spring my friend Mike O’Bryant has been bragging about a fishing hole he discovered while exploring the back roads of Central Arkansas, where he regularly catches 30 to 40 smallmouth bass in a single trip. As I am known to be an expert procrastinator, I put off checking it out for over three months. I finally took him up on his offer when the midday temperatures were hovering near the century mark. Little did I know I was about to experience a place so awesome and yet so close to my home. We decided the earlier the better and set out on a Wednesday morning to a place he referred to as his “honey hole.” He swore me to secrecy on the location. I can only say that it is on the Saline River in the Ouachita National Forest. As our journey started, we turned down a remote country road. The first thing that caught my eye was a big black turkey with eight chicks just hanging out by the side of the road. After seeing the birds, I found I also had to be careful to avoid hitting the deer that were darting back and forth across the road. As we advanced, the woods opened into a clearing. A panoramic view of the land was exposed by a recent clear cut. As far as the eye could see was a bevy of rolling hills blanketed with three- to four-foot saplings. Moving on down the road we approached a wooden bridge that crossed our destination. Finally we reached the river. While winding through the woods to find the entry point, I was extra cautious of the terrain. I don’t mind snakes, but I wouldn’t call myself a big fan. As we entered the water, Mike suggested we first fish upriver. He led the way, fishing with a purple lizard, something with which I’ve never had any luck. I heard the water splashing and before I knew it, the score was O’Bryant three, Riley zip. In clear water, I have always been told that earth-toned colors tend to be more productive than neon colors. I am known to be a hard-headed individual, so I stuck
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Top to bottom: The majority of our catch were little smallmouth bass like the one pictured here. During the heat of the summer, the low water creates small pools in which the smallmouth like hide.
JUST LIKE THAT, WE WERE BREAM FISHING. 24 | Arkansas Wild ¸THE 2018 FISH EDITION
with my yellowish speckled grub. It soon paid off as three of my next five casts yielded smallies. After fishing that hole out, we decided to head downstream to his special hole. While backtracking our path, I noticed the beauty of the mossy rocks. They reminded me of Irish Spring soap bars, not only due to their color but also due to their slippery texture. At that point the rocks and gravity got the best of me. With my backside and ego bruised, we pressed on. While moving downstream we traded turns casting and catching. We were casting downstream in the middle of a clearwater creek, the depth of which could not have been more than a foot. That was a first for me. At this point we hit a divide in the river that created dual streams with a number of depressions that served up more smallmouths. Because of the canopy overhead protecting us from the sun, it was hard to judge the time, but knowing it was running short, we moved on. After slipping and sliding down the river for another hour, we reached an enormous pool. The body of water was about the size of a football field with overhanging trees on the banks that provided cover for the fish. As I grew excited, my first cast sailed high into an overhanging limb. Try as I might, rescuing the lure was not feasible. While I reset my bait, Mike pulled in one after another. Catching limb after limb proved to be my downfall as the water temperature began to rise. While I caught a few more smallmouth, it was not long before the fish were not putting up the fight that was desired. Just like that, we were bream fishing. Even in the heat of summer, regardless of where you are in Arkansas, you are not that far from finding good fishing in a cool stream.
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ARKANSASWILD.COM | 25
For six decades, Gaston’s has kept rolling on the river By Dwain Hebda
PHOTOGRAPHY NOVO STUDIO
The mist over the White River begins to burn off as the sun rises. 26 | Arkansas Wild ¸THE 2018 FISH EDITION
ARKANSASWILD.COM | 27
Mementos and memories from Gaston’s 60-year history.
riving into the welcoming confines of Gaston’s White River Resort transforms whatever rig you’re driving into a time machine. Gaston’s is nostalgia come to life, a summer camp for all ages, set to the ancient soundtrack of the gurgling White River. From the neat rows of riverside cottages to the general store-like feel of the Welcome Center lodge to the decades’ worth of antique fishing paraphernalia in the restaurant, they just don’t make ‘em like this anymore. “We are a family-owned business; I’m fourth generation. My goal is to make it a fifth, sixth, seventh generation business and just try to keep it going,” said Clint Gaston, owner. “It’s very unique that you come across a fourthgeneration business. Most of them don’t make it that long. That’s truly special to me.” Judging from the number of families that have themselves been coming here for multiple generations, it’s obvious Gaston’s is special to its clientele, too, something not lost on the current ownership. “I see so many fourth-generation families that continue to come year after year,” Gaston said. “They talk about how great this place is, how it’s their favorite place to go and that means a lot to me. It makes it totally worthwhile.” “When you have a kid that’s never been fishing before and he goes out and catches a bunch of fish and he comes up and he’s just so excited... I mean, he’s going to love fishing for the rest of his life because of that moment.” Gaston’s has been witness to these moments for 60 28 | Arkansas Wild ¸THE 2018 FISH EDITION
years. Some things have remained constant over that time—the river, the fishing and the level of service, mainly. Other things are dramatically different, such as the corporate groups booking the on-site conference center or the number of families who come out here more interested in the scenery and quiet than actually dropping a line. The original cottages are still tiny and pink, but there have been plenty more accommodations added over the years, including those geared toward the groups and family get-togethers that have become commonplace. The resort even hosts a dozen or so weddings annually and holiday traffic continues to grow. Four years ago, 400 guests enjoyed their family Thanksgiving gathering at Gaston’s; last year it was nearly 1,000. “I think everybody’s getting away from the traditional, hey it’s a holiday, let’s do something at home. They don’t want to deal with the hassle of cooking, preparing and hosting a large family get-together,” Gaston said. “If you make it a tradition to go somewhere else, you don’t have to cook, you don’t have to clean, you just get to enjoy your time with your family. And I think that’s very valuable.” “We’ve really put an emphasis on what can we do to build that and seat more guests and entertain more people and we’ve been able to grow it. And feedback’s been great, I mean, it’s been awesome.” Recognizing such trends and capitalizing on them are what Gaston sees as vital for the business to remain relevant in a society dominated by video games and mile-
ARKANSASWILD.COM | 29
“We are a family-owned business; I’m fourth generation. My goal is to make it a fifth, sixth, seventh generation business and just try to keep it going.”
30 | Arkansas Wild ¸THE 2018 FISH EDITION
Clint heads back to the dock after a morning of trout fishing. Facing page: Clint holds a freshly-caught trout.
a-minute entertainment. Half of the resort’s marketing budget goes to social media and digital advertising, something that was almost non-existent a couple of years ago. “We were always pretty much 100 percent traditional media like radio and print ads; that was really about the extent of it,” he said. “My grandfather actually did a little bit with Facebook and was always a big believer in the internet, but there wasn’t much emphasis on the digital side.” “That’s the future, that’s where we’re going. Everybody’s got a phone on them; especially my generation,” says Gaston, who is 29 with a spouse and children. “So if I can market to those devices it’s going to be very beneficial. But with that in mind, I still have older customers who prefer print ads, reading magazines, hearing something on the radio. It takes all of it in conjunction to make it work. You’ve got to scatter those eggs all over.” The strategy has paid off, with more people coming to the resort after seeing it on Instagram and Facebook as compared to, say, in Field and Stream. And that growth, combined with the long-timers, is adding up to 2018 being something special. “To be honest with you, this year probably is going to turn out to be one of our best years in, I’d say, at least a decade,” Gaston said. “The weather’s been good and the economy’s looking good. Corporate business has been up; a lot of companies are bringing their employees and treating them to a fishing trip and nice little getaway.” ARKANSASWILD.COM | 31
32 | Arkansas Wild Â¸THE 2018 FISH EDITION
Gaston’s White River Resort restaurant offers diners views of the White River. Facing page: A fly fisherman casts on the White River during early morning.
It’s likely Al Gaston, owner of a Kansas-based construction company and Clint’s great-grandfather, couldn’t have imagined what would eventually spring from the 20-acre side business he launched in 1958, complete with six boats and a clutch of six small cabins—and those cabins are still in operation, by the way. “It was small,” Clint said. “There wasn’t really even a boat dock. There just wasn’t much here.” Clint’s grandfather, Jim Gaston, was tapped by Al to manage the property, and it was under Jim’s visionary leadership that Gaston’s became the institution it is today. Throughout the 1970s, 1980s and into the 1990s, land and amenities were added to broaden the resort’s appeal, improve access and lengthen stays from a day’s fishing to weeklong vacations and retreats. At last count, Gaston’s encompasses 400 acres, 79 different accommodations and 70 boats at a state-of-the-art dock. A 3,200-foot airstrip allows anglers from all over the country to fly in to fish and dine in the 300-seat, awardwinning restaurant. Tennis courts, a playground and game room, nature trails, a swimming pool, along with a wildlife refuge and fly-fishing school round out the attractions and continue to broaden the resort’s clientele. “We get the families, we get the hardcore fishermen, we get the corporate groups, family reunions, weddings,” Gaston said. “We get so many customers that want to come up and watch the river; they want to watch a bald eagle fly by, they want to watch the blue herons. We have deer all the time. Wildlife is a huge deal.” “It’s really neat because while we’re always looking for new customers, we also get to take care of the ones that we’ve had. They come year after year and we remember their faces. It’s great. They’ve kind of become family, in a sense.” ARKANSASWILD.COM | 33
ocated in the Ozark Mountains, Dogwood Canyon Nature Park is a true encounter with the beauty of the outdoors. Miles of paved trails weave through the Canyon, perfect for walking, biking, Segway, and Tram Tours. For more adventurous off-road activities, try hiking, horseback riding or a Private Jeep Tour through the rugged hillside. Take a break during your day with a live mill demonstration, a stroll through the ancient artifact gallery, lunch at the Canyon Grill, or a casual climb through a one-of-a-kind treehouse built by Animal Planet’s Treehouse Masters. The pristine 10,000 acre landscape holds crystal-clear trout-filled streams, dozens of cascading waterfalls, and bottomless blue-green pools – a conservation wonderland the Dogwood Canyon Fly Fishing Academy calls home. Whether a beginner or seasoned expert, select from 2-hour and 4-hour Fly Fishing Guided Tours or Casting Clinics where a professional guide teaches you the basic skills of fly fishing or helps you find and catch the big ones. Looking for something more? Consider a 1 or 2-day Fly Fishing School or Family Fishing Day and experience personal guide attention at Johnny Morris’ Trappers Cabin deep in Dogwood Canyon as they educate and spark your interest in nature and fishing.
Call or visit the website to start planning your adventure in the Ozarks! Book now at dogwoodcanyon.org • 877.459.5687
34 | Arkansas Wild ¸THE 2018 FISH EDITION
ARKANSASWILD.COM | 35
his year’s inductees into the Arkansas Outdoor Hall of Fame have undoubtedly contributed to conservation of the state’s resources and supported initiatives aimed at youth. In being recognized, they also show the common quality of humility. The Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation’s 2018 inductees are Jim Hinkle, Ellen Moorhead Fennell, and Randy Young, along with Legacy Award recipients J.B. and Johnelle Hunt. The honorees will be acknowledged during the 27th Arkansas Outdoor Hall of Fame Banquet on Friday, August 24 at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock. Tickets for the event are $125 and tables of 10 are available for $1,250 each. The night will include dinner, live and silent auctions, and the induction ceremony. A reception and silent auction will begin at 6 p.m. with dinner at 7 p.m. To purchase tickets, call 501-223-6468. Proceeds from the event support the year-round work of the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation. Established in 1982, the Foundation is an independently operated 501c3 non-profit organization that serves as the fundraising adjunct to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. The Foundation’s membership includes men and women who are passionate about promoting hunting, fishing and conservation education among the youth of Arkansas. BY JILL ROHRBACH Artwork by Duane Hada, owner and principle artist at Rivertown Gallery in Mountain Home, Arkansas.
36 | Arkansas Wild ¸THE 2018 FISH EDITION
J.B. and JOHNELLE HUNT
Legends of Arkansas’ business and philanthropic communities, J.B. and Johnelle Hunt built J.B. Hunt Transport Services from a five-truck operation into one of the largest transportation companies in the nation. The success of the company is rivaled only by the couple’s generosity, supporting innumerable worthwhile causes throughout Arkansas. Among the most recent examples is a $5 million pledge toward building the AGFC Northwest Arkansas Nature and Education Center in Springdale, yet another legacy for future generations that bears the Hunt stamp. “This nature center is extremely important for the families of Northwest Arkansas,” Mrs. Hunt says. “Having grown up in Heber Springs, I had the opportunity to explore the woods and creeks. This magnificent facility will provide a platform for learning about nature and all the wonderful opportunities it presents. Our family is very excited about being part of this project and we thank all those that have been involved.” While the Hunts have been honored in numerous ways for their generosity, the Legacy Award from the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation is no less an honor. “Philanthropy is the opportunity for me and my family to say thank you to all those that have worked so hard for us to be in a position to provide opportunities for others. The Legacy Award is a tremendous honor,” she adds. “I am accepting the award as a representative of all the amazing and hardworking people that built J.B. Hunt Transport. Also, all the people associated with the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation and Commission that really deserve the credit for this facility.” She adds that she feels blessed to live and work in Arkansas. “In my opinion, Arkansas is the best place in the world to live and raise families. There is an obvious reason why Arkansas is named The Natural State. The natural beauty of our state is an inspiration.”
“IN MY OPINION, ARKANSAS IS THE BEST PLACE IN THE WORLD TO LIVE AND RAISE FAMILIES.” ARKANSASWILD.COM | 37
ELLEN MOORHEAD FENNELL Like the other recipients, Ellen Moorhead Fennell of Little Rock is an Arkansas native and finds her induction into the Arkansas Outdoor Hall of Fame to be a surprise and honor. “I never expected it. There have been some women that have been leaders in conservation in the State of Arkansas and many of them are in the Hall of Fame, so I feel especially honored to be with that group,” she says. “The environmental field is not always the easiest for women to be a part of. I wonder if I deserve it, because some of those people have contributed a lot. So, at the end of a 30-year career, it’s very nice and fulfilling.” Fennell’s career speaks for itself in regard to deserving the induction. In various roles with Audubon Arkansas, including vice president and executive director, Fennell was an outspoken advocate for native bird species, flyways and nesting habitat throughout Arkansas. During her tenure with the organization, she was instrumental in securing funding for several state initiatives including environmental programs in the state’s schools, water quality education, energy policy and habitat restoration. Fennell helped establish The Nature Conservancy and Audubon Arkansas, two big conservation agencies in the state that have a long-lasting future to protect birds and the environment. “The Audubon is a conservation organization and it has a focus on birds. We’re concerned with habitat quality with birds, climate change and global warming,” Fennell says. She’s proud of Audubon’s work in the 40-year-old Christmas bird count where volunteers all over the state go out and count birds at the same time and places each year. “Nationally, we’ve found bird populations are moving further north, a good indicator of a warming planet, and we wouldn’t have been able to ascertain that in a scientific way without the help of all these volunteers,” she adds. “We work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on that.” During her time with Arkansas Audubon, the organization also worked with the Sierra Club on renewable energy and founded an Audubon center at Granite Mountain in southeast Little Rock. It serves as office headquarters and an educational facility to teach school children about nature and animal habitats. “Audubon education staff also go to schools and work with kids on nature and gardening projects, teaching children about native pollinators, like insects and birds, water quality and what makes a healthy environment,” she explains. “It’s a problem that kids stay indoors so much now. They’re on their computers and they don’t have the connection with the outdoors that kids used to have,” Fennell says. “It’s impossible to learn about nature when you’re just plugged into television or computers. That’s a lot of the reasons we have education centers. We don’t necessarily hunt or fish there, which I did a lot of when I was a kid, but we do things like bio-blitzes where the kids learn about different aspects of habitats. For example, they may go to a lake or a pond and drag a net through it to see what kind of critters they find, which indicates how healthy the water is. The more people know about nature, the deeper their appreciation and the more they enjoy it.” Fennell says one of the most important things people can do is to enjoy nature with the children in their lives. “People protect what they love and they love what they value. That’s the secret to growing good conservationists.”
“PEOPLE PROTECT WHAT THEY LOVE AND THEY LOVE WHAT THEY VALUE.” 38 | Arkansas Wild ¸THE 2018 FISH EDITION
Jim Hinkle of Mountain View may have lived his whole life in a small town, but his thinking and his deeds have been big. “I grew up in two family-owned businesses, but thank goodness I was raised by parents that truly believed in giving back,” says Hinkle. His parents supported his time spent volunteering on boards and performing community service. He is proud to have served on the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. “AGFC is the only commission in the State of Arkansas that you cannot be reappointed to. It’s one seven-year opportunity and that’s it,” he explains. “I came along at just the perfect time.” He was appointed in July of ’96 and the 1/8th of a cent conservation tax passed the following November. “For the first time AGFC had additional funding. So many doors opened because of that. We have expanded the hatchery facilities in order to stock more fish in the state and purchased additional acreage for wildlife management areas for constituents in the state to be able to use,” Hinkle explains. Hunters and anglers aren’t the only ones to enjoy the benefits of the conservation tax. He says many watchable wildlife programs have been established as well as AGFC Nature Centers for kids and adults. “We were able to do a broad spectrum of things with this funding,” Hinkle says. While he was with the commission, Hinkle had the opportunity to work with other groups such as the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Ducks Unlimited and the National Wildlife Turkey Federation. He particularly enjoyed NWTF projects, including those that focused on women and young people in the outdoors. “There were just so many great projects that they were doing,” Hinkle explains. When his stint on the AGFC was over, he didn’t want to stop giving back and found a great opportunity with the turkey federation. Hinkle served 14 years on the board of the National Wild Turkey Federation, ultimately serving as president of the national chapter. During that time, he worked for the expansion and improvement of habitat throughout the United States, Mexico and Canada through various NWTF initiatives. Community service and the outdoors have always been important to Hinkle. Born and raised in Mountain View, he has lived in this Ozark town all his life, except for the four years he spent at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway. Growing up in a rural town meant outdoors and hunting was a way of life. “I grew up with a dad who loved quail hunting and pheasant hunting,” Hinkle says. “I grew up with a grandfather who loved it all. I learned to fish for many different variety of fish, and I’m located about seven miles from the beautiful White River that is known nationwide for its trout.” He’s thankful for that upbringing and says kids today need a happy medium between time spent with technology and time in the outdoors. He’s proud that during his AGFC tenure there was an opportunity to establish youth days for hunting. “Probably something that is staring us in the face nationwide is to get the youth involved in the outdoors,” he says. “The message should be to take a young person hunting or fishing or just to enjoy the outdoors. I hope we all accept the challenge to do so.” Hinkle has certainly done his part, which is evident by his inclusion as an Arkansas Outdoor Hall of Fame Inductee. “When I received the call I was very surprised, very humbled, very pleased,” he says. “I felt very honored but my first reaction was that I don’t belong in the group that has been inducted before me.” He says it means even more to him because he has had the opportunity to work with the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation. “The foundation is extremely important,” he says. “The state game and fish commission is certainly limited in a lot of the things they can do being a state agency. So, fundraising is extremely important. [The Foundation’s] done an excellent job of supporting the commission.”
“THE MESSAGE SHOULD BE TO TAKE A YOUNG PERSON HUNTING OR FISHING OR JUST TO ENJOY THE OUTDOORS.” ARKANSASWILD.COM | 39
“ONE OF THE THINGS I’M REALLY PROUD OF IS THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE THAT HAVE GOOD QUALITY DRINKING WATER.”
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Randy Young grew up on his family’s dairy and poultry farm in Dover, Arkansas. Exploring the great outdoors was part of life. “I’m almost 70, so at the time I was growing up we still had quail in Arkansas and that’s what I enjoyed the most,” Young says. He went on to work in a field that manages and protects the nature he grew up enjoying. Young joined the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission as an entry-level water resource engineer in 1971 and within four years was promoted to deputy director/ chief engineer. In 1985 he was appointed executive director, a post he would hold under five governors over the next 31 years. He retired two years ago and counts among his accomplishments his work with conservations groups to fight erosion, floodwater and sediment damage that threatened fragile ecosystems. “One of the things I’m really proud of is the number of people that have good quality drinking water,” Young says. “We financed well over a billion dollars on drinking water projects. And I’m proud of the work we did on water quality issues in Northwest Arkansas dealing with reducing phosphorus that got into the Illinois River watershed with those problems we had with Oklahoma. And I think we’re on track to address the over pumping of water in eastern Arkansas with the Grand Prairie Project and Bayou Meto.” Young explains that partnering with local conservation districts in each county of Arkansas is extremely important to successful projects. “We’ve partnered extensively with them and partnered recently with Arkansas Game and Fish Commission to update the state water plan,” Young adds. “That’s probably the last big project I finished before I retired.” He’s been retired for two years now and is doing a lot of ranching. He advocates spending time in the outdoors. “Don’t take it for granted. Certainly get outside and enjoy it. It’s good for your health to do that,” he adds. “When I was a kid growing up in a rural setting on the family farm, there were always opportunities to get outside. My wife and I spend a good deal of time with our grandchildren and we encourage them to get outside.” Young attributes the fact that he is being honored as a Hall of Fame inductee to the number of friendships and partnerships he has established around the country and the state. “A lot of my friends over my career went out of their way to help me,” he says. “It’s certainly an honor and one that I was quite surprised to receive. I want people to know how honored I feel to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.”
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The fish are easy to find in the crystal-clear waters of one of our lakes or rivers. Then cozy up in a cabin or camp beneath the stars. #ARStateParks
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START YOUR ADVENTURE with Russell Honda Today! VISIT US AT: 6100 Landers Rd, North Little Rock, AR 72117 CALL US AT: (886) 207-4603 ARKANSASWILD.COM | 41
ARKANSAS LOOMED LARGE IN BASSMASTER MAGAZINE’S ANNUAL RANKING OF THE NATION’S 100 TOP BASS LAKES. THE NATURAL STATE OCCUPIED SIX SPOTS ON THE TOP 25 CENTRAL LIST, SECOND ONLY TO TEXAS WITH 12 LOCATIONS.
LAKEVIEW COVE MARINA
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GPS: 36.3715○ N, 92.5521○ W 707 Boat Dock Road, Lakeview 870-431-5291 lakeviewcovemarina.com Minutes from Bull Shoals Dam, Lakeview Cove offers something for everyone to enjoy, including boat rental and a full-service gas dock, a marina store stocked with boating and camping supplies, live bait, fishing gear and tackle.
GPS: 35.2909○ N, 93.2053○ W 330 Beach Road, Russellville 479-967-1543 russellvillemarina.com Friendly service and reasonably priced amenities makes the Russellville Marina a favorite of lake goers. As the name suggests, boat rental, repair and lodging are available and the marina store provides all the supplies you need for a day on the water. 42 | Arkansas Wild ¸THE 2018 FISH EDITION
GPS: 34.6693○ N, 93.2314○ W 190 Shoreview Loop Jessieville, Arkansas 501-984-5420 northshoresresortandmarina.com The only full-service marina on the north shore of Lake Ouachita, the facility offers cabin rentals and boat slips. It’s also near a variety of other attractions including hiking and biking trails, a zip line and scenic Highway 7, a favorite for car and motorcycle enthusiasts.
GPS: 33.6774○ N, 93.9874○ W 1564 Hwy. 32 East, Ashdown 870-898-2800 arkansasstateparks.com The marina offers kayak rental in addition to boat and slip rental, providing entertainment for all ages and interests at the 95,200-acre Millwood Lake. Camp and picnic sites are also available within the state park itself.
The Natural Choice in the Natural State.
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What is the Mayfly project? Jess: The Mayfly Project is a 501c3 organization that mentors children in foster care through fly fishing. We mentor our kids through five sessions and outfit them to fly fish on their own—flies, fly-rod, fly boxes, pack. We have 29 projects that are running or about to start in 13 states with 170 mentors.
JESS & LAURA WESTBROOK THE LITTLE ROCK COUPLE BEHIND THE MAYFLY PROJECT TALKS KIDS, FISHING AND THEIR FAVORITE BODY OF WATER.
When and how did the Mayfly Project begin? Jess: We started taking foster kids fishing in 2014, and then in 2015 we decided we wanted to make it an actual nonprofit. We started with 25 kids. This year we’ll mentor and outfit right around 100 kids. Jess still attends Arkansas events, but he’s really taken on a national director role over the last few months. What’s the best outcome you’ve seen from working with foster kids? Jess: We film videos with some foster kids, and over the last year we’ve had three kids get adopted as a result of their videos being seen. We still have kids today who email us and ask if we can send them more flies. We try to focus on creating long-term relationships between the mentors and the kids. We are so happy when we see kids pick up fly fishing as a long-term hobby. What do you love about fishing? Jess: I love the camaraderie of fishing. Obviously being on the water and making friends is wonderful, but being on the water also takes my mind off
46 | Arkansas Wild ¸THE 2018 FISH EDITION
the daily stressors of life. Fishing brings my stress and anxiety levels down by allowing me to focus on one thing that’s not accounting or numbers. It’s a healthy escape. What’s your favorite body of water to fish? Jess: If I’m taking kids fishing, my favorite place to take them fishing is Dry Run Creek in Norfork, Arkansas. Laura: Even if it’s 20 degrees outside, they always have a good time. And they stock it with trophy trout. It’s wonderful. Fly fishing or spin casting? Jess: Fly fishing is pretty much all I do. I only own fly rods. I think it’s more fun. The work and timing require being in tune with everything going on around you, which is, again, very relaxing and meditative. What do you want the public to know? Foster kids aren’t bad kids. They’re in the system due to no fault of their own, often because a guardian made poor decisions. There’s nothing easy about working with foster kids, but they often love fishing and cannot get enough of it. We’re serving kids all over the US, but the majority of our kids will be served right here in Arkansas. Colorado has five projects; Montana has two… all these fly fishing places are picking it up, which we think is really cool. A Note on Conservation We recently won the Arkansas Water Conservationist of the Year award. We talk with the kids about keeping our rivers clean, preventing contamination to our rivers and basic catch and release principles. It’s not just about learning to fish; it’s about learning to protect our resources. To learn more about The Mayfly Project, visit themayflyproject.com.
PHOTOGRAPHY: NOVO STUDIO
How did you two meet? Laura: We met in college on one of our first nights there and started dating soon thereafter—and never stopped. We now have a four-year-old and a one-year-old, and we’re expecting our third child.
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years Cast your line into the abundant waters of the Arkansas River Valley, featuring the 34,300-acre Lake Dardanelle reservoir connected to the Arkansas River â€” a major bass tournament location with a thriving fishery. And keep reeling them in all over the sixcounty region, from Nimrod Lake to the Fourche River. Visit arvtripeaks.com for more fishing info.
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