Norfork Tailwater

Poachers Hotline

Posted by Phil Lilley on November 6th, 2013
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Last week I guided a couple of anglers that were part of a corporate group that I work with several times a year near the confluence of Dry Run Creek and the Norfork River. We looked up the creek and noticed two anglers fishing on the lower section. Dry Run Creek is a Catch and Release section that has been set aside for children under sixteen years of age and the handicapped. From our vantage point the anglers appeared to be well over sixteen and to get into the rugged section they were fishing in they could not be handicapped.

Like most fly fishing guides, I am very protective of our Catch and Release waters and if anything I am overly protective of Dry Run Creek. This is the gem of our trout waters. The place is teeming with huge trout and it is the perfect place to introduce your children or grand children to trout fishing. I have been guiding on it for around twenty five years.

I began taking my daughter, Katherine, there, when she was twelve. We spent many days there during her childhood and one of our most cherished memories is when she landed a twenty seven inch rainbow on a frigid winter day on our last trip there. Years later we returned with her children. She wanted them to experience the thrill that she had on the creek. It all came home, when her son, John, landed a twenty one inch brown trout, when he was five years old. This is also the place where we took a group of Wounded Warriors and a group of cancer survivors from Casting for Recovery (both with the written permission of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission). It was a moving experience for them and for us!

I decided to wade up the creek and determine if these anglers were poaching on the creek. I checked with my clients and they agreed that I should take the time to investigate the situation. As I was walking away, one of my clients, Richard, hooked a nice twenty one inch brown. We took a few minutes to fight, land and photograph the trout.

I continued on my trip upstream on the creek. It was a slow go as the terrain was tough. There was no way that the anglers were handicapped. When I arrived at their location, I noted that the man and woman appeared to be around thirty years of age. I noted that they were fishing with bait on barbed hooks and had a twenty inch brown trout on a stringer (too small to harvest). They were definitely too old and healthy to fish there. They had at least five game violations between them. I was personally disgusted. Their actions were degrading the quality of fishing there and messing it up for children and the handicapped.

I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt. In a non confrontational way, I explained to them that what they were doing was very illegal and should they be caught they would be subject to stiff fines. They said that they had no idea that they were in a restricted area. I pointed to the various signs that clearly said that this was a Catch and Release section and suggested that they cease fishing, release the tethered trout and leave the area. They complied.

Later that day we returned to the lodge. Several of the guides were talking and the subject of poaching came up. Three of us had confronted poachers that day and we all had stories of past confrontations with poachers. We all agreed that is a major problem and that the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission enforcement officers were spread thin. The general consensus was that I was probably too accommodating and that the best course of action would have been for me to call the Poaching Hotline and let the enforcement officers know what was happening. They could then respond and give out a few citations, which would have a much greater impact on the problem.

We have to do more about poaching, which is rampant. From now on I will call the Poaching Hotline (1-800-482-9262) and report game violations. You can remain anonymous, if you prefer. Let’s all work together and help the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission solve this problem.

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