The next time you catch a fish in Arkansas, it may be one that “grew up” in Lonoke
at the Joe Hogan State Fish Hatchery
. It is the largest and one of the oldest state-owned warm-water pond hatcheries in the U.S. Earlier this month I visited this facility during my trek along U.S. 70. It’s worth a stop if you’ve never been. And it makes a great field trip for schools.
The hatchery is basically a huge patchwork of large square ponds separated by strips of vibrant green grass. From the air, it must be quite a site because it’s pretty impressive from the ground. There seems to be water as far as the eye can see. You can take a self-guided tour offered by the Lee Brady Visitor Center on the grounds. Groups should contact the hatchery prior to their visit. In addition to seeing a lot of fish, there are ample opportunities for wildlife watching. Aquariums and mounted species native to the area are found in the visitor center.
The annual Kids Free Fishing Derby is scheduled for June 9 at the Hogan Hatchery. Hours are 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. It’s for ages 12 and younger and has a limit of three fish per child, one rod or pole per child. The pond is stocked with catchable-size fish before the derby begins and each participant must bring their own tackle and bait. The Arkansas Game & Fish Commission, which sponsors the event, suggests everyone brings something to sit on, cameras, refreshments, sunscreen and hats.