Hot topic of rambling fish in April

The angling spotlight shines in April on white bass, a fish that can spark heated debate in tackle shops, coffee shops and office break rooms.

The fishermen who catch them, even those who don’t, have their own opinions. How many white bass should a fisherman keep? What’s the best way to cook white sea bass? Is it really worth cooking?

One thing most will agree on: they are great fun to catch. Hang on to a 2 or 3 pound white bass and you have a fight on your hands. Better to hold that fishing rod tight and hope the reel drag is fine tuned. That’s about where the deal ends.

Beaver Lake and its tributaries are unique in that they are the only waters in Arkansas where there is no daily white bass limit. If a fisherman can catch 200 white bass, it’s perfectly legal to take them home. In my own fishery, I’ve never seen anyone keep an obscene number of white bass, like 75 or 200, but others say they do. Keeping a wheelbarrow full of white bass is legal, but is it ethical?

Some annually voice their opinion that the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission should impose a daily limit of 25 fish on white bass. They say the white bass fishery has not been up to par in recent years and blame overfishing.

Others testify that the white bass fishery has been halted due to flooding occurring on the White and War Eagle rivers, but they still prefer a 25 fish limit. These rivers are the main tributaries to Beaver Lake where most people fish for white bass and where white bass spawn in the spring.

Then there’s the camp that doesn’t care one way or another. It’s because they’ll never keep more than 10 or 15 white basses anyway because that’s all they care about cleaning up.

Fish management professionals like John Stein, Northwest Arkansas Fisheries Supervisor at the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, say a daily limit isn’t necessary. Stein and fellow fisheries biologist Eric Gates are responsible for managing the fishery in Beaver Lake and other area waters.

White bass are abundant in the lake, and females lay millions of eggs in April, which is the most important spawning time, Stein says. Most white bass fishing takes place in April. Few fishermen catch them the other 11 months. There isn’t enough harvest in a month to negatively impact white bass numbers, according to Stein.

Those who are not in favor of a daily limit might say why have a regulation if it is not necessary, another regulation that wildlife officers will have to enforce. On the other hand, a daily limit of 25 would align Beaver Lake with the statewide daily limit of 25 white bass.

Tamer’s discussion centers on the consumption of white bass. Some say they are excellent on a plate. Others like to catch them, but let them go because they don’t like the flavor.

There are those red meat flakes running down the center of each white bass fillet that tastes strongly of fish. Most people recommend getting rid of this red meat when filleting white bass.

I share a fair amount of white bass fillets with non-fishing friends and they love the taste. And then there’s a fishing buddy who doesn’t even allow white bass in his tank because he says it tastes bad.

Yes, when it comes to white bass, anglers have their say. Hopefully this spring everyone who fishes for them will catch all the white bass they want to clean up or let swim in, whichever they choose.

Flip Putthoff can be reached at [email protected]

Previous Seaweed is converted into a fishless smoked salmon substitute
Next Cooking Fish Leftovers: Cobia Frames and Collars