The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission will tag the 71 prize fish for the Eighth Annual Hot Springs Fishing Challenge on April 29 at the Andrew H. Hulsey State Fish Hatchery on Lake Hamilton, Visit Hot Springs said Tuesday.
The fish will be released into lakes Hamilton and Catherine on April 30. The challenge begins at 6 a.m. May 1 and runs through 5 p.m. July 31.
Each orange tag has a phone number and a prize number. Anglers who catch one of the fish must call the number and present the fish with the orange tag attached to claim the prize.
In addition to the cash prizes, merchandise prizes will be offered for the first time from the challenge's co-sponsors -- The Crappie Expo, FLW, Luck E Strike and the game and fish commission. Each angler who presents a prize fish will also receive one of the merchandise prizes.
The prize money this year totals $101,000, and includes one fish dubbed "Big Al" worth $15,000. Four of the fish, two in each lake, are worth $5,000 each; 46 are worth $1,000 each; and 20 are worth $500 each.
The prize fish are a mix of largemouth bass, bluegill, channel catfish, white bass and redear sunfish.
"The location where Big Al -- which could be any of the five species of fish in the Challenge -- will be documented, although only the person who releases him will know exactly where the release took place," Visit Hot Springs CEO Steve Arrison said in a news release on Tuesday.
Anyone with a valid Arkansas fishing license can participate.
In the history of the challenge, Big Al has only been caught one time, in 2017.
Also, any $500 fish caught during Free Fishing Weekend, June 7-9, will have the prize amount doubled to $1,000.
Residents and nonresidents can fish during Free Fishing Weekend without fishing licenses or trout permits. Regulations for Arkansas waters apply -- daily limits, slot limits, and length limits must be observed, the news release said.Local on 04/24/2019