What’s the best thing about Arkansas adventure?
Don’t wrack your brain too hard – it’s a trick question. Here’s my answer at the moment though. You don’t always have to go find it. Sometimes it finds you. For proof I refer you to the White River spillway in Batesville on a Saturday in late June. In this case I mean June 2019, but I could just as easily mean June 1980. That’s because for decades folks have been visiting this particular spillway to pursue a unique Arkansas adventure; snagging for Paddlefish. How do I know? Patcho (my dad’s dad), that’s how. Years ago he took my siblings and me to the spillway to witness this strange ritual firsthand.
Snaggers with long, stiff spinning rods would wade into the river. Their rods were paired with large reels spooled with heavy monofilament, and instead of relying on lures or bait they pulled large treble hooks through the current, jerking rhythmically on the rod in hopes of snagging an unsuspecting spoonbill. When the snagger hooked up he’d pendulum the fish to shore down river as a partner ran down the gravel bar to intercept it.
Years (as in thirty or, gulp, forty) later we found ourselves in Batesville for a family reunion. It was June. It was hot, and we had some time to kill, so we made our way down to the spillway in the company truck to see what the locals do for excitement.
As I spun tales of snaggers below the spillway we descended from the park onto the gravel bar to encounter………….snaggers below the spillway! They’ve since traded in their heavy mono for braided line (in most cases), but not much else has changed there other than the size of the fish.
I never had much interest in snagging, but I always found it fascinating to watch, especially as a pup. Seeing it again brought back a flood of memories, and that’s what adventure in Arkansas is about. Paddlefish make their way down river – gravel bars do too for that matter. Seasons change and adventurers grow older, but the memories never die. Go make some.
See you out there!