Precautions to limit the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 have forced the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission to cancel the annual fishing derbies held at its five fish hatcheries in June.

But, anglers throughout the state will still be able to enjoy some quality time chasing catfish. AGFC hatcheries are delivering thousands of pounds of catchable-sized catfish to small, publicly accessible ponds throughout Arkansas to prepare for Free Fishing Weekend, June 12-14.

“We didn’t want to cancel our hatchery derbies, but we really didn’t see a way to do them without breaking social distancing precautions,” said Tommy Laird, assistant chief of fisheries for the AGFC. “We host thousands of participants each year on that day, and there just isn’t space for people to spread out properly on the ponds we can designate for the derby.”

Each of the AGFC’s four warm-water hatcheries has a surplus of catchable-sized catfish that were raised with these derbies in mind. Those catfish now will be delivered to small ponds throughout the state.

“We are stocking 6,000 pounds of catfish to each of the four quarters of the state,” Laird said. “The amount stocked per pond will be determined by the size of that pond and the number of people who normally fish it, but we worked hard to divide this surplus evenly.”

The following list of South Arkansas ponds will receive extra stockings before June 12:

Southeast Arkansas

Crossett — Crossett City Park

Eudora — Eudora City Lake

Lake Village — Lake Village Community Lake

McGehee — McGhee City Lake

Star City — Cane Creek State Park

Warren — Bradley County Lake