HOT SPRINGS NATIONAL PARK, Arkansas — Joey Jones called his brother after work Friday to see if he wanted to go fish for a while. They put in at Sunnybrook Landing on Lake Hamilton and within 15 minutes Joey Jones had caught a $500 bluegill in the 2019 $101,000 Hot Springs Fishing Challenge.
Jones’ catch was the 15th prize fish caught in this year’s Challenge and brings the 2019 total within one fish of matching the record 16 fish caught in the 2014 Challenge. His $500 prize brings to $17,000 the total amount of prize money awarded so far this year. The Fishing Challenge ends at 5 p.m. July 31.
Jones’ bluegill, bearing orange Tag No. 14, was caught near Rabbit Island in about five feet of water. Jones was fishing with Arkansas shad.
Seventy-one prize fish — all wearing 2019 orange tags — were released into Lake Hamilton and Lake Catherine April 30, according to Steve Arrison, CEO of Visit Hot Springs, which sponsors the Fishing Challenge in cooperation with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
“One of the prize fish, known as Big Al — which could be any of the five species of fish in the Challenge — is worth $15,000 to anyone who catches him,” Arrison said. “The Challenge is a free family-oriented event to emphasize the great fishing we have in the lakes around Hot Springs.”
The Challenge participation is free for anyone with a valid Arkansas fishing license.
In addition to Big Al, there remain three fish worth $5,000 each, and 36 worth $1,000 each. Sixteen remaining fish will bring $500 each for the lucky anglers who catch them during the Challenge dates.
The prize fish are largemouth bass, bluegill, channel catfish, white bass and redear sunfish.
New this year are merchandise prizes from the Challenge’s co-sponsors, Mister Crappie, FLW, Luck E Strike and the Game and Fish Commission.
Again this year, the Challenge will feature a free-fishing weekend, June 7 – 9, during which any $500 tagged fish that is caught will have an additional $500 bonus added to its prize money.
Jeff Newman, manager of the Andrew Hulsey Fish Hatchery, said, “Any $500 fish caught during Free Fishing Weekend, June 7 through June 9, will have that amount doubled to $1,000.”
Big Al — which could be any of the species in the Challenge — is so elusive that clues to his whereabouts are even given out if he’s not caught by June 1. Clues will be given June 1, July 1 and July 26, Arrison said.
These prize fish remain to be caught:
The Fine Print
The Hot Springs Fishing Challenge begins at 6 a.m. May 1, 2019, and ends on July 31, 2019, at 5 p.m. Central Time. The Challenge provides anglers the opportunity to catch orange-tagged fish that can be redeemed for cash prizes.
Eligibility: The contest is open to anyone with a valid Arkansas fishing license. Employees of the Hot Springs Advertising and Promotion Commission, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission at the Andrew H. Hulsey Fish Hatchery, and their immediate family members, and/or those living in the same household of each are ineligible to win a cash prize.
How It Works: Seventy-one (71) orange-tagged fish (total) will be released in Lake Hamilton and Lake Catherine. The fish released will be largemouth bass, bluegill, channel catfish, white bass and bream. The orange tags will have a phone number and a prize number on them. If a fish is caught the angler must call the number and present the fish with the orange tag attached.
The fish will be tagged by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and released in both lakes by a third party of impeccable credentials. No one will know the exact location of the release points except this individual.
No cash prize will be awarded to any participant presenting a tagged fish that has been caught other than during the fishing period. Tags must be presented during the fishing period to be redeemed. All tagged fish must be caught in accordance with all state and local laws, codes, rules and regulations. Rules and regulations can be found at: http://www.agfc.com/fishing/Pages/FishingRegulations.aspx
No cash prizes will be awarded to any participant who does not comply with state and local laws, codes, rules and regulations.
Publicity Release: Each angler who catches a prize fish grants Visit Hot Springs the rights to use their name, likeness, biographical information, and photographs, without compensation, in any and all media without limitation for advertising and promotional purposes.
General Prize Conditions: Prize winners shall be solely responsible for all federal, state and/or local taxes associated with their prize.
Prize Distribution: The tagged fish will each be assigned a number. Prize money will be divided as follows:
1 fish $15,000
4 fish $5,000
46 fish $1,000
20 fish $500
Total possible prize money if all fish are caught during the contest period is $101,000.