Norfork Lake primed for Team Championship

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Chris Mitchell

By the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission 

Norfork Lake, located in North-Central Arkansas, is the site of the Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship next week, Dec. 6-9. Arkansas Game and Fish Commission fisheries biologists recently completed sampling for black bass on Norfork Lake to determine the overall health of the bass population.

Biologists sampled bass from randomly-selected sites in three different areas of the 22,000-acre highland reservoir. A total of 2,507 bass were measured, weighed and released over three nights of sampling. 

Jeremy Risley, district fisheries supervisor said, “We typically try to sample the bass population in Norfork Lake every spring and every other fall.” Sampling the bass population in the fall allows biologists to determine the relative condition of the population. When biologists talk about condition, they are referring to the plumpness or how fat the fish are.

“All three species of black bass looked to be in good shape. We sampled numerous bass in the 3- to 4-pound range. We also saw plenty of forage (shad and sunfish) while conducting these samples,” said Risley.

Risley stated that recent high-water events in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017 have had positive impacts on the bass population. “We sampled a combined total of over 5,200 bass in the spring and fall of 2017. We’ve never had catch rates that high in the previous 30 years of sampling bass in Norfork Lake,” said Risley.

Highland reservoirs, like Norfork Lake, benefit greatly when the lake level inundates the shoreline vegetation. “When the water gets into the bushes and stays there all summer on Norfork Lake, we see an increase in the production and survival of the predator and forage species,” said Risley.

Risley, who is an avid tournament angler, predicts it will take 25-27 pounds to win the Team Championship.  “Fishing can be really good on Norfork Lake in early December. There should be a lot of fish caught during this event. With the recent cooldown, fish are being caught shallow on spinnerbaits and crankbaits as well as being caught deep on jigs. 

It took more than 14 pounds to win and 13 pounds to get a check at a recent tournament on Norfork Lake,” said Risley. “We look forward to having avid bass anglers coming from all over the U.S. to fish Norfork Lake and we hope they enjoy their time here.  We appreciate the positive impact this event and these anglers will have on the local economy,” said Risley.