LITTLE ROCK — Even though Free Fishing Weekend has passed, that doesn’t mean it’s time to hang up the fishing rods for the year. An annual fishing license in Arkansas is only $10.50, and anglers can find a brand new resource from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission to teach them some basic techniques to improve their chances on the water. A host of new videos have been uploaded to the AGFC’s virtual nature center website at www.agfcnaturecenter.com.
Tabbi Kinion, chief of the AGFC’s Education Division, says the virtual nature center is just one way AGFC staff have had to be creative in getting people outdoors in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“A lot of people suddenly found themselves with free time from canceled sports events, remote work environments and less recreational outlets when social distancing began, and a lot of them rediscovered the outdoors,” Kinion said. “With our nature centers also being closed, we needed a way to reach these people and help them learn how to be more successful and safe during their adventures fishing, boating, wildlife viewing and hunting. The virtual nature center is a great way to do that.”
Spencer Griffith, assistant chief of communications over the AGFC’s marketing efforts, said the virtual nature center is a hub for much of the content being produced throughout the agency.
“As we start summer, many Arkansans are looking for fun ways to beat the heat while practicing social distancing,” Griffith said. “AGFC has some adventures in mind. Arkansas trout tailwaters provide a cool refreshing stream for beginner anglers to wade in as they try their hand at catching some dinner. Arkansas Water Trails are perfect for paddlers that are trying to improve their skills and avoid the crowds.”
During the course of creating the new specialty website, many of the AGFC’s educators have formed specialized teams to focus on specific areas of interest. Some educators who were excellent at giving in-person workshops on hunting, cooking and preparing game and fish for the table have focused on those areas, while others who would normally teach paddling and fishing techniques in workshops to get more people on the water safely have transitioned into producing videos for those topics. Education specialists with more of a natural sciences background have discovered new ways to inform people about the fascinating wildlife that calls Arkansas home now that their workdays are not filled with a parade of school groups.
“We are excited to open to the public again when we feel it will be safer for the public to gather in our centers, but we’ve definitely learned a new tool during this transition that I’m sure we’ll continue to use in the future,” Kinion said.
Griffith also has optimistic eyes for the future.
“The AGFC is hoping that we can open our centers for fishing clinics and outdoor skills courses again very soon,” Griffith said. “Until then, we are making sure we continue to provide conservation and outdoor skill education through our virtual nature center. We hope to continue to inspire Arkansans to plug in and learn a skill with us, then unplug and experience it first hand.”