Sportsmen along river believe hatchery in jeopardy of closing

Some Heber Springs residents believe they may be catching the bad end of a possible deal to close a local fish hatchery.

A nesting ground for fish around the Little Red River helps replenish the waters known as a heaven for trout fishing, but if federal programs decide to close the hatchery it may diminish more than just the sport of fishing.

"It'll dramatically change this river," said trout guide Lowell Myers.

Myers with Sore Lip'Em All Guide Service has been guiding groups to beds of trout for more than two decades on the Little Red River, but without more of these slippery fish his profession could hit rock bottom.

"You're going to see a lot of guides who will have to do something else. You'll look at a lot of fly shops who will have to do something else," Myers added.

"You think about just the property value here that's along this river. If there's no fish it's going to decline."

According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for every $1 of the hatchery's budget, $122 was put back into the local economy.

One of the primary uses for the Greers Ferry National Fish Hatchery is to keep the Little Red River stocked with rainbow trout because the fish aren't able to reproduce at a strong rate themselves.

Working to keep the facility open is a battle Myers said the area goes through every year, needing the breeding grounds to stay open so that more casts don't come up empty.

"It's been a yearly battle. Over the past several years there's always been some issues in funding for the hatcheries," he added.

A member of U.S. Fisheries & Wildlife Service in Atlanta told Channel 7 Wednesday it just finalized a study of all the hatcheries in the U.S., but has made no actions to close any of them, and wasn't sure when a decision could be made.

Congressman Rick Crawford introduced a bill to Congress in June that could require federal agencies to continue funding many of these hatcheries.