HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (News release) – Marq (cq) Hebert of Hot Springs boated the first prize fish in the Sixth Annual $86,000 Hot Springs Fishing Challenge on Saturday while fishing on Lake Catherine.

He caught the $1,000 bluegill — bearing Tag No. 12 — about 9:45 a.m., less than four hours after the 2017 Challenge began.

Hebert said he had heard about the Fishing Challenge and decided to go out and try his luck. The prize fish was 9.1 inches long and weighed 0.62 pounds. He was fishing in a boat with a friend offshore from Lake Catherine State Park. The prize bluegill hit his minnow bait on Hebert’s second cast of the morning.

The Sixth Annual Hot Springs Fishing Challenge will end at 5 p.m. on June 30.

Sixty prize fish remain to be caught, including the elusive top-prize, Big Al, which is worth $15,000 to the lucky angler who lands him.

Big Al is the name given to a fish — could be a largemouth bass or one of four other species — bearing the lucky 2017 Fishing Challenge tag. Since the Challenge began in 2012, no one has ever caught Big Al. In 2016 Big Al was worth $10,000.

Clues will be given out during May and June about Big Al if he has not been caught by then.

“On May 1 we will reveal the first clue about Big Al if he remains at large,” said Steve Arrison, CEO of Visit Hot Springs, which sponsors the Challenge. “Then we’ll reveal a second clue on June 1, and a third on June 26, if the top prize hasn’t been claimed.

“We are continuing our great partnership with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, which has worked so well for us for the last five years,” Arrison said. “The G&FC staff at the Andrew Hulsey Fish Hatchery on Lake Hamilton has been spectacular in selecting, tagging and releasing the prize fish. Jeff Newman is the Hatchery manager.”

“Hot Springs residents and visitors coming to Hot Springs from throughout the nation have told us this is their favorite time of year,” Arrison said. “Many people have told us they had an exciting time on the lakes trying to land one of the prize fish, even if they haven’t yet hit the cash jackpot.”

The Fine Print

The Hot Springs Fishing Challenge begins at 6 a.m. April 1, 2017, and ends on June 30, 2017, at 5 p.m. Central Time. The Challenge provides anglers the opportunity to catch 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: Sixty-one (61) tagged fish (total) will be released in Lake Hamilton and Lake Catherine.  The fish released will be largemouth bass, bluegill, channel catfish, white bass, crappie, and walleye. The 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 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 for 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:

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. The number of remaining prize fish:

 1 fish     $15,000

 4 fish       $5,000

45 fish      $1,000

10 fish         $500

Total possible prize money if all fish are caught during the contest period is $86,000.