HOT SPRINGS NATIONAL PARK, Ark. — Big Al has been captured after eluding the best pursuers in the country for six long years.
Yes, the $15,000 top-prize fish in the annual $86,000 Hot Springs Fishing Challenge was finally brought in on Tuesday night (June 20) by Pete Clark of Malvern.
For the previous five Fishing Challenges, no one had ever been able to catch Big Al, the name given each year to the top-prize fish in the annual Challenge. Big Al was a different fish each year.
This year Big Al was the name given to a 4-pound largemouth bass bearing purple tag No. 68.
Clark and his brother, Jessie, were participating in the weekly Tuesday night fishing tournament on Lake Hamilton when Pete hooked the elusive 18.2-inch largemouth bass known as Big Al using a spinner bait.
The brothers had put their boat into Lake Hamilton at the Fish Hatchery and landed the prize fish in the Hot Springs Creek basin near Parkwood Drive.
Big Al had been placed in the lake in early April west of Long Island near the last bridge on Highway 7 South at Latitude 34 degrees 26.014, Longitude 93 degrees 05.726.
“So he had traveled quite a distance by the time Pete Clark caught him,” said Steve Arrison, CEO of Visit Hot Springs.
“We are overjoyed that someone has finally caught the top-prize fish in the Challenge,” Arrison said. “Fishing is one of the prime reasons people give when we ask them why they come to visit Hot Springs, and a $15,000 prize fish will go a long way in further publicizing our great fishing lakes.”
Pete Clark said he plans to split his $15,000 cash prize with his brother and plans to pay off his truck.
He said at a Thursday morning news conference/check presentation that he planned to take Big Al, which he’d kept alive and well in his boat’s live-well, and release him back into Lake Hamilton.
“There are still 53 prize fish worth $65,500 in Lakes Hamilton and Catherine for the 2017 Challenge,” Arrison said. “Four of those fish are worth $5,000 each and 40 are worth $1,000 each, so there is plenty of prize money left to award before the Challenge ends at 5 p.m. on June 30.”
The Challenge began in 2012 and until Tuesday night no one had ever caught Big Al.
“The Challenge has always been a 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 began 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) were released in Lake Hamilton and Lake Catherine. The fish released include largemouth bass, bluegill, channel catfish, white bass, crappie, and walleye. The tags 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 were 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 here. 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:
4 fish: $5,000
40 fish: $1,000
9 fish: $500
Total possible prize money if all fish are caught during the contest period is $86,000.
For additional information call Steve Arrison at (501) 321-2027.