More money. More fish. Double-your-prize bonus Free Fishing Weekend. More chances to win.  The Seventh Annual Hot Springs Fishing Challenge on Lakes Hamilton and Catherine in Hot Springs is going to be the biggest ever.

“We’re increasing the number of tagged prize fish this year in celebration of the catching of Big Al, our $15,000 top-prize fish, during last year’s Challenge,” said Steve Arrison, CEO of Visit Hot Springs. “And we’re increasing the total amount of prize money from $86,000 to $101,000. It’s going to be a great Challenge for 2018.”

Seventy-one fish will be tagged and released into the lakes by Visit Hot Springs’ partner, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Andrew Hulsey Fish Hatchery.

Beginning at 6 a.m. May 1 and running through 5 p.m. on July 31, anyone who catches one of the blue-tagged fish stands to win a prize ranging from $15,000 for catching Big Al 2018 to $500 for one of the 20 fish with those tags. Four tagged fish will bring $5,000 each, 46 will be worth $1,000 each and 20 will have the $500 tags. If all 20 of the $500 fish are caught during this year’s special Free Fishing Weekend bonus-prize period and their prize amount is doubled that will boost the total prize money to $101,000.

Jeff Newman, manager of the Andrew Hulsey Fish Hatchery, said, “Any $500 fish caught during Free Fishing Weekend, June 8 through June 10, will have that amount doubled to $1,000.”

“Residents and nonresidents may fish this weekend from Friday at noon until midnight Sunday without fishing licenses or trout permits. Regulations for Arkansas waters apply; daily limits, slot limits, and length limits must be observed.”

Big Al is the name given to a fish — could be a largemouth bass or one of five other species — bearing the lucky 2018 Fishing Challenge tag. Since the Challenge began in 2012, only one person has ever caught Big Al, Pete Clark of Bismarck, who landed the largemouth black bass in 2017 to win the $15,000 top prize.  Clues will be given out during June and July about Big Al if he has not been caught by then.

“On June 1 we will reveal the first clue about Big Al if he remains at large,” Arrison said. “Then we’ll reveal a second clue on July 1, and a third on July 26, if the top prize hasn’t been claimed.

The number of prize fish remaining to be caught include:

  • $15,000              1
  • $5,000                4
  • $1,000                41
  • $500                   17

“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.”

For additional information call Steve Arrison at 501-321-2027