Arkansas Aquaculture Facts

The first baitfish farms appeared in Arkansas in the mid-1940s; in 1952, there were 536 acres in baitfish production. By 1972, the state had 29,061 acres of production ponds. Acreage declined after the 1970s as farmers intensified production on fewer acres. All baitfish farms in Arkansas are family operations or partnerships, and the vast majority are small businesses. 

Sport-fish hatcheries in Arkansas raise catfish, largemouth bass, several varieties of bluegill, redear sunfish, hybrid bream, crappie, and yellow perch to sell for recreational fishing. 

Arkansas farmers also raise crawfish in ponds in which a forage crop such as rice or milo has been planted. When ponds are flooded, crawfish emerge from burrows in the mud and feed forthe forage crop. In Arkansas, crawfish are a seasonal product, sold primarily in the spring. Crawfish boils are popular with consumers, and some restaurants serve boiled crawfish. 

Aquaculture has had a major impact in Arkansas, especially in the Delta, where the majority ofaquaculture production in Arkansas occurs. Fish farms are frequently are some of the largest businesses in an area and provide employment and demand for other services from electricians, plumbers, equipment and truck dealerships, supply companies, and other service providers.

Based on the 2022 USDA Ag Census Data, Arkansas had around $83 million in aquaculture sales in 2022. This is around a 14% increase from 2017.

Arkansas is the number one baitfish producing state in the United States. 

Arkansas baitfish production accounts for around 67% of all baitfish production in the United States. With $29,172,000 in sales for 2022. These baitfish consist mostly of Golden Shiners, and Fathead Minnows. 

Arkansas also ranks number one in sport/game fish production. With reported sales of $20,177,000 in 2022. 

Arkansas is one of three major states in catfish production, behind Mississippi and Alabama. 

Arkansas Catfish total sales for 2023 counted for roughly 6% of the United States total sales. Around $24,590,000. 

According to USDAs 2022 Ag Census data, these counties were the top three baitfish producing counties in Arkansas: 

  1. Lonoke
  2. Prairie
  3. Greene

According to USDAs 2022 Ag Census data, these counties were the top three Sport/Game Fish producing counties in Arkansas: 

  1. Lonoke
  2. Garland
  3. Prairie

According to USDAs 2022 Ag Census data, these counties were the top three catfish producing counties in Arkansas: 

  1. Desha
  2. Lonoke
  3. Lafayette