Fishing and fun in Felsenthal

Rock climbing boy

Though he could probably care less, from his lofty height at the Felsenthal Bream Fest rock climbing attraction, this boy can probably see competing anglers and their boats as they dangle crickets and other baits for their finny prey. The boy, after a couple of tries, made it to the top and "rang the bell." He is on his way down now.

Families and fishing enthusiasts descended in droves on Felsenthal, Arkansas for the 2011 version of the town’s Bream Festival and Tournament, May 27 and 28. The town sits next door to the Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge which has some fine camping facilities, all of which were occupied.

family fishing

See more Bream Festival Pictures at Corndancer dot-com

There is one small motel in town, Tracks Inn, which was at capacity. Otherwise you needed to figure some driving time into your festival plans. At this point in this epistle, may I suggest that you to to the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com and see pictures and read where this story started. We’ll wait here.

Eighty two boats were registered for the tournament, a good turnout, I was told. Most of those boats had two competitors aboard. Winners were determined by the team weighing its heaviest 20 fish.

See more Felsenthal fishing and festival pictures in our Weekly Grist Gallery.

At the weigh-in, the heaviest team catch when the time I was there was 8-1/2 pounds which figures out about 6.8 ounces per fish, not too shabby, but not a record breaker.

The Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge is 60,000 acres of wetlands, heavily populated with Tupelo and Cypress. Due to recent flooding conditions, the water was higher than usual so many boats were floating where they would normally be high and dry, or at least running aground.

Anglers and old growth cypress

This team (and others) took the opportunity to navigate around submerged old growth cypress. The trees are huge and apparently the fish like the neighborhood. Other teams were fishing close-by.

Man unhooking fish for wife

Noticeable among the teams were husbands and wives. Perhaps the family that fishes together stays together. In this case, the hubby is being the good guy as he unhooks a bream his spousal unit has just landed.

The festival was not all about fishing, though that is the reason for the event. The Felsenthal Bream fest had what you want and expect at such a happening: food and merchant vendors, arts and crafts, a Gospel “sing,” a water slide, the rock climbing doo-dad you see above, a beauty pageant, and a “street dance” in the town’s covered pavilion. With all of the Memorial Day and festival attendees, the “street dance” in the pavilion was a prudent idea. Helps hold down 911 calls.

Pageant contestants

Pageant contestants show their stuff and best smiles. There were stair-stepped categories from "brand-new" to 18-year-old-girls. The pageant is a popular part of the festival.

Hungry bream will bite at nearly any thing that looks edible. They love crickets and worms, but will also grab a “poppin’ bug” and a “bream killer” presented with a fly rod.  The popping bug floats and the bream killer sinks. It’s not unusual for an angler to catch two fish at one time with a “y” arrangement of a popping bug and a bream killer. Such an event is pandemonium defined. In this environment, however, fly rods would not work well. I mention them because any discourse on bream fishing that does not mention a fly rod should not be taken seriously.

Angler with cricket cage

It's not his first rodeo, He has a first class cricket cage for probably the bream's favorite live bait. Catalpa worms may be a close second when you can find them. I told this guy when I shot the picture that the whole world would be able to see him with his hand in a cricket cage. He seemed to enjoy the idea. This was a family outing. You can see his dog. His wife was off camera in the back of the boat.

The midday weigh-in was creeping closer and anglers headed to the ramps to make the deadline with their catches. We wisely took our boat out slightly ahead of the main crowd. My skipper and crew for the day were my friends of long-standing, Linda Newbury, Mayor of Felsenthal, and her husband Jack Newbury, a member of the Felsenthal town council. They are avid anglers and know the waters around Felsenthal like the back of their hands.

See more Felsenthal fishing pictures in our Weekly Grist Gallery.

bream fest weigh in

The lying stops here. The weigh-master dumps a catch of fish on the scales. This one raised no eyebrows. When he announces the weight of a heavier catch, "oos" and "ahs" rise from he crowd.

The small town of Felsenthal and its people do good job with their festival, proving again, that you don’t have to be big and you don’t have to have an unlimited budget to do good things. But you do have to have a good idea and be prepared to drip a lot of sweat in the process. The folks at Felsenthal have both down pat.

boats on river

Click on the boat to see more fishing and festival pictures


See more Felsenthal fishing and festival

pictures in our Weekly Grist gallery

We’ve posted 62 pictures of fishing and the festival at Felsenthal in our gallery

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey,

Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

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