Arkansas is the birthplace of warm water aquaculture in the United States. The first commercial fish farms were built in Arkansas in the 1940s to raise goldfish. The industry in Arkansas has diversified into production of more than twenty species of fish and crustaceans. These species supply food-fish markets, recreational fishing markets and waters, retail pet markets, gardening supply markets, and markets for aquatic weed and snail control.
Arkansas ranks second in aquaculture-producing states. It leads in production of bait-fish (live fish bought by anglers as bait for recreational and sport fishing), large-mouth bass for stocker fish, hybrid striped bass fry, and Chinese carp. It is third nationally in catfish production.
Arkansas has hundreds of thousands of farm ponds, used for a variety of purposes, such as watering livestock, fire control, attracting wildlife, and recreational fishing. The most common management system is to stock a combination of catfish, bass, and bluegill. Bass and bluegill will spawn in the pond and, if managed properly, can develop self-sustaining populations. Channel catfish will spawn if spawning receptacles are provided. Fish populations need to be monitored and managed to produce the kind of fishing desired.
Aquaculture has had a major impact in Arkansas, especially in the Delta, where the majority of aquaculture production in Arkansas occurs. This region is characterized by high rates of poverty and unemployment. Fish farms 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.