Interview With Burness Stoner

Patches: What is your name and how long have you lived here?

Burness: My name is Burness Stoner and I've lived here since 1945.

Patches: Where do you enjoy fishing the most?

Burness: I fish the White River and both lakes: Bull Shoals and Norfork.

Patches: What's the strangest fishing trip or day you've ever had?

Burness: Probably some of the best I've ever done in this part of the country is the Crooked Creek and the Buffalo River. It's mostly small mouth. I was a guide on the White River for about 30 years and some on Bull Shoals. I have quite a few stories if I told them at random times that I've been fishing, but I've had some real good fishing days and some bad days where it'd rain or there would be something to make the trip uncomfortable or something like that.

Patches: What kind of effect did the dam have on the White River?

Burness: The White River before the dam was built was one of the best small mouth fishing streams there was in the United States. I'd say there were people that came from all over to fish for small mouth on the White River before they built the dam. After the dam was built, what most of us didn't understand, the water temperature was gonna change because the water got deeper. It runs at about 45 degrees. The bass fishin' kinda went away because bass is not a real cold stream fish so the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission stocked it with trout and made it one of the best trout streams below the Bull Shoals Dam. In fact, they call it the Trout Capital of America. There's been great trout fishin' for years now. For a long time you could catch both trout and bass. Then it got down to just trout fishin'. When the White River warms up, you can catch bass.

Patches: What time of the day or year do you think fishing is most efficient?

Burness: Usually we have shat kill in January and February and they come through the dam. If you like artificial, that's the most productive time to catch a number of larger fish. You can catch trout year around. Bass fishin' in the Bull Shoals and Norfork is probably most efficient early in the spring and then in the fall when it starts cooling off.

Patches: Do you enjoy fishing better alone or with someone?

Burness: I never liked to fish alone as well as I did with someone because you have fellowship while you're catching fish. At least you have company.

Patches: What is the biggest fish ever caught on the White River?

Burness: I think the record of the brown is 35 pounds and on the rainbow, the record is probably a little over 19 pounds.

Patches: What Kind of bait do you use?

Burness: I like to fish with live bait and artificial at different times of the year. It seems like artificial is a little more enjoyable, but when the river is down low and warm, a lot of people like to use Craw Fish.

Patches: Where do you get your bait?

Burness: I get most of my live bait at bait stores. I use Night Crawlers a lot and Craw Fish. They've got power baits now for trout fishin'. Corn works real good for small trout. I think they look at the corn as eggs because the trout spawns feed on the other trout's eggs. It's just natural for them to feed on an egg type bait. I fish with Night Crawlers and stuff like that because it's natural for bigger fish to feed on then too. When shad come through, a lot of people like to use those.

Patches: What kind of fish do you enjoy fishing?

Burness: I like to fish trout or bass. I've fished more bass over the past year or so than I have trout, I enjoy fishing both of them.

Patches: Why do you fish?

Burness: I fish simply for the enjoyment and sensation of it.

Patches: Earlier in the interview, you said you were a guide. What do you do as a guide?

Burness: When you're a guide, you work for an outfitter. The customers call and ask what days are open and make reservations. It's the guide's responsibility to have the boat ready to take the customer on the float trip when they get there. The guide meets the customer and informs them what fish bite and take care of the customer. The guide takes them to the position to catch the best and biggest fish they can. A guide works each day or when suitable to their customers.

Patches: How much do you get paid to be a guide?

Burness: If you have a boat without a motor, you get paid about $60 a day. If you have a good boat with a motor it's about $100 a day.

Patches: What kind of people do you meet?

Burness: People come from all over the world -- including foreigners. You also get to meet all kinds of people from different occupations, such as doctors and lawyers.

Patches: How did you become a guide?

Burness: I was just interested in it and I like to fish so I started after high school. It also put a little money in my pocket.

Patches: Why did you become a guide?

Burness: I became a guide because I liked to do it and because it was a good career opportunity.

Bernice: Mm-hmm.

Interview and writings by Patches Easter
Put on web by Wade McBee