J.D. Fletcher honored: A fishing legacy remembered
June 1, 2016
For many fishermen who have visited Barry County over the past five decades, the person who introduced them to the prime fishing spots was the same man. For over 50 years, J.D. Fletcher, a lifelong Barry County resident, took locals and visitors alike fishing to show them the good spots and share in memories for multiple generations.
In recognition of the years JD dedicated to his passion, a Kings River Access was named for him and his huge collection of antique fishing gear is displayed in a Springfield fishing museum.
J.D. served as a guide to area fishing for decades until his death in 2014. His son, Jeff, said, “A lot of people who fished with my dad the first time they came here and moved to the area, like in Eagle Rock, Golden and Shell Knob.”
J.D. became somewhat of an icon for the fishing community in Barry County, and that is a big reason why he is remembered by so many. Now, his memory will be preserved through the museum contributions as well as the dedication of the J.D. Fletcher Kings River Access.
J.D. Fletcher lived in Barry County all of his life. While he grew up near Washburn, he moved to Eagle Rock in the late 1950’s at the urging of a man he trapped minnows for who owned a bait shop on Bull Shoals Lake, according to Jeff. Jeff said, “Everybody thought he was crazy because the lake wasn’t even there yet. This was before Table Rock was dammed up. He bought the property and started a guide service.”
J.D. had multiple ventures in the area aside from his bait and tackle shop. He owned Fletcher’s Devil Dive Resort from 1967 until 2000 and Fletcher’s Lakeside Motel, where the Methodist church now sits, but it was fishing that had his heart and soul.
Over the years, J.D. took countless people out on the White River, Table Rock and the Kings River. Some of the people he guided were celebrities, some locals and many visitors, and in those moments, J.D. took the time to teach, guide and add to his collection of stories and antique fishing lures and equipment.
Jeff said, “When he would take people out, he’d trade out their old lures for new ones, and he would add them to his collection.”
After J.D. passed away in 2014, Jeff said he had over 80 tackle boxes full of antique lures, 150 old rods and reels and a number of old motors, trolling motors and a couple of flat bottom boats. When a friend of Jeff’s mentioned purchasing the collection for a fishing museum opening up in Springfield, he decided to do it. J.D.’s huge collection is now housed in the Lew’s Ozarks Fishing Museum, which opened on May 19.
Jeff said, “He knew that I would sell it and use that toward my boys’ education, but it also fulfilled dad’s wish. It would have made him so happy because he loved people and he loved the business. I know that he would have wanted all of his stuff together so that everyone could see it and enjoy it.”
He added, “He’d been collecting those baits since he was a kid.” The museum also has pictures of J.D. out on the water where he was happiest.
In just a couple weeks, J.D. was honored twice, once with the museum opening, but also with an access point to the Kings River opened in his name. Jeff said, “Dad started running trips to the White River before the lake was dammed up, but then he started the Kings River, and that was where his home was, that river.”
Jeff said that years ago, his dad had worked with the Arkansas Fish and Wildlife commissioner at the time, Kirk Dutts, about getting an access point on the Kings River back in a place that he used to put in before a bridge was constructed about 15 years ago, which he accomplished.
However, over time, there was an accident at the access, and there were people camping illegally and the access point was going to have to be closed because of the people congregating constantly under the bridge.
When it became apparent that the access point needed to change, they decided to open it up on the other side of the river where people wouldn’t be able to get under the bridge and named it in J.D.’s honor. Jeff and his family went to the grand opening of the J.D. Fletcher Kings River Access on May 26.
Jeff said, “They thought it needed to be named after him because they wouldn’t have been able to do it without him.”
The J.D. Kings River Access is located on Highway 62 between Berryville, Ark., and Eureka Springs, Ark. The Lew’s Ozarks Fishing Museum is located at 3031 N. Martin Ave. in Springfield.
Jeff Fletcher lives in Eagle Rock with his wife, Kara, and their sons, Riley, 17, and Carter, 15.