Bull Shoals Lake and the White River below its dam, are synonymous with fishing in Arkansas. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project, located in north central Arkansas on the Missouri-Arkansas state line, enjoys a wide reputation for lunker bass fishing along with its twin, Lake Norfork, just to the east. Bull Shoals Dam was completed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1951. It is the fifth largest concrete dam in the United States. Including the portion located in Missouri, the lake totals some 45,500 surface acres. Almost 1,000 miles of rugged shoreline is open to visitors and 60,000 acres of public land provide a variety of opportunities.
Over 20 parks developed through the cooperative efforts of local, state and federal agencies are located on the lakeshore. These have both camping and picnicking facilities. There are grills, firewood, tables and drinking water at the picnic sites. Commercial docks on the lake have boats, motors and guides for hire. Water skiing and swimming are popular at Bull Shoals, as is cruising the hundreds of miles of lake arms and coves by motor or sailboat. Scuba divers come to Bull Shoals from many states to enjoy their sport in the blue water. They are permitted to spear scaled rough fish during daylight hours.
Fishing: Bassmaster Magazine selected the impoundment as one of the country's Top 100 Bass Lakes (May 2012). Scrappy largemouth bass, spotted bass and white bass abound in the lake, along with crappie, channel cat, bream and walleye. Largemouth bass fishing is a popular sport on Bull Shoals Lake. Bass weighing up to 12 pounds are caught here. The year-round fishing is enhanced in the early spring by the walleye and white bass run in the upper reaches of the lake and the growing popularity of night fishing for trout, white bass and crappie in the summer. Black bass fishing is at its best between September and May. Below the dam, the frigid waters of the White River have gained a national following of trout fishermen, who flock to try their hand at hooking rainbow, brown and cutthroat trout. Resorts and trout docks offering guide services line the banks of the White below the dam. A large federal fish hatchery nearby assures a continuous stocking of the river.
November is prime time to catch crappie around Christmas tree fish attractors on lakes Norfork and Bull Shoals. Positioned in clusters below the water’s surface, the trees create large brush piles serving as shelter for young fish, minnows and shad and attracting black bass and crappie. Winter is prime time for catching crappie around man-made fish attractors. These attractors are marked with blue and white reflective signs on the shoreline. Upon locating a marked sign, steer your boat 20-30 feet away from it. Using a four-pound test line and a 1/16-ounce jig head, cast toward the fish attractor. Count down until you get a hit or hit brush. If you get a hit, use the same count the next cast. If you hit brush, use a shorter count.
For more information: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mountain Home: (870) 425-2700; http://www.swl.usace.army.mil/parks/bullshoals/index.html