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White River (Origin to Bull Shoals Lake)

Fly-Fishing on the White River

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The White River (origin to Bull Shoals Lake) meanders in direction from its headwaters near Fayetteville and up through southern Missouri to its reentry in Arkansas as it heads southeast past Cotter and Batesville. It runs through this mountainous region of the Ozarks before tumbling into the Delta. In its entire 720-mile journey, the river's flow is interrupted by at least eight dams, six in Arkansas and two more in Missouri.

The headwaters of the White are similar to the beginning stretches of other Ozark streams -- fast and furious in the wet months, and comparatively calm the rest of the year. Here you'll find a series of pools and shoals with overhanging trees, tight turns and gravel bottoms amid bluffs, forests and quiet pastures. As its journey continues, the White feeds dammed lakes, and its tailwaters then become rewarding cold waters for trout fishing below Beaver Dam and Bull Shoals Dam. Scenery is popular here too with picturesque bluffs and thin layers of fog suspended delicately above the stream each morning around sunrise. Here water level is determined less by rain water and more by power generation at dams. There are numerous access points to the river provided by state and federal agencies and private resort owners.

Fishing: The upper White River with its assortment of bass (smallmouth, largemouth, rock and Kentucky), catfish (channel, blue, and flathead), and sunfish should satisfy nearly any angler. Spinnerbaits, crawfish imitators, and skirted jigs (with pork tails) are recommended, along with minnows, crawfish, and other natural baits. Below Bull Shoals Dam, the White River takes on an entirely different character. Here it is internationally known for premier trout fishing. Flyfishing is extremely popular on the White during low water periods, but most anglers opt for the standard White River rig -- a 16 to 20-foot johnboat equipped with a 10-20 horsepower motor. The Game and Fish Commission stocks hundreds of thousands of rainbows in the White annually, and more than 90 percent of them are caught each year by anglers who come here from all corners of the globe. Stream-running walleye are also found in the Upper White.

The eight-mile stretch of the White that is created by the Beaver Dam tailwater flows in a northerly direction just off U.S. 62 between Eureka Springs and Gateway. It’s stocked throughout the year by the AGFC with rainbow and brown trout. The biggest trout recently have been caught downstream of the Houseman Access.

The water here is gin-clear, so use very light line, 4-pound-test or less, whenever possible. That will greatly increase your chances of catching trout, whether you’re bait fishing or throwing artificial lures. The Beaver tailwater may not have the name recognition of Arkansas’s more prominent trout waters, but it certainly has plenty of rainbows and browns worth chasing.

Numerous guide services, outfitters, trout docks, and resorts have been established to help out. Other fishing opportunities found here include trout fishing on the North Fork of the White below Norfork Dam. The Crooked Creek and Buffalo River junctions are also good lunker trout holes. Smallmouth bass fishing is good at the mouths of feeder streams, including the mouths of Sylamore Creek, Buffalo River, Rocky Bayou and Piney Creek.

Waterway information for White River