Arkansas's stream inventory includes ten Crooked
Creeks (not to mention a healthy collection of Crooked Bayous, Branches, and Sloughs), but
only one has been described as "the blue-ribbon smallmouth bass fishing stream of the state."
That particular Crooked Creek is found way up in the north central part of Arkansas. It
originates near Dogpatch in Newton County, flows north and then east through Boone County,
and continues east across Marion County where it empties into the White River. Along the
way it passes through the communities of Harrison, Pyatt, and Yellville, but most of its
journey is through rural countryside.
SECTION DESCRIBED: Source to mouth, a distance of
about 80 miles.
As it meanders across northern Arkansas on the way to the
White River, Crooked Creek passes through typical Ozark landscapes featuring rolling
hills, cedar glades, bluffs, bottomland thickets, and lush pasturelands. The stream itself
is characterized by deep pools, fast chutes, and clear water.
In addition to its reputation as one of the best smallmouth bass fishing areas,
Crooked Creek also provides habitat for many other species including channel catfish and
several varieties of sunfish. Living along the stream corridor are numerous
mammals--beaver, mink, and deer, to name a few--and an abundant assortment of
water-oriented birds including kingfishers, ospreys, and great blue herons.
While the stream's upper reaches offer opportunities
for wade-fishing and occasional float trips, most recreational use along Crooked Creek
occurs in the lower 50 miles below Pyatt. A particular favorite of many smallmouth anglers
is the Pyatt to Yellville section which can be broken down into at least three separate
Pyatt to Turkey--This half-day float features riffles,
gravel bars, and overhanging limbs. To reach the take-out by car, go east of Snow for
about two miles, then turn south off U.S. 62 onto a country road which provides access to
b) Turkey to Kelly's Slab--The longest of the
three floats in the section, this one-day trip also offers good scenery, fast chutes, and
occasional hazards (willow thickets, flood debris, and fallen timber). The takeout point
is one mile due west of Yellville at a low-water bridge known locally as
c) Kelly's Slab to Yellville--This half-day float
is similar to the upper trips, but shorter. The trip concludes on the east side of
Arkansas 14 where the City of Yellville has built a public park.
Float trips are also possible past Yellville, but, as one
account noted, this lower portion "is recommended only for the serious, dedicated
fisherman." The very ruggedness of the float--rocky shoals, tight chutes, and
willow thickets--discourages most visits. Also, in late spring, a very peculiar thing
happens to Crooked Creek below Yellville. It disappears, literally sinking into the
ground. (Tests with colored dye revealed that the stream flows underground several miles
and emerges at Cotter Spring on the White River near Cotter. The spring has been
designated as a trout sanctuary by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and is now closed
The best time for floating Crooked Creek is during spring,
and that season's early months are recommended for fishing. Good fishing is also
reported in mid-fall.
Recent court decisions have supported a public easement for recreational use on Crooked Creek, such as floating and
fishing. The public has a right to recreational use of the creek. However, recreational users should respect the private property around Crooked Creek - camping, trespassing or littering on said property is not allowed.
Clear water, colorful gravel bars, tree-lined banks, and a
pastoral countryside make any Crooked Creek float a scenic experience.
Crooked Creek has received national acclaim for having some of the best smallmouth bass fishing of any stream, and its reputation is well deserved. Ideal habitat
and an abundance of crayfish, hellgrammites and other smallmouth bass foods combine to produce
large numbers of quality fish. Two- to three-pounders are fairly common, and four- to
six-pound smallmouth bass are not unusual.
Below Yellville, the going is rough, but this is the
stretch that produces six- and seven-pound "brownies." May is perhaps the best
month to fish Crooked Creek. During this season, live minnows and jigging frogs
(one-eighth ounce brown jig and a brown pork frog) do exceptionally well. Fall fishing is
also fantastic, especially when using crank-baits, spinner-baits and live hellgrammites or
crayfish. Popping bugs and streamers on a fly rod offer some of the best smallmouth bass fishing results, as
well as for rock bass and longear sunfish that are also common in Crooked Creek.
The Fred Berry Conservation Education Center on Crooked Creek near
Yellville sits on 421 shoreline acres that occupy a 2.75-mile "crook" of
the creek just above Kelley's access. Facilities include an education
building, trails, the creek and acres of varied Ozark habit which
provide ample indoor and outdoor learning areas. The classroom can
facilitate up to 40, though larger numbers can be seated. It includes a
wet lab, exhibits and wildlife common to the area as well as an outdoor
Ozark native plant garden. The pavilion, which overlooks Crooked Creek
and its floodplain, can seat approximately 100 people. The Creek Bottom
Trail, a 2.5-mile loop provides easy access for fishing or wildlife
watching. The Woodland Edge Trail is a one-mile loop that is wheelchair
accessible for 0.6 mile. The center and area is a designated Arkansas
Watchable Wildlife site with butterfly and birding checklists available
at the center.
Supplies may be obtained at Yellville, Cotter, Harrison,
Flippin, and other communities in the area. Canoes and johnboats are available for rent in
the vicinity, and guide services are also available. While there are no public Crooked Creek camping sites, campgrounds can be found nearby at Bull Shoals Lake, Bull Shoals State Park, or Buffalo Point (on the Buffalo National River).
Again, visitors should remain mindful that private ownership is the norm on nearly every acre along Crooked Creek. Camping and trespassing are not allowed, so floaters should take special care to avoid potential problems.
Like most Ozark streams, Crooked Creek can rise rapidly
following heavy rains. In flood stage, it's dangerous and should not be floated.