Fishing by Species
Arkansas is Home to World Record Fishing
Popular game fish in Arkansas include largemouth and smallmouth bass, crappie, catfish, bluegill and trout. But anglers can enjoy the challenge of many often-overlooked species as well, such as the bowfin, gar, carp, paddlefish and pickerel. Anglers looking for an extra challenge can try to set a fishing world record here in Arkansas.
One of Arkansas' best secrets is the world-record fishing on the state's many lakes and rivers. Northern Arkansas is a particularly good spot to try and set a bass fishing world record.
Want to set a Fishing World Record?
The Arkansas Game & Fish Commission Web site, www.agfc.com, provides detailed information on each species and where in the state you can find them. You could be the next to enter the realm of world record fishing and catch a record-breaking bass, trout or other fish in Arkansas.
Fishing by Species
World Record Trout in Arkansas
When it comes to fish, Arkansas is most famous beyond its borders for the outstanding trout fisheries that have been developed over the last five decades by the AGFC with help from two federal trout hatcheries. The popularity of Arkansas fishing has grown in recent years due in part to a number of world-record trout catches. Most notable are the world-record brown trout and state-record rainbow trout catches that have occurred in Arkansas' lakes and streams.
Arkansas Trout Fishing
Prior to 1950, Arkansas trout fishing was basically limited to the state's only major cold-water stream, the Spring River. The Spring begins as the 58-degree, 9-million-gallons-an-hour flow of Mammoth Spring, which is located in Arkansas at the Missouri state line. Rainbow trout were first stocked on the Spring around the turn of the century.
With the completion of Norfork Dam on the North Fork of the White River in 1944 and Bull Shoals Dam on the White River in 1951, the groundwork was laid for major expansions of the state's trout fisheries.
Faced with the devastation of significant stretches of habitat for warm-water fish species, the AGFC decided to introduce trout into the combined 97 miles of oxygen-rich, cold-water races below the dams. Cooperating with federal officials, they placed 39,216 rainbow trout into the streams in 1951.
Stocking efforts received a boost in 1957 when, as mitigation for the loss of warm-water habitat, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service opened the Norfork National Fish Hatchery near Norfork.
State Record Rainbow Trout
Rainbows from the hatchery grew phenomenally well in the White and North Fork and soon the two streams were among the country's finest destinations for trophy trout. Catches of 5-to-7-pound rainbows were common and the state record rainbow trout (19 pounds, 1 ounce) was caught in 1981 by Jim Miller of Memphis on the White River.
In the past two decades, increased fishing pressure on the White and North Fork has mostly limited catches of trophy rainbows to catch-and-release areas (though overall catch rates remain among the nation's highest).
That is true in part because the natural reproduction of rainbows in Arkansas streams accounts for less than one percent of the state's annual rainbow population.
American-Record Brown Trout
Such is not the case, however, with brown trout. Browns were stocked early in the AGFC stocking program but were discontinued in the 1960s and 1970s. While the White produced North American-record brown trout in 1972 (31.5 pounds) and again in 1977 (33.5 pounds), another development was being noted.
By the late 1970s, it was clear that, with only a jump start from AGFC, the brown trout had succeeded in developing its own wild population. Brown trout too small to have been among those released earlier were showing up on stringers.
World Record Brown Trout
Arkansas tailwaters now contain a significant number of browns exceeding 30 pounds and fish in the five-to-10-pound range are common. The world record for a brown trout (40 pounds, 4 ounces) was set in May 1992 on the Little Red River, 29 miles of which had become suitable trout habitat with the completion of the Greers Ferry Dam in the early 1960s. This record stood until it was surpassed in 2009.
As mitigation for the dam's impact on the Little Red, the Greers Ferry National Fish Hatchery opened in 1965. In 1985, the AGFC came into possession of its own trout hatchery, a donation from the Kroger Co. of Cincinnati. The Spring River State Fish Hatchery enables the AGFC to raise its own trout year-round and has increased opportunities for widening species diversity in Arkansas' trout waters.
In 1983, the AGFC made an initial release of cutthroat trout on the White and North Fork and the new species adapted well. The current state record (9 pounds, 9 ounces) was caught on the White in October, 1985. Regular stockings of cutthroat were begun early this decade and today cutthroats in the 2-to-3-pound range are common.
After a test stocking of brook trout in the 1980s, the AGFC began stocking them in the Spring River and three tailwater sites in 1995. Studies show that brookies in the North Fork can reach 19 inches and three pounds in only two years, while in their native ranges they seldom exceed one pound.
Trout Rivers: Little Red River (Greers Ferry Tailwater), White River (Bull Shoals Tailwater), White River (Beaver Tailwater), Spring River, North Fork River (Norfork Tailwater), Ouachita and Little Missouri rivers.
Plan a bass fishing vacation in Arkansas
The combination of size, fighting ability and distribution throughout the state make largemouth bass fishing the most prevalent type of sport fish in Arkansas. Recreational bass fishing is popular across the country, and bass fishing tournaments have amped up in The Natural State over the past couple of decades making Arkansas a great destination for a bass fishing vacation.
The Arkansas Game & Fish Commission boasts one of the nation's largest warm water fish hatchery systems with four warm water hatcheries. Each year, hundreds of thousands of largemouth bass fingerlings and yearlings are produced for stocking into new and renovated lakes, existing fisheries and private farm ponds.
Arkansas has three bass known as black bass - largemouth, spotted and smallmouth - and of those the largemouth is the largest. Adults average 10 to 20 inches in length and a half to four and a half pounds, though eight-pound fish aren't uncommon. There are two subspecies of largemouth bass in the state - the native northern largemouth bass and the introduced Florida largemouth bass.
Seasonal Movements of Largemouth Bass
Spring movements of largemouth bass in southern waters usually occur from February to April. Largemouth bass move from deep water to warmer shallows in the spring, several weeks before the bass season of spawning begins. Males usually move first when water temperatures pass the 50 degree mark. Largemouth bass increase their feeding activity during this time known as the pre-spawn. Spawning occurs when the water temperature reaches 63 to 68 degrees, and the post-spawn period occurs after the water temperature hits the low 70s.
Both males and females feed heavily in the shallows during the post-spawn. During the summer – prime bass season – when waters are above 80 degrees, largemouth bass move to deeper, cooler water during the day, feeding in the shallows in the mornings and evenings. These fish become lethargic as water temps drop below 50 degrees in the winter. However, several consecutive sunny, warm days will perk them up again to feed.
Largemouth Bass Fishing Tips
Primarily feeding on fish, insects and crayfish, largemouth bass are caught on a variety of natural and artificial baits such as plastic worms, spinnerbaits, crankbaits and surface lures. Good choices for natural bait are minnows, night crawlers and salamanders.
Cover is important to the largemouth bass habitat. Fish for largemouth bass in rock piles, weed beds, submerged timber, brush and other objects that provide them shad and security. Places to catch largemouth bass - Arkansas River, Lake Ouachita, Lake Millwood, Greers Ferry Lake, Lake Conway, Bull Shoals Lake, Beaver Lake, Felsenthal, Lake Chicot, Lake Norfork, Horseshoe Lake, DeGray Lake, Lake Dardanelle, Lake Greeson, Lake Monticello, Table Rock Lake, White River, Lake Columbia, Lakes Dunn and Austell.
Arkansas Smallmouth Bass
Notable small streams offering opportunities for smallmouth bass action are Crooked Creek, the Caddo, the forks of the upper Little Red and Saline Rivers, the upper Cossatot, and America's first National River, the Buffalo.
Arkansas is also home to several major lure manufacturers and bass boat companies. Whether you want to compete in exciting bass fishing tournaments or enjoy a relaxing day on The Natural State’s lakes and rivers, a fishing trip in Arkansas is in order. Start planning today!
Crappie are so abundant in the Mississippi and its backwaters that the Arkansas state limit inside the river levees is 50 a day.
The 156,000-acre White River National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Arkansas is home to a host of small, timber-filled lakes that offer perhaps the best bream and cold weather crappie fishing in the state. Located in the floodplain of the lower White River, the lakes are bountifully restocked with each winter's floods.
In search of the best places to fish for walleye? Arkansas contains plenty of walleye fishing hotspots and few anglers vying for this species. No other state consistently produces walleyes as big as The Natural States'. The world-record 22-pound, 11-ounce walleye was caught in Greers Ferry Lake in March 1982. It has been said that Arkansas has some of the best walleye fishing in the United States.
A cool water fish, it's commonly found in water temperatures from 65-75 degrees. Walleye like clean streams and lakes with rock, gravel and sand bottoms and a good combination of pools and riffles.
Most are caught at night and on cloudy days (they avoid bright light) on a variety of natural and artificial baits. Minnows and bream are effective natural baits while minnow-imitation artificial baits work best in winter and spring. Try jigging spoons and trolling deep-running lures in the summer when walleyes are in deep water.
Some of north Arkansas' waters that support good walleye populations include Bull Shoals, Greers Ferry, and Norfork lakes, and the Eleven Point, upper and middle White, Kings, Spring, Black and Current rivers. Try walleye fishing in these west-central waters: Saline, Ouachita and Little Missouri rivers and Lakes Hamilton, Ouachita, Catherine and Greeson.
Striper Bass Fishing & Hybrid Striper Fishing
Although striper bass fishing is popular in many Arkansas lakes, striper bass are not native to the state. Stripers must be stocked in Arkansas' waters because, while they can live in freshwater, this saltwater bass species cannot reproduce in it. The AGFC stocks striped bass in the Little River and in these lakes: Beaver Lake, DeGray Lake, De Queen Lake, Greers Ferry Lake, Lake Catherine, Lake Greeson, Lake Hamilton, Lake Maumelle, Lake Norfork and Lake Ouachita. Many of these lakes also have hybrid striped bass.
Hybrid striper bass, a cross of the striped bass and white bass, were introduced into Arkansas waters (DeGray Lake) by AGFC in 1975. Greers Ferry Lake and Heber received a stock the following year. Lakes that have held the record hybrid at one time or another include DeGray, Greers Ferry, Little River and Lake Hamilton. Other good striper hybrid fishing can be found on Beaver, DeQueen and Storm Creek lakes.
Looking for a really big catfish? Arkansas is a great state to try for record catfish, which are among the largest Arkansas game fish.
Numerous city lakes offer catfish fishing fun, like MacArthur Park Lake in Little Rock or Lake Atalanta in Rogers. Other waters thought to be holding record cat include:
Check out these other honey holes that may be hosting a record catfish: White Oak Lake in South Central Arkansas; Lake Hinkle, an AGFC impoundment 12 miles west of Waldron; Little River, below the dam on Lake Millwood; Lake Wilhelmina; Lake Grampus, a Bayou Bartholomew oxbow east of Hamburg; Lake Greeson, a 2,500-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lake near Murfreesboro; Lake Poinsett near Harrisburg; and, DeGray Lake near Arkadelphia, a Corps impoundment.
When you're looking for really big catfish, you'll find the mighty Mississippi for sizeable channel, blue and flatheads. By sizeable, we mean world-record, 100-pound-plus possibilities. The Mississippi extends the length of Arkansas' eastern boundary. A good place to start when trying to decide where to fish this big stretch of water is at the junctures of the river with its large tributaries such as the St. Francis, White and Arkansas rivers.
Fishing for Panfish
Going fishing for panfish? The Buffalo National River provides a beauty of a float and plenty of panfish too. Sunfish, which can be caught on ultralight tackle, are an excellent target for young anglers. Longear sunfish thrive in just about any Arkansas fishing hole and green sunfish are even more prolific. If you would like to try fly fishing for panfish, here is an interesting article titled "Fly Rod Tactics for Spring Panfish," by Erich Hartmann.