Arkansas: Top 25 fishing destinations

From the Arkansas River to Bull Shoals Lake, check out Bassmaster Magazine's list of Top 25 Arkansas fishing destinations.

  1. Arkansas River – The Arkansas River offers 300 miles of fish habitat from Oklahoma to Mississippi. Even omitting the portions officially named Ozark Lake and Lake Dardanelle, the river still offers a bassing area larger than any of the man-made lakes in the state. Bass fishing competitions on the river are common.
  2. Lake Hamilton – This 7,460-acre lake in Hot Springs is great for striper fishing. It is home to two previous state record catches.
  3. Lake Ouachita – Arkansas’s largest man-made lake (40,100 acres) is ideal for big stripers. One of the most popular methods for catching them is trolling with downriggers along the river channel from near the dam to where it is joined by the Little Blakely and Big Blakely creek channels.
  4. Millwood Lake – This lake has diverse visible cover and a lot of timber and structure. It’s an interesting lake to fish and has a lot of prime spots to catch bass.
  5. Greers Ferry Lake – There are good odds that the next state largemouth bass record will come from Greers Ferry Lake. This 31,500-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers impoundment became the focus of nationwide attention when Jerald Shaum caught his world-record 27-pound, 5-ounce hybrid in 1997. In summer, many hybrid aficionados night fish with 8- to 10-inch live gizzard shad.
  6. Lake Conway – It’s 6,700 acres and still a good bass lake at over 50 years of age. Old creek channels that can be found on all sides of the lake are some of the best places to fish.
  7. Bull Shoals Lake – Five- to 10-pound largemouth bass aren’t rare in Bull Shoals, and a 12-pounder has been boated in this lake known for a variety of other black bass and gamefish.
  8. Beaver Lake – Beaver Lakehas given up several 40-pound-plus state record stripers. In spring, these huge fish may be scattered all over the lake, but there are some areas and methods you can count on. One prime hot spot encompasses the huge flats near where the White River and War Eagle join in the upper portion of Beaver. The main river channel averages 60- to 65-feet deep through this area, but is surrounded by flats that range from 10 to 30 feet in depth. Beaver’s spring stripers always can be found somewhere in this vicinity.
  9. Felsenthal – A lot of largemouth bass come out of these Ouachita River bottoms all year long. If you know the workings of plastic worms, spinner baits and crankbaits, you’re ready for Felsenthal.
  10. Lake Chicot – Arkansas’s largest natural lake (a Mississippi River oxbow) is stocked with Florida-strain largemouth bass, so be prepared with stout tackle.
  11. Norfork Lake – The oldest of Arkansas’s large man-made impoundments, Norfork has consistent variety in its fishing. Norfork Lake contains one of the best striped bass fisheries in Arkansas. The lake is stocked annually, and stripers over 40 pounds are commonly taken.
  12. DeGray Lake – Near Arkadelphia, this big (13,400 acres) U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reservoir can be counted on for good catches of largemouth bass. Some of the fastest action, however, is provided by striped bass and hybrid stripers. Anglers often find mixed schools of hybrid stripers and white bass. Look for schools thrashing the water’s surface near the dam and around the islands between DeGray Lake Resort State Park Lodge and Iron Mountain Lodge and Marina.
  13. Lake Dardanelle – The 34,300-acre Lake Dardanelle has one of the most consistent bass habitats in the Arkansas River system. Experts will tell you that Lake Dardanelle at Russellville toward the upper end of the river is the place to go for big largemouth.
  14. Lake Greeson – Stripers were first stocked here in 1968, and fishing for these powerful brutes is exceptional. In May, look for fish running the Little Missouri River, mixed in with schools of white bass. Surface feeding stripers frequently appear in the Chimney Rock area at dawn and dusk. Lake Greeson is north of Murfreesboro in west-central Arkansas’s Ouachita Mountains.
  15. Table Rock Lake – An arm of this huge reservoir extends into Arkansas and provides good fishing for largemouth bass, striped bass, white bass and walleye in the Eureka Springs area.
  16. White River – To trout fishing enthusiasts, the White River in north Arkansas is treasured water. Weather and water temperatures are excellent for trout fishing all year. Big brown trout are a top White River attraction, especially in the upper reaches of the tailwater when they come off their spawn in late January or early February.
  17. Lakes Dunn and Austell at Village Creek State Park – For over 20 years, Dunn and Austell have been delighting fishermen with a steady yield of big Florida-strain largemouth bass. Since 1987, dozens of 8-pound-plus bass have been caught in these two lakes.
  18. Little Red River – Stocked rainbow trout provide the bulk of the Little Red River’s fish population. There are wild fish, too – big brown trout, sleek and magnificent, that spawn on tumbling river shoals each fall. Fly fishers try for both species using flies that include sowbugs, woolly buggers and a variety of emergers.
  19. Spring River – Spring River is unique among Arkansas trout streams; its cold water comes naturally from a spring rather than artificially from deep within a man-made lake. Every hour, Mammoth Spring releases 9 million gallons of 58-degree water, and the river stays cold enough to support a good trout population for 10 miles downstream.
  20. North Fork River – This 5-mile stretch of water has produced literally hundreds of 10-pound-plus brown trout, including a 34-pounder and a 38-pound, 9-ounce former world record. The current state record brook trout (5 pounds) also came from the North Fork. It’s an excellent stream for boaters and bank fishermen alike. The mainstay of the North Fork is stocking-size rainbows, just as it is on all the state’s other trout waters. Most fish caught here are rainbows from 11 to 14 inches long.
  21. Ouachita and Little Missouri Rivers – Although they’re limited in size and big fish potential, short stretches of both the Ouachita and the Little Missouri rivers provide excellent seasonal fishing for rainbow trout. On the Little Missouri, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission releases trout in two areas. Below Narrows Dam, the coldwater release from Lake Greeson is suitable for trout during winter and spring. From early December until late April or early May, fishing for stocker-size trout is good from the bank on both sides of the river. On the Ouachita River, coldwater releases from Blakely Mountain Dam (Lake Ouachita) and Carpenter Dam (Lake Hamilton) provide good cool-season fishing for put-and-take rainbows for short stretches below each dam, from the bank or from a boat.
  22. White Oak Lake – At 2,700 acres, White Oak is the second-largest of the AGFC’s public lakes. Crappie are abundant and hefty in White Oak, as are bluegill and redear. The star of the lake is the Florida largemouth bass. The lake has given up fish over 13 pounds – and most of these big fish are caught in the spring.
  23. Bear Creek Lake – This 625-acre USDA Forest Service lake on Crowley’s Ridge has more than 15 miles of shoreline, and this makes for an abundance of good fishing for big bluegill and redear when the fish are in shallow water on the spawning beds. Look for beds of spawning fish on the gradually sloping banks, particularly near points, and also in the backs of the wider (and therefore shallower) coves.
  24. St. Francis River Sunken Lands – The Sunken Lands along northeast Arkansas’s St. Francis River were formed by the 1811 New Madrid Earthquake. Few people know about the region’s superb spotted bass fishing, but at times, a visit here can produce a limit of 2- to 3-pounders in a single hour.
  25. East Moon Lake – For a real get-away-from-it-all trip, East Moon Lake in White River National Wildlife Refuge is hard to beat. This oxbow is in the south end of the refuge off Ark. 85 between Crumrod and Snow Lake. It’s tough to find, but well worth the effort. There is bass fishing by day and catfish at night, with camping in the primitive area (no facilities) at lakeside.

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