Skip to main content

Arkansas 2016 Fishing Calendar

Arkansas 2016 Fishing Calendar

GAFP_1602_AR

Even though many of us would rather be sitting in trees hoping to bag a deer, we still are passing some idle hours thinking about fishing.

We caught the bug while talking to some of our friends that fish in winter bass tournaments. The bass they caught were chunky and fat, and we know that the fishing is only going to get better as the weeks progress.

Yep, it's mighty chilly up in this tree. The woods are still and quiet, so I've got nothing better to do than think of all the great times I'll be having on Arkansas waters.


We've got some great largemouth bass fishing all over our state, and some dandy places to catch smallmouths, too. We might even get a hankering for a limit of spotted bass for the skillet. Speaking of skillets, we've got some fine walleye fishing in many of our lakes and rivers, and even better crappie and bream fishing.


If I want to give my tackle a real workout, I can catch big stripers and hybrids, and some great big catfish, too. Trout fishing should be excellent on our tailwaters, but I could also be fishing for white bass, saugers and saugeyes.

I think this trail has gone cold. I haven't seen a sign of a deer here for weeks. I think it's time to go fishing!

Click to Enlarge

JANUARY


Lake Hamilton Largemouths

The winter drawdown concentrates bass around prominent structures like docks, bridges and main-lake points this month, making this a prime time to enjoy some stellar fishing.


Docks always hold a lot of bass on Lake Hamilton, especially those with brushpiles nearby, but bridges are my favorite places to fish in the winter.

Riprap holds heat longer than other features, and that draws large numbers of bass. You can catch them with square-billed crankbaits and stickbaits like the Luck-E-Strike RC STX.

You also can catch them off main-lake points with jigging spoons or by dragging a Carolina-rigged worm. Consider downsizing your baits for better success.

Take a GPS because you'll see a lot of exposed natural and manmade structure that will attract fish when the lake refills in the spring. Anglers make rock cairns and all kinds of stuff that add little wrinkles to otherwise featureless points and flats. Mark them as waypoints because they'll produce for you later.

FEBRUARY

Lake Magnolia Largemouths

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission stocks lakes in south Arkansas with Florida-strain largemouths, and Lake Magnolia is an excellent but often overlooked place to catch a monster.

On the outskirts of Magnolia, the lake has an array of cover and structure. I start my day on a big hump in the middle of the lake across from the boat ramp. You can catch bass there with Carolina rigs or jigs.

Bass generally move off the hump when the sun gets bright, but you can work the shorelines for fish moving into shallow water to spawn. A soft-plastic fluke or swimbait can be deadly for these fish. You can catch them off wood cover with square-billed crankbaits like the Luck-E-Strike RC-3 in green ghost or blue racer color.

Lake Magnolia was on a down cycle for a number of years, and it's not as popular as it used to be. Big bass are plentiful again, and there's still plenty of potential for growth and numbers.

MARCH

Lake Ouachita Stripers

Want to do a little deep-sea fishing on a freshwater reservoir? Giant stripers inhabit Lake Ouachita, and they are most accessible and easiest to catch in March.

In early March you can catch stripers in the skinny water of the lake's main tributaries, particularly the main stem of the Ouachita River. Stripers go upriver to make a false spawning run, and you can catch them sometimes in less than 1 foot of water, as I did several years ago from a gravel bar at a place locally known as Striper Corner. That fish I caught weighed 19 pounds, That's also how I caught my biggest striper, a 29-pounder.

In the mornings, you can catch them on the surface using topwwater lures such as a Zara Spook, Storm Chug Bug or a Cordell C-10 Red Fin. That bite is good for a couple of hours, and a topwater strike from a big striper is a very exciting experience.

Click to Enlarge

APRIL

Beaver Lake Smallmouths

In recent years Beaver Lake has become a premier smallmouth bass fishery, as is proved annually in the big FLW tournament. Largemouths always win the tournament, but spectators swoon at the big smallmouths that come to the weigh-in stage.

Smallmouths spawn at Beaver Lake in April, but you can catch them in various reproductive stages. Probably the most popular and productive method is with small soft-plastic lures on lead ball jigheads.

The method is called the "shaky head," and it's a deep-water staple. Cast it with a spinning rig on light line around rocky structure where smallmouths lurk, and provoke them to bite by shaking your rod tip or by hopping the jig.

You can also catch them with small worms on a drop-shot rig. For those who are put off by light-line finesse tactics, you can catch big smallmouths on Beaver with suspending jerkbaits and deep-diving crankbaits.

MAY

Lake Conway Bluegills

Turkey season is over and it's getting hot, but a big mess of fried bluegill filets will make it worth some time in the sun.

You need big bluegills for the kind of filets we're talking about, and Lake Conway is the place you'll find them.

In May, bluegills are spawning, and you can catch them almost anywhere on the lake in shallow water. Look for secluded coves that have plenty of shoreline cover. If you can find fallen logs or treetops in the water, you're golden.

The fishing and catching are easy. Toss a cricket under a bobber next to wood and wait for the bobber to plunge. You don't have to cover a lot of water for this, and you can get to where you need to go by sculling a flat-bottomed boat. A sit-on-top kayak is an excellent way to poke around the shallows.

Lake Conway is on the south side of Conway just off I-40.

JUNE

Bull Shoals Walleyes

While Bull Shoals Lake is known for its walleye fishing in the early spring, those fish don't leave the lake when the weather gets warm. They hunker down in deep water and wait for the right person with the right bait to coax them into a livewell.

In the mornings you can catch walleyes in this giant White River impoundment this month by trolling deep-diving crankbaits off main-lake points and secondary points. That bite goes away as soon as the sun clears the horizon.

During the day you can catch walleyes by dangling spoons or small soft plastics next to standing timber. You can also catch them with soft-plastic flukes or swimbaits fished over or on deep structure.

If you want to cover more water, you can catch walleyes by trolling over flats with live worms on bottom-bouncer rigs, or by trolling deep-diving stickbaits over the same areas.

Click to Enlarge

JULY

White River Oxbow Crappie

The south end of the White River doesn't have any big impoundments, but it has a dazzling array of backwater oxbows that offer virtually unlimited fishing opportunities.

July's strong suit in the oxbows is big white crappie, and they are surprisingly easy to catch. The oxbows are full of sunken treetops, and they all hold crappie in the heat of summer. With an electric motor you can move from one 'top to another and catch three or four big crappie from each by dangling a minnow from a long crappie pole.

If you're not among the branches, you're not among the fish so don't get frustrated when you snag. Use a light wire hook that will bend easily and retie.

The White River National Wildlife Refuge contains more than 100 backwater lakes to fish for crappie. Some are easy to reach, but many are remote. Good starting points are Green Lake Access between Clarendon and Holly Grove, and Maddox Bay in the south unit.

AUGUST

Lake Maumelle White Bass

This impoundment of the Big Maumelle River west of Little Rock has long been derided as a "dead sea," which is ironic since it's also long been known as one of the state's hot white bass fisheries.

August is a prime time to catch schooling white bass, especially in the evenings. The action starts about two hours before sunset, which means you can fish after work.

Whites in late summer school in the lower end of the lake, and they'll hit a variety of baits, including spoons, topwaters, in-line spinnerbaits and small crankbaits. One of my favorites is a bone-colored Zara Puppy.

Don't be surprised if you throw into what turns out to be a school of big largemouths. They're after the same shad the whites are eating, and it's possible to hook a largemouth of 5 pounds or better.

A couple of good high-water years following several drought years have put the lake's fish population in excellent shape. Consequently, the fishing is the best it's been in years.

SEPTEMBER

Little Red River Brown Trout

By September, Greers Ferry Lake usually is below normal pool, and so the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reduces hydropower generation to just a few hours per day. The rest of the day the river is low, which means you can wade some of the best fishing holes.

One of my favorite stretches is below the Cow Shoals Special Regulations Area. There are a lot of deep holes with a wide diversity of in-stream cover, such as logs and rocks, as well as the usual shoals and riffles. In this way it greatly resembles some of the great western trout streams, but none of them has ever produced a 40-pound brown trout.

The Little Red has, and there's a real possibility it holds others that size, if not bigger. My favorite setup for catching them is a light-action spinning rig with 6-pound-test line and a Rapala Ultra Light Minnow in brown trout color. Rainbow trout color is good, but big browns seem to prefer eating their own young, I guess.

I've had days where I caught so many I lost count.

Click to Enlarge

OCTOBER

DeGray Lake Crappie

Most of the state's waters are lonely in the fall. That's because everyone is in the woods hunting deer, but October is a great time to catch big crappie in deep brushpiles on big lakes like Ouachita and DeGray.

The key to catching crappie on DeGray and other highland reservoirs is to find brushpiles. They are everywhere, and a good electronic graph will help you pinpoint their location.

Suspend minnows under corks at various depths until you can determine the level where you get the most bites. The depth will be consistent at every brushpile you visit.

NOVEMBER

Lake Barnett Largemouths

Now we're into modern gun deer season, and nobody is on the water, which means it's a great time to visit an Arkansas Game and Fish Commissioned lake for some bass fishing.

Lake Barnett, in White County, is one of our best. It's like a miniature version of Greers Ferry Lake with an abundance of big largemouths and some surprisingly big spotted bass.

This month we're going to catch them on swimbaits and square-billed crankbaits around standups near the creek channel. We're going to be pleased to catch a 5- to 7-pounder, but we also have a good chance of hanging into one that weighs 10 pounds or more.

DECEMBER

White River Trout

It's Christmastime, and we're going to end the year with a trout-fishing trip to the White River. Why? Because even though the air is cold, the water stays in the 50s all year long, and cold weather doesn't bother trout.

We're going to fish from Redbud Shoal to Buffalo Shoal, a long expanse of good motoring water that is chock-full of big trout.

In low water we'll fly-fish with nymphs, and when it rises we'll fish stickbaits in deep holes behind big rocks and in the shoals. There's probably not a better time to catch a trophy brown or rainbow trout, and who could ask for a better Christmas present than that?

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Hobie MirageDrive 360 Kayak Propulsion: Amazing Control and Power

Hobie MirageDrive 360 Kayak Propulsion: Amazing Control and Power

The Hobie MirageDrive 360 pedal propulsion system is the pinnacle of kayak control with more efficient fin designs, glide technology and allows the boat to be moved in any direction.

Understanding Reel Retrieve Ratios and How it Affects Lure Presentations

Understanding Reel Retrieve Ratios and How it Affects Lure Presentations

Increase a lure’s effectiveness by pairing it with the ideal reel speed.

Hunting Elk with the Ruger Hawkeye Long Range Hunter in 6.5 PRC

Hunting Elk with the Ruger Hawkeye Long Range Hunter in 6.5 PRC

Michael Cassidy and Paul Pluff talk about their elk hunt in New Mexico using the Ruger Hawkeye Long Range Hunter.

Catch More Bass on a Jerkbait in the Cooler Months

Catch More Bass on a Jerkbait in the Cooler Months

This one simple trick will trigger more bass strikes on a jerkbait during the fall months.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Field Skills: Want to be a better shooter? The first step is perfecting your release.6 Steps to the Perfect Trigger Pull on Your Compound Bow Hunting How-To

6 Steps to the Perfect Trigger Pull on Your Compound Bow

Jace Bauserman - August 27, 2020

Field Skills: Want to be a better shooter? The first step is perfecting your release.

Dozens of different bait types are commonly used for catfish, including these great options.12 Great Catfish Baits Catfish

12 Great Catfish Baits

Jeff Samsel

Dozens of different bait types are commonly used for catfish, including these great options.

Simplify breakfast or brunch for a crowd by making this savory venison chorizo quiche recipe.Southwestern Venison Chorizo Quiche Recipe Wild Game

Southwestern Venison Chorizo Quiche Recipe

Allie Doran - October 30, 2020

Simplify breakfast or brunch for a crowd by making this savory venison chorizo quiche recipe.

When it comes to fishing baits, you won't find a more unusual variety than the strange brews of smelly ingredients often used to catch catfish. How To Make Your Own Catfish Dough Bait Catfish

How To Make Your Own Catfish Dough Bait

Keith Sutton - August 04, 2015

When it comes to fishing baits, you won't find a more unusual variety than the strange brews...

See More Trending Articles

More Other Freshwater

Summer playbook: Ready for a little summer fun the whole family can enjoy? Here are some of the West's top destinations for family fishing adventures.Take Epic West Fishing Adventure Right Now Playbook

Take Epic West Fishing Adventure Right Now

Scott Haugen - July 27, 2020

Summer playbook: Ready for a little summer fun the whole family can enjoy? Here are some of...

Catching winter walleyes often requires mobility and a willingness to adjust tactics.Hardwater Handbook: Ice-Fishing Adaptations Other Freshwater

Hardwater Handbook: Ice-Fishing Adaptations

Mark Romanack - January 28, 2020

Catching winter walleyes often requires mobility and a willingness to adjust tactics.

There aren't many better ways to spend a summer night than skewering fish in the shallows.Bowfishing from the Bank (Video) Playbook

Bowfishing from the Bank (Video)

Game & Fish Staff - June 24, 2020

There aren't many better ways to spend a summer night than skewering fish in the shallows.

A family kayak fishing trip to get out of the house nets huge pike.Monster Fish: Connecticut Woman Ties State Northern Pike Record Records

Monster Fish: Connecticut Woman Ties State Northern Pike Record

Game & Fish Staff - September 03, 2020

A family kayak fishing trip to get out of the house nets huge pike.

See More Other Freshwater

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Game & Fish App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now