2008 Arkansas Fishing Calendar
September 24, 2010
So many fish, so little time. Here's your guide to charting out 12 months of fantastic angling adventures in the Natural State.(February 2008).
Arkansas anglers love variety. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission now recognizes state records for 56 species of fish caught in waters ranging from creeks to the mighty Mississippi, from farm ponds to vast reservoirs.
Whether you're an old-school angler armed with a cane pole and backyard red wigglers or a flyfisherman with graphite rods and hand-tied flies, there's a time and place for your brand of fishing in the Natural State. Here's our year-round guide to 36 outstanding destinations.
Upper White River
When the cold cripples or kills shad in north Arkansas' Bull Shoals Lake, millions of the hapless baitfish gush through Bull Shoals Dam into the White River, where rainbow, brown, brook and cutthroat trout gorge on them like lumberjacks at a buffet. When this winter phenomenon occurs, focus on the first three miles below the dam with white or silver lures and flies.
Kings River Smallmouth Bass
The 12-mile trophy section of this northwest Arkansas river, from Trigger Gap to the U.S. Route 62 bridge, is the best water in the state for 5-pound smallmouth bass. Bump the bottom with plastic worms and grubs on 6- to 12-pound line.
Arkansas River Saugers
Like its larger cousin, the walleye, the sauger has ghostly eyes and toothsome flesh. In winter they congregate below all dams on the Arkansas River, where anglers catch them from shore by drifting chartreuse or white twistertail grubs on jigs or minnows under floats.
Fayetteville City Lakes Crappie
City-owned Lake Fayetteville and 490-acre Lake Sequoyah put many larger crappie lakes to shame. Lake Fayetteville's 200 acres lie on the city's northern border, while Sequoyah is southeast of town. On either lake, rustle up a mess of crappie from stumps or brushpiles in the creek beds with black and chartreuse jigs or red and pink Road Runners.
In Municipal Waters
The AGFC's Family and Community Fishing program transforms city-owned waters into temporary winter trout fisheries. Hatchery trucks deliver the first 1-pound rainbows in December and usually return every two to four weeks through March. Last year, the program served Cabot, Fort Smith, Hope, Hot Springs, Jacksonville, Jonesboro, Little Rock, Maumelle, Pine Bluff, Rogers, Russellville, Sherwood, Springdale and West Memphis -- and more communities hope to join this year. For the most current list, call the AGFC at (501) 978-7322.
SWEPCO Lakes Largemouth Bass
For hot winter bass fishing, head to Gentry in Benton County and 500-acre SWEPCO Lake. Heated by water discharged from the adjacent power plant, warm-natured SWEPCO keeps Florida-strain largemouths growing year 'round. It may be our only fishery where you can expect to catch a 5-pounder on topwater baits in the dead of winter. Locals swear by soft plastics in watermelon and pumpkin tones. Fish tend to congregate around the hot water outlet on cold days.
Little Red Forks Walleyes
The South and Middle Forks of the Little Red River, which feed the upper section of Greers Ferry Lake in Van Buren and Cleburne counties, are loaded with spawning walleyes this month. Males with courtship in mind arrive first, and, like you, are anxious to hook up with egg-laden 8- to 20-pound females. Choose bright-colored crankbaits and jerkbaits or jigs and minnows.
Millwood Lake Largemouths
Our southernmost lakes warm up earlier, so you'll find the largemouth bass in southwest Arkansas' Millwood Lake stirring this month. This timber- and grass-filled U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lake features four river channels and covers 29,000 acres that straddle the intersection of Sevier, Little River, Howard and Hempstead counties. Scour the stumps with spinnerbaits or lipless crankbaits until you find some bass; then, saturate the area with a jig-and-pig or soft plastics.
Lake Maumelle White Bass
At this busiest time of the year at central Arkansas' water-supply lake, west of Little Rock on state Route 10, white bass, occasionally joined by hybrids and stripers, slash schools of shad. Focus on the west end; rig three rods with a topwater chugger, lipless crankbait and a flashy spoon to pursue the roaming whites throughout the water column.
Lake Jack Lee Catfish
Channel cats and bullheads are active now in 10,000-acre Lake Jack Lee in Union and Ashley counties. Chicken livers, minnows and red worms are prime baits for whiskerfish in all Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge waters. Get your bearings at the visitors' center on U.S. Route 82 west of Crossett before exploring the 65,000-acre refuge.
Crown Lake Saugeyes
The saugeye, a laboratory cross between a female walleye and a male sauger, is prized more for its flesh than its fight. The state record -- 6 pounds, 1 ounce -- came from 640-acre Crown Lake near Horseshoe Bend in 1993. Saugeyes strike plastic grubs or jigs tipped with minnows or red worms fished near the bottom.
Arkansas River Paddlefish
Anglers who dredge the tailwaters below dams on the Arkansas River with heavy-duty snagging gear consider paddlefish as a special prize. The fish's trademark is its elongated, paddle-shaped snout, and 15- to 25-pounders are common when dams on major rivers halt their spawning runs. These plankton feeders are caught only by snaggers or commercial fishermen, who sell their roe for caviar and smoke their succulent meat.
Lake Dardanelle Carp
Calm, vegetation-filled backwaters within major pools of the Arkansas River, such as Lake Dardanelle near Russellville, provide perfect carp habitat. Wear polarized glasses as you stalk the shallows and sight-cast to individual fish. You'll find supplies and a generous ramp at Dardanelle State Park.
Hot Springs-Area Stripers
If your heart can stand the shock of 30-pound fish blasting topwater baits, fish the Ouachita River lakes surrounding Hot Springs this month. Straddling Montgomery and Garland counties, Ouachita routinely produces jaw-dropping stripers up to 50 pounds. Cast big jerkbaits and chuggers to the outer edges of schooling stripers to avoid spooking them.
<b<ashley Oxbow Mixed Bag
The AGFC operates three lakes in eastern Ashley County, all oxbows of Bayou Bartholomew, which offer an enticing mixed bag of sport and rough fish. Grampus Lake, Wilson Brake and Lake Enterprise are peppered with ancient cypress and buckbrush. Fish all-purpose baits like minnows or worms and see how many of these species you catch: largemouth and spotted bass, bluegills, crappie, channel cats, yellow bass, bullheads, chain and grass pickerel, bowfins, carp, buffalo, drum, redears, longears, warmouth and green sunfish.
City Pond Channel Catfish
The 14- to 18-inch channel catfish stocked in municipally-owned ponds make it easy for adults to introduce children to the joy of fishing. The AGFC's Family and Community Fishing Program offered catfishing in 2007 to at least 15 communities statewide. Find this year's list in the Fishing section of www.agfc.com.
Bois d'Arc Lake Redears
Bream specialists hold redears, or shellcrackers, in high regard. These robust panfish are decked out in olive scales flecked with orange or gold and bear the namesake red slash on their gill covers. The population in 650-acre Bois d'Arc, southwest of Hope, includes plenty of 2-pounders. These shy sunfish prefer red worms fished on the bottom.
<b<caddo River Smallmouths
When water levels fall on other smallmouth streams, the Caddo in west-central Arkansas remains deep enough for summer float-fishing in calm Class I and II waters suitable for inexperienced paddlers. Tempt its smallmouth bass with inline spinners, crankbaits, jerkbaits, plastic worms and tube jigs during the 7 1/2-mile float from Caddo Gap to Glenwood.
Tri-County Lake Spotted Gar
The shadows lurking under the surface of timber-filled Tri-County Lake in south Arkansas are often spotted gar slyly waiting to ambush a baitfish. If the plentiful crappie, bluegill and catfish in this 280-acre lake won't cooperate, salvage the day by dragging a bit of ski rope or a minnow past gars' snouts.
Harris Brake Lake Bluegills
The fishing in this 1,300-acre Perry County Lake has steadily improved in recent years thanks to better water quality and game fish management. Harris Brake is now one of our best places to teach youngsters how to dunk crickets next to stumps with cane poles. The lake yields plenty of thick-shouldered 1-pounders.
Lower Buffalo National River Smallmouth Bass
While water on the upper Buffalo National River dwindles at this time of year, plenty of water and husky smallmouth bass remain in the lower river, from Gilbert to its confluence with the White River in Marion County. Ultralight crankbaits imitate sculpins, crawfish and minnows for spin-fishermen, while fly-fishers prefer crawfish and baitfish patterns on 6-weight gear.
Bayou Bartholomew Bowfins
Anglers often spout unprintable words when they hook bowfins --or grinnel -- instead of other game fish. The Bayou Bartholomew Alliance, dedicated to restoring the 375-mile stream that runs through eastern Arkansas from Pine Bluff into Louisiana, says it teems with grinnel that deserve our respect for their superb fighting ability. Tangle with these ornery characters by fishing the bayou as if you're after bass.
Lake Atkins Largemouth Bass
Arkansas' heat and humidity make daytime bass fishing miserable, but Florida-strain largemouths that lurk in Lake Atkins' well-marked brushpiles make for lively fishing, even in triple-digit temperatures. A floating worm on a standup 1/8-ounce jig works wonders here. Expect numerous taps from smaller fish punctuated by occasional thumps from 4- to 5-pounders.
Spring River Rainbows
Because law officers have cracked down on rowdy behavior that had made the Spring River less friendly toward families in recent years, it's now a great place for a cool day of float-fishing before the kids return to school. Rainbow trout thrive in 58-degree water from Mammoth Spring, greedily taking corn, red worms and salmon eggs. The best trout water is above Hardy in Sharp County.
Lake Greeson Bream
Scenic Lake Greeson, a 7,000-acre impoundment on the Little Missouri River in Pike County, has fewer recreational boaters and anglers than larger Corps of Engineers reservoirs. That makes it perfect for a leisurely day of belly-boating and casting popping bugs to bluegills and green sunfish. Enjoy these pint-sized fighters by tossing poppers into shady coves with a 3- to 5-weight fly rod, floating line and 3X leader.
Mirror Lake Rainbow Trout
Corn or red worms fished under bobbers entice hatchery-reared rainbows in Mirror Lake, 15 miles north of Mountain View in the Ozark National Forest. Water from nearby Blanchard Springs keeps the lake cool enough for trout year-round. A handicapped-accessible walking trail and fishing platform make it comfortable for all anglers, and you can get out of the heat in nearby Blanchard Springs Caverns, which have a constant temperature of 58 degrees.
Lake Charles Largemouth Bass
Most bassers practice catch-and-release, but you're encouraged to keep a limit at Lake Charles in northeast Arkansas. It's overstocked with undersized bigmouths, and biologists ask anglers to thin the herd -- pleasant work with topwater lures this month. Nearby Lake Poinsett is also choked with 11- to 14-inch bass.
Bear Creek Lake Hybrids
Bear Creek Lake, near Marianna in the St. Francis National Forest, is an offbeat suggestion for hybrid striped bass. The 625-acre reservoir is best known for outsized redears, but it's been stocked with hybrids for years. These aggressive fish provide excellent topwater action as the weather cools and they relentlessly chase shad around the lake. Hybrids in the 3- to 5-pound range are common.
Mississippi River Catfish
The Mighty Mississippi has no mercy on those without personal floatation devices, kill switches and powerful boats and motors. With the right equipment and experience, you can fish within sight of downtown Helena or West Memphis and have realistic chances at 50- to 100-pound whiskerfish. Chicken livers, night crawlers and stink baits are fine for channel cats, but giant flatheads require live sunfish, shad or skipjack herring. Ply undercut outer banks and the nastiest logjams you can find.
L'Anguille River Drum
The L'Anguille flows southward through Craighead, Woodruff, Poinsett, Cross, St. Francis and Lee counties and has a large freshwater drum population. People often catch them on bait and lures intended for sportier fish. If you can't beat
the drum, join locals at the 7th Annual L'Anguille River Festival and BBQ Cook-off in Palestine on Oct. 25.
Little Red River Brown Trout
Fishing pressure on the Little Red's brown trout peaked during the October spawn, so you can now enjoy the tailwaters below Greers Ferry Dam with fewer competitors. Fly-fishers score with sow bugs, soft hackles and Woolly Buggers, while spin-fishermen take trout with worms, corn and ultralight marabou jigs dead-drifted under clear floats.
Lake Hogue Tilapia
The AGFC stocks tilapia, an exotic panfish that grows and reproduces rapidly during warm weather, only in closed-system lakes such as Hogue in western Poinsett County. They die off when the lake falls to between 46 and 48 degrees -- usually in late November. Simply net the 1- to 3-pound fish when they float to the surface. There's no limit on tilapia now or earlier in the year, when they take red worms during midday in hot weather.
Lake Chicot Flatheads
Arkansas sportsmen like their catfish big, ugly and ready to fight, which perfectly describes the hulking flatheads in Lake Chicot, a 5,300-acre oxbow near Lake Village. While its channel cats feast on cut bait and chicken livers, flatheads prefer a wriggling sunfish, freshly hooked behind the dorsal fin or through the lips. Cast toward obvious structure like stumps, boat docks and cypress knees; then, work into deeper water.
Bull Shoals/Norfork Crappie
Fishermen who ably fish deep, clear water bring home stringers of slab crappie from the twin Corps of Engineers reservoirs of north-central Arkansas, Bull Shoals and Norfork lakes. Start on either lake with a map that marks huge artificial brushpiles; then, move to deeper water as needed. The best tactic may be a combination of two old favorites: a jig with a light-wire hook dressed with a live minnow.
Lake Columbia Largemouth Bass
This 3,000-acre AGFC lake six miles west of Magnolia in Columbia County is one of few places offering an honest chance of hanging 5- to 11-pound largemouths. Fish stumps with spinnerbaits or junebug-colored plastic worms, and monitor the shallows for panicky baitfish. That action signals your chance to catch the fish of a lifetime on a topwater lure.
Dry Run Creek Trout
The best holiday gift for a young trout angler is a day on Dry Run Creek, which runs from Norfork National Fish Hatchery into the North Fork River near Mountain Home. This half-mile catch-and-release stream reserved for anglers under 16 and those with handicaps is so densely populated with huge trout that tourists drive miles out of their way just to see them.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
The AGFC packed everything you need to know about fishing and boating regulations into the 2008 edition of its Fishing Guidebook pamphlet, available free at agency offices and license dealers, or by calling 1-800-364-GAME (4263).
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