In this new monthly series “Opt Outside,” we join our friends at the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission on a campaign to get Arkansans outside to connect with nature and all the great things our state has to offer.
When it comes to trout fishing, Arkansans have it pretty good. Whether you’re hitting the White, the Little Red or the Spring Rivers, you’re near certain to enjoy some of the best trout fishing found anywhere.
But that wasn’t always the case. Years ago, before the construction of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dams, most of these now-famous trout fishing rivers were loaded, instead, with smallmouth bass and other warm-water fish. The cold-water discharge downstream from many of those dams wiped out the smallmouth fisheries, and in their place, trout were introduced, thanks to federal government intervention.
Fast forward to the present day, and those bodies of water are practically heaven for fishermen and fisherwomen of all ages.
Don’t know where to start? Here are three can’t-miss destinations to scratch that summer trout fishing itch.
It doesn’t matter who you are, how old you are or even your level of expertise, Arkansas has some incredible fishing opportunities for everyone. But don’t take our word for it; grab your gear and go see for yourself.
The Bull Shoals Tailwater
The Bull Shoals Dam was constructed on the White River in 1952 for flood control and hydroelectric power generation. When the new cold-water habitat proved unsuitable for native fish species, rainbow and brown trout were introduced. The results were exceptional, and waters have been stocked regularly since 1955.
Thanks to the ongoing efforts of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) to manage fishery populations for the benefit of the public, several species of trout thrive in Bull Shoals’ tailwaters, including brook and cutthroat. And if you’re looking for big water, the White River is for you.
For the ultimate White River experience, anglers often turn to experienced guides like those at Gaston’s White River Resort. Gaston’s has been turning curious fishermen into angling addicts since 1958. It offers a number of guided fishing experiences for anglers of all skill levels, and you’re practically guaranteed to catch your limit.
For those who already know their way around a rod and reel, there are popular walk-in points at Rim Shoals, Roundhouse Shoals and Wildcat Shoals.
See details on area-specific fishing regulations at: www.agfc.com/en/zone-map/fishing-map/549.
The Greers Ferry Tailwater
The Greers Ferry Dam was built on the Little Red River in 1964. For the Central Arkansas angler, the dam created upwards of 30 miles of cool trout waters. The tailwaters of the Little Red are home to rainbow trout — first introduced by the AGFC in 1966 — and brown trout, the latter of which established a self-sustaining wild population.
Just as with the Bull Shoals tailwater to the north, the AGFC works year-round to ensure the cool Greers Ferry Tailwater provides an optimum habitat for the trout so many come to find there. Their goal? To provide a diverse recreational trout fishing experience that addresses the full range of angler desires and expectations within the biological and physical capacities of the tailwater.
And how can you take advantage of this sweet fishing spot? The region offers some great camping locations, including the John F. Kennedy Campground, which is just downstream of Greers Ferry Dam in the beautiful Ozark Mountains of north-central Arkansas. It was near this site that President Kennedy made one of his last appearances before his death.
Going for a day trip? You can find rainbow, brown, cutthroat trout and a few brook trout at walk-in public access points at the JFK park, Swinging Bridge, Libby Shoals, Pangburn Bridge and Cow Shoals.
See details on area-specific fishing regulations here: www.agfc.com/en/zone-map/fishing-map/657.
The Mammoth Spring Tailwater
Unlike the White or the Little Red, the Spring River is — as you could probably guess — spring fed. And it’s fed with waters from Mammoth Spring in Fulton County, just north of Hardy. The spring pumps 9 million gallons of 58-degree water into the river every hour, making it one of the largest springs in the world.
While the lower portions of the Spring River are well known for floating and campsite parties, the uppermost 12 miles — up to the dam at Mammoth Spring — are managed by the AGFC as a popular trout fishery. And the Commission does so with a great deal of public input in order to provide anglers with a premium fishing experience. It’s especially perfect for times when flooding limits fishing in other Arkansas rivers.
If this watering hole is on your trout fishing bucket list, you’ll want to visit the Mammoth Spring State Park and stay at any one of the many local campgrounds, lodges or bed and breakfasts. There are plenty of places to rent canoes and fishing boats, but walk-in spots between Mammoth Spring and Dam 3 provide excellent opportunities for anglers of any age to snag a trout.
See details on area-specific fishing regulations here: www.agfc.com/en/zone-map/fishing-map/729.