Top Trout Fishing Destinations in Arkansas

Arkansas is home to some of the best trout fishing opportunities in the country. Several major rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds provide excellent habitat for rainbow, brown, brook, and cutthroat trout. This article explores the top trout fishing destinations in Arkansas and key information for planning a memorable trout fishing adventure.

White River

The White River is renowned as one of the premier trout streams in the country with over 100 miles of fishable water. This legendary tailwater below Bull Shoals Dam offers thriving populations of rainbow and brown trout, with the opportunity to catch trophy-sized fish.

White River
White River

When to Fish

The White River provides excellent trout fishing year-round. The winter months offer the best shot at trophy brown trout using streamers. Spring brings prolific mayfly and caddisfly hatches from April to June. Hopper fishing gets good in the summer when the water is low.

Key Access Points

Popular access points on the White River include Wildcat Shoal, Roundhouse Shoal, and Rim Shoals. Hiring a local fishing guide is highly recommended to access the best spots.

Fishing Tips

  • Focus on deep pools and current seams where trout hold.
  • Drift boat fishing allows covering more water effectively.
  • Hire a guide for expert instructions and access to prime locations.

Norfork River

The Norfork River, located below Norfork Dam, is less than 5 miles long but boasts a thriving population of big rainbow and brown trout. This incredible tailwater produced a 39 lb world record brown trout back in 1988!

Norfork River
Norfork River

When to Fish 

The Norfork fishes well year-round but especially shines for trophy trout during the winter months when huge brown trout become active. Late fall through winter is prime time.

Key Access Points

The area below Norfork Dam and the confluence with the White River offers the most convenient access. Wade fishing is also productive in areas like the Caddis Bend access when flows are low enough.

Fishing Tips

  • Focus on deep holes and structure where trout hold in the crystal clear water.
  • Streamers, nymphs, and large dry flies all produce.
  • Hire a guide to learn this river’s nuances for the best success.

Little Red River

The Little Red River, located in north-central Arkansas below Greers Ferry Dam, boasts over 25 miles of incredible rainbow and brown trout fishing. This cold tailwater produced a former 40 lb world record brown trout in 1992!

When to Fish

Year-round fishing is excellent on the Little Red River. The most popular times are during the prolific mayfly hatches from April to June and mid-winter when big brown trout are active and feeding.

Key Access Points

Popular access points include JFK Park below Greers Ferry Dam, Cow Shoals, Pangburn Bridge, and various boat ramps along the river. Wade fishing is excellent in many areas.

Fishing Tips

  • Greers Ferry Dam to Pangburn offers the best trout habitat.
  • Nymphs, streamers, and dry flies are all effective.
  • Focus efforts early and late during warm summer months.

Bull Shoals Lake

The Bull Shoals Lake tailwaters below Bull Shoals Dam offer trophy trout fishing opportunities. The cold water discharged from the dam supports thriving populations of rainbow and brown trout.

When to Fish

These productive tailwaters fish well year-round. The winter months bring the best chance at trophy brown trout while spring offers excellent hatches. Summer is also a great time to find surface-feeding trout.

Key Access Points

Popular spots include Bull Shoals Dam, the nearby White River, and downriver to Wildcat Shoals. Boat fishing allows covering water to find trout.

Fishing Tips

  • Target deep holes and structure where trout hold.
  • Streamers like woolly buggers are go-to flies year-round.
  • Hire a local guide for expert instructions and location ideas.

Beaver Lake

Beaver Lake, located in northwest Arkansas, offers excellent trout fishing opportunities in its cold tailwaters below Beaver Dam. Abundant trout can be found thanks to aggressive stocking programs sustaining the fishery.

When to Fish

Late fall through early spring is the prime time to target trout in the Beaver Lake tailwaters when trout are most active. Focus efforts during winter rains that increase flows.

Key Access Points

The area right below Beaver Dam is the most popular access point. Low water enables wade fishing access while boats allow covering more water.

Fishing Tips

  • Trout concentrate around current breaks and structure.
  • In-line spinners, small spoons, and flies produce well.
  • Hire a guide to pinpoint the best spots and techniques.

Lake Ouachita

In addition to rivers and streams, Lake Ouachita provides an excellent trout fishery and beautiful mountain scenery. Located near Hot Springs, this large lake holds good populations of rainbow, brown, and cutthroat trout.

When to Fish

The spring months tend to be the best time to target trout in Lake Ouachita as they become more active with warming water temperatures. Focus on areas near the dam where oxygen levels are higher.

Key Access Points

The area right below the Lake Ouachita Dam is the most popular access point. Additional boat ramps provide access to key spots lake-wide.

Fishing Tips

  • Start shallow early in the morning, then focus deep during brighter times.
  • Troll with small spoons, spinners, and flies behind planer boards.
  • Use electronics to pinpoint schools of trout suspended deep.

Conclusion

This overview covers some of the top destinations and techniques for experiencing world-class trout fishing in Arkansas. From legendary trout factories like the White River to smaller streams and ponds, anglers have an incredible diversity of options. Take advantage of the excellent trout fishing opportunities across the Natural State!

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