The Best Fishing in Arkansas for Anglers of all Types

Arkansas is a state abound with beautiful fishing spots, it’s arguably home to some of the best angling in the US. There is a huge selection of game fish in the lakes and rivers of Arkansas, including crappie, largemouth bass, brown trout, walleye, bream, smallmouth bass, and rainbow trout. With so much excellent fishing in and around central Arkansas, we’ve put together this guide to ensure you don’t miss any of the best spots. 

Fishing in Arkansas offers a wide variety of game and fishing spots, so there’s an ideal destination for every angler to visit. Not only is it very lucrative, Arkansas fishing can also be among the most enjoyable, as you’ll find some truly breathtaking locations in the Natural State. Read on to pick out your next fishing trip destination from the best fishing in Arkansas. 

 

A lake during daytime.

Arkansas’ lakes are the perfect spots for some great fishing.

 

1. Bull Shoals Lake

Bull Shoals Lake is located in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas and has been home to the Bassmaster Elite competition in the past. That’s because you’ll find some of the largest bass in the continental US in this Arkansas lake, so Bull Shoals is the ideal location if you’re searching for a record-breaking bite. As well as several species of bass, Bull Shoals Lake offers plenty of crappie, trout, walleye, and panfish, so there are diverse fishing opportunities for everyone. Bull Shoals is perfect if you want a varied Arkansas fishing experience, remember to check out our bass fishing tips so you can make the most of your visit. 

This excellent fishing lake is located on the border with Missouri, and nearby White River and Lake Norfolk offer even more bass catching opportunities. This area of Arkansas is an angler’s dream destination, with plenty of fishing hotspots within such a small radius. The lake totals more than 45 thousand acres of surface area, with nearly 1000 miles of coastline ripe for trolling. For visitors to Bull Shoals Lake who want to experience a bit more action, there’s even some spearfishing allowed in daylight hours. There’s a nearby federal fish hatchery which ensures the lake is always fully stocked with your favorite game fish, so don’t miss out on visiting this prime Arkansas fishing location. 

 

Pros:

  • Fish where Bassmaster Pros have caught prizewinners
  • Plenty of different game fish to choose from
  • Almost 1000 miles of scenic fishable coastline 
  • Spearfishing is allowed within certain requirements

 

Cons:

  • You could miss out on the lake’s best fishing if you don’t own or rent a boat
  • The daily limit on trout is five per person

 

2. White River

If Blue Shoals is the Arkansas bass fishing destination, then White River is the Natural State’s equivalent for trout. White River flows down from the Boston Mountains, through the Ozarks in Arkansas and Mississippi, offering crystal clear mountain water that makes spotting trout beneath the surface easy. As well as brown and rainbow trout, bluegill are also abundant in the White River. Additionally, anglers visiting this fishing spot can catch catfish, rock bass, redear sunfish and walleye. The biggest attraction here is the huge brown trout, if you’re visiting in late January or early February at the end of spawning, the tailwater is an excellent place to hook a big one. 

Fishing from boats has always been popular in White River, however, a recent trend shows fly fishing becoming more successful in the area. Huge trout are the most common game at one of the best fishing spots in Arkansas, breaking 30 pounds for brown trout, and up to 30 lbs for rainbows.

This is a great destination year-around as fishing is great no matter the season. At White River, some of the largest catches are caught in the cold, so this option is perfect if you’re searching for an off-season fishing hotspot. There are plenty of information centers and marinas around trout hotspots on White River, so be sure to check one out for details about catch and release regulations. 

 

Pros:

  • Clear waters make for enjoyable trout fishing
  • Large brown trout are common on the tailwater
  • Big bites happen all year at White River

 

Cons:

  • Catch and release regulations can be limiting
  • Fishing during the spawn is discouraged 

 

3. Lake Ouachita

The largest lake with Arkansas state borders is Lake Ouachita, a gigantic man-made reservoir with over 40 thousand acres of water surface area. Known locally as one of the five “Diamond Lakes”, fishing here is a wonderful experience due to the excellent water clarity. You might need a fish finder to scan the depths of this huge fishing lake, as in areas it plunges to 200 feet. Stripers are a popular game fish in Lake Ouachita, where anglers enjoy great success trolling with downriggers near to the dam. This area also sees Little Blackey and Big Blakey Creeks join up with the river, making it a hotspot for hooking large fish. 

Lake Ouachita State Park is a visually stunning place to spend an idyllic afternoon fishing. If you need to take a break, the lake is surrounded by Ouachita National Forest, perfect for a short hike and some sightseeing. As well as some of the United States’ best striper fishing, Lake Ouachita holds plenty of bream, crappie, and several species of bass. There’s a lot of variation for the angler visiting Lake Ouachita, you can’t miss it on a visit to Arkansas.

 

Pros:

  • Known as one of the Diamond Lakes with crystal clear water
  • Fishing at depths of up to 200 feet 
  • One of Arkansas’ most scenic fishing spots

 

Cons:

  • Better fishing for the biggest game fish, trout and bass, is found elsewhere
  • Available catches don’t include table fish like catfish

 

A fisherman holding a trout.

There rainbow trout of up to 30 pounds waiting to be caught on White River.

 

4. Lake Dardanelle

The Arkansas River (not to be confused with the river of the same name in Colorado) crosses the entire state of Arkansas from east to west, it’s a total of 300 miles long and offers a huge range of fishing opportunities. As well as Lake Ozark, a 50-mile stretch forms Lake Dardanelle, one of the most popular locations along the Arkansas River. Dardanelle offers over 34 thousand acres of consistently reliable bass fishing territory, especially big largemouth.

This beautiful natural area of Little Rock can provide some gorgeous Arkansas scenery for anglers’ enjoyment. You might even spot a Bald Eagle if visiting at the right time of year, which is the perfect way to remember an Arkansas fishing trip. There’s no offseason at Lake Dardanelle so you can fish this breathtaking spot all year round, especially for stripers about 20 pounds.

If this is your target fish, we definitely recommend trying the lower area of Lake Dardanelle, where many creeks and streams join the flow. Beneath the Ozark Dam there are some interesting hybrids that might call the attention of fishing enthusiasts, but note that the daily limit is six fish per angler. 

 

Pros:

  • Reliable fishing spot for big largemouth bites
  • Wildlife sightings include Bald Eagles
  • Large stripers are caught all year

 

Cons:

  • Limits are in place on hybrid catches
  • Lake offers less area for bass fishing than Blue Shoals

 

5. Little Red River

Trout fishing in Arkansas doesn’t get much better than Little Red River, there’s fierce competition with White River for the best trout location. Fly fishing is very popular here, it’s an excellent fishery for rainbow trout as the river is populated with hundreds of thousands each year, and brown trout as well. The river is surrounded by hardwood forests, making it a super scenic spot. While on Little Red River’s banks, you might come across wildlife such as otters, ducks, and deer. 

Greers Ferry Dam, located on the river, offers some of the best trout fishing terrains, for all varieties and species. This stretch of fishing river is actually where the current record brown trout was caught, weighing in at a gargantuan 40 pounds and 4 ounces. If you want to try your hand at the title, then this is the place to do it! As one of the prime trout fisheries in the world, strict regulations are in place on Little Red River. Trout must be caught and released after you’ve had your photo opportunity, and there is no night fishing allowed. Ensure you read up on the rules regarding bait and tackle, so you can fully enjoy this Arkansas fishing experience. 

 

Pros:

  • Little Red River is populated with hundreds of thousands of rainbow trout
  • Fish where the world record for brown trout was hooked 

 

Cons:

  • Strict catch and release rules are in place
  • No night fishing is allowed 

 

6. Norfork Lake

If you want a more polished Arkansas fishing experience, the state’s seventh-largest lake might have something to offer. Norfolk Lake is 22 thousand acres in size and has several commercial docks for your fishing pleasure. There are boat rentals and guides where you can learn everything there is to know about this northern Arkansas fishing spot, ideal for beginner anglers and experienced experts alike. Striper fish weighing an excess of 40 pounds are common catches at Norfolk Lake, so if big fish are your game, this is an ideal destination. 

This gorgeous part of the Ozarks offers stunning surroundings as you fish and is amongst the best in the nation for crappie, walleye, and bass in addition to striper. The waters are clean and clear, offering an unpolluted and highly pleasant taste of Arkansas fishing. Early morning and late evening are prime times for large catches on Norfork Lake, where you can also enjoy the sunset over the mountains. Mild winters mean it’s fishing season all year round, and anglers will be thankful that the lack of mosquitos means night fishing is a-go!

 

Pros:

  • Boat rentals and fishing guides are easily available
  • Range of species includes crappie, walleye, bass, and striper

 

Cons:

  • Generally, the largest catches are striper fish, whereas other locations offer more popular large bass and trout
  • Fishing banks can easily become wet and muddy, especially during the rainy season

 

The tip of a boat and some fishing rods on the lake.

Norfork Lake is an ideal spot for boat fishing.

 

7. Beaver Lake

This versatile fishery in Northwest Arkansas is a hotspot for anglers and fishing fans, as a huge range of game fish are available in abundance. Plentiful smallmouth, largemouth, and striper bass, as well as crappie, bream, and catfish, make this an excellent fishing destination. Several state records for striper bass were caught in Beaver Lake, we highly recommend fishing here in colder weather. The upper portion of this lake has huge flats, where White River and War Eagle join in the flow. These flats are prime hotspots for anglers of all kinds, especially those seeking large striper. 

Beaver Lake offers a diverse fishing experience year-round; walleye is popular around spring or fall, while anglers seeking catfish always appear in the summer. You can even bundle up for some winter fishing and hook a few crappie, before the weather warms up and there’s more competition. Abundant natural features offer beautiful surroundings when visiting Beaver Lake, where catching huge fish is only a part of this stunning Arkansas experience. 

 

Pros:

  • Good range of species for anglers to target 
  • Huge flats in the upper portion of the lake offer exciting fishing

 

Cons:

  • Lake can be hard to access in some places
  • Non-commercial surroundings mean amenities are far away 

 

8. Spring River 

Most coldwater trout streams stem from deep artificial lakes, where colder temperatures must be encouraged by human intervention in order to ensure trout populations are supported. However, this isn’t the case with Arkansas’ Spring River, as it’s fed by one of the world’s largest natural springs. Mammoth Springs spews an enormous 9 million gallons of water into Spring River every hour, and at a temperature of 58 degrees, it’s cold enough to support a healthy trout population. Known in Arkansas as the state’s most dependable natural stream, Spring River is undoubtedly a top contender for your trip. 

A ten-mile stretch below Mammoth Springs is the go-to location for trout fishing from the bank, however other areas are ideal for wading, boat fishing, and even angling from a canoe. You can even set up next to the AGFC’s (Arkansas Game and Fishing Commission) hatchery if you get a space on this small but popular stretch. We recommend fishing the falls for the best chance of a bite, you’ll probably find some good walleye throughout, although going downstream offers the occasional big catch. 

 

Pros:

  • Fishing offered right next to AGFC hatchery
  • Naturally cooled trout stream offers dependable Arkansas fishing
  • Variety of options including wading and canoes

 

Cons:

  • In recent years more walleye have populated Spring River than trout, it’s supposed main attraction
  • Doesn’t offer as much variation in fish species than other destinations

 

9. Millwood Lake 

Millwood Lake is home to numerous fishing tournaments and derbies each year and doubles as one of Arkansas’ prime birding spots. The lake is formed by a huge 3-mile dam across the Little River and is unique in the fishing opportunity it offers. Much of the 29 thousand acres of lake features flooding timber and underwater structures, which offers excellent cover for a variety of game fish. Anglers can fish through cover like nowhere else in Arkansas at Millwood Lake, and there are also 5000 acres of open water to enjoy too. 

A visit to Millwood Lake promises superior fishing opportunities for crappie, bluegills, channel and flathead catfish, and several species of bass. Millwood is definitely an interesting lake to fish, as it offers more diverse challenges than other Arkansas waters. Bassmaster’s guide recommends fishing for summer bass around the lily pads, while deep channels full of logs and brush are prime targets in the fall. 

 

Pros:

  • Opportunities for fishing wooded cover are the best in Arkansas
  • A diverse range of species and challenges for visiting anglers

 

Cons:

  • Millwood offers a scenic and peaceful fishing experience, but not much chance to catch a winning fish
  • Trout anglers should look at other locations 

 

A person with a blue shirt fishing.

No matter what type of fishing you enjoy, Arkansas has a beautiful destination for you.

 

Final Verdict:

The Natural State is an excellent place to go fishing, as Arkansas is packed from corner to corner with prime angling lakes and rivers. Some of the best game fishing in all of the United States can be found here, with huge bass in Bull Shoals and Lake Dardanelle, and record-holding trout in Little Red River and White River. Combine huge bites with gorgeous natural surroundings, and it’s easy to see why fishing in Arkansas is so popular. 

If you aren’t focused on catching the biggest fish possible, then ultra scenic locations like Lake Ouachita might be your ideal destination. No matter where you go, there’s excellent fishing throughout the state for a huge range of different fish. If you’re interested in prime fishing destinations, you should check out the best fishing lakes to find out if any of Arkansas’ top spots made the list! 

 

Bonus tip: Check out this video to see some spearfishing in Bull Shoals!

 

Riley Draper

Riley Draper

Riley Draper is a writer and entrepreneur from Chattanooga, Tennessee. As a world traveler, he has been to more than fifty countries and hiked some of the most elusive trails in the world. He is the co-founder of WeCounsel Solutions and has published work in both national and global outlets, including the Times Free Press, Patch, and Healthcare Global. When he's not writing, he's probably on a hiking trip or climbing in the mountains.