Arkansas Ozarks Fisheries - a Summary

Mountain Home, Arkansas is located in the center of some of the best and most diverse fishing in the nation. Mountain Home, and the near-by city of Bull Shoals, are in the center of the Arkansas Ozarks. Both Mountain Home and Bull Shoals are the starting points of many Arkansas Ozarks fishing trips. Bull Shoals Lake and Lake Norfork are U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reservoirs containing nearly 70,000 acres of excellent fishing for a variety of warm water fish. Bull Shoals Lake has produced 7 current Arkansas state record fish, more than any other state water. Four current Missouri state record fish have come from the small section of Bull Shoals Lake across the state line. Largemouth, spotted, smallmouth, and white bass, crappie, walleye, and three species of catfish are the most popular native species. In addition, rainbow trout are stocked in Bull Shoals Lake while striped bass and hybrid stripers are stocked in Lake Norfork. Both lakes are within a 15 minute drive from Mountain Home, Arkansas. The city of Bull Shoals is right near Bull Shoals Lake dam.

The White and North Fork Rivers below the two dams are home to the world’s best fishery for large brown trout and are also excellent fishing for rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, and brook trout. The White River flows from the base of the dam at Bull Shoals Lake reservoir and fishing access is less than 5 minutes from the community of Bull Shoals. The North Fork River flows from Lake Norfork with excellent fishing access less than 5 minutes from the community of Norfork. Eleven current world line-class records hail from these rivers (ten brown trout and one rainbow trout)! In fact, the former all-tackle world record brown trout (38 pounds 9 ounces) came from the North Fork River. Although it is now only number two, at least it was beaten by another Arkansas fish!

These trout waters of the Arkansas Ozarks are considered by many to be the best in the world

The Spring River, located one hour east of Mountain Home, is another Arkansas Ozarks fishing destination. The Spring River is a natural stream created by one of the world’s largest springs. Its cold waters contain a natural cool water fishery for trout, smallmouth bass, shadow bass, walleye, catfishes, and several sunfishes. Unique to the Spring River are tiger muskies, which are stocked in limited numbers. The result is the most diverse fishing opportunity in the Arkansas Ozarks.

The Buffalo River and Crooked Creek are two Arkansas Ozarks float streams, popular with smallmouth bass anglers from all over the nation. Excellent fishing access to both the Buffalo River and Crooked Creek is 20 minutes from Bull Shoals. Crooked Creek is home to one of the densest smallmouth bass populations and catch rates in the nation. The Buffalo River was the first river corridor purchased by the U.S. National Park Service as a National River. It is a beautiful river, lined with picturesque bluffs towering up to 500 feet high and is popular with canoeists and anglers alike.

For a total Arkansas Ozarks fishing adventure be sure not to over-look smaller streams such as Piney Creek, Myatt Creek, Dry Run Creek, and the South Fork of the Spring River. Piney, Myatt, and the South Fork are all excellent smallmouth streams in the same general area about 45 minutes east of Mountain Home, Arkansas. Dry Run Creek is located a quarter mile from Lake Norfork dam, and runs along the Norfork National Fish Hatchery. Fishing on Dry Run Creek is limited to youngsters less than 16 years old and is catch and release, single hook, artificial lures only. These restrictions have resulted in Dry Run containing a huge number of large trout just itching to educate a youngster.

Improving fishing opportunities in the Mountain Home / Bull Shoals region of the Arkansas Ozarks encompasses the efforts of many state, federal, and local agencies, private businesses, civic and sportsmen’s groups, and uncounted dedicated individuals. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is the state agency with the main responsibility for managing the fish and wildlife resources of the state. And nowhere in the state is the agency’s Fisheries Division more active than in the Mountain Home region (District 2). District 2 is represented by two fisheries biologists, Mark Oliver and Ken Shirley, two statewide trout program biologists John Stark and Stan Todd, the Pot Shoals Net Pen manager John Steward, and the Spring River State Fish Hatchery, Melissa Jones (manager), Richard Shopen (assistant). You can phone District 2 at 870-425-7577 or 870-424-5924.

The Fisheries Division has constructed 25 free public boating access areas on the waters of the north central district. In addition, the agency owns five walk-in areas, and has built two wheelchair-accessible fishing piers. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have also built two wheel-chair accessible fishing piers. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has built a wheel-chair accessible fishing pier on Dry Run Creek. Boating access is available at over 35 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recreation areas on Bull Shoals Lake and Lake Norfork. Bank fishing is allowed on all boat access areas.

Of course, increasing the quality of the Arkansas Ozarks fishing experience is as important as access to the water. Of the 10,000,000 fish stocked into the public fishing waters of Arkansas annually, District 2 gets over 2,000,000, most of which are trout for the rivers. These fish are produced in the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Mammoth Spring Fish Hatchery on the Spring River, in the Pot Shoals Pen Facility on Bull Shoals Lake, nursery ponds on Bull Shoals Lake and Lake Norfork, and by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Norfork National Fish Hatchery (which is one of the largest in the nation).

The Arkansas Game & Fish Commission conducted one of the largest ever fish attractor programs. They have built over 600 underwater brush shelters on Bull Shoals Lake and Lake Norfork to attract fish and improve their habitat. Each attractor extends along 300 feet of shoreline and contain on the average over 110 large trees up to 18 inches in diameter. Fish populations are routinely sampled and anglers interviewed to fine tune the management of these waters.

This Web site details all the major activities of District 2 Game and Fish. The goal of these programs is to ensure and uphold the quality of the total fishing experience in the Arkansas Ozarks for you, our customers. We hope you find our information helpful, and we look forward to seeing you on our waters. Thanks for fishing the Arkansas Ozarks!

By Mark Oliver,
Fisheries Biologist, District 2 Arkansas Game & Fish Commission