All is quiet as a cool November fog cloaks northern Arkansas’ Norfork. Leslie Wake of Twin Lakes Guide Service (www.twinlakesguide.com) has just finished rigging the boat for our first drift for stripers. Sharing the boat with me is Eric Naig of Northland Fishing Tackle.
The three of us joke about the misty conditions replicating the eerie setting in a horror movie — our baits the helpless victims to monster stripers from the deep. I watch the growing number of fish arches on the sonar. In my head I hear violin strings — a slaughter’s inevitable!
My internal soundtrack is interrupted by a screaming reel clicker and suddenly I’m battling the first striper of the day. The fish’s power is staggering, but it’s no match for the 8-foot rod and the specimen is soon scooped into the Frabill net. This is but the start of an adrenaline-filled day of striper fishing amidst the gorgeous scenery of the Ozarks’ Region.
This was my first visit to Arkansas and I must confess I wish I had more than two days to ply its waters. When visiting, the question isn’t what species to fish, but what opportunities you’re prepared to pass-up because the state’s loaded with lots of first class fishing. Here are a sampling of choices.
Those interested in taming a leviathan should focus on the striper bass that are stocked in several of the state’s systems.
“Norfork is one of the best, if not the best striper fishery in the mid-South. Not only do we have the numbers we have the size. Twenty- to 30-pounders are common and some push 40 pounds or better. The best time for me is April through June and then September through November, but we can almost always get on some somewhere. Tactics range from live bait, spoons, and pulling umbrella rigs,” said Wake.
If planning to fish Lake Norfork be sure to check out the friendly, cozy and well-run Blue Lady Resort (www.blueladyresort.com) operated by Brian and Margie Roelands.
The state also has an excellent walleye fishery, and holds the current world record, a 22-pound, 11-ounce beast caught in Greers Ferry Lake in 1982. During my fishing with Wake, I asked him about fishing ‘eyes on Bull Shoals and Norfork since he’s been at it for more than 30 years.
“I have fished a lot of lakes across the country, mostly during walleye tournaments, and I believe that Bull Shoals is second to none either on numbers or size,” he said. Norfork is particularly good, too, with mid-February until late April to be the best fishing months. Jigging bait, pulling bottom bouncers with night crawlers, and trolling lead core with lures are three of his favorite techniques.
Bass Options Galore
Arkansas will provide bass fanatics with their fill of largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass adventures on Bull Shoals Lake, Lake Ouachita, and Lake Norfork, among other awesome waterbodies.
Beyond wetting a line, a worthwhile activity is scheduling a stop in the city of Flippin to visit the headquarters of angling juggernaut, Ranger Boats. See www.rangerboats.com for information about their free tours of the plant.
More Slabs, Please
Opportunities overflow in Arkansas to land big, bragging-sized black and white crappie. During my autumn visit many guests did well on Norfork working deep, standing timber for papermouths. Using a Marcum VS625SD Underwater Camera to scout areas and pinpoint the wood areas that held fish was a hot tactic. Small hair jigs, such as Northland’s Bug-A-Boo, and small plastic grubs, tubes, and creatures were all good bets.
Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to sample the state’s incredible trout fishing, but I had the pleasure of staying and dining at the iconic Gaston’s White River Resort (www.gastons.com). This allowed me to rub shoulders with keen trout anglers. Their stories of consistent brown and rainbow catches from the White River had me salivating. Next time, next time … .
Keen On Cats
I’d be remiss to leave out some words on Mr. Whiskers. If visiting, be sure to spend some evenings chasing the state’s bruiser-sized blue, flathead and channel catfish. They’re plentiful, they pull hard, and the smaller ones are scrumptious in a fish fry!
The angling opportunities in Arkansas are endless, but visitors will find breathtaking scenery and good ol’ Southern hospitality just as bountiful. Sampling these elements on my short stay only whet my appetite to return. For more information visit www.arkansas.com and www.fishing-arkansas.com.
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