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Fishing Guide for Arkansas' White River

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From the time I could hold a fishing pole, I have been in youth fishing tournaments and fished anything with water. Welcome to my passion!

The best trout I've caught on the White River! Beautiful 19 inch brown trout.

The best trout I've caught on the White River! Beautiful 19 inch brown trout.

White River, Arkansas, and Fishing!

Since I was young, I would wake up early in the morning and load up the bass boat. I was heading to a fishing tournament where roughly once a month, my dad and I would travel to different lakes in Oklahoma and try our best to catch bass large enough to secure a spot on the podium. I was unsuccessful all but one time. In June of 2002, I was able to snag seventh place out of 40 or 50 boats.

Honestly, it wasn't about the recognition or prizes, it was time for my dad and me to spend time together. I learned patience, I learned how to read water and the shorelines for optimal fishing opportunities. For the most part, that's all it was, discovering tricks to increase your chances of finding a fish in just the right spot.

You could have a barrel of fish and use the wrong bait and never get a bite, but what if you could read the weather, water, and various other factors? It would allow you to pick the best lure for the fish you want to land in your boat! It takes a long time to figure out if you do not have help. Of all the fishing I have done, my favorite so far is trout fishing in Arkansas. So let’s give you a run-down of what it’ll take for you to have a great fishing trip on the White River.

Fishing for Success

The first thing you need to know about fishing in another state is that even if you have a fishing license in your state, it does not transfer over to other states. For Arkansas, you will need to head over here and pick the non-resident fishing license, ranging anywhere from 16 to 50 dollars. It's based on how long you plan to fish.

Because I am based in Oklahoma, it is about a four-hour drive down to Cotter, Arkansas. If you're coming from the same area, the easiest way to get there is to take US-412 into Arkansas until you hit US-62, and then you will head back north. This highway will take you right into Cotter. Once you cross the bridge across the White River, turn north onto Denton Ferry Road, then finally west onto Chamberlain Lane, and this will bring you right to their doorstep!

Food and Outfitters of Cotter

After a day of driving, you may be asking yourself where you can get a hot meal. Well, the place we stop at every single trip is called the White Sands Cafe. Their burgers and various filets will be sure to fuel you up for some time on the river! This is the perfect spot to grab some food because of where it’s located there are several outfitters not too far from there. Across the street is the Natural State Fly Shop, up the road a little is Tolliver’s Trout Fishing, and also there is the Ozark Mountain Trading Company. These are all great options to stock up on last-minute supplies.

For me, nothing beats the bait shop at His Place Resort. Julie is who normally runs the shop when I’m there, and she knows everything about the river! You can always check the Bull Shoals Dam report to check the water and the local weather and read online about how to catch trout till you are blue in the face.

Nothing beats boots-on-the-ground locals that specialize in their area of the river. His Place Resort does a wonderful job of combining hospitality, expertise, and access to what I believe is the best part of the White River.

Just after shoving off I took this picture as we started started in the morning.

Just after shoving off I took this picture as we started started in the morning.

A Landmark on the Trip

Now that you have a base of operation, let’s get on the water! First thing in the morning there is a rule that doesn't allow boats out in the heavy fog. The general guideline is that if you can see the other bank of the river you are in the clear.

The river is about 150 yards across and so it takes a little time to clear. However, don’t worry you will still get plenty of fishing time. I like to motor up the river about six and a quarter miles to a small island; this will take roughly 30 minutes depending on how fast the water is flowing.

The island that will be your landmark is about a half mile long, and the river splits around each side until about lunchtime. After, keep fishing the shady side of the bank. Cooler water temperatures are what you are after. Trout thrive in the cold, and so, here are my two rules when I get on the river.

One: follow the cold water. Farther into the day, it will get warmer along the banks. The parts you fished in the morning will be much warmer, and in turn, it means the trout will go deeper. If you find a little honey hole and are catching them left and right, do not be surprised that, if in the early afternoon, you're not as successful. This leads to my second rule: keep your line wet. This means be patient and don’t spend all your time changing lures constantly.

The three on the left are all versions of the Rapala Countdown lures. Top to bottom on the right are: Thomas 1/4oz Rainbow spoon, 1/8 and 1/6oz silver and white Rooster Tail, and another Rapala countdown

The three on the left are all versions of the Rapala Countdown lures. Top to bottom on the right are: Thomas 1/4oz Rainbow spoon, 1/8 and 1/6oz silver and white Rooster Tail, and another Rapala countdown

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Lure Them in for the Catch

The three lures I love the most are Rooster Tails, PowerBait mice tails, and Spoons.

A Bit About Each

Rooster tails are great for every type of fishing. They are versatile, and durable and come in a variety of color schemes. For trout, I use rainbow and brown trout-like colors between 1/6 and 1/8th oz. This will allow you to get deeper into the water when it’s warm and still let you fish the banks.

The only downside to these lures is that with a treble hook, it can get caught on debris easily if you are not careful. The upside is I have used some of mine for ten years, and you can bounce them off rocks, get them out of trees and underwater limbs, and they still work perfectly.

PowerBait has been a long-time quality name in fishing supplies. The first rig I ever used on the White River was with this particular bait. It has a white head and a pink tail, and coupled with a fishing line rig (shown below), it allows you to bounce this little bait a foot or so off the bottom of the river bed. This works great for fishing later in the day when the water is warmer. I have caught so many trout on this specific setup, and it stays in my tackle box every year.

Spoons are by far the most simple of the trout lures in my tackle kit. I use the same colors as rooster tails when I’m picking out the spoons. Similarly, they also use a treble hook, though the main difference is that these are best for shallow water. They flop around in the water and catch a lot of sunlight. They are real attention-getters!

Unconventional but Ideal the Luhr Jensen Super Duper 1oz Rainbow Trout works great.

Unconventional but Ideal the Luhr Jensen Super Duper 1oz Rainbow Trout works great.

My Old Faithful lure is the drop sinker rig with PowerBait Mouse Tail

My Old Faithful lure is the drop sinker rig with PowerBait Mouse Tail

What to Know About Trout Limits

Regulations can be an overwhelming thing to have to remember when you are relaxing on the water. Between the excitement of reeling in the big one and looking for your next honey hole, it can be difficult to remember the specific guidelines for what you can keep in your boat. His Place Resort makes this easy because when you rent a boat from them, there is a sticker that clearly explains all the information you need to know. Each boat reads the following information in a condensed format, but the expanded version can be found here.

The following regulations can be found on the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission:

  1. The daily limit on all trout species combined is five, but only one of those fish can be 14 inches or larger.
  2. The daily limit on cutthroat has been reduced to one, and the minimum length for that species is now 24 inches.
  3. The daily limit on brook trout has been reduced to one.
  4. When using natural (corn, worms, sculpin) or scented bait (PowerBait) on the Bull Shoals and Norfork tailwaters, anglers may only use a single hooking point.
  5. The Monkey Island Catch-and-Release Area on Bull Shoals Tailwater has been removed.
Reportedly the Bull Shoals Dam is where the trophy trout live. I need to check this out for my self.

Reportedly the Bull Shoals Dam is where the trophy trout live. I need to check this out for my self.

Experiences Along the White River

Alright, now that we are done with the boring stuff, we can move on to the full experience of His Place Resort. Every time I have checked into my cabin, it's been spotless with a note on the kitchen counter welcoming me back, and sometimes I'm lucky enough to have some cookies left for me.

I fish with a group of fathers and sons, and there is always enough room for all of us, which is usually about ten men. And I can't fail to mention the beds. I do not know what brand they are, but after a day of fishing, the siren calls of those beds are hard to resist. At the cabin I stay in, there is a nice patio and grill out front, and towards the shore, there is a spot to tie up your boat if you choose to bring your own.

2018 Memories

The first year I went, we did great the whole weekend; being new to trout fishing, it was amazing to catch 20–30 trout on the first full day out there. This only happened because I followed Julie's advice about the river. Among the many rainbow trout I caught that day, I also caught a beautiful 19-inch brown trout. Sadly I was not able to keep it because it needed to be over 24-inches for that but still, the rainbows made for a great dinner!

The best way to cook a trout is to fill the middle of the trout with lemon, seasonings of your choice, and maybe some jalapenos to kick up the spice and butter. Then, wrap it up in foil and toss it on the grill until you can smell it. Fruit salad, coleslaw, and your favorite beverage all complement the dinner you just caught. These are some of the best moments I have had out here, but it's not always glorious.

2019 Memories

In 2019 we had solid months of rain, and the Bull Shoals dam needed to let water out to maintain the lake's level and prevent flooding. Well, with all this water flowing out of the dam at a record pace, it kicked up a lot of algae, water-logged sticks, and debris. I did catch fish, although that year it was a hard-fought battle. Most of the day's frustrations were spent cleaning my lures off and fighting the swift current, but a struggle like this makes you appreciate the good years of slow current and cold water.

2020 Memories

The next year out there was a wonderful experience with a smooth current, and the water was at the right temperature. I remember buying one of the Rapala Countdown lures for 12 dollars and saying, "I need to catch at least 12 trout for it to be worth my money." I ended up catching roughly 25 trout on just that one lure.

Fishing Poles

The focus of this article had been mainly on the lures you fish and not so much on the fishing rod; the reason for this is that I have two rods I bring. One rod is a Walmart FJW titan fishing pole. It's inexpensive and not made with fancy materials, doesn't boast about sensitivity, has a basic open face spinning real, and still, I have caught hundreds of fish with that pole and never once thought, "hmmm, maybe I should get a better rod because can't catch fish with this one."

My second rod is a Falcon Lowrider XG. This pole is probably around 150 dollars and is great, don't get me wrong. It's sensitive to feel light strikes, casts well, and I've never had an issue with it. Both of these rods do what I want them to, which, simplified, is to cast and reel in fish. Still, I'm sure you could tie one of the lures I have written about on a tree branch and catch trout. This is why I feel it's more important to focus on what you cast and where you cast it.

Making Your Own Stories

Overall the experience in Arkansas will be a great one; just remember to do your homework beforehand. The wonderful thing about being in a town that is full of people who fish the White River is that there are plenty of places to get equipment and supplies according to what you want to catch.

Some of my best memories growing up revolve around fishing, and now that I have a newborn son, I cannot wait to take him out and teach him what I was taught! One last memory of my first fishing rod was a simple steel rod with a Zebco real on it. I remember fishing for perch and bluegill as a kid in Greenleaf State Park. This would be the very beginning of a lifelong love of fishing! I hope you have a wonderful fishing trip, and remember, keep your line wet!

Cooking dinner after a long day on the water, the grill and patio of my cabin at His Place Resort is the perfect place to gather together.

Cooking dinner after a long day on the water, the grill and patio of my cabin at His Place Resort is the perfect place to gather together.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Noah

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