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The White River appears to be very indecisive in choosing it’s path. It flows west in its headwaters region before turning north in the Fayetteville-Springdale area. On toward Eureka Springs, the river bends back to the east, then wanders up through southern Missouri. Upon reentering Arkansas, the river angles to the southeast past Cotter, Calico Rock, and Batesville. At Newport, the stream makes an abrupt turn to the south and flows some 257 miles in that direction before joining up with the Mississippi River.
In this 720-mile journey, the White undergoes several transformations. It begins as a small, mountain stream (complete with rapids), and ends up as a broad, meandering waterway serving the barge and towboat industry. Along it’s journey the river’s flow is interrupted by at least eight dams. Six in AR (Lake Sequoia, three at Batesville, Bull Shoals and Beaver Lake) and two more in Missouri (Table Rock and Lake Taneycomo). The largest of these – Bull Shoals – is responsible for converting what had been a warm-water fishery into one of the nation’s premier stretches of trout habitat, making White River fly fishing a popular activity. Today this cold-water section of the White River is among the state’s major tourist destinations.
ALONG THE PATH
From Bull Shoals to Newport, the White River flows through some of the most scenic regions The Natural State has to offer. Starting in the western Ozarks, the White meanders through the hills some 300 miles before reaching Bull Shoals Lake. With the help of Norfork Dam, Bull Shoals converts the White into a 100-mile trout stream. Framed by some of the most colorful limestone bluffs and lush forests in the nation, this section is quit picturesque. Boat launch facilities are located at most access points. Be sure to see JENKINS FISHING SERVICE & MOTEL at Calico Rock, Arkansas HERE. Flat-bottomed johnboats, fitted with comfy seats, are the preferred method of fishing and viewing the scenery along the river.
Several record-breaking browns and rainbows have been hooked on the upper White. Below Batesville, the White runs warmer and bass become popular targets. At Newport, the river turns southward across the delta before joining the Mississippi River in southeast Arkansas.
WHITE RIVER FISHING
If you’re looking for one of the best places to fish in Arkansas, the upper White River offers an assortment of bass (smallmouth, largemouth, rock, and Kentucky), catfish (channel, blue, and flathead), and sunfish. That should satisfy nearly any angler. Spinnerbaits, crawfish imitators, and skirted jigs (with pork tails) are recommended, along with minnows, crawfish, and other natural baits.
Below Bull Shoals Dam, the White River takes on an entirely different character. This is one of the most famous float fishing streams in the world. And with good reason. Anglers probably reel in more rainbow trout here each year than in any other trout stream in America. The Game and Fish Commission stocks hundreds of thousands of rainbows in the White annually, therefore, anglers come here from all corners of the globe to experience White River Trout Fishing.
WORLD RECORD BROWN TROUT
What about Brown trout fishing? In 1972, Gordon Lackey landed a monster brown weighing 31-pounds, 8-ounces. This stood as the North American brown trout fishing record until 1977. That’s when fellow guide Leon Wagoner landed a 33-pound, 8-ounce giant, now just mere ounces under the world record brown trout. Missouri angler Tony Salamon landed a 30-pound, 8-ounce leviathan in 1986 that set a new world line-class record for 6-pound-test line. Very few browns grow that large, of course. But frankly, 5-10 pounders are common, and anglers have a good chance of landing an 11-20 pound trophy. And, yes, a few 20-pound-plus monsters are usually corralled each year.
Although White River rainbow trout don’t approach North American record size, the river still boasts the 19-pound, 1-ounce Arkansas state record. Ten-pound fish are considered large, but there are plenty of real thoroughbreds in the 2-6 pound class.
As an added bonus, White River anglers can also find cutthroat and brook trout in these fine waters. Cutthroats were first stocked in 1983, but the river has already produced 9-pound-plus fish. Brook trout are a rare catch, but they have reached up to four pounds in the North Fork of the White.
WHERE TO FISH
Bull Shoals to Cotter is the stretch best known for trophy brown trout fishing. Many are taken on live crayfish or sculpins. A variety of other live baits and artificials can also be employed successfully, especially at night since brown trout are nocturnal feeders. White River fly fishing is extremely popular during low water level periods, but most anglers opt for the standard White River rig–a 16 to 20-foot johnboat equipped with a 10-20 hp motor.
The North Fork of the White from Norfork Dam to the White has produced two record rainbow trout and the state record brook trout. The Crooked Creek and Buffalo River junctions are also good lunker trout holes. Smallmouth bass fishing is good at the mouths of feeder streams, including the mouths of Sylamore Creek, Buffalo River, Rocky Bayou and Big Piney Creek. Fishing is good for channel catfish and rock bass, and in lake headwaters, white bass, hybrid stripers and walleyes are important sportfish. The lower White River is known mainly for catfish.
If you’re in the Batesville, AR area be sure to check out MARK MARTIN POWERSPORTS & MARINE for all your boating and powersports needs and NATALIE’S CAFE & CATERING for great food.
Many, many miles downstream is another point of interest–the White River National Wildlife Refuge. This 113,000-acre tract is the home for waterfowl, songbirds, deer, and one of Arkansas’s largest black bear concentrations.
As you can see the White River offers something for everyone. For White River information, call the Corps of Engineers at 870-425-2700.
South Central Missouri &
Ranging from Northwest Arkansas across
to South East Arkansas