In the early fifties, the Army Corps of Engineers completed the dam at Bullshoals Lake, Arkansas, releasing 52-degree, gin clear water into the White River. The result was a dramatic change from a nationally known smallmouth fishery to one of the best trout rivers in the world. The White is one of the few places where you can experience record-class fishing for brown trout, and catch a daily limit of rainbows, all within a few yards.
The brown trout of the White are what dreams are made of. The river has claimed countless line-class records, and sports the second largest brown caught in the world at 38 pounds. On a good low-water day, you’ll actually see double digit browns as you drift over the shoal breaks.
The White is a fertile, meandering clear limestone stream in the heart of one of the oldest mountain ranges in North America, the Ozark Mountains. Imposing three hundred foot limestone cliffs surround much of the water enshrouded in fog during the mornings and evenings.
Like many tailwater fisheries, the White has stable water temperatures that vary by only a few degrees in December or July. On the more challenging side, eight generators at the dam create up to 18 feet of water at any time, day or night. That’s why it’s paramount that you hire a local guide for at least your first few days of fishing. Wade fishing is only productive in low water. Make sure you wear felt and cleated soles, or you’ll take a walk on the wet side from the slick, moss-covered shoals.
Rainbows are absolutely abundant, and commonly range from 10 to 18 inches. The state stocks more than one million trout annually on the White, and its seven-mile tributary, the Norfork. Fishing is consistent, but it will take you some time to dial in and adjust to the White’s changing water conditions. Experienced bait, spin, or fly anglers have 30 plus rainbow releases on a typical day.
If you want to chase browns on the White, listen to your guide, and have patience. The best time of the year for these 5-to 20-pound bruisers is from November to April, depending on water conditions. However large fish are also caught frequently on summer mornings and evenings.
A typical river craft on the White is a 20-foot narrow beam fiberglass Jon boat with a small motor. Many of the boats comfortably hold two clients, and some will hold three. The average guide costs about $225.00 a day for two adults, depending on the operation.
Camping is available in the shadow of the dam at Bullshoals State Park. Wade fishing can be very good at the dam, but be careful, the river rises are quick and perilous. If you hear the warning siren at the dam, or sense a rise in the water, move toward the bank immediately, even if the fishing is hot.
Sportman’s Resort; 800-626-FISH (3474);www.sportsmans-resort.com
Bullshoals Lake/White River Chamber of Commerce; 870-445-4443; www.bullshoals.org
Bullshoals State Park and Campground; 870-431-5521; www.arkansasstateparks.com