Locks and dams along the Arkansas River allow access to some of the best fishing in the country. Pools formed by these are stocked by the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission with sport fish such as bass, crappie, catfish and bream, making the river a popular location for major fishing tournaments such as the Arkansas Big Bass Classic. The shallow, backwater areas adjacent to the Arkansas River are a great early season bass hot spot. You can find these backwaters almost anywhere along the river from Fort Smith to Arkansas Post. However, the lower ends of the 12 navigational pools generally contain more backwater areas than the upper ends of those pools because the water level is higher relative to the river bank in the lower ends of the pools. Saugers and whites up to three pounds are a common catch on the Arkansas River during winter. Fishing tailwaters is the way to load a stringer, with those below Ozark, Dardanelle and Murray dams among the best. Be on the water at night or just before dawn and dusk for best success.
Stripers are caught along the entire 328-mile length of the Arkansas River in Arkansas, from the river’s mouth in Desha County to Fort Smith on the Arkansas/Oklahoma border. In spring, they migrate upriver into the tailwaters below river dams. Slack-water periods, when few or no gates are open, are great times for fishing with medium-weight tackle and live minnows. Spring fishermen also congregate below the Ozark-Jetta Taylor Lock and Dam (L&D) on the lake’s upstream end and below Dardanelle L&D which impounds the lake.
Access Points: For a map that shows the 17 closest river access points for trailerable and hand boat launches CLICK HERE!
Fish found in Arkansas River: blue catfish, channel catfish, flathead catfish, sauger, largemouth bass, hybrid striped bass, white bass, spotted sunfish, striped sunfish, bluegill sunfish, crappie, and redear sunfish.
Free parking is available at Fort Smith Park, and will also be available at each of the river access points with trailerable boat launches. Limited parking lot parking at some hand boat launch access points, which may require roadside parking and/or short walk through tall grass and/or forested area.