Arkansas Trout Fishing: Often Overlooked Always Astonishing

Trophy trout tailwaters.

While Arkansas’s trout fishing is known for fast-paced action as well as rod-bending monsters, The Natural State is not often thought of as a destination state for trout anglers. But with 1.5 million trout stocked annually, that means more trout for those anglers who make the journey. Also—and this can’t be overstated—there is the real possibility of hooking the trout of a lifetime in Arkansas. 

Prime Trout Waters

For trout in Arkansas look to the upland waterways that provide consistent temperatures, water flows, habitat, and forage to support populations of rainbow, brown, cutthroat, and brook trout. 

In the Ozarks, the White River, Little Red River, and North Fork River are all tailwater fisheries. The Spring River’s cool water source is Mammoth Spring’s subterranean channels. While all of these streams offer great fishing and their own charisma, the top waters are easily the White and Little Red. Both regularly give up large numbers of trout and extra-large trout. The former world record brown trout, a 40-pound 4-ounce leviathan, came from the Little Red. Double-digit browns are a regular occurrence on the White River as well. The state-record 19-pound 1-ounce rainbow came from the white. They grow big trout in Arkansas. 

And for young fly anglers (you must be 15 or younger to fish it) Dry Run Creek near Norfork Dam is simply phenomenal. It’ll make you wish you were 15 again—pimples and all.

In the Ouachita Mountains, trout are found in the Little Missouri River below Lake Greeson and the tailwaters of Lake Ouachita. While these waters don’t hold the lore and records of Ozark waterways, that means even fewer anglers to contend with. 

Seasons and Regulations

Trout fishing in Arkansas is a year-round pursuit. Regulations vary but can be found through the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission website, which is also the most hassle-free way to purchase a license and required trout permit. 

Equipment and Tackle

Lightweight spinning with a 2 to 6-pound test line is recommended. Spinners, jigs, live bait, and Powerbait will all work. 

Fly anglers should opt for 4-6-weight rods depending on chosen tactics. Nymphs are the most consistent producers, but midges, dries, and even hoppers are extremely effective at the right times. And don’t forget about streamers for gigantic winter browns. For these, you might want to pack a 7-weight. 

Local Knowledge

Seek advice from local anglers (some might talk) or better yet visit the local tackle and fly shops. While you are there, buy some tackle or flies, because the information you’ll get in return will be priceless. Or even better than that, book a stay at one of the local lodges and a day with a guide where you’ll gain a wealth of knowledge found nowhere else. Delectable dining is available at some lodges and even if it’s not, there’s good food to be found only a short drive from any of these rivers. After all, comfortable accommodations and a full belly are requirements after a long day of catching fish.

Visit Arkansas Tourism to plan your trip.