By Randy Zellers
People confused about how far to stand from others when social distancing could learn a lot from an angler. Just act like you’re casting a fishing rod.
Most common fishing rods are between 6 and 7 feet long, the distance the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend to space apart from others in public. Of course, the best way to practice this technique is to get outside and enjoy some angling.
And there’s no better time to get outside than this week. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has waived all fishing license and trout permit requirements through midnight March 29 for everyone to get out and enjoy some time on the water. Here are a few hotspots to try during the extended spring break:
Lake Maumelle white bass run
The white bass have begun to move into the creeks that feed reservoirs where they spend most of the year. This is the best time of year to find concentrations of this feisty fighter, and one of the best places to try is Lake Maumelle just west of Little Rock. The lake is fed by the Maumelle River, and anglers can reach some of the best white bass locations by taking a short walk from Sleepy Hollow Access and the Bringle Creek Access, both just west of where Arkansas Highway 10 crosses the far end of the lake. Try casting small Beetle Spins, Road Runner jigs and ⅛-oz. jigheads with white or chartreuse twister tail grubs for the best results. Many other lakes throughout the state enjoy fantastic white bass runs as well, including:
- Millwood Lake – Try Little River upstream of U.S. Highway 71
- Lake Greeson – Star of the West Recreation Area and Self Creek offer excellent opportunities.
- Beaver Lake – Typical locations include the Highway 45 Access (Twin Bridges) and War Eagle Creek below War Eagle Mill
Lake Catherine walleye
Spring walleye runs are at their peak right now, and you won’t find a better time to catch these tasty fish concentrated in the upstream arms of some of Arkansas’s larger reservoirs. The area just below Capenter Dam is a perfect location to catch a few of these nighttime predators during their spawning run. The dam prevents the fish from going any further upstream, so many will congregate along the rocks just below it to conduct their spawning ritual. While walleye are a big target for northern and midwestern anglers, they really never have taken off except as a temporary target in southern impoundments. To cash in on the walleye run, anglers should try to fish in the early morning and late evening, and even at night. The walleye have a special reflective membrane in their large eyes that allow them to see in low-light much better than bass or crappie. As a result, some of the best feeding times for these fish is just after the sun goes down. Anglers should cast stickbaits like Smithwick Rattling Rogues, Storm Thundersticks and the Original Floating Rapala along the face of the rocks, where walleye will be looking for a meal. Pay attention to any water releases and practice some common sense if you see the water begin to rise.
Carpenter Dam isn’t the only place to find a walleye run. Practically any dam on the Ouachita River will hold a few just below it as the walleye try to move upstream. Here are a few options:
- Lake Hamilton – Below Blakely Mountain Dam in Lake Hamilton
- Saline River – Below Remmel Dam at the south end of Lake Catherine
- Beaver Lake – Twin Bridges and War Eagle Creek
- Table Rock Lake – The tributaries of Table Rock have excellent populations of walleye in them right now, according to biologists sampling for this year’s spawning project. Beaver Tailwater and the Kings River are the two best tributaries to look for ‘eyes.
- Greers Ferry – Try to get as far upstream as possible in the South Fork, Middle Fork and Devil’s Fork of the Little Red River that feed the lake from the north.
Lake Conway crappie spawn
Crappie too are headed to the shallows for their annual spawning run. Fisheries biologists conducting spring electrofishing samples have witnessed many slab-sized crappie decked out in their darker spawning colors in the last week. This is one of the best times for anglers to chase the king of the southern fish fry before they move out deep again for summer. On AGFC lakes, the entire shoreline is open to public access. However, some shorebound anglers feel uncomfortable walking through what appears to be someone’s backyard when houses are present. For those folks, the AGFC has some excellent fishing piers and bank fishing accesses on many of its popular crappie lakes. On Craig D. Campbell Lake Conway Reservoir in Mayflower, staff recently constructed parking area and access right where U.S. Highway 89 crosses the south end of the lake. The access has space for up to 30 cars to park, and there’s plenty of shoreline to spread out within 50 feet of the pavement.
Other top spots to consider for crappie include:
- Lake Overcup – Biologists have seen an abundance of 2-pound male crappie moving into the shallows for the spawn.
- White Oak Lake – Just below Upper White Oak Lake Dam is one of the best publicly known crappie hot spots in the state called, “The Old Folks Hole.”
- Cane Creek Lake – Below the spillway is good, and the levee wraps around much of the lake to offer easy walking access.
- Beaver Lake – By far the best crappie population in the northwest corner of the state. Focus on areas in the upper end of the lake.