Trout Species

Click images to view a larger version.

Limits and Size Restrictions listed below include the waters below Bull Shoals and Norfork Dams to Guion Ferry. Other trout fisheries may have different regulations. The limit of trout is 5 fish per day. A limit may include 1 Brown Trout at least 24 inches in length, 2 Brook trout at least 14 inches in length, and 2 Cutthroat trout, at least 16 inches in length. There are no size restrictions on rainbow trout.

Rainbow trout are the most common trout found in the tail waters of Norfork and Bull Shoals Dams. An average Rainbow will measure between 12 and 14 inches in length. However, rainbow weighing over 10 pounds is not out of the realm of possibility. As there are no size restrictions, limits of 5 rainbow are common. Rainbow trout also tolerate slightly warmer waters than the Brook or Brown trout, thus providing around 90 miles of productive fishing on the White River. However, as the water temperature during the summer months approach 60 degrees F, the trout will begin migrating upstream.

Rainbow Trout Click to view a larger image.
A Rainbow trout Trout

Brown trout also do well in the colder tail waters found closer to the dams however, they also tolerate the slightly warmer waters farther down stream as well. The Brown trout tend to be the larger of the Arkansas species, with the current World Record Brown being over 40 pounds, which is claimed by Arkansas' Little Red River, and the previous World Record of over 38 pounds belongs to Arkansas' Norfork River. Brown trout have a limit of 1 fish per day and these fish must measure at least 24inches in length. Please see the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Trout Guide Book for more detailed information on limits and measuring length of trout.

Brown Trout Click to view a larger image.
A Brown Trout

Cutthroat Trout and Rainbow Trout are very similar. When comparing the pictures for differences, note that the Cutthroat does not exhibit the pink stripe running the length of the body. The Cutthroat does display two bright pink or reddish slash marks beneath gills resembling blood from a cut throat, thus giving the fish its name. The daily limit of Cutthroat trout is 2 with a 16 inch restriction on length.

Cutthroat Trout. Link to larger image.
A Cutthroat Trout

Brook trout do well in waters between 50 and 55 degrees F, therefore they will generally be found closer to the dams or other sources of the tail waters. Brook trout have a limit of 2 fish per day and these fish must measure at least 14 inches from the tip of the mouth to the tip of the tail. Please see the Arkansas Game and Fish commission Trout Guide Book for more detailed information on how to measure the length of trout. While uncommon, Brook Trout can weigh over 10 pounds.

Brook Trout Click to view a larger image.
A Brook Trout


Trout Fishing 101

Most trout caught by beginning trout fishermen will generally weight less than 2 lbs. Therefore, light or medium weight fishing tackle (6 to 10 lb. line) will be your best choices when planning your first trout fishing trip. Spin cast versus bait cast is a personal choice. Neither option should present an obstacle to catching trout. Trout are opportunistic and will attack almost anything that they perceive as a possible food source. The baits favored by most beginning and many established fisherman are canned corn, Power Baits, night crawlers, and crawdads (crawfish). Some artificial baits would include small bass baits, spinners, and hand tied flies.

Limits of trout can easily be caught from the bank or boat. Bank fishermen generally cover less than a half a mile of bank in a day. If they wish to increase coverage, they may wade out into the river. Fishing from a boat or canoe will greatly increase the area that can be covered in a day (you can easily cover 5 or more miles from a boat or canoe in a day). In order to learn the basics of trout fishing quickly, beginners may want to utilize a guide service before attempting to strike out on their own.

If you have to fish from a boat and didn't bring your own then you have several options available to you. The first is to hire a guide, boats are included with the guide's fee (fees generally range from $180.00 to over $300.00 per day for 2 people). The primary advantages of hiring a guide is that he will show you how to fish, where to fish, and how to navagiate that part of the river. You can find a guide at any of the local trout docks, riverside resorts, etc. The next option would be to rent a boat and motor (rentals range from $50.00 to $120.00 per day). Most trout docks, resorts and bait shops have boats and motors for rent. A thrid option is to rent a canoe (these rentals range from $20.00 to $40.00 per day plus shuttle fees). Check with the local trout dock resort or bait shop for canoe rentals.

Bait Cast Fishing

As mentioned above, the more popular baits include canned corn, Power Baits, night crawlers, crawfish, etc. Bait fishing usually requires a medium weight rod and reel, with 8 to 12 lb. test line. How you rig your fishing line to use these types of baits depend upon how you intend to fish. Experienced trout fishermen have their own methods for rigging their lines when utilizing these types of baits. One of the more commonly used methods is called the White River Rig. White River Rig.
This rig, is often used for drift fishing on the White River, and can be baited with many kinds of trout bait including night crawlers, red worms or glow worm/salmon egg combinations or some artificial baits. Use 4 lb. leader line, clear or light green to be less visible to fish with a heavier main line.

Another method of rigging your line for bait fishing is as follows: Alternate to the White River Rig. Slip a bell sinker on the line, attach a barrel swivel, tie on about 2 to 3 feet of 2 to 4 pound test leader and finish off with a bait hook. A marshmallow provides flotation for the hook. This method works well when drifting with the current while fishing from a boat.

The descriptions of both methods are very general and most fisherman modify them to meet their needs and preferences regarding type and size of hooks and/or weights to meet the current fishing conditions. Regardless of which rigging you chose, making up several in advance will ensure more time fishing. Both of these methods illustrated above were taken from the 2009 Arkansas Trout Fishing Guidebook, published by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (Illustrations by Bruce Cook).

Spin Cast Fishing

A spinning rod and reel is a good choice when using spinners and other artificial bait. Most guides and experienced trout fisherman like to use ultra-light or light weight tackle. Some of the more popular spinners and lures include Panther Martin, Blue Foxx, Rooster Tail, Rappla Count Down, Little Cleo, etc. The above list is in no way all inclusive. There are as many different lures for trout as there are for any other species of fish, literally hundreds of them.

Fly Fishing

There is no way to talk about trout fishing and artificial baits without at least mentioning fly fishing. There are many books, magazines and articles written about fly fishing and fly fishing for trout. There is nothing I can add to any of these resources other than to say "when planning your next fishing trip don't overlook Arkansas for world-class trout fishing." It is not difficult to fly fish from a boat--that is one of the reasons why riverboats or jon boats in this part of the world are 20 ft in length. The Norfork and White Rivers both offer excellent fly fishing--it's your choice boats or waders, as always there are advantages and disadvantages to both. Most fly fishing guides will offer both boat and wade fishing if river conditions will permit wading. Most trout docks, bait shops and tackle stores can generally provide you with any specific information you may need relating to patterns and such.

Catch and Release Areas

The State Game and Fish Commission has set aside certain areas of the White and Norfork Rivers to preserve and promote the growth of larger (trophy) fish. These areas are identified with large signs located on both sides of the river or stream at the beginning and ending of each area.   In general, the regulations for fishing these areas are as follows: Taken from the Arkansas Trout Fishing Guidebook 2009--Trout must be released immediately. Only artificial lures with a single barbless hooking point may be used (natural or scented baits are not allowed). Chumming is not allowed.

Make a Barbless Hook

Make a Barbless Hook. Click to enlarge image. To make a hook barbless, crimp the hook barb to the hook's shank with a pair of needlenose pliers. When crimped completely, the hook is smooth and will not snag when passed through cloth.


Estimate the Weight of Your Trophy FishMeasure Your Trophy fish. Click to enlarge image.

While fishing Trophy areas, there may come a time when weighing a fish just can't be done with scales. The next best thing would be to estimate the fish's weight using the following formula. Wt. = (Length * Girth * Girth) / 680. Ex. Lenght = 22.5 inches, Girth = 12.5, then Weight of fish = (22.5 * 12.5 * 12.5) / 680 = 5.17 pounds. These illustrations were taken from the 2009 Arkansas Trout Fishing Guidebook, published by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.