By Michael Schraeder
Well, we’re not really going to give up waypoints! What fun would that be? But, what we are going to give up are some key areas for teams to focus their efforts on during their pursuit of a winning creel! In an attempt to make that “winning creel” as diverse as possible, anglers have the opportunity to cover multiple bodies of water during this event, as opposed to being restricted to just one. Keep in mind, though, that only fish caught in “legal public” waters, that lie within the borders of Arkansas are eligible to be submitted.
Before we jump into too many specifics in regards to location, we need to address a question that was recently asked about this event and that is this, “don’t teams with a boat have an advantage?” Well, the answer to that is no, not really. For example, within an hour’s drive of the shop you’ll find an abundance of productive public waters that can be fished without a watercraft. These range from small creeks to large rivers, city ponds (Mountain Home) to large reservoirs. How productive they are in large depends upon the angler.
Alright, let’s get more specific about areas worth considering. Without a doubt, the number of “warmwater” species caught and photoed, are going to be key in doing well in this event. With trout making up such a small percentage, the winning teams will need to be savvy in managing both driving and fishing time! As with any other competitive event, spending some quality time scouting and even pre-fishing can later prove to be time well spent.
With both Bull Shoals and Norfork lakes within minutes of the shop, this would be a great starting point for those intending to use a boat. With multiple launch ramps and ample fish holding structure nearby, even those teams fishing from kayaks or other smaller watercraft can find a variety of fish in a timely fashion near most of these launch areas. In addition, many of those same areas can provide excellent fishing to the shore bound anglers as well.
Some notable spots are the Cranfield Park/Public Use Area near the Cranfield Marina and Pigeon Creek access on Lake Norfork outside of Mountain Home. On Bull Shoals, the area around Jimmie Creek near the town of Flippin is just a short drive, but for those not afraid to spend a little “road time”, head to the Lead Hill/Diamond City area northwest of Yellville.
While the White and Norfork Rivers garner much of the attention of fly anglers in our area, Crooked Creek and the Buffalo River have developed a loyal following of their own! What they may give up in size, they more than make up for in scenery alone. Couple that with the fact that they’re both incredibly diverse fisheries and it’s easy to see why each have become so special to those that fish there.
Fly patterns like the “Hada Creek Crawler”, Boogle Bug and Craft Fur Clouser are common names with those chasing the “King of the Creek” aka the smallmouth bass! But these two fisheries are also home to a wide variety of other species including largemouth and Ozark Bass, longear sunfish, bluegill, carp and gar.
Great access is available to both wade and kayak fisherman, especially on Crooked Creek near the Fred Berry Conservation Center outside of Yellville and the recently opened Mark Oliver Access east of Snow off Hwy 62.
Last, but certainly not least, coldwater access in the area. At the expense of sounding somewhat hypocritical, we probably don’t need to spend an excessive amount of time here. With only 4 of the 29 eligible species for the event being trout, it shouldn’t take too much time to scratch out at least a rainbow and a brown! With plenty of access and elbow room in just the first 32 miles of the White alone (dam to Buffalo City), not to mention the nearly 5 miles of Norfork (North Fork), access to boaters and waders is plentiful. While the next trout can be a challenge, landing a cutthroat is also very doable, but be mindful of the time spent trying to do so!
Also, a brook is not out of the question, especially if you’ve teamed up with a 15 year old (Hmm!). Access points for both boat and wade anglers are clearly marked on a variety of available maps, including the ones in the 2019 AGFC Trout Regulations (.pdf version).
Some notable access areas on the White would be Wildcat Shoals and the Cotter ramp area (including Roundhouse Shoals) on the Baxter County side and White Hole on the Marion side. For you wade fisherman looking to add a Cutthroat Photo, the Norfork Tailwater at Quarry Park and Bill Ackerman Walk-in Access are your spots, providing the water is at minimum flow. Also, for those of you that understood what the above (Hmm!) was about, then you’ll also know what DRC stands for!
Clearly most of the areas covered here are within a relatively short distance of Cotter. As expected most of the teams will probably stay “close to home” in order to manage time and also for the fact that there’s not much of a reason to travel very far.
However, don’t disregard the potential importance of some “strategic” driving time! Most, but not all of the 29 species on the species list are “Close to Home”. But, it may be worth that “caffeine fueled” haul to east Arkansas to get a potential tie breaking bowfin pic!
Or a completely insane attempt at a 100 point alligator gar on the Lower White (way lower!). Don’t forget to search alligator gar regs
But, wherever it is you choose to fish during this event, it’s our hope (I know it sounds corny!) that teams don’t get so wrapped up in the competition that you forget to have fun at the same time. Okay, some fun!