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Crooked Creek

Crooked Creek, an Ozark highland stream, starts in Boone County, south of Harrison, and flows approximately 80 miles through oak-hickory hardwood forests, cedar glades, and pasture land until it converges with the White River below the town of Cotter. Its stream bed is composed primarily of limestone gravel, boulders, bedrock, and sand. In few places does the stream exceed more than 80 feet in width. Influenced by numerous springs, the water is clear and cool. In most reaches, the gradient is not steep and flows are usually mild. The creek does have a large watershed and heavy rains can turn it quickly into a dangerous, raging torrent. The stream is most floatable from early spring to early summer. Most floaters use canoes but fiberglass jon boats are also common although more diffficult to drag across rock riffles and shallow shoals. The 20-mile reach from Pyatt to Yeliville is usually floatable except during the driest summers with only minimal dragging. Many anglers prefer to wade fish and may travel several miles up or down the stream. Public access is limited so be sure to contact landowners before crossing private property. Below Yellville, the stream dries up almost completely in the summer and fall.

Crooked Creek contains one of the best smallmouth bass fisheries in America and anglers from over 20 states fish it regularly. It is one of Arkansas' two Ozark Blue Ribbon Smallmouth Streams (the other being the nearby Buffalo River). When various aspects of its smallmouth fishery were compared to those of other famous streams, it invariably ranked within the top three in all categories. These categories included density [number of smallmouth per mile), catch-rates (fish per hour), growth rates, size structure of fish population, yield (pounds harvest/hour), fishing pressure (hours of fishing per acre), and others. The streams we compared to included the New River, VA and WV; James River, VA; Piney Creek, MO; Courteois Creek, MO; Shenandoah River, VA; Plover Creek, Wl; and several others. None of those streams ranked as high consistently in all categories. Smallmouth do so well because Crooked Creek has excellent habitat (many deep pools, deep runs, boulders, large woody debris, and undercut banks), the water is cool and highly aerated by numerous riffles, the growing season is long, and forage (crayfish, sunfish, and minnows) is abundant.

Every year a number of 4- to 5-pound smallmouth are caught on Crooked Creek. Once in awhile a 6-pound smallmouth will be caught. Many three pounders are also taken. The average smallmouth will be about 1 pound. It is not uncommon for an angler to catch over 40 fish in a day. Catches of over 100 in a day have been reported to creel clerks.

Crooked Creek also contains an excellent fishery for Ozark bass in the one Pound class. Largemouth bass, channel and flathead catfish, green sunfish are fairly common.

Crooked Creek is, unfortunately, a very good source for sand and gravel. Because of rapid population growth and attendant construction in the Ozarks, demand for these materials has become high. Large-scale gravel mining became a serious threat to the quality of the stream. A concerted effort was made by conservationists to have it placed on the Extraordinary Resource Waterbody list of the State of Arkansas. Inclusion on that list would have outlawed gravel mining within the banks of the creek. That effort failed (when the 12 member Arkansas Pollution Control & Ecology Commission voted 9-3 not to put it on the list in January 1997) but undoubtedly helped stimulate the development and reform of the state's gravel mining laws in 1996 by focusing attention on the damage potential of uncontrolled mining. These laws greatly restrict where and when gravel may be mined and require a reclamation plan. The AG&FC will work closely with the ADPC&E (the regulatory agency) to ensure that miners comply with these laws to minimize the effects of their operations. Other activities of Man, such as confined animal production, land clearing, and road building, also impact the stream. The Crooked Creek Coalition (contact Emily Whitlock 501-481-6120) is an active group of individuals and clubs dedicated to the conservation and protection of Crooked Creek.

Ozark Blue Ribbon Stream Regulations: The daily limit of smallmouth bass is 2 and they must be at least 14 inches long to keep. Fish are measured from the nose (mouth closed) to the tip of the tail (tail lobes pressed together).