Arkansas Ozarks Fishing-White River-Bull Shoals Lake-Norfork-Buffalo-North Fork

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Norfork Lake

The normal surface area of Norfork Lake is about 22,000 acres with some 360 miles of shoreline. The lake is long and narrow with many creek bays and branches (dendritic) with a maximum depth of 190 feet. Normal pool elevation is 552 feet above mean sea level.

The shoreline is steeply sloping limestone shelfrock, rubble, ledges, gravel points, clay banks, and there are a few sandy islands. The upper ends of creeks and upper end of the lake is silty or sand banks. The large Corps Of Engineers buffer strip as severely limited development so the lake remains in a very natural setting.

Water quality is very clear. Visibility is typically 10 feet or more. Thermocline forms in May, erodes by November, and is usually 22-28 feet deep. The pH ranges from 7 to 7.5. Surface temperature rarely exceeds 85 F or falls below 40 F


Norfork Lake contains excellent fisheries for largemouth, smallmouth, black and white crappie, walleye, striped bass, blue, channel, and flathead catfish, hybrid bass, white bass, redear and bluegill sunfish, and Ozark bass.

Arkansas Game & Fish Commission and the Missouri Department of Conservation stock several hundred thousand fish a year into Norfork Lake. These stockings consist primarily of striped and hybrid bass, blue and channel catfish, walleye, redear, sunfish, and crappie. Each year’s stocking are reported in the Norfork Lake Annual Report. Besides acquiring fish from the state fish hatchery system and the Pot Shoals Net Pen Facility on Bull Shoals Lake, Arkansas Game & Fish also utilizes a nursery pond in the Cranfield area of Norfork Lake. The pond is usually stocked with 600,000 walleye fry which are raised to a size of one to two inches, then drained directly into the lake when conditions for their survival are most suitable. Occasionally brood stock crappie or redear sunfish are stocked in the pond where they spawn and produce hundreds of thousands of young that are then drained into the lake. The fish are handled very little and can be stocked without the mortality and costs associated with hauling them by truck from hatchery ponds.

Fish Cover Project

In 1987 Arkansas Game & Fish initiated a large scale fish habitat enhancement project with the financial support of local interests and numerous individuals, including Bass Cat Boatsm Champion Boats, 101 Boat Dock, Ranger Boats, Scuba Doo Dive shop, the Sport’s Club of Mountain Home, and Tracy Ferry Marina. These businesses, individuals and the Sportsman’s Club provided the local match ( in actual money, labor, and in-kind donations) that was used to obtain federal funding through the Dingell-Johnson and Wallop-Breux Aid to Sportfish Restoration Funds. Approximately 25 percent (the State’s share) of the project which cost about $60,000 was funded by donations. Sportfish Restoration Funds, generated through a manufacturer’s excise tax on fishing-related tackle and equipment have facilitated a large percentage of the fisheries work done in Arkansas and the rest of the country since the late 1970’s.

The fish cover project, among the largest of its kind in fresh water, involved the sinking of approximately 30,000 trees to create fish attractors at 200 sites on the lake. The trees were cut from the shoreline, following Corps of Engineers guidelines, then sunk in bundles consisting of 1 to 5 trees (depending on the size of the trees) with concrete anchors. The trees averaged 4 to 5 inches in diameter and ranged in size from 2 to 18 inches in diameter. Hardwoods were preferred but many cedars were also used. The bundles were dropped at a depth of 20-25 feet at 525 to 530 feet above mean sea level along a contour line roughly parallel to the shoreline. A reflective blue and white sign.

was attached to a tree on the shoreline to mark the location of a bundle of trees about in the center of the attractor. Anglers or SCUBA divers can use these signs and sonar to locate the line of bundles.

The development stage of the project was completed in 1989. Since that time, new cover has been added to the sites on a rotational basis to maintain their attractiveness to fish. The project has improved angler catch rates. Underwater observations have shown that the cover effectively attracts fish (especially black bass, crappie, bluegill, walleye, and catfish.