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

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Smallmouth Bass


4 & 5 pound Smallmouth from Buffalo River electrofishing

Smallmouth bass, also called "brownies", select rubble, gravel, and crevice bedrock ledges along the main lake and the mouths of bays and coves for spawning beds. Spawning occurs in early April and peaks when the surface water temperature reaches 57 F. As with all Black bass, the male builds the nest by fanning silt and fine particles from a gravel area with his tail. He attracts one or more ripe females to his nest, spawns with them, then drives them away. The nests are normally built 6 to 12 feet deep. On average the nests will contain about 2,000 eggs which take 5 to 7 days to hatch. The male protects the nest until the fry swim up, then soon abandons it.

In Bull Shoals Lake, the best Smallmouth habitat and the highest concentrations of them are in the middle portion of the lake between Oakland and Peel, with some good areas around points, bluffs, and islands downlake from Oakland. The Arkansas State Record Smallmouth (7 lbs. 4 oz.) was caught in Bull Shoals. Every year the lake produces several 5 to 6 pound fish and many in the 3 to 4 pound class. The average is between 1 and 2 pounds

In Lake Norfork, Smallmouth are found primarily from Robinson Point downlake to the dam with the highest concentrations being in the lower lake. Norfork produces a few 5 pounders every year but most will be 2 pounds or less.

After the thermocline sets up in both lakes in May, Smallmouth are usually found 17 to 30 feet deep in the lakes. They feed most actively at night, early in the morning, and late in the evening. Their primary foods are crayfish and sunfish.

Smallmouth In Streams

Although all three Black bass species can be found in Arkansas Ozarks streams, the premiere stream fish is the Smallmouth. The Smallmouth evolved in clear, cool mountain creeks and rivers, so it is best suited to survive and flourish in Ozark streams. Two of the best Smallmouth streams in America are located in the Arkansas Ozarks - Crooked Creek and the Buffalo River. These two streams are currently Arkansas’ only designated Blue Ribbon Smallmouth streams.

Because of good water quality (high concentrations of calcium carbonates, moderate pH, high oxygen levels, etc.) fairly long growing season, cool water temperatures, good forage populations, and plentiful habitat, Smallmouth grow fast and live long in Arkansas Ozarks waters. Nine year old fish are not uncommon. Smallmouth can reach up to 6 pounds in these streams. Many 3 to 4 pound fish are caught in Buffalo River and Crooked Creek every year. Pools in small streams may harbor a 2 pounder. Almost any of the numerous year round creeks (or the year round portions of our creeks) will produce 1 pound fish. GET PERMISSION TO FISH ON PRIVATE PROPERTY OR DON’T GO!

In streams the opportunistic Smallmouth feeds on crayfish, minnows, sunfish, amphibians, and terrestrial insects. Pound for pound they are one of the hardest fighting species. They are usually found near cover which they utilize for ambushing their prey and to hide from predators. The most used types of cover are overhanging banks, submerged boulders, root wads, and large woody debris. Bigger fish are generally found in pools but also utilize runs and deeper riffles for foraging. Young are found in riffles and in aquatic vegetation in shallow water.

Because streams are shallow, water temperatures fluctuate widely, depending on air temperature. Smallmouth spawning usually begins in April (early in the month if spring is early) but may continue well into May. Smallmouth seek thermal refuge in the pools in summer and winter.