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

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Walleye

Both Bull Shoals Lake and Lake Norfork contain excellent Walleye populations. Natural reproduction occurs in both lakes but must be supplemented by stocking. Walleye are the first fish to spawn in the lakes and do not provide parental protection of their eggs or young so they are subjected to voracious predation, especially by longear sunfish. Natural reproduction of Walleye is most successful when the lakes are turbid from high inflows in the spring and there is abundant cover. In 1990 a very high water year in Lake Norfork, Arkansas Game & Fish, and Missouri Department of Conservation conducted a cooperative evaluation of Walleye fingerling stockings using microtags. These are magnetized slivers of wire injected into the snout as a permanent detectable marker. These stocked fingerlings have consistently made up over 30% of the 1990 year-class of Walleye making the spawning run up the North Fork River and Bryant Creek in Missouri, clear evidence that the stockings were successful. Annually Norfork is stocked with 100,000 to 200,000 Walleye fingerlings by one or the other state agency. In Arkansas a 6-acre nursery pond located in the Cranfield area is used to grow and release Walleye fingerlings directly into Lake Norfork.

As mentioned Walleye make a major spawning run up the North Fork River and Bryant Creek in Missouri, where they have been collected by electrofishing at a rate of almost 400 per hour. There is a smaller spawning population around Lake Norfork dam. Males averaging about 2 pounds each converge on the spawning grounds in late February and may stay there well into April. The females begin to appear in early March. The peak of the spawn occurs around March 15 in the headwaters and about a week later at the dam. Spawning may be protracted if the spring is cool, lasting almost to April. Females stage in the deeper parts of pools then move onto gravel shoals or into shallow water when its time to spawn, usually with several males in attendance. The eggs, which are adhesive, are scattered over the gravel. After spawning the Walleye disperse and are more easily caught. Walleye prefer cool water and can be located on submerged islands, points, fish attractors, and other types of structure at a depth that usually corresponds with the thermocline during late spring, summer, and fall. The farther downlake the occur, the deeper they may be during those months. They feed primarily on shad.

Walleye as big as 19 pounds have been caught on Lake Norfork and Bull Shoals. Every year a number of 13 to 14 pounders are caught. More common are 5 to 7 pounders. In one gill net set by Game and Fish, 9 Walleye ranging from 10 to 16 pounds were caught one night on Bull Shoals Lake.