The 10 Best Fish to Catch in Arkansas this Summer

Written by Cindy Rasmussen
Updated: October 10, 2022
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The fishing in Arkansas is some of the best in the warm summer months. Whether you are trolling for bass or fly-fishing for some rainbow trout, Arkansas has a little something for everyone. You have to find out why one of the lakes in Arkansas is called the “Striped Bass Capital of the World” and where there best place is to catch 50+ pound catfish. Here are the 10 best fish to catch in Arkansas this summer.

Striped Bass

Lake Ouachita is a highly ranked bass fishing lake and has been called the “Striped Bass Capital of the World.”

©iStock.com/Kathy Byrd

The largest lake in Arkansas, Lake Ouachita, boasts to be the “Striped Bass Capitol of the World”! This 40,000 acre recreational lake has many spots where you can drop a line and reel in some large 30+ pounds stripers. Striped bass are typically 20-40 pounds and have horizontal stripes along their bodies. The best fishing for stripers in Arkansas is in December when there are plenty of shad for them to munch on, but the fishing in Lake Ouachita is really reliable all year round. Lake Norfork in northern Arkansas is another hot spot for striped bass.

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Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass (Bull Shoals Lake)

Just to the west of Norfork Lake is Bull Shoals Lake which is another Bass heaven. You can find striped bass, white bass and small and largemouth bass. If you are looking for largemouth bass they prefer warmer waters with lots of vegetation, whereas smallmouth bass prefer cooler waters in more open areas. The largest smallmouth bass and the largest spotted bass were both caught in Bull Shoals. The largest smallmouth bass on record in Arkansas was 7 lbs. 5 oz and the largest largemouth bass was 16 lbs. 8 oz.

Channel Catfish

Incredible catfish facts - Channel catfish
Channel Catfish are one of the best fish to catch in Arkansas this summer!

©Ryan Somma / Creative Commons

Summer is the best time to fish for catfish in Arkansas. Channel cats prefer to hang out in shallower water during the summer making them easier to spot. With the Mississippi River running down the western border of the state there are multiple spots along the river for excellent catfish fishing. Channel cats are the smaller of the three main catfish types but the most common catfish in North America. They average 2-4 lbs and about a foot long but some can get quite a bit larger. The state record holder in Arkansas is a 38-pounder pulled out of Lake Ouachita!

Blue Catfish

If you really want an impressive trophy fish then you should be fishing for Blue Catfish this summer. The big ones like the Mississippi River and the average ones are 25-46 inches long and weigh 80 lbs…yes, 80 lbs is an average size Blue! The largest Blue catfish in Arkansas was 116 lbs. 12 oz caught by Charles Ashley Jr. on the Mississippi River. It is about time someone breaks this more than 20 year old record set back in the summer of 2001!

Flathead Catfish

Flathead Catfish
One of the best fish to catch in Arkansas this summer is another catfish, the flathead catfish.

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One of the best fish to catch in Arkansas this summer is another catfish, the flathead catfish. While the Mississippi River has great Channel and Blue catfishing, the Arkansas River is where you want to go to find the biggest Flatheads! Experienced anglers say they can pull 30-50 lbs flatheads out of the Arkansas. The current state record, an 80-pounder was pulled out of the Arkansas River just south of Ozark.

Crappie

Crappie held up by a fisherman
Two of he best places to catch crappie in Arkansas this summer is DeGray Lake and Lake Conway.

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If you are looking to get a bucket full of black or white crappie, there are plenty of great spots to find them. DeGray Lake is known to pull in some large crappie. If you are out on DeGray you might also reel in some Hybrid Stripers, Bass or Catfish. Lake Conway is another great lake known for some fine Crappie fishing. Crappie are  good eating pan fish that fries up nicely. A good sized crappie is 8-10 inches and weighs around 1-2 pounds, so nothing like a Catfish. But spending an afternoon catching a few will make for a grand dinner.

Walleye

The best Walleye fishing may be right before summer, but with four amazing walleye fisheries in Arkansas the fishing really good all year around. Walleye can get to be around 30 inches long and weigh 20 pounds. They have a fanned dorsal fin and watch out for their teeth! They are most active during dusk and dawn when they are out looking for food. For the best walleye fishing in Arkansas this summer check out Lake Greeson, , Lake Ouachita, Greers Ferry and Bull Shoals.

Rainbow Trout (Lake Greeson below Narrows Dam)

Fish with open gills
If you could get the GPS location of the absolute best place to catch Rainbow Trout it would be below the Narrows Dam at Lake Greeson (if only fishing could be that exact).

©pfluegler-photo/Shutterstock.com

If you could get the GPS location of the absolute best place to catch Rainbow Trout it would be below the Narrows Dam at Lake Greeson (if only fishing could be that exact). We won’t provide the coordinates but that general area is a great place to find rainbow trout. The record for the largest rainbow trout was pulled from the White River way back in March of 1981. The record stands at 19 lbs. 1 oz. (the largest Cutthroat trout was also pulled from the White River weighing 10 lbs. 2 oz.).

Brown Trout (Norfolk River record breaker)

Comparing rainbow trout to brown trout the brown trout clearly outweigh the rainbows. On May 9, 1992, Howard “Rip” Collins pulled a 40 lbs. 4 oz. brown trout out of the Little Red River.  That is one of the four rivers that consistently have amazing trout all year. The other three to find brown trout (and rainbow) are the Norfork River, White River, and Spring River. Trout are definitely some of the best fish to catch in Arkansas this summer!

Drum

A fisherman is holding a huge fish black drum fish (Pogonias cromis) against the sea. Texas, the Mexican Gulf, the United States
During the hot month of August the Drum fishing is actually pretty great. The state record is 45 lbs. 7 oz.!

©IrinaK/Shutterstock.com

During the hottest weather of the summer in Arkansas you might have a hard time catching some of your favorites but there are always plenty of Drum to put on the plate. Two of the most popular places to catch Drum are on the White River and along the Arkansas River, usually below the dams. The largest Freshwater drum ever caught in Arkansas was a 45 lbs. 7 oz. drum from Lake Wilson.

If you are making your “Summer Fishing Bucket List”, check out the current state records and see what you need to catch to break some records this summer!

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Blue Catfish
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About the Author

I'm a Wildlife Conservation Author and Journalist, raising awareness about conservation by teaching others about the amazing animals we share the planet with. I graduated from the University of Minnesota-Morris with a degree in Elementary Education and I am a former teacher. When I am not writing I love going to my kids' soccer games, watching movies, taking on DIY projects and running with our giant Labradoodle "Tango".

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Where is the best place to fish for striped bass?

The largest lake in Arkansas, Lake Ouachita, boasts to be the “Striped Bass Capitol of the World”! This 40,000 acre recreational lake has many spots where you can drop a line and reel in some large 30+ pounds stripers.

What is the state record for largest Chanel Catfish catch?

The state record holder in Arkansas is a 38-pounder pulled out of Lake Ouachita!

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