The White River system reservoirs of Table Rock, Bull Shoals and Norfork are nationally-known for their high-quality fishing and incomparable beauty.
Looking at a map of Missouri or Arkansas, you quickly notice that none of these lakes lie entirely in either state. Their location on the Missouri- Arkansas state line has caused confusion among anglers about fishing regulations. On Bull Shoals Lake, for example, an angler going from Pontiac to Oakland could cross the state line three times in less than two miles. Of course, fishing regulations change with each crossing.
To simplify matters, the Missouri Department of Conservation and the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission have worked cooperatively to streamline regulations on these shared waters, as well as to improve fishing.
One new development should relieve border concerns for anglers fishing these waters. Beginning March 1, 2001, Missouri residents age 16 years and older who fish the Arkansas portions of Table Rock, Bull Shoals, or Norfork lakes will no longer be required to purchase a non-resident Arkansas fishing license. Thanks to a recent agreement between the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission and Missouri Department of Conservation, residents of Missouri and Arkansas who possess a valid resident fishing permit from their respective states may also purchase a $10 White River Border Lakes Permit each year. The permit allows anglers to fish all three lakes in their entirety, saving them more than $20 per year!
Missouri anglers age 65 years and older who possess a valid Missouri driver's license from either state will need only to purchase the White River Border Lakes Permit. The new permit will be available at all Missouri and Arkansas permit vendor locations.
Whether fishing from shore or boat, anglers at Bull Shoals, Table Rock and Norfork lakes are still responsible for observing the regulations of the state in which they are fishing, as some regulations will continue to be different.
The regular, non-resident Missouri fishing permit will continue to be valid on all Missouri waters, including the three White River system border lakes. Likewise, Missouri residents who fish other Arkansas waters, such as the Beaver or Bull Shoals tailwaters, Greers Ferry or Beaver lakes, are still required to purchase a non-resident Arkansas fishing license.
Good communication is one of the main reasons for the progress achieved by Missouri and Arkansas on border waters issues in recent years. Fisheries biologists from both states meet annually to discuss the past year`s sampling and stocking results. They also discuss future fisheries management objectives and strategies regarding shared waters, or waters that flow into the other state. This exchange of information has benefitted the biologists, the fisheries and the anglers of Missouri and Arkansas.
Both states have also taken steps to standardize fishing regulations on these lakes, as well. Some regulations may never be identical, but mostregulations regarding popular game fish have been standardized to reduce confusion among anglers.
For example, the walleye length limit on all three lakes is 18 inches, with a daily limit of four fish. Likewise, the daily limit for catfish (blue, channel and flathead) is 10 fish in the aggregate, and the minimum length limit for crappie is 10 inches, with a daily limit of 15 fish.
On Bull Shoals and Norfork, regulations for black bass (largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass) are identical in both states. The largemouth and smallmouth length limit is 15 inches, and the spotted bass length limit is 12 inches. The daily limit for black bass is six fish in the aggregate.
Table Rock's black bass regulations, however, differ between the two states. On the Missouri side, the length limit for all black bass is 15 inches. On the Arkansas side, the largemouth and smallmouth length limit is 15 inches, but the spotted bass length limit is 12 inches.
At Lake Norfork, cooperative walleye tagging and stocking projects provide good information for future management decisions. Norfork draws walleye anglers from all over North America, so this information could prove vital in maintaining and enhancing the quality of the fishery.
Thanks to cooperation between Missouri and Arkansas, anglers at the three "shared" reservoirs will soon enjoy lower fishing expenses, more standardized regulations and better fishing.
The new White River Border Lakes Permit is a great benefit for Missouri anglers. Here's a rundown of the lakes and the kinds of fishing you will find in them.
Table Rock Lake
Table Rock Lake is a bass angler's paradise. It supports excellent populations of largemouth bass, spotted bass and smallmouth bass, as well as a diversity of habitat that ranges from the deep, clear expanses of the main lake to stained, narrow bottlenecks in the larger tributary streams.
During the past decade, the smallmouth bass population has increased dramatically. The best smallmouth bass fishing is in the mainstem portions, from the Highway 86 Bridge in the Long Creek Arm to the Highway 39 Bridge at Shell Knob. All black bass species in the Missouri portion of Table Rock are protected by a 15-inch length limit.
White bass are also popular among anglers at Table Rock. White bass here enjoy exceptional growth rates, providing anglers opportunities to catch quality fish.
Most white bass are caught during the spring when they migrate up major tributaries to spawn. The most prominent white bass runs occur in the James, Kings and White rivers and in Long Creek. In the summer, anglers catch white bass by trolling crankbaits trailed by small spinners or spoons over gravel flats. They also catch surfacing white bass on topwater lures or with plastic grubs on small jigheads.
In addition, Table Rock offers a unique opportunity to catch paddlefish, one of the largest freshwater sportfish. Paddlefish have been stocked in Table Rock by the Missouri Department of Conservation. The fish are numerous and grow quickly. Most paddlefish are caught in the upper James River Arm, above the Highway 76 Bridge at Bridgeport, where the fish congregate to spawn. If sufficient rainfall occurs and river flows are high enough, paddlefish will move many miles up the James River.
The paddlefish season runs from March 15 through April 30. Paddlefish are protected by a 34-inch length limit. They are measured from the eye to the fork of the tail.
Bull Shoals Lake
The upper end of Bull Shoals is popular among anglers, particularly in the spring, when walleye move upstream into the Forsyth area to spawn. Farther downlake, walleye spawn on rocky main lake points or up some of the major creek arms.
You can catch walleye throughout the day, but anglers have the most success in early spring when fishing at night. After the spawn, you can catch walleye anywhere in the lake by trolling crankbaits and nightcrawlers along flats, dropoffs and rocky points.
Walleye reproduce naturally in Bull Shoals, but the ConservationDepartment augments their numbers by stocking. Growth rates for walleye are excellent in Bull Shoals, which in 1988 surrendered the Missouri state record walleye of 21 pounds, 1 ounce.
White bass, meanwhile, can provide fabulous fishing action for the whole family. Large schools of these lineside brawlers move into the Beaver Creek, Forsyth and Theodosia areas in March and April, at which time you can catch them almost as fast as you can cast. After the spawn, white bass move back out to main lake areas to feed on small gizzard and threadfin shad. To catch them, try small jig/grub combinations, inline spinners and live minnows.
In 1980, Bull Shoals produced a 5-pound, 5-ounce white bass to claim the state record for that species.
Among black bass anglers, Bull Shoals is truly world class. Largemouth and spotted bass are common throughout, but smallmouth bass are most abundant in the main lake, from the areas of Shoal Creek and Pontiac down to the dam.
The best daytime bass fishing occurs in fall, winter and spring. Nighttime patterns work best in summer. Bull Shoals owns Missouri's largemouth bass record. The fish weighed 13 pounds, 14 ounces and was caught in 1961.
Mid-March brings the peak of the walleye spawn to the upper end of Norfork Lake, but at the lower end of the lake, the walleye spawn peaks a few days later along rocky points.
Early in the year, most walleye are caught on lures that imitate baitfish. After the spawn, you can catch them throughout the lake by trolling crankbaits and bouncing nightcrawlers on the bottom along dropoffs, flats and rocky points.
Beginning in April, white, striped and hybrid-striped bass migrate upriver toward Tecumseh and up Norfork`s major tributaries. White bass naturally reproduce in the lake, while striped and hybrid-striped bass are stocked annually by the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission.
These fish relate primarily to schools of shad. Once you find them, you cancatch them with jigs, stickbaits, topwater plugs and live shad. On the Missouri side of Norfork, anglers may harvest 15 of these three species in the aggregate, but only four may be longer than 18 inches.
With so many great fishing opportunities waiting for you at Table Rock, Norfork and Bull Shoals lakes, now is the perfect time to get your White River Border Lakes Permit.
Editor - Tom Cwynar
Managing Editor - Bryan Hendricks
Art Editor - Dickson Stauffer
Designer - Tracy Ritter
Artist - Dave Besenger
Artist - Mark Raithel
Photographer - Jim Rathert
Photographer - Cliff White
Staff Writer - Jim Low
Staff Writer - Joan McKee
Composition - Libby Bode Block
Circulation - Bertha Bainer