White River Border Lakes Permit

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Published on: Jan. 2, 2001

Last revision: Nov. 8, 2010

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.

Norfork Lake

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.

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