A saying among anglers is big fish get big because they’re smart.
Such is the case with some of the monster trout that turned up on the White River below Beaver Dam during a study by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
Game and Fish did two nights of electrofishing research on the tailwater stream in mid-September. A brown trout measuring 33.3 inches long and weighing 22.6 pounds was netted, measured and released. Two rainbow trout that were captured each measured 21 inches long.
That’s the word from Wes Sleeper, a trout management biologist with Game and Fish who headed the study. It’s proof for sure that big trout swim in the stream. Good luck catching one.
“Those trout have been in the river for years. They know what real food looks like,” Sleeper said.
Seven miles of the White River, from Beaver Dam to Houseman Access, is considered the Beaver tailwater, although trout can be caught downstream from Houseman Access. Past Houseman, the White River becomes the upstream reaches of Table Rock Lake.
With electrofishing, charged cables dangle in the water from a Game and Fish boat and produce electric current around the front of the boat. Fish are stunned long enough to be netted and brought aboard. They’re measured, then released unharmed.
Work is done at night, Sleeper said, because trout are more active after dark making catch rates better.
The White River below Beaver Dam is one of the tailwater streams in Sleeper’s area of management. Game and Fish began sampling the stream in 2006 and electrofishes it each year that conditions allow.
Big trout aren’t the only good news. Overall numbers show trout are plentiful, but not overcrowded.
In two nights of electrofishing, 1,229 rainbow trout and 94 brown trout were netted, measured and released.
Fifty seven of the rainbow trout were longer than 16 inches, Sleeper said, and there were plenty of rainbow trout 13 to 16 inches long.
A slot limit of 13 to 16 inches is among the regulations below Beaver Dam. That means all trout 13 to 16 inches long must be released. Anglers may keep trout shorter than 13 inches and one trout longer than 16 inches. The daily limit is five.
“The rainbow trout population looked as good as we’ve ever seen it,” Sleeper said. “We typically didn’t see that many large trout five years ago.”
Brown trout numbers were down slightly, but the browns netted in the study were as large as browns in other tailwater streams, such as below Bull Shoals Lake and Lake Norfork dams.
Most of the brown trout were netted from the middle portion of the Beaver tailwater, in the area of the Bertrand Access. It could be that trophy-sized brown trout prowl the lower end of the tailwater, between the U.S. 62 bridge and Houseman Access. But the water is deeper there, Sleeper noted, and the electricity may not reach the bottom.
Rainbow trout don’t reproduce in Arkansas streams. They’re stocked by Game and Fish. The stocking schedule called for a total of 96,230 rainbow trout to be stocked in the Beaver tailwater during 2020. Some 2,235 were scheduled to be stocked this month, according to a chart in the 2020 Game and Fish trout fishing guidebook.
The chart lists a total of 6,000 brown trout to be stocked this month in the tailwater. November is the only month brown trout are to be stocked this year.
Though some browns are stocked, brown trout do reproduce in the state’s tailwater streams, including below Beaver Dam.
Late fall is spawning time for brown trout in all of Arkansas’ tailwaters. The fish create nests, called redds, that appear as clean, polished areas in the shallow parts of a shoal.
Wade-fishermen should avoid stepping on redds at all cost, Sleeper said. If the nests are disturbed, eggs become dislodged and don’t hatch.
Trout fishing season is year-round in Arkansas. Fishing can be good during the fall or any time of year.
Catch a trout
A variety of lures and bait work for trout fishing below Beaver Dam. Fly fishing with midges and other flies that imitate aquatic insects is good. Best baits include worms, nightcrawlers, salmon eggs, corn and trout dough bait such as Power Bait. Effective lures include small spoons, small crank baits and small jigs.
Check the 2020 Arkansas trout fishing guidebook for regulations.