Nature has created a wealth of creeks and rivers that twist through quiet hollows. Yet the hand of man shaped one shining gem in the tiara of Ozark streams.
The White River below Beaver Dam is a paddler’s paradise any season of the year. When natural streams go dry, the White River flows thanks to releases through the big dam that towers 228 feet above the stream.
Its water is some of the clearest to be found. Paddlers in canoes and kayaks drift past colorful bluffs. Playful mink skitter along the bank. Bald eagles, graceful herons and kingfishers escort floaters downstream.
Bobbing along on the transparent water, paddlers see graceful trout cruising along the bedrock and gravel stream bed beneath their boats. The chance to catch a limit draws fishing paddlers to this dream of a float stream.
Construction of the massive concrete and earthen hydroelectric dam started in November 1960 and finished in June 1966. The easy current is like a gentle hand carrying floaters downstream when electricity is being generated at Beaver Dam. The seven-mile trip from the dam to Houseman Access can be enjoyed any season of the year.
There’s always enough water, and it’s always around 55 degrees. Releases through the dam come from down deep in Beaver Lake,so the water temperature is nearly the same summer and winter.
A 73-degree Tuesday on Feb. 22 was a mandatory float fishing day, considering that temperature was below zero only a week earlier. Keith Brashers and his fishing buddy placed fishing tackle and lunch into their 17-foot aluminum canoe at the dam’s launch ramp and shoved off for Houseman Access.
Brashers, of Rogers, is one of the top bass anglers on Beaver Lake. His name is routinely near the top of leaderboards at local tournaments. Brashers is an all-around angler who enjoys fishing for bass, crappie and, on this day, rainbow trout.
The pair were giddy to get lures in the water. Record cold had dropped the surface water temperature at Beaver Lake down to an unusual 37 to 38 degrees. Threadfin shad start dying in water colder than 42. Hopes were high that dead shad would be coming through the dam during power generation and the trout would be gorging on the small bait fish.
Water through the dam was churning out the kilowatts and river current all right. As fisherman’s luck would have it, generation stopped as the pair shoved off. That meant no shad, less current and more paddling to reach Houseman Access.
Not only that, trout fishing is generally slower below Beaver Dam when the water drops after generation shuts down. Brashers cast a small, white soft-plastic swim bait that mimics a threadfin shad.
Only a couple of trout fell for the little lure, but Brasher’s second fish was a dandy. He had a fight on his hands just downstream from the U.S. 62 bridge. The trout put on a jumping, splashing show while Brashers hoped his thin 4-pound-test line was up to the task. Finally in the net, the regal rainbow, silvery with dark spots, measured a tad over 16 inches. That’s a fine trout any fishing day.
Below Beaver Dam, anglers may keep a daily limit of five trout. There’s a 13 to 16 inch slot limit, meaning all trout from 13 to 16 inches in length must be released. Only one trout over 16 inches may be kept.
The hand of man also brought trout fishing to the White River. When the large dams that created Beaver, Table Rock and Bull Shoals reservoirs were built, cold-water releases from the dams wiped out fishing for native warm-water species. That included smallmouth bass, which thrilled White River anglers before the tall dams came in.
Nonnative trout were stocked to make up for the loss. Today, trout thrive in the year-round cold water.
Trout stocked in the White River below Beaver Dam, also called the Beaver tailwater, are raised at the federal trout hatchery below Lake Norfork Dam. That’s the word from Wes Sleeper, a trout management biologist with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. Beaver tailwater is part of his management territory.
More trout are stocked during warm months when more people are fishing.
Sleeper headed up a study last fall that showed the trout fishery below Beaver Dam is healthy and well. Electrofishing at night turned up brown trout as long as 33 inches. Two rainbow trout measured 21 inches. There are plenty of rainbow trout in the stream, Sleeper said, but they aren’t overcrowded.
“The rainbow trout population looked as good as we’ve ever seen it,” he said of the results. “We typically didn’t see that many large trout five years ago.”
Reports from anglers below Beaver Dam over the winter were good, Sleeper added.
Trout for all seasons
Rainbow trout are stocked each month at the White River below Beaver Dam and all of Arkansas’ tailwater trout streams.
The trout stocking schedule is listed in the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission trout fishing guidebook and at agfc.com.
At the White River below Beaver Dam, 4,000 rainbow trout were stocked in January and 4,000 in February this year. The March schedule calls for 11,340 trout. Around 11,000 will be stocked in April and 11,000 in May.
The remaining schedule for 2021: June, 9,600; July, 10,235; August, 10,235; September, 10,325; October, 9,680; November, 2,235; December, 2,400. The total is 96,230 rainbow trout in 2021.
In October, 6,000 brown trout will be stocked.
Source: Arkansas Game and Fish Commission