Fish story contest off and reeling

Volunteers improve Clifty Creek banks

April 21, 2022 Comments Off on Two for the show: Walleye, white bass keep lines tight in April Featured, Fishing, Latest, On The Water

Two for the show: Walleye, white bass keep lines tight in April

Flip Putthoff
NWA Democrat-Gazette

It’s a win win for anglers in April when walleye and white bass bend fishing rods into rainbow shapes up the tributaries of Beaver and Table Rock lakes.

The pot of gold gets filled with limits of sharp-toothed walleye and heavy catches of silver-sided white bass. Mid-April is ripe for the catching. Word from the water is that walleye and white bass are both biting.

Walleye have become a marquis species at Beaver Lake, thanks to efforts by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. Work to reestablish these native fish started years ago. Anglers today are reeling in the dividends.

Robert Smith of Hickory Creek fishes for walleye in the White and War Eagle river tributaries of Beaver Lake, in the White River below Beaver Dam and in the Kings River arm of Table Rock Lake.

Walleye fishing is good in the White River at Goshen in the Twin Bridges area where Arkansas 45 crosses the White River and Richland Creek, Smith said. His go-to rig is a nightcrawler harness baited with a live nightcrawler and fished behind a one-ounce bottom bouncer weight. Smith trolls the rig slowly, about 1 mph, keeping the nightcrawler near the bottom.

By far his favorite walleye haunt is the Kings River arm of Table Rock. Smith has struck rainbow-gold walleye riches in the river just across the state line in Missouri. Smith trolls his nightcrawler rigs in the stretch between the Missouri 86 bridge and the state line.

This spring he’s caught two walleye over 6 pounds each. The daily limit on walleye is four and walleye must be 18 inches or longer to keep at Beaver Lake and its tributaries and at Table Rock and its tributaries, including the Kings and White rivers.

Chip Wiseman of Rogers is another walleye ace who fishes mainly on the White River below Beaver Dam. Walleye fishing has been excellent there this spring, he said. Wiseman has done well with his own fishing and regularly hears walleye reports where he works at Hook, Line and Sinker in Bella Vista.

The catching has been enhanced by water releases through the spillway gates at Beaver Dam, Wiseman said. The Army Corps of Engineers has frequently released modest flows through the gates this spring in an effort to keep the Beaver Lake level down. Wiseman said that gets spawning walleye moving up the tailwater stream as far as the dam. At lower water levels with less current, they may not migrate as far upstream.

“The walleye have been stacked up there. Trolling with Flicker Shad crank baits has been good. The hot thing has been a live minnow fished on a jig head,” he said.

It’s a different story for white bass in the White and War Eagle tributaries of Beaver Lake, said Jon Conklin, a fishing guide who lives at Goshen. “The whites are kind of sputtering. They’re in there, but people just aren’t catching the numbers that they have in the past.”

It could be the up and down water levels in both rivers because of rain, Conklin speculated, as well as wild water temperature swings.

“Back in February we had 57 degree water in the rivers. Then we got snow and that knocked it back down into the 40s,” Conklin said.

Same story on the War Eagle River. Fred Sutton owns property on the river a mile downstream from War Eagle Mill. He lets anglers fish on his property for a fee and keeps tabs on the white bass fishing.

“There have been a lot of fishermen, but no huge stringers that I’ve seen. A lot of the same people have been going down there every day so I’m sure they’re catching a few,” Sutton said.

Just about any lure that resembles a minnow or shad works for white bass. There’s no daily limit or size limit on white bass at Beaver Lake and its tributaries. Anglers can keep all the fish they want.

Conklin thinks that should change. He’d like to see Game and Fish put a 25-fish daily limit on white bass.

In Conklin’s view, white bass fishing hasn’t been as good the last three to five years as it was before. Could be that fishing pressure and white bass harvest have increased as the area’s population has boomed? Or it could be that those up and down water levels and temperature swings have made catching tougher. Either way he favors a 25-fish white bass limit, he said.

Jon Stein, a Game and Fish biologist and Northwest Arkansas fisheries supervisor, said a 25-fish daily limit isn’t needed at Beaver and its tributaries.

White bass are prolific spawners. A female white bass carries 500,000 to 900,000 eggs that are released during the spawn.

“Their eggs so tiny they look like applesauce,” Stein said.

White bass are abundant in Beaver Lake, he noted. Fishing pressure on them is greatest in April and minuscule the rest of the year.

“We just don’t think there is enough harvest in one month to warrant changing the regulation,” he said.

Spring flooding has increased over the years on the White and War Eagle rivers. Rising and falling water are likely more to blame for lower catch rates than harvest, Stein said. 


Catch and keep

Most anglers keep and eat walleye and white bass they catch at Beaver Lake. The daily limit on walleye at Beaver Lake and its tributaries is four and walleye must be 18 inches or longer to keep. There is no daily limit or size limit on white bass at Beaver Lake or its tributaries.

Source: Arkansas Game and Fish Commission