It’s no wonder anglers head to the tributaries of Beaver Lake during spring spawning time.
It’s show time in the White and War Eagle river arms of the lake when the spawn is on. Jon Conklin, stoked a crowd’s fishing fever during his talk in March at a fishing program held at Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area.
“You look at the variety of fish in these tributaries right now, and it’s amazing. You’ve got walleye moving up the rivers to spawn first, then white bass and striped bass follow. If that’s not enough, big paddlefish are in there, too,” Conklin told the crowd.
Most anglers don’t think of paddlefish when they head to the White or War Eagle tributaries. Paddlefish look prehistoric with their long snouts that lend credence to their other name, spoonbill. They’re filter feeders that feed on plankton and don’t usually bite lures. Yet paddlefish are among the mixed bag of species there for the catching from March through mid-May. Cooler than usual water temperature could keep the bite going longer.
Eric Gates, a fisheries biologist with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission in the Rogers fisheries office, said an angler caught a 102-pound paddlefish earlier this spring at the Twin Bridges access of the White River at Goshen.
“He was fishing from a kayak and using a little crank bait to catch walleye,” Gates said. “It took him over an hour to land that fish.”
The angler contacted Game and Fish to weigh the paddlefish as a possible state record. It was a few pounds shy of the 118-pound state record paddlefish caught at Beaver Lake in 2020.
Gates was among a quartet of anglers who gathered April 10 to test the waters of the War Eagle River downstream from War Eagle Mill while fishing from kayaks.
The anglers launched at the Cemetery Hole, a pay access on the river where a landowner charges $2 per vehicle. The gate and pay box are one-quarter mile west of the mill. Game plan was to head upstream and fish a mile to the mill then drift back down.
Fingers and toes were crossed in hopes of tangling with some heavy white bass or walleye. The four caught and released a mixed bag that included spotted bass, sunfish and one walleye, but the white bass were no-shows.
An angler fishing from shore, Elder Esquivel of Rogers, had the hot hand. He proudly pulled a stringer from the water to show the group a striped bass he’d caught that looked to be 20 pounds, plus a smaller striper.
One of the kayak anglers, Becky Roark of Lowell, drifted up to Esquivel to take a picture.
“What’d you catch those on?” she asked. Equivel showed her a handful of Li’l Fishies, a soft-plastic minnow lure sold by Creme lure company. They’re a favorite of springtime anglers who fish Beaver Lake’s tributaries.
Not only that, Esquivel gave Roark a couple of Li’l Fishies hoping she, too, could feel the joy of catching a big striper.
The catching proved tough, but the fishing was delightful along this picturesque stretch of the War Eagle. Tall bluffs in dazzling colors rise from the east side of the river. The rock faces are nature’s artwork with curves that resemble ocean waves. Seeing War Eagle Mill and the historic War Eagle bridge from the water is a view few people see.
The anglers went home with cameras full of pictures and fond memories of a mixed-bag catch from a beautiful river.
Flip Putthoff can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @NWAFlip.