Summer will be here soon. For many of us, that means vacation time is just around the corner. It’s time to start planning where we might go, what we might do and when we might do it, especially if our vacation will take us out of state.
For Arkansans who love fishing, time off often means time on the water. We love to chase our favorite sportfish — bass, catfish, crappie, bream and more. To spend more time fishing and less time traveling, however, we like to visit prime fishing hot spots that aren’t too distant. If we can find a great fishing hole in one of the surrounding states, our drive time won’t be too long, and we can spend more of our vacation with a hook or lure in the water.
This guide can help in that respect. It includes descriptions of blue-ribbon fishing waters in Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma, with contact information that will help you find more information on each locale.
Catfish to the north
Among the best catfishing waters in states surrounding Arkansas is Harry S. Truman Reservoir, better known as Truman Lake. This 55,600-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers impoundment sprawls between Clinton and Warsaw in west-central Missouri. Visiting anglers catch scores of 50- to 70-pound blue catfish and flatheads here every summer, and channel cats from 5 to 10 pounds are abundant, too. All you have to do is locate the proper structure and cover, present the proper bait in the proper manner, and hang on. The catfish will do the rest.
A great source of Truman Lake information is the Clinton (Missouri) Chamber of Commerce website, www.clintonmo.com, where you’ll find an excellent lake map and a guide to local attractions and accommodations.
Bluegill honey hole
Reelfoot Lake in northwest Tennessee’s Obion and Lake counties ranks high among the best-known bluegill hot spots in the country. In fact, many experts consider this 15,000-acre natural lake the best bream lake in America. Superb fishing can be expected throughout summer, with typical fish ranging in weight from 3/4 to 1 1/4 pounds. Catching 100 or more a day isn’t unusual for a two-person party. And fishing for largemouth bass, crappie and catfish can be extraordinary this time of year, too.
Reelfoot is a big lake, and if you’re unfamiliar with it, finding fish, even bluegills, can be difficult. To avoid that trouble, consider hiring a guide. Some of the best work out of Blue Bank Resort in Hornbeak. Learn more at www.bluebankresort.com.
Home of the 3-pound crappie
As one avid crappie angler said when I polled him on the top crappie-fishing states, “There’s Mississippi, and then there’s everywhere else. The Magnolia State is its own crappie planet!”
Top here is Grenada Lake, a shallow 36,000-acre Corps of Engineers impoundment 82 miles south of Memphis on Interstate 55. Grenada produces more trophy crappie than any other fishery in the country. Big fish are so common, the local tourism board has nicknamed the lake “Home of the 3-Pound Crappie.” Fishhound.com, in an article on the country’s top 50 crappie waters published last year, rated Grenada No. 1 overall. You can’t go wrong visiting here if you want to take home a cooler full of good-eating crappie fillets.
For more information on guided fishing and lodging, visit www.grenadalakecrappieguides.com.
Redfish, speckled trout, flounder, snapper, bluefish, jack crevalle, yellowfin tuna, black drum, spadefish, triggerfish, sheepsheads: these are just a few of the saltwater offerings available to anglers in the Gulf waters around Cocodrie, Louisiana, in southern Terrebonne Parish. Offshore a few miles are the ever-popular oil rigs. A little closer to land are the barrier islands. Then there are the deep-water passes, inland bays and a multitude of unspoiled shores for surf fishing. Using bass-fishing tackle, you can catch 10 to 20 species of fish during a good day of fishing, including some real heavyweights. A trip here is a good way to fill your freezer with healthy, delicious saltwater fillets.
The Houma Area Convention and Visitors Bureau can help you with all your planning, including guides, accommodations, sightseeing and more. Visit www.houmatourism.com.
No other public bass lake on the planet has generated more positive ink over the past few years than the 67,000-acre Lake Amistad on the Texas/Mexico border near Del Rio, Texas. Two words explain it: big bass. Scads of them. This is not a body of water known for producing largemouths over 10 pounds every day, although it does so with impressive regularity. (The lake record caught Dec. 28, 2005, weighed 15.68 pounds.) What put Amistad on the map is a bountiful population of 4- to 7-pound bruisers so easy to fool a monkey could probably catch one. One visit here, and you’ll find yourself thinking there’s no reason to travel to Mexico to experience fish-a-minute bass action.
Amistad is chock-full of prime bass habitat that includes abundant hydrilla, hundreds of points, coves, flooded brush, timber, rocky shorelines, inlets, submerged ledges, boulders and drop-offs. And because the weather is warm here nine months of the year, this clear blue lake can be fished when other prime waters have little to offer. If you’re a bassing fanatic, this “Lake of Friendship” should definitely be on your list of must-visit hot spots. For more information, visit the Del Rio Chamber of Commerce website at www.drchamber.com.
Trout, stripers and more
You can exit Interstate 40 several places on its 331-mile journey through Oklahoma and find nearby fishing opportunities. For one of the best, take exit 287 in eastern Oklahoma and drive north
5 miles to the Illinois River at Gore, The Trout Capital of Oklahoma.
Public-use areas on the 7.7-mile stretch of river below Lake Tenkiller Dam provide shore access where you can ply the cool, running water for rainbow and brown trout up to 10 pounds. Striped bass swim the river, too, gobbling up trout and busting tackle. The Illinois produced the state record 47-pounder. Walleyes, saugers and white bass are also abundant. The Gore Chamber of Commerce has all the info you’ll need to plan a visit at www.gorechamber.net.