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story.lead_photo.caption Lake Conway is a great place to catch crappie in early summer.

Flooding will limit or eliminate a lot of fishing opportunities on and around the Arkansas River for a while, but you can still fish away from flood-affected areas, including on our trout streams.

One excellent destination is the Carpenter Dam tailwater, at the head of Lake Catherine. Shane Goodner of Catch-'Em-All Guide Service in Hot Springs specializes in Carpenter Tailwater trout fishing, but torrential releases from Lake Hamilton created unsafe boating and fishing conditions for most of the winter and spring.

That means that the thousands of trout that the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission released into Lake Catherine during the fall and winter were largely unpressured for several months. They're still there, they've adapted to life in the wild, and they've grown.

Now that Lake Hamilton is down to an acceptable level, large-volume releases have stopped, and the tailwater is accessible to bank anglers, boats and kayaks. The time to catch trout is now, before hot weather drives them downlake into deep holes.

Also, flows are light on the White River below Bull Shoals Dam and on the North Fork of the White River below Norfork Dam. Bull Shoals Lake was 60 feet above flood pool on Thursday, and the Corps ran only two hydropower generators on Friday. Generators were idle at Norfork Dam, with only enough water to maintain minimum flow.

That means drift fishing conditions are about ideal below Bull Shoals Dam, and wade fishing conditions are perfect below Norfork Dam.

Also, the Corps has been running two hydropower units daily for 12 hours on the Little Red River. Wade fishing conditions are excellent for a few hours depending on which portions of the river are rising and falling.

When the water rises, you can catch rainbow trout from a boat with PowerBait, mealworms or waxworms on dropper rigs. You can catch big brown trout with big jerkbaits. To reduce stress on trout you release, pinch down the barbs on treble hooks or replace treble hooks with single barbless hooks.

The Spring River is not influenced by dams and is almost always fishable. The only thing that really changes is water clarity after rain.

The lower White River has been receding, which should provide excellent fishing conditions in the oxbows and backwaters of the White River National Wildlife Refuge. Crappie are bunched up on brushpiles right now. You can also catch chunky largemouth and Kentucky bass in the mornings next to banks and around boat docks with plastic worms.

Bream are also biting in the White River backwaters and elsewhere. Lake Conway supports an outstanding bream fishery, and it's very easy to fish from a boat. It's a little high right now, but it's safe and gentle, as are other small waters such as lakes Overcup (Morrilton), Jack Nolen (Greenwood), Hinkle (Waldron), Charles (Jonesboro), Bear Creek (Marianna) and Storm Creek (Helena-West Helena).

There are many ways to fish for bream. You can dangle live crickets under a bobber or fish them off the bottom with a dropper rig or light Carolina rig. You can use popping bugs on a fly rod or drift tiny jigs over beds.

You can also do a number of projects off the water, like build a custom fishing rod transport tube. The necessity of this accessory became evident two weeks ago when I broke two fishing rods during a float fishing trip in the Ozarks. The first break happened during a canoe wreck and was unavoidable, but the second occurred in the back of my truck on the way home. It was one of my favorite spinning rods, a medium-light action Gander Mountain Vortex that I've used to catch untold numbers of bass, walleyes and stripers.

You can buy a collapsible Plano rod case for about $50, or you can make your own for about $22. I used a 10-foot length of 3-inch PVC ($11), a 3-inch end cap ($1.50), a 3-inch coupling ($1.50), a 3-inch cleanout adapter with screw-in plug ($5.50) and a sponge ($2). I cut the pipe to 7 feet, 6 inches. I cut two discs from the sponge to fit inside the end cap and the screw-in plug and glued them in place. The sponges cushion rod tips.

I glued the end cap to one end of the pipe and the coupling to the other end, and then glued the cleanout adapter to the hub. In just 30 minutes, I created a travel tube that will protect fishing rods from just about anything.

I also got a plastic ammo box for $7 to protect my reels from dust and grime during transit.

Rain or shine, there's always something for sportsmen to do in Arkansas.

Photo by Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/BRYAN HENDRICKS
The White River below Bull Shoals Dam is in perfect condition to drift for brown trout right now.

Sports on 06/02/2019

Print Headline: Away from the flood

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