Fish Catching Travel
Nestled in the north central region of the Ozarks Mountains is an area known as the Twin Lakes. Surrounding Mtn. Home Arkansas is some of the finest freshwater fishing in North America. Not only know for the fabulous bass fishing of Lake Norfork and Bull Shoals, where else can you fish for world record brown trout, stream smallmouth, beautiful walleye, and big stripers, all within 3o miles of each other?
An Ozark Mountain Smallmouth.
Impounded in the 50’s, Bull Shoals and Norfork have had the ups and downs all reservoirs go through in their maturation. As part of that growth the fishing is now as good as it has ever been. Being highland lakes, water is released from depths of 200 feet from both dams, Bull Shoals into the White River, Norfork into the North Fork of the White River. These cool water discharges make for some of the finest trout fishing in America.
Both lakes are big, clear, highland reservoirs. Norfork, depending on water level, has around 400 miles of shoreline and covers approximately 22,000 surface acres. Bull Shoals is one massive lake, depending on the water level it has around 750 miles of shoreline covering 0ver 50,000 surface acres. Though big lakes, unlike many other huge lakes in this country, they snake their way through the mountains, and with so many ramps available there are very few days you can not find a place to fish or ski due to the wind.
The water in both lakes is as clear as any in the country. And adding to the beauty is the fact that being Corps of Engineers Lakes there are basically no houses on the actual shoreline and when you are fishing either lakes it is like fishing in the woods, because you are. Another advantage of these Corp of Engineer Lakes is that there are good ramps, and lots of them, giving you access to any area of either lake you wish to fish. There is a small day use fee, $3 at this writing, making it relatively cheap to launch.
There are also plenty of boat docks on both lakes. From full service, to only open at odd times, most offer gas, fishing licenses, and supplies. Should you plan on going, be sure to check out any dock you plan on using as their hours and services vary. On Bull Shoals I highly recommend Lakeview Cove Marina for their good service and friendly attitude. As you know I rarely specifically do not recommend a business but watch out on “Bull Shoals” for a marina with the worst attitude and service. I would not recommend them for any reason when I lived there 20 years ago, and would not recommend them to you today. Enough said about that. And when you visit should you want to leave your boat in the water they all have overnight dockage.
Lake Norfork Stripers – Ah the good old days.
Lets get to the good stuff, the fishing. It would be impossible to tell you all you need to know in this article, but the highlights should be sufficient to get your fishing juices flowing. To simplify matters lets take Bull Shoals first. If you would like to catch a nice smallmouth and a good walleye in the same day this is the place. The walleye explosion the last few years has folks chasing walleyes seriously these days. The new Missouri record striper of over 50lbs came from Bull Shoals last year, add that to great white bass fishing, crappie, largemouth, Kentucky, catfish, and you have a fish factory. It’s crystal clear water can be daunting at times, but the fishing is fine.
Bull Shoals walleye headed to the frying pan.
Norfork has all the same fish as Bull Shoals but has become on of the better striper fishing lakes in Arkansas. Night fishing, as well as daytime trolling or live bait fishing, account for big stripers and hybrids, and boating a 20lber is one of the great freshwater accomplishments. And with plenty of bass, white bass, crappie, and other things to keep you busy, Norfork is a great destination. In fact you can take out of one lake, and be putting in the other in 30 minutes, sweet.
Lake Norfork Largemouth.
Here is what I feel is the punch line to the Twin Lakes Area, the rivers. Both the White and the North Fork are covered up with trout. From plentiful stockers, to huge browns and rainbows, there is trout fishing for any particular method or skill level. Soak a worm from the bank, take a float trip , lures or bait, fly fishing, all are successful. The rivers have changed a lot since I guided on them in the mid 70’s, but the fishing is as good today as it ever was. Back in those days it was a rare sight to see a fly fisherman, but since “they discovered” the river, fly fishing is a common practice. But you do not have to be a purist to catch trout, in fact you and the family can camp below Bull Shoals Dam in one of the most beautiful campgrounds in America and catch them from the bank. They are always willing and it is a great way to introduce a child to fishing.
A morning wade on the White River.
A little over an hour away is the Buffalo National River, one of the first nationally protected rivers in America. In the mountains, it is a great float with good smallmouth fishing. There are several choices for a float, and with lots of drop off services, you just show up and go. Canyons, rapids, the woods, a float on the Buffalo has it all. A float on the Buffalo River is also great family fun, not to mention the fine fishing.
Another river option is Crooed Creek. A small stream, it also has great smallmouth fishing in a cool setting . With a restrictive smallmouth limit, the fishing is fine and there are plenty of services to set you up with a float trip. Light line, small baits, big smallmouth, what more could a guy want.
From high dollar resorts to riverside camping, the area has it all. One of the cool things about the Ozarks is that the old family style lakeside resort still exists. Nothing fancy in many cases, you are out in the woods, and they usually have a dock for the boat. And with the clear water in both lakes, the skiing, swimming, and scuba diving is fun for the whole family.
For camping nothing beats the Bull Shoals State Park below Bull Shoals Dam. It is a great place to camp, and though I used to live close to there, we still loved to spend a few days there. And on a hot summer day when they open the dam to generate electricity it cools off the park. You can catch trout by walking a few feet to the river, and if you want to trailer the boat for some lake fishing there is a ramp on Bull Shoals Lake right up the road. It is a great place for the family, with all the fishing and floating you could ever want just down the road no matter what your preference. Additionally there are multiple campgrounds run by the Corp of Engineers on both lakes with great facilities.
When I first moved to Mtn. Home you could not even get anything to eat after 7 at night. It was a small town with a two lane highway that closed up after dark, and after the summer season, things slowed down even more dramatically. Now Mtn. Home is a bustling community with a college, a good hospital, the obligatory Wal Mart, along with a host of other amenities to serve visitors. So if the small resort or camping is not your thing there are motels in town for those who prefer that route.
From a little know destination outside of the Midwest, the Twin Lakes area has become a worldwide destination, and rightly so. There are few places in America where you have the beauty of the mountians combined with great lake fishing and world class trout fishing. Where you can float a wild protected national river in the daytime, and catch stripers that night. Where you can wake up, roll out of the tent, and catch fresh trout for your riverside supper.
If you have never visited the Twin Lake area you need to put it on your bucket list. A fishing paradise, it is one of the great vacation spots for the whole family.
A good marina on Bull Shoals Lake http://lakeviewcovemarina.com/
Corps of Engineers info/lakes/camping http://www.swl.usace.army.mil/Home.aspx
Mtn. Home Chamber http://www.enjoymountainhome.com/
Good Luck and Tight Lines