Best Fishing Spots in “The Center” – A Guide to Arkansas Lakes

Arkansas, often referred to as “The Natural State,” is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, especially those who love fishing. The state boasts a plethora of picturesque lakes, each offering a unique angling experience. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the best fishing spots in “The Center,” an area in Arkansas known for its stunning natural beauty and diverse fishing opportunities. From largemouth bass to rainbow trout, you’re in for a treat. Let’s embark on a fishing adventure across 15 magnificent lakes, as we uncover their hidden gems and best-kept secrets.

1. Lake Dardanelle: The Angler’s Paradise

Lake Dardanelle a best bass fishing spot in center

Location: Russellville, Arkansas

Lake Dardanelle, located in the heart of “The Center,” is an angler’s paradise. Spanning over 34,000 acres, it offers a diverse range of fish species and some of the most sought-after fishing experiences. Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned pro, this lake has something for everyone.

Largemouth Bass: The Crown Jewel

Lake Dardanelle is renowned for its largemouth bass population. Anglers from far and wide flock to this lake for a chance to reel in a trophy bass. With the water level kept stable, it provides an ideal habitat for these big fish. The best time to catch them is during early spring when they’re actively feeding.

Catfish Galore

If you’re a fan of channel catfish and flathead catfish, Lake Dardanelle is the place to be. These whiskered giants thrive here, making it a great spot for catfishing enthusiasts. Night fishing from the accessible docks can be particularly rewarding.

Table Rock Lake: Your Gateway to Epic Fishing

Location: Branson, Missouri (just a stone’s throw away from The Center)

Though not located within “The Center,” Table Rock Lake is a short drive away and too good to miss. With miles of pristine shoreline, Table Rock Lake is another fantastic fishing destination, especially if you’re looking for some of the best bass fishing experiences.

Smallmouth Bass: A Challenge Awaits

Table Rock Lake is famous for its smallmouth bass. These aggressive fighters offer a thrilling challenge for anglers. Fishing in the rocky areas along the shore can yield great results, especially during late September.

Trout Fishing Delight

The lake also offers opportunities for rainbow trout and brown trout fishing. These elusive species can be found in the deeper, cooler parts of the lake. If you’re patient and persistent, you can reel in some beautiful trout.

Bull Shoals: Where Anglers’ Dreams Come True

Bull Shoals a man caught a fish

Location: Bull Shoals, Arkansas

Bull Shoals Lake is a jewel in “The Center.” This massive reservoir, stretching over 45,000 acres, provides a range of fishing experiences and some of the best chances for success in Arkansas.

Bass Fishing Extravaganza

Bull Shoals is home to both largemouth and smallmouth bass. The picturesque shoreline and clear waters make it a prime spot for bass fishing. Try your luck with topwater lures early in the morning for an unforgettable angling adventure.

Panfish Paradise

For those interested in panfish, Bull Shoals offers excellent opportunities for black crappie fishing. You can find these fish in the shallower areas, especially near submerged structures and brush piles. It’s an excellent place to introduce beginners to the joys of fishing.

Lake Trout: A Special Attraction

A unique feature of Bull Shoals is its population of lake trout. These cold-water fish can be found in deeper parts of the lake. Fishing for lake trout is an experience every angler should have at least once in their life.

Norfork Lake: Your Gateway to Rainbow Trout

Location: Mountain Home, Arkansas

Norfork Lake is another gem in “The Center,” known for its remarkable fishing opportunities. It’s particularly famous for its rainbow trout fishing.

Rainbow Trout Heaven

Norfork Lake has an active stocking program for rainbow trout, ensuring a consistent supply of these beautiful fish. The best time for rainbow trout fishing is late September when the water temperatures are ideal. Fly fishing is a popular method here.

Other Species Abound

Don’t be fooled by the prominence of rainbow trout; Norfork Lake offers a diverse range of fishing experiences. You can also find largemouth bass, striped bass, and even some catfish.

Greers Ferry Lake: A Recreational Haven

A man caught fish at Greers Ferry Lake

Location: Heber Springs, Arkansas

Greers Ferry Lake is not only a fantastic fishing spot but also a hub for recreational activities. With an impressive shoreline and beautiful picnic areas, it’s a great place to spend a leisurely day with family and friends.

Bass Fishing Bonanza

Largemouth and smallmouth bass are abundant in Greers Ferry Lake. The lake’s varying depths and underwater structures create an ideal environment for these species. Try fishing near the submerged brush for the best results.

Scenic Picnic Areas

Greers Ferry Lake boasts some of the most scenic picnic areas in the region. You can enjoy a peaceful meal by the water, surrounded by the breathtaking Ozark Mountains.

White Oak Lake: The Hidden Gem

A black form man caught fish

Location: Bluff City, Arkansas

White Oak Lake, often overshadowed by its larger counterparts, is a hidden gem that offers a quieter and more intimate fishing experience.

Peaceful Shore Fishing

The shoreline of White Oak Lake provides accessible bank fishing. You can set up your picnic tables right by the water, making it a perfect location for a relaxing day of fishing.

Diverse Fish Population

White Oak Lake hosts a variety of fish, including largemouth bass, bluegill, and crappie. It’s an excellent spot for those who appreciate the solitude of nature and diverse fishing opportunities.

Lake Hamilton: Urban Angling Retreat

Fish display in Lake Hamilton

Location: Hot Springs, Arkansas

Lake Hamilton is an urban oasis for anglers. Nestled in the city of Hot Springs, this lake offers convenient access and a chance to catch some impressive fish.

Largemouth Bass in the City

Despite its urban location, Lake Hamilton provides excellent largemouth bass fishing opportunities. The lake’s structure, including docks and submerged structures, offers ample cover for these bass.

Easy Access for All

Lake Hamilton features accessible dock and bank fishing, making it a great spot for individuals with mobility challenges. The city park surrounding the lake ensures you have access to all the necessary amenities.

DeGray Lake: A Relaxing Retreat

Location: Bismarck, Arkansas

DeGray Lake is a serene fishing destination, perfect for those seeking peace and quiet while they cast their lines.

Tranquil Fishing

DeGray Lake offers a serene and private fishing experience. With numerous hidden coves and sheltered fishing piers, you can enjoy your time in solitude.

Spectacular Wildlife

Apart from fishing, DeGray Lake is known for its abundant wildlife. You may spot sandhill cranes, great blue herons, and even bald eagles during your visit.

Lake Ouachita: The Crown Jewel of “The Center”

Fish in Lake Ouachita

Location: Mountain Pine, Arkansas

Lake Ouachita is often considered the crown jewel of “The Center.” This stunning lake is surrounded by the Ouachita National Forest and offers a range of fishing experiences.

Crystal Clear Waters

Lake Ouachita is known for its crystal clear waters, which make it an ideal spot for underwater visibility and snorkeling, but it’s equally perfect for fishing. The lake is teeming with various fish species, including largemouth and smallmouth bass.

Educational Activities

The visitor center at Lake Ouachita provides educational activities for families and children. You can learn about the local ecosystems and the importance of preserving these natural treasures.

Lake Catherine: A Serene Getaway

Location: Hot Springs, Arkansas

Lake Catherine is a serene and picturesque destination known for its tranquility and ample fishing opportunities.

Relaxing Shore Fishing

Shore fishing at Lake Catherine is a peaceful and serene experience. You can set up a picnic shelter and enjoy a day by the water, angling for crappie, bass, and catfish.

Wagon Rides and More

Lake Catherine State Park offers various outdoor activities, including wagon rides and hiking trails. It’s a great place for a family day out.

Lake Greeson: A Pristine Reservoir

Location: Murfreesboro, Arkansas

Lake Greeson is a pristine reservoir nestled in the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains. With its clear waters and diverse fish population, it’s a fantastic fishing spot.

Scenic Bank Fishing

Lake Greeson is surrounded by picturesque landscapes, making it an excellent place for bank fishing. You can find great spots along the shore to cast your line.

A Variety of Fish

The lake offers a variety of fish, including largemouth bass, crappie, and catfish. It’s an ideal location for those who appreciate the unspoiled beauty of nature.

Horseshoe Lake: The Delta Gem

Location: Hughes, Arkansas

Horseshoe Lake, located in the Arkansas Delta region, is a hidden gem for anglers. This oxbow lake is a quiet retreat for those who appreciate the charms of the Delta.

Crappie Fishing Delight

Horseshoe Lake is renowned for its crappie fishing. The calm and shallow waters create an ideal habitat for these delicious fish. Try your luck in the early spring when they gather near the shallows.

City Park Convenience

Horseshoe Lake offers easy access to the lake via the city park. You can make use of picnic tables, restroom facilities, and other conveniences for a comfortable day of fishing.

Lake Hinkle: A Fishing Haven

Location: Waldron, Arkansas

Lake Hinkle is a hidden gem nestled in “The Center,” offering a peaceful fishing haven surrounded by nature.

Large Fish Abound

Lake Hinkle boasts an impressive population of large fish, including largemouth bass, bluegill, and catfish. The chance to reel in a trophy fish is never far away.

Outdoor Adventures

Apart from fishing, Lake Hinkle offers outdoor adventures such as hiking trails, tennis courts, and even volleyball courts. It’s an ideal location for an action-packed day outdoors.

Lake Poinsett: A Waterfowl Paradise

Location: Harrisburg, Arkansas

Lake Poinsett, a 640-acre oxbow lake, is a haven for waterfowl and anglers alike.

Excellent Crappie Fishing

Crappie fishing is a highlight at Lake Poinsett. The shallow waters and cypress trees provide ample cover for these fish. Don’t miss out on the crappie action in the early spring.

Birdwatcher’s Delight

Lake Poinsett is known for its abundant birdlife, including sandhill cranes and wild turkeys. Birdwatching enthusiasts will find it to be a fascinating destination.

Lake Erling: A Secluded Escape

Location: Taylor, Arkansas

Lake Erling is a secluded escape for those seeking privacy and a diverse fishing experience.

Catfish and Bass Fishing

Catfish and bass are plentiful at Lake Erling. The underwater structures and abundant vegetation create a haven for these species. It’s an ideal location for a quiet day of fishing.

Pedal Boats and More

Lake Erling offers pedal boats for rent, allowing you to explore the lake at your own pace. It’s a unique experience for those who enjoy being on the water.

Exploring More Fishing Opportunities in “The Center”

In addition to the aforementioned lakes, “The Center” of Arkansas offers even more fishing spots, each with its unique charm and angling experiences. Let’s dive into a few more hidden gems.

Lake Charles: The Urban Reservoir

Location: Little Rock, Arkansas

Lake Charles, located in the heart of Little Rock, is an urban reservoir offering convenient access for city dwellers.

Bass and Panfish

Lake Charles offers excellent bass fishing opportunities. You can find largemouth bass and panfish throughout the lake. It’s a great place for a quick fishing trip after work or on the weekend.

City Park Amenities

The lake is surrounded by a city park with amenities like picnic tables, tennis courts, and even a playground. It’s an ideal location for a family outing.

Mallard Lake: A Hidden Gem

Location: Manila, Arkansas

Mallard Lake, situated in the northeastern part of the state, is a hidden gem that offers a quieter and more intimate fishing experience.

Bass and Bream

Mallard Lake is a haven for anglers seeking bass and bream. It’s a peaceful spot with easy access for bank fishing.

Privacy and Tranquility

Mallard Lake offers a serene and private fishing experience. If you appreciate the solitude of nature and diverse fishing opportunities, this is the place to be.

Jack Nolen Lake: A Rural Retreat

Location: Booneville, Arkansas

Jack Nolen Lake, tucked away in rural Booneville, is a serene fishing retreat surrounded by rolling hills and woodlands.

Catfish and Bluegill

Jack Nolen Lake is known for its catfish and bluegill. The serene setting is ideal for a day of angling and relaxation.

Fishing Piers

The lake features fishing piers that provide easy access to the water. It’s a great spot for those looking for a convenient and peaceful fishing experience.

Cox Creek Lake: The Family-Friendly Spot

Location: Plumerville, Arkansas

Cox Creek Lake, situated near Conway, is a family-friendly fishing spot that offers convenience and a variety of fish species.

Catfish and Panfish

Catfish and panfish are abundant in Cox Creek Lake. It’s a great place to introduce the family to fishing, with ample opportunities to catch a variety of fish.

Playground and Picnic Areas

The lake area includes a playground and picnic areas, making it perfect for a family day out. You can combine fishing with other recreational activities.

Practical Information for Your Fishing Adventure

Before you set out on your fishing adventure in “The Center” of Arkansas, here are some essential tips and information to ensure a successful and enjoyable experience:

Fishing Permits and Regulations

To fish legally in Arkansas, you’ll need to obtain a fishing permit from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. Make sure to familiarize yourself with the specific regulations for each lake, as rules and limits may vary.

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit these lakes largely depends on the fish species you’re targeting. Different species have different peak seasons. For example, early spring is great for bass fishing, while late September is ideal for rainbow trout. Plan your visit accordingly to optimize your chances of a successful catch.

Tackle and Gear

Ensure you have the right tackle and gear for the specific fish species you’re targeting. Research the type of bait, lures, and equipment that work best for the lake and species you plan to fish.

Check Local Amenities

Many of these lakes have picnic areas, restroom facilities, and recreational amenities. Check in advance to see what each lake offers and plan accordingly. Some even have boat ramps if you prefer to fish from a boat.

Safety First

Always prioritize safety during your fishing trips. Wear appropriate clothing and gear, stay hydrated, and be aware of your surroundings. It’s also a good idea to let someone know your exact location and expected return time.

Respect Nature

While enjoying the natural beauty of these lakes, make sure to follow the “Leave No Trace” principles. Clean up after yourself and leave the environment as beautiful as you found it for future generations of anglers to enjoy.


“The Center” of Arkansas is a remarkable region for fishing enthusiasts, offering a diverse range of angling experiences and stunning natural beauty. From the crown jewel of Lake Ouachita to the secluded escape of Lake Erling, each lake has its unique charm and opportunities. Whether you’re chasing largemouth bass, rainbow trout, or crappie, these lakes have something for everyone. So, gear up, pack your picnic supplies, and head out for a memorable fishing adventure in the heart of “The Natural State.” Don’t forget to explore other lakes in the area as well, and immerse yourself in the true beauty of Arkansas. Happy fishing!

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