With spring near, many Arkansans have one thought: it’s time to get on the water. Some are ready for fishing. Others are looking forward to boating, swimming, camping or other outdoor activities.
Fortunately, we have plenty of waters around central Arkansas where we can enjoy these delightful pastimes. Within our region are scores of lakes and rivers where great fishing, fun and adventure await, including the following destinations in Saline County, or just a short drive away.
Sunset Lake and the Saline River
We’re fortunate to have one of the most beautiful fishing lakes in Arkansas in Benton. Sunset Lake, just off Interstate 30, sports a fishing pier, picnic tables, pavilion and walking trail providing bank-fishing access around the entire lake. Largemouth bass, bluegills, redear sunfish and channel catfish await visiting anglers, and if conditions are right, one can expect to land several each visit. Cast a plug, spinnerbait or plastic worm for bass, dangle crickets or worms under a bobber for bream, or try night crawlers or chicken livers on the bottom for pole-bending whiskerfish.
Think you might enjoy a float-fishing trip better than a day of bank-fishing? The nearby Saline River is the place to go. This upland stream offers beautiful vistas, gravel bars for picnics and swimming, and excellent fishing for black bass, sunfish, catfish and even walleyes. The float from Lyle Park (off Highway 5 north of town) to the Cherry Gingles access (adjacent Sunset Lake from I-30’s Exit 116) is about 3 miles, but if you fish the pools thoroughly, it’s a nice four- to five-hour trip with a short shuttle.
Little Rock Metro Area Lakes and the Arkansas River
The greater Little Rock area is brimming with waters where you can sit, under a shade tree, on a pier or in a boat to enjoy fishing for largemouth bass, bluegills, catfish, crappie, hybrid stripers and, in some locations, rainbow trout. Several metropolitan-area parks have stocked ponds or Arkansas River access, including War Memorial, MacArthur, Ottenheimer, Hindman, Boyle, Otter Creek, Burns, Kiwanis, Murray, Riverfront and Cook’s Landing.
Head toward Jacksonville on U.S. Highway 67/167 to wet a line at Cabot Community Pond, Cherrywood Lake, Paradise Lake and Lake Pickthorne. Off Highway 10 to the west, you’ll find good fishing in the Arkansas River at Maumelle Park, the Environmental Education Pond in Pinnacle Mountain State Park and beautiful Lake Maumelle.
Greers Ferry Lake & the Little Red River
The area around Heber Springs has been called “the Natural State’s premier tourist destination,” and with good reason. There’s a lot to do here in the scenic Ozark Mountains, particularly if you enjoy fishing.
Cast a plug in Greers Ferry Lake and you never know what you’ll catch. The crystal-clear water of this 31,500-acre impoundment bristles with largemouth bass, white bass, hybrid stripers, walleyes, crappie, catfish and more. The 22-pound, 11-ounce world-record walleye was caught here, and the 27-pound, 5-ounce world-record hybrid striper. Another fisherman reeled in a 15-pound, 15-ounce largemouth, a lunker just 5 ounces shy of state-record weight. This is big-fish water, so be prepared for big-fish action.
There’s world-class trout fishing as well, in the Little Red River below Greers Ferry Dam. This cold tailwater produced a 40-pound, 4-ounce world-record brown trout in 1992, but the river’s fame was not built on that single fish. On a good day here, it’s not unusual to catch 30 or more browns, rainbows, cutthroats and brook trout that eagerly strike any enticement, from corn and salmon eggs to crankbaits and hand-tied flies.
You can hire a guide at one of the many resorts, fly fish on the shoals or fish from your own boat. You’ll find action no matter how you do it. Opportunities for camping, sailing, hiking, sightseeing, shopping and birding are plentiful as well.
The Diamond Lakes of Hot Springs
For hundreds of years, people have used the Spa City’s hot springs to relax and treat illnesses. Water still attracts visitors to Hot Springs National Park, but most people come to enjoy the vacation paradise created by the area’s four “Diamond Lakes”—Catherine, Hamilton, Ouachita and DeGray. Covering a combined 63,000 acres, these sparkling impoundments are a magnet for anglers. All offer blue-ribbon fishing for bass, catfish, crappie, bream, stripers, white bass, walleyes and more.
While you’re there, rent a houseboat, take a dinner-boat cruise or visit the state parks on Catherine, DeGray and Ouachita. The latter offer bank-fishing areas, full-service marinas with boat rentals, plus beautiful campgrounds, cabins, hiking trails and more.
These are just a few central-Arkansas locations popular with folks who love spending time on the water. Others within an hour’s drive of Saline County include Harris Brake Lake at Perryville, Lake Conway at Mayflower, Lake Overcup at Morrilton, and lakes Sylvia and Winona in the Ouachita National Forest off Highway 9, north of Benton.
For additional information, including license information, fishing regulations and maps, visit agfc.com or arkansas.com.