Special regulations on smallmouth bass, goggle-eye, rainbow trout and walleye have produced a quality fishery throughout the river. Be sure to check local regulations and river levels before scheduling a fishing trip. Here’s what to expect as you float down this scenic river in 2020.
The 17 miles from Thomasville to Greer Spring offer excellent fishing for Smallmouth bass and goggle-eye. To avoid dragging over riffles, spring and early summer are ideal times to frequent the upper river while water levels are high. The 2019 spring sample showed that smallmouth of all sizes are abundant in the riffles, runs and pools with over 400 fish/mile estimated and > 20% of sampled fish of legal size (over 15”). Also, goggle-eye up to and over 9.5” were collected and could contribute nicely to an angler’s creel. Try a dark crawdad crankbait in the deep pools below a riffle to lure out one of the larger goggle-eye, or a green pumpkin plastic worm to get strikes from the larger smallmouth. Chain pickerel are still popular among anglers as well. Modest numbers of pickerel lurk in this section of river. Access points to this area are Thomasville, Cane Bluff, and Greer.
Greer Spring instantly transforms the river into a coldwater fishery. The next 5.5 miles downstream to Turner Mill Access is home to rainbow trout and is designated as a Blue Ribbon Trout Area, where special regulations apply. Anglers should see balanced year-round trout numbers in this area of the river as two stockings to supplement the wild population occur in the spring and fall. Approximately 8,000 total rainbow trout are stocked in this section annually. Trout estimates from previous years show around 100 wild trout/mile while total trout estimates are around 400/mile. Most fish in this section are between 11-16 inches, but a few lucky anglers may catch one of the trophy wild trout over 18” and 2.5 pounds that reside in this section of the river. At certain times of the year this is also a good section for catching smallmouth bass, just make sure to use the approved artificial baits (soft plastics prohibited). Public access is limited to Highway 19 crossing at Greer and U.S. Forest Service gravel roads to Turner Mill North and Turner Mill South.
The next 14 miles from the Turner Mill accesses downstream to Highway 160 at Riverton are stocked with harvestable rainbow trout and managed as a White Ribbon Trout Area with more liberal harvest restrictions. From March to October, 16,000 rainbow trout (12 inch average) are stocked annually. In 2019, 39 surplus broodstock over 4 pounds from Montauk Hatchery were also stocked in this section so you never know if one of your daily limit fish may be a lunker. Public access is provided at Turner Mill North, Turner Mill South, Whitten and Riverton (Highway 160).
The 13.5 miles from Highway 160 downstream to the Arkansas state line offer good fishing for smallmouth bass, largemouth bass and goggle-eye. Samples of the lower river section yield fewer smallmouth bass than the upper section, but fish of similar size. Legal smallmouth bass over 15” made up 16 percent of last year’s fall sample. The bigger water and pools of less current are also home to more largemouth bass than other sections of the river. In addition, persistent anglers have an opportunity to catch a few legal walleye (5-10 pounds and greater). Look for these fish in deep pools with noticeable current and around woody structure. Every 4 years around 15,000 1-2” fingerling walleye are stocked in this lower river section with the most recent of these stockings being completed in 2018.