Norfork Lake Fishing
Norfork Lake is located in north central Arkansas and extends up to northern Missouri. Most of the Lake is near Mountain Home, Arkansas which is the hub of activity in the area. The Corps of Engineers Lake consists of about 30,000 acres depending on lake level and has about 500 miles of shore line. It approaches 200 feet in depth and is a very clear and relatively unpolluted lake fed by the North Fork River. It is not connected to any of the other major confinement lakes in the area. Norfork was a WPA project of the 1940's and most of the structure and buildings were removed before flooding. Norfork was the first dam in the area, and its success is responsible for the others coming along later. The land immediately surounding the lake is owned by the Corps thus restricting building, septic systems and animal confinements. This contributes greatly to the water quality and clearness. The Arkansas part of the lake is open to spearfishing while scuba diving during a specified period and is one of very few states to allow this activity. The law enforcement agencies include the Corps of Engineer Rangers, Arkansas Game and Fish and the Baxter Co. Sheriff's Office and they do a good job enforcing the laws. There are numerous launch ramps, campgrounds and resorts strategically placed around the lake making a great lake to visit for an economical vacation and family fun. The boat traffic is relatively low for such a beautiful place and you can very often find a secluded cove to be alone to fish or swim or dive. Wakeboarders love Norfork as do kids wanting to tube and water ski.
Fishing is one of the best reasons to visit Norfork Lake. Trophy Stripers and Hybrid Stripers are caught regularly and are stocked by the Game and Fish each year by the thousands. They are eating machines and grow very rapidly feeding on mostly threadfin shad unless trout are available. They love trout. There are some lakes that prefer trout to stripers. I am glad Norfork chose stripers. We can get all the trout we want out of the surrounding rivers which are very close to the lake. Limit is 3/day of combined Stripers and Hybrids with a 20-in. minimum on Stripers.
Walleye are quickly approaching stripers as Norfork's most sought after fish. There is a good population and they both are stocked and reproduce naturally in the river feeding the lake. There is an 18-in. minimum length requirement on walleye and fish in the 4-6 lb. range are not uncommon. These are my favorite. Limit is 4 with a possession limit of twice the daily. They sometimes hang out with stripers but spend most of their time on brushpiles near the bottom. I have caught some as deep as 90 ft. spooning.
Next to walleye, I like fishing for Norfork Lake Crappie. It is known for huge both black and white crappie. Some in the 16-18 in. range. Winter and early spring usually produce the giants. There is a 10-in. minimum length requirement with a maximum of 15 taken. They like brushpiles and under docks. They spawn near the shore on any wood and then move to brush starting in early April with the largest ones first and continue until mid May. Several are also stocked. They get scarce in the summer and move back to the brush in the fall.
Bass are the mainstay of Norfork Lake. They are not stocked, but reproduce naturally. There are largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass. 15-in. limit on Large and Smallmouth and 12-in. on spots. The limit is 6 total. When you cannot catch anything else bass are biting. There is a very good population of all three. Topwater bite is very popular after spawn in the spring and continues until mid-June. Spotted bass caught in the winter are very tasty. I do all of my bass fishing in the winter. Fish in the 2-4 lb. range are numerous with 5-6 lb. not uncommon. Smallmouth fishing in May is really good with 4-lb. fish caught regularly.
Catfishing is popular on Norfork Lake all year. Arkansas allows both jug and trotline fishing with a maximum of 30 hooks. Flathead, blue and channel cats are all present with the blues getting the largest. Several are stocked each year with also natural reproduction. Fish in the 40-lb. range are not uncommon. The clean clear water of Norfork Lake produces tasty catfish with no strong taste with is sought after by many fishermen.
Bluegill, commonly called brim, are not to be left out. There is a large population and the red-earded bluegill often get well over1-lb. and fight like crazy. Young and old alike enjoy both catching and eating these tasty fish. Many a child got hooked on fishing catching bluegill.
In general, Norfork Lake, in the heart of the Ozark Mountains near Mountain Home, Arkansas is an excellent fishery with many different varieties. There is no closed season and very few if any mosquitoes. You do not have to wait until June if you get cabin fever. Our fishing is in full swing by March 15th.