Fishing the Fifty
My Quest to Fish All 50 States
While its southern neighbor may call itself the Sportsman’s Paradise, Arkansas has produced the world record walleye (22 pounds, 11 ounces), the one-time world record blue catfish (116 pounds, 12 ounces), the one-time world record brown trout (40 pounds, 4 ounces), and the one-time (unofficial) world record freshwater striped bass (68 pounds) since 1982. Unable to decide between fishing for trophy stripers and fishing for trophy brown trout, I chose to do both. Like Arizona, I fished Arkansas toward the end of my quest; it was my 44th state. Also like Arizona, I had already fished all of Arkansas’ neighbors, so I devoted more time to it to ensure I caught a fish and, I hoped, a trophy fish.
I chose Bob Ball (bigdogsguideservice.com) for trophy striper on Beaver Lake. Bob’s trophy pictures and catch records speak for themselves; each year he catches several stripers over 40 pounds, and many more over 30 pounds, impressive even for a saltwater striper fisherman, let alone a freshwater striper fisherman. We fished an unseasonably cold morning, but within an hour, I had my first Arkansas fish, a 35-inch, 23-pound striper. I went on to catch five more stripers, including three trophy stripers (over 25 pounds). My first trophy was 38 inches, 28 pounds; my second was 39 inches, 25 pounds; and my third, caught right at quitting time, was an enormous 43.5 inches and 38 pounds. This shattered my previous personal best freshwater striper record and was actually the same length as my personal best saltwater striper at the time.
After my incredible time on Beaver Lake, I headed to Gassville, Arkansas, to fish with Donald Cranor (whiterivertroutfishing.net) for brown trout on the White River. Donald catches more brown trout over six pounds than are caught in all of Virginia in a year. I had never targeted brown trout specifically, but Donald is an excellent teacher and, after two hours of catching smaller fish, I landed a beautiful 23-inch, four-pound, 15-ounce brown. Shortly thereafter, I caught a 25.5-inch, six-pound, nine-ounce brown. I caught 18 trout that day with Donald, 11 brown trout and seven rainbow trout.
My first Arkansas fish, a 35-inch, 23-pound striper on a late March morning so cold that the water from this fish became ice on the boat
Welcome to Arkansas
The only good part about the 30 degree weather was that we had the whole lake to ourselves...
... except for this expert fisherman
My first Arkansas trophy, a beautiful 38-inch, 28-pound striper
My second Arkansas trophy, a 39-inch, 25-pound striper
My biggest Arkansas fish and personal best freshwater striper, 43.5 inches, 38 pounds (caught right at quitting time)
Cotter: Trout Capital U.S.A.
The famous White River
Four-pound, 15-ounce, 23-inch brown trout
Six-pound, 9-ounce, 25.5-inch brown trout
The beautiful countryside of NW Arkansas on the drive back to Kansas City