Bass biting well in Northwest Arkansas
Largemouth bass and striped bass reports are very good in the lakes of Northwest Arkansas these days. The Fishing Report regularly carries reports from Bailey's Guide Service and Southtown Sporting Goods, both on Beaver Lake, and Bailey's has been touting the striper action of late. Steve Daniels backs that up (see above photo) with the 30-pound striper he hauled out of Beaver Lake last week east of Prairie Creek. Daniels said he was using live bait. Meanwhile, Southtown says the largemouth bass are on the bite as well in the lake, as well as crappie, even though the lake is more than 9 feet below normal conservation pool.
Nearby is a hidden gem at this time of year for anglers: SWEPCO Lake near Gentry. Recently, one angler caught a couple of 6-pound largemouth bass and another that was nearly 8 pounds in a report passed along to the Fishing Report. Because its water is used to cool Southwestern Energy Power Company's coal-fired plant at Gentry, and therefore warm when released back into the lake, SWEPCO Lake is the only body of water north of Lake Atkins that is stocked by the AGFC with Florida bass fingerlings. Florida-strain largemouth bass look like the native northern largemouth, but they will grow larger at a faster rate. However, they need warmer water than is typical in north Arkansas lakes, and SWEPCO Lake provides that, sometimes ranging 20 degrees higher than, say, Beaver Lake in winter.
SWEPCO Lake is a great destination for Arkansas fishing early in the new year when it's too cold elsewhere because of the warmed water; and sure enough, this January the bass really began biting, according to Jon Stein, an AGFC district fisheries supervisor in Rogers. Florida bass start spawning in January. “You can catch them in shallower water in January and February,” he said.
SWEPCO Lake fishing was catch-and-release until about 2008, Stein said. The creel limit now is 10, although only one bass may exceed 18 inches. “Most bass fishermen would be fine with that, anyway,” Stein said, noting that a 16-inch Florida bass, for example, will run in the neighborhood of 2-2½ pounds. “There are tons of small bass in the population now, but there is also the potential for the really big bass, the 6- or 7-pounder.” That's proved to be true with the recent catches, he said.
SWEPCO Lake is easy to find a few miles west of Gentry, and has one public access point. “It’s real popular at this time of year because you can be catching bass like you’d be fishing in April on most of our lakes,” Stein said.