Although Arkansas is known as The Natural State, it has not always been a natural for trout. Arkansas had no native trout before the construction of many dams forming large U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reservoirs. Arkansas dam tailwaters first gained fame for producing large rainbow trout in the 1950s and '60s. During that period, 5- to 10-pound rainbows were commonly caught. Recently, monster brown trout have stolen the limelight and made Arkansas world-famous as a trout-fishing hot spot. The previous all-tackle world record brown trout (40 pounds, 4 ounces) was caught in May 1992 from the Little Red River below Greers Ferry Lake by H. “Rip” Collins. The record was bested in 2009 by a Michigan angler, but Arkansas trout streams still produce many brown trout topping 30 pounds. Perhaps the next world record still waits in the cold water downstream of an Arkansas dam.
Fishing Licenses and Trout Permits
To fish in Arkansas, anglers must have one of the licenses listed below. Anglers under 16 do not need a fishing license. To find out requirements for eligibility for licenses and permits, such as proof of residency, age or disability, contact an AGFC Office. Annual fishing licenses are valid one year from purchase date and are nontransferable and nonrefundable.
Fishing license types:
- Annual Fishing License, resident (FSH)
- 3-Day Trip Fishing License, resident (RT3)
- 65-Plus Lifetime License
- 3-Year Disability License, fishing, resident
- 3-Year Disability License, hunting and fishing, resident
- Lifetime Resident Hunting and Fishing Sportsman’s Permit for residents of any age (LSP).
Note: Holders of this license do not need to purchase annual trout permits.
- Annual Fishing License, nonresident (NRF)
- 3-Day Trip Fishing License, nonresident (NT3)
- 7-Day Trip Fishing License, nonresident (NT7)
- 14-Day Trip Fishing License, nonresident (N14)
- Link to Licenses and Permits for pricing and online purchasing
In addition to a fishing license, anglers 16 and older must have a trout permit to retain trout from any Arkansas waters or to fish in the following waters:
- White River, from Beaver Dam to Houseman Access
- White River, from Bull Shoals Dam to Highway 58 bridge at Guion
- Little Red River, from Greers Ferry Dam to Highway 305 bridge
- North Fork of White River, entire stream below Norfork Dam
- Spavinaw Creek (Benton County) east of Highway 59
- Little Missouri River, from 100 yards below Lake Greeson (Narrows Dam) to Muddy Fork Road (low water bridge)
Trout permit types:
Learn which Arkansas lakes and rivers are the best for trout fishing. Each lists history, management plans and water level information.
See how to identify trout species in Arkansas waters and learn fishing techniques.
Read the current trout fishing regulations in effect for this year as well as specific regulations for state waterways.
Arkansas hosts both state and federally operated fish hatcheries. Learn about trout managment and stocking programs.
AGFC stocks lakes and rivers to suppliment the natural trout population.
Trout Management Program
Although trout have been managed in Arkansas since the early 1950s, AGFC’s formal trout program did not begin until 1985 when the first biologist dedicated to trout management was hired. Since that time the Trout Management Program (TMP) has grown in an effort to keep pace with the increasing popularity of the state’s trout resource. This program is responsible for oversight, planning and conducting all trout management in Arkansas to include routine monitoring and research.
Each year the Trout Management Program, with assistance from district fisheries biologists, conducts annual population samples on all major trout waters in the state. These population samples provide important information on the abundance and size structure of trout populations.
Creel surveys provide data on the amount of fishing effort directed at a particular trout fishery, angler success in terms of catch and harvest rates, as well as demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of anglers. The Trout Management Program, in cooperation with district fisheries biologists, and the fisheries division data analyst, plans and oversees all creel surveys conducted on trout waters.
The Trout Management Program carries out management-oriented research such as trout strain investigations, evaluating the post-stocking success of trout in waters statewide, and health assessments on trout populations impacted by low dissolved oxygen.
The Trout Management Program is headquartered at the AGFC Mountain Home Office and may be contacted for questions relating to trout management statewide.
Trout Habitat Improvement Program
This is a new program created to rehabilitate physical habitat in trout waters, and it focuses on the upper White River System tailwaters. This program stabilizes eroding streambanks and creates fish habitat in the stream channel. The aquatic habitat coordinator supervises the program. Program personnel also include a technician, who operates the heavy equipment (excavators, loaders, etc). Much of the work also is done with contractors and partnership funding with Army Corps of Engineers.