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Keep it between the buoys

BY Randy Zellers

ON 08-23-2023


Aug. 23, 2023

Randy Zellers

Assistant Chief of Communications

LITTLE ROCK – The heat of summer often leads anglers to large rivers where current breaks can position bass and other sport fish for fishing that lasts longer than the first hour after sunrise. But traveling on a river like the Arkansas and navigating some of Arkansas’s shallower, more cover-filled reservoirs can be a daunting task for people who don’t know what all those buoys and channel markers mean. How do you know which side of the buoys to stay on when traveling up or down a river?

Whether you are paddling a canoe, chugging along in a jon boat or cruising on pad in a bass boat to your next prospective fishing spot, this simple rule will keep you in the right place – in the channel where it’s safe.

Remember the 3 R’s of boating: “Red right returning.” It applies in Arkansas and all over the nation.

Returning means going upstream. Keep the red buoys on your right as you travel upstream. That means the green buoys will be on your left.

Remember the phrase, “Red, right, returning,” to keep you in the channel when navigating river buoys.
If you are going downstream, just reverse this. The red buoys will be on your left, green buoys on your right.

Buoys are found in many sizes and shapes. Just the red and green ones mark channels. Others are white and are for information. These may be directions to a facility, for controlled areas like no-wake zones, and to identify underwater dangers like rocks or dams. A buoy with black and white vertical stripes marks an obstruction; don’t travel between it and the shore or bank. And if you’re looking for a fishing hot spot on an AGFC-managed lake, keep an eye out for a yellow buoy with a fish symbol or a blue reflective sign on the bank with three white fish icons on it. That’s where fisheries biologists have planted complex fish attractors like brush piles and porcupine cubes to give you a better shot at connecting with a bite.

For more details on boating navigation rules in Arkansas and boater education courses offered by the AGFC, visit



As summer sets in, many anglers focus their efforts toward the rivers and channels of reservoirs, and knowing how to navigate is critical. Photo Courtesy RBFF/Take Me Fishing


Remember the phrase, “Red, right, returning,” to keep you in the channel when navigating river buoys.



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