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Rainboow trout

Cotter Arkansas Trout Fishing

Trout are not a native fish species in Arkansas. Since the 1950s when dams were built on the White and other rivers in Arkansas to control seasonal flooding, the natural fisheries were destroyed by the cold water discharged from the dams.

Before the dams were built the streams were home to smallmouth bass and other warm water fish. After the dams were built the waters were too cold for these warm water fish, and they died out. To compensate for this the Federal Government stocked trout into the rivers below the dams.



These days the trout fisheries on the White, Little Red and Spring rivers in Arkansas are arguably some of the best, if not the best, in the world. Rainbow, Brook, Cutthroat, Lake and Brown trout are all now stocked in these rivers. In fact, Brown trout are now naturally reproducing in the tailwaters below these dams where they were once stocked. Many of these Brown trout can weight as much as 10 lbs. Two former world-record Brown trout were caught in the White River.

With this in mind, we wanted to show you some of the places you can go to try your hand at catching trout in the area. Whether you want to try your hand at catching a monster Brown trout, or you simply want to catch a limit of trout for dinner, you have the opportunity in some of the most productive trout waters to be found anywhere in the world.

It should be noted that in addition to the required fishing license if you fish for trout you will also need the trout permit. You also need to familiarize yourself with the regulations concerning trout fishing. Some waters have special regulations, such as catch and release and the use of barbless hooks. For complete information and regulations on trout fishing you should visit the trout section of the AG&FC website.

For our first trout fishing destination we went to Cotter, Arkansas on the world famous upper White River. Cotter bills itself as the Trout Capital of the USA. It says so right on the city’s water tower. Although some other trout fishing areas might quibble with this, it’s easy to see that trout fishing is very high up on the list of things to do in the area. Driving through the area from Mountain Home, AR. to Cotter on Highway 62/412 you will spot fly fishing and bait shops dotting the roadside.

Cotter Water Tower
Water tower proclaiming Cotter, AR the Trout Capital of the USA

We spent two days fishing two walk-in areas on the White River in Cotter. We went on a Sunday and a Monday. It is definitely less crowded on a weekday. The water levels vary with the amount of water discharged from the Bull Shoals Dam upstream. Be aware that the water levels can rise or fall dramatically even during the time you are there as power generation at the dam varies. Rain in the area also can contribute to a rise in water levels.

Trout fishing can be as intense or relaxing as you want. Some people take it seriously. They learn fly fishing and all that goes along with it. Others like us prefer the laid back style of fishing using either natural or artificial baits while wade fishing. And trout fishing truly is an activity that the whole family can enjoy.

There are also a number of guide services in Cotter where you can book a trip. The guides use special boats that are designed to navigate the shallow, rocky river. If you want to learn how to trout fish then it would be wise to hire a guide if you have never done this type of fishing before. They will teach you more in a morning trip than you could learn in several months trying to figure it out on your own. Just do a search online and you’ll find several guide services to choose from.

On our two day trip, the bite wasn’t outstanding but we did get a few bites. It should be noted that we were fishing in the afternoon so it may have been that the bite was better in the morning. We were also able to relax and enjoy the peace and serenity of the beautiful river with the high cliffs and abundant wildlife.

Watch the video below and you’ll see the drive into the areas we fished, as well as some footage of us wade fishing as we do our best to catch a few trout.

We hope you enjoyed this article and video on trout fishing in Cotter. If you have questions or comments please leave them for us below. We encourage feedback and questions and we will do our best to answer them when we return from our latest adventure.


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