Quick fishing trips close to home
By Jim Petersen
Photo BY Richard Ledbetter/Ricky Dougan Photos by Charles Brunk/Jim Petersen
I’m a minimalist, with a streak of Luddite. I’m happy with a thick slice of bologna on a hamburger bun. No condiments, please. No muss, no fuss; keep it simple. So I guess it’s only natural that I’m often happy fishing close to home out of a kayak.
Kayaks are stealthy, maneuverable and versatile. The biggest downside is their lack of range and speed compared to powerboats, but that’s hardly a drawback if the upsides are appealing enough. After all, fishing close to home or work has its advantages. It’s that no-muss, no-fuss thing again. We have an abundance of water in Arkansas, and even ankle-deep water will almost float a kayak, so most urban areas have several kayak accessible streams, lakes and ponds.
Fishing urban areas out of kayaks, anglers can target several species, including largemouth bass, several types of sunfish, crappie and catfish. In the right place, fish like walleye, freshwater drum and trout can be brought to hand. And the promise of communion with Mother Nature that a kayak offers is a wonderful bonus. There’s just not an app for that.
Let’s start with Little Rock. A boat ramp just upstream from the I-430 bridge provides immediate access to the Arkansas River and the Little Maumelle River. Within five minutes of dropping your boat in the water you can either be fishing among the Little Maumelle’s lily pads and cattails, a protected backwater of the Arkansas River, or navigating the riprap and submerged sand bars of the main channel of the Arkansas. A little farther south, Fourche Creek flows through the heart of Little Rock. With its beautiful overhanging canopy of cypress, maple and sycamore, Fourche Creek is the perfect setting for a kayak excursion and fishing might even turn out to be an afterthought.
In Conway there is a spot that, like that Little Rock boat ramp, offers three varied fishing spots to “float your boat.” The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Caney Creek access is about two miles east and south of the Dave Ward Road exit off I-40. From the Caney Creek access anglers can fish about a half mile of Caney Creek on its way to Lake Conway. Other than in the creek channel, much of the lake is less than a paddle deep. Along with the bass and brim that swim among the lily pads, carp and gar are common in the shallowest areas. Slightly deeper water can be found a half mile down lake. The other urban lake in Conway, Lake Beaverfork, lies along the northern city limits. It can be accessed at the western end of the lake.
A few stolen hours of kayak fishing can make the work week or overbooked weekend more bearable. A few precious hours among the orange dragonflies, red-winged blackbirds, and green herons waiting for a tug on the line are priceless. Lake Conway is perfect for that, and so is Lake Saracen.
Lake Saracen, in Pine Bluff, is a good crappie lake. The typical mix of warm water fish is also present. There is an Arkansas Game and Fish ramp at the northeast corner of the lake that provides access to Lake Saracen and from the northeast corner of the parking lot there is access to a stream that flows into Lake Langhofer.
Kayak anglers in the Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers-Bentonville area can find a number of urban spots to wet a toe and a worm—particularly if we relax the definition of urban. Lakes include Elmdale, Fayetteville, Atalanta, Sequoyah, Bob Kidd and Beaver. Of some note, Atalanta is stocked with rainbow trout in the late fall and into winter and Bob Kidd has had a reputation for large redear sunfish.
Craighead Forest Lake in Jonesboro is a 60-acre oak-leaf shaped lake with easy kayak access to most of its coves. The lake’s small size and irregular shape should make this a great lake for speed dating bluegill and bass by kayak.
If you live in Arkadelphia you already know about the Ouachita River. Access is available at the Speer Pavilion and Garden or on the east side of the river just above the Highway 7 bridge. Walleye are possible in the Ouachita; that’s unusual for an urban stream. Slow velocities allow some upstream paddling before fishing and floating back to your vehicle.
This list of urban kayaking spots is far from complete—even for most of the listed cities and towns—so if you live or work in an urban area, chances are there is a convenient spot to spend a piece of your time and catch a few fish near you.