Fishing at Heber Springs Park on Greers Ferry Lake. Arkansas Game and Fish Commission
Category: Uniquely Arkansas

Building your first bank fishing kit

PoleA standard cane pole can be wild-harvested from cane stands. Look for a sturdy cane at least 1 inch thick at the base. Some folks harvest, then shellack their poles to use throughout the season. Another alternative is a rod and reel, which can be purchased for as little as $15 to as much as several hundreds of dollars.
LineYou'll need something to catch that fish on. Line is rated by weight. If you're fishing for panfish such as bream, you probably won't need an extra strong line. But for sport fish like bass and crappie, you'll want a stronger line.
HooksVariety packs can be purchased, but in general hooks are not expensive. Purchase hooks according to the size of fish you're casting for.
WeightsUnless you're fly fishing, you'll need some form of weight to keep your hook and bait under the surface.
BobbersIf you're fishing somewhere where there's debris on the bottom of the water, or if you're wanting to catch fish that are closer to the surface, bobbers are handy. They'll also help you tell when you're getting a nibble if you've cast out a ways and need a visual cue.
BaitDifferent fish enjoy different bait. A good starter is a cup of nightcrawlers; they're usually available in a refrigerated unit wherever bait is sold. Minnows and crickets are other live baits that work well here. There are also several commercial preparations aimed at certain fish, such as soft pellets for trout and stinkbait for catfish. If you find yourself with the rest of the equipment but no bait, look in the kitchen — canned corn, cheese and chicken liver are all time-tested and true fish getters.
A netOften overlooked, having a net to tuck under and up and ensure your fish doesn't get away is essential.
A stringer or live bucketFew people go out to just get one fish — you want a mess of fish if you're planning to dine fine. Stringers are very cheap. One end is pointy and goes through the gill and mouth of the fish to hold it on the line, the other you attach to the shore. Live buckets are buckets covered in holes that you can drop your fish into, attach the cover, then sink into the water to keep it alive and fresh until you're ready to go home, cook and clean it.
SunscreenNot for the fish, but for you. Keep yourself protected from the sun's rays. A hat is also a great idea!

Where to ‘Go Fish’ in The Natural State

Want to fish but don’t have a boat? Arkansas has some of the best fishing holes for casting a line.

Arkansas is home to more than 9,700 miles of rivers and streams and some of the most pristine lakes in the nation. Fishing opportunities abound. and bank fishing is a great way to begin.

Trey Reid, assistant chief of communications for  Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC), says you can find bank fishing all over Arkansas.

“There are countless places to bank fish in Arkansas, including the shoreline of every AGFC-owned lake in the state, and many U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lakes have riparian areas that are publicly accessible,” Reid says. “AGFC maintains many public access points along many streams and rivers.”

Some of those are located in areas such as the Spring River, where trout fishing from waters that rush south from Mammoth Spring at the Arkansas-Missouri border is popular. Others are along Bayou Bartholomew —  the longest bayou in the world — stretching south from Pine Bluff. There are larger lakes like White Oak Lake near Prescott and smaller ponds such as Calion Lake in Union County. Many of these lakes are stocked annually or biannually.

Fishing at Jacksonport State Park. Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism

“Game and Fish stocks millions of fish in the state each year,” Reid says, “but the biggest benefit for bank fishers comes from AGFC access points, as well as public fishing piers, and AGFC places aquatic habitat near these facilities to attract fish.”

There are other locations not maintained by AGFC around the state where you can sink a line, such as city and county access points, Arkansas State Parks and Army Corp of Engineer sites. However, riverbanks are not considered public land, so if you plan to fish a bank on private property, you need to obtain permission from the landowner first.

Before  making plans, you’ll need a license if you’re 16 or older. You can purchase your fishing license at retailers across the state, including bait shops, convenience stores and Walmart stores. You can also purchase licenses online at A Residence Fisheries Conservation license is $10.50 for Arkansas residents.  For those over age 65, it’s $3.50.

If you plan to fish for trout, you’ll also need a trout stamp, which runs $10 each year. “Trout permits are required for anglers  16 and older who fish in areas where trout are present,” Reid shares. “Funds from the purchase of trout stamps go toward habitat projects in trout streams and fish production at the AGFC’s Spring River Hatchery near  Mammoth Spring. Funding from the trout permit recently helped fund a major renovation of the Spring River Hatchery, which enables AGFC to stock more trout for anglers to pursue.”

Not ready to commit to fishing but still want to give it a try? Each June, anyone can fish Arkansas waters. This year’s Free Fishing Weekend will be held June 7 to 9.

“Free Fishing Weekend is a longstanding tradition in which a gubernatorial proclamation and AGFC regulations enable anyone to fish without a license from noon on Friday to midnight on Sunday during Free Fishing Weekend,” Reid says. “AGFC,  as well as other entities, also host free fishing derbies around the state on Free Fishing Weekend.”

Fishing at Heber Springs Park on Greers Ferry Lake. Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism

What will you need to fish? Not a whole lot.

“You need a fishing license if you’re 16 or older,” Reid continues. “Beyond that, it’s up to you. You’ll need a fishing pole and bait, and that largely depends on what kind of fishing you’re doing. The simplest setup is a pole (such as a cane pole) with a line tied directly to it with a hook, and a worm or cricket for bait.

“Bank fishing is a great way to introduce young people to fishing.”

If you’re interested in bank fishing, can help you located a place nearby. Asking friends or visiting local bait shops are other ways to find good fishing spots.