Did you know that Arkansas has over 250 types of fish? That’s more than all but five states! It’s one of the great perks of living and fishing in the Natural State.
While the differences between common fish such as a bass and catfish might be obvious, the discrepancies between other types of fish in Arkansas can be subtle. Do you know the difference between a Bluegill and a Hybrid Bream? How about a Rainbow and Cutthroat Trout, or a Kentucky/Spotted Bass and a Largemouth?
The Arkansas Fish Identification Chart will help you I.D. fish that you’re most likely to reel in from the many rivers and lakes around the state.
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Largemouth Bass – One of the most coveted fish by anglers, the largemouth is often confused with the spotted bass (below.) However, a largemouth’s jaw will extend beyond the back of the eyeball when the fish’s mouth is closed. On a spotted bass, the mouth ends at the eyeball. Also, check the fish’s tongue. If you feel a smooth patch, it’s a largemouth. If not, it’s a spotted. State Record: 16 lbs., 4 oz., Mallard Lake
Spotted Bass (often called a Kentucky Bass) – Jaw does not extend beyond the eyeball. Also, the horizontal dark strip will not be as defined as it would be on a largemouth; it is probably irregular or broken. Spots on scales form “rows” of strips on whitish belly area. State Record: 7 lbs., 15 oz., Bull Shoals Lake
Smallmouth Bass – Easier to differentiate because of its overall size as well as “bronze” color, the smallmouth’s jaw, like the spotted bass, does not extend beyond the eyeball. The dorsal fins on a smallmouth’s back are also clearly connected, as compared to the nearly separated fins of a largemouth. State Record: 7 lbs., 5 oz., Bull Shoals Lake
White Bass – White bass are silvery fish featuring dark-gray or black on the back, and white on the belly. Several incomplete stripes run horizontally on each side of the body. Adults resemble young striped bass, and the two are often confused. Striped bass, however, feature two tooth patches on the back of the tongue, and white bass have one tooth patch. Striped bass have two sharp points on each gill cover, as opposed to white bass which have one, and the second spine on the anal fin is about half the length of the third spine in striped bass, whereas it is about two-thirds the length of the third spine in white bass. State Record: 5 lbs., 6 oz., Mississippi River
Striped Bass- Striped bass feature two tooth patches on the back of the tongue, and two sharp points on each gill cover, and the second spine on the anal fin is about half the length of the third spine in striped bass. State Record: 64 lbs., 8oz., Beaver Lake Tailwaters
Hybrid Striped Bass -A cross between a white bass and a striped bass. Not sure if you’re striped bass is a hybrid? Use the tongue test! The back of the tongue of a hybrid has one distinct tooth patch or two close patches very close together. Hybrids appear to be attracted to flowing water. Tailwater areas below dams are good fishing locations when water is flowing either through the spillway gates or turbines of the dam. Also, natural springs and the mouths of feeder creeks after heavy rains can attract hybrids. The fish will usually not be in the fastest water, but off to the side waiting to ambush their prey (or your lure). State Record (and World Record) – 27 lbs., 5 oz., Greers Ferry Lake
Channel Catfish – The most fished catfish species in the U.S., “channel cats” grow as big as 40 or 50 lbs, with the world record being 58 lbs. Channel catfish are easily distinguished from other catfish by their deep- forked tailfin, except for blue catfish. Their upper jaw projects beyond the lower jaw, unlike flathead catfish. They are olive-brown to bluish on the back and sides, shading to silvery-white on the belly. Typically, numerous black spots are present, but not always. The anal fin has 24-29 soft rays, in contrast to the blue catfish which always has 30 or more rays. State Record: 38 lbs., 0 oz., Lake Ouachita
Flathead Catfish – The flathead looks just about like any other catfish, with the exception of its flat head, of course. Flatheads reach a length of 3 to 4 feet and weight upwards of 100 pounds! Also called “yellow cats,” flatheads typically hold a yellowish tint, or a richer olive color, except for young fish which can be black. The tail fin is only slightly notched, not deeply forked as is the case with blue and channel catfish. State Record: 80 lbs., 0 oz., Arkansas River
Blue Catfish – These big “river cats” are the big daddy’s of the catfish family. The world record is 124 lbs! They are often found in the Mississippi River systems. They feature a forked tailfin, and look very similar to channel cats sans the dark spots. State Record: 116 lbs., 12 oz., Mississippi River
Rainbow Trout - Rainbow trout are torpedo-shaped and generally blue-green or yellow-green in color with a pink streak along their sides, white underbelly, and small black spots on their back and fins. Known for putting up a great fight, they prefer cool, clear rivers, streams, and lakes. State Record: 19 lbs., 1 oz., White River
Brown Trout – As the name implies, brown trout are of brownish color, featuring many spots outlined in red or orange, and a golden underbelly. Browns are able to tolerate higher temperatures than other trout species and grow larger because of it. State Record (and former World Record) – 40 lbs., 4 oz., Little Red River
Cut-throat Trout – Cutthroat trout vary widely in size, coloration, and habitats. Though their coloration can range from golden to gray to green on the back, depending on subspecies and habitat, all populations feature distinctive red, pink, or orange marks on the underside of the lower jaw ; usually the easiest diagnostic of the species for the casual observer. State Record: 9 lbs., 9 oz.; White River
Brook Trout – State Record: 5 lbs., 0 oz.; North Fork River
White – The white crappie is deep-bodied and silvery in color, ranging from silvery-white on the belly to a silvery-green or even dark green on the back. There are several vertical bars on the sides. State Record: 4 lbs., 7 oz., Mingo Creek
Black – The black crappie is easily confused with the white crappie. However, it is deeper bodied than the white crappie, and silvery-green in color. There are no distinct vertical bars, rather there are irregular black blotches. The dorsal fin has seven or eight spines. State Record: 4 lbs., 9 oz., Oladale Lake