Uh oh...

It appears that you're using a severely outdated version of Safari on Windows. Many features won't work correctly, and functionality can't be guaranteed. Please try viewing this website in Edge, Mozilla, Chrome, or another modern browser. Sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused!

Read More about this safari issue.
Statewide Homegrown 1

Arkansas Fish Guide: Part 1

Photo courtesy of Mike Wintroath, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission

In the beautiful Natural State, at least 215 species of fish live in our rivers, lakes, springs, creeks and streams. Since Arkansas has a wide variety of eco-regions, it provides more habitats for fish to thrive. Within the Ozarks, River Valley, Ouachitas, Coastal Plain and Crowley’s Ridge in the Delta, there are 197 native species of fish. Many fish that now live in the waters of the natural state were born in hatcheries to be then introduced into the waters for food, vegetation or bait.

Here is part one (of two) of your guide to Arkansas Fish!

USFWS Midwest Region from United States, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Southern Brook Lamprey (Icthyomyzon gagei)

A jawless fish with a sucking mouth on one end, they are eel-like.

Family: Lamper

Size: 6.3 in

Weight: 2.2 g

Habitat: Juveniles can be found in quiet areas near the edge of a stream. Adults will live in flowing water that is clear, this is where they will build their nests for spawning.

Food: Plankton and decaying organic matter

Range:  Upland streams of the White River and in the upper tributaries of the Arkansas, Little and Ouachita rivers. They can also be found in some lowland streams in southwest Arkansas.

MONGO, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Shovelnose Sturgeon (Scaphirynchus platorynchus)

Angular (5-sided) body that is torpedo-shaped.

Family: Sturgeon

Size: 10.5 – 27.1 in

Weight: 1 1/2 – 2 lbs

Habitat: Tend to hang out in shallow areas near deep river channels. They can be seen on sand or gravel bars around strong currents.

Food: Small aquatic insects, mollusks and worms that live on the river bottom.

Range: Large rivers like Arkansas, Mississippi, Red and Lower White.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Paddlefish (Polyodon spathula)

Family: Paddlefish

Size: Averages about 5 ft or  can get to 87 in

Weight: 110 lbs

Habitat: Slightly out of the current near main river channels, using backwater as their summer home.

Food: Zooplankton

Range: Large rivers like the White, Arkansas, Ouachita and Red, but can also be found in some tributaries.

Greg Hume, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Alligator Gar (Atractosteus spatula)

Family: Gar

Size: Average 6 1/2 ft

Weight: 100 –  160 lbs

Habitat: Sluggish pools and backwater areas of big rivers.

Food: Fish and spawns

Range: Mississippi, Arkansas and Red Rivers, but sometimes found in the lower St. Francis, White and Ouachita.

Stan Shebs, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Bowfin (Amia calva) 

Family: Bowfin

Size: 30 in

Weight: 8 1/2 lbs

Habitat: Rivers, oxbow lakes and swamps in Arkansas’s lowlands.

Food: Fish

Range: Arkansas River Valley and major drainages of the Coastal Plain lowlands.

Clinton & Charles Robertson from RAF Lakenheath, UK & San Marcos, TX, USA & UK, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

American Eel (Anguilla rostrata) 

Family: Freshwater Eel

Size: 24-36 in

Weight: 1-3 lbs

Habitat: Deep pools of large rivers and streams that are around covers like logs and boulders. It can be found in smaller streams as well.

Food: Dead fish, crustaceans and other organisms

Range: Large rivers

NatureServe, photographer Brian Gratwicke, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Gizzard Shad (Dorosoma cepedianum) 

Family: Herring

Size: 6-8 in

Weight: 1-8 oz

Habitat: Large, open waters, and they prefer deep, calm water

Food: Zooplankton and phytoplankton

Range: Large rivers and impoundments

USFWS Mountain-Prairie, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Mooneye (Hiodon terigsus) 

Family: Mooneye

Size: 11.7 in

Weight: 8 oz

Habitat: Clear waters above firm river bottoms

Food: Aquatic insects, crayfish, mollusks and fish

Range: Arkansas, White, Black, Little Red, Strawberry, Spring, Current and Ouachita Rivers.

Mike Anderson, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Rainbow Trout (Onchorynchys mykiss)

Family: Trout

Size: 20-30 in

Weight: 2-16 lbs

Habitat: Rainbow Trout have mostly been raised in hatcheries in Arkansas.

Food: Crustaceans, aquatic insects and fish

Range: They are introduced in cold tailwaters below dams like the Ozark and Ouachita mountains. Some are placed into springs like Mammoth Spring.

Photo by and (C)2007 Derek Ramsey (Ram-Man), CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Brook Trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) 

Family: Trout

Size: 6-15 in

Weight: 1-5 lbs

Habitat: Covers like logs and boulders that protect them from the current.

Food: Insects and crustaceans

Range: Introduced in the cold tailwaters of dams in the Ozarks or large springs.

Hellion102792, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Chain Pickerel (Esox niger) 

Family: Pike

Size: 2 ft

Weight: 2-4 lbs

Habitat: Not very abundant in Arkansas waters, although they can be seen in clear water near vegetation.

Food: Fish, especially sunfish

Range: Streams and lakes in the coastal lowlands of the Delta, Arkansas River Valley and foothills of the Ouachitas and Ozarks.


This guide was completed with the help of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s “Arkansas Fish” booklet. You can get your own booklet by contacting the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission on their website or calling (833) 345-0325.

Meet the

Learn more about .

A little about .

Kayleigh Tritschler is fresh out of college with a Bachelor's degree in Public Relations from Harding University. City girl turned small town when she stayed in Searcy, AR after college to begin her career as a Marketing Coordinator at First Security Bank. Kayleigh is a book hoarder and spends some of her free time reading said books or buying new ones to collect dust.

Read more stories by Kayleigh Tritschler

Like this story? Read more from Kayleigh Tritschler


Join the Conversation

Leave a Comment

One response to “Arkansas Fish Guide: Part 1”

  1. […] Back with part two of Arkansas Fish! If you missed the first one, click here. […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Submit a photo

We select one featured photo per week, but we show many more in our gallery. Be sure to fill out all the fields in order to have yours selected.

  • Accepted file types: jpg, png, Max. file size: 5 MB.

Regions Topics

What are you looking for?

Explore Arkansas

Central Arkansas

Little Rock, Conway, Searcy, Benton, Heber Springs

Northwest Arkansas

Fayetteville, Bentonville, Springdale, Fort Smith

South Arkansas

Hot Springs, Pine Bluff, Texarkana, Arkadelphia

Explore by Topic