Fishing Arkansas: Lake Hamilton
Lake Hamilton is located in Hot Springs, Arkansas, which is a small tourist town about 40 miles southwest of Little Rock, Arkansas' Capitol city. This 7,460 acre man-made lake is situated in between the massive Lake Ouachita and the much smaller Lake Catherine, all of which are connected by the Ouachita River. Lake Hamilton was formed in 1932 by the creation of Carpenter Dam, and is fed by Lake Ouachita via Blakely Dam.
Unlike Lake Ouachita to its north, Lake Hamilton's shoreline is filled with commercial and residential properties. Tourists visiting Lake Hamilton can find a plethora of activities, most of which are fully accessible by boat. The lake is home to several resort hotels, which feature large docking areas similar to a marine parking lot. There are multiple marinas where visitors can rent boats, jet ski's, tubes and party barges, as well as purchase fuel, snacks, beer and ice. Lake Hamilton also has several restaurants, bars and liquor stores located lakeside, all of which are equipped with boat slips for there marine customers. There is really no reason to get in the car once you have arrived at Lake Hamilton, everything you need is accessible by boat. There are plans in the works to bring a Sonic Drive In to the lake, which will allow boaters to pull into slips much like the landlocked drive ins.
Lake Hamilton residential properties are some of the most sought after pieces of real estate in all of Arkansas. Literally thousands of high end condominiums blanket the shoreline, ranging anywhere from $200,000 to over $2 million. Multi million dollar homes are by no means in short supply on Lake Hamilton, with several lakefront estates selling for more than $20 million in recent years.
There's no way a lake this busy and populated could have any sort of productive fishing, right? Wrong!
Lake Hamilton is one of Arkansas' most productive fisheries for largemouth bass, striped bass, hybrid striped bass and crappie. In March 1997, the Arkansas state record for striped bass was shattered twice with a 53lb 9oz striper followed by a 53lb 13oz striper, both of which came from Lake Hamilton. That record has since been broken, and currently stands at 64lb 8oz (Beaver Lake). However, in March of 2010, the record nearly fell again to a Lake Hamilton weighing in at 61lb 10oz. Just a few days after that massive striped bass was reported, a giant Lake Hamilton largemouth bass was reported, just shy of the state record at over 14 pounds.
The key to success on this lake in the Spring/Summer months is knowing the patterns of the fish; where the baitfish school, where the deep water holding pockets are, where the river channel is and when the water flow is high. Here are a few tips to assist you in finding fish in Lake Hamilton during the Spring and Summer seasons.
The northern most tip of Lake Hamilton, just below Blakely Dam, is known for excellent trout fishing, and as a result, excellent striped bass fishing. The crystal clear water allows you spot the giant striped bass roaming the 45 degree waters in search of trout. Live shad, 10z+ Rat-L-Traps, 1.5oz White Spinnerbaits, white jigs and Swimbaits all work well here. (The water is very shallow, less than one foot is some spots, and the current is swift, so use extreme caution!) About 500 yards below the dam, the lake widens a bit, and takes a turn south towards the main lake. This area serves as a staging area for hundreds of monster stripers in June-August. Last summer, the fish could be found here EVERY morning between 8am and 10am. For a period of about 3 weeks in late July, early August, you could set your watch by the striper schools, arriving at 9:30am every day. The water through this area fluctuates from 8ft to 20ft, and at its widest point might be 100 yards across. Spectacular surface feeding takes place here, with hundreds of the fish swarming the surface eating everything in sight. You can look down and see the fish flying in all directions in a frenzy. You can throw anything you want and land a good fish. My suggestion would be a large C-10 Redfin or trout colored Pop-R. Trolling shad will produce as well. If you are privileged enough to witness this, be prepared with multiple rigs, the frenzy lasts only 30min, then they disappear back to the main lake. Several 50lb+ striped bass were pulled from this area last summer.
The trout like to hold in the thick hydrilla and moss beds in about 10-12ft just off the shoreline. Look for the overhead steel guide line that crosses the river, just south of the boat ramp, locate the downed timber on the west shore, tie up there. Rig up a 12-18in leader on light tackle, fit it with a tiny treble hook and load it with chartreuse power bait. Sink it to the bottom, where the bait floats up, and hang on! I’ve had tons of success here, with a 5lb+ rainbow trout caught a few years ago. Small rooster tails work well also for trout.
The feeder creeks are the best areas of Lake Hamilton for bass fishing. These include the Big Mazarn creek, Little Mazarn creek and Hot Springs creek. The s-curve of Big Mazarn Creek is one of the most active areas on the lake. Long reaching shallow flats extend with a gradual slope from 4ft to 22ft. The shoreline is loaded with cover, and the tiny pockets here have multiple brushpiles in about 7-8ft water. The most successful techniques for largemouth bass on Lake Hamilton are carolina rigged plastics, wacky rigged plastics, topwater baits and spinnerbaits.
Don't let the appearance of Lake Hamilton fool you or deter you from fishing its waters. Some of the best fishing in Arkansas awaits you at Lake Hamilton.