Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

April 3, 2019

More reports and other videos are on the Cotter Trout Dock Youtube Channel Page.
Below is the Arkansas Game and Fish Fishing Report April 3, 2019.

White River

(updated 4-3-2019) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) says, “What can we say about fishing the White River in the north-central Arkansas Ozarks? We catch a lot of trout on a large assortment of bait and flies; we are blessed by beautiful scenery, a wide open sky and spring time colors popping out everywhere; we have a great time each and every day enjoying and employing God's great outdoors. Did I mention that we catch a lot of trout on just about anything you put at the end of your line, that is, if you're willing to keep a variety of flies and baits handy and are willing to change up your baits if needed? We've been most successful this week with sculpins for bigger fish and small jigs for fly or spin fishers (streamers didn't produce like we wanted, so returned to a smaller fly dropping it just below the surface).” The water level has continued to vary somewhat during the day: high water in the morning, dropping to minimum flow levels for a few hours, then back up to four or five units during the evening and overnight. “We've experienced a decent bite on falling water midday and usually end our fishing day on a high note with some shrimp and a peach colored egg tied on. Come test the waters and enjoy a spring day in the Ozarks. Bring some rain protection – it's April in Arkansas!”
(updated 4-3-2019) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) said the clarity is “on the cloudy side” and the water level is high. Eight (the maximum) generators are running from the dam. “If you have a guide, you’re in good shape,” they say. “It’s hairy right now if you want to wade or take a small boat.” The rainbow trout bite is good. Anglers are also catching a lot of nice bream now.

(updated 4-3-2019) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said last weekend that during the past week they have had half an inch of rain, warmer temperatures and heavy winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals fell 0.7 foot to rest at 0.3 foot above seasonal power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 35.7 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock remained steady at 0.7 foot above seasonal power pool and 15.3 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell 1.1 feet to rest at 0.5 foot above seasonal power pool and 9.1 feet below the top of flood pool. The White had heavy generation and some wadable water. Norfork Lake fell 0.4 foot to rest at 0.6 foot above seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 25.6 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork heavy generation and some wadable water. Seasonal power pool has been reset for the lakes in the White River system. All of the lakes in the White River System are inches from the top of power pool. Expect more wadable water in the near future.
The White has fished well. The hot spot has been the catch-and-release section at Rim Shoals. The hot flies were olive Woolly Buggers (sizes 8, 10), Y2Ks (sizes 14, 12), prince nymphs (size 14), zebra midges (black with silver wire and silver bead or red with silver wire and silver bead sizes 16, 18), pheasant tails (size 14), ruby midges (size 18), root beer midges (size 18), pink and cerise San Juan worms (size 10), and sowbugs (size 16). Double-fly nymph rigs have been very effective (John’s current favorite combination is a size 14 bead-head pheasant tail nymph with a size 12 egg pattern suspended below it. Use plenty of lead to get your flies down). There have been some shad coming through the generators at Bull Shoals Dam. John’s favorite fly for this situation has been a white mop fly suspended below an egg pattern.
Remember that the White and Norfork rivers and Dry Run Creek are infected with didymo, an invasive alga. Be sure and thoroughly clean and dry your waders (especially the felt soles on wading boots) before using them in any other water. Many manufacturers are now making rubber soles that are easier to clean and are not as likely to harbor didymo.
John also said, “I don’t know about the rest of you but I am ready for lower water. I have been out there fishing on up to eight generators and I am tired of it. I have been catching trout but it has been hard. I have been slinging a lot of lead and throwing some really long leaders, both of which have made the casting a bit more challenging. I used 11- or 12-foot leaders with a heavily weighted egg pattern with a mop fly as a dropper (it has been imitating the shad kill). Depending on the flow I have been using several AAA split shot to get everything down to the bottom. All of this is suspended under a big strike indicator.
“The good news is that all of this heavy generation is about to come to an end. Due to the aggressive generation during the past few months, all of the lakes in the White River system are now less than a foot from the top of power pool. That means we should be ready for lower flows. Could wadable water be on the horizon? In fact, as I write this, Bull Shoals is scheduled to be off for six hours.
“I also want to remind you that my wife, Lori, and I are teaching our spring fly-fishing class at Arkansas State University Mountain Home beginning next week. We teach this class twice a year spring and fall, and the next class is in October. The class meets on four consecutive Thursday nights beginning April 4. There is a modest charge. If you are interested in learning to fly fish this is a great opportunity.”

Bull Shoals Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 659.76 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl).

(updated 4-3-2019) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock had no recent report. Del’s video reports are available on

Norfork Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 554.53 feet msl (normal conservation pool: September-April 552.00 feet msl; April-September, 554.00 feet msl).

(updated 4-3-2018) Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters said, “We continued with our evening fishing this past week on Norfork Lake. My clients who were fishing in the morning were still struggling to catch stripers, so we decided to take what the lake was offering. The night bite was fair but not as good as when we had the full moon. We had a couple of days with a south wind, but most days it stayed out of the north or northwest and was cold. By week's end the morning bite was picking up. My clients reported they were catching limits of hybrids from north of Cranfield to Biar Creek. They were fishing the bluff walls where the channel was and catching them using shiners and long free lines with only a split shot.
“On the south end of the lake we fished Friday morning but got a very late start and managed to boat two stripers on planer boards next to the shore. We had three more strikes before the rain set in. The lake temperature was near 55 degrees and I feel would have been in the low 60s if it wasn't for this cold snap we are having.
“With that said we should see some great fishing the next several weeks for stripers and crappie. I have been seeing large schools over the new brush piles the AGFC put in the lake. They will start moving towards the shore as the water continues to warm up. Overall we should have great morning, afternoon and night fishing beginning this coming weekend.”

(updated 4-3-2019) Steve Olomon of Steve’s Guide Service said the Norfork Lake level is normal and the water temp is in the low 50s in the main lake to the upper 50s up in the creeks. The water clarity is clear main lake and stained up in the creeks. The upper end of the lake is a little warmer. There are a few white bass coming up chasing bait along with some black bass. “You can catch the topwater fish on just about any topwater bait. I like to use a Zara Spook,” he said. The bass are hitting jerk baits, crankbaits and swimbaits. The whites are hitting swimbaits as well. “I haven't seen any surface activity for hybrids or stripers, but it will happen soon when the water warms a little more and the weather gets more stable. There are some stripers hitting at night. The bite is only going to get better as we move into April.”

(updated 3-27-2019) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said had a fun Tuesday night fishing and says the bite for largemouth bass and striped bass has
been very good on Norfork Lake and it’s starting to get exciting. “My guests and I have found topwater action for largemouth, white bass and striped/hybrid bass over the last couple of days. The lake temperature is rising and the fish are starting to get active and are starting to feed heavily. This is not say you can find the active fish everywhere, but you need to look around and when you find them, the fun begins!”
Lou says he has been doing a lot of searching on Norfork Lake waters from the mid-lake major creeks up to the Bennett's area and also upriver to Missouri waters. “The best locations I have found are back in the bigger creeks and also in a few of the smaller creeks. I have also found the best bite is in the early morning until the sun gets above the tree line and then again in the late afternoon, starting around 4 p.m. until after dark.” This is not to say you cannot catch fish during midday, he adds The fish tend to move out of the shallow water into a little deeper water as the sun comes up. Tuesday this week was a great day for him, Lou said. “I fished both early morning and late afternoon to see if the night bite for striped bass was happening. I found striped bass, hybrid bass and white bass in shallow water early in the morning as well as at sundown. My best baits for striped bass have been a 6-inch swimbait with a 3/8-ounce jighead, a half-ounce silver Kastmaster (blade bait) and then after dark a suspending jerkbait. At around 7 p.m. I saw swirls of big fish right on the surface. The stripers and hybrids were feeding. I landed the first hybrid on the swimbait. A lot of fish were farther from me so I switched to my Kastmaster since I can cast it farther. And the game was on after my bait switch. I would see a swirl, cast out my bait and after one little twitch of the rod tip, my rod would double over and the fight began. This action lasted until it became too dark to see. Once it was dark I switched to a suspending jerkbait. I found that a white or bone-color jerkbait worked the best. I moved up closer to the shoreline and slow-rolled the bait back to the boat, occasionally letting it sit still.”
Lou says he ended up landing nine stripers and hybrid bass with most coming from the topwater action, but the fish did move in tight to the shore after dark following the baitfish to continue feeding. Lou says he landed a nice fat 11-pound striper and a big hybrid after dark on a jerkbait. While I was into fish in one area, several of his guests got into topwater action along a deep bluff line about 2 miles away from where Lou was. “My guests were actually heading up to me when they found their topwater action. We all had a good time. The largemouth bass bite continues to be good. There has been good topwater action for this species early in the morning just as the sun is rising. The best locations have been towards the back of smaller creeks in shallow water, 5-20 feet deep. Just about anything you cast out will catch a fish when they begin feeding like this. My guests have gotten into this action for the last two mornings and have had a blast. Crank baits, Alabama rigs, topwater lures, jerkbaits and Rat-L-Traps have all been catching fish in deeper water and on the banks.
“My 6-inch swimbait is starting to catch some nice largemouth in the deeper water. You need to work the swimbait close to the bottom. If you don't find topwater, the fish will be up tight on the shallow banks out to 20 feet deep. (Tuesday) night when I moved from my first point after dark, I headed in towards a typical main lake point to see if striped bass were feeding along the bank. No stripers on these points, but I did find some really nice-size largemouth right next to the sunken buckbrush. I was casting a suspending jerkbait working it very slowly.”
Norfork Lake’s conditions have become fairly stable over the last several days, Lou reports, with the lake only dropping about an inch a day. The current depth is 554.5 feet msl. “I really do like stable water for fishing. The surface water temperature is rising slowing and has reached the mid-50s. The main lake is clearing nicely and some of the creeks and coves are stained a great fishing color.”

Norfork Tailwater

(updated 4-3-2019) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said last weekend that over the previous week Norfork Lake fell 0.4 foot to rest at 0.6 foot above seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 25.6 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork heavy generation and some wadable water. Seasonal power pool has been reset for the lakes in the White River system. All of the lakes in the White River System are inches from the top of power pool. Expect more wadable water in the near future. The Norfork has fished well. Navigate this stream with caution as there has been major gravel recruitment at the bottom of Mill Pond and the dock hole. The most productive flies have been small midge patterns (sizes 18, 20, 22) like ruby midges, root beer midges, zebra midges (black or red with silver wire and silver bead) and soft hackles (sizes 14, 16) like the green butt. Egg patterns have also been productive. Double-fly nymph rigs have been very effective. Try a small Y2K suspended 18 inches below a brightly colored San Juan worm (hot fluorescent pink or cerise size 10). The fishing is better in the morning. Dry Run Creek is fishing well. With spring, it has been a bit crowded. Begin early to avoid the crowds. The hot flies have been sowbugs (size 14), Y2Ks (size 12) and various colored San Juan worms (worm brown, red, hot fluorescent pink and cerise size 10).

Buffalo National River/Crooked Creek

(updated 4-3-2019) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said the Buffalo National River and Crooked Creek are navigable. The smallmouths are much less active with the cold conditions. John’s favorite fly here is a Clouser minnow. Carefully check the water level before entering Crooked Creek or the Buffalo River. There are no dams on these streams. They both have large drainages and are prone to flooding during and following any rain event. The water can rise very quickly.