Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

April 21, 2021

More reports and other videos are on the Cotter Trout Dock Youtube Channel Page.
Below is the Arkansas Game and Fish Fishing Report April 22, 2021.

White River
(updated 4-22-2021) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said Bull Shoals Lake is continuing to fall to power pool level, so we've seen Southwestern Power and the Army Corps of Engineers decreasing dam releases in recent days. North-central Arkansas has experienced some unseasonably cold weather nights over the last week or so, but the days are perfect April. The cool mornings and sunny days have created great trout fishing conditions. The brown trout bite has been steady, with sculpins and the occasional well-positioned shad doing well. Rainbows have been hitting sunrise and orange PowerBait, especially in combination with shrimp or crawdad tail -- an excellent way to reel in some nice-sized fish. Casting toward the bank, dangling a wrigglin' red wiggler worm, is the best way to take advantage of rising water releases but will require some effort to keep from snagging the rocks. The quality of rainbows often exceeds the quantity, but you'll see a good quantity put aside in the creel basket, too. Copper-colored spoons and spinners are the baits to cast this time of year if that's your style of fishing. “We hope to see you here in the Ozarks.”

(updated 4-22-2021) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) said fishing is picking up. Anglers are still catching a lot more browns than they are catching rainbows. River clarity is clear. River level is high with eight generators running round-the-clock. Overall trout bite is termed good.

(updated 4-15-2021) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service said Monday that during the past week they had several rain events that combined for about 0.9 of an inch here in Cotter), warmer temperatures and heavy winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals fell 3.8 feet to rest at 5.7 feet above seasonal power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 30.3 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock fell 0.2 foot to rest at 0.3 foot above seasonal power pool and 15.7 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell 0.6 foot to rest at 1.5 feet above seasonal power pool and 8.1 feet below the top of flood pool. The White had no wadable water. Norfork Lake fell 1.9 feet to rest at 4 feet above seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 22.2 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork tailwater has not had wadable water in a couple of weeks. The lakes in the White River system are dropping rapidly.
On the heavy flows fishing has been spotty. The hot spot has been Wildcat 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 San Juan worm and egg pattern; use long leaders and lots of lead).
John also said, “It is no secret that my favorite place to fish is Rim Shoals. It is catch-and-release water, has a great ramp, great walk in access, porta-johns and picnic tables. Now it is getting even better by the addition of Rim Shoals Trail. There is now a quality 1-mile trail that starts at the walk-in access and follows the river downstream.
The trail first began almost 20 years ago when Gary Flippin of Rim Shoals Lodge hacked a trail on land belonging to Marshall Berg along the river below the walk-in access. Gary told me he was regularly rescuing waders caught in high water on the island at Rim Shoals. The trail provided a safe way to exit the water. Gary called the trail Menokas trail. I was an early user and walked it every time I waded at Rim Shoals.
“There has been a major project to expand and enhance the trail. The original trail was a bit rough. It is now really nice. The new trail was a joint effort between Trout Unlimited White River Chapter 698 and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, with additional funding from Barbara Graham through the Graham Foundation in memory of her husband, Frank. The trail is on land belonging to Marshall Berg and Hugh McClain, who have granted access for the trail.
Key players in the process have been Tim Barnley of the AGFC; Jim Dugan, Tom Emerick and T. L. Lauerman from Trout Unlimited White River Chapter 698; and Gary Flippin. Thank you to all concerned.
“My wife, Lori, and I took my sister, Ernestine, on the trail when she visited last year. We found the trail to be excellent. It is much longer and the surface is definitely user-friendly. There is a picnic area at the trail end. According to Gary, they have identified at least a dozen spots along the trail to access the river. Therefore this trail will allow unlimited access to a mile of river and will also allow safe exit from the shoal in rising water.
“There is to be a dedication of the trail on April 17 at 1 p.m. at Rim Shoals. The public is invited. I plan to attend.
“I am really happy to see this project come to completion. There are so many users. I have many friends who are hikers. This trail is close and very easy to access. It is a reasonably easy walk and it follows the river and features some incredible scenery. I saw a bald eagle snatch a good-sized rainbow from the surface of the river on a recent visit.
“Equally important is the ability to access more of the river. Due to the introduction of this trail, Rim Shoals will now have more and easier wade access than any other area in the state. It has always been my favorite spot, and now it just got better. I have a lot of new water to access and learn. Life is good!”

Bull Shoals Lake
As of Thursday, the Army Corps of Engineers reported the lake’s elevation at 663.96 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl). The reported lake elevation at Table Rock Lake was 914.81 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 915.00 feet msl).

(updated 4-22-2021) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock says fish are in all stages of the spawn. There has been a major wave up. In the mid-lake area, target points and swings close to spawning pockets. Hit the south-facing pockets. Gravel flats and dirty water have some warmer temps but are also the first to cool. The shad are schooling back up and look for shad balls in the creeks. Fishing in the shad, try a fluke shallow or swimbait, a 2.8 Damiki rig. A little topwater activity has started; try a popper or small walk-the-dog smaller profile. Powerfish windy cloudy days with the bright spinnerbait and Chatterbait in dirty shallow water. If it’s clear and a flat bluebird day, use green pumpkin shaky head and ol’ Ned rig tubes. The backs of creeks have a little color change. We always catch them on a jig in channel swings. Also try a green pumpkin Beaver flipping in shallow water and laydown bushes in the right area. Brush is becoming a player. Fish the conditions.
Visit Del’s YouTube site (Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock) for more information and tips on fishing the lake. Surface temperature this week is ranging from the low to mid-60s. Water level is high by 5 feet. Clarity is clear.

Norfork Lake
As of Thursday, the Army Corps of Engineers reported the lake’s elevation at 557.13 feet msl (normal conservation pool: Sept.-April, 553.75 feet msl; April-Sept. 555.75 feet msl).

(updated 4-15-2021) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said Norfork Lake is in the prime of the spring fishing season. Crappie and bass have both started their spawning process, which will continue for several weeks if not more. Cool fronts during this process do tend to slow things down. Walleye have completed their spawn and are starting to show up all over the lake. White bass should have spawned already, “but from what I’ve seen with the few I have cleaned they are just starting to get ready,” he says. “The cold February might have really messed with their cycle.
Striped bass and hybrid bass will spawn soon if the water temperature rises a little more. Overall this spring is acting very similar to prior years, which means a good bite for most species.
Crappie are being caught with three different methods. Cast a small jig right into the shoreline with a very light jighead. Let it fall slowly and twitch it out of the sunken brush until you feel a strike. Best areas are where there is dead wood sunken on the shoreline or where the shore has a lot of sunken buckbrush due the slight rise in the water level. You can also fish brushpiles that are 20-30 feet deep. The crappie have typically been on the tops of the brush or out along the sides of the brush. A second method is to vertical-jig a small spoon or a small jig with a very lightweight jighead. Let it fall slowly and typically a crappie will pick it up before it stops falling. A live minnow with a slip float is also a good method for brushpile fishing. The third method (the one Lou says he prefers at this time) is trolling Berkley Flicker Minnows size 7 and 9. “I slow-troll with my trolling motor at a speed of 1.2 to 1.4 mph. I try and stay in 18-40 feet of water. There are schools of crappie out in the deep water staging for the spawn and when your bait goes through the school it gets hammered. The best areas to fish are back in coves and creeks that have brushpile throughout the cove.
Bass fishing has also been very good. The bass are up in shallow water feeding on baitfish and small bluegills. “I have found them back in creeks and coves. A lot of the time they are all the way in the back in very shallow water. Try crank baits, soft plastic jerk baits and jigs worked slowly along the bottom. On windy days, spinnerbaits will work wonders. Topwater action has started, but isn’t consistent at this time due the cool water. When I have found this action, it has been in the backs of creeks that the wind has been blowing into. Typically, you will find a lot of baitfish in the same area.”
Striped bass and hybrid bass fishing is also picking up. “Tuesday morning, I found some topwater action for striped bass. The water was not boiling, but there were many fish individually busting the surface feeding on bait. I tried throwing a Zara Spook with no success and switched to a long 5-inch swimbait with a paddle tail and it was hammered. I did not let it sink very much, but only retrieved at a medium speed, letting it drop slowly as it came back to the boat. It is a blast when a big fish hammers the bait and just starts running in the opposite direction. All you can do is hang on until it decides it is tired of running. I have also found this species on main lake points early in the morning, as well as late in the day up in the sunken buckbrush, feeding on shad. They tend to push the bait up to the shoreline to make them easy pickings. Cast a swimbait or a fluke up into the brush with a steady retrieval to the boat and hang on.”
The lake level has been falling slowly for the past week or so, but now is stable due to power generation being reduced from two generators to just one. The current lake level is 557.72 feet msl, which is only 4 feet over normal pool levels. The surface lake temperature ranges from the upper 50s to low 60s depending on the time of day. The lake is clearing with just a slight stain. With the clearer water, make sure you use clear or vanishing fishing line and as light of a test line as you feel comfortable fishing with.
Lou adds, “If you are looking for frequent fishing information on Norfork Lake, go to Hummingbird Hideaway Resort’s Facebook page. Daily posts of my fishing trip, as well as our guests. You will find some very helpful information. Happy fishing and see you on the lake.”

Norfork Tailwater
(updated 4-15-2021) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake fell 1.9 feet to rest at 4 feet above seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 22.2 feet below the top of flood pool.The Norfork tailwater has not had wadable water in a couple of weeks. The lakes in the White River system are dropping rapidly.
The tailwater is fishing well. Navigate this stream with caution as things have changed a bit during recent flooding. 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 San Juan worm and egg pattern combination.
Dry Run Creek is fishing well. There is increased pressure with warmer weather. Fish early or late to avoid the crowds (the creek is open to fishing from sunrise to sundown). The Norfork National Fish Hatchery is open but the restrooms are still closed. The hot flies have been sowbugs (size 14), Y2Ks (size 12), various colored San Juan worms (worm brown, red, hot fluorescent pink and cerise size 10), mop flies and egg patterns.
Remember that the White and Norfork Rivers and Dry Run Creek are infected with didymo, an invasive alga. 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.

Buffalo National River/Crooked Creek
(updated 4-15-2021) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said the Buffalo National River and Crooked Creek are clearing. With the cool temperatures the bite is still slow. John’s favorite fly 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.