Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

September 15, 2021

More reports and other videos are on the Cotter Trout Dock Youtube Channel Page.
Below is the Arkansas Game and Fish Fishing Report September 16, 2021.

White River
(updated 9-16-2021) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said Bull Shoals Lake has reached the established goal of 661 feet msl elevation and changes are occurring in the flow pattern on the river. Consistent high water over the last few months provided some exceptional catches, and steady low flows will offer the same. Anglers encountered some challenges this past week as we neared power pool: the releases varied throughout the day from low to high so some quick, creative adjustments were called for. Leave the bigger baits in your tackle box when the morning water level is near a single unit (3,300 cfs) or just above; instead, pull out the trusty spoons: gold or copper/bronze Colorados and hammered red-and-gold spoons. The Vibrax Blue Fox is a good choice in the afternoon on the slight rise.
The Rebel Craw baits (chartreuse/orange and ditch/brown with orange belly) were proving successful for waders and bank fishers; live crawdads provided better action angling from a jon boat. Seems we might have a few weeks more of warmer, summer-like weather but as we approach autumn, put the crawfish baits away and turn to orange and yellow egg pattern baits. Scented manufactured eggs, drifted across the bottom near the channel during the low water releases or closer to the bank if the river is running swifter and deeper, never fail to pull in a good number of rainbows.
Consistent water level patterns will allow the trout to settle down into normal feeding habits; early morning and early evening may be the best times for easy catches. The trout (as well as the guides) are already adjusting to the lower depth but when sudden changes to the water level occur, you will need to be responsive in changing your baits.
“Come on over and spend some time with us on the river – you won't regret it.”

(updated 9-16-2021) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service said that during the past week they have had no rain, warm temperatures and moderate winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals fell 0.6 foot to rest at 1.8 feet above power pool of 661 feet msl. This is 32.8 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock Lake fell 1.4 feet to rest at 1.5 feet below power pool and 15.5 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell 0.4 foot to rest at 0.9 foot below power pool or 9.5 feet below the top of flood pool. The White had two days of wadable water last week. Norfork Lake fell 0.6 foot to rest at 0.2 foot above power pool of 555.8 feet msl and 24 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork tailwater had three days of wadable water in the past week.
“The water level for the top of power pool has been reset higher for all of the lakes in the White River system. With Beaver and Table Rock Lakes below power pool and Bull Shoals and Norfork lakes near power pool and dropping fast, I predict that both will be at power pool in a few days and we should return to wadable water then,” John said.
“On the White, the hot spot has been Rim Shoals. On the low water, the bite was excellent! The hot flies were Y2Ks, prince nymphs, zebra midges (black with silver wire and silver bead or red with silver wire and silver bead), pheasant tails, copper Johns, pink and cerise San Juan worms, gold-ribbed hare’s ears and sowbugs. Double-fly nymph rigs have been very effective. Try a small bead headed nymph (zebra midge, copper John or pheasant tail) suspended 18 inches below a brightly colored San Juan worm (hot fluorescent pink or cerise).
On the higher flows some anglers have been fishing large streamers on the heavy flows we have been getting later in the day and having success. This requires heavy sink tip lines (250 grain), heavy rods (8 weights or better) and advanced casting skills. The hot flies have been large articulated streamers in various colors.
“Hopper season is on the wane. These are tempting morsels for large trout. You need a stiff 6 weight rod and a 7½-foot 4X leader. My favorite hopper patterns are the Western-style foam hoppers with rubber legs and a bright quick sight patch on the back. Dave’s Hoppers are also a good choice, but be sure to dress them with plenty of fly floatant to ensure that they ride high. A small nymph dropper can increase your takes. It is not uncommon to take more trout on the dropper. My favorite dropper flies are beadhead pheasant tails or zebra midges.”
John also said, “When we are not guiding, teaching fly-fishing or fishing on our own, we show dogs. My wife, Lori, does the training. I tag along and help where I can. I occasionally show a dog when they are short a handler. We have two Labrador retrievers: a yellow female named Tilley and a black male named Ghillie.
“Tilley is a diva. At 8 years old she is a grand champion with no less than 11 obedience, rally and agility titles. Ghillie, at 4 years old, has been more of a challenge. Where Tilley is small for the breed at around 55 pounds, he is huge. He weighs in at around a 100 pounds and it is all muscle. To say that he is a handful is an understatement. Ghillie is our fishing dog. We have to be careful and only fish with him in remote locations away from other anglers. Nonetheless, we aggressively train and show him in competition.
“We have been working toward his championship steadily but were set back by the coronavirus. He has been coming into his own and started winning. He had a major win in Topeka, Kansas, a couple of weeks ago and only needed 3 points to complete his championship. You can get three regular wins or a 3-point major. The more dogs in the contest, the more points you get.
“We entered a show in Amana, Iowa, that promised the opportunity for a major win. Amana is a German colony settled in the mid-1800s. It is a National Historic Landmark. The dog show is held outside in a large field surrounded by cornfields.
“Before we left Cotter, we checked the weather and learned that it would be much cooler and heavy rain was expected. As fly-fishing guides, we had plenty of top-notch raingear and stout waterproof shoes. We also carried some light down jackets, long pants and warm socks.
“The first day it was raining hard. I told Lori that Ghillie had an advantage. He is acclimated to inclement weather. Lori walks him twice a day no matter what the weather is: rain, sleet, snow or oppressive heat. Many of the dogs he was competing against were pampered show dogs. The rain and cold temperatures did not bother him. He did not notice.
“In addition, Lori had been working on improving his coat. She had added eggs, hamburger patties and sardines to his diet. The extra protein showed. His coat had a definite sheen and the rainwater beaded off of him. He looked great.
“I held my breath as he stood for inspection and circled around the ring. He was flawless. At the end, he was awarded best in breed (his first). He had defeated 23 dogs and earned a major win. It was the last points needed and he is now a champion. Party time!
“The next day he had another win and we are now working on making him a grand champion. Ghillie has arrived.”

(updated 9-9-2021) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) said rainbow trout are doing well and are big in size in the catches this week. Tuesday, they say, over 100 fish were caught by anglers. The river level remains high and the Corps of Engineers is generating with 7-8 generators running at Bull Shoals. The overall trout bite is good. PowerBait is suggested, along with pink worms, stick baits, Rooster Tails in light green and brown, worms and shrimp.

Bull Shoals Lake
As of Thursday, the Army Corps of Engineers reported the lake’s elevation at 660.90 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 661.00 feet msl; top flood elevation is 695.0 feet msl). The reported lake elevation at Table Rock Lake was 915.41 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 917.00 feet msl; top flood elevation is 931.0 feet msl).

(updated 9-16-2021) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said Wednesday the lake level had dropped to 2.9 feet above normal and is still dropping. The clarity is good and surface water temperature is down to 84 degrees. He continues to urge anglers to get up early and beat the heat for bass fishing and use topwater baits, poppers and Zara Spooks in the creeks. Look for shad-surfacing action. Use a buzzbait or Whopper Plopper to cover water if it’s cloudy. Once the topwater bite slows down, use a Beaver-style bait and a big worm on ledges and channel swing banks. With water dropping, fish on the points in 10-20 feet depth. If it gets tough, use a drop-shot off the points, the bluffs and ledges in 26-34 feet depth. Shad are starting to group up a little better. Fish the conditions. Clarity is good, the surface temperature is hanging around 84 degrees and the lake is falling and at a little over 6 feet high at last check. Check out Del’s YouTube site (Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock) for more information and tips on fishing Bull Shoals Lake.

Norfork Lake
As of Thursday, the Army Corps of Engineers reported the lake’s elevation at 555.76 feet msl (normal conservation pool: Sept.-April, 553.75 feet msl; April-Sept. 555.75 feet msl; top flood elevation 580.0 feet msl).

(updated 9-16-2021) Steve “Scuba” Street from Blackburns Resort and Boat Rental reported earlier this week the lake level was 555.92 feet msl and had dropped 1 inch in the 24 hours with 1½ generators running about one-third of the time during the day. The White River at Newport is now at 6 feet and about ready to dry up. The power pool is 555.75 feet msl and they seem to always slow generation as this approaches.
The lake overall is in excellent condition for boating and fishing and the weather has been great, except that we are getting very dry. Walleye fishing has slowed a bit, especially the big ones. They were at 30-32 feet of water on brush near the bottom, but the big ones are mostly gone and left the throwbacks. I have not looked for them again yet.
Crappie, bass, bluegill and catfish are the best bite now and are all hitting jigging spoons. “I have had better luck the last few days with downsizing the spoon to one-eighth ounce and lowering the line strength to 4 pounds and fishing a little deeper brush in the 32-35 feet range. Several varieties of fish are there. Trollers are catching a few temperate bass, but they are mostly small. There is a topwater bite early and late partway back in the creeks just outside brushpiles, but they are mostly small bass. Some bigger largemouth are being caught where earlier most were Kentucky bass. The tournament anglers are winning with about 16 pounds per day with a big bass of about 4 pounds. Crappie are nice-sized and about 11-12 inches and are on top of cover and hitting the spoon on the way down. I am catching no throwbacks. Bluegill are under docks and biting crickets.” For a daily fishing report and lake condition go to and click on Scuba Steve's Blog.

(updated 9-16-2021) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said Norfork Lake fishing is still in its summertime fishing pattern, but cooler nights are starting to slowly lower the water temperature. This summer has not been typical for some species in the lake, especially striped bass. Typically, by this time of year, the fish are in 80 feet of water and lying on the bottom. This year you can find striped bass cruising in the deep-water channels in the dam area and the fish are suspended 30-35 feet down. Trolling with downriggers, lead core line or snap weights have all been working very well to help get the bait down to the target depth of 30-35 feet. Swimbaits, jigs with long trailers and crankbaits have all been catching fish.
“I have been mainly fishing for walleye for the last several weeks. Long main lake points have been holding walleye at 30- to 33-foot depths. I have been vertical-jigging with a half-ounce spoon starting around 5:30 a.m. in the morning, then I switch to slow-trolling Berkley Flicker Minnows. When you are vertical-jigging with the spoon, you need to bounce the bait off the bottom. It seems that most of the fish have hit the spoon on the fall, or immediately as the spoon hits the bottom. Be ready to set your hook. My method of trolling is by using my trolling motor and traveling 1.2 to 1.4 mph. I cast my bait out about 50 feet from the boat; then I clip on a 1-ounce snap weight and let out another 50 feet of line. I use a No. 7 Berkley Flicker Minnow tied onto 8-pound test monofilament line. This method and bait is getting down to the 30-foot strike zone.
“Colors have varied for me depending on what the weather is like. On sunny days the white or the white and chartreuse lures have worked the best, but on cloudy days a darker color, such as purple, seems to work better.
“Walleye can be found all over the lake at this time as they do not migrate due to water temperature and oxygen levels like striped bass do. Find long main lake points that have a deep side and a shallower side, especially if the shallower side leads into a large flat. In general, I have found a walleye on every point I troll, but some points seem to hold numerous fish, while other points just a couple.
“Bass fishing has been improving daily. I have been catching some big spotted bass while trolling for walleye with the Flicker Minnows. Over the last couple of days, I have been finding small schools of big largemouth bass in the same walleye areas, but they are in 34 feet of water. Vertical-jigging with a spoon for these deeper largemouth is picking up a few really nice fish. This (Tuesday) morning I found one of these schools. I hooked into and lost four nice fish before I finally got one of them to the surface. It proceeded to jump clear out of the water next to the boat and shake off the hook. At least I found out what I was hooking into.
“I have also found largemouth pushing shad back against a bluff wall and feeding heavily. You will find largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass in shallow water early and late in the day. Crankbaits, jig and pigs, spinners and Chatterbaits are all producing some nice fish along with working a worm along the bottom. A final area where I have found largemouth and spotted bass is out in deep water chasing shad on top. What you will find is a group of fish feeding heavily on the surface for a very short time, then they go down and come up again 100 feet away. This bite seems to be happening mid- to late morning. I went to an area where I found topwater action about four days ago and they were still there. I looked around and saw an area where the fish seemed to be coming up more frequently. I sat and waited and the fish kept coming up. Most were smaller largemouth, but I did get to land a nice 4-pounder. I was throwing my silver Kastmaster with a feather trailer. I like this bait because I can cast it farther than any other bait that I have.”
Crappie are moving back onto brush. “I have not done a lot of crappie fishing, but I have checked out several big brushpiles, back in creeks, as well as on main lake points. The fish have been suspended from 10-20 feet down over brush that is 30 feet deep. I was jigging with a half-ounce and a quarter-ounce white spoon and both caught fish. Fish were all in the 10-inch range. The bigger slabs might still be roaming out in their summertime rock ledge hideouts. It will not be long until the brush is full of big slabs. We need a little cooler water temperature.”
Norfork Lake surface water temperature Tuesday morning was 82 degrees. The lake level was at 555.84 feet msl and continuing to fall slowly. The main lake is mostly clear and the creeks and coves are slightly stained. For a frequent fishing update on Norfork Lake go to Hummingbird Hideaway Resort’s Facebook page. “Enjoy Norfork Lake and have a great time fishing.”

Norfork Tailwater
(updated 9-16-2021) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake fell 0.6 foot to rest at 0.2 foot above power pool of 555.8 feet msl and 24 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork tailwater had three days of wadable water in the past week.
“The water level for the top of power pool has been reset higher for all of the lakes in the White River system. With Beaver and Table Rock Lakes below power pool and Bull Shoals and Norfork lakes near power pool and dropping fast, I predict that both will be at power pool in a few days and we should return to wadable water then,” John said.
There has been wadable water on the Norfork and it fished well. The most productive flies have been small midge patterns like zebra midges (black or red with silver wire and silver bead). Grasshoppers have produced fish, particularly when used in conjunction with a small nymph dropper (try a size 20 black zebra midge). Double fly nymph rigs have been very effective. Try a small bead headed nymph (zebra midge, copper John or pheasant tail) suspended eighteen inches below a brightly colored San Juan worm (hot fluorescent pink or cerise). The fishing is much better in the morning and late afternoon and tapers off midday.
Dry Run Creek has fished well. School is back in session and now is a great time to fish it, particularly during the week. Weekends can get a bit crowded. The hot flies have been sowbugs and various colored San Juan worms (worm brown, red, hot fluorescent pink and cerise). Small orange or peach eggs have been very effective. Be sure and carry a large net, as most fish are lost at the net.
Remember that the White and North Fork 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 soled wading boots that are easier to clean and are not as likely to harbor didymo.

Buffalo National River/Crooked Creek
(updated 9-16-2021) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Crooked Creek and the Buffalo River are low and gin clear. Both are receiving a lot of pressure. With summer coming to an end, the smallmouths are still active. The most effective fly has been a tan and brown 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.