Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

September 22, 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 23, 2021.

White River
(updated 9-23-2021) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said Bull Shoals Lake is about 1.5 feet below power pool, so it's not surprising that generation flows have been low. During this past week, the water level on the White River in the north-central Arkansas Ozarks has remained steady around one unit in the morning. The upticks in generation are coming in the late afternoon, with usually around 4-5 generation units being used.
“Up until this Tuesday, we successfully dodged daytime rainfalls but braved a wet day and sent our anglers home with a great catch of rainbows. Rain or shine, our rainbows are chasing shrimp, especially when it's paired with a small piece of PowerBait.
“As we move into autumn and get closer and closer to the brown trout spawning season, change your bait color to orange or pink to lure them in. The brown bite has slowed some in this lower water, but a sculpin drifted near the bottom will still get a good bite or two. The Vibrax Blue Fox spinner, three-sixteenth-ounce gold, or the bright chartreuse with a partially silver blade, were providing a steady catch of 12- and 13-inch rainbows. As always, it's hard to beat a good day of jig fishing; tie on an olive or an olive/black Marabou Jig (three-sixteenth-ounce works best in this water level) and get ready to net some trout. Use those same colors for casting Woolly Buggers with your fly rods.
“Enjoy these cool mornings and sunny days on the river; stop by and share your latest fish story.”

(updated 9-23-2021) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service said that during the past week they had light rain (about a half-inch in Cotter), warm temperatures and moderate winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals fell 3.2 feet to rest at 1.2 feet below power pool of 661 feet msl. This is 35.2 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock Lake fell 0.1 foot to rest at 1.6 feet below power pool and 15.6 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake rose 0.6 foot to rest at 0.3 foot below power pool or 9.9 feet below the top of flood pool. The White has had marginal wadable water. Norfork Lake fell 1.2 feet to rest at 1 foot above power pool of 555.8 feet msl and 25.2 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork tailwater has had wadable water. All of the lakes in the White River system are below power pool. We should have wadable water on a daily basis.
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).
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 weight 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,” John says. “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 bead-head pheasant tails or zebra midges.”
Remember that the White and North Fork 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 soled wading boots that are easier to clean and are not as likely to harbor didymo.

(updated 9-23-2021) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) said rainbow trout fishing this week has been great. The river is down. Also anglers caught a few browns, but not very many, they report.
The Corps of Engineers is using 2-4 generators at the dam, keeping the level low. PowerBait is a preferred method for fishing this week, along with pink worms, stick bait, Rooster Tails in light green or brown, worms and shrimp.

Bull Shoals Lake
As of Thursday, the Army Corps of Engineers reported the lake’s elevation at 659.22 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 9-23-2021) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said Wednesday the lake level had dropped to just barely above normal (6 inches). The clarity is good and surface water temperature is down to 79 degrees. He says bass fishing has been good. “Get up early for topwater, popper and Zara Spooks in the creeks shallow, and look for wind/shad-surfacing action. Use Chatterbait and buzzbait or Whopper Plopper, covering water if it’s cloudy. Once the topwater bite slows down, use a jig or Beaver-style bait and a big worm. Also use a shaky head for ledges and channel swing banks with chunk rock. On transitions with water cropping, fish on the secondary points in 10-20 feet depth. If it gets tough, use a drop-shot off the points, bluffs and ledges in 26-24 feet depth.
“Shad are starting to group up a little better, but they are spread out and moving. Fish the conditions.”
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 554.52 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 9-23-2021) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake fell 1.2 feet to rest at 1 foot above power pool of 555.8 feet msl and 25.2 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork tailwater has had wadable water. All of the lakes in the White River system are below power pool. We should have wadable water on a daily basis.
There has been wadable water on the Norfork tailwater 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 18 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 to carry a large net, as most fish are lost at the net. John also said, “When I checked the Southwestern Power Administration’s generation prediction for last weekend, I was pleased to see three days (Saturday, Sunday and Monday) of low wadable water. At last an end to high water.
“On Saturday my wife, Lori, had a wade guide trip on the Norfork. I went early to scout it out. Due to high water, neither of us had fished low water on the Norfork in a long time. I was on the river at sunrise and waded far upstream into the catch-and-release section. I began nymphing a pheasant tail with a ruby midge dropper. I was immediately into a good trout. I finally landed a stout 19-inch rainbow followed by a 21-incher. The fishing was phenomenal! I fished for a while longer and caught several more trout. I then waded downstream to meet up with Lori and her client. I told them about my success and they headed upstream to give it a shot.
“I stopped at my Suburban and had a cup of coffee before I walked back upstream. I was surprised that it was not more crowded. We had the catch-and-release section to ourselves. Lori was working with her client and I fished nearby but changed my rig over to a partridge and orange soft hackle with a Dan’s Turkey Tail Emerger (my late brother Dan’s signature fly). I caught several, including a couple of 18-inch rainbows. I then fished some new water to see if there were any trout there. There were a few. It was about noon and I had caught enough. I checked with Lori, and her client had landed 20. She had previously attended two different fly-fishing schools but had never landed a fish. I headed home.
“The next day I fished on my own at Rim Shoals on the White River. I fished from my boat, though it was low enough to wade. Fishing from the boat was excellent. I caught a bunch of trout. The hot rig was a pheasant tail nymph with a ruby midge dropper. I got home in time for lunch and planned the next day.
“The next day, Monday, the plan was that I would go early, rig the rods and launch the boat. After Lori fed and walked the dogs, she would join me and we would fish for a few hours. I had hooked up my boat, made coffee, eaten breakfast and was ready to go. At the last minute, I thought it would be a good idea to check the water conditions on the Corps of Engineers website. They were running six generators. The prediction was wrong again. I canceled the trip to the White and considered fishing the Norfork again as it was scheduled to be down till noon. They began releasing water at 9 a.m.
“It was nice to get to fish low water again. The fishing on both rivers was exceptional. However, I was disappointed by the lack of reliable generation information. It is dangerous to boat or wade when you don’t know what will happen.”

Buffalo National River/Crooked Creek
(updated 9-23-2021) 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.