Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

December 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 December 16, 2021.

White River
(updated 12-16-2021) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said this December continues to be very mild with Christmas just a little over a week away. Releases from Bull Shoals Dam are at minimum flow or less (700 cfs) with an occasional burst bringing the river level to 3,000-4,000 cfs for an hour or two in the late morning and sometimes late in the afternoon. The lake has been rising slowly to 655 mls, but is still about 4 feet below power pool for this time of year.
Kids will be looking for Christmas vacation adventures, and there is none better than catching trout on the White River. Any orange scented egg bait (Berkley PowerBait or XFactor) and shrimp are reliable baits to provide a lot of action and help them catch some rainbows.
Mild daytime temperatures for the next week mean a good time to pick up your rod and reel and get outside. When you see a rise in the water, reach for the wiggly worms. However, wading opportunities abound during early morning here in Cotter, when we have seen very low water. The browns have given some attention to sculpins and minnows, even in the middle of their annual spawn.
Rule of thumb: Gold spinners and spoons will work best when the sky is clear and sunny; change to silver-colored baits when fishing under overcast skies.
“Come on over and tie on your favorite baits; catch some trout and revel in the changing seasons we are so blessed to enjoy. The Trout Capital USA, Cotter, Arkansas, is lit up for Christmas like never before. Visit the park after sunset and see how the city has decorated Big Spring Park. We wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a blessed new year.”

(updated 12-16-2021) Dave McCulley, owner of Jenkins Fishing Service in Calico Rock, says, “How about this beautiful weather? Temperatures have been nice during the day making for a perfect time to be fishing. The varied generation from both Bull Shoals and Norfork dams have had the river levels rising and falling. Last Friday the Norfork Hatchery stocked 1,200 trout at the Calico Rock boat ramp and another 1,200 trout at the Chessman Ferry boat ramp. Due to the varied river conditions the trout haven’t been biting as well but they are still catchable using spoons, Rooster Tails and Power Eggs with shrimp/worms/corn. Fishing is best if you recognize the river is starting to rise and if you can stay in front of the rising water. We hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

(updated 12-16-2021) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service said that during the past week at Cotter, they had no rain and had cold, then warmer temperatures, plus heavy winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals rose 1.1 feet to rest at 3.8 feet below power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 39.8 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock Lake fell 1.3 feet to rest at 2.2 feet below power pool and 18.2 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell 0.2 foot to rest at 2.2 feet below power pool or 11.8 feet below the top of flood pool. The White has had significant wadable water. Norfork Lake fell 1.2 feet to rest at 2 feet below power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 28.2 feet below the top of flood pool. The water level for the top of power pool has been reset higher for all of the lakes in the White River system. All of the lakes in the White River system are below power pool. Anglers have wadable water on a daily basis.
The catch-and-release section below Bull Shoals Dam is closed through Jan. 31 to accommodate the brown trout spawn. The State Park will be seasonal catch-and-release for the same period. All brown trout must be immediately released. In addition, night fishing is prohibited in this area during this period.
On the White, the hot spot has been the Narrows. 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).
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.
John also noted the upcoming Sowbug Roundup: “After a two-year hiatus, the Sowbug Roundup is scheduled for March 24-26, 2022, at the Baxter County Fairgrounds. I am a member of the Sowbug Committee and we have been planning this event for months. For those who are unfamiliar with Sowbug, this is arguably the best fly-tying show in the United States. It is sponsored by the North Arkansas Fly Fishers, our local fly-fishing club.
“My job on the committee is to manage the fly-tying contest, which is open to any fly-tyer. This has been an integral part of Sowbug for many years. The idea is to recognize fly-tyers who are unknown to the public. Over the years we have recognized several fly-tyers who went on to be respected commercial fly-tyers, fly designers and fly-tying instructors.

“Rules have been kept to a minimum. The entrant must tie the fly submitted for judging. Each entry must include the name, address, phone number and email address along with two flies for each pattern submitted (they must be exactly the same size, color, etc.). You need to include the recipe for the fly, instructions on how to fish it, and the category you wish to have it judged in. There are 11 categories, nymph, dry fly, wet fly, smallmouth bass, bass, warm water, salmon/steelhead, salt water and tenkara. In addition, there is a ‘best in show’ award.
“This year we are adding an additional category: Dave Whitlock pattern. This is homage to Dave, our guest of honor. You may tie any published Dave Whitlock pattern.
“You may submit as many patterns for as many categories as you want. You can win a maximum of three categories (best in show is considered a category). All flies submitted will become the property of the contest and will not be returned. Any fly that contains insect parts (legs, wings, etc.) will be eliminated from competition. Commercially tied patterns will not be accepted. The decision of the judges is final. The judging is blind. The judges do not know who tied the flies. Committee members and judges are not eligible to participate in the contest.
“To participate, all you have to do is send your flies, recipes and fishing instructions to me, John Berry, at 408 Combs Ave., Cotter, AR 72626 by Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2022. The winners will be announced on Friday March 25, 2022 at the Sowbug Roundup Shindig, which will be held at St. Peter the Fisherman Catholic Church.
“The rewards are a nice plaque, the ultimate item to hang over your fly-tying desk, and the recognition of your peers. I am always looking for some new tyers and always welcome previous participants. Please take a bit of time and enter the contest.”

(updated 12-9-2021) Fish ’N Stuff (501-834-5733) in Sherwood said water is low and clear. Trout are good. They are catching a lot of numbers on Shad Raps in size 4 and 5, and jerkbaits (2-3 inches in white color) and white marabou jigs.

Bull Shoals Lake
As of Thursday, the Army Corps of Engineers reported the lake’s elevation at 655.48 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl; top flood elevation is 695.0 feet msl). The reported lake elevation at Table Rock Lake was 923.47 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 915.00 feet msl; top flood elevation is 931.0 feet msl).

(updated 12-9-2021) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said patterns are steady, while the temperature drops a little on the lake. Bass fishing is still fair one-half to three-quarters of the way back into the creeks, Look for wind and shad-surfacing action. Birds and loons have arrived around the shad. The deep bite is hot, and bass are keying in on the shad in 40-70 feet. That seems to be the predominant bite.
In stormy, windy conditions, power fishermen can key in on ledges and channel swing banks with chunk rock. On windy days, Rock Crawlers, square bills and Wiggle Warts will work around the windy transitions. Offshore, the shad are starting to group up a lot better. Try a Jewel Scuba Spoon or drop-shot a Damiki Ice Jig. Fish the conditions.
Bull Shoals clarity is good, the surface temperature is 57 degrees. Water level is about 4 feet low. See 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 551.50 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 12-16-2021) Lou Gabric, at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said, says Norfork Lake fishing has been good over the last week or so. Striped bass fishing has improved the most, and as the water continues to cool the striped bass bite will only get better. Stripers & hybrids have started to school up and feed for the cold winter months. The biggest change for this species is that they have started to go deeper to feed. There is a lot of bait that has moved out to deeper water and you can find them from 40 to 60 feet down in depths of water from 40 to 100 feet. The easiest for catching them is if you can find the bait on the bottom. That makes vertical jigging much easier than trying to catch a suspended fish. I am still finding this species on moderate to deep flats. Try and find some structure on the bottom whether it be a drop-off, old foundations or some rotten timber that has sunk over the prior years. Jigging a spoon, ice jig and a plastic jig is working. Many times the fish will hit the bait on the fall, so if your line goes slack, set the hook quickly. Live bait is probably working the best at this time because it is much easier to catch that lone fish with live bait than trying to drop a spoon in front of his mouth.
Largemouth bass fishing has also been very good for me. The fish I am finding and catching are in 30 to maybe 36 feet of water relating to underwater points, small drop-offs, small humps or to nearby brush piles. The areas that I have found to be the best are typically out in the middle of the lake. Small schools are feeding at different times of day. When you find these feeding fish it has been very normal to land 5 to 10 nice size largemouth in a very short period of time. Just remember when you jig up a bass and are reeling it up to the boat do not let the fish jump out of the water. If they do get to jump 9 times out of 10 you have lost the fish. You can also find bass in tighter to shore and fishing jigs and worms are working for these shallow fish.
The white bass bite has also been good. You will find them in the same areas as the stripers and largemouth. Vertical jigging a spoon in 35 to 45 feet of water has been the best method and depth to catch this species. Catfish have also been biting very well out in deeper water along with the largemouth bass, striped bass and white bass. I have caught some nice flatheads over the last week from 26 feet of water out to 34 feet of water. Vertical jigging a spoon will catch this species along with the channels and blues.
The main reason I enjoy vertical jigging in the fall is that you never know what you might catch. All species in Norfork Lake will be roaming and feeding on the flats at the same depth and time of day.
Crappie are in their typical areas, inside of or on the tops of sunken brush. Find brush in 30 to 40 feet of water and vertical jig a small spoon, cast out a small plastic grub or drop live crappie minnows to the tops of the brush.
Norfork Lake is falling slowly and currently sits at 551.66 feet msl which is roughly 2 feet below normal seasonal pool. The surface water temperature has fluctuated from 55 to 57 degrees over the last several weeks and this morning was close to 57 degrees. The lake is slightly stained to clear.
Happy Fishing and enjoy Norfork Lake.

(updated 12-9-2021) Steven “Scuba Steve” Street at Blackburn’s Resort reported Wednesday that the lake level is 552.64 feet msl and had dropped about 1 inch in the last 24 hours with both generators running about 4 hours. The White River at Newport is 3 feet. The surface water temperature was 55.5 degrees and dropping with the cooler weather this week when Steve went out fishing Tuesday. “There was a cool breeze from the northwest but it calmed at about 4 p.m. when the fish started to bite. It was slow before then. Very slow. The cold fronts just keep coming through about one or twice a week and do not help fishing any. I saw no other boats for the entire time I was out.
“I started out with the crappie jig and switched to the spoon when the wind quit. Crappie, Kentucky bass, bluegill and walleye are the best bite now with a few smaller stripers being caught trolling.
“Overall the lake is in excellent condition and at a good level for fishing. Work the bank for bass at sunset and brushpiles earlier at 25-35 feet the rest of the time. Winter bass fishing will pick up as the water cools. Some big crappie are being caught but not high numbers. Some white bass are on deeper brush.”
For a daily fishing report and lake condition go to www.blackburnsresort.com and click on Scuba Steve's Blog.

Norfork Tailwater
(updated 12-16-2021) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake fell 1.2 feet to rest at 2 feet below power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 28.2 feet below the top of flood pool. The water level for the top of power pool has been reset higher for all of the lakes in the White River system. All of the lakes in the White River system are below power pool. Anglers have wadable water on a daily basis.
There has been more wadable water on the Norfork and it fished well some days and poorly on others. 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. 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. 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.

Buffalo National River/Crooked Creek
(updated 12-16-2021) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Crooked Creek and the Buffalo River are low and gin clear. With colder temperatures, the smallmouths are not 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.