Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

February 16, 2022

More reports and other videos are on the Cotter Trout Dock Youtube Channel Page.
Below is the Arkansas Game and Fish Fishing Report February 17, 2022.

White River

(updated 2-17-2022) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said there's nothing average about the weather we've been experiencing this February, and there are no average days on the White River: all are spectacular! Whether you're busy counting rainbows, watching for a colorful cutthroat or taking time to hook into a sensational brown trout, there are no ordinary days on the river. Water levels have been a little erratic, starting out low, rising in early afternoon, then dropping a couple of hours later. Releases from Bull Shoals Dam have been variable, going from around one unit (3,000 cfs) to around three units (9,000 cfs) pretty regularly over the last week. The lake is 2 feet below its normal power pool of 659 feet mls. Expect cold (to very cold) early mornings and a decent rise in the temperature – we're getting into the 50s pretty regularly already.
The brown bite has alternated between sculpins and minnows with minnows closing in as a close second for the best bait this week. Nightcrawlers proved their worth for bank fishermen, and dragging a scented pink or pink and white worm worked well angling from the johnboats in medium or higher water levels. Be especially cautious if you are casting from the bank or if, during the periods of low water, you are able to wade into the main channel.  The water level can change very quickly – don't be caught unawares. Regardless of water level, remember: Big fish like big bait. March will be blowing in before we know it, so don't be surprised by some gusty days, just carry more weight on your line and keep on anglin'.

(updated 2-17-2022) Dave McCulley, owner of Jenkins Fishing Service in Calico Rock, said the warmer weather this last week has made for nice days on the river. The river has stayed between 4.5 feet and 6.5 feet depth. The water has been clear. The go-to bait continues to be Power Eggs with shrimp. “I recommend taking a few different colors of Power Eggs and if one color isn’t working, try another. Talking to the fisherman on the river, using lures said spoons continue to work well when the river is at the lower levels, and when the water is higher bouncing dark-color jigs off the bottom as well as throwing Rapala Countdowns and Shad Raps.
“I expect with the rain Wednesday night and into Thursday, the river color will get pretty dingy for a couple of days and clear up by the weekend. Watch the weather and river conditions next week as we expect more rain next Monday through Thursday.”

(updated 2-17-2022) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service said that during the past week they have had no precipitation; frigid, then warmer temperatures; and heavy winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals rose 0.1 foot to rest at 1.2 feet below power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 37.2 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock Lake rose 0.5 foot to rest at 1 foot below power pool and 17 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake rose 0.4 foot to rest at 1 foot below power pool or 10.6 feet below the top of flood pool. The White has had no wadable water. Norfork Lake rose 0.6 foot to rest at 1.1 feet below power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 27.6 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork tailwater has had wadable water every day.
“Streamer season fishing is upon us,” he said. “Now that the brown trout spawn is over, they are moving back to their regular locations. Now is a good time to target them. Fishing is best with heavy generation. Bang the bank with big streamers on sink tip lines. White is my current favorite color.”
On the White, the hot spot has been the catch-and-release section below Bull Shoals Dam. After opening day, there have been some big browns caught. 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 an orange egg with a size 18 purple zebra midge.
Remember that the White and the 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.
With the fly-fishing season about to get cranking, John mentions his fly-fishing class resuming at Mountain Home, “Things are beginning to get back to normal. My wife, Lori Sloas, and I are going to resume teaching fly-fishing at Arkansas State University Mountain Home after a two-year break due to the coronavirus. Lori and I have been teaching this class twice a year since 2011 and have taught hundreds of people to fly-fish. We have really missed teaching the class for the last two years and look forward to doing it again.
“The class will be held on the Arkansas State University campus on Thursday nights beginning April 14 and running for four weeks (on Thursday nights). Classes begin at 6 p.m. and end at 8 p.m... The first hour is fly-casting instruction and it is held outside (during inclement weather, it will be inside). The second hour is classroom and is held inside on the first floor of Dyer Hall in room D106. There is plenty of parking nearby.
“The casting instruction will be led by Lori. She has been teaching fly-casting for over 20 years and many consider her the best fly-casting instructor in the area. I will assist her. I have been teaching fly-casting for over 30 years. She is a better casting instructor than I am. The goal is to teach every student to cast a fly rod comfortably.
“I will lead the fly-fishing classroom instruction. I have been doing this for over 30 years. Lori will assist. The classes will be casual and questions will be welcome. I consider myself to be the better classroom instructor of the two of us.
“The classroom covers a variety of topics. First up is water safety. We cover how to wade and boat safely in the trout streams in our area. Next is equipment. We discuss all of the equipment you will need to fly-fish and what you do not need. We recommend that you not buy any gear until you attend the first class. We will furnish a rod and reel for the casting class if needed. If you have your own rod and reel, you are welcome to bring and use it.
“We move on to knots. To keep things simple we only teach two of them, which are all you need to fish effectively. We then teach you to use those knots to rig and fish with four different techniques. We also cover entomology (the study of insects) and fly selection to imitate food forms available on our local streams. We also teach reading water and stream strategies.
“If this sounds like something you would be interested in, go online to https://asumh.coursestorm.com and sign up. There is a modest fee. Lori and I hope to see you there.”

Bull Shoals Lake
As of Thursday, the Army Corps of Engineers reported the lake’s elevation at 658.12 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 914.60 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 915.00 feet msl; top flood elevation is 931.0 feet msl).

(updated 2-17-2022) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said the lake level is 657 feet msl and the temperature is 47, give or take. Bass fishing has been fair with cooler temps pushing big balls of shad over 120 feet into the guts of the creeks. Graph to look for shad and look for loons. Active diving loons will trigger feeding. The shad have moved even deeper as of lately, 50-80 feet deep. Some of the predator fish have left the shad, so power fishermen can grind it out. Key in on wind ledges, transitions, channel swing banks, points with chunk rock. Jerkbait has started catching a few under a little wind, and the Rock Crawler or Wiggle Wart works on windy transitions in cover water. You can always catch them on a jig.
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 553.01 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 2-17-2022) Steven “Scuba Steve” Street at Blackburn’s Resort says the lake level is 552.70 feet msl and is rising slowly but steadily with very little generation. The Army Corps of Engineers is holding the White River at Newport to about 9 feet. The surface water temperature is about 46 degrees and fluctuates a couple of degrees from the afternoon to morning with the recent warm sunshine. “It is cloudy (Wednesday) and it has been very windy, making fishing difficult and a cold front is moving through tomorrow. We have been getting at least one cold front a week and it really slows fishing. Fishing overall has just been fair this last week but the lake is in excellent condition for fishing and is at a good level and color. The bite gets good just before the next front and then the cycle starts over again. The full moon has not helped anything either, except for the striper bite, which has been pretty good for fish in the 5- to 8-pound range in open water on shad.
“I have been bass and crappie fishing and have caught some fish every day, but not a lot. The new brushpiles that we have been putting in are holding fish already. We are past the middle of February and it looks like no shad kill this year, but it did get very cold at this time last year resulting in a big kill. The best bite is in the evening from just before sunset until dark. The best lures are jigs for crappie and bass in brush with the bass being right on the bottom and crappie being suspended right in it. At sunset they move towards the bank out of the brush near the shore and can be caught on a grub on a jighead right at the first drop-off.”
Steve says Tom Wilson from Norfork caught some good ones this week on the Bink's Spoon fishing Blackburn’s new brushpiles in 25 feet of water.
For a daily fishing report and lake condition go to www.blackburnsresort.com and click on Scuba Steve's Blog.

(updated 2-17-2022) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said there are currently three good bites on the lake, making fishing Norfork Lake fun for everyone. Striped bass, black bass (largemouth and spotted bass) and crappie are the three best bites on the lake at this time.
You can find largemouth bass in several different types of areas. Bluff walls have been very productive. The fish can be up tight to the rocks or suspended out from the bluff. Most of these fish are 10-20 feet down either on the bottom, or suspended over deep water. Alabama rigs are working great with white swimbaits. You can judge how heavy of a jighead you need depending on the depth you want to get the bait to. Typical quarter-ounce works great. If you are using an A-rig that already has added weight to the center piece, you may only want a hook with no weight. Crankbaits, jigs and spinners are also producing some nice fish. There are still some nice fish hugging the bottom off of long rocky points from 30-40 feet down. “My best way to catch these deep fish is to vertical-jig a spoon slowly right on the bottom.”
Striped bass are still in their winter pattern. Basically, this is saying that the bait has moved out to the deep-water river channels or very close to the channel. You will find streams of bait 10-30 feet thick and the stripers will be very close by. “I find the striped bass on top of the bait, at the bottom of the bait or some are even buried inside the bait. If there is a deep flat next to the channel you may find large schools of stripers cruising through the flat, but they always stay close to the large streams of bait. The bait is typically suspended 30 to 60 feet down. This depth will vary and the thickness of the bait will vary. The fish will be found suspended at the same depths as the bait. There are various methods to fish for this species. Live bait is a tried-and-true method, vertical jigging a one-ounce spoon, vertical jigging a 3-inch swim bait with a 3/8-ounce jig head or trolling swimbaits, umbrella rigs, or hard crank baits. The key is to get your bait at the same depth as the fish. This pattern will stick around until the water temperature starts to warm, which should be in the next couple of weeks. With the warmer water the bait tends to start to move back in the creeks or farther up river. When the bait moves the stripers will be chasing.
Crappie are on brush. Find brush in 20-40 feet of water. The fish will be at all depths depending on the time of day. Early and late in the day they are typically suspended on top of the brush and on occasion only 5-10 feet down. Midday they tend to drop a little deeper. Of course, the weather plays a big role on how the bait acts in the brush, and just like all fish species they tend to follow their food source. “(Wednesday) morning I hit a couple of brushpiles. It was a very cloudy, windy day and the fish seemed to be deeper and buried inside of the brush. Live bait, small twister tail grubs with a one-sixteenth-ounce jighead and a small one-eighth- to quarter-ounce spoon are all working great.”
Norfork Lake surface water temperature is holding in the 45-46 degree range, but may start to rise slowly with the spring type weather we are having. The lake level has been rising slowly with minimal power generation and currently sits at 552.75 feet msl. The lake is trying to clear but still remains slightly stained.
“I post almost daily on Facebook. If you want more frequent information please visit and Like Hummingbird Hideaway Resort’s Facebook page. Happy Fishing and enjoy Norfork Lake.”

Norfork Tailwater
(updated 2-17-2022) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake rose 0.6 foot to rest at 1.1 feet below power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 27.6 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork tailwater has had wadable water every day.
There has been some 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 particularly 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 the 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 2-17-2022) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Crooked Creek and the Buffalo River are still navigable. 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.