Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

February 23, 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 24, 2022.

White River

(updated 2-24-2022) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said the White River watershed is on the rise: Bull Shoals Lake is up 2 feet (msl) to 659.5 feet msl over last week's report. The two larger lakes behind Bull Shoals – Table Rock and Beaver – are also rising due to winter precipitation. That usually means we will see an increase in releases from the dams, and so far that's held true. Winter is still with us: Wome sleet and ice Wednesday, but weather forecasters are promising sun by the weekend and March might not come roaring in too loudly. Until then, our nights are pretty chilly, so bundle up for early morning take-offs on the river.
The trout bite has been a somewhat tricky this past week, possibly due to the up-and-down flow from Bull Shoals Dam. Water releases have been ranging from 2,500 cfs (just under one generator early in the morning) to 16,000-plus cfs (five units or more), then dropping back to a unit or two later in the day. But it's good to know that the browns are returning to their favorite spots after the annual spawn and are looking at larger sculpins and, sometimes, a minnow or two, if placed near some burbling waters around underwater structure.
Favorite stick bait this week: The Rapala CD9s and CD7s, brown trout or rainbow; reeled in several browns playing the Rapalas in the higher, fast-moving water. Those keeper rainbows are favoring peach-colored or fluorescent yellow eggs. Try adding some garlic scent to your bait if fishing from the bank or in areas of calmer water.
“We caught a trophy-sized brown this morning in the sleet, so don't let the weather hold you back. Stop in to warm up or grab a cup of coffee and share the news of your latest trophy. Stay dry and warm.”

(updated 2-24-2022) Dave McCulley, owner of Jenkins Fishing Service in Calico Rock, said the rain last week made the river muddy and the fishing was poor. By late Sunday the morning the water color had cleared up enough for the fishing to be good Sunday afternoon and Monday. The fish were biting on Power Eggs; the sunrise color worked best but other bright colors had success. The rain Monday night and into Tuesday morning again muddied the river and caused the river to rise to over 12-foot depth, well above the 4.5-6.5 feet depth we have been seeing. It will take couple of days for the river to clear up again. The winter weather Wednesday and Thursday has the roads slick and we’ll see how much the winter precipitation affects the river.

(updated 2-24-2022) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service said that during the past week they have had two rain events (combined for 2 inches in Cotter), cold temperatures and heavy winds. “We are currently waiting for an ice storm,” he said Tuesday. The lake level at Bull Shoals rose 1.6 feet to rest at 0.4 foot below power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 35.6 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock Lake rose 1.7 feet to rest at 0.7 foot below power pool and 15.3 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake rose 1 foot to rest at power pool or 9.6 feet below the top of flood pool. The White has had no wadable water. Norfork Lake rose 2.5 feet to rest at 1.1 feet above power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 25.1 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork tailwater has had no wadable water.
“There has been a shad kill on the White River at Bull Shoals Dam,” John reports. “This is a natural phenomenon that occurs occasionally during cold weather and high generation. Use white flies like marabou jigs or mop flies.
“Streamer season fishing is upon us. 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.
John also said, “Like many of you, I have spent quite a bit of time indoors watching the rain, ice, sleet and snow accumulate. Somehow, between the winter storm warnings, my wife, Lori, and I found a nice day when we wanted to go fishing.
“The day was to be sunny with a high in the lower 60s with light and variable winds. To sweeten the deal the water level prediction called for a couple of hours of generation on the Norfork tailwater ending at 8 a.m. We figured that the Norfork would be quite wadable at the Ackerman Access around 11 a.m. We decided to head for the river but took a detour to have lunch at Heidi’s Ugly Cakes in Norfork. I somehow avoided eating a delicious piece of peanut butter pie in a vain attempt to stay on my diet (Lori and I have picked up a few pounds during the coronavirus debacle).
“We traveled over to the access and donned our waders. I opted to begin fishing with the flies on my rod from a previous trip, a partridge and orange soft hackle with a size 18 Dan’s turkey tail emerger. Lori started with an olive Woolly Bugger.
“The river was on the bottom and was gin clear. It was about 50 degrees with little wind and plenty of sunshine. We waded far upstream. This was the first wade trip for Lori since she broke her arm. She did well and made the long hike with no trouble.
“She hit one spot and I waded further upstream to try another spot.
“I was off to a slow start and changed flies to a double nymph rig. I did no better and changed flies several times. I walked down to where Lori was fishing. She had no success and went further downstream. I met a friend and was talking to him. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Lori’s rod bend. I returned to my conversation but watched Lori as I talked. Minutes passed and she was still fighting the fish.
“She had no net, so I thought that I would wade down to where she was fishing and see if I could help her. About that time, the fish jumped. I got a good look at it and it was huge. I tried to move closer to the fish, in an attempt to net it.
“Lori was fishing with a size 18 Dan’s turkey tail emerger. I had tried it earlier with no success. There were some small midges coming off and Lori had read the water well. This was my brother, Dan’s, signature fly and we fish it often. The problem is that it is very small (No. 18) and when barbless it does not have a lot of metal in it to hold big fish.
“The trout was a solid 26-inch rainbow (we don’t see a lot of rainbows that big). It took one last jump and slipped the hook. Lori was disappointed but at the same time happy to have hooked a good fish like that. This time the trout got lucky and got away. Lori thought it was camera shy.”

Bull Shoals Lake
As of Thursday, the Army Corps of Engineers reported the lake’s elevation at 659.76 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl; top flood elevation is 695.00 feet msl). The reported lake elevation at Table Rock Lake was 915.78 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 915.00 feet msl; top flood elevation is 931.0 feet msl).

(updated 2-24-2022) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said the lake level is 659 feet msl and the temperature is 46, give or take. Bass fishing has been fair with generation at the dam and cooler temps pushing big balls of shad over 120 feet and further out of creeks. The deep bite is going away. If you are going to do it, graph to look for shad and look for loons. Active diving loons will trigger feeding. Damiki on a Moon Eye and Rapala jigging Rap. As more fish move up and leave the shad, crawfish are on the menu. Dragging a jig, shaky head or Ned rig in 10-20 feet secondary. Over the next couple of weeks, key in on areas outside of spawning areas. Jerkbait has started catching a few on points and bluff ends in shallower water around brushpiles, and a little wind helps. As the temps rise, fish are seeing red. Rock Crawlers, Wiggle Warts on windy transitions, and cover water.
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 554.74 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 2-24-2022) Steven “Scuba Steve” Street at Blackburn’s Resort says the lake level is 554.86 feet msl and has risen a half-inch in the last 24 hours with both generators running continuously. It is dropping slowly now if they keep both generators on but has come up about 2.5 feet in the last week. The White River at Newport is 19-plus feet. A winter storm is on its way here now on Wednesday with ice, snow and sleet expected. The surface water temperature is about 46 degrees, and it got very cold last night after balmy weather the last weekend with highs in the 60s. The lake is very clear and you can see your lure down about 8 feet in the sunshine.
The cold fronts just keep coming through, hurting fishing, and then it warms up again. It is typical weather for early March and it’s only the last week in February. The fishing was slow early last week but got better as the weekend approached with crappie and bass being the best bite and a few walleye and stripers also coming in. Most fish were caught on Blackburn’s new brushpiles on either the spoon, jig or grub. Trollers are catching stripers in the 5- to 8-pound range, and the white bass and hybrids are going deeper.
The weather should improve by Sunday with much warmer temperatures, but the snow, sleet and ice will not warm the water up any. Some nice fish are being caught but not high numbers.
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 2-24-2022) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake rose 2.5 feet to rest at 1.1 feet above power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 25.1 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork tailwater has had no wadable water.
There has been less 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. 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 2-24-2022) 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.