Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

March 9, 2022

More reports and other videos are on the Cotter Trout Dock Youtube Channel Page.
Below is the Arkansas Game and Fish Fishing Report March 10, 2022.

White River
(updated 3-10-2022) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said, “Spring break on the White River near Cotter means lots of young anglers coming to the area, and there's nothing better than seeing a family enjoying the great outdoors – fishing for, catching, and releasing boatloads of trout in the beauty of The Natural State. There will be more traffic on the river than we've gotten used to over the slower winter months. “Mid-March kicks off the fishing season here in the Ozarks and adds a lot of energy and excitement to the air.
“The lake has been falling slowly to 658.93 feet msl as we continue to see high water levels in the tailwater of the White River watershed, often between three to six units (9,000-18,000 cfs). Releases of that level require anglers to get creative, to try some things they might not have tried before. Learn to dangle a jig; the white Marabou has worked great this past week. Add weight to your line, add a bright-colored orange bead several inches above the hook, or try a new, extra-flashy lure (silver and blue work well right now). Bait fishermen have relied on sculpin minnows for most of the brown catches. Some of the guides prefer palm-sized (think big) sculpins; most are just as successful drifting the more available smaller bait at mid-depth or deeper in the holes. “The changing water and weather offer fun challenges – you won't get bored fishing the Cotter waters of the White. Be prepared for low to very low temperatures in the morning and, more often than not, sun-warmed afternoons. Mostly, be prepared for creating great memories and enjoying Southern hospitality at its best.”

(updated 3-3-2022) Dave McCulley, owner of Jenkins Fishing Service in Calico Rock, said the rain and winter weather last week, combined with both Bull Shoals and Norfork dams generating water, kept the river levels high this last week. Drift-fishing with Power Eggs and shrimp have worked the best during the high water. Anglers are reporting minimal success with jigs, spoons or other artificial bait. Fishing should improve as the river conditions stabilize.

(updated 3-10-2022) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service said that during the past week they had about three quarters of an inch of rain in Cotter, frigid temperatures and heavy winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals rose 0.3 foot to the power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 36 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock Lake 0.4 foot to rest at 0.5 foot above power pool and 15.5 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell 0.1 foot to reach power pool or 9.6 feet below the top of flood pool. The White has had no wadable water. Norfork Lake fell 0.1 foot to rest at 0.4 foot above power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 25.8 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 and on the Norfork Tailwater at Norfork Dam. 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. It 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 John’s current favorite color.
The hot spot on the White 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, “The most unique aspect of fly-fishing is the casting. If done properly it is a beautiful thing. It is different from any other form of casting in that you are casting the fly line and the fly goes along for the ride. In spin casting or bait casting you are casting the lure not the line. It is a bit more challenging to cast a fly rod and some of us are better than others. You can learn enough to catch fish in a few minutes but it can take years to master the cast.
“To that end, my old fishing buddy Ron McQuay has put together a fly-casting contest, The Cotter Casting Challenge. It is to be held on Saturday April 9, in Cotter’s Big Spring Park Baseball field at 1 p.m. There is a $5 fee (proceeds will be donated to an access/river project in Cotter) and the competition is open to the public. There are three categories: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Register on the Trout Unlimited website, whiterivertu.com, by March 30. The event is put together by volunteers from White River Trout Unlimited, The North Arkansas Fly Fishers and the city of Cotter.
The competition is divided into two categories: accuracy and distance. For the accuracy casts there will be five stations, and for the distance casting there will be two stations. You can use your own rod for the accuracy casts. A rod or rods will be furnished for the distance casts.
“The first accuracy station is for a basic overhead cast of 20-50 feet. The target will be a ring. You must start with the fly in your hand and line on reel. You cannot let the fly touch the ground, unless it is at a target. You get unlimited false casts and go through the targets twice. The second station is basically the same but done with a roll cast.
The next station is the Over/Under/Through, which is a ring target 24-36 inches from the ground to the bottom of the ring. This is at a distance of 30 feet. You have to cast over, then through and finally under the ring and hit a target. You will get two tries for each cast.
“The next station is for a curve cast at a target at a distance of 40 feet. The target will be behind a tree. You will get two tries from each side. The final accuracy station is a back cast at 30 feet to a target. You can use the back cast only and you get two tries.
The distance casting is a bit simpler. There are no targets. The first station is a single rod everyone uses. You get a maximum warm up of five casts. You get three casts to achieve your best distance.
“The final station is the Distance Cast Combo. There is no warm up with the rods and you get the best distance from three casts per rod. The first rod is a bamboo with standard matching line. The second rod is a fiberglass rod with a 2-weight over-lined fly line. The last rod is a carbon rod with a 2-weight underlined fly line.
“If this sounds like something you would be interested in, please sign up.”

Bull Shoals Lake
As of Thursday, the Army Corps of Engineers reported the lake’s elevation at 658.90 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl; top flood elevation is 695.00 feet msl). Total outflow from the dam is 15,964 cfs. The reported lake elevation at Table Rock Lake was 915.34 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 915.00 feet msl; top flood elevation is 931.0 feet msl).

(updated 3-10-2022) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said he did not have anything new to add to his report this week. The lake level is still about 659 feet msl and the temperature is 48 and rising. Bass fishing has been fair. Generation has been moving the shad around. The deep bite continues to dissipate. If you are going to look for the deep ones, 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. Try dragging a jig, shaky head or Ned rig in 10-20 feet around secondary points. Over the next couple of weeks, key in on areas outside of regular 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 steeper ledge transitions, and cover water.
Visit 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 554.00 feet msl (normal conservation pool: Sept.-April, 553.75 feet msl; April-Sept. 555.75 feet msl; top flood elevation 580.0 feet msl). Total outflow from Norfork Dam is 6,220 cfs.

(updated 3-10-2022) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said the bite continues to be good for most species in the lake, especially striped bass, largemouth bass and crappie. “It really surprised me that after the lake temperature dropped about 3 degrees it didn’t affect the feeding habits of the fish. What the drop in water temperature did was to make the bait move to other areas of the lake, but not necessarily far away from where they were. The fish will follow the bait.

“Striped bass fishing continues to be strong. Yes, you will need to do some searching, but if you find some bait, I just about guarantee you will find striped bass nearby. The best areas to find these fish have been back in major creeks, deep flats and (Wednesday) I found them in the old river channel in the main lake area. In the creeks, they have been on or very close to the banks first thing in the morning. After the sun gets over the tree line, they seem to concentrate more in the creek channel. Their depth will depend on the depth of the bait. The deeper flats have started to hold more bait in the 40- to 50-foot range. The fish again relate to the depth of the bait. I have found that the stripers seem to be on the flats late morning. The bait that I found today was in the old river channel, which in this area was roughly 70 feet deep. The bait was 20-40 deep and varied. The fish were at the same depths. The striped bass that I found today were in large schools that appeared to be feeding. My bait of choice for the shallower fish, say from the shoreline out to 30 feet down, has been casting a Kastmaster blade-style bait. I do replace the hook with a feathered treble hook. I think that gives it a closer resemblance to an injured live shad, especially if you work it in a twitching motion. I reel back to the boat very slowly, letting it sink more as it is being retrieved. For deeper fish, I have been vertical-jigging with a spoon or a small 3-inch plastic jig with a three-eighth-ounce jighead.”
Crappie fishing has also continued to be very good. Of course, crappie is like most species that go through a feeding cycle. If you find them and they are not feeding, you will need to wait them out until they get energetic again or move to the next brushpile. Small spoons or small crappie jigs and, of course, live minnows are all working very well. The best brush has been in 20-25 feet of water and the fish will be on the tops to buried within the brush. You will just need to keep working different depths until you find that magic area.
“I have not done a lot of bass fishing lately, but they do appear to be going shallow. Crankbait, Wiggle Warts, soft plastics and Alabama rigs have all produced some nice fish. As the water temperature continues to rise back in the creeks the fish head back to the warmer water. (Wednesday) I fished a brushpile to see if crappie were there. No crappie, but the brushpile was inhabited by some nice-sized largemouth bass. They loved my Tater Baits Electric Monkey crappie jig. The bass were buried inside of the brush towards the bottom. I can’t believe I could pull these beasts out of the brush with 4-pound test.”
Norfork Lake surface water temperature is rising very slowly after the 3-degree drop from last weekend’s storms. The lake temperature was 48-52 degrees Wednesday morning. The lake level has been stable with a slight drop with intermittent power generation and currently sits at 554.05 feet msl. The lake is clear to stained, depending on where you are at in the lake. “If our current forecast holds true, we have another deep freeze arriving Friday afternoon. I guess I will be out seeing where the bait moved to next Sunday.
“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.”

(updated 3-10-2022) Steven “Scuba Steve” Street at Blackburn’s Resort says the lake level is 554.12 feet msl and has dropped 1.2 inches in the last 24 hours with generation about three-quarters of the time. The White River at Newport is at 21.74 feet, indicating they are trying hard to drop the area lakes and all of them are at or near their power pools. The surface water temperature was between 49-50 degrees Tuesday, depending on where you were, and had dropped 2 degrees from the day before. The water clarity also changed, as the main lake channel was much more stained but the shore was still clear. Both the creeks and main lake had the same temperature, as the creeks have dropped faster with the colder weather. “Our ambient highs have only been in the 30s and low 40s recently. It is sunny and nice (Wednesday) but a very cold front is moving in on Friday with warmer weather on Sunday.
“The storm on Sunday night brought a lot of lightning and over an inch of rain in this area but no damage. Damage was reported in Sharp County. Fishing slowed after the cold front but was better (Tuesday). I caught one small striper accidently in about 10 feet of water fishing for bass, four crappie, two bass, two big bluegill and a couple of warmouth in about 2 hours of fishing. When the warmouth go to the bank it is usually a sign that spring is almost here.
“Crappie, bass and small stripers are the best bite now and the night bite for stripers should start next week. The cold fronts just keep coming through, messing up fishing but not stopping it.”
For a daily fishing report and lake condition go to www.blackburnsresort.com and click on Scuba Steve's Blog.

Norfork Tailwater
(updated 3-10-2022) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake fell 0.1 foot to rest at 0.4 foot above power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 25.8 feet below the top of flood pool. There has been no wadable water on the Norfork tailwater 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 at 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 3-10-2022) 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.