Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

March 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 March 17, 2022.

White River

(updated 3-17-2022) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said, “Spring break has sprung and the fishing community is welcoming lots of visiting families to the beautiful Arkansas Ozarks for terrific trout fishing on the White. We're reeling in a whole lot of good browns and a few trophy-sized rainbow trout this week, including a 22-inch golden rainbow (Wednesday) morning.”
Bull Shoals Lake has reached desired power pool level, now sitting at 658.59 feet msl – a decrease in output from the dam is anticipated as the lake continues to drop.  Generation from Bull Shoals Dam has stayed steady at around three units (9,000-11,000 cfs). Minnows and sculpin have still been standout baits for the browns, along with blue-backed, orange-bellied Smithwick and Rebel lures. “We've seen several larger-than-20-inch rainbows caught and released this week. Some were caught on sculpin and some on the tried-and-true shrimp/PowerBait combo; try yellow or orange eggs first.”
Best bait this week was the red/gold hammered Thomas Buoyant Spoon, followed by the gold Cleo (quarter-ounce).
Continued high water means that weighted line is popular for most fly-fishing, or waiting for a glimpse of the sun to do some quick dry fly-fishing has been the way to go. Won't be long before the crawdads poke their heads out, so Rebel Wee Craws and crawfish will attract attention. “We're seeing some greening on the bluffs across from Cotter – just in time for the "wearin' o' the green", St. Patrick's Day. Enjoy the season and come visit us on the river.”

(updated 3-17-2022) Dave McCulley, owner of Jenkins Fishing Service in Calico Rock, said the river conditions have stabilized this last week with clear water and depths between 7-9 feet. The weather has been great, other than the snow Friday afternoon and the frigid temperatures Saturday. The warmer weather means spring break is here and it has been great seeing a lot of younger anglers with their parents on the river whether with a guide, private boat, boat rental or fishing on the bank. The fish have been cooperating, creating a lot of smiles on many faces and lifetime memories.
Bright-colored Power Eggs with or without shrimp or corn or worms worked well this week, and there has been success with adding inline spinners. When it is cloudy, try using a silver-colored spinner, and when it is sunny, try a gold-colored spinner. Rapala Countdowns (gold and rainbow trout colors have worked best) have been successful as have Shad Raps and Little Cleo spoons.

(updated 3-17-2022) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service said that during the past week they had snow (about 2 inches in Cotter), frigid temperatures and heavy winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals fell 0.3 foot to rest at 0.3 foot below power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 36.3 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock Lake fell 0.8 foot to rest at 0.4 foot below power pool and sixteen and 0.4 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell 0.4 foot to rest at 0.4 foot below power pool or 10 feet below the top of flood pool. The White had no wadable water. Norfork Lake fell 0.8 foot to rest at 0.4 foot below power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 26.6 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork tailwater had no wadable water during the day. All of the lakes in the White River system are now below power pool. With the current lake levels, we can expect more wadable water in the future.
The shad kill on the White River at Bull Shoals Dam and on the Norfork tailwater at Norfork Dam is about over. 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, he said.
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, “One of the most exciting and anticipated times to be fly-fishing on our rivers during the winter is the shad kill. This is a natural phenomenon that occurs when we have very low temperatures and high levels of power generation on our dams. The shad on the lake are killed by low temperatures on the lake and are drawn through the generators in the dams. Some make it through whole and some are chopped up. Both are tempting morsels for the trout below the dam.
“This phenomenon is pretty much impossible to predict. It just happens. It can begin quickly and end just as easily. The tale-tell sign that it is beginning is to see gulls get active just below the dam feeding on the shad coming through. The story goes out quickly. Nearby anglers in the area head toward the dam and call their buddies on cell phones to report the shad kill. Of course, this means that you will generally be fishing high water in cold conditions.
“The shad are white and the flies to imitate them are the same. Since some of the shad are on the surface of the water you will need a floating fly. This is my favorite method as you see big fish come up and take big flies. I use a foam and hackle shad pattern. However many of the shad are below the surface and the fishing on the bottom is often the most productive. You can use a white Woolly Bugger, but I prefer a white mop fly tied on a jig hook because it doesn’t hang the bottom.
“I prefer to fish this below Bull Shoals Dam. The catch-and-release section there is home to some very large trout. It probably holds more large trout than any other section of our rivers. In addition, it is closed from fishing from Nov. 1 through Jan. 31 to accommodate the brown trout spawn. It is also much larger than the section below the Norfork Dam, giving more room to maneuver and fish. Even so, this section below Bull Shoals dam can get congested. There was one day recently when there were no less than 17 boats in this section of river. That is crowded.
“As the shad kill goes on, the fish at the top of the river get gorged and the food drifts downstream tempting the trout there. I have caught trout as far downstream as Rim Shoals on shad patterns just after a shad kill. That is 24 miles from Bull Shoals dam.
“I have caught the shad kill on several occasions and done quite well when fishing it. As a result, I always keep several different white shad flies in my boat fly box so that I am always ready for it. You should do the same.”

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 3-17-2022) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said bass fishing has been fair. Generation has been steady. The deep bite is going away. Shad are moving into the creeks. Graph to look for shad and look for loons. Active diving loons will trigger feeding. Try a Moon Eye Damiki rig and Rapala Jigging Rap. As more fish move up and leave the shad, crawfish are on the menu. Del’s found success dragging a jig, shaky head or Ned rig in 10-20 feet secondary points and channel swings. Over the next couple of weeks, key in on areas outside of spawning areas; south facing pockets and creeks with stain are doing a little better. Jerkbait is catching a few around points on bluff ends, shallower brushpiles – a little wind helps. As the temps rise, fish are seeing red. Use a Rock crawler, Wiggle Wart on windy. steeper ledges and nasty rock transitions with stained water and wind. If you find warm stained runoff, use a Chatterbait pr square bill. White bass and walleye are staging to spawn. Fish the conditions.
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 a 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 3-17-2022) Steven “Scuba Steve” Street at Blackburn’s Resort says the lake level is 552.81 and has dropped 1.2 inches in the last 24-hours with both generators running about 2/3rds the time. The White River at Newport is 20.27 and dropping but they are still letting out a lot of water. The lake is at a good level now. The surface water temperature  was 50+ degrees yesterday afternoon and the water is stained a little green and you can see your lure down about 3-feet. There is some moss on the rocks near the shore that we do not normally have. I see no fish making or on nests yet. The boat traffic is picking up everyday now with the warmer weather and spring break. Several fish of most species have moved back into the creeks but some are still on shad in open water depending on the prevailing wind. Spripers are simulating their spawn and are on their spawning banks near the shore at dark and then move out to deeper water during the day. Fish for walleye on the shadowy banks with a soft plastic in the evening and then switch to a 5-inch stick bait at dusk. You will catch some bass also in the same places. Crappie are on brush but in different places and different places during the day. In the sunshine they are deeper and on cloudy days shallower. They bite for a few minutes and then quit for a couple of hours. I am staying away from the brush and casting past it and letting the grub or jig sink down into it. They are hitting on the drop at various depths but mostly about 15-feet down and I am catching some very nice ones in the 15-16 inch range. White Bass have moved back in the major creeks in bays in their normal places for mid-march.
For a daily fishing report and lake condition go to and click on Scuba Steve's Blog.

Norfork Tailwater
(updated 3-17-2022) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake fell 0.8 foot to rest at 0.4 foot below power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 26.6 feet below the top of flood pool. There has been no wadable water on the Norfork during the day 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 (some schools may be in spring break now) and this 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.

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.