Cotter Trout Dock Sign
Established 1954
Catch a Rainbow!

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

December 7, 2022


Below are some photos of our guided trout fishing customers taken this week at Cotter Trout Dock. 
Click images to enlarge.
Below the pictures is the Fishing Report from Arkansas Game and Fish.

small brown trout


White River
(updated 12-8-2022) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said Bull Shoals Lake is now more than 4 feet below its desired elevation for the season, sitting at 654.75 feet msl. Releases from Bull Shoals Dam have been relatively judicious, between 2-4 units during some portion of each day, then dropping to minimum flow during the night and early morning hours, based predominantly on power demand. Anglers have had an easier time navigating to the deeper holes, yet bank fishing hasn't been negatively impacted to any great degree.
The best way to stay on top of the changing water levels is to use the Army Corps of Engineers website or the water levels page on the Cotter Trout Dock website. Instructions are included to help make sense of some of the numbers.
“December turns our thoughts to Christmas and gift-giving. Add White River trout fishing to your wish list with a visit to the Arkansas Ozarks. These slower winter months (December through mid-February) are just the time to "own" the river; angler traffic is down and fish count is up. Plenty of rainbows and browns are willing to leave the comfort of their favorite hidey-holes when tempted with the right bait:
“Silver and silver/blue hammered spoons or spinners (especially the Vibrax Blue Foxes), floating Rapalas with orange bellies (the brook trout, BTR F5 is good), and white or ginger-colored jigs.
“The browns are spawning, so you need to be creative in what you throw and how you throw it. Sculpins will still attract a brown trout but it might take more patience than usual. The rainbows are eating up the sculpins, too, so upsize your bait to attract the browns. The weatherman promises very mild daytime temperatures for the next week, so pick up your rod and reel, get outside, and come join us on the river. We find lots of reasons for giving thanks for the greatest Gift of all! Merry Christmas!”

(updated 12-8-2022) Dave McCulley, owner of Jenkins Fishing Service in Calico Rock, said the White River in Calico Rock continues to average between 3.5 and 6 feet. The dingy water from last week has cleared out. Fishing in the low water conditions has made fishing with copper or gold-colored quarter-ounce spoons and jerkbaits effective as the trout move up onto the gravel bars to feed. Drift-fishing with yellow, orange or sunrise-colored Power Eggs with a piece of shrimp or worm continues to be effective on both the gravel bars and deeper holes. Fishing with sculpins has been slow, but when the browns or rainbows bite, the trout have tended to be larger (16 inches or more). With the prediction of rain the next few days there is the potential we may see higher water levels and dingy water.

(updated 12-8-2022) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service said that during the past week, they had just a trace here in Cotter, cool temperatures and moderate winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals fell 0.1 foot to rest at 4.1 feet below power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 40.1 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock Lake rose 0.2 foot to rest at 4.7 feet below power pool and 20.7 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell 0.1 foot to rest at 5.1 feet below power pool or 14.7 feet below the top of flood pool. The White had wadable water and moderate flows during periods of peak power demand. Norfork Lake remained steady at 1.5 feet below power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 27.7 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork tailwater has had some wadable water. All of the lakes in the White River system are now well below power pool. With the current lake levels, expect lower flows and more wadable water. However, when cold temperatures hit, also expect heavy generation during peak power demand.
The catch-and-release section below Bull Shoals Dam is closed until Jan. 31 to accommodate the brown trout spawn. The State Park are 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 Rim Shoals. We have had some lower flows that have been fished well. 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. My favorite has been a cerise San Juan worm with an orange egg dropper.”
John passed along some tragic news to fans of area fly-fishing. “Dave Whitlock passed away at his home in Oklahoma (Nov. 24) while working on his boat. He was arguably the most influential man in fly-fishing and most of that occurred while he lived here (in the Cotter area). He was the first guy to write about our trout fishery. He is responsible for planting the brown trout in the White, North Fork and Little Red rivers, creating the best brown trout fishery in the United States and possibly the world. He also supervised the local Trout Unlimited Chapter in their planting of Bonneville Cutthroat trout on the White and Norfork Rivers.
“Dave was an influential fly-tyer whose patterns have become standards sold in just about every fly shop in the world. He was awarded the Buz Buzek Award (the highest award for fly-tying that Fly Fishing International bestows) 50 years ago. He was an early proponent of fly-fishing for bass.
“He was a prolific author writing several books and numerous articles on fly-fishing and fly-tying. One of my cherished possessions is an autographed copy of his “Guide to Aquatic Trout Foods.” This is a fly-fishing classic and should be required reading for all trout fishers. I have several others that he wrote and I have learned a lot from them. I just read an article that he wrote for the latest issue of Trout, the Trout Unlimited magazine. It was about fishing for large brown trout below Bull Shoals Dam. It brought back memories of me doing the same.
“Dave was an accomplished artist. All of his books and articles were lavishly illustrated by him. His work is popular with anglers and anyone that appreciates nature. When he autographed a book he took an entire page to write a few words and draw a trout taking a fly. It was something I have never seen equaled.
“Deep down, Dave was a teacher. His fly-fishing school was very successful and highly respected. I always attended his classes and seminars whenever I could. I always learned something.
“Dave lived in the area for years. We often fished the same water. Whenever I saw him on a stream I spoke and he was quite friendly. I would then walk off, sit down and watch him fish. He was a masterful caster and an incredible angler.
“One day I saw him at Rim Shoals with Flip Pallot filming an episode of the “Walker’s Cay Chronicles,” Flip’s fishing television show. They were fishing dry flies in a spot that I had never fished in the 20-plus years that I had fished Rim Shoals. They tore them up. I now fish there every time I wade Rim Shoals, unless someone has beaten me there. I call it Dave’s hole.
“Dave Whitlock was the real deal. He put our rivers on the map. He will be missed.”

Bull Shoals Lake
As of Thursday, the Army Corps of Engineers reported the lake’s elevation at 654.79 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl; top flood elevation is 695.00 feet msl). Flow on Thursday afternoon was 1,508 cfs, and tailwater elevation was 451.99 feet. The reported lake elevation at Table Rock Lake was 910.48 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 917.00 feet msl; top flood elevation is 931.0 feet msl).

(updated 12-8-2022) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said Wednesday that the lake level was at 654 feet, or 4 feet or so below pool. Water temperature is 55 degrees. Bundle up, as the fishing is good now. For the bank beaters, there is plenty of fish on the shoreline if there’s wind and clouds. Make sure you are covering water where the wind hits square on the shore, and hopefully that’s on a point, a chunk or ledge rock. Stay close to deeper water. Del recommends a Spro Crawler, Wiggle Wart, Red Craw or Stone Cold in the clear water; square bill, spinnerbait or Chatterbait in the stain. You’ll have to keep moving to find them, but when you do there’s usually a few close.
There are always fish to be caught on a jig. If it’s flat water, fish the sunny points with brush in 25-35 feet. The offshore deep bite is better as winter patterns are working. Shad are still spread out. Target bigger bait balls and shad becomes the structure. Creeks hollers start in 70 feet. Look until 40 feet. Every day, every creek will be different. A single 2.8 white swimbait or jerkbait around those high swimming shad balls is a good choice. If they are being finicky, hang a Tater Shad over the side. With schooling fish, a Jewel Scope or spin jigging Rap. Use a Jewel Scuba Spoon for those bottom dwellers. Each day is different so Fish The Conditions.
Del regularly posts new YouTube videos. Visit his 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 552.30 feet msl (normal conservation pool: Sept.-April, 553.75 feet msl; April-Sept. 556.25 feet msl; top flood elevation 580.0 feet msl). Flow below the dam Thursday afternoon was 205 cfs.

(updated 12-8-2022) Steven “Scuba Steve” Street at Blackburn’s Resort said the lake level is 552.21 feet msl as of Wednesday and has dropped a half-inch in the last 24 hours with about 5 hours of running one generator in the morning and four more in the afternoon. It is still 1.5 feet below the top of the power pool of 553.75 feet msl and the surface water temperature is just under 56 degrees. Both the level and temperature have been very stable this last week with no signs of any winter lake drawdown so far. The White River at Newport is 3.98 feet and very low. The main lake is pretty clear and you can see your lure down at least 6 feet and is especially clear near the shore.
Trollers are catching some open-water fish dragging umbrellas through schools of shad but they are mostly white bass. Others are dropping spoons on the same fish. It is good to see the white bass making a comeback. A few nicer crappie are biting live minnows and small spoons on main lake brush than last week, but it is still not what it should be. One or two fish can be caught on each brushpile with no big schools. The best bite is still in the evening and until dark when they come up to feed. Some bass are feeding on the shoreline just at the first drop-off on soft plastics also in the evening and others are with the white bass.
The lake overall is in excellent condition and at a good level but fishing is just fair and you have to work for what you get. For a daily fishing report and lake condition go to www.blackburnsresort.com and click on Scuba Steve's Blog.

(updated 12-1-2022) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said Wednesday, “I went to a different part of the lake this morning and had a great time. I found lots of white bass, four keeper-size largemouth and two monster cats (a flathead and a blue) on a large flat. This is why I really enjoy vertical-jigging on flats in the fall; you never know what you are going to catch. At one time or another and sometimes in the same trip, I have caught every species in Norfork Lake fishing this method at this time of year.
Chad Bleeker took a photo of photo holding the two cats and he said, "Hold them out a little." I think I was holding close to 50 pounds of fish and it was all I could do to just hold them up! The fish were in roughly 40 feet of water and absolutely stacked. I was vertical-jigging a three-quarter-ounce white with chartreuse back Binks Spoon. It was a cold, breezy morning, but once I started catching fish I warmed up in a hurry.”
The water temp was around 56-57 degrees and the lake level is 552.32 feet msl. The lake is still slightly stained. “Happy fishing and see you on the lake.”
Lou posts nearly daily on his Facebook page with photos and where the fish are biting and what’s biting. Check it out.

Norfork Tailwater
(updated 12-8-2022) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake remained steady at 1.5 feet below power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 27.7 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork tailwater has had some wadable water. All of the lakes in the White River system are now well below power pool. With the current lake levels, expect lower flows and more wadable water. However, when cold temperatures hit, also expect heavy generation during peak power demand.
There has been wadable water on the Norfork in the morning. The most productive flies have been small midge patterns like zebra midges (black or red with silver wire and silver bead). 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). John says his favorite rig has been a pheasant tail nymph size 14 and a ruby midge size 18. The fishing is much better in the morning and late afternoon and tapers off midday, he says.
Dry Run Creek has fished poorly. School is back in session and the creek is not as busy. Weekends can get a quite crowded. The hot flies have been sowbugs, various colored San Juan worms (worm brown, red, hot fluorescent pink and cerise) and white mop flies. Small orange or peach eggs have been very effective. Carry a large net, as most fish are lost at the net.

Buffalo National River/Crooked Creek
(updated 12-8-2022) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Crooked Creek and the Buffalo River are fishing poorly. With colder temperatures, the smallmouths are much less 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.