Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

jJanuary 18, 2023

More reports and other videos are on the Cotter Trout Dock Youtube Channel Page.
Below is the Arkansas Game and Fish Fishing Report January,18, 2023.

White River
(updated 1-19-2023) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said mild January temperatures see White River anglers in light jackets, shirt sleeves and sunscreen. Might not stay quite that warm, so come prepared for a change in the thermometer, but the rainbow trout catch remains steady, while the brown bite increasing. Bull Shoals Lake has fallen slightly over the last two weeks to 656.54 feet msl, a couple of feet below seasonal power pool. The generation has remained fairly steady at a little less than one unit (2,200 cfs). There have been spurts of increased flow when power demand increases during the occasional cold snap, up to 12,000 cfs at times (four units). Low water signals great wading opportunities and slow-and-go time for boaters. Watch out for one another and practice civility and cordiality.
“Clear, cold water is great for trout fishing, so join us on the river with your arsenal of spinners and Rooster Tails. The predicted overcast skies tell us we'll do best using bait with yellow bodies, silver blades and black skirts. A bright, shiny hammered spoon (blue/silver) will attract the rainbows, and the rainbow-colored Buoyants and Cleos will be worth their weight in trout. A nice white Woolly Bugger with silver flash should draw them to your hook, too.
“The brown trout spawn is thinning out, so we're seeing them move downriver to their home neighborhoods, looking for sculpins and minnows. Shad continue to catch their eye. Variety is the name of the game; if you don't get a bite after several casts with one bait, change locations, change your bait, or both. Stay stocked, keep catching, and enjoy the great outdoors in The Natural State.”

(updated 1-19-2023) Dave McCulley, owner of Jenkins Fishing Service in Calico Rock, said the White River in Calico Rock continues to be low, averaging between 4.5 and 3.5 feet. “The rain Wednesday may cause the river to become muddy but I don’t expect the water to rise very much. I would expect by the weekend any dinginess in the water should be gone.”
Fishing in the low-water conditions has made fishing with copper- or gold-colored spoons (either quarter-ounce or one-sixth-ounce) effective as the trout move up onto the gravel bars to feed. Rapala Countdowns have been effective this week, as have white-colored jigs. Drift-fishing with sunrise 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.

(updated 1-19-2023) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service said that during the past week they had a quarter-inch of rain in Cotter, cold temperatures and heavy winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals fell 0.3 foot to rest at 2.5 feet below power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 38.5 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock Lake rose 0.1 foot to rest at 0.2 foot below power pool and 16.2 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake remained steady at 1.9 feet below power pool or 11.5 feet below the top of flood pool. The White has had no wadable water and more moderate flows. Norfork Lake fell 0.1 foot to rest 0.1 foot below power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 26.3 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork tailwater has had more wadable water.
All of the lakes in the White River system are still at or below power pool. With cooler temperatures, we can expect higher flows and less wadable water. We can expect heavy generation during peak power demand.
The catch-and-release section below Bull Shoals Dam is closed through Jan. 31 to accommodate the brown trout spawn. The State Park 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 White Hole,” he said. “We have had some lower flows that have 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.”
Remember: 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.
John also said, “When I first began guiding lo these many years ago, all of my trips were wade trips. Back then most fly-fishers were wade anglers. When I moved to Cotter 23 years ago, I quickly realized that if I did not have a boat, I would miss a lot of trips due to high water. I therefore bought one.
“My first boat was a used Shawnee with a 15-hp Mercury pull-start motor. It cost $1,000 and was only 33 inches wide. That is pretty narrow. I felt like I was in a canoe. I was especially concerned when I had very large clients as they would adversely affect the trim of the boat when they cast. It had a bench-style live well that ran the entire width of the boat making it difficult to move around. I sold it and got a new boat.
“This was also a well-used Shawnee. It was 48 inches wide and had a walk-through live well, which gave me a lot more room and was much easier to move around in. It was much steadier, especially with heavier loads. At $3,500 it was a bargain. I replaced the Evinrude motor that it came with it with my Mercury. I had some custom work done. I replaced the spider chairs with pedestal seats to give me more room and upgraded the trailer. It served me well for 12 years but was beginning to show its age. I sold it and bought another.
“I bought my next boat from the estate of my brother Dan’s girlfriend. It was the boat he used. It is a 2005 Supreme that is 60 inches wide. It had been stored in a garage and had been used very little. Dan hated to fish from a boat. He preferred to wade. This was a much better boat with a deluxe trailer and an electric start Honda outboard. Once again, I had some custom work done. I had the spider chairs replaced with pedestal seats and added cup holders. I added roller bunks to the trailer and put a jack plate and a trolling motor to the boat. After seven years of heavy use I replaced the 15-hp Honda engine with a 20-hp (thanks to my sister Ernestine). I am very happy with my boat and consider it the last boat that I will ever buy.
“I recently heard that a fellow guide had purchased a new boat and trailer with no motor for $28,000. This guy must be doing much better than I am. Over 23 years of guiding, I have spent $9,000 on three boats. I heard that inflation is on the rise, but this is alarming. The new boats that I see some of these guys have remind me more of bass boats with their metal flake paint jobs and huge motors. What happened to trout boats?
“Will these new boats enable them to catch more trout? I hope so!”

Bull Shoals Lake
As of Thursday, the Army Corps of Engineers reported the lake’s elevation at 656.62 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl; top flood elevation is 695.00 feet msl). Flow on Thursday midday was 4,143 cfs, and tailwater elevation was 453.50 feet. The reported lake elevation at Table Rock Lake was 915.06 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 915.00 feet msl; top flood elevation is 931.0 feet msl).

(updated 1-19-2023) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said Bull Shoals Lake water level is at 656 feet or 2 feet below normal winter pool. The water temperature is about 48 degrees. Fishing has been fair. For the shallow-fishing anglers, there is plenty of fish on the bank, especially if there’s wind and clouds covering water where the wind hits 45 degrees at chunk rock, a steep bank or ledge rock. Fish close to deeper water. Use jig or shaky head and drop-shot in a deep brush/ledge. Fishing in 30-40 feet we’re cranking a Spro crawler and Wiggle Wart, red craw Stone Cold or green variations. You’ll have keep moving to find them but when you do there’s usually a few close.
The winter patterns are working offshore. It’s video gaming. Shad are still spread out. It’s all location, location. Target bigger bait balls and shad becomes the structure. Fish the creeks hollers – every day every creek will be different. Even in the main lake, look for loons and graph. That pays off this time of year. If fishing near ledges or trees near shad, a jerkbait will pull a few, usually early or late in the day when shad are up in the water column. Some shad may be suspended over deep water. If they are being finicky, hang a Tater Shad over the side on a Moon Eye Jig. With schooling fish, use a Jewel Scope or spin jigging Rap. Under shad, use a Jewel Scuba Spoon for those bottom dwellers. Lots of different species showing up out there in the middle. 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 553.76 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 midday was 3,243 cfs.

(updated 1-19-2023) Steven “Scuba Steve” Street at Blackburn’s Resort said the lake level is 553.70 feet msl and rising slowly with a half-inch of rain Wednesday. They are running one generator at Norfork Dam for about four hours in a 24-hour period and regulating the level to the top of the power pool of 553.75 feet msl and keeping it very stable with no signs of any winter drawdown so far this year. The White River at Newport is 7.89 feet and dropping, indicating not much water is being let out anywhere. The surface water temperature is back over 50 degrees and was 51 on Wednesday with the warm ambient temperatures. It was 48 degrees last week. The main lake is fairly clear and you can see your lure down about 5 feet and the creeks are stained a little green, but not bad.
Most all fishing has slowed since last week and the evening bite just at sunset for bass and crappie has diminished the last few days, as has the morning bite for temperate bass, but a few good fish are being caught every day. Spoons are the best for open-water fish on shad and slip floats, with live minnows and small jigs in brush for bass and crappie are both working. Some bass are near the shoreline in the evening on windblown secondary points partway back in the creeks and behind brush piles. Overall, fishing is fair to poor but the lake is in excellent condition.
For a daily fishing report and lake condition go to www.blackburnsresort.com and click on Scuba Steve's Blog.

(updated 1-19-2023) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort had no new reports, but Lou posts almost daily on his Facebook page with photos and where the fish are biting and what’s biting. Check it out.

Norfork Tailwater
(updated 1-19-2023) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake fell 0.1 foot to rest 0.1 foot below power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 26.3 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork tailwater has had more wadable water.
All of the lakes in the White River system are still at or below power pool. With cooler temperatures, we can expect higher flows and less wadable water. We can expect heavy generation during peak power demand.
There has been more wadable water on the Norfork. 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). My 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.
Dry Run Creek has fished a bit better. 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.
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 1-19-2023) 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.