Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

January 25, 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 26, 2023.

White River
(updated 1-26-2023) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said, “We have snow on the ground here in the northern Arkansas Ozarks. It won't last long, but it sure is pretty. And wet. Chances are good that the lake level may rise some; Bull Shoals Lake is currently at 657.05 feet msl. Yesterday's rain and snow caused a slight rise – we'll probably see more in the next few days – but the lake is still almost 2 feet below power pool, so there is a safety net. The Corps of Engineers and the Southwestern Power Administration have been varying outflows quite significantly over the past week, from just under a unit (2,500 cfs) to 4 units (12,000 cfs), so be very careful and pay attention to the river conditions if you choose to wade or anchor fish. Rapid rises can increase the trout bite but can also increase debris and may catch you off guard.”
Changing water conditions has made finding the trout's favorite hiding spots a little more difficult, but as they move away from spawning grounds, browns are more than ready to grab a minnow or sculpin. Most white lures or jigs have also proven successful, orange bellied stick baits are always a good bet, too. Any type of yellow or peach-colored egg pattern was popular with both fly and spin fishers. Rigged just above the hook, it mimics the trout eggs after the spawn and has brought a number of browns up for pictures. Rainbow trout get a break during the winter to grow, and they're now eagerly taking worms, both live red worms and nightcrawlers or molded, scented sunrise or orange PowerBait.
“Make sure you bundle up for early morning trips to the river; the temperature can be 5-10 degrees colder on the river than the thermometer reads. Our afternoon temps have been very pleasant for January. Stay warm and keep anglin’.”

(updated 1-26-2023) Dave McCulley, owner of Jenkins Fishing Service in Calico Rock, said the rain a week ago Wednesday caused some dinginess in the river but by Friday the river had cleared. The river has seen spikes as high as 7 feet and lows of 4 feet. Drift-fishing with yellow or sunrise Power Eggs with shrimp worked well catching rainbow trout. Quarter-ounce gold-colored spoons when the sun if out, or silver colored spoons when it is cloudy, also worked well in lower water. Size 7 or 9 Rapala Countdowns in rainbow trout colors worked well for some nice 20-inch-plus brown trout. We have also seen success using jigs. There was one stocking this week of a 1,000 rainbow trout at the Calico Rock boat ramp.
“The snowstorm Tuesday evening knocked out power for many people in the area and as of Thursday many thousands are still without power. I would like to give a shout out to the linemen of the various electric companies working to restore power,” Dave said.

(updated 1-26-2023) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service said that during the past week they had numerous rain events that combined for a half-inch in Cotter, cold temperatures and heavy winds. “As I write this I am waiting for 8 inches of snow to hit here in Cotter. The lake level at Bull Shoals rose 0.4 foot to rest at 2.1 feet below power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 38.1 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock Lake fell 0.1 foot to rest at 0.3 foot below power pool and 16.3 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell 0.3 foot to rest at 2.2 feet below power pool or 11.8 feet below the top of flood pool. On the White, we have had some wadable water and more moderate flows. Norfork Lake fell 0.2 foot to rest 0.3 foot below power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 26.6 feet below the top of flood pool. On the Norfork, we have had more wadable water.”
All of the lakes in the White River system are still at or below power pool. With cooler temperatures, expect higher flows and less wadable water. 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. This section will reopen next Wednesday!
“On the White, the hot spot has been The Narrows. 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.”
John also said, “Today (at this writing) would be my late brother Dan’s 70th birthday. He passed away unexpectedly seven years ago. When we were young Dan and I shared a bedroom and attended the same public schools. I went in the Army and he entered the Navy as a photographer’s mate. I went to Vietnam and he was clever enough to get a job taking pictures of the admiral playing golf.
“He took up fly-fishing first and soon introduced me to the sport. He taught me how to cast a fly rod, tie flies and fly-fish. We were fishing buddies for decades. We became known in Memphis as the guys to introduce others to the sport. As a result, we decided to start Berry Brothers Guide Service. We obtained guide licenses, bought liability insurance and developed a marketing plan. We were soon guiding others.
“The first thing we noticed was that while I loved guiding, Dan did not. He thought if he was on the water, he wanted to fish. I began doing all of the guiding. We had to come up with an alternate source of income. We began teaching fly-fishing. We taught at a local junior college, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and a local sporting goods store.
“To enhance this, we took the Federation of Fly Fishers Certified Casting Instructor exam from no less a teacher than Dave Whitlock. We began teaching fly-casting for a local sporting goods store and also giving private lessons. This was well received.
“Dan was a great caster and casting instructor but he was best known as a fly-tyer. He was a commercial fly-tyer for several years. He was a regular tyer at the Sowbug Roundup and the Southern Council Conclave where he tied several midge patterns like Dan’s turkey tail emerger (my favorite) and chucks emerger. He was adept at tying very small flies. In addition, to his tiny midges he tied size 32 (the smallest hook made) dry flies.
“Once I moved to Cotter to guide full time, we did not work together as much. He stayed in Memphis and taught Wounded Warriors at the VA to cast and tie flies. He had a cabin in Norfork and we got together to fish as often as we could. Our favorite trip was to wade fish the Norfork tailwater. I would wade upstream and fish nymphs and he would fish the ring of rocks near the access. There were always fish rising there.
“His loved to fish one of his size 32 dry flies with a 70-foot cast. I asked him how he could fish that small of a fly on that long of a cast. There is no way that he could see the fly. When you are fishing dry flies you must see the fly to see the take. He said that he would set the hook when he saw a rise near where he thought the fly was. He caught fish doing this! Our last fishing trip was there.
“I miss him and think of him often.”

Bull Shoals Lake
As of Thursday, the Army Corps of Engineers reported the lake’s elevation at 657,13 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl; top flood elevation is 695.00 feet msl). Flow on Thursday midday was 2,502 cfs, and tailwater elevation was 452.60 feet. The reported lake elevation at Table Rock Lake was 914.64 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 the Bull Shoals water level 656 feet msl, or about 2 feet below normal pool. The lake came up a little. Water temperature Thursday was 48 degrees, give or take. "Fishing is good. Shallow guys, there are plenty of fish on the bank. If there are wind and clouds, I’m covering water where the wind hits square on the bank – hopefully on a point, chunk rock, steep bank or ledge rock. I’m saying close to deeper water. A Spro Crawler, Wiggle Wart, Red Craw or green variations. You’ll have 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, try sunny points with brush or ledges 30-40 feet. The winter patterns are working. Offshore video gaming. Shad are still spread out; target bigger bait balls and shad becomes the structure. Creek hollers, 50-90 feet overall depth. Every day every creek will be different. Watching the loons and graph time pays off this time of year. Use a single 2.8 white swimbait or jerkbait or flutter spoon around those high swimming shad balls. It’s usually best early or late in the day when shad are up in the water column. If they are being finicky, hang a Tater Shad over the side. For schooling fish, use a Jewel Scope or spin a Jigging Rap. Jewel Scuba Spoon for the bottom dwellers. Lots of different species showing up out there in the middle of the lake. 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 553.41 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 morning was about 6,200 cfs for six hourws before dropping to 205 cfs.

(updated 1-26-2023) Steven “Scuba Steve” Street at Blackburn’s Resort said the lake level is 553.45 feet msl and has risen a half-inch in the last 24 hours with one and two generators alternating for just a few hours. “We officially received 8 inches of snow, but it did not look like it with it coming right after the rain and it took a lot before it started to stick. It was very wet and heavy causing some power outages. The surface water temperature was still 47 degrees when I came in Wednesday evening at dark.
Not much has changed since last week, with clarity about the same, and I could see my lure down about 4 feet. Both crappie fishing and bass fishing is just fair but some temperate bass are being caught deep. Bluegill are starting to bite again, but you have to work for everything you get. It is not easy, but the lake is in excellent condition and at a good level. Spoons are the best overall lure.
For a daily fishing report and lake condition go to and click on Scuba Steve's Blog.

(updated 1-26-2023) 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 1-26-2023) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake fell 0.2 foot to rest 0.3 foot below power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 26.6 feet below the top of flood pool. On the Norfork, we have had more wadable water. All of the lakes in the White River system are still at or below power pool. With cooler temperatures, expect higher flows and less wadable water. 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). 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.

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 1-26-2023) 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.