Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

February 22, 2023

More reports and other videos are on the Cotter Trout Dock Youtube Channel Page.
Below is the Arkansas Game and Fish Fishing Report February 23, 2023.

White River
(updated 2-23-2023) Dave McCulley, owner of Jenkins Fishing Service in Calico Rock, said the recent storms caused both Bull Shoals and Norfork Lakes to rise above the conservation pool. As a result both Bull Shoals and Norfork Dams have been releasing a lot of water. Over the last week they have seen water depths of 8.5 to 10.5 feet with a strong current. “Once the lakes reach the conservation pool levels of 659 feet msl for Bull Shoals and 553 feet msl for Norfork, I expect both dams will reduce how much water they release allowing the river to drop to more normal levels.”
With the increased water flow the fishing has been marginal. Drift-fishing with silver inline spinners with Power Eggs and shrimp continues to work best. Add a little bigger sinker to allow the bait to get to the river bottom. If you use artificial lures try deeper-diving lures. Look for something in the water that gives the fish a break from current. The fish will hide behind the obstacle to rest and watch for something to eat to float by. Fishing in the creeks feeding into the river can result in some nice bass or catfish.

(updated 2-23-2023) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said Bull Shoals Lake elevation has fallen slightly over the last week due to the drier weather “but the upcoming rains may put us back where we were.” The lake on Wednesday was at 660.35 feet msl, which is very near the seasonal power pool level. The Southwestern Power Administration has dictated power generation at nearly five generators (14,000 cfs) pretty much round-the-clock this week, so be very careful motoring in these higher water conditions. Wading might need to wait for a while.
The ample brown trout bite has proven that late winter is a great time to visit the White River, and the rainbows aren't ignoring the bait either. Shad and sculpins are the preferred meal for a hungry brown; try also egg patterns (light yellow peach colored) with an orange leading bead.
“This week we've seen a significant shad kill on the lake. The overflow of that food source into the river sets off the famous voracious feeding pattern and the easy trout catch, which anglers love. Think white for baits and flies this week: shad patterns, white egg patterns, white-bellied stick baits – the water level will support deep-diving jerkbaits – white jigs and minnows. In addition, add lots of flash to white, olive or olive-and-brown streamers, sparkling collars on your jigs, or toss out a shiny silver spoon.
“Winter probably isn't through with us yet, but we will take advantage of this early spring-like weather while it's here! Keep anglin' and we'll see you at the river.”

(updated 2-23-2023) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service said that during the past week they have had a half-inch of rain at Cotter, warmer temperatures and moderate winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals fell 0.4 foot to rest at 1.5 feet above power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 34.5 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock Lake rose 0.1 foot to rest at 1 foot below power pool and 15 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake rose 0.4 foot to rest at 1.4 feet above power pool or 8.2 feet below the top of flood pool. The White has had no wadable water and heavy flows. Norfork Lake fell 2.3 feet to rest at 0.9 foot above power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 25.3 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork tailwater had no wadable water.
John said, “We have had a shad kill. There have been numerous shad coming through Bull Shoals Dam. Use large white shad imitations in floating and sinking versions.
“Streamer season is upon us. The brown trout that have been spawning for the last three months are now working their way back downstream. Anglers are now targeting them by banging the bank with big streamers on sink tip lines.
“The hot spot on the White River has been the catch-and-release Section below Bull Shoals Dam. We have had higher 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 offers an explanation for choosing the right fly: “Fly selection is a big deal in fly-fishing. It is the choice of the fly that you are going to use to catch fish. Hopefully you choose one that the trout wants.
“My first choice is usually the flies that I fished the last time I was out – especially if it has not been so long since I fished. If it worked yesterday, it should produce fish today. If it has been over a week or two you need to put some more thought into it. Conditions are constantly changing. There could have been a new hatch, or a serious rain or temperature change that triggered another food source since your last trip.
“Another source of information is asking others. Anytime I am in a fly shop I ask what the hot fly has been recently. The people there talk to a lot of guides and anglers and often have good information. I went to the San Juan River in New Mexico without a clue of what to fish. I stopped at Abe’s fly shop and asked for the fly. I bought six flies, tied one on and never changed a thing, I caught 60 good trout.
“Some of the best information I ever got on fly selection was from a guy I sat next to in a bar in West Yellowstone, Montana. He told me the fly he used. I started the day with that fly and did well at Three Dollar Bridge on the Madison River.
“When I do wade trips, I talk to everyone I see in the parking lot or pass on the stream as I walk in. If they are or have been fishing, I ask them how they did. If they did not do well, I moved on. If they did well I asked what fly or flies they used. In general, fly-fishers are quite willing to share information. If they tied the fly and you do not have one, they will often give you one and wish you luck.
“If I am fishing from a boat, I will ask every guide I see at the ramp. We are all in this together and freely share information. If I am struggling I will ask another guide how he is doing and what he is using as we pass on stream.
“When I rig my rod before starting, I take all of this information and determine what flies would be the best to use and I tie on as many as I can. When my wife, Lori, and I go out, I rig our rods differently. Each rod has two different flies (a lead fly and a dropper). I do the same for my two clients when I am guiding. As we fish, I pay particular attention to which fly caught the trout. One fish is a fluke. Two fish is a coincidence. Three fish is a trend. Once I have identified the trend I make sure everyone has the most productive flies.
“Gather as much information as you can before making your fly selection for the best results.”
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.

Bull Shoals Lake
As of Thursday, the Army Corps of Engineers reported the lake’s elevation at 660.17 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl; top flood elevation is 695.00 feet msl). By midday Thursday the flow was 16,745 cfs and has ranged 12,700 to almost 17,000 over the past 24 hours; tailwater elevation was 457.49 feet. The reported lake elevation at Table Rock Lake was 915.88 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 915.00 feet msl; top flood elevation is 931.0 feet msl).

(updated 2-23-2023) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said that with Bull Shoals Lake level being at 660 feet msl, the Corps of Engineers has been pushing water through the dam. The water temperature is ranging about 46-49 degrees. Fishing continues to be up and down just like the weather. The warm rain helped. Some fish will move shallower under the right conditions and hold on swings, points and ledges. Temperature and conditions over the next month will dictate your game plan and success.
The shad are spread out. Some holding in the mouths of the creeks and main lake and are over 120-150 feet and have been suspended 90-100 down. While some warmer creeks will hold them shallower, the fish are spread out so you’re going to have to look for them. I feel most of the largemouth bass have pulled off the deeper shad and are holding in the 30-50 feet range on ledges, tree tops, bluff ends or points nearby. We’re capitalizing on the shad if they come up to feed early or in the evening, or if the stripers and white bass push them up in the column.
There has definitely been some shad kill. The shad bite video gaming isn’t over yet. When they push back in, try a Rapala Jigging Rap or Tater Shad on a Moon Eye. Most of the bass are only 25-55 feet over the shad.
Some fish are already staging early prespawn areas in the creeks. The crankbait bite is getting better as temps rise. The crawdads are becoming active. This should improve with warm days and dirty water. Wind, wind, wind and clouds will help. Parallel steeper ledge 45-degree banks and steeper transition banks. Cover water. Try Rock Crawler reds on the steeper, clearer water; Wiggle Warts on mid; and a Chick Magnet on the flat side in the stain. Using a jerkbait on breezy day bluff ends over steeper swings and points will fool a few.
The smallmouth are definitely grouping up if you can find them; they are in roaming mode. A 2.8 McMinnow is on deck. I’ve been getting bit on a Jewel football jig or shaky head in green pumpkin on the points, ledges and swings in the creeks. Fish slow if it’s flat, clear and sunny. The drop-shot is a player in 30-45 feet. You’ll have to keep moving to find them but when you do there’s usually a few. 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 midday Thursday, the Army Corps of Engineers reported the lake’s elevation at 556.22 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 3,041 cfs.

(updated 2-23-2023) Steven “Scuba Steve” Street at Blackburn’s Resort said the lake level was 554.51 feet msl and the storm was just starting to enter the area about 11:30 a.m. when he arrived at the resort Wednesday. The wind came up and it started to rain pretty hard. The surface water temperature was 49 degrees and the water was stained in the creeks but a little clearer on the main lake. The White River at Newport was 22.29 feet, indicating they are letting out quite a bit of water out of both lakes. “We are now just three-quarters of a foot above the top of the power pool and 1½ feet above where we were on Feb. 7 before the 3-inch-plus rain.
Bass fishing starts to improve on both windblown banks on crankbaits back in the creeks and on main lake points near brush on grubs, and then another cold front comes through slowing the fishing. Crappie fishing is fair to poor on main lake brush piles on both jigs and live minnows on a slip float just at sundown to dark. When they quit, they quit. Some larger white bass are up the river with walleye spawning, and smaller ones have not spawned yet and are still in open water on shad. Hybrids and smaller stripers are still in open water on shad about 50 feet down, no matter how deep the water is, and can be caught dragging live bait or umbrellas through the shad. Vertical-jigging a spoon or 3-inch grub on a lead head is also working.
For a daily fishing report and lake condition go to and click on Scuba Steve's Blog.

(updated 2-9-2023) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said the bite has been pretty good for striped bass as of late. Lots of jigging soft plastics and lead spoons. He said, “I had a much better day of catching fish (Monday). The fish were being a little more aggressive. I didn't get to head out on the lake until 10 a.m., but as luck would have it, the bite was on as soon as I got to the area that I wanted to check out. I could see the birds feeding from a distance, which made me smile really big. I knew what was going on. I stopped the boat and looked at my graph and there were fish all over the place.
“I was in roughly 80 feet of water just outside of a channel swing with fish suspended 20-70 feet down. I started to target the 30-feet-deep fish and found that they wanted to chase my bait today. I dropped my bait down to 50 feet, and when a small school of fish came under me, I would reel up as fast as I could through the middle of the school. I saw a couple fish turn and follow my bait. At about 15 feet down they would attack and then dive! These fish were hybrids, stripers and white bass. I did catch a few fish on a dead stick, meaning no motion at all except for what the boat was doing.
“All species were out there feeding. I got to land a couple of nice largemouth bass, a big 15-inch crappie, a handful of white bass and 4 hybrid stripers. I landed fish on a Bayou Magic Tater Shad with a half-ounce white big eye jighead, as well as a three-quarter-ounce Binks Many Shad white spoon. The fish I was marking at 60 feet or deeper did not want to bite. If you are out looking for striped bass, they will be in an area from East Pigeon to the 101 bridge and/or from the Highway 62 bridge back to the 101 Boat Docks. Find the bait, then make sure you mark a few fish before you start fishing. It does take some looking, but once you find them it is a blast.
“With the rising water level, the largemouth bass bite will become really good. Look for water flowing back in creeks and coves and start casting a Wiggle Wart or a Rock Crawler crankbait into shallow water.”
Water temp was 44-46 degrees. The lake is rising with the current rains and sits at 553.5 feet msl. The lake is slightly stained in most areas, but will become more stained in the next day or so. Enjoy Norfork Lake!!
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 2-23-2023) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake fell 2.3 feet to rest at 0.9 foot above power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 25.3 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork tailwater had no wadable water.
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-head 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 size 14 pheasant tail nymph and a size 18 ruby midge. 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 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 2-23-2023) 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.