Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

March 1, 2023

More reports and other videos are on the Cotter Trout Dock Youtube Channel Page.
Below is the Arkansas Game and Fish Fishing Report March 2, 2023.

White River
(updated 3-2-2023) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said it “feels like spring; warmer weather is here (for now) and the fishing is strong on our rivers here in the Arkansas Ozarks.”
Bull Shoals Lake has reached the desired power pool level, 659.4 feet msl – a decrease in the output from the dam is anticipated although we are seeing some higher-than-expected releases. The Army Corps of Engineers and the Southwestern Power Administration have been varying outflows fairly significantly over the past week, from about three units (9,000 cfs) to over five units (16,000 cfs), so be very careful and pay attention to the river conditions. Trout can adjust to water level changes without too much trouble, although it might take a little time, so be ready to try several baits.
The brown trout have been biting mid-sized to oversized sculpins and minnows and will chase a No. 5 or No. 7 Rapala. The gold/black Countdowns have been very successful on this water level. March sees a great catch of browns, some even biting on the old standby of PowerBait and shrimp.
The rainbows are responding really nicely to one-eighth-ounce jigs, white, olive/ginger, or olive/black, but several large rainbows have taken sculpin bait, too. The high water has allowed some fun streamer fishing with weighted line, white/gray or black, but wade-able waters might be on the horizon.
“Keep your rain gear handy – springtime in the Ozarks can be wet – but don't let that stop you from some all-round great fishing. The trout are calling! Come out to the White River for some great fishing.”

(updated 3-2-2023) Dave McCulley, owner of Jenkins Fishing Service in Calico Rock, said both Bull Shoals and Norfork lakes have reached their conservation pool level. We are seeing slightly reduced flows out of the dams resulting in water levels ranging from 7.5 feet to 9 feet. Once the water stabilized, the fishing has been very good drift-fishing with silver inline spinners with orange and white or sunrise Power Eggs with shrimp. With the upcoming storms, we will watch to see what happens with the water levels. If the Buffalo starts to flood, we can expect to see very high and very muddy water in Calico Rock. If we get the muddy water, try moving into the creeks where the trout will be looking for cleaner water and reduced currents. In the creeks, tie up to the bank and use corn to catch the rainbows.

(updated 3-2-2023) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service said that during the past week they had three rain events combining for a bit over a half-inch of rain in Cotter, warmer temperatures and heavy winds (to include wind advisories). The lake level at Bull Shoals fell 1.1 feet to rest at 0.4 foot above power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 35.6 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock Lake fell 0.3 foot to rest at 0.7 foot below power pool and 15.3 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell a foot to rest at 0.4 foot above power pool or 9.2 feet below the top of flood pool. The White had no wadable water and heavy flows. Norfork Lake fell 0.8 foot to rest at 0.1 foot above power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 26.1 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork tailwater had no wadable water.
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. On the White, the hot spot has been White Hole. “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 said.
John also said, “Last week I wrote about fly selection. There is more to write than can be contained in just one column. What happens when you fish a stream for the first time and there is no one around to give you a suggestion? To make things worse, the guy at the fly shop knows less than you do. Believe me, I have been there.
“I look around and try to observe what is going on this stream. Are there any aquatic insects coming off? Are there any terrestrials insects on the bank about to fall into the water? Did it rain recently, washing worms into the stream? I will pick a rock off the bottom and look for any aquatic insects on it.
“In each of these cases I will take whatever life form I find and try to match it to a fly in my fly box. I match them based on size, shape and color. Size is most important. If you are accustomed to eating something a particular size, say a hamburger, then you will most likely eat something that size. Shape means is it a grasshopper, a worm, a mayfly or something else? Color is the last consideration. We don’t even know if trout see color like we do.
“My wife, Lori, was once fishing a stream in Spearfish, South Dakota, while attending a family reunion. It was her first time there and she was struggling. Her brother-in-law, Larry, saw a fly in a tree and retrieved it. Lori tied it on and caught a trout. That is excellent observation. If I catch a trout that has another fly in its mouth, I remove it and fish with it. If it worked then, it should work again.
“The best technique I know of is to pump a trout’s stomach. This is a controversial technique, as many anglers say you could harm the trout. I have pumped hundreds of trout over three decades and never lost a fish. By pumping a trout’s stomach you see what they actually ate, not what is available. The hard part is you have to catch a fish before you can pump it. I can usually scam up one trout.
“The stomach pump is basically like a bulb baster with a long thin plastic tube. You put the tube in the water and squeeze the bulb. You slowly reduce the pressure on the bulb while still holding it, and the bulb fills with water. You then gently push the tube down the trout’s throat. Squeeze the bulb expelling the water into the trout’s stomach. Pull the pump out of the trout allowing the bulb to fill with the water and the contents of the stomach. Squeeze the bulb and catch the stomach contents in your hand. Match the most prevalent item with the contents of your fly box (size, shape and color) and you have a fly that matches what the trout is feeding on.
“One observation that I have made over the years is that they are feeding on smaller food items than we thought.”

Bull Shoals Lake
As of Thursday, the Army Corps of Engineers reported the lake’s elevation at 659.28 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl; top flood elevation is 695.00 feet msl). By midday Thursday the flow was 10,688 cfs and has ranged from 9,420 to almost 16,000 over the past two days; tailwater elevation was 455.90 feet. The reported lake elevation at Table Rock Lake was 915.45 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 915.00 feet msl; top flood elevation is 931.0 feet msl).

(updated 3-2-2023) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said Bull Shoals Lake level is 659 feet msl lake level. The Army Corps of Engineers has been pushing water through. Water temp is 49 degrees, give or take. We have had dirty water, temps in the mid-50s. The warm rain and wind helped, but temperature and conditions over the next month will dictate your game plan and success. The shad are spread out everywhere, from main lake to backs of the creeks. Look for bigger spreads shallower than 60 feet; gulls and loons can help show the way. If you can find a wad, that’s where the big girls have been hanging, usually above the shad from 10-30 feet. Tater Shad Swimbait and the ice jig when there’s not a lot of action, or dead stick on the bait.
While some warmer creeks have a wave of fish up, they are mostly bucks. Windy, dirty cloudy, warm water calls for a crank, square bill, Rock Crawler or Wiggle Wart. Sunny and flat, try slow-dragging a Jewel Jig or a green pumpkin shaky head slow banging on the rocks ledges in 5-15 feet.
The fish are in transition. The shad bite video gaming isn’t over, but it’s been nice to hit the bank and catch them somewhat regularly. Fish are already staging early prespawn areas in the creeks. The crankbait bite is hit or miss. The crawdads are becoming active. This should improve with warm days, dirty water while wind, wind, wind and clouds will help. Parallel steeper ledges 45-degree banks and transition banks, cover water. Use Rock Crawler reds on the steeper, clearer water; try a Wiggle Wart on mid-; and a Chick Magnet on the flat side in the stain. A jerkbait on breezy-day bluff ends over steeper swings and points with shad nearby will fool a few. I’m not a rig guy but they are setting up for that.
The smallmouth are definitely grouping up if you can find them. They are in roaming mode. A 2.8 McMinnow is on deck. Flat, clear and sunny the drop-shot is a player in 30-45 feet. You’ll have keep moving to find them but when you do there’s usually a few. White bass have started popping and walleyes will be up soon. There’s a full moon early this month. 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 553.64 feet msl, which is down almost 3 feet from this time last week (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 3,056 cfs, a fairly steady number for the past two days.

(updated 2-23-2023) Steven “Scuba Steve” Street at Blackburn’s Resort said the lake level is 553.71 feet msl and is right at the top of the power pool of 553.73 feet. The Army Corps of Engineers is very reluctant to drop it below that level. The White River at Newport is 16.39 feet and dropping. “Everyone is very concerned about the upcoming heavy rain and severe weather. I am way past predictions but just report what is actually happening.”
The surface water temperature is 50 degrees on the main lake and a few degrees warmer back in the creeks. The water cleared a little on both the main lake and creeks Wednesday with the reduced generation but you can see your lure down only 3-4 feet. Fishing has not been the best, but a few nice fish of several species have been caught every day. Every time things get better, another cold front comes through and slows everything. Go to the windblown creeks about halfway back and look for shad in 35-45 feet of water and drop a spoon on them. “You can catch about anything. I caught a few nice crappie in the 13- to 14-inch range after sunset (Tuesday) evening on a grub and minnow, but not very many.
“This rain and cooler weather will change everything and you have to be out there every day to stay on top of things. It is a typical early March.”
For a daily fishing report and lake condition go to and click on Scuba Steve's Blog.

(updated 3-2-2023) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort had no new reports. However, 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 3-2-2023) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake fell 0.8 foot to rest at 0.1 foot above power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 26.1 feet below the top of flood pool. There has been no wadable water on the Norfork tailwater. 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 a quite crowded, and remember that school spring break is coming later this month, so that week will be busy too.
The hot flies at Dry Run Creek 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 3-2-2023) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Crooked Creek and the Buffalo River are fishing poorly. With warmer temperatures, the smallmouths should be active soon. The most effective fly here usually is 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.