Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

March 15, 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 16, 2023.

White River

(updated 3-16-2023) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said the next few weeks will bring lots of young anglers to the river – spring break and time to get outside! Nothing better than to see families enjoying the great outdoors in the beauty of The Natural State, fishing for, catching and often releasing a whole mess of trout. Mid-March kicks off the fishing season here in the Ozarks and adds a lot of energy and excitement to the air.
There will be more traffic on the river than during the colder winter months, but don't expect real warm weather yet. This is the time for layering; the mornings start out very chilly, but the sun heats up by mid-afternoon and allows for fewer layers.
Bull Shoals Lake is at elevation of 666.63 feet msl – up about 5 feet in the last two weeks – but the increase has slowed. Generation over the past week has been heavy, averaging 14,000 cfs, about five units, making the rainbows a little skittish.

When water releases settle to a steady amount, the bite picks up. Keep your egg patterns handy, along with wriggling redworms. Drifting a bubblegum pink or white worm while letting the current move you downstream should stir some excitement. We're seeing more action with sculpins for a healthy brown bite, but don't leave the minnows at home yet. Lots of topwater action on the sunny days, with a tiny white and

pink jig-like streamer.

“Arkansas hospitality never fails to please so come on over and experience the Arkansas Ozarks. We'd love for you to include some trout fishing in your vacation plans, and Cotter is the Trout Capital of the U.S. of A. The fishing forecast: good to spectacular.”


(updated 3-16-2023) Dave McCulley, owner of Jenkins Fishing Service in Calico Rock, said that they are seeing river levels at Calico Rock at 11 feet, well above what is normal for this time of year. The recent rains have caused both Bull Shoals Lake and Norfork Lake to rise above their respective conservation pool level. Since the lakes’ levels are higher, both dams have been generating a lot of water to include Norfork Lake opening 10 spillway gates. Until the lakes get closer to their conservation pool levels, I expect the river will remain high.

The high river level has made fishing difficult this week. Silver inline spinners with yellow Power Eggs with shrimp have been the most effective this week. We are also having success drift-fishing using shad. Because of the lakes dumping so much water, we are seeing a lot of shad around Calico Rock, which is unusual for us. The trout are gorging themselves on the shad.

With the deeper water we add an additional or larger sinker to the line to get the bait to the bottom. The deep water has made fishing the river with lures almost completely ineffective. Some people are reporting some success by moving into the creeks and fishing there. An added bonus of fishing in the creeks is the chance to catch a nice smallmouth bass. There was one trout stocking this week at the Calico Rock boat ramp.


(updated 3-16-2023) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service at Cotter said that during the past week they had a bit over a quarter of an inch or rainfall, colder temperatures and heavy winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals rose 2.1 feet to rest at 7.6 feet above power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 28.4 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock Lake fell 2 feet to rest at 1.3 feet below power pool and 14.7 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake rose 2.1 feet to rest at 5.4 feet above power pool or 4.2 feet below the top of flood pool. The White has had no wadable water and heavy flows. Norfork Lake rose 0.3 foot to rest at 5 feet above power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 21.2 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork tailwater also has had no wadable water. All of the lakes in the White River system are now above power pool. We can expect higher flows and no wadable water.
Streamer season is still upon us. The brown trout that were spawning from November to February are now working their way back downstream. Anglers are now targeting them by banging the bank with big streamers on sink tip lines.

John added, “On the White, the hot spot has been White Hole. We have had higher flows that have fished well one day and poorly the next. 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 details of his upcoming semi-annual fishing class: “Ten years ago my wife, Lori, and I held our first fly-fishing class at Arkansas State University-Mountain Home. During that time we have taught hundreds of students how to fly-fish. We have taught it twice a year, spring and fall, since 2013. We did take a couple of years off due to COVID-19. We taught both classes last year without a single problem after two years off due to the pandemic. We are gearing up for our spring class and we are excited about it. We both love to teach. That is our thing!
“This spring’s class will be held on the ASU-Mountain Home campus on Thursday, April 6, 13, 20 and 27 from 6-8 p.m. The classes are held in room 106 in Dryer Hall. All necessary equipment is furnished, although you are welcome to bring your own fly rod. There is a modest fee. Since half of the classes are set up to be fly-casting instruction, this part of the class is outside behind Dryer Hall. Our first class begins there, as do all of the other classes. However, in the case of inclement weather we will be inside.
“Lori is the best local casting instructor and always does the casting classes at the Sowbug Roundup. She is the lead instructor for our fly-fishing class. I assist her. Our goal is to teach every student the basic fly-fishing cast as well as the roll cast. At the end of the class, you will be able to cast well enough to fly-fish on your own. Special attention is given to students who have medical problems that make casting difficult.
“After the casting session, we move inside to do the classroom portion of the class. I draw on my 30-plus years of guiding fly-fishers to teach this. My emphasis is on keeping everything as simple as I possibly can while still teaching enough so that my students can easily fish on their own. Lori assists me in this process.
“We cover fly-fishing equipment. We let you know what you need and what you don’t need. We spend plenty of time on water safety and explain how, where and when to safely wade. We teach you how to tie the necessary fishing knots and to properly rig your fly rods. We then show four basic techniques to fish. We go on to fly selection and reading water.
“I am currently updating all of our handouts so that you won’t have to take a lot of notes and all the information will be easily available to you. If this sounds like something you would enjoy, go the ASU-Mountain Home’s website and register. We hope to see you there.”


Bull Shoals Lake

As of Thursday, the Army Corps of Engineers reported the lake’s elevation at 666.45 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl; top flood elevation is 695.00 feet msl). By midday Thursday the flow was 14,351 cfs and has ranged from that level to 16,642 cfs past two days; tailwater elevation was 457.24 feet. The reported lake elevation at Table Rock Lake was 916.12 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 915.00 feet msl; top flood elevation is 931.0 feet msl).


(updated 3-16-2023) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said Bull Shoals Lake level is 666 feet msl, or 7 feet above normal pool level. Water temperature is 50 degrees give or take. They have had dirty water and consistent temps in the upper 50s. Temperature and conditions over the next month will dictate your game plan and success.

White bass and walleye are prespawn spawn. If you’re bass fishing, fish the conditions. The shad are on the move again everywhere from the main lake to backs of the creeks. Look for bigger spreads shallower than 40 feet; gulls and loons can help. If they are over deep water, expect drum and walleyes. The ole McMinnow 2.8 Swimbait has been the deal for me. While some warmer creeks have a wave of fish up, they are mostly bucks, with an occasional big. With windy, dirty, cloudy, warm rainwater use a crank, Chatterbait, square bill, Rock Crawler, Wiggle Wart. Target the swing banks and cover water. When it’s sunny and flat water I’m slowly dragging Jewel half-ounce Special Ops football jig in green pumpkin or a green pumpkin shaky head or Ned hed slow banging on the rocks ledges in 5-15 feet early, then focusing in 15-20 feet by midday.
We’re fishing outside spawning areas. The fish are in transition The shad bite video gaming isn’t over but you can beat the bank and run into a few; target the staging, early prespawn areas in the creeks. Swings and points. The crankbait bite is hit or miss, we seem to need wind, wind, wind and clouds. Parallel steeper ledges, 45-degree banks and transition banks and cover water. The Spro Rock Crawler has been better lately; try the reds on the steeper, clearer water. Go with a Wiggle Wart on mid, and use 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 set up for that.

The smallmouth bass are definitely grouping up; if you can find them they are in packs! It’s about to get easy if we can get some warmer weather 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 558.18 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 8,823 cfs, with constant generation in that range for several days.


(updated 3-16-2023) Steven “Scuba Steve” Street at Blackburn’s Resort said Wednesday the lake level was 558.58 feet msl and had dropped 5 inches in the last 24 hours, with one generator and spillway gates open to an equivalent of 3½ generators total when Steve came in at 5:30 p.m. The surface water temperature was just over 53 degrees and the lake was clearing a bit even with the heavy release. The brown stuff is dropping out as it heads downstream and there is no muddy water or debris. The White River at Newport is 24.6 feet and has been kept at that level for several days. They are letting out as much water as they can and not flood anything out downstream.

The dropping water, heavy generation and cold fronts have not been helping fishing any. The best bite has been open water fishing for smaller stripers, 5-pound hybrids and spawned out white bass trolling live bait and umbrellas through shad in front of spawning banks down 10-25 feet. Spawned out walleye and white bass are biting under lights off docks after dark. Some crappie are on main lake shallow brush and partway in the backs of creeks on any wood. The best bite for them is near sunset until dark.
Overall, fishing is just fair at best but some nice fish are being caught every day. Go to and click on Scuba Steve's Blog for a daily report.


(updated 3-16-2023) 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 3-16-2023) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake rose 0.3 foot to rest at 5 feet above power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 21.2 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork tailwater also has had no wadable water. All of the lakes in the White River system are now above power pool. We can expect higher flows and no wadable water.
There has been no 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-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’s 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, and spring break may make the weekdays busy this month. 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 3-16-2023) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Crooked Creek and the Buffalo River are fishing poorly. With cooler temperatures, the smallmouths have not been 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.