Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

March 29, 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 30, 2023.

White River
(updated 3-30-2023) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said, “A spring day in the Arkansas Ozarks fishing on one of our rivers, streams or lakes is the next best thing to heaven. Spring rains are causing a rise in the lake levels in the White River watershed but the increase is being managed well as we continue to net great trout. Bull Shoals Lake is 13 feet above power pool level at 672 feet msl. The dam has been holding back much of its inflows to alleviate flooding downriver, so we've seen lower flows than might be expected. The average generation has been two to four units (6,000-12,000 cfs).
“No surprises that the browns continue to chase mid- to large-size sculpins and shad, but they've shown some interest in the larger sinking baits (look for Rapala's silver and black CD7). Rainbows never fail to bite at fluorescent yellow or orange eggs with shrimp, but are also chasing the floating pink mouse tails (artificial worms) when dam generation causes a rise in the water. This week we pulled in rainbow after rainbow casting Rooster Tails with black and yellow skirts, silver blades, quarter-ounce to three-eighths ounce.
“This lower water provides the option to fish with jigs. Try white or olive Zig Jigs or a standard white maribou jig; both have offered a lot of fun and success. There's a relatively new jig on the market, a D2 Jig sold through the Trout Magnet folks. The peach and olive flavor promises to be a great catch. Live worms have been working well, too, when the water level increases flush more worms into the river, making your bait looks more natural.
“Spring break is mostly behind us for now, but it's never too late to take a break for fishing. Visit the Natural State for some terrific catches and lots of Ozark hospitality.”

(updated 3-30-2023) Dave McCulley, owner of Jenkins Fishing Service in Calico Rock, said the storms last Friday dumped a lot of rain across the state, causing the Buffalo River and White River to flood. By Saturday evening the White River crested at 19 feet at Calico Rock. Sunday morning the muddy water was back inside the banks. Monday saw the river starting to clear up and the best chance to catch trout was to tie up to a tree in one of the creeks and use corn. There were some decent size 14-inch-plus trout caught using this method. By Wednesday the river was down to about 7 feet and still dingy but fishable. Drift-fishing with yellow or orange Power Eggs with shrimp worked best when fishing the gravel bars. Rainbow trout colored Rapala Countdowns and Purpledescent or shad-colored Shad Raps had some success.
There were two trout stockings Wednesday. In the morning the AGFC used its pontoon raft to stock 2,400 trout from the Jim Hinkle Spring River State Fish Hatchery between Norfork and Calico Rock. In the afternoon the Norfork Hatchery stocked a large number of trout at the Calico Rock boat ramp.

(updated 3-30-2023) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service at Cotter said that during the past week they had a 3-inch rain event, cold and then cool temperatures, and heavy winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals rose 6.4 feet to rest at 12.9 feet above power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 23.1 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock Lake rose 2.5 feet to rest at 8.3 feet below power pool and 10.5 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake rose 1.5 feet to rest at 8.3 feet above power pool or 1.3 feet below the top of flood pool. The White had no wadable water and heavy, then moderate flows. Norfork Lake rose 6.7 feet to rest at 10.2 feet above power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 16 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork tailwater has had wadable water. All of the lakes in the White River system are now above power pool. Expect higher flows on the White and some wadable water on the Norfork.
John says, “The caddis hatch is just beginning. This is our best hatch of the year. We have seen some small hatches in late afternoon. Before the hatch, fish a caddis pupa like the Sunday Special in size 16. When you see takes on the top but see no insects, switch to a caddis emerger like my Green Butt in size 15. When you observe trout taking insects from the top of the water, switch to elk hair caddis size 16.
“On the White, the hot spot has been the Rim Shoals. 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.”
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.
John also said, “For the last week or so I was beginning to think spring was here. My tulip tree bloomed and went. My hyacinth is in bloom, as is my quince and forsythia. My dogwood tree is covered in buds and is ready to pop at any moment. I have cut my grass twice. I do admit that was to mow down winter weeds, but it is usually a harbinger of spring. I had even spent a day or two wearing shorts around the yard.
“Last weekend I had three days guiding. When I originally booked them I had no idea how cold it would be. All three days began in the 20s and did not get that warm later on.
“I took great care when getting dressed. I put on polypropylene long underwear, wool socks, flannel-lined khakis, a heavy fleece pullover, my warmest down jacket, insulated L.L. Bean boots, a knit cap topped with my Elmer Fudd billed cap with ear flaps and heavy wool fingerless gloves.
“On the first day my clients were a nice couple from Oklahoma. They had made an emergency trip to Walmart the night before to get some additional warm clothing that made a big difference for them. I suggested that we meet at the White Sands Cafe for breakfast and stayed there drinking coffee until it warmed up a bit.
“We went to Rim Shoals and saw that they were running about 16,000 cfs, or about five full generators. We launched and began fishing. We caught several trout on orange egg patterns. The big problem was that it was very windy, 10-20 mph with gusts up to 40 mph. This made it feel much colder. We quit early due to the wind.
“The next day I had three guys, a father and two adult sons. I knew that I was in trouble when I found out they were from Wisconsin. To them the 21 degrees at start time was like a spring day. One guy fished all day with no gloves and a light mesh-backed ball cap. I got cold just looking at him.
“The first day we fished at Rim Shoals and did well. The water conditions were the same but there was much less wind, which made fishing much easier. We got much better drifts and caught plenty of trout.
“While making a leader repair I dropped two tippet spools, which were snapped together, into the river. They each contained 100 yards of fluorocarbon tippet. These spools cost $44.95 each plus tax. I sat there and watched about $100 worth of tippet sink into the river. If guides were allowed to cry, I would have.
“The next day we fished below Bull Shoals Dam. The water conditions and the weather were about the same. The fishing was better with some really nice trout.
“I survived the unexpectedly cold weather and caught fish but spent the whole time wondering what happened to spring.”

Bull Shoals Lake
As of Thursday, the Army Corps of Engineers reported the lake’s elevation at 673.24 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl; top flood elevation is 695.00 feet msl). By midday Thursday the flow was 4,544 cfs and has ranged from 2,500 to 5,213 cfs for past two days; tailwater elevation was 453.61 feet. The reported lake elevation at Table Rock Lake was up 4.5 feet to 919.55 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 915.00 feet msl; top flood elevation is 931.0 feet msl).

(updated 3-30-2023) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said Wednesday that Bull Shoals Lake’s level was about 13 feet high, at 672 feet msl. Water temperature has ranged 52-61 degrees give or take. The lake is on the rise; watch for debris. Temperature and conditions will dictate your game plan and success.
The bass have been stingy the last couple of days. It’s up and down like the weather. There are some fish moving up. While some warmer creeks have a wave of fish up skinny, they are mostly bucks with an occasional big. Fish it like two separate lakes: with windy conditions and dirty, cloudy warm rainwater you should be power fishing a crankbait, Chatterbait or squarebill. Try on the last couple of swing banks or in or around the pockets. Cover water. Fish warm runoff if available. When it’s sunny and flat water with stained conditions, try slow-dragging a Jewel half-ounce Special Ops football jig in green pumpkin color. With sunny conditions and clear water, try a green pumpkin three-quarter-ounce shaky head or a Ned fished slowly, then go a little slower. Also use the ol’ Wobble Head with a Menace slow-banging on the rocks, ledges or points in 5-15 feet, early, then focus on 15-20 feet around midday.
Fish outside the spawning areas. The fish are moving in. It’s getting to where you can beat the bank and run into a few. Target staging early prespawn areas in the creeks, swings and points. Outside the spawning areas fish the old shoreline. If you’re feeling brave trying a Megabass Jerkbait+1 on breezy-day bluff ends over steeper swings and points with shad nearby will fool a few, but has been hit or miss. I’m not a rig guy but they are set up for that.
The shad are moving up again, and video gamers are everywhere from the main lake to the backs of the creeks. Look for bigger spreads shallower than 30 feet. Gulls and loons can help or hurt; don’t hang out if they are over deep water. Expect drum or walleyes. Throw around the ol’ McMinnow 2.8 Swimbait in white or shad colors. This has been the deal for me.
The bass are definitely grouping up. Whites and walleyes are spawning or prespawn; early in the morning or late in the day is the deal to fool them. 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 564.64 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 8,198 cfs, with constant generation in that range for several days.

(updated 3-30-2023) Steven “Scuba Steve” Street at Blackburn’s Resort said the lake level is 564.41 feet msl and has risen 3.5 inches in the last 24 hours with one generator running since 8 a.m. on Wednesday. It is still rising with one generator running, but not much. The White River at Newport is 26.35 feet and dropping. They are predicting a crest on Norfork Lake to be on April 6 at 565.10 feet msl and it would be a rise of 9 feet since the rain last Friday.
“This report is for the lake area from Cranfield Island to Robinson Island. The water is brown but not muddy and clears as you go downstream. I could see my lure down 6-8 feet in float creek and 2 inches near Cranfield Island. The water temperature was 54 degrees and the weather has been very nice but cool. We are expecting a storm on Friday.
“Fishing has not been the best but a few bass are being caught beating the bank partway back in the creeks with a red crankbait or a single spin. I am using a small grub tipped with a minnow almost exclusively and catching a few bass and a crappie now and again. The night bite for stripers is over and did not amount to much, but some larger fish were caught than I expected.
“Overall fishing is poor but some bass are being caught if you know how. The topwater bite should start anytime if the water warms a bit and it is usually good on April 15. I will be glad when March is over.”
Visit blackburnsresort.com and click on Scuba Steve's Blog for a daily report.

(updated 3-23-2023) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said the bite for most species has been pretty good Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, but it will get better once we get some stable weather and a stable lake level. Normal early spring requests. “I have several guests in and they are all catching fish. The bite in the dark is going strong as long as you find where the fish are hanging out. Casting a small 3.5- to 5-inch paddle tail swimbait with a quarter-ounce jighead has been working the best.
“You can catch just about any species in the lake, including walleye, crappie and stripers, by casting out a swimbait. I prefer white or a Sexy Shad color. Once it gets light out, the fish tend to move off the shoreline and into deeper water, about 30-40 feet deep on the same points. I found fish yesterday morning on main lake points. I have been using Tater Baits, Tater Shads in the Bayou Magic, Key Lime and White Trash flavors. I catch most of my stripers by keeping the bait motionless about 3 feet off of the bottom.
“On Tuesday morning before the heavier rain started, I landed my limit of stripers/hybrids, including a 9-pound-plus hybrid. He really gave a great battle. Bob, another guest, found nice largemouth bass back in a creek in very shallow, muddy water. He was also casting out a swimbait. Another area that has been holding a ton of bait and fish is partway back in a creek where the fish are in 30-60 feet of water. Most of the stripers in this area are suspended 20-30 feet down. You will also find a lot of white bass in the same areas with the striped/hybrid bass.
“Wednesday morning was another good day to be on the lake. I checked out a new area and fished a flat in 30-40 feet of water. On one end of the flat I found a lot of bait and found white bass and a few stripers feeding heavily. The fish were at all depths, but the fish on the bottom were the most aggressive. I managed to land a monster striped bass weighing in at 30 pounds that was suspended 20 feet down in 37 feet of water. All my fish Wednesday were caught by slowly vertical-jigging a Bayou Magic Tater Shad. This big guy took 30 minutes to land on 8-pound test monofilament line.”
The surface water temp is holding around 50 degrees. The lake level is falling and currently sits at 556.92 feet msl. The northern part of the lake remains stained. Enjoy Norfork Lake.
Lou also 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 3-30-2023) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake rose 6.7 feet to rest at 10.2 feet above power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 16 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork tailwater has had wadable water. All of the lakes in the White River system are now above power pool. Expect higher flows on the White and some 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 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, while it tapers off at midday.
Dry Run Creek has fished a bit better. Weekends can get quite crowded. Some schools may be having a later spring break, so Friday this week may also have some younger anglers. 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 3-30-2023) 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.