Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

April 5, 2023

More reports and other videos are on the Cotter Trout Dock Youtube Channel Page.
Below is the Arkansas Game and Fish Fishing Report April 6, 2023.

White River
(updated 4-6-2023) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said the lakes in the White River watershed are filling up and are being attentively managed by the Army Corps of Engineers. Bull Shoals Lake is hovering at 675.2 feet msl as we head into a week of predicted sunshine – or at least no rain. The river is running pretty high right now with five units (15,000 cfs) round-the-clock. Higher water is expected here as the dams begin to drop back toward power pool. The guides always tell us, "Fish love water – the more water, the better," and they continue to do a really great job of helping folks catch them.
The brown trout bite has been phenomenal, with shad and the occasional well-positioned sculpin doing well. Rainbows have been hitting sunrise and orange PowerBait, especially in combination with shrimp or crawdad tail – an excellent way to reel in some nice-sized fish. Floating pink mousetails (artificial scented worms) and Rooster Tails with black-and-yellow skirts, gold blades, one-sixth ounce to quarter ounce, are a great backup to the shrimp/PowerBait mix. The hatches we saw last week, which sated the trout and made it really tough to get their attention in the afternoon hours, have slowed with the rain and cooler temps. But the hatch is on, often around 3 in the afternoon. A great time for topwater action.
Deeper water means more drift-fishing, no wading opportunities for now, but there's always a chance to cast from the river banks. Bring the kids or grandkids and together investigate The Natural State of things in Arkansas. See you at the river.

(updated 4-6-2023) Dave McCulley, owner of Jenkins Fishing Service in Calico Rock, said the fishing has been good this week. Keeping it simple by using two Power Eggs on a No. 2 hook with shrimp has done well. Sunrise-colored Power Eggs have worked best, as have yellow-colored Power Eggs. We have seen some success by mixing colors such as orange and white. In the cloudy conditions, silver-colored inline spinners can provide a deeper flash of color to attract the trout’s attention. Lures such as Rapala Shad Raps and Countdowns had limited success. Use sculpins if targeting larger rainbows and browns.
The recent storms, combined with Bull Shoals and Norfork Dams generating water and opening spill gates, had the river level reach a high of 10 feet Wednesday. Luckily the rain didn’t muddy the water, so the main part of the river is fishable. If the river does get muddy, move up into the creeks where the trout will be looking for cleaner water, and if a person is lucky they may catch a smallmouth bass or catfish to augment the trout.
This week we received one trout stocking at the Calico Rock boat ramp.

(updated 4-6-2023) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service at Cotter said that during the past week they had two events that combined for a half-inch of rainfall, cool temperatures and heavy winds (to include lake wind advisories). The lake level at Bull Shoals rose 3.4 feet to rest at 16.3 feet above power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 19.7 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock Lake fell 3.3 feet to rest at 2.2 feet below power pool and 13.8 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake rose 0.7 foot to rest at 9 feet above power pool or 0.6 foot below the top of flood pool. The White had no wadable water and flows. Norfork Lake rose 1.2 feet to rest at 11.4 feet above power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 14.8 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork tailwater had no wadable water this past week. All of the lakes in the White River system are now above power pool. Expect higher flows on the White and North Fork.
John said, “The caddis hatch is just beginning. This is our best hatch of the year. We have seen some small hatches in the 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 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, “A few days ago, my friend Tom Schmuecker passed away. I met him at the Federation of Fly Fishers (FFF) Conclave almost 40 years ago. He was heavily involved in fly-tying as were my brother, Dan, several friends and I. His beloved wife, Ann, passed away a few days before him.
“Tom was originally a chicken farmer who raised the specialized birds that are highly prized by fly-tyers. He sold the farm and purchased the Wapsi. He sold his chickens and moved to Mountain Home to run the company. Over the years, he and Ann built Wapsi into the largest supplier of fly-tying materials in the world. When I managed Blue Ribbon Fly Shop, we bought the majority of our products from there. It is an innovative company that is always introducing new products.
“He was an avid fly-tyer and would tie almost every day. One year I was tying flies at the FFF Conclave and was sitting next to my friend George Harmeling. George was a compulsive tyer who always carried pretty much any material or tool he had to the conclave so that he would be sure he had anything he may need. He carried all of this stuff in a big wheeled steamer trunk.
“Tom came in with a cigar box filled with just hooks and rabbit strips. He asked if he could sit with us. We were glad to see him and welcomed him to the table. He proceeded to borrow a fly-tying vise, a bobbin with thread and a small pair of scissors. He then proceeded to tie a great warm-water fly. Here is the largest supplier of fly-tying materials and tools borrowing such things from a tyer. He had a huge warehouse full of this stuff.
“When I organized the first fly-tying contest (originally at the Baxter Bulletin), my first call was to Tom. He was integral to planning, organizing and judging the contest. He insisted on adding a category for warm-water flies, his favorite. We did the first judging in the conference room at Wapsi. We did it there for years before moving it to my house after Tom’s health declined.
“We have changed the name of the fly-tying contest to the Wapsi Fly Tying Contest to reflect his company’s ongoing support to the project. The award for the best in show in the contest is now the Tom Schmuecker Award in honor of him. No individual has done more to promote fly-tying than Tom Schmuecker. His efforts have made Mountain Home a mecca for the sport.
“Tom you will be missed!”

Bull Shoals Lake
As of Thursday, the Army Corps of Engineers reported the lake’s elevation at 675.31 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl; top flood elevation is 695.00 feet msl). By midday Thursday the flow was 18.069 cfs and has ranged about that same level past two days; tailwater elevation was 458.43 feet. The reported lake elevation at Table Rock Lake was 916.79 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 915.00 feet msl; top flood elevation is 931.0 feet msl).

(updated 4-6-2023) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said Bull Shoals Lake level 675 feet msl, or 16 feet above normal pool level, and rising. Water temperature is ranging 55 to 60-plus degrees. The lake is on the rise; watch for debris. There is definitely limited accessibility to ramps, and parking can be an issue, so call ahead.
Bass fishing is getting better. Still, weather will hinder some days. The fish are grouped up and they are prespawn feeding. You can find them spread out on flats and in the bushes now. Fish it like two separate lakes. Dirty creeks, cloudy days, warm rainwater calls for power fishing crankbaits, Chatterbait or square bills. Try on the last couple swing banks or in or around the pockets. Cover water. Fish warm runoff if available. For sunny days with flat water and stain conditions try slow-dragging a Jewel half-ounce Special Ops football jig in green pumpkin. For summer days with clear water look at the old shoreline points, keep the boat in 25-30 free and try a green pumpkin three-sixteenth-ounce shaky head or a Ned, fished slow, then go a little slower.
A wave of smallmouth bass are probably going to go with this moon. The ol’ Wobble Head with a Menace slow-banging on the rocks, ledges or points in 5-15 feet of water early in the day, then look 15-20 feet by midday. Fish outside spawning areas. The fish are in moving. It’s getting to where you can beat the bank and run into a few target staging early prespawn areas. If you’re feeling brave, a Megabass Jerkbait 110 on breezy day over steeper swings and points with shad nearby will fool a few, but it has been hit or miss. You might run into a toothy one.
The shad are moving up again. Video gamers are everywhere from the main lake to the backs of the creeks. Look for bigger spreads shallower than 30 feet, and be sure to check flats. Graph time pays off. Throw around the ol’ McMinnow 2.8 Swimbait in white or shad color, and also a fluke – this pattern has been the deal for me. The bass are definitely grouping up. Whites and walleyes are spawn or prespawn and active early or late in the day unless it’s a cloudy, windy day. 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 565.06 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 4-6-2023) Steven “Scuba Steve” Street at Blackburn’s Resort said the lake level was 565.21 feet msl and had dropped three-quarters of an inch with one generator running continuously and spillway gates open equivalent to about three-quarters of a generator. The White River at Newport is 24.04 feet and is rising slowly. “We received a half-inch of rain on Tuesday. The water color is still tea colored in the Blackburns Creek area, but you can find as clear water as you want. It is not affecting fishing. The surface water temperature was 57 degrees Tuesday evening when I came in at about 6:30 p.m.
“The new news is that the smallmouth bass have moved on to their spring prespawn feeding banks and are hitting creature baits on a jighead. Other black bass fishing is also getting better. Male crappie have started their spawning process and are just outside their spawning banks right on schedule back in Pigeon, Middle Pigeon, Twin Coves and Briar Creek. There are still some white bass back in the bay in Big Creek and across from Cranfield Campground. Fishing is getting better, and it needed to.”
Visit 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 4-6-2023) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake rose 1.2 feet to rest at 11.4 feet above power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 14.8 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork tailwater had no wadable water this past week. All of the lakes in the White River system are now above power pool. Expect higher flows on the White and North Fork rivers.
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 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 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. Be sure and 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 4-6-2023) 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 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.