Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

April 19, 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 20, 2023.

White River
(updated 4-20-2023) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said, “We're serving up an Ozark spring at its best! Add terrific trout fishing to a glorious spring day and glorious peace on the river, and you've got a memory in the making.
Bull Shoals Lake is sitting at 668 feet msl, just 8 feet above the desired power pool level – the Corps has done a great job at bringing the lake down. The generation has been trending down all week from almost flood stage levels (30,000 cfs) during the middle of last week to much more normal levels currently: about 14,000-17,000 cfs (four to six units). The river has prime fishing water right now.
“The trout bite was phenomenal last weekend on the high water with Rapala Countdowns No. 5 and No. 7 (the black/gold and brook trout Rapalas brought the most success). The glass blue Husky Jerk Minnow was bragged on by some longtime White River anglers. We pulled in rainbow after rainbow with floating pink mouse tails (artificial worms). It's a good idea to have a rod rigged with your favorite PowerBait hue (garlic flavor works nice, too) and some shrimp toppers to coax the more reluctant ones out of hiding. You can try your hand at jig fishing again now since dam generation has slowed: moss green or orange/black Zig Jigs or even a plain white maribou jig should provide a lot of action. We brought a beauty of a rainbow to the boat for pictures (22 inches, 5 pounds) (Tuesday) with a nice little redfin river minnow.
“You can expect our guides to serve you well in all weather and water conditions, help you catch fish every day, teach new techniques to sharpen your fishing skills, and bless you with Arkansas Ozark hospitality. We welcome you to Cotter.”

(updated 4-20-2023) Dave McCulley, owner of Jenkins Fishing Service in Calico Rock, said that as of Wednesday Bull Shoals Dam had 17 spillway gates opened to 1 foot plus four generators, while Norfork Dam had 11 spillway gates opened to 1 foot and one generator operating. “Last weekend we saw water depths as high as 13.5 feet, but by Wednesday the river had dropped about 3 feet to approximately 10.5 feet. The water has some dinginess with a fast current. Drift-fishing with silver-colored inline spinner, yellow Power Eggs and shrimp was the most effective. Because of the depth of the water there was minimal success using lures.
“This week we received one trout stocking of over 650 rainbow trout at the Calico Rock boat ramp. An additional stocking was done at the Chessmond Ferry boat ramp.”

(updated 4-20-2023) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service at Cotter said that during the past week they had just a trace or rainfall in Cotter, warmer temperatures and heavy winds (to include lake wind advisories). The lake level at Bull Shoals fell 4 feet to rest at 10.2 feet above power pool of 659 feet. This is 25.8 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock Lake rose 0.1 foot to rest at 0.3 foot below power pool and 14.3 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell 0.4 foot to rest at 8.6 feet above power pool or 1 foot below the top of flood pool. The White has had no wadable water and extremely heavy flows augmented by substantial spillway releases. Norfork Lake fell 3.5 feet to rest at 5.7 feet above power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 20.5 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork had no wadable water. “Here again we have had spillway releases to augment generation.”
All of the lakes in the White River System except Table Rock are now above power pool. At the current rate of drop, expect all of the lakes in the White River System to reach power pool in three weeks.
John said, “The caddis hatch is ongoing. 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. It will be difficult to fish this hatch with the high water levels we now have.
“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. Use long leaders and plenty of additional weight.”
John also said, “Yesterday I went to the Sowbug Roundup wrap-up meeting. The object of the meeting is to analyze the most recent Sowbug to see what went well and what could be improved upon.
“The secret to Sowbug’s success is that the committee meets once a month for the entire year. That way we have plenty of time to plan for its success. Most of the committee members have served for a number of years and are very knowledgeable about their responsibilities. When there is turnover, the committee member departing mentors the new member.
“This year’s Sowbug Roundup was a major success. We had around 1,100 attendees who spent an average of 1.62 days at Sowbug. That means that the average attendee spent quite a bit of time there. Most of this time was for them to watch some of the top fly-tyers in the United States do their thing. They also attended some interesting seminars or took classes in fly-tying or fly-casting at no additional charge.
“One of the classes taught was a kid’s fly-tying contest. I heard of one student that learned to tie a fly. He then took that fly to Dry Run Creek and caught a fish on it the next day. This is a big deal in fly fishing, to catch a fish on a fly that you tied. The first one is special.
“I remember the first time it happened to me. My brother, Dan, taught me to tie an olive Woolly Bugger. That week I took it to the Spring River. I started the day with my fly. In 15 minutes, I had caught a trout on a fly that I had tied myself. I fished it all day and caught a total of six trout (a limit at that time). The Woolly Bugger was a bit beat up. I carefully put it back in my fly box. Forty years later I still have it. I am sure that this young man feels the same.
“The food vendor was a big hit. We had the Clark Ridge Volunteer Fire Department Auxiliary there to provide breakfast, lunch and snacks for the Sowbug volunteers, tyers and attendees. It was quality food at reasonable prices.
“I freely admit to being a serious chowhound. Their sausage gravy biscuit is the best I ever had. My sister, Ernestine, talked me into trying it and I am glad she did. We split a two biscuit plate for $6 and it was well worth every penny. The fried pies were fantastic. They reminded me of my mother’s. How good does it get?
“We spent a lot of time discussing how to make the Sowbug Roundup better. How do we make the layout more efficient? We also spent a lot of time figuring out how to more efficiently handle the finances.
“The meeting went long but we thought that we accomplished something and hope that we can continue to make it better every year.”

Bull Shoals Lake
As of Thursday, the Army Corps of Engineers reported the lake’s elevation at 668.18 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl; top flood elevation is 695.00 feet msl). By midday Thursday the flow was 12,939 cfs and has ranged as high as 14,389 the last couple of days; tailwater elevation was 457.30 feet. The reported lake elevation at Table Rock Lake was 914.70 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 915.00 feet msl; top flood elevation is 931.0 feet msl).

(updated 4-20-2023) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said Bull Shoals Lake level as of midweek was 668 feet, or 9 feet high. Water temperature is 60-plus degrees. The lake is coming down fast with floodgates open. There is now accessibility to ramps and parking again. The bass are grouped up and they are spawn/prespawn feeding – you can find them on spread-out flats and in the bushes now. We had a big wave move up last week, but unfortunately I think those beds are out of the water and put them in a funk. There were some that spawned, but a lot did not. A lot of fish are now suspended, waiting for better, more stable conditions. I’m looking for prespawners checking pockets with wind and shad. Most fish still seem to be looking up. Most of the dirty water cleared out, but some of the bigger creeks or up the lake have stain, while there is 18 feet visibility around the dam area. Fish it like two separate lakes. Dirty creeks, cloudy, warm rain water you’re best powerfishing with crankbaits, Chatterbaits, spinnerbaits, Rat-L-Traps. Try on the last couple swing banks or in or around the spawning pockets. Cover water. Fish warm runoff if available.
Sunny days with flat water and stain conditions, try slow-dragging a Jewel half-ounce Special Ops football jig in green pumpkin. Sunny with clear water, look at the old shoreline points, keep the boat in 25-30 feet, try a green pumpkin 3/16-ounce shaky head or a Ned fished slow, then go a little slower. The ol’ Wobble Bead with a Menace slow-banging on the rocks, ledges and points in 5-15 feet early, 15-20 feet midday around points and outside spawning areas.
It’s getting to where you can beat the bank and run into a few. The shad are moving up again. Video gamers are everywhere up high. Check the backs of the creeks and look for bigger spreads shallower than 40ft; be sure to check flats. Graph time pays off. Throw around the ol’ McMinnow 2.8 swimbait in white or shad colors, and also a fluke and Lucky Craft Gunfish topwater – this pattern has been the deal for me.
The bass are definitely grouping up. White bass are munching in the very backs of the big creeks. The walleyes caught bass fishing looked spawned out. Go out 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 558.07 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 9,404 cfs, with constant generation in that range for several days.

(updated 4-20-2023) Steven “Scuba Steve” Street at Blackburn’s Resort said the lake level is 558.51 feet msl and has dropped over 7 inches in the last 24 hours with one generator running continuously and spillway gates open to about an additional 2¼ generators. The White River at Newport is 22.28 feet and dropping quickly. They now predict the lake will be at the top of the power pool of 553.75 feet msl on May 1. That is very good compared to where we were. All launches and parking are back to normal and that is very good. The topwater bite depends on the nighttime ambient temperature. If it is about 55 degrees it is very good, and below 50 it’s nonexistent. The water temperature is all over the place, but is about 67 on the main lake in the Blackburn’s Creek area.
“Walleye, white bass and some small stripers are coming up on warm mornings. Crappie are in the middle of spawn and are deciding what to do with the quickly dropping water. Black bass are worse and do not know what to do. I am glad the water is not so high, but it is not helping the spawn any with the quick drop in level. It is still early and things will settle out as long as we do not get any big rains in the Norfork watershed area. Fishing is still fair to good.”
Visit and click on Scuba Steve's blog for a daily report.

(updated 4-20-2023) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort 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 4-20-2023) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake fell 3.5 feet to rest at 5.7 feet above power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 20.5 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork had no wadable water. “Here again we have had spillway releases to augment generation.”
All of the lakes in the White River System except Table Rock are now above power pool. At the current rate of drop, expect all of the lakes in the White River System to reach power pool in three weeks.
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 cerise San Juan Worms and an orange egg. The fishing is 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. 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 4-20-2023) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Crooked Creek and the Buffalo River are fishing better. 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.