Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

April 26, 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 27, 2023.

White River
(updated 4-27-2023) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said, Come join us for some terrific trout fishing in Cotter, Arkansas: Trout Capital USA.  Bull Shoals Lake elevation is 666.47 feet msl, 6 feet from the top of power pool with steady releases from the dam, averaging 4 units (11,800 cfs).  Some consider this perfect floating levels, other feel it's still a little high.  Don't let the higher water levels intimidate you; it's a great time to cast almost everything in your tackle box.  Maybe add some extra weight on your line to ensure the bait is staying near the bottom and get ready to net some rainbows.
This past week has been an exceptionally gorgeous one with everybody taking time out to admire the God-given beauty of the Arkansas Ozarks and shout out a great big "Thank You" prayer.
The browns kept us busy this past week -- seemed like a continuous stream sized from 17 to 27.5 inches. Lay your hands on some really nice shad or sculpin and you'll attract some really nice browns. The rainbows are showing interest in shiny silver spoons (especially Cleos and the hammered blue-silver Thomas Buoyant). Another good bet this week is the Vibrax Blue Fox spinners, gold blade, 3/16-ounce or quarter-ounce.
They're also biting at just about any worm, especially when a bubblegum pink or fluorescent orange worm is used in conjunction with shrimp.
"Whatever form your fishing takes, bring it to the river and enjoy Arkansas, The Natural State."

(updated 4-27-2023) Dave McCulley, owner of Jenkins Fishing Service in Calico Rock, said, “What a difference a week can make! Both Bull Shoals and Norfork dams have closed their spillway gates and are back to regular generation with four generators at Bull Shoals and one generator at Norfork. As of Wednesday night, water levels are down near 8 feet with a good color. Fishing has been great the last few days. Many different color combinations of Power Eggs with silver inline spinners and shrimp have worked great. With the lower water, drift-fishing over the gravel bars is producing some 13-inch-plus rainbow trout. Additionally, we are seeing more success with artificial lures, especially the deeper diving Rapala Shad Raps, either shad color or purple.
“The expected rain on Thursday should have a minimal effect on the river. The weekend is shaping up to be nice weather with cool mornings and warming up to the mid- to upper 60s. It is a great time to get out and catch some fish.”

(updated 4-27-2023) 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 of rainfall, warmer temperatures and heavy winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals fell 2.7 feet to rest at 7.5 feet above power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 28.5 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock Lake rose 0.1 foot to rest at 0.4 foot below power pool and 16.4 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell 0.8 foot to rest at 7.8 feet above power pool or 1.8 feet below the top of flood pool. The White last week had no wadable water and more moderate flows. Norfork Lake fell 4.8 feet to rest at 0.9 foot above power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 25.3 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork Tailwater last week had no wadable water; there had been significant 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 Wildcat 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. Use long leaders and plenty of additional weight.”
John discusses fishing with barbless hooks: “A couple of weeks ago, while guiding on the White River, I was hooked by my client. His errant cast drove a size 10 San Juan Worm into my flesh just below my lower lip. The cast was packed by a bit of power and the hook penetrated me all the way to the bend of the hook. The first thing that I thought was how grateful I was that I had tied the fly on a factory barbless hook. I reached up and grasped the hook and painlessly removed it from my face.
“I was fishing in a catch-and-release area where it is required by Arkansas Game and Fishing Commission regulation that you fish with barbless hooks. Years ago I made the decision to only fish barbless, for both me and my clients. Barbless hooks are better for the fish as they are easier to remove. The real reason I fish barbless is for me. As a guide I think I am the most likely person in the boat to get hooked. It seems to work that way. As a working guide, I am hooked often.
“Removing barbed hooks from your body or someone else’s can be a painful process. Many victims are inclined to seek medical assistance for their removal. In fact, if you go to the emergency room at Baxter Regional Medical Center, you can see the glass-enclosed case where they keep all of the flies and lures that they have removed from unfortunate anglers. It is quite a collection.
“There is an effective and relatively painless method to extract a barbed hook. Clip the embedded hook from the tippet. Wrap a length of stout tippet around the bend of the hook. Push the eye of the hook down toward the flesh to disengage the barb. Grip the stout tippet and back the hook out with one quick movement.
“I first used this technique on my wife, Lori. We were fishing with her sister and brother in Law on the Norfork. The fishing was hot. We were catching trout after trout. We would literally have three fish or more on at one time. Lori lost her fly, an olive Woolly Bugger. As she was tying on a fresh one she lost her balance and almost fell. She caught herself but in doing so she hooked herself with the new fly. She had not yet pinched down the barb.
“Due to the great fishing action, she wanted to continue fishing with the fly securely hooked in her thumb. I insisted that we remove the hook. I performed the maneuver described above and the hook came out easily. She said that she didn’t even feel it. She tied on the fly, mashed down the barb and finished the day.
“Be careful out there and fish barbless!”

Bull Shoals Lake
As of Thursday, the Army Corps of Engineers reported the lake’s elevation at 666.13 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl; top flood elevation is 695.00 feet msl). By midday Thursday the flow was 11,854 cfs and has been around that level the last couple of days; tailwater elevation was 456.18 feet. The reported lake elevation at Table Rock Lake was 914.63 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 915.00 feet msl; top flood elevation is 931.0 feet msl).

(updated 4-27-2023) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said Bull Shoals Lake level as of Thursday was 666 feet msl, now only 7 foot high. Water temperature is at or over 60 degrees. Cooler temps and falling water have slowed things down. There is now accessibility to ramps and parking again. The bass are grouped up and they are spawning or prespawn. “We did lose some beds because of the dropping water that put them in a funk, but I’m expecting another big wave if conditions stabilize. There’s a shad spawn with bass feeding; you can find them around docks, spread out on flats and in the bushes now. A lot of fish now are suspending, waiting to move up.
“I’m looking for prespawners by checking pockets with wind and shad. Most fish still seem to be looking up. Most the dirty water cleared out but some of the bigger creeks or up the lake have stain, while there is high visibility around the dam area. Fish it like two separate lakes.
Dirty creeks, cloudy, warm rain water you’re best powerfishing with square bill, perch or shad. Try on the last couple swing banks or in or around the spawning pockets. Cover water. Fish warm runoff if available. There are some fish in the bushes but that bite is hit or miss. Use a Senko, a popper or a Ned rig.
Sunny days with flat water and stain conditions, try points by 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. Focus on the points outside spawning areas. The shad are moving up high, so check the backs of creeks and look for feeding activity. Bigger spreads are shallower than 40 feet, be sure to check flats. Graph time pays off. Bomb-cast around the Ol’ McMinnow 2.8 swimbait in white or shad colors, as well as a fluke and a Lucky Craft Gunfish topwater. This pattern has been the deal for me.
The bass are definitely grouping up. The walleyes caught bass fishing looked spawned out. White bass look to be absorbing their eggs. 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 554.48 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 3,049 cfs, about 4,000 cfs drop from Tuesday midday.

(updated 4-27-2023) Steven “Scuba Steve” Street at Blackburn’s Resort said the lake level was 554.58 and had dropped 5 inches in the last 24 hours when he went to work at 7 p.m. Wednesday evening. “The new news is that they have closed the spillway gates and there is much less water release and we are approaching the top of the power pool of 553.75 feet msl and the White River at Newport is 19.58 feet and dropping quickly. Snow melt is heading our way from up north on the Mississippi and we are fortunate that they have dropped the lake level as fast as they have. We are in good shape here on Norfork but cannot expect big water releases in the near future.  We just do not need a big rain in the watershed basin.
“The surface water temperature was 54 degrees and I could see my lure down about 5 feet with a water color of a greenish brown. The lake is at an excellent level and a good color for fishing. Use a creature bait on a 3/16-ounce jighead for smallmouth on main lake shallow points. Crappie are spawning in the creeks. Hybrid stripers are active in the evenings and early mornings. Catfish are turning on, on live bait on short throw lines and jugs in the creeks. Things are getting better. A slow water drop and a small moon will really turn on the catfish.”
Visit and click on Scuba Steve's blog for a daily report.

(updated 4-27-2023) 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 4-27-2023) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake fell 4.8 feet to rest at 0.9 foot above power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 25.3 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork Tailwater last week had no wadable water; there had been significant 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.
With no wadable water, 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 headed 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 Worm 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. 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 4-27-2023) 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.