Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

May 3, 2023

More reports and other videos are on the Cotter Trout Dock Youtube Channel Page.
Below is the Arkansas Game and Fish Fishing Report May 4, 2023.

White River
(updated 5-4-2023) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said Bull Shoals Lake is nearing desired power pool while moderate generation continues, varying between 5,000 cfs to 16,000 cfs (two to five units), but expect that to decrease in a few weeks as the lake reaches its power pool level.  The lake level now is 665.47 feet msl. The morning temperatures have been cool – low 40s, blue skies – ushering in warmer afternoon temps. Next week promises warmer mornings and refreshing spring showers.
“Our anglers have been nabbing lots of 12- to 13-inch rainbows – best if you decide to keep any and absolutely perfect for lots of action and making forever memories.  Shrimp and PowerBait are a must in your bait bucket, but many guides say you can't beat the real thing: the guides like to pack in live minnows if they're going after browns.
“Deeper water in the afternoon means more drift-fishing with limited wading opportunities but the trout love lots of water and bubbles. Look for structures on the riverbed that oxygenate the area and you'll find a hangout for trout.
“The brown bite has been fantastic this week. They've shown up for sculpins, minnows, shad and even the pink mousetail artificial worms – healthy, fighting browns that make your heart race while you're waiting to see just how big that fish is on the end of your line.
“Natural (State) fishing is pure fun and excitement. Come visit Arkansas!”

(updated 5-4-2023) Dave McCulley, owner of Jenkins Fishing Service in Calico Rock, said that late last week and through Tuesday the water levels stabilized between 5-7 feet with clean water. “Late Tuesday night/early Wednesday morning we saw a bump up to 8 feet, but the water started dropping before 8 a.m. Fishing has been phenomenal using different methods of fishing. Fishing was great using an inline spinner with different bright-color combinations of Power Eggs and shrimp. The most popular Power Eggs were yellow or a combination of one white Power Eggs and one orange Power Egg. Rapala Countdown CD7 in brown trout colors resulted in some very nice brown trout just under the 24-inch limit. Fishing with sculpins resulted in some 17-inch-plus rainbows and almost legal brown trout. The nickel/gold or copper-colored quarter-ounce Colorado spoons worked well for smaller rainbows up to some nice larger 3-pound-plus trout. Fishing the gravel bars has worked well. For the deeper holes try throwing a deeper diving Rapala Shad Rap in purple or shad color.

(updated 4-27-2023) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service at Cotter said that during the past week they a bit over a quarter of an inch of rainfall, warmer temperatures and very heavy winds (to include lake wind advisories). The lake level at Bull Shoals fell 1 foot to rest at 5.2 feet above power pool of 660.3 feet msl. This is 29.5 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock Lake fell 0.3 foot to rest at 1.8 feet below power pool and 16.7 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell 0.6 foot to rest at 6.2 feet above power pool or 2.4 feet below the top of flood pool. The white had had no wadable water and moderate-then-heavy flows. Norfork Lake fell 0.2 foot to rest at 0.5 foot below power pool of 555 feet msl and 25.5 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork Tailwater had some wadable water. All of the lakes in the White River System except Table Rock and Norfork are above power pool.
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 Berry’s 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 The Narrows. We have had lower flows that have fished well. 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. John’s favorite has been a cerise San Juan Worm with an orange egg dropper. Use long leaders and plenty of additional weight.
John also said, “The White and North Fork rivers are tailwaters. That is, they are below large dams designed for flood control and power generation. They are subject to a wide variation in water releases that causes huge changes in water levels. Sometimes they are low and wadable, and at other times they are deep and roaring.
“When the water is high, we are required to fish large, heavily weighted flies to get down to the bottom of the water column, where the trout feed most of the time. The most popular technique, fishing double-fly rigs under an indicator, is hard to cast using the conventional cast. You have two flies, a big split shot and a good-sized strike indicator in the air, and even the tiniest error will cause serious tangles. With multiple flies, lead and the strike indicator entwined with long leaders, it takes a long time to untangle this mess. If you are tangled, you are not fishing.
“The answer is the Belgian cast. Unlike a conventional cast that has a distinct forward and back cast with distinct stops, this is a continuous cast. It never stops moving until the final delivery. You begin with a side cast back and convert to an overhead cast when the line is straight behind you. There is no stop in the back. When the line is straightened out before you, stop the cast and let it settle on the water.
“This cast produces a big loop that will not tangle, especially with heavy double-fly rigs. It is also effective with heavy streamers. I have found it to be easier to cast in heavy winds. It is easy to teach, and I always show any client that is struggling with their cast how to do it.
“It does require a bit of space. I generally have my clients fishing from the right side of the boat. Therefore the client nearest me is casting over my head. The angler in the front of the boat should start the cast by doing a sidearm cast over their left shoulder and bring it overhead in one continuous motion. If they are left-handed, it is simple: just sidearm to the left and then bring it forward overhead in one continuous motion.
“Another benefit of this cast is that it is easier on your shoulder. I have had clients that struggled with the conventional cast because it caused them some pain. They were able to do the Belgian cast with no accompanying pain.
“If you are interested in some instruction on the Belgian cast, my wife, Lori, and I are planning to teach an intermediate casting seminar on June 3 at ASU Mountain Home and this is one of the casts that we are going to cover. There is a modest fee.”

Bull Shoals Lake
As of Thursday, the Army Corps of Engineers reported the lake’s elevation at 665.07 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl; top flood elevation is 695.00 feet msl). By midday Thursday the flow was 12,726 cfs; tailwater elevation was 456.26 feet. The reported lake elevation at Table Rock Lake was 914.31 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 554.55 feet msl (normal conservation pool: Sept.-April, 553.75 feet msl; April-Sept. 555.18 feet msl; top flood elevation 580.0 feet msl). Flow below the dam Thursday midday was 206 cfs, about 2,700 cfs drop from Wednesday midday.

(updated 5-4-2023) Steven “Scuba Steve” Street at Blackburn’s Resort said the lake level was 554.47 feet msl and had dropped a half-inch in the last 24 hours when Scuba Steve went in at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, with one generator running for about eight hours. The White River at Newport was 13.31 feet and still dropping with much less water being discharged into the river. The level has been basically stable for a week and the water is clearing, especially near the shore on rocky banks. You can see your lure down 6-7 feet and the water is stained green but a good color for fishing. The surface water temperature was 67 degrees and had risen about 3 degrees in the bright sunshine and light winds. “We are to get some rain soon but it will not hurt anything as we are getting very dry with below average rainfall for April.”
The bass fishing improved earlier this week and needed to. Some crappie are spawning, some have spawned and some are staging. Some bass are on beds but not a lot. The stable water level will help things. It is not too late for a good spawn for most species. The topwater bite is improving with the increased water temperature and warmer nighttime lows.
“It is a typical May fishing report but the water level is much more normal and is just a bit high. It looks to be a good year so far. Catfish are partway back in the creeks and hitting live shiners and bluegill. Bass are around shallow points on both sides near brush and swimbaits, grubs, Gitzits and creature baits are all catching fish. Bluegill are under docks and hitting crickets.”
Visit and click on Scuba Steve's blog for a daily report.

(updated 5-4-2023) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort says the bite for most species has slowed a little over the last couple of days with the cool front that rolled through the area. “Or at least it has slowed for me!” he said. “A 3-degree drop in surface lake temp has not helped. The heat wave is arriving soon, so the lake temp will begin to climb again and the bite will improve.
“This has not stopped anyone from fishing and catching fish. The striped/hybrid bass have really scattered out in the areas where I have been fishing. The very early-morning bite is the best and I have been catching a few each morning by casting a 3.5 swimbait up close to shoreline points, both back in coves or on the main lake. Crappie are both on brush and scattered out in coves roaming between brush. Trolling Flicker Minnows is working the best, but a slip float with live minnows is also producing some fish. Bass are on shoreline points in 3-10 feet of water. Casting swimbaits, spinnerbaits and crankbaits are all catching fish. I have found also some nice bass feeding in the middle of a cove in 30 feet of water. I was trolling for crappie with four rods out and all four got hammered by bass at the same time. I have also found bass in 25 feet deep brush piles. Jigging a Tater Shad was driving them crazy, especially with a fast reel up. 
“Another angler landed some nice striped bass and largemouth on topwater baits, as well as by trolling Flicker Minnows. Meanwhile, Mike and Sam have been crappie fishing, trolling Flicker Minnows and by using live bait on a slip float. Wednesday, trolling worked the best for them. They landed a huge 15.5-inch crappie. All their fish were released to be caught another day.”
The surface water temp has dropped to around 60 degrees Wednesday morning. The lake level is stable at 554.51 feet msl, which is slightly under the current seasonal pool of 554.47 feet msl.
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 5-4-2023) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake fell 0.2 foot to rest at 0.5 foot below power pool of 555 feet msl and 25.5 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork Tailwater had some wadable water. All of the lakes in the White River System except Table Rock and Norfork are above power pool.
There has been a little 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 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 5-4-2023) 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.