Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

May 10, 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 11, 2023.

White River
(updated 5-11-2023) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said trout fishing has been spectacular this week with perfect spring weather to match – morning temps, low 60s, some overcast but mostly clear skies, afternoons a little warmer. Bull Shoals Dam has been averaging 10,500 cfs daily over the last week, equivalent to three generators/units, if you use that method to estimate water levels. The flow has remained fairly constant, which is good news; steady water releases cause less stress to the trout than frequent changes to the generation amounts.
The Cotter catch has been high quality this week: 16- to 20-inch rainbows are not uncommon, and the keepers (under 14 inches) are healthy and fat. Seems you couldn't go wrong with a Vibrax Blue Fox. Gold or silver in 3/16 ounce worked best, but the ⅛-ounce spinners caught their share, too. The No. 7 Countdowns of almost any color (gold/black, brown or brook trout, rainbow, silver/black) are flying off the shelf, which tells me the word on the river is "Rapalas are catching!"
To fill your creel with keeper rainbows, downsize your hooks (size 8 or 6) and try a tiny piece of shrimp with a bubblegum pink worm. Make it a mousetail – white egg pattern on the pink worm – for a more sure catch.
Rising water? Always turn to live worms first. The browns have been nibbling shad and sculpins.
While the water level is still a little too high for wading, fishing along the river bank is not out of the question. It may require more frequent (but gentle and slow) casting and retrieve than when the river level is low, but success is assured with patience.
“Come enjoy an Ozark spring day and you'll be hooked. See you on the river!”

(updated 5-11-2023) Dave McCulley, owner of Jenkins Fishing Service in Calico Rock, said, “The weather is getting hot. Even with the recent rains the river conditions have been excellent with clear water and depths between 6.5-8 feet. Fishing has been great. Silver inline spinners with yellow Power Eggs and shrimp worked well. Artificial lures such as Rapala Countdown CD7 in brown trout or rainbow colors continue to work well. Casting quarter-ounce spoons on the gravel bars was effective.
“This last week we have seen an increase in the number of 18-inch-plus brown trout caught. Although most weren’t legal size to keep, they had been eating well, were fat and put up a good fight.
“We have had three different trout stockings in the last week to include one stocking of 4,000 6- to 8-inch brown trout.”

(updated 5-11-2023) AGFC staff fished the White River in the Sylamore Creek-White River junction area last weekend. On Saturday, there was a little smallmouth bite in the current of the big river just in front of the creek, biting white maribou Trout Magnets. Rainbows like the Trout Magnet some but early, as well as an inline spinner, at midday started really favoring the orange PowerBait, while some liked the No. 7 rainbow trout-colored Rapala Countdown. On Sunday, fishing out of Jack’s Resort (870-585-2211) after the river had risen 1 foot overnight, we drift-fished the White River below the confluence, catching what would have been boatload of rainbows (all were returned to the river), including a 16-incher, using inline spinners and hooks baited with X Factor eggs and pieces of shrimp.

(updated 5-11-2023) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service at Cotter said that during the past week they had a half-inch of rain, warmer temperatures and heavy winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals fell 1.9 feet to rest at 1.9 feet above power pool of 661.3 feet msl. This is 31.8 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock Lake rose 0.4 foot to rest at 1.6 feet below power pool and 16.3 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell 0.8 foot to rest at 5.4 feet above power pool or 3.2 feet below the top of flood pool. The White around Cotter has had no wadable water and heavy flows. Norfork Lake rose 0.4 foot to rest at 1.1 feet below power pool of 556 feet msl and 25.1 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork Tailwater has had wadable water. All of the lakes in the White River System except Table Rock and Norfork are above power pool, but dropping.
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 Cane Island. We have had lower flows that have fished well some days and poorly on others. 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.”
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 around a decade my wife, Lori, and I have been teaching fly-fishing at Arkansas State University Mountain Home (ASUMH). An integral part of that class has always been basic fly-casting instruction, which is led by Lori. She has also been teaching basic casting instruction at the Sowbug Roundup every year for quite a while. In addition, she has been giving private lessons to anglers who wanted to hone their casting skills beyond the basic level. She is the best casting instructor in the area. This is due to her learning to teach casting from Lefty Kreh and other master casters. I have taught casting for several years and usually assist.
“We discussed the fact that there are a lot of anglers out there who want to improve their casting skills. Therefore we decided to add a casting seminar to the list of classes that we teach at ASUMH. We have scheduled an intermediate casting seminar on June, 3 from 10 a.m. until noon at the ASUMH campus.
“This seminar is for anglers who have already mastered the basic cast. It is recommended that you bring your own rod, although we will have spare rods available for your use. All instruction will be outside. There will be no classroom.
“We will evaluate your cast and tune it up with constructive criticism and positive instruction. Lori will then teach you to shoot line. This will enable you to cast further with little effort.
“Then she will show you how to double haul. This enables you to increase line speed, which will allow you to increase distance and helps beat the wind. This is one of the more difficult techniques in fly-casting and it requires an accomplished instructor to teach it. Lori breaks it down to its simplest components and makes it easy to understand.
“Shooting line and the double haul are important contributors to success in salt water fly-fishing, fly-fishing streamers and any fly-fishing endeavor that requires a long cast.
“We will also cover the Belgian cast. This is a continuous cast that is perfect for casting the heavy double-fly nymph rigs that we favor here. It is a great way to cast in windy conditions. I was guiding yesterday and my clients were having trouble casting in intense wind conditions. I showed them how to use the Belgian cast and they were able to cope with the windy conditions with a minimum of tangles using heavy double-fly rigs.
“Our last intermediate cast is the reach cast. This is a specialty cast used in fishing dry flies. You actually make a mend in the line as you cast. This helps deliver a dry fly with a drag free float, which is necessary for success when fishing dry flies.
“If this sounds like something you would enjoy, go the ASU’s website and register. There is a modest fee. Lori and I hope to see you there.”

(updated 11-10-2022) White River Trout Club (870-453-2424) says fishing is not great now because the water there at White Hole is so low. No reports.

Bull Shoals Lake
As of Thursday, the Army Corps of Engineers reported the lake’s elevation at 662.92 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 661.43 feet msl; top flood elevation is 695.00 feet msl). By midday Thursday the flow was 13,521 cfs with constant generation over recent days; tailwater elevation was 456.45 feet. The reported lake elevation at Table Rock Lake was 915.18 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 915.00 feet msl; top flood elevation is 931.0 feet msl).

(updated 5-11-2023) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said Wednesday that Bull Shoals’ water temperature jumped from 60 degrees recently to around 70 degrees with the lake level dropping. “Algae blooms can be a hassle. Another wave of bass have moved up, we got another big wave. There’s a shad spawn with post-spawner bass feeding. You can find them grouped around docks spread out on flats, in pockets and in the bushes now. A lot of fish are now suspending. I’m spending lots of time graphing, checking pockets with wind and shad. Most fish still seem to be looking up. Most of the dirty water is in the bigger creeks, while there is high visibility around the dam area.
Fish it like two separate lakes. With dirty creeks, cloudy and warm, windy and rain, stick with powerfishing a square bill, Chatterbait, spinnerbait or Rat-L-Trap-style bait.

Try on the last couple of swing banks or in or around the spawning pockets. Cover water. Fish runoff if available.
If you’re chasing spawners, try Senko, Beaver or Ned rig.
If it’s sunny, flat, stain conditions, then try points slow-dragging a Jewel half-ounce Special Ops football jig in green pumpkin. On sunny days with clear water, look at ledges already, keep boat in 25-30 feet, and try a green pumpkin 3/16-ounce shaky head or a Ned fished slow, then go a little slower. Look at points outside spawning areas.
The shad are moving up high, check to backs of the creeks and mouths of creeks. Also way off the points look for feeding activity. Bigger spreads are shallower, so be sure to check flats for a shad spawn. Graph time pays off. Bomb casts around the Ol’ McMinnow 2.8 Swimbait in white or shad colors, and also a fluke and topwater wake shad, or Lucky Craft Gunfish topwater early in the morning. This pattern has been the deal for me. The bass are definitely grouping up. 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 555.09 feet msl (normal conservation pool: Sept.-April, 553.75 feet msl; April-Sept. 556.18 feet msl; top flood elevation 580.0 feet msl). Flow below the dam Thursday midday was 206 cfs, about 2,700 cfs drop from a 5-hour generation Wednesday night.

(updated 5-11-2023) Steven “Scuba Steve” Street at Blackburn’s Resort said the lake level is 554.93 and had risen 1 inch in the last 24 hours when Scuba Steve came in at 4:15 p.m. (anticipating a thunderstorm, and not disappointed). It rained hard again at 4:30 just like the day before. The level has risen from 554.47 feet at its low about 10 days ago after the quick drop. The surface water temperature is 70 degrees and the water is clearing and you can see your lure down 7-8 feet in the main lake and less in the creeks. There was a spike in the threadfin shad spawn at full moon last Friday but it is tapering off, though it continues. They spawn mostly at night.
Some bass and crappie are still spawning, but many have finished. Both spawned-out bass and crappie are moving on brush piles and under docks. The topwater bite is getting good early at sunrise and lasts longer on cloudy days, and another is in the evening but is mostly bass partway back in the windblown creeks. Use Zara Spooks or Spittin’ Image until they go down and then switch to a 3-inch swimbait.
Catfish are biting live shiners and bluegill on throw lines. Smallmouth bass are on shallow flats and around points on creature baits. Bluegill are preparing for spawn. Overall, the lake is in excellent condition and at a good level for both fishing and boating.
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 5-11-2023) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake rose 0.4 foot to rest at 1.1 feet below power pool of 556 feet msl and 25.1 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork Tailwater has had wadable water. All of the lakes in the White River System except Table Rock and Norfork are above power pool, but dropping.
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 eighteen inches below a brightly colored San Juan worm (hot fluorescent pink or cerise). My 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. 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 5-11-2023) 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 are more 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.