Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

May 17, 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 18, 2023.

White River
(updated 5-18-2023) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said White River water levels below Bull Shoals Dam have been up and down over the past couple of weeks, ranging from around one unit (3,000 cfs) to four or more generators (12,000-16,000 cfs). It seems there is no "normal" release schedule any more, no typical late afternoon influx, and we can't rely on low water in the morning. Keeps us on our toes and always alert to the next best catch.
Bull Shoals Lake level is currently 665.40 feet msl, about 3 feet above power pool. Since Beaver and Table Rock lakes are still above desired power pool and will continue to discharge into Bull Shoals, we'll eventually see the increase in the tailwater here in Cotter. The trout are biting and the take has been very good.
Stick baits work well in 5,000-plus cfs levels with the brook trout Rapala No. 7 Countdown as the winner this week. Another favorite has been the glass blue minnow Husky Jerk, size 8 and size 10. Otherwise, you can trust the Bubblegum Pink Worm for some action on the water.
The brown trout catch continues to delight anglers around Cotter, mostly with live bait taken from the river (minnows, crawdads, sculpins). Lake shad are still a huge draw, which is surprising this late in the spring, but we'll continue to tie it on until the browns turn away.
“Be the early worm and get to the river while it's still cool and the mist hangs low over the water. We welcome you to White River and hope you continue to enjoy our Natural State.”

(updated 5-18-2023) Dave McCulley, owner of Jenkins Fishing Service in Calico Rock, said the rain late last week caused the Buffalo River to rise, which caused us to have muddy water starting Friday afternoon through Saturday. Saturday morning the best fishing option for trout was to move up into the mouths of the creeks where the fish are looking for cleaner water, tie up or anchor, and fish using corn. This proved to be successful, resulting in some nice limits of trout plus a few other species of fish caught. By Sunday through Tuesday the river cleared considerably with some remaining dinginess to the water. Fishing was excellent using inline spinners with yellow power eggs and shrimp. With the water color and increased depths, spoons and Rapala Countdowns were minimally effective. Fishing improved Tuesday as the water dropped to below 6 feet. By Wednesday morning the river was back up and dingy with Norfork Dam opening three spill gates.
“I didn’t see a trout stocking this week but there is a good chance there was one and I missed it. Weather is going to be a little cooler this weekend and it would be a great time to get out and enjoy the White River and catch some trout.”

(updated 5-18-2023) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service at Cotter said that during the past week they had several rain events that combined for 2 inches, warmer temperatures and heavy winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals rose 2 feet to rest at 3.2 feet above power pool of 662 feet. This is 29.8 feet below the top of flood pool. The White has had marginal wadable water and lower flows. Norfork Lake rose 1.8 feet to rest at power pool of 556.75 feet msl and 23.2 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork has had wadable water.
“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.”
The hot spot on the White has been Rim Shoals. 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 says his favorite has been a Sunday Special with a ruby midge dropper.
John also said, “Last week I had a two-day guided fishing trip on Tuesday and Thursday. I had two clients, Nick and John, retired guys that are about my age. We fished the first day at Rim Shoals. In the morning, we had low flows around 6,000 cfs, or the rough equivalent of two full generators. I already had a couple of rods rigged with cerise San Juan Worms and orange eggs. We had the place to ourselves and did well, around 20 trout. The water came up at 1 p.m. and the fishing slowed. We caught a few more trout, but not that many. We did manage to catch an 18-inch rainbow, our biggest trout.
“On Thursday, we considered wading the Norfork on low water or boating below Bull Shoals Dam on high water. We decided that an eight-hour day of wading might be a little too challenging, so we opted to fish the catch-and-release section below Bull Shoals Dam with the goal of landing a trophy trout. I always catch fewer but larger fish there.
“We noted that the water was much higher than it had been Tuesday. They were running over 18,000 cfs, or the rough equivalent of five and a half full generators. We fished the same rigs but with much longer leaders in order to reach the bottom in the higher water. We noted a lot more river traffic than at Rim Shoals.
“When you are targeting bigger fish, you will have fewer opportunities. There are just not as many big fish. Mid-morning, Nick hooked a good trout. He quickly put it on the reel and took his time bringing it to the net. It was a stout 22-inch rainbow with huge girth. It was a great catch and we took photos and quickly released the fish.
“We went fishless for several hours. Then mid-afternoon, John hooked a good fish. I got a good look at it and it was bigger than Nick’s. I noticed that John had a lot of excess line on the deck of the boat and was stripping the trout in.
“This is my pet peeve. The most effective way to land trout on a fly rod is to fight them with the reel. Stripping in a fish by pulling in the line and securing it under a finger is an inexact procedure that is subject to error. Your fingers do not have the reliable constant pressure that the disc drag on my reel has. I have had 12-year-old boys land 16-pound trout on that reel on Dry Run Creek.
“As I feared, the big trout took a run and John increased the pressure on the line to keep the trout from getting away. It snapped and the biggest fish of the day broke off. I pulled in the line to check the rigging. The break was clean, which told me that it was due to the pressure on the line from stripping it in. The tippet was 4X fluorocarbon, which is 5.5-pound test. It was plenty strong to land the fish. By not using the reel, he had missed an opportunity to land a trophy trout.
“The reel is there for a reason. Use it!”

(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.

Bull Shoals Lake
See the Corps of Engineers real-time information for Bull Shoals Lake by clicking this link for the latest level and flow.

(updated 5-18-2023) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said Wednesday that Bull Shoals level was back up to 6 feet over normal pool at 665 feet msl. Water temperature jumped to 74 degrees “give or take.”
He says, “Algae blooms can be a hassle. Another wave of bass have moved up. Looks like we’re going to have some fry. There is still a Senko flipping bite Don’t expect that to last much longer. A lot of fish are now moving deeper and 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 Bull Shoals like two separate lakes. With dirty creeks, cloudy and warm, windy and rain, we’re 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 and bushes. Cover water. Fish runoff if available.
If it’s sunny, flat, stain conditions, 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 broke up high. Check the backs of creeks and mouths of creeks, and also way out on the points. Bomb casts around the Ol’ McMinnow 2.8 Swimbait in white or shad colors, and try topwater (get up early). Wake Shad or Lucky Craft Gunfish, Spook. “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
See the Corps of Engineers real-time information for Norfork Lake by clicking this link for the latest level and flow.

(updated 5-18-2023) Steven “Scuba Steve” Street at Blackburn’s Resort said the lake level was 556.90 feet msl and had risen 1.5 inches in the last 24 hours when Scuba Steve came in at 4 p.m. on Wednesday. There has been no generation for two days but they did open spillway gates equal to third of a generator earlier Wednesday. The lake has been on a steady increase and is now past the new top of the power pool of 556.75 feet msl The White River at Newport is 11.38 feet and dropping and the lake surface water temperature is 76 degrees. The water clarity has diminished just a bit on both the main lake and the creeks.
The best bite continues to be the early morning topwater, with both stripers and bass surfacing just at sunrise, and they stay up longer on cloudy days. Catfishing is getting better on live shiners and bluegill on both throw lines and drop-shot jugs with the slowly rising water and smaller moon. Bass can come up anytime on cloudy days. Carp and bluegill are spawning. More and more spawned-out crappie are moving to brush piles down about 5-10 feet.
Overall fishing is good and 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 5-18-2023) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake rose 1.8 feet to rest at power pool of 556.75 feet msl and 23.2 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork has had 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-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 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. 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 5-18-2023) 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.