Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

May 31, 2023

More reports and other videos are on the Cotter Trout Dock Youtube Channel Page.
Below is the Arkansas Game and Fish Fishing Report June 1, 2023.

White River
(updated 6-1-2023) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said, “Summer break is officially here; time to replace the digital devices in the hands of your kids with rods and reels. We've had a great week on the river catching trout with spoons, spinners, jigs, stick baits and PowerBait, so it's been easy to keep them occupied.”
The White River is flowing fairly fast as Bull Shoals Dam is continuing to release three or more generators, 9,000 to 13,000 cfs. It's not uncommon with round-the-clock releases to find the rainbow bite has slowed, but it's also not uncommon to observe the quality of the catch has improved. Carry some extra split shot, egg weights or bass-casting sinkers to ensure your baits get near the bottom, then prepare for some action because the trout are healthy and fighting.
Trout are constantly swimming against the current, which means they need to refuel often, which explains why the bite is usually so rapid on the White River. They're smart, too, and look for places to get out of the flow for some rest now and again. Look for rocks, or other structure – that's easy in our river because the water is so crystal clear – and place your bait downstream near the hidey-hole. Some added flash might cause a quicker response. “We've had some fun replacing the hook on a gold Blue Fox Spinner with a feathered treble hook, or adding that flashy feather to the tail end of a Rapala Countdown.”
They add, “Don't forget the sunscreen with all this springtime sunshine reflecting off the water, but don't mix your sunscreen with your bait/tackle. Trout do not like sunscreen. We sometimes take the beauty of our Arkansas Ozarks for granted since we live it every day, but it wasn't possible this past holiday weekend. We reveled in the perfection of creation in our Natural State of Arkansas. Come see for yourselves, and welcome to our river.”

(updated 6-1-2023) Dave McCulley, owner of Jenkins Fishing Service in Calico Rock, said the last few days the river is averaging 7.5-8.5 feet with clear water. Both Bull Shoals and Norfork lakes are slightly above their desired power pool levels. “With the expected power generation schedule for both lakes, I expect they should slowly reach the desired levels without generating extra water. Once they reach the power pool levels, expect the river level to drop and the fishing to improve.”
With the slightly higher water levels, fishing was steady throughout the week and the holiday weekend. Silver inline spinners with orange eggs and shrimp worked best. The river levels were a little high for lures to be very effective. The lures that worked best were the Rapala Shad Raps in shad coloring, which dive deeper.
There was one trout stocking this week at the Calico Rock boat ramp with 1,100 rainbow trout from the Norfork Hatchery and another 1,100 rainbows were stocked just upriver at the Chessmond Ferry boat ramp.
“With the hotter weather, remember to take precautions such as using sunscreen, drinking plenty of water and wearing a hat. Many people also keep a cooling rag to dip in the water and wrap around their neck,” Dave said.

(updated 6-1-2023) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service at Cotter said that during the past week they had no rain, warm temperatures and moderate winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals fell 3.9 feet to rest at 0.1 foot above power pool of 662 feet msl. This is 32 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock Lake fell 0.3 foot to rest at power pool and 14 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell 1.7 feet to rest at 2.8 feet above power pool or 5.8 feet below the top of flood pool. The White has had no wadable water and higher flows. Norfork Lake rose 0.2 foot to rest at 0.4 foot above power pool of 556.75 feet msl and 22.8 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork Tailwater has had wadable water every day. “All of the lakes are at or near power pool. We can expect lower flows in the coming days,” he said.
John added, “The Caddis hatch is on the wane. This is our best hatch of the year. We have seen some small hatches in the 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.
“On the White, the hot spot has been Rim Shoals. We have had higher flows that have fished poorly. 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 a girdle bug dropper (size 8) or an orange egg dropper.”
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 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 handing a trophy trout. I always catch fewer but larger fish there.
“We noted that the water was much higher than it had been on Tuesday. They were running over 18,000 cfs, or the rough equivalent of 5½ full generators. We fished the same rigs but with much longer leaders in order to reach the bottom in the higher water. We noted that there was 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 a 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. 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
As of Thursday, the Army Corps of Engineers reported the lake’s elevation at 662.91 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 662.00 feet msl; top flood elevation is 695.00 feet msl). By midday Thursday the flow was 15,095 cfs with constant generation over recent days; tailwater elevation was 456.88 feet. The reported lake elevation at Table Rock Lake was 917.06 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 915.00 feet msl; top flood elevation is 931.0 feet msl).

(updated 6-1-2023) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said Wednesday that lake level Wednesday was at 663 feet msl, or about 4 feet high. He adds, though, that Bull Shoals hasn’t been this low this time of year in quite some time. Water temperature is about 75 degrees. Algae blooms seem to be diminishing. Looks like a thermocline is starting to form in that 20-foot range. The sunfish bluegills are spawning on flats. Most fish seem to be schooled up and moving out over deeper water and suspending in 10-25 feet.
“I’m spending lots of time graphing, checking summer spots, points, drops and ledges. Most fish still seem to be looking up, making dragging bottom baits slow. Most of the dirty water is in the larger creeks, while there is high visibility around the main lake, especially the dam area.”
For several weeks now, Del has been recommending that anglers fish Bull Shoals like two separate lakes, depending on the conditions. If you find dirty creeks cloudy days when it’s warm, windy and with rainwater, you should be powerfishing a square-bill crankbait, Chatterbait, spinnerbait or a Rat-L-Trap-style lure. Try on the last couple of swing banks or in or around the bluegill spawning flats, pockets, bushes – cover water. Fish runoff if available. There’s a big Texas-rigged redworm bite in some of the brush piles.
For sunny, flat, stain conditions try points slow-dragging a tube or Jewel half-ounce Special Ops football jig in green pumpkin orange, or use perch colors in the 10-20 feet range. For sunny, clear water use natural colors in small profile baits. Look at ledges; keep your boat as far away as castable.
Start early with a topwater, and as that slows try a 2.8 or 3.3 McMinnow. Once the sun gets up drop-shot a Robo Worm. The shad are broken up high in the water column mostly over deep water. It’s that time of year: topwater, topwater, topwater. Get up early and fish a wake shad, Spook, Lucky Craft Gunfish, a Pop-R or Spook Jr. topwater. Also try a Flutter Spoon early in the morning, or all day if it’s cloudy, especially with the warmer temperature now. 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 557.18 feet msl (normal conservation pool: Sept.-April, 553.75 feet msl; April-Sept. 556.75 feet msl; top flood elevation 580.0 feet msl). Flow below the dam Thursday midday was 3,064 cfs.

(updated 6-1-2023) Steven “Scuba Steve” Street at Blackburn’s Resort said the lake level was 557.18 feet msl and had dropped 1 inch in the previous 24 hours as of 7 p.m. Wednesday. The Corps of Engineers has started generating a little more, and the White River at Newport is 12.24 feet. They are regulating to 12 feet at Newport and letting a lot of water out of Bull Shoals and both lakes are approaching the top of their power pools.
“It is getting very dry here and we need some rain badly and may get some later this week,” he said. The surface water temperature was 80 degrees and the water is clearing after the churning of the holiday weekend. The summer thermocline has formed at 17 feet and it is very pronounced. Several fish are at or around this depth. The water is very cold at 20 feet. Walleye, crappie, bass and bluegill are at or around this depth, and if you find brush there at that depth, there will be a lot of fish near. Spoons and plastic worms are working well. Stripers are going deeper and deeper with the rising water temperature, and the topwater bite has diminished to mostly bass early and late. It is spooning time and stripers are about 50-60 feet down in 90 feet of water. Trollers are catching a few fish but are traveling a lot of miles and burning a lot of gas to catch them.
Visit and click on Scuba Steve's blog for a daily report.

(updated 6-1-2023) 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 6-1-2023) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake rose 0.2 foot to rest at 0.4 foot above power pool of 556.75 feet msl and 22.8 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork Tailwater has had wadable water every day. “All of the lakes are at or near power pool. We can expect lower flows in the coming days,” he said.
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 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 a ruby midge. 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 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.

Buffalo National River/Crooked Creek
(updated 6-1-2023) 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.