Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

August 16, 2023

More reports and other videos are on the Cotter Trout Dock Youtube Channel Page.
Below is the Arkansas Game and Fish Fishing Report August 17, 2023.

White River
(updated 8-17-2023) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said the White River watershed has seen some rain this week, usually less than predicted in the Cotter area and mostly much appreciated. The last couple of days have been heaven-sent perfect: very mild temperatures, low humidity, mostly sunny but with just the right amount of overcast skies to keep the angling action up to speed.
River clarity remained very good and trout catching has been fairly phenomenal. Water levels continue to fluctuate as they have over the last month with very low water levels in the morning hours, much higher generation in the late afternoon. Bull Shoals Lake has risen just a little, sitting slightly below power pool at 660.04 feet msl.
“Please be thoughtful of other fishers and boaters when the main channel narrows due to low water. Regardless of experience or technique, we all love the allure of catching trout, so share the space.”
The rainbow catches were mostly made with sunrise or pink PowerBait tipped with shrimp on a size 8 bronze Aberdeen or bait holder hook. (Bronze hooks decrease harm to the trout.) Another favored bait for a great catch has been fresh soft-shell crawdads — when drifted mid-depth you'll likely increase your catch count. Not surprising, dangling a redworm or a nightcrawler near the bank during rises in the water level will bring success, too. Tie on a heavier spoon or a favorite jerkbait when the rise levels off. Seems like this low water is pretty good for some jig fishing. Find a White River Zig Jig or a Trout Magnet D2 jig, salmon colored or tri-olive, ⅛- to 1/16-ounce and use some of that wrist action for a few good fights.
Reminder: It's late summer, so hopper season is upon us; keep watch for the time to pull out your hopper flies and make your way to the river. The river provides even more of an escape now than at any other time. First-day-of-school prep is behind us, summer is winding down and life is good. Come share it with us.

(updated 8-17-2023) Dave McCulley, owner of Jenkins Fishing Service in Calico Rock, said river conditions have been mixed this week with all the rain and different water releases. The rain last week muddied the river Thursday, clearing enough to be fishable Friday. The rain Sunday morning briefly muddied the river but cleared up by the afternoon. This Wednesday Norfork Dam opened three floodgates, causing the river to be muddy and rise over 7 feet Wednesday morning. When the river wasn’t muddy, fishing was good. Using Uncommon Baits UV glow eggs (orange or green firefly) and shrimp with or without an inline spinner worked best. With the dirty water, artificial lures have not been very effective. The cooler weather has been nice but by this weekend the temperatures will be back up in the 90s. This week the Jim Hinkle Spring River Hatchery stocked over 700 rainbow trout at the Calico Rock boat ramp; some of the stocked trout looked to be fat and over 15 inches.

(updated 8-17-2023) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service at Cotter said that during the past week they have had numerous rain events that combined for 4.5 inches in Cotter, hot temperatures (to include heat advisories) and moderate winds (to include lake wind advisories). The lake level at Bull Shoals rose 1.6 feet to rest at 1 foot below power pool of 661 feet msl. This is 35 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock Lake rose 1.2 feet to rest at 2.7 feet below power pool and 16.7 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell 0.1 foot to rest at 3.9 feet below power pool and 12.5 feet below the top of flood pool. The White has had wadable water every day with moderate flows in the afternoon during peak power demand. Norfork Lake rose 0.9 foot to rest at 2.3 feet over power pool of 555.75 feet msl and 23 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork Tailwater has had wadable water. All the lakes in the White River system are very near power pool. Expect lower flows in the coming days. On the Norfork, all turbines are inoperable for the foreseeable future. Minimum release is being made through the siphon at continuous flows of 185 cfs and additional flows are made through the flood gates.
John said, “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. My favorite has been a Pheasant Tail (size 14) with a ruby Midge Dropper (size 18).
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.

Bull Shoals Lake
For the Army Corps of Engineers’ real-time outflow report from Bull Shoals Dam, visit the Corps’ Little Rock office website.

(updated 8-17-2023) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said Tuesday that the lake level is steady at 660 feet msl. “We needed that rain,” he said. “Water temp cooled to 83 degrees, give or take. Get up early, especially when it’s hot, and hopefully you’ll get a chance at a little topwater action. Topwater has slowed this week, but don’t rule it out. Look for surface activity along shallow areas close to deep water. The shad are starting the transition. Graph time pays off. The bass are schooled up still. If you’re around them they will show themselves. Spots are deeper. I’m still hanging in that 20-30 feet range and up and covering water.
“If they are busting, try a small walk-the-dog like a Lucky Craft Gunfish or Sammy if you can get it in there while they’re up. The main lake and mouths of large creeks are holding fish. Also halfway back into the creeks early if you’re planning to fish runoff or stained water in the back, make sure the conditions are right after a rain cloud, etc. You can catch them on a shad square bill, buzzbait or Plopper on the flats and remaining bushes. Pick up a Jewel Jig Bass Whacker in green pumpkin orange or a big red worm or green pumpkin shaky head in any of the laydowns, brush piles and drop-offs, and cover water. Look at temps back there before you start. Be sure to fish the conditions. Sunny and clear, stay out and use finesse in natural colors and small profile baits. Look at ledges, keep your boat off the fish. These fish have been pressured. A drop-shot has been my go-to bait matched with a Robo Worm on brush piles, bluffs, standing timber, off ledges and points, especially if they are generating. Fish in 35-40 feet. You're gonna have to cat-and-mouse ’em most days. Tater Shad or Scuba Spoon in shad colors will also work on the deeper suspenders. Most action will happen if you are around the shad.
“Them danged walleyes are eating the drop-shot again in the deeper piles, around 32-40 feet. It’s always a pleasant surprise bass fishing. Crappie guys are saying it’s pretty random. Lots of running and gunning piles. Here today, gone tomorrow.”
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
For the Army Corps of Engineers’ real-time outflow report from Norfork Dam, visit the Corps’ Little Rock office website.

(updated 8-17-2023) Steven “Scuba Steve” Street at Blackburn’s Resort said the lake level was 556.77 feet msl as of 5 p.m. Wednesday and had dropped 3 inches in the last 24 hours with sluice gates open to an equivalent of 1¼ generators for two days. Both generators remain inoperable and have been for several weeks. The surface water temperature is 84 degrees and dropping slowly with the cooler temperatures and shorter days. The thermocline is at 27 feet with clear water down to 25 feet and a small mudline down to the cold water at 30 feet. “I have seen no evidence of an algae bloom,” he said.
Several fish of different species are in the 27-32 feet range and suspended at different depths, mostly on main lake points in and around brush piles, with bluegill being the shallowest followed by crappie and then bass, with catfish and walleye being near the bottom. A jigging spoon is working the best dropped vertical, tapping bottom and snapping the lure up 5-6 feet and allowing it to drop on slack line. Some small hybrids and white bass are together also and can be caught the same way. Trollers are catching a few fish but are traveling a long way to get them.
Catfishing has slowed with the dropping water, but some are still being caught on jugs and trotlines with live bait. Some crappie have moved to the brush, but not a lot. Most are still in open water on shad. A live minnow on a slip float, set about 5-6 feet below where you can see your bait, is working the best. Some larger stripers and walleye are still deep in 50-60 feet of water and can also be caught on the spoon.
School started Tuesday and boat traffic is way down and the lake is in good condition for fishing. Bass are still biting on the Gene Larew Salt Craw after dark on the black light, but this is also winding down. After Labor Day when the lake clears again, fishing should improve greatly, especially crappie.
Visit blackburnsresort.com and click on Scuba Steve's blog for a daily report.

Norfork Tailwater
(updated 8-17-2023) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake rose 0.9 foot to rest at 2.3 feet over power pool of 555.75 feet msl and 23 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork Tailwater has had wadable water. All the lakes in the White River system are very near power pool. Expect lower flows in the coming days. On the Norfork, all turbines are inoperable for the foreseeable future. Minimum release is being made through the siphon at continuous flows of 185 cfs and additional flows are made through the flood gates.
The most productive flies on the Norfork Tailwater 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 a ruby Midge. The fishing is better in the morning and late afternoon while tapering off at midday.
Dry Run Creek has fished a bit better despite a lot of fishing pressure. School is out and it can get a quite crowded, particularly on weekends. 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.
Remember that the White and Norfork 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 added, “Last weekend was my last as a working guide. I retired this Wednesday after 30 years on the river. As luck would have it, I ended up with two great clients, Carmon Heilman and his son, Rudi. We spent the first day on Dry Run Creek. It was a Saturday and school would begin soon. I knew that there would be a bunch of young anglers. We got there early and wadered up. I always prefer that my clients wear waders so that we can go to a few spots that cannot be effectively fished without them.
Rudi was pretty new to fly-fishing, so I was doing a bit of teaching. He was a quick learner, was totally committed to fishing and he was a natural. We caught a few nice trout around 21 inches long — very nice fish, but my goal for the day was to land a trophy. At lunch, we had three fish. I determined we had to switch up our tactics. I began searching for trout. I found some nice spots that held some good fish.
“At this time, I looked around and saw a lot of kids fishing with spinning tackle. There was a lot of fishing pressure. I went as far away as I could and found a great spot that required that we wade. I saw some big rainbows. We cast my usual flies’ worms, eggs, Sowbugs and Mop Flies. I started to think that these guys have seen all of this stuff.
“I pulled out my late brother Dan’s fly box with its impressive selection of his flies. This is the box I go to when stumped. The fishing was slow and I needed to find something these picky monsters would take. I tried a gold ribbed Hare’s Ear. It produced a nice 20-inch rainbow. Several minutes passed and we changed to a size 10 Red Fox Squirrel Nymph (a Dave Whitlock pattern). The first cast resulted in a 20-incher followed by a 21 on the next cast. We were finally onto something.
“Rudi was catching quality trout after trout. Then he hooked a big one. This was the trout we had waited for. It was a thick, brightly colored 24-inch rainbow. By this time, Rudi had become comfortable fighting big fish. He took his time and fought the ’bow flawlessly. It finally surrendered to the net. I breathed a sigh of relief. I had met my goal. Throughout this fisherama Carmon was coaching, cheering on and recording the action on video and photos. He took some great shots and then we lovingly released the big rainbow that brought us a great memory. I cut off the fly and put it in Rudy’s hat. It was time to retire that fly. It had done its job.
“We fished our way out and picked up another two spectacular trout. We ended the day with 18 trout. The largest was 24 inches and the smallest was 17. Rudy had honed his skills and was now ready to join the ranks of fly-fishers.
“Life is good!”

Buffalo National River/Crooked Creek
(updated 8-17-2023) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Crooked Creek and the Buffalo River are fishing well. 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.