Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

September 6, 2023

More reports and other videos are on the Cotter Trout Dock Youtube Channel Page.
Below is the Arkansas Game and Fish Fishing Report September 7, 2023.

White River
(updated 9-7-2023) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said Bull Shoals Lake is holding steady at 658.09 feet msl. Water levels continue to be extremely low throughout the day, providing great catches of trout and wonderful wading opportunities. Late in the afternoon when releases climb to 16,000-plus cfs (about five units or more), floating a wriggling worm near the bank takes precedence.  It takes about two days for trout to acclimate to changes in water levels, but when a pattern is established they adjust and the bite returns to normal. (Normal on the White River means a lot of action!)
The rainbows are seeking deeper holes during the morning hours — crawdad tails and shrimp will lure them out for a nibble. Browns are continuing to be enticed by shad, soft-shell crawdads and, always, sculpins. Keep a Rebel Wee Craw in your tackle box. Later in the day, as the water rises, bring out the nightcrawlers and watch the rainbows snatch them at dinner.
The successful trout-catcher this week was tying on X-Factor fluorescent orange or shrimp pink-scented worms, and bubblegum pink Berkley Mice Tails. The copper-colored Colorado spoon was a favorite, too. “We've seen only a minor decrease in post-Labor Day river traffic, and are thankful that our Arkansas Game and Fish Trout Program folks keep up well with demand! Come on over and catch a rainbow.”

(updated 9-7-2023) Dave McCulley, owner of Jenkins Fishing Service in Calico Rock, said that over Labor Day weekend “we saw water as low as just over 2 feet and rising to 4-5 feet. The fishing was great using quarter-ounce Thomas Colorado Nickel/Gold spoons. Bright-colored Rooster Tails were also successful. The storm Sunday briefly muddied the water, but we didn’t see any significant rise in river levels. We saw similar water levels Tuesday. The storm early Wednesday morning combined with increased generation raised the water to over 7 feet before starting to drop.”
Using silver inline spinners with Uncommon Bait UV Orange and/or UV Firefly colored eggs with shrimp worked well. Rapala Countdowns in rainbow trout or brown trout colors work well when the water is lower.
There were two trout stockings in the last week. The first stocking was with the AGFC pontoon raft distributing 1,100 rainbow trout between Calico Rock and Mt. Olive. The second stocking was 500 rainbow trout. There were some nice 15-inch-plus rainbows included in the stocking.

(updated 9-7-2023) John Berry, angler and retired guide/owner Berry Brothers Guide Service at Cotter, said that during the past week they had about an inch of rain in Cotter, cooler temperatures and moderate winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals fell 0.7 foot to rest at 3 feet below power pool of 661 feet msl. This is 37 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock Lake fell 0.1 foot to rest at 3.7 feet below power pool and 17.7 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell 0.5 foot to rest at 5.7 feet below power pool and 14.7 feet below the top of flood pool. The White has had wadable water every day with heavy flows in the afternoon during peak power demand. Norfork Lake remained steady at 2.1 feet below power pool of 555.75 feet msl and 26.4 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork Tailwater has had wadable water. All of the lakes are below the top of power pool. Expect wadable water in the coming days with heavy flows in the afternoon during peak power demand. At Norfork Dam, 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.
On the White, the hot spot has been Wildcat 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’s favorite has been a pheasant tail (size 14) with a ruby midge dropper (size 18).
John also said, “Thanks to my recent retirement I have been able to fish with my wife, Lori, about once a week. This is less time on the river than I am accustomed to having but I am enjoying it more. First I get to fish myself, which I have not done enough of for the past 30 years, and then I get to choose who I take fishing with me. I fish with Lori, my favorite fishing buddy, whenever I can.
“Aside from being my wife and the love of my life, she is easy to fish with. She can rig her own rod and seldom has a malfunction. She casts better than I do and we hardly ever have a tangle between us. I have two boat nets and she has one up front and lands her own fish. If a fish is over 20 inches long, we assist each other in landing it.
“Last week we caught a perfect day. It was sunny with light and variable winds. The forecast high was 100 degrees but the morning was cool. There was a dense fog blanketing the river, which made it feel quite comfortable. The water was very low and gin clear. With the fog and the low water, I had a bit of difficulty in navigating but I just took my time and did fine.
“We were fishing with my loaner rods that I keep in my car still rigged from our last trip. We were fishing a Pheasant Tail nymph with a ruby Midge Dropper. We had exactly the same rod, reel, line, leader, tippet, weight, strike indicator and flies.
“We began fishing. Lori had the hot hand. She caught four fish before I caught one. After an hour of serious angling she had 10 and I had one. She was kicking my rear end. I don’t usually compete with her but this was starting to bother me a bit.
“About that time, I got a strong hit. The fish was making a run. This was on one of the rods that Lori and I regularly fish on Dry Run Creek. The drag on the reel is cranked all the way down to quickly wear down the big trout there. He made several stout runs, and the way he was moving against the drag told me he was a big fish.
“I finally got a good look at it. I saw a big brown hugging the bottom and giving me all of the fight that I could handle. Lori cranked in her line and put her rod in the bait tray. She picked up her net and came over to help me land the big brown. We took our time and finally were able to net the trout. It was a 24-inch brown. It is the biggest brown that I have personally caught in a while.
“I put my rod down and carefully removed the tiny, size 18 ruby Midge from the fish. Lori handed me the net and got out her iPhone and took several shots of my trout. I then carefully revived and released it. I was relieved when he slowly swam away. Lori finished the day with 20 trout and I landed four.
“Sometimes one fish can make a tough day into a stellar one.”

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 9-7-2023) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said Wednesday that lake level is at 658 feet msl, while the water temperature is about 85 degrees. Bass fishing has been fair. The early morning topwater has been hit or miss. A small walk-the-dog-style bait (Zara Spook, Lucky Craft Gunfish) will work. Typically September is junk fishing — covering water, Whopper Plopper or buzzbait time. Wind and clouds definitely help that bite. The shad have started their migration towards the creeks.
Graphing can pay off. The shad are getting balled up way off deep points, channel swing turns and creek intersections. It appears 32-40 feet seems to be a consistent depth for the drop-shot. On the points, brush piles, ledges, etc., a big worm, shaky head worm and Jewel Jig are working. If the shad are around you, you’re probably going to get bit. If you venture into the stained water in the backs most days you’re going to have to work for them. Target areas with shad. Square bill, Chatterbait and big worm in the laydowns.
Overall there’s a lot of roaming suspended fish over deep water, 60-feet-plus. These video game fish can be tough to fool; try a Damiki with a Tater Shad drop-shot with a Robo or bombing a spoon. Fall fishing can be hit or miss as conditions change. “Walleyes have been mixed in with the bass eating my drop-shot out on the long points in 32-40 feet. Crappie guys are hopping brush piles working for them but a lot of crappie are still out roaming.”
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 9-7-2023) Steven “Scuba Steve” Street at Blackburn’s Resort said the lake level was 553.56 feet msl and had dropped 1.75 inches in the last 24 hours with the sluice gates open to an equivalent of less than one generator for two days at 7 p.m. yesterday. Both generators are still inoperable. The White River at Newport is 3.42 feet and very low, indicating not much water is being let out into the White River. We have had two rain events this past week totaling 1.5 inches and we seem to get a rain every time it gets dry. Wading conditions are good for the trout anglers.
The lake’s surface water temperature is 83 degrees and dropping slowly and the thermocline is at 32 feet. A lot of fish are at or around the thermocline no matter the depth of the water. Kentucky bass are the best bite now and are in front of or around main lake brush in 18-25 feet of water. Creature baits and spoons are the best lures. Trollers are catching a few walleye on Lindy rigs.
Fishing is fair at best but the lake is at a good level and is in good condition and will get better as the water cools.  Visit and click on Scuba Steve's blog for a daily report.

(updated 8-24-2023) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said, “A couple of our guests had a great day, or should I say night, and early morning fishing on Norfork Lake this week. Jimmy and Wayne are night owls and had the first fish boated by 3:30 a.m. They were trolling deep-diving 5-inch crankbaits in dark colors. They got their baits down to 30 feet and were trolling in 30-45 feet of water. Quite a few big white bass and 15- to 16-inch spotted bass are being caught by vertical jigging a three-quarter-ounce spoon. The whites and spots are being found on main lake rounded points feeding on the bottom.”
Walleye are still being caught in 32-35 feet of water, either by vertical jigging a spoon or Tater Shad, or by trolling Flicker Minnows. Get your baits down on the bottom for the walleye, whites and spotted bass. The striped bass are suspended from about 30 feet down to the bottom.
“I got my mount back from Summers Taxidermy and Wildlife Studio (in Bakersfield, Missouri) yesterday. They did a fantastic job on this fish. I caught this 30-pound, 41.5-inch striped bass on March 22 by jigging a white Tater Shad.”
The lake temp was on the rise and was about 88 degrees. The lake level is falling about 3 inches per day and currently sits at 554.9 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 9-7-2023) John Berry, angler and retired operator of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169), said Norfork Lake remained steady at 2.1 feet below power pool of 555.75 feet msl and 26.4 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork Tailwater has had wadable water. All of the lakes in the White River system are below the top of power pool. Expect wadable water in the coming days with heavy flows in the afternoon during peak power demand. At Norfork Dam, 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 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 and tapers off midday.
Dry Run Creek has fished a bit better despite a lot of fishing pressure. School is back in session and weekdays are not as 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 9-7-2023) John Berry, retired guide and angler in Cotter (870-435-2169), said Crooked Creek and the Buffalo River are fishing well but are quite low. 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.