Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

September 20, 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 21, 2023.

White River
(updated 9-21-2023) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said, “We’re starting to see some nip in the air — autumn's finally popping out. Cool mornings, warm days, perfect weather for float fishing on the White for trout. Bull Shoals Lake reads 656.89 feet msl, or 5 feet below power pool for this time of year. Generation continues to be low, minimum flow in the mornings followed with increased releases in late afternoon for 5-6 hours averaging around four units (12,000 cfs).
“The rainbow catch has been fabulous: They're snapping up the shrimp and egg combo, and we’re continuing to see success with X-Factor bubblegum pink worms and mice tails – good sizes among the catch, too — several rainbows measured at 16 inches and above. The hopper season is slowing, but your red-silver and Zebra Midges should be kept close — they're a necessity for fly tackle.
Keep a variety of live bait on board for the browns. Sculpins, red fin minnows and crawdad tails will work well. Baits should be kept close to the bottom and to the sides of the main channel. Best bet this past week was the one-sixth-ounce red/gold Thomas Buoyant Spoon; the blue/silver was close behind. Find a rainbow-colored bait (a Buoyant Spoon or a smaller floating Rapala, size 5 or 7) to keep things interesting. Just for grins, try jig fishing in the deeper holes with olive or orange jigs; fun and often victorious.
“Come out and spend some time with us on the river! I think it's going to be an early and very colorful season. (Don't put any money on my predictions.)”

(updated 9-21-2023) Dave McCulley, owner of Jenkins Fishing Service in Calico Rock, said the last week they have seen water depths below 2.5 feet in the mornings and rising to near or above 5 feet before starting to drop again. Drift-fishing with Uncommon Bait UV Orange with shrimp has worked best. Early in the mornings quarter-ounce Colorado Spoons in nickel/gold have been effective in addition to the Rapala Countdown CD7 in silver. Fishing one-sixteenth-ounce dark color jigs with a splash of color has resulted in some nice brown trout.
The weather front moving through on Tuesday and Wednesday caused fishing to slow down and anglers had to work a little harder to catch their limit. The cooler weather has made it comfortable to spend all day fishing.
“This week we had one stocking of 540 rainbows from the AGFC’s Jim Hinkle Spring River Hatchery. Once again in the stocking was a few nice and fat 15-inch-plus rainbows.

(updated 9-21-2023) John Berry, angler and retired guide/owner Berry Brothers Guide Service at Cotter, said that during the past week they had about half of an inch of rain, cooler temperatures and moderate winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals fell 0.7 foot to rest at 4.2 feet below power pool of 661 feet msl. This is 38.2 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock Lake fell 0.1 foot to rest at 4.1 feet below power pool and 18.1 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell 0.1 foot to rest at 6.1 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 rose 0.1 foot to rest at 2.4 feet below power pool of 555.75 feet msl and 26.7 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork Tailwater has had wadable water. All of the lakes are well below the top of power pool. Expect wadable water in the coming days with heavy flows in the afternoon during peak power demand. 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 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. My favorite has been a pheasant tail (size 14) with a ruby midge dropper (size 18).
John also said, “After what seems like years, we finally have a low water year. This is the thing that wade fishers have hoped to come this year. I, like many anglers, really prefer to wade. Several years of high water combined with the implementation of minimum flow have pushed many fly-fishers to fish from boats.
Guiding wading fly-fishers is a tough job. Walking in and out is work. Then when they are fishing (if there is more than one angler) they are often separated by quite a distance. A guide working two clients is constantly trooping the line dealing with problems. As a result, few guides do wade trips anymore. I joke that I was the only guide in Baxter County that owned a pair of waders. This new low water has caused several guides to postpone their trips to the afternoon when the Corps of Engineers is running water during peak power demand. The lower water has been wonderful to me. Both rivers have been on the bottom for long periods every day for months.
“The low water on the Norfork is a bit problematic. All of the generators at the Norfork Dam are down for major repairs. We do not know when they will be back online. They are able to achieve minimum flow by drawing water through the siphon. To control the lake level, they have been releasing water through the flood gates. The problem is that the water releases through the flood gates are not included on the Southwestern Power Administration’s projected loading schedule (this is an online schedule that tells you when the dams will come online and how much generation there will be). This means you do not know when the water will come up. You must be ever vigilant to detect rising water and get out of the river as soon as you see it or limit your fishing to the area just below the dam. Here you can hear the horn they blow, before they begin releasing water.
“I have chosen to wade the lower water on the White River. My favorite spot is Rim Shoals. This is a trophy zone and is catch-and-release. Trout Unlimited developed a trail that Gary Flippin first established years ago. It runs along the river and gives you several spots to access the river and can offer a solitary spot far from other anglers.
“My sister, Ernestine, and I donated a bench on the trail in honor of our brother, Dan. It is near an access to the river that is an easy and relatively safe spot to cross the river to reach the island. This is where Dan and I began fishing Rim over 20 years ago. I just walk the trail and take a right at Dan’s bench. I have enjoyed the solitude and caught some nice trout. On the way out, I sit on the bench and remember catching a spectacular hatch of sulphurs with Dan many years ago.
“Take a moment and fish this lower water. It is has been magnificent. It will not last forever.”

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 9-21-2023) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said Wednesday that lake level continues to fall. The lake is now at 656 feet msl, while the water temperature dropped to about 79 degrees. Bass fishing has been fair. The early morning topwater bite continues to be hit or miss. A small walk-the-dog-style bait such as a Zara Spook or Lucky Craft Gunfish will work. If they’re busting don’t put it away, though; they can go to the middle of the day. Typically September is junk fishing, covering water with a Whopper Plopper or buzzbait. Wind and clouds will 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 swings, turns and creek intersections. It seems 32-40 feet is a consistent depth for the drop-shot. On the points, brush piles, ledges, etc. a big worm or shaky head worm and Jewel Jig are working. If the shad are around, you’re probably going to get bit.
It’s hoped they will generate some water at the dam. If you venture into the stained water in the backs most days, you’re gonna have to work for them. Target areas with shad. Use a square bill Chatterbait or a big worm in the laydowns. Overall there’s a lot of roaming suspended fish 20-35 feet over deep water (60-feet-plus). Still, these videogame fish can be tough to fool. Try a Damiki or Hover Rig with a Tater Shad drop-shot with a Robo. Fall Fishing can be hit or miss as conditions change. Walleyes stopped eating my drop shot. Some guys are still catching a few bottom-bouncing in 35-40 feet. Crappie guys are still hopping brush piles and that’s working for them they are starting to pile in. Every day is different; be sure to 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
For the Army Corps of Engineers’ real-time outflow report from Norfork Dam, visit the Corps’ Little Rock office website.

(updated 9-21-2023) Steven “Scuba Steve” Street at Blackburn’s Resort said the lake level was 553.34 feet msl and had risen three-quarters of an inch in the last 24 hours with a little over a half-inch of rain as of 6:30 Wednesday evening. There has been no discharge for the last five days and the generators on Norfork Dam are still inoperable. The White River at Newport is 2.57 feet and very low, indicating they are not letting out much water anywhere on the area lakes. The surface water temperature is 79 degrees and dropping with the cooler weather. The thermocline that was at 31 feet is gone and it gets a little cooler at 34 feet but is not pronounced. The fish are scattered from shallow to 30 feet and the crappie have just moved back into the main lake brush from 20-30 feet.
Kentucky bass are everywhere. The visibility is the same from 0-30 feet, indicating the lake is in its early stage of turnover, which is about 2-3 weeks earlier than normal. The steady water levels have contributed to this. Striper fishing is slow as is walleye. The best bite is Kentucky bass and crappie on main lake point brush using slip floats and live minnows and creature baits on jigheads.
The lake overall is in excellent condition and at a good level, but overall fishing is just fair at best. Some good fish are being brought in every day, but you have to work for them
Visit blackburnsresort.com and click on Scuba Steve's blog for a daily report.

Norfork Tailwater
(updated 9-21-2023) John Berry, angler and retired operator of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169), said Norfork Lake rose 0.1 foot to rest at 2.4 feet below power pool of 555.75 feet msl and 26.7 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork Tailwater has had wadable water. All of the lakes are well below the top of power pool. Expect wadable water in the coming days with heavy flows in the afternoon during peak power demand. 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 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 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 9-21-2023) John Berry, angler and retired operator of Berry Brothers Guide Service 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.