Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

October 18, 2023

More reports and other videos are on the Cotter Trout Dock Youtube Channel Page.
Below is the Arkansas Game and Fish Fishing Report October 19, 2023.

White River
(updated 10-19-2023) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said Bull Shoals Lake is 4.5 feet below power pool offering steady releases over the last five days averaging 3,000 to 6,000 cfs with spikes up to three units (12,000 cfs). Some days allow for wade fishing, usually mid-morning hours. At these levels, a john boat angler can put an anchor down and fish a favorite deep spot or drift downriver keeping a tight line held near the river bed without having to use too much weight.
Rainbows have been feisty and hefty, paying most attention to flashy baits. Thomas Buoyant Hammered Spoons (especially blue/silver) continue to cause a stir. Add some jigs to your arsenal — orange and ginger are best right now — to increase the action. Can't beat the white PowerBait topping a pink worm if you're drifting over the shoals.
The brown bite has been a little challenging with the onset of the annual spawn, but we're still seeing some action with sculpin. During these crucial months (November through January for the brown spawn), be careful not to disturb the spawning beds (the redds) while motoring or wading through spawning areas around Rim Shoals and either side of the catch-and-release areas.
“We've been promised more sunshine and temperate days (very cool mornings, though) to continue for a while. Come visit Cotter; catch some rainbows and enjoy the beauty of our Natural State.”

(updated 10-19-2023) Dave McCulley, owner of Jenkins Fishing Service in Calico Rock, said that this week they have seen water depths on most days between 3-4.5 feet and on Tuesday a spike up to 6.5 feet down to 4.5 feet on Wednesday morning. Fishing has been great over the last week. Nickel/gold and copper/gold quarter-ounce spoons worked well. Also Rapala Countdowns CD 7 in rainbow trout, silver and gold colors. Drift-fishing with Uncommon Baits Bright Orange or Neo Pink UV eggs with shrimp worked best to catch a limit of rainbows. Fishing with corn also worked well. If going for bigger fish, drift-fish with sculpins. On Tuesday the AGFC pontoon raft stocked 2,400 rainbows between Calico Rock and Piney Creek (6 miles downriver) before receiving another load of fish and stocking down to Sylamore Creek. The AGFC pontoon raft was set to run again on Thursday and the Calico area should see about the same number of fish stocked, Dave said.

(updated 10-19-2023) John Berry, angler and retired guide/owner Berry Brothers Guide Service at Cotter, said that during the past week they had no rain, cool temperatures and moderate winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals fell a foot to rest at 4.5 feet below power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 40.5 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock Lake rose 0.4 foot to rest at 3.5 feet below power pool and 17.5 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell 0.4 foot to rest at 5.8 feet below power pool and 15.4 feet below the top of flood pool. The White had less wadable water with moderate flows in the afternoon during peak power demand. Norfork Lake remained steady at 0.5 foot below power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 26.7 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork Tailwater 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. 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 floodgates.
John said the hot spot on the White River has been Bull Shoals State Park. “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, “I retired from guiding about a month ago. I am a member of a breakfast group made up of fellow fly-fishers. A couple of those guys, Danny Sabo and Mike Inger, wanted to take me fishing. This is a very unusual situation for me. I have been a working guide for over 30 years. During that time I have taken literally thousands of people fishing but no one has taken me.
“I wasn’t sure that I would know how to act.
“We met at the White Hole ramp at 11 a.m. The plan was to fish below there until the Army Corps of Engineers was scheduled to increase generation. That would give us plenty of water to motor up to Bull Shoals Dam to fish the water below it, which has some really large trout.
“We went in Danny’s boat, a XX Power Drifter. This boat looks like a big drift boat with a big 40-horse jet. It is an impressive watercraft. Every square inch was utilized and organized. I found it to be a stable casting platform. It is gorgeous!
“It was cool and sunny. The water was gin clear and on the bottom. Danny took first turn on the oars. During the day he switched off with Mike so they would both get a chance to fish. Thankfully they did not ask me to row. I began with my usual bead-head Pheasant Tail with a Ruby Midge dropper. I did not get a bump. Mike was catching fish on a regular basis. He had given me a container of several of the bead-head orange conical flies (the blob) he was fishing, so it made sense to fish those flies. I finally caught a nice rainbow. I fished nothing else for the rest of the day.
“We waited for the water to come up, but it did not occur when predicted. We kept fishing and finally stopped for a late lunch. We had individual containers of ham, cheese, crackers and grapes (charcuterie) that Danny had prepared with soft drinks. I was impressed when he pulled some individual chilled containers containing still frozen vanilla ice cream from his big Yeti. The containers included a folding spoon. It was one of the simplest and best shore lunches that I have had in a while.
“While we were enjoying our lunch, the water finally came up. We pulled up the anchor and headed to the dam. It was much less crowded than I expected. We caught some good drifts and caught a few nice fish. I believe most if not all of the trout caught were hooked on the orange fly. The bite slowed and we decided to head back to White Hole.
“It had been a great day. I had people that decided where to go, supplied a fly that worked, presented a great lunch and netted my fish. I could get used to this.”

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 10-19-2023) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said Wednesday that the lake level continues to fall and is sitting at 654 feet msl. The water temperature dropped to 69 degrees, give or take, a big drop from 77 degrees only two weeks ago. “Bass fishing has been up and down like the weather I have caught fish on a Whopper Plopper all the way down to 50 feet on a Tater Shad. It’s a mixed bag. You can catch them a bunch of different ways without one being better than the other.
“Looks like we’re getting some shallow fish creeping up. Early morning topwater is still hit or miss. A small walk-the-dog-style bait like a Zara Spook or Lucky Craft Gunfish will work. If they’re busing, don’t put it away, though, as they can go to the middle of the day.
“Fall fishing equals junk fishing, covering water with a Whopper Plopper, buzzbait, square bill, Chatterbait in shad or white colors are working beset for me. With a Rock Crawler in green pumpkin orange, target steep transition banks in wind and hopefully clouds.
“The shad have started their migration into the creeks. There are wads of shad half to three-quarters ways back middle of the channel or pushed on the flats, especially if there is wind. Shad balls are everywhere right now. Look for areas where they are bunched up. I have found groups from the surface down to 50 feet. Graphing can pay off, as 28-34 feet depth seems to be a consistent depth for the drop-shot.
“On the points, brush piles, ledges, swings, etc., a big worm, a shaky head worm and Jewel Jig in green pumpkin orange are working. It seems you need to have some color in the water for this bite, especially areas where there are shad nearby.
“If you venture into the stained water in the backs, there are some shad there. They seem to be moving out with the cooler nights. Most days you’re going to have to work for a bite. Try a Beaver-style bait in the laydowns.
“There’s a lot of roaming suspended schooling fish in 20-35 feet over deep water still. These videogame fish can be tough to fool; try a small shad swimbait, a Damiki or Hover Rig with a Tater Shad. Walleye have started trolling over deep shad. I believe we lot the thermocline. Crappie guys’ jig bit slowed a bit, but they are still hopping brush piles and that’s working for them; they are having to use a crappie minnow under a float.
“Every day is different, fish the conditions. It isn’t easy fishing right now, but it’s getting better!”
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 10-12-2023) Steven “Scuba Steve” Street at Blackburn’s Resort and Boat Rental said Wednesday night the lake level was 553.26 feet msl and creeping up with no dam discharge for a week as of 6:30 p.m. The White River at Newport is 4.35 feet and all of the water is coming from Bull Shoals. Both generators are still inoperable at Norfork Dam. The surface water temperature is 70 degrees. The lake turned over on Sept. 22 but has not cleared up as it usually does in the fall. The cold water is now at about 45-50 feet and there is not much oxygen past there and also not many fish. Scuba Steve says he has been fishing and diving mostly brush piles on the main lake steep river channel bank brush piles and finding bluegill shallow, Kentucky Bass in front of the brush piles, walleye on the side of them and crappie roaming looking for baitfish. Use a 3-inch crawdad creature bait on a 3/16th-ounce jighead for the bass in front of the brush. The smallmouth are right in the brush and a small spoon vertical-jigged straight down is your best bet. Crappie are roaming and checking out brush for baitfish. No baitfish, no crappie; but if you look on banks where the wind has been blowing into, you will find them.
Temperate bass are moving north and getting ready for their night bite near the full moon in November right at and after dark on a stick bait. Use a 4- to 6-pound test clear line with a slip float and live minnow and set it about 5 feet further than you can see your bait for crappie and big bluegill right over brush.
Fishing overall is just fair but some nice ones are being brought in every day. The lake is at a good level and in good condition. Visit blackburnsresort.com and click on Scuba Steve's blog for a daily update.

Norfork Tailwater
(updated 10-19-2023) John Berry, angler and retired operator of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169), said Norfork Lake remained steady at 0.5 foot below power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 26.7 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork Tailwater 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. 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 floodgates.
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 10-19-2023) 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 very low. With moderate 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.