Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

October 25, 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 26, 2023.

White River
(updated 10-26-2023) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said the fall colors are popping out all over, making a float down the White River even better than usual. All-day trout-catching action on a cool autumn morning in the north-central Arkansas Ozarks is really hard to compete with. Releases from Bull Shoals Dam into the White River Tailwater remained consistent over the past week: lower output during the morning hours, increasing as the day progresses, averaging 4,000 (a little more than one power unit). The lake is at 653.86 feet msl, which is 5 feet below the seasonal power pool target. At these levels, an angler can put an anchor down and fish a favorite deep spot, or drift downriver keeping your line tight and near the bottom without having to use too much weight.
The rainbow catch, as it often is, was abundant — if you were dangling a pink worm topped with a white or orange egg. A little fuzzy egg pattern, peach or orange, tied to a No. 8 or 10 hook attracted some curious trout, even without the worm. “I've said it before, but it's worth repeating: This is just about perfect water for jig fishing. A black or olive and black jig or an olive and ginger D2 jig — perfect.
“Sculpins and shad continue to get some attention from the browns, but as the spawn moves into high gear, the browns will mostly swim past your bait. Annoy them enough, be patient, and you'll get a bite.
“We've been treated to some perfect autumn days; however, you'll enjoy your fishing adventure a lot more if you come prepared for Arkansas weather extremes. T-shirt and shorts were right for the weather (Wednesday), but this coming weekend will bring freezing temperatures during the night, so cold launches in the morning. As always, whatever the weather, we are blessed to be here in The Natural State and always look forward to meeting fellow trout lovers.”

(updated 10-26-2023) Dave McCulley, owner of Jenkins Fishing Service in Calico Rock, said the days have had cool mornings and then warmed up to comfortable days. “We have seen varied generations from Bull Shoals Dam, with Norfork Dam releasing water through one floodgate. We have been seeing low water around 3 feet, rising in the mornings to 6 feet before dropping again in the afternoon and evening. Spoons continue to be the go to lure in the low water. Additionally, black jigs, Rooster Tails, lures with a spinner and Rapala Countdowns have worked very well. Uncommon Baits Neo Pink UV eggs with shrimp, corn or worms continue to work well when the water rises.
“The leaves are changing color and fall is here. For the first time this fall we expect to see lows in the 30s next week with highs in the 50s and 60s. Last Thursday the AGFC pontoon raft stocked 1,400 rainbow trout between Calico Rock and Mt. Olive.”

(updated 10-26-2023) John Berry, angler and retired guide/owner Berry Brothers Guide Service at Cotter, said that during the past week they had a mere trace of rain, cool temperatures and moderate winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals fell 0.6 foot to rest at 5.5 feet below power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 41.1 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock Lake fell 0.3 foot to rest at 3.8 feet below power pool and 17.8 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell 0.3 foot to rest at 6.1 feet below power pool and 15.7 feet below the top of flood pool. The White has had less wadable water with moderate flows in the afternoon during peak power demand. Norfork Lake rose 0.1 foot to rest at 0.4 foot below power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 26.6 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork 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. On the Norfork, all turbines remain 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, “On the White, the hot spot has been Cane Island. 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).”
The catch-and-release section below Bull Shoals Dam is closed from Nov. 1 to Jan. 31, 2024, to accommodate the brown trout spawn. The State Park will be seasonal catch-and-release for the same period. All brown trout must be immediately released. In addition, night fishing is prohibited in this area during this period. This section will open to fishing Feb. 1.
John also said, “A few days ago I took my wife, Lori, on our weekly fly-fishing trip. It was a slow go to get started. Lori was not feeling 100 percent. She had not slept well the night before. She is ever the trouper and would not let that slow her down.
“The temperature was in the 40s and there were cloudy skies with some unwelcome wind. I was interested in the water flows. The Army Corps of Engineers was running a bit more water than they had for the past few weeks. I figured the flows would enable me to take longer drifts and promised to fish a bit better. To battle the cool temperatures and wind I had worn slip-on L.L. Bean duck shoes with heavy wool socks and a light down jacket. I also wore nylon fishing pants, a straw hat and sun gloves. Lori wore a warm Elmer Fudd hat, a light insulated jacket, light pants, wading shoes with no socks and a fishing shirt.
“I was waiting for her to arrive after feeding and walking our Labradors. As I was rigging a rod, I blinked and fall started. I have been raking up leaves from my big oak tree for the last two weeks but this was the first time I noticed that leaves were beginning to turn. I saw reds and yellows for the first time. I must say that I enjoyed it.
“Lori arrived after I had launched the boat, done a few drifts and landed a couple of trout. I motored over to the ramp and picked her up. I had already rigged a rod for her so we went upstream and immediately began to fish. The slightly heavier flows definitely produced some longer drifts. As a result, we could easily cover more water than we did earlier this summer. The White was on the bottom most days with higher flows in the afternoon. We fished early and always hit the lower flows. This is a nice change that was triggered by the fall weather, which does not require the high energy needs of summer.
“As we fished, the wind picked up. Along with an overcast sky and lower temperatures than we were used to, the weather seemed cooler. It was definitely feeling like fall. Lori was beginning to chill. She had not gotten cold when she walked the dogs. She was exercising then but fishing from a boat is not nearly as athletic. The clothing that worked for walking the dogs was not enough to keep her comfortable sitting in a boat. Lori is pretty tough but was beginning to get cold. We pulled the plug and headed in. The idea is to enjoy the outing. Besides we had caught plenty of trout.
“I blinked and fall started.”

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 the lake level IS 653 feet msl and the water temperature is holding around 69 degrees. Bass fishing has been up and down like the weather. Be sure to fish the conditions. 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 off. A small walk-the-dog-style bait 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.
Fall fishing equals junk fishing, covering water with a Whopper Plopper, buzzbait, square bill, Chatterbait. The shad should pick back up. In the skinny water if it cools off, then powerfish. If it gets cloudy and windy, use a Rock Crawler and target steep transition banks.
The shad have started their migration in the creeks. There are wads three-quarters of the way back middle of the channel or pushed on the flats, especially if there’s wind. Shad balls are spread out. Look for areas where they are bunched up.
“I have found groups busting the surface down to 50 feet. Graphing can pay off. Get around bait and fish whatever is available: piles, ledges, swings, etc. … Beaver, shaky head worm, and Jewel Jig in green pumpkin orange are working. There seems to be some color in the water for this. They seem to be holding on ledges in the 15- to 20-feet range while not munching shad. Most days you’re going to have work for them.
There are mega schools of smallies demolishing shad, but videogame fish can be tough to fool. Try a small shad swimbait, Damiki or Hover Rig with a Tater Shad. The Jewel Scuba Spoon is working for me if the shad are on the bottom.
Every day is different, and you must fish the conditions. Walleye guys are frustrated now. Crappie seems to be picking up. The jig bite slowed a bit, but they are hopping brush piles working for them. Try crappie minnow under a float. “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 10-26-2023) Steven “Scuba Steve” Street at Blackburn’s Resort and Boat Rental said Wednesday night that the lake level was 553.35 feet msl and has been the same for a week. Both generators are still inoperable. The siphon and minimum flow equals exactly what is coming from the spring-fed Norfork River. The surface water temperature is 70 degrees and has also remained stable with the warm ambient temperatures. The water is clearing on the main lake and the visibility is pretty good. Creeks are still stained green. The White River at Newport is 3.10 feet and very low, indicating not much water is being released anywhere. It was 1.34 feet yesterday and about ready to dry up. They are reluctant to drop the lake below the 553 feet msl level.
“The lake overall is at a good level and in good condition for boating, but fishing is just fair at best. The fish that I am cleaning are void of any food and have not started their pre-winter feed. It usually happens in November. Your best bet to catch fish is to go to main lake point brush piles that the wind has been blowing into and use a small spoon or live minnows on a slip-float directly over the brush in 16-30 feet of water. Walleye, bass, crappie and bluegill are suspended at various depths in and around the brush. The crappie are schooled, roaming and spooky. Use your trolling motor sparingly and shut off the anchor or spot lock. Catfishing is not the best with the full moon but some can be caught on live bait.
“The fish are there but overall fishing is just fair now. Trollers are not doing the best for temperate bass but a few whites are being caught.”
Visit blackburnsresort.com and click on Scuba Steve's blog for a daily update.

Norfork Tailwater
(updated 10-26-2023) 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 0.4 foot below power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 26.6 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork 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. On the Norfork, all turbines remain 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 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 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 10-26-2023) 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.