Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

November 29, 2023

More reports and other videos are on the Cotter Trout Dock Youtube Channel Page.
Below is the Arkansas Game and Fish Fishing Report November 30, 2023.

White River
(updated 11-30-2023) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said ’tis the season when most of us are beginning to turn our thoughts and energies toward Christmas, and maybe hunkering down some for the colder months. Family time is anticipated, shopping not quite so much. Also anticipated is continued terrific trout catches on the White River; anglers are still finding plenty of rainbows and browns willing to leave the comfort of their favorite hidey-holes and come a-calling’ to the right baits.

Bull Shoals Lake is sitting at 652.27 feet msl, almost 7 feet below power pool. The water level below Bull Shoals Dam has been at minimum flow — very low and wade-able — most of every morning, but later daytime generation arrives in pulses, sometimes pretty high and for several hours at a time, as the lake continues to drop after a dry fall. Watch for the river rises in the late morning and stay ahead of it for the best fishing.
Remember that the catch-and-release area below Bull Shoals Dam is closed from Nov. 1-Jan. 31 to preserve the brown trout spawn; this includes some special regulations near the State Park, too. The browns are in mid-spawn now; if you’re able to net one, be especially careful and return it healthy and fighting back to the river.

Flashy silver Cleos should work well in this water, as well as the silver-blue hammered spoons. Orange PowerBait has been the popular bait for the rainbows to mimic the eggs from spawning activity. During the sunny parts of the late morning, dry flies should perform well with hatches occurring as the weather warms slightly; orange and yellow egg patterns and the Y2K have been successful when the clouds return. Catch a sculpin or two to put on your hook for brown trout bait and keep a large net handy to ensure not losing your fish before you can picture it.
Kids will be looking for Christmas vacation adventures and the river answers that call. PowerBait and shrimp are reliable baits to help them catch a rainbow or five. The weatherman promises very mild daytime temperatures for the next week, so pick up your rod and reel, get outside and come join us on the river. Bundle up in the morning and enjoy the excellent wintertime fishing.

(updated 11-30-2023) Dave McCulley, owner of Jenkins Fishing Service in Calico Rock, said this week we have seen depths between 4.5-5.5 feet during the early mornings and then dropping to 2.5 feet throughout the day. With the low water during the day, artificial lures worked well. Most fishermen have been using quarter-ounce spoons or Rapala Countdowns. Morning drift-fishing with Uncommon Bait UV eggs and shrimp with or without silver spinners worked well. Anglers also saw success shifting to artificial lures later in the morning throughout the afternoon. We are tracking up to three-quarters of an inch of rainfall Thursday. The rain may cause some dinginess to the water but those conditions shouldn’t last very long, so we hope by Saturday the river will have returned to our clear water. The rest of the days we expect to see partly sunny to sunny days with lows in the mid-30s to highs in the upper 50s/low 60s.

(updated 11-30-2023) John Berry, veteran angler and retired guide/owner in Cotter, said that during the past week, they had a trace of rain (it is raining as I write this and we are scheduled to get three quarters of an inch today), cold temperatures (to include frost warnings) and moderate winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals fell 0.4 foot to rest at 6.7 feet below power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 42.7 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock Lake fell 0.1 foot to rest at 5.2 feet below power pool and 19.2 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell 0.5 foot to rest at 7.6 feet below power pool and 17.2 feet below the top of flood pool. On the White, we have had much more wadable water with moderate flows, in the morning. Norfork Lake fell 0.1 foot to rest at 0.4 foot below power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 26.7 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork Tailwater has wadable water. All of the lakes are well below the top of power pool. Expect wadable water in the coming days. 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 catch-and-release section below Bull Shoals Dam until Jan. 31 to protect 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.
John said, “On the White, the hot spot has been the 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 size 14 Pheasant Tail with a six 18 ruby Midge Dropper.

John also said, “Last week my wife Lori’s sister, Terri, and her husband, Larry, came to Cotter for a pre-Thanksgiving visit. They live in Germantown, Tennessee (an affluent suburb of Memphis) and are both avid fly-fishers like Lori and me. On the first day of their visit, Terri and Larry wade-fished at the Narrows, while Lori and I fished from the boat at Rim Shoals.
“After a few hours of fishing, we met at my house and then went to the White Sands Cafe for a late, hearty breakfast and to debrief our respective fishing trips to see how we did, what the hot fly was and how the conditions were. Terri and Larry said they had caught 12 and 15, respectively. They asked how many we caught. We said we did not know because we do not count.
“Most guides and fly-fishers usually count their fish. Since most fly-fishers fish catch-and-release, there is no stringer or live well to inventory to determine how the day’s angling went. If you want to do that you have to count as you go along.
“I know of one guide who records every trout caught on a clicker that he carries on the stream. He posts the daily total to a calendar and combines the daily total for an annual total. His records go back for years. I am impressed with his dedication to recording his fishing life. Another guide I know does a similar daily count on a clicker. He records the fish hooked but not brought to the net. To him a hook up is clear notification that he is doing his job.
“I don’t count because it is just a number. I am more interested in enjoying where I am and what I am doing. I want to concentrate on netting a good fish or watch an eagle snatch a trout from the surface of the river, rather than trying to keep up with the count of fish caught and by whom they were caught. At the end of the day, everyone in the boat knows how well they did without being given the official tally. Some clients even keep up with their count.
“Before I was a guide, I was a CPA. I spent 25 years living my day hunched over a computer working with numbers. I was burned out and I needed a change. I had been guiding part time and was ready to see if I could make a living guiding. Instead of working with numbers, I would be working with trout. I have never regretted that decision.
“Now that I am retired and fishing on my own again, counting trout just reminds me that my wife, Lori, has out-fished me yet again. As to the clicker, that is just another piece of gear that I have to keep up with.
“Counting is a personal decision. If you want to count, that is your decision and I respect it.”


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 11-30-2023) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said Wednesday the lake level is still at 652 feet msl, 7 feet below normal pool. Water temperature has dropped to 61 degrees. “Bass fishing has been work! Be sure to fish the conditions. These colder days have the deep bite starting to set up a little better.”
He says it’s a mixed bag, you can catch them a bunch of different ways day to day. Powerfish if it’s cloudy and windy. “I’m going with a Chatterbait, spinnerbait or square bill in the warmed stained water. Use a red Rock Crawler when you target windy, steep transition banks. A buzzbait or Whopper Plopper, too. But if it’s sunny and flat and a bluebird day, pull the Robo drop-shot back out.
“Some of the late summer areas always hold some fish. Or target shad. Graph, graph, graph! Graphing can pay off. Get around bait and then fish whatever is available on brush piles, points, ledges, swings, etc. Try a Beaver or Texas Cowboy on a wobble, a shaky head worm in green pumpkin and a Jewel Jig in green pumpkin orange with red highlights. They seem to be holding on ledges shallow.

“If it’s cloudy or they’re in the 15-20 feet range while not munching shad, on most days you’re going to have to work for them.
“There are mega schools of fish grouping up demolishing shad, but videogame fish can be tough to fool. Try a small shad swimbait, a Damiki or Hover Rig with a Tater Shad. The Jewel Scuba Spoon is kicking butt! The Rapala Ice Jig is working for me if the shad are on the bottom. Every day is different; fish the conditions. Walleye are in the deep trees and humps at 50-60 feet. Some are on the outsides of the deep shad. Crappie are picking up and anglers are hopping brush piles working for them. Stay off of them and try a crappie minnow under a float.
“Be safe. Happy Thanksgiving!”

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 11-30-2023) Steven “Scuba Steve” Street at Blackburn’s Resort and Boat Rental said the lake level is 553.31 feet msl and dropping slowly with only minimum flow. Both generators are still inoperable. “We are very dry but there is rain in the forecast but they are backing off on that. The White River at Newport is 2.54 feet and very low, indicating not much water is being released into the White River anywhere.”
The surface water is 58 degrees and stable for a couple of weeks.” It was a very nice and warm day Wednesday with light winds and the fishing is starting to get better, especially the largemouth bass fishing. I went to the same place where I went the day before where I caught nothing and caught some very nice largemouth bass and a few crappie. A few walleye are biting at dusk on shadowy banks and some temperate bass are in open water on shad but it is hard to find them feeding.
“It looks to me like things are getting better as far as bass and crappie fishing are concerned, but it could stand a little improvement. Things are changing and you have to be out there every day to know what is happening. Overall, the lake is in good condition and at a good level for fishing, and I am happy to report it is getting better finally.”

Visit and click on Scuba Steve’s blog for daily updates.


Norfork Tailwater
(updated 11-30-2023) John Berry, angler and retired operator of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169), said Norfork Lake fell 0.1 foot to rest at 0.4 foot below power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 26.7 feet below the top of flood pool. All of the lakes are well below the top of power pool. Expect wadable water in the coming days. 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.

There has been wadable water on the Norfork Tailwater. One day it fished well and the next day fished poorly. 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. Be sure and carry a large net, as most fish are lost at the net.


Buffalo National River/Crooked Creek
(updated 11-30-2023) John Berry, angler and retired operator of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169), said Crooked Creek and the Buffalo River are not fishing as well and water levels are low. With colder temperatures, the smallmouths are less 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.