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Established 1954
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Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

January 24, 2024

Below is the Fishing Report from Arkansas Game and Fish.

White River
(updated 1-25-2024) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said, “With the brutal cold behind us, we can turn our attention from hypothermia to catching trout. Bull Shoals Lake remains well below power pool, but the lake level rose nearly 1 foot with the recent sleety rains and snow runoff; ditto across all the lakes in the White River watershed. Releases from the dam were fairly heavy during the cold snap to accommodate power needs, but have now trickled back to minimum flow with the return of milder temperatures.
“Excitement is running high for the official end of the brown trout spawn Feb. 1. It’s a lot of fun to jump in on the action; lots of anglers wait for the reopening of the restricted areas near the dam to get on the river and catch those hungry trout. While this is definitely the season for spawning, I’m of the opinion that browns don’t pay attention to our calendar — they determine when to nest and don’t wait until Feb. 1 to return to home ground — so it’s nice to know there’s always a good chance to catch some great browns.
“February and March are undoubtedly the best months here in the Arkansas Ozarks to net some beauties. Cold winter months provide some freedom for the trout since traffic is very light compared to later in the season, and with spawning season nearly behind us it’s time to bring out your best ammunition and get on the river. Satisfy their hunger with a minnow, shad or sculpin. Or, with this low flow, a white jig or pearly white streamer would be a lure for an oversized brown, as would shad replicas.
“Looking forward to seeing you. Stop in and say, ‘Hey!’”

(updated 1-25-2024) Dave McCulley, owner of Jenkins Fishing Service in Calico Rock, said, “There haven’t been many people fishing the river this last couple of weeks. Most boats who have put in at the Calico Rock boat ramp have been duck hunting along the river and in the sloughs. Because of the recent rains and snow, the ground is saturated. As a result, a lot of the melting snow and rain this week has become runoff. The Buffalo River has risen, resulting in muddy water. Last week both dams were releasing a lot of water, with us seeing as high as 9 feet. If the river is muddy and the creeks have cleared, move into the creeks, tie off to a tree and use corn to catch trout as they seek cleaner water. An added benefit of moving into the creeks is the opportunity to also catch smallmouth bass. As the river clears, drift-fishing with silver inline spinners (optional), Uncommon Baits UV Eggs and shrimp give the best chance of catching a limit. Throwing Rapala Countdowns in silver or gold toward the banks may result in some nice rainbows or browns

“The weather forecast is for more rain later this week and into the weekend. Be sure to check the river levels and conditions before heading out. The changing river levels can make fishing challenging at times but hang in there — the conditions will change again. If you are bank or wade fishing, pay attention to the water level. The good thing is we should see some warmer weather this weekend and into next week and the river should stabilize and clear up.”

(updated 1-25-2024) John Berry, veteran angler and retired guide/owner in Cotter, said that during the past week, they had almost an inch in Cotter, snow (about 4.5 inches in Cotter) frigid temperatures (to include winter storm warnings), and heavy winds (to include wind chill advisories). The lake level at Bull Shoals rose 0.7 foot to rest at 7.2 feet below power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 43.2 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock Lake fell 0.7 foot to rest at 5.5 feet below power pool and 21.2 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake rose 0.4 foot to rest at 8.4 feet below power pool and 18 feet below the top of flood pool. The White has had little wadable water. Norfork Lake rose 0.4 foot to rest at 0.7 foot above power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 25.5 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork has had wadable water. All of the lakes are well below the top of power pool. Heavy generation was needed to provide power during peak demand due to the severe winter storm. Expect wadable water in the coming days. 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 catch-and-release section below Bull Shoals Dam is closed through Wednesday, 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. This section will reopen to fishing next Thursday, Feb. 1.
John sad that on the White, the hot spot has been the White Hole. “We have had higher 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 San Juan Worm with an egg dropper with plenty of lead.”
John also said, “Last week my fishing buddy Mike suffered a mishap. He is an avid fly-fisherman and a fly-tyer. He has been intimately involved in the North Arkansas Fly Fishers (our local fly fishing club) and the Sowbug Roundup (our local fly-tying show with a national reputation as one of the best fly-tying shows in the United States) since he moved to the Twin Lakes area several years ago. He loves to wade and catch fish on flies he has tied.
“This situation began last week when he tied a dozen root beer midges. This is a very popular local pattern that is used very frequently by local guides and serious local anglers. My wife, Lori, and I carry them every time we go out and fish them often.
“It is a fairly simple pattern to tie with few materials and fewer steps. It is quite straight forward. The problem is that it is quite small. It is normally tied on a size 18 hook. This is the smallest fly that I tie, and to do that I have to wear cheaters (reading glasses with a much stronger magnification than the reading lenses on my bifocals). It is also just about the smallest fly that I fish because the eye of the hook is so small that I have trouble putting the tippet through it. Once again I pull out my cheaters.
“Mike took his flies with him on a fishing trip a day or two later. When he went to tie one on, he dropped the flies on the ground. It should be noted that the root beer midges are brown and disappear on soil or gravel. The small flies are very had to see. Of the dozen he was only able to find two.
“Things did not improve. As he was scrambling around the bank, he slipped and fell. He was not hurt but he broke his Tenkara rod in the process.
“Tenkara rods are a specialized Japanese fly-fishing rod. They are very long, generally 12 feet or longer. There is no reel and you fish a fixed length of line and leader. You do not so much cast them but dap them or gently drop the flies to the surface of the water making a flawless presentation to the fish. It is a simple and effective way to fish flies. When it comes to breaking Tenkara rods, this was not Mike’s first rodeo. Over the years he has broken several Tenkara rods, usually on huge fish at Rockbridge.
“I did not write this to give a fishing buddy a hard time. This is the type of situation that could happen to any of us at any time. I have personally survived several mishaps like this.
“I am sure that he will shrug this off and keep on fishing.”


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 1-25-2024) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said that lake level is 652 feet msl, or 6 feet below full pool. Water temperature is 46 degrees. Bass fishing has slowed with the cooler temps “but it looks like we are out of the woods for a little bit anyways. I’ll go over what’s working for me:

“Powerfish if it’s warm and windy, covering water with a Rock Crawler or Wiggle Wart in red variations. Look for wind-blown, shady, ledgy or chunk rock banks and steeper swings. You can always catch them on a jig in green pumpkin variations and PB&J. Try piles ledges close to shad balls. The ole jerky jerk Megabass-Plus is good to use around standing timber, treetops, bluff ends and channel swing points that always hold some fish.
“Graphing can pay off. Get around bait and then fish whatever is nearby — treetops, points, ledges, swings, etc. Shad seem to have spread out deeper in the bigger creeks arms and are moving out toward the main lake or completely out of some off shallower creeks, hollers, drains. They are holding down in the 80-100 feet range regardless of the overall depth. Some bass left them as they went deep and some are holding above them 30-60 feet.
“The videogame fish can be tough find and to fool — try a small shad, Damiki Tater Shad or Thump Shad. White or shad colors are working for me. Loons and gulls are in the area so you better pay attention. The Jewel Scuba Spoon is fooling a few as well as Rapala Ice Jig, especially if the shad are on the bottom or large schools show up! Every day is different; fish the conditions.”
The crappie report comes from Crappie 101 Guide Service: Crappie still fairly scattered from creeks to main lakes brush and timber. Minnows have been key with a little slower jig bite. Tater Baits, Small Fry Purple Monkey on a ⅛-ounce jig on sunny days have produced the best. Better quality seems to be in the main lake in smaller groups> 

The walleye outlook is provided by Southern Walleye Guide Service: The walleye are scattered along creek channels following the shad. I am catching some around trees in 70-80 feet of water where the creek passes close to a steep banks or a point halfway to two-thirds back of creeks. Mostly fishing the longer creek arms. Staying close to trees with spoons and jigging raps. Also I have also been catching a few on Rapala Rippin’ Raps. Lure colors have been white or shad pattern.


Norfork Lake
For the Army Corps of Engineers’ real-time outflow report from Norfork Dam, visit the Corps’ Little Rock office website

(updated 1-25-2024) Steven “Scuba Steve” Street at Blackburn’s Resort and Boat Rental said the lake level was 554.30 feet msl and had risen 3.5 inches in the last 24 hours when he came in at dark Wednesday evening. The Army Corps of Engineers had opened five spillway gates to an equivalent of three-quarters of a generator earlier Wednesday. The White River at Newport is 14.77 feet and rising, while the surface water temperature on the main lake is 44 degrees. 

“The melting snow is cooling the lake. We received 2 inches of rain in the last three days and it is to rain more soon. The creeks run a bit but not fast. The frost is not out of the ground yet.”
Scuba Steve said he could see his lure down about 5 feet and the water was stained green. The lake overall is in excellent condition and at a good level, but fishing is just fair, although a few good fish are being caught every day. Crappie and bass are on brush at 20-30 feet on live bait and jigs tipped with minnows. Trollers with live bait are catching small stripers, some black bass and white bass in open water from the bridge to Howards Cove. “It is a typical winter fishing pattern. Not bad but not good,” he said.

(updated 1-25-2024) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said it’s a great time to fish the deep water as you never know what you are likely to catch. All species are out chasing baitfish.The photos on our Facebook page from this week are just a sample of what I was catching on Tuesday. It sure feels great being able to be back on the lake after the deep freeze, even with the fog. I was mainly dead sticking a White Trash Tater Baits – Fishing Lures and Umbrella Rigs in about 90 feet of water. I found fish in three different locations. All locations were close to the main lake old river channel.
“My first fish, caught early morning, was a striped bass and he hit the bait on the fall at about 40 feet down. There were other scattered fish in this area but I didn’t see any schools. The second area, mid-morning, I caught another striped bass. He was sitting inside of a bait ball 60 feet down. The third area, late morning, held a lot of bait and good schools of striped/hybrid bass came under me 45-65 feet deep. I landed three hybrids in this area, all on a very slow reel up through the school. The 25-pound catfish was below the bait 75 feet down. He absolutely hammered the Tater Shad. After I netted this fish, I found the hook was almost straightened out. I don’t know how he didn’t come loose.
“Three very nice largemouth and several white bass were feeding 35-40 deep and they really liked the white Tater Shad. The blue cat, whites and largemouth bass were all caught in the second area that I fished.
“The lake level is at 554 feet msl. The surface water temp ranged from 42.5 degrees to 44 degrees depending on where I was fishing. We are forecast for a warming trend with highs in the 50s. This is the time to fish the winter bite. If you are needing a place to stay, give us a call at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort 870-492-5113 for reservations. February, March, April and May are great months to fish Norfork Lake and the weather is typically a little more predictable.

“Happy fishing and enjoy Norfork Lake.”

Lou posts fishing reports almost every day on Hummingbird Hideaway Resort’s Facebook page.


Norfork Tailwater
(updated 1-25-2024) John Berry, angler and retired operator of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169), said Norfork Lake rose 0.4 foot to rest at 0.7 foot above power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 25.5 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork has had wadable water. All of the lakes are well below the top of power pool. Heavy generation was needed to provide power during peak demand due to the severe winter storm. Expect wadable water in the coming days. 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.
There has been wadable water on the Norfork and it has fished well. 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). My 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. The cold weather has resulted in few anglers. 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 1-25-2024) 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 smallmouth bass are much 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.