Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

February 21, 2024

More reports and other videos are on the Cotter Trout Dock Youtube Channel Page.
Below is the Arkansas Game and Fish Fishing Report February 21, 2024.

White River

(updated 2-22-2024) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said Bull Shoals Lake elevation has raised two feet to 657.35 feet msl over the last few days due to some much needed rain. Generation has been erratic, from less than 3,000 cfs to over five units (15,000 cfs) or more pretty regularly over the last week. The lake is still almost 2 feet below its normal power pool of 659 feet msl. Keep an eye on the river level! Changes occur quickly, so be especially cautious from the bank or if you are wading into the main channel.

The shad kill has been sporadic compared to some year, but the browns are still snapping at shad-like baits, white-bellied lures, with white jigs working especially well during low water or slowly rising water. The fluctuation in the water level means you need to have a good arsenal of baits ready, and sculpins seem to be preferred the further away from the dam you float.

Bank anglers continue to have a great catch of rainbows with the shrimp/egg pattern combination. If it’s action you crave (and who doesn’t?), stock up on shrimp and try it with a wriggling worm. Again, white would be our first choice for the egg pattern (PowerBait or XFactor), but yellow and the sunrise color are good choices, too.
The mornings remain pretty cool; the afternoons have been sunny and warm. Be prepared for the variation in temperatures — dress for the weather and enjoy our Natural State.

(updated 2-22-2024) Dave McCulley, owner of Jenkins Fishing Service in Calico Rock, said the river has been in excellent condition for catching trout. What we have been seeing is a morning generation from Bull Shoals that arrives in Calico Rock during the night. Water depths have been reaching around 7 feet overnight and then dropping down to about 4 feet during the day. The good thing for fishing is, by morning the rise has been gone long enough for the trout to start feeding again, and the moss and debris in the water caused by the rising water has passed. Typically, fishing is great just as the water starts rising, and many boats will try to stay just ahead of the rise. Once the rise is past, it takes an hour or two for the fish to start being very active again. We continue to see some very nice 18-inch-or-more brown trout being caught, with several over 24 inches. Rapala Countdowns CD7 in silver or rainbow colors have worked well. With the Countdowns, if you have a problem getting snagged, try removing the front hook. We seem to catch just as many trout with just the back hook being on the Countdown. Drift-fishing with Uncommon Baits ultraviolet eggs tipped with shrimp without an inline spinner has been effective for catching a limit of rainbow trout. Jigs have had mixed success, with darker color jigs seeming to work better. Gold-colored spoons worked well this week when the water was lower. This week we received one stocking of 1,400 rainbow trout from the Norfork Hatchery. 

(updated 2-1-2024) John Berry, veteran angler and retired guide/owner in Cotter, said the White has had a lot of wadable water. The catch-and-release section below Bull Shoals Dam has reopened after being closed for three months for the brown trout spawn. Night fishing in the area is allowed now, too. On the White, the hot spot has been The Narrows. They 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. John says his favorite has been a San Juan Worm with an egg dropper with plenty of lead.

John also said, “Recently, I wrote a column about a fishing buddy that had a bad day, which included him falling and breaking his rod. I had breakfast with him today and explained that I was not trying to demean him in any way, but to show other anglers that this happens to all of us. In fact, during breakfast I began going through the list of my broken rods. It was longer than I imagined. It should be noted that better fly rods and reels come with significant warranties and ask few questions about what happened. There is a handling fee.
“The first rod I broke was my first fly rod, a Fenwick fiberglass rod. I was parked in the pasture at McClellan’s trout dock and I accidently closed the hatch of my Bronco on it, turning a two-piece fly rod into a three piece. By this time, I was beginning to fish only graphite fly rods and I did not bother to have it repaired.
“The next rod I broke was a Sage graphite rod with an Orvis CFO reel. I was fishing the upper Yellowstone River in Yellowstone National Park. At the end of the day I put my rod and reel on top of the Rent a Wreck we were using. I stowed the rest of my gear in the car and we drove off. The rod and reel were still on the roof of the car. I heard a clunk and turned to watch in horror as a pickup ran over my rod and reel. It was a mess. I sent the rod to Sage and it cost $25 and took three months to fix my rod and $10 and a couple of weeks to replace my reel.
“Next I put a Sage rod into a ceiling fan in a motel room in Mammoth Spring before a night-fishing trip to the Spring River. It cost $30 this time to get it repaired.
“Unfortunately my next victim was my wife’s Orvis. It is Lori’s first rod and she loves it. I closed the hatch of my Volvo station wagon on it. That one cost me $35 and took two months.
“I broke a Temple Fork Outfitter rod on a kayak float trip down the Norfork Tailwater. I had attached the rod to the boat to prevent its loss. We sought shelter in a covered dock to escape a heavy pop-up thunderstorm where I accidently banged against the dock, which snapped the tip off. It took $25 and a week to get the rod repaired.
“My clients accounted for four TFOs that I use for my client rods. They were broken on fish, on the deck of the boat, wading the White and just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The cost to repair them rose from $25 to $48 over time but they still take a week to repair.
“Finally, there is a Winston rod. For the life of me, I cannot remember the incident. I only remember that it took a long time to get it back.
“In fly fishing, your rods take a hit. They are fragile, but most rods can be repaired at little cost and a bit of time.”


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 2-22-2024) Del Colvin of Del Colvin Fishing says the lake level is 657 feet msl. The Army Corps of Engineers has been running some water in the mornings. The water temp 49 degrees. Give or take, we are close to the magic 50! Bass fishing has been up and down with the weather, but looks like we are ahead of the game. I’ll go over what’s working for me: Powerfish if it’s cloudy, rainy and windy covering water with a Rock Crawler, Wiggle Wart or Square Bill in red variations. Look for windblown, shady, ledgy or chunk rock banks and steeper swings. I’m going halfway into the creeks. If we get some more warm rain, you better have a Chatterbait and a spinnerbait tied on for a runoff bite. You can always catch them on a jig in green pumpkin variations and PB&J, or a little red flapping hog. Try piles, ledges or wood close to shad balls. The jig bite can vary 5-25 feet day to day. Graphing can pay off. Get around the bait and then fish whatever is nearby: treetops, points, ledges, swings, etc.
Shad seem to have spread out again, moving back into the bigger creeks and arms. They’re holding down in the 60-70 feet range regardless of the overall depth. Graph, graph and more graphing. While a lot of shad are high in the water column, out in the middle, in some areas bass left them as they went deep. Look along bluffs and treetops for suspending fish; some are holding above the shad 20-30 feet.
The video game fish can be tough find and to fool. Try a small shad Damiki, Tater Shad or Thump Shad and change head size according to depth. Using a fluke on high shad balls or a jerkbait in white or shad colors is working for me. Loons and gulls are in the area, so you better pay attention. Every day is different and it is February so fish the conditions.
White bass and walleye are close. They are heading to their spawning areas and the full moon approaching. 

Del regularly posts new YouTube videos. Visit his YouTube site (Bull Shoals Lake Fishing Report) for more information and tips on fishing Bull Shoals Lake.
Crappie 101 Guide Service reports that most crappie are in the creeks now. I’ve caught them feeding and sitting on brush mainly and anywhere from 10-30 feet deep. The jig bite is still doing well throwing a one-sixteenth to one-eighth-ounce jig with Tater Shad Jr. in the Purple Monkey or Bayou Magic colors, and minnows are doing well also.

Southern Walleye Guide Service says walleye look like they starting to swell up with eggs pretty good now. I would imagine after the next few warmer rains, the males should start making their way to spawning points and up the few tributaries like up by Power Site and the little North Fork River and backs of the bigger creeks. It still a little early but should not be long. See you out there soon.


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

(updated 2-22-2024) Steven “Scuba Steve” Street at Blackburn’s Resort and Boat Rental said the lake level was 553.81 feet msl and had dropped three-quarters of an inch in the last 24 hours with the one remaining operating generator running for about 8 hours. They are now regulating to the top of the power pool of 553.75 feet msl and the level has been very stable all winter with no big rain events. The White River at Newport was 9 feet at 7 p.m. when Scuba Steve went in to work from the lake; the surface water temperature was 49 degrees and he said he could see his lure down about 7 feet. The shallow creeks and the main lake are about the same temperature now, and as the weather warms, the creeks will warm faster and several fish will move back into them. It has not happened yet.
“Several fish of different species are on shad in open water but the temperate bass are biting the best now. Just find schools of shad and drag either live bait, umbrellas, or sit on top of them and drop a spoon. I am catching some crappie and bass ion main lake points in about 23 feet of water on brush just at and after sunset until dark. 

“The lake overall is in excellent condition and at a good level, but fishing is fair at best. You have to work for them but some nice ones are being caught every day, mostly by guides.”

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

(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 2-1-2024) John Berry, angler and retired operator of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169), said 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). 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. The cold wet weather of late January 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. Be sure and carry a large net, as most fish are lost at the net.


Buffalo National River/Crooked Creek
(updated 2-1-2024) 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.