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Reports are updated weekly, although some reports may be published for two weeks if updates are not received promptly or if reporters say conditions haven’t changed. Contact the reporter for current news for the lake or stream you plan to fish.
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(updated 2-16-2023) Dave McCulley, owner of Jenkins Fishing Service in Calico Rock, said the storms last week dumped a lot of rain into the Buffalo River Valley and Bull Shoals and Norfork lakes. As a result, by lats Thursday the river reached 17 feet and was very muddy. During the muddy conditions the trout moved into the creeks where they could find cleaner water and feed on the worms, etc., being washed down. By Sunday the water cleared up enough for the fish to move out of the creeks. The river has remained over 8 feet since the rain (this report arrived before this Thursday’s latest rain).
Fishing has been difficult this week as the river and fish stabilize, but silver-colored inline spinners with bright-colored Power Eggs with shrimp worked best. Because of the higher water depths, there was minimal success using lures.
(updated 2-16-2023) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said White River anglers in Cotter have had a myriad of water conditions this week; they’ve been treated to a little bit of high water and some low water; they’ve fished on very cold, sunny days and caught trout on wet, rainy days; they’ve had an opportunity to lay their line in dingy water or the more usual crystal clear White River water. Conditions change, but what never changes is the thrill of trout catching here in The Natural State Ozark territory.
The lake level on Bull Shoals Lake has been rising with the recent rains and we are now just a little above power pool. Average generation this week was around two units (6,000 cfs) but with the high lake level the Army Corps of Engineers and Southwestern Power Administration will be releasing more water – Wednesday we were seeing seeing about three units (9,000 cfs). The lake level was 661.09 msl, 2 feet over seasonal power pool.
Catching trout is always a good experience given most any circumstance, and the anglers succeeded in all conditions. Some days required more patience, more trial-and-error experiments with baits; some days were easier with the usual shrimp and scented egg or dough bait combinations. Streamers caused the most sensation for fly-fishers, white and/or ginger-colored with weighted line. Minnows worked best for the brown trout catch with sculpins a close second. Higher water levels call for large jerkbaits such as black back/white bellied Smithwicks played near the bank.
This time of year, white or translucent lures should be part of your armory. “The changing water and weather offer fun challenges. You won’t get bored fishing the Cotter waters of the White. Join us.”
(updated 2-16-2023) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service said that during the past week, and before Thursday’s heavy rains, they had a significant rain event (3 inches in Cotter), warmer temperatures and moderate winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals rose 3.7 feet to rest at 1.9 feet above power pool of 659 feet msl, 34.1 four feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock Lake rose 1.4 feet to rest at 0.9 foot below power pool and 15.1 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake rose 2.4 feet to rest at 1 foot above power pool or 8.6 feet below the top of flood pool. The White has had no wadable water and moderate flows. Norfork Lake rose 3.1 feet to rest at 2.6 feet above power pool of 553.75 feet msl, 23.6 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork tailwater has had less wadable water.
John said, “Streamer season is upon us. The brown trout that have been spawning for the last three months are now working their way back downstream. Anglers are now targeting them by banging the bank with big streamers on sink tip lines.
“On the White, the hot spot has been the state park below Bull Shoals Dam. 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 cerise San Juan worm with an orange egg dropper.
John also said, “The weather for the past couple of weeks has been quite challenging for me, my fellow guides and anglers in general. Two weeks ago we had 9 inches of snow. It was a heavy, wet snow that resulted in a lot of downed tree limbs and power outages in the area. That is a lot for a lifelong Southerner. I know those folks in Minneapolis think this is just a light dusting, but this is a lot to me. I had no clients that were interested in fishing here through it, nor was I. So I hunkered down and read a good book.
“It took several days for the roads to clear. About the time it was drivable, my wife, Lori, and I drove to Purina Farms in gray Summit, Missouri, for a dog show. My big Labrador, Ghillie, had a good show and brought home a nice ribbon. About the time we got unpacked we had another winter storm.
“This time it was sleet that turned into a sheet of ice. Once again nothing was moving on my street. What bothered me the most was that the catch-and-release section below Bull Shoals Dam opened that Wednesday after being closed for three months to accommodate the brown trout spawn. I wanted to fish there but was not interested in towing my boat during icy conditions. I hunkered down again to wait out the ice.
“I was seeking better conditions. I am not just a fair-weather fisherman. If I have a client that is not bothered by adverse weather conditions, I am quite willing to guide them in snow, sleet, rain or oppressive cold or heat. I have the best fishing gear available and regularly push the envelope. However, when Lori and I go fishing, we prefer nice weather.
“Our opportunity came last Sunday. The weather forecast was for a high temperature of 62 degrees, sunny skies and no precipitation of any kind. The winds were to be 2-7 mph and the water was low and clear.
“As usual, I hooked the boat to my Suburban and drove to Rim Shoals while Lori walked the dogs. I put two rods in the boat that were still rigged from my last fishing trip. This is my usual procedure. If those flies worked last time, surely they would work again. I launched the boat and was climbing in as Lori drove up. As soon as she was aboard, we cast off.
“We motored upstream and began fishing. The drift was easy. There was enough current to keep us moving and little wind to interfere with the fishing. The bite was slow but we didn’t care. It was nice to be there. The sun warmed us and we shucked a layer. I enjoyed watching Lori cast. We ended the day with few fish and no big ones. It was the best day I have had in a long time.
“This is the advantage to living here. We occasionally get those sunny 60-degree days with little or no wind and perfect water in the middle of winter. When we get one, Lori and I jump at the chance to fish it. Life is good!”
Bull Shoals Lake
As of Thursday, the Army Corps of Engineers reported the lake’s elevation at 661.14 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl; top flood elevation is 695.00 feet msl). By midday Thursday the flow was 10,879 cfs and has ranged 8,068 to 12,071 over the past 24 hours, while tailwater elevation was 455.57 feet. The reported lake elevation at Table Rock Lake was 916.13 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 915.00 feet msl; top flood elevation is 931.0 feet msl).
(updated 2-16-2023) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said Bull Shoals Lake level is 661 feet and rising, while the water temperature is about 46 degrees. Fishing has been up and down just like the weather. “The warm rain helped and the cold rain didn’t,” he said. “February typically has some fish moving, spreading out. Some will move shallower under the right conditions and hold on swings points and ledges. Temperature and conditions over the next month will dictate your game plan and success. The shad are spread out; some are holding in the mouths of creeks and the main lake or over 120-150 feet and have been suspended 90-100 feet down. “While some warmer creeks will hold them shallow, I feel most of the bass have pulled off the deeper shad are holding in the 30-50 feet range on ledges, treetops, bluff ends or points nearby. We’re capitalizing on the shad if they come up to feed early or in the evening, or if the stripers or white bass push them up in the column.
“The shad bite video gaming isn’t over yet. When they push back in, try a Rapala Jigging Rap or Tater Shad on a Moon Eye. Most the bass are only 25-55 foot over the shad.
“Some fish are already staging early prespawn areas in the creeks. The crankbait bite is fair as temps rise. This should improve; warm days, dirty water, wind and clouds will help. Parallel steeper ledge banks and steeper transition banks, and cover water. A jerkbait on breezy day on bluff ends over steeper swings and points will fool a few. The smallmouths are definitely grouping up if you can find them; they are in roaming mode. Been getting bit on a jig or shaky head on the points. Flat, clear and sunny the drop-shot is a player at 30-45 feet You’ll have keep moving to find them, but when you do there’s usually a few. Each day is different so Fish the Conditions.”
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.
As of midday Thursday, the Army Corps of Engineers reported the lake’s elevation at 556.22 feet msl (normal conservation pool: Sept.-April, 553.75 feet msl; April-Sept. 556.25 feet msl; top flood elevation 580.0 feet msl). Flow below the dam Thursday midday was 3,041 cfs.
(updated 2-16-2023) Steven “Scuba Steve” Street at Blackburn’s Resort said the lake level was 556.34 feet msl on Wednesday and had dropped 1½ inches in the last 24 hours with both generators running continuously. The White River at Newport is 24.19 feet and they are doing what they can to drop the lake level. It is up about 3½ feet since the 3-inches-plus rain on Feb 7. There is some debris in the water from Cranfield to the bridges but not bad. The water is clear south of there. The surface water temperature is 49 degrees and has come up a little.
Bass fishing has improved both in the backs of the creeks on crankbaits and on the main lake on grubs on a jighead on steep banks near deep water. Crappie fishing is slow, but a few nice ones are being caught. Trollers are catching a few temperate bass trolling umbrellas through shad but are working hard for them. White bass and walleye are up the river spawning. Overall the fishing is just fair and the lake is clearing.
For a daily fishing report and lake condition go to www.blackburnsresort.com and click on Scuba Steve’s Blog.
(updated 2-9-2023) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said t he bite has been pretty good for striped bass as of late. Lots of jigging soft plastics and lead spoons. He said, “I had a much better day of catching fish (Monday). The fish were being a little more aggressive. I didn’t get to head out on the lake until 10 a.m., but as luck would have it, the bite was on as soon as I got to the area that I wanted to check out. I could see the birds feeding from a distance, which made me smile really big. I knew what was going on. I stopped the boat and looked at my graph and there were fish all over the place.
“I was in roughly 80 feet of water just outside of a channel swing with fish suspended 20-70 feet down. I started to target the 30-feet-deep fish and found that they wanted to chase my bait today. I dropped my bait down to 50 feet, and when a small school of fish came under me, I would reel up as fast as I could through the middle of the school. I saw a couple fish turn and follow my bait. At about 15 feet down they would attack and then dive! These fish were hybrids, stripers and white bass. I did catch a few fish on a dead stick, meaning no motion at all except for what the boat was doing.
“All species were out there feeding. I got to land a couple of nice largemouth bass, a big 15-inch crappie, a handful of white bass and 4 hybrid stripers. I landed fish on a Bayou Magic Tater Shad with a half-ounce white big eye jighead, as well as a three-quarter-ounce Binks Many Shad white spoon. The fish I was marking at 60 feet or deeper did not want to bite. If you are out looking for striped bass, they will be in an area from East Pigeon to the 101 bridge and/or from the Highway 62 bridge back to the 101 Boat Docks. Find the bait, then make sure you mark a few fish before you start fishing. It does take some looking, but once you find them it is a blast.
“With the rising water level, the largemouth bass bite will become really good. Look for water flowing back in creeks and coves and start casting a Wiggle Wart or a Rock Crawler crankbait into shallow water.”
Water temp was 44-46 degrees. The lake is rising with the current rains and sits at 553.5 feet msl. The lake is slightly stained in most areas, but will become more stained in the next day or so. Enjoy Norfork Lake!
Lou posts almost daily on his Facebook page with photos and where the fish are biting and what’s biting. Check it out.
(updated 2-16-2023) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake rose 3.1 feet to rest at 2.6 feet above power pool of 553.75 feet msl, 23.6 feet below the top of flood pool. There has been less wadable water on the Norfork. 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-headed 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 size 14 pheasant tail nymph and a size 18 ruby midge. The fishing is much better in the morning and late afternoon and tapers off midday.
Dry Run Creek has fished a bit better. Weekends can get a quite 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 2-16-2023) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Crooked Creek and the Buffalo River are fishing poorly. With colder temperatures, the smallmouths 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.