Share This Article
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.
TOP: An angler from Bentonville named Dylan (no last name provided) hit the Beaver Lake tailwater recently with guide Austin Kennedy and landed this nice walleye. Photo provided by Austin Kennedy.
Quick links to regions:
Arkansas River and White River levels are available at: http://water.weather.gov/ahps2/index.php?wfo=lzk
For real-time information on stream flow in Arkansas from the U.S. Geological Survey, visit: http://waterdata.usgs.gov/ar/nwis/rt
For water-quality statistics (including temperature) in many Arkansas streams and lakes, visit: http://waterdata.usgs.gov/ar/nwis/current/?type=quality
Download the Fish Brain app and follow AGFC at: https://join.fishbrain.com/agfc-page
(updated 3-9-2023) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said March brings spring break across the country – perfect for family time enjoying the great outdoors in The Natural State. That might include some time trout fishing, and catching, on the White River in the Arkansas Ozarks. Anglers were rewarded with some beauties this past week with river, especially if they had a handful of shad or a couple of Rapala Countdowns.
Water levels have ranged from about three units (3,300 cfs) to upward of 15,000 cfs as short spurts of heavy releases are experienced usually in mid-afternoon. We expect that to continue with the late winter rains we are encountering. Bull Shoals Lake rose about 5 feet over the last week and is now at 664.70 feet msl; the Army Corps of Engineers will work to lower that number to seasonal power pool of 659 feet over the coming days.
There is plenty of opportunity to fish “the rise” with red wigglers or plumped-up nightcrawlers drifted mid-depth. The early morning water level is often perfect for some jigging. White jigs have been attracting larger rainbows, they report, and you’ll see some pretty good action with a black feathered jig, too. If you start early while the water level remains low, you can begin your catching day with a quarter-ounce silver and blue hammered spoon, and finish up with a Rapala Gold and Black CD5. The shrimp/PowerBait combo works well for the times in between.
“Make health and safety as your No. 1 priority right now and keep angling for trophy trout on the river! Don’t forget: The month of March is time for wearin’ o’ the green.”
(updated 3-9-2023) Dave McCulley, owner of Jenkins Fishing Service in Calico Rock, said the rains late last week caused the river to rise to over 16 feet and the water to become very muddy. Luckily by Tuesday the water still had some dinginess to it but it was fishable. With the dingy water bright colors and anything that causes a flash works best. If drift-fishing try using a silver inline spinner with bright-colored Power Eggs to get the trout’s attention and shrimp to further entice the trout to bite and hold on to the bait while you can set the hook. The brown trout will lie in wait for something to come by and then ambush what they see. Try using size 7 Rapala Countdowns in silver or gold.
Happily, the weatherman’s early prediction of 3 to 4 inches between Wednesday and Thursday doesn’t look like it will happen. The half-inch on Wednesday and the expected half-inch on Thursday should have little effect on the river levels and water conditions.
(updated 3-9-2023) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service at Cotter said that during the past week they had a little over 2.5 inches of rainfall, warmer temperatures and heavy winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals rose 5.1 feet to rest at 5.5 feet above power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 30.5 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock Lake rose 2.6 feet to rest at 3.3 feet below power pool and 12.7 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake rose 3.4 feet to rest at 3.3 feet above power pool or 5.8 feet below the top of flood pool. The White has had no wadable water and moderate flows. Norfork Lake rose 4.8 feet to rest at 4.7 feet above power pool of 553.75 feet and 21.5 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork tailwater has had some wadable water.
Streamer season is upon us. The browns trout that have were spawning from November to late January are now working their way back downstream. Anglers are targeting them by banging the bank with big streamers on sink tip lines.
He said, “On the White, the hot spot has been the Narrows. We have had higher flows that have fished well one day and poorly the next. 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.”
Remember that the White and North Fork rivers and Dry Run Creek are infected with didymo, an invasive alga. Thoroughly clean and dry your waders (especially the felt soles on wading boots) before using them in any other water. Many manufacturers are now making rubber soled wading boots that are easier to clean and are not as likely to harbor didymo.
John has been prepping for the Sowbug Roundup in his area and says, “The Sowbug Roundup is coming to town. This is the biggest fly-tying show in the area. Over the years this show has gained international respect and is a national treasure. This event has been created and produced by the North Arkansas Fly Fishers for several decades. It started as a little fly-tying show in my home town of Cotter and has grown exponentially over the years.
“This year’s show will be held at the Baxter County Fairgrounds in Mountain Home on March 23-25. It begins at 9 a.m. and ends each day at 4 p.m. Admission is $10 for all three days. Adults accompanied with children under 12 years old are admitted free. The first $10,000 goes toward scholarships for students majoring in conservation or fisheries. Other funds are earmarked for conservation and education projects.|
“How has a small local fly-fishing club been able to put on a show of this caliber? The secret is hard work. The committee meets monthly throughout the year. The club members have been doing this for years and know their jobs intimately. All are eager volunteers.
“This show is all about the fly-tyers. We have approximately 150 tyers from all 50 states and several foreign countries. They come here at their expense to be a part of this show. On each day of the show, many of them are tying at tables for the public to watch them tie, interact with them and learn many of their advanced techniques.
“There are also seminars, free fly-casting lessons and fly-tying classes. There are over 20 vendors, including all of our local fly shops.
“I have been personally involved with the Sowbug Roundup ever since I moved to Cotter 23 years ago. I have been a tyer, a seminar presenter, a vendor, a casting instructor, a committee member and chairman of the fly-tying contest.
“After all of these years, my favorite job is still fly-tyer. I have a vendor booth for my guide service, Berry Brothers Guide Service, and I am there tying my signature fly, the Green Butt, except when I am presenting a seminar. My sister, Ernestine, travels from Memphis every year to help in my booth. My wife, Lori, will be teaching fly-casting as usual. I am scheduled to present a seminar on how to fish local waters and another on fishing Tennessee (my birth place).
“There is also a plethora of raffles, silent auctions and live auctions. This is a great opportunity to pick up a host of fly-fishing equipment and collectables. I will be there all three days. Stop by my booth and I will tie you a fly.”
Bull Shoals Lake
As of Thursday, the Army Corps of Engineers reported the lake’s elevation at 665.44 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl; top flood elevation is 695.00 feet msl). By midday Thursday the flow was 13,066 cfs and has ranged from 6,300 late Wednesday to almost 15,000 over the past two days; tailwater elevation was 456.29 feet. The reported lake elevation at Table Rock Lake was 918.05 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 915.00 feet msl; top flood elevation is 931.0 feet msl).
(updated 3-9-2023) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said the lake level has risen 5 feet rise since last report, to 664 feet. Water temperature is 49 degrees, give or take. We have had dirty water and temps in the upper 50s. The warm rain and wind helped. Temperature and conditions over the next month will dictate your game plan and success. Fish the conditions. The shad are spread out everywhere from the main lake to backs of the creeks. Look for bigger spreads shallower than 60 feet. Gulls and loons can help you find them. If you can find a wad, then that’s where the big girls have been hanging, usually above the shad from 10-30 feet. Tater Shad, swimbait, Jerky Jerk are good for these conditions, and if there is not a lot of action, try dead stick on the bait.
While some warmer creeks have a wave of fish up, they are mostly bucks with an occasional big. Windy, dirty, cloudy, warm water calls for a crankbait, square bill, Rock Crawler or Wiggle Wart. Fish on the swing banks. If it’s sunny with flat water, try slow-dragging a Jewel Jig or green pumpkin shaky head slow-banging on the rocks ledges in 5-15 feet.
The fish are in transition. The shad bite video gaming isn’t over but it’s been nice to hit the bank and catch them somewhat regularly. Fish are already staging early prespawn areas in the creeks, swings and points. The crankbait bite is hit or miss this should improve with warm days and dirty water – wind, wind and wind and clouds will help. Parallel steeper ledges, 45-degree banks and transition banks, and cover water.
Rock Crawler has worked better. Try the reds on the steeper, clearer water. A Wiggle Wart will work on mid-water; and try a Chick Magnet flat side in the stain. A jerkbait on breezy day bluff ends over steeper swings and points with shad nearby will fool a few. “I’m not a rig guy, but they are setting up for that. The smallmouth are definitely grouping up if you can find them; they are in roaming mode. A 2.8 McMinnow is on deck. Checker steeper side ledges. You’ll have keep moving to find them, but when you do there’s usually a few. Each day is different. White bass and stripers have started popping up and walleyes are moving up to spawn. Get up early, or stay out late if it’s sunny.
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 558.99 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 3,000 cfs, with on-and-off generation.
(updated 3-9-2023) Steven “Scuba Steve” Street at Blackburn’s Resort said, “The lake level was 558.71 feet msl and still rising slowly with a surface water temperature of 53 degrees when I came in at 5:30 PM on Wednesday. The White River at Newport was 24.41 feet and dropping but a lot of water is flowing into the river other than from the lakes. They are letting out about as much as they can and not flood things out downstream. The water clarity varies with the amount of generation but has cleared a lot in the main lake since the big rain last week. The muddy and brown water is all gone.
“Crappie fishing picked up and then has slowed again and bass fishing is pretty good. Some are back in the creeks and some are on brush near the bank on windblown banks and more are in open water on shad. White bass are spawning in the backs of the major creeks and up river and the walleye have finished. Stripers are simulating a spawn in their normal places and move to their spawning banks at dark.
“Overall, fishing just gets good and then another cold front comes through. Trollers are catching a variety of fish dragging umbrellas through shad; brush fishing is fair for Kentucky bass and crappie, people beating the bank back in the creeks, and others casting jigs and small grubs over brush and letting them sink into it are all catching fish. Overall, fishing is just fair but some nice ones are being caught every day.”
For a daily fishing report and lake condition go to www.blackburnsresort.com and click on Scuba Steve’s Blog.
(updated 3-9-2023) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort had no new reports. However, Lou posts almost daily on his Facebook page with photos and where the fish are biting and what’s biting. Check it out.
(updated 3-9-2023) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake rose 4.8 feet to rest at 4.7 feet above power pool of 553.75 feet and 21.5 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork tailwater has had some wadable water. 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’s 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.
Remember, the White and North Fork rivers and Dry Run Creek are infected with didymo, an invasive alga. Thoroughly clean and dry your waders (especially the felt soles on wading boots) before using them in any other water. Many manufacturers are now making rubber soled wading boots that are easier to clean and are not as likely to harbor didymo.
Buffalo National River/Crooked Creek
(updated 3-9-2023) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Crooked Creek and the Buffalo River are fishing poorly. With warmer temperatures, the smallmouths should be soon 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.