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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.
TOP: Taylor Goodman sent us this photo of his wife and the monster rainbow trout she caught on Saturday on the Norfork tailwater. The Goodmans didn’t have official scales on hand and the fish was ready to return to the water, so they got no weight. But the fish was 30-plus inches in length with a girth of about 20 inches, allowing them to estimate this fish at about 18 pounds.
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 4-13-2023) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said cool mornings and sunny days make for great trout fishing conditions – and we’ve got ’em. Bull Shoals Lake is sitting at 673.09 feet msl, still 14 feet above power pool, but dropping fairly quickly. Plan on continued heavy generation from the dam for a while. We’re currently seeing releases of 24,000+ cfs which is the equivalent of a full 7 units split between the power units and releases from the spillways. Big water … making big trout!
The brown trout bite has been reliable with shad doing best. Rainbows are snapping at sunrise and orange PowerBait; combined with shrimp or crawdad tails you’re almost sure to reel in some great-sized fish.
Casting toward the bank has been the best way to keep your bait into the mouths of trout and not being hung up with moss. Drift-fishing from a john boat takes the frustration out of high-water fishing; this is not the kind of water to for using an anchor.
“The redbuds are blooming, the dogwoods are gorgeous, decked out in white buds, and spring has sprung here in the beautiful Ozark Mountain region of Arkansas. We invite you to come join us.”
(updated 4-13-2023) Dave McCulley, owner of Jenkins Fishing Service in Calico Rock, said that as of Wednesday, Bull Shoals Dam had 17 spillway gates open plus for four generators and Norfork Dam had six spillway gates open and one generator. Water at Calico Rock has been between 11.5 feet and 12.5 feet with some dinginess and fast current. Fishing has been slow, but not impossible. Drift-fishing with silver-colored inline spinner, yellow Power Eggs and shrimp was the most effective. Adding extra weight helps get the bait to the bottom.
Although fishing has been slow this week, we have seen several rainbow trout over 2 pounds and brown trout over 18 inches. The faster water is stirring up more food and it seems like the bigger fish are taking advantage. One 2½-pound rainbow had five sculpin and at least four crawdads in its stomach.
This week we received two trout stockings, 1,200 trout were stocked at the Calico Rock boat ramp and early this week the AGFC used its pontoon raft to stock trout between Calico Rock and Sylamore Creek.
(updated 4-13-2023) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service at Cotter said that during the past week they had no rain, warmer temperatures and moderate winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals fell 2.1 feet to rest at 14.2 feet above power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 21.8 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock Lake rose 1.8 feet to rest at 0.4 foot below power pool and 15.6 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake remained steady at 9 feet above power pool or 0.6 foot below the top of flood pool. The White has had no wadable water and extremely heavy flows augmented by substantial spillway releases. Norfork Lake fell 2.2 feet to rest at 9.2 feet above power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 16.8 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork tailwater had no wadable water. “Here again we have had spillway releases to augment generation. All of the lakes in the White River system are now above power pool. We can expect higher flows on the White and Norfork for some time to come.”
John also said, “The caddis hatch is ongoing. This is our best hatch of the year. We have seen some small hatches in late afternoon. Before the hatch, fish a caddis pupa like the Sunday Special in size 16. When you see takes on the top but see no insects, switch to a caddis emerger like my Green Butt in size 15. When you observe trout taking insects from the top of the water, switch to elk hair caddis size 16. It will be difficult to fish this hatch with the high water levels we now have.
“On the White, the hot spot has been Wildcat Shoals. 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. Use long leaders and plenty of additional weight.
“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 also said, “Last winter I had gotten accustomed to fishing low water. I must say that I enjoyed it. Every time that my wife, Lori, and I caught a warm day with little wind we went fishing. It was glorious.
“This spring has been a bit different. It seems like we have a major storm every week. I am writing this in the middle of what The Weather Channel describes as a severe thunderstorm. I will take their word for it. Last week during the previous severe thunderstorm we had here, a tornado touched down a couple of blocks from my friend Randy’s home in Little Rock. The same storm knocked out my sister Ernestine’s power in Memphis for three days.
“The lakes are rising as I write. Bull Shoals Dam is 16 feet above power pool and Norfork Lake is 12 feet above power pool. This means high water for months to come.
“It was less than two weeks ago when I took two clients out the day after the Sowbug Roundup ended to fish the White River. They were avid fly-fishers and serious fly-tyers who had both tied at Sowbug and were hoping to catch the caddis hatch.
“The Army Corps of Engineers was running around 6,000 cfs, which is about two full generators. This is a near-perfect level of generation for fishing from a boat. There is enough water to be above the rocks and go wherever you like with a propeller-driven motor like I have. At the same time, the fish are not scattered and are easy to reach. The casting was easy, the drifts were long and the trout were cooperating. We ended the day with 60-plus trout, which included several big fish.
“A couple of days ago I went back to the same place with different conditions. This time the Corps was running double the amount of water of the previous day. I had a repeat client that was a solid angler with lots of experience. Early on we caught a few trout. As the day went on, the water came up. I was surprised because the prediction was for constant flows. The rise turned the trout off and fishing was tough for the remainder of the day.
“When I went online to study the rise, I noted that the Corps had instituted spillway releases (through the flood gates) of almost 5,000 cfs, or more than one and a half full generators of additional water.
“What surprised me most is that they had increased the flow by opening the floodgates instead of running the water through the generators. I thought they would want to generate electricity to power electric vehicles or charge your iPhone. I looked further and noted that they had spillway releases on all of the dams in the White River system. I heard that they are having some generator problems at Beaver Dam and were using the spillway releases to get the lake level down.
“I know the lake levels are high and we are going to deal with that for a while. They are currently running 26,000 cfs on the White and 7,500 on the Norfork.”
Bull Shoals Lake
As of Thursday, the Army Corps of Engineers reported the lake’s elevation at 672.33 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl; top flood elevation is 695.00 feet msl). By midday Thursday the flow was 27,817 cfs and has ranged about that same level for several days; tailwater elevation was 461.02 feet. The reported lake elevation at Table Rock Lake was 915.17 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 915.00 feet msl; top flood elevation is 931.0 feet msl).
(updated 4-13-2023) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said lake level is 673 feet msl, or 14 foot above normal pool level. Water temperature is ranging 56 degrees to 60-degrees-plus. The lake is coming down a little with floodgates open. There is definitely limited accessibility to ramps, and parking can be an issue so call ahead. The black bass are grouped up and they are prespawn feeding. You can find them on spread-out flats and in the bushes now. Del says he has seen Kentucky bass on beds, as well as crappie moving up. “I’m looking for pockets with wind and shad. Most fish still seem to be looking up. Most of the dirty water cleared out, but some of the bigger creeks or up the lake have stain, while there is 18 feet visibility around the dam area. Fish it like two separate lakes.
He says that with dirty creeks, cloudy day, warm rainwater you need to be power fishing with crankbaits, Chatterbaits or square bill. Try on the last couple of swing banks or in or around the pockets. Cover water. Fish warm runoff if available.
For sunny days with flat water and strained conditions, try slow-dragging a Jewel half-ounce Special Ops football jig in green pumpkin. On sunny days with clear water, look at the old shoreline points, keep boat in 25-30 feet, and try a green pumpkin three-sixteenth-ounce shaky head or Ned, fished slow then go a little slower. Try the ol’ wobble head with a Menace slow-banging on the rocks, ledges and points early in 5-15 feet, then 15-20 feet midday. Check out points outside spawning areas.
It’s getting to where you can beat the bank and run into a few target staging early in prespawn areas The shad are moving up again, and video gamers are everywhere from the main lake to backs of the creeks. Look for bigger spreads shallower than 30 feet, and be sure to check the flats. Graph time pays off. Throw around the ol’ McMinnow 2.8 swimbait in white or shad colors, and also a fluke and Lucky Craft Gunfish topwater – “this pattern has been the deal for me.”
The bass are definitely grouping up. Whites are munching in the very backs of the big creeks. The walleyes caught bass fishing have looked spawned out. Fish early or late in the day unless it’s a cloudy, windy day. 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 562.51 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 9,591 cfs, with constant generation in that range for several days.
(updated 4-13-2023) Steven “Scuba Steve” Street at Blackburn’s Resort said the lake level is 562.94 feet msl and has dropped 5 inches in the last 24 hours with one generator running continuously and spillway gates open to an additional over two more generators. “This drop is about as fast as I have seen it drop in my 28 years of living here,” Steven said. “The White River at Newport is 23.83 feet and has been the same for three days. The surface water temperature was 68 degrees when I came in at 7 p.m. Wednesday evening. It was a beautiful day. The water is still tea-colored in the Blackburn’s Creek area and you can see your lure down a couple of feet but you can find about any water color that you want. Color is not an issue. There is no muddy water or debris. Darker water warms more quickly.
“The topwater bite for black bass and white bass has begun in the morning at sunrise, and the crappie have moved to their spawning banks. Flathead catfish have started biting on live shiners both on rod-and-reel and on short throw lines partway back in creeks. Things are getting better quickly.”
Visit blackburnsresort.com and click on Scuba Steve’s blog for a daily report.
(updated 4-13-2023) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake fell 2.2 feet to rest at 9.2 feet above power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 16.8 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork tailwater had no wadable water. “Here again we have had spillway releases to augment generation. All of the lakes in the White River system are now above power pool. We can expect higher flows on the White and Norfork for some time to come.”
There has been no 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-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 worms and an orange egg. The fishing is 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 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.
Buffalo National River/Crooked Creek
(updated 4-13-2023) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Crooked Creek and the Buffalo River are fishing better. With warmer temperatures, the smallmouths should be active soon. 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.