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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: Russ Hannah caught this nice brown trout on a guppie pattern while fishing with Spring River guide Mark Crawford recently. The Spring River, though spring-fed, has been low like most of Arkansas’s lakes and streams lately, and while the drifting has been tough on the Spring, Mark reports that the fish are biting. “With the brown trout showing up better than ever on the Spring, we are expecting a great season,” Mark said.
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 9-14-2023) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said Bull Shoals Lake is 3.5 feet below power pool, so it’s not surprising that generation flows have been low and slow. Water level on the White River in the north-central Arkansas Ozarks have remained steady at minimum flow during the morning hours over the last seven days. Late afternoons we see upticks in generation, often nearly five generation units being discharged.
“Until Tuesday, we successfully dodged daytime rainfalls, but braved a wet day and sent our anglers home with a great catch of rainbows. Most everybody was glad to see the gentle rain because we’ve all been so dry for a month or more. Rain or shine, our rainbows are chasing shrimp, especially when paired with a small piece of PowerBait. Berkley Mice Tails (bubblegum pink body, white head) are turning into a favorite as they’ve been very successful over the summer even in the low water.
“As we move into autumn and near the brown trout spawning season, change your bait color to orange or pink to attract them to your bait and distract them from nature’s call. The brown bite has slowed some in this lower water, but a sculpin drifted near the bottom will still get a good bite or two. The Vibrax Blue Fox spinner, three-sixteenth-ounce gold, or the bright chartreuse with a partially silver blade, were providing a steady catch of 12- and 13-inch rainbows. As always, it’s hard to beat a good day of jig fishing; tie on an olive or an olive/black Marabou Jig (three-sixteenth-ounce works best in this water level) or the peach D2 jig and get ready to net some trout. Use those same colors for casting Woolly Buggers with your fly rods.
“Enjoy these cool mornings and sunny days on the river; stop by and share your latest fish story.
(updated 9-14-2023) Dave McCulley, owner of Jenkins Fishing Service in Calico Rock, said, “During some days we are seeing varying water depths of 3-7 feet and other days with depths of 2-3 feet. No matter the depths, drift-fishing with Uncommon Bait UV Orange and/or UV Firefly colored eggs with shrimp or red wiggler worms worked well.
“When the water was dingy, adding a silver in line spinner added the extra flash to get the attention of the trout. Size 7 Rapala Countdowns in gold or silver worked well. During lower water, throwing quarter-ounce spoons or baits similar to Rooster Tail worked exceptionally well. This cooler weather has been nice. Fall is not far away and many people are shifting their focus to hunting, but don’t forget about trout fishing. There are plenty of fish in the river.”
(updated 9-14-2023) John Berry, angler and retired guide/owner Berry Brothers Guide Service at Cotter, said that during the past week they about an inch or rain in Cotter, much cooler temperatures and moderate winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals fell 0.5 foot to rest at 3.5 feet below power pool of 661 feet msl. This is 37.5 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock Lake fell 0.3 foot to rest at 4 feet below power pool and 18 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell 0.3 foot to rest at 6 feet below power pool and 14.6 feet below the top of flood pool. On the White, we have had wadable water every day with heavy flows in the afternoon during peak power demand. Norfork Lake fell 0.4 foot to rest at 2.5 feet below power pool of 555.75 feet msl and 26.8 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork Tailwater has had wadable water. All of the lakes are well below the top of power pool. Expect wadable water in the coming days with heavy flows in the afternoon during peak power demand. 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 flood gates.
John said, “On the White, the hot spot has been The Narrows. We 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. My favorite has been a pheasant tail (size 14) with a ruby midge dropper (size 18).”
John also said, “It is almost fall. I am just about tired of hot weather. To me fall means cooler weather good fishing and the fly-fishing class that my wife, Lori, and I teach twice a year (spring and fall) at Arkansas State University-Mountain Home. We have been teaching it for almost a decade. We have been teaching together for 20 years and have previously taught at various universities and colleges in Tennessee and Arkansas. We have also taught for sporting goods stores, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Becoming an Outdoors-woman and other classes for the AGFC.
“We give a lot of private lessons. Since I retired from guiding last month, we have been concentrating on teaching. Lori has been giving a lot of private casting lessons. Our favorite place to teach is ASU-Mountain Home. It is a beautiful campus with plenty of parking, a convenient space for fly-casting and great classrooms. This fall’s class will be held on Oct. 5, 12, 19 and 26. The classes are 6-8 p.m. There is a modest fee. Go to the ASUMH’s Workforce and Community Education website to enroll for the class.
“The first half of every class is dedicated to learning to cast a fly rod. This instruction is held outside behind Dryer Hall. Lori leads this class and does a great job. She is the best fly-casting instructor in the area. She has been teaching fly-casting for over 20 years. She will teach the basic fly cast, the roll cast, and we have added the Belgian cast this year. This cast is useful for casting in the wind and for casting the heavy two fly rigs that are common here. I do assist in this instruction. You may use your own fly rod or use one of ours.
“I teach the next hour, which is in class room D106 in Dryer Hall. This covers a lot of subjects. First is equipment. We discuss all of the gear you need to fly-fish and discuss what you do not need. The next class is dedicated to learning to tie knots. We teach all of the knots you will need to fly-fish and how to avoid tying knots. The next class is devoted to rigging. We show you how to rig your fly rod four different ways, which cover 99 percent of our fishing conditions here in the Twin Lakes area.
“The last class covers a variety of subjects. We begin with water safety. We go on to discuss reading water, fly selection and stream entomology (the study of aquatic insects). Lori assists in the classroom sessions.
“This is all taught in an open format where questions are welcome. If this sounds like something that would benefit you, please join us. We will be looking for you.”
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 9-7-2023) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said Wednesday that lake level is at 658 feet msl, while the water temperature is about 85 degrees. Bass fishing has been fair. The early morning topwater has been hit or miss. A small walk-the-dog-style bait (Zara Spook, Lucky Craft Gunfish) will work. Typically September is junk fishing — covering water, Whopper Plopper or buzzbait time. Wind and clouds definitely help that bite. The shad have started their migration towards the creeks.
Graphing can pay off. The shad are getting balled up way off deep points, channel swing turns and creek intersections. It appears 32-40 feet seems to be a consistent depth for the drop-shot. On the points, brush piles, ledges, etc., a big worm, shaky head worm and Jewel Jig are working. If the shad are around you, you’re probably going to get bit. If you venture into the stained water in the backs most days you’re going to have to work for them. Target areas with shad. Square bill, Chatterbait and big worm in the laydowns.
Overall there’s a lot of roaming suspended fish over deep water, 60-feet-plus. These video game fish can be tough to fool; try a Damiki with a Tater Shad drop-shot with a Robo or bombing a spoon. Fall fishing can be hit or miss as conditions change. “Walleyes have been mixed in with the bass eating my drop-shot out on the long points in 32-40 feet. Crappie guys are hopping brush piles working for them but a lot of crappie are still out roaming.”
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.
For the Army Corps of Engineers’ real-time outflow report from Norfork Dam, visit the Corps’ Little Rock office website.
(updated 9-14-2023) Steven “Scuba Steve” Street at Blackburn’s Resort said the lake level was 553.21 feet msl, and was the same for several hours, beginning 7:30 Wednesday evening. The surface water temperature was 81 degrees and the water was not as clear as it was Tuesday. The thermocline is 31 feet but is not as pronounced as it was last week, and it seems to be mixing up. The weather has been almost perfect and the boat traffic is low. They closed the sluice gates early Wednesday and are letting out no water. The White River at Newport is at 3.08 feet and very low. The lake is at an excellent level and condition for boating, swimming, scuba diving and fishing but the fishing is not the best.
Bass are the best bite now and are both shallow and on the main lake on shad. Crappie have not moved to the main lake brush yet and most also are still on shad. Kentucky bass are on brush and some largemouth bass are with them both shallow on steep river channel banks and in cover at 25-32 feet. Some temperate bass are being caught trolling but are small. Spoons are the lure of choice, but also plastic worms are catching some bass.
Fishing overall is fair at best but some good ones are being caught every day.
Visit blackburnsresort.com and click on Scuba Steve’s blog for a daily report.
(updated 9-14-2023) John Berry, angler and retired operator of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169), said Norfork Lake fell 0.4 foot to rest at 2.5 feet below power pool of 555.75 feet msl and 26.8 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork Tailwater has had wadable water. All of the lakes are well below the top of power pool. Expect wadable water in the coming days with heavy flows in the afternoon during peak power demand. 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 flood gates.
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 eighteen inches below a brightly colored San Juan worm (hot fluorescent pink or cerise). My favorite rig has been a cerise San Juan worms 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 despite a lot of fishing pressure. School is back in session and weekdays are not as 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 9-14-2023) John Berry, angler and retired operator of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169), said Crooked Creek and the Buffalo River are fishing well but are quite low. With warmer temperatures, the smallmouths are more 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.