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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: Agustin Icka from Chile was visiting his godparents in Arkansas for the first time and had never caught trout, at least until this trip. Fishing out of Gaston’s Resort on the White RIver with guide Paul Jones and Graeme Shaw, Icka’s godfather from Marmaduke, Icka and the others had a most-memorable trip catching many trout, including this gorgeous brown. Photo provided by Graeme Shaw.
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 10-5-2023) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said, “Trout fishing continues to be the primary draw to the White River in the Arkansas Ozarks, though hunting season has lots of our folks (including guides) in the woods instead of on the river. Leaves more for those of us catching trout — and catching is the name of the game this week. The Bull Shoals Lake tailwater continues to offer all-day action for anglers and satisfies the most zealous of fishers.
“The lake is now 3 feet below the new seasonal power pool target of 659 and keeps dropping. Power generation from the dam remains at minimum flows in the morning followed by much higher releases averaging 4-5 units (12-15,000 cfs) in the afternoon. Waders, beware. Always be alert to water level changes; sometimes the water sneaks up on you, sometimes it rises fast.
“Low water means we all share a sometimes narrow main channel — boat traffic and waders alike — so please watch out for, and be courteous to, fellow anglers, be they in a boat, on the shore or wading nearer the action in the river.
“The rainbow catch was abundant this past week. The water is perfect for some jig fishing. D2 Trout Magnet or Whiter River Zig Jigs are fun to play. Look for olive, olive/orange, white or brown/orange. Nightcrawlers and red wigglers bested the bubblegum pink-scented worm; however, the XFactor shrimp pink worm played a role in a good share of landed trout, too. We found less success with the shrimp/PowerBait combo than usual, but alternating shrimp and worms over the course of the day proved successful.
“Start thinking about spawn season. Change your egg patterns or PowerBait choices to orange, white and/or sunrise colors.
“You’ll enjoy your fishing adventures much more if you come prepared for Arkansas weather extremes. This week we will begin to see fall temperatures as the lows creep down toward the 40s and the highs drop to around 70 degrees. Whatever the weather, we know we’re blessed to be here in The Natural State and always look forward to meeting fellow trout lovers. Stop in and say ‘Hi.’”
(updated 10-5-2023) Dave McCulley, owner of Jenkins Fishing Service in Calico Rock, said they continue to see water depths under 3 feet in the morning and rising to about 6 feet (a little plus or minus) by late morning. The water has had some dinginess in the morning and clearing later in the day as the water levels drop. It hasn’t been uncommon for boats to leave Calico Rock and run upriver a few miles to Red’s Landing to find cleaner water and fish back to and through Calico Rock following the dropping water. In the mornings drift-fishing with a silver inline spinner with Uncommon Bait Bright Orange UV glow eggs and shrimp has worked well. Additionally, fishing the deeper holes with deeper-diving ShadRap size 5 lures in shad or orange crawdad colors worked. As the water drops in the afternoon using quarter-ounce Colorado Spoons with nickel/gold or copper/gold or Buoyant Rainbow Trout or Brown Trout-colored spoons work well while fishing the gravel bars. Additionally, Rapala CD7 Countdowns in either silver or rainbow trout color have resulted in some nice trout. The rain Wednesday and Thursday may muddy the water temporarily, but it shouldn’t last very long. This week we had one stocking of 550 rainbow trout with additional stockings upriver at Chessmond Ferry and Red’s Landing.
(updated 10-5-2023) John Berry, angler and retired guide/owner Berry Brothers Guide Service at Cotter, said that during the past week they had no rain (it is just beginning to rain as I write this), cooler temperatures and moderate winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals fell 0.6 foot to rest at 2.9 feet below power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 38.9 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock Lake remained steady at 3.4 feet below power pool and 17.4 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell at 0.5 foot to rest at 5.1 feet below power pool and 14.8 feet below the top of flood pool. The White has had had wadable water every morning with heavy flows in the afternoon during peak power demand. Norfork Lake rose 0.1 foot to rest at at 0.4 foot below power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 26.6 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork Tailwater has had wadable water. All of the lakes are below the top of power pool. Expect wadable water in the coming days with heavy flows in the afternoon during peak power demand. All turbines on the Norfork Dam 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 Bull Shoals State Park. 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 Eorms, 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, “Last Thursday my wife, Lori, and I took our weekly fishing trip this time to Rim Shoals. It was a gorgeous day. Even early on it was bright and clear without the usual heavy fog. The temperature was scheduled to hit the mid-80s by mid-afternoon. We planned to be long gone by then. It was a cool start but I peeled my light wind shirt off in just a few minutes after we started. The going was slow for me, but Lori was catching several trout. After a few hours the bite really slowed. We decided to head in.
“I started the motor and headed toward the ramp. I noticed a truck with a utility trailer than contained a big white tank on it out on the ramp at the water line. There was a White River john boat pulled up next to it. I had noticed it earlier in the day and wondered just what it was doing. I assumed that someone was having a motor problem.
“When we got to the bank, I recognized the guy in the trailer, T.L. Lauerman, conservation chair for our local White River Chapter of Trout Unlimited. I recognized one of the guys in the boat, Clay Henry, the retired sportswriter who still writes for Hawgs Illlustrated. T.L. and I quickly got into a conversation of what he was doing.
“They were stocking Bonneville cutthroat trout. This is the continuation of a stocking program that T.L. had started years ago to introduce a new species of wild trout to the White and North Fork rivers. The idea was to add a renewable resource.
“Originally Trout Unlimited brought in no less than Dave Whitlock to supervise the first stocking. They took Bonneville cutthroat trout eggs and put them into Whitlock Vibert boxes, which are designed to stock trout eggs into streams and offer them some protection from predators. They then buried them in gravel runs in catch-and-release waters to give them more protection. This was a demanding technique that required a large number of volunteers and perfect low-water conditions. TU did this for several years.
“When they began planning this year’s stocking, the Army Corps of Engineers could not guarantee the low flows required for this technique. T.L. was determined to not waste these valuable eggs and came up with another plan.
“They had the trout eggs hatched in the Norfork National Fish Hatchery and raised there until they were 2-3 inches long. They were then taken to the river in the large white tanks that I saw. The trout were netted up and transferred to the waiting john boat. They were then randomly released in the river. This would give them a better chance to survive than if they were hatched in the river. Lori and I watched them work. It was definitely easier than planting the Whitlock Vibert boxes.
“It sounds to me to be a rational response to the water conditions. I look forward to fishing for the Bonneville cutthroats at Rim Shoals.”
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 10-5-2023) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said Wednesday that the lake level 656 feet msl, or 3 feet below normal pool. The water temperature is about 77 degrees. “Looks like we are getting a Little rain and cooler weather. Bass fishing has been slow to fair. The early morning topwater has been off. A small walk-the-dog-style bait like a Zara Spook or Lucky Craft Gunfish will work. If they’re busting don’t put it away, though, as they can go into the middle of the day.
“Fall fishing equals junk fishing, covering water with a Whopper Plopper or buzzbait on days with wind and clouds. The shad have started their migration towards the creeks. A lot of shad are still way off the long points. But they are everywhere right now. Look for areas where they are bunched up. I have found groups from the surface down to 60 feet. Graphing can pay off, 28-34 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’re probably going to get bit. Hopefully the Corps will generate some water.”
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. Go with a square bill, Chatterbait, big worm and Beaver-style bait in the laydowns.
Overall, there’s a lot of roaming suspended schooling fish 20-35 feet over deep water still. These videogame fish can be tough to fool; try a Damiki or Hover Rig with a Tater Shad or drop-shot with a Robo. Fall fishing can be hit or miss as conditions change. Walleyes eating a drop-shot again. They started piling on the points and they seem to be following the shad again, and folks are still catching a few bottom bouncing at 28-34 feet. Crappie guys are hopping brush piles working for them; the crappie are starting to pile in. Every day is different; be sure to fish the conditions. “It isn’t easy fishing right now, you’re gonna have to work for them.”
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 10-5-2023) Steven “Scuba Steve” Street at Blackburn’s Resort said Wednesday night that the lake level was 553.49 feet msl and had risen 1.6 inches in the last 24 hours with no discharge from the dam for several days. The White River at Newport is 3.8 feet and still low. There has been 1.6 inches of rain so far on Wednesday as of 6:30 p.m. and it is still raining.
The fishing is getting better with the summer thermocline gone for about 10 days and the lake is clearing and is homogenous down to 40 feet, where the water gets cold and there is little oxygen, but has good visibility until you get down to dark water. Scuba diving conditions are good and fishing is getting better. Crappie have moved to the main lake on brush along with Kentucky bass and a few largemouths. Pea gravel banks are holding a lot of fish, especially on brush from 18-23 feet. A few keeper walleye are showing up partway back in Blackburns Creek. Stripers are moving upstream and back into deeper creeks and can be caught on spoons. Live minnows on slip floats for crappie, Kentucky bass and bluegill are the best, but creature baits on jigheads near the bank are working for bass. There is some topwater actionboth early and late partway back in the creeks but are mostly small bass. “I am finding some white bass on the main point outside of brush piles. The moon is waning and the lake is rising and catfishing is getting better. Use 3-inch live bait for the best results. Cut bait, hotdogs and other stuff are only catching small fish.”
Visit blackburnsresort.com and click on Scuba Steve’s blog for a daily report.
(updated 10-5-2023) John Berry, angler and retired operator of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169), said Norfork Lake rose 0.1 foot to rest at at 0.4 foot below power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 26.6 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork Tailwater has had wadable water. All of the lakes are below the top of power pool. Expect wadable water in the coming days with heavy flows in the afternoon during peak power demand. All turbines on the Norfork Dam 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 10-5-2023) 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.