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Arkansas Wildlife Weekly Fishing Report

Courtesy of Jim Harris, Arkansas Wildlife Magazine

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.

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://fishbrain.com/pages/GbHVNDc5/arkansas-game-and-fish-commission


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White River
(updated 9-29-2022) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said Bull Shoals Lake was 2 feet below desired power pool level Wednesday. Two months ago, the lake was 27 feet over power pool – which causes some concern for all of us on the tailwater – so we appreciate the work of the Army Corps of Engineers! Generation continues at approximately 1,000-3,000 cfs round-the-clock, with much higher amounts coming in the late afternoon. Release amounts are lowered during the night and we see falling water in Cotter at dawn.
Looks like there has been a sizable autumn shad kill this year. Surprised us. We’re seeing shad at least 16 miles down from Bull Shoals Dam, near Cotter. The shad have been pushed through the dam during the nightly releases and stir a lot of excitement in the brown trout population. The spawn has started a little early this fall, too. The browns are responding best to sculpin and shad for now, but the spawn really kicks into high gear in the next month so keep your options open and carry an array of baits to pique their curiosity. Red/gold Thomas Buoyant spoons, the gold Cleo and one or two stick baits (Smithwicks with orange bellies are a tried-and-true favorite), are tackle box staples on the White.
Find an egg pattern or scented egg-like bait that matches the color of the trout roe, and you’ll have more trout chasing your line than you can manage. Best bets: X-Factor’s steelhead orange, followed by fluorescent orange or sunrise PowerBait. Red wiggler worms are always an option during high-water events, with worm imitators (red, natural or bubblegum pink) just as successful, if not more so. Cast toward the bank as you drift downstream and the rainbows and an occasional brown will snap them up. Good luck, enjoy the catch, and we’ll see you on the river!

(updated 9-29-2022) Dave McCulley, owner of Jenkins Fishing Service in Calico Rock, says the White River in Calico Rock continues to be low, dropping as low as 3 feet. The generation out of both Bull Shoals Dam and Norfork Dam has varied throughout the week. Some mornings we are seeing 6-plus feet of water and then dropping during the day. Fishing in the low water conditions has made fishing with copper or gold-colored spoons (either quarter-ounce or one-sixth-ounce) effective as the trout move up onto the gravel bars to feed. In the deeper holes, though, Rapala Countdowns in the rainbow trout pattern have worked well. Drift fishing using inline spinners with yellow, orange or sunrise-colored Power Eggs with a piece of shrimp or worm continues to be effective on both the gravel bars and deeper holes. Fishing with sculpins has been slow, but when the browns or rainbows bite, the trout have tended to be larger. With this low water, be careful when boating and stay to the gravel bar side of the river. There are many rocks and snags now exposed or just under the water surface that can damage a boat or motor.

(updated 9-29-2022) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service said that during the past week, they have had no rain, hot temperatures and moderate winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals fell 0.9 foot to rest at 3.1 feet below power pool of 661 feet msl. Upstream, Table Rock Lake fell 0.6 foot to rest at 6.6 feet below power pool and 20.6 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell 0.6 foot to rest 3 feet below power pool. The White has had some marginal wadable water. Norfork Lake fell 0.6 foot to rest 1.7 feet below power pool of 555.75 feet msl. The Norfork tailwater has had more wadable water. All of the lakes in the White River system are now below power pool. With the current lake levels, expect lower flows and more wadable water.
The hot spot on the White this week has been the catch-and-release section below Bull Shoals Dam. “We have had lower flows in the morning that have been fished very well. On the higher flows in the afternoon we have had shad coming through the generators (use big white flies). 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 nymph with a ruby midge dropper.”
He also said, “This past Monday I looked at the weather and the generation schedule for the day. It looked like prime fishing conditions. That is the advantage to living here. We wake up every morning and check the conditions. Then, when we find a stellar opportunity, we can go take advantage of it. I live for those opportunities.
“The first thing I did was to ask my wife, Lori, who is my absolute favorite fishing buddy, to join me. Unfortunately Monday is laundry day at our house. Sometimes I am able to get her to postpone it till the next day or begin a bit later. She would have none of it. She was committed to doing the laundry then. I asked her again on Tuesday but she had dog training. On Wednesday she was able to join me.
“On Monday, I decided to go alone. I hooked up my boat and headed out. The river was low and the weather was perfect. It was sunny and a little cool. I started with a rod I had rigged for a client a couple of days before. It had a pheasant tail nymph with a ruby midge dropper, a small split shot and a strike indicator.
“On my first drift, I saw the strike indicator go down and I quickly set the hook. It felt like I was hung up on a rock. I was about to start the motor on my boat so I could go upstream and back the hook out. About that time, the rock moved. It was a fish, and a big one. The trout fought valiantly but finally succumbed to the net. It was a really thick 22-inch female rainbow.
“We see several big browns but big rainbows are much rarer. Since there are no slot limits on rainbows, big ones are quickly removed by anglers. About the only place you see rainbows this big is the catch-and-release section below Bull Shoals Dam or Dry Run Creek.
“I wanted to take a photo before I released it. This is where the trouble began. How do you take a picture of a big fish when you are in a boat alone? If you are wading you can place it in the shallow water at the bank next to your rod. That gives you perspective. About the only thing you can do in the boat by yourself is taking a picture of it in the net. This is not as good and doesn’t give you anything next to the trout to give you an idea of how big it is.
“I tried that. As soon as I got the camera out, it bounced out of the net and landed on the deck. I quickly shot a photo and scooped the fish back in the net and carefully returned it to the water. I did not want to harm it.
“It is the worst fish photo I have ever taken. This is one reason to never fish alone.”

Bull Shoals Lake
As of Thursday, the Army Corps of Engineers reported the lake’s elevation at 657.70 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 661.00 feet msl; top flood elevation is 695.00 feet msl). Total outflow from the dam at 1 p.m. Thursday was 3,387 cfs. There was a brief rise in flow to 10,751 at 7 a.m. and on Wednesday at 5 p.m. The reported lake elevation at Table Rock Lake was 910.34 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 917.00 feet msl; top flood elevation is 931.0 feet msl), with outflow of 20 cfs. There was a brief rise in flow reaching 7,000 cfs between 5-8 p.m. Wednesday.

(updated 9-29-2022) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said Thursday that the lake level is back to normal pool level; actually the Corps reports it as more than 3 feet below normal pool. The water temperature is around 77 degrees. Junk Fishing 101 has begun. It’s typical fall patterns. The cooler nights have the shad starting to move. There are always shallow fish. Try a Chatterbait, square bill or spinnerbait. Target channel swings, points and ledges close to deeper water. On the right day, Del says he is covering water with a Whopper Plopper or buzzbait if it’s overcast and windy. Brushpiles are in play, 25-35 feet deep. When the sun starts getting high, move out toward the main lake and use a Jewel Special Ops Football Jig in green pumpkin orange or other green pumpkin variations and keep the boat around 40 feet.
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.

Norfork Lake
As of Thursday, the Army Corps of Engineers reported the lake’s elevation at 553.87 feet msl (normal conservation pool: Sept.-April, 553.75 feet msl; April-Sept. 556.25 feet msl; top flood elevation 580.0 feet msl). Total outflow from Norfork Dam at 1 p.m. Thursday was 1,825 cfs. Wednesday saw 11 hours of generation (noon to 11 p.m.) averaging 2,450 cfs.

(updated 9-29-2022) Steven “Scuba Steve” Street at Blackburn’s Resort said Wednesday morning the lake level is 554.01 feet msl and has dropped a little less than 1 inch in the last 24-hours as of Wednesday with three-quarters of a generator running for about 12 hours starting at noon. The White River at Newport is 4.08 feet, indicating not much water is being released anywhere on the chain of lakes or the North Fork River. The surface water temperature was 80 degrees today and should continue to drop with the cool weather. It has been beautiful with highs near 80 degrees and sunny until Wednesday when it is not going to get past the low 70s.
“We have not received any rain for about three weeks and it is getting very dry. The water is pretty clear on the main lake but stained in the creeks except for near the shore, where it is much clearer. The thermocline is at 37 feet and most of the fish are shallower than that. You cannot tell where the thermocline is located from the surface with a fish finder.”
The crappie have moved more shallow and are right in the brush at 15-25 feet, mostly on main lake points. Walleye are with them. “I found keeper walleye yesterday suspended about 4 feet from the bottom on a main lake point near Robinson Island and some nice crappie were with them all in the same place. I have been out there every day and the fishing and diving conditions have been very good.
“Kentucky Bass are everywhere with most being at about 20 feet near cover or just past the first drop-off. They are full of crawdads, indicating they are going to the shore sometime or other to feed. I am not seeing very many largemouth bass, indicating they are still in open water on shad. They will move closer to shore as the water cools.
“Trollers are catching a few white bass and small stripers but are having to cover a lot of ground to get them. The best lure right now is the jigging spoon right in the main lake brush to catch about everything. Adjust your spoon size with the water depth with the smallest one for the shallower water. A quarter-ounce is a good one to start with. A few crappie are also biting on a slip float and live minnow. There are lots of bluegill on the shallower brush and some are very nice sized. The lake overall is in excellent condition.”
For a daily fishing report and lake condition go to www.blackburnsresort.com and click on Scuba Steve’s Blog.

(updated 9-29-2022) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said Tuesday, “Norfork Lake has changed every day that I have been out. The surface temp is slowly dropping and the thermocline is dropping as well.
“I went to a flat where I had been fishing and doing quite well, but found that the fish have vacated this flat, no matter what depth I checked. After about 45 minutes of trolling and marking nothing, I headed northward. I found a large rounded point that was holding lots of fish. I landed a striped bass along with a couple mid-sized hybrids. Plenty of white bass were schooling in the same area. I found the fish in 42-45 feet of water on the bottom. My best bait today was the Tater Baits, Tater Shad in the white trash color. Previously, the spoon had been working the best, but today they only wanted this soft, shad-shaped bait with a chartreuse 3/8-ounce jighead. I found lots of bait from 35 feet out to 45 feet deep either on the bottom or suspended. There weren’t a lot of fish in the bait, but they will find it soon.
“Yesterday, I fished a log along a bluff line that was stacked with crappie and bluegill. I landed three nice crappie and several thumper gills. I was using the Tater Baits Small Fry in silver flash with a 1/16-ounce jighead. One of our guests landed a nice striped bass and a bunch of crappie several days ago.”
The surface water temp was around 78 degrees Tuesday morning and the lake level is dropping roughly an inch per day and currently sits at 553.95 feet msl. The lake is clear on the main lake and stained in the coves. “Have a great time fishing Norfork Lake.”
Lou posts nearly daily on his Facebook page with photos and where the fish are biting and what’s biting. Check it out.

Norfork Tailwater
(updated 9-29-2022) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake fell 0.6 foot to rest 1.7 feet below power pool of 555.75 feet. All of the lakes in the White River system are now below power pool. With the current lake levels, expect lower flows and more wadable water.
There has been more wadable water on the Norfork in the morning and it has fished much better. The most productive flies have been small midge patterns like zebra midges (black or red with silver wire and silver bead). Grasshoppers have produced fish, particularly when used in conjunction with a small nymph dropper (try a size 20 black zebra midge). 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). “My 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 poorly. School is back in session and the creek is not as busy. Weekends can get 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 River, Norfork tailwater 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 9-29-2022) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Crooked Creek and the Buffalo River are low. With cooler 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.

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