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Arkansas Wildlife Weekly Fishing Report

Courtesy of Jim Harris, Managing Editor 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 10-6-2022) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said there’s a sharp nip in the air these mornings – autumn is finally popping out. Cool mornings, warm days, perfect weather for float fishing on the White for trout.

Bull Shoals Lake remains more than 2 feet below power pool so it’s not surprising that generation flows have been low. 

During this past week the water level on the White River in the north-central Arkansas Ozarks has remained steady with only small upticks in generation, mostly in the late afternoon.

“So we’re treated to low water in the morning hours and varying amounts of generation in the afternoon, anywhere from 2,300 cfs to 10,000 cfs, returning to low flow by early morning the next day.”


The rainbows are chasing shrimp, especially when it’s paired with a small piece of orange Power Bait.

“We’re still having success with white baits, Rooster Tails, small Rebels with white bellies, and other baits imitating shad after that late shad kill we just experienced. As we move into autumn and closer to the brown trout spawning season, change your bait color to orange, Sunrise or pink.”


It’s hard to beat a good day of jig fishing – again with the white. But an orange/brown jig (one-eighth-ounce works best right now) will stir up some excitement, too. Fly-fishers are using jointed mouse flies during very early morning hours.


“Whatever you’re casting and whenever you can find you way to the river, we hope you’ll enjoy these cool mornings and sunny days in our Natural State.”

(updated 10-6-2022) Dave McCulley, owner of Jenkins Fishing Service in Calico Rock, says, “How about this beautiful weather!?”

Temperatures in the 40s in the morning, rising to the 80s during the day, have made for a comfortable day of fishing. This week we have seen varied generation from both Bull Shoals and Norfork dams, resulting in the river levels rising and falling.

Due to the varied river conditions the preferred fishing method changes during the day. When the water is low, using spoons, Blue Foxes, Rapala Countdowns or Shad Raps work well. As the water gets higher, drift fishing using Power Eggs (with or without inline spinners) and shrimp has worked best.

Fishing is best if you recognize the river is starting to rise and if you can stay in front of the rising water. There was one trout stocking this week at the Calico Rock boat ramp and another at the Chessmond Ferry boat ramp.

(updated 10-6-2022) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service said that during the past week, they had no rain, cooler temperatures and moderate winds.

The lake level at Bull Shoals fell 0.6 foot to rest at 1.9 feet below power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 37.9 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock Lake fell 0.1 foot to rest at 6.7 feet below power pool and 20.7 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell 0.6 foot to rest at 2.6 feet below power pool or 12.2 feet below the top of flood pool.

The White had some marginal wadable water. Norfork Lake fell 0.5 foot to rest at 0.1 foot below power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 26.4 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork 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.


On the White, the hot spot 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.”


John also says, “Last week I did a two-guide trip with my fellow guide Danny Barker. There was a family group of four – husband, wife, daughter and wife’s father, Stan. Danny took the husband and his daughter and I took the wife and Stan. She had fly-fished before but Stan had no previous fly-fishing experience.Stan is 87 years old and is still quite active. He works as an insurance agent and plays golf once a week. He is a former Air Force pilot who spent 30 years in service. He is a recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross. He is a Vietnam veteran and served there while I was in country. He flew close air support for guys like me on the ground in combat. We had a lot to talk about.

“We met for breakfast at the White Sands Cafe in Cotter. When we finished, we went to Rim Shoals and had a near perfect day for fishing. The water was low and gin clear. It was a sunny and reasonably cool day. There was little to no wind. I could not have asked for better conditions.”


“I began with a quick casting lesson. He was a quick study and was soon casting well enough to go fishing. I rigged up a couple of rods and loaded my gear into the boat. I launched and helped Stan and his daughter into the boat. I would have normally put her in the rear seat near me, to give her more attention but she was more experienced. I had Stan nearby to help teach him to catch trout.”


“We began our first drift and Stan cast, only to tangle the line. I explained that he was rushing the back cast and untangled the line. He cast again and it was flawless. A few minutes later he hooked his first trout. I carefully coached him on what to do. He listened carefully and soon the trout surrendered to the net. It was a stout 18-inch rainbow trout, which is a really nice catch. It was definitely a great fish for your first trout.”


“Ten minutes later he hooked and landed the twin of the first trout. He had landed two significant trout back to back. We continued fishing. We fished a half-day and he landed four more for a total of six fish. A limit is five so he caught over a limit of trout on his first day of trout fishing and that included two pretty big fish. On my first day of fly-fishing, I only landed five trout.”


“I finished the day with a new found respect for Stan. It was not only for his service but the ability to take up fly-fishing and do so well at 87 years of age. Maybe there is hope for me!”

Bull Shoals Lake
As of Thursday, the Army Corps of Engineers reported the lake’s elevation at 656.65 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 661.00 feet msl; top flood elevation is 695.00 feet msl). Total outflow from the dam at noon Thursday was 3,708 cfs. The reported lake elevation at Table Rock Lake was 910.22 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 917.00 feet msl; top flood elevation is 931.0 feet msl), with outflow of 20 cfs.

(updated 10-6-2022) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said Thursday that the lake level is back to normal pool level. The water temperature has dropped to around 74 degrees. Junk Fishing 101 has begun. We’re seeing 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 using 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 553.47 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 noon Thursday was 204 cfs. Wednesday saw 8 hours of generation (2-9 p.m.) averaging 2,476 cfs.

(updated 10-6-2022) Steven “Scuba Steve” Street at Blackburn’s Resort said the lake level is 553.52 feet msl as of Wednesday and has dropped a half-inch in the last 24 hours with three-quarters of a generator running for about eight hours. The White River at Newport is 3.72 feet and is very low, indicating not much water is being released. The surface water temperature is still 77 degrees and the lake turnover has finished, resulting in lower visibility and most fish moving in shallower. The fish that were in 37-40 feet of water are now in about 20 feet. Bass and crappie are the best bite with crappie in brush and bass on main lake river channels just off steep banks. A plastic creature bait on a jighead is working very well on the drop-offs and a small spoon or live minnow on a slip float in the brush. Place the minnow about 5-6 feet lower than you can see your bait and let the crappie come up to it.
Many large bluegill are in the same place. The water is clearing a little already and fishing will get better and better as the water cools. Some black bass have also moved in from open water and are also on the banks. The creeks are not holding as many fish as the main lake. There is very little oxygen below 40 feet so there is not much sense fishing there at this time.
“The weather has been perfect and is scheduled to stay that way for the next week, but we are very dry with no rain for a month.”
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 10-6-2022) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake fell 0.5 foot to rest at 0.1 foot below power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 26.4 feet below the top of flood pool. 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 tailwater in the morning and it has fished a 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-headed 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 No. 14 pheasant tail nymph and a No. 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 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 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 10-6-2022) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Crooked Creek and the Buffalo River are low but fishing well. 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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