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(updated 11-25-2022) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said Bull Shoals Lake is nearly 4.5 feet below power pool and generation is based mainly on power demands. The colder weather increases those demands.
“Since the arctic snap passed through last week, we’re now being blessed with beautiful, mild days, cold nights and amazing creel fills of colorful rainbow trout.” Releases from Bull Shoals Dam have been variable with minimum flows during the late evening and early morning, followed by a quick rise to almost three units (9,000 cfs) later in the morning. The lake at this writing is sitting at 654.25 feet msl and still dropping.
“We are having success with a variety of spoons and heavier-than-normal spinners. Locate any rainbow-colored spoons or Rooster Tails in your tackle box and throw those first. If you prefer bait, the guides are taking out lots of red wiggler worms and backing them up with shrimp and peach, orange or sunrise egg patterns. The X-Factor steelhead orange and shrimp-colored baits (egg clusters and regular-sized egg patterns) as well as their red worms are attracting the rainbows, too.
The browns are not immune to bait now even during the annual spawn, but they’re mostly striking in an attempt to get rid of the annoyance. With the Thanksgiving weekend coming up, we’ll be seeing more visitors to the area and an increase in river traffic. For those of us on the river often, it’s time to be especially careful. We have a big river, wonderfully tended by Arkansas Game and Fish Commission with lots of trout, and enough room for every type and size of angler who visits. We look forward to seeing you and sharing fishing stories.”
(updated 11-25-2022) Dave McCulley, owner of Jenkins Fishing Service in Calico Rock, said the days have had cold mornings and the last couple of days warming up into the 50s. “We have seen varied generation from both Bull Shoals Dam and Norfork Dam resulting in water levels varying between 3-6 feet. During the time of lower water, throwing quarter-ounce spoons have been effective. Additionally, jigs, Rooster Tails, lures with a spinner, and Rapala Countdowns have worked well. Power Eggs with shrimp continue to work well throughout the week. On Monday the Norfork Hatchery stocked approximately 1,100 trout and on Tuesday the Jim Hinkle Spring River State Hatchery stocked 450 trout at the Calico Rock boat ramp. With the reduced fishing pressure this time of year, most of those trout will have the chance to be pretty nice fish by spring. We hope everybody has safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving.”
(updated 11-25-2022) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service said that during the past week, they had sleet and snow (about a quarter of an inch here in Cotter), cold temperatures (to include winter storm warnings) and heavy winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals fell 0.4 foot to rest at 4.9 feet below power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 40.9 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock Lake fell 0.8 foot to rest at 7.8 feet below power pool and 21.8 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell 0.9 tenths of a foot to rest at 6.1 feet below power pool of 15.7 feet below the top of flood pool. The White had little wadable water and higher flows during periods of peak power demand. Norfork Lake fell 0.7 foot to rest at 1.8 feet below power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 28 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork tailwater has had some wadable water.
All of the lakes in the White River system are now well below power pool. With the current lake levels, expect lower flows and more wadable water. However with the cold temperatures, also expect heavy generation during peak power demand.
The catch-and-release section below Bull Shoals Dam is closed through Jan. 31, 2025, to accommodate the brown trout spawn. The State Park will be seasonal catch-and-release for the same period. All brown trout must be immediately released. In addition, night fishing is prohibited in this area during this period.
On the White, the hot spot has been the Narrows. “We have had higher flows that have been 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 cerise San Juan worm with an orange egg dropper.”
John also said, “Recently my wife, Lori, and I went to a dog show in Springfield, Missouri. We were showing our champion Labrador retriever, Ghillie, in an effort to have him earn his grand champion title. When we left town the high temperatures were in the low 80s and the lows were in the 50s. We dressed for the warm temperatures. I wore blue jeans and a tropical fishing shirt. I was quite comfortable.
“I had a guide trip on Saturday, so I drove back to Cotter on Friday afternoon. We had each taken our own cars for the trip. When I got home I began planning for the guide trip. The first thing I did was to check the weather forecast. I was surprised to learn that the next day would have a 30-degree start time and a high of 40 and 10-20 mph winds, which would create some frigid wind chills. To make things more interesting, snow and freezing rain were expected Friday night.
“I scurried around the house to make sure that I had my cold weather gear close at hand. I hooked my boat trailer to my car so that I would not have to do that the next morning with frigid hands. I woke up early to find an inch and a half of snow and ice on my boat and Suburban. Luckily the streets were clear.
“I dressed carefully. Starting with long polypropylene underwear, I added flannel-lined khakis and a fleece sweater. Heavy wool socks and knee-high Muck boots protected my feet. A thick down jacket, heavy fingerless gloves and my extra warm Elmer Fudd hat completed my winter uniform. I put my electric hand warmer in my jacket pocket and went outside to scrape the windshield.
“I met my client at The White Sands Cafe three blocks from my house in Cotter at 7 a.m. We ate a hearty breakfast, drank a lot of hot coffee and headed to the river. The ramp was clear and the water was higher than it has been for several weeks. The Corps of Engineers and Southwestern Power Administration was running water to meet power demand for the cold temperatures. My client is also an avid duck hunter so he had the necessary gear and plenty of outdoor experience to handle the conditions.
“I went to rig his rod and chose flies that had been working recently, a pheasant tail with a ruby midge dropper. I launched my boat and we began fishing. We did two drifts and did not get a sniff. I decided to try different flies. I tied on a cerise San Juan worm with an orange egg fly. This is usually considered a high-water or winter rig. We drifted 10 feet and caught our first trout, 30 feet later we caught another and a few minutes later we caught a third. We stayed with that rig for the remainder of the day and landed 20 trout, with a few nice ones.
“I kept my down jacket on all day. It never warmed up. It was a brisk winter day two weeks before Thanksgiving. What happened to fall?”
(updated 11-10-2022) White River Trout Club (870-453-2424) says fishing is not great now because the water there at White Hole is so low. No reports.
Bull Shoals Lake
As of Friday, the Army Corps of Engineers reported the lake’s elevation at 654.37 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl; top flood elevation is 695.00 feet msl). The reported lake elevation at Table Rock Lake was 909.33 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 917.00 feet msl; top flood elevation is 931.0 feet msl).
(updated 11-25-2022) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said Tuesday that Bull Shoals lake level is 654 feet msl, about 4 feet below normal pool. The water temperature is 58 degrees. Fishing has been good this week. Unseasonably cold weather patterns have given way to a comfortable afternoon bite. There is a notable difference in water clarity throughout the lake. There are plenty of fish on the shoreline. If there are wind and clouds, Del suggests covering water where the wind hits square on the bank, hopefully on a point chunk or ledge rock, close to deeper water. Go with a Spro Crawler, a Wiggle Wart or a Red Craw Stone Cold in the clear water; square bill, spinnerbait or Chatterbait is recommended in the stain. You’ll have keep moving to find them, but when you do there’s usually a few there.
There are still some bushes and rock transitions close to deeper water. There are always fish to be caught on a jig. Target flat, sunny points with brush 25-35 feet. The offshore deep bite is better. Shad are still spread out. Target bigger bait balls and shad becomes the structure. Look in the creeks and hollers at 45-65 feet. A single 2.8 white swimbait or jerkbait around those high swimming shad balls will work. If they are being finicky fish, try a Moon Eye with a Tater Shad. With schooling fish, a Jewel Scope Spin Jigging Rap. Use a Jewel Scuba Spoon for those bottom dwellers.
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 Friday, the Army Corps of Engineers reported the lake’s elevation at 551.89 feet msl (normal conservation pool: Sept.-April, 553.75 feet msl; April-Sept. 556.25 feet msl; top flood elevation 580.0 feet msl).
(updated 11-25-2022) Steven “Scuba Steve” Street at Blackburn’s Resort said Tuesday the lake level is 551.90 feet msl and has dropped 0.5 inches in the last 24 hours with six hours of generation starting in the morning and then about two hours in the afternoon. The White River at Newport is 3.7 feet and is very low with not much water being let out anywhere. The lake level is 1.85 feet below the top of the power pool and normal for this time of year. The surface water temperature is just under 60 degrees as of Wednesday, and both the main lake and creeks are stained green and you can see your lure down 2-3 feet on a sunny day.
There are still schooled open water temperate bass on shad in front of the docks to the west of Mallard Point and more at the drop-off at the end of Cow Point and across from Bidwell Point. A spoon works best dropped right on their heads, but live bait and umbrella trollers are also catching a few. The morning bite is the best for them. A few big crappie are biting jigs and grubs on brush in 18 feet of water during the day and then again near the shoreline shallow partway back in the creeks in the evening just before dark. Some black bass are with the open water fish and others are in the same place as the crappie in the evening, mostly Kentucky bass. Fish wind-blown shoreline. Overall fishing remains just fair with some nice size but not high numbers.
For a daily fishing report and lake condition go to www.blackburnsresort.com and click on Scuba Steve’s Blog.
(updated 11-25-2022) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort had no new report. Lou posts nearly daily on his Facebook page with photos and where the fish are biting and what’s biting. Check it out.
(updated 11-25-2022) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake fell 0.7 foot to rest at 1.8 feet below power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 28 feet below the top of flood pool. All of the lakes in the White River system are now well below power pool. With the current lake levels, expect lower flows and more wadable water. However with the cold temperatures, also expect heavy generation during peak power demand.
There has been less wadable water on the Norfork in the morning. 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 pheasant tail nymph size 14 and a ruby midge size 18. 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.
Buffalo National River/Crooked Creek
(updated 11-25-2022) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Crooked Creek and the Buffalo River are fishing poorly. With colder temperatures, the smallmouths are less 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.