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Arkansas Wildlife Weekly Fishing Report

White River

(updated 1-13-2022) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said the White River never disappoints – whatever the weather, whatever the water levels, whatever the season. You most always find what you’re looking for, even when you didn’t know you were looking for it!
The Corp of Engineers has been pulsing lake water through the dam very generously, but not consistently. During a typical 24-hour period, we’ve been starting the day with about one unit (3,500 cfs) running through Bull Shoals Dam. Generation begins early in the morning; some days it rises to nearly 18,000 cfs over several hours, then returns to roughly 3,000 cfs for the remainder of the day. The lake is sitting at 658.6 feet msl. The rain received in late December moved the lake level up several feet but it still remained very near (or below) the seasonal power pool level of 659 feet msl.
This month has given us frigid nights and some fairly warm days – and steady catches of rainbows with a brown or two (or more) brought in for pictures and a thrill. River traffic is slow in January and you may not see another angler for hours. Tie on fluorescent or translucent orange egg patterns during the spawn season for a sure catch. Use smaller baits than you normally would (an old angler’s gut reaction to the cold weather and the brown trout spawn). Black and yellow Rooster Tails showed some success, and don’t leave the wriggly redworms behind for the early morning hours of rising water. Dress appropriately for the winter temps; stop in for a cup of coffee to warm up if you’re in the Cotter area.

(updated 1-13-2022) Dave McCulley, owner of Jenkins Fishing Service in Calico Rock, says fishing has been consistent over the last week with river levels varying between 5-9 feet. The river levels and dinginess of the river have made artificial lures marginally effective with Rapala Countdowns working best. If you are looking to catch a limit of trout, the best bait continues to be Power Eggs with shrimp or worms. Both drift-fishing and fishing from the bank have worked well. With the reduced fishing pressure the trout have been eating and growing. Now is the time of year to catch better-than-average trout. If you are lucky you may hook into one of the 5-pound-plus trout (to include a large golden trout we’ve seen).

(updated 1-13-2022) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service said during the past week they had a trace of rain in Cotter, frigid temperatures and heavy winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals fell 0.2 foot to rest at 0.3 foot below power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 36.3 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock Lake fell 0.4 foot to rest at 0.2 foot below power pool and 16.2 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell 0.2 foot to rest at power pool or 9.6 feet below the top of flood pool. The White has had no wadable water. Norfork Lake fell 0.5 foot to rest at 0.3 foot over power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 26.6 feet below the top of flood pool. On the Norfork, we have had a bit more wadable water.

The water level for the top of power pool has been reset higher for all of the lakes in the White River system. Most of the lakes in the White River system are at or slightly above power pool. With the current lake levels, expect more generation.
The catch-and-release section below Bull Shoals Dam is closed through Jan. 31 to accommodate the brown trout spawn. The State Park is 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 Rim Shoals. 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. 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).

With the cold weather that’s descended on the area recently, John also said, “At my usual guide starting time yesterday, 7:30 a.m., it was 16 degrees with winds 10-15 miles per hour. This resulted in a wind chill below 0. When I sat down to write this article, my wife, Lori, told me that it is forecast to snow here in Cotter tomorrow. This tells me that summer is long gone.
“This has occurred just as the lakes have risen a bit due to some heavy rainfall. As a result, we have generation on both the White and North Fork rivers. This means that these rivers are not currently wadable.
“The best way to survive brutally cold conditions is to wade fish. I know that this sounds counterintuitive. You have to remember that the water temperature is a constant 57 degrees, which is over 50 degrees warmer than a wind chill of zero. If you get cold, wade a little deeper.

“I remember a guide trip on the Spring River during brutally cold conditions several years ago. We had been fishing comfortably all morning. When we got out of the river for lunch, we were much colder. We quickly finished lunch and returned to the river to warm up.

“One way to overcome this is to start a fire. There are always rocks for a fire ring and drift wood for fuel. My favorite fire starter is a bag of Fritos. They are in a sealed waterproof bag and are quite flammable.
“If you are in a boat, there is nowhere to hide from the wind. One trick to beat the wind is to wear your waders. They are quite windproof, as is your rain jacket. Be sure and not wear studded boots. They will not only mar the deck of your boat but will slide over the deck like a pair of roller skates. Rubber soles without studs would provide the most secure footing.
“You can keep your body and head warm with multiple layers of wool and fleece clothing under your waders and rain jacket. At temperatures this low, you will have more trouble keeping your hands warm. If it is above 32 degrees, I can do well with fingerless wool gloves. That way I can tie knots and untangle fly lines.

“Below 32 degrees I have to wear full gloves that are well insulated. If I need to untangle a line or tie a knot, I have to remove them. To keep my hands warm in this situation I carry disposable hand warmers. I recently acquired a rechargeable electric hand warmer that functions well. I keep it in my pocket and warm my hands when needed.
“One last thing to worry about in frigid temperatures is icy ramps. The best answer is a reliable four-wheel-drive vehicle. When I acquired my latest Suburban, I made sure that it was four-wheel drive because I did not want to end up in the river on a frigid day in my Suburban instead of a river boat.
“Keep these things in mind and you can be out there on a frigid day.”

(updated 1-6-2022) Fish ’N Stuff (501-834-5733) in Sherwood water is clear. Trout are good when the Corps is running water; use a jerkbait and a No. 7 Rapala Countdown. When water is lower, use Trout Magnets in pink, white or mealworm gold colors on top and below shoals. Trout are also good on quarter-ounce and eighth-ounce spoons in trout or silver colors.

Bull Shoals Lake

As of Thursday, the Army Corps of Engineers reported the lake’s elevation at 658.48 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl; top flood elevation is 695.0 feet msl). The reported lake elevation at Table Rock Lake was 914.67 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 915.00 feet msl; top flood elevation is 931.0 feet msl).

(updated 1-6-2022) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said bass fishing has been fair. No need to get out early, especially if it’s cold. There’s been a good afternoon bite one-half to three-quarters of the way back, 60-75 feet, into the guts of creeks. Look for wind-shad surfacing action. Birds and loons have arrived around the shad. That seems to be the predominant bite. In stormy, windy conditions, power fishermen can grind it out; key in on wind ledges, channel swings and banks with chunk rock. Use Rock Crawlers, square bills or a Wiggle Wart on windy transitions. Cover water. Offshore shad have been moving. Try a Jewel Scuba Spoon, drop-shot and Damiki Ice Jig. Fish the conditions. The clarity of Bull Shoals Lake is good. Surface temperature is 53 degrees. Water is below normal pool.

See Del’s 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 553.28 feet msl (normal conservation pool: Sept.-April, 553.75 feet msl; April-Sept. 555.75 feet msl; top flood elevation 580.0 feet msl).

(updated 1-13-2022) Steven “Scuba Steve” Street at Blackburn’s Resort reported Wednesday that the lake level was 553.30 feet msl and had dropped a half-inch in the last 24-hours with just a few hours of generation. The White River at Newport was at 19 feet, which limits the discharge. “I just got back in from fishing and the conditions have changed with the warm weather. The surface water temperature has risen a little in the last couple of days and is now about 51.5 (degrees) and the lake is clearing and it needed to. It is now stained green and you can see your lure down 3-4 feet, and the brown water is gone but it is now a good color for fishing.
“Blackburn’s has several fishermen in now and they are doing well and it is improving. Today the striperfishermen caught some nice ones trolling, the bass fishermen caught some near the bank this evening and the crappie fishermen did the best using Bobby Garland Blue Ice Baby Shad on main lake brush at 25 feet. It was busy here this evening and everybody caught fish. It was a great day and a beautiful sunset. It makes life almost worth living. A great January day on Norfork. Thanks Arkansas Game and Fish for managing the lake so well.”

For a daily fishing report and lake condition go to www.blackburnsresort.com and click on Scuba Steve’s Blog. 

(updated 1-13-2022) Lou Gabric, at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said, winter fishing has arrived on Norfork Lake. Cold fronts seem to be arriving weekly followed by a warming trend until the next cold front. These extreme changes in the weather do tend to affect the bite, but the positive side is that it does not last long. The striped bass bite has been fair to good, largemouth and spotted bass bite has been good and the crappie bite has been fair to good.

The lake surface temperature has dropped to the low 50s, so the bait has started to move to their cold water locations. You can find large balls of bait in deeper water, as well as in the old river channel. If you are looking for striped bass, you will find them hanging around the bait balls. Vertical-jigging a spoon, an ice jig or jigging a plastic bait has been working. Live bait is always a great choice. Stripers have been being found from the Cranfield Island area up to the mid-lake bridges, and also from the mid-lake major creeks to the Bennett’s Bayou area. The stripers have been suspended in the water column from 25 feet down to 60 feet in 70 to 100-plus feet of water.

The largemouth and spotted bass bite is probably the best bite on the lake at this time. You can find them in different types of areas and depths. “I have found some nice size fish in 33-40 feet of water out on a long chunk rock point. The fish were lying on the bottom. Vertical-jigging a 1-ounce spoon very slowly right on the bottom was catching some nice fish. You will also find this species close to the shoreline in shallow water early in the morning feeding. Rock Crawlers and square bills are working great. Largemouth are also scattered out in deep water chasing the shad. They will be at all depths, from 10 down to 50 feet deep.”
Crappie are doing their winter thing. There are some nice-size fish in deeper water, 35-45 feet on or near brush. Jigging a small spoon, plastic jig or live bait will work well. You will also find them feeding near the shore inside of brush. You can also find them on the tops of brush 10 to 20 feet down. You will need to keep checking different depths the find the best location.

Norfork Lake level is dropping very slowly and currently sits at 553.3 feet msl, which is slightly below normal seasonal pool. The surface water temperature is around 51 degrees. The lake is stained but is starting to show signs of clearing.

“Happy Fishing and enjoy Norfork Lake.”

Norfork Tailwater

(updated 1-13-2022) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake fell 0.5 foot to rest at 0.3 foot over power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 26.6 feet below the top of flood pool. On the Norfork, we have had a bit more wadable water.

The water level for the top of power pool has been reset higher for all of the lakes in the White River system. Most of the lakes in the White River system are at or slightly above power pool. With the current lake levels, expect more generation.
There has been some wadable water on the Norfork and it fished well some days and poorly on others. 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). The fishing is much better in the morning and late afternoon and tapers off midday.

Dry Run Creek has fished well. School is back in session and now is a great time to fish it, particularly during the week. Weekends can get a bit crowded. The hot flies have been sowbugs and various colored San Juan worms (worm brown, red, hot fluorescent pink and cerise). 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 and North Fork rivers 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.

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