Arkansas Wildlife Fishing Report
BY Jim Harris
Jan. 22, 2020
Managing Editor Arkansas Wildlife Magazine
This is the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s weekly fishing report for Jan. 22, 2020. If there is a body of water you would like included in this report, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with information on possible sources for reports about that lake or river. Reports are updated weekly, although some reports might be published for two weeks if updates are not received promptly or if reporters say conditions haven’t changed. Contact the reporter listed for the lake or stream you plan to fish for current news. Note: msl = mean sea level; cfs = cubic feet per second.
Arkansas River and White River levels are available at: https://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: https://waterdata.usgs.gov/ar/nwis/current/?type=quality
Craig D. Campbell Lake Conway Reservoir
NOTICE: AGFC employees and contractors using airboats conducted foliar applications of EPA-approved herbicide – which will cause no harm to wildlife, people or aquatic life such as fish – to treat alligatorweed on Lake Conway last year. By federal law, these herbicides have up to a 120-day irrigation restriction after application. The AGFC asks adjacent landowners to NOT irrigate for lawn or garden use with water from Lake Conway through March 1, 2020. For more information, please contact the AGFC Fisheries Office in Mayflower at (877) 470-3309.
(updated 1-22-2020) Bates Field and Stream (501-470-1846) said the lake is normal Lake Conway stained and at a normal level. Bream are good and are biting redworms and crickets, along with hair jigs and nightcrawlers. Crappie are good on minnows and jigs. Black bass are good; use plastic worms, chatterbaits and bass minnows. Catfish are good on worms, dough bait, minnows and nightcrawlers.
Little Red River
(updated 1-22-2020) Greg Seaton of littleredflyfishingtrips.com (501-690-9166) said the river is clear with two units running each day for 12 hours. This should continue for the next several days since the lake is still about 2½ feet above normal. For the last few days the generation has been split into two periods – one starting at 5 a.m. for 6 hours ending at 11 a.m. and beginning again at 5 p.m. for another 6 hours. This provides a small window at the dam in the early afternoon for wade-fishing and drift-fishing is available by staying ahead of the morning generation. “The cold weather has been keeping most anglers off the river, including me, so my report on how the fish are biting isn’t going to happen today. If you are in the mood for cold fishing, they are probably still taking sowbugs, large nymphs and micro-jigs.
“Please stay safe if on the river during the generation. Higher water with increased flows requires more attention to remain safe on the water.”
Notice: The free fly-fishing class will again be offered in Heber Springs this year. The first class will be at 7 pm on Thursday, Feb. 20. The class will consist of four consecutive Thursday nights at the same time each Thursday. There is no charge for this class but you need to call and register so we can know how many persons will be attending. This class is for beginners and anyone wishing to expand their knowledge of fly-fishing. Please call 501-690-9166 to register for the class. “If I’m on the river, please leave a message and I will return your call,” Greg says.
(updated 1-15-2020) Lowell Myers of Sore Lip’em All Guide Service (501-230-0730) said the Little Red River is receiving 24 hours of generation daily. The Greers Ferry Lake level is above normal seasonal pool due to recent rains, so longer periods of generation to lower the lake level are expected. If you choose to fish these conditions, you will want to use long leaders and weight. Key for both fly-fishing and Trout Magnet fishing during heavy generation is the ability to get and maintain a good presentation of the fly or Trout Magnet. Working shoreline with streamers is also an effective fly-fishing method during high-water conditions. For fly-fishing, Lowell recommends San Juan worms, micro-jigs, egg patterns and streamers during high-water conditions. Hot pink, cotton candy and white bodies on chartreuse jigheads are recommended for Trout Magnet spin fishing. Be safe while enjoying the river. Always check before heading to the Little Red River by calling the Corps of Engineers Little Rock District water data system (501-362-5150) for Greers Ferry Dam water release information or check the Army Corps of Engineers website for real-time water release and the Southwestern Power Administration website to see forecasted generation schedule.
Greers Ferry Lake
As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 464.67 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 462.54 feet msl).
(updated 1-22-2020) Tommy Cauley of Fishfinder Guide Service (501-940-1318) said the water level at Greers Ferry Lake is at 464.90 feet msl, 2.86 feet above normal pool of 462.04 for this time of year. Black bass are still eating well on some moving baits and some dragging baits and all in between – pick your poison, and target 6-15 feet depth. Crappie are still eating, for sure, moving a little day to day; try 15-40 feet, trolling or jig fishing straight up and down. No reports on catfish. Walleye are scattering and moving with conditions and the conditions to come. Crankbaits, jighead minnows and rogues are working as well in 15-40 feet depth. Hybrid and white bass are eating off and on all day all over lake and rivers. Spoons, inline spinners and swimbaits are working, and now E Bar City Special is catching some good fish at 25-60 feet depth. No report on bream.
Harris Brake Lake
(updated 1-22-2020) Harris Brake Lake Resort (501-889-2745) reported the water clarity is a little dingy and the water level is low. Stumps are visibly sticking out, indicating the water is a little low. Catfishing has been fair on worms. Otherwise, no other fishing reports came in the past week.
NOTICE: AGFC employees and contractors using airboats will be conducting foliar applications of EPA-approved herbicide – which will cause no harm to wildlife, people or aquatic life such as fish – to treat alligatorweed on Lake Overcup last year. By federal law, these herbicides have up to a 120-day irrigation restriction after application. The AGFC asks adjacent landowners to NOT irrigate for lawn or garden use with water from Lake Overcup through March 1, 2020. For more information, please contact the AGFC Fisheries Office in Mayflower at (877) 470-3309.
(updated 1-8-2020) Johnny “Catfish” Banks of Overcup Bait Shop and R.V. Park (501-354-9007) said the water level is high by about 2 feet and clarity is good. The surface temperature is around 48 degrees. Bream are slow but still catching some on redworms. Bass are doing good around brush tops and structure, but just a few people are fishing lately. Catfish are being caught on jugs and yo-yos with bass minnows and crappie minnows. Crappie are being caught on yo-yos at night lately, catching a few early morning and late evening. Everything has been slow but should start picking up. Visit Johnny’s Facebook page (Overcup Bait Shop and R.V. Park) for any latest updates and photos.
(updated 1-22-2020) David Hall, owner of Dad’s Bait Shop (501-977-0303), had no report.
(updated 1-22-2020) Westrock Landing (501-658-5598) on Highway 10 near Roland had no recent reports.
(updated 1-22-2020) Lisa Spencer at Lisa’s Bait Shop (501-778-6944) said that because we are into January, and when some people are just starting off to get into fishing (due to their hunting season about near the end), “I thought I would just recap on the places that I report on.”
Sunset Lake is an Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Family and Community Fishing Program destination lake. You will find the regulations in the AGFC Fishing Guidebook. The limit is 3 catfish per person, bass have to be released immediately, 30 crappie per person, 25 bream per person. It is open to fishing with rod or pole only. And open to electric trolling motors only. It is stocked with only catfish, several times during the year usually with the month of September being the last time. Sunset Lake is a good lake to take kids to; it also has an easy 1-mile paved walking path around it. It has a fishing pier and a bridge that goes over to the other side of the lake. It is off the service road right past the Saline County Fair Grounds off Interstate 30. Take Fairfield Road down to Henry Street. It’s behind the National Guard Armory, and across from Sunset Trailer Park. “You can watch for my Facebook posts for when the lake is stocked or you can check it before you venture out to go fishing. All you do is Google Arkansas Game and Fish stocking ponds; it will show all the ponds that they stock and the date it was stocked. Benton is at the top so it’s pretty easy to see quickly.”
Usually after that lake being stocked, you can catch catfish on anything from minnows, worms, Wildcat Stink Bait, Sonny’s Dip Bait, bait shrimp, chicken livers and, yes, crickets. The bass will do well on minnows, worms (live and plastic) and several other kinds of artificial baits. While your bream will go for redworms and crickets and little jigs like the brown 1/16-ounce Rock Hoppers, “I take them and actually put a bobber on and a split shot on down by the weight in order to add some weight to be able to throw it better, for the 1/16-ounce is the biggest they make on these. And I throw it out there and slowly reel it, then let it set. They seem to kind of resemble a cricket. I have caught crappie off of them as well. Crappie will do good on crappie minnows, jigs (Bobby Garland and Kalin’s); some people tip a minnow or a jig with a crappie nibble.
“I have seen both big catfish and crappie come from there. This is also where the Benton Police Department along with AGFC have their yearly Kids Fishing Derby in the month of June. I always post that as well as donate bags of fishing goodies for the kids,” Lisa said.
Bishop Park Ponds
(updated 1-22-2020) Lisa Spencer at Lisa’s Bait Shop (501-778-6944), in her review this week of good fisheries in her immediate area, said the Bishop Park Ponds are found within Bishop Park on Boone Road. “There is one at the road named Lake Norma and the one at the back is named Lake Charles. They have Hurricane Creek that runs back behind them, which comes from Hurricane Lake. So, when it floods, those fish come from the creek and gets stuck into the ponds.
“While they both have bass, crappie, bream and catfish, the back one (Charles) is the only one that is stocked, to my knowledge, only once a year. For its owned by the city of Bryant and it is not like Sunset Lake, an AGFC Family and Community lake. In September Bryant sponsors the Bryant Fall Fest and they have the back one stocked with catfish for the annual fishing derby.
“While I have had several customers say they did best out of one lake and not out of the other, then vice versa, I have seen nice big bass come out of the front one, and crappie, and I have seen very nice crappie out of the back one as well as catfish. Red Shad Plastic Worms have done well on the bass out of Norma, as well as bass minnows. And bass minnows and brooders do well on bass out of Charles. So, perhaps it’s hit and miss for the ponds – it’s fishing!”
She says the crappie bite well on crappie minnows. Catfish can be caught on nightcrawlers, chicken livers and cut baits, too. Bream bite on crickets and redworms. “Lake Charles does have a dock on it, though, where Norma doesn’t.”
Saline River Access in Benton
(updated 1-22-2020) Lisa Spencer at Lisa’s Bait Shop (501-778-6944) says to keep in mind that because all of the road construction that is going on, the I-30 access down past Sunset Lake is closed for about the next two years, the Arkansas Department of Transportation is saying. “But you have Lyle Park Access,” Lisa says. “It’s off of Hot Springs Highway (state Highway 4). Turn left onto Lyledale Road, go all the way till you will have to turn right onto River Crest Circle. The other access is Peeler Bend Road access – go on I-30 like you’re heading toward Hot Springs, but you want to take the Sevier Street Exit and stay on the frontage road. There you will come to where you will cross over a bridge, and the Saline river runs under that. The next road to your right will be Peeler Bend Road. Take it, follow it all the way down to the boat ramp.”
The Saline River has bass, crappie, catfish, bream and walleye. October through February has proven to be very good for the walleye – using a brooder minnow but you could also use bass minnows, though “the best results for us and lots of others have been on the brooders. I know of one guy that used the black salties and caught them. They are pretty much all in the river, from the spillway to Lyle Park, Peeler Bend, the four forks of the river, to Tull and Shaw, but those are two places that are limited to being able to get to.”
She says catfish do well on nightcrawlers, chicken livers and goldfish. In the summer, trotlines with bream or goldfish seem to work very well. Crappie do well on crappie minnows , Kalin’s 2-inch Grubs in the Tenneesse Shad color, and also on Zing tails in the Firetiger and rainbow trout colors. Firetiger-colored small crankbaits also do well. Bass do well on brooder and bass minnow , also crankbaits , 4-inch green pumpkin lizards, and Baby Brush Hogs in green pumpkin and watermelon red. Bream will be doing great with crickets come around May or so; they will also go after redworms. “Gar are plentiful in the river and can provide a fun time to catch them, but with their teeth they might be hard to land. But you can fray some twine onto your hook and their teeth will get tangled up in that as they go for your bait and then they can’t get off.”
(updated 1-22-2020) Lisa Spencer at Lisa’s Bait Shop (501-778-6944), in covering the major fisheries in her area this week, said, “This lake is 13 miles from my shop. It is owned by the City of Benton. It is 280 acres. This is the lake you want to check out around May, for it has some of the biggest redear bream around. Several locals use crickets fishing on bottom, ending up with great results. I have seen big crappie from there as well, but it a hard lake to crappie fish. Usually nice ones can be caught, but not really big in numbers. Anglers typically use crappie minnows and also Kalin’s 2-inch Grubs in the color Bleeding Tennessee Shad. Catfish do well on nightcrawlers as well as redworms . They are also caught on chicken livers, black salties and goldfish. Bass do well on brooder minnows, spinnerbaits, crankbaits and plastics.”
(updated 1-22-2020) Lisa Spencer at Lisa’s Bait Shop (501-778-6944) said Lake Winona has a surface of 1,240 acres. It is 35 miles west of Little Rock in the Ouachita National Forest and has a watershed of 43 square miles. There are bass, crappie, bream, catfish and walleye . One good thing about this lake it’s a fishing only lake. There is not a whole lot of pressure on it, mainly because of the 7 miles off paved road required to get to it. Many have said if you’ve got a nice truck and boat, you don’t want to risk them going down that road. Bass are doing well on minnows; lots of small ones are known to be caught. Also, crankbaits work well here. Crappie seem to like the bigger minnows, though, and they are usually very nice ones being caught , Kalin’s 2-inch Grubs in the color blue and silver seems to be a hit. Catfish bite on crawfish, bait shrimp, chicken livers and nightcrawlers. Bream bite on crickets and redworms. Walleye do well on brooder minnows “and I have in the past heard of some being caught off of spinnerbaits,” Lisa says.
Arkansas River at Morrilton
(updated 1-22-2020) Charley’s Hidden Harbor at Oppelo (501-354-8080) had no reports.
Arkansas River (Cadron Pool)
Little Maumelle River
(updated 1-22-2020) Ray Hudson at River Valley Marina (501-517-1250) said the river is a little low and the clarity is clear. Crappie are good on minnows and jigs. Black bass are poor. No other catches reported.
Arkansas River (Maumelle Pool)
(updated 1-8-2020) Zimmerman’s Exxon (501-944-2527) reports that crappie are being caught in fair numbers on minnows and jigs. Catfish are fair. Bream, black bass and white bass are poor. The water is dingy and at a normal level.
Arkansas River (Little Rock Pool)
(updated 1-22-2020) Fish ‘N’ Stuff (501-834-5733) says the river current continues to move dangerously fast, with over 100,000 cfs noted Tuesday afternoon. There is a small craft advisory in effect. The water is muddy and high. No fishing reports.
(updated 1-22-2020) Zimmerman’s Exxon (501-944-2527) said the river is muddy and high. No fishing reported.
(updated 1-8-2020) McSwain Sports Center (501-945-2471), reporting on the fishing near the Terry Lock and Dam, said the water is high and clear. They said black bass are fair on spinnerbaits, jigs and minnows. Crappie are fair using minnows or jigs. Catfishing is fair on nightcrawlers. Bream are poor.
Clear Lake (off Arkansas-River-Little Rock Pool)
(updated 1-8-2020) McSwain Sports Center (501-945-2471) said the water is clear and at a normal level. The water remains cool. The crappie bite is fair on minnows or jigs. Black bass are fair on spinnerbaits or jigs. Catfishing is fair using worms (specifically nightcrawlers). Bream are poor.
(updated 1-22-2020) Herman’s Landing (870241-3731) is closed for hunting season and winter break. It will reopen in February.
(updated 1-22-2020) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said Bull Shoals Lake continues to rise but the rise is slowing; lake elevation is 667.20 feet msl as of Wednesday with Bull Shoals accepting releases from Beaver and Table Rock lakes.
“Winter is making a comeback here in north–central Arkansas but we anglers on the White River below Bull Shoals Dam are a hearty bunch. Although fewer fishers venture out, the ones that do are rewarded with some beautiful trout. This past week at Cotter, even with morning temperatures starting at 20 degrees, we hit the river and saw three trophy browns released (one was a hefty 28 inches), and caught several others just under the 24-inch mark.
“The rainbows are showing their colors and have been plentiful (as always), keeping the brave winter fishers busy reeling them in. Browns are loving the wintertime minnow
run but also continue to snatch at mid-sized sculpins. Drifting the high water with a No. 5 Rapala Count Down (rainbow or gold/black) or a 4½-inch white belly, black back Rogue provides for a lot of fun and action to keep you warm on these cold January days. Don’t leave your pink worms and shrimp at home; they are great back up if the bite disappears when using lures.”
(updated 1-22-2020) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) said the river is high, up 7 feet over the past week. There were 10 people out Thursday through Sunday and they “caught hundreds of trout,” they say. Needless to add, the bite is excellent – cutthroat, golden, rainbow, brown were all caught. PowerBait, stick baits and jigs were all working. “Fishing is really good and they caught fish in all conditions.”
(updated 1-22-2020) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-4352169) said that during the past week they received a bit over a quarter-inch of rainfall, cold temperatures and heavy winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals rose 3.4 feet to rest at 8 feet above seasonal power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 28 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock fell 0.9 foot to rest at 4 feet above seasonal power pool and 12 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake rose 1.7 feet to rest at 6.1 feet above seasonal power pool and 3.5 feet below the top of flood pool. The White River saw heavy generation and there was no wadable water. Norfork Lake rose 1.8 tenths feet to rest at 6.7 feet above seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 19.5 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork Dam tailwater saw heavy flows and had limited wadable water. Seasonal power pool has been reset for the lakes in the White River system. Due to a significant rain event last week, the waters are now weeks if not months from wadable water. The catch-and-release section below Bull Shoals Dam is closed until Jan. 31 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.
The White has fished well. The hot spot has been Bull Shoals State Park. The hot flies were olive Woolly Buggers (sizes 8, 10), Y2Ks (sizes 14, 12), prince nymphs (size 14), zebra midges (black with silver wire and silver bead or red with silver wire and silver bead sizes 16, 18), pheasant tails (size 14), ruby midges (size 18), root beer midges (size 18), pink and cerise San Juan worms (size 10), and sowbugs (size 16). Double-fly nymph rigs have been very effective (my current favorite combination is a cerise high water San Juan worm with an egg pattern suspended below it). Use long leaders and plenty of lead to get your flies down.
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 soles that are easier to clean and are not as likely to harbor didymo.
Bull Shoals Lake
As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 667.27 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl).
(updated 1-15-2020) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said surface temperature of the water is 49 degrees and Bull Shoals is again high after the weekend rainfall. As of Tuesday morning, the lake had risen 6 feet in two days. Crappie fishing has been good. They’re found in 15-25 depth and are biting shad as well as minnows and jigs. Target the brushpiles. Black bass are good. There is a deep bite going on at 20-25 feet. Look around brushy areas. White bass are good, also in the 20-25 feet depth range. Use shad. No reports on catfish or bream. Also, note that Del provides a video regularly on Youtube (Del Colvin/Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock) in which he talks about various and timely methods to fish the lake, which baits are working best and areas to target.
As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 560.19 feet msl (normal conservation pool: Sept.-April, 552.00 feet msl; April-Sept., 555.75 feet msl).
(updated 1-15-2020) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said Norfork Lake fishing is in its wintertime pattern, but with some twists due to all the drastic weather changes. “I guess this is normal, but when you go from 20 degrees to 60 degrees and then the water level changes 5.8 feet in a day, it tends to confuse the fish, or at least it confuses me.”
He adds, “Fishing would not be any fun if it was the same day in day out. With all the changes, it makes for a lot of searching different types of areas to see what the fish have decided to do. I guess it really is not the fish, but what the weather changes have done to the fish’s food source. Typically, as the water gets cold, large schools of shad tend to migrate out to deep water in the main lake river channel. This was what was happening over the last couple of weeks. With the rain last weekend, what is typical has changed. The bait has moved out of the main lake deep water. As of this (Tuesday) morning, I found lots of bait half way back in creeks, but still in deeper water.”
Lou says the movement of huge schools of shad affects the locations of striped bass. “Over the last couple of weeks, I was finding and catching striped bass between the two main bridges on the lake. The fish were in 80-120 feet of water and suspended anywhere from 20-50 feet down. Today I couldn’t find any there in the main lake. I finally found that the shad had moved halfway back into the creeks. And when I found the bait, I started marking big arcs scattered though out the bait. I set out three rods with live bait at 30, 35 and 40 feet deep. I was also jigging a white ¾-ounce spoon.
“About 20 minutes after I had set out the bait, a huge school of fish came under the boat. The fish were from surface to the bottom. All of a sudden each of the live bait rods got buried and I hooked into one with my spoon, but it came off immediately. I landed the first fish (a hybrid), then went to the second rod and the fish swam under the big motor and broke off, the last fish just stole the bait off of the third rod. After all was said and done, I got to land one of the fish and the big school had vanished. It was very hectic while it lasted. I kept moving around in this 75-85 feet of water. I had my spoon down to about 40 feet and I noticed a smaller school of fish at 55-60 feet down. I started dropping my spoon and the line went slack and the fight was on. The fish inhaled the spoon on the fall. I ended up landing a nice striped bass. After this I was still marking fish, but they were really scattered out.”
Bass and crappie are also affected by the weather and water level changes. They may not travel for miles (like striped bass) following the massive schools of shad, but they may change what depth they like to feed at, in the same general area. What the crappie were doing before the 6-foot rise in water level was feeding at the top of the brush on 25-35 feet deep brush. They were typically suspended down 12-20 feet deep. Small jigs or spoons have both been working well. Bass were also feeding in these same brush piles, but typically down toward the bottom of the brush. Bass were also on the shoreline 8-20 feet down and crankbaits were working great. “A couple of days ago I was back in a creek and found some nice schooling bass in 80 feet of water, suspended 30 feet down. I will be out doing a little crappie and bass fishing over the next week, so hopefully I will be able to figure out what this recent change to the lake has done to these species.” Norfork Lake surface water temperature Tuesday morning was 48-49 degrees. The lake level has risen a little less than 6 feet since last weekend and currently sits at 559.27 feet msl. Most creeks and coves are stained, but the brown water from the heavy runoff is falling out. The main-lake is somewhat clear. “Happy fishing and see you on the lake.”
(updated 1-22-2020) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake rose 1.8 tenths feet to rest at 6.7 feet above seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 19.5 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork Dam tailwater saw heavy flows and had limited wadable water. Seasonal power pool has been reset for the lakes in the White River system. Due to a significant rain event last week, the waters are now weeks if not months from wadable water.
The Norfork tailwater is fishing better. Navigate this stream with caution as things have changed a bit during the recent flooding. There has been major gravel recruitment at the bottom of Mill Pond and the dock hole. The most productive flies have been small midge patterns (sizes 18, 20, 22) like ruby midges, root beer midges, zebra midges (black or red with silver wire and silver bead) and soft hackles (sizes 14, 16) like the Green Butt. Egg patterns have also been productive. Double-fly nymph rigs have been very effective. Try a small ruby midge (size 18) suspended 18 inches below a red fox squirrel and copper. The fishing is better in the morning.
Dry Run Creek is fishing well. With school back in session it will be less crowded during the week. The weekends can be pretty busy. The hot flies have been sowbugs (size 14), Y2Ks (size 12), various colored San Juan worms (worm brown, red, hot fluorescent pink and cerise size 10) and mop flies.
John also said, “For the past couple of weeks I have been taking advantage of the recent wadable water on the Norfork Dam tailwater and enjoying it immensely. During this time, I was also trying to get my wife, Lori, to join me. Due to her heavy dog-training schedule she had not been able to join me. We have two show dogs, Tilley and Ghillie, which are both English Labrador Retrievers and take a lot of her free time. We went on a Sunday and did well.
“Last Wednesday we saw an even better chance. We were scheduled to have a nice long window of low water; the weather was warm, sunny with light and variable winds. We left the house a little early so that we could eat lunch at Heidi’s Ugly Cakes on our way to the river. Heidi is not open on Sunday. A trip to Heidi’s is a key to success on the Norfork.
“Lori and I arrived at the Ackerman Access around noon. The water was fully dropped out. We took a few minutes to rig our rods. I chose to stay with the double-fly nymph rig (pheasant tail with a ruby midge dropper) I had used before. Lori decided on an olive bead-head Woolly Bugger with some flash.
“We began walking upstream. Lori stopped about halfway up and waded over to a new spot that she had discovered. It is a nice deep run with a bedrock bottom. It holds plenty of trout but is challenging to wade. The trick is not to slip and fall. She always wears studded boots with felt soles to keep this from happening. In addition, she keeps her wading staff out at all times.
“I went far upstream to my favorite spot. I fished there for about an hour and landed three trout. I decided to move on. I went to my next spot. I fished there for about a half an hour. I did not get a bump. This was a place where I have caught a lot of trout in the past. It gave me something to think about. It was time to try new flies or even a new technique.
“I had noticed a few midges on the top of the water. I had not seen fish rising but I thought it may be time to try a soft hackle. I had tried a Green Butt (my signature fly and a very productive soft hackle) a couple of days before, with no success. I decided to try a partridge and orange soft hackle.
“I stripped off my two nymphs’ lead and strike indicator. I tied on a 3-foot 5X tippet and a partridge and orange that had a mashed down barb. I moved downstream to a spot that looked productive. I slowly fished my way downstream. I had gone about 15 minutes with no action. I was starting to worry that this would not work when I felt a subtle take. I landed a nice trout and continued fishing. Over the next hour I landed about a dozen trout.
“We had decided to fish until 3 p.m. so that we would be home to feed the dogs. It was time to go. I walked down to where Lori had been fishing. She had done well and had really enjoyed her afternoon on the river. She had stuck with the Woolly Bugger but had thought of fishing a partridge and orange.
“Our day had been special. For me, figuring what would work was important. For Lori, it was sticking with what was working that mattered.”
Buffalo National River/Crooked Creek
(updated 1-22-2020) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said the Buffalo National River and Crooked Creek are navigable. The smallmouths are much less active in the cold weather. John’s favorite fly is a 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.
As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 1,126.79 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 1,121.00 feet msl).
(updated 1-22-2020) Jon Conklin with FishOn Guide Service (479-233-3474) says Beaver Lake has leveled off at 1126.58 feet msl. Even though the water is full of debris and muddy, fish can still be caught. Stripers and hybrids are doing well on brood minnows. Look in Prairie Creek and Big Hickory areas. As the river arms clear, walleye should start to make spawning run. Crappie have been fair/good for spider riggers. Good areas are Big Hickory, Blue Springs and Friendship Creek. Bass are being caught on bluff walls with Alabama rigs. “Have heard that some being caught on jerkbaits. Good things are coming soon. Hoping for an early spring!”
(updated 1-22-2020) Southtown Sporting Goods (479-443-7148) said the lake is muddy in places, and it is down a couple of feet. Crappie are good and can be found at 10-15 feet depth. Use minnows. Black bass are good. Half-ounce spinnerbaits will work, along with jerkbaits and slow-rolling jigs. Stripers are biting brood minnows. Walleye are being caught on bottom bouncers, Flicker Shad and jerkbaits. No reports on bream or catfish.
(updated 1-15-2020) Guide Austin Kennedy (470-244-0039) said fishing has been good this past week in the tailwater. Trout have been biting on various PowerBaits fished with light terminal tackle. They have also responded well to quarter-ounce spoons and jigs. This week’s hotspot has been between Bertrand Access and Parker Bottoms. A few walleye have been caught as well – “a lot of them are shorts, but a few over 18 inches here and there. Crawler rigs, various hard baits and jigging with minnows have done the trick. I was only able to get out two days this week, so this report is kind of short. The water conditions are better, no more releases from the flood gates. Everything seems to be settling down for the moment. Hope you’re able to get out and catch some fish!”
(updated 1-22-2020) Lake Fayetteville Boat Dock (479-444-3476) had no report.
Lake Fort Smith
(updated 1-22-2020) Ralph Donnangelo, superintendent at Lake Fort Smith State Park, had no reports.
(updated 1-22-2020) Lake Sequoyah Boat Dock (479-444-3475) had no report.
(updated 1-22-2020) Boxhound Marina (870-670-4496) said the water is dingy and at a normal level. The surface temperature is 45 degrees as of Tuesday early afternoon. No fishing reports over the past week.
(updated 1-22-2020) Shelly Jeffrey at Lake Charles State Park had no report. Call the visitor center for any updates if you are going to Lake Charles.
(updated 1-22-2020) Lake Poinsett is closed until next year as repairs continue on the habitat. The Lake Pointsett State Park Visitors Center sells bait still, and the shop is in proximity to many other fishing destinations in northeast Arkansas.
(updated 1-15-2020) Mark Crawford of Spring River Flies and Guides says water levels are up this week. There was a lot of rain last week. The spring is flowing at 430 cfs; it was at 320 cfs last week. Water clarity is cloudy with a green tint. Y2Ks and white flies have been hot. “Gotta work a little more to get the fly down,” he says.
“Hot pink and bright orange Trout Magnets have been working well just off the bottom. It’s like candy to trout.
“Extra care should be used wading. The main river is above average flow. Wading staffs really help when wading the Spring River. It is very slick.
Mark reminds anglers to check his blog at springriverfliesandguides.com for the latest river conditions.
(updated 1-22-2020) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said The Spring River is fishing well. This is a great place to wade fish when they are running water on the White and North Fork rivers. Be sure to wear cleated boots and carry a wading staff. There is a lot of bedrock that can get very slick. The hot flies have been olive Woolly Buggers with a bit of flash (size 10), cerise and hot pink San Juan worms (size 10) and Y2Ks (size 10).
(updated 1-22-2020) Walcott Lake (Crowley’s Ridge State Park) had no reports.
(updated 1-22-2020) Triangle Sports (870-793-7122) in Batesville had no reports.
Arkansas River (Pine Bluff Pool)
(updated 1-22-2020) The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Bass Fishing Team had no report.
Arkansas River (Pool 2)
Cane Creek Lake
(updated 1-22-2020) Austin Davidson, park interpreter at Cane Creek State Park, had no report.
(updated 1-22-2020) Brian Whitson, park interpreter at Lake Chicot State Park (870-265-5480), had no new reports.
(updated 1-22-2020) The lake is undergoing a drawdown so that the dam can be repaired and the fish habitat rebuilt. There are no limits on game fish during the drawdown.
As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation was 260.95 feet msl (normal pool: 259.20 feet msl).
(updated 1-22-2020) Mike Siefert at Millwood Lake Guide Service said that as of Monday, Millwood Lake is about 2 feet above normal conservation pool, falling currently near 261.2 feet msl; the discharge is around 19,000 cfs in Little River, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. The tailwater below the dam and gates as of Monday was around 244 feet msl with discharge at the gates and dam. Check the most recent lake level of Millwood Lake on the guide service’s website linked above, or at the Army Corps of Engineers website, for updated gate release changes and inflow rates with rising and falling lake levels, especially during high flow river conditions. Use extreme caution in Little River navigation this week where logs and debris fields are present in the high river flow current conditions this week.
Surface temps Monday ranged 45-50 degrees, depending on location. Clarity continues improving in the oxbows with the river receding. Little River is heavy stain with moderate current and random broken timber and debris.
With the 3-foot rise a week ago in the main lake and Little River, the largemouth bass scattered. The week prior to the rise, square-bill crankbaits, Rat-L-Traps, chatterbaits and spinnerbaits were working, mainly on shallow roaming bass Rat-L-Traps, MR-6, Echo 1.75 and Little John cranks were getting decent responses over the past few weeks. Anywhere a creek channel is close by to the deeper creek bends or vertical structure and drops into the oxbows, and where stumps and creekmouths drop, decent-sized bass have been held there over the past several weeks. Seems like the feeding mechanism turns on like a light switch and shuts off almost as quickly during the middle of the afternoon, best from noon-3 p.m. The largemouths have been dropping off into Little River from creek channels along and behind points where river current had increased. White bass were roaming up Little River, dropping into deep wash-outs and ridges behind most major creek dumps to the river. Heavy thumping ¾-ounce and 1-ounce Rat-L-Traps in Millwood Magic, chrome, or Splatterback colors, cranked very slow and deep behind primary or secondary points, caught some decent whites a week ago in 12-16 feet depth. A chrome ¾-ounce Cordell Hammered Spoon with a red/white hair bucktail – vertical-jigged behind primary points near the bottom where stumps were located on the backside of points – were connecting with a few nice sized 2-3 pound whites last week. The whites were just 2-3 feet off the bottom, and the bite was extremely light. Some strikes were so soft, you would just feel the rod get a heavy or mushy sensation. Medium-running Fat Free Guppy cranks in Tennessee Shad or Citrus Shad were picking up a few whites that were near the top of school of the same suspended shites. No reports this week on spotted (Kentucky) bass. The crappie were holding near standing timber in the oxbows when clarity had improved. With the Little River on a rapid rise, crappie have been playing hard to get. Chartreuse jigs were working initially, but as the clarity has improved, a smoke-colored Cordell Grub on a jig was markedly better, and minnows were working by vertical-jigging near standing timber in Horseshoe. Catfish have been consistent over the past couple weeks with the increased current along Little River. Some 3- to 4-pound channel cats and high fin blues were biting chicken livers, gizzards and Punch bait within the last week on trotlines from 10-16 feet of depth in current.
(updated 1-8-2020) Sportsman’s One Stop in El Dorado (870-863-7248) says they’ve heard anglers were catching crappie and bass around the bridge.
Lake Greeson Tailwater
Visit www.littlemissouriflyflishing.com for a daily update on fishing conditions.
As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation was 540.38 feet msl (normal pool: 548.00 feet msl).
(updated 1-22-2020) Jason Lenderman of JL Guide Service (870-490-0804) said the lake level is almost 8 feet below full pool of 548 feet msl. Water temps are around 50 degrees and the upper portion of the lake has some color. If you find the shad, you will find the bass. Bandit 200 Crankbaits in crawdad colors are working on rocky points and flats really well. Booyah Hard Knockers in red or gold are also working well in these areas. Bass can also be caught on Booyah and War Eagle Jigs. Black/blue and green pumpkin colors work best, depending on water clarity. Crappie have been good lately. They can be caught in brush 15-25 feet deep on minnows and Bobby Garland Jigs.
As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation was 407.21 feet msl (normal pool: 408.00 feet msl).
White Oak Lake
(updated 1-8-2020) Sportsman’s One Stop in El Dorado (870-863-7248) said bass and crappie are biting well. Bass are being caught on crankbaits, jigs and soft plastics. Crappie are biting shiners or jigs; popsicle has been a good color lately.
(updated 1-22-2020) Sharon at Lucky Landing (479-641-7615) had no report.
For weekly flow releases from Carpenter Dam, visit www.entergy.com/hydro
(updated 1-22-2020) Steve Donahou at Lake Catherine State Park had no report.
Lake Catherine (Below Carpenter Dam)
For weekly flow releases from Carpenter Dam, visit www.entergy.com/hydro
(updated 1-22-2020) Shane Goodner, owner of Catch’em All Guide Service, reports the water temperature is 45 degrees below the dam with clear conditions in the tailrace. The winter drawdown has lakes Hamilton and Catherine 3 feet below normal, and this level will remain in place until March 1. The rainbow trout bite has been poor. Despite numbers of fish stocked in the area, constant generation and bitter temperatures have kept many anglers off the water. Cold fronts have contributed mightily to the slow bite, with a different one moving in and out of the area weekly. More rain is scheduled for later in the week so ongoing generation will continue until the excess waters have been passed through the dam system. When a more consistent weather pattern emerges next week, anglers can safely access the lake and wade easily to areas that hold good numbers of trout. PowerBaits in white or yellow presented under a bobber or just off the bottom with a marshmallow floater are an excellent way to catch trout early in the season and are often the go-to method of success when the bite is slow. Fly-fishermen can wade to areas that hold good numbers of fish and record limits of trout by casting Woolly Buggers, micro-jigs and egg patterns. Trolling shallow-running crankbaits against the current that imitate shad or crawfish will work well in times of slack water or flow. January trout stocking will be 9,300 fish and should greatly enhance trout numbers, giving anglers better opportunities for success. White bass numbers are good close to the dam, although the size is smaller than in a normal year. Crankbaits, jerkbaits, spinnerbaits and jig presentations will all draw strikes from these temperate bass from the dam to the bridge as they feed on shad moving in and out of the tailrace. Hybrid bass also run alongside these fish and will feed on the same prey items. Stripers have been observed feeding below the bridge in the late evening. Balloon rigs with gizzard shad give anglers a good chance to hook a big striper, but artificial lures such as Super Spooks and Alabama rigs should not be overlooked. Strong rods and lines are recommended for these predator fish, which possess great power and are often in the 20- to 40-pound range. The walleye spawn will begin in early February with the smaller males moving up first to prepare the beds. Anyone navigating Lake Catherine should always wear a life jacket and be aware of the generation schedules. All park rules and regulations must be followed in the Carpenter Dam tailrace.
(updated 1-22-2020) Jason Baumgartner, park aquarist at Lake Dardanelle State Park (479-890-7495), said a system brought some rain and gusty winds this past weekend. The forecast for this week begins with a cold front and possible wintry precipitation and then clear skies with seasonal temperatures. Water visibility is limited to only a few feet. The surface temperature is 40 degrees. As of Tuesday (Jan. 21) the Ozark Lock & Dam 12 tailwater has very slowly fallen to near 353 feet msl. Ozark tailwater release has remained near 130,000 cfs. There has been no power generation at Ozark. Downriver, pool elevation near Lake Dardanelle State Park has not fluctuated and has been holding near 338 feet msl. The Dardanelle tailwater has held around 20 feet since rising to 26 after last week’s heavy rains. Tailwater release has fallen in the past few days from about 140,000 cfs to 130,000 cfs. The powerhouse has been generating all day.
Dredging operations at river mile 222 near Cabin Creek are complete. However, the Corps of Engineers continues to issue navigation instructions for areas in pool 10. Near the river bend at Shoal Bay, between river miles 221.7 and 222.5, run the red line of the currently buoyed temporary channel. Around the river bend at Cane Creek, between river miles 232.5 and 233.5, run the red line. At O’Kane, between river miles 248.0 and 250.0, run the green line. Check https://www.swl.usace.army.mil/Media/News-Releases/Article/1985098/mkarns-nav-notice-swl-19-81-pool-10-change-in-water-elevation-and-sailing-instr/ for the most recent updates.
Anglers, please use caution when on the water. Many channel markers have drifted and there are many submerged hazards as a result of flooding. The Lake Dardanelle State Park tournament season will be very busy soon. We hosted a crappie tournament on Jan. 11. They fished in very poor weather and lake conditions. Anglers were limited to fishing areas away from channels due to high flow and debris. Not many fish were caught but some crappie were just shy of 2 pounds. For tournament scheduling and updates, please contact the Lake Dardanelle State Park Visitor Center at (479) 967-5516.
(updated 1-22-2020) Charles Morrison at Classic Catch Guide Service (479-647-9945) had no report.
(updated 1-22-2020) Greeson Marine, hometown dealer of the Arkansas-born-and-bred all-welded aluminum Xpress fishing boats in Hot Springs, reports lake levels still at drawdown stage and lake temperatures ranging from 45-48 degrees throughout the lake. The water has a slight haziness to it due to the recent rains but overall visibility is very good. “Over the last week we have had some bleak reports about the bass fishing but it is rebounding strong over the last few days. Bass have been doing well on the Damiki rig in shad and the Alabama rig in shad or white. What’s really doing well is crawling finesse jigs and craw imitations in green pumpkin through brush piles in the 20-foot-depth area. Bass are either on the main points or near secondary points. Depth is critical. Slow down and go deep.
“Crappie have been slow during the daytime, but with that being said, try going out after dark. Crappie are mass balled in 25-40 feet of water over brushpiles and can be caught with minnows and jigs. Try upsizing jigs if you can’t steal a bite.”
Hybrids are in the deep parts of the lake waiting for large shad to die or be wounded. “All we can say is, stay in the channel and use your electronics until you find them. Vertical-jig a large hair jig or spoon.” No catfish reports.
“Wear your life jackets at all times, folks! We live it and preach it because it matters. Make it home alive! Good luck and go Greeson!”
(updated 1-15-2020) Capt. Darryl Morris at Family Fishing Trips said crappie are good on brushpiles where deep water channels are very nearby. Fish 10-15ft. deep with minnows under corks. Prepare to observe a light, easy bite.
As of Tuesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation was 353.29 feet msl (normal pool: 342.00 feet msl).
(updated 1-22-2020) Andrews Bait Shop and More (479-272-4025) says the water is clearing up, but it is still muddy and high. However, the level has dropped down to about 10 feet above normal level. The surface temperature is 47 degrees. There has been no fishing.
As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation was 577.66 feet msl (normal pool: 578.00 feet msl).
(updated 1-22-2020) Todd Gadberry at Mountain Harbor Resort and Spa (870-867-2191/800-832-2276 out of state) reports that black bass are fair to good. Alabama rigs in major creeks or fishing a Pig-n-Jig near brush have been productive. No report on walleye. Stripers are fair. They’re being caught on live bait or big hair jigs. No reports on bream. Crappie are fair to good. Try a small jig near brush in 25-40 feet of water. No reports on catfish. The water temperature is ranging 48-52 degrees and the clarity is stained. Lake level earlier this week was 575.20 feet msl. Call the Mountain Harbor fishing guides (Mike Wurm, 501-622-7717, or Chris Darby, 870-867-7822 for more information.
Blue Mountain Lake
As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation was 384.69 feet msl (normal pool: 384.00 feet msl).
(updated 1-22-2020) Professional fishing guide Ronnie Tice (901-687-6800) said the lake has dropped some to low level and is murky. Crappie fishing also dropped off some from last week. It’s fair now. There is a trolling bite at 25 feet in 30 feet of water, he said. Also some crappie are shallow and can be caught on minnows or jigs. Black bass are poor. There is a bite early in the morning, however. Catfishing is excellent. Bream are poor.
Bear Creek Lake/Storm Creek Lake
(updated 1-22-2020) Natalie Faughn, assistant superintendent at Mississippi River State Park (870-295-4040), says Bear Creek Lake’s boat ramp is currently closed due to low water levels. The USDA Forest Service made the decision to lower the lake to protect the integrity of the lake’s spillway, which is showing extreme signs of wear. Fishing from the bank is still welcomed. If anglers or other folks would like more information on this, they can look on the USFS website or call their offices during business hours at (870) 295-5278. Storm Creek Lake is still open for business, but with not much to report. Natalie says, “We had some brave anglers out facing the cold this weekend, but some small bass was all that was caught.”
(updated 1-22-2020) The AGFC’s Wil Hafner at Cook’s Lake Conservation Education Center (870-241-3373) says the fishing season Cook’s Lake will resume in the spring. For now, it’s closed so the lake can serve as a waterfowl rest area. Check back in late February for the spring plans and reopening for anglers. For more information, please contact the center at 870-241-3373.
Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter E-mails
Don't miss another issue. Sign up now to receive the AGFC Wildlife Weekly Newsletter in your mailbox every Wednesday afternoon (Waterfowl Reports are published weekly during waterfowl season and periodically outside the season). Fishing Reports arrive on Thursdays. Fill in the following fields and hit submit. Thanks, and welcome!