Arkansas Wildlife Weekly Fishing Report
BY Jim Harris
April 22, 2020
Managing Editor Arkansas Wildlife Magazine
This is the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s weekly fishing report for April 22, 2020. If there is a body of water you would like included in this report, please email email@example.com 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
NOTE: Employees and contractors with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission will be conducting herbicide applications to Craig D. Campbell Lake Conway Reservoir beginning May 1. The herbicides cause no harm to wildlife, people or aquatic life, but will kill gardens, flowerbeds and lawns if used on neighboring lands. 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 the lake for the next three months.
The use of herbicides is necessary to control the current problems with alligatorweed and other invasive vegetation species that have infested these lakes, restricting access to boathouses, ramps and fishing locations and hindering native wildlife and fish populations. For more information, please contact the AGFC Fisheries Office in Mayflower at (877) 470-3309.
(updated 4-22-2020) Bates Field and Stream (501-470-1846) said the lake remains in its normal stain state, while the water was high on Tuesday before this next wave of midweek rain. No surface temperature was reported. Bream have been good; redworms, crickets, jigs and nightcrawlers all have been working well. Crappie are good on minnows, jigs and redworms. Black bass are good, with anglers reporting best success with spinnerbaits, plastic worms, topwater lures, chatterbaits, buzzbaits and bass minnows. Catfishing is good on the trotlines with minnows or nightcrawlers.
Little Red River
(updated 4-15-2020) Lowell Myers of Sore Lip’em All Guide Service (501-230-0730) says the Greers Ferry Lake level is still above normal seasonal pool due to recent rains. Right now the generation pattern is unpredictable. 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 Corps of Engineers website (swl-wc.usace.army.mil) for real-time water release and the Southwestern Power Administration website (swpa.gov) to see the forecasted generation schedule. For fly-fishing, Lowell recommends San Juan worms, egg, hares ear, sowbugs and streamers. Hot pink and white bodies on chartreuse jigheads are recommended for Trout Magnet spin-fishing. Be safe while enjoying the river.
(updated 4-15-2020) Greg Seaton of littleredflyfishingtrips.com (501-690-9166) said, “I hope all are well and adapting to these different times. During these trying times, I hope all are doing their part in preventing the spread of this virus. This seems the only way we can control this disease and return to normal. It is impossible to practice social distancing while guiding, so I have suspended my guiding until such time it is safe for me and my clients. No one wants to spread this disease to others, but social contact is unforgiving and doesn’t distinguish strangers, friends or relatives.”
Greg adds, “Times are different on the Little Red. Arkansas is still under restricted travel, limited gatherings of 10 people or less, social distancing and no recreational lodging rentals. Rentals can be for business or medical personal only. It is my hope that this situation improves soon and we can begin to get back to normal. As soon as this happens, I will be posting the good news and reopen my guide business. I am missing all my regular fishermen and meeting new ones.
“The river is clear and high. They are generating round-the-clock with either one or two units. The lake is still 2½ feet above normal. We can hope that when the water levels return to normal, our daily routines are also closer to normal and we can enjoy the river. It is best to check each afternoon for the next day schedule. Stay safe, good health and see you soon.”
Greers Ferry Lake
As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 465.52 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 462.54 feet msl).
(updated 4-22-2020) Tommy Cauley of Fishfinder Guide Service (501-940-1318) said the water level at Greers Ferry Lake is at 465.57 feet msl and falling with generation. It is 3.53 feet above normal pool of 462.04 feet msl, but it looks like we will get another rise with 5 inches in the forecast, but great for fry after spawn for sure. Crappie are still eating good all over, and some again in all # phases of spawn, use jigs or minnows or crank baits trolled as well as jigs for the best chance of catching. Walleye are still chewing crawlers, crank baits, jerk baits, some of the bite is going away while some is getting stronger, in lake try 12-18 and main rivers or upstream real shallow while its cloudy. Catfish are coming in; there are not a lot of people fishing for them. Rods and reels, lines and jugs are working all over lakes and rivers. Use live bait, cut bait and stink bait. Black bass are eating from super shallow out to 30 feet and can be caught 30 different ways right now from top water baits on down. Hybrid and White basses are chewing real well young to old fish all over lake and rivers as well, some good Hybrids coming in and lots and lots of white bass, use road runners, grubs, topwater baits, inline spinners, spoons.
(updated 4-22-2020) Fish ’N Stuff (501-834-5733) in Sherwood says the smallmouth bass bite is going well. They’re using Irish Whiskey tubes and fishing it 12 feet deep. Largemouth bass are good. They are flipping jigs in the buckbrush and also using Carolina rigs at the main lake points. Crappie are good. They’re biting at 5 feet depth in the brush on Road Runners at the upper end of the lake.
Harris Brake Lake
(updated 4-22-2020) Harris Brake Lake Resort (501-889-2745) reports the lake is muddy but at a normal level as of Tuesday, while the surface temperature is 59-60 degrees. Bream are good on crickets. Anglers report catch large bream on the crickets this past week. Crappie have been poor, still slow into this week, but they should be spawning at Harris Brake Lake in about 1-2 weeks, they say. Black bass are good. Plastic lures in watermelon color appear to be working best. Catfishing is good on trotlines baited with goldfish or bass minnows.
NOTE: Employees and contractors with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission will be conducting herbicide applications to Lake Overcup beginning May 1. The herbicides cause no harm to wildlife, people or aquatic life, but will kill gardens, flowerbeds and lawns if used on neighboring lands. 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 the lake for the next three months. The use of herbicides is necessary to control the current problems with alligatorweed and other invasive vegetation species that have infested these lakes, restricting access to boathouses, ramps and fishing locations and hindering native wildlife and fish populations. For more information, please contact the AGFC Fisheries Office in Mayflower at (877) 470-3309.
(updated 4-22-2020) Johnny “Catfish” Banks of Overcup Bait Shop and R.V. Park (501-354-9007) had no new reports. Visit Johnny’s Facebook page (Overcup Bait Shop and R.V. Park) for the latest updates and photos.
(updated 4-22-2020) David Hall, owner of Dad’s Bait Shop (501-977-0303), said the lake is slightly stained but is mostly clear. The surface water temperature Tuesday at midday was 60 degrees. Water level is high by 3 feet. Bream reports are good. They’re being caught in the afternoons off the shoreline. Redworms and crickets are both working well. (David mention’s that Dad’s has crickets and he says he’s apparently the only bait shop in three counties with them.) Crappie are shallow in the buckbrush, at 4 feet depth, and the bite is good. Try No. 6 crappie minnows, jigs and tri-colored crappie tube and purple monkey. Black bass are good. They’re also in shallow, 4-5 feet water, and are hitting crankbaits, No. 12 bass minnows and jigs. Catfish reports are good using jugs baited with big trotline minnows.
(updated 4-22-2020) Westrock Landing (501-658-5598) on Highway 10 near Roland had no fishing reports. The shop is open daily from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m.
(updated 4-22-2020) Lisa Spencer at Lisa’s Bait Shop (501-778-6944) said Sunset Lake has still been good for catfishing. People are still catching them on fresh chicken livers, nightcrawlers, minnows and stink bait. Crappie have been good also with some catching up to a dozen or so good eaters using crappie minnows. Bream are being caught off of crickets and red worms and 1/16-ounce brown Rock Hoppers. Bass have been good on Zoom Trick Worms and Baby Brush Hogs.
Bishop Park Ponds
(updated 4-22-2020) Lisa Spencer at Lisa’s Bait Shop (501-778-6944) said bass have been caught off of bass minnows and brooder minnows. Crappie have done fair off of crappie minnow; lately, anglers say they are just catching small ones, though. Bream are good off of crickets. Catfish are being caught using fresh chicken livers, cut bait and bait shrimp.
Saline River Access in Benton
(updated 4-22-2020) Lisa Spencer at Lisa’s Bait Shop (501-778-6944) says bass have been doing excellent at the spillway off of brooder minnows and Zing Tails and beetle spins. Crappie have been good on crappie minnows, Kalin’s 2-inch Grubs in the color Tennessee Shad. Catfish are being caught off of frozen cut bait, goldfish and nightcrawlers. Bream are picking up; anglers are using crickets, redworms and waxworms.
(updated 4-22-2020) Lisa Spencer at Lisa’s Bait Shop (501-778-6944) said this lake “has been hot on crappie! They have been catching them on all sizes – small, medium, and also pink crappie minnows.” She adds that Kalin’s 2-inch Grubs in the colors Arkansas Shad, Tennessee shad and Rainbow Trout have been doing well for catching the crappie. Bream have been biting on crickets. Bass have been biting spinnerbaits, Zoom Trick Worms and Baby Brush Hogs. Catfish have been hitting fresh chicken livers, nightcrawlers, black salties and bait shrimp.
(updated 4-22-2020) Lisa Spencer at Lisa’s Bait Shop (501-778-6944) said Lake Winona “is a lake that usually has up to three boats on it at a time but has recently been discovered. Where there is water, people are going to try out their skills of fishing. And trying to find a place where no one goes is hard to do, especially since all of this COVID-19.” Crappie have been good on crappie minnows and bass minnows. Catfish are good on bait shrimp and nightcrawlers. Bream are fair on crickets and redworms. Bass have been hitting Zoom Trick Worms, crankbaits and beetle spins.
Little Maumelle River
(updated 4-22-2020) Ray Hudson at River Valley Marina (501-517-1250) said the river is clear as of Tuesday midday. Bream were good in 3-4 feet depth, but they don’t appear to be bedding yet, Ray says. Use worms or crickets. Crappie are good. They’re found shallow and are biting minnows and jigs. Black bass are biting well. Anglers are finding them shallow on the banks. Ray says they are biting “on pretty much anything.” Catfishing is excellent. “They’re doing really well and biting on just about anything,” he said.
Arkansas River (Maumelle Pool)
(updated 4-8-2020) Zimmerman’s Exxon (501-944-2527) says fishing has picked up in this pool and off the Little Maumelle River. Bream are good. They’re in 3-4 feet of water and biting crickets. They are bedding up in the backwaters and also biting waxworms along with the crickets. Crappie reports are fair. The crappie are biting at 4-6 feet depth, with pink minnows working best. No reports on black bass or catfish. White bass are good using Rooster Tails.
Arkansas River (Little Rock Pool)
(updated 4-22-2020) Fish ’N Stuff (501-834-5733) says black bass are good on the Little Rock pool in the backwaters and on the banks (2-8 feet deep). Use a black/blue jig or a black worm (Senko style). With the river in its current condition, they are also fishing and providing reports from Greers Ferry Lake (see Greers Ferry Lake listing above).
(updated 4-22-2020) McSwain Sports Center (501-945-2471) says had no reports.
(updated 4-15-2020) Zimmerman’s Exxon (501-944-2527) reports the Little Rock pool is muddy and high. Below Terry Lock and Dam near the Willow Beach area, they have heard good reports on black bass. Whopper Ploppers are working best; fish there in the early morning. Also, catfish are good below the hydroelectric plant. Use cut skipjack or cut shad. White bass are fair by the Terry Dam using chartreuse Sassy Shads.
Clear Lake (off Arkansas-River-Little Rock Pool)
(updated 4-15-2020) McSwain Sports Center (501-945-2471) said the lake clarity is cloudy and the level is high. Bream are good on worms and crickets. Crappie are good using minnows or jigs. No reports on black bass or crappie.
(updated 4-22-2020) Donna Mulherin at Herman’s Landing (870-241-3731) said the lake is dingy and at a normal level. Bream are fair on worms and crickets. The crappie bite is good, and anglers are using minnows, jigs and catching crappie on yo-yos. Black bass are good using a crankbait. Catfishing is good on the limblines and by noodling.
(updated 4-22-2020) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said, “April showers have filled our lakes, not quite to the brim but enough so that Southwestern Power Administration and the Army Corps of Engineers have been working hard to lessen the stain on the dams and keeping downstream conditions under control by opening five to seven power generators daily for the last week and probably into the next few weeks. Bull Shoals Lake is 24 feet above the desired power pool level and just 12 feet below the top of flood pool, so it’s a good thing they are releasing nearly 17,000 cfs today. In my experience, the last two weeks of April and first couple of weeks of May bring the most rain, so we won’t complain about high water in the river. The guides always remind me: “Fish love water. The more water the better,” and the guys continue to do a really great job of helping folks catch them. This week we pulled in rainbow after rainbow with floating pink mousetails (artificial worms), and Rooster Tails with black and yellow skirts, gold blades, 1/4 ounce to 3/8 ounce. It never hurts to have a rod rigged with your favorite Power Bait hue (garlic flavor works nice, too) and some shrimp toppers to coax the more reluctant ones out of hiding. Jig fishing with white or orange/black Zig Jigs or a standard white maribou jig has offered a lot of fun and success, too. We brought a beauty of a rainbow to the boat for pictures (22 inches, 6 pounds) a few days back with a nice little red-fin river minnow. The browns are turning out in numbers for good sized sculpins drifted deep on a number 2 bronze Aberdeen hook. Cabin fever is best cured by a trip to the river and a
creel of rainbows for dinner. Come find yours!
(updated 4-22-2020) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) said the river has a green and mossy look. The river level is still high; they say 5-6 generators have been running at the dam recently. The trout bite has been poor. “No one is fishing, but we do have two reservations for this weekend so hopefully it starts to pick up more,” they say.
(updated 4-15-2020) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said that during the past week they had two rain events (combined for a little less than 2 inches), cooler temperatures and heavy winds (to include wind advisories). The lake level at Bull Shoals rose 0.3 foot to rest at 22.7 feet above seasonal power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 13.3 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock fell 2.1 feet to rest at 3.3 feet above seasonal power pool and 12.7 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake rose 0.1 foot to rest at 8.4 feet above seasonal power pool and 1.2 feet below the top of flood pool. The White had heavy generation no wadable water. Norfork Lake fell 0.9 foot to rest at 16.4 feet above seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 9.8 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork tailwater had heavy flows and no wadable water.
The Army Corps of Engineers has opened the spillway gates on Table Rock, Bull Shoals and Norfork dams in an effort to lower the water level on these lakes quicker.
The White has fished well. The hot has been the catch-and-release section below Bull Shoals Dam. 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 (John’s current favorite combination is a deep-water worm with a weighted egg suspended below it).
Norfork Lake fell 0.9 foot to rest at 16.4 feet above seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 9.8 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork tailwater had heavy flows and no wadable water.
The Army Corps of Engineers has opened the spillway gates on Table Rock, Bull Shoals and Norfork dams in an effort to lower the water level on these lakes quicker.
John also said, “Last week I had one of my regular clients cancel his scheduled guide trip due to fear of the coronavirus (his wife would not let him come). Based on what is happening in our country it was the best thing to do. I can honestly say that I was a bit concerned about the trip. I am 73 years old and am in the group of people most at peril with the disease.
“This has been a common occurrence over the past few weeks as I have had almost all of my trips this month canceled. When I talk to other guides (carefully maintaining a social distance of at least 6 feet), they all tell me they are in the same boat. I still have a few trips scheduled for May that I fully expect to lose any day. To make things tougher, Gov. Hutchison has closed the state to temporary visitors from other states. Anybody that would want to fish here now has nowhere to stay. I do not disagree with his decision.
“Guides are in financial trouble. If we don’t work, we don’t eat. We are all independent contractors, not employees. We work for ourselves. If we do a guide trip for a lodge, trout dock or fly shop, they take a percentage of the fee but do not provide any benefits. We are not provided health insurance, retirement or sick pay. If we do not have any trips, we cannot draw unemployment. It is our responsibility to pay for our health insurance, retirement and plan for hard times. Some do this better than others.
“I see a radical change in our business. I do not see a return to normal for a long time. The coronavirus will have to run its course so that our citizens can move freely.
I am fortunate. I am a conservative, retired CPA who was raised by parents that survived the Great Depression and World War II. I have been taught to live a simple life and save money for hard times. I live in a small house, drive a used 21-year-old Suburban and work out of a used 15-year-old Supreme with a 15 hp motor.
“The reality of the situation is that we are not alone. Everyone that I know is feeling pain. I know a lot of people that have lost their jobs. Local businesses are closed or offering very limited services. There is no rainbow in sight. I can only recommend that we all hunker down and survive this plague and be ready to get back to work on the other side.
“We are all in this together. I look forward to fishing with my friends and clients again.”
Bull Shoals Lake
As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 683.35 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl).
(updated 4-22-2020) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock reports Wednesday that there is limited access to ramps and parking, so call first. Fish are in all phases of the spawn. Look for flat pockets halfway back to the backs of coves. Beat the bank, fish the conditions. High water is making it great for the spawn. It’s a little tougher for the anglers. Gravel banks and boat ramps, old roads are good places to drag baits. Google Earth maps or a good memory is important right now on Bull Shoals, he said. The water is clear and the surface temperature is 62 degrees. Lake level is 25 feet above normal.
For black bass, spinnerbaits are working. Also, go with a swimbait or jerkbait on shad balls. A spinnerbait or a chatterbait on windy banks with stain will work. Senkos, jigs, Beaver, weightless worms, topwater frogs, Zara Spooks and lots of other baits are working, Del says, if you get around the fish. Check out Del’s YouTube page (Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock) for more information and tips on catching the fish in Bull Shoals Lake.
As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 569.20 feet msl (normal conservation pool: Sept.-April, 552.00 feet msl; April-Sept., 555.75 feet msl).
(updated 4-15-2020) Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters said fishing for Norfork Lake stripers, bass and crappie continues to improve. The crappie has moved off the banks due to the cold weather but are being caught over the deep brush piles. Slow-trolling small crank baits in 20-30 feet of water near the shore will produce. Another method is to dip a minnow in debris along a deep shoreline. This coming week will slow down the spawn as we are expected to have cold nights and rain for a few days. Once we start having some warm nights and south winds we will see the spawn for crappies, bass and shad. That will be a great time to be on the water as the fish will be very active chasing bait food in the buck brush.
The best striper bite this past week was the late afternoon. With the full moon the stripers feed at night so very early mornings and later evenings usually produce the best. My son, Sean, fished several evenings and had some great success. He fished Crystal Cove above Blue Lady Resort and caught several good size stripers with the biggest being 32 pounds, which was released. Sean was using 10-inch gizzard shad. This time of year the stripers want the really big baits. As the saying goes “big baits big fish”. Now that the full moon is over, you should resume our normal spring pattern, fishing the main lake points early and later in the morning if you have a west or south wind. I usually fish Big Creek from Wood’s Point up to 1C early then move to the windy banks later in the morning. My best baits are 5-to 8-inch gizzard shad. I use long lines and planer boards to cover a large area of water. Another trick is to fish the deep-water buffs but keep your baits shallow; the stripers love cruising those areas feeding on threadfin shad.
(updated 4-15-2020) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said Norfork Lake fishing has been good over the last couple of weeks and will continue to get better and better as the weather and the lake stabilizes. Crappie and bass fishing have been the best bite with the striped bass bite not far behind.
He says, “There have been two different methods that I and others have been using to catch crappie. Trolling small crankbaits, such as the Berkley Flicker Minnow size 7, that dive 10 to 15 feet have been working very well. I have been slow-trolling these baits at 1.2 mph. Colors have varied, purple has been working the best as of late, but the firetiger and shad color patterns have also been doing well. Best areas have been part way back in creeks and coves, especially if there is a lot of sunken brush in 10 to 30 feet of water. The crappie are schooling and moving between brush piles. I have mainly been staying in 18 to 30 feet of water and am working the whole area. The other method of fishing for crappie is to vertical jig a small jig over brush that is in 20 to 30 feet of water. The crappie have been suspended above the brush about 15 feet down. There is actually a third method. Crappie are still spawning and will be for some time. They will be up in shallow water, so casting a jig into shallow water or live bait on a slip float will catch you some fish. This last method is the toughest as there is a lot of sunken brush along the shore line so they could be spawning anywhere.
“Bass fishing has also been very good. Largemouth and spotted bass are up in the sunken brush from the shoreline out to 20 feet of water. Top water baits, swimbaits, spinners and crank baits are all working at times. Keep your bait at the top of the brush and the bass will come out and ambush it. Main lake points on both the shallow and deep side are holding fish. If you want to get into some topwater action head back into creeks and coves and find some bait. The bass are coming up and feeding at sunrise and then again at sunset. They move a little deeper after the sun comes up.
“The striped bass bite has had its ups and downs with the ever-changing weather patterns and lake level changes. At this time this species is feeding early in the morning on some of the main lake points in the sunken buck brush. Live bait is working the best, but casting out swimbaits or suspending jerkbaits are catching a few. They will be up in very shallow water feeding out to 30 feet of water. I used live bait with no weights the other day. I was letting the baits swim free just outside of the brush. The fish were cruising and attacking the bait right on the surface. Don’t hesitate to check out coves and creeks where the wind is blowing directly in. Many times in this situation the wind will blow in the bait and the stripers will follow. I found fish in the back of one cove in 20 to 30 feet of water. This species is continually, looking for their next meal. Find lots of bait and the stripers will be nearby.
Over the last week the lake had dropped slowly about a foot, but with the rains the other day it is slowly rising again. The lake currently sits at 570.45 feet MSL. The lake surface temperature is hovering around 60 degrees plus or minus a degree or two. The weather is going to change for the better and is warming up again. The lake is slightly stained to clear. “Happy fishing and see you on the lake.”
(updated 4-15-2020) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake fell 0.9 foot to rest at 16.4 feet above seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 9.8 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork tailwater had heavy flows and no wadable water.
The Army Corps of Engineers has opened the spillway gates on Table Rock, Bull Shoals and Norfork dams in an effort to lower the water level on these lakes quicker.
The Norfork is fishing better. Navigate this stream with caution as there has been major gravel recruitment at the bottom of Mill Pond and the dock hole due to flooding. 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 (size 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 very well. With the coronavirus there is little pressure. 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.
Buffalo National River/Crooked Creek
NOTE: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, at the urging of Gov. Asa Hutchinson, has closed access to the Buffalo National River for the time being due to the coronavirus pandemic.
(updated 4-15-2020) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said the Buffalo National River and Crooked Creek are high and off-color. 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 1,128.26 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 1,121.00 feet msl).
(updated 4-22-2020) Jon Conklin with FishOn Guide Service (479-233-3474) says Beaver is holding steady at a high level. “Looks like the spawn will happen before they pull it down. Crappie are fair to good. They are moving up as water is 60-plus feet in most areas. Problem I am having is finding spawning fish with so much good spawning areas. If you move, and I mean move a lot, you can fill limits. Look for flooded buckbrush. If you can remember where there was lots of buckbrush and pea gravel adjacent when the lake was at normal levels, then you have found the right spot. You have to picture what it looks like below when the lake was 10 feet shallower.
“Bass are also sliding up shallower each day. Everybody I know that is bass fishing were doing really good last week, from one end of Beaver to the other. Spotted bass and smallmouth are off spawning flats in 20 feet of water and doing good on tubes, Ned rigs and plastics.
“Stripers are still being caught, although they have slowed a bit. Lot of shad in back of Hickory Creek and Piney Creek. Trotliners and jug fisherman are hammering catfish. Bream are good and they are a great fish for kids to catch. I love this time of year. Walleye are moving back to the main lake area and should go on a post-spawn bite in a week or two. If you bow fish, carp are thick up shallow.
(updated 4-22-2020) Southtown Sporting Goods (479-443-7148) said the lake appears to be clearing up. The surface water temperature Tuesday was in the low 60s. Water level is still high by about 8-9 feet. No reports again this week on bream. Crappie are good on minnows and jigs. Black bass are shallow and the bite is good; it’s best to try a spinnerbait, topwater plug or wacky worms. No report on catfish. White bass are still good on the river. Walleye are good on brightly colored grubs.
(updated 4-15-2020) Guide Austin Kennedy (479-244-0039) says fishing this past week has been a little tricky with the water being released from the dam. Not so much the bite, but the different methods employed to catch fish. “I personally like fishing with flowing water. The trout bite has been good. Most have been biting on various PowerBaits fished with light terminal tackle. Jigs and spoons have done the trick as well. White bass are starting to make their move up the river. Try fishing for them in 14-20 feet of water with U-rigs; various hard baits are catching them as well. Most of this action is between Beaver and Holiday Island. Kentucky bass are being caught in chunk rock and around structure. Soft plastics and hard baits have been working well for these guys.
“The striper bite has been decent. Most fish are being caught mid-lake, in 30-50 feet or water with live bait. This week’s hot spot has been toward Beaver with the various species. If you would like further information, please contact me through my fishing Facebook page (Busch Mountain Fishing Guide Service). Have fun, stay dry BUNDLE UP and be safe!”
(updated 4-22-2020) Lake Fayetteville Boat Dock (479-444-3476) is closed until further notice due to the coronavirus pandemic. The lake is open to fishing.
Lake Fort Smith
(update 4-22-2020) Ralph F. Donnangelo, park superintendent, had no new reports.
(updated 4-22-2020) Lake Sequoyah Boat Dock (479-444-3475) is closed until further notice. Fishing is allowed on the lake, however. Water is muddy and high.
(updated 4-15-2020) Boxhound Marina (870-670-4496) is now closed until the end of April because of coronavirus. There is still lake access via the launch ramp. There is a deposit box set up for the launch fees. The bass tournament that was scheduled for April 18 has been postponed.
(updated 4-22-2020) Shelly Jeffrey at Lake Charles State Park (870-878-6595) said the water at Lake Charles is high, but that’s not keeping boats off the water. However, she received no reports on catches. The water is murky and, as of Sunday morning, had a surface temp of 51 degrees.
(updated 4-15-2020) Seth Boone, the park superintendent at Lake Poinsett State Park, says the lake remains drained for the ongoing repair work; however, the state park has “continued being the light in the dark for bait. We are looking forward to the lake coming back in about a year for guests to enjoy.” The park’s bait shop is in close proximity to many other fishing destinations in northeast Arkansas while Lake Poinsett is repaired.
(updated 4-22-2020) Mark Crawford of Spring River Flies and Guides said water levels are running at 515 cfs (350 is average) and water clarity has been clear. The spring has maintained a strong flow with all the rain. “At the time of writing this report the river is clear. It is looking really good this week. Rain in the forecast can change conditions quickly.” For the latest river conditions, visit Mark’s blog at springriverfliesandguides.com for the latest river conditions.
He says, “Olive Woollies and orange blossom specials have been the hot flies this week. We did have one day with a blue-wing olive hatch and we switched to white lightning, minnow pattern. When there is a good hatch of any kind of bugs, watch near the shore to see if the minnows are hitting the bugs as they land on the water. It’s not a bad idea to tie on a dry fly and catch a few of the baitfish to get a good look. Some of the shad in Spring River are huge! The trout, a lot of the time during a hatch, will feed on the minnows that have their attention on the bugs. A lot of the really big fish caught over the years have had half-digested minnows in their mouth.
“Hot pink and Florida orange Trout Magnets always produce trout on the river. On the local creeks a pink Trout Magnet is the thing for numbers. Smallmouth love them. With the higher water, Trout Cranks by Trout Magnet and Flicker Shad by Berkley work fantastic for getting down to the fish.”
(updated 4-15-2020) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said the Spring River is navigable. 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).
Arkansas River (Pine Bluff Pool)
(updated 4-8-2020) The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Bass Fishing Team said water temperatures are in the low to mid-60s. Water clarity is up to 1.5 feet in protected backwaters and only inches on the main channel and tributaries. Regional Park and Island Harbor boat ramps are open, St. Marie Park is closed. Island Harbor ramp is almost flooded, Regional Park can handle another foot or so of rise. The main channel is dangerous right now; most jetties and some navigational buoys are completely submerging from the current; please stay off the main channel for now. No report on fishing.
Cane Creek Lake
(updated 4-22-2020) Austin Davidson, park interpreter at Cane Creek State Park, had no report.
(updated 4-22-2020) Brian Whitson, park interpreter at Lake Chicot State Park (870-265-5480), had no reports.
(updated 4-22-2020) The lake is undergoing a repair to the dam and improvements to the fish habitat and is currently drawn down.
As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation was 259.65 feet msl (normal pool: 259.20 feet msl).
(updated 4-22-2020) Mike Siefert at Millwood Lake Guide Service said that as of Tuesday, Millwood Lake is back on a slow fall. Millwood Lake is about 5 inches above normal conservation pool, near 259.7 feet msl, and the discharge is around 15,000 cfs in Little River, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. The tailwater below the dam and gates as of Monday remains around 242 feet msl with discharge. 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. Wilton Landing on Little River U.S. Highway 71 and White Cliffs boat ramp on Little River, along with the Saratoga boat ramp, have reopened after recent flooding. Millwood State Park and Marina are also open for day use. Continue to use extreme caution in Little River navigation this week where logs and floaters may be present this week. Twenty-five more river buoys have been replaced, marking Little River from mile marker 2 through 9; use caution where river current may have moved or damaged river buoys. No wake zones are in effect at White Cliffs Campground boat ramp on Little River.
Surface temps rose this week with increased radiant heat; they ranging 63-69 degree. Clarity is consistent in the back of the oxbows, with heavy stain this week. Clarity and visibility along Little River at 3-5 inches. The oxbow’s clarity is moderate stain, ranging 10-12 inches depth of visibility depending on location. Clarity and visibility can change dramatically on Millwood in just a few hours with high winds, rain or thunderstorms.
As for fishing details:
* Largemouth bass: With Millwood on a slow fall, and most largemouths having the “post-spawn blues,” this past week was a tough few days for us. Lot of the Largemouth Bass upriver are post spawn in many locations. A few males are still being seen near spawning flats, roaming in and out of flats near vertical structure in the oxbows but extremely finicky what they are responding to. Brazalo Chatterbaits, and spinnerbaits, along with trick worms, tricky sticks, 6-8″ lizards, and twitch worms which were getting good responses from decent 14-17-inch bass a week ago, it’s like a light switch flipped them off for us this past week. Throwing the same Echo 1.5 crankbaits, chatterbaits, and custom painted Little Johns we were over the past 2 weeks, didn’t seem to interest the Bass at all, this week. We changed up to a few sweet beavers and custom poured crawbugs, and creature baits this week for a slower, methodical, deliberate approach, and only a few takers randomly over several days. We are moving slightly deeper off the flats into the creeks and points near vertical structure drops, and anywhere a creek channel is close by to the deeper creek bends or vertical structure with stumps and fresh hydrilla blooming. The Largemouths continue to recover from the spawning activities upriver in the oxbows of McGuire, Mud, and Horseshoe Lakes.
The Millwood State Park coves continue warming up, and the Bass on the south end of the lake are still in a spawning mode. Anywhere a depressed or silted creek runs in and out of flats with grass and near stumps and vegetation, have been holding decent Largemouths. Lizards (5-7 inches) and Baby Brush Hogs, Pit Bosses and Beavers around cypress trees, flooded buckbrush, bushes and where new lily pad stands are blooming are a good target areas. The pockets near Millwood State Park have been producing good bass for the past few weeks up to 8-9 pounds, and one can still get reactions this week from an occasional 2-3 pound largemouth near the state park. Dead-sticking Bass Assassin Shads on a light wire hook near cover and stumps has been catching some decent 15- to 18-inch largemouths. A slow fall to the Shad Assassin is critical, and too large/heavy a hook will kill the action. Line watching is mandatory, and many times dead-sticking the line will just start taking off when the bass hit it on the fall and swim off with it, like a stick or Trick Worm. Best colors of Shad Assassins as of late are the Salt-N-Pepper Silver Phantom, pumpkinseed/chartreuse and Houdini. Best reaction colors of chatterbaits and spinnerbaits as of late continue to be firetiger in the heavy stain to muddy water clarity, chartreuse/white or Arkansas River Shad. Best depth zones we are targeting are cypress tree knees from 6-10 feet, with 12-15 feet of depth nearby. We continue seeing the male bass roaming the flats from 2-4 pounds each, moving in shallow 3-5 feet deep bedding areas. The larger females are beginning to move up near points or creek channel bends and vertical structure drops where broken timber and stumps are present, toward the spawning flats and several have been observed on beds. Lizards, 6-8 inches, in black/blue tail, June bug, blackberry and watermelon candy have been picking up some cruising bass near stumps, on drops into 10 feet of structure. Dipping the tail in chartreuse dye will also get you bit in the stained water clarity.
* White bass: They have finished up their annual spawning migration along Little River’s headwaters, upriver near U.S. Highway 71 and Patterson Shoals, although a straggler can be found trolling around the bridge pilings. Random schools have been caught between McGuire and Cemetery Slough over the past week, migrating back downriver. Trolling medium to deep crankbaits and spoons along primary points extending into Little River will pick up an occasional white bass. Heavy thumping 3/4- 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 2- to 3-pounders over the past two to three weeks in 9-16 feet depth. A chrome 3/4-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-size 2- to 3-pound whites over the past several weeks. Swimming jigs with a heavy thumping tail swimbait trailer picked up a few whites in 10-14 feet swimming and dropping the bait. Deep-running Fat Free Shad cranks in Tennessee Shad or Citrus Shad, H&H Spinnerbaits, red/white Rooster Tails, Little Cleos, Little Georges, War Eagle Underspins and swimbaits, all have been catching the white bass over the past few weeks. The white bass are still being caught in the same areas as the last few weeks, but the bite has become more scattered.
* Crappie: Crappie were biting well over the past couple weeks. Increased surface temps have the crappie on the move shallow to spawn. Minnows and jigs have been working away from current and flow of Little River, in the clearer sections of the oxbows and golf course pockets, from 3-5 feet deep. The crappie responses continue to improve and they’re hitting small jigs in chartreuse/white, chartreuse/blue and black. Millwood State Park is seeing good activity in the pockets and coves near cypress trees and grass from 4-6 feet of depth. Best responses were on jigs and minnows over the past couple weeks.
* Catfish: They have been biting consistent over the past few weeks with the increased current along Little River. Cats remain good on trotlines and yo-yos using chicken livers or cut chad, in 10-15 feet of depth in current.
(updated 4-22-2020) Sportsman’s One Stop in El Dorado (870-863-7248) had no report.
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 547.34 feet msl (normal pool: 548.00 feet msl).
(updated 4-15-2020) Jason Lenderman of JL Guide Service (870-490-0804) said the lake level is 547.08 feet msl, or 0.92 feet below full pool of 548 feet. Water temps have warmed up to the mid 60’s and the upper portion of the lake has some color. Fishing is good in general right now. Bass are in all 3 phases of the spawn now. Suspending Super Rogues and Super Rogue Jr’s are also working very well on windy points. Chrome/Blue and Clown colors are working well. Wacky-rigged Yum Dingers and shaky head Yum Finesse Worms are working well in green pumpkin and watermelon colors. Carolina-rigged Yum Christie Critters are also producing some good catches in the same colors. 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 405.15 feet msl (normal pool: 408.00 feet msl).
(updated 4-22-2020) John Duncan of yoyoguideservice.com at Iron Mountain Marina said, “Spring has sprung. Warm, then rain, then cool, lake rises, then they pull it down. Instead of spring it should be yo-yo season. Lake level is 405.14 feet msl and has been a few feet higher a short while ago. You can see the rise and fall on the shoreline and brush.
“Things have definitely been happening in the fishing world. Bass fishermen are reporting lots of activity in the shallows. Lots of sight-fishing for bass on the beds. Soft plastic of your choice for this and some good polarized glasses. Shallow sloping banks without a lot of brush. They are on the beds in mid-lake and the water is clear enough to see them. Go early or late. Polarized glasses are a must. When you go to the upper areas or Brushy, the water has more of a stain. Bass fishermen report that spinnerbaits are best. White seems to be the dominate color. Jerkbaits, crankbaits and swimbaits also are producing.
“Crappie have been in the brush about 30 inches deep when water was around 68. Then rain, water cools to high 50s, crappie move out to brush piles in 12-20 feet of water. As of Tuesday, the water temp around Shouse Ford was mid-70s. I always prefer jigs (Tennessee Shad color) in fall and spring but prefer minnows when they move in for spawn and summer fishing. Fishing is good from Point Cedar to Arlie Moore. Crappie were all over the tops of brushpiles. Bream are in the brush piles near the bottom. Stay safe and practice social distancing.”
De Queen Lake
As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation was 437.75 feet msl (normal pool: 437.00 feet msl).
As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation was 539.23 feet msl (normal pool: 526.00 feet msl).
White Oak Lake
(updated 4-22-2020) Curtis Willingham of River Rat Bait (870-231-3831) said both Upper and Lower White Oak are muddy. The water is 28 feet high. Still, the bream like it and there is a good bite using crickets. No report on crappie. Catfishing is good on the river using rice slicks and goldfish. No reports on black bass.
(updated 4-22-2020) Sportsman’s One Stop in El Dorado (870-863-7248) had no reports.
(updated 4-22-2020) Donald Ramirez, the new owner of Lucky Landing (479-641-7615) on the southeastern end of the lake, said the shop will be closed until further notice. There are access points to Lake Atkins and fishing from the shoreline.
For weekly flow releases from Carpenter Dam, visit www.entergy.com/hydro
(updated 4-22-2020) 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 4-22-2020) Shane Goodner, owner of Catch’em All Guide Service, reports reports that heavy flows have been the norm as spring storms continue to keep Lake Ouachita slightly into the flood pool. Open flood gates and high generation have created a treacherous situation in all area dam tailraces. All boaters and anglers alike should use extreme caution if attempting to navigate the Carpenter Dam tailrace. People should remain off the water until conditions stabilize. Thousands of trout are present and thriving in Lake Catherine. When lake conditions stabilize, fishermen can begin to catch limits of trout using redworms or nightcrawlers under a bobber or fished just off the bottom. Worm presentations are often overlooked and will consistently produce results when other baits fail. Other live baits such as wax and meal worms will also perform well used in the same manner. Live minnows tend to catch larger trout that search for bigger prey. PowerBait and trout magnets in basic colors are two of the best methods of catching rainbow trout known to man are should never be forgotten by anglers who are serious about catching fish. Fly fishermen that cast San Juan worms or micro-jigs in black or white under strike indicators can expect a solid bite. Egg patterns in white or yellow will also work very well in slack or current flow. Woolly buggers have to be included in the – best – of fly patterns and should be present in every fly anglers tackle. The walleye spawn is on in the tailrace with fish spotted in the shallows at dawn and dusk. Trolling shallow running crankbaits against the current will draw strikes from hungry walleye guarding their beds. Carolina rigs tipped with live minnows or nightcrawlers is a proven technique in current or slack water. Vertical jigging spoons in deeper water is often a forgotten method of catching walleye and will outperform many other efforts. Trout will be king for the next few months, but the crappie spawn has been hampered by the heavy flows. Anyone navigating the Carpenter Dam tailrace must always wear a life jacket and should be aware of the generation schedules.
(updated 4-15-2020) Jason Baumgartner, park aquarist at Lake Dardanelle State Park (479-890-7495), said that since last Tuesday (April 7) they had several mild days of sunshine followed by a severe storm on Easter Sunday. For this week, the initial forecast calls for sunshine until rain returns leading into the weekend. Then partly cloudy skies and warm temperatures return Sunday. Recent rains and high river flow has kept the water muddy. Surface water temperature is 64 degrees.
As of Tuesday (April 7) the Corps of Engineers reported river flows near 150,000 cfs at both Ozark and Dardanelle last week. Flow at both dams dropped to below 100,000 cfs over the past weekend. But recent rains have caused the flow to rise above 120,000 cfs.
As for fishing, Jason says, “With water temperature in that prime spawning window for several of our fish species, fishing should be getting better. Last week I found the crappie were still a little deep but were moving up into the tributaries. We also netted several small shad near the bank a few days ago. I have been finding lots of mayfly nymphs in the rip-rap along the bank. Hopefully, all these signs point to good fishing. Now is a great time to get out there and try to catch some crappie, catfish or bass.
“Lake Dardanelle State Park’s goal is to deliver the services you need, while keeping the health and safety of our staff and guests at the highest levels. We are complying with state and federal recommendations for social distancing to help stop the spread of coronavirus. Reservations for the use of our tournament fishing facility have been canceled through May 31. Tournament participants are advised to contact their tournament event directors for details specific to their tournament.”
(updated 4-22-2020) Greeson Marine, hometown dealer of the Arkansas-born-and-bred X-press all-aluminum, all-welded fishing boats in Hot Springs, reports Lake Hamilton’s water temps in the mid-60s throughout with water clarity on the upper end of the lake murky, and the lower end toward Carpenter Dam with clarity up to 3 feet. “Bass have been doing well in deeper water on main points; the zone around 12-20 feet of water has been producing with the drop-shot rig with a green Zoom Trick Worm, or black if the water its murky on any given day. The other technique that is hit or miss is wacky weightless rigging a Senko of some sort in green pumpkin or June bug (again depending on water clarity) and skipping and throwing near or under docks and other visible structures. The male bass are still tight to shallow water areas for the most part.
“Crappie are fair to good everywhere in shallow and grassy areas. ‘Rolling a jig’ under a cork and just slow-reeling back to you can be phenomenal if you can find the fish, but patience is key. Catfish are good everywhere with blue cats in the deeper main channels adjacent to feeding flats and all other species on creek channels. Put on some cheddar cheese and have fun! The weather will eventually level out and we can have some consistency. Until then, good luck and Go Greeson!”
As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation was 363.00 feet msl (normal pool: 342.00 feet msl).
(updated 4-22-2020) Andrews Bait Shop and More (479-272-4025) said the lake clarity is muddy and the water level is 19 feet above normal conservation pool. Crappie may be spawning, they report, but they are not sure. They’re biting in the high water, though. Anglers report crappie at 6-8 feet depth biting on minnows and black/chartreuse jigs (1/8 ounce is best). Black bass are fair. Some anglers are catching few on spinnerbaits. Catfishing is good on trotlines and jugs, with reports of some really good-size catfish caught, they say. No reports on bream.
As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation was 577.17 feet msl (normal pool: 578.00 feet msl).
(updated 4-15-2020) Todd Gadberry at Mountain Harbor Resort and Spa (870-867-2191/800-832-2276 out of state) reports that black bass are very good. Floating worms, Ned rigs and Carolina rigs are producing very good stringers. Walleye are good. Shad Raps and jerkbaits seem to be the go-to baits right now. Stripers are good. These fish are being caught on topwater C-10 Redfins and live bait on the west end of the lake. Bream are excellent with crickets or PowerBait in 5-15 feet of water. Crappie are good. Try a small jig or minnow near brush in 4-15 feet of water. Catfish are good and being caught with trotline and jugs. Cut bait and live bait are working best. Lake conditions show a water temperature ranging 62-70 degrees and the clarity is clearing. Lake level Tuesday was 578.72 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 402.00
feet msl (normal pool: 387.00 feet msl).
(updated 4-15-2020) Professional fishing guide Ronnie Tice (901-687-6800) said that due to the weather, things have slowed way down. He had poor reports on the bream, crappie and black bass. Catfishing was good using shad, stink bait and crawfish. Horseshoe is muddy and high, he said Tuesday afternoon. Check out Ronnie’s Facebook page for the latest information, recent photos when the fishing was, and more on the old Mississippi River oxbow not far from Hughes.
Bear Creek Lake/Storm Creek Lake
(updated 4-22-2020) Natalie Faughn, assistant superintendent at Mississippi River State Park (870-295-4040), had no report.
(updated 4-8-2020) The AGFC’s Wil Hafner at Cook’s Lake Conservation Education Center (870-241-3373) says Cook’s Lake is still closed due to AGFC facility closures due to the coronavirus pandemic and the fact the White River is approaching 29 feet at Clarendon. “Hopefully by the time we can reopen, the lake will be back inside in its
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