Bull Shoals Lake Fishing Report April 26, 2011

Several days of heavy rains dumped tons of water into the White River system, raising the elevation of Bull Shoals from just below pool of 654’ to 672’, and is rapidly climbing.  Weather forecasts indicate another day of rain, and the lake is expected to continue to rise to approximately 680’ by Friday 4-29-11.

I took a quick spin around the lake this morning to access the conditions, and found the main lake temperature to be 54 degrees.  Boaters should exercise extreme caution while motoring, as the lake is full of floating timber.  The flooding we experienced a few years back pushed the lake level to the top of the flood pool for extended periods.  The high water killed the trees causing massive buildups of debris, which is now being washed into the lake, causing hazardous boating conditions.

I also had a look under my dock with my submersible camera and saw absolutely nothing.  I have three large fish attractors hanging below my dock, which do an excellent job of attracting and holding fish.  I would assume the fish are holding in deeper water until the weather and water levels become more consistent.  

So what does all this mean to everybody wanting to go fishing?  Very good news, I would say.  The fickle weather patterns before this last storm, combined with low water temperatures, has delayed spawning activities for many of the different fish species.  Now, with the water spread out over shallower shorelines, I would expect to see a rapid increase in water temperatures (providing we get some nice weather).  The warmer water will be the key to the fish resuming their spawning activities, in earnest.

In short, the fishing could be explosive, in the next couple of weeks, with warm water and plenty of cover for the fish to spawn in.  Just as importantly, for the long term, the fry will have cover to hide in, causing a decrease in mortality, and a huge increase in fish populations in the years to come.

All in all, I would say the recent rains are a blessing for the lake, and fish, and those of us who love to chase them.

River fishing should get a shot in the arm as well.  Wading fly fisherman, who have been enjoying an incredible spring caddis hatch may be waving their fists at the increase in river water levels.  However, no one can argue with the fact that it has been a winter of extremely low flows, which provided weeks of excellent wading opportunities.  Now,  those fishing from boats get their crack at some higher water brown trout fishing!

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Flow Issues Regarding Norfork Dam

Flow issues regarding Norfork Dam.

I’ve attached a copy of an email generated by Jeff Williams, Trout Program Coordinator with Arkansas Game and Fish Commission regarding the issue of both turbines being down, water temperature and river flows.

Just wanted to give you a quick update on some flow issues we are currently dealing with on Norfork.  Both turbines our down at Norfork as a result of leakage problems in the wicket gates.  It is not known exactly how long they will be down, but the current estimate is about two months.  The reservoir elevation is just in to the flood pool and in accordance with the control plan the Corps of Engineers needs to begin evacuating that flood storage.  Since both turbines are down they have had to look at alternative means.  Yesterday they opened the sluice gates at Norfork to begin releasing some of the flood water.  Some of you may have realized this when the flow recording was reporting 0 units on line, but there was flow equivalent to 2 + units in the tailwater.  As an aside, I suggested to the Corps of Engineers last night that sluice gate releases should be indicated on the recording.  The sluice gates draw water from low in the reservoir so there was no concern regarding high water temperatures.  However, the Corps had concerns about cavitation in the sluice gates and has opted for flood gate releases to lower the lake elevation.  Twelve flood gates were opened about 1.5 feet at Norfork at 12:00pm today and the current discharge is about 2,300 cfs (less than one turbine’s full release capacity).  As the lake receives inflow from last night’s rain the lake elevation will increase, but will also increase the flow over the flood gates to about 5,050 cfs (almost 2 full units).  That is where the Corps will keep it at as long as downstream conditions allow.  I went down to Norfork a little while ago to check the water temperature and at the boat ramp at Quarry Park the temperature was about 56 degrees Fahrenheit….no problems.  Before leaving the office I had checked on the lake surface temperature and was told it was in upper 50’s to low 60’s so I did not anticipate a problem.  If this situation progresses into June, however,  then water temperature will become more of a concern.  This may require tempering flood gate releases with small releases through the sluice gates, but it will be up to the Corps.   Another issue that I initially had a concern with was the potential for gas bubble trauma.  This can occur with high volume releases over the tops of dams and was the cause of the fish kill that occurred on the Arkansas River earlier this year.  The releases can cause dissolved gases (oxygen and especially nitrogen) to become supersaturated.  This means that the gases are present in a much greater amount than what would normally be found.  The fish have difficulty in ridding themselves of the excess gases and it can result in a condition similar to the bends in humans.  I also checked dissolved oxygen when I was at Norfork and found it to be within acceptable limits.  I saw no signs of dead or dying fish and given the relatively low volume that is anticipated, I do not foresee a problem with gas bubble trauma at this time.  We will continue to monitor this situation closely and coordinate with the Corps to limit impacts to the fishery.  Please let me know if you have any questions.  Thanks and have a great weekend.


Jeff Williams

Trout Program Coordinator

E: j_williams@agfc.state.ar.us | P: (870) 424-5924 | M: (870) 404 – 0503

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission

201 East 5th Street

Mountain Home, AR 72653

P: (870) 425-7577 | F: (870) 425-6596


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Bull Shoals Lake Fishing Report 4-19-2011

The lake is trying to warm up but the weather seems to have other plans.  Main lake temperature is about 52 to 55 depending on where you are, and which way the wind is blowing.  The only thing consistent with the weather is the inconsistency.  I was optimistic with my last report that things were about to warm up and the fish would move in and do their thing.  Two days of fair weather followed by five days of cold, windy, and cloudy weather, appears to be the norm this spring.

Part of the beauty of fishing this wonderful lake is the range of species we have to fish for.  This fat carp took a minnow pattern in about ten feet of water and battled hard for several minutes before coming to the net.

These nice walleyes were right where they should be, and were taken in twelve to sixteen feet of water, just off main lake points.

With a storm about to roll in I only had a short time to test a new tangle fly,  I developed for gar.  Sight fishing, the second fish I cast to was all over this fly.  Although gar fly’s are tied on hooks, the hooks are not needed as the long and narrow snouts are not suited for “hook ups” in the usual way.  Instead, the fly’s are tied from combed out nylon rope or twine and the long bills full of needle sharp teeth get tangled in the fly.  Look for photo’s, recipe and tying instructions to be posted in the next few days.

The weather forecast calls for a sunny but cooler day tomorrow, followed by several rainy, but warmer days.  Spawning activities should increase for crappies and bass during the next week or so.  Those wanting to try their luck with gar on the fly, should look for the warmest water possible in north side bays and coves.  Main lake bluffs can also offer incredible action, and should not be overlooked.

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Bull Shoals Lake Fishing Report 4-14-11

Bull Shoals is really starting to get happy.  It’s taken a while but it is starting to warm up, and I saw 60 on the main lake in some places.  Bluegills are empty of spawn and some very nice ones are coming from the main lake and secondary points in about 12 feet of water. 

Crappies are moving in under the docks and into shallower water and many are still with eggs.  With the water as low as it is there is very little brush in the water.  Without cover I expect them to spawn a little deeper and perhaps in a little cooler water than they normally would like to.

Largemouth bass are starting to move to the shallows but I have not yet noticed any beds being made, and I would expect them to spawn a little deeper as well.

Smallmouths have been fairly dependable, and can be found in about 12 feet of water and should be moving much shallower in the next several days.  Expect some fast action on some very nice fish this year.  I’m always impressed on how hard a 14” smallmouth will fight, they really are incredibly fun to fight with fly fishing gear.


Walleye have been done spawning for a while now and are starting to put on the feedbag.  They are taking slow moving grey and olive as well as pink and white Clouser’s in 12 to 20 feet of water.  Their bellies are empty so they are not feeding hard yet but they can be coaxed into hitting a very slow moving bait.  Many of the hits come during a long pause using sink tip and full sinking lines.  The floods we experienced a few years ago provided cover for newly hatched fish as evidenced by the large number of walleye in the 18 to 20 inch range.  Best not to take that for granted as the low water years like this one, will not produce the numbers of large fish like we have this season.   It’s going to be a little harder to find the nice ones in a couple of years.

White bass are showing up in post spawn locations in 12 to 20 feet of water, however have been hard for this angler to locate.  They did not show up in their usual locations and I would suspect, are done spawning for the most part.

From this point forward, the lake should come alive with activity which should continue for the next several weeks.  Fish should continue to move  shallower, until the spawn is complete, the next six weeks should be the best of the year.

Carp are of course moving shallow in groups, to start searching out spawning locations.  I hooked into a 12 pounder a couple days ago on the main lake bluff.  I fought it for several minutes on my five weight before getting tangled with a piece of old mono.  If you have not yet tried carp on a fly rod, you need to give it an honest shot.  Contrary to what many believe carp are extremely intelligent fish and very wary.  Most are seen during the spawn wallowing in the shallows or eating corn or rabbit pellets at the local marina.  I can assure you, that is not their normal behavior, expect to work hard for your takes and even harder when you are lucky enough to get a hook up.  They don’t have the glamour, looks, and speed of a smallmouth bass, and they never jump when hooked.  But, they fight like hell and never give up, on top of that, they are much harder to fool than a bass.  Any carp taken on a flyrod should be considered a well earned trophy!

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Bull Shoals Lake Fishing Report 4-3-2011

Yesterday was a beautiful day to be out on the water.  Mid seventies, clear with a slight wind from the south.  The fish are still moody as can be but can be tempted if your offering is small and in their face.  After going way back into the shallows of Shoal Creek I picked up one 12’ Kentucky, I then  fished my way towards the mouth (several miles).  Several good-looking spots produced nothing; however, a couple of my favorite spots gave up some (near) trophy fish.

This fine looking 18” smallie was the first to say hello, followed by this sweet little 20” walley.  I can tell you this: fish this size are a lot of fun on a fly rod!  They stayed deep for a couple minutes until finally showing color about six feet down.  All of us who fish can appreciate the “wonderment” of just what it is we’re hooked on to, while we wait for the fish to make a showing.    If anything in life can turn the clock back to being a kid again, it’s those moments waiting to see what it is.  All the while, silently chanting “lord, just let me get a look at this thing”.  Funny how the chant turns to “lord, let’s get this thing in the boat”. 

I never know for sure whether it was location or switching to a brighter colored bait, but this little yellow/white Clouser Deep Minnow did the trick.  Both fish came from about 16 feet of 48 degree water (surface temp).  With some luck the sun will warm this water and we can start seeing fish move to where they should be, until then, deep and slow remains the name of the game.

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Bull Shoals Fishing Report 3-30-11

Spring is supposed to make an appearance at Bull Shoals this weekend and with a little luck, it may hang around a while.  The main lake temp is still at about 44 and the presentation remains slow, very slow.   All that can change quickly once the sun comes out and the water warms a bit.  Fish are biting but are a little moody; still they sometimes can’t resist a slow moving morsel if it happens to go by.  This nice little smallmouth can attest to that.

Although often overlooked for fancier fish, I happen to think the drum is a pretty good looking fish.  Down south in the gulf, it’s cousin the redfish is all the rave and it’s not a bit prettier than this guy here.  Both are very hard fighters, preferring to take the fight to the depths rather than the air.  What they lack in glamour, they make up for in spunk!  Not only that, they behave rather well in the boat and seem almost eager to have their picture made.  

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Bull Shoals Lake Fishing Report for March 25th, 2011

Bull Shoals is being a bit fickle just now, or perhaps more to the point, the weather is making the lake a bit fickle just now.  Spring like temperatures last week have given way to another blast of cooler air and cloudy skies.  Rain is expected the next couple of days and highs will not get out of the 50’s until later next week.  The good news is the walleyes are done spawning and should be putting on the feedbag before too long.  This fat twenty incher was found on a secondary shoreline in about 22 feet of 44-degree water.  An olive and grey Clouser did the trick, fish very slowly on a full sinking line. If you have not yet experienced walleyes on a fly rod, you should give it a try. 

The other news is, the white bass have not made their move into the shallows yet, but the bright side is that we still have that to look forward to.  Comparing last year’s notes to this year, it seems we are about ten days behind and that may be extended a few more days with the cooler weather in the forecast.  The lake level is just shy of 651’, which is just three feet under pool, but is about six feet under last year as well as the five year average for this time of year.

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Lack of Federal Funding Could Close the Norfork National Fish Hatchery and the Greers Ferry National Fish Hatchery

The news surrounding the loss of funding for the federal fish hatcheries continues and your support is urgently needed.  Follow the link to the Friends of the Norfork National Fish Hatchery http://www.norforkhatcheryfriends.org/Save_the_hatchery.html  for downloadable letters to your senators and representatives urging them to maintain funding for the federal hatcheries.  Download the letters, sign and send them off as soon as possible to assure funding for these important hatcheries is not lost or interrupted.  If you are not currently a member of the Friends of the Norfork National Fish Hatchery, you should consider joining in their efforts to support and promote the hatchery.  I did, and so should you!

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Bull Shoals Lake Fishing Report

Bull Shoals Lake is taking her time warming up this year with the main lake registering at just 43 degrees.  The white bass are still a bit scattered, as are the both largemouth and smallmouth bass.  Not that they can’t be caught, just that you have to work for them.  The smaller creek arms are producing the most consistent action, but the fish are not way back in yet, concentrate on the arms themselves in ten to twenty feet of water.

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Sow Bug Roundup

The Annual Sow Bug Roundup was held in Mt. Home last weekend with tiers and venders from across the nation attending to demonstrate their talents.

I had an opportunity to visit with several different tiers, observe their techniques, and found myself envious of their skills and knowledge.  To all of you who shared your time, skills and knowledge with me, I thank you very much and look forward to seeing you again next year.

Of special note was my time spent with legendary tier and fly-fishing angler, Royce Dam.  He shared several stories, techniques, and flies with me and I was very impressed with his line of instructional DVD’s.  I acquired several and have already learned a wealth of knowledge to help me tie Woolheads and warm water deer hair patterns.  You can email Royce at rdam@wi.rr.com to get your very own copies of his excellent DVD’s.

Also of special note was my time spent with Warmwater Fly Tyer; Ward Bean.  He demonstrated his tying techniques on a couple of his favorite bluegill patterns.  Later that evening I was pleasantly impressed when I had the opportunity to peruse his web site and discover just how knowledgably and talented he is.  Not only does Ward know what he’s doing,  he is more than willing to share his vast knowledge free of charge via his website.  Take a look for yourself at www.WarmwaterFlyTyer.Com  it includes excellent photographs, patterns, and step-by-step instructions.  Most impressive!

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