Keeping Arkansas Stocked to the Gills with Catfish

Arkansas has one of the largest state-owned fish hatchery systems in the nation, and the Game and Fish Commission’s Joe Hogan Hatchery at Lonoke has been growing fish almost as long as the commission has existed. The hatchery grows several species of fish, but the Lonoke facility is most well known for growing catfish.

Lake Level Dropping

BULL SHOALS, Ark. (KOLR) — The water level in Bull Shoals Lake can’t drop fast enough for many business and marina owners.

Flooding across the Ozarks this spring has pushed the lake well into flood pool, and it could take months for the water level to get back to normal.

“I’m here about three hours a day during the week and then almost all day Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” says Beaver Creek Marina manager, Dale Tate.

Tate says the water level has risen more than 20 feet since the first rainfall this year. It hasn’t only closed most of the nearby campground, it’s also turned the marina into an island.

Tate, like many marina employees on Bull Shoals, has to ferry boat owners out to their slips.

“When it first happened a few years ago we had some that really got ticked off about it and pulled their boats out and haven’t come back,” he says. “But, like I tell them, we have no control over it.”

“We just do the best we can and help everybody out,” Tate says.

Beaver Creek Campground is closed save six or seven campsites that are still above water. It’s a similar story at many of the other Corps campgrounds across the lake:

• Buck Creek – Partial Closure
• Highway 125 – Partial Closure
• Lead Hill – Closed (High-Water Boat Ramp Open)
• Oakland – Closed
• River Run – Closed
• Theodosia – Closed (Boat Ramp Open)
• Tucker Hollow – Partial Closure (Boat Ramp Open)

While the marinas can at least get boat owners to the dock the high water level is still cutting into revenues – and could continue doing so through the summer season.

“We can’t have gas, that’s a big problem,” says Tate. “But we suffice, and bring it out here in five-gallon cans. If people need gas I’ve got gas for them.”

But Tate is hopeful the water level will continue trending in the right direction – it’s dropped roughly two feet in the last week – even if it leaves plenty of debris behind.

“We will take [the weather] as it comes,” he says. “I mean, there’s nothing you can do about it so if it comes, it comes.”

The Corps of Engineers normally updates campground closures on its Facebook page each Thursday, but suggests visitors always call ahead.

Bull Shoals Lake Fishing Report – June 7, 2017

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 689.91 feet msl (normal conservation pool – 659.00 feet msl).

(updated 6-7-2017) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said last Saturday that the lake was at 691 feet msl and the water temperature was 76 degrees, up to 84 degrees depending on where you’re fishing. The water is getting warm pretty quick and the fish are in post-spawn mode. Lots of these fish have moved out of the spawning pockets and are staging up on the points. Down by the dam the water is really clear. Even in the creeks the water has gotten pretty clear. The channel bite had gotten a little challenging unless you’ve got wind or a little dirty water. Some of those creeks where there’s no flow, the fishing is real slow back in there. You want to avoid those if you can. The water level is coming down and as the temperature keeps coming up the fish are going to be moving out a little bit deeper. A lot of the offshore stuff is beginning to pick up a little bit. Most guys Del sees, he says, are fishing with their boats on top of the fish. What you want to do is get in the old shoreline anywhere from 25-30 feet off the shore and cast in. On any given day you could throw a Carolina rig, you could throw a Ned rig. Tubes are working. Del said he likes to draw a jig through the old brush; not necessarily dragging it but hopping it along, keeping it tight the whole time. There a ton of crawdads in the lake and the fish are eating on them. A green pumpkin with orange is the best color to match. Del uses a ½-ounce jig with a Jackall craw bait, you can use whatever one you want, he says. Highlight it if you have a marker. As for the topwater bite, seems like the creeks that do have a little bit of flow, if you don’t go into the very back, you can catch a few throwing a Whopper Plopper, a buzzbait, but conditions have to be right for it. If it’s bright and sunny, and the water is flat, Del says he wouldn’t go to the back and start power fishing. Also throwing the Walk the Dog-style baits will catch some fish but it’s still dependent on conditions. If you’re fishing from here on out, have a topwater ready to fire out there. If you can get up close to the shoreline along those steeper banks, the fish are on those channel swing banks. If it gets really, really windy and you’ve got some clouds, the spinnerbait bite is still working. The biggest thing is to fish the conditions. If you get on a pattern now you can figure them out. If it lays real flat for you, it seems like those hot days when it lays flat, you’re going to have to back out into the main lake, catch them on the drop-shot with a shad pattern, and a worm is working, too. Anywhere in the 30-40 feet depth seems to be holding the fish when the sun is up, it’s calm and nice and hot. Del is still catching a few in the back on the squarebill. He uses a Lucky Craft and swims it through submerged bushes, banging it across something, clashing it into a bush or coming across a log under the water. He says if you’re fishing an area closer to the main lake and catching smallmouth, sneak up closer on the points, look for the old road beds or walking paths that people have used to get down to the lake. There’s a lot of largemouth up in the areas up in the same areas that the smallmouths are, just a little bit shallower. Don’t be afraid to go up there on any given day. If you’re catching smallmouths on a point in 30 feet of water, after you’ve fished that, go back in and fish it shallow for the black bass. Drag a jig around, throw a tube around.

(updated 6-7-2017) K Dock Marina said the general public must access the marina from the lake only during this high water situation. No boat rentals at this time. They have no fishing reports.

Bull Shoals Spillway Gates Closing

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Little Rock District will close all the spillway gates by Tuesday afternoon.

At ten a.m. Monday, seven spillway gates were closed leaving ten gates open at one foot each releasing approximately 10,000 cubic feet per second.

At four p.m. Monday, five spillway gates will be reduced from one foot to one-half foot each, and the other five will remain at one foot. The total spillway release will be 7,500 cubic feet per second.

At ten a.m. Tuesday, the five gates open at one-half foot will be closed, and the other five will remain open at one foot each. The spillway release total will be 5,000 cubic feet per second.

The remaining five gates will close at four p.m. Tuesday. Five operating hydropower turbines will remain at full capacity. The other three units are offline for maintenance. The total hydropower turbines releases are nearly 14,200 cubic feet per second.

Daily lake information can be obtained at or the Corps’ mobile App located in mobile App stores by searching for USACE Little Rock.

Bull Shoals Spillway Gates Open

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Little Rock District has increased spillway releases from Bull Shoals Dam.

At 10 a.m. Tuesday, ten spillway gates were opened to one foot each, and seven gates will be at one-half foot releasing nearly 14,600 cubic feet per second.

Five operating hydropower turbines will remain at full capacity. The other three units are offline for maintenance. The total hydropower turbines releases are nearly 14,200 cubic feet per second.

The total release of spillway gates and hydropower turbines are approximately 28,800 cubic feet per second.

Daily lake information can be obtained at or the Corps’ mobile App located in mobile App stores by searching for USACE Little Rock.