Near the heart of the Ozark National Forest, Cotter is the self-proclaimed Trout Capital USA, a distinction it deserves. Set on a bend in the White River and considered by many to be among the finest trout fisheries in the country, it is a small town as steeped in history as it is in fish. Surrounded by natural beauty, a thirty minute drive from Cotter will get you to the Norfolk River, short hand for the North Fork of the White, which is also ranked as one of the best trophy trout rivers in the lower 48. Within 2 hours it’s possible to reach the famous, blue-ribbon Little Red River, a 100 mile long tributary of the White.
Initially settled by Native Americans, the early 1800’s nearby discovery of gold and other minerals put the Cherokee in conflict with ambitious entrepreneurs. Andrew Jackson’s 1835 Treaty of Echota forcibly moved tribal members west of the Mississippi via the now infamous Trail of Tears. By the late 1890’s, Cotter had become the central distribution point for sending mining products by steamboat to other cities in the region and by 1905, it’s permanent population had reached 600.
Ironically, its current population of about 1000 is not much greater, but the City’s focus is quite different. Today Cotter is known for its scenic location on the high bluffs of the White River and its commitment to sportsmen and tourists. No other area in the country can come close to Cotter’s record setting trout catches or champion fly fishing status. The town’s proximity to wilderness and the state’s highest mountain, Mt. Magazine, make it a natural draw for outdoor enthusiasts.
If you are traveling with family members or friends who do not share your desire to fish, there are many other things to do. These include:
- The 165 mile long Highlands Trail as well as Pedestal Rock and Alum Bridge Cove Natural Bridge Trail
- Kayakers and canoeists can enjoy the upper Buffalo River, designated a National Scenic River and National Wild River
- Mountain biking, horseback riding, canoeing, kayaking, and camping, as well as other outdoor sports, are widely available.
- Folk music at festivals in Mountain View Ark.; Country music in Branson, Mo.
There are many ways to reach Cotter, including:
- Fly into Little Rock’s Clinton National Airport and drive approx. 3 hours.
- Fly into Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (Fayetteville) and drive 2 ½ hours
- Fly into Jonesboro Municipal Airport and drive approx. 2 ½ hours
- Fly into the Branson, Missouri Airport and drive approx. 1 ½ hours
- Fly into Memphis, Tennessee International Airport and drive approx. 4 hours
White River Trout Fishing
Since completion of the big Bull Shoals Dam in 1951, the Arkansas White River has developed into one of the most famous trout fisheries in the United States. ... moreLimit catches of rainbow, brown, and cutthroat trout are common-place throughout most of the year. The size trout can grow to in these cold, clear waters is truly amazing, as the many records the White River has produced attest.
The water in the White River below Bull Shoals Dam is so frigid that even during the warmest summer months one can remain comfortably seated in a chair and feel a nice cool breeze coming off the water. As far as we know, there is no other fishery in the U.S. where you can take a continuous 4-day float trip and fish for rainbow, brown, and cutthroat trout each day. As a convenience to our patrons, we stock all types of lures on which these fish are caught. Our experienced guides are always ready to recommend the baits, lures, or flies most likely to be effective at the time of your visit.
Best known for its trophy browns, this is a place to also find brook, cutthroat and rainbow. Like other rivers in the area, this 100 mile tributary of the White is host to dams and ... morereservoirs managed by the Army Corp of engineers. For anglers, the 30 mile run below Greer’s Ferry Dam is the most famous and desirable section of the river. In the spring of 1992, the 1988 trout record was broken here by the capture of a 40+ pound whopper. This record has since been topped although it remains the largest to be netted in Arkansas waters.
Cold water releases from the dam keep the river at about 47 degrees year round, creating ideal trout habitat but challenging for its native walleye and bass. Efforts to reintroduce small mouth bass and walleye have met with measured success. Spring and summer tend to be the busiest seasons, although many consider fall the best time to fish as the brown migrate upstream to spawn. Spawning starts mid-October and is complete by the first of December. Brook trout also spawn successfully in the Collins Creek area while cutthroat are sparse and tend to be found downstream of Winkley Shoals.
Because water flow is managed for regional electrical production, levels can quickly change. While it’s possible to wade in these waters, it’s smart to be cautious. When levels are high, fishing with an expert guide is highly recommended. The state enforces catch and release rules in three areas: below Greer’s Ferry Dam; around Cow Shoals; and, between Dunham and Mossy Shoals.
Before booking a trip, be advised that portions of the 30 mile run are privately owned and may be difficult to access, water levels vary dramatically and three sections are catch and release only.
The name Norfork is a condensed idiom of North Fork and refers to the North Fork of the White River. This 110 mile river starts near Mountain Grove, Missouri, and flows south through ... moreMark Twain National Forest, but the most exciting section is the last five miles before it empties into the White.
In the depressed years of the late 1930’s, officials in the state of Arkansas lobbied hard for federal assistance in an effort to create a miniature version of the Tennessee Valley Authority. They succeeded with the 1940’s construction of a dam on the Norkfolk River and the creation of Norfolk Lake. Anglers can be grateful for an unintended consequence - the prized tailwaters below the lake.
This section of river benefits from cold water releases from the dam that provide ideal trout habitat. For anglers the result is nothing less than spectacular. In 1988 a 38.9 ounce German brown was caught, the second largest ever recorded worldwide. Also pulled from this tailwater - a brook weighing over 5 pounds that still holds the Arkansas record.
Although it’s possible to wade in certain sections, public access is limited through the middle of this section; most prefer to float and fish the whole run. Fish are abundant, stocked by the Norfork Hatchery near Quarry Park; the river is home to browns, rainbows, cutthroat and brook. On average, trout range from 12-14 inches but 20 inchers are quite common. Spirited anglers compete in what’s known as “the slam,” or catching all four species on the same day.
Before booking a trip, keep in mind that water levels are subject to change, access for wading is limited, and the middle third is strictly catch and release.
Recognized as one of the most renowned trout rivers in the country, this 722 mile river flows northward from Arkansas into Missouri. It starts in the Arkansas Boston Mountains that ... moretower above the Ozark- St. Francis National Forest near Fayetteville. A tributary of the Mississippi, it is the source of several tributaries including the North Fork River, Little Red River, Black River, James River and the Bayou des Arc, and drains over 27,765 square miles of river basin.
Thanks to the Army Corps of Engineers, there are several dams and reservoirs affecting its character and flow. The river is most famous for the 30 mile tailwater below the man-made, Bull Shoals Lake, although fishing throughout the upper river and Lake Taneycomo are also excellent. What makes the portion below Bull Shoals special is the cold water discharge from the dam, providing ideal trout habitat.
Wild browns are abundant and are supplemented by the State with rainbows, cutthroats, and brook. Fish are usually in the 12 to 16 inch range, although much larger fish are easily found. Some well traveled anglers argue that typical browns here out measure the largest browns found elsewhere. Many Arkansas state trout records have been broken here. Imagine reeling in a 19 pound rainbow or a 30+ pound brown. It’s possible on this section of the White.
Access to the river is excellent. Anglers can fish these waters from the banks or by wading or floating. Since water levels vary according to electric power demands, the river can suddenly become high and swift so a bit of caution is advised. One great feature is that it can be fished during the winter months when other streams may be closed.
Before wading, check the number of turbines running at the power station since it affects conditions on the water.