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Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

December 7, 2016


(There are no photos or Cotter Trout Dock Video Fishing Report this week.)

Bull Shoals Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 652.03 feet msl (normal conservation pool – 659.00 msl).
(updated 11-30-2016) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said the lake is about 20 feet lower than last year at this time. Quite a few things are going on. A major cold front came through. Two weeks ago  it was in the 80s, looks like they’ll be in the 60s for the next week or so, he said. Lows are getting down in the 30s. Fishing has been pretty good. With the temperature change, the baitfish (shad) are still in the back and in secondary points going in there. A couple of things are still working. Still a topwater bite early. Throwing a Sammie for the topwater, they’ll just randomly find them throughout the day. A squarebill is hitting in these huge balls of shad. You know you’re in the right place when the whole graph lights up white, or you’ll throw your bait in there and they’ll just scoot out on the water. The Wiggle Worm bite is starting to pick up. Wiggle Worm or Rock Crawler working parallel to the bank. If you’ve got bluebird skies, you can always catch fish on a jig. The spoon bite is starting to get going here, it seems to be working off the secondary points, going into the creek channels, getting in that 30-35 feet of water. Using shad-style spoons and just jigging with the spoon. Watch your graph. Also using a shad-style drop-shot bait with an 18-inch leader. That seems to be doing a little bit better than the worm. They seem to be keyed in on the shad pretty good. In back the fish seem to be sitting more on the bluffier style banks; that’s where he's been having most of the luck there, with the jig on those kinds of shoreline. Also in the back areas you can pick up some quality fish on the wake-style baits or the bigger gizzard-style shad baits. Look for the wake caused by the baitfish and that’s what you’re trying to imitate back there. It’s crystal clear out here, the visibility is as clear as he's seen it in a while. Up the lake some in the creeks there is some color in the water. Try getting into that dirtier water, and wind will also help. It’s getting cold, wear a lot of layers.
(updated 12-7-2016) K Dock Marina's owner reported he'd been away from the lake for a week or so, but had some good reports from several anglers last Friday. The water temperature dropped significantly in the past few weeks. However, the lake level has also been on the decline very rapidly. All species have improved, but not to the late fall bite that they expect for this time of the year. Crappie are really starting to hit in the coves around brush piles. Bass are going to be found on the points and steep bluffs using crankbaits and jigs. The lake has not turned over yet, (in my opinion), which will bring the fish up into their winter pattern. Need some input from friends that are fishing for Walleye. Hope to get a good report from them. With rain and cold temps last weekend, it was a great time to fish for walleye! Water level was 651.7 feet msl (7.2 feet below normal) last Friday. Water temperature ranging 52-54 degrees. Water is stained.

White River (Bull Shoals Tailwater)

(updated 11-23-2016) Ron Gamble at Cotter Trout Dock said the river has dropped, and if the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Southwest Power decide to keep it low, word on the river is that we just might see a nice spawn for the rainbows, too. With the water at minimum flow or just above, you'll need to leave the bigger baits in your tackle box and pull out the trusty spoons: gold Cleos and hammered red-and-gold spoons. You might try your KastMasters or even dust off the old-timers’ favorite: the SuperDuper.  Hang a No. 4 Flat fish while anchoring over a deep hole and just watch for the action. Consistent water levels will allow the trout to settle down into some normal feeding habits, so early morning and early evening may be the best times for easy catches. Some folks tell Ron they're having the "other T-meat" for Thanksgiving. Whatever you cook, enjoy your holidays and keep fishing.
(updated 11-23-2016) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) reported clear water conditions and the river and current normal for the second straight week. There are 2-3 generators running on the White. Rainbows are plentiful and the bite is good. Use PowerBait. No reports on brown trout.
(updated 12-7-2016) John Berry at Berry Brothers Guide Service (870-453-2424) reported that during the past week, they have had a rain event (about .75 inches here in Cotter), cooler temperatures and heavy winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals fell 0.1 feet to rest at 7.5 feet below seasonal power pool of 659 feet. This is 43.7 below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock fell 1.4 feet to rest at 5.5 feet below seasonal power pool and 21.5 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell 1 foot to rest at 7.3 feet below seasonal power pool and 16.9 feet below the top of flood pool. On the White, they had moderate generation in the afternoon with lower generation in the morning and limited wadable water. The catch-and-release section below Bull Shoals Dam is closed until Jan. 31, 2017, 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. On the White, the bite has been spotty. Some days have been excellent and some poor. The hot spot has been Rim Shoals. 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 or 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 is a hare and copper nymph (size 14) with a size 18 ruby midge suspended below it). The best bet for large trout has been to bang the bank with large articulated streamers delivered with heavy 24- to 30-foot sink tips (350 grains or heavier) on bigger water. You will need an 8- or 9-weight rod. This is heavy work but the rewards can be great. Remember that the White is infected with didymo, an invasive alga. Be sure and 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 soled wading boots that are easier to clean and are not as likely to harbor didymo.
Berry also said, “I have been involved with the sport of fly fishing, for four decades. I am an angler, fly tyer, guide, fly-fishing instructor, fly-fishing writer, and now manage Blue Ribbon Fly Shop. During this time, I have seen a number of technological breakthroughs, some of which have been game changers. By game changers, I mean things that have had a fundamental impact on the way I fish. My first game changer was my first graphite fly rod. At the time, I was fishing a Fenwick 8-foot, 5-weight fiberglass rod. I was catching trout and was perfectly happy with it. My brother, Dan, bought a Sage GFL580 8-foot, 5-weight graphite fly rod. He let me cast it. It was a game changer. The rod was a full ounce lighter, was easier to cast and easily added 20 feet to my cast. I immediately went out and bought one. I fished it for years and I eventually gave it to my daughter, who still fishes with it. I have noticed that all of the major fly rod manufacturers advertise their latest model as a game changer. They drop an eighth of an ounce in weight; add a new secret proprietary process, create a new exciting name for it, and add $100 to the cost. The only problem is that it doesn’t really change the way I fish like that first graphite rod did. As a fly shop manager, I see and cast a lot of new rods every year and cannot see much difference in them from year to year. I know that in my business this is nothing short of blasphemy. The next game changer that I noted was breathable waders. I was fishing in Simms neoprene waders at the time. They were all right in the winter but in the summer you would sweat like a pig, when you were not in the water. The new breathables were much lighter and more comfortable in warm weather. In cold weather, you could wear a pair of fleece pants underneath them and be toasty warm when the weather turned cool. Now I wear them whenever I am wading and they are the only type of waders we sell in the shop.
He adds, “The latest game changer is the Fish Pond Nomad net. They feature a frame that is a composite of fiberglass and carbon fiber and a clear rubber bag. They are so light that they float. Previously I used a really nice Brodin net that had a frame of fine hardwoods (walnut and elm burl) and had cotton bag. I found that over time the frame on the net that I used in the boat would delaminate from constantly being wet. I noted that flies would easily get caught in the cotton bag, particularly, if they had a barb. It was very difficult to remove the hooks on some occasions. In addition, the cotton bags would eventually weaken and rot. I bought my wife, Lori, and I the biggest boat nets in the Nomad series to use in the boat and on Dry Run Creek. We both love them. They feature a long handle (with a ruler built in) and a huge bag that makes netting the largest brown an easy task. Flies do not get caught in the bag even when fishing double-fly rigs. I also bought a smaller one for me to carry, on the back of my vest, when wading. I like it as much as I do the big boat net. If you are looking for a new net, check out the Fish Pond Nomad. It is a game changer.”

Norfork Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 552.73 feet msl (normal conservation pool: September-April – 553.75 msl, April-September – 552.00 msl).
(updated 12-7-2016) Guide Steve Olomon of Steve’s Guide Service said Norfork Lake has finally turned over. It took longer than usual due to the warmer weather we had in November. Look for stripers suspended around 30 feet on flats. Find the bait fish and they will be close by. When you find them, sometimes your screen on your depth finder will be full from the top to the bottom of bait fish. Other times you can see them 10-30 feet thick. Drop a jigging spoon and if you don’t get bite within a few minutes, they aren’t feeding. Then move on and find another school. They have moved up to the banks at night so you can throw stick baits and remember the thing is to reel it in SLOW. You can pick up walleye doing the same thing. They can be close to main points with deep water close by or in coves. Look in the major creeks, too. Some bass are hitting spinnerbaits and crankbaits. The bite is better if there is some wind blowing. There are some holding deeper 10-30 feet and will hit a jig. If you mark a school, drop a jigging spoon. The water temperature is in the mid to upper 50s and the lake level is 552.8, just a little below normal for this time of year.
(updated 11-30-2016) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said the lake level has risen slightly and currently sits at 552.86. The surface water temperature is falling slowly and is currently 59-60 degrees. Most of the lake is stained with the main lake the clearest. Lou said he believes the lake has finally finalized its turnover so the lake clearing will begin. Lou also says Norfork Lake has entered its fall fishing pattern. The only big change over the last couple of weeks is that the fish have started to move into shallower water. Stripers, hybrids and whites are being found on 20-45 foot flats. The flats are holding baitfish at all different depths depending on the time of day and big schools of stripers, hybrids and whites are roaming at all different depths feeding on the shad early in the morning as well as in the evening. It is a big challenge finding the schools of fish and it will take some time watching your electronics, but when you find the fish it is a blast. They had four on at the same time a few times. His group has been vertical jigging with a spoon bouncing it off the bottom, but if you mark fish suspended, reel up to their depth and hang on. Areas where Lou has been fishing have not changed from his last report. Start looking on the flats around the Highway 101 bridge up to the Red Bank area, as well as from the Highway 62 bridge up to the Fouts area. Check out the Robinson flat as fish are starting to move in. There has been some isolated topwater action for striped bass and if you are in the right spot and ready you will pick up a few fish. Largemouth bass are starting to school partway back in creeks and coves. Lou found some nice schools of bass on the bottom in 30-35 feet of water. His group was vertical jigging and hooking up one after another. Nice 2½-4 pound fish were being boated. Spotted bass will also be schooling up this time of year. Spinnerbaits have worked well on the windy days and crankbaits are also working on main lake points, as well as, secondary points. Crappie are becoming more aggressive. Look at brush in 20-40 feet of water. You will find the bigger slabs in the deeper water inside of the brush and other nice fish will be suspended above the brush. Small spoons, grubs and live bait are all working at times. Live bait is still your best bet. Walleye are in similar areas as the stripers, hybrids and whites. They have been catching quite a few walleye in 30 feet of water vertical jigging, but the majority of the fish are short.
Lou added that he and his wife hosted a family reunion for her side of the family and they had a great time with 29 family members, and he had the opportunity to fish with many different family members during the week. They had a lot of fun but did get a little cold at times. They caught fish most days. Lou said it was a real joy watching the ones that don't get to fish often land a fish on their own. “No better feeling than seeing those big smiles and shaking arms.”


North Fork River (Norfork Tailwater)

(updated 12-7-2016) John Berry at Berry Brothers Guide Service (870-453-2424) said Norfork Lake remained steady at 1.1 feet below seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet and 27.3 feet below the top of flood pool. On the Norfork, we had low levels of generation late in the afternoon with much less wadable water. There has been less wadable water on the Norfork. The lake has turned over and there is a sulfur smell on the upper river and with lower dissolved oxygen, in that area, the bite has been slow there. 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 bead-headed nymph (zebra midge, copper John or pheasant tail) suspended 18 inches below a brightly colored San Juan worm (hot fluorescent pink or cerise size 10). There have been reliable hatches of small midges (try a size 24 Adams parachute) and caddis (try a size 18 elk hair caddis). The fishing is better in the morning. My favorite fly has been an orange egg. Dry Run Creek has been less crowded lately. A large number of brown trout have moved into the creek. The hot flies have been sowbugs (size 14), Y2Ks (size 12) and various colored San Juan worms (worm brown, red, hot fluorescent pink and cerise size 10). While you are at the creek you should visit the Norfork National Fish Hatchery. It is fascinating. Be sure and remove your waders before entering to prevent the spread of aquatic diseases.

Buffalo National River

(updated 12-7-2016) Berry Brothers Guide Service (870-453-2424) said the Buffalo is navigable. With cooler water, the smallmouths are less active. Berry’s favorite fly is a Clouser minnow. Carefully check the water level before entering the Buffalo River. There are no dams, it has large drainages and is prone to flooding during and following any rain event. The water can rise very quickly.

Crooked Creek

(updated 12-7-2016) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service (870-453-2424) said the creek is navigable. With cooler water, the smallmouths are less active. Berry’s favorite fly is a Clouser minnow. Carefully check the water level before entering Crooked Creek. There are no dams, it has large drainages and is prone to flooding during and following any rain event. The water can rise very quickly.