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Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

December 14, 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 652.29 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 12-14-2016) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) reported that fish are jumping, but there has been no fisherman and therefore no catch reports in the past week. Water temperature was 40 degrees.
(updated 12-14-2016) John Berry at Berry Brothers Guide Service (870-453-2424) said he spent a couple of days on the river last week guiding a corporate group for River Ridge Inn. He said, “As luck would have it, the weather has taken a change, for the worse. As I watched The Weather Channel, I noted that it was going to be pretty cold on the days I was going to be guiding. The thought kept running through my mind was: How am I going to stay warm under these conditions? To complicate matters, one day I was to fish from a boat on the White River and the next was to be spent wading on the Norfork. Each situation calls for completely different clothing.
“You would think that it would be colder wading in a trout stream than fishing from a boat. That is not the case. I have found it to be much colder to fish from a boat. In a boat, there is no place to hide from the wind and the wind chill is what gets you. Even if the wind is not blowing, a long run up or down stream can be quite chilly at 15 miles an hour. When you see a boat making a long run on a cold day, the clients are facing the back of the boat with their hoods up to keep their face warm and their hands are stuffed in their jacket pocket to keep them toasty. The guide is facing forward with his non-steering hand in his pocket hoping that his face and tiller hand don’t freeze off, before the day is over. On the other hand, when you are wading, you have to remember that the water is a constant 55 degrees and is probably at least 20 degrees warmer than the air. There have been several occasions, in my 20-plus years of guiding, where I waded deeper to get warmer. The fact that you are moving around more helps to generate a bit more heat. If things get too bad, you can get on the bank and start a fire. Of course, you could also do that, if you were fishing from a boat.
“On the first day, when fishing from the boat, I wore polypropylene long underwear, a tightly woven wool sweater, a pair of light fishing pants, a heavy pair of fleece lined pants, insulated boots, heavy socks, fingerless gloves, an insulated cap with pull down ear flaps and a heavy-duty down jacket (a Patagonia, no less). When we got there, the wind came up with a vengeance. My body core was getting cold. The wind was blowing right through my jacket. I stopped and put my rain jacket on over the down jacket. That did the trick and I was comfortable for the remainder of the day. The next day I waded with my clients. It was a bit warmer but still very windy. I wore the polypropylene long underwear, heavy wool socks, pile pants; a pile-lined fishing shirt, and a short pile jacket with a nylon shell under my waders. I also had a pair of fingerless gloves and a baseball cap. I was quite comfortable when we were fishing below Norfork Dam. Around 10 o’clock, we drove to the Ackerman access to try our luck there. As we got there, the sun came out and it was deliciously warm. I got so carried away that I put on my polarized sunglasses and traded my baseball cap for my straw cowboy hat. We walked far upstream into the catch-and-release section. As soon as we got there, the sun disappeared behind the clouds and the wind picked up. It blew my straw hat off my head and into the river. I retrieved it and put it back on my head. The chill set a shiver down my spine but it dried quickly in the wind and was soon comfortable again but was never as warm as my baseball cap. I managed to finish the day. It is getting cold out there. Don’t let the weather keep you from fishing. Take care in choosing your clothing and enjoy a day on the water."

Norfork Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 552.29 feet msl (normal conservation pool: September-April – 553.75 msl, April-September – 552.00 msl).(updated 12-14-2016) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said it has been a fun week fishing Norfork Lake. Lou says they have had several fishing guests at the resort this week and all were catching fish. The bite for striped bass, hybrid bass and white bass is good. Vertical jigging with a spoon is a good method to catch these species this time of year. Big schools of fish are roaming large flats in 44-55 feet of water. Once you find the fish all you need to do is drop your spoon and jig it up and down bouncing it off of the bottom. If it is a school of feeding fish, it won't take long until your spoon has been taken, then you need to make sure you give your rod a good jerk to set the hook. Electronic fish finders are very helpful this time of year as you are looking out in the middle of the lake for these fish. Sometimes Mother Nature helps you out and you find a flock of seagulls diving into the water feeding on shad. More than likely there is a school of feeding fish under the feeding birds. This only happens during the late fall and winter months as the seagulls are a migratory bird. Live bait is also working using either gizzard or thread fin shad. If you don't want to go out and net your own shad, you can purchase brooder shiners. They will work very well in the coldwater months. If you are live-bait fishing, you need to set your baits 30-40 feet deep. Trolling is another method of striper fishing, but you need to get your baits down to the same depths as the live bait. Best places to look for stripers/hybrids and white bass are the big flats near the 101 bridge area, Big Sandy back in the 101 Marina area and back past Fouts Boat Dock. Lou says his bite really hasn't started until around 8 a.m. and it can last till noon or later, as it did earlier this week. Later in the day the fish start to move to mouths of creeks and coves as well as out to the river channel in 60-plus feet of water.
Lou adds that largemouth and spotted bass are also schooling. He has found large schools of fish in similar areas as the stripers, as well as partway back into creeks out in the middle. Look in 40-50 feet of water for these fish. When he can find a slight drop-off on a flat that is near or on an old creek channel he has typically found a lot of fish and they don't move off this area as fast. One morning, Lou says, he caught over a dozen largemouth in the 2½ - to 3½-pound range. Some bigger largemouth are starting to move in shallow to feed early and late in the day. This is a good time to break out your jerkbaits and give them a try. On windy days a spinnerbait is working great, but the old standby, a jig and pig, will always pick up some nice fish. Norfork Lake level is falling slowly and at this report sits at 552.44. The lake surface water temperature is also falling and is in the 54-55-degree range. The lake is still stained, but is a great fishing color.
(updated 12-14-2016) Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters said the Norfork Lake surface temperature is still in the mid-50s as of last week and the shad and stripers are staying in the creeks and on the flats. With the current cold weather, the lake temperature is dropping and that will force the shad and stripers to move into the river channels. Look for them between the bridges and the Howard Cove area. Stripers are being caught in the Crystal Cove area using shiners and the flat right above the 101 bridge. Other areas to look are Float and Panther creeks. These two areas are the best before January. The live bait users are catching stripers using shad and shiners and the artificial users are catching stripers and white bass on spoons. Find the shad and you will find the fish. Tom says he and a group went searching for walleye up by the U.S. 160 bridge. The water level was normal and it was at 45 degrees. The problem was the water is very clear. They moved down to Bryant Creek and found 55-degree water that had color. They marked lots of fish but had only a couple of bites. The cold weather will get the walleye into their pre-spawn mood within the next couple of weeks. That’s when the fishing will be up. Stripers and bass are being caught on the flat by Blue Lady Resort. The stripers are roaming and moving fast, so just keep moving slowly with your live bait and have a spoon ready. The stripers are feeding, so right now is a great time to get out and catch some fish. The bass and white bass are also very active right now. Spoons are working best for them in the 50-feet range. For you out-of-area folks, you might want to get your calendars out and start making plans now. Winter is here and it’s a wonderful time to be on the lake. The stripers will begin their winter feed patterns as the air and water temperatures drop along with the other predator species. A good tool to use to make your plans with is on the web at for everything Norfork Lake! By the way, did you know Norfork Lake offers thousands of acres of hunt-able land to the public? The deer hunt has been very good this season. For a real outdoor adventure, you might consider a striper fishing trip combined with a pheasant hunt. It's a blast!
(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.

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.