Cotter Trout Dock Sign
Established 1954
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Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

December 21, 2016

Below are some photos of our guided trout fishing customers taken this week at Cotter Trout Dock.  Click images to enlarge. 
Below the pictures is the Fishing Report from Arkansas Game and Fish.

Bull Shoals Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 651.09 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 12-21-2016) John Berry at Berry Brothers Guide Service (870-453-2424) ssaid that during the past week, they have had a couple of rain events (combined for a trace in Cotter), bitterly cold temperatures and heavy winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals fell 0.4 feet to rest at 7.2 feet below seasonal power pool of 659 feet. This is 43.2 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock fell 0.8 feet to rest at seven and 0.3 feet below seasonal power pool and 23.3 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell 0.6 feet to rest at 8.2 feet below seasonal power pool and 17.8 feet below the top of flood pool. On the White, we had a mixed bag with levels of wadable water mixed with periods of moderate generation. The catch and release section below Bull Shoals Dam is closed until Jan. 31 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. We have had some wadable water. 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, 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 ruby midge (size 18) suspended below it). The best bet for large trout has been to bang the bank with large articulated streamers delivered with heavy twenty four to thirty 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 and Norfork rivers and Dry Run Creek are 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 added these thoughts for last-minute Christmas shoppers, “Since I manage Blue Ribbon Fly Shop, my first thought was to go through the shop and identify items that would be great Christmas presents. I recently wrote about the Nomad Net by Fish Pond. It is lightweight, nearly indestructible and has a rubber bag that doesn’t grab flies. I gave my wife, Lori, a boat net last year but it is time to give her a smaller one to carry with her, when she has wading guide trips. I know she will love it because I see the way she looks at mine, when we are wade fishing on the Norfork.
“I have a niece that is fairly new to fly fishing. I was thinking about giving her a fly rod. The perfect choice would be the Redington Path fly fishing outfit. This includes a 9-foot four-piece rod, the reel, backing, line and leader. There is even a case to put all of this stuff in. All of this is only $189. This is our bestselling rod and it comes with a lifetime guarantee. I have cast them and really like the way they cast.
“My brother-in-law is an avid fly fisher but is not a fly tyer. As a result, I give him a box of my hand-tied flies every year. If there is someone on your list like that, it makes a great gift. If you don’t tie flies yourself, you can buy locally tied flies. This is very flexible because you can buy as many or as few flies, as you like.
If you know someone, who is thinking about learning to tie flies, a fly-tying kit would be the perfect choice. Wapsi, the largest wholesaler of fly-fishing materials in the world, is located locally. They make a fly-tying kit that includes all of the tools and materials to tie 10 different flies. There is even an instructional DVD to show you how to easily tie those flies and it only cost $79.95.
“My sister doesn’t fish much anymore but she does enjoy an occasional glass of wine. I was thinking about some nice big red wine glasses with trout etched on them. It sounds like a nice addition to the Christmas place settings to me. They are only $20 per stem.
“I also thought about stocking stuffers. The Montana Fly Company fishing flask is a great gift for $29.95. The Dr. Slick prismatic forceps have a gorgeous blue and pink mottled finish. They are not only pleasant to look at but easy to find if you happen to drop them in the water.
“There are plenty of fishing related items that can be found here in Mountain Home. Good shopping and Merry Christmas.”

Norfork Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 551.57 feet msl (normal conservation pool: September-April – 553.75 msl, April-September – 552.00 msl).(updated 12-21-2016) Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters said the Norfork Lake surface temperature is still in the mid-50s but the cold weather should get the lake around the 50-degree mark. The shad and stripers will move to deeper water as the water gets colder. This time of year the best early place to fish is Float Creek and the Hand Cove area. Stay in those areas until the beginning of January, then start looking at the U.S. Highway 62 bridge area. This past week stripers were caught north of the Highway 101 bridge on the big flat, look for the sea gulls and you will find the stripers. The stripers are moving very fast, so be prepared to keep moving. Users of live bait 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 said he had guests Dan and Art scheduled for early October but both guys have serious back and shoulder problems, so they rescheduled their three-day striper trip for last week. Both guys could only fish about four hours a morning. They found stripers right away each morning and the bites were fast and furious the first hour. Both guys were new to this so they missed most of the fish, but Tom said they had a great time each day. Art caught the most fish because he stood the whole time; his back was preventing him from sitting so he was better prepared to hook the fish. They found fish each day; the guys using spoons were doing better than Tom’s group, he said, because the schools were moving so fast they could keep up with them by following the sea gulls. When you have seven lines out in the water it’s hard to just pick-up and move to the next fury of activity. Tom said they did catch stripers each day and overall had a great three-day experience. They have already booked for next year. With the cold weather the striper bite will continue to improve for the next month.
(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 12-7-2016) 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 12-21-2016) John Berry at Berry Brothers Guide Service (870-453-2424) said Norfork Lake fell 0.5 feet to rest at 1.7 feet below seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet and 27.9 feet below the top of flood pool. On the Norfork, we had low levels of generation with much less wadable water. 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. Hopefully the colder weather will help this situation. 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 with school back in session. 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 12-21-2016) 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 12-21-2016) 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.