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Established 1954
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Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

February 1, 2017

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.

Brown trout

White River (Bull Shoals Tailwater)

(updated 2-2-2017) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) said the river clarity is good and the level has been a little up and down. A lot of rainbows have been caught. On Feb. 1, the catch and release portion down by the dam will open; it “hasn’t been touched, spit in or anything for some time,” they say. So they are hopeful in expecting a big turnout the rest of this week as it’s full go on the brown trout.
(updated 2-2-2017) Ron Gamble at Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said trout fishing on the White River in the Arkansas Ozarks at Cotter has been exceptional. The long spawning season is drawing to a close and the browns will continue to move further from the dam area and closer to Cotter. January has been slower paced than during the full season, as usual, but only slower in relation to the amount of traffic on the river, not in quantity or quality of the catch. Water levels have been at minimum flow for the major part of each day; that means very low water providing the ability to hold steady over a favorite deep hole or to wade pretty near the channel. Keep an eye on your fellow fishers, though, and give one another space – we've got a big river with lots of fish so there's no reason to be greedy. Sculpins were still the champion bait for big browns, but there should be plenty of action with quarter-ounce spoons with an eye-catching flash of gold or silver/platinum. Now would be a great time to break out the tri-olive jigs (1/8-ounce is best right now) or try casting a Blue Fox (3/16-ounce bronze-, gold- or rainbow-hued). They are expecting cold nights (that means cold morning starts) for the next week or so, and fairly chilly days, so wear your long Johns to stay comfortable and keep on castin'!
(updated 2-2-2017) John Berry at Berry Brothers Guide Service (870-453-2424) said that during the past week, they have had a minor rain event (a quarter of an inch here in Cotter), cold temperatures and heavy winds (to include lake wind advisories). The lake level at Bull Shoals rose 0.3 feet to rest at 9 feet below seasonal power pool of 659 feet. This is 45 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock remained steady at 7.6 feet below seasonal power pool and 23.6 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake rose 0.2 feet to rest at 9.3 feet below seasonal power pool and 18.9 feet below the top of flood pool. On the White, we had more wadable water mixed with periods of moderate generation. 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 more 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 size 14 hare and copper nymph with a size 18 ruby midge suspended below it).
Berry adds, “As many of you know, the catch and release section below Bull Shoals Dam on the White River has been closed to all fishing since Nov. 1, but was scheduled to reopen to fishing again starting Feb. 1. This section normally holds a large population of large fish (particularly rainbows), but during the spawn that population is augmented by a large number of mature browns that have traveled up to 20 miles upriver to spawn there. During this time, the browns have been spawning and they do not eat. Let’s think about this. We have a large population of big trout that have not been fished over in three months and the big browns have not eaten during the spawn. This sounds like the kind of place that I would like to fish. The problem is that this situation appeals to a lot of anglers. This is the best opportunity to land a big brown, or a rainbow, for that matter, and a lot of anglers know it. If you fish there on opening day, you will have company and a lot of it. It doesn’t matter whether there is low or high water. They will come.
“I have fished it several times and have caught some nice trout doing so. I remember one year when the water was low, I arrived at the dam an hour before sunrise in order to claim a prime hole only to discover a half-dozen anglers fishing the spot I wanted to fish. I managed to fish around them and land a couple of nice trout. I later learned that it was a group of guides from North Carolina that basically fished from that gravel bar for a week. They arrived at midnight and only left the water to use the bathroom. I think they slept in their waders. The rest of the catch and release section was covered with anglers for several days.
“Low water is not the only condition that draws lots of anglers to opening day. High water also brings out the crowds. I call it an anything-that-floats day. I have seen just about every watercraft known to man fishing at the catch and release section on opening day. I have noticed the usual White River jon boats, drift boats, kick boats and canoes. I have seen more than a couple of bass boats and at least one Boston Whaler. The bigger boats, particularly the bass boats, can throw up quite a wake. My wife, Lori, and I fished it on high water a few years ago. We arrived at mid-morning. I asked one of my guide buddies how it was going. He said that he had been fishing the Baxter County side and catching some nice browns. I looked and noted that most if not all boats were fishing the Baxter County side of the river. I decided to fish the other side because I figured that those fish had not been messed with as much. My intuition paid off and we boated several nice browns without having to deal with as many other anglers.
“If you are going to fish on opening day, there are a few things to consider. One, be patient. Many of the people that are fishing there will be from out of town and they do not know what to do. They may be in your way and just not know any better. Sometimes a gentle suggestion on proper behavior will go a long way on fixing the situation. Do not over react! Next, be polite yourself. If you are wading, give other anglers plenty of room. Don’t crowd them. Do not wade through their water unless your personal safety is in jeopardy and inform them when you are doing so. If you are in a boat, pass other boats on the opposite side of the boat, from which they are fishing. Pass slowly so as not to put a wake on them. Remember that the downstream boat has the right of way. Finally, if another angler has a good fish on, let them play through whether you are wading or in a boat. Pull your line from the water if needed. Remember the next big fish hooked may be yours. I hope to see you there.”

Bull Shoals Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 650.29 feet msl (normal conservation pool – 659.00 msl).
(updated 1-25-2017) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said before last weekend that it was hot out and the fish didn't know what to do. Water temperature on the main lake has been 49-50 degrees, while it gets a little cooler back in creeks. Del didn’t get a lot of time out lately because they did the Springfield (Mo.) boat show. As far as the bite goes, he's still catching them on a Wiggle Wart or Rock Crawler. The water is real clear. You could see the drop-shot bait 17 feet down last week. He's been catching some using a flat-sided crankbaits. The wind’s been piling up in the back of the draws. Work the banks, the 45-degree banks and look for wind. You've gotta have the wind. If you don't have it at one stop, just go to the next stop. Those fish are shallow, catching them in 7 feet off the shore, while keeping the boat parallel to the bank. Catching a few on a jig. If there is any wood or brush piles around the boat docks or close to deep water, drag a jig through there. Those fish are 10-25 feet throughout the day. Been catching a few fish on the spoon. Went and checked on the deep fish, and those fish are toward the back or in the middle of the creek. Today they weren’t all the way back but halfway back, they were close to the main channel, at 40-50 feet. There is just a little bit of shad here and there but kind of spread out, no solid pattern like is normal for this time of year. Keep moving and keep fishing.
(updated 1-25-2017) K Dock Marina is closed for the season until March 3.

Norfork Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 547.94 feet msl (normal conservation pool: September-April – 553.75 msl, April-September – 552.00 msl).(updated 1-25-2017) Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters said Norfork Lake surface temperature is steady at 48 degrees and the stripers are getting picky on the size of bait they want to eat. Tom said he has been fishing threadfin shad, shiners and creek chubs. Up to the end of this week the bite has been very good, but starting Thursday they quit biting the smaller baits and now want the largest shiners you can find. These shiners are call brooders or No. 30s by the bait shops. The stripers are biting on them much better than the small baits. Tom fished the Howard Cove area Wednesday and Thursday and caught stripers and hybrids, but by Friday they had moved out into the main lake below the U.S. 62 bridge. The stripers are roaming the deep water chasing shad so you will need to stay with the bait fish to find and catch the stripers. The shad are in the 40-feet range and the fish are being caught between 35 and 40 feet. This bite should continue into February. Just keep looking in the main channels until you can find a consistent amount of shad. The stripers and other predators will show up. Tom also says he attends sports shows every year to visit and talk with potential clients that would like to fish Norfork Lake. The first one is in Collinsville, Ill., and the other is in Schaumburg, Ill. Every year you meet clients and other fishing guides and start developing a relationships. One such relationship Tom made was with two crappie guides, Steve and Alan. Steve and Alan guides on Lake Shelbyville and Kentucky Lake. Alan is also the Lowrance Rep. Having them on his boat for two days gave Tom some great insights into electronics and how better he can use technology to locate bait and fish. The first day out was their best day, he said. They caught five stripers and missed many more. In the eight hours they fished they had some great stories and shared information on lots of topics. They fished the Howard Cove area in 70-90 feet of water with lines set at 38 feet. They were using shiners, shad and creek chubs. The next day was slower and they only caught three but again missed a few. This time of year you have to just keep going out and find the bait. One day it will be great and then the next two days slow. But keep doing it and you will figure out the fish and catch them consistently.
(updated 1-25-2017) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said Norfork Lake's winter fishing pattern is in full swing. The bait fish are in the deep water channels of 80-100-plus feet and the bait are suspended 50-70 feet down. Striped and hybrid bass can be found following the bait fish whether it is on the main lake or back in the major creeks. For most of last week, Lou said, he was fishing in the 62 bridge area, mainly to the south of the bridge. Later in the week the fish moved in between the two bridges. Earlier this week he was only marking a few stripers, so after a couple hours of looking and fishing with minimal success he decided to move into Float Creek. Immediately he was marking large balls of shad with small schools of stripers following. For the next hour it was total havoc on my boat. He said he was by himself with four live bait poles out. He had doubles on several times and ended up boating five stripers, but missed as many. He had bait set at 40, 50 and 60 feet deep, but all his strikes came from the 40- and 50-feet-deep baits even though he was marking many fish 60-plus-feet deep. This day was the first in over a week that vertical jigging with a spoon would have worked great, because he saw multiple fish at one time at same depth. Large shiners, big river chubs and threadfin shad are the best choices for live bait. Lou had to clean one striper because it could not swim away and Lou found that its belly was full of 1-3-inch threadfin shad. If this winter is typical, the fish should stay at this depth and in these areas for the next 3-4 weeks. Toward the end of February and beginning of March the major creeks will be great places to look. The fish will start to go toward shallower water following the bait. Small and largemouth bass, as well as, Kentucky bass fishing has also been good. The bass can be found along the deep water bluff lines. I have found many bass suspended 30-50 feet down in 60 feet of water. Early and late in the day they are moving in a little tighter to the shore line 15-25 feet deep, but still on the bluffs. You can vertical jig with a spoon, but this method can be difficult with suspended fish. Try casting out a grub, small spinners or blade baits to catch these suspended fish. On the windy days throw a spinner bait. Jig & pigs, other types of plastics and deep-diving crankbaits are also good choices for the fish that move in tighter to the shore early and late in the day. Another good place for the Kentucky and largemouth bass is near deep brush piles. Work the bottom with a spoon around the brush and you will pick up some nice fish.
Lou added that crappie are on and near the deep water brush piles. Look at sunken brush in 30-50 feet of water. The crappie will be inside of the brush (these are typically the bigger ones) as well as suspended over the brush. At times you will find them only 10 feet deep, but he has more success at 20-plus feet deep this time of year. The Norfork Lake level is currently stable, but has been falling slowly and sits at 547.88. The water temperature is fluctuating between 48-50 degrees. The warm days and nights are rising the water temperature slowly. The main lake is clear in most areas and the creeks and coves are stained. Currently Norfork Lake is in excellent fishing condition and the fish that Lou has been catching are fat and energetic. Make your plans now to come catch a few!

North Fork River (Norfork Tailwater)

(updated 2-2-2017) John Berry at Berry Brothers Guide Service (870-453-2424) said there has been more wadable water on the Norfork with low levels of generation. Norfork Lake rose 0.2 feet to rest at 5.8 feet below seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet and 32 feet below the top of flood pool last week. 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. Berry’s favorite rig has been a yellow egg with a root beer midge dropper. Dry Run Creek has been less crowded with the colder weather. 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 2-2-2017) Berry Brothers Guide Service (870-453-2424) said the Buffalo is navigable. With cold weather, the smallmouths are much 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 2-2-2017) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service (870-453-2424) said the creek is navigable. With cold weather, the smallmouths are much 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.