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Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

February 8, 2017

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Below is the Arkansas Game and Fish Fishing Report February 8, 2017.

White River (Bull Shoals Tailwater)

(updated 2-8-2017) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) said water is clear and beautiful and the level is low. Trout are excellent and really taking to the shad. It’s been a very good week for catching brown trout. The biggest one was 22 pounds. It was also a good week for rainbows, with more than 100 fish caught.
(updated 2-8-2017) Ron Gamble at Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said spoons are the valued bait this week. Look to the Thomas-Buoyant red/gold (hammered) and the silver/blue. A white Cleo with red tip did well as did the bronze Colorado. The water continues to be very low, which sometimes plays havoc with artificial baits – lose a few in the rocks – so the smaller bait you use, the fewer spoons you'll leave in the river. Big browns are moving, and they're attracted to the bigger baits. Some are using Rapala No. 7 brown trout lures and several colors of Rogues (yellow bellied); sculpins still work nicely. Looks like it’s going to be a spectacular week in February with very mild temperatures and low chance of rain. Come on over and wet a line.
(updated 2-8-2017) John Berry at Berry Brothers Guide Service (870-453-2424) said that during the past week, they have had no rain, milder temperatures and heavy winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals rose 0.4 feet to rest at 8.6 feet below seasonal power pool of 659 feet. This is 44.6 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock fell 0.4 feet to rest at 8 feet below seasonal power pool and 24 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell 0.3 feet to rest at 9.6 feet below seasonal power pool and 19.2 feet below the top of flood pool. On the White, we had much more wadable water with less moderate generation. On the White, the bite has been spotty. Some days have been excellent and some poor. The hot spot has been the catch and release section below Bull Shoals Dam. We have had more wadable water. The hot flies were olive woolly buggers (sizes 8, 10), Y2Ks (sizes 14, 12), prince nymphs (sizes 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). Streamer season is here. Unfortunately the generation has been a bit low for optimal streamer conditions. The idea is to bang the bank with large articulated streamers delivered with heavy 24-30-foot sink tips (350 grains or heavier). You will need an 8- or 9-weight rod. This is heavy work but the rewards can be great.
Berry adds, “Our local Trout Unlimited group, Arkansas White River Chapter No. 698, is holding its annual fundraiser. I generally refer to this gala as the TU banquet. Whatever it is called, it is the fishing social event of the year. My wife, Lori, and I always attend and this year is no exception. It is a great social gathering with good food, a cash bar and a DJ (that means dancing). Just about everybody involved in trout fishing will be there. Let the good times roll! The event will be held on Saturday, Feb. 11, at the Elks Lodge on 101 Elks Way in Mountain Home. The doors open at 6 p.m. The admission is $35 per individual or $ 50 per couple. Trout Unlimited is a tax exempt (501C3) not-for-profit organization. There will be a live auction, bucket raffles and a lot of other fun activities. It is all for a great cause. Trout Unlimited is commited to conserving, protecting and restoring our country’s cold water fisheries and their watersheds. They have been the local leader in this endeavor. Whether it is a lawsuit against a major source of pollution on our beloved Norfork River, bank stabilization projects or enhancements on Dry Run Creek, Trout Unlimited has been there.
“My personal favorite project that they have done recently is the stocking of Bonneville Cutthroat trout in the White and Norfork Rivers. The idea was to plant trout eggs from Wyoming of a subspecies of Cutthroat that would be able to reproduce naturally so that we would have another self-sustaining trout population to go with our brown trout. Over the past few years, we have done multiple stockings of about 250,000 Bonneville Cutthroat eggs on the Norfork and 100,000 on the White River. As a result, we are now starting to catch some really nice wild cutthroats. I personally caught a really nice eleven-inch cutthroat that I was really impressed with until this guy came into the shop the other day and showed me a photo of an eighteen inch Bonneville that he had caught and released that day. It was spectacular. The idea that we can now catch wild cutthroat trout like this is very exciting to me. Another project that really impresses me is the Trout Unlimited Youth Camp. The mission of the Arkansas White River Chapter’s youth program is to develop the next generation of cold water conservationists. This summer’s camp is scheduled for is Saturday and Sunday, June 24th and 25th. The camp will be held at the Norfork Fish Hatchery at Norfork Dam. Youth between the ages of 10-15, along with a parent or guardian will learn about Fly Tying; Fly Casting; Trout Fishing; Trout Habitat; Stream Restoration and Aquatic Entomology. The schedule includes a full day of activities on Saturday and a shorter day on Sunday. The conservationists of tomorrow are made not born. If this sounds like something that will be of interest to you, please join Lori and me there.”

Bull Shoals Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 650.63 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 2-8-2017) 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 547.69 feet msl (normal conservation pool: September-April – 553.75 msl, April-September – 552.00 msl).(updated 2-8-2017) Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters said Norfork Lake surface temperature is steady at 48 degrees at night and early morning then rising up to 50 degrees with afternoon sun. The stripers are still not settled into their winter pattern of staying between the bridges but the last few days they are back where they were at the end of December and early January. Tom fished Float creek and found lots of shad and feeding stripers in depths of 50 to 80 feet; the 50-foot water the stripers were on the bottom and coming up for the shad. In the deeper
Tom also says, “I took out a regular client, Howard, who had his brother, Bill, and nephew, Billy, down for some winter fishing. We left the dock at 7 a.m. and went to Float Creek and setup in 60 feet of water and within 15 minutes we missed a couple of stripers and finally hooked up. Bill caught the first striper, then Billy caught the next one and Howard caught the third one. As I said previously, we moved well into the cove and found the stripers in 30 feet of water. I saw lots of fish but they only wanted threadfin shad; they would not hit my shiners or creek chubs but did hit the threadfin. I really think that we may have a good February now that I know where to look for the stripers. If the weather stays warm, I plan on try catching some crappie and walleye.”
(updated 2-8-2017) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said Norfork Lake water level is 547.76 and holding fairly stable. The surface water temperature Tuesday morning was 48-49 degrees, which is 4 - 5 degrees warmer than normal. The main lake is clearing and the creeks and coves are still stained, but the water seems like it’s starting to clear. The weather this winter has been amazing with only a few cool days. At 7 a.m. Tuesday, when Lou left his Norfork Lake dock, the air temperature was already in the upper 50s. Early spring-like weather. Lou said he started checking his normal winter spots and found some stripers in 90 feet of water suspended 40-50 feet down close to the U.S. Highway 62 bridge. He was vertical jigging with a spoon and hooked into two fish, but both came off after a short run. His second spot was in Float Creek. Lou marked a few fish lying on the bottom at 70 feet, but they would not take his spoon. He decided to try an area he normally fishes in March heading up toward the Fouts area. Lou was finding fish in 55 feet of water, but again he could not get them to hit his spoon. He then headed into shallower water and found some schooling whites, hybrids and scattered largemouth bass in 25-40 feet of water. Bait was scattered and the fish were feeding. Lou says he guesses the warmer-than-normal water temperature is moving the bait fish into shallower water and the fish are following. Unless the weather turns cold for an extended period of time, we should have an early spring bite. Lou said he will try out the night bite sometime this week to see if they can get a good February bite like they had several years ago. The water temperature is almost perfect for the after dark bite throwing a suspending jerk bait.
Lou added that over the last few days, he has found largemouth bass in 20-40 feet of water, as well as, large schools in 65 feet of water suspended 30-50 feet down. Look for the largemouth bass partway back in creeks on secondary points where the channel swings in close to shore. It looks like the bass are starting to transition to an early spring-type bite a little earlier this year. He has landed bass on a spoon vertical jigging and by casting out a Kastmaster and letting it sink down to the depth of the suspended fish. Spinnerbaits are also working on the windblown shores as well as jig and pigs worked through 30 feet of water. If the weather holds, jerkbait time will start earlier than normal.
(updated 2-8-2017) Guide Steve Olomon of Steve’s Guide Service had no report.

North Fork River (Norfork Tailwater)

(updated 2-8-2017) John Berry at Berry Brothers Guide Service (870-453-2424) said Norfork Lake rose 0.1 feet to rest at 5.9 feet below seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet and 32.1 feet below the top of flood pool. On the Norfork, they had less generation with more wadable water. 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. John’s favorite rig has been a cerise San Juan worms with a ruby 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. 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.

Buffalo National River

(updated 2-8-2017) 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 2-8-2017) 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.