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Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report
February 22, 2017
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Below is the Arkansas Game and Fish Fishing Report February 22, 2017.

White River (Bull Shoals Tailwater)

(updated 2-22-2017) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) said it was a great week for catching brown trout. River level is low and the bite for trout overall was excellent.
(updated 2-22-2017) Debbie Gamble at Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) says it’s been a fabulous February: sunshine and low, steady water levels. Cutthroats and browns have been hitting on those sculpins all week, and you can still depend on the rainbow bite if you add some shrimp to the hook. Favorite spoons: blue and silver Thomas Buoyants and the copper Colorados. If you use big baits (the bigger the bait, the bigger the catch), keep your eye on your line so you don't lose those lures – bright lime green/chartreuse or a dull forest green depending on the sunshine. The rain they received earlier this week brought the temperature down a little, but nowhere near the usual cold February numbers, and they’re expecting another sunny, warm weekend to usher in March. Debbie says, "Join us for spring break!"
(updated 2-22-2017) John Berry at Berry Brothers Guide Service (870-453-2424) said that during that last week they had about an inch of rain Cotter, milder temperatures and moderate winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals rose 0.3 feet to rest at 8 feet below seasonal power pool of 659 feet. This is 44 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock remained steady at 8.5 feet below seasonal power pool and 24.5 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake remained steady at 9.7 feet below seasonal power pool and 19.3 feet below the top of flood pool. On the White, we had much more wadable water with little 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 (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 (John's 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- to 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. Some larger browns have been caught at night using mouse patterns. 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.

Bull Shoals Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 651.12 feet msl (normal conservation pool – 659.00 msl).
No reports.

Norfork Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 546.96 feet msl (normal conservation pool: September-April – 553.75 msl, April-September – 552.00 msl).(updated 2-22-2017) Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters said everything on Norfork Lake says it’s spring – warm air, breezes, fish biting, trees budding yet the calendar says “February.” Tom says he’s been doing things liking catching fish in 30 feet of water and catching bait in 2 1/2 feet of water. The bait is all over Bennett’s Bayou. Large schools of threadfin shad and gizzards. Crappie are being caught over brush piles in 8 feet of water and the young male white bass are being caught from shore. All these things point to a very early spring. Tom just keeps waiting for the other shoe to drop – a cold blast and some ice. He says he hopes it doesn’t come because this could be the greatest spring of fishing they have ever seen. Last year started off warm and then April turned into early March with very cold weather and lots of wind. Late afternoon last week in Bennett’s Bayou the surface temperature had reached 55 degrees. With the warmer nights the lake should maintain some of the warmth and stay in the low to mid-50s. There are some large schools of white bass in Float Creek feeding heavy on shad before they move up the creeks to spawn. You should be able to find them in most creeks as long as the weather stays warm. It’s now time to move from the deep water and start looking on the flats for roaming schools of stripers. Tom said he found stripers by Fouts Marina in waters ranging in 30-45-feet depth. Tom also said that last Friday he took Dick out for some pre-fishing, vowing not to fish in any deep water. They went directly to Fouts Marina and started looking along the bluff and kept moving in front then parallel to Fouts. Tom found schools of stripers in 40 feet of water and started fishing. They were fishing with threadfin and gizzard shad. He ran two floats, two free lines with a split shot, two planer boards, and two downlines. They fished all morning and boated two, loss three at the boat, and had six other strikes. He continued to mark stripers all morning zigzagging back and forth between 30-45 feet. With this warming trend Tom suggests getting out there and start your spring fishing in February instead of March.
(updated 2-22-2017) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said fish on Norfork Lake are in transition from their winter pattern to an early spring pattern. Yes, this is very early, due to an abnormally warm winter that has kept the water temperature warmer than normal. The surface water temperature is 5-8 degrees warmer than the last three years at this time. The baitfish have started to move into shallow water, which in turn makes the predators follow suit. Striped bass can be found at all different depths. Tuesday morning Lou located a couple large schools of striped bass still out in 65 feet of water, following shad that was 50 feet down. Last weekend a couple of his Facebook followers (father and son) took my advice and headed back into a major creek and found some nice fish on the bottom in 35-40 feet of water, again chasing the baitfish. As the water continues to warm, the majority of the bait will move out of the deep water into shallow water, which will make for a great spring bite. Assuming the weather pattern holds as is, we are due for a very early spring bite, but this is a very big assumption. Only Mother Nature will control what happens with our weather. Lou says he’s started to see small signs of topwater feeding fish; not much, but it's still encouraging. Don't get your hopes up too much because this is really early for topwater action. The best place to look for striped bass is halfway back in the major creeks. Live bait and vertical jigging a spoon have been his best way of catching stripers, but throwing stickbaits and flukes at sunrise are starting to work. Lou says he’s only fished after dark for striped bass once since his last report, with little success. The water temperature is just right for the night bite to start, so he says he’ll be out more and more after dark here real soon.
Lou adds that white bass are moving back into the major creeks on their annual spawning run. Start looking for big females staging in 30-45 feet of water. The males are the first to move into the creeks, and then the females will follow. Once they start their spawn you will find them close to the banks. Small spinners, blade baits and spoons are some of Lou’s favorites for the white bass. Largemouth bass are also starting to move into shallower water. Tuesday morning, Lou was live bait fishing for striped bass and moving slowly along a deep bluff line. He found a small cut in the rocks and started casting his Kastmaster to the shore and letting it sink about 10 feet. He ended up landing five largemouth out of this little pocket. They are getting very aggressive. Crankbaits will be working, as well as spinnerbaits on those windblown banks. The Norfork Lake water level is currently at 546.92 with minimal power generation at this time. The lake surface water temperature was 53 degrees Tuesday morning and is rising slowly. The main lake as well as parts of the creeks and coves are clearing. Once you get halfway back into the major creeks the water is stained, making it great for fishing.
(updated 2-8-2017) Guide Steve Olomon of Steve’s Guide Service had no report.

North Fork River (Norfork Tailwater)

(updated 2-22-2017) John Berry at Berry Brothers Guide Service (870-453-2424) said Norfork Lake fell 0.5 feet to rest at 6.8 feet below seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet and 33 feet below the top of flood pool. There has been more wadable water on the Norfork. 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 hare and copper nymph with a ruby midge dropper. Dry Run Creek has been less crowded. The hot flies have been size 14 sowbugs, size 12 Y2Ks 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.
Berry also reported, “My wife, Lori, and I finally got a chance to fish together. Her mother and father had been ill and she went to Memphis for a while to care for them. When she came back to Cotter, she brought a cold with her and we were both sick for a few days. We recovered just before the Trout Unlimited Banquet on Feb. 11. It was a fun event but we were ready for a day on the river.
“We got our chance on Sunday afternoon, Feb. 12. This is generally our favorite time to fish around here. This is when the out-of-town anglers are headed back home and we have the choice spots to ourselves. This day was no different. After a nice lunch at home, we headed over to the Ackerman Access, on the Norfork River. It was sunny and in the mid-50s, when we arrived. The river was on the bottom and there was a bit of wind. There were plenty of cars parked at the access but there were several anglers getting ready to leave. We suited up and walked upstream into the catch-and-release section. We had decided to fish near each other. I took my 9-foot 5-weight Sage ZXL. I had a grasshopper with a root beer midge dropper from my previous fishing trip and decided to try that combination first. Lori began with an olive Woolly Bugger on her Winston Joan Wulff Favorite rod. I began casting in a nearby run and landed a couple of nice rainbows immediately. I was yearning for something larger and decided to move further upstream to my favorite big fish hole. I rerigged my rod with a hare and copper, a ruby midge and a bit of lead under a strike indicator. I began casting into the run and caught several nice fish but no trophies. I began working downstream to where Lori was fishing and concentrated on fast deep water. I finally managed to land a fat 19-inch rainbow and my blood lust was finally sated.
“I walked over to where Lori was fishing. She had tried the Woolly Bugger and various nymphs. She had caught some fish in the process but was not satisfied with the results. The day was sunny and bright and some midges were coming off. She had noticed some trout feeding near the top of the water column and had decided to try a midge emerger. The fly she had chosen was Dan’s Turkey Tail Emerger. This was my Brother Dan’s signature pattern. He had developed it specifically for fishing emerging midges on the Norfork. Although it works in a variety of situations, it is deadly on the Norfork (I will tie this fly at the Sowbug Roundup). She tied a long tippet to her leader. The leader tippet combination was 12 feet ending in 5X. She tied on the fly and pinched down the barb. She cast the fly at a 45-degree angle to downstream and stripped the line to sink the fly into the film. She slowly worked her way downstream.
“She landed a nice rainbow on the third cast. I decided to sit on a large rock and watch her fish. It was a thing of beauty. She effortlessly cast the fly and let it gently settle on the water. When she felt a subtle take, she set the hook. She deftly fought all of the trout, on her Orvis CFO reel and quickly released them, in the river unharmed. I don’t know how many she caught because neither one of us counted. It didn’t matter because we were both contented. She was having a great day and I was observing an angler that knew what she was doing. Life is good! We walked out hand in hand. It had been another day in paradise.”

Buffalo National River

(updated 2-22-2017) 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 2-22-2017) 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.