Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

March 1, 2017

More reports and other videos are on the Cotter Trout Dock Youtube Channel Page.
Below is the Arkansas Game and Fish Fishing Report March 1, 2017.

White River (Bull Shoals Tailwater)

(updated 3-1-2017) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) said that this week has been pretty much like last week, another great week for catching brown trout. River level is low and the bite for trout overall was excellent.

(updated 3-1-2017) Debbie Gamble at Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) says lots of rainbows blessed our anglers' hooks this past week, mostly nipping at shrimp and fluorescent yellow eggs. Garlic-scented bait might increase the bite when traditional scents lose their attraction. To keep that shrimp on your hook a little better, steep it in salt overnight; firms the bait and makes it last longer. Use topwater, emerging baits if fly-fishing. Some nice pools of browns were found near Red Bud and up by Wildcat Shoals. Save your bigger baits for evening fishing, using smaller spoons in a variety of colors for the sunlight hours. The water level remains very low, take it slow out there and save your prop. Enjoy all Arkansas has to offer; thanks for keeping it pure for the fishers downstream.

(updated 3-1-2017) John Berry at Berry Brothers Guide Service (870-453-2424) said that during the past week they have had rain (about an inch in Cotter), milder temperatures and moderate winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals fell 0.1 feet to rest at 7.9 feet below seasonal power pool of 659 feet. This is 43.9 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock rose 0.3 feet to rest at 8.2 feet below seasonal power pool and 24.2 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake rose 0.2 feet to rest at 9.5 feet below seasonal power pool and 19.1 feet below the top of flood pool. On the White, we had significant wadable water with little generation, while the bite has been spotty. Some days have been excellent and some poor. The hot spot has been the catch-and-release section at Rim Shoals. 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 24-30-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.

John says that a week ago Monday and Tuesday he had a two-day guide trip with a father and son from Kansas City. Dad had fished here in the past but not lately. His son, Will, had fished Dry Run Creek but had never been on the White and Norfork. The plan was to fish from a boat on the White River and wade the Norfork the next. John has been guiding both rivers quite a bit lately and they have been fishing well.

He says, “On the first day, we fished the White River at Rim Shoals. The weather was warm but very windy. I found a spot that offered a bit of protection from the wind but not enough. I had rigged their rods with red fox squirrel and copper nymphs a ruby midge dropper, a bit of lead and a strike indicator. The red fox squirrel nymph accounted for about a third of the fish and the ruby midge accounted for two thirds. We were catching fish pretty much at will. We landed around 50 trout, the largest being about 16 inches long. It was all numbers but not much size. The next day we fished the Norfork. We started at the dam because we were waiting for the water to drop out downstream. It was unseasonably warm and there was a gentle rain falling with no appreciable wind. I personally love fishing in the rain because nothing thins the herd like a little rain. We had the river to ourselves for the entire day. We began with the flies that we had used the previous day. The going was slow below the dam. We finally caught a few trout. I quickly pumped their stomachs to see what they had been eating. I thought if I knew what they were keying in on that I could change flies and catch more and better trout. I was very concerned when I found that they were gorging on daphnia. These are really small aquatic insects that periodically come through the dam. Their common name is water flea. They are impossible to duplicate with a fly, and when the trout key in on them, the fishing can be very challenging.

“The water dropped out and it was time to move downstream to the Ackerman Access, to try our luck in the catch-and-release section. We kept the same flies and waded far upstream from the access. Our first hookup was a 21-inch rainbow. I thought things might be looking up. We began picking up trout on a regular basis. I pumped the stomachs of a couple of trout and noted no daphnia. Maybe it has not worked its way this far down stream.

“We continued fishing and Will caught an even larger trout. This one was a 23-inch rainbow. It was the biggest rainbow that he had ever landed and a trophy in anybody’s book. We caught several more nice trout but nothing that would beat that. We finished the day with about half as many fish as the day before. They definitely preferred the fishing on the Norfork due to the quality of the fishing. They had two great days of fishing on our local trout streams and they left with smiles on their faces.”

Bull Shoals Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 651.10 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 546.47 feet msl (normal conservation pool: September-April – 553.75 msl, April-September – 552.00 msl).(updated 2-22-2017) Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters says March on Norfork Lake is a great time for spring fishing. In the Ozarks the spring begins with the southerly winds that arrive in late February. The water warms fast and the stripers, crappie, bass and walleye all start their spawning migration. Once the water stays in the 50s the shad will move into the creeks to begin their spawn, which triggers the fish to move up from the deep water and start heavy spring feeding. The major creek arms on Norfork are Pigeon, Bennett’s Bayou, Big Creek and Brushy Creek. Float and Panther creeks will hold fish but they are short and the fish move in and out too fast to stay consistent. The major fishing patterns for Norfork are:

* Stripers: Tom presents the gizzard and threadfin shad using long lines with no weight, planer boards and floats. Most of the lines will have no weight or just a split shot. Tom says he looks for the most stained water in 30 feet or less. This water will be the warmest and probably blowing to the north shores as the southern winds will warm that water faster. The great thing about March fishing is you can catch stripers every part of the day and night. The night bite begins again when the south winds warm the north shores. The main lures are Smithwick Rouges thrown parallel to the bank and reeled very slowly. The best bite is the first 3 hours after dark. Some of the biggest fish of the spring are caught at night.

* Crappie: They’re in the final stage of their pre-spawn. Large schools are roaming the main channel and flats and in all the major creek arms. Depending on how fast the lake warms you can expect to catch crappies in stained shallow water and on the flats. The best technique is spider rigging, slow trolling with minnows and jigs. If the bite is slow, move up to the stained shallows and probe the brush piles. Remember to look for the stained water with brush; you will catch the most crappies there if they have moved off the flat.

* Bass: March is one of Tom’s favorite times of year for bass. They are moving up to feed before their spawning cycle and can be caught on many different types of baits. Tom’s personal preference is spinnerbaits, either chartreuse and white during the day or, if it’s low light, a black skirt with 1- or 3-inch black curly tail. Really, if you’re into bass fishing you will be able to catch bass on any presentation. Look for the warmest stained water or find a creek arm where the wind has been pounding the shore and you will find bass ready to take your lure.

* Walleye: They’ll be in full spawning cycle in March. The best place to catch them using live bait is from Calamity Beach to the U.S. Highway 160 bridge. They will move into the shallows to spawn and slide back to the holes during the day. There are long stained water flats that hold the fish, plus some deep holes from Bryant Creek up to the Udall boat ramp. The best bait is nightcrawlers on worm harnesses slow-trolled using your trolling motor. Another great method is night fishing using Rogues. You may catch a striper, but if you target the pea gravel banks, you should zero in on the walleye. Remember to reel slowly and keep changing your colors until you can find what they want. March can be a fun month to catch fish, but you should be prepared to have lots of wind, rain and cold weather mixed in with those sunny days.

(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.

North Fork River (Norfork Tailwater)

(updated 3-1-2017) John Berry at Berry Brothers Guide Service (870-453-2424) said Norfork Lake remained steady at 6.8 feet below seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet and 33 feet below the top of flood pool. On the Norfork, we had less generation with more wadable water.There has been more wadable water on the Norfork. Daphnia has been spotted on the upper river and could adversely affect the bite. The most productive flies have been small midge patterns (#18, #20, #22) like ruby midges, root beer midges, zebra midges (black or red with silver wire and silver bead) and soft hackles (#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 eighteen inches below a brightly colored San Juan worm (hot fluorescent pink or cerise #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 rig has been a hare and copper nymph with a ruby midge dropper.

Dry Run Creek has been very crowded due to the unseasonable warm weather. The hot flies have been sowbugs (#14), Y2Ks (#12) and various colored San Juan worms (worm brown, red, hot fluorescent pink and cerise #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 3-1-2017) Berry Brothers Guide Service (870-453-2424) said the Buffalo is navigable. With warm weather, the smallmouths should be more 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 3-1-2017) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service (870-453-2424) said the Buffalo is navigable. With warm weather, the smallmouths should be more 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.