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Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

March 8, 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 8, 2017.

White River (Bull Shoals Tailwater)

(updated 3-8-2017) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) said the river is “pretty darn low,” but the trout bit is “pretty darn good.” Though the boats can’t get very far be cause they literally get stuck between a rock and a hard place, anglers were experience a good bite from the trout.

(updated 3-8-2017) Debbie Gamble at Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) says March blew in with 10-15 mph winds plus stronger gusts for the first several days, which made placing your bait where you planned tougher than usual. North central Arkansas has seen varied weather this past week: some very selective, scattered thunder, wind and rain storms, very chilly mornings, sunny afternoons. That may be why the rainbow bite has been a little slower this week. The browns have been less finicky than the rainbows, so if you're after the rainbow bite, bring an arsenal with lots of selection. Work a gold-hammered spoon first, but if the bite is slow be ready to change colors or move to bait (shrimp again). The browns are snapping at live bait, and might even look at a worm if you dangle one out there. Expect the rainbow bite to increase as the weather normalizes.

(updated 3-8-2017) John Berry at Berry Brothers Guide Service (870-453-2424) said that last week there was a trace of rain Cotter, milder temperatures and heavy winds (to include lake wind advisories). The lake level at Bull Shoals remained steady 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 remained steady at 8.2 feet below seasonal power pool and 24.2 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell 0.3 feet to rest at 9.8 feet below seasonal power pool and 19.4 feet below the top of flood pool. On the White, they had significant wadable water with almost no generation. Meanwhile, 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). Caddis season has arrived. Berry says this is their best hatch of the year and it should arrive soon. He says he has already observed a few caddis on the Norfork tailwater. With the lower lake levels they should have perfect flows to target this hatch. Before the hatch when the trout are feeding on the surface but you see no insects, use a soft hackle like John’s Green Butt or a partridge and orange. When the trout begin to target insects on the surface of the water, switch over to an elk hair caddis. Match your fly to the hatching insect based on size, shape and color.

Bull Shoals Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 651.12feet msl (normal conservation pool – 659.00 msl).

(updated 3-8-2017) Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said great fishing at the lake has started early this year. The water temps are staying in the low 50s around the lake. The dogwood trees, redbud trees and marigolds are all blooming now. That usually doesnt happen until mid-April or so. If we don-t get some type of cold snap or snow then things should start soon. We fish year around and you can fish every day. However, the easier fishing is keyed to water temperature. The fish will move up to shallower water to feed and try to get fat before they spawn. With the early spring we are having this is going to happen early it looks like. The lake is still low around 10 feet. The state of Arkansas and southern Missouri is in a moderate drought. All of the lakes are lower then normal for this time of year. Visibility is great. Bass fishing continues to be great and hasn't really slowed up over the winter. There are several patterns working depending on who you talk to. Swimbaits, crankbaits, jigs, Carolina rigged lizard, jerkbaits for the shallow running patterns. A-rigs in deeper water along with drop-shots. Spooning is still working on bright sunny non-windy days. Walleye are in staging for spawn. They are being caught in shallow water on stickbaits on warmer windy nights. We are catching mostly males they are spraying when put in boat. Colder nights they seem to be deeper and not on the bank as much. Crankbaits and jigs are working for the deeper patterns. Some white bass are being brought in. They are finding them way back in the creeks in the warmer colored water. Yes it is early but everything is early this year.

Norfork Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 546.07 feet msl (normal conservation pool: September-April – 553.75 msl, April-September – 552.00 msl).(updated 3-8-2017) Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters says March’s first week of weather keeps pushing their spring up by three weeks for fishing. The trees are in full bloom, the water temperature is climbing up and is now in the mid-50s, and the fish are biting all over the lake. Crappie, bass, stripers and hybrids are being caught very shallow for this time of year. Tom says he has seen schools of stripers in waters less than 15 feet. If you present the right bait, you will catch fish. Right now, stripers are hitting threadfin and gizzard shad. Some days size does not matter but other days the stripers seem to want the small 3-inch baits. Find the warmest off-color water with bait and you will find feeding stripers. Make sure you’re on the water before sunrise as it’s an early bite; this will change when the time changes, but for now it’s an early rise to be in place to catch the stripers. All these things point to a very early spring. But a cold blast could send the bite back a week, so let’s hope for a continuation of this weather. Some brave guys have started fishing for stripers at night with some success, so get your stickbaits ready. The night bite will get in full force if the warm south winds continue.

Tom said he and his son have been doing some pre-fishing looking for active fish for their upcoming trips. Tom has been fishing the north section of the lake up around Fout Marina. There is lots of bait and schooling stripers and hybrids that are feeding early. Tom’s son, Sean, has been fishing the Brushy Creek and Big Creek areas and finding numerous schools of stripers. On Friday he took their friend Kyle out looking for stripers. When they shut the boat down they stopped right on a school of stripers. They started getting bites right away and caught five in a very short time, the bite lasted for 45 minutes and then the stripers shut down. They were still in the area but would only mouth the bait. They hooked up with nine stripers but only boated five, yet for that short time they had a lot of action.

(updated 3-8-2017) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said Norfork Lake has entered the early spring bite pattern. Some species are spawning and others are moving out of the deep, cold water to shallower water following the shad. The shad are moving shallower due to the warmer water. Walleye and white bass have started their early spring spawn while other species are feeding very heavily on threadfin shad. The flowering trees have blossomed out and the redbuds are just starting to bloom. Remember the old saying that when the dogwoods are in bloom the crappie are not far behind on their spawn. Well, Lou says, he bets the crappie are not far away from moving into the shoreline. The lake water warmed quickly this year and is still 2-5 degrees warmer than past years. Last year the surface temperature in the morning was around 50 and two years ago it was in the upper 40s. Yesterday our morning surface temperature was 54.5 degrees. As always, the surface temp warms several degrees more during the afternoon with the warm sun. The striped bass bite has been good. They have moved to the shallower water of the major creeks. Lou is finding big schools of fish roaming large flats as well as close to the creek channels. Sunday he was fishing with a friend with live shad. They were in 40 feet of water and a school came under them with fish from 15 feet to 40 feet. All of sudden one pole got buried, then the second, and so forth. They had four big stripers and hybrids hooked at the same time and it was total chaos on Lou’s boat. They ended up landing three of the four, with one getting too close to the motor and cutting the line. (That must have been Kyle's 40 pounder, Lou said with a smile). Locations vary, but Lou likes to fish secondary points that have the creek channel swinging in close to the shore. Lou says he has found fish both on the deeper bluff line side, as well as, points on the shallower side. The best bite at this time, for him, has started around 9 a.m. and goes until the early afternoon. Live bait is working great, but spooning has also picked up a few fish. Tolling with swimbaits or Alabama rigs are also working very well. You need to get your baits down to around 20-40 feet deep as the fish are at all levels. Lou has also started to fish after dark when the wind allows him. His first time out for the evening was after he wrote his last fishing report and he landed a couple stripers. He has fished several other times after dark and caught either stripers or hybrids each time. The fish have started to feed after dark, so check the hooks on your suspending stick baits and find a good shallow point with deep water close and give it a try. It is a blast hooking into a large striper when you cannot see anything and everything is by feel. A couple of Hummingbird Hideaway Resort Facebook followers read his last report and headed out after dark and landed a couple really nice fish.

Lou adds that largemouth bass are also starting to move a little closer to the shoreline. He has caught a few in the early morning up tight throwing a jerk bait, but most have been on the short side. He suggests looking at about 15-30 deep off of bluff line points. Some will be suspended, but the bigger ones will be on the bottom. It will not be long until they start moving in with a vengeance and start their pre-spawn feed. Another great spot to fish will be brush piles in 20-30 feet of water. The bass will be hanging around the outsides of the brush watching for those shad that decide to venture away from the brush. Plastics worked along the bottom are working and crank baits are starting to pick up some nice fish. White bass are still back in the creeks and coves finishing up their spawn. Try casting out Rooster Tails or Road Runners up close to the shoreline and retrieve slowly. You will also start to pick up some nice crappie fishing this way. After the majority of white bass finish up spawning, they will start moving out to the flats and then topwater action for whites will start. Lou says he looks forward to this time, as it is a blast. He is seeing a few whites come up early in the morning, but nothing to get real excited about yet. Norfork Lake level rises slowly when power generation stops and drops when the generators are turned back on. Currently minimal generation is occurring and the lake level was at 546.16 for this report. The surface water temperature in the morning has been 53-55 degrees depending on how far back in the creeks you go. The water is stained back in the creeks and the main lake is clear to partly stained.

North Fork River (Norfork Tailwater)

(updated 3-8-2017) John Berry at Berry Brothers Guide Service (870-453-2424) said Norfork Lake fell 0.7 feet to rest at 7.5 feet below seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet and 33.7 feet below the top of flood pool. On the Norfork, they had less generation with more wadable water. Daphnia has been spotted on the upper river and could adversely affect the bite. 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 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 (size 14), Y2Ks (size 12) and various colored San Juan worms (worm brown, red, hot fluorescent pink and cerise size 10).

Berry adds, “I was working at Blue Ribbon Fly Shop [last week] and an angler came in and told me that he had hooked and landed a 17-inch Bonneville cutthroat trout on an elk hair caddis while fishing the Norfork tailwater the day before. This is very early to start our major hatch of the year but it doesn’t really surprise me. I have been fishing the Norfork quite a bit lately and I have observed several caddis. I think the mild winter we have had and the low water conditions we have been experiencing have pushed the caddis hatch forward this year. Last year was a tough year for fishing dry flies, but I feel that the consistent low flows we have had so far are the harbinger of a great dry fly season here. I think we are overdue for some great topwater action.

“A couple of weeks ago, while my wife, Lori, and I were fishing the catch-and-release section on the Norfork and she got into a terrific afternoon of topwater action fishing Dan’s turkey tail emerger to some nice trout hitting midge emergers there. I don’t know how many she caught but it was constant action for a couple of hours.

“I would recommend that anyone heading to the Norfork, be ready to try dry flies if they see any topwater feeding. In addition, the same thing could happen any day on the White. This also means that the soft hackle and emerger action should be picking up. Before the hatch, when you see rises but no insects, the trout are keying in on emerging insects. I fish soft hackles. My Green Butt is a great choice. Swing it down stream at a 45-degree angle to the bank on a 12-foot leader/ tippet combination ending in 5X. When you feel a bump, quickly lift the rod to set the hook. When you see fish taking insects from the surface of the water, it is time to switch over to a dry fly. Match your fly to the hatching insects based on size, shape and color. You should have some elk hair caddis flies in size 14, 16 and 18, preferably green. I like to fish the same long leader/tippet combination ending in 5X that I use for fishing the soft hackles. You should carefully dress the fly with a good fly floatant before fishing it.

“The key to success is presentation. Cast your fly to gently land on the water about 18 inches above a rising fish and let it drift downstream in a perfect drag-free float. When the fish comes up and takes the fly, you should wait a second before you set the hook. The fish should close its mouth before the hook set. This is the longest one second in fly-fishing. I usually miss the first fish or two because I set the hook too fast until I calm down. There is something about watching the trout take the fly that gets the adrenaline pumping. I don’t know about you but I plan on having a great dry fly season this year.”

Buffalo National River

(updated 3-8-2017) Berry Brothers Guide Service (870-453-2424) said the Buffalo is navigable. With warm weather, the smallmouths should be more active. John 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 3-8-2017) 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.