Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

March 22, 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 22, 2017.

White River (Bull Shoals Tailwater)

(updated 3-22-2017) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) said water was clear and the river was low with a slow flow with little generation. It proved to be good fishing for trout. Use PowerBait for rainbows. Patient fishermen were reporting success with the browns.
(updated 3-22-2017)  Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) says, “What a week on the White! Spring break brings lots of old friends to town and introduces new ones, and the river never fails to surprise newcomers.” The rainbow catch seems to be bringing in more quality bows, although the total count may be smaller than some previous seasons. After two days with some amount of generation, the water level has stabilized, very low, so they’re seeing anglers anchoring over favorite fishing holes with enough weight to get deeper. Garlic-scented bait and Power Eggs with or without sparkle are catching the eye of the rainbows. Add some shrimp and catch even more. Cutthroats and browns continue to answer the call of the minnow. "Celebrate spring, come fish the White!"
(updated 3-22-2017) John Berry at Berry Brothers Guide Service (870-453-2424) said that during the past week, they have had rain and snow (combined for about a half-inch in Cotter), cold temperatures to include freeze advisories) and heavy winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals rose 0.3 feet to rest at 7.3 feet below seasonal power pool of 659 feet. This is 43.3 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock rose 0.2 feet to rest at 8 feet below seasonal power pool and 24 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake rose 0.8 to rest at 8.5 feet below seasonal power pool and 18.1 feet below the top of flood pool. On the White, they had significant wadable water with more 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 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). Berry says this is their best caddis hatch of the year and should arrive soon. He has already observed a few caddis on the Norfork tailwater and on the White. 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 Berry’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.
Berry also says of the annual Sowbug Roundup this week in Cotter: “What began 20 years ago as a small fly-tying show at the Youth Center in Cotter has now turned into the best fly-tying show in the South, and possibly the top show in the United States. It draws tyers from all over the country and from other countries. I have been involved with it ever since I moved here 18 years ago, first as a seminar presenter, then a fly-tyer (they lowered the standards so that I could participate), then I was a vendor, and now I am a member of the Sowbug Committee. I am proud of my involvement. The Sowbug Roundup is sponsored by the North Arkansas Fly Fishers, our local fly-fishing club, which is affiliated with the Federation of Fly Fishers. Proceeds from the show sponsor local scholarships and other educational and conservational activities. This year’s Sowbug will be held at the Baxter County Fairgrounds March 23-25 from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. each day. The entrance fee is $5 for all three days. Children under 12 years of age are admitted free of charge when accompanied by an adult (adults with accompanying children are also free).
“The big draw at the show is the fly-tyers. There will be around 120 tyers from all over the U.S. and Canada. They will be spread out over the three days. The idea is to watch them tie. You will be surprised and amazed at some of the flies that they create. You can learn something from every one of them. Also, there are around 20 vendors to tempt you. They include most of our local fly shops like Blue Ribbon, Dally’s, Two Rivers and Wishes and Fishes. Dave Whitlock, The Golden Rule Fly Shop and Duane Hada will also be there. I will be there with two booths, Blue Ribbon Fly Shop and Berry Brothers Guide Service. Stop by and let me tie you a fly.
“On Friday night they have the Shindig. This was originally started as a tyer appreciation night and has morphed into a fundraiser social event of the first order. Seating is limited. There is a large auction with some incredibly fine items. including some spectacular fly plates. Inquire about tickets at the registration desk at Sowbug. They will not be available at the Shindig.
“There are several seminars, including some excellent ones on fly-tying. As usual, I will teach one on ‘When, Where and How to fish the White and Norfork Rivers’ on Friday at 11 a.m. My wife, Lori, will teach a couple of seminars on fly-casting. On Friday, she has an intermediate class and on Saturday she has one for beginners. She surpassed me on fly-casting ability years ago. Several Saturday programs are designed for children. These are must-attend events. If any of this sounds like something you would like to do, please join me at the Sowbug Roundup.
“Also, the week after Sowbug, Lori and I will teach our ‘Fly Fishing Class’ at Arkansas State University starting on Thursday March 30, and running for four weeks. We meet at 6 p.m. and are finished at 8 p.m. Register online through the community education department. The cost is $80.”

Bull Shoals Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 651.67 feet msl (normal conservation pool – 659.00 msl).
(updated 3-22-2017) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said the lake is still low at 651 feet msl and they really need some rain, and some would help. Temperature has ranged 55-63 degrees. Fish are definitely in pre-spawn mode. A couple of different things are working, depending on the weather – and last week they had snow before it was back up in the 80s. The fishing is only get better. They’re coming up shallow. They’re not all the way in backs of the creeks, but almost in the backs and in the flats. They’re still holding off a little bit. Del still hasn’t put the jerkbait away, he said. He’s also used a Shaky Head. Try a swimbait with just a little small head and casting it along the docks, outside of the docks. Around the transition banks, the fish seem to be on the sides of the points or where it goes to bluff wall to gravel; it doesn’t matter, look for those changes in the rock and you’re going to get bit. Del says that lately he doesn’t think he’s fished anything deeper than 15 feet, and you won’t h ave to for the next month. You can still use a Wiggle Wart a little bit, or a rock crawler bait, but that bite should begin to drop off. Got with the brighter colors in the dirtier water, more natural colors in the clear water. Also, a jig is catching a lot of fish right now, he said, especially on the steeper banks into the pockets, which are hodling a lot of fish. Hit the bank with a jig and work it back nice and slow. A flashy finesse spinnerbait is also working. In the dirtier water add some flash. Walleye were still working on Tuesday and he said you probably have one more week of jerkbaiting for walleye. Go for them an hour or so before the sun goes down to an hour afterward. They’re shallow, about 18 inches below the surface. White bass are kind of tapering off, he said. Some are moving out of the creeks already. You’ll find white bass on the secondary points.

Norfork Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 545.27 feet msl (normal conservation pool: September-April – 553.75 msl, April-September – 552.00 msl).(updated 3-22-2017) Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters says, “What a week of swinging weather and fishing patterns.” They started off with snow and very cold weather and wound up sunny with 60 degrees. Fishing was outstanding all week without the sun being out. They caught over 55-plus stripers during that period. On Friday Tom and his son caught 22 stripers and were excited to know the sun and warm weather was coming Saturday. Tom says he told his clients that fishing was outstanding when they came on board – “boy, was I wrong,” he quipped. They were fishing near Fouts Marina, which is a narrow straight of water that does not have much room for heavy boat traffic. The sun came out and then the boats. They had a striper and bass tourney that caused heavy boating, the bass boats were flying up and down the lake, and the striper guys were trolling. The stripers have been shallow and all the traffic shut them down. Tom says he fished 5½ hours and Sean fished 9 hours and between them they boated four stripers. Sean caught them all and Tom was skunked. Sunday they went to Big Creek trying to get out of the traffic and both caught one striper apiece. Tom says he expects the pattern will improve with less boat traffic and consistent weather. On a bright note, the walleye are hitting crankbaits up above Calamity Beach; people are catching limits of walleye from the shore in the evening. Tom had a call about fishing Thursday from Mike, who had his trip canceled in Tennessee. Mike and his sons Levi and Luke, along with their friend Harlan, were on their first-time striper fishing trip. They booked an 8-hour trip. When the group left the dock, it was cold, overcast and windy. They made it to Fouts, so Tom began his setup, which is 10 baited rods; two planner boards, two floats, two free lines, and four downlines. They started off slow, but their first fish was a double-headed. The young boys, 11 and 12, were the first ones to catch a striper, then the men took over and kept this up for the next 6½ hours. They caught number 12 and the boys were cold, so the trip was complete with their first limit of stripers. The boys had a trip they would soon not forget.
(updated 3-22-2017) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said the term "March Madness" definitely fits Norfork Lake this month. Three inches of snow a week ago, 90 degrees earlier this week and some thunderstorms and cooler weather on the way. The changing weather patterns play havoc with the fish, but Tuesday the fish gave signs of getting back on track. Lou says he saw sporadic surface activity for largemouth bass and striped/hybrid bass, crappie moving in tighter to the banks for their pre-spawn activity, and the white bass and walleye have started to move out to the flats, which indicates the majority of the walleye and whites have completed their spawn.
Tuesday was a very interesting morning of fishing. Lou says his game plan was to search a different area of the lake for striped bass. He didn't find striped bass, but he ended up catching fish on five different types of baits. In the dark he started casting a suspending stickbait to the shoreline. He landed largemouth and crappie on his Smithwick Rogue. As the sun was coming up he cast out his blade bait, Kastmaster, and landed some whites. As the morning wore on he started casting out a paddle tail swimbait to the shoreline and landed a largemouth, then in deeper water he dropped a spoon and landed a walleye. Live threadfin shad landed a second walleye and he broke off a big fish, maybe what he was looking for, he said. Striped bass fishing the last couple of days has slowed with the cool system that rolled through their area last week. The snow and cold temperatures dropped the surface lake temperature from 56 degrees to 50 degrees. Tuesday morning the lake had warmed back up to 56 degrees. A few days ago the stripers that had moved back into the major creek arms were biting aggressively and could be found anywhere from 20 to 50 feet of water. Most fish that Lou was catching and marking were suspended 15-35 feet down. Tuesday, Lou said he did mark a few stripers, but they were not feeding. This will change with the warming water very shortly and the good bite will begin again.
Lou adds that largemouth bass fishing has been good. This species is moving in close to the shoreline early and late in the day. Tuesday morning brought some of the best surface activity that he have seen so far this year. This is still early for topwater, but a very good sign. Lou caught largemouth before Tuesday’s sunrise on a suspending jerkbait; after sunrise, largemouth were being caught on a 5-inch paddle tail swimbait by one of Lou’s guests. The topwater started just as the sun got above the horizon. Lou says start carrying your favorite topwater bait as he believes this will become a little more common each day. Alabama rigs are also working very well rigged out with a 3½- to 4-inch swimbait. The shorter baits are still working a little better than longer baits, but this will change as the water continues to warm.
Lou caught walleye Tuesday morning, one on a shallow flat in 18 feet of water and the other was out in 65 feet of water suspended down 55 feet. Lou marked bait from 40 feet to the bottom and saw five big arcs in the bait. He assumed the arcs were stripers so he dropped a ½-ounce spoon and landed a nice 23-inch walleye. “You tell me what the current pattern of our walleye are?” he asks with a grin. The majority of the walleye have spawned and should be moving to the flats to feed. Deep-diving crankbaits, crawler harnesses and dragging live minnows will start to pick up some nice fish. White bass have also completed the majority of their spawning activities. Lou says he’s starting to find scattered fish on large flats suspended down 20-30 feet in 30-50 feet of water. He caught several nice whites on his Kastmaster blade bait. It will not be long until large schools of whites will be roaming shallow flats feeding heavily on shad. Topwater frenzies will erupt and make the water boil. Topwater baits, blade baits, spoons and swimbaits will all pick up some nice fish.
Norfork Lake surface water temperature Tuesday morning was 55-56 degrees. The lake level is falling very slowly and currently sits at 545.25, which is approximately a 1 foot drop over the last two weeks. The lake is somewhat stained but clearly is occurring.

North Fork River (Norfork Tailwater)

(updated 3-22-2017) John Berry at Berry Brothers Guide Service (870-453-2424) said Norfork Lake fell 0.5 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, we had less generation with more wadable water, but it has fished poorly. 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. Berry’s favorite rig has been a hare and copper nymph with a ruby midge dropper. Dry Run Creek has been very crowded due to spring break. 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 3-22-2017) 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 3-22-2017) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service (870-453-2424) said the creek 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 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.