Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

March 29, 2017

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Below is the Arkansas Game and Fish Fishing Report March 29, 2017.

White River (Bull Shoals Tailwater)

(updated 3-29-2017) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) said water level was low, but both rainbows and browns had a good bite going still. PowerBait was working best for anglers.
(updated 3-29-2017)  Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) says it's brown trout season: The guides have been showing their fishers more browns than rainbows this past week. No secret to what been tempting the browns: sculpins and minnows. Trap a few redfin minnows and you'll have a good chance to come face-to-face with a strong, fighting brown. Handle gently, don't keep it out of the water too long, return it to the river after a quick picture, and look for another one to play. No pattern to the water releases yet, so the rainbows have been a little skittish. Keep an arsenal of bait handy to stir up their interest and curiosity. If one color doesn't work, try another (i.e. if not having luck with fluorescent yellow power bait, change to a gold spinner or blue and silver spoon.) The dogwoods will be blooming to perfection in the next couple of days; come see a beautiful Ozark spring to green, then go catch a rainbow.
(updated 3-29-2017) John Berry at Berry Brothers Guide Service (870-453-2424) said, “As many of you know, my wife, Lori, and I have been teaching a fly-fishing class at Arkansas State University Mountain Home for several years. We teach a class each spring and fall. Over the years, we have taught hundreds of people to fly fish. It will be held on Thursday nights – March 30, April 6, 13 and 20 – on the ASU-Mountain Home campus from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m.
“We always begin with an hour of fly-casting instruction. This is basic instruction for someone who has never held a fly rod or someone with limited experience. Lori always leads this. Over the years, she has really worked at it and has become an accomplished casting instructor. I also assist. Together we have over 40 years of fly-casting instruction experience. We like to keep our class size limited so that all of the students get a lot of personal attention at each class. We show you where your mistakes are and how to easily correct them. The rest of the instruction is in the classroom. This is where I draw on my 25 years’ experience as a fly-fishing guide. Of course, Lori, with over a dozen years of experience as a guide, ably assists. We talk about equipment, [what to buy and what not to buy]. We also cover knots, rigging, fly selection, entomology, reading water and water safety. This is a great class for couples.
“To register for the class, visit http://asumh.edu/services/community-education.html. If you do not have access to a computer, call Sarah Sykes at (870) 508.6105 to register. There is a nominal fee. If this sounds like something that you would be interested in, please sign up. I hope to see you there.”

Bull Shoals Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 653.94 feet msl (normal conservation pool – 659.00 msl).
(updated 3-29-2017) K Dock Marina reported the water level is down about 7 feet below normal this spring, around 651.7 feet. (Normal pool is 659 feet above sea level for the spring.) Bull Shoals has great water conditions right now, with water clear to stained. All species are good to fair after the cold snap week before last. Surface temperature around K Dock dropped about 5 degrees to around 50-53 degrees. Last weekend’s temperature should bring the fish up chasing shad in the shallows. White bass are really starting to surface around the K Dock area. Crappie should start to hit soon. No big numbers yet, but that will change. Have seen a lot of 12- to 14-inch crappie being caught in nearby coves. Boat ramp is accessible and courtesy dock is available, free of charge. Here is a breakdown by species:
* Black Bass (Largemouth, Spotted Bass and Smallmouth) – Good to fair on a wide fariety of lures. The A-Rig is still a favorite with the water temps in the low 50s. Many catching bass on small crankbaits such as Wiggle Warts, Rock Crawlers and Bombers. Spinnerbaits with small willow blades when windy. Small to medium jigs ½-ounce or smaller on the steep rock bluffs and points. And any type of finesse plastics off the points and bluffs.
* Crappie – Good to fair on swimming minnows on the sand flats and brush piles. Small plastics in pink and chartreuse have really been working around brush piles in the nearby coves. But, live minnows and a bobber are perfect this time of year.
* Walleye – Fair to slow. Not a lot of reports coming in on walleye trolling. Horrible weather conditions week before last. Look for the shallow bite to start with the water temps coming up. Troll with small crankbaits such as Hot n’ Tots or Flicker Shads around the 5 to 7 size. This time of year, you may troll to find large walleye along the steep rock bluffs feeding on Crawdads after the spawn. Great time to hit a monster crappie while trolling with a small crankbait. Better reports of walleye coming in from Beaver Creek toward Powersite Dam area.
* White Bass – Very good. We finally have some shallow water to fish around K Dock. Tie on a lipless crankbait and hit the flats. The whites will be everywhere when they jump a few degrees in surface temp. Your choice of soft or hard bait is up to you when they start busting the surface.
If you have been on this lake in the past 10 years, you know that it’s been rare to see these lake conditions in the spring. If you are new to the K Dock area, stop in the store on the weekend. Scott will give you some tips on where to fish, whatever game fish you’re after.
(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 547.23 feet msl (normal conservation pool: September-April – 553.75 msl, April-September – 552.00 msl).(updated 3-292-2017) Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters says their weather patterns continue to swing from cold rainy to hot and windy. One day, striper fishing is good, then it slows down and on some days quits, then picks back up. Tom says if his clients happen to pick the good days, fishing is a lot of fun, but those other days when you are scrambling to get a bait make for a long day. The stripers are moving up and down the creeks depending on the weather. They are still fishing near Fouts Marina. Tom says he has mainly fished near 6B and then down toward the flats. Others are starting in front of the marina and work the bluffs and points. All this is short term as the weather will improve and striper fishing will pick up all over the lake. Tom’s son did catch a 30-pound striper pre-fishing. He took a picture and released it to fight another day. The crappie are hitting very well in the deeper brush piles. They are biting on minnows and jigs all over the lake. Find some off-color water with temperatures in the mid-50s and you should catch some nice slabs.
Tom says he took Bobby and Pat, who flew in from California, to catch their first stripers. This was their first guided fishing trip, also. The bite starting off quickly with Pat getting the first hit. He missed it but was very excited to see the fish chase the bait out of the water. Pat’s next strike was on the mark and the fight was on. Pat put that one in the boat and he took pictures to send back to his co-workers. Bobby was next and he caught a good one. We put four in the boat and missed a few more that would have given them their limit. They both enjoyed the day and Pat had the best birthday present a brother-in-law could give.
(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.