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Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

April 5, 2017

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Below is the Arkansas Game and Fish Fishing Report April 5, 2017.

White River (Bull Shoals Tailwater)

(updated 4-5-2017)  Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) says everybody's catching trout. This week has proven successful for anglers casting from the bank with flies, spoons, spinners and bait, for fishers trying their luck from private jon boats, and of course for those spending the day with a professional river guide. Silver and blue spoons caught good-sized rainbows, spinners with gold blades worked their magic, too. The tri-olive Zig Jig is making a comeback on the days with some water releases; you need a couple of extra feet of water for success in playing the jigs. More cutthroats are being caught between Wildcat Shoals and Red Bud Hole than in the last 14 years and are being released to continue to maturity. Low water levels on most mornings have made it easy to catch a sculpin or two to tie on your hook and lure the larger browns. There have been numerous days with catches of 10 browns or more. Remember, the low water means a narrow channel that everybody needs to traverse. Be thoughtful of your fellow anglers so we can all continue to enjoy Arkansas’s natural beauty of the resources. Fish on.
(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 4-5-2017) John Berry at Berry Brothers Guide Service (870-453-2424) said, “On Sunday, the day after the Sowbug Roundup ended; I had a guide trip with Al and Bob. I have guided them for several years. They always show up at Sowbug and the Federation of Fly Fishers Fly Fishing Fair in October. They are from Nebraska and at 73 and 78 years of age, respectively, are a bit past wade fishing. We always fish from my White River Jon Boat.
“On that day, the generation was at minimum flow, for over 24 hours. Both rivers, the White and Norfork, were lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon rut. Since I have a propeller-driven outboard and not a jet drive, I am limited to where I can drift fish under these conditions. I chose to fish at Rim Shoals, which has deep enough water to allow me to fish there when there is little or no generation. The weather was pretty nice. It was to be partly cloudy all day with a high temperature of around 73 degrees. There was a cool start, a bit over 40 degrees but it got warmer as the day went. By midafternoon it was quite a bit warmer, and I finally took off my down sweater.
“I had begun the day fishing a red fox squirrel and copper nymph (a new favorite) with a ruby midge dropper on one rod and a cerise San Juan worm with a ruby midge dropper (it had rained the night before and I always fish a San Juan worm after a rain). Early on, it was evident that the red fox squirrel/copper nymph was outperforming the cerise San Juan worm. I took a few minutes to ensure that both of my anglers were fishing the same thing and that it was what was working the best.
“In the morning, the going was a bit slow. They both caught trout but not as many as I am used to catching. We broke for lunch at around noon. It was good to relax for a few minutes. The rest recharged us and we were able to return to the river with a bit of confidence. The fishing picked up and we were catching more trout than we had in the morning. Around 3 o’clock, Bob hit a really good fish. I got a pretty good look at it and quickly figured out that it was a good-sized brown. I quickly pulled my drag chain into the boat so that the brown would not tangle itself in it, which could cause us to lose the fish. Though it tried to swim into a big blowdown, we were finally able to land and release a fine 20-inch brown trout.
“The next drift generated a nice 14-inch rainbow for Bob. Then on the third drift our luck was significantly better. He hooked an even larger brown than we had previously landed. Once again, I pulled in the drag chain and we took our time landing our fish. Surprisingly it actually came in quicker than the smaller brown. At 22 inches with a large girth, it was a spectacular catch. In three drifts, Bob had landed two nice browns and a decent rainbow. Life is good!”

Bull Shoals Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 654.95 feet msl (normal conservation pool – 659.00 msl).
(updated 4-5-2017) K Dock Marina reported the lake has jumped about 3 feet with the recent rains. Limited debris, but a lot of color to the water, a dark green to rust color. Good for bass fishing! Not going to be very detailed on this report, but wanted to focus on the crappie bite. Water temperature is actually climbing to the 60-degree mark, which should trigger a good bite with all species. Crappie are good, but not great. Live minnows and swimming minnows are really working in and around the brush piles in the coves. A 60-65 degree surface temperature should have them right on the banks of the coves. Any morning sunshine should result in some great afternoon crappie fishing. If you’re after bass, throw a small jig or small plastics on the points and high bluffs. Walleye should start hitting small to medium crankbaits trolling both shallow and near the bluffs.
(updated 4-5-2017) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said water has come up quite a bit. They’ve gotten a little bit of rain; Del wishes they had it in the bushes little bit better, but it is what it is, he said. Water temperature is about 60 degrees in back of creeks, 58 in the main lake. They went from pre-spawn to spawn this week. Del was on a bowfishing trip and what he saw, the smallmouth are definitely on the beds everywhere. The males are on the beds. Kentuckies are out a little bit with the smallmouths and the largemouth are right behind them. Largemouths are going to spawn in shallower water than the smallmouths. For the smallmouths, he said, they’re in 12-117 feet of water, so you want to keep your boat in 25-26 feet and cast out. With largemouths you can get in a little bit shallower water. With the spawn going on, what you want to look for – you can catch them a lot of different ways, he said, it’s a matter of getting it in right places. Anglers are catching them on creepy crawlers, purple orange pink lizards, Carolina rigs, worms, flukes, Shaky Head, it doesn’t matter. Natural colors work better in clear water, but he said you don’t have to always go with that rule of thumb. It’s all about locations while they’re spawning; look for the gravel points, pockets, anywhere where the gravel is at, the flats where the beds are, that’s what you want to focus on. That approach is going to be good for the next couple of weeks. These are the days you’re going to catch 10-20-30-40 fish a day depending on the day, Del said. If you’re going to catch some bass and let them go, take the picture where they’re at and let them go immediately. They have a job to do, that’s spawning, and let them do it, Del said. If you’re going to chase walleye, the bite is still going pretty strong. It usually starts tapering off about now, but anglers are still catching them on jerkbaits early or late. On a cloud day or raining day you can still catch them using a jerkbait. It’s the same with the white bass; they’re still being caught in backs of creeks. That is going to taper off, but for the next couple of weeks fishing is good, he said.

Norfork Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 549.41 feet msl (normal conservation pool: September-April – 553.75 msl, April-September – 552.00 msl).(updated 4-5-2017) 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
Tom adds that once they get the consistent April weather, these patterns will work for stripers, bass and crappie. The stripers will be staging up the creeks feeding on spawning shad. You can find them in very shallow water early and late afternoon and into evening. If the water is stained or off-color and the wind is blowing into the bank, you can catch stripers all day long. The night bite for stripers will be at its peak all over the lake. The best bite starts at dusk and is usually over by midnight. The best baits are 5- to 6-inch rouges thrown parallel to the bank and either twitched or slow-reeled back. Sometimes the bite will be right at the boat. A bonus fish when night fishing is walleye. A lot of good-size walleye are caught when anglers are fishing for stripers. Tom says his fishing technique in April and May for stripers revolves around shad. He likes to use 4- to 6-inch gizzard shad and 4- to 5-inch threadfin shad. I use floats with no weight or a small split set far behind the boat. He then sets out two planer boards that parallel the shore. The closest board to the shore will have a 6-inch gizzard shad, the next one will have a bigger shad on it, that one is his attraction shad. Stripers will come up to look at that bait, then hit the smaller bait. Tom then sets out free lines with small split shot; these lines have just a small split shot and bait. Again he lets them out far behind the boat. He then puts out a giant bait right behind the engine that he calls a transom bait. A big striper will swipe at that bait and sometimes take it. The bait size will average 10 inches or bigger. Finally he will add two more free lines but they will be set out shorter than the others. The best places to fish in April and May are shorelines that contain old road beds, foundations and brush piles. Stripers will hold in the brush piles waiting on bait. These techniques are tried and true and will work on any body of water. If you cannot get shad, try big shiners known as brooders or No. 30s. They will also work but will not produce the numbers that shad does.
Tom says that crappie should have moved into shallow water spawning on small brush or shallow brush piles. As long as the weather stays warm and mild, the spawn will continue until a heavy rain or sudden cold snap will push them off the banks into a little deeper water. Just move off the bank and fish the same method you were using but in deeper water. Once it warms back up, you will find them on the bank. Minnows and small jigs are the best baits on the lake. Jig colors vary by the day, but day-in and day-out minnows are your best bait. Once the spawn is over, spider-rigging the deeper water will produce limits of crappie. The best creeks for crappie are Big Creek, Brushy Creek, Pigeon Creek and Bennett’s Bayou on the main lake. The upper lake areas are Red Bank, Calamity and Bryant Creek. Bass fishing is very good in April. The bass will have moved up on shore and will be chasing shad. Throwing spinnerbaits on windward shore will catch you lots of active bass. If that bite slows, try a jig-n-pig or worm on sloping points in the creeks. Early morning and late afternoon will see lots of topwater action. Look in the bays heading into the creeks like the entrance to Bennett’s Bayou. It has a very large bay that holds whites and bass in the spring. This time of year you can catch bass on any bank on this lake. Some of Tom’s favorite spots are Big and Brushy creeks. They get stained early and the water is usually warmer, but don’t be afraid to pick a bank and start fishing. There is not a bad place on Norfork Lake that time of year. No matter when you fish in April you can expect very warm temperatures to very cold temperatures in the same day or week you’re there. You just have to be prepared for the weather and you will catch fish and have a great time doing it.
(updated 4-5-2017) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said Norfork Lake fishing has entered into the spring phase and is getting exciting. With that being said, early spring can bring many drastic changes in the weather. As a few weeks ago they went from temperatures in the 80s to a 3-inch snowfall and cold for several days, followed by a return to summer like temperatures. This type of weather affects the water temperature, which in turn affects the bite. These weather changes seem to be the norm for March. Temperatures typically stabilize in April. The lake water temperature has warmed back to the low 60s, which is a perfect temperature for all species. Striped bass, hybrid bass and white bass fishing is improving each day he goes out, Lou said.
One day earlier this week was no different. The clear skies made for a slow bite early, but by 10 a.m. Lou said he found the stripers and landed three striped bass, one hybrid and three whites. He first started out on a large flat upriver where the water had turned off-color (slightly greenish brown). Lou and his guests had been finding large schools of stripers, hybrids and whites at all different times of day, but this day could not locate them early. Lou also checked out several deep brush piles because he had found that the striped bass were relating to the brush holding baitfish, but again no takers. He moved to a deep-water point at a mouth of a cove about a half-mile away from the flat and he found baitfish and lots of suspended feeding fish. He was in 55 feet of water and the stripers were anywhere from the surface to 25 feet down. He was vertical jigging and had one pole out with live bait and a very small split shot. This rod got buried and he finally landed a nice 14-pound striper. So he set out two live bait poles and continued to move around the point. He was also jigging a spoon at about 25 feet and hooked up to two white bass. After releasing the second white, he looked back and one of rods was doubled over. As he was fighting this fish, the second rod took off – fun and games, a double. He ended up landing both of the stripers without any mishaps, he said laughing.
Lou says he also has been fishing back in a major creek, again where the water turns off color. He has found stripers on the deep-water bluff line side just inside of the creek channel as well as on points that have deep water nearby. Some of the creeks have big flat areas where the stripers will be roaming in the shallower water early and late in the day. The stripers that he has marked and caught have been mainly from the surface to 25 feet deep in all his fishing spots. Vertical jigging with a spoon, live bait and trolling with Alabama rigs, swimbaits and long stickbaits will work.
He says crappie fishing is also improving. He and his guests have been finding crappie on deep brush piles in 30-40 feet of water. Several of us have been jigging with a ¼-ounce spoon and some others have been using 1/16- and 1/8-ounce Road Runners in white and white/chartreuse. The crappie are moving up to the shallow water to spawn. Many of the larger crappie are coming off the shoreline hitting Road Runners and small grubs. Most of the walleye have finished their spawn and are moving onto the shallower flats, as well as to brush piles. He’s caught walleye on flats dragging a large minnow on the bottom and by vertical jigging with a spoon. Deep-diving crank baits will also pick up some nice walleye on these flats. He has also picked up a few along the shoreline before daybreak throwing a white/chartreuse Zoom Fluke. This bite will continue to improve during the morning and on through the day and after dark. The largemouth bass bite finally starting to improve after the cold snap. Lou says he was getting into some nice topwater action before the snow, but since that time he has noticed very few bass coming up. The water temperature has finally got back to the low 60s, so topwater action will take off very soon. There are some fish moving into the shallow water, but he’s still marking lots of bass staging off of deep water points in about 20-25 feet of water, either on the bottom or suspended.
The Norfork Lake surface water temperature Tuesday morning started out at 60 degrees at 6 a.m. and ended up at 62 degrees at 11 a.m. (main lake temps). The creeks and coves are stained and off-color, the main lake is somewhat stained. The current level of the lake has risen to 549.07 which is a 5-foot increase over the last couple of weeks. This lake level is still about 5 feet below the current seasonal pool.

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.