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Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

April 12, 2017

More reports and other videos are on the Cotter Trout Dock Youtube Channel Page.
Below is the Arkansas Game and Fish Fishing Report April 12, 2017.

White River (Bull Shoals Tailwater)

(updated 4-12-2017)  Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) says water levels have been a little inconsistent this past week; some fairly swift releases for several hours, then dialing back to minimum flow. That will test an angler's skills. When the river is full of sculpins, you can be sure the browns will hit on them, and this has proven to be the case this week. Most of the browns that were brought near to or into the boats were caught with a sculpin, but don't leave the minnows at home. Some larger rainbows were hooked with them, a cutthroat or two and a few of the browns. Shiny gold spinners and spoons attracted the rainbows, as well as the always favorite shrimp/egg pattern/power bait combo. Springtime fishing is terrific, but be prepared for the weather. Mornings can be very cool, and then there's the April showers….
(updated 4-12-2017) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) said they’ve had a LOT of wind in the past several days. River level has been low. The trout bite has ranged from fair to good. The reports on rainbows have been low. However, the browns seem numerous and are biting well.
(updated 4-12-2017) John Berry at Berry Brothers Guide Service (870-453-2424) said that during the past week, they have had several rain events (combined for about an inch here in Cotter), warmer temperature and heavy winds (to include lake wind advisories on several days). The lake level at Bull Shoals rose 0.8 feet to rest at 3.8 feet below seasonal power pool of 659 feet. This is 39.8 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock rose 2 feet to rest at 3 feet below seasonal power pool and 19 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake rose 0.6 feet to rest at 4 feet below seasonal power pool and 13.6 feet below the top of flood pool. On the White, we had 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. We have had more wadable water. 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 (my current favorite is a hare and copper nymph (size 14) with a ruby midge (size 18) suspended below it).
Berry says the caddis season is upon them, it’s their best hatch of the year and it is still here. Berry said he fished the caddis hatch on the Norfork with great success. With the lower lake levels he says 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, “Anyone that has looked out the window the past few days has realized that we have had a bit of rain. I have spent quite some time out, in it. Guiding is a rain or shine event. When someone flies in from San Antonio they are not looking for excuses for not fishing like it is raining. They only want to know, when you are going to pick them up at the lodge and do you have lunch with you. I really don’t mind fishing, in the rain. I have the world’s largest collection of rain jackets and I am of the opinion that the fish are already wet and just don’t care.
“I had a two-day corporate trip for River Ridge Inn this week. On Monday, I picked Mike and Jackson up at 7:30 a.m. and headed for Rim Shoals. The water was on the bottom at minimum flow but there was to be major generation later in the day. The temperature was cool but the weather forecast promised warmer temperatures, rain and heavy winds to include lake wind advisories.
“We began with a casting lesson for Jackson. Mike had been out with me a few times in the past and was a competent caster. The going was a little slow and there were a few tangles in the beginning. We kept at it and caught some nice trout.
“After a while, it began to rain and the wind picked up. At times, the rain came in hard and heavy. It was being blown in sideways. For a while, it felt like I was back in Vietnam during the monsoon. Mike’s rain jacket began to fail. It was leaking like a sieve. I motored back to the ramp and got a spare jacket out of my Suburban. I always carry spares when I am guiding and the forecast calls for rain. He was way more comfortable. The rain would ebb and flow sometimes torrential and sometimes it would quit altogether for a while.
“The fishing improved during all of this. About this time, Mike hooked a good fish. It was acting like a big brown, hugging the bottom and pulling out line. It took a jump and we all got a good look at it. It was a 24-inch fat male brown trout. Mike took his time and eventually got it in. We took several photos and carefully released it. Meanwhile Jackson had been catching trout. He had cast out and had somehow tangled his line into another line that had a huge strike indicator on it. I was up front in the boat trying to untangle the other line, when I realized that there was a fish on it. I went to the back of the boat and grabbed my boat net. It took a minute but I managed to net the fish. It was a huge 8- or 9-pound sucker that had been hooked in the tail. It had obviously broken free of another angler with a significant amount of tackle trailing behind it. Many anglers consider suckers to be trash fish. I always appreciate a good fight. It took me a while to untangle the two lines. We did pause for a photo of the sucker and then released it.
“The water came up and the wind got crazy heavy. The trout shut down and we decided to head in. It had been a productive day despite the weather.”
 

Bull Shoals Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 655.41 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 550.72 feet msl (normal conservation pool: September-April – 553.75 msl, April-September – 552.00 msl).
(updated 4-12-2017) Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters says the weather continues to wreak havoc on the fishing. You get on a pattern and think that the long awaited spring bite is starting, then the weather turns ugly and the fish go back into hiding. One day, Tom says, he’ll catch a good bunch of stripers and his son only catches one or two. The next day it’s the opposite: He catches a bunch and Tom doesn’t catch anything. Then they will both have great days and if the weather just stays consistent they will be bringing in limits every day. The threadfin shad are in the early stages of spawning and the spawn will trigger all the fish to go on a feeding binge. Tom says he has fished both Bennett’s Bayou with little success and fished Big and Brushy creeks with better success. They were catching lots of fish in both creeks until the weather turned bad last Thursday, and by Sunday they had very little success. Because the shad are moving shallow, Tom decided to start fishing the main lake points and channel swings. Tom caught fish right away and has been since. The crappie are also wanting to spawn but the water temperature will not stay consistent for that to happen. One day they catch them on the banks when they are catching shad, and the next day they are gone. Having watching the crappie fishermen all week tells Tom they are still fishing the deeper brush piles. Tom said he has not seen one crappie caught off a shallow log. That again will change when the water warms.
Tom continues, “One more bucket list item was checked off for Mike this past week. He booked a trip with us when we had a booth in Chicago and wanted to catch some stripers and hopefully a big one. Sean took him out and they caught a couple early then the bite died. Sean ask if he would like to try for a big fish and received a positive “yes.” Both Sean and I pre-fished the day before on the main lake and Sean had a big fish explode on bait late in the morning but missed the bait. Sean has perfected a technique to get the stripers’ attention. He set out a 12-inch gizzard shad, then a smaller (7-inch) gizzard shad about 10 inches away from the big bait. Sure enough the big fish came up and looked at the big bait and took the smaller bait. The fight was on, and in the end Mike had his big fish, a 35-pounder. Quick pictures were taken and it was released for somebody else to catch.” Tom says that for out-of-area folks, they might want to get their calendars out and start making plans now. The stripers are in their spring migration and the bite is on. A good tool with which to make plans is on the web at www.FishNorfork.com for everything Norfork Lake. For a real outdoor adventure, you might consider a striper fishing trip combined with a pheasant hunt. It's a blast, Tom says.
(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 4-12-2017) John Berry at Berry Brothers Guide Service (870-453-2424) said Norfork Lake rose 1.9 feet to rest at 3.8 feet below seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet and 30 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 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 No. 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.
Berry also notes they are having their best caddis hatch of the year and it is still going on. Berry fished the caddis hatch on the Norfork recently with great success. With the lower lake levels the flows should be perfect flows to target this hatch, Berry said. 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. Dry Run Creek was very crowded due to spring break last month but weekdays now should be less anglers. 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).

Buffalo National River

(updated 4-12-2017) Berry Brothers Guide Service (870-453-2424) said the Buffalo is high. 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 river. There are no dams and it has large drainages and is prone to flooding during and following any rain event. The water can rise very quickly.

Crooked Creek

(updated 4-12-2017) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service (870-453-2424) said Crooked Creek is high. With warm weather the smallmouths should be more active. Berry’s favorite fly for here is a Clouser minnow. Carefully check the water level before entering Crooked Creek. There are no dams on the stream and there are large drainages that are prone to flooding during and following any rain event. The water can rise very quickly.