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Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

April 19, 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 19, 2017.

White River (Bull Shoals Tailwater)

(updated 4-19-2017)  Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) says the brown bite has slowed down some -- they're out  there, just presented more of a  challenge. Be patient, listen to advice from your guide or other experienced anglers, and stay with it. Old fishing adage: You can't catch one if your line isn't in the water. The rainbow count is climbing. Now is the time to experience with some different baits because you'll catch a bunch with shrimp and PowerBaits, though try something new. Look for the Bleeder Series of smaller Rapalas, red hooks, flashes of red on the body of your lure, and red/gold spoons. That old silver and black Rapala with a cut-throat slash is perfect right now. Fly-fishers are having success with the silver and red midge; try a slightly larger hook, size 14 or 12. Water-release pattern: late afternoon releases during the week, minimum flow all weekend (and now that we've published that, watch for a change).
(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 4-19-2017) John Berry at Berry Brothers Guide Service (870-453-2424) said during the past week, we have had no rain, warm temperatures and heavy winds (to include lake wind advisories). The lake level at Bull Shoals fell 0.1 feet to rest at 3.9 feet below seasonal power pool of 659 feet. This is 39.9 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock rose 0.4 feet to rest at 2.6 feet below seasonal power pool and 18.6 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake rose 0.4 feet to rest at 3.6 feet below seasonal power pool and 13.2 feet below the top of flood pool. On the White, we had wadable water with some generation. Seasonal power pool has been reset for the lakes in the White River system. All of the lakes on this system are below seasonable power pool. On the White, the bite has been spotty. Some days have been excellent and some poor. The hot spot has been the Wildcat Shoals. We have had more wadable water. The hot flies were olive Woolly Buggers (Nos. 8, 10), Y2Ks (Nos. 14, 12), prince nymphs (No. 14), zebra midges (black with silver wire and silver bead or red with silver wire and silver bead sizes 16 or 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 is upon us. This is our best hatch of the year and it is still here. I fished the caddis hatch on the Norfork with great success. With the lower lake levels we 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 my 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 656.19 feet msl (normal conservation pool – 659.00 msl).
(updated 4-19-2017) K Dock Marina reported the water has cleared up a lot in the past week. Lake level remains steady at about 3.5 feet below normal pool of 659.00 feet. Surface temperature has finally gone above the 60-degree mark, resulting in some great fishing. Temperature has ranged 62-65 degrees. Clarity is clear. Black bass are good on a variety of small to medium plastics in the backs of coves. Also good on Wiggle Warts and Rock Crawlers on points and into coves. Spinnerbaits are working well on breezy days. Crappie are good on live minnows in the coves around bush piles. Swimming minnows also working good. Chartreuse seems to be the color right now. Crappie should be right on the shoreline in a week or two. Walleye are fair on small to medium crankbaits. Should be in the 10-15 feet depths soon with the water temperature rising. Also fair on silver or white spoons. White bass are fair up the lake from K Dock around the Beaver Creek arm.
(updated 4-19-2017) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said water temps are about 60s depending on location. They've had some cool nights last week and a little bit of rain, though not quite enough to get us up to into the bushes like anglers wanted, but enough to give a little color to the backs of creeks. If it stays stable, anglers will start seeing some of the large females start moving up on the beds. They’ll be cycling through over the next couple of weeks. With the clear water, fishing is a little tougher but you can see a lot the beds and a lot of guys are catching fish off the beds. Lots of Kentucky bass, smallmouths and largemouths males are still up. Del says that what he likes to key into is some of the dirty water. If you go up the lake in the major creek arms, anywhere some of that muddy water is moving in, it seems to be a lot easier to sneak up on them. Over the next couple of weeks, you should be able to follow the spawn back into the lake. Anglers are not quite locked on, but there were some fish caught in the very backs of the dirtier creek arms. If you’re fishing the clear water, obviously it’s going to be a lot more challenging, it takes a little more finesse. What will work will is a Ned rig or shaky head, natural colors, green pumpkin, watermelon, watermelon red. Or use a jig, as the jig seems to be getting some of the bigger fish. They’re not necessarily all the way in the very backs. If you’re going into a spawning pocket, the last bit of deep water, a bluff, a point before they go up and spawn is where they're hanging. Del says he's not fishing real deep, just in 15-20 feet of water. Check the shore, hit the shore; the gravel pockets are where some fish are going to spawn. Look at all those areas on your maps. You’re going to catch a lot of fish there. Enjoy it while it last. They’re not going to stay shallow all year. This is a great time to get into the shallow bite. If you find dirty water, still use the Shaky Head, and under bluebird skies pick up the finesse stuff. Use a drop-shot in the beds. Carolina rigs will work. In the really dirty water, some anglers are still throwing swimbaits, and some guys are using a bigger swim bait targeting large females and catching them. A squarebill is working in the skinny water. A War Eagle spinnerbait in dirty skinner water. Try to match the conditions of the water. Also a Sexy Mouse in natural color with a little chartreuse to get their attention. It’s a fun time to be fishing. Early in the morning or late in the evening people are still catching some walleye with jerkbaits, swimbaits, lots of ways.

Norfork Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 551.44 feet msl (normal conservation pool: September-April – 553.75 msl, April-September – 552.00 msl).(updated 4-19-2017) 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
Tom adds, “I took Brian and Gerald out for their annual two-day striper trips. Gerald has been fishing Lake Norfork for over 30 years and loves catching stripers. Fishing was slow for me before they arrived, but with all the shad movement I knew it would be a great time. I went to one of my spring go-to places and sure enough the stripers were in their feeding mood. We hooked nine stripers but only boated four the first day. The boys were scheduled to trout fish the next day, so we planned on striper fishing the following day. They were on their game that day and we had our limit in one hour. We then went out on the main lake to try and catch a big fish. We had one taker but it released the bait before we could set the hook. Overall they had a great father and son fishing outing.”
(updated 4-19-2017) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said Norfork Lake springtime fishing is at its best. Lou says this is one of his favorite times to fish the lake. All species of fish are in shallow water and they get a lot of good topwater action for striped, hybrid and white bass as well as largemouth and smallmouth bass. Artificial baits and live bait work equally well this time of year. Shad are spawning, as is typical for this time of year. The shad spawn really gets the fish excited. Striped bass, hybrid bass and white bass fishing all were on fire the last week. Once the lake temperature reached the mid-60s the fish became active. Tuesday was a great example of spring topwater action. Several of Lou’s friends were out on the lake and they all were checking out different areas. One found the fish blowing up back in a cove at about 7 a.m. He gave Lou a call and they all had great fun for the next three hours. Lou said he was throwing a 5-inch pearl swimbait with a 3/8-ounce jighead, and a Zara Spook Jr. It is a blast to watch these fish blow up on topwater baits, Lou says. Best places to look for topwater action is partway back into the creeks and in the secondary coves in the creeks. Right now, Lou says, he has heard of topwater action in all parts of the lake so get out there and have some fun. The late afternoon bite has been great one day, then very hard to find the fish the next, but when you do find them they very well could be busting the surface.
Lou adds that largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass fishing is also excellent at this time. Look in the same areas that the stripers are in, but mainly look at the shoreline. You will find the water boiling with shad right up on the rocks. The fish are pushing the shad in tight to the shore, then feeding at will. Tuesday they were in the same cove where they found stripers in, from 6 inches of water out to 6 feet. Both Lou’s Zara Spook and swimbait were picking up some very nice fish. The fish also wanted both of his baits worked very fast as they were in the chasing mood. As the day wears on, the largemouth will move out into a little deeper water so a jig-n- pig or some other plastic bait worked along the bottom will pick up some good-size bass. At sunset look at the very shallow water again as they will start to feed heavily on shad. The after-dark bite for large and smallmouth bass should be good. Lou says he personally hasn’t been out the, but typically they will be hanging around docks and shallow points. Dark-colored spinnerbaits and tube jigs are some of his favorites.
Lou adds, “Walleye, I bet you can guess, are in the same areas as the stripers and the largemouth. My swimbait is picking up some nice fish early in the morning and then again at sunset. The walleye are also starting to show up on the big shallow flats in 10-25 feet of water. Move slowly with your trolling motor with a bottom bouncer and crawler harness or a large shiner on a drop-shot rig.” He also says crappie are showing back up on brush in 20-30 feet of water. Most times you will find them suspended over the brush, so you need to keep testing different depths until you find the feeding fish. There will be a few nice fish still on the bank, so casting a small Road Runner will work and will also pick up other species. Hang on with your crappie rod because it is not uncommon the hook into a big striper while crappie fishing this time of year.
Norfork Lake surface water temperature Tuesday morning was 67 degrees. The water level has been fairly stable with a slight rise and currently sits at 551.36. The main lake is clearing and the creeks and coves are a little stained, but are clearing rapidly.


North Fork River (Norfork Tailwater)

(updated 4-19-2017) John Berry at Berry Brothers Guide Service (870-453-2424) said Norfork Lake rose 1.9 feet to rest at 2.9 feet below seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet and 29.1 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 a bit better particularly if you can catch the caddis hatch. 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 16 elk hair caddis). The fishing is better in the morning. My 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.
Remember that the White and Norfork Rivers and Dry Run Creek are infected with didymo, an invasive alga. Be sure and thoroughly clean and dry your waders (especially the felt soles on wading boots) before using them in any other water. Many manufacturers are now making rubber soled wading boots that are easier to clean and are not as likely to harbor didymo.
Berry says, “This year we have had conditions that have been favorable to fish dry flies, particularly the spring caddis hatch, which is our best longest lasting hatch of the year. The trick, as always, is to be on stream when the insects are coming off. My favorite way to fly-fish for trout is to fish dry flies. Therefore, I went to the Norfork the other day in search of the caddis hatch.
My wife, Lori, accompanied me as did her sister, Terri, and her husband, Larry. Terri and Larry are avid fly fishers and frequent guests at our home, in Cotter. We began our Sunday fishing trip with a hearty breakfast at the White Sands Restaurant. As my late brother, Dan, used to say, “You need a couple of sausage gravy biscuits to keep your feet in the gravel”. Conditions were near perfect. It was sunny with a bit of wind and a high temperature in the low seventies. The water was at minimum flow and the prediction was for no generation for the entire day. To our surprise, the Ackerman Access was not very crowded. We had expected a much larger crowd on a day this near perfect. We waded up stream into the catch-and-release section. There were no caddis coming off. I was determined to fish dry flies. I had my favorite fly rod, a 30-year-old Sage light Line 9-foot, 4-weight that had originally belonged to Dan. I had rigged it with a 7½ leader and a 5-foot 5X tippet with a size 16 olive elk hair caddis with an application of fly floatant. Though there was no active hatch, I figured that the trout would be looking up. Therefore I began casting not at rising trout, but at spots where I expected them to be. After three casts, I was rewarded, with a nice fat 17-inch rainbow. A few more casts and I landed an even fatter 10-inch rainbow. I was on a roll. Lori noticed my success and joined in on fishing dries. She didn’t have the same fly as I was fishing, so I gave her one. She had quick success. About that time Terri and Larry arrived. They had been fishing downstream with limited success. I showed them, how I was fishing, and they quickly rigged their rods accordingly. I gave them my spot and I went looking for new water to fish. Larry was into a good trout as I walked out. I found a likely spot and began fishing in earnest. I hooked a nice 14-inch rainbow and as I was bringing it in a Great Blue Heron decided that it looked like lunch. I gave him a shout and he gave up the chase. I caught several more trout there. Meanwhile Lori was having success nearby. About this time, Larry hit a big fish. It was a huge rainbow that was fat and in excess of 24 inches long. The fight went on for quite a while. A drift boat that was floating through dropped anchor upstream so that it would not interfere with his fight. As luck would have it, the fish slipped the hook at Larry’s feet. He was stoked over the trout but disappointed for not landing it. I have been there before!
Success had eluded Terri. But her time had come. She rerigged to my Green Butt soft hackle and was immediately into trout. Lori and I had caught enough and we were ready to go home. Terri and Larry stayed on-stream for a while, so that Terri could catch up with our success. The trout cooperated.
You don’t always have to have an active hatch to fish dry flies. Sometimes the trout are looking up and will fall for a well presented fly.

Buffalo National River

(updated 4-19-2017) Berry Brothers Guide Service (870-453-2424) said the Buffalo is navigable. With the warmer weather the smallmouths should be more active. Berry’s favorite fly is a Clouser minnow. Carefully check the water level before entering Crooked Creek or the Buffalo River. There are no dams on these streams. They both have large drainages and are prone to flooding during and following any rain event. The water can rise very quickly.

Crooked Creek

(updated 4-19-2017) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service (870-453-2424) said Crooked Creek is navigable. With the warmer weather the smallmouths should be more active. John’s favorite fly is a Clouser minnow. Carefully check the water level before entering Crooked Creek or the Buffalo River. There are no dams on these streams. They both have large drainages and are prone to flooding during and following any rain event. The water can rise very quickly.