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Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

May 3, 2017

More reports and other videos are on the Cotter Trout Dock Youtube Channel Page.
Below is the Arkansas Game and Fish Fishing Report May 3, 2017.

White River (Bull Shoals Tailwater)

(updated 5-3-2017)  Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) says fishing is good to excellent here in Cotter and upriver toward the Bull Shoals Dam as of Tuesday. The local creeks were swollen for a couple of days but have cleared and fishing is normal today and going forward. Our hearts and prayers are with all affected by dam flows in our area (Table Rock, Norfork and Beaver) and we're keeping a close watch on conditions all around. More rain is predicted; we'll face that when/if we see it. Our friends downriver from Cotter experienced flooding but the dirty water is receding now; the best way to help is to come fish. The trout saw a few days with few "predators" so let's get going. There has been no increase in generation from Bull Shoals so far, still seeing about just about one unit of generation each day; good for both anchoring and for a bit of drift fishing. Copper has been a great attractor, copper spoons and spinners, or try chartreuse or white PowerBait; keep the nightcrawlers handy for rises in the water level. Stay strong and keep angling.
(updated 5-3-2017) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) had no report.
(updated 5-3-2017) John Berry at Berry Brothers Guide Service (870-453-2424) said that before Saturday (this was filed April 28), they had seen in the past week several rain events (combined for 5 inches in Cotter, with more on the way to include a flash flood watch), warm temperatures and heavy winds (to include lake wind advisories). The lake level at Bull Shoals rose 9 feet to rest at 6.3 feet above seasonal power pool of 659 feet. This is 29.8 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock rose 6.4 feet to rest at 4.4 feet above seasonal power pool and 11.6 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake rose 9 feet to rest at 6.3 feet above seasonal power pool and 3.3 feet below the top of flood pool. On the White, we had wadable water with some generation. All of the lakes in the White River System are over power pool and rising. We should expect a lot of generation with little if any wadable water in the near future. On the White, the bite has been spotty. Some days have been excellent and some poor. The hot spot has been the 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 (my current favorite is a size 14 hare and copper nymph with a size 18 ruby midge suspended below it).
John adds, “The caddis hatch is on the wane. I must say that I truly enjoyed it. For once, we had near perfect water conditions. We were blessed with low flows for most of the time the caddis were hatching. I was lucky enough to catch it several times and was even able to fish it myself on three occasions. There is nothing more rewarding than sight casting to a big trout and having them take your dry fly. I was also able to put my clients on some great hatches and have them take trout on dry flies.
“Now it is time for the sulphur hatch. This is our premier mayfly hatch, of the year, and it generally occurs during May and June. This is a solid size 14 yellow orange mayfly. It is best imitated with a copper John or pheasant tail nymph for the nymphal stage; a partridge and orange soft hackle for the emergence; and a sulphur parachute for the adult stage. All should be in size 16 and 14. I generally fish the pheasant tail nymph before the hatch begins. This is when the nymphs will be more active. Once I see trout feeding on the surface, but see no insects, I will switch over to the partridge and orange soft hackle. Then, when I see trout taking insects from the surface, I switch over to a dry fly, to match the adult. I often find that I catch more trout on the nymph or the soft hackle. I will occasionally fish them when the trout are keying in on the adults. The only problem is that there is nothing that gets my adrenaline pumping like the take of a dry fly.
“There are a few things to keep in mind if you want to maximize your success when fishing dries. The key is to present the fly with a perfect drag-free float. You want to mend effectively. If the fly is in fast water and the fly line is in slow water, you will mend the line downstream. If the fly is in slow water and the line is in fast water, you should mend upstream. The trick is to not move the fly when you make your mend. Line control is also very important. The line has to have enough slack in it for you to achieve a perfect drag-free float. At the same time the line has to be tight enough for you to be able to set the hook. The key here is to fish as short a line as possible. The more line you have out the more likely you are to have excess slack. The more slack you have the more difficult it is to set the hook. There are a lot of anglers out there who are just not happy unless they are casting as much line as they possibly can. I usually only fish about 20 feet and I catch plenty of trout.
“Now, what is the prediction for the upcoming sulphur hatch? We have had a lot of rain lately (it is raining, as I write this) and the lakes are on the rise. When I checked the lake levels this morning, I noted that they were all up several feet and were well into flood pool. That tells me that we are going to get more generation and have less wadable water. It is hard to fish dries on high water. That means that we will be fishing more sulphur nymphs than dry flies in the coming days.”

Bull Shoals Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 683.79 feet msl (normal conservation pool – 659.00 msl).
(updated 4-26-2017) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said lake temperature late last week was 63 degrees on main lake, and he found some 70-plus temps in the back creeks. Lake level came up a foot foot to a foot and a half last week, but they are still below normal pool. The fishing has been really, really good. Up the lake it seems like the spawn is on the last leg, it’s fisnishing up. Down the lake there is still a good spawn bite going on. Looks like there is a shad spawn going on up the lake in some of the creeks. That’s a good indicator that those fish are post-spawn up there. Couple of things you want to check out going up the lake. The post-spawners are moving out of the lake, moving out into the backs of pockets, so you want to hit the secondary points headed out, the channel swings. Up there, Del put his boat in 20-25 feet of water. There are a bunch of baits working. Topwater, catching them on Sammy, you can throw a Zara Spoon, a Pop-R and a Redfin is working, too. Also, the Keitech swimbait, using a 3.8, a quarter round jighead, slowing it back. If you get in the shad and they’re not hitting the topwater, you can slow roll that swimbait through there and catch a few more fish. Also anglers are catching a few on a squarebill back in the flats. There’s a little more dirtier water back in there, so that helps with the crankbait going back in and out of there. If you’re going to catch the spawners on the end of the lake down in this area, same patterns have been working for a while: the C rig, Shaky Head, you can throw a jig. There are still a few tree spawners going into those creeks, the spawning pockets. Check the last points going in; seems like a lot of those fish are on the sides of the points leading back into the pockets. Even on the main lake down here, they’re not all quite on the back. It’s everything from smallmouth to Kentuckies to largemouths. You’re just going to have to cover some water, but the fishing has been really, really good for the bass; it was a great week. The walleye are starting to frown a little bit, it’s slowed down. Water temperatures are coming up and they’re starting to move out a little bit. The jerkbait bite is still getting a few, the swimbait still getting a few. But as the temps come up the fish are going to start moving down. Pretty soon those guys will be dragging bottom bouncers and trolling.
(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.

Norfork Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 578.39 feet msl (normal conservation pool: September-April – 553.75 msl, April-September – 552.00 msl).(updated 5-3-2017) 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 that, on a bright side, the high water is a blessing. Each year that they have had a high-water event, the spawn for bass and crappie has produced a great class of fish. Right now the threadfin and gizzard shad are spawning in the buckbrush and the stripers and bass are feeding heavy on the shad. The next several weeks they expect to see fantastic action for both stripers and bass. Lots of topwater and limits of each species. So don’t let the high water turn you off; now is the time to come fish Norfork. By the way, the Big Creek arm is mostly free of trees, limbs and other debris, and water color is clear to stained. It is a good place to start your day.
Tom says he took out Daniel and Julie, who were just married and were honeymooning in the area. They plan on moving here and wanted to experience their first striper trip. It was cold, rainy and very windy but they wanted to go. I started off on Point 1 because when they open the dam gates the stripers will be more active due to the strong current. The only problem we had was the wind was coming out of the west and we could not fish the area very effectively. Tom then moved up toward Woods Point out of the wind. They are now using both small threadfin and 7-inch gizzard shad for bait. Tom set out free lines with small baits and planer boards with the bigger baits. They were fishing in water depths of 60-100 feet feet. The first bite was on an 8-inch gizzard shad and once the hookup was secure, Julie started off fighting the striper but it was too much for her to handle. So Daniel took over and together they caught their first striper, a fat 15-pound fish. They continued to fish and finished up catching four, keeping three and missing several others. Overall it was a great day on the water for their first striper trip.
For you out-of-area folks, you might want to get your calendars out and start making plans now. The stripers are in their spring migration and the bite is on. A good tool to use to make your plans with is on the web at 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.
(updated 5-3-2017) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said the last two weeks on Norfork Lake have been very interesting, to say the least. They have gone from great spring weather, to cold fronts, to a major rain event that increased the lake level to the top of the flood pool. Fishing was fantastic up through last Saturday morning, then the severe weather started to impact the lake. Norfork Lake started rising a foot an hour at around 5 p.m. Saturday and continued to rise until the flood gates on the dam were opened to increase water evacuation. As of Tuesday, the lake was stable and was slowly falling and at 578.65 feet msl. There is still some floating debris, but a lot of it is starting to blow into the shoreline, and as the lake drops it will get hung up in the flooded trees. The lake is navigable, but when out on the lake be very cautious and observant of floating debris. The water north of the Highways 101 and 62 bridges is still dirty and the clearer and stained water starts just south of the 101 and 62 bridge. Hummingbird Hideaway Resort is in great shape and open for business. The dock is easily accessible with electric and the fish cleaning station still in operation.
As for fishing conditions on Norfork Lake, Lou says the flooding of normally dry land has forced nightcrawlers to come to the surface and the fish are starting to have a feast. If you fish for catfish the combination of dirty water and a large supply of worms is ideal to catch many cats. Lou says he has had guests fishing from the shoreline off of a flooded roadway below the resort and landing some nice catfish. Limblines and trotlines will also be a great method to catch big numbers of cats. On Tuesday, a couple of guests ventured out on the lake after sunrise and found some clearer water. They were fishing with shiners and caught a nice smallmouth and largemouth bass. If you can find a flooded field or cow pasture that had been grassy you will clean up on bass feeding on nightcrawlers and crawdads. Each stable day will help increase the bite and get the fish very active.
Lou says he has not heard a lot about striper fishing since last weekend's rain, but from prior high-water experience you will need to find the clearer water. Shad will be in the trees and the stripers will be on the edges of the flooded trees feeding on the shad. It may take several days for the fish to get used to their new surroundings, but if it is similar to past high-water years the fishing will become really good. Lou says he has not been able to get out on the lake with all the new resort work this rain created, but he hopes to get back at it toward the end of the week, and he’ll have updates as soon as he can. The water temperature Tuesday morning was in the mid-60s. A lot of the lake is dirty, but you will find some nice stained and clear water back in some of the major creeks and in the southern part of the main lake.

North Fork River (Norfork Tailwater)

(updated 5-3-2017) John Berry at Berry Brothers Guide Service (870-453-2424) said that before last weekend there has been more wadable water on the Norfork and it has fished a bit better particularly if you can catch the caddis hatch. Norfork Lake rose 9 feet to rest at 6.7 feet above seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet and 19.6 feet below the top of flood pool. 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. John’s favorite rig has been a hare and copper nymph with a ruby midge dropper. Dry Run Creek 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 5-3-2017) Berry Brothers Guide Service (870-453-2424) said the Buffalo National River is at flood level and not 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 the Buffalo River. There are no dams and the Buffalo has large drainages that are prone to flooding during and following any rain event. The water can rise very quickly.

Crooked Creek

(updated 5-3-2017) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service (870-453-2424) said Crooked Creek is at flood level and not 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. There are no dams, large drainages and are prone to flooding during and following any rain event. The water can rise very quickly.