Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

May 17, 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 17, 2017.

White River (Bull Shoals Tailwater)

(updated 5-17-2017)  Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) says the Army Corps of Engineers has begun to lower Bull Shoals Lake. The White River below Bull Shoals is running deep and navigating will take skill. The professionals are good at their job; let them do the driving, you do the catching. The area has been served a lot of rain this spring and they are now seeing the equivalent of eight "units" ("turbines", "generators") of water flowing past Cotter. They believe the Corps is managing the releases well, very coordinated, and hope they will be able to continue to do so. When the heavier releases first arrived, there was quite a lot of debris, but that will pass as the lake continues to lower. Catching fish can still be exceptional! Every guide around there has said, "The browns are tearing them up." The rainbow catch is slower, but anglers will soon see the benefit of high water in a higher quality of fish: healthier, stronger, more colorful (and really tasty rainbows). You get to try out all those lures you put away in low water: 6-10 feet deep-diving Rogues, orange bellies, black or blue backs, dark blue to gray backs and yellow/chartreuse sides. Some like the black and silver Rapala count downs or Husky Jerks, and the always favorite No. 7 or No. 9 brown trout count down. Drifting pink worms, redworms and nightcrawlers are good bets, too. Get a guide and catch your share. See you at the river.
(updated 5-17-2017) John Berry at Berry Brothers Guide Service (870-453-2424) said that during the past week, they have had a several rain event (about a half inch in Cotter), warm temperatures and moderate winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals rose 3.6 feet to rest at 30.4 feet above seasonal power pool of 660.57 feet. This is 2.8 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock fell 0.5 to rest at 14.3 feet above seasonal power pool and 1.1 feet above the top of flood pool. The Corps of Engineers has opened several flood gates to release an additional 13,800 cfs in an effort to lower the lake. Beaver Lake fell 0.6 feet to rest at 7.2 feet above seasonal power pool and 1.4 feet below the top of flood pool. The Army Corps of Engineers has closed the flood gates and returned the dam to normal generation. On the White, we had no wadable water with more generation.
On the White, the water below Crooked Creek and the Buffalo has cleared up some. 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 (John’s current favorite is a size 14 hare and copper nymph with a size 18 ruby midge suspended below it). Caddis season is on the wane. This is our best hatch of the year and it is going fast. When the trout are targeting insects on the surface of the water, use an elk hair caddis. Match your fly to the hatching insect based on size, shape and color.
As for fishing after a major water event, John says, “This week was the first time that I have been out on the water since we had all of that rain, which resulted in flood conditions in several areas. The main reason that I had not fished of late is that several of my clients canceled their trips due to the river conditions. I am not one that likes to be idle, and it was really nice to be back on the water. My first gig was a two-day corporate trip for River Ridge Inn. The lodge is on the Norfork and we could see the large amount of water flowing by. The turbine releases were augmented by the water coming through several flood gates. The two combined for a volume of about 18,000 cfs. Though that is a lot of water, the real problem was that the water was the color of chocolate milk. Conditions like this are dangerous. You cannot see obstacles in the water just below the surface and could easily hit something. With this much water, you would be in trouble before you knew it.
“The best bet was to fish the White River. Conventional wisdom for fishing the rivers after a big rain is to head upstream until you find clear water. Due to flooding on Crooked Creek and the Buffalo River, the closest place to fish the White was Rim Shoals. When these streams first flooded there was so much water coming down it could not flow downstream on the White quick enough and the White backed up and flooded the Rim Shoals area. Luckily for us the flood waters had receded and the area was fishable.
“The water was slightly stained and the flows were fairly low, about 2,500 cfs. Bull Shoals Lake is near the top of flood pool, as are Beaver Lake and Table Rock. They are not running water at Bull Shoals now despite generating a lot on the lakes above it. That water is being stored until the flooding downstream has cleared.
“With the water a bit off-color, we decided to fish a bright pink San Juan worm with a ruby midge suspended below it. I always fish a worm after a big rain because there are always a lot of worms that are washed into the river during a rain. One of my fellow guides told me that he had caught several trout recently that had absolutely gorged on worms. I like the bright pink worms because they show up in stained water and act as an attractor.
“We began fishing and caught three on the first drift. We caught 90 percent of our trout on the ruby ridge and the rest on the San Juan worm. The best trout we caught were a fat 19-inch rainbow and a stout 16-inch cutthroat. We fished until around 4 p.m. and it fished well all day.
“There is life after the rain.”

Bull Shoals Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 692.43 feet msl (normal conservation pool – 659.00 msl).
(updated 5-17-2017) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said late last week that the lake is almost full. Right now they have 33 extra feet of water and it’s relative clear unless you get in the backs of some of the creeks. Most of the debris is pushed up on the shores. You get a calm day, it will float out a little bit. Expectations were for the lake to crest last weekend. As it continues to fill up, the fishing is still good, but a little bit tougher on the bluebird days. As the lake starts to stabilize, the bass are post-spawn, some are starting to school up, and Del says he’s been catching more and more fish in the bushes. The Kentucky bass, the smallmouths, as the lake starts to crest and the Corps starts to generate more water, that will concentrate the Kentucky smallmouth bite out toward the points. Usually when there is generation, on the long points or secondary points coming out the fish will school up there pretty good. They can ambush the bait as the water starts pushing the bait fish over those points.
On the bluebird days with no wind, it’s tough, but you’re still going to catch a few. Del says the best bet for those days is to go fish the old shoreline. Drag a tube around, keep the boat in that 40 feet of water. Cast up into the old bushes; the points are holding fish, the pockets have some fish, the sides of the pockets. You can use a Carolina rig, you can throw a jig in there. Del said he was using a half-ounce green pumpkin orange. Use something you can get down there and just drag it through those bushes: a C-rig with a Brush Hog, or a lizard, green pumpkin, green pumpkin orange, green pumpkin red, something like that. The water is somewhat stained up top, but once you get down on that old shoreline it’s clears up. Del said he’s usually using an 8-pound fluorocarbon on either the drop-shot or the tub rod for the finesse bite.
The largemouth bass seem to have moved up pretty good, he said. He’s caught some pretty shallow. They seem to be on those channel swing banks or the bluffy banks where you can get in close to the shoreline. You’ll have to do some running around, but if you can find those channel swing banks or the those long points that go out toward the main channel or close to a channel swing, those are going to hold some fish on them right now. Also, the backs of the creeks can be pretty good. If there is some flow in there and bait fish – bait fish is what Del has been keying on when here’s going into the backs of creeks – you’ll be covering an extra mile and sometimes 2 miles in the back of the creeks. Del suggests staying on the old creek bed (that’s indicated on maps or GPS), as the fish will relate to the old creek channel, using it as a highway. In the creeks, throw a square bill to cover some water. If you see surfacing fish, throw a buzzbait around. You’ll have to cover some water to find where the baitfish are, as they won’t be popping. You almost have to run your bait into them. If there is wind, though, that will help push them to one side. If there are vegetation mats, this offers the rare opportunity to flip. Anglers can punch through it with a beaver-style bait (such as a D Bomb). A lot of fish are going to be using the mats for shade.
Del said he’s also seeing the perch come up. He likes to use a Keitech bait for giving a finesse spinnerbait type presentation. If there is a little wind and clear water and you can’t quite throw a regular spinnerbait, this will help you cover some water. You can also throw a stick bait or fluke around, or a Senko-style bait. Look for the last piece of vegetation, the last tree sticking out, and fish seem to be stuck in it. And, lastly, Del says he’s had the most fun fishing lately with blades. When it’s windy and cloudy, go find a windy shoreline and throw a blade.
(updated 5-17-2017) K Dock Marina reported it is closed until further notice due to flood conditions.

Norfork Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 576.97 feet msl (normal conservation pool: September-April – 553.75 msl, April-September – 552.00 msl).
(updated 5-17-2017) Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters says the rain has stopped, Norfork Lake has stabilized and the fishing has improved. The threadfin shad spawned this past week and the stripers and bass were in the brush chasing the bait fish. They saw lots of fish being caught early in the week, but the water has warmed up and some the stripers are moving back to deeper water. Tom said he has not seen the topwater action he expected. Usually when the shad get in the brush the topwater action heats up, but not this year yet. The lake is starting clear up. The back of Bennett’s Bayou is now clear and the main channel from Robinson Point to the dam has cleared significantly. It should be several more weeks before they see blue water on the lower end of the lake. The Army Corps of Engineers has scheduled May 20 as Lake Norfork cleanup. They are asking for your help in moving debris to the boat ramps for pickup and also are providing garbage bags in designated areas for drop-off, so if you have some free time come out and help make Norfork Lake beautiful again.
Tom says that as for fishing, don’t let the high water turn you off. Now is the time to come fish Norfork. He said he received a request from Robert about taking his daughter Amy fishing on Mother's Day. It seems that Robert’s wife’s request for her Mother’s Day present was being home staying in bed. Tom said, “Sure,” but their wires got crossed and they got a late start. Tom had pre-fished the day before on a main lake points and caught stripers as fast as he could get a line in the water. Toms said he was expecting the same the next morning, but a late start and heavy fog changed the conditions. Miss Amy did catch her first two stripers, but the action slowed and they only had a few more bites but no more stripers. However it was a fun father/daughter morning and seeing the expression on Miss Amy’s face said it all.
(updated 5-17-2017) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said it has been a real roller coaster on Norfork Lake for the past two weeks. On April 29 the lake started to rise until it reached the top of the flood pool. Missouri had devastating floods, and much of that water eventually ended up in Norfork Lake. The lake became muddy from north to south, but the muddy water is finally starting to fall out and the lake is stable. The high water will be with them for quite a while, but high water is not a bad thing. Most species had completed their spawn prior to the high water, so the newly born fry will have plenty of places to hide, making future fishing even better. Fishing will continue to improve daily over the whole lake as the mud settles out and the water turns to a great stained color for fishing.
Lou says he has traveled most of the lake over the last week and have found good fishing water starting in the mid-lake area down to the dam. It appears that the brown water is falling out from the backs of the creeks and working its way out to the main lake. The farther south you travel on the main lake the clearer the water gets. Overall, the fish are on the shoreline inside of the newly sunken brush and trees. Live bait has been working exceptionally well. Threadfin shad and large shiners are both working. Lou has been using a No. 6 kahle hook with no weight and pitching the bait into openings between the trees. Lou has also been moving slowly right outside the trees in about 15-20 feet of water and dragging the baits behind the boat, again with no weight.
Earlier this week he was fishing on a point down in the dam area and hooked into a big fish. The fish started to run for deep water and he knew he had a big striper. This fish came very close to spooling him. After about a 20 minute battle, Lou landed a 40-inch 30-pound striped bass. Lou was only using a 7-foot medium light action rod with a spinning reel filled with 8-pound monofilament line. Light tackle makes the battle a lot of fun. Friday Lou fished the mid-lake major creeks. He was about halfway back in a creek where the water became clear to stained. He fished channel swing points pitching live bait up in the brush. Lou was fishing with several of his guests and they landed almost every species in the lake. Lou has also been using some artificial baits. Tuesday he landed a nice striper on a 5-inch swimbait with a 3/8-ounce jighead. He tries to cast the bait into an opening and try to get it as close to the new shore as possible and then reel back to the boat. Jerkbaits, either soft plastics or hard baits, will also be working well up in the brush. The best bite, Lou says, is early morning. He’s been told that the afternoon bite seems to be slow. As the Norfork Lake water warms, look for the stripers to move away from the shoreline and go to a little deeper water. Monday morning a couple of our guests found some really good topwater action for striped bass. They got to their fishing spot and could see the fish exploding as they approached. Once the topwater stopped, they put away their Zara Spooks and proceeded to pitch live bait into the shore and continued to catch fish.
He adds, the Largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass fishing is also improving at Norfork Lake. These species are located in the same areas as the striped bass; you will find them inside of the sunken brush and trees. Lou has had the best luck catching fish by finding sunken buckbrush in about 10-15 feet depths, letting his bait sink down to the tops of the brush and then working it back to the boat. He has caught many fish on the fall of the bait. Creature baits worked along the brush will pick up some nice fish. Again, find the stained to clear water and start fishing. Lou says he has not heard anything about crappie, but he is sure they are inside of the brush feeding on shad. You may need to pull out your 12-foot long cane pole to be able to get to the crappie inside of the brush along the banks.
The Norfork Lake level is holding steady at 577.03 feet msl. The Corps of Engineers is running all generators for the major part of the day to keep up with the inflow and hold the lake stable. The water surface temperature is in the low 70s. The lake is muddy (but clearing slowly) from the Robinson area to the Cranfield area and upriver, as well as from the bridges up to the Bennett area. The lake is stained a little south of the Robinson area and continues to become clearer the farther south you go. There is still floating debris in the lake, mainly concentrated around the Mallard Point area through Cranfield and upriver as well as back in the Fout Marina area. They are expecting a strong south wind in the coming days, so a lot of this debris will be pushed to the shore until a north wind or no wind happens. As always, be careful when on the lake.


North Fork River (Norfork Tailwater)

(updated 5-17-2017) John Berry at Berry Brothers Guide Service (870-453-2424) said that before last week, Norfork Lake fell 2.7 feet to rest at 20.9 feet above seasonal power pool of 555.32 feet and 2.8 feet below the top of flood pool. The Corps of Engineers has closed the flood gates and returned the dam to normal generation. On the Norfork, we had no wadable water. Seasonal power pool has been reset for the lakes in the White River system. All of the lakes in the White River System are now below the top of flood pool. We should expect a lot of generation with little if any wadable water in the near future. There was flooding but the river is back in its banks and the flood gates have been closed. Navigate this stream with caution as things have changed a bit during the recent flooding. 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). 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 has been affected by the flooding but has returned to its banks. 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 5-17-2017) Berry Brothers Guide Service (870-453-2424) said the Buffalo National River is not navigable. When it returns to navigable conditions, the warmer weather should make the smallmouths more active. John’s favorite fly is a Clouser minnow. Carefully check the water level before entering the river. There are no dams, there are large drainages and the river is prone to flooding during and following any rain event. The water can rise very quickly.

Crooked Creek

(updated 5-17-2017) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service (870-453-2424) said Crooked Creek is not navigable. When it is, though, smallmouths should be more active with the warmer weather. John’s favorite fly is a Clouser minnow. Carefully check the water level before entering Crooked Creek. There are no dams, there are large drainages and it’s prone to flooding during and following any rain event. The water can rise very quickly.