Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

August 23, 2017

More reports and other videos are on the Cotter Trout Dock Youtube Channel Page.
Below is the Arkansas Game and Fish Fishing Report August 23, 2017.

White River

(updated 8-23-2017) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) says the tailwaters of Bull Shoals Dam remain high, but the lake is now just 16 feet above power pool and dropping. Just speculating here, but maybe we'll see a decrease in generation by early to mid-September; one morning soon we'll come down to the river and it will be almost wadeable. If you can bounce a jig with the right wrist action, you'll catch a bunch of browns--1/8 ounce white or white and gray jigs are still the ticket, with either a chrome or a white head. Browns continue to bite on sculpins and craw fish, especially if you can dangle your line and bait deep over a favorite hole. When the rainbows were ignoring everything else, they occasionally responded to the scent of shrimp so keep some handy. We hope you were able to experience the solar eclipse this week; here in Cotter I didn't see any unusual trout activity except that maybe the bite was slower for a day or two. Eclipse related or normal fish behavior? Tales for another day. The coffee's on, stop by.

(updated 8-23-2017) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) said the water is clear and the river is running high, with five to 10 generators going. The trout bite is excellent. For anglers who want to fish in boats, you’ll find good success on rainbows or browns, they say.

(updated 8-23-2017) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said last week that during the previous week, they had several rain events (combined for about an inch in Cotter), cooler temperatures and moderate winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals dropped 2.5 feet to rest at 18 feet above seasonal power pool of 661 feet msl. This is 16 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock rose 0.1 feet to rest at 0.1 feet below seasonal power pool and 14 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake rose 0.5 feet to rest at 5.6 feet above seasonal power pool and 3 feet below the top of flood pool. On the White, they had no wadable water with heavy generation. 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 limited wadable water in the near future. Hopper season is here. Many guides are banging the bank with grasshopper patterns. Add a nymph dropper (ruby midge) to increase takes. If the grasshopper is hit or sinks, set the hook. John’s favorite grasshopper pattern is a Western Pink Lady.
On the White, the hot spot has been 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 bead head pheasant tail nymph (size 14) with a ruby midge suspended below it). Use lots of lead and long leaders to get your flies down.

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.

John also says, “One of the things that I hear every day is where can I fish, on this high water? The best advice that I can give is, to fish from a boat. They are safer, more comfortable and a more effective fishing platform than wading. However there are many anglers that do not have access to a boat or they just don’t like, to fish from one. Some fly fishers just prefer to wade fish. I am one of them. When I wade, I feel that I am one, with the river. I am one, of a few local guides, that will book wade trips. Sometimes I feel like I am the only fly fishing guide, in Baxter County, that owns a pair, of waders.
“What do you do when they are running a lot, of water, and you don’t own a boat? I say think outside the boat. We are lucky here in that we have a lot of alternatives to wade, when they are running big water here, in the Twin Lakes Area.

“The first stream that I think of is the Norfork tailwater, the stream below Norfork Dam. Unlike Bull Shoals Dam there is no series of dams above Norfork Dam and as a result the Norfork draws down more quickly and is wadable more often and more consistently than the White. The trick here is that you need to carefully monitor, the SWPA (Southwestern Power Administration) website, to see, when the prediction indicates a period, of wadable water. I do this every day. I caught a nice opportunity yesterday. The Norfork was scheduled to be off until 10:00 AM. I got there at 6:00 AM and got in four hours of fishing before the water came up.
“You can fish the North Fork of the White. This is the same stream but is the river above Norfork Dam. This is a great trout stream with some really nice wild rainbows. There is no dam on this section. It is a free flow stream, until it gets, to Norfork Dam. My wife Lori and I fish it from time to time and always enjoy it. My favorite fly here is a big stone fly nymph.
“If you feel like driving a bit further, try the Spring River. This is a very special stream to me. It is a spring fed river stocked, with trout. This is where I learned, to fly fish, and where I met Lori. The only problem, with this river, is that it is very popular, with canoeists and kayakers. During warm weather it can get quite crowded with boaters that have little concern about disturbing your fishing. I generally reserve the Spring River, for colder weather, when there are fewer boats. My favorite fly here is an olive woolly bugger.
“If you want something a bit closer try Crooked Creek. It is a free flow smallmouth bass stream. It is Lori’s favorite. The most convenient place for me to fish is at the Fred Berry Conservation Center. There is a Catch and Release Section there that fishes well. Make sure that your vehicle is outside the Fred Berry Conservation fence before 4:30 PM because they lock the gate then. My favorite fly for this section is the Clouser Minnow.
“Finally another spot that probably has some of the most spectacular scenery around is the Buffalo River. This is a National River and is basically a National Park surrounding the Buffalo River. There are loads of accesses and 135 miles of river to take in. I prefer to fish the lower forty or so miles. In warm weather, there can be canoes and kayaks on the water but not as many as the Spring River. There is even a herd of Elk. My favorite fly here is the Clouser Minnow.
“As you can see, there are plenty, of alternatives, to wade, when they are running water. I fish all, of them, from time to time, when I want some wadable water. Go out there and give them a try.”

Bull Shoals Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 676.73 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl).

(updated 8-23-2017) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said they’ve still got 23 extra feet of water in the lake. The Army Corps of Engineers is bringing it down. The fishing is starting to pick up pretty good this week. Del said they had some weather move in and the cold nights have got the fish moving around quite a bit. They’re schooling really hard. “I’m going to let the cat out of the back,” Dell said, saying that he’s starting to catch them really shallow. The baitfish is starting to move in to the backs of some of the creeks that have runoff coming into them. If you can find a temperature change of a degree or two, those areas will be better than the ones that are more pockets. There are threadfins back there, there are gizzards back there. Del says that’s the hot bite he likes, catching them back there. He’s used a squarebill, just burning it through 0-4 feet of water; he says it “seems like you have to bump that thing into something to get bit.”There are a lot of what they call bushes that are out on the flats now, and he’s starting to pick up a few fish on a frog. The topwater bite seems like it’s been hit or miss, so you want to have one ready to go. Del says he did pick up a few on the Whopper Plopper. He says he’s not doing so hot on the walk-the-dog style baits; he’s tried Spook or a Sammy and will I’ll pick up a few, but the bigger bite seems to be on the Whopper Plopper. Also, as the fish start to migrate into these creeks, they’re going to use these channels, so wherever that old channel comes up along the bank, you can do right with a jig there. If it’s super windy, throw a War Eagle Spinnerbait, either Blue Shad or Sexy Shad or Mouse, depending on the color of the water – it varies throughout the lake, they’ve had quite a bit of water traffic lately. The clay banks with the boat traffic, those are really dirty, he said. If you get some wind in there, those fish will be in there and you can pull a few out with a spinnerbait. The ledges, 25 feet is about as deep as Del has been having to fish and most of the fish he’s been catching 10-15 feet of water – a lot of times less – he’s throwing a half-ounce Right Bite Jig in green pumpkin orange or green pumpkin blue, whatever the angler prefers. The NetBait Paca-Craw Senior in either green pumpkin or summer craw, that seems to be getting quite a few fish, he said. When going in the back water areas, because they have a lot of structure in the high water, if you can find the pole timber of the trees, Del will throw a Strike King Rage Tail Structure Bug in there. That will help you pick up a few more fish. Conditions are everything, he says. If you’ve got wind, if you have a quality day, you can power fish with a spinnerbait or topwater. And watch for baitfish. If you get into some fish, you can get right back in there; a lot of times you’ll catch 2-3 fish in the same little area. They’re schooled up pretty hard. Del says he caught two on a squarebill the other day on the same cast. He also likes to cover some water. It seems to be more productive – points, channel swings, not very deep. Smallmouth are out a little deeper. The drop-shot bite has been so intermittewnt, and the weather is changing, so he says he’s going to stick to the shallow fish. The fishing is going to get even better – these rains come, it cools down, the shorter days, it’s a great time to be on the lake. Water temps are about 84-85 degrees so it’s starting to come down.

(updated 8-23-2017) K Dock Marina said the lake is continuing to drop about 4-5 inches per day. This has had a big impact on the number of fish being caught. Fish do not react well to extreme changes in water level. Water color and temp are great, just a slow bite for all species. Live bait working the best right now. Hope to get a better report from some of our anglers after this weekend. Water level is 20 feet above normal as of last weekend. Water temperature ranging 80-82 degrees. Water is clear to stained.

Norfork Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 565.25 feet msl (normal conservation pool: September-April 552.00 feet msl; April-September, 554.00 feet msl).

(updated 8-23-2017) Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters says striper fishing has slowed for some because they have not kept up with the ever-changing Norfork Lake conditions. When there is high water, the stripers go into survival mode in late August and September. They will feed but not as often and for shorter periods of time. You need to find that sweet depth for the fish. As the days go by, the depth where the stripers will stay will keep going deeper. Right now the best depth is 80 feet. Tom has caught stripers on the bottom at 80 feet, and in water 200 feet deep I have caught them at 80 feet. The best time to catch a striper is when the dam has started to generate like trout that gets the stripers in a feeding mood. The basic fishing rig has not changed much. Now, Tom says, he only uses 4-ounce weights with a short leader. Put the bait on the bottom, and then bringing it up about a foot and keep it there – as anglers move around, that produces fish. One trick to fool the stripers is when you see some fish near the bottom and you know your baits are in front of them, make a hard turn and kick your trolling motor up full speed, then stop it and let your baits fall back down. That will trigger a strike. The stripers are now concentrated around the dam area. The best places are Dam Cove, the channel leading to the dam and around Quarry Marina. Tom’s son fished Thursday through Sunday last week and limited out each day except Thursday, when it was rainy and overcast. Tom and his son were fishing their usual spots, but most of those fished had moved. They did manage to land three stripers per boat. Friday they moved to the dam area and both limited out. Sean was done a lot faster than Tom, but Tom says he finally figured it out. Saturday and Sunday the bite increase due to the generation of water. By Sunday it took only an hour and 20 minutes to catch 15 stripers between the two boats.

(updated 8-16-2017) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said Norfork Lake fishing is in its summer pattern and fishing methods should be very similar for the next month. The lake level is falling slowly and currently sits about 11 feet above normal pool. The surface water temperature is ranging 82-85 degrees depending the time of day. The main lake looks fairly clear with the creeks and coves stained. The striped bass bite continues to be good for most out on the lake. The easiest and most productive method of catching stripers at this time is with live bait. Live threadfin shad, shiners and small bluegills are all working well, with shad being the best type of live bait. Lou says he’s currently finding large schools of stripers lying on the bottom in 70 feet of water. The best areas to find the stripers at this time are on points and large deep flats in the dam area and at the start of the Big Creek area (Long Point, Koso, Thumb, Point 1, Hudson) and also on the flats out in front of Sand Island in the Jordan area. Artificial baits are also producing striped bass. Try vertical jigging with a spoon or a 3-inch (or so) grub with a ¼- or 3/8-ounce jighead. If you're jigging, keep the action of your bait moving slow, use small twitches of the bait and work them slowly on the bottom. It is hard to feel the bite, so be ready to set the hook with the slightest heaviness of your line while moving the bait. Trolling swimbaits and 4- or 5-inch crankbaits are also producing some fish.
Lou says a second area to catch hybrid bass and the occasional striped bass is in 25 feet (plus or minus 5 feet) of water. The lake thermocline is roughly at 25 feet with good oxygenated water from the shoreline out to 25 feet with about 80-84 degree water temperature through out this water column. Most of the bait fish he’s found are in this 0-25 feet range, so as you would guess it is holding lots of fish. Lou has found some schooling hybrids in the mid-lake area in the 25-feet range feeding on shad. With this shallower water, all types of artificial baits will work. Lou said a friend who was trolling deep-diving crankbaits ran into schools of nice striped bass on points in the mid-lake area,
The walleye bite is getting good. Most walleye are being caught in 18-25 feet of water on the bottom. Trolling a crawler harness with bottom bouncing weights are catching some nice fish, as are deep-diving crankbaits such as a Flicker Shad. If you're using crankbaits, use about a 4-inch minnow imitating crank. If you just have shallow-diving cranks, you can always add some inline weight to get your bait down to the 20-feet level. Lou says he’s always had the best luck when the bill of the crank digs into the bottom of the lake a little. Walleye are showing up all over the main lake, including points and large flats. He has used threadfin shad set on the bottom and have picked up a few walleye. He has also caught walleye while striper fishing in 70 feet of water. Yesterday he did not land any walleye, but on four different occasions he set my hook on a light bite to bring up only his weight and leader with no hook. Lou says he would guess that he was getting numerous walleye bites.
Panfish are also ranging 0-25 feet of water. If you can find some brush pile in 20-25 of water, you will find some crappie, but most are roaming the flooded shoreline trees feeding on shad. Crickets are working well for bluegills in the shallow water.
Catfish are showing up at all depths. Lou says he has caught cats in 70 feet of water when striper fishing, as well as in 20 feet of water while walleye fishing. They are roaming all over the lake.
Lou adds, “A week ago I had a family that love to bowfish. I sent them over to a point in the Cranfield area and they had a blast. The best part of this group is that they clean and eat what they shoot. I have never eaten gar before, but they tell me they are excellent eating as long as they are cleaned properly. I took a cleaning lesson one afternoon when they were cleaning their catch and saw that you end up getting a nice white fillet with no bones after you are done. I guess I will have to try cleaning one next time I land a gar. I typically cut the line and release them when I do catch one.

Norfork Tailwater

(updated 8-23-2017) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake last week fell 0.8 feet to rest at 10.3 tenths feet above seasonal power pool of 555.75 feet msl and 13.9 feet below the top of flood pool. On the Norfork, they had limited wadable water. On the Norfork, the water is stained. It fishes well one day and poorly the next. Navigate this stream with caution as things have changed a bit during the recent flooding. There has been major gravel recruitment at the bottom of Mill Pond and the dock hole. 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. My favorite rig has been a cerise San Juan worm with a ruby midge dropper.
Dry Run Creek is fishing well one day and poorly the next. 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/Crooked Creek

(updated 8-23-2017) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said the Buffalo National River and Crooked Creek are low and clear. With the warmer weather the smallmouths are 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.