Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

September 27, 2017

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Below is the Arkansas Game and Fish Fishing Report September 27, 2017.

White River

(updated 9-27-2017) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said they expect to see some fluctuation in the White River water level in Cotter this week because Bull Shoals Lake is now sitting at the desired power pool elevation; Wednesday morning the river was at its lowest since before July. Expect a little reluctance on the part of our trout population to be lured into action – big changes in water level leave them wary for a day or two. Their food supply has been cut back, too, so that works in our favor: They'll start looking for meals. Put your 5-inch Rogues away for now and see what action you find with a silver and blue spoon or a white 1/8-ounce zig jig. Some wading opportunities should open up and help the non-floating fishers; try a red and silver midge to start. It’s prime time to anchor over some old-favorite fishing holes and re-establish river bottom landmarks; structure may have moved during the long period of high water. Enjoy the changes: It keeps our interest renewed and provides a fresh outlook.

(updated 9-27-2017) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) said the water clarity was “terrible” earlier this week. The rainbow trout bite is fair to good, however. There are four generators running.

(updated 9-27-2017) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said late last week that they had seen about a half-inch of rain, warm temperatures and moderate winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals dropped 3.3 feet to rest at 1.2 feet above seasonal power pool of 661 feet msl. This is 32.8 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock fell 0.3 feet to rest at 0.5 feet below seasonal power pool and 14.5 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake dropped a foot to rest at 2.2 feet above seasonal power pool and 6.4 feet below the top of flood pool. On the White, they had no wadable water with heavy generation. All of the lakes in the White River System are now below the top of flood pool. Anglers should expect a lot of generation with limited wadable water in the near future. At the current rate of drop, John predicts that they will reach power pool in one week. Hopper season is still there. 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 the narrows. 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 10 Y2K with a size 16 hare and copper nymph suspended below it). Use lots of lead and long leaders to get your flies down.

Bull Shoals Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 660.90 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl).

(updated 9-13-2017) K Dock Marina said the lake is continuing to drop about 4 to 5 inches per day. This has had a big impact on the number of fish being caught right now. 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.

(updated 9-27-2017) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock says boat traffic is down and it’s starting to get nice on the lake. Cool nights, shorter days, fishing is starting to get interesting. If you like to pan fish, now is the time to get out on the lake. They are catching those monster bluegills. Guys are still catching the walleye trolling and bottom-bouncing. The bluegill bite, Del is told, is in the 20-24 feet. Walleye bite is in the 28-32 feet depth. Bass fishing, it’s fall, things are changing. They are moving out of those summer haunts, the water is getting cooler, 76 degrees is probably average. Some of the pockets may be in the mid-80s, the backs will be mid-70s. As the days get shorter, the bait fish move up and as they move up the bass are following them, shallow. They still have 7 extra feet of water so they have trees and bushes and other areas anglers can still fish. The bait fish are using that stuff, so the bass are right behind them. If you’re going to go out and fish the lake, you want to keep moving. If you like to chuck and wind, this is the time to do it. Cover a lot of water, keep the trolling motor down, find a pattern. Throw a buzzbait, or the toad. Either one of those is working. Squarebill, parallel that to the shoreline, keeping the boat just outside the bushes or in between the bushes and banging the squarebill into the bushes. A lot of times when it comes through the bush, that’s when you’re going to get the strike. The squarebill will deflect off cover and that will trigger the bite most times. Have a topwater tied on, the topwater bite is going to be going through the next month. There is a good morning bite and evening bite on topwater. In the backs of the creeks, the bluffier stuff, Del says, he’s throwing a jig. Out on the lake, Del prefers wind and dirty water and using a spinnerbait.

Norfork Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 555.71 feet msl (normal conservation pool: September-April 552.00 feet msl; April-September, 554.00 feet msl).

(updated 9-13-2017) Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters says September begins the transition to fall on Norfork Lake. The first half of the month striper fishing will be good but the second half of the month fishing for stripers usually falls off until the weather turns colder and the water begins to cool. The first half of September, you still want to fish the points with long flats and river channels in waters that range from 70 to 100 feet deep. You will see the stripers on or very near the bottom. We use 4- and 5-ounce barrel weights with leaders and put the bait on the bottom then raise it a foot, so the stripers need very little movement to feed on the baits. Gizzard shad are the best baits because they will live longer than the threadfin shad. Some of the best points will be along the dam buoys, Long Point, the river channel along the dam, and Dam Cove. One or more of these points will hold fish in September once you find the fish they will usually be there for a long period of time. Striper fishing usually tails off in the second half of September because of the nature of Lake Norfork. Every year the lake warms up to 90 degrees and the oxygen level gets lower and lower and the thermocline continues to move deeper in the lake. Stripers require 6 parts per million of oxygen to stay active. By the middle of September that level of oxygen is gone down substantially and stripers become dormant and just lay on the bottom not wanting to eat or move to conserve energy. Once the weather cools and the lake start to cool down the oxygen level will start going up but will not return to normal until the lake turns over. The lake turnover is a process that begins at the head waters of Lake Norfork some 47 miles across the Missouri state line and moves down slowly to the dam. The dam area is the last place the lake will turn over since it’s the deepest part of the lake. One way to beat this is start moving your fishing up the lake toward shallower waters. By far this is the best area to consistently catch limits of stripers during the latter part of the year. We will be fishing in waters no deeper than 35 feet. You will see lots of bait and stripers feeding heavily on this year's hatch. The bass will still be in their summer pattern: early morning topwater lures, then jigs, worms and spinnerbaits are your best baits. There also is great night fishing throwing jigs, worms and black or red 3/8-oz. spinnerbaits. You can catch fish all over the main lake and creeks. As the water begins to cool the crappie will start moving up and start their fall feed. Spider rigging is the most effective technique to catch them. Brushy Creek and Big Creek, Bennett’s Bayou, Red Bank, Calamity Beach, and Pigeon Creek, will be your best choices.

(updated 9-20-2017) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said fishing is transitioning from summer patterns to fall fishing patterns. The crappie bite has been outstanding, bass bite is good, catfishing has been good, walleye bite is fair and the striper bite for most anglers has been slow. Anglers have been finding crappie on main lake brush piles. The most productive brush piles should be in 35 feet or less of water and the crappie will be inside of the brush and up to the top of the brush pile. As the water warms during the day the crappie are moving up higher in the water column and have been caught as shallow as 8 feet down, but still suspended over the brush or very close to the brush. Small live crappie minnows, called tuffies, are a great bait for catching crappie. Rig up a light action rod with 4-pound test line (clear or green) add a slip float and a small split shot. Set the shot about 2 feet above the bait hook. I typically use a No. 6 to a No. 10 hook with a little longer shank. If you can net your own bait, small threadfin shad are outstanding. For artificial baits, I have been having good success with a ¼-ounce spoon vertical jigging it at the depth where I see the fish or at the top of the brush. Small grubs with a twister tail or a paddle tail are also a great bait to use. I typically use my artificial baits without a float, but for some, adding a slip float may make it easier to find your depth and keep it consistent once you find the depth where the fish are feeding. When using a grub you can always add a small crappie minnow to the hook, which may get you more strikes. Largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass fishing has been good and appears to be getting better every day. Some bass are showing up on the surface near bluff walls near sundown. Topwater action lasted for about 20 minutes until the sun set below the tree line. Many of the fish coming up are small, but a few decent spotted bass are mixed in. The Wiggle Wart bite has picked up around brush in 8 to 15 feet of water. The largest bass have come from fishing a jigging spoon along bluff lines in 28 to 30 feet of water. Walleye fishing has been fair. The walleye have come out of 28 feet of water either close to brush or close to a main lake bluff line point on a spoon. A bottom bouncer weight with a crawler harness or a drop shot rig with a worm or minnow will also work. Deep-diving crankbaits that will get you down to the 30 feet level should also pick up a few nice fish. Catfish are hanging around the brush piles in 28 to 35 feet of water. I have landed nice-sized flatheads and channel cats vertical jigging a ¾-ounce spoon. Crawler harnesses or drop shot rigs will also pick up some nice fish. Striped bass fishing has been slow. Lou has found stripers on a large flat in the mid-lake area and landed several fish using live threadfin shad. I found stripers before sunrise in 20-30 feet of water on the bottom feeding. In addition, he have found small schools of stripers about 10 feet down in 20 to 40 feet of water. Norfork Lake level is falling about 3 inches per day with the equivalent of one generator being run and currently is 557.72. This level is only 2 feet above normal seasonal pool. The lake surface temperature is ranging from 77 degrees in the morning to the very low 80's in the afternoon. The mid to upper portion of the main lake is clear to somewhat stained with the coves and creeks stained.

Norfork Tailwater

(updated 9-27-2017) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said late last week that Norfork Lake had fallen 1.9 feet to rest at 1.2 feet above seasonal power pool of 555.75 feet msl and 23 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork had moderate generation and no wadable water last week and the water was stained. It fishes well one day and poorly the next. Navigate this stream with caution as things changed a bit after 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. John’s favorite rig has been a cerise San Juan worm with a pheasant tail dropper (size 10). Dry Run Creek is stained but still fishing well. 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).
John adds, “As many of you know, my wife, Lori, is also a fly-fishing guide. Last week she had a job guiding two boys on Dry Run Creek. I was not working that day and I figured that I would go along. I really like to fish with her and this was a great opportunity for us to share time on stream. Dry Run Creek is a real workout for guides, and two clients makes for a busy day. It seems like one client is tangled at the same time that the other has a trophy trout on the line. You can achieve the most success on the creek if you are able to guide one on one. That way the client gets your undivided attention and can be more effective.
“We began the day at 8:30 a.m. I generally like to begin sooner so that we can begin fishing in one of the more productive spots. Lori and I believe that our client is always right and we begin when they want. A fellow guide had beaten us there and had staked out a hot spot. We walked past him to another choice spot and noted that it was available and loaded with trout. Lori was guiding James and I had Larson. Grand Pa, Grand Ma, Mom and Dad rounded out the group.
“Lori and I were fishing about 50 feet apart and we could clearly see each other. Larson was the first to hook one up. It turned out to be a fat 24-inch rainbow. This was his first-ever trout and his first time fishing with a fly rod. I was impressed, as was he. We continued fishing and he picked up a 22-incher and then a 23, both rainbows. We continued fishing and he picked up about 30 trout that included a 16-inch brown and two 11-inch brook trout. All we needed was a cutthroat to get the grand slam. It was not to be, however.
“Toward the end of the day, though, he hooked one last trout. This one was the largest yet. It was a long struggle but it finally surrendered to the het. It turned out to be a fat 26-inch rainbow. I was careless removing the hook and forgot that trout that big have sharp teeth. I noticed blood on my glove and noted that I had an inch-long gash on my left thumb. Luckily it quit bleeding rather quickly.
“Meanwhile Lori and James were doing well. They had caught several trout, the largest being a nice 23-inch brown. I looked downstream and noticed that they were into another trout. This one seemed different. Grandpa, Grandma, Mom and Dad were on the bank nearby mesmerized by the struggle. Then I saw the trout break the surface. It was huge. I told Larson and he wanted to go check it out. We cranked up the fly line and worked our way downstream. We arrived just in time to see Lori scoop up a 28-inch, 12-pound brown trout after a 10-minute struggle. She was brightly colored with an impressive girth. It was the biggest brown Lori had ever been able to put a client on. We took several minutes to photograph and then carefully release the trout.
“It was noon and the boys were worn out. It was a good time to pull the plug and end the day on a high note. Both had caught some trophy trout and everyone was pleased. Lori and I had enjoyed ourselves. We celebrated a great day by going to Whispering Woods for lunch. Life is good.”

Buffalo National River/Crooked Creek

(updated 9-27-2017) 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.