Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

January 31, 2018

More reports and other videos are on the Cotter Trout Dock Youtube Channel Page.
Below is the Arkansas Game and Fish Fishing Report January 31, 2018.

White River

(updated 1-31-2018) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) reports that January visitors to the Arkansas Ozarks were blessed with a variety of weather styles and challenges to angling skills. Find a day where the weather suits your style and come to the White River; fishing in January and February offers lots of quiet and solitude because fewer anglers will brave the elements. The cold weather doesn't stop trout from biting on something they find interesting. Sculpins remain the best bet for a bigger brown; minnows have been unreliable so far this year, but the bite on redfins will pick up in a month or two. This is also the time of year to reel in some browns with shad and shad-imitators. We're betting this is the year the cutthroat bite will be more fun than the browns –they're aggressive and smart. Gold and red Cleos have been proving successful for wade and bank fishers, and you'll fill your creel with legal rainbows using white egg patterns. See you at the river!

(updated 1-31-2018) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said that during the past week, they had two rain incidents that combined for about an inch in Cotter, warmer temperatures and heavy winds (to include lake wind advisories). The lake level at Bull Shoals rose 0.1 feet to rest at 5.7 feet below seasonal power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 41.7 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock rose 0.3 feet to rest at 6 feet below seasonal power pool and 22 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake rose 0.5 feet to rest at 6.6 feet below seasonal power pool and 16.2 feet below the top of flood pool. On the White, there was little wadable water with less generation. The catch-and-release section below Bull Shoals Dam has been closed since late November to accommodate the brown trout spawn but will reopen Thursday, Feb. 1. Until Thursday, the State Park is also seasonal catch and release for the same period, and all brown trout must be immediately released. In addition, night fishing is prohibited until Feb. 1.
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 size 16, size 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 14 ruby midge suspended below it). Use lead to get your flies down.

(updated 1-24-2018) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) said the river is stained. There have been two generators running of late. No fishing reports were available.

Bull Shoals Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 652.87 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl).

(updated 1-31-2018) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said the lake level last week was at 653 feet msl (about 6 feet below normal pool). The surface water temperature is 45-49 degrees depending on where you’re fishing. The fishing has been pretty good but it’s hit or miss depending on the day and weather. Depending on where you’re at on the lake there are a couple of different things going on and a lot of it has to do with the shad. When the temperature was real cold and then it got hot, Del says, he believes some of the shad are starting to die off. The big sea dragons that you’ll see throughout the lake on the creek arms, there’s some there and in the turns in the main channel swings, so you want to graph on them and see if there’s fish in them. For the deep bite the spoons are working. Use a half-ounce to a quarter-ounce spoon depending on how deep they are. Del is fishing it anywhere from 20 feet out to 35-45 feet. The drop-shot stop is still working and the drop-shot fish seem to be on the channel swing banks or the bluffs or the bluff ends. The jerkbait bite, if there’s some sun and a little bit of wind, the jerkbait will pull some fish off the docks and brush piles. Keep the boat in 30-35 feet of water. The deeper docks are holding some fish. He’s also catching a few fish on the Fish Spin. And if you have wind and clouds, you definitely want to throw either a Rock Crawler or a Wiggle Wart, using whatever color works for you. The water is gin-clear and there’s some moss. So it’s one of those things where you’re just going to have to fight it, Del says. It’s not real bad, he adds, but you know if you’re throwing a Rock Crawler or a Wiggle Wart you’re going to be peeling it off a little bit.
Del says another bite that’s working is a jig. There’s a deep jig bite and a dock bite for the jigs. The action seems to be around the deeper docks and the brush piles around the deeper docks.
“Speaking of brush piles, Game and Fish put out a ton of brush piles. If you get a chance you’re going to have to go out and mark them,” he says. “What an amazing job. I’m already catching fish off some of them. Jerkbait fish will be over some of them brush piles. Most of them seem to be in that 25-30 feet but as you’re out in the lake one thing you want to look for is the loons and the gulls. They’re out there eating the shad and as the water temperature comes up, some of these shad are dying off. When you see the seagulls, go check it out. Those big sea dragons that you’ll see on the graph, that’s where the fish are going to be around.”

(updated 1-31-2018) K Dock Marina will reopen for the season in March.

Norfork Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 546.31 feet msl (normal conservation pool: September-April 552.00 feet msl; April-September, 554.00 feet msl).

(updated 1-24-2018) Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters said the cold and snow last week sure changed Norfork Lake. The water temperature dropped almost 4 degrees and moved the stripers. Tom pre-fished Thursday morning and started where they caught all the fish the previous week. Tom found plenty of shad and that usually brings the stripers. His group fished all morning and only had one bite. Friday Tom took his clients to where the bait was and fished for another 7 hours moving all around the Blue Lady and 101 flats. Tom was always on shad and had two stripers hooked but never boated them. Sometimes in life you look at all the wrong places to find what's right in front of you. The assumption is in winter: Find the shad and you will find the stripers. When the water turns cold the shad will always move deeper and the stripers will follow. Tom says he has followed that logic all the time in the winter with great success. The next day he started looking in Float Creek since there was bait and a few fish caught there the day before. Tom’s son, Sean, was out looking around and texted Tom an image of a massive amount of stripers and hybrids in 28 feet of water with no bait around. Tom’s group immediate went to Duck Blind Point and hooked up and landed three stripers. They stayed on the fish but they quit biting when the sun went behind the clouds and the wind turned east. Sean also found stripers shallow in Float Creek near the boat docks. The moral of the story is quit doing the same thing over and over and don't be afraid to change up your pattern. You just may find the motherlode of stripers.

(updated 1-24-2018) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said January has brought normal significant weather pattern changes. About 12 days ago they went from the 50s to single digits for about six days and even had several inches of snow. Over the last several days they were back in the mid-60s, but here it goes again with a slight cool down. All of these changes in the weather affect what the bait and fish do. On Jan. 10, large schools of fish were feeding in about 60 feet of water, but after the cold snap the hybrids and stripers disappeared, even though the bait was still hanging around. Normal wintertime striped bass fishing would have the fish out in the deep water channels feeding on suspended bait in 40-60 feet down. The bait is there, but only scattered fish are showing up. With the cold weather and snow, the water temperature dropped about 3-4 degrees, but over the last several days the surface water temperature has risen 2-3 degrees. “All of the changes confuse the fish as well as the fishermen, including me,” Lou said.
Lou said they had several fishermen staying with them over the weekend all fishing for stripers – a few were caught but it was tough going. The areas where Lou found fish were in the Henderson area close to the bluffs. Big balls of shad were being pushed into the bluffs by the west wind and there were a few stripers hanging around 30 feet down. Both spoons and live shiners caught fish. Monday, Lou said, he was out fishing from the U.S. Highway 62 bridge area all the way down to Fout Boat Dock and only marked a few lone fish. He said he did more looking than fishing. Lou heard from a friend that he found stripers in very shallow water a few days ago, so Lou’s guess is he’s going to need to think outside the box and look at areas that he would typically avoid this time of year. The last two days the wind was howling so he elected to stay at the resort Tuesday instead of fish, with plans to be back at it in the morning and start the hunt again.
Lou added, “I ended my fishing excursion yesterday by doing a little bass fishing. I headed into a cove that the wind was blowing very strongly into. I stopped on a secondary point and found large balls of shad next to the shore and a few shad floating on the surface. I tied on a Rogue (a shallow-running suspending jerkbait) and started casting to the shore. I gave the bait a couple of hard jerks to get it down, then let it rest for a few seconds, then start twitching the bait softly, then stopped. I did this back to the boat. On the second cast the bass started to get active and I landed three largemouth bass in a very short period of time. No monsters, but fun. The wind was blowing so hard that the waves were starting to splash over the boat, so I called it a day. The other location where my guests were finding bass was along deep bluff lines. The fish were about 30 feet deep. Live bait was catching these suspended largemouth and spotted bass.
“A few small shad are starting to die from the cold water, which is very normal for this time of year. If you can find a school of shad that are distressed, on the surface and close to the shoreline, there will more than likely be bass in the area feeding away. I started to see a little of this yesterday, but I really could not tell if the shad were distressed or just being blown into shore from the strong wind.”
Norfork Lake is currently stable and sits at 546.46 feet msl. The lake surface temperature Monday was around 45 degree (+/- one degree). The main lake is finally starting to show some sign of clearing, as well as the creeks and coves. The weather forecast for the rest of the week is to be around normal, 40s to 50s in the days and high 20s to low 30s at night.

Norfork Tailwater

(updated 1-31-2018) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake rose 0.1 feet to rest at 7.3 feet below seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 33.5 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork had less generation and more wadable water. Also, the Norfork has cleared substantially but has fished poorly. Navigate this stream with caution as things have changed a bit during last year’s 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 #10). The fishing is better in the morning. John’s favorite rig has been a Y2K with a ruby midge dropper. Dry Run Creek has cleared some and still fishing well. The brown trout have moved in for the spawn. 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). It is cold out there. Take frequent breaks, bring cocoa and dress your children warmly.
John added, “It has been a while since I have waded the Norfork. My last visit, over two months ago, had been a bust. The water was highly stained. My wife, Lori, and I had trouble wading because we could not see the bottom. The river had changed a lot during the last flood. Places that used to be shallow gravel are now deep bedrock channels and deep channels were now shallow gravel. With the off-color water, you could not see whether you were stepping in a hole or not. You had to move slowly and carefully probe with your wading staff.
“I had heard through the grapevine that the water had cleared up some. I was excited with the prospect of wade-fishing it again. I was disappointed due to the weather. It took a turn for the worse. We had sub-zero temperatures, heavy winds and a dusting of snow. As a result of the weather, electricity use in the area hit an all-time high and Southwestern Power was running the generators round-the-clock, resulting in high water on the White and Norfork rivers.
“I waited patiently for just the right conditions. The area warmed up and they began turning off the generators on the Norfork. Last Saturday (Jan. 20), I got my chance. The water was scheduled to be off all day and the forecast high was around 60 degrees.
“The night before, I carefully gathered my gear. That morning I woke at 5 a.m. and showered. I then made a pot of coffee and ate a solid breakfast. I dressed in polypropylene long underwear (top and bottom), a pair of heavy pile pants, a tightly knit wool sweater, a down sweater, heavy wool socks, wool fingerless gloves and my Elmer Fudd hat.
“When I arrived at the Ackerman Access on the Norfork it was around 30 degrees at 7: a.m. I was the first one there, the water was on the bottom and it was much clearer than when I was last there. It wasn’t gin clear but it was clear enough for me to wade comfortably. I walked way upstream into the catch-and-release section. I began fishing with the same rig I had used on my last trip. I cast my grasshopper with a ruby midge dropper into a likely spot, I got a bump on the first cast, and I landed a nice rainbow on the ruby midge with the second cast. I fished that spot for a while longer but it was a one-hit wonder.
“I moved on and decided to try a new spot, but I felt like it was time to re-rig. I tied on a two-fly nymph rig (a Y2K with a root beer midge dropper). It was still cold and I had trouble tying the knots with frozen hands, but I finally got it. It soon produced a nice trout on the root beer dropper, but no more.
There was no one fishing near me. I had almost all the river to myself. I moved on and tried another spot with the same results, one fish on yet another fly, the Y2K. I had caught three trout on three flies. It was noon by now and time to head home. I would usually consider this a tough day, but it was so nice to be wading the Norfork again with clean water I thought better of it. Life is good!
“It is time to give the Norfork another chance.”

Buffalo National River/Crooked Creek

(updated 1-31-2018) 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 cold weather the smallmouths are less 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.