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Established 1954
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Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

February 14, 2018

Below are some photos of our guided trout fishing customers taken this week at Cotter Trout Dock. 
Click images to enlarge.

Below is the Fishing Report from Arkansas Game and Fish for 2-14-18.

White River

(updated 2-14-2018) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) says, “A Valentine's Day gift that everybody would enjoy? A day on the river catching trout! What are we catching them on? Jigs, 1/8-ounce black, black and green, and white. Sculpins, and for the discerning browns, try a minnow for a few minutes. If there's no interest, switch back to sculpins.” They report seeing large fluctuations in the water level during this last cold snap: heavy releases early in the day, then returning to minimum flow. Get to the river early and catch the rise, cast toward the banks reeling back at mid-depth. That should fill your creel if you're planning a trout dinner or will bring some near for pictures and release. This is the best time of year to catch a really nice German brown. Hope to see you on the river.

(updated 2-7-2018) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) said the river level was normal. The trout bite is good. A lot of rainbows were caught on worms. Some browns were biting jigs.

(updated 2-14-2018) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said that during the past week they have had a freezing rain incident (just a trace in Cotter), colder temperatures and moderate winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals fell 0.4 feet to rest at 6.5 feet below seasonal power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 42.5 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock fell 0.2 feet to rest at 6.3 feet below seasonal power pool and 22.3 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell 0.5 feet to rest at 7.2 feet below seasonal power pool and 16.8 feet below the top of flood pool. The White had more wadable water with less 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 power pool. With the brutally cold water we should expect more generation to provide for increased energy demand. On the White, the hot spot has been Bull Shoals State Park. 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 14 ruby midge suspended below it). Use lead to get your flies down.
John shared a story this week: “I do a lot of wade fishing and therefore spend a lot of time in my wading boots. Over the years I have purchased several pairs of new boots. When something new comes out I am always interested in checking them out. At the same time, I am dubious of anything that seems over-engineered or too complicated. I am a less-is-more kind of guy.
“Several years ago one of the major manufacturers introduced wading boots with a BOA boot-closure system. Originally developed for ski boots, the BOA is a closure system that uses a ratchet system and 49 strand stainless steel cables to secure the boots. When I first saw them, I thought that this was a bunch of hooey. I can tie my own boots, thank you.
“A few years later, I was in a dilemma. They outlawed felt boots in Missouri. I needed studded rubber soled boots to wade on the North Fork of the White, studded felt soled boots to wade the White and Norfork, and unstudded boots (with felt or rubber soles) to wear in my boat. Wearing studded boots in a boat is like wearing roller skates. Never mind the damage to the boat’s deck.
“Rather than keeping up with three different sets of boots, I opted for a pair of Korker wading boots. They have interchangeable soles and I could easily change between studded felt, studded rubber and unstudded soles. The problem was that they came with BOA closures. I bought them for my wife, Lori, and myself.
“I quickly came to love the BOA system. They were easy and quick to put on or take off even on cold days when my fingers were stiff. If I needed to tighten them up during the day, I just turned the ratchet a few times to adjust them perfectly.
“A few weeks ago I was wading on the Norfork when tragedy struck. My boots were loose and I went to tighten them, only to realize that the stainless steel cable was broken. With regular boot laces, you just tie the two pieces together and finish the day. Steel cables are a bit different. To finish the day, I pulled an old leader out of my fishing vest and tied it around the top of my boot. That and the hook on my gravel guard was enough to keep on my boots for the rest of the day.
“When I went to repair them, I was able to find replacement steel cables for a few dollars. There was even a video on how to install them on the internet. I bought a couple of them so I could replace them on both boots. The cables came with the screw driver necessary install them. It was fairly easy and only took a few minutes. I now carry an extra cable and the little screw driver necessary to fix them.
“If you have been thinking about trying the BOA system for your boots, I recommend that you do it!”

Bull Shoals Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 652.33 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl).

(updated 2-14-2018) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said last Wednesday (2/7/2018) that they survived the ice apocalypse, and the water temps now are about 45 degrees depending on where you’re at; you can find a little bit warmer water at the end of the day. It’s that time of the year you don’t have to rush out first thing in the morning to get bit, he says. A couple of different patterns are working for Del, though he adds that with sports shows lately in the Chicago area he hasn’t spent a lot of time on the water. With the deep bite Del says he’s either throwing a spoon or a drop-shot. Those have been the two most consistent. And those fish seem to be keyed in on shad. With it getting so cold there is a bit of a shad kill that’s happening and that’s more what Del describes as “video game fishing.” That seems to be working pretty good in anywhere from 30-50 feet of water. If you’re generating you’ll be able to pick them up on the graph. There is a jerkbait bite going on over the brush piles around rocks. That’s working pretty well, too. There is also a crankbait bite. With the crankbait bite, Del says he’s parallel to the bank, keeping the boat at 8-10 feet, and throwing either Rock Crawler or Wiggle Wart. All depends on what you like and how deep the fish are staging on that bank. That bite should really start going with the coming warming trend. There are a couple of keys you’re locking for that will clue you in on where to go. If you’re graphing, take the time to go and look for the birds. You can actually pick the shad ball up on the graph. That’s what you want to look for. A lot of those deep fish are really keyed in on that shad bite. Now, as that water temperature warms up, those crawdads will start getting active and Del then is throwing a jig in anywhere from 6-20 feet of water. For the deeper jig bite, and I’m also throwing a shaky head. He’s talked to some anglers who are also throwing the Ned Rig again. If it’s not windy, if you don’t have clouds, if it’s a bluebird day and you don’t want to video game fish, you can pick up a Ned Rig or a jig and fish the steeper banks, the bluffier-style banks, and that will help you push a couple of fish in the boat. He also said a couple of anglers were doing pretty well throwing the A-rig, though that’s something you have got to commit to. They’re fishing it in the 10-20 foot range, keeping the boat out to 30 feet. Del concludes, “When the weather gets warmer it’s going to be like Donkey Kong here, guys.”

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 545.37 feet msl (normal conservation pool: September-April 552.00 feet msl; April-September, 554.00 feet msl).

(updated 2-14-2018) Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters said he missed the last week's fishing report due to our trip to the Chicago Sports Show. But he’s back this week and then we will go to the Jonesboro Sport Show Feb, 9. If you are around the Jonesboro area, stop by Tom’s booth and you can spend some talking fishing. Right now the Norfork Lake water temperature is in the low 40s and will stay that way for the next several weeks. Once they start getting some consistent south winds they should see a quick warmup. The lake is experiencing the normal winter shad kill. They are seeing thousands of small 1- inch threadfin shad dying along the shoreline. Small threadfin shad cannot tolerate water temperatures in the low 40s very long. The good news is the shad kill generates tremendous opportunity for catching trout on the White and Norfork rivers. Throw a small silver spoon and you will have lots of action. The stripers have gone into their February hiding routine; they seem to disappear every February, so if you want to catch one, try going up a creek with a good water flow. This time of year on the lakes and rivers in Tennessee they catch stripers in 30 feet of water or less. Here, Tom would look at Bennett's Bayou or up pass the state line. Historically the largest winter stripers are caught at the 160 bridge at night throwing bucktail jigs. Tom says he plans on spending his February chasing walleye and crappie. Right now they are catching both off brush piles using small jigs and spoons. Tom will be fishing up near Udall using live bait for walleye and long line trolling for crappie in the creeks off the main lake like Bennett's, Pigeon Creek and Big Creek. Lots of big crappie are caught trolling small jigs and minnows.

Norfork Tailwater

(updated 2-14-2018) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake fell 0.6 feet to rest at 8.1 feet below seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 34.3 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork had less generation and more wadable water. The water is 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 size 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 No. 14 sowbugs, No. 12 Y2Ks 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.

Buffalo National River/Crooked Creek

(updated 2-14-2018) 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.