Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

February 28, 2018

More reports and other videos are on the Cotter Trout Dock Youtube Channel Page.
Below is the Arkansas Game and Fish Fishing Report February 28, 2018.

White River

(updated 2-21-2018) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) says springtime is knocking at the door with much needed, soaking rain showers this week, raising the lake levels some but mainly watering the thirsty banks. White River levels have been mostly at minimum flow this past week making navigating a jon boat somewhat tricky, but with the crystal clear water of the White you can see those gorgeous trout even better than usual. Once you get to your favorite fishing hole you can drop an anchor and catch for quite a while. Because the fishing pressure has been light over the winter, the rainbows are snatching all the traditional baits: egg pattern PowerBaits in yellow, white and red are good; try some with a scent of garlic, add some shrimp to the hook for extra attention. Put a nightcrawler or red wiggler on your hook when the river is rising. Browns are moving out of their spawning beds and downriver; some folks are having luck with redfin minnows, but it’s been noted that they're turning their noses up at average-sized sculpins. You'll catch some rainbows and some smaller aggressive cutthroats with them, but you'll want to use the biggest sculpin in your arsenal to get a larger brown to bite. Keep angling! We'll see you on the river.

(updated 2-28-2018) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) said the trout catches have been fair. The river level is high, as generators are running in the morning and shutting off in the afternoon.

(updated 2-28-2018) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said that during the past week, Cotter had several rain events totaling at least 3 inches with more expected over the weekend, after this report was filed. Also, they had warmer temperatures and heavy winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals rose 2.6 feet to rest 4 feet below seasonal power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 40 feet below the top of the flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock rose 1.3 feet to rest at 5.3 feet below seasonal power pool and 21.3 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake rose 3.1 feet to rest at 4.4 feet below seasonal power pool and 14 feet below the top of flood pool. The White saw more wadable water with less generation. 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 (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. 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.
Prompted by all this recent rain, John also said, “When I woke up (Friday) morning, it was raining. It rained yesterday and there is rain scheduled later in the week. That may sound like bad news, but to me it is music to my ears. I always say that nothing thins the herd like a little rain. I do not mind fishing in the rain at all. I can trace this to my tours in Vietnam when I was in country for two monsoons (the rainy season). During that time it rained just about every day and I was not truly dry for several months at a time.
“The best way to deal with rain is to have good rain gear. When I first took up fly fishing over thirty five years ago, my brother, Dan, told me I only needed to know three things to catch fish. Keep your hook sharp, your line tight and always carry rain gear.
“I have embraced the last rule with a passion. I now own no less than seven rain jackets. I keep one with a pair of rain pants in my boat and another one with a pair of rain pants in my wader bag that I keep in the back of my suburban. I use the other jackets around the house or out and about. This leaves me several to loan to clients that did not bring rain gear. On days where the forecast calls for rain, I always make sure that my clients have raingear.
“Whenever I purchase raingear I look for several things. First I want the garment to be made from a good reliable material. I generally opt for Gore-Tex which is light, breathable and pricey. Cheap raingear is no bargain. I also like waxed cotton which is breathable, pricey and a bit heavy. It is incredibly durable. I have a Barbour waxed cotton rain jacket that is over 25 years old and it still looks great and sheds water.
“I want all of my rain jackets to be one size larger so that I can wear it over several layers on a cold day. I can even wear mine over a fully loaded fishing vest. I also like a hood to keep my head dry especially in a blowing rain that is coming in sideways. Hand warmer pockets are always welcome as are sleeves that are a bit too long that I can pull down to keep my hands dry and warm.
“I like to wear a baseball cap under the rain hood to keep the rain off of my glasses. Wool fingerless gloves keep my hands warm even when wet. I carry an extra set in case they get too water logged.
“As I wrote earlier, I always carry a pair of rain pants with me. If you don’t have a pair, you can always use your waders. The only thing that you need to remember is that, if you are in the boat, you should not wear studded wading boots as they do not provide secure footing on boat decks. They could also damage your boat.
“Don’t let the rain bother you. If you have the right gear it doesn’t matter, if it’s raining. The fish don’t care, they are already wet.

Bull Shoals Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 660.73 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl).

(updated 2-28-2018) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said on Monday the lake level was at 652 water and the temperature was about 46 degrees. He said it’s starting to warm up. You could find some 48-, 49-degree water Monday in the backs of some of these creeks. There’s a couple different patterns going on. It seems like the fish are in transition from winter haunts coming into spring. The shad are starting to move around and it's made the bite tough the last couple days. There's been a shad kill up the lake and there's a little bit of a shad kill on the lower end, too, depending on where you're at. The brush piles the AGFC put in are amazing. Fish are already on them – not all of them have fish on them, but a lot of them are holding a lot of little fish, which is great. Del said, “A big shout out to those guys – great job on the brush piles. We’re catching fish off them already.”

Del said the deep bite has been pretty sporadic still with the shad moving around, but if you get on top of them on the secondary points or the main lake points, anywhere the channel swing comes in on a bluff, and if you see you can drop in on them – they're not there all the time – drop the drop-shot or spoon. You can video game those fish and pull a few off there. Del said that’s not really a go-to style he would rely on, but it's something he'd look for when he was out. There’s a deep bite for the jig, too. Some of the old brush piles, and some of the new ones, that bite is going to be mostly on the channel swing banks. Keep the boat in 30 feet of water and dragging it all the way back. The conditions you're looking for that is going to be, if you don't have a ton of wind you can pick up a few fish on a Ned Rig and a shaky head. Now, if you find those fish coming up on the flats to feed, those secondary points coming off the channel swings, we're starting to hold some fish as those fish start migrating in off the main lake. They're going to use that channel to go back into the creek and start doing their thing. The shad are already starting to do it.
We're expected to get a ton of rain, a couple inches of rain, which would be great. I've anticipated those baitfish are already starting to move in there, so if that happens the fish won't be too far behind. If you’ve got the wind and the clouds, you can crankbait the shallow fish. You're looking for that chunk rock bank with the wind just hammering on it. That'll put a few fish in the boat. Throw either a Wiggle Wart or the Rock Crawler. And the jerkbait bite has been hit-or-miss over some of the brush piles. It's been conditional with the water temperatures starting to come up. I've been having to do as much as a 5 to 8 count on the jerkbait to get bit on. Or throw a Mega Bass or a Mix Stick, whichever one you cater to. Then we’ve also got a swimbait bite that's starting to happen now. As the water temperature approaches that magic 50-degree mark, that's going to come more into play and you're going to see some of that spinnerbait stuff come back. The bites should be getting real good here.

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

(updated 2-21-2018) Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters said that last week he fished Norfork Lake for walleye up by Calamity Beach and the state line. The first day the water temperature was 40 degrees at Calamity and 43 degrees at the state line. The first day Tom’s group caught one short walleye and missed three more. The next day the water temperature was 43 degrees at Calamity and 52 degrees at the state line. The first day they caught their fish at the state line, but the next day the fish had moved from the line because of the warmer water. They tried moving up the river but about a mile up the lake the water level was too low to continue. They moved back to the colder water and started fishing near the shore in 5 feet of water and caught a 19-inch keeper and a short one in quick succession. He said they did not catch anymore, but it was late in the morning and the bite was over. What surprised him, he said, was the farther up the river the water temperature continued to rise. It seems just opposite of what he expected. The crappie are also being caught off the brush piles on both sides of the state line. Tom said he plans on continuing chasing walleye and crappie in the upper part of the lake and creeks on the main lake. Right now they are catching both off brush piles using small jigs and minnows. He said he’ll 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.

(updated 2-21-2018) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said winter fishing is slowly coming to an end and he’s looking forward to the warmer weather fishing of spring. The lake surface water temperature is rising slowly, which will help make all species more active. At this time bass fishing has been good and walleye fishing is starting to pick up. Lou has been catching some nice-sized spotted bass and largemouth bass with many shorts among the keeper-sized fish. Monday morning he tried out a tube jig, working it in about 25-30 feet of water with good success. The slower he worked the bait along the bottom the better. He has also been picking up some nice fish vertical-jigging a spoon in 30-45 feet of water. Brush piles are also holding some nice fish.
Lou said walleye are starting their spawning run. Some of the fish are staging out in 20-30 feet of water and others are heading into shallower water. Gravel banks will be some of the best areas to find these spawning fish. One of the well-known spots to fish for walleye is upriver in the Calamity area and farther north into Missouri. Berkley's Flicker Shad and Smithwick Rogues are a couple of good baits to cast out for those shallow spawning fish. For the deeper walleye, drag a crawler harness or a live shiner on the bottom at a very slow speed. Remember, with live bait you may need to feed line out once you get a strike to let the walleye take the whole bait into it mouth. Other areas that will be holding walleye are back in the major creeks. Also look for those gravel banks.
The last several mornings (not including Tuesday) Lou said he was out looking for striped bass in the Cranfield area. He is finally marking a few big fish following bait balls, but every time he finds a few fish he is graphing and not fishing. When he starts to fish he says he loses sight of them. The good sign is that he is starting to mark bait balls suspended down 20-40 feet in 50-60 feet of water. As the water warms, the larger bait will continue coming off the bottom and the fish will follow. What he has found in the bait balls are white bass. This is telling Lou the whites are starting to move toward their spawning areas. It will not be long before the Bennetts and Calamity areas will be filled with spawning whites.
Lou notes that Hummingbird Hideaway Resort's fourth annual fishing derby commences on March 1. Last year produced some really nice fish and the winners won nice monetary prizes for the longest striped bass, crappie and large/smallmouth bass. All of our guests can enter for a chance to win the longest fish categories as well as a drawing for a free week stay.
The Norfork Lake level is starting to rise with the rains we are having and sits at 545.56 feet msl. If we get the rain that is forecast, he can see a substantial rise in the lake level over the next couple of days. Norfork Lake is currently 8 feet below normal pool. The surface water temperature is also on the rise and currently is in the mid-40s. The main lake is clearing as well as the creeks and coves. The lake is still not as clear as it typically is this time of year. Norfork Lake is shaping up to be in great condition for spring fishing.

Norfork Tailwater

(updated 2-28-2018) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake rose 1.6 feet to rest at 6.7 feet below seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 32.9 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork had less generation and more wadable water. The Norfork saw 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 2-28-2018) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said the Buffalo National River and Crooked Creek are high and stained. 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