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Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report
March 7, 2018
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Below is the Arkansas Game and Fish Fishing Report March 7, 2018.


White River

(updated 3-7-2018) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) says that although Bull Shoals Lake is only 2.5 feet above power pool, they are experiencing heavy releases from the dam. In addition, March has made its traditional entry with some wind. Don't let the high water keep you away from the river; grab a guide and go catch some trout. You'll probably prefer drift-fishing during the high releases, and now is the time to get out the heavy hitters: No. 7, 9 or 11 Rapala countdowns, especially silver and black, diving to 5-9 feet. With overcast skies turn to gold, gold and black Rapalas or the newly discovered Head Hunters will work well. Keep an orange-bellied black back Rogue tied on and ready to cast, too. Safety is tantamount when navigating the high water. Keep your life jacket on and leave your anchors at home. Use fairly heavy weight (several quarter-ounce sinkers tied on at once) if using live bait in order to get near to bottom.

(updated 3-7-2018) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) said the water clarity is stained. The river level has been high all week. Seven generators are running round-the-clock. Still, some good fish were caught, including 20 browns caught on stick bait and frozen shad. Rainbows are responding to PowerBait, pink and red trout worms and frozen shrimp.

(updated 3-7-2018) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said that during the past week, they’ve had several rain events totaling about 2 inches in Cotter, warmer temperatures and moderate winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals rose 7.1 feet to rest 3.1 feet above seasonal power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 32.1 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock rose 6.3 feet to rest at 1 foot above seasonal power pool and 21.5 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake rose 6 feet to rest at 1.6 feet below seasonal power pool and 8 feet below the top of flood pool. The White saw more generation and little wadable water. All of the lakes in the White River System are now above or near the top of power pool. With the higher lake levels, expect more generation particularly on the White. The hot spot on the White has been Wildcat 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 and 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.
John also says, “This winter I have busied myself on cold, nasty days by maintaining my fishing gear. As the weather warms I will get busy and not have the time to do this. Often during busy season the broken gear is set aside for later repair. I have so much gear I can do this and keep fishing. Due to my Scots-Irish heritage, I am thrifty and want to repair my gear rather than replace it. I buy good gear that lasts a long time as long as it is properly maintained. It is more economical in the long run.
“All of the better rods come with warranties. If it doesn’t have one, you don’t want to buy it. Whenever I break one of my rods (and I have broken my share) I send it back to the manufacturer to be repaired. Over the years I have broken Winston, Sage, Orvis and TFO rods. All were repaired for a nominal fee ($35-$65.00) and took from a couple of days to over two months. TFO was the quickest and Winston took the most time.
“I had a broken reel, an Orvis CFO (worth several hundred dollars) with a broken drag system. I sent it back to Orvis and they repaired it for $35. It now functions like new. I took the remainder of my reels and carefully cleaned and lubricated them. I carefully examined my fly lines and replaced the ones that were showing wear. I cleaned the remainder with mild dish detergent and warm water. I carefully dried them with an old T-shirt. Now they are all ready to go.
“I also repaired no less than three pair of waders. They were my loaners and all had leaks. I turned the inside out and sprayed them with isopropyl alcohol. The leaks appeared as dark spots on the waders. I then applied a dab of Loon UV wader repair (available at most fly shops) to each spot. This is a gel that instantly cures in direct sun light or under an ultra violet lamp. I carried the waders outside on a sunny day and they were ready to go. I wrote about replacing the stainless steel wire laces in my wading boots a couple of weeks ago.
“I had a couple of down jackets that had holes in them caused by a spark from a camp fire that melted a spot on the outer fabric. I tried to repair them with needle and thread but they didn’t look too good. I fear that I am not much of a seamstress. I bought some Kenyon repair tape in the proper color at Amazon.com and was able to quickly repair the holes. It worked so well that I bought another package of the repair tape in the proper color to repair an old rain jacket. It worked great. You can hardly tell.
“By making a few small repairs I was able to extend the useful life of some of my fishing gear and save some money in the process.”

Bull Shoals Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 661.39 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl).

(updated 2-21-2018) 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 mid-March.

Norfork Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 552.88 feet msl (normal conservation pool: September-April 552.00 feet msl; April-September, 554.00 feet msl).

(updated 3-7-2018) Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters said this past week he fished for striper, walleye and crappie on Norfork Lake. The stripers are just about ready to turn on. The water temperature in Bennett's Bayou is ranging from 51 to 55 degrees depending on how long the sun stays out and how cold it is during the night. The shad are shallow in both creeks. Tom says he caught small gizzards, threadfin, and 7-inch gizzard in 3-10 feet of water. Tom says he keeps seeing fishing reports from fellow striper fishermen about the dirty water; these individuals, he says, do not understand the striper if they continue to make comments about stained and muddy water. The muddy water is the warmest on the lake and the shad will go to it first, then the stripers will follow. Tom says he has caught stripers in water so muddy that he did not know the size of the fish until he netted it. These individuals say they keep turning around when they see dirty water. Tom runs to it and will fish it until late April. The other comment Tom says he keeps seeing is they are not marking fish or bait. First, the bait has moved shallow and waiting to spawn once the water warms up. The stripers are also in waters less than 30 feet, so when you motor over them they scatter. If you have side scan you can see them. If you want to catch stripers right now and well into March, get some shiners, find the warmest water, put out long lines with just a split shot, or planners boards with only a split shot, and you will catch stripers.
Tom adds that he fished for walleye on Friday up at Udall and caught one short. I did see some keepers caught. They are mostly males right now; the females are still deep waiting for warmer water, which will happen soon. The water temperature is around 51 degrees. By this coming weekend anglers should see some nice-size walleye being caught. Saturday and Sunday, Tom fished Bennett's Bayou for crappie. He was spider-rigging using long rods. On Saturday he only caught two and lost a few. He went back Sunday and caught six keepers; they were all females. The water temperature was 52 degrees and the fish were caught slow-trolling in 10 to 12 feet of water with a double hook setup and minnows. Again, it's just a matter of days before they turn on their pre-spawn feed. Tom says 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 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.

(updated 3-7-2018) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said Norfork Lake is in the midst of change from the cold water winter fishing pattern to the beginning of the spring fishing season. When the water temperature reaches the mid- to low 40s during the winter season, most species go to deep water and go into somewhat of a dormant state. As the water warms, the fish start to get active and move up in the water column and begin to feed heavily. From past experience the mid-50s seem to be a magic temperature to get the fish going. Norfork is almost there! Over the last week, after the heavy rains, Lou says he has seen many changes to the fish patterns. He is starting to find bigger shad moving off the bottom and is starting to mark some bigger arcs in or near these bait balls. He has also netted threadfin shad at his dock, which is a great sign for the bass fisherman. Typically he has found that shad move off of his dock when the water temperature drops below 50 degrees. He’s caught a few bass up in shallow water and has found the big whites are starting to move out of the deep cold water. Hybrids are beginning to school up and are feeding heavily once you find them. The striped bass are one of the last species to move out of the deep water, but Lou has seen a few caught over the last week.
With the heavy rains and the fast rise in the lake level, parts of the lake have turned brown, but this will start to drop out very soon. The lake is still roughly 2 feet below normal pool so we are in great shape for this time of year. Tuesday, Lou headed up to Missouri waters graphing various spots as he went. He found the water to be brown from the mouth of his cove to just north of the Red Bank area. The water is stained in the Calamity area and continued to clear the farther north he went. He fished with live shiners from the Calamity to Cane Creek. He got lots and lots of bites, but very few fish. He said he believes most of his bites were white bass and walleye. It was breezy and he was drifting upriver, probably faster than he should have been to catch the walleye, he said. Yesterday Lou fished the three mid-lake major creeks, found a lot of bait in 30 feet of water, but could only catch small whites. The water in these creeks are stained and in great shape. One of Lou’s guests fished in Float Creek Tuesday morning and hooked into several bigger fish and had great battles for 10 minutes or so each, but for various reasons lost each before getting to see them. Several days ago Lou headed into the Bennetts Bayou area where the water was brown with lots of floating debris. Yesterday a friend fished in the bayou area and said the water was still brown, but there wasn't much floating debris. He ended up landing three nice hybrids on live shiners in the brown water. The fish were in 30 feet of water and suspended down 10-20 feet. Lou was fishing on the Cranfield flats a few days after the heavy rain and found large schools of hybrids and big white bass. You could tell the whites had just moved out of deep cold water as their coloring was really light and they were still very lethargic. The hybrids Lou has caught are very aggressive and give a great fight.
He adds that some walleye have already moved to their spawning areas and others are staging and will soon follow. The walleye spawn typically lasts into April. White bass are starting to stage for their spawn. Lou is finding many of the males up the creeks, but the females are still waiting for the perfect conditions. Assuming no more severe cold fronts, the white bass spawn will be in full swing very shortly. The largemouth, spots and smallmouth will be on their beds typically during April and May. Lou says he will continue being out on the lake looking and fishing most days of the week. I am an early riser so I am typically fishing in the mornings, but on occasion he does go out in the afternoon. He also likes the after-dark bite for stripers and walleye. He has not been out yet after dark, as he really doesn't like fishing after dark when the air temperature is in the 30s. As soon as things warm up a bit more he will start seeing what's biting after dark. It is a blast hooking into a 15-pound fish when you can't see anything and all your fishing is by feel.
The Norfork Lake temperature varies from 48-55 degrees depending on where you are fishing. The farther upriver and up the creeks you go, the warmer it gets. The water is brown from Red Bank to the Highway 101 bridge, brown from Bennetts Bayou to Bidwell, and stained most other areas. As you head south in the main lake, the water clarity gets better and better. The current lake level as of Tuesday is 552.56 feet msl and rising very slowly.

Norfork Tailwater

(updated 3-7-2018) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake rose 5.3 feet to rest at 1.4 feet below seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 27.6 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork had less generation and more wadable water. On the Norfork, the water is has cleared substantially yet has fished a bit better. 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 not fishing as well as usual. 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).

Buffalo National River/Crooked Creek

(updated 3-7-2018) 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