Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report
March 14, 2018
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Below is the Arkansas Game and Fish Fishing Report March 14, 2018.


White River

(updated 3-14-2018) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) says, “What a great week to be on the White River in the Arkansas Ozarks! Water levels have fluctuated greatly and frequently since the week of rain three weeks ago challenging our fishing know-how and our patience. We've also witnessed one of the best shad runs through Bull Shoals Dam in years.” Initially, the lure for the browns was undeniable, but they were soon glutted and it became difficult to find any bait to interest them. Some shad made it all the way down to Cotter and a little beyond, making shad imitators and white and/or silver spoons and spinners popular for the duration of the run. It wouldn't hurt to keep those colors out for the next week or two. The shad count has begun to decrease some and they're seeing an improved bite with more traditional baits. Lots of fighting browns have been hooked and pictured, and rainbows measured and released or retained. Our anglers have had more success with native river minnows than earlier this month; those and sculpins have been the primary reason the brown catch has been so good. White jigs bounced as close to the bottom as possible have also produced some very nice catches. Cast silver or silver-and-blue-colored stick baits and spoons under overcast skies, keeping them mid-depth or lower. See you soon!

(updated 3-14-2018) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) said the clarity is murky and the rivedr level is high. Eight generators are running round-the-clock. Trout fishing was poor the past week. There was a very large shad kill near the dam, which is turn makes for no fishing, they said.

(updated 3-14-2018) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said last weekend that during the past week, they had just a trace of rain in Cotter, warmer temperatures and heavy winds (to include lake wind advisories). The lake level at Bull Shoals fell 2 feet to rest 1.1 feet above seasonal power pool of 659 feet msl This is 34.9 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock fell 0.8 feet to rest at 0.3 feet above seasonal power pool and 15.7 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake rose 0.5 feet to rest at 2.1 feet below seasonal power pool and 7.5 feet below the top of flood pool. The White saw heavy generation and no wadable water. 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 above or near the top of power pool. With the higher lake levels we can expect more generation particularly on the White. On the White, the hot spot has been Wildcat Shoals. There have been shad coming through the dam. 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.
John also says, “On my first trip fly fishing to Montana in 1989, I found myself in Dan Bailey’s fly shop in Livingston. It is a classic Western fly shop loaded with gear, angling memories and, most important, flies. The shop was basically divided into two large rooms. One held retail space for rods, reels, waders and all manner of fly-fishing gear. The other room was filled with rows of long tables that had about 50 middle-aged ladies seated at the tables. All were busy tying all manner of flies. I was amazed with what I saw.
“I was there with my brother, Dan. At the time, he lived in Stockton, California, and made his living as a commercial fly-tyer for the Delta Angler Fly Shop.
“When I returned to that shop 10 years later, the ladies were gone. They had been replaced by fly-tyers in places like Sri Lanka or Nigeria that would tie for much less money than the ladies could live on. They had been replaced by fly-tyers located offshore. The same thing happened to my brother. He was no longer able to support himself as a commercial fly-tyer. We eventually formed Berry Brothers Guide Service.
“Now when you go into fly shops most if not all of the flies on sale are not tied in the United States. Our commercial fly-tyers took a hit, but how did the customers do in the process? Did the reduced price of flies get passed on to the consumer? No. In fact, the price of flies has steadily increased over the past few years. When I was the manager of Blue Ribbon Fly Shop, the profit margin on flies was higher than on anything else in the shop.
“Is the quality of these flies any better than the locally tied flies? I don’t think so. These flies are usually tied by someone who has never seen a caddis fly or cast a fly rod. When I carefully inspect them, I do not see the care and attention to detail that I see on locally tied flies. Then there are the local patterns that are just not available from the overseas tyers.
“There are a couple of ways to get the flies you need. The best way is to locate and utilize local tyers. When I managed Blue Ribbon Fly Shop, I had identified about a half-dozen local tyers. Though there were a lot of flies tied offshore, in the shop when I arrived, all of the flies that I bought when I was there were from local tyers.
“You might consider custom flies. This is where you hire a fly-tyer to tie flies to your exact specifications. You could specify a particular hook (maybe a wide gap hook that is factory barbless), a specific color or a fly you designed yourself. You could also tie them yourself. That way you know that they will fit your specifications.
“The flies we fish with are the weak link in our fishing system. Use the best flies you can obtain for the best results.”

Bull Shoals Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 659.02 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl).

No reports.

Norfork Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 553.21 feet msl (normal conservation pool: September-April 552.00 feet msl; April-September, 554.00 feet msl).

(updated 3-14-2018) Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters said this past week they saw some wild weather on Norfork Lake. The winds blew all week, with Tuesday being the worst. You would think with the cold weather and windy conditions the stripers would quit biting. On the contrary: Tom says he mainly fished the Bennett's area most of the week while his son fished the Big Creek area. In four days they boated over 50 stripers with their clients or with Tom and Sean pre-fishing, and most of the stripers were released. Friday night a heavy rain came in and really shut down the fish. On Saturday they only caught 10 stripers and hybrids. The fish are holding in waters between 20 and 30 feet. Tom is using small gizzard shad. Most of the fish are being caught using downlines set at 16 feet. They have also caught a few on planer boards and balloons. Once the winds shift around to the south and they get some warmer nights, Norfork Lake will really turn on for all species. Lots of largemouth bass are being caught on crankbaits and spinnerbaits, and the crappie are also biting. Everything will bite better with warmer weather. The best place to find fish is Bennett's Bayou. There is lots of shad in the area much, more than Big Creek, and as they say, “Find the bait and you will find the fish.”
Tom says he received a call from Barry Stokes, who has a sports show on Fox News Southwest, about fishing on Norfork Lake for stripers. Barry was filming a show on Bull Shoals for walleye. The weather turned bad so they did not catch any walleye but they did film a bass show. He came over Friday and did some pre-fishing. Since they only use artificially lures he was having a hard time finding any active stripers. Tom says he told Barry where and how to fish for them but he could only catch whites and largemouth. Tom fished Bennett's on Saturday and he came by and again asked about where he could find some stripers. I told him where to go and he found some but could not get them to bite. He got out his drum foot pedal and started banging his boat. I have seen this on TV but never in person. Barry had a swimbait ready as he banged the boat. He would see a fish come off the bottom and drop his jig down and, bang, he caught a hybrid. He caught an 8- and 11-pound hybrid and 12-pound striper using this method. “He filmed his show catching those fish. If I would not have witness this I would never have believed it. It's true that you can teach an old dog new tricks,” Tom says.

(updated 3-14-2018) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said Norfork Lake fishing is getting better and better. Spring is in the air and the fish have sensed it! Walleye should be spawning. White bass are at the beginning stage of their spawn. The crappie spawn will not be far off. Largemouth will start to stage with a little increase in water temperature. Norfork Lake is in great shape and the fishing patterns are becoming similar to prior years. Striped bass and hybrid bass fishing is picking up daily. Various baits are working, with live bait (shiners or shad) being one of the better types of baits. You will be able to catch fish on A-rigs by either casting or trolling, casting out a Kastmaster, casting or trolling a 5-inch swimbait, or vertical-jigging with a spoon. Lou says he is finding most of his fish from 35 feet of water to all the way up to the shoreline. The fish are suspended from the surface down to 15-20 feet deep. The majority of the bait he is finding is suspended up in the water column. The warmest water is typically holding the most active fish. Bennett’s Bayou and all the major creeks should be holding fish, as well as Big Creek in the southern portion of the lake. As you head into the creeks the water will gradually get warmer the farther back you go. Tuesday, Lou had a guest with his two grandsons land some nice hybrids using shiners back in Bennett’s. He then went into shallower water and started to cast out an A-Rig and landed both hybrids and big white bass. Two days ago Lou was fishing the same area and landed three nice striped bass all on shad. As the water continues to warm the fish will get more active and fishing will get real exciting.
Lou says white bass are really close to their spawn if not already doing it. He has been catching the small males in the backs of creeks for the last week, “but the catch (Tuesday) of the larger females tells me the white bass run should be in or close to full swing,” he said. The upcoming warmer weather toward the end of the week should have the whites going crazy. Small spinners and blade-type baits are two very good baits to catch the whites this time of year. Fish the backs of creeks and upriver in the Calamity to Udall area.The bass bite has been really good for his guests over the last week. The pattern that they found was to go about halfway back into coves off of the main lake and fish the banks with a crankbait. Red was the color they had the most luck with and they found lipless, squarebill and regular bills were all catching fish. They were landing over 10-12 keeper-size fish each day. There were a lot of smaller ones being caught as well, but this is very normal. The best area for his guests was from Cranfield to past Red Bank. The color of water really did not matter. Crappie fishing is in transition. Lou says he found some nice crappie back in Fall Creek yesterday in about 25 feet of water lying on the bottom. He had to keep one since it wouldn't swim away but otherwise was releasing his fish. When the sun comes out they move up in the water column. Spoons, small jigs and live minnows are all working. The crappie he cleaned was full of eggs and you could tell it was very close to spawn. Lou said he would hazard a guess and say that in the next week or so you can start working the banks with a small Road Runner and will catch some nice fish. This is also assuming the weather is stable and the water temperature continues to rise.
Norfork Lake level is holding fairly stable and currently sits at 553.21 feet msl. The surface lake temperature ranges from 49 degrees up to 53 degrees depending on where you are on the lake. The water clarity varies depending on your locations. The water is still slightly light brown from Hummingbird's Cove to around the Red Bank area. Most other areas that Lou has been to are stained to clear. The mid-lake creeks yesterday were as clear as he have seen in quite a while.

Norfork Tailwater

(updated 3-14-2018) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake rose 5.3 feet to rest at 0.8 feet below seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 27 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork had little generation and more wadable water last week. The water is has cleared substantially but 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 is 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 3-14-2018) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said the Buffalo National River and Crooked Creek are still a bit high. As the water warms the smallmouths will be more active. John’s favorite fly here 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.