Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report
March 21, 2018
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Below is the Arkansas Game and Fish Fishing Report March 21, 2018.


White River

(updated 3-21-2018) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) says March is living up to its windy reputation, but each day is warmer than the day before as they greet spring break visitors to the White River in Cotter. Prepare for some breezy days; tie on a Rooster Tail or yellow Panther Martin as a change to your routine in the coming days. Be prepared also for some fluctuating water levels by carrying some red wrigglers to use during rising water and some bright chartreuse PowerBait for falling water. Here's what has been successfully catching healthy, fighting rainbows this week: pink and rainbow-colored spinnerbaits with gold blades, 1/4 ounce to 1/8 ounce depending on water level (lightweight spinners just below the surface on low water, heavier Rooster Tails twitching at mid-depth or lower in high water). Try steeping your fluorescent yellow PowerBait with raw shrimp for a few minutes before you tie on a combo of the two and float it near the bottom to interest those trout.

(updated 3-21-2018) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) said the clarity is stained and generators are running in the morning and shutting off in the afternoon. The trout fishing has been good on pretty anything but especially pink worms and shad.

(updated 3-21-2018) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said over the weekend that during the past week, they had just a trace of rain in here Cotter, warmer temperatures and heavy winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals fell 1.1 feet to rest at seasonal power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 36 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock fell 0.6 feet to rest at 0.3 feet below seasonal power pool and 16.3 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell 1.9 feet to rest at 0.2 feet above seasonal power pool and 9.4 feet below the top of flood pool. The White had 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 Rim Shoals. There have been shad coming through the dam. There are also some caddis coming off in the afternoon. 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 or size18), 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 favorite is a pink worm with a size 14 prince nymph 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, “The 21st annual Sowbug Roundup will be held March 22-24 at the Baxter County Fairgrounds. This is the premier fly-tying show in the South and one of the top fly-tying shows in the United States. The show is put on by North Arkansas Fly Fishers (a 501(c)(3), our local fly fishing club, which is affiliated with Fly Fishers International. The hours are 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. each day. Admission is only $5 per person, with children under 12 years of age admitted free. This is great and inexpensive family entertainment. The show funds $10,000 in local scholarships in fishery or related conservation fields annually.
“The big draw is the fly-tyers. There will be over 100 from all over the United States. You are encouraged to watch and talk to them. They are all eager to show you how to tie their flies and also how to fish them. Whether you are a complete novice or a seasoned pro, you can learn from each tyer. If it sounds like something you would be interested in, there are free beginner-level classes every day. There are also featured tyers Leslie Wrixon, Paul Hoelscher, Fred Du Pre, Peggy Brenner, Son Tao and Reid Benton. These are all masters of their craft who create true works of art. There are vendors featuring anything linked to fly-fishing and a host of seminars delivered by knowledgeable professionals over several fly-fishing subjects.
“This year’s show features Tenkara, the traditional Japanese method of fly-fishing. It features a very long rod and no reel. The flies are quite special. There are several seminars about Tenkara as well as several fly-tyers that specialize in those flies. There are even Tenkara vendors who will be selling Tenkara gear. If you have ever considered learning more about it, this is your golden opportunity.
“This is my 18th Sowbug Roundup. I began as soon as I moved here. It was the first place where I did fly-tying presentations and I found out that I loved it. I have been involved ever since. Now I am a vendor, fly-tyer, program presenter, a member of the Sowbug committee and chairman of the fly-tying contest. Therefore I will be in the Berry Brothers Guide Service booth most of the time. Stop by and let me tie you a fly. My wife, Lori, is also involved. She will be teaching a few fly-casting classes. She is the best casting instructor in the Twin Lakes area and her classes at Sowbug are free. My sister, Ernestine, is flying in to help out. She has attended the last few years and loves it. I hope to see you there!”

Bull Shoals Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 658.71 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl).

(updated 3-21-2018) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said on March 15 that the lake level was at 659 feet msl and that it had dropped a couple of feet to where it was back to normal. They've been generating quite a bit of water at the dam and the water temps are about 48 degrees as of late last week, up to 56 degrees if you get in the dirty water and back to some of the creeks, and that's got the white bass moving up if you're into that kind of thing. The white bass are going in the backs of the creek, all the way in the back where it gets skinny, he said. Largemouth bass fishing has been, well, you're working for them this past week, Del said. Some days you do really well, and other days it's tougher. They're in transition, starting to come out of their winter haunts and moving out into the creeks headed toward spawning areas. Keep that in mind as you're fishing, the bluffier, deeper 45-degree banks are still holding a lot of fish and they'll just use those channels to go back into the creeks as they go toward those spawning areas. Some of them are starting to move just outside of the spawning areas, so a couple of different things Del is using: In the clear water he’s throwing a Fish Spin Head. That's catching a few fish, slow-rolling it back on the steeper shoreline. The jerkbait over the brush piles and the points, that's picking up a few fish. That bite is starting to wean on and off. The crankbait bite, if you have wind and you got dirty water, or if you just have a lot of wind (we've had a lot of wind last couple weeks), throw a Wiggle Wart or Rock Crawler. The Rock Crawler seems to be picking up a few more fish than the Wiggle Wart right now and the fish seem to be in that 8- to 10-foot zone. The jig bite has been one of the stronger bites for Del, he said. Fishing the jig, that water temperature is just right where those crawdads are starting to get a little active, so keep that in mind if you're going out. If you're going to the back and you're looking for that dirty water, there's fish in there. If we get the cold nights, though, those fish will move off because that's the first place to warm up is also the first place to cool off. If you do get in the back and you find the warmer water, Del said he found it up to 56-57 degrees. This week it's supposed to get warm, so you can start getting a few on a spinnerbait. It's not a real strong bite but you do need a little wind and some dirty water to make that happen. If you're going out toward the main lake and it clears up on you, he’s catching a few dragging a twin tail grub or shaky head. If it lays flat on you, opt for that or a jig. The deep bite’s pretty much has disappeared and Del doesn’t expect that back for a while. All these fish are looking to come up and spawn, and it's going to get good here in the next couple of weeks as they start moving up toward the spawning areas. There is a bit of a walleye bite going on. If you get out, go out the last two or three hours of the day, throw a jerk bait around. Some guys are catching a few out of jerkbait and that's going to continue here for the next couple months if you want to go catch walleye. I'd recommend that you wait until the last couple hours of the day and go throw a jerkbait around on the long bushy shallow points and gravel.
Del adds that they held the Big John's Tournament two weeks ago and it drew a great turnout, and he appreciates everyone showing up. They’ve more tournaments scheduled for the first Saturday of each month over the next couple months, he said.

(updated 3-21-2018) K Dock Marina has reopened for the season but has no fishing reports. The marina will be hosting the 2018 Hollister Project Graduation Bass Tournament on Saturday, April 7, its first tournament of the year. The tourney helps raise money for the Hollister (Mo.) High seniors. This will be a 50/50 payout tournament taking off at 8 a.m. and weighing in at 4 p.m.; $50 entry fee per two-person boat with an optional Big Bass side pot for $10. Cash only. Early Sign Up will begin on Friday, April 6, at K Dock Marina. Tournament rules will be announced 15 minutes before takeoff. Breakfast items will be available for purchase.

Norfork Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 553.43 feet msl (normal conservation pool: September-April 552.00 feet msl; April-September, 554.00 feet msl).

(updated 3-21-2018) Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters said this week's word on Norfork Lake is inconsistent. You can catch stripers one day and then the day next nothing or just a few. On Wednesday they went to Bennett's Bayou to pre-fish for Tom’s next day's trip. They had doubles and caught several limits in over an hour. The next day they had a debris line and the stripers had moved. They did catch one limit but it was very slow and it took all morning to do that. The next day Tom’s son went down to Big Creek and in a little over and hour he caught 15 stripers. Both Tom and his son went there Saturday thinking it would be a great day. They had heavy fog and lots of boat traffic. Tom says he only caught one keeper and he caught two total. Saturdays are hard on the fish. Everybody wants to get on the lake and fish, but the traffic really spooks the shallow-water fish and will move them off their spot, and then it’s hard to find them. Sunday Tom went back to Bennett's and started up shallow with no bites, then moved out on the flat and again no bites. He said he saw one of his clients on the east side of the flat and told him to move over to this other flat where Tom was heading. Before he knew it his client had a double on and caught three fish before Tom had a bite. He was using shiners and Tom was using shad. “We then missed one and lost a good one after a short fight. We did end up catching an 8- and 11-pound striper before we quit. My client caught five and lost five more,” Tom said. The best method was a split-shot and a hook with about 50 feet of line out. It's simple and very effective because the fish are relating to the bottom instead of high in the water column. Once the winds shift around to the south and they get some warmer nights, Norfork Lake will really turn on for all species, Tom says. Lots of largemouth bass are being caught on crankbaits and spinnerbaits, and the crappie are also biting. The walleye are spawning up near Udall and the bite is good. Everything will bite better with warmer water and weather. The best place to find fish is Bennett's Bayou; there are lots of bait in the area much more than Big Creek. “As we say, find the bait and you will find the fish.”

(updated 3-21-2018) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said Norfork Lake fishing is still trying to get to a consistent spring fishing pattern. Not a lot has changed over the last week except for the ups and downs of the weather. Every day brings different weather. But on a positive note the crappie and bass bites are good and the striped bass bite is fair. Striped bass are still located back in the creeks heading toward the warmer water. In the late afternoon they tend to head out a short distance, but are still in the creeks. Most of the stripers that Lou has caught over the week have been on live bait, threadfin, gizzard shad and shiners. They have mainly been hitting free swimming baits (with no weights) or baits with just a small split-shot. If you're fishing with no weight, do not move much, and let the bait swim free. They will go to the depth that the fish are looking for. If you use a small split-shot, move slowly with your trolling motor to keep the baits farther up in the water column. If you want to use down poles with a larger weight, set your depth at about 15 feet deep. Lou says he is doing both, but is getting most of his strikes on a small split-shot rig. The cold fronts do affect how the fish bite, but the fronts have not chased them out of the creeks. Artificial baits are working as well. If you like to troll, use an umbrella or Alabama rig. Your bait needs to be between 10-20 feet deep. The other day on his way back to the resort, Lou says he was checking out a few deep bluff lines back in the creeks and found big hybrids on the bottom in 25 feet of water. He was able to drop a spoon and vertical-jig and caught a really big hybrid. Early in the morning the fish can be in really shallow water, then as the day wears on they tend to move out to 30-40 feet deep water.
Lou says crappie fishing has picked up. They are still on the brush piles and have not moved onto the banks to spawn at this time. Lou said he believes they really want to, but the cooler weather is keeping them from proceeding. A few warm days and nights should get the crappie heading to shallow water. One of Lou’s guests found crappie on 25 feet deep brush piles. The fish were near the top of the brush 15-20 feet down. It seemed to him that if he went deeper he only caught smaller fish. Vertical-jigging a small quarter-ounce spoon was working great, but using a small grub with a 1/8- to quarter-ounce jighead will work as well. Of course, live minnows on a slip float will work wonders with the crappie, as it does with all species. When they move to the shoreline, cast out a small spinnerbait, such as a Road Runner, or a small crankbait or a small grub, to catch some of these shallow fish. The largemouth and spotted bass bite is still good. The pattern is basically the same as a week ago. Head about halfway back into coves and cast out a red crankbait. The red color is working best in the stained water, but if you are working in browner water, try a lighter color, such as white and chartreuse.
Norfork Lake level has risen slightly, about 4 inches, over the last week and currently sits at 553.51 feet msl. The surface water temperature has stayed about the same from a week ago and currently ranges 49-53 degrees, depending on your location. Parts of the main lake as well as some of the creeks are clear and others are stained. Lou has fished most areas of the lake from the mid-lake creeks to the Bennett’s area, and up to the Red Bank area. All species of fish are scattered throughout. Hummingbird Hideaway Resort's annual fishing derby has commenced. Win large cash prize for the longest fish in three different species, along with a chance to win a free week stay. Give the resort a call at 870-492-5113 to reserve a cabin and to join the derby. Or visit the website for further details at www.hummingbird-hideaway.com.

Norfork Tailwater

(updated 3-21-2018) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake rose 0.5 feet to rest at 0.3 feet below seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 26.5 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork had little generation and more wadable water. On the Norfork, the water is has cleared substantially but has still fished poorly. Navigate this stream with caution as things have changed a bit since 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 but it 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 3-21-2018) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said the Buffalo National River and Crooked Creek are both navigable and clearing. As the water warms the smallmouths will be more 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.