Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report
April 18, 2018
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Below is the Arkansas Game and Fish Fishing Report April 18, 2018.

White River

(updated 4-18-2018) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) says, “We're fishing the White River tailwaters of Bull Shoals Dam in the Arkansas Ozarks where we're still waiting for springtime to stick around and where the brown trout are biting! We've netted more browns than rainbows some days, and the trout we've netted have been healthy and are giving us some nice action. We've been treated to some fairly heavy generation from Bull Shoals but for most days last week the water remained a steady depth, which makes catching a little easier. In the deep water we hooked great rainbows with four-and-a-half inch Rogues, still working the orange bellied, blue-backed Rogue, but also had luck with the smoke-colored, suspending stick baits with silver bellies. Red wriggler worms work. Try also to snag a sculpin, tie it on a No. 2 hook, float it near the bottom of the stream and catch a beautiful brown or cutthroat. We're just starting to see a drop in generation, taking the water level down to minimum flow then sometimes increasing the flow to five generators or more. Challenging, and a test of your skills (and patience!), but always worth it. Time on the river is restorative. Come visit.”

(updated 4-18-2018) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) said the river water level was normal, and the clarity was good/normal when 4 generators were running. They’ve had up to 8 generators running the past week. The trout bite is good. Naturally, the cool weather at the beginning of the week wasn’t going to bother the trout. Anglers were using shrimp, jigs and stick baits.

(updated 4-18-2018) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said late last week that during the previous week, they had a minor rain event producing less than a quarter of an inch in Cotter, warm temperatures and heavy winds (to include lake wind advisories). The lake level at Bull Shoals fell 2.1 feet to rest at 4.6 feet above seasonal power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 31.4 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock fell 2.1 feet to rest at 0.4 feet above seasonal power pool and 15.6 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake rose 0.1 feet to rest at 7.1 feet above seasonal power pool and 2.5 feet below the top of flood pool. On the White, we 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 the top of power pool. With the quick rise in the lakes due to our recent heavy rains, expect heavy generation in the near future.
The White has fished better. There are 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 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 pink worm with a size 14 prince nymph suspended below it). Use lead to get your flies down.
John added about the lake levels of late: “When I got up this (Friday) morning, I followed my usual regimen. I brewed a large pot of French press coffee made with freshly ground Colombian beans and sat down to study the current lake levels and generation. I was pleased to see that the level of generation from Bull Shoals had decreased substantially. (Thursday) the Corps of Engineers was running around 23,750 cubic feet per second. This is the rough equivalent of about seven and a half full generators. They only have eight generators, so this is near the maximum level. Overnight they decreased the generation level to around 18,000 cfs, a drop of around 25 percent.
“I checked the lake level at Table Rock and noted that it had fallen to within a few inches the top of power pool. They were cutting back on the level of generation at Table Rock and that meant that much less water would be running into Bull Shoals Lake. This would allow Bull Shoals to continue to drop with a lower level on generation. The Corps of Engineers typically drops the lake level at Table Rock first, then Bull Shoals and, finally, Beaver. It is important to remember that the lakes are linked. Table Rock is upstream of Bull Shoals and Beaver is upstream of Table Rock.
“What does all of this mean? Well, with the reduced level of generation on the White, fishing from a boat should be a bit easier and more productive. With a reduction like this you will be able to fish shorter leaders and use less weight, which should make casting these rigs a lot easier. On this water level, I am fishing my nymph rigs at about 9 feet deep with two AAA split shots. I am using a double-fly rig with an egg pattern below a cerise San Juan worm (spaghetti and meatballs). At this level, wading is out of the question.
“While I was doing this I noted an email from the North Arkansas Fly Fishers that gave me some up-to-date information on generation on the Norfork tailwater. I had noticed for the last few weeks that the generation on the Norfork was much less as a percentage of the total output than on the White. As a result, the lake level behind Norfork Dam was dropping much slower than Bull Shoals. The email explained that there was a generator down for ordinary maintenance at Norfork Dam (they only have two generators). As a result, they are going to open five flood gates 1 foot to increase the water flowing from the lake. The additional water will be about 3,500 cfs and will make the total flow about 6,000 cfs, which is the rough equivalent of two generators or maximum generation for Norfork Dam.
“The heavier generation will make things a bit tougher fishing from a boat. You will have to get down deep and rig similar to the requirements on the White. Wading is out of the question at this level.
“Based on the speed that the lakes are now dropping, I predict that all will be back at power pool in one month. This assumes no major rain incidents. Who knows? We may have some wadable water by mid-May.”

Bull Shoals Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 665.02 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl).

(updated 4-18-2018) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock had no report.

(updated 4-4-2018) K Dock Marina said they were really excited about the Army Corps of Engineers keeping the lake level around normal for this spring. Anglers have access to the boat ramp as well as the courtesy dock. “Big thanks to our friends at Taney County Road and Bridge for keeping the access road and parking lot cleared of debris!” The lake looks great. Still cold compared to the temps on Table Rock, but they are starting to get the surface temperature up. Crappie are really starting to hit live minnows, not on the shoreline yet, but decent reports down the lake from the dock. Slow presentation and live minnows on brush piles in the coves. Lake level was 658.66 (normal pool is 659 feet msl). Water temperature ranging 49-52 degrees. Water is stained to clear. Crappie are good to fair on live minnows on top of brush piles and structure. Colors of swimming minnows to use are: pink and chartreuse, pearl and Smoke & Glitter. Had a few anglers with some good limits last weekend. Most were finding the crappie in the creek coves from the 36 lake marker down to the Arkansas line. The water is a few degrees warmer down the lake. But, the coves near K Dock are really starting to produce some good numbers of big crappie. Black bass (largemouth, smallmouth and spotted) are biting Alabama rigs, jerkbaits and ½-ounce or smaller jigs. Bass will start hitting the threadfin shad and searching for crawfish for protein coming out of the winter months. A Ned Rig is a great plastic to throw in the spring as well. However, great reports of bass being caught on Wiggle Warts and Rock Crawlers in brown/tan and red craw colors. These work great with a little wind. Crank them down in the 5-8 feet range right now. Make contact with the rocks on the high bluff sides and then slow your retrieve. Remember, these fish are still a little slow coming up from 48 degrees water.
Also, walleye are fair on trolling with small to medium crankbaits. They are still deep, but that should change soon. They are hitting spoons off of points. For white bass, head to the Beaver Creek arm of the lake just 6 miles up from the dock. If the high temps arrive, they should be feeding there. Use a white Rooster Tail or a silver Rat-L-Trap.

Norfork Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 560.37 feet msl (normal conservation pool: September-April 552.00 feet msl; April-September, 554.00 feet msl).

(updated 4-18-2018) Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters said another crazy week of Norfork Lake weather produced lots of inconsistent patterns. We started the week cold and with good fishing. As the week wore on, they saw lots of high winds, bad storms, rising water, high boat traffic and slower fishing. Norfork Lake ended the week with cold weather but better fishing. Tom says they were catching good numbers of stripers up in Big Creek from Woods Point to 1C all last week and weekend. The lake level was consistent, then they opened the spillways about 1 foot and that changed the current in the lake and drew the fish out of the creeks. The stripers were still in the area but quit biting. Tom says he spent one morning fishing there and realized what was happening and moved to Point 1 and began catching stripers. The pattern stayed that way until Thursday when they closed the spillway. The fish were still inactive but then did start biting later in the morning in Big Creek again. Friday, it picked up and on Saturday Tom’s son, Sean, caught 13 stripers on planer boards with only a 6-foot leader near the shore. Tom, on the other hand, had only caught three but the fish were there, he said. You just had to be at the right spot along a bluff wall to catch them. Once this cold spell moves out the lake should see better action as it warms up and they get some consistent weather. Greg at Hand Cove Resort reports the night bite is still happening although the weather has greatly affected the bite. He expects it to be more consistent by the end of this week. Tom says he has seen some surface action the last two days, which means the topwater action is not far behind. Better sharpen those hooks for some reel ripping action.

(updated 4-11-2018) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said the beginning stages of Norfork Lake's spring fishing season have begun. It is a little behind past years due to the continual unseasonable cool fronts, but it is coming. Forecasts for the next few days are great, but another cool front is possible later in the week. The baitfish are moving toward shallow water to get to warmer water, and the predators are following to feed. Shad will be going through a spawn very shortly. The cool fronts do affect the fish, but if you adjust a little and move out to a little deeper water you will find the feeding fish.
Lou says he has had a very good week of fishing. Tuesday, he says, was outstanding. He caught well over 30 fish in the morning. The majority were the monster 2.5-3.5-pound white bass. He caught one that went over 4 pounds. Mixed in with the whites were the medium-sized hybrids going about 5-6 pounds. Lou ended up landing five hybrids. All of his fish were either released on site or at his dock after the photo op. He said he was finding fish on main lake points in 18-25 feet of water. His method of fishing was vertical jigging a ¾-ounce white-colored spoon. He was fishing northwest of Hummingbird Hideaway Resort's cove. The striped bass he has caught by either casting out a 5-inch swimbait with a 3/8-ounce jighead or with live bait. The stripers have been in 15-30 feet of water and suspended at all depths. He has caught fish on downlines set at 15 and 20 feet, as well as with free swimming baits with a small split shot or no split shot. Most of the stripers are 8-12 pounds on the average. He said he’s finding striped bass northeast of his resort.
Lou adds, “I would like to welcome all of the Bass Cat boat owners that are arriving to Mountain Home to fish in the Bass Cat Owners Invitational Tournament. The warm weather forecast for the rest of the week should make for a great bass bite. Some of the larger bass had moved off of the shore, but will be returning very shortly. There are signs that some of the bass are starting to make their beds. Have a great tournament.” Norfork Lake level is falling slowly with one generator running full time and spillways partially open, releasing enough water to equal using a second generator. The current level is 559.74 feet msl. The lake surface water temperature Tuesday morning on the main lake was 53.5 degrees and back in a creek was 55.5 degrees. These temperatures will be increasing throughout the week. Most of the areas he fished Tuesday morning were a greenish stained.

Norfork Tailwater

(updated 4-18-2018) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake fell 0.7 feet to rest at 5.1 feet above seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 21.1 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork 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 the top of power pool. With the quick rise in the lakes due to recent heavy rains, expect heavy generation in the near future.
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 during the recent 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 (#18, #20, #22) like ruby midges, root beer midges, zebra midges (black or red with silver wire and silver bead) and soft hackles (#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 eighteen inches below a brightly colored San Juan worm (hot fluorescent pink or cerise #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). 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 soles that are easier to clean and are not as likely to harbor didymo.

Buffalo National River/Crooked Creek

(updated 4-18-2018) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said the Buffalo National River and Crooked Creek are navigable and less stained. 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.