Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report
April 25, 2018
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Below is the Arkansas Game and Fish Fishing Report April 25, 2018.


White River

(updated 4-25-2018) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) says trout fishing the White River below Bull Shoals Dam has been spectacular this week. Best kept secret: Rooster Tails, Panther Martins and spinners. Black bodies, gold blades, black and yellow skirts. Ginger and tri-olive Zig Jigs are making a comeback, too, but success relies on selecting the right color for the conditions. Use all mentioned baits in water 8,000 cfs (less than three generators issuing from the dam) and keep them bobbing nearer the bottom than mid-depth. A very nice 22-inch cutthroat was netted and pictured for a replica using a sculpin. Sculpins and minnows remain the most popular baits to attract browns. Our fly-fishers found luck with Copper Johns tied on a mid-size hook. Lots of topwater action on the sunny days. “Come on over and experience trout catching at Cotter on the White River in the Arkansas Ozarks. The dogwoods are popping and we're in the middle of one of the most beautiful times of the year.”

(updated 4-25-2018) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) said the river clarity is a murky green to clear, depending on how much water is running at the time. The River level is high, and they are running half of one generator giving minimum flows. Trout fishing has been good. Anglers were using worms, corn and PowerBaits, as well as stick baits and jigs. Anglers are also catching more bream along with rainbows while drift fishing.

(updated 4-25-2018) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said last Saturday that during the previous week, they had no rain, warm temperatures and heavy winds (to include lake wind advisories). The lake level at Bull Shoals rose 1.5 feet to rest at 6.1 feet above seasonal power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 29.9 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock fell 0.4 feet to rest at seasonal power pool and 16 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell 0.1 feet to rest at 7 feet above seasonal power pool and 2.6 feet below the top of flood pool. On the White, we had less generation and some 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 anglers can 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 adds about landing a big fish, “You are out there and everything is going great. You have landed several good trout and all of a sudden a big brown hits your fly. You deftly set the hook and the fight is on. All you need to do is bring it to the net. It is not easily done. If you make one tiny error it’s all over.
“The key here is line control. You have to bring it in. Big fish are reluctant to accommodate you. For me the key is to fight them on the reel. Most of my clients prefer to fight fish by stripping in the line. This is my pet peeve.
“It drives me crazy to have a client get in my boat with a high-dollar rod and an $800 Abel reel only to try and land a big fish by stripping in the line. I had a client struggle with a twenty seven inch brown only to lose it because he was standing on the line. I make it a habit to land all of my fish on the reel no matter how small it is. That way, when I hook up a big trout, I am familiar with landing fish on a reel and it feels comfortable to me.
“There will be situations where you will have to put the fish on the reel. If you are fishing a Woolly Bugger or other streamer and you hit a good fish on the retrieve, how do you get all of the slack line in? The best way is to let the trout do the work. If it takes a run, carefully let the line run through your fingers until it is on the reel. If it is not cooperative, you will have to crank in the excess. Take your pinkie and put pressure on the extra line as you wind it on the reel. If the line is wound in loosely, it can tangle and cause you to lock up the reel and lose the fish.
“Another mistake is to not have the drag on your reel properly set. It should be adjusted to accommodate the tippet you are using. When I am guiding on Dry Run Creek I use 4X fluorocarbon tippet to help in getting kids to land big trout and therefore really tighten up on the drag. If I am fishing dainty emergers on the Norfork on 6X tippet, I have the drag set much lighter so that the line can easily go out without breaking my tippet. If you are not sure, you can set the drag by tying the tippet to your bumper and apply pressure to it with your rod. The idea is for the line to smoothly come off the reel and still apply as much pressure as possible without breaking.
“When your trout makes a run, don’t try to keep it from moving. Don’t lock down the line by squeezing the line against the rod or holding the reel handle tightly. If a fish cannot run, it can break your tippet. I try to not touch the reel handle unless I am cranking line.
“Remember that only one of you can do something at a time. If the trout is struggling don’t try to crank it in. However, if the trout is running toward you, crank in line to keep the ling snug.
“Always keep the rod bent. Your rod is your pressure gauge. If the line is bent there is pressure on the fish. More bend equals more pressure. If the rod is not bent, that means that there is slack in the line and the trout can spit the hook. Do not try to horse in the trout. If you put too much pressure on the trout, you can break it off.
“When you are bringing in a trout, always leave a few inches of line out of the rod. If you crank the end of the line up into the rod the knot attaching the leader to the line could get caught in one of the snake guides and not allow the fish to pull line, if it makes a last minute run. This could allow it to break off.
“Carefully tie your knot when rigging. If the knot is not properly tied it can slip and you can lose the fish. If you lose a trout because you lost the fly, look at the end of your tippet. If the end is curled in a tight pig tail, your knot failed. Check your hook often. If it is dull or bent, it can easily come out.
“To land a big fish you need a net. A small one will not do in this situation. I always carry a big net in the boat or when wading. Don’t try to net the trout too soon. Wait until it is on the surface of the water so you can easily scoop it. Patience is the key here. If you can remember these tips, you can prevent many of the small errors that can lose big fish.

Bull Shoals Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 665.84 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl).

(updated 4-19-2018) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said Thursday (April 19) that the lake level is about 664 feet msl. It's been going up and down; generation’s been on and off. The water temperature tops at about 52 degrees in the morning; he’s seen it as low as 48 degrees this week and found it as high as mid-60s. With the weather it's been kind of crazy. The fishing’s been up and down just like the weather has been. They've had snow in the same weekend, then 80 degrees two days later, so it's that time of year. The fishing is hit or miss just like the weather's been; there’s a lot of stuff going on. The fish are wanting to come up, but every time they come up, Mother Nature throws a curveball at them. Now, the shad are starting to come up in the water column into the creeks, and Del says he’s noticed a lot of the shad’s dying off, which has made fishing a little bit tougher this week. He says he’s had some of his best days these last couple weeks and some of the worst, so it's here today, gone tomorrow. Fishing the conditions is the most important thing. If it's sunny, flat, calm, what he’s going to do is grab either the Carolina rig and start fishing the secondary points usually halfway back into creeks channels all the way out to the main lake. Same thing with a Ned rig. He’s also dragging a jig now. Del says the bucks were back up a couple of days ago and the cold front moved through and kind of pushed them back out. If you get the overcast days with a little bit of wind, Del has resorted to going back to a jerkbait off the steeper secondary points leading into the spawning pockets. Now, if he’s going into the back of the flats, Del says he likes to cover water while fishing a little Keitech on an Owner Flashy, or you can just use the Straight Head if the water is clear. If you get around the shadows, a fluke is working. You can throw a fluke and pick up a few doing that. Del says, “Now I know you guys, you masculine guys, don't want to grab a spinning rod, but if the conditions call for it, you're just gonna have to do it.” He adds that Bull Shoals is right on the verge of some good fishing. “I don't expect any more major snow fronts or snowstorms coming, so hopefully that'll hold true.”

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

(updated 4-25-2018) Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters said Another crazy week of weather on Norfork Lake. We had some warm days but the wind was from the east for four days and it blew out all the bait and dirty water from the creeks. So as fishing got better the latter part of the week, catching bait became harder. The first part of the week fishing was slow but by week's end the stripers and hybrids were more active. We are still fishing the Big Creek area but we are now catching stripers on the main lake points later in the morning after the wind picks up. I caught three days of limits for my clients with the biggest striper being 22 pounds which was released after some nice photos. We are still using long lines with just a small split shot and planner boards with short leaders. The planner board baits are usually 8” to 10” gizzard shad that is kept right at the surface. The more wind you have the better chance you have of catching a big fish. Each day we have multiple strikes on these baits but few hookups since it takes a lot of time and skill to set the hook and play the fish. The best baits have been 3” to 5” gizzard shad. We use these baits since they last a long time on the hook and can take repeated hits and still stay alive compared to a threadfin shad that will die on the first hit. Stripers are also being caught up near Twin Coves and around the Crystal Cove. The topwater bite has yet to begin but if the weather continues to keep warming the lake it will not be long. The night bite should also pick up as the nights are staying warmer which keeps the water warmer.

(updated 4-25-2018) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said, “Spring is coming, I promise! The weather is still playing games with us, and the fishing seems to be effected for a day or so after each frontal system. In between systems the fishing gets good and people catch all species for a couple of days. Then the cycle begins again. Over the last week many fish were caught including striped bass, hybrid bass, white bass, walleye, crappie, spotted bass and largemouth bass.”
Lou says it appears that over the last couple of days, largemouth and spotted bass fishing has gotten really good. Baitfish have moved into the sunken buck brush and the bass have followed suit. Plastics and hard baits are both working. Unweighted flukes or bass assassins cast into the brush with slight twitches have made the bass go crazy. They are right inside of the brush so once you get hammered you will have a fun time getting the fish out. Lots of 14 - 17 inch fish have been caught and released with lots of smiles on the fisherman's face. Try out a jerk bait doing the similar routine. Find an opening in the brush and cast in a Zara spook and walk the dog out of the brush and watch the bass erupt on your bait. It will not be long until the smallies start to get real active.
Walleye fishing has also been good. They are inside of the brush, same as the bass, or right at the outside edge of the brush. A 5-inch swim bait has been working well with a 1/4- to 3/8-ounce jighead. Cast the swimbait to the edge of the brush and let it sink a little, then retrieve the bait slowly back to the boat. Early morning and right before sunset are two great times to catch walleye close to shore. Casting out a suspending jerkbait at sunset to a little after dark will also produce some nice fish. Make sure when you are retrieving the jerk bait you do it slowly with barely making a wiggle with bait. Striped bass, hybrid bass and white bass fishing has had its ups and downs over the last week. The fish are chasing the shad and the shad are continuing to move. One day you find them in the backs of coves in 15-20 feet of water and the next day they are on main lake points or large flats in 20-35 feet of water. Vertical-jigging or casting out a spoon has been the best method of catching many fish. The hardest part is finding their current feeding location. Lou says he has a 4-mile stretch that his guests have been fishing over the last week with some great results and other times a very tough time. They have typically been found on the shallow side of the cove or lake, not the bluff line side. Casting out a 5-inch swimbait has also been picking up some nice stripers. There are a few stripers that are feeding in close to the sunken buckbrush. If things happen as in past years, we will soon see schools of stripers up close to the brush feeding early and late in the day. “This is what I am hoping will happen, the sooner the better.”
The lake is currently on the rise after a slight rain a few days ago. We are currently sitting at 561.70 feet msl with sporadic power generation though out the day. The surface water temperature is around 58 degrees on the main lake and close to 60 degrees back in the creeks and coves. The main lake is clearing nicely, but still slightly stained. You can see your bait at least 8-10 feet down. Some of the creeks and coves are stained, but are clearing.

Norfork Tailwater

(updated 4-25-2018) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake rose 0.3 feet to rest at 5.8 feet above seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 21.4 feet below the top of flood pool. On the Norfork, we had less generation and some wadable water. The water is has cleared substantially and has fished much better. There have been some nice caddis hatches that have fished well. Navigate this stream with caution as things have changed a bit during 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 (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 28 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 4-25-2018) 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.