Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report
May 2, 2018
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Below is the Arkansas Game and Fish Fishing Report May 2, 2018.

White River

(updated 5-2-2018) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) says the catch on the White has been prolific; anglers have been bringing some beautiful trout to the boats even with erratic water levels. They’ve seen low levels at dawn and medium-heavy flow from Bull Shoals Dam in the middle of the day, but still brought a 22-inch cutthroat and a 28-inch brown last week with a 2-inch sculpin. Bring fluorescent yellow and sunrise-colored PowerBait and a redworm or two drifting just at the edge of the river's current near the bottom. Looks like the area is in for some moderate temperatures and some welcome sunshine, but don't stow the rain gear quite yet.

(updated 5-2-2018) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) said the water is clear and the level is ranging from normal to high with four or five generators running. Trout reports were good despite the river level going up and down throughout the day. Baits being used were shrimp, drift rigs and Power Worms.

(updated 5-2-2018) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said last weekend that during the past week, they had two rain events for about 2 inches in Cotter, warm temperatures and heavy winds (to include lake wind advisories). The lake level at Bull Shoals rose 1.2 feet to rest at 7.3 feet above seasonal power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 28.7 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock rose 0.2 feet to rest 0.2 feet above seasonal power pool and 15.8 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell 0.3 feet to rest at 7.3 feet above seasonal power pool and 2.3 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 we can expect more generation in the near future.
The White has fished better. The hot spot has been the State Park. There are 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 favorite now 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 soles that are easier to clean and are not as likely to harbor didymo.

Bull Shoals Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 666.61 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl).

(updated 4-27-2018) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said Friday (April 27) that lake level is at 666 feet msl and the water temperature in the mornings been around the 50-degree range, up to 60 degrees by the end of the day. If you get back in the creeks you can find some upper-60-degree water on a nice warm day. The lake is 7 feet above pool so there is water in the bushes and there's a lot going on. The fish are starting to move up; some of the fish have moved up. The smallmouth are the first to spawn so they're the ones that are up right now. Anglers are catching a lot of smallmouth. At Del’s end of the lake the water from the rain they had has pretty much cleared up. You can catch some fish right now dragging a Ned Head with either green pumpkin or in natural colors. If you're in the clear water go halfway back in the creek or right outside a spawning pocket, put the trolling motor down and you're going to run into them somewhere, anywhere around the bushes. Senkos are working, or flukes, depending on what you prefer. If you like to flip the bushes, Del says he’s throwing a beaver, keeping the boat at 20 feet and just going through and casting it up in between right around the bushes and dragging it back real slow, the slower the better. Some days are better than others depending on the weather. If you do get some dirty water, if you want to go back into the creek, it seems like the largemouth are just starting to stage up. Some of them are up in there roaming around. The bucks have move again. You can catch a bunch of them on that Senko or shaky head. Del’s been using a shaky head and catching a lot of fish on either green pumpkin, if the water’s dirty, or watermelon red or all that natural stuff. If the sun's out, Del says, he likes the watermelon red. If it's a little dirty you throw the green pumpkin. If you get into dirty water and you’ve got a ton of wind you can throw a spinnerbait and pick up a few. That's been kind of hit or miss. The shad that moved up, Del says, pretty much got eaten up pretty quick. So the shad that are in the backs are kind of sporadic, but if you do get in real skinny water you can find some of those starting to pick a few fish off docks with either a jig or rolling the swimbait in front of it. You also have the Keitech. You can slow-roll this Keitech on the outside of the bushes, or inside of the bushes, however you want to do that. If the water is a little clearer you can pull some fish on that. And finally, he notes, anglers are starting to catch a few on a topwater or any of the little walk-the-dog-style baits. That's not full-fledged on yet but that's getting close. When you get into these areas, there are little flurries of activity here and there if you get the bait in there, so you can get one that way. As these temps come up, fishing will start to get a little easier. A couple of these days they got 20-fish, 50-fish, 40-fish days. It's that time of the year to get out. Remember, the dock will hold its last regular tournament of the spring season May 5, the Big John Tournament. Call the number on the website linked above for more information. Anglers need to fish two tournaments to fish in the championship.

(updated 4-25-2018) K Dock Marina said the surface temperature was finally coming up over 48 degrees and was reading 56 degrees (April 25) at the marina. Warmer down the lake and in the coves. Should be great fishing this weekend. All species starting to turn on. If they can hit 60 degrees or higher, the crappie and bass should be up to the shoreline. Still dealing with lots of cold rain, but should be OK with the forecast of nothing but sun for the next five days. More and more crappie have been coming in off of brush piles in the coves from Beaver Creek to Bear Creek on the Arkansas line. Walleye will be moving up out of the deep water by this weekend. Hope to get to post some good reports by Friday. Let’s just hope that the Corps starts letting some water out this spring so we can use the boat launch again. Water level April 25 was 665.6 feet and rising (6.6 above normal). Water temperature now ranging 56-58 degrees. Water is clear to stained with little or no debris.

Norfork Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 562.69 feet msl (normal conservation pool: September-April 552.00 feet msl; April-September, 554.00 feet msl).

(updated 5-2-2018) Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters said it's starting to get warm and Norfork Lake fishing is picking up. The only problem they had was the full moon. On every full moon the stripers feed at night like deer and the bite is over very early after the sun comes up. That's a good thing for those anglers that like to fish the “night shift.” The only time that the stripers continue to bite is when the threadfin shad spawn, which will happen very soon. Threadfin spawn when the water temperature hits 65 degrees; the current temperature in the creeks is 62.5 degrees, so if this warming continues the shad should start spawning this coming weekend. Once the shad spawn, the stripers will move to the shore and start feeding heavy. With the water in the buckbrush the shad will spawn on the brush and the stripers, hybrids, black bass and white bass will all be chasing the bait. It is the most fun time of the year. Stripers will feeding heavy and shallow. Topwater, swimbaits and live bait will all produce limits of fish. Start looking half way up the creeks, all the creeks will have shad spawning. The main lake will be a little later but they should start early next week on all the points all over the lake. May should be a great month this year for lots of action and limits of stripers.

(updated 5-2-2018) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said that as promised spring has arrived. The water temperature is rising and the lake is clearing up nicely. If you like stained water it is becoming harder to find. The forecast for the next 10 days looks like late spring-type weather, highs in the upper 70s and lows in the 50s and 60s. The best news is that the bite has started and will only get better. Crappie and bass have started to spawn. Topwater has definitely started for largemouth and spotted bass. Shad should spawn any day now, so everything will heat up. Lou says, “I am getting excited!”
If you are looking for topwater action, it has started. Be on the lake as the sun starts to rise and the largemouth bass will start erupting. Head back into coves and the major and secondary creeks until you start seeing the shad on your graph, typically in about 20-25 feet of water. Lou was in an area a little before sunrise and started throwing a Smithwick Rogue up to and inside of the shoreline brush. Lou would jerk twice and let it sit for about 10 seconds. As soon as Lou started to crank his reel, a bass would hammer it. As the sun started to rise Lou could see the shad starting to flip on the surface and then the feeding frenzy started. Lou started casting a Zara Spook and had a blast. The topwater action only lasted about 30 minutes or until the sun got above the tree tops then the fish shut down. Lou moved to a different creek and in the similar-type area found shad jumping out of the water. Could not see any fish so Lou switched to a Kastmaster (blade-type bait) and casted into the shad and let it sink about 10 feet down. Lou’s retrieval method was jerk, pause, reel, and then start over again back to the boat. This method was very productive for bass and hybrid bass. The fish were right outside of the sunken brush. Tuesday a guest found good topwater action at noon then again later in the day in the same creeks as Lou had fished the day before. Things are really starting to heat up.
Crappie are currently spawning and can be caught close to the shoreline, anywhere from 3 feet to 10 feet of water. Small jigs tipped with a minnow are working great. Cast your jig next to the sunken brush and let it sink. Work your bait along the bottom very slowly and the crappie will suck it in. One of Lou’s guests had a basket full at the dock that he had caught earlier. Flathead, walleye and big white bass are also in the creeks. Fifteen to 25 feet of water is the magic depth for these species. Vertical-jigging with a spoon has been working great. Lou has been using a ½- to ¾-ounce spoon. The fish will mainly be on the bottom, but some of the big schools of whites are suspended 10-15 feet down. Shad are really close to their first spawn of the year. Once the spawn begins you will start seeing the fish come out of the creeks and move to the main lake points. But don't ignore the creeks as there will also be shad spawning in the sunken brush all over the lake.
Norfork Lake level is fairly stable. The lake surface water temperature is rising and is in the low to mid-60s. The main lake and most creeks are clear. You can still find some stained water way back in some of the creeks. The lake is in great shape. Lou says, “I think we can look forward to an exciting May fishing season.

Norfork Tailwater

(updated 5-2-2018) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake rose 2.8 feet to rest at 8.6 feet above seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 7.6 feet below the top of flood pool. On the Norfork, we had less generation and more wadable water. On the Norfork, 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 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 (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).
John also said about the Norfork, “The Norfork tailwater is my absolute favorite trout stream. I have fished most of the great rivers and creeks in the United States and I always come back to the Norfork and realize it is the best of all of them. For the past year (since the great flood it received on its headwaters) it has fished poorly. Because of my great love for it, I kept returning to see if it had healed. On my last trip to it I was glad to see that the Norfork was back.
“My wife, Lori, had a guide trip with a local lady that had been given the day with Lori for Christmas. She decided to fish on the Norfork because the wading is much easier there. I tagged along so that I could see how the Norfork was doing up close and personal. I also wanted to eat lunch with Lori at Heidi’s Ugly Cakes (the best Rueben ever).
“Lori and her client were going to start with a casting lesson and some basic instruction. They were then going to fish near the access. I opted to give them plenty of space so I walked far upstream into the catch-and-release section. This just happens to be some of my favorite water.
As I arrived, I noted only one other angler. I moved from spot to spot and caught nice trout everywhere I went. I walked far upstream to a hole where I have caught a lot of big trout. I was fishing a ruby midge suspended below a size 16 prince nymph. I hooked a big trout on my first cast. It took a huge run and I had to carefully wade to the bank of a nearby island so that I could quickly follow him on his run downstream. I was into the backing before I knew it. I took my time and finally landed it. I stopped and took a few pictures of the 20-inch Bonneville cutthroat that I had caught on the ruby midge. It is my biggest Bonny and I was excited to catch it; however, I was disappointed in my photography. It did not do the trout justice.
“I stayed in that spot for a while and I was catching fish at the end of the drift on the prince nymph, as it began to rise. I figured that the trout thought it was a caddis rising to the surface to hatch. I knew it was time for a hatch. I caught several nice trout there including a 19- and a 15-inch rainbow.
“I began working my way back downstream toward where Lori was working. As I made my way downstream, I ran into Scott, a friend of mine. He was fishing elk hair caddis over a pod of rising trout and having quite a bit of success. I stayed and chatted for a while and watched him land several. Lori was close by and doing well. I walked over and checked with her on how she was doing. There were rising trout in front of her and her client (a first-timer) was catching plenty on the Green Butt (my signature fly).
“I had to decide on whether to fish a dry fly or my Green Butt. It was hard to resist the Green Butt. I stayed nearby and landed several. We fished until noon and then loaded up and headed for Heidi’s for lunch. It had been a great day and it was a welcome relief to see my favorite trout stream fishing well again. The Norfork is back!”

Buffalo National River/Crooked Creek

(updated 5-2-2018) 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.