Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report
May 9, 2018
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Below is the Arkansas Game and Fish Fishing Report May 9, 2018.

White River

(updated 5-9-2018) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) says that from Wildcat Shoals to the top of Buffalo Shoals, White River anglers have been rewarded with scores of fish every day this past week, fishing upstream or down from Cotter. The big winner this week was the blue and silver, ¼-ounce Buoyant Spoon, followed closely by the tri-olive Zig Jig – the 1/8-ounce jig has been more successful when the water level remains under the equivalent of two generators. Water releases from Bull Shoals Dam have been nearly the same each day for almost a week now, so we might be tempted to believe a pattern is developing: a smooth, steady flow of just under one generator, about 2,600 cfs all day until evening when an extra two generators are sent downstream for three or four hours. “We'll enjoy the routine for as long as it is offered because the trout fishing has been phenomenal, the catches healthy and the cold water refreshing as the air temperatures begin to reach into the mid-80s. Come to the river and discover your little haven of serenity. We'll help you find your way there.

(updated 5-9-2018) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) said the water is good for fishing. The river is clear with a level ranging normal to low. There have been one to three generators running the past week. The trout bite is good. Anglers are using PowerBait and corn, as well as a river rig. Rainbows in the 12-14-inch range are being caught drift fishing with river rigs. The browns are slow, but some in the 16-18-inch range were being caught.

(updated 5-9-2018) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said last Saturday that during the past week, they have had a rain event that produced about 2¼ inches, warm temperatures and heavy winds (to include lake wind advisories). The lake level at Bull Shoals rose 2.1 feet to rest at 7.8 feet above seasonal power pool of 660.6 feet msl. This is 26.6 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock rose 2.3 feet to rest at 1.5 feet above seasonal power pool and 13.5 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake rose 2.1 feet to rest at 8.4 feet above seasonal power pool and 0.2 feet below the top of flood pool. On the White, we had less generation and more 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 current 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 soles that are easier to clean and are not as likely to harbor didymo.
John also said, “A couple of weeks ago I had a guide trip with a father and son. The dad was a student in the fly-fishing class my wife, Lori, and I teach at ASU. His son was visiting from California and is an avid fly-fisher. The day we chose was pretty tough. The high was to be around 60 degrees (I don’t think it ever made it) with 15-20 mph winds, and it rained heavily all day long. Fortunately, they were running about one full generator, which has been a productive level. In addition, there had been some decent caddis hatches in the area.
“I got up early and watched the weather forecast. As a result, I chose my clothing for the day with great care. I started with polypropylene long underwear (top and bottom) I added a pair of quick-drying fishing pants, a tightly woven wool sweater and a fleece jacket. I put on heavy wool wading socks and my knee high muck boots. Over all of this I wore a pair of bib rain pants and a hooded rain jacket. A pair of fingerless wool gloves and a long-billed ball cap (to keep the rain off of my glasses) finished my ensemble.
“It was a cool start at about 40 degrees. There was no sun, but we had a stout wind and driving rain. I was comfortable and took a few minutes to rig their fly rods. On one, I used a prince nymph below a cerise San Juan worm (I always fish worms when it is raining). On the other rod I put a red fox squirrel and copper fly under a prince nymph. I always start with two different rigs and then wait and see which is working best.
“We began fishing and quickly learned that the red fox squirrel and copper was the hot fly. We were catching good trout on just about every drift. The rain was unrelenting. I spent most of my time netting trout and bailing the boat. Around 10:30 a.m., we motored over to the ramp to use the porta-potty. As I was getting back in the boat, I noticed the rain water in the boat was ankle deep, despite my near constant bailing. My boat net was floating and as I moved to the rear of the boat I tripped over it and fell into the river.
“This is the first time in 25 years of guiding that I have fallen out of the boat. I was lucky. I was near the bank and went into water that was about 2 feet deep and somehow managed to not hit any rocks. It took me a minute to get back on my feet. I was soaked to the skin.
“My clients rushed over and helped me get to the bank. They figured the day was over and asked if I wanted to quit and go home. I was a bit damp and uncomfortable but I thought that I could finish the day. They were amazed. I am tougher than I look. I wiped off my glasses, climbed back into the boat and started fishing again.
“We ate lunch in my Suburban to get out of the rain. I ran the heater and actually dried out a bit. I found a dry pair of fingerless gloves and switched out my wet ones. I had a Yeti tumbler filled with hot coffee that helped a lot. I was cold but by no means out of the game. My clothing choices had been right on. The polypropylene long underwear wicked moisture away from my body and the wool socks, gloves and sweater kept me warm, even though it was soaked.
“We fished until 4 and ended up with about 30 trout. It never quit raining and we never saw the sun. I had a mishap but I did not let it disturb my guide trip. Life is good!”

Bull Shoals Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 670.57 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.

Norfork Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 565.41 feet msl (normal conservation pool: September-April 552.00 feet msl; April-September, 554.00 feet msl).

(updated 5-9-2018) Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters said the Norfork Lake weather is starting to feel like summer and the striper fishing is turning on. The shad have not spawned yet but they are very close, though it may still be a few days. The topwater bite is very sporadic right now. As the shad move to the shore the topwater bite will turn on. Tom says his groups have caught limits the last five days and he expects it just to get better. They are fishing within 50 yards off the shore using long lines and planer boards. “We caught a 20-pound striper today on planer board using 5-inch gizzard shad. The striper was released for another person,” he said. The striper bite is now all over the lake. Find a point before light and use a swimbait until light, then try a topwater lure. If you have no hits within 15 minutes, move to the next point. Once the sun comes up the bite is over unless you're using live bait, then you can catch fish up to 9 o'clock. Tom says he has been fishing mostly long lines with a small split shot. As it gets lighter and the sun comes up, he will let out over 100 feet of line on the two back poles and 75 feet on my side poles. This had been very effective catching stripers once the bite stops. If you're interested in catching a striper, Tom says that both his son Sean and Tom have open dates the later part of this week. “We both expect some great action as the lake warms up,” Tom says. The last rain raised the lake 3 feet but the main lake is crystal clear and should stay that way. There is a mud line way up the creeks but it is clearing up as it moves to the main lake. May should be a great month for lots of action and limits of stripers.

(updated 5-9-2018) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said Norfork Lake's spring fishing season is currently on fire. Topwater action has started for largemouth and smallmouth bass, white bass, striped bass and hybrid bass. Threadfin shad started to spawn several days ago and this got all the predator fish very energized. Fish are shallow inside of sunken buck brush in 3-20 feet of water. You cannot ask for a better time to fish Norfork Lake. It is very exciting. The striped and hybrid bass bite is improving daily. Fish are being caught by several different methods of fishing. Live bait has been productive by casting out a threadfin shad, gizzard shad or shiner with no weight or just a very small split shot. Topwater baits such as a Zara Spook are working very well during towwater activity as is casting a lure next to the buckbrush and calling the fish up. Soft plastics such as flukes or swimbaits are also catching some nice-size stripers. Among the best fishing times for striped bass areis from about one hour before daybreak through 8 to 9 a.m., if it's a sunny day. It might last longer if the day is cloudy and/or rainy. During the afternoon and evening hours it appears the fish are out in deeper water. At times you can find a school that is feeding on shad on the surface, in the middle of the lake. Tuesday, fishing was good all over the lake. Lou said he knows of four different areas that were producing striped bass for many fishermen and/or women. Lake flats in 15-25 feet of water, main lake points with sunken brush on it, and toward the backs of creeks and large coves. Topwater action has been fun, but it does not necessarily mean that they will come up in the same area every day.
Lou says the largemouth and smallmouth bass bite has been excellent. Some of the bass have spawned and others are on the beds and still others are staging. It is a really fun time to fish for bass on Norfork Lake. Topwater baits are some of the favorite baits being used. The old stand-by soft plastic worked along the bottom in 8-20 feet of water is catching fish. With the higher-water level, creature type baits are working, being cast right in front of the sunken buckbrush. Let the bait sink and typically a bass will ambush the bait before it hits the bottom. Bass are being caught all over the lake with points in creeks and coves being some of the best spots. The white bass bite is still very good. There has been some great topwater action for the whites in the morning and evenings. Topwater baits, blade-type baits and spoons are catching some nice fish. Flats and back in the creeks are great areas to look. Walleye are being caught early and late in the day. They are located with most of the other predators, close to the sunken brush on the shore feeding on shad. The lake level is rising very slowly, maybe 1-2 inches per day. There has been power generation daily, but only for about 6 hours a day. The overall lake is very clear. “Today I was sitting in 20 feet of water watching fish swim by on the bottom. You may find some stained water in some of the creeks and coves, but not much. The surface water temperature is rising. Today it started out in the high 60s and rose to the low 70s during the day,” he said.

Norfork Tailwater

(updated 5-9-2018) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake rose 5.6 feet to rest at 11.2 feet above seasonal power pool of 555.3 feet msl and 13.5 feet below the top of flood pool. On the Norfork, we had less generation and more 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 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 red fox squirrel nymph with a ruby midge dropper. Dry Run Creek has cleared but it is fishing better. 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 5-9-2018) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said the Buffalo National River and Crooked Creek are stained. As the water warms, the smallmouths will be more active. My 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.