Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report
May 16, 2018
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Below is the Arkansas Game and Fish Fishing Report May 16, 2018.

White River

(updated 5-16-2018) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) says, “The heat is on. We just put away our long johns and have jumped right into hot weather togs and flip-flops with daily temperatures in the high 80s. Keep the sunscreen applied to your skin, but away from your trout bait and fishing gear; near as we can tell, trout are as repelled by sunscreen as are the UV rays.” To attract the trout, tie on a tri-olive Zig Jig – 1/8 ounce is best – and jiggle it just above the bottom, which is easy to see with minimum flow levels being offered throughout most of each day. Scented baits (garlic "flavored" PowerBait works fine) will increase your skill at reeling in those healthy, growing rainbows they’ve been blessed with. They’ve been seeing spectacular action between the U.S. Highway 62 bridge and just below Wildcat Shoals. Bull Shoals Dam has been releasing water late in the afternoon and, in the Cotter area, they’ve been seeing the rise just at day's end, which is always a great time to fish from the shore. Tie on a red wiggler and catch a limit of pan-sized rainbows for supper.

(updated 5-16-2018) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) said the river level is up and down. No generators were running as last check. However, the past week, the overall trout bite was poor. Anglers were using PowerBait and corn. Very good reports, though, came on rainbows using drift rigs, PowerBait and shrimp.

(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.

Bull Shoals Lake

As of Tuesday night, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 672.01 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl).

(updated 5-9-2018) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said Friday (May 4) the lake’s coming up; it’s at 668 feet msl. They got a bunch of rain Thursday. The water temp is coming up to about 60 degrees, 70 degrees in some of the back of the creeks if they get a little sun throughout the day. “And this week is the week the next week they're gonna say you should have been here last week,” Del said. “Catching a lot of fish guys and the fish are out, they're spawning.” Depending on what you want to do. Smallmouth, if you go from the main lake halfway back in the creeks you can still drag a Ned Rig on the outside of the bushes. Look for the gravelly points and pockets. Or you can drag a worm around. The smallmouth seem to like that clear water, so if you're going to chase smallmouth around, stay toward the main lake. If you want to go chase largemouth about, he’s not saying that are not on the main Lake, but a majority of them are in those spawning pockets and the flats and the backs of the creeks. With the rain, they did get some color in the water, which definitely helped. You can throw a swimbait, like a little KeiTech Flashy. “The biggest thing, guys, is the fish the conditions,” Del said. “If it's laying flat and there's bluebirds, you're gonna have to downsize, grab the spinning rod, and do what you need to do. That’s not what everyone wants to hear but that's just sometimes what you need to do.” Largemouth and smallmouth are spawning. The carp are spawning and, all at the same time, everything just kind of came to life this past week. Now you can throw a Senko in the bushes. Del says, “What I am looking for is, I’m looking for the flat gravel banks, and there seems to be fish into bushes or off the neck off the point leading into the spawning pocket. So points and pockets as your run in the lake is kind of what you want to key in on. Now if you've got wind you can throw a spinnerbait. Or if you’ve got wind and clouds you can throw a topwater, topwaters are like crack, guys, I'm addicted to topwater as you can tell.” Del likes a Lucky Craft Gunfish, and he’s starting to pick up a few on buzzbaits. He also threw the Whopper Plopper around a little bit. He says that style is still coming, but you can catch some quality fish on it, though you won’t catch a lot of them now. If you're going in the bushes or around the bushes, you can flip a Beaver, a Frightened Frog, whatever you're comfortable with. If you guys want to drag a tube, that's working. You can pretty much throw anything in the bushes, it doesn't matter what it is right now. You just have to get it in there and get it out. Del also is throwing a jig on the last bit of deep water heading into the spawning pockets, a little heavy cover jig, natural colors are kind of what you want to stick with. And he’s also skipping around the docks, the front of the docks and underneath the catwalks, underneath the docks. Some of those fish are spawning around there, too. “So get out there, spend a little time on the water, and you're gonna catch some fish. It's that time of year where everything's going.”

Norfork Lake

As of Tuesday night, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 565.38 feet msl (normal conservation pool: September-April 552.00 feet msl; April-September, 554.00 feet msl).

(updated 5-16-2018) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said the bite for all species on Norfork Lake has been outstanding for the last week. The lake has finally stabilized, the weather has stabilized, the threadfin shad are spawning and the surface water temperature has reached the 70s. Perfect fishing conditions. Striped bass, hybrid bass and white bass fishing has been very good over the last seven days. The best bite has been from the start of dawn until the sun gets above the tree line. The same holds true for the evening bite, which is just before sunset until it becomes dark. With the shad spawn ongoing, using live bait has been excellent. Lou says he’s mainly been using free swimming shad. He either pitches the bait up close to the shore and lets it swim or he has been slowly moving with a free swimming bait behind the boat while still staying in 20 feet or less of water. Main lake points that have a lot of sunken brush seem to be holding the most fish. There has been good topwater action for these species throughout the week. It may not be consistent in a certain location, but the stripers are coming up somewhere on the lake in the early morning and late in the day. Artificial baits that are working with Lou’s old standby method of walking the dog, are topwater baits, paddle tail swimbaits, flukes and blade-type baits.
Lou says the largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass bite has also been excellent. The shad spawn, as well as their own spawn, has been ongoing. The largemouth and spotted bass are inside of the sunken shoreline brush or just on the outside edge of the brush in the same locations as the striped and hybrid bass. Live bait is working excellent. Artificial baits that are producing some nice fish are a topwater bait worked on top of the brush, but one of the best bites is with a fluke-type bait. Cast your fluke inside of the brush and just give it little twitches and watch the bass come up and hammer the bait. Plastics, such as a lizard with no weight or very little weight, are also producing. A good color at this time is a dark green with some flakes in it. Crappie fishing has also been good. Most of this species have spawned, but there are still a few that are full of eggs. A great place to catch crappie in the middle of the day is under a covered dock that has some sort of underwater cover. Live minnows are working the best, but small plastic jigs are also producing some nice fish. The crappie are also moving back to the brush. Look for brush in 20-25 feet of water and there will be fish. Norfork Lake has finally stabilized and is actually falling slightly with two generators being run for approximately half of the day. The current level is 565.53 feet msl. The surface water temperature has risen to the mid-70s and if the high daytime temperature continues, the water temperature will continue to rise. Currently our air temperatures have been in the upper 80s to maybe the low 90s during the day and the mid-to-upper 60s at night. The water is clear for most of the lake with a slight stain in some of the creeks and coves.

(updated 5-16-2018) Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters said the Norfork Lake weather is starting to feel like summer and the striper fishing is really 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 they have caught limits the last five days and he expects it just get better and better. They are fishing within 50 yards of the shore using long lines and planer boards. They caught a 20-pound striper earlier this week on planer board using 5-inch gizzard shad. The striper was released for another person to catch another day. 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’s 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 early morning bite stops. “If you're interested in catching a striper, both Sean and I have open dates the later part of this week. We both expect some great action as the lake warms up,” he says. The last rain raised the lake 3 inches 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 this year for lots of action and limits of stripers.

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 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.