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Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report
May 23, 2018
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Below is the Arkansas Game and Fish Fishing Report May 23, 2018.


White River

(updated 5-23-2018) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) says the hot spot this week on the White River tailwaters of Bull Shoals Lake is just upstream from Cotter. A 27-inch German Brown was netted earlier this week by a 13-year-old trout-fishing intern, hooked with a green and orange jig between the Rainbow Bridge and the railroad bridge. Stick with those jigs, especially in the low, minimum flow generation we've been fishing for the past two weeks. Take a variety of colors (brown/orange, tri-olive, ginger, ginger/olive) and switch the bait when you see the trout are bored. Drifting a mid-sized sculpin (1.5 to 2 inches) has tempted many a brown trout to chase a line this week, drop it on the calm side of a rocky structure and wait. Bam. But we've had a day or two of very finicky fish; keep moving and you'll come across a deeper hole where you'll find a full house. Lower your weighted line with a bit of shrimp as close to the bottom as you can and you'll likely feel a tug before you reach the bottom. Shiny spoons (the blue/silver buoyant or Cleo) continue to work well. See you at the river.

(updated 5-23-2018) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) said the river clarity is good, with the water level being high in the afternoon and dropping low in the evening. There is some generation. The trout bite is excellent. Anglers are drifting with PowerBait or worms and shrimpies for the rainbows. Brown trout bite was poor this past week.

(updated 5-23-2018) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said last Friday that during the past week, they had a rain event producing about three-quarters of an inch in Cotter, warm temperatures and moderate winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals rose 3.6 feet to rest at 10 feet above seasonal power pool of 662 feet msl. This is 23 feet below the top of the flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock fell 1 foot to rest at seasonal power pool and 14.5 feet below the top of the flood pool. Beaver Lake fell 1.9 feet to rest at 6.5 feet above seasonal power pool and 2.1 feet below the top of flood pool. The White River had less generation and more wadable water. Norfork Lake rose 0.7 feet to rest at 10.4 feet above seasonal power pool of 556.7 feet msl and 14.8 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork 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 rise in the lakes due to our recent heavy rains, we can expect more generation in the near future.
The White has fished much better. The hot spot has been Rim Shoals. There are caddis coming off. The hot flies were olive Woolly Buggers (sizes 8, 10), Y2Ks (sizes 14, 12), prince nymphs (sizes 14), zebra midges (black with silver wire and silver bead or red with silver wire and silver bead sizes 16, 18), pheasant tails (sizes 14), ruby midges (sizes 18), root beer midges (sizes 18), pink and cerise San Juan worms (sizes 10), and sowbugs (sizes 16). Double-fly nymph rigs have been very effective (John’s current favorite is a size 14 red fox squirrel nymph with a size 18 ruby midge 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, “Years ago I had a yellow lab, Ellie, that was the ultimate fishing dog. On stream, she was my constant companion. She was great company and sat at my side as I fished. Everything would go well until the trout took a leap. It flipped her switch and she would launch into the river to retrieve the fish. I would yell ‘No, Ellie’ but it had little effect. She passed away about five years ago and I got another yellow lab, Tilley, that I hoped to make my fishing dog.
“My wife, Lori, wanted to make her a show dog and asked if I would wait a while to see how she would do in the ring. She feared that Tilley would be injured and would not be able to show if she accompanied me on stream. Tilley has turned out to be a spectacular show dog. She has her championship and is well on her way to be a grand championship. In the meantime, she has picked up 10 obedience and rally titles. Tilley is one of the best performance dogs I have ever seen and would make a great fishing dog. The problem is that Lori is unwilling to let her retire from the ring just yet and wants to see how far she can go.
“About a year ago we acquired another lab, Ghillie (the Scottish term for fishing guide). He is a black male and the exact opposite of Tillie. She is small, dainty and laid back. He is a big bruiser of a dog. He is definitely an alpha and is always getting into some kind of trouble, like eating a red bud tree or an antique oak table. He is ADHD and definitely too exuberant for genteel company. Lori has spent most of the year trying to train him to be obedient, with little success. I have nicknamed him, The Prince of Darkness.
“Since I could not develop Tilley as a fishing dog, I thought it would be a good idea to see if Ghillie had any hidden talents as a fishing dog. I knew that he was a bit too wild to be used for wade trips because I feared that he would interfere with the fishing of other anglers. I decided to try him out fishing from my river boat. I often see other anglers floating down the river with a dog in their boat. Lori went with us to see if she could control him while I fished. We put a personal flotation device (PFD) on him despite the fact that he swims like a beaver. The PFD has a handle on the back so that if he jumped from the boat we could pull him back it. At 85 pounds he is not easy to lift.
“We began our trip by launching my river boat, loading Lori and Ghillie in, and motoring upstream. As I began my drift, Ghillie didn’t know what to expect. About that time, I hooked a solid 16-inch rainbow that took a spectacular leap out of the water. He went nuts. It was all Lori could do to keep him from leaping in the water to get the trout. When I landed it, I let Ghillie take a good look at it and sniff it real good. For the rest of the day, he carefully watched the strike indicator and was very observant when I fought and landed the trout. If the action slowed down and I wasn’t catching fish, he barked.
“I decided that it might be a while before he is ready to accompany me on my fishing trips. I don’t mind so much, but Lori was unable to fish because she was too busy handling him.”

Bull Shoals Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 672.22 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl).

(updated 5-23-2018) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said 672, water temp 76 in morning up to 85 in the backs of some of the creeks dpending on where you’re at in the lake. Now the bite’s been pretty good. A lot of things are working, we still have solme fish spawning  out on the lake. A lot of fish have moved out oir are post-spawn. If you’ve got a Senko, you can fish it wacky style or Texas-rigged, getting it through the bushes, fishing it with braided line and a fluorocarbon leader. That’s catching a lot of fish. If the fish get active coming out of those spawning pockets, you can throw a topwater. If there is a bunch of isolated bushes or wood, a popper’s working. Early in the morning there’s a great little topwater bite, and almost all day depending on where you’re at. Del is throwing a Lucky Craft Gunfish, and that’s been very productive over the last couple of weeks. “These are just a couple of things that work for me,” Del says. “If you like a Zara Spook, throw a Zara Spook.” If you go into the backs of creeks and the flats, they did get a little bit of rain and a little bit of dirty water coming in. You can do a couple of different things. Catching a few on a spinnerbait back in the flats, covering water. If you have some clouds, if you have some wind, that definitely helps that spinnerbait bite. Depending on the color of the water, you can change up the color of your spinnerbait. Now, those post-spawn fish, if you’r moving out, the smallout are starting to move out on those humps. The females are out on the deeper water already. Those islands, those humps, those long points, Bull Shoals has 13 feet of extra water in the lake right now. So, you can drag a tube if you like to drag a tube, or you can throw a swimbait over the tops of those, depending on the day. Del likes a flashy if there is a little bit of wind, a little bit of cloud cover. Otherwise he’ll just use a quarter-ounce head and slow-roll it over the tops of the bushes, keeping the boat just outside the old shoreline and throwing it in there. Now, if you move out you can hit the channel swing banks. On the steeper banks, you can pick up a few fish on a jig. Anything green pumpkin: green pumpkin orange, green pumpkin blue is working. That will help you get a couple more fish in the boat. It’s one of the baits you always want to have tied on when you’re fishing Bull Shoals Lake. Now, as the water temp increases there’s a good topwater bite if you’re looking for a big one. The conditions are right, they really seem to be moving. Del says he’s starting to catch some fish on the Whopper Plopper. Up around the bushes, up on the steeper banks, they seem to be holding, About halfway back, any of thoe channel swing banks that transition from deep water to rock or deep water to gravel, that’s what you’re keying in on. And there’s a little bit of a frog bite starting up. Starting to catch a few on a frog and that’ll get better as time goes on. And a buzzbait. I prefer to throw a buzzbait up around the docks, especially when the sun’s out. There are a bunch of fish around docks right now, so if you come across a dock, make sure you fire a few in there.

Norfork Lake

As of Tuesday night, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 565.35 feet msl (normal conservation pool: September-April 552.00 feet msl; April-September, 554.00 feet msl).

(updated 5-23-2018) Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters said the fishing on Norfork Lake continues to improve. The shad are still spawning and the stripers are on a very early morning bite. Tom says they are catching stripers as soon as they get a bait in the water, somewhere around 5 a.m. The bite does not last long and is usually over by 7 a.m. Tom is seeing a shift in the bite due to the hot May weather. This past week he boated over 35 stripers in three days, but the weekend with the boat traffic and people fishing slowed the bite. What's now happening is the stripers are beginning to feed heavy on crawdads and this means they are very shallow, then they are moving to deep water. Tom says he has yet to find a consistent deep-water bite, but it's only a matter of time and you will catch them later in the morning. Right now Tom and his guests are catching them on weighted floats set a 15 feet and 30 feet, long lines with split shots and planer boards with the bait 20 feet behind the board. The odd thing this past week is where he has been catching them, Tom says – normally it has been off the points but they found large schools of male stripers in waters 90-140 feet feeding on shad before and shortly after light. There is some topwater action but it does not last long. Start looking at Robinson Point in the 20-30 feet of water range near the bottom. The stripers will be feeding on crawdads. Start very shallow, then continue to move out till you find them. This pattern will occur all over the lake as the water continues to warm. They are near or at the 80-degree water temperature all over the lake. The lake is also being drawn down a few inches every day, so start planning on switching to a full summer pattern within the next week or so.

(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.

Norfork Tailwater

(updated 5-23-2018) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake rose 0.7 feet to rest at 10.4 feet above seasonal power pool of 556.7 feet msl and 14.8 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork 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 rise in the lakes due to our recent heavy rains, we can expect more generation in the near future. The water 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 lately has been a red fox squirrel nymph with a ruby midge dropper. Dry Run Creek has cleared and 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).
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 says, “The conditions for fishing on the river have been near perfect lately. The weather has been warm with little rain and light and variable winds. There has been plenty of low water and the caddis have been hatching. The Norfork tailwater, which suffered so much from a dramatic flood, last year, has recovered and is fishing well. It doesn’t get much better than this. My wife, Lori, and I have been on the river every chance we get. We are both fly fishing guides and spend a lot of time on the water but we do not get many opportunities to fish ourselves. The past couple of weeks have been the exception.
“To say that Lori is an accomplished angler is an understatement. She approaches every drift with an intensity that is amazing. She has been on fire of late catching trout after trout. When I fish with her we never seem to tangle our lines or lose flies. We normally carry two boat nets so that we can net our own fish. The only time we assist each other in the netting process is when one of us has a particularly large trout and need some help. This is normally a 20-inch-or-better trout.
“We have mostly been fishing on the White River at Rim Shoals. This has long been a favorite of ours. It is near our house in Cotter, has a great ramp with port-a-potties and picnic tables and is a Catch and Release section that has some trophy trout.
“I usually leave the house before Lori. I get the boat set up, rig the rods and launch. She normally arrives about the time I get in the water and am ready to go. We begin drifting immediately. Lately we have been fishing double fly nymph rigs under a strike indicator. The lead fly is my red fox squirrel and copper. This is tied on a scud hook in size fourteen with a copper bead and copper wire rib. The body is dubbed with red fox squirrel belly fur. It is a great caddis pattern that can also imitate a scud. The dropper has been a ruby midge in size eighteen. This has been my top producer for the past few years. There are several variations on this fly but I use the original pattern tied by David Knowles. We have been catching most of our trout on the ruby. I found this to be a bit of a paradox. I suspected that with the caddis coming off the trout would key on the caddis fly.
“I find that all I need is to catch ten or twelve fish. Lori on the other hand wants to catch them all. I generally quit fishing when I have caught a dozen and run the boat for Lori and watch her fish. I probably enjoy this more than anything. We fish until it is time to check on our dogs, Tilley and Ghillie. We cherish these days on the river. Now is the time to get out there.”

Buffalo National River/Crooked Creek

(updated 5-23-2018) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said the Buffalo National River and Crooked Creek are navigable. 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.