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Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

October 31, 2018

More reports and other videos are on the Cotter Trout Dock Youtube Channel Page.
Below is the Arkansas Game and Fish Fishing Report October 31, 2018.

White River

(updated 10-31-2018) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) says the temperatures here in the Arkansas Ozarks ranged from the high-30s to the mid 80s this week, with a cold and rainy day thrown in, made little difference to the trout. The browns are cagey right now. It'll take a fresh minnow or a mid-size (2-inch) sculpin to lure them on the
days they're biting. The rainbow bite remains active as always. You can count on yellow and/or orange egg pattern bait with a smidgen of shrimp on the barb of your hook. Jigs, both Maribou and White River Zig Jigs, have produced nice catches. You'll need to experiment with colors to find out what interests the trout at the time you're on the river, but generally olive green is a good starting place. Try orange-and-brown or ginger-and-orange if olive doesn't catch as many as you'd like. These same colors are perfect for fly-fishing using Woolly Buggers. Add some flash for the curious browns. Above all, enjoy the time spent angling on the White.

(updated 10-31-2018) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) said the river clarity continues to run clear, while the level is low with minimum flow. That’s good for rainbows, but bad for browns. Hence, results were good with rainbow catching but few reports on browns. When there are seagulls before January/February there typically are no browns biting.

(updated 10-31-2018) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said last Friday that during the past week they had a few rain events (an inch and a quarter in Cotter), cooler temperatures and moderate winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals fell 0.5 feet to rest at 4.5 feet below seasonal power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 40.5 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock rose 0.1 feet to rest at 4.8 feet below seasonal power pool and 18.8 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell 0.1 feet to rest at 3 feet below seasonal power pool and 12.6 feet below the top of flood pool. The White River no wadable water. Norfork Lake 0.2 feet to rest at 2.4 feet below seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 28.6 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork wadable water every day. 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 well below the top of power pool. The White has fished well. The hot spot has been Rim Shoals. They are still hitting grasshoppers for some nice topwater action. 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 combination is a bead-head pheasant tail nymph (size 14) with a ruby midge (size 18) suspended below it. Use lead to get your flies down.
John also said this about getting hooked while fishing, and a good lesson he picked up a while back: “I was netting a trout on a guide trip this week. I was trying to get a size 18 ruby midge out of the fish’s mouth when it rolled and it caused the lead fly, a size 14 flashback bead-head pheasant tail nymph, to impale my finger. It sunk into my skin down to the hook bend. If it had been a barbed hook I would have been in trouble. Fortunately, I always fish barbless no matter where I am. This situation reminded me of a similar occasion that occurred a few years ago that involved a big barbed hook.
“My wife, Lori, and I were fishing on the Norfork with her sister, Terri, and Terri’s husband, Larry. They were running about a quarter of a unit and we had waded up to Charley’s Island, which is upstream of the Ackerman Access. We were fishing the side channel on the access side of the island. It was absolutely loaded with trout and we were catching them nonstop. We were in constant doubles and triples, and occasionally all four of us were hooked up. We were fishing olive Woolly Buggers and it was working.
“During this fish fest, Lori broke off a big trout. She was tying on a new fly when she stumbled in the swift current. She did not fall but she managed to impale herself with the new Woolly Bugger in the meaty portion of her left hand. She had not pinched down the barb yet. She had this big fly hanging from her hand and didn’t want to stop fishing.
“I suggested that we try and remove the fly and she said that it didn’t bother her and she would have it removed later. I told her that she was crazy and to wade over to the island where I would remove it. Terri and Larry continued fishing although they did look over our way from time to time to see how things were going.
“A lot of folks take situations like this to the emergency room. In fact, there is a glass case hanging on the wall of the waiting room there that is full of various lures and flies that have been removed from anglers over the years. I had recently read an article about an easy field expedient. I wrapped a piece of heavy tippet (2X) around the bend of the hook. I pushed down on the eye of the hook in order to disengage the barb. Then I jerked the tippet wrapped around the bend of the hook. The fly came out easily. Lori didn’t scream with pain. In fact, she said that she didn’t feel a thing. It did not bleed much. We took a moment to tie the Woolly Bugger on Lori’s line and then we returned to the water to continue fishing. When we got back to the car at the end of the day, we put antiseptic cream and a small bandage on her hand. She felt fine.
“I tried a new way to remove a barbed hook and it worked. Life is good!”

Bull Shoals Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 384.48 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl).

(updated 10-17-2018) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said they’ve had some big weather come in. This cold front will hopefully get those fish moving a little more. It’s been kind of stagnant. The Army Corps of Engineers are running a little water at the dam (dropping the lake about 4 feet) and the days are getting shorter. These fish are starting the move up. As the temperature cools off these fish are starting to get a little more comfortable coming up shallow, so day in and day out don't forget to check the shallow part. The fish for me have been following into the creeks arms, the bigger creek arms, following the channels going in those bass seem to be keyed in on the shad. If you’re around the shad you’re going to be around the fish. But the key is just keep moving, chucking and winding. It’s power fishing time of year; so, if you put in the work, it'll pay off. Just don't be afraid to move. In the morning starting off, there's a topwater bite. Either throwing a Lucky Craft or Sammy, a buzzbait if there's some wind. If there's a little more wind you can throw the Whopper Plopper. That morning bite, if it's windy and cloudy all day you can stay and throw topwater all day. If it lays flat on you, you're going to have to mix it up, obviously. Going into the creeks and following the channel swing banks, sides of points with wind on them, the big key is to stay in the wind. If you're in the wind you're going to get bit. The square bill is catching some fish. Obviously those fish are a little bit shallower. The jig bite is producing. Green pumpkin or green pumpkin orange, some shad or crawdads. If it does lay flat and if you get some sun, you can still catch them drop-shotting deep up around the docks, hot on the points. The fish seem to be still in that 26-28 feet range. Those are mostly Kentucky bass with some smallmouth bass mixed in. We have been catching quite a few smallmouth even up shallow. If it’s super windy, throw a spinnerbait. The spinnerbaits are starting the work, but you need to have a lot of wind for that the work.

Norfork Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 551.45 feet msl (normal conservation pool: September-April 552.00 feet msl; April-September, 554.00 feet msl).

(updated 10-24-2018) Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters said Norfork Lake's striper bite has been uneven this week. “Last weekend we were catching limits of stripers around School Bus Point and Reynolds Island. The big storm we had on Sunday and cold snap that followed blew all the stripers out of the area. I fished Monday there and did mark many fish and only caught catfish and white bass. I moved back to the state line area and hooked up with seven bites on the first trip. The next day we had fog and only caught one and missed a couple more.” Tom says he has been catching stripers there every day. “One trip, I took my clients up where we only caught and released bigger stripers. We hooked up with a fat 18-pound striper that gave the client a good fight and great picture. It was returned to fight again.” The stripers are moving down from Udall. The water up there is 61 degrees, whereas the state line area it’s 67 degrees. Tom said both he and son Sean fished that area Saturday and boated three quality stripers plus a few smaller ones. The cold snap has driven most of the shad out of the shallows but the upper part of the lake had plenty of bait, he said. As long as the shad stays in the area, the stripers will continue to feed and be catchable.
Tom says the lake temperature continues to drop and will be in the 60s all over the lake by the end of this week. The crappie bite is very strong on the deep brush piles, and limits are being caught using a small spoon or minnows. The bass bite is also very strong all over the lake. “Greg Weinmann at Hand Cove Resort tells me there has been a fair topwater bite most days recently,” Tom says. “The best has been near and into the entrances of Big and Brushy creeks.” As the water continues to cool, the bait is schooling up and has moved shallower water in the mouths of the creeks. Check Big Creek if you're on the lower end of the lake and Robinson Point, Float and Panther Creeks in the mid-lake area. The Fouts area will begin holding fish along with areas from Red Bank to the Highway 160 bridge. Find the shad and you will find the stripers. They will be hungry and begin their fall feeding pattern.

(updated 10-24-2018) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said fall fishing on Norfork Lake is gearing up to be a great bite. Most species are biting really well, with big numbers being caught. You can have some great fishing times on Norfork Lake in October, November and December. Give Hummingbird Hideaway Resort a call to make your fall fishing vacation reservations at 870-492-5113. Lou says he is “kind of up in the air on what the best bite is, because crappie, largemouth, catfish and white bass are all biting really well. The slowest bite at this time is for striped bass, but (Tuesday) I did land two nice hybrids and two good striped bass on a nearby flat. Fishing is looking up for all species.”
Lou adds, “This time of year you are going to hear me talk a lot about vertical-jigging with a spoon. I really enjoy this type of fishing because you can catch any of the species on the lake with the same bait and many times in the same area. I tend to use a quarter-ounce spoon for crappie in and around brush piles with 4-pound test line. When I get into 20-30 feet of water I switch to a half-ounce spoon with 6-pound test line. Then when I am fishing in 30-plus feet of water I use a 3/4-ounce spoon on 8-pound test. I am a creature of habit and only use monofilament line, but I am hearing great things about P-line. When you find schooling, feeding fish, the color of the spoon really does not matter (in my opinion) as long as the predominant color on the spoon is white. I tend to use spoons that are all white, white with a chartreuse back, white with a green back, or white with a little red under the head.”
White bass have started to school and feed heavily on some of the nearby flats, he said. At daybreak Lou is finding white bass in 17 feet of water and as the sun rises they move into deeper water. Tuesday he was catching whites in 17 feet of water at 7 a.m., but by 9 a.m. he was catching them in 48 feet of water, but still in the same general area. He was vertical-jigging with a spoon. “I am not sure if it was luck or by chance, but at 8 a.m. I was fishing in 42 feet of water and the hybrids and stripers started to show up. I ended up landing four of them over the next hour along with many whites. I released all but one hybrid and a few white bass.” As the water continues to cool, all the species will move to the 30-50 feet depth, even at daybreak. You will start to find the stripers in very shallow water in the dark as the water cools. Look for a night bite for stripers and hybrids once the water temperature gets into the low 60s.
Lou says the bass bite continues to be good. All types of bait are working in different types of areas. You can still catch some very nice fish on crawlers in very shallow water. If you like to fish bluff lines, jig and pigs as well as worms are working by letting the bait fall down the rocks from 10-20 feet of water. Spinnerbaits are working along the bluff lines up very close to the rock. Bass are also coming up for topwater baits along the shallow sloping backs. Lou says he has caught a few nice bass 42 feet deep suspended in 70 feet of water close to a bluff. Most bass fisherman are telling him the ratio from short fish to keepers is about 60 percent shorts to 40 percent keepers, “not bad!” The crappie bite is also continuing to be very good. They are in brush from 25 feet to 40 feet of water. One day they might be buried in the brush, then the next day they are 10-20 feet down on top of the brush. Jigs are working with a spoon or a grub. Lou says he likes to tip a grub with a small minnow to increase the bite frequency. Catfish are also biting very well. Over the last week, Lou said, he had guests setting five jugs a night and on several occasions they had a nice fish on each. They were using cut bluegills for their bait and catching nice blues. While dock fishing for their bait a 10-pound blue hammered their small hook with a piece of nightcrawler.
Lou says he’s getting a lot of inquiries about the turnover of the lake. Based on the Norfork Lake's Striper Club temperature and dissolved oxygen readings done Oct. 20, the thermocline had dropped to somewhere between 55-60 feet. It will not be much longer until the total lake has turned over at all depths. This means the oxygen level is basically the same from surface to bottom, as is the water temperature. Norfork Lake's surface water temperature Tuesday morning was 68.5 degrees. The lake level is fairly stable and currently sits at 551.34 feet msl. The main lake is clear and some of the creeks and coves are somewhat stained.

Norfork Tailwater

(updated 10-31-2018) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said last weekend that over the previous week Norfork Lake 0.2 feet to rest at 2.4 feet below seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 28.6 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork wadable water every day. 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 well below the top of power pool. The Norfork has fished well. There have been some nice midge and sporadic caddis hatches that have provided some limited topwater action. Navigate this stream with caution as things have changed a bit over the past year. 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 is fishing much better. The browns have moved up into the creek. 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 sizes 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.

Buffalo National River/Crooked Creek

(updated 10-31-2018) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said the Buffalo National River and Crooked Creek are navigable. The smallmouths are still active, although the water is cooling. 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.