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Established 1954
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Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

November 21, 2018


Below is the Fishing Report from Arkansas Game and Fish.

White River

(updated 11-21-2018) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525), feeling the holiday mood and chill in the air, says, “Baby, it's cold outside. Wear plenty of warm clothes if you're going to be on the river early in the morning, then you can begin shedding them as the morning sun heats the surface air and the temps start to rise. A steady catch of rainbows has been keeping anglers busy during this week leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Several anglers have commented that they plan on adding trout to their Thanksgiving Day menu.” You can't beat the shrimp/power egg combo for netting the rainbows, they say. Because the brown spawn began earlier in the autumn, change up your color combination; try orange, sunrise, chartreuse and/or white. “We had lots of luck with the No. 5 countdowns this week – rainbow and gold/black were the winning lures. The brown bite remains tough, but if you tease them with a sculpin you might be rewarded with a hit.” Water levels are extremely low, with the only releases topping just 4,500 cfs and then only for a few hours a day; otherwise anglers are fishing minimum flow depth. “We might see some pulsing from the dam that is typical during the spawn. Good wading and/or bank fishing times. Layer up and come fishing!”

(updated 11-21-2018) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) said the river clarity continues to run clear, while the level is normal. The Corps has been running two generators at the dam. Rainbow trout fishing is excellent, they report. As for brown trout, one was caught out of two boats.

(updated 11-21-2018) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said last Friday that during the past week that they had a rain event (less than a quarter inches in Cotter), cold temperatures (to include winter weather advisories) and moderate winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals fell 0.6 feet to rest at 4.8 feet below seasonal power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 40.8 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock rose 0.2 feet to rest at 4.5 feet below seasonal power pool and 18.5 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake rose 0.5 feet to rest at 2.2 feet below seasonal power pool and 11.8 feet below the top of flood pool. The White River had no wadable water. Norfork Lake rose 0.6 feet to rest at 1.2 feet below seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 27.5 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork had 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 have been some blue-wing olive and some midge hatches (try a size 20 parachute Adams). 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 size 14 beadhead pheasant tail 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.

Bull Shoals Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 654.57 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl).

(updated 11-7-2018) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said the lake level is at 654 feet msl water temps around 64 degrees and fall has definitely showed up. The bite’s been hit or miss. It’s kind of power fishing, junk fishing 101. There’s not one set thing that's working. Go out and try and find the shad, cover water. There hasn't been any specific pattern that's been working for him, Del said. “The biggest thing I can tell you is fish the conditions, look for birds, you find the birds you'll see the shad. If it's laying flat you'll see a ton of shad up. I think the backs of these are starting to flip on us so it's gonna be hit or miss for us a little bit here.” Del said he expects things to pick up as the water temperature cools off a little bit. If the weather is windy, stormy or rainy, you can catch them on a spinnerbait bite now. If it's real windy and with dirty water the white spinnerbait is working. War Eagle Spinnerbait, if you’re getting into clear water, is working a little bit. Picking up a few fish on the Rock Crawler, so that bite should start getting a little better as the water cools off. Del said he likes to cover a lot of water and is throwing a square bill. Any shad or threadfin shad pattern seems to be working well, as is a Whopper Plopper. “We haven’t gotten that chaotic fall bite as of yet,” he said, “but it’s coming.” If the water is laying flat and you can see fish breaking, get in there early in the morning, there’s a good little topwater bite. If you know where there at you can get on them right away. Also, spoons that look like the bait fish – white, silver, anything that looks like the shad. Also, the jig. Del’s catching fish anywhere from 2 foot of water on gravel to 30 feet off the bluffs. There is definitely shad in the creeks, so that’s a good place to start. He also says he’s been catching a few walleye purely by accident on a spoon under the big schools of shad in the creeks, about 26-30 feet deep. “I can tell you that with all the 16- to 17-inch fish, next year should be stellar!” The lake is beautiful, you can come out and have the lake to yourself. There is lots of color.

Norfork Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 552.51 feet msl (normal conservation pool: September-April 552.00 feet msl; April-September, 554.00 feet msl).

(updated 11-21-2018) Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters said Norfork Lake's striper bite is going great. The stripers, hybrids and whites are in their late fall, early winter feed. If you want to catch a grand slam of stripers, hybrids and whites, now is the time. “I have been hunting all week,” Tom says, “but I had a client come down from the north and fish an area where I caught stripers the previous week. They were using shiners and spoons and caught their limit of stripers each day with a bonus of hybrids and whites.” The fish are still in the channel from the turn past Fout Marina to 6B; however, they are also being caught on the flats up near Cranfield Island, Howard Cove past Blue Lady, and the Fout area. The fish are feeding heavy on shad. The largemouth are also on the feed off the points. Float Creek will begin to hold fish as the water turns colder. Stripers tend to congregate near and in the four corners area of 5A. The stripers will stay in waters from 28-35 feet until the shad moves out toward Crystal Cove. Then you should find them in 40-60 feet of water. “We are using shad but shiners will be an effective substitute to shad. The best method is downlines set off the bottom about 2 feet. I also had one rod set about 20 feet down to catch the roving hybrids that are in the higher water column. Float and Panther Creeks should also hold stripers, plus Big Creek. Follow the same pattern, find the shad and the stripers are nearby.”
Tom says the crappie bite is very strong on the deep brush piles. Limits are being caught using a small spoon or minnows. The white bass bite is strong on the flats by Cranfield Island and the big flat around Fout using small spoons.

(updated 11-7-2018) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said, “Norfork Lake fall fishing sure can be a lot of fun. I will admit that if you want striped bass, hybrid bass and white bass you will spend some time looking for them, but once you find them it is well worth the time.” He says large schools of white bass are currently roaming the flats in the morning hours and during the day. They tend to move into deeper water late in the day and start to relate to points in the mouths of coves. Lou says he tends to fish many different areas of the lake looking for fish in order to try to help his fishing guests find and catch fish. “I tell my wife that this is part of my job as a resort owner that is why I need to be on the lake so much.” White bass fishing, largemouth bass fishing and crappie fishing are the better bites on the lake as of Tuesday. Lou says he expects the striped bass bite to improve very shortly, if what he saw this morning is any indication. He found schooling and feeding fish in 22 feet of water, and at around 7 a.m. the striped bass were all high up in the water column. Casting out a quarter-ounce silver Kastmaster landed a nice striper. Then the whites showed up at all depths. Vertical-jigging a spoon or Kastmaster was giving Lou many hookups. As the sun came up, the fish continued to move deeper on the same flat. Lou says he finally lost the fish in about 35 feet of water. Topwater action for white bass and hybrids is sporadic. He says he has not been fortunate enough to find this action, but several of his resort guests have gotten into some nice topwater action over the last week. “Topwater action is happening somewhere on the lake, but you need to be in the right place at the right time! This will become more frequent based on past years’ experience.”
Lou says the largemouth bite has been very good for him over the week. In the mid-to-late mornings he has found schooling bass in 30-40 feet of water on large flats. Vertical-jigging for the bass has worked great, he adds. The schools of fish have stuck around for well over 45 minutes, so anglers can catch a limit very quickly. In the late afternoon, he says, he has changed tactics a little and moved into the secondary creeks. He has located large schools of bass as far back in the creeks as you can go, but still being in 27-30 feet of water. Secondary points in the small creeks have been productive locations, especially if the creek channel swings in close to the deeper shoreline. Jigging for these fish is working. He has also located some nice bass on the bluff lines where the bluff starts to transition to chunk rock. Crankbaits on calm days and spinnerbaits on windy days are good baits to try. Jig-and-pigs are also working very well. Crappie fishing has been good. Look for brush in 30-40 feet of water and the fish will be somewhere around the brush. At times they are buried inside of the brush and other times they will be suspended on top of the brush. Live bait is working great, but small spinners, jigs and crankbaits are also producing some nice fish. Norfork Lake's level is slowing rising with very little power generation coupled with rain for several days in a row. The lake level currently sits at 552.37 (basically normal pool). The main lake is fairly clear and most creeks and coves are somewhat stained. The surface water temperature Tuesday morning was 62.5-63.5 degrees.

Norfork Tailwater

(updated 11-21-2018) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said last weekend that over the previous week Norfork Lake rose 0.6 feet to rest at 1.2 feet below seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 27.5 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork had 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 changed because of flooding 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 beadheaded 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 on the Norfork has been a red fox squirrel nymph with a ruby midge dropper. Dry Run Creek is fishing much 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).
John also said, “Last Saturday (Nov. 10), my neighbor Schuyler hired me to take Zach, the son of one of his oldest friends, fishing on Dry Run Creek. The lad loved to fish but had not had much success fishing the ponds near Little Rock. Schuyler wanted me to introduce him to the quiet sport of fly-fishing, and Dry Run Creek is the best place to do that.
“It was a cool start. It was 21 degrees and overcast when we started. Zach was eager to start and well-dressed for the weather. He had no previous fly-fishing experience, but you wouldn’t know it by watching him. He hooked and landed a nice rainbow trout on the second cast. In a matter of minutes he had landed a 20-inch brown trout, a 23- inch cutthroat and several more rainbows. We had begun at a very popular spot near the parking lot that gets a lot of fishing pressure. The bite began to slow up a bit and I decided it was time to move on.
“We waded about as far from the parking lot as we could and went to one of my favorite spots. I always think that the further you get from the access, the better the fishing is. I generally go to this spot when looking for a trophy.
“We began fishing there in earnest. We were catching trout right off the bat, it seemed like one trout after another. There was a wide variety of sizes. Some were small and some were a bit bigger. Then Zach hooked a much larger trout. It was a huge brightly colored rainbow. The pink band on its sides was a vivid pink that glowed like a neon sign. It was a little over 24-inches long but had a huge girth.
“Zach and I were wading over to a spot where Schuyler and Zach’s dad could take some photographs. About this time, Zach slipped and fell into the creek. I had the trophy rainbow in a net in my left hand. I extended my right arm and grabbed Zach. He quickly got to his feet.
“It was still around 25 degrees and I was concerned about Zach. He thought nothing of it and wanted to continue fishing. I was impressed with his fortitude. He got his gloves wet and his hands were cold. I gave him mine. I had a couple of extra pairs in my truck.
“We continued fishing and did well. Then Zach caught a small trout that looked a bit different. I took a minute to carefully inspect it. To my surprise, it was a nice little brook trout. With the brown, cutthroat and numerous rainbows, Zach had caught a grand slam. That is where an angler catches all four species – rainbow, brook, cutthroat and brown – in one day. I have only seen three grand slams in my 30 years of fishing Dry Run Creek. It was special. We ended the day with 56 trout, a trophy rainbow and a grand slam. Not bad for a first day of fly-fishing. Life is good!”

Buffalo National River/Crooked Creek

(updated 11-21-2018) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said the Buffalo National River and Crooked Creek are navigable and clear. The smallmouths are less active with the water 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.