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Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

December 12, 2018

Below is the Fishing Report from Arkansas Game and Fish.

White River

(updated 12-12-2018) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) says winter has set in with temperatures below freezing in the morning, but that doesn't mean the trout are frozen. The spawn is still underway with most of the bigger browns being caught on the northern end of the river. However, several browns have been caught lower down around the Cotter area with live crawdads. Orange Powerbait has been the popular bait for the rainbows to mimic the eggs coming down from the spawn. During the sunny parts of the late morning, dry flies have been doing well with many hatches occurring as the weather warms slightly; orange and yellow egg patterns have been successful when the clouds return. Bundle up and enjoy the excellent wintertime fishing.

(updated 12-12-2018) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) said the river clarity is clear and the level is normal, but there has been nobody fishing. “If someone came out, they would catch fish,” they tell us. The trout bite is good.

(updated 12-12-2018) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said last Friday that during the past week they had just a trace of rain, cold temperatures (to include frost advisories) and heavy winds (to include lake wind advisories). The lake level at Bull Shoals remained steady at 4 feet below seasonal power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 40 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock rose 0.7 feet to rest at 2.7 feet below seasonal power pool and 18.7 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell 0.1 feet to rest at 2.2 feet below seasonal power pool and 11.8 feet below the top of flood pool. The White River no wadable water. Norfork Lake rose 0.1 feet to rest at 0.8 feet below seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 27 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 Roundhouse Shoals. They have been some blue-wing olive and some midge hatches (try a size twenty 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 bead-head pheasant tail nymph with a size 18 ruby midge suspended below it). Use lead to get your flies down.


Bull Shoals Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 655.18 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl).

No report.

Norfork Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 552.91 feet msl (normal conservation pool: September-April 552.00 feet msl; April-September, 554.00 feet msl).

(updated 12-12-2018) Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters said, “Sometimes it's easy to say what is happening on the lake than actually being on the lake. This time of year, I do not fish everyday like I do in the spring and summer, so when I do go out I make the best of it. This past week I went to areas where I had been fishing and telling everybody, ‘That's where you should fish.’ I had caught fish there the week of Thanksgiving and had a client fish the area the following weekend, so I was pretty sure I would catch stripers without a problem. The weather was supposed to warm with light winds. I know better than trust the weather, but I did anyway. The trip turned out to be cold with winds that churned the lake into white caps. I went to all my recommended areas and found fish, but could not get a bite. Not one. It was the first time in months that I was skunked. Sometimes it's better just to stay home.”
Tom adds, with that being said it is still a great time of year to be on Norfork Lake catching stripers. The stripers are in their winter feeding pattern in 50-80 feet depths. You will find them feeding in the 40-50-foot range. The stripers will be in large schools along with the white bass. Shad, shiners and spoons are the best baits. Because they are now schooled up, when using those baits expect the action to be very fast. Trolling will produce fish, but because you're moving you are not staying on the schools long enough to catch many. Even though it’s cold, winter striper fishing is one of the best time to catch lots of fish and have the lake to yourself. The good part of winter striper fishing is the fish will stay in this pattern for the next several months, so there should not be a lot of traveling looking for fish. When you find big balls of shad, the stripers will be close by. The stripers will move to the channel towards Crystal Cove and stay on the big flat and channel near Howard Cove and Blue Lady. 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.
Tom says he and his anglers are using shad but shiners will be an effective substitute to shad. The best method is downlines set off the bottom about 2 feet. Tom says he also has 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 along with Big Creek. Follow the same pattern: Find the shad and the stripers are nearby.

(updated 12-12-2018) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said, “Norfork Lake fishing has been exciting as always. There have been fantastic days of catching along with some mediocre days, but it is always a great day to just be able to be out on the water. If you have been following my blog, I am sure you have noticed that I enjoy fishing for striped and hybrid bass the most, whether they are located in deep water or shallow water, but I do fish for other species in order to keep up with their movements and patterns.”
He says the striped and hybrid bass bite is really starting to improve. They are being caught in several different types of locations at varying depths. On Monday, Lou said, he spent the day checking out various areas, but mainly concentrated on the deep water channels. Bait is starting to move into the 80-plus feet channels on the main lake and the stripers are either buried inside the bait balls or are following. This is a typical winter pattern, and as the water continues to cool, more and more bait will move into the deep water and suspend 40-60 down with the striped and hybrid bass hanging out close by. Lou did end up finding several large schools of fish following bait, which were suspended 50-60 feet down. Lou says he managed to land a nice hybrid and broke off a second fish. He was vertical-jigging with a 1-ounce spoon. Another good fishing method at this time to target these suspended fish, he says, is to troll with umbrella/Alabama rigs or with just a single large swimbait. The main key is to be able to get your bait down to the fish at 50-55 feet. Using live bait has also been very productive.
“Today I was checking out various flats on the lake. I started at the 101 bridge flat and worked my way west to the Cranfield area, then headed northward to the Seward Point and Briar Creek flats. I found fish on all the flats, but it was mainly scattered white bass. At about 10:30 I was checking out a final flat and found a few arcs in 48 feet of water. I stopped and started to fish and my fish finder screen lit up like a Christmas tree with all kinds of fish. For the next two hours I vertical-jigged with my 1-ounce spoon and also casted out a ½-ounce Kastmaster. I ended up landing a couple nice striped bass, a few hybrids, flathead catfish, largemouth bass and lots of jumbo-sized white bass. I dropped my spoon and let it sit about 1 foot off of the bottom, then placed it in the rod holder, I then would cast out my Kastmaster and let it sink to the bottom and then retrieved it slowly with a stop, jerk and reel retrieval method. I would glance at my spooning rod on occasion and find that it was buried with a fish on. I had a great time with a great big grin on my face.”
Lou says the largemouth bass are also starting to move toward deeper water as the water continues to cool. This is normal for this species, as well as for all the species in the lake. Lou says he has been catching some nice fat largemouth while vertical-jigging for stripers in 50 feet of water. You can also jig around sunken brush piles in 30-40 feet of water and catch some nice fish. The third location is along the rock bluff walls. Cast out a worm, crawdad or a jig & pig to the shoreline and let it sink down the bluff wall. Most of the fish caught on plastics are in the 20- to 30-feet depth range. There are still a few fish up shallow, but most are deep following the bait, which is going deeper. Crappie are still in their normal habitat for this time of year and will be found buried in brush during the morning and daytime in 30-40 feet of water. In the evening they will come up in the water column and may be only 8-15 feet down. You need to test different depths until you find that magic area where they are feeding. “I have actually caught a few nice keepers on 50-foot-deep brush piles over the last week, so don't hesitate to check out the deep areas for crappie.” Norfork Lake level is holding fairly stable. Generation has been sporadic. The current depth is 552.94 feet msl. The main lake surface water temperature this morning ranged 48.5-51.5 degrees. The lake cooled as Lou traveled northward, he said. The main lake is clear with a very slight stain and most coves and creeks are stained. The lake is in excellent condition as are the fish. “If you would like to see a more frequent update on fishing activity on Norfork Lake, follow Hummingbird Hideaway Resort on Facebook,” he says.

Norfork Tailwater

(updated 12-12-2018) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said last weekend that over the previous week Norfork Lake rose 0.1 feet to rest at 0.8 feet below seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 27 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 top-water action. Navigate this stream with caution as there has been major gravel recruitment at the bottom of Mill Pond and the dock hole over the past year. 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 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 said, “I took a fall when I was fishing on the Norfork recently. I spent a lot of time thinking about it. I tend to fish by myself quite a bit and a fall could get serious. I am not particularly graceful, nor am I particularly clumsy. I wanted to know what happened so that I could possibly prevent it from happening. I know that if you wade-fish there, there will always be an occasional fall into the water. The trick is to keep these incidents to a minimum.
“I returned to the Norfork a week later to fish and determine what had happened to cause me to fall. Was it just a coincidence, or could I make changes to limit such situations in the future. The day was very similar to the previous week. It was cold. The high was to be in the mid-40s with overcast skies and 10-15 mph mile winds. I dressed the same way I had the previous week. The combination of wool and fleece had kept me warm even when I got wet.
“One thing that I did different was to wear my polarized prescription bifocal sunglasses. The week before, I did not wear them because it was to be overcast and I did not feel that the sunglasses would help me. Yet, when I was wading, I had trouble seeing the bottom even in shallow water. The problem was that there is sun glare even on overcast days. With my polarized sunglasses on, I could see the bottom even on a seriously overcast day. I found the wading to be much easier, when I could see where I was going.
“I had arrived at about the same time, and as before I had the place to myself. I walked upstream to the spot where I had fallen the week before. With the polarized sunglasses I could clearly see the bottom. I noted that it was bedrock, which is pretty slick and can be difficult to walk on. My memory of this area is different from what I saw. I have been wading through this section of river for decades and remember the river bottom to be gravel, which is very easy to wade. The gravel had been washed out to reveal bedrock. I was not aware of this change the previous week. It was an important lesson to me that the river is constantly changing. Even when we go into spots that we are familiar with, we need to pay attention to subtle changes to the river.
“As I waded through that section of bedrock, I pulled out and used my folding wading staff. Not using it was an error that I had made on my previous trip. I carry it to help me travel through perilous water. Why did I choose not to use it? I don’t know; maybe I was in a hurry. I learned my lesson.
“On reflection, I learned three things: Always wear my polarized sunglasses (even on overcast days), be on the lookout for constantly changing conditions, and use my wading staff.”

Buffalo National River/Crooked Creek

(updated 12-12-2018) 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 much less active with the cold conditions. 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.