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Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

Below are some photos of our guided trout fishing customers taken this week at Cotter Trout Dock. 
Click images to enlarge.
Below the pictures is the Fishing Report from Arkansas Game and Fish.

small brown troutsmall brown trout

White River

(updated 12-19-2018) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) says the nice weather has been an early Christmas present around here and that looks to continue through the next week. “With highs reaching almost 60 degrees some days, we've had beautiful days to catch some trout. The browns we've seen have been biting on sculpin if you can find where they are hiding,” they say. Sunrise PowerBait has been very successful in reeling the rainbows this week and, as the spawn continues, shifting to orange or garlic-scented orange PowerBait will keep pulling them in. The low water has provided ample fly-fishing opportunities and anglers using olive Wooly Buggers have been reeling in a lot of trout. The warm and sunny weather has also been responsible for many afternoon hatches, so dry fly-fishing later in the day has proved very successful. “Now is the time to treat yourself to a Christmas present of trout fishing on the White River.”

(updated 12-19-2018) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said last Friday that during the past week they had three-quarters of an inch of rain, cold temperatures (to include frost advisories) and heavy winds (to include lake wind advisories). The lake level at Bull Shoals rose 0.4 feet to rest at 3.6 feet below seasonal power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 39.6 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock fell 0.2 feet to rest at 2.9 feet below seasonal power pool and 18.9 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake remained steady at 2.2 feet below seasonal power pool and 11.8 feet below the top of flood pool. The White had significant wadable water most days. Norfork Lake rose 0.2 feet to rest at 0.6 feet below seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 26.8 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork had wadable water every day. All of the lakes in the White River System are 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 (size14), 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.

John adds about the 2019 Sowbug Roundup and fly-tying: “A few years ago we added a fly-tying contest to the schedule of events for the Sowbug Roundup. Over time it has become one of the most anticipated events at the event. We have discovered some really talented fly-tyers in the process. Tyers like Chad Johnson and Tradd Little come to mind.
“Last year Steve Jensen won the award for Best in Show. Steve has been around a long time. I have known him for 35 years. He is a respected fly-tyer. He entered the fly-tying contest for the first time and won.
“This could happen to you. There are a lot of really talented fly-tyers out there who have never entered. You cannot win unless you enter! The whole idea is to bring some recognition to those tyers out there who are doing some fantastic work and have not received the recognition that they deserve. My brother, Dan, was a fantastic tyer but I could never get him to enter the contest. It is one of my great regrets.
“If you decide to enter, you will discover that rules have been kept to a minimum. The entrant must tie the fly submitted for judging. Each entry must include the name, address, phone number and email address along with two flies for each pattern submitted (they must be exactly the same size, color, etc.). You need to include the recipe for the fly, instructions on how to fish it and the category you wish to have it judged in (judges reserve the right to change the category, if needed). There are 12 categories, nymph, dry fly, wet fly, traditional streamer, single hook streamer and articulated streamer, smallmouth bass, bass, warm water, salmon/steelhead, salt water and tenkara. In addition, there is a Best in Show award. You may submit as many patterns for as many categories as you want. You can win a maximum of three categories (Best in Show is considered a category). All flies submitted will become the property of the contest and will not be returned. Any fly that contains insect parts (legs wings, etc.) will be eliminated from competition. Commercially tied patterns will not be accepted. The decision of the judges is final. Committee members and judges are not eligible to participate in the contest.
“To participate, send your flies, recipes and fishing instructions to me, John Berry, at 408 Combs Ave., Cotter, AR 72626 by Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2019. The winners will be announced on Friday, March 29, at the Sowbug Roundup Shindig, which will be held at St. Peter the Fisherman Catholic Church in Mountain Home. Now is the time to start tying. I hope you enter.”

(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.

Bull Shoals Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 657.17 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl).

(updated 12-19-2018) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock had no report.

Norfork Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 553.67 feet msl (normal conservation pool: September-April 552.00 feet msl; April-September, 554.00 feet msl).

(updated 12-19-2018) Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters said the Norfork Lake winter striper bite is going strong now. “I went out Tuesday looking for some stripers since I struck out the week before. We headed towards Fouts Boat Dock but were slowed down to a crawl by the heavy fog bank that started at the 62 bridge. We creeped all the way up to Fouts, where I had caught so many winter stripers last year, and looked from there back to Bidwell Point and could not find bait or fish.
“My next move was to look in Float Creek. I have structure scan, so I'm very certain when I see fish they are stripers, compared to 2D sonar that show lots of hooks that look like big fish but when you view them using structure scan you realize your viewing small fish. I finally found some good white lines that I knew were stripers. I threw out two long lines and then set out seven downlines. It didn't take long and we hooked up with a fat well feed 12-pound striper. We caught a small hybrid, several largemouths, and catfish while I continued to search for stripers. I moved out to deeper water and found small schools of stripers in 60 feet of water on the bottom. When I put the shad I was using for bait on their noses, they would slam the bait. In the first school we caught one and missed one. The next school we hooked up with four all at once and managed to land three. It was a great way to end our trip. The moral of the story is keep looking, use your electronics and have faith once you find fish. Winter fishing is fun and you never know when the bite will come since they will feed all day long.”
Tom says the other good area for stripers right now is above Cranfield toward Steward Point. Lots of whites, hybrids and stripers are being caught using spoons and Kastmasters. 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, anglers using those baits should 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. Tom adds that 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 be not 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 toward 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 they 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 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.”

(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 12-19-2018) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said last weekend that over the previous week Norfork Lake rose 0.2 feet to rest at 0.6 feet below seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 26.8 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork had wadable water every day. All of the lakes in the White River System are 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 daily topwater action. Navigate this stream with caution. There has been major gravel recruitment over the past year or more 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 says his 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.

Buffalo National River/Crooked Creek

(updated 12-19-2018) 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 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.