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Established 1954
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Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

January 16, 2019

Below is the Fishing Report from Arkansas Game and Fish.

White River

(updated 1-16-2019) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) says, “The lakes in our White River system are still experiencing a rise from the rains in the past week so Southwestern Power and the Corps of Engineers continue to relieve the lake levels by releases through the dams. Expect high water from Bull Shoals Dam through the trout fishing waters in the Cotter region for a while yet.” They say anglers have the opportunity to cast those big stickbaits now. Get out your No. 9 and No. 11 Rapala Countdowns, gold and black or the rainbow pattern, and the 3-inch and 4-inch Smithwicks; try the blue back, orange bellies first. If you're fishing from a jon boat, drift a live worm or a bright pink plastic 2-inch worm toward the bank and near the bottom. “All standard high-water techniques that continue to produce good results. Stay warm and stay alert – safety first.”

(updated 1-16-2019) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said last Friday that during the past week they had two rain events totaling about a half-inch (at the time of this writing) with more coming, plus cold temperatures to include frost advisories. The lake level at Bull Shoals rose 2 feet to rest at 2.4 feet above seasonal power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 33.6 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock rose 0.5 feet to rest at 0.8 feet above seasonal power pool and 15.2 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake rose 0.9 feet to rest at 1.3 feet above seasonal power pool and 8.3 feet below the top of flood pool. The White had no wadable water. Norfork Lake rose 1.3 feet to rest at 2 feet above seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 24.2 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork also had no wadable water. All of the lakes in the White River System are now above the top of power pool and we will see more high water and little if any wadable water. The White has fished well. The hot spot has been Wildcat Shoals. 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.
John also said, “Last week my wife, Lori, and I guided a couple, Brian and Lee, on the White River. On the second day it was cold with a bit of wind. We had fished the morning and had done well. We were fishing a double-fly rig, a pheasant tail nymph with a ruby midge dropper. They caught several fish and around noon we broke for lunch. We built a campfire and Lee ate her lunch standing by the fire to warm up a bit.
“Brian had been catching more fish than Lee. She thought that his fishing position in the back of the boat was giving him a bit of an advantage. When we fish from a White River jon boat we drift backward. Therefore the angler in the rear of the boat has their fly drift over the trout first. Logic would say that the angler should catch more trout. If that were true, I would out-fish Lori every time we went out. That is not the way it happens. Sometimes I catch more and sometimes she catches more. What happens is we fish at different distances from the boat without trying to. I like to work close and she prefers to cast further out. Therefore we are both fishing different water. Brian and Lee were doing the same thing. Brian worked closer and Lee cast further out.
“I see it time and again where anglers change their position in the boat with the idea that it will help them. Boat position is not as big a determinate of success as concentration, line control and keen reflexes. Then there is luck. I would rather be lucky than good! I have never seen a position change affect any angler’s level of success.
“While Lee’s position change did not affect her catch rate it did put her in greater peril from my motor as she was now closer to it. During the day I occasionally have to alter my drift due to changing wind conditions, water generation levels or to try more productive water.
“Whenever I move, I warn my clients that I am moving so that they do not slip or fall. I always point out at the beginning of the day and several times throughout it that they should be careful when I am moving, to keep their line out of the motor. This is important to me because they were using my fly rod, reel and line.
“As luck would have it, Lee got her fly line tangled in the propeller. As soon as I heard her call out, I hit the kill switch on my motor to limit the damage. If you are not careful you can destroy a fly line. The fly lines that I use cost about $75. I was in the middle of the river drifting downstream. I did not have a motor to move toward the bank and there were rocks downstream. I dropped my anchor to secure the boat’s position.
“Getting the line out of the propeller is not as easy as it seems. I hit my power tilt and raised my prop out of the water. It was a long stretch for me to reach it from the boat. I was a bit concerned about losing my balance and falling into the water. I put the engine in neutral and began to slowly turn the prop and carefully pull the fly line in (there was so much line in the propeller it was hard to turn). To make it safer for me, I was using my paddle to turn the prop. As I got more of the line out of the prop, it began to turn more easily until I was able to pull the fly line in easily. I examined the fly line and noted no serious cuts, although I did lose a split shot and two flies.
“I pulled my anchor, lowered my motor into the water and motored over to the bank where I rerigged Lee’s fly rod. We were soon on the river fishing. Lee decided to move back to her original position.
“Things happen out there on the river. The best thing to do is remain calm and deal with any adverse situation as quickly as possible so you can return to fishing.”

(updated 1-16-2019) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) had no reports of any catches. They say the water clarity is clear but the water is high with eight generators running.

Bull Shoals Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 661.96 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl).

No reports.

Norfork Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 554.94 feet msl (normal conservation pool: September-April 552.00 feet msl; April-September, 554.00 feet msl).

(updated 1-9-2019) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said, “Happy New Year to all. I hope the fantastic weather we have been having is allowing you to get out on the lake and do a little fishing. Norfork Lake is one of the best lakes I have had the opportunity to fish and I enjoy it most every day. Even though I have been out of pocket for the last couple of weeks, I am back out on the lake finding and catching fish.” Lou said Monday was his first day out on the lake for 2019 and he spent the day traveling to different parts of the lake, doing a lot of graphing and looking for striped bass with very little fishing. Tuesday was a different story, he said. “I retraced my travels from yesterday to the spots where I found fish. My first area at about 8 a.m. was the Cranfield and Pigeon Creek area. I found bait and fish, but very few takers. I fished this area for about an hour with little luck, then headed to a mid-lake creek that the wind was blowing into. Again I found scattered bait with fish following, and this time they were feeding. The fish were 40-60 feet down. The hybrids and whites were in the 40-50 foot range and the deeper fish were stripers. I was vertical-jigging with a spoon and caught many big whites, a hybrid and 2 striped bass. I was jigging for the suspended fish 60 feet down and a small school of big fish came under me on the bottom at 80 feet, so I dropped my spoon to the bottom. The spoon did not have a chance to hit the bottom as a striper just inhaled the spoon and the fight was on.
“The fish in this area were scattered though out the deeper water so I had to keep moving around until I located them. I finally decided to move to my next location and was pleasantly surprised to find a lot of active fish. I was in between the two bridges in 90-100 feet of water. This time I found schools of fish only 20-40 feet down, but lots of them. They would not hit my spoon jigging, but when I dropped it though the fish and reeled up fast though them, they hammered it before the spoon got to the surface. One of the striped bass caught here hit the spoon almost on the surface, then took a straight-down dive to about 60 feet before I could turn its head. It ended up being a nice 14-pound fish. I ended up catching fish all the way up to 2 p.m., when I decided it was time to go home, but the fish were still there.”
Lou says winter time fishing can be a blast. The fish, as you have read, can be at any depth from surface all the way down to the bottom, located in very deep water. Lou said he did have a couple of live baits out part of the time and never got a bite on them, but they liked his spoon. Each place that he fished Tuesday are typical wintertime locations based on prior years’ experience. It does take some time to locate the fish, but when you do, hang on. Lou says he still only uses 8-pound test monofilament line, so he has his drag set a little loose. What is a little different this year, so far, is that the fish and bait typically move into the deep channels, but he is finding them near the channel or on very deep flats, but not in the channel. Nothing to report on other species at this time as he says he’s just getting back into the groove. But wintertime bass and crappie fishing are both typically very good and lots of fun.
Norfork Lake has risen about 3 feet since his last report and currently sits at 556.34 feet msl, which is less than 3 feet over the normal seasonal pool. The main lake is clear. Some coves and back in the creeks are stained. The water temperature Tuesday morning at 7:30 a.m. was 48 degrees and by the time he headed back to the dock it was slightly over 49 degrees. The lake is in great shape and the fishing is looking to be a lot of fun, Lou says.

(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.”

Norfork Tailwater

(updated 1-16-2019) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said last weekend that over the previous week Norfork Lake rose 1.3 feet to rest at 2 feet above seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 24.2 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork had no wadable water last week. All of the lakes in the White River System are now above the top of power pool and we will see more high water and little if any wadable water. The Norfork has fished well. 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 or more. 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 (size 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).

Buffalo National River/Crooked Creek

(updated 1-16-2019) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said the Buffalo National River and Crooked Creek are high and off-color and the White River below these streams is high and off-color also. The smallmouths are much less active with the cold conditions. My 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.