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Established 1954
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Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

January 23, 2019

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.

brown trout

White River

(updated 1-23-2019) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) says, “High water. Southwestern Power and the Corps of Engineers are continuing to issue maximum water through Bull Shoals Dam and the lake levels are nearing power pool numbers. That means outrageous fish growth for the upcoming spring fishing season. While it's been a little tough to lure the trout to the boat or shore, we're still hearing nice daily reports of successful catches. The spawning season is drawing to an end and everybody (trout, that is) will be moving back to home base and looking for an interesting bite. For now, with the high water, throw your big, shiny stickbaits: Smithwick white bellies, blue backs (yellow eyes will work better) or the Rapala CD9 rainbow trout. As always, shrimp and scented baits (white, orange, yellow or a combination) will trick the rainbows into biting. Catch a not-too-cold winter day to come over to the White; we'll see you at the river.”

(updated 1-23-2019) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said last Friday that during the past week they have had two rain events (combined for an inch and a half inch here in Cotter) and cold temperatures (to include frost advisories. The lake level at Bull Shoals rose two tenths of a foot to rest at two and six tenths feet above seasonal power pool of 659 feet. This is thirty three and four tenths feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock rose two tenths of a foot to rest at a foot above seasonal power pool and fifteen feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell four tenths of foot to rest at nine tenths of a foot above seasonal power pool and eight and seven tenths feet below the top of flood pool. On the White, we had heavy generation and no wadable water. Norfork Lake fell one foot to rest at one foot above seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet and twenty five and two tenths feet below the top of flood pool. On the Norfork we had a little wadable water. 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 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 The Rim Shoals. The hot flies were olive Woolly Buggers (8, 10), Y2Ks (14, 12), prince nymphs (14), zebra midges (black with silver wire and silver bead or red with silver wire and silver bead 16, 18), pheasant tails (14), ruby midges (18), root beer midges (18), pink and cerise San Juan worms (10), and sowbugs (16). Double-fly nymph rigs have been very effective (John’s current favorite combination is a cerise San Juan worm (10) with a Y2K (12) suspended below it. Use plenty of lead to get your flies down.
John also said about the recent high water conditions: “The past few weeks have been pretty wet. It seems like it is always overcast and raining. In addition it has been cold and windy. As a result of the wet conditions the lakes have risen and are all over power pool and solidly in power pool. The Corps of Engineers is doing what it does and is aggressively running water to draw down the lakes to power pool. The low wadable water we enjoyed most of last year is gone. With the lake levels as they are, we will have high water conditions for quite a while. Currently they are running about 18,000 cubic feet per second (CFS) or the equivalent of five and one half full generators at Bull Shoals Dam on the White River. On the Norfork they are running about 6,100 CFS or the equivalent of one and two thirds full generators. This is way too much water to attempt wading. It is definitely time to launch the river boat. If you want to wade I would suggest the Spring River. It is not subject to generation and a great alternative when they are generating on the White and Norfork Rivers. Luckily the crown jewel of trout streams in Arkansas, Dry Run Creek, is unaffected by generation.
“Fishing in water this deep and fast is challenging. The most effective technique for numbers of fish is to nymph. The trick is to get your fly to the bottom. You need to set your strike indicator so that your fly is ticking the bottom. On minimum flow I set my indicator at four and a half feet. For every additional generator, I add a foot of depth. Therefore for this amount I would set the depth at about ten feet. This is a rule of thumb place to start. If I were to hang up a lot I would reduce the depth. If I was not getting any bites I would set it deeper. You will have to play around with the depth until you find one that is productive.
“You should use plenty of lead to get the fly down. I would use a couple of AAA split shots that weigh around eight tenths of a gram each. Once again this is my rule of thumb. I will add or reduce the weight based of success. If I am hanging up a lot I will reduce the weight. If I am not having success, I will increase it.
“Fly selection is always a personal thing. For this kind of water I usually opt for an egg pattern below a San Juan worm. This is known among the fly fishing guides as spaghetti and meatballs and is the rig of choice for high water. I like to use a cerise or hot fluorescent pink San Juan worm because they show up better at that depth. For my dropper, I like to use a Y2K or an egg tied on a jig hook, as they sink better than an unweighted egg.
“How do you cast this mess? A long leader, strike indicator, heavy weight and two flies is an invitation to disaster. I try to keep my rod arm high when casting this rig in order to keep everything away from my head. If you hit your head with this heavy rig, it will hurt. Make sure that you do not rush your back cast. Give that cast plenty of time to straighten out behind you. Otherwise you will cast a tailing loop and tangle your rig. Don’t let high water keep you from fishing. The fish are still there.”

(updated 1-23-2019) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) said the river clarity is a little cloud and the water is matching the air temperature: cold. The river level is high with 8 units running for a week, leading to fast water. They did have people fishing for 3 days. Trout are biting well. Anglers are using minnows or plastic worms. Fishing, they report, has been good. Several browns and a “ton” of rainbows were caught. Overall for the past week, there hasn’t been a lot of fishing, but the ones who were say they were happy with the results.

Bull Shoals Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 660.55 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl).

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 555.16 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 1-23-2019) Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters had no report.

Norfork Tailwater

(updated 1-23-2019) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said last weekend that over the previous week Norfork Lake fell one foot to rest at one foot above seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet and twenty five and two tenths feet below the top of flood pool. On the Norfork we had a little wadable water. 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 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 things have changed a bit during the recent flooding. 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 (#18, #20, #22) like ruby midges, root beer midges, zebra midges (black or red with silver wire and silver bead) and soft hackles (#14, #16) like the green butt. Egg patterns have also been productive. Double fly nymph rigs have been very effective. Try a small Y2K suspended eighteen inches below a brightly colored San Juan worm (hot fluorescent pink or cerise #10). The fishing is better in the morning. Dry Run Creek is fishing much better. The hot flies have been sowbugs (14), Y2Ks (12) and various colored San Juan worms (worm brown, red, hot fluorescent pink and cerise 10). It is cold out there be sure and bundle the kids up. 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 1-23-2019) 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. 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.