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Established 1954
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Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

February 13, 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 trouttroutrainbows brown troutbrown trout

White River

(updated 2-13-2019) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) says Cotter White River anglers have had the opportunity this week to fish high water and low water, fish on very cold, sunny days and wet, rainy days, and to lay their line in dingy water or crystal clear White River normal clarity water. Catching trout is always a good experience given most any circumstance and the anglers caught trout in every instance. Some days required more patience and more trial-and-error experiments with baits, some days were easier with the usual shrimp and scented egg or dough bait combinations. Minnows seemed to work best for the brown trout catch this past week with sculpins a close second. The water level was a little lower most of the week so the larger jerkbaits were left in the tackle box for a turn to spinners (some success with
red/gold blades, most often just gold.) Nightcrawlers proved their worth for bank fishermen, and dragging a scented pink or pink and white worm worked well angling from the jon boats in medium or higher water levels. “The changing water and weather offer fun challenges. You won't get bored fishing the Cotter waters of the White. Come join us.”

(updated 2-13-2019) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) said the clarity of the water is brown and the river level is high. The water and the air temperature are both cold, and no one is fishing, they say. Trout fishing results have been poor. Nothing else to report.

(updated 2-13-2019) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said last Friday that during the past week they had two inches of rain in Cotter, bitterly cold temperatures and heavy wind. The lake level at Bull Shoals rose 0.1 foot to rest at 0.8 foot above seasonal power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 35.2 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock fell 0.3 foot to rest at 0.3 foot above seasonal power pool and 15.7 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell 0.2 foot to rest at 0.6 foot above seasonal power pool and 9 feet below the top of flood pool. The White received heavy generation and little wadable water. Norfork Lake rose 0.4 foot to rest at 1.2 feet above seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 25 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork had no 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 still above the top of power pool, and expect to see more high water and little if any wadable water. The Catch and Release section below Bull Shoals Dam on the White River, closed during part of the winter for the brown trout spawn, is reopened and it’s also been the hot spot of late as the White has fished well. 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 10 cerise San Juan worm with a size 12 Y2K suspended below it. Use plenty of lead to get your flies down.

Bull Shoals Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 662.76 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl).

(updated 2-1-2019) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said the lake level is at 661 feet msl, it's about 3 feet above pool. Water temps are still hanging around 48 degrees and the water’s been crazy. The lake’s been coming up, Table Rock is dumping on us, and Bull Shoals Dam is generating a lot of water out. From the rain the lake’s cleared up a little bit, but it's moved the shad around quite a bit, those big monster schools of shad that they were seeing for the past month. Those have broken off in the little pods. Some of them are deep. Seeing a lot in 70-80 foot of water in the main channel or off the points. If you can find the shad balls in 30-50 feet of water you can get after them using a spoon or an ice jig. If you're looking to do that, the deep fish you can video-game fish them for a little bit. It's usually good for one or two fish, and then you're just going have to go find the next little ball shad. You can look for the birds, there are still loons on the lake, so if you want to cruise the creek channels, most of those that were in the back or moved out closer to the main lake. Those deep fish, if they're real finicky you can pick some more off using a Dubuque rig or and dropping a mat down in front of them. The bite for that and the ice jig are kind of just leaving the pole sitting still. So, if you are fishing a deep fish you're gonna have to work for them a little more than what we have been, spend a little time graphing and it'll pay off. Now with the water temp where it’s at, some shad are dying off and that'll bring into the jerkbait bite, fishing channel swing banks, bluffs, bluff ends, points anywhere close to those shad is probably a good place to start. This time of year if we get a little bit of sun, that's kind of what you're looking for at this time of year. You’re not looking for a lot of wind, but if you do get some wind you can go cranking, you can throw a Rock Crawler or Wiggle Wart. Del says he’s using the Red Crawler, the greenback orange belly and the same color in the Wiggle Wart. Depending on how deep the bank is, the channels swing banks with chunk rock on them are kind of what you're going to look for. “The other thing I don't throw a lot but I have thrown it little bit this week is throwing an umbrella rig, an A-rig. This will flat-out catch them. The thing with the A-rig, that bite’s going to get better as the water drops a little bit. I’m catching those fish mostly out of brush piles, keeping the boat in 40 foot of water, brush piles off of bluff ends, anywhere they're close to the main channel where those shad are at. If you're going rig your rig you have to have to use silver with one other different color or you won't catch fish guys. Just mix up the baits and see what they want.
“The last thing is a jig. I’m using either a rubber jig, the jewel jig, and dropping those down in same spots where the shad are out. The jig bites been hit-or-miss but it's going to catch fish year-round. Those are usually a little better quality fish. I’m using the greens, the green pumpkins, brown, something with a little blue in it has been working, too.” Some days are going to be slow out there, it's the dead of winter and some days are going to be really good. You’re going to catch fish, you're just going to have to work for them a little bit harder. Meanwhile, Del will be hitting the fishing and boat shows in the north in coming weeks.

Norfork Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 559.99 feet msl (normal conservation pool: September-April 552.00 feet msl; April-September, 554.00 feet msl).

(updated 2-6-2019) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said, “It has been a while since I have posted a report on Norfork Lake, but after another visit to see the grandkids, I am back fishing and the fishing has been pretty good. One of the best things about Norfork Lake is the diversity in fish species. If you have followed my reports you know I love to fish for striped bass, hybrid bass and white bass, but if the bite is slow for these species you can switch up and go bass fishing, crappie fishing, walleye fishing or catfishing.” Lou says the white bass bite continues to be outstanding. You can find white bass on the large flats. A couple flats he has fished over the last week are the Cranfield Island flat and the flat east of Howard Cove (locally named Big Sandy) and at times the 101 bridge flat. The best depths have been from 35-55 feet of water and the fish are at all depths. Feeding with the whites are hybrid bass and striped bass. Vertical-jigging a spoon or casting out a blade-type bait such as a Kastmaster are both working well for me. Most days you can catch a boat-full, but of course the changing weather patterns affect the bite of all species. “I have also had luck finding and catching a few nice striped bass in deeper water. I have found scattered stripers on the deep flats outside of deep water channels. These fish have been 40-50 deep and I typically only see a few fish at a time. Several nice-size stripers have been caught by jigging a spoon, as well as by trolling an umbrella rig.”
The crappie bite has also been good over the last week, Lou said. “The best location for crappie are inside one of the newly refurbished Arkansas Game and Fish Commission's fish attractors. I don't remember the exact number, but this group did an incredible job of refurbishing roughly 180 sites on Norfork Lake. I can personally attest that these new brush piles are holding big fish and not just crappie. The crappie that I have caught have been at the bottom of the brush in about 30 feet of water. They do tend to come up off the bottom in the late afternoon following the bait. I have been using a quarter-ounce spoon to catch my crappie, but small grubs (you can tip it with a crappie minnow) are working as well. You can also use live bait with a slip float to catch your fish.”
The largemouth and spotted bass bite has also been very good over the last week. The bass Lou has caught are also buried in the brush, he said. The depth of the fish changes daily and lately 40 feet has been the magic number, but Tuesday afternoon he caught several 30 feet down on the bottom. Deep-diving crankbaits and plastics are working well. Lure action has been the best on the points of bluff-line walls or where the bluff wall changes to chunk rock. Norfork Lake level is falling slowly when the dam is generating and currently sits at 553.98 feet msl. This level is slightly higher than the current normal seasonal pool. Most of the lake is somewhat stained, but the main lake is starting to clear nicely. The surface water temperature Tuesday morning ranged 45-47 degrees depending on fishing location. Lou says he covered a lot of water Tuesday morning. He started in the Cranfield area then headed back to the Howard Cove area, then moved farther back into Bennetts by Fout Marina. “I caught some fish everywhere I fished, mainly white bass and largemouth bass.”

(updated 2-13-2018) Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters had no report.

Norfork Tailwater

(updated 2-13-2019) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said last weekend that over the previous week Norfork Lake rose 0.4 foot to rest at 1.2 feet above seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 25 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork had no 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 still above the top of power pool, and expect to 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 and a half. 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 Y2K suspended 18 inches below a brightly colored San Juan worm (hot fluorescent pink or cerise size 10). The fishing is better in the morning. Dry Run Creek is fishing well. 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). 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.
Also, John explained the mop fly: “I am constantly being introduced to new flies. When I managed Blue Ribbon Fly Shop, I always had commercial fly-tyers and local tyers coming in and showing me their latest creation. That situation continued with my position as the chairman of the Sowbug Roundup Fly Tying Contest. Whenever I am guiding I talk with all of the other guides and ask what is working. I am frequently introduced to the new hot fly. I also talk to my fellow anglers when I am fishing on my own to determine what fly is working. Over the years, I have been shown hundreds of patterns and have been given many of those flies to try out. Most were nicely tied but did not produce the desired result. A precious few were game changers.
“Those were the ones that earned a place in my fly box. I learned to tie and fish them and, if asked I, would recommend them to others and often shared them with others. If have found such a fly, the mop fly.
“It is an odd-looking fly. It is a piece of heavy yarn tied to a jighead. The first ones were tied with the strings from a common mop. Hence the name mop fly. Now Wapsi, the largest purveyor of fly-tying materials in the world, manufactures a special yarn to tie them. I have seen them in white, lime green and pink.
“The first time I saw one was on the Norfork, below the dam. An angler fishing near me was having a good day while I was struggling. Later I saw a big brown caught on one on Dry Run Creek. My interest was piqued.
“My wife, Lori, actually used one before I did. A fellow angler gave her one while she was guiding on Dry Run Creek. She had a fantastic day with it and told me about her success when she came home that night. I went to the fly shop, bought some mop fly yarn and tied a few. My first attempt at using them was not productive. I figured that no fly works all of the time. I decided to try them again.
“I got my chance a week later on Dry Run Creek. We were having a good day fishing my usual flies. I ran out of San Juan worms and rather than walking back to my car and stripping some, from another fly box, I decided to give the mop fly another shot.
“I took a minute to tie on a fresh 4X tippet and a mop fly. My young client cast it into the creek and was immediately onto a nice 20-inch cutthroat. Things were looking up. We continued fishing it and it produced 20 trout of various sizes (the largest was a 24-inch brown) before we lost the fly in a tree. I tied on another and we caught even more. I was a believer and now fish it often. Give the mop fly a try.”

Buffalo National River/Crooked Creek

(updated 2-13-2019) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said the Buffalo National River and Crooked Creek are off-color and high. The smallmouths are much less active with the cold conditions. John says his 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.