Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

February 20, 2019

More reports and other videos are on the Cotter Trout Dock Youtube Channel Page.
Below is the Arkansas Game and Fish Fishing Report February 20, 2019.

White River

(updated 2-20-2019) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) says “We have been fishing every day this past week – most days were pretty darn cold – but, boy-oh-boy have we been catching some nice trout. Today we brought a 25-inch brown and a 24-inch brown to the boat (netted a couple of others) right here in Cotter. We were using sculpins and minnows. During the previous five or six days the guides have assisted their guests in catching five other trophy browns, bundles of rainbows and a couple of cutthroats. Don't let the weather hold you back, this is prime time for fishing for, and catching, your trophy brown.” Water levels have been a little erratic, starting out low, rising in early afternoon, then dropping a couple of hours later. That will change when the gauge at Newport drops; then anglers should see more consistent (and higher) releases from Bull Shoals Dam. You'll need to adjust you fishing technique and tackle as the water level changes, but always keep some redworms and some scented eggs on standby. “The White River guides are expert at finding trout – and ensuring you catch them! – at every water level, every rise or drop, or steady flow offered on any given day of the year. Come test them and see!”

(updated 2-20-2019) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) said the clarity is now clear and the river level had returned to normal by Tuesday. But, with the temperature and other conditions, they had just one angler out. There have been three generators running at the dam, running medium to medium low. The trout bite is good. A lot of rainbows and a few browns are being caught, they say.

(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 665.93 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 562.45 feet msl (normal conservation pool: September-April 552.00 feet msl; April-September, 554.00 feet msl).

(updated 2-20-2019) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said Norfork Lake, along with the majority of the country, in his opinion, is in constant weather change. After a frontal system rolls through our area it typically takes a day or two for the fish to get active again. Once this happens the fish feed with a frenzy, but then we have a new system roll through to start the cycle all over again. I will be the first to admit that I am really ready for spring to get here. I am totally tired of the cold weather and need a little consistent warmth for my fishing days. :-) Last Saturday, I found fish feeding heavily in 44 - 48 feet of water on a large flat in the Cranfield area. I did not get out until late morning due to the below freezing temperature early, but once it reached around 29 degrees I headed out. The fish stuck around until mid-afternoon and I got to land well over 40 fish between hybrid bass, striped bass and white bass. Vertical jigging with a 1/2 to a 1 ounce spoon was my bait of choice. I was also casting out a 1/2 ounce blade bait with a feather trailer and landed some nice fish with it. Once the fish leave the flats they tend to scatter throughout the deeper water, staying suspended 30 - 50 feet down. You will still catch fish, but not necessarily the numbers.
Crappie fishing has been fairly good as of late, but still the frontal systems have affected their bite. I have landed some really nice slabs 30 feet down near the sunken brush piles. I typically use a 1/4 ounce spoon and jig it very slowly in and around the brush piles on the bottom. Live bait with a slip float or a minnow tipped to a small curly or paddle tail grub will work great.
The big white bass that I have been catching are full of eggs. I would assume they are staging for their upcoming spawn, which will happen shortly. The males should be way back in the creeks or up river in the shallower water awaiting the right timing and water temperature. Bennett's Bayou is a great place to get into the white bass run or up river around the AR/MO border. They also tend to head back into some of the larger creeks and coves.
Walleye should also be gearing up for their spawn. February is usually the time for this to occur. The AR/MO border area is a good area to find the spawning and pre-spawning fish. If we can get some nice weather, the first hour before sunrise and an hour before and after sunset are great times to fish for walleye in shallow water. Throw a suspending rogue or use soft plastic swim baits. Norfork Lake level is on a slow rise and currently sits at 561.92 feet msl. This is approximately 8 feet over normal seasonal pool. The surface water temperature ranges from 43-46 degrees depending on your location and time of day. The main lake has a greenish stain along with most of creeks and coves. The water clarity heading up in the Bennetts area is stained brown as is up river once you're past the Cranfield area. A lot of the brown water has dropped out and the remainder will follow suit quickly.

(updated 2-20-2018) 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.