Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

March 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 March 20, 2019.

White River

(updated 3-20-2019) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) says spring is here, or at least spring break time is here. Many families have been making their way to the White River and have been reeling in great trout. The Brown Trout bite has still been excellent with sculpins slowly overtaking minnows as the favored bait. Fishing at the bottom of deep pools or cover near the bank has proved to be the best way to pull in a big brown. Rainbows have been a bit trickier to find recently, but throwing a pink worm in relatively slower water has reeled in many good sized trout. The river is still high from the releases from Bull Shoals Dam, however the high water is providing the trout with a great food source resulting in larger, better fighting fish. Enjoy the warming weather and come to the White River to catch some great trout.

(updated 3-20-2019) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) said the clarity is cloudy, as there is fast water. The river level is high with six to eight generators running. The trout bite is fair, and anglers are doing OK.

(updated 3-20-2019) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said last weekend that during the past week they have had several rain events (combined for just over an inch in Cotter), cold temperatures and heavy winds (to include lake wind advisories). The lake level at Bull Shoals fell two and seven tenths feet to rest at four and one tenth feet above seasonal power pool of 659 feet. This is thirty one and nine tenths feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock rose nine tenths of a foot to rest at eight tenths of a foot above seasonal power pool and fifteen and two tenths feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake rose seven tenths of a foot a foot to rest at two and five tenths feet above seasonal power pool and seven and one tenth feet below the top of flood pool. On the White, we had heavy generation and no wadable water. Norfork Lake fell two and seven tenths feet to rest at two and three tenths feet above seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet and twenty three and nine tenths feet below the top of flood pool. On the Norfork we had heavy generation and no wadable water. In an effort to lower the water level on Lake Norfork the Army Corps of Engineers, Little Rock District began spillway releases from Norfork Dam, to evacuate stored flood water. The Corps opened six gates of the 12 gates one-foot each releasing about 4,500 cubic feet per second (CFS)as well as 6,000 CFS releases from the two power generation turbines for a total combined release of 10,500 CFS or the equivalent of three hydropower turbines at full power. Seasonal power pool has been reset for the lakes in the White River system. All of the lakes in the White River System are at or above the top of power pool. We can expect more generation in the near future. The White has fished well. The hot spot has been the catch and release section at 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 (my current favorite combination is a bead head pheasant tail nymph (#14) with an egg pattern (#12) suspended below it. Use plenty of lead to get your flies down.
John also mentions an upcoming spring fly-fishing class: “I have been teaching fly fishing for almost thirty years. In the late eighties, I was president of the Mid South Fly Fishers (the local fly fishing club in Memphis). We decided to teach a fly fishing class. I taught various basic subjects and my brother, Dan, taught fly casting. It was quite successful.

“We continued to teach the Mid South Fly Fisher Classes. A local sporting goods store, Tommy Bronson Sporting Goods, asked Dan and I to teach fly casting. We did it for over ten years. We taught literally thousands of people to cast a fly rod. That evolved into a fly fishing class for Tommy Bronson.
“We approached Shelby State Community College and began teaching fly fishing there. Mississippi County Community College in Blytheville Arkansas invited us to teach there. About that time the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission asked us to teach fly fishing at JFK Park on the Little Red River.
“I met my wife, Lori, when I was teaching a fly fishing class for the Mid South Fly Fishers. She was a natural and quickly became a great fly fisher. Lori had a strong background in corporate training (she has a master’s degree in counseling). It was a given that she would become involved. She worked with Dan on how to teach casting. She had an opportunity to work with the late Lefty Kreh, who took her under his wing and made a great casting instructor out of her.
“I moved here first and a couple of years later Lori and I were married and she joined me in Cotter. We were both guiding and decided to teach fly fishing here. We approached Arkansas State University Mountain Home to see if we could teach there and they agreed. We began our classes and they have remained popular. We have been teaching the classes twice a year (spring and summer) for several years now and still enjoy it.
“We devote half of our class time to teaching casting and Lori leads that portion. I consider her to be the best casting instructor in the area. Of course, I assist her at every class to ensure that everyone gets the full benefit of the instruction. I lead all of the classroom instruction and Lori assists. Here again she provides her experience in order to increase the quality of the instruction.
“The spring fly fishing class is scheduled to be held on Thursday April 4, 11, 18 and 25 in room D102 Dryer Hall on the ASU Mountain Home Campus. The classes run two hours each. They begin at 6:00 PM and last till 8:00 PM. There is a modest fee involved. To register go online to You can register by telephone at (870) 508-6105 or in person at the Community Education office in the Sheid. If you would like to learn to fly fish in a friendly non judgmental environment, give our class at ASU a try.”

Bull Shoals Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 661.00 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl).

(updated 2-27-2019) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said, “The water is coming up, we've got a lot of rain last week. Cold rain, at that. It’s now about 9 feet high and water surface temperature about 45 degrees depending on where you're at. If you get a warm day, the backs of the creeks with the dirty water seem to warm up. That's kind of what I've been keying on,” he said. “However, with it being cold and no warm days in the future, that bite’s not looking so good. I know everyone's chomping at the bit for spring. It's slow.” Del said he’s been away a lot at fishing shows in the Chicago area recently, but he’s been out enough to find a couple of different bites that have been working for him. The deep bite has been slow, but anglers can find it drop-shotting, spooning or using a Damiki rig anywhere in that 25-35 feet range. “If you see them you can video game them and you can pick a few off,” he said, “but it’s going to be hit or miss on that bite.” However, he added, if a warm front comes through, he expects the crankbait bite to pick up. Use a Rock Crawler in natural colors in clear water, or go with brighter colors in the dirty water. “If you’ve got wind and you’ve got sun, it’s going to be a good day to go crank. That bite should get better over the next couple of weeks as the water temperatures start to come up. Hopefully we get a couple more warm fronts.”
Del adds that the jig bite is another that’s been working around the channel swing banks. Look for the chunk rock, the little ledges. He’s had best success in about 15-25 feet depth. “In the creeks has been better for me than out on the main lake,” Del said. Also, he mentioned, he’s found a swimbait bite by throwing a single swimbait and slow-rolling it as slow as possible. He’ll says to look for the shad, and if there are loons and seagulls and little pods of shad he’ll pick up a jerkbait or a swimbait to get a few more fish. The jerkbait is working over the points with brush piles. Del says the new brush piles are still holding some fish. Del also notes that the Alabama rig has been kind of the bread-and-butter for wintertime fishing there and that probably will continue until the warm up. He also says he’s seen a few crappie stacked up in the brush piles. The walleye jerkbait is getting close, too, he says.

Norfork Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 555.18 feet msl (normal conservation pool: September-April 552.00 feet msl; April-September, 554.00 feet msl).

(updated 3-20-2018) Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters said What a weather week we just had. We started the week catching limits of stripers and hybrids and ended it with cold weather winds and very little fish activity. The threadfin that was abundant up on the flat past Fout's was blown out and the fish followed Small hybrids and stripers are still around but have very sluggish to bite. We did catch fish Saturday but the bite was very light and you had it get on the bite as soon as saw the hit. The good news is the weather looks consistent and is warming. Today in Bennett's Bayou we had 52 degree water and it will only get warmer. The bait and fish will move back into the creeks as the water warms. If you're looking for walleye there is a strong bite from Calamity Beach to the 160 bridge. Both live bait and stick baits are catching limits of walleye. With the water warming up I saw crappies being caught off the stickups in Bennett's today, you should be able to find them in good numbers by weeks end. Stripers and hybrids will start to feed now that the big front moved past us. You will be able to catch fish in the Fout's area, Big Creek above Reynolds Island and also Brushy Creek. I caught Fish around 6B in Bennett's Bayou. Shad, shiners, spoons, and umbrella rigs have been catching all of the species. As the south winds begin blowing, start fishing the northern bays and banks. The night bite will start after that so fish the northern banks as they warm the fastest in the spring. These same patterns will happen in all the creeks on Norfork Lake.

(updated 3-20-2019) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said Spring has sprung on Norfork Lake. The weather has been absolutely gorgeous the last several days. The lake water temperature is on the rise and fish activity is increasing daily. It has been exciting to see the fish transition from the winter pattern to the early spring pattern.
Bass fishing has been awesome with largemouth and spots being the most abundant with an occasional smallmouth mixed in. Crank baits and jerk baits are working very well. This morning I got into an hours worth of great top water action using a Zara Spook. The fun has begun for the early spring bite. I found top water action part way back in a small creek on a shallow round point where the channel swings in. The fish were in 5 to 20 feet of water and chasing shad in a very large area. I landed a fish on about every other cast. The majority of the fish were short, but in an hour I landed 6 keepers with the largest well over 3 pounds. Yesterday, I was part way back in a major creek in a similar type of area, and found a lot of bass in 10 - 18 feet of water. My jointed tail, flicker shad, size 7 was working great. The fish were closer to the bottom with very little top water in this location. The other type of area producing fish is shallow main lake points, especially if the channel swings in close to the point. Same types of baits mentioned earlier are working in these areas as well. As the water level becomes more stable, more and more of the bass will move back into the creeks and will start staging for their spawn. That also means they really start to feed heavily.
The striped bass bite is also transitioning from its winter pattern to its early spring pattern. What this means is that the fish are moving out of the deeper water and are moving in close to the shoreline to feed. The striped bass move to the shallow water to feed, has just started over the last several days. They are following the bait fish to their new feeding grounds. This is also changing my fishing times. Over the last several days the best bite for striped bass has been about an hour before and after sunrise and similar times at sunset. This is also telling me that the stripers should be feeding after dark so, if you like throwing a suspending jerk bait, now is the time to be out there. I myself have not been out after dark yet, but I will be soon. I have two different baits that I enjoy using this time of year. The one I use the most is a 6 inch swimbait with a paddle tail. I use a 3/8 oz to 1/2 oz jig head. I cast it toward the shoreline and let it sink to the bottom, then use a steady retrieval back to the boat. The other bait I like is a suspending jerk bait. My retrieval method varies until I find out what the fish wants. I may retrieve it like a crank bait or work it as a jerk bait. I guess I have one more favorite bait in my arsenal, my trusty 1/4 - 1/2 oz. Kastmaster. I typically change hooks out to one size bigger and add a feather trailer. This morning I landed 2 stripers in about 6 feet of water on a swimbait, along with a handful of large white bass. There was a few bigger fish hitting the surface, but very sporadically. The top water for striped bass will pick up over the next several weeks if the weather continues its warming trend. The best areas that I have found for stripers are main lake points that are very shallow on one side and deep on the other.
Crappie fishing has been fair. My crappie fishing guests are catching quite a few crappie, but the bigger ones over 11 inches long are harder to come by. They have been landing around 8 to 12 nice fish a day, along with many short ones. Small 1/4 spoons in white and green or white and chartreuse have been working for them. Live crappie minnows are always a great bait for crappie fishing. The fish are on brush at all different depths. You can find fish on brush from 20 feet to 35 feet deep. Crappie will be buried inside of the brush or suspended above the brush. You will need to keep fishing different depths until you start catching fish. Lately the crappie have seemed a little more timid, so you may have to move often to catch your fish.
Norfork Lake level is currently falling about 3 inches per day with both generators at the dam running. The lake currently sits at 555.29 MSL. This equates to only 1.5 feet above normal seasonal pool. The lake surface water temperature this morning was 52 degrees. It warms during the warm day and then cools again during the cooler evenings. The lake is mostly clear with maybe a 5 - 6 foot visibility. Some creeks are similar to the main lake clarity and other are stained a greenish tint. Overall the lake is in great shape and the fishing is shaping up to be a fun spring bite.

Norfork Tailwater

(updated 3-20-2019) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said last weekend that over the previous week Norfork Lake fell 4.2 feet to rest at 5 feet above seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 21.2 feet below the top of flood pool. 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 well. 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.

Buffalo National River/Crooked Creek

(updated 3-20-2019) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said the Buffalo National River and Crooked Creek are still a bit high. 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.