Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

May 1, 2019

More reports and other videos are on the Cotter Trout Dock Youtube Channel Page.
Below is the Arkansas Game and Fish Fishing Report May 1, 2019.

White River

(updated 5-1-2019) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) says April ended on a high (and dry!) note for trout fishers in Cotter. The catch has been especially good this past week for browns. Most were not officially "trophies" but there were many that fell just short of the 24" required to earn a catch-and-release pin. The bait of choice was, again, sculpins but sometimes a few shad were added to the mix and helped bring a brown to the boat. Water levels have been really steady at just about a unit and a half running around the clock (4,500 cfs) so anglers were able to drift and catch trout or find their favorite fishing hole and drop a line there. The water level was somewhat high for wade fishing, but we saw some nice catches from the bank of the river here in Cotter; too low for big rogues, but great for 1/6 ounce spoons (gold, gold and more gold). Looks like rain in the forecast, so carry some spinners in case of a little murky water in the next few days. Bring the kids to Cotter on Saturday May 4th for the annual Cotter-Gassville Trout Festival and Kids' Fishing Hole. Our Chamber of Commerce together with Arkansas Game and Fish know how to attract the young ones with a stocked cove and volunteers to help rig up a line for young anglers.

(updated 5-1-2019) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said last weekend that during the past week they had an inch of rain in Cotter, warmer temperatures and heavy winds (to include lake wind advisories). The lake level at Bull Shoals rose 0.9 foot to rest at 3.7 feet above seasonal power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 35.3 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock rose 0.3 foot to rest at 0.6 foot above seasonal power pool and 15.4 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake rose 0.2 foot to rest at 0.6 foot above seasonal power pool and 9 feet below the top of flood pool. The White River light generation and no wadable water. Norfork Lake rose 1.7 feet to rest at 4.2 feet above seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 22 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork had less generation and reliable 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 near the top of power pool. Expect more wadable water in the near future, if it would just stop raining. 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 (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 prince nymph with a size 18 ruby midge suspended below it. Use lead to get your flies down).
John also said, “While it seems like it is always raining, the lakes are not that high. A lot of people from out of town that I have talked to recently have the impression that we have high water. We did have quite a bit of high water earlier this year, but we are now very close to power pool on our lakes and generation is at what I call at reasonable levels. They are running the equivalent of one full generator (about 3,500 cfs) on the White most of the time. They are running minimum flow on the Norfork (about 200 cfs) for several hours each day, which is quite wadable.
“I have guided several days on the White recently and it has fished very well. I have been fishing at Rim Shoals. I guided a couple there on Monday. We started at 7:30 a.m. It was a bit cool when we started but it warmed up quickly. The river was clear and at that one generator level that I really like.
“I rigged their rods differently. On one I used a red fox squirrel and copper size 14 (my version of the Sunday special) and a ruby midge size 18 dropper. On the other rod I used a prince nymph No. 14 with a root beer midge No. 18 dropper. I usually begin with different rigs. I then monitor which flies are the most productive and then switch to the hottest flies as the day progresses.
“We caught a few trout on the red fox squirrel and the prince nymph but they were not big producers. The two droppers, the ruby midge and the root beer midge were hot. We caught trout after trout on them. I didn’t change any flies. If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. We fished those rigs all day and they never quit producing.
“We were catching some nice trout. Halfway through the morning we hooked a big brown. It took a while to get it in. He was a little over 24 inches long and pretty stout. I was surprised to see that he had taken the root beer midge. That is a lot of trout on a small barbless hook. Luckily we had a corner-of-the-mouth hook up. I think that is the most secure hook up you can have in fly-fishing. It seems like every time the trout closes its mouth it drives the hook deeper into the bone in the trout’s jaw.
“About 3 o’clock they decided that they had caught enough trout and called it a day. I motored over to the ramp and dropped them off. I took a few minutes to put my boat on the trailer, drove my trailer up into the parking lot and stowed my gear. It had been a great day. We had landed about 75 trout and never changed flies.”

(updated 4-24-2019) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) said the water is clear and now the river level has been low, meaning that the surface temperature in turn is cooler. Two generators have been running at the dam. And this means, the trout bite the past week has been excellent. Rainbow trout are biting spinners and PowerBait. Browns are favoring rainbow rigs and white jigs.

Bull Shoals Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 665.47 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl).

(updated 4-24-2019) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said crappie are good on minnows and jigs and are active around brush piles and bushes. Crappie are spawning. Walleye will bite if you’re bottom-bouncing with night crawlers at secondary points. Bream are shallow and the bite is good. They’ve moved onto the shoreline. More of Del’s reports are available on Youtube: Del Colvin, Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock.

Norfork Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 558.94 feet msl (normal conservation pool: September-April 552.00 feet msl; April-September, 554.00 feet msl).

(updated 5-1-2019) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said Norfork Lake fishing has been good for most species over the last week. Topwater activity has begun in earnest and will only get better. Crappie fishing continues to be very good and fishing for the three bass species has also continued to be strong. The latest species to show up more frequently is walleye. Over the past week topwater action for striped, hybrid and white bass has been exciting. The best bite at this time for topwater activity is right before sunrise. The bite can last until the sun gets above the tree line. On cloudy days, it may last longer. Lou says he has been using three different baits for this action: a Zara Spook, a half-ounce Kastmater and a 6-inch swimbait with a paddle tail and 3/8-ounce jighead. “I have had the best luck with the swimbait. Prior to the feeding frenzy on topwater, I have been casting a jerkbait or a swimbait up to the shoreline. This time of year, stripers tend to feed on shad in very shallow water. As the sun gets higher in the sky striped bass tend to move out to a little deeper water. It appears that 30 feet down is where stripers are suspended during the middle part of the day. You can vertical jig for these fish or troll an umbrella rig. As the day wears on, look for topwater feeding fish about an hour or so before sunset. But your fishing day is not done at sunset, there is still a good after dark bite for striped, hybrid, large and smallmouth bass and walleye. The bite does not necessarily start right at dark, but can occur all though the night. The fish tend to feed heavily on shad after the sun goes down. Your fishing method after dark is to throw a suspending jerkbait, retrieving the bait very, very slowly with an occasional pause. The best place to find striped bass is from the mouth of the larger creeks to part way back. Main points and secondary points are good feeding spots for this species. If you find shad in the area, you can almost bet the stripers will not be too far away.”
He says crappie fishing has continued to be excellent. Most of the crappie have spawned out, but there are still a few continuing their spawn process. “The best method that I have found is to slow troll a Berkley Flicker Minnow Pro about 1.2 to 1.5 mph in 20-30 feet of water. For best result make sure there are brush pile in your trolling path. The best colors have varied for me depending on the weather conditions. On a cloudy or dark day, I've been using a darker color such as the purple back and white body or the FireTiger pattern. The white, as well as the purple and white, tends to work the best on sunny days. You can also fish the traditional way of dropping a small jig or spoon in the brush or use a live minnow in the brush. I have found that crappie have been suspended 12-20 feet down on or very near brush with a few fish buried inside of the brush. Down imaging on your depth finder is absolutely amazing for seeing crappie inside of brush, as well as for finding schools of crappie when they are roaming between brush piles.
Lou adds that bass fishing has also been very good. “My fish have been coming out of or very near the sunken buckbrush along the shoreline. I use a Fluke or a Bass Assassin with a weighted shank hook. I cast it into the brush and twitch it out. The hard part is getting the fish out of the brush without breaking off. There has been some good topwater action for bass and it can occur any time of day and also in any depth of water. This morning the bass started to chase shad and I got to land several quality fish on my big swimbait. After the early morning bite, start throwing some of your favorite plastics up near the sunken buckbrush and then work it back slowly along the bottom. The fish will be from 8-20 feet down on the bottom. There are still a few bass continuing to spawn, but the spawn season for bass is almost to a close.
“Most people's favorite fresh water fish to eat is walleye and they are starting to show up in all the same areas as the other species. Very early this morning (5 a.m.) I found a large school of walleye feeding heavily. I was casting my swimbait and was getting a hit on every cast. Walleye tend to be very active in the dark. Swimbaits and jerkbaits are two great methods of fishing for walleye this time of year, not to say that live bait will not work great. Areas that I have found walleye have been near brush in about 20 feet of water while trolling the Flicker Minnow for crappie. I have also caught a few throwing a jerkbait up next to brush very early or very late in the day when it is dark or almost dark. The other time to look for walleye is when you find a feeding frenzy on the surface, walleye will typically be hanging out below the feeding fish picking up the scraps and this can occur in any depth of water.”
Norfork Lake's water level is rising very slowly due to rain and minimal power generation. The lake currently sits at 558.20 feet msl. The surface water temperature Tuesday morning was 64-66 degrees and it typically rises some during the day, and then falls back during the evening. The main lake is clear and some of the smaller creeks and coves are stained.

(updated 4-24-2018) Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters said, “I have the full moon blues. What is normally a great month (April) to fish when the full moon appears has turned into a nightmare. The water temperature was up to 62 degrees and heading up when a cold snap happened and the lake went back down to 52 degrees. Normally the lake should be around 68 degrees and with the full moon the threadfin shad would be spawning and the fish activity would be crazy. Right now with the clear water and cold nights it has taken forever for the lake to get back to 60 degrees. Hopefully that should change this week and we can get the lake temperature back up and let the spawning process begin. I figure is will be another week or so before we will see any type of spawn. The crappie have moved back to deeper water and being caught over the new brush piles but until it warms up they will stay put.
“This past week I fished all week and I thought it was gone to be great after Monday. I pre-fished Bennett's Bayou Monday morning and had fish going crazy around 8 AM. So the next day I took my clients up there and we did not have a bite in 5 hours of fishing. The following morning I took my clients south to Big Creek and we only had 3 bites. They had booked 2 trips so I suggested we fish the evening since the moon was coming up late and it was almost full. We ended up with 10 stripers and hybrids in the boat. Friday and Saturday nights we fished and caught stripers but the each night the bite was slower. Now I'm off a couple of days and will let my son find the morning fish before I start fishing again on Tuesday. The moon will be fading and staying up during the day so that will help on the daytime fishing.”

Norfork Tailwater

(updated 5-1-2019) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said last weekend that over the previous week Norfork Lake rose 1.7 feet to rest at 4.2 feet above seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 22 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork had less generation and reliable 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 near the top of power pool. Expect more wadable water in the near future, 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. 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 ruby midge (size 18) suspended 18 inches below a red fox squirrel and copper (size 14). 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) and white mop flies. 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 5-1-2019) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said the Buffalo National River and Crooked Creek are navigable. The smallmouths are more active with the warm 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.