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Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

May 15, 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 15, 2019.

White River

(updated 5-15-2019) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) says cool mornings and sunny days have been making for great trout fishing conditions. The brown trout bite has been steady, with sculpins and the occasional well-positioned shad doing well. The rainbow trout have been moving toward Sunrise and Orange PowerBait, and combining that with shrimp or crawdad tail has been an excellent way to reel in some great-sized fish. Fishing toward the bank has been the best way to keep your bait from getting moss on it and keeping it in the mouths of the trout. With the recent release of golden rainbow trout by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, now is a golden opportunity to catch some great trout.

(updated 5-15-2019) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said last weekend that during the past week they had five rain events that combined for an inch of rainfall, warmer temperatures and heavy winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals rose 6.9 feet to rest at 14.2 feet above seasonal power pool of 661.57 feet msl. This is 19.4 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock fell 0.4 foot to rest at 3.3 feet above seasonal power pool and 11.4 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake rose 2.4 feet to rest at 4.8 feet above seasonal power pool and 3.8 feet below the top of flood pool. The White had light generation and some wadable water. Norfork Lake rose 5 feet to rest at 12 feet above seasonal power pool of 556.32 feet msl and 11.8 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork we 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 well over the top of power pool. Currently there is light generation and some wadable water. This will end when flooding recedes downstream. 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 (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 size 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). 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.

(updated 5-15-2019) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) said the clarity of the river is “pretty clear.” They add, “There are thousands of bugs on the water.” The river level, which has been high, is now low with under four generators running. The trout bite is fair. “They’re still catching a few rainbows,” they report. “There is lots of moss.”

Bull Shoals Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 677.30 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 661.00 feet msl).

(updated 5-15-2019) 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 569.10 feet msl (normal conservation pool: September-April 552.00 feet msl; April-September, 555.75 feet msl).

(updated 5-15-2019) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said Norfork Lake fishing continues to be good even with constant weather pattern changes. Yes, our lake has risen roughly 11 feet since my last report, 2 weeks ago, but things are becoming much more stable. All species are biting, but the patterns have changed with all the new space the fish have to play in and all the new brush that has gone under water. High water is a blessing to the fish population, especially when it happens after most of the species have spawned. We will see the effect of this year’s higher water in about 3 years with increased fish population, as well as, increases in size.

The striped bass and hybrid bass bite has been steadily improving. They are being caught throughout the lake. The best locations at this time are partway, to most of the way, back into major creeks. But I am starting to see a few of this species finally starting to move out to main lake points which is typically the norm for this time of year. This morning I found a huge school of hybrids near a main lake point feeding on shad. I ended up landing four in the 7 to 8 pound range, on a 6 inch paddle tail swimbait in a sexy shad color. As soon as it started to get light out the bait and fish moved on. Hummingbird Hideaway Resort had almost a full house of guests with us last week and the majority of them were striped bass fishermen and women. Over the week I think they fished the entire lake and had great success on most days. The best bait for them was live shad or shiners. Free lining the bait with no weight caught fish as did setting down lines at 20 and 30 feet deep. Most of the fish they found were back in major creeks in 30 - 45 feet of water. Some of the fish were close to shore on the deep side, but others were out in the middle. Vertical jigging with a spoon has also been producing some nice fish back in the same areas in 30 - 35 feet of water on the bottom.
The bass bite has also been very good. The best location for this species is inside of the sunken brush. Some of the most productive areas has been long points that have been totally submerged, with some of the brush just slightly above the water line. The fish will be hanging near the brush, to just outside of the brush. Use worms, lizards, centipedes, or just about any plastic bait, worked slowly along the bottom. There are occasions that you will only see your line moving off to one side, if you notice the movement set the hook. Spinner baits is also working ripping it back through the brush. The fun part with fishing inside of the brush is getting the fish out. Topwater action has slowed for now, but will pick up again soon. Even if you don't notice the fish hitting the surface, throw a topwater bait into the brush and you will be able to call up some nice fish. Once the water temperature reaches 70-plus degrees we will start seeing the bass exploding.
Blue gill have started to spawn in the backs of creeks and coves in very shallow water. Small jigs are picking up some nice fish. The crappie bite has changed over the last couple of weeks. Most have spawned out and have moved out to their 30 feet deep brush. The water level rose and has somewhat scattered the fish. Some are being caught at the edges of the sunken brush in 18 to 25 feet of water. Trolling small crank baits are still working, but using small jigs once you find the fish is also picking up a few nice ones. Walleye are showing up with the stripers, hybrids and whites chasing the bait fish. You will pick up some nice fish with live bait or by casting a swimbait, an A-rig or suspending jerk bait to the shoreline. The best time to catch this species is sunrise and sunset. The Norfork Lake water level is currently 568.9 feet msl. The main lake ranges from crystal clear, to slightly stained to very stained depending on location. Most of the coves and creeks I have been in are clear to slightly stained. The lake surface water temperature Tuesday morning ranged from 66-68 degrees depending on location.

(updated 5-15-2019) Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters said that the past two weeks I have seen wild swings in fishing on Norfork Lake. At the end of last weekend and the beginning of this past week the water was warming and the shad was beginning to spawn. The striper fishing has been getting better each day, the best bite has been Crystal Cove area and around point 6. But the rains came along with cold nights and dropped the water temperature back to the mid-60s. The lake also rose 7 feet and cooled the water down. This will all change if we can get back to warm weather the shad are full of eggs and ready to spawn. I expect with the warming trend scheduled for later this coming week and the full moon we should see an explosion by the coming weekend. The higher water is great for the spawn, all the young fry will have great cover to grow. The stripers and bass will be feeding heavy on the shad and the topwater bite should be excellent. One trick I use is a Bass Assassin on a weighted hook. I throw it into the brush and work it as a topwater bait and if I see a swirl on the bait I just stop my retrieve and let it drop since its weedless you will not get hung up. The bass will hit the dropping bait and if do not get a hit I let it go down a couple of feet and do a hard jerk and that usually triggers a strike. Stripers and bass will be on the points early morning and late afternoon evenings. Pitching live bait into the brush is very effective. Some guides use this method very effectively but you will get hung up a lot and miss a lot of fish that are roaming. A better method is to stay out and fish the old shoreline I have found over the years the fish still relate to the old shoreline when the lake rises. They just move up when they are active then move back as the sun comes up. The higher water will alter the crappie bite. Until the water warms up they will stay in the deep brush piles but once it warms up look for stained water and find some buck brush. The best method is to dip and cork and minnow into the brush; it’s very effective in catching spawning crappie.

(updated 5-8-2019) Steve Olomon of Steve’s Guide Service said that with the rain they had this past week Norfork Lake is up about 10 feet and the water temperature is in the mid- to upper 60s. The upper end of the lake the water is stained with some debris floating. The rest of the lake down to the dam and up Big Creek is clear. There is not very much topwater activity going on. When there is some, it’s just a few coming up sporadic. If they are close enough to cast to, they will usually hit your lure. Throw a Spook, soft jerkbait or a wake-type bait. “When the fish aren’t feeding on the surface, I throw a swimbait and it will catch stripers, hybrids, whites, walleye and all three bass species. I even caught a couple crappie. At night, throw a stick bait to the edge of the brush close to the bank and retrieve the lure SLOW back to the boat,” Steve says.

Norfork Tailwater

(updated 5-15-2019) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said last weekend that over the previous week Norfork Lake rose 5 feet to rest at 12 feet above seasonal power pool of 556.32 feet msl and 11.8 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork we 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 well over the top of power pool. Currently there is light generation and some wadable water. This will end when flooding recedes downstream. Expect more generation in the near future.
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 (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.

Buffalo National River/Crooked Creek

(updated 5-15-2019) 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. 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.