Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

October 2, 2019

More reports and other videos are on the Cotter Trout Dock Youtube Channel Page.
Below is the Arkansas Game and Fish Fishing Report October 2, 2019.

White River

(updated 10-2-2019) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) says the tailwaters for Bull Shoals Lake have dropped to within 3 feet of power pool; currently sitting at 664.01 feet msl. This is a good indicator that the Southwestern Power Administration and the Army Corps of Engineers will decrease generation, causing water levels on the White River below the dam to become lower and a little slower; it will also provide the possibility of wading or anchoring. The brown trout bite is getting tricky, and more patience is required to get their attention. If fishing within a few miles of the
dam, down to Wildcat Shoals area, tie on a white jig or try a white, 4-inch Head Hunter with a touch of orange on its belly. Further downriver, nearer to Cotter, the rainbow Rapala, CD5 or CD7, will cause a stir. The rainbow catch has been very, very good. Bubblegum pink worms, sometimes used in conjunction with white PowerBait, floating mid-depth, will pick up the pace, as will a live and kickin' red wiggler. If that doesn't draw enough attention, add a small bit of shrimp to the barb and catch your limit.
“The Weather Channel is promising some cooler days by the end of the week; that, added to the lower water, will be too much incentive to stay away. See you in a day or two.”

(updated 10-2-2019) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) says the clarity is clear and the river is high. Nothing has changed much at their location over the past week, they report. There is still evidence of the late summer shad kill in the river. The trout bite is excellent. PowerBait is the bait to use. Anglers caught some walleye, some nice brown trout, and a lot of rainbow trout, they report.

(updated 9-25-2019) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said that during the past week, that had about an inch of rain, warm temperatures and moderate winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals fell 3 feet to rest at 4.9 feet above seasonal power pool of 661 feet msl. This is 29.1 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock fell 0.1 foot to rest at 1.6 feet below seasonal power pool and 15.6 below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell 0.7 foot to rest at 0.7 foot above seasonal power pool and 7.9 feet below the top of flood pool. The White had heavy generation with no wadable water. Norfork Lake fell 1.4 feet to rest at 3.2 feet above seasonal power pool of 555.75 feet msl and 20.1 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork saw moderate generation all day.
Hopper season is on the wane. Use a short (7½ foot) leader to turn over the big fly. Cast near the bank and hang on. The takes can be vicious. John says he prefers large Western foam hoppers so that he does not need to dress them. Add a dropper nymph to increase your catch.
The White has fished very well. The hot spot has been the catch-and-release section below Bull Shoals Dam where they have had an unseasonal shad kill (white shad flies have been the ticket). 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 (size14), 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 cerise San Juan worm with an egg pattern suspended below it). Use long leaders and plenty of lead to get your flies down.
John also says, “As a fly fishing guide, I am obsessed by the water level of our lakes and rivers. When people ask me the best time to go fishing I tell them it is not the weather, calendar or the insect activity that drives our fishing, it is the water level. Due to rain in our area or other areas the lake levels and discharge from our dams can change in a matter of minutes. If the lakes fill overnight, they can literally take months to be drawn down.
“It has been a high-water year. We had heavy spring rains. The lakes filled to near capacity early in the year. There were a couple of times during the year when the lake levels were almost down to power pool only to rise again due a heavy rain event. The only wadable water we have received this year was due to flooding downstream. On those occasions, the Corps of Engineers held back water to lessen the impact of the flooding.
“I read a recent article from a local guide that claimed fishing high water was the best. I do not agree. I personally prefer wade-fishing low water (there is something about water lapping around my waders) or fishing from a boat in moderate generation (one to two generators). As a result, I monitor the lake and river levels several times every day. Every afternoon I look at the Southwestern Power Administration’s posting of the projected loading schedule for the next day. On Friday, they post the schedule for Saturday-Sunday-Monday. Every morning I look at the Army Corps of Engineers actual releases to determine that they are actually releasing the amount of water that they scheduled. From time to time I find a discrepancy.
“As of this writing, I can see light at the end of the tunnel. Beaver Dam is inches away from power pool. Table Rock is almost 2 feet below current power pool. Bull Shoals is 6 feet above current power pool and Norfork Lake is less than 4 feet from its current power pool. It should be noted that the power pool level for all of the dams is due to drop two feet on Oct. 1.
The lake level at Bull Shoals is dropping about 3.5 feet per week and Norfork is dropping about 1.5 feet per week. I estimate that Bull Shoals will meet the new power pool level in about three weeks (from Sept. 28) and the other lakes will reach power pool at about the same time. This means that we could see some wadable water or at least some greatly reduced flows on our rivers by the middle of October.
“I don’t know about the rest of you but this is good news to me. I am tired of high water!”

Bull Shoals Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 664.00 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl).

(updated 10-2-2019) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said the Bull Shoals Lake level is high again, at about 5 feet above normal level. Surface temperature is 80 degrees as of Tuesday midmorning. Clarity is cloudy. Bream reports fell off, with poor results. Crappie are fair. Anglers have found it hit or miss. The best crappie bite is found in the creeks; use minnows or jigs. Black bass are in their traditional fall pattern, with the typical baits for that pattern working, Del says. Go with topwater lures. Walleye are found in 32 feet or water and are being caught with bottom bouncers. No other reports. Check out Del’s YouTube page (Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock) for his latest video report on what’s biting and techniques to use.

Norfork Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 558.25 feet msl (normal conservation pool: Sept.-April, 552.00 feet msl; April-Sept., 555.75 feet msl).

(updated 10-2-2019) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said summer-like weather is hanging on longer this year than normal. “I’m really getting anxious waiting for the fall fishing season to begin. Even with the warm water temperature, my fishing guests and I have been doing pretty well fishing for a variety of species in Norfork Lake. Crappie, largemouth, smallmouth, bluegill, catfish and walleye are all being caught.
The crappie bite is still one of the better bites at this time, with several of the big slabs starting to show up. Crappie are being caught from 15 feet down to 35 feet, suspended and on the bottom in and around large brush piles. The best areas have brush from 22 feet of water out to 35 feet of water. You will be able to stay in one area longer with the brush covering such a large depth range. What I try to do is start in the shallow part of the brush and fish close to the bottom. As the sun gets to the treetops, I move a little deeper and will start to find fish suspended toward the top of the brush. But once the sun gets high in the sky the fish seem to move inside of the brush. If you are not getting bites you need to move to another brush pile. The bite may stop after you catch several fish and if it does, make the move then come back to this brush after you give it some time to rest. I have been using a quarter-ounce white with chartreuse back spoon, as well as ones with a pink and green back. These colors seem to be my go-to colors, but if the bite seems to be slow, I do switch out to other colors until I find one that the fish are wanting. I currently have several guests fishing for pan fish with live minnows and crickets. They are doing quite well catching big blue gills, along with some nice crappie and bass. The best depth so far for my guests have been 25-30 feet towards the bottom close to or inside of brush piles.
“I currently have another fishing guest that is strictly fishing for bass. The bite has been good for him, but he does have to work for them. He has been fishing a dark-colored 10-inch worm and working it in shallow water. His best areas have buckbrush that is still under water or large underwater rocks close to the shore. Yesterday he did land a nice 5.5-pound largemouth bass, but most fish he has caught are in the 2-3.5 pound range. A few days ago, another guest was crappie fishing and saw topwater action occurring along a deep bluff line across the lake from him. He headed that way and started to throw a Zara Spook and landed several nice 16- to 17-inch largemouth bass. These fish were out in 80 feet of water chasing shad at about 9 a.m. on a sunny day.
“I have also been spending quite a bit of time looking for striped bass and walleye. The striped bass have totally eluded me at this time, but I am finding walleye, but all have been short. My best areas for walleye have been on points off the rock bluff walls in 20-30 feet of water. I have caught these fish vertical jigging a ¾-ounce spoon off the bottom.
Norfork Lake continues to drop about 2 inches a day. The lake is currently at 558.36 feet msl. The lake is currently 4.6 feet above normal seasonal pool. The lake surface water temperature Tuesday morning ranged from 79.6 degrees to 81.5 degrees. “The main lake in our area is slightly stained to clear and most of the creeks and coves are also slightly stained. Great fishing color. From what I can see on my depth finder the thermocline has dropped to somewhere between 35-40 feet. Over the last several days I have found many fish on the bottom at this depth. This is one of the main reasons I have started checking out deeper brush and have actually caught crappie 35-feet-plus deep on the bottom. The better bite for crappie is still on 25-30 feet deep brush. As the lake continues to cool, what we call a lake turnover will happen and fish will then have the freedom to move around at any depth. Basically, this means the oxygen level will be high at all levels and the water temperature will become more consistent from top to bottom. Happy fish and see you on the lake.”

(updated 9-25-2019) Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters said September is still hot with no rain and cold weather. We have had some cooler days but the weather needs to turn cold with rain which is only cure for the dam stripers. Once we get some rain and cooler weather the stripers will be able to move from the depths. We continue to catch limits of stripers above the state line. The stripers are in the water depths from 18 to 24' and the water is cooler with plenty of oxygen. We are using 3 to 5” gizzard shad on downlines and long lines.
The bass are schooling early morning off the main lake points feeding on small shad. Small topwater lures and spoons will produce lots of action. The crappie are schooling over deep brush piles in waters no shallower then 30' and the crappie are suspended around 15'.
High water, no rain, high water temperature, little current, small dam releases, and almost no oxygen has resulted in a striper kill this year. Stripers need 5 ppm to be active and as the summer passes and the high water the oxygen level has continuing to decrease. It's now less than 2 percent and we are seeing some dead stripers at the dam. Once we get some rain and cooler weather the stripers will be able to move from the depths and the kill will be over. We can only pray this happens soon.
If you do not want to travel that far wait until its start getting cooler at night and the water temperature gets into the mid-70s then try the creeks and Robinson Point. One trick is go up the creeks until you find a drop in the water temperature, the stripers will be close by.

Norfork Tailwater

(updated 9-25-2019) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake fell 1.4 feet to rest at 3.2 feet above seasonal power pool of 555.75 feet msl and 20.1 feet below the top of flood pool. Norfork saw moderate generation all day. The Norfork tailwater has been fishing better on the moderate flows but has been a bit crowded. The dissolved oxygen level is slightly improved. Navigate this stream with caution as there has been major gravel recruitment at the bottom of Mill Pond and the dock hole from flooding. 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 better. The browns have begun making their annual migration upstream. With school back in session it will be less crowded during the week The hot flies have been sowbugs (size 14), Y2Ks (size 12), various colored San Juan worms (worm brown, red, hot fluorescent pink and cerise size 10) and mop flies. Remember that the White and Norfork rivers and Dry Run Creek are infected with didymo, an invasive alga. 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 10-2-2019) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said the Buffalo National River and Crooked Creek are low and clear. 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.