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Established 1954
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Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

November 20, 2019

Below are some photos of our guided trout fishing customers taken this week at Cotter Trout Dock. 
Click images to enlarge.
Below the pictures is the Fishing Report from Arkansas Game and Fish.

White River

(updated 11-20-2019) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) says the White River which snakes around the Cotter peninsula (Trout Capital USA) is still fairly high with a steady four generators (12,300 cfs) flowing around the clock. Since the arctic snap passed through last week, we're now being blessed with beautiful, mild days, cold nights and amazing creel fills of colorful rainbow trout. We are having success with a variety of spoons and heavier-than-normal spinners. Locate any rainbow colored spoons or Rooster Tails in your tackle box and throw those first. If you prefer bait, the guides are taking out lots of red wiggler worms and backing them up with shrimp and peach, orange or sunrise egg patterns. The X-Factor steelhead orange and shrimp colored baits (egg clusters and regular sized egg patterns) as well as their red worms are attracting the rainbows, too. The browns are not immune to bait now even during the annual spawn, but they're mostly striking in an attempt to get rid of the annoyance. With the Thanksgiving weekend coming up, we'll be seeing more visitors to the area and an increase in river traffic. For those of us on the river often, it's time to be especially careful. We have a big river, wonderfully tended by Arkansas Game & Fish with lots of trout, and enough room for every type and size of angler who visits. We look forward to seeing you and sharing fishing stories.

(updated 11-20-2019) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) said the noted the AGFC’s trout stocking truck has been in there area twice in the last two days, this being reported Tuesday afternoon. “Everything looks good, but no one is fishing much,” is the report. The river is clear and the water us normal. They report 5-6 generators running at the dam.

(updated 11-13-2019) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-4352169) said that during the past week, they had yet another major rain event (almost 4 inches in Cotter), cold temperatures (to include winter weather advisories) and moderate to heavy winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals rose 5.8 feet to rest at 9.4 feet above seasonal power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 26.6 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock rose 2.6 feet to rest at 2.7 feet above seasonal power pool and 11.3 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell 0.1 foot to rest 8.8 feet above seasonal power pool and 0.8 foot below the top of flood pool. The White had moderate generation with some limited wadable water. Norfork Lake rose 2.6 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 saw moderate generation with some wadable water. Seasonal power pool has been reset for the lakes in the White River system. Due to heavy rains over the last four weeks all of the lakes in the White River System are now over the top of power pool. Expect heavy generation for the next few weeks.
The catch-and-release section below Bull Shoals Dam has closed through Jan. 31, 2020, to accommodate the brown trout spawn. The State Park will be seasonal catch and release for the same period. All brown trout must be immediately released. In addition, night fishing is prohibited in this area during this period. On Feb. 1, 2020, this section will open to fishing.
The White has fished well. The hot spot has been the 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 cerise high water San Juan worm with an egg pattern suspended below it). Use long leaders and plenty of lead to get your flies down.
John also talked about taking a first-time fly-angler out on the high water: “My wife, Lori, had a client, Peggy, a retired field engineer, that wanted to learn how to fly-fish. Lori spent some time teaching her to cast and some of the basics. She was reluctant to take Peggy out due to the high water. Lori does not run the boat, so all of her gigs are usually wade trips. I will go along if needed to run the boat.
“Peggy was in town for a few months and they had held off booking a trip waiting for lower water. High water is more difficult to fish because the fish are not as concentrated and the casting is much more difficult. As you know, that has not been in the cards. This is one of the worst high-water years I have seen in a long time. It is almost Thanksgiving and they are still running high water with no end in sight. As Peggy’s time in the Twin Lakes was coming to an end they decided to book a trip on high water with me handling the boat. That way Lori could concentrate on coaching Peggy.
“I arrived at the ramp first and rigged a couple of rods for high water (two heavily weighted flies, a San Juan worm and an egg, a big split-shot and a deeply set strike indicator) and launched the boat. They arrived as I was parking my trailer. They were running about 16,000 cfs, or the approximate equivalent of five full generators. The temperature was about 50 degrees with way more wind than predicted.
I am the high-water specialist. Therefore I took a few minutes to teach Peggy how to make a Belgian cast. This is a simple cast that easily delivers heavy two fly rigs without tangling. You bring the fly line back with a smooth side cast and transition to an overhead forward cast when the back cast is fully extended. She picked it up quickly.
“We began fishing and she was soon into trout. While she picked up the casting quickly she was more challenged with fighting the fish. She lost the first three trout she hooked before she landed one. Lori worked with her. She concentrated on hooking the trout, keeping constant pressure on it, and allowing it to run if necessary.
“Peggy was incredibly conscientious. She really wanted to learn how to fly-fish. She carefully listened to Lori’s instruction and did her best to pick it all up. There is a lot to learn in one day and it is not easily done. She began to pick it up. Soon she was performing flawlessly catching several nice trout.
“Around noon we headed back to the ramp and I put the boat back on the trailer. Lori took a few minutes to teach Peggy how rig and fish a Woolly Bugger. They walked over to the ramp and picked a couple more trout. Peggy was stoked. She had picked over a limit on her first day of fly fishing and did it on heavy water.”

Bull Shoals Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 670.20 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl).

(updated 11-6-2019) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said the water is clear and Bull Shoals has risen to about 2.5 feet high as of Tuesday morning. The lake is at 65 degrees on the surface. Del reported last week that the lake has turned over. Crappie continue to be caught, with good results reported. They are deep, however. Most are being caught in 25-30 feet of water and are being found around the Corps brushpiles. Use minnows. The bass are picking up with the Corps running a lot of water, he says. If it’s windy, Del suggests using spinnerbaits and crankbaits. Otherwise, got with topwater baits, the Whopper Plopper, or fish with jigs around the rocky points. The reports have been good on bass. Walleye are being caught trolling. Nothing has been reported on bream, while catfish reports were poor. Check out Del’s YouTube page (Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock) for his latest video reports and tips on catching the fish.

Norfork Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 558.07 feet msl (normal conservation pool: Sept.-April, 552.00 feet msl; April-Sept., 555.75 feet msl).

(updated 11-13-2019) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said Norfork Lake fishing has been good to me the last week, but things will be changing with the polar blast we are currently getting. The cold frigid weather will push the bait out of the creeks. They will head to more comfortable water temperatures in the main lake and yes, the fish will follow. The bite has been good for all species and will continue to get better and better as the fish start to feed heavily for the upcoming winter months. Start looking at the large flats in 30-50 feet of water for bait and fish of all species in the coming days, as the water continues to cool rapidly.
A couple different types of areas have been holding striped and hybrid bass. The best areas for striped and hybrid bass at this time, have been back in the major creeks or up river. Bennett’s, Big Creek and upriver from Calamity to the Udall areas have been great places to find striped and hybrid bass. The bait has been very thick in all these areas and the fish have been feeding. Fishing with live bait, such as shiners, thread fin and gizzard shad has been producing the largest number of fish, but artificial baits have also been catching fish. You will find stripers in these creek type areas in 20-40 feet of water and they will be at all depths. The second type of area where I have been finding stripers and hybrids, as well as, white bass is on large flats. You will need to do some searching with your electronics until you find bait. The fish will be nearby. I have found large schools of fish and you can have a blast vertical jigging with a spoon, as long as you can stay on the feeding fish. Most of the fish I’ve found on the flats have been in 30 – 45 feet of water. The fish may be suspended, but the best bite is when you find them feeding on the bottom. The flats fishing should get much better as the bait starts to move out of the shallow water of the creeks.
The crappie bite continues to be good. On Sunday (Nov. 10) I decided to check out a brushpile that was near the flat where I had been fishing. It was a main lake point that has brush in very shallow water and out to about 30 feet of water. I started to jig with a quarter-ounce green with florescent green back spoon. I moved across the point and when I got to 10 feet of water the bite just exploded. The fish were 5 to 10 feet down, in the very shallow water out to about 20 feet of water. I landed 14 fish in less than 20 minutes. This really is not the norm, but when you find fish this active it is a blast. Typically, the crappie have been on 25-35 feet deep brush and have been suspended 10-20 feet down over the top of the brush. Live bait, small grubs tipped with a crappie minnow or a small spoon have all been working.
The bass bite has also been good. Bass seem to be everywhere, in shallow water, as well as deep water. During the late fall I look for feeding bass in 30-45 feet of water on large flats. Once you find the school of fish, drop a ¾ ounce spoon on them and you will catch one after another. I typically do not find feeding bass until midmorning, after the sun gets high in the sky. The best locations on the flats are under water ledges or underwater points on the flats. Drop-shot rigs will also work very well on these deep fish. The bass are in shallow water as well. Plastic worms, crawdads, lizards, etc. are working well for the shallow fish. Cast your bait up to the shoreline and work it back slowly. Bass are hanging in the sunken buck brush along the shallow shoreline or along the deep bluff lines on the drops and ledges. Crank baits, buzz baits and spinner baits are also working well depending on the wind. As the water continues to cool the jerk bait bite will start to work. This should happen soon.
Walleye and catfish are also feeding on the flats in the 30-45 feet of water. Jigging a spoon will catch you some nice fish of all species.
Norfork Lake surface water temperature is falling. The surface water temperature is in the upper fifties and should drop a few more degrees over the next several days with the cold air temperature that we are currently having. The lake level is on a slow rise and currently sits at 558.03 feet MSL. The water on most of the lake is stained, but will begin to clear again as the water level stabilizes. A few more very cold days are forecast for our area, but warmer fall type weather is on its way back the latter part of this week. “Happy fishing and see you on the lake.”

Norfork Tailwater

(updated 11-13-2019) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake rose 2.6 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 saw moderate generation with some wadable water. Seasonal power pool has been reset for the lakes in the White River system. Due to heavy rains over the last four weeks all of the lakes in the White River System are now over the top of power pool. Expect heavy generation for the next few weeks.
The Norfork 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. 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. The fishing is better in the morning.
Dry Run Creek is fishing better. The browns have begun making their annual migration up stream. With school back in session it will be less crowded during the week. The weekends can be pretty busy. 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. 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 11-13-2019) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said the Buffalo National River and Crooked Creek are a bit high and off-color. The smallmouths are less active. 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.