Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

January 15, 2020

More reports and other videos are on the Cotter Trout Dock Youtube Channel Page.
Below is the Arkansas Game and Fish Fishing Report January 15, 2020.

White River

(updated 1-15-2020) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said Bull Shoals Lake in the north-central Arkansas Ozarks is on the rise after several inches of rain fell last week over the White River watershed. “The White River below Bull Shoals Dam is clear here in the Cotter region with some fluctuation in water level based on releases from the dam while the Corps (of Engineers) works to stabilize lake levels across Arkansas.
“Clear, cold water is great for trout fishing, so join us on the river with your arsenal of spinners and Rooster Tails. Under the predicted overcast skies, you'll do well casting bait with yellow bodies, gold or silver blades and black skirts. A bright, shiny hammered spoon (blue/silver) will attract the rainbows, and the rainbow-colored Buoyants and Cleos will be worth their weight in trout. The brown trout spawn is beginning to thin out, so we're seeing them move downriver to their own neighborhoods, looking for sculpins and minnows. Stay stocked, keep catching, and enjoy the great outdoors in The Natural State.”

(updated 1-15-2020) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) said the clarity as of Tuesday morning is “a little cloudy” and no one is fishing. The generators at the dam are shut off, they say. River level has been normal.

(updated 1-15-2020) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said that during the past week they had a significant rain event (3 inches here in Cotter), cold temperatures and heavy winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals rose 3.6 feet to rest at 4.4 feet above seasonal power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 30.4 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock rose 3.9 feet to rest at 4.9 feet above seasonal power pool and 11.1 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake rose 2.9 feet to rest at 4.4 feet above seasonal power pool and 5.2 feet below the top of flood pool. The White River had moderate generation. There was some limited wadable water. Norfork Lake rose 4.9 feet to rest at 4.9 feet above seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 21.3 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork tailwater had moderate flows and some wadable water. Seasonal power pool has been reset for the lakes in the White River system. Due to significant rainfall last week, there area is now weeks from wadable water.
The catch-and-release section below Bull Shoals Dam is closed until Jan. 31 to accommodate the brown trout spawn. The state park is 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.
The White has fished well. The hot spot has been 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 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.

Bull Shoals Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 665.71 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl).

(updated 1-15-2020) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said surface temperature of the water is 49 degrees and Bull Shoals is again high after the weekend rainfall. As if Tuesday morning, the lake had risen 6 feet in two days. Crappie fishing has been good. They’re found in 15-25 depth and are biting shad as well as minnows and jigs. Target the brushpiles. Black bass are good. There is a deep bite going on at 20-25 feet. Look around brushy areas. White bass are good, also in the 20-25 feet depth range. Use shad. No reports on catfish or bream. Also, note that Del provides a video regularly on Youtube (Del Colvin/Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock) in which he talks about various and timely methods to fish the lake, which baits are working best and areas to target.

Norfork Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 559.48 feet msl (normal conservation pool: Sept.-April, 552.00 feet msl; April-Sept., 555.75 feet msl).

(updated 1-15-2020) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said Norfork Lake fishing is in its wintertime pattern, but with some twists due to all the drastic weather changes. “I guess this is normal, but when you go from 20 degrees to 60 degrees and then the water level changes 5.8 feet in a day, it tends to confuse the fish, or at least it confuses me.”
He adds, “Fishing would not be any fun if it was the same day in day out. With all the changes, it makes for a lot of searching different types of areas to see what the fish have decided to do. I guess it really is not the fish, but what the weather changes have done to the fish’s food source. Typically, as the water gets cold, large schools of shad tend to migrate out to deep water in the main lake river channel. This was what was happening over the last couple of weeks. With the rain last weekend, what is typical has changed. The bait has moved out of the main lake deep water. As of this (Tuesday) morning, I found lots of bait half way back in creeks, but still in deeper water.”
Lou says the movement of huge schools of shad affects the locations of striped bass. “Over the last couple of weeks, I was finding and catching striped bass between the two main bridges on the lake. The fish were in 80-120 feet of water and suspended anywhere from 20-50 feet down. Today I couldn’t find any there in the main lake. I finally found that the shad had moved halfway back into the creeks. And when I found the bait, I started marking big arcs scattered though out the bait. I set out three rods with live bait at 30, 35 and 40 feet deep. I was also jigging a white ¾-ounce spoon.
“About 20 minutes after I had set out the bait, a huge school of fish came under the boat. The fish were from surface to the bottom. All of a sudden each of the live bait rods got buried and I hooked into one with my spoon, but it came off immediately. I landed the first fish (a hybrid), then went to the second rod and the fish swam under the big motor and broke off, the last fish just stole the bait off of the third rod. After all was said and done, I got to land one of the fish and the big school had vanished. It was very hectic while it lasted. I kept moving around in this 75-85 feet of water. I had my spoon down to about 40 feet and I noticed a smaller school of fish at 55-60 feet down. I started dropping my spoon and the line went slack and the fight was on. The fish inhaled the spoon on the fall. I ended up landing a nice striped bass. After this I was still marking fish, but they were really scattered out.”
Bass and crappie are also affected by the weather and water level changes. They may not travel for miles (like striped bass) following the massive schools of shad, but they may change what depth they like to feed at, in the same general area. What the crappie were doing before the 6-foot rise in water level was feeding at the top of the brush on 25-35 feet deep brush. They were typically suspended down 12-20 feet deep. Small jigs or spoons have both been working well. Bass were also feeding in these same brush piles, but typically down toward the bottom of the brush. Bass were also on the shoreline 8-20 feet down and crankbaits were working great. “A couple of days ago I was back in a creek and found some nice schooling bass in 80 feet of water, suspended 30 feet down. I will be out doing a little crappie and bass fishing over the next week, so hopefully I will be able to figure out what this recent change to the lake has done to these species.” Norfork Lake surface water temperature Tuesday morning was 48-49 degrees. The lake level has risen a little less than 6 feet since last weekend and currently sits at 559.27 feet msl. Most creeks and coves are stained, but the brown water from the heavy runoff is falling out. The main-lake is somewhat clear. “Happy fishing and see you on the lake.”

Norfork Tailwater

(updated 1-15-2020) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake rose 4.9 feet to rest at 4.9 feet above seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 21.3 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork tailwater had moderate flows and some wadable water. Seasonal power pool has been reset for the lakes in the White River system. Due to significant rainfall last week, there area is now weeks from wadable water. The Norfork tailwater is fishing much better on the low flows. Navigate this stream with caution as there has been major gravel recruitment at the bottom of Mill Pond and the dock hole from flooding over the past two years. 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. 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.
John also says, “As I have written about recently, I have had an intense desire to wade the Norfork tailwater but have been beset with one obstacle after another. First it was my own laziness. Then it was the Corps of Engineers beginning generation before it was scheduled. Finally the Corps of Engineers did not turn off the generators when it was scheduled.
“Despite these setbacks, I checked my home computer daily looking for the right conditions for me to wade the Norfork. Finally last Friday it happened. The Corps of Engineers scheduled the water generation to be shut down from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. That is a seven-hour window and plenty of time to get in and do some fishing.
“I left home about 11:30 and arrived at the Ackerman Access around noon. The river had dropped quite a bit and was still dropping. I took a few minutes to wader up and rig my rod. I chose a 9-foot 5-weight rod with a medium-fast action (Sage ZXL) and an Orvis CFO reel. I attached a fresh 7.5-foot 4X leader. I attached a 5X tippet and a pheasant tail nymph and then attached another tippet to the bend in the hook with a ruby midge tied to it. I added a bit of lead to the leader and attached a strike indicator.
“I pulled out my wading staff and began wading upstream. The going was slow because the water had not completely dropped out. I was pleased to see that I was the only one there and relished having it all to myself.
“I made it to the top of the island and decided to fish my way out. I tried my first spot and picked up three nice trout. I moved to another spot nearby and picked up another. I thought that it was time to move on. I waded out of the stream and worked my way downstream to my next spot. This was a place where I have had a lot of success in previous years.
“Another angler was in it. I sat and waited for a few minutes as he waded through it. It gave me time to check my gear. I replaced my flies (they were a little beat up) with new ones. I used the same patterns. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! Once the other angler had moved out, I carefully waded over to the run. I caught a nice trout on the first drift. I stayed in the same spot and caught over a dozen.
“I came out of that spot and continued my trip downstream. I tried another spot and pulled out a few more trout. By now it was about 4 p.m. I wanted to be off the river before they began generating again. I walked to the access, stowed my gear and headed back to Cotter.
“I had finally gotten back on the Norfork and even caught over 20 trout in the process. There were no big fish but it was nice to be back.”

Buffalo National River/Crooked Creek

(updated 1-15-2020) 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 much less active in the cold weather. 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.