Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

February 12, 2020

More reports and other videos are on the Cotter Trout Dock Youtube Channel Page.
Below is the Arkansas Game and Fish Fishing Report February 12, 2020.

White River

(updated 2-12-2020) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said the brown trout bite has been hot this week. The high water has made finding their hiding spots a little more difficult, but after their spawn the browns are very ready to take your minnow or sculpin. Most kinds of white lures or jigs have also proved successful. Any type of yellow or peach-colored egg pattern have been very popular this week with both fly- and spin fishermen alike. Either a regular soft egg pattern or even a hard bead type just above the hook has done a good job mimicking the trout eggs after the spawn. The consistent high water has helped the rainbow trout grow quickly this winter and they've been eagerly taking worms (both live and plastic) or Sunrise or Orange PowerBait. “Be ready for the cold mornings and come out to catch some great trout.”

(updated 2-12-2020) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) said clarity is murky and the river is high. Six to eight generators currently are running (as of noon Tuesday). As for the trout bite, though, it’s very good for browns and rainbows, and they say there’s really been no changes as that’s concern. The best way to fish for the trout has been trolling jigs or using stick bait.

(updated 2-12-2020) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said that during the past week they had three separate rain events (combining for 2.5 inches here in Cotter), cold temperatures and moderate winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals rose 1.5 feet to rest at 8.4 feet above seasonal power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 27.6 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock fell 0.6 foot to rest at 0.5 foot above seasonal power pool and 15.5 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake rose 2.2 feet to rest at 9.6 feet above seasonal power pool and 0.4 foot below the top of flood pool. The White River had heavy generation. There was no wadable water. Norfork Lake rose 1.7 feet to rest at 5 feet above seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 23.2 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork tailwater had heavy flows and limited wadable water. The Army Corps of Engineers has opened the spill gates on Norfork Dam in an effort to lower the water levels on these lakes. Due to yet another series of rain events last week and more this week, these areas are now weeks if not months from wadable water.
The White has fished well. The hot spot has been the catch-and-release section below Bull Shoals Dam. 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 said Monday of the recent rains, “This morning I woke up to the sound of the sump pump in my basement going off. I immediately knew that it was still raining. It rained all day yesterday, will rain all day today and will probably rain tomorrow. I went out to the garage to check on my two feral cats, Blackie and Maggie. They were curled up in their bed and showed no interest in going outside. There was water standing in my side yard. My wife, Lori, said that she was tired of the constant rain. My sister, Ernestine, sent me a message on my iPhone asking if it would ever quit raining. I don’t know.
“River guides don’t mind the heavy rain so much. The reason is that we have the best raingear that money can buy. We start with good rubber footwear. If it is really rainy I wear knee-high muck boots. If it is lightly raining I will wear L.L. Bean rubber low-quarter shoes. For the lower body the garment of choice is bib rain pants. They keep your lower body dry even when your rain jacket is open. A pair of waders is a good substitute. A good rain jacket is a must-have. A hood, tight-fitting cuffs and plenty of pockets (mine has nine) are necessities. I bought mine a size too large to fit over a couple of warm fleece layers. A ball hat with a long bill is nice to keep the rain off of your glasses.
“The main thing that guides worry about is the water clarity on days like this. When we get heavy rain, a lot of sediment is washed into the river, making it muddy. I saw photos of the Buffalo yesterday on Facebook that showed it was the color of chocolate milk. I assumed that Crooked Creek was the same. In fact, every creek emptying into the White and North Fork is running muddy. When we get conditions like this, the common wisdom is to go upstream until we find clean water. That means that the water in the catch-and-release section below Bull Shoals Dam is still clean because there is just one creek emptying into the river on the Marion County side. Fortunately this section has been closed from Nov. 1 until Jan. 31 to accommodate the brown trout spawn. It has only been open for a few days and there are still plenty of large trout there now.
“The other thing that guides worry about is the rainwater accumulating in the boat. In a heavy rain the water can quickly rise to ankle deep or higher. This could be very uncomfortable for clients with low-quarter shoes and the additional water makes the boat heavier and less maneuverable. I carry a water bailer in my boat so I can quickly toss the accumulated rainwater out. One of my fellow guides has an automatic electric bilge pump in his boat. It makes a lot of sense to me.
“Despite this, I am beginning to get concerned. If I did not already own a White River jon boat, I would begin to build an ark.”

Bull Shoals Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 667.39 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl).

(updated 2-12-2020) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said the lake is cloudy and remains high. As of Tuesday noon it was 8 feet above normal level. The surface water temperature is a cold 46 degrees. The crappie bite is good. You’ll find the crappie around shad and they’ll bite minnows and jigs. Black bass appear to be deep but starting to move. There is a fair bite, with spoons, jigs and the jigging Rap working best. Walleye are biting jerkbaits in the evenings. No reports on catfish or bream. 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 558.64 feet msl (normal conservation pool: Sept.-April, 552.00 feet msl; April-Sept., 555.75 feet msl).

(updated 2-12-2020) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said Norfork Lake fishing has been an interesting experience this winter. A typical winter pattern for striped bass never materialized. Normal in the past has been: Bait goes to the deep-water river channel in the main lake and suspends 40-60 feet down and striped bass hide out within the bait and get active when they get hungry. It appeared that the normal pattern was starting to happen around the beginning of January, but then the lake level changed abruptly and affected the bait. The quick rise in the water level moved a lot of the bait into the creeks closer to the flowing water. With the quick 6-foot rise in the water level, there was a lot of mud drawn into the lake.
The northern part of the lake is still a little brown, but it’s finally starting to fall out. This mud line has also affected the bait. “I am not sure of the technical reasoning behind it, but the bait that I find in the muddy water stays very high in the water column. I find the majority of the bait, as well as the fish, from surface down to about 20 feet or maybe 30 feet at the most. This isn’t to say you will not find a few fish deeper at times. When I am fishing in the mid-lake creeks where the water is much clearer, the majority of the bait will be 40-60 deep and the fish will be in the same depths. I have mainly been fishing from the three mid-lake creeks north to the Bennett’s Bayou area and anywhere in between. I have fished the three mid-lake major creeks and have found bait in at least one of the creeks, if not all. Typically, I have found fish on the bait, but not all the time.
“Bennett’s Bayou area is another major creek where I have fished for striped bass and again can typically find a lot of bait and sometime fish will be in the area. Yesterday (Feb. 11) I found some nice hybrids feeding in 30 feet of water along a shallow sloping bank. During this past weekend I did have several days that I found scattered bait with lots of scattered stripers in one of my normal deep-water main lake winter haunts. The fish were suspended 5-20 feet deep feeding on small schools of shad in 100-plus feet of water. The water in this area is still a little on the brownish side. I have been using three different methods of fishing over the last week or so. Live bait has worked well at times for both the shallow fish, as well as the deeper fish. I have also been trolling a Rapala deep-diving crankbait, especial when the fish are higher in the water column. “When you find deep fish and want to troll, you will either need a down-rigger or use inline weights with weights from 2-5 ounces depending on what depth you want to get to. The third method is to cast out a Kastmaster (blade bait) or a larger 6-inch swimbait with ½- to ¾-ounce jighead.
“I guess there is a fourth method, which is to vertical-jig with a spoon, but this method has not produced well for me lately, even though this is typically a go-to method of fishing for me at this time of year.”
Lou says he has not fished for bass or crappie over the past several weeks, so not much to report there. “What I have noticed on bass is that when I get close to a deep-water bluff line, I mark many bass suspended down 20-40 feet feeding on shad. I have had several reports from friends that are crappie fishing and they are catching some nice fish. The crappie are still on 30-40 feet deep brush that come up to at least 20 feet. The crappie have been suspended on the tops of the brushpile.
For more frequent fishing information on Norfork Lake, follow Hummingbird Hideaway Resort on Facebook. Lou says, “Spring is quickly approaching, which is a prime time to fish our lake for all species. I am definitely looking forward to this time of year as all species go to shallower water and become really aggressive.” Norfork Lake level is starting to fall slowly with increased power generation and currently sits at 558.54 feet msl. There is rainfall in the forecast for Wednesday (Feb. 12), which may change the level slightly. This level is roughly 5 feet above normal seasonal pool. The surface water temperature Tuesday morning was 46-47 degrees. The main lake from the U.S. Highway 62 bridge, then north of bridge, is brown to heavily stained. South of the 62 bridge the water becomes much clearer in both the main lake and the creeks. “I have not been north of Cranfield, but I have heard the Red Bank area is starting to clear somewhat. Happy fishing and see you on the lake.”

Norfork Tailwater

(updated 2-12-2020) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake rose 1.7 feet to rest at 5 feet above seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 23.2 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork tailwater had heavy flows and limited wadable water. The Army Corps of Engineers has opened the spill gates on Norfork Dam in an effort to lower the water levels on these lakes. Due to yet another series of rain events last week and more this week, these areas are now weeks if not months from wadable water.
The Norfork tailwater is fishing better. 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 well. 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 River and Norfork tailwater 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 2-12-2020) 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.