Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

February 26, 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 26, 2020.

White River

(updated 2-26-2020) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said they continue to experience high water levels in the tailwaters of the White River watershed in Arkansas. That requires anglers to continue to be creative: Try some things you might not have tried before. Learn to dangle a jig – the white Maribou or ZigJig has worked great this past week. Add weight to your line, add a bright-colored bead several inches above the hook, and use an extra flashy lure. The quarter-ounce Rapala X-Rap runs between 6-8 feet and moves like a live minnow – a great option for fishing this deep river right now. “We've had good luck bringing some fair-sized browns to the boat using river minnows. Troll a minnow (live or manufactured) mid-depth 3-4 feet from the bank and be ready for the tug. Finding a spot to fish along the river bank hasn't been easy, but there's a spot just upriver from the Cotter access point that often produces a good stringer of rainbows and a quiet, scenic place to enjoy the best of fishing life. See you there.”

(updated 2-19-2020) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) said clarity remains murky and the river is still high. Six to eight generators currently are running The trout bite is good browns and rainbows. Browns are going after white jigs and stick bait. Rainbows are taking to the drift rigs.

(updated 2-26-2020) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said that during the past week they had another rain event (a little over half an inch or rain in Cotter), cold temperatures and moderate winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals fell 2.2 feet to rest at 7.4 feet above seasonal power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 28.6 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock fell 0.8 foot to rest at 0.7 foot above seasonal power pool and 15.3 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell 0.4 foot to rest at 8 feet above seasonal power pool and 1.6 feet below the top of flood pool. The White River had heavy generation. There was no wadable water. Norfork Lake fell 1.3 feet to rest at 5.7 feet above seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 20.6 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork tailwater had heavy flows and some nice wadable water. The Army Corps of Engineers has opened the spillway gates on Bull Shoals Dam in an effort to lower the water level on this lake.
The White has fished well. The hot spot has been the catch-and-release section below Bull Shoals Dam where there was a shad kill. 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.

Bull Shoals Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 665.65 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl).

(updated 2-26-2020) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said there is 3-4 feet visibility in the creeks and 8 feet visibility in the lake. Surface temperature Wednesday morning was 46 degrees. The water level remains high (about 7 feet now). The crappie fishing is good “if you can find them,” Del says. They are suspended in 40 feet of water. Focus on the brushpiles. Black bass are good. Use A-rigs and jerkbaits, as well as jigs. No reports on catfish. White bass are fair; Del says a few reports are starting to come in from the usual spawning areas. Walleye are being caught trolling up the river. No reports on bream.

Norfork Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 559.25 feet msl (normal conservation pool: Sept.-April, 552.00 feet msl; April-Sept., 555.75 feet msl).

(updated 2-26-2020) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said, “Winter seems to be dragging on for us here on Norfork Lake, but if the extended forecast is correct, spring may start showing up soon. We still have this week of inconsistent cool weather, but then things are supposed to change. I am ready! Highs in the upper 50s and 60s and lows in the 40s are on the way. None too soon, as the night bite for striped bass should start very soon.
“The night bite is when the striped bass and walleye head into the shoreline to feed after dark. One of the best fishing methods for this bite is to cast out a suspending jerk bait such as a Smithwick Rogue. Cast the Rogue as close to the shoreline as possible, then do a very slow steady retrieval back to the boat and hang on. It is so much fun to hook into a big striped bass when you cannot see much. This bite typically starts around mid-March. Some think it gets going on the full moon in March. Hopefully the upcoming warmer weather will get it going soon.
“Over the past week the striped bass bite has had its ups and downs, but I have had a couple of good days. Yesterday (Monday, Feb. 24) was a great day of catching some big fish. I started out fishing on a large main-lake flat in about 80 feet of water. There was a lot of bait in the area, at times the bait was from the surface down to 30 feet. I was marking a few big fish inside of the bait. I started trolling with a walleye deep-diving crankbait that dives to about 20 feet. I landed a really nice striped bass (17 pounds, 2 ounces) and a 7-pound hybrid. The interesting thing was that I caught both fish when I was making a turn and they hit the inside bait. The inside bait on a turn would be going slower and might be coming up a little. My baits may have been running a little too deep or the fish were wanting a slower moving bait.
“I then decided to see what the crappie where doing. I headed to a cove where the wind was blowing in. I checked out a brushpile in 20-35 feet of water. I caught a few short fish and started to move to the next brush. When I got out to the middle of the cove in about 40 feet of water, I found bait that was from 10 feet down to the bottom and marked a lot of fish. I thought most of the fish were largemouth, so I threw out two Berkley Flicker Minnows that dive to about 14 feet. I started to slow troll with my trolling motor at about 1.4 mph and headed a little closer to shore. When I passed a secondary point in about 28 feet of water the shad-colored bait got hammered. I assumed I had a nice bass on the line. I set the hook and the fish just took off to deeper water. I knew instantly that I had a nice striped bass on the line. I only had 6-pound monofilament line on and the Flicker Minnow has two very small light treble hooks, so I knew I had to baby this fish. It took 20 minutes to land it, but it ended up being my personal best striper so far this year at 18.69 pounds.
“During the battle I marked quite a few big arcs, and I think they were heading out of the cove. I continued to troll in the cove, going back and forth between 25 feet of water and 40 feet of water, staying in the bait. After the striped bass, I got to land four really nice largemouth bass in the 3.5- to 4.5-pound range. One of the bass attacked the shad-colored lure and the other three liked the other lure, which had a bright purple back. The bass seemed to hit every time I came out of the bait or right before I would start to go through the bait. Seeing bigger striped bass in shallow water is a great sign that spring is on its way.”
March is transition month from winter to spring. There will be a lot of exciting changes to fishing during the month mainly due to the warming trend of the water. Crappie will begin to school and roam from brush to brush staging for their spawn. Walleye will be spawning, with some of them coming off of their beds in the early part of the month. Bass will move in tighter to the banks and begin to feed heavily and we will start to see some topwater action for bass. As already mentioned above striped bass will be feeding very shallow in the dark and will start to stay in shallower water even after daybreak. A lot of fun to look forward to.
Norfork Lake is currently falling 3-4 inches per day with both generators running continuously. The surface water temperature has remained about the same, between 45-47 degrees. The water is stained in most places where Lou is fishing, but seems to be clearing daily. Most if not all of the brown water has fallen out leaving a greenish stained water, which is fantastic for fishing. “Happy fishing and see you on the lake.”

Norfork Tailwater

(updated 2-26-2020) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake fell 1.3 feet to rest at 5.7 feet above seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 20.6 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork tailwater had heavy flows and some nice wadable water. The Army Corps of Engineers has opened the spillway gates on Bull Shoals Dam in an effort to lower the water level on this lake.
The Norfork is fishing better. There was a shad kill below this dam. 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 (#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.
John adds, “I went fishing on the Norfork tailwater a few weeks ago. I caught some low water and it was my first wading trip in several months. When I waded upstream to my favorite spots I quickly realized that the wading was more difficult than it had been in the past. Was I getting too old to wade or was I just out of shape? At 73 I should be young and fit enough to wade. I was just out of shape.
“I have gone to a gym to stay fit for years. A year ago I quit. The idea was that I would do all my own yard work and wade fish as often as I could. That would keep me fit. The problem this year has been constant rain and high river levels have not allowed me to do yard work or wade fish very much. My conditioning level had slipped a lot.
“My wife, Lori, and I had a conversation and we agreed that our general fitness had suffered and we both needed to get back in shape. Lori called Joy at Shape Fitness in Cotter and joined up. It’s close to home and open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I have always done better in the gym with a work out buddy and Lori is great at that. Although she doesn’t stay as long as I do she is always there and helps me stay focused.
“I quickly found that I had not lost any strength. I still could use the same weight levels that I had used previously. The problem was my stamina. I decided to concentrate on the elliptical machine as it is easier on my joints. On my first try, I was only able to do about three minutes before I ran out of gas. Over the next few weeks, I gradually increased my time on it until I could do about 30 minutes. I began to feel better and could feel my increased stamina.
“Last Saturday, I got my chance to check out the success of my program. The Norfork tailwater was scheduled to be off for an entire day. I eagerly prepared for my trip. I arrived at the river early. There were a few new anglers getting ready but no one had entered the river. The weather was cold but promised to warm up. The river was backed up to a point far above the Ackerman Access due to heavy generation on the White and significant runoff from the Buffalo River and Crooked Creek. I could see lower water upstream that was quite inviting.
“I suited up and headed up toward the lower water that I could see. I had chatted with the new anglers and suggested that they join me, as the fishing would be better upstream. The water was several feet deeper than usual and the going was tough. I was handling it easily. I was out-wading these guys that were 50 years younger than I was. It was a comfortable feeling. I found that the wading was easy and I enjoyed the day much more than I had on my previous trips.
“If you are going to wade, you need to be in good physical condition. Getting back in the gym helped me get into that good level of fitness.”

Buffalo National River/Crooked Creek

(updated 2-26-2020) 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.