Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

March 4, 2020

More reports and other videos are on the Cotter Trout Dock Youtube Channel Page.
Below is the Arkansas Game and Fish Fishing Report March 4, 2020.

White River

(updated 3-4-2020) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said, “Whether we're experiencing a false spring or a full-blown early, here-to-stay spring season, let's take advantage of it. Cotter, 18 river miles from Bull Shoals Dam, is enjoying mild daytime
temperatures, a week with no rain in the forecast! And still cool – but not cold – nights. Get on the river and catch some trout in an abundant fishery managed so generously by Arkansas Game and Fish Commission folks.”
The recent ample brown trout bite has proven once again that February and March are great months to visit the White River, and the rainbows aren't ignoring the bait, either, they report. Minnows and sculpins are the preferred meal for a hungry brown and egg patterns (light yellow peach colored with an orange leading bead), or lemon lime-colored PowerBait drifted mid-depth “will keep you cranking that reel and bringing in trout. Keep an eye on the Buffalo National River; the smallmouth bass over there should soon be waking up. The White River watershed is still full to brimming, so the Corps of Engineers continues to release large amounts of water to decrease the overfull lakes and prevent spring floods. Just remember this: Fish love water. Keep anglin' and we'll see you at the river.”

(updated 3-4-2020) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) said the river is still high with 6-9 generators running from the dam. They say that many people are fishing. “They’re still trying to let the water out.” Despite all that, they say it appears that those willing to fish are finding good results with the trout.

(updated 3-4-2020) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-4352169) said that during the past week, they have had several minor rain events (just a trace in Cotter), milder temperatures and moderate winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals fell 3.6 feet to rest at 4 feet above seasonal power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 32 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock fell 0.1 foot to rest at 0.6 foot above seasonal power pool and 15.4 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell 0.4 foot to rest at 7.6 feet above seasonal power pool and 2 feet below the top of flood pool. The White had heavy generation. There was no wadable water. Norfork Lake fell 1.2 feet to rest at 4.5 feet above seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 21.7 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork tailwater had heavy flows and no wadable water.
The White has fished well. It’s been hot around 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.
John also said about a recent shad kill below Bull Shoals Dam, “We had a shad kill on the White and North Fork rivers last week. This is a natural phenomenon where large numbers of thread fin shad (an abundant forage fish) die due to cold temperature in the lakes and are swept through the generators at the dams. This results in a feeding frenzy below the dams.
“This is usually brought on by specific conditions, cold temperatures and heavy levels of generation. These are the exact conditions we are now experiencing. Before the recent interest in fishing streamers began, this was the major fishing event that occurred this time of year. Its precise timing is impossible to predict.
“The major action takes place just below the dams. The trick to identifying the beginning of the shad kill is to watch the gulls at the dam. When the gulls suddenly begin feeding on the surface, it signals that the frenzy has begun. This usually coincides with a major migration of river boats upstream to the dam. This all begins quickly and can stop just as quickly.
Fly choices are simple. Any fly will work as long as it is big and white. Many of the bits of shad are on the surface so you can have success with floating flies. Many shad chunks sink into the water so a subsurface fly can also be effective. Once you get a distance below the dam the sub surface flies will be more effective.
“The fishing frenzy can be a little crazy with large numbers of boats crowding into a small area below the dam. This is exacerbated by the fact that many of the guide boats and private boats are now equipped with large jet motors. These motors are very loud and also push a large wake. The result is a chaotic section of water that is as choppy as a stormy day on the North Sea, where you can barely hear yourself think. This is not for the faint of heart.
“After the trout in this area are gorged on these big bits of food they quit feeding. I have caught trout that were so gorged the tail of a shad was protruding from their throat. The uneaten shad drift down stream and the fish there begin feeding. I have caught trout on shad patterns as far downstream as Rim Shoals. That is twenty four miles downstream from Bull Shoals Dam.
“Last week I was guiding two ladies from Idaho. The weather did not bother them but the huge water flows was something new. I talked to a fellow guide as I was launching my boat and rigging my fly rods before their arrival. He said that he had fished shad patterns on his drift from Cotter to Rim Shoals and had done well. I immediately tied on some white mop flies, my current favorite sub surface shad pattern. We fished the lower section of the Catch and Release section and did well.
“The shad kill is something you should be prepared for. I always have some floating and subsurface shad patterns in my fly box.

Bull Shoals Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 661.87 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl).

(updated 3-4-2020) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said the lake is clear and is 4 feet above normal level. The surface temperature Tuesday afternoon was 47 degrees. Black bass are fair and found in 10-20 feet of water. Jerkbaits, jigs and swimbaits all were working. White bass are moving to spawn. The catch is fair now. Use white jigs, spinners, Rooster Tails or Alabama rigs. Walleye are actively feeding in the evening on jerkbaits fished on the long, shallow points by the bushes. No reports on crappie, bream or catfish. View Del’s YouTube videos (Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock) for the latest in what’s biting and what Del is using, plus his tips on how to fish the various lures.

Norfork Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 558.17 feet msl (normal conservation pool: Sept.-April, 552.00 feet msl; April-Sept., 555.75 feet msl).

(updated 3-4-2020) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said, “The weather for Norfork Lake has finally changed for the better and has been stable for the last several days. The long-range forecast is for continued spring like temperatures and if it holds true the fish should get energized. The warmer weather has dramatically increased the surface water temperature to almost 50 degrees at daybreak and warmer during the daylight hours. I can definitely see a change occurring in some of our fish species.
“I have mainly been striped bass hunting and fishing for the last several days. The last 2 days has been outstanding. The bait is still predominately back in the creeks or some of the larger coves. Yesterday (March 2) I found large balls of shad in 30 to 40 feet of water halfway back in a major creek and on every bait ball there were at least 2, if not more big fish following. The bait that I have been finding has been anywhere from the surface down to 20 feet and sometimes to the bottom. Since the fish have been scattered I have started trolling a couple Berkley’s Flicker Minnow crankbaits, size 7.
“My best colors have been the slick pearl silver (shad color) and the other is the racy shad pattern. These baits dive to about 15 feet. I’ve had several fish hammer the bait and peel out drag then come off. I’ve noticed a few birds feeding heavily. When I reached them my graph lit up with fish. It was a huge school of hybrids. My first fish came on the shad colored Flicker Minnow, then I switched to casting a Kastmaster (blade type bait) and landed several others. By around 9 a.m. the bait and fish both disappeared. This was the first large school of hybrid/striped bass I have found in some time, telling me that the start of the spring bite is not far off. (Tuesday) morning I headed back to the same area and the bait and fish were gone. I moved to another creek looking for bait and decided to go all the way to the back. Once I got into about 15 feet of water, bait was all over the place. I started to slow troll (roughly 1.3 mph) the Flicker Minnows. In 30 minutes, I had landed five largemouth and spotted bass and all were keeper size fish. I decided to head back to my original creek, but this time kept on traveling to the back of the creek. Once I reached 17 feet of water, my graph lit up with bait and big arcs. I threw out my two Flicker Minnows and started to slow troll again. It was not long until I hooked up, but lost the fish. The bite had started and each fish kept getting bigger. I ended up landing 5 striped bass and a couple of largemouth bass with the largest striper 14 pounds. Similar to the previous day, around 9 a.m. the bait and the fish left the area.
“The best areas where I have found striped bass are back in the major creeks close to the creek channel. The large bait balls that I am finding, tend to be close to the creek channel. If you find a smaller creek that has some flowing water, check it out you will more than likely find bait and a good chance some nice fish.
“One of the great things about the stripers hitting the Flicker Minnows is that I will be using the same baits trolling for crappie in similar types of areas in the next couple of weeks. For crappie fishing I try to troll close to the brush moving form brush to brush. Crappie will start to school very soon and will be roaming and staging for the spawn.”
The lake was falling about 3-4 inches a day, but last evening our northern part of the watershed received a lot of rain and the lake actually came up about 3 inches with both generators running. The lake surface water temperature is warming up and ranges from 49 to 52 degrees depending on time of day and depth of water. The water in the mid-lake is stained, but you can see a constant clearing occurring. “Happy fishing and see you on the lake.”

Norfork Tailwater

(updated 3-4-2020) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake fell 1.2 feet to rest at 4.5 feet above seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 21.7 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork tailwater had heavy flows and no wadable water. The Norfork is fishing better, though. 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. Doublefly 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.

Buffalo National River/Crooked Creek

(updated 3-4-2020) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said the Buffalo National River and Crooked Creek are navigable. 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.