Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

March 18, 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 18, 2020.

White River

(updated 3-18-2020) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said Wednesday morning, “We're still fishing and the brown trout bite continues to be great. We're hauling in tons of good browns and a few trophy-sized rainbow trout this week. Minnows and sculpin have still been standout baits for the browns, along with blue-backed, orange-bellied Smithwick lures. We've seen several larger-than-20-inch rainbows caught and released this week. Some were caught on sculpin and some on the tried-and-true shrimp/PowerBait combo; try yellow or orange eggs first. The continued high water means that weighted line is popular for most fly-fishing, or waiting for a glimpse of the sun to do some quick dry fly-fishing has been the way to go. The trout are calling, so come out to the White River for some great fishing.”

(updated 3-18-2020) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) says that they have green-tinted water as this time. The river level is high, with the pool level at 659 feet, reaching 659.3 feet msl this week before more rain came in. Nevertheless anglers are catching trout in good numbers. Reports of a few browns and several rainbows hauled in.

(updated 3-11-2020) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-4352169) said that during the past week, they had no rain, milder temperatures and moderate winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals fell three and three tenths feet to rest at seven tenths of a foot above seasonal power pool of 659 feet. This is thirty five and three tenths feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock fell one tenth of a foot to rest at five tenths of a foot above seasonal power pool and fifteen and five tenths feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell one and five tenths feet to rest at six and one tenth feet above seasonal power pool and three and three tenths feet below the top of flood pool. On the White, we had heavy generation. There was no wadable water. Norfork Lake fell one and three tenths feet to rest at three and two tenths feet above seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet and twenty three feet below the top of flood pool. On the Norfork, we had heavy flows and no wadable water.
The White has fished well. The hot has been Wildcat Shoals. The hot flies were olive woolly buggers (#8, #10), Y2Ks (#14, #12), prince nymphs (#14), zebra midges (black with silver wire and silver bead or red with silver wire and silver bead #16, #18), pheasant tails (#14), ruby midges (#18), root beer midges (#18), pink and cerise San Juan worms (#10), and sowbugs (#16). Double fly nymph rigs have been very effective (my 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 658.40 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl).

(updated 3-18-2020) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said the clarity is murky. Surface temperature as of Tuesday afternoon was 49 degrees. Water level is high, up 2.5 feet. Crappie are fair on minnows and jigs. Black bass are fair using crankbaits, jerkbaits and jigs. Fish around the rocky points and into the spawning areas. White bass are good. They’re being caught in the backwaters and the spawning bays. Throw anything white such as swimbaits and Rooster Tails. Walleye are good. They’re around gravel points with bushes in the evening. They’ll hit jerkbaits. 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 555.98 feet msl (normal conservation pool: Sept.-April, 552.00 feet msl; April-Sept., 555.75 feet msl).

(updated 3-18-2020) Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters said, “I fished this past week in Bennett's Bayou for stripers. The warm weather, full moon and the lake drawdown changed the shad bait pattern. Most of the bait was on the flat by Fouts and the big flat before the Walker's arm of the bayou. The warm, strong winds early in the week moved the shad up the creek arms, and shad was very thick in both arms of Bennett's. I caught fish on the flat by Fouts and on the big flat but it was slow because the big bait balls were not there. I moved up to the right arm and found bait 20 feet thick the length of the right arm but by then it was late in the morning and I only had one strike. My son was in the left arm and was looking for bait. The water temperature way up the arm was 64 degrees. He found lots of bait and crappie. The crappie had moved up in the 2 feet of water feeding on small shad. The anglers who figured that out were catching them very fast. The patterns all changed with the cold rain and temperature drop Saturday. Sunday morning the highest water temperature was 50 temperature and the creeks were 49 degrees. The upper creek arms dropped 8 degrees. The bait moved out to the flat to find their comfort zone. Sean and I had a two-boat trip and we started off with a bang. We had each a little boy and the parents and grandparents split the party up. Each boy caught 12-pound stripers and numerous small stripers. The fish were caught on the big flat before Walker's arm in 40-plus feet of water. We were using small gizzard shad and shiners on longlines and downlines.
“With all the rain and cold weather this week I expect the window to catch stripers is very early and then late afternoon. Until we can get some sunshine and warm south winds, the all-day bite we normally have will not happen.
“Keep fishing the creeks for crappie, find a brushpile with their tops at 15 feet or deeper, and you will find crappie. Minnows, jigs and small spoons are catching limits of crappie. The best three creeks right now are Big Creek, Bennett's Bayou and Pigeon Creek.”

(updated 3-11-2020) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said, “Norfork Lake fishing has been good for most species over the last week. The weather has been fairly stable with cool mornings and warmer afternoons, but the lake level changes has affected the fish most, in my opinion. The Corps of Engineers has opened up a flood gate to evacuate some excess water from Norfork Lake. Our lake is dropping roughly 6 inches a day. What I have noticed is that a lot of the baitfish are moving out of the backs of the creeks and into the main lake or other coves that are close to the deep river channel. This has mainly affected the striped bass in the lake, but will also affect where the largemouth will start to feed.
“The last several days I have been fishing back in a major creek in 15-40 feet of water. Each day I have noticed fewer bait fish in the area. When I moved out towards the mouth of the creek, I found more bait, but they have moved into coves and sometimes all the way to the back of the cove. When I find a large concentration of bait, I have found many largemouth and a few spotted bass feeding heavily. Yesterday in two different coves, in roughly 15-20 feet of water there were many largemouth feeding close to the surface, as well as right on the bank. Small swimbaits and crankbaits are both working, as are jigs worked along the bottom, from 5 feet of water out to 20 feet. I have also gotten into some good topwater action for largemouth. This action has only occurred when there is a lot of bait in the area. Topwater action can occur any time of day so keep your eyes open.
“Hybrid and striped bass are continually moving around in search of their food source. The common saying, when you find the bait the stripers will be nearby held true most of the time in recent days. The striped bass are feeding in very shallow water in the early morning and also in the latter part of the afternoon. Start looking at the shallow side of the lake for this species. They are on points with brush and cover. This is normal for spring time fishing, but it is happening a little earlier than usual. The other type of areas where stripers are showing up is in the backs of coves, but only if the bait has moved in. I have been trolling Berkley Flicker Minnows, size 7 and 9. The 7 dives about 15 feet and the 9 dives about 20 feet. I am hugging the shoreline staying in 18-30 feet of water. I have found that the stripers are also relating to brush piles, so don’t hesitate to troll over the brush, but be prepared to lose a few lures. The other method of fishing for stripers is to cast out suspending jerk baits or 6-inch swim baits. Yesterday afternoon a few of our guests found stripers right on the bank, on a long shallow point. They were casting a swimbait up in 5 feet of water and retrieving slowing and getting hammered, almost as soon as the bait hit the water. With these shallow feeding fish, I would have to say that the stripers are continuing to feed after sunset so If you have interest in some exciting fishing, start slow rolling a suspending jerk bait on shallow points after dark. Cast your bait as close to the shoreline as possible, then retrieve to the boat very, very slowly. I like to keep the bait on the surface or close to it. Some other fishermen like to jerk it once to get the bait down a couple of feet, then start the retrieval. Try both and see what the fish want.
“Like Hummingbird Hideaway Resort’s Facebook page for frequent fishing report updates. Our fishing derby for Hummingbird Hideaway Resort guests has also started, so if you like a little friendly fishing competition and a chance to win some cash or free stays for your big catch, give us a call at 870-492-5113. Our derby runs for throughout the year.
“Norfork Lake is dropping about 6 inches per day with both generators and a flood gate partially open. The current level is 556.04 feet msl. The surface water temperature yesterday morning was 49-52 degrees. The lake is clearing, but still stained. If you head up river and up in the Bennett’s area the water is still brown from the heavy northern rain a week ago. Happy fishing and see you on the lake.”

Norfork Tailwater

(updated 3-11-2020) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake fell one and three tenths feet to rest at three and two tenths feet above seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet and twenty three feet below the top of flood pool. On the Norfork, we had heavy flows and no wadable water.
The Norfork is fishing better. 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 (#18, #20, #22) like ruby midges, root beer midges, zebra midges (black or red with silver wire and silver bead) and soft hackles (#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 eighteen inches below a red fox squirrel and copper. The fishing is better in the morning.
Dry Run Creek is fishing very 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 (#14), Y2Ks (#12), various colored San Juan worms (worm brown, red, hot fluorescent pink and cerise #10) and mop flies.
John also said, “Last week Chris drove 10 hours over snowy roads to let his son, Collin, and his buddy, Jake, fish Dry Run Creek. Collin had fished the creek before. He had caught some trout but no trophies. Jake had fished before but had never fished the creek. Chris thought they would do better if he hired a local guide and chose me. When we were planning the trip I was concerned about the weather. It was cold. Chris was concerned about the roads. They are from Minnesota and cold weather is no problem for them.
“We met at the Norfork National Fish Hatchery. It was twenty one degrees and the boys didn’t mind. They had waders, good clothing and suitable gloves. We had the place to ourselves. They were ready to fish. My wife, Lori, joined us for the morning. The idea was for Lori to work with one of the boys in the morning, while I worked with the other. That way we could give them a good start by providing more individual attention. I had arrived before the others and had two fly rods rigged and ready to go.
“We began fishing immediately. Lori was working with Collin. He caught a good fish right off and then another. I took Jake and we walked far upstream to a spot that I knew had some bigger trout. We began fishing and caught a nice one on the first cast. We fished for an hour or so and caught about ten trout including a trophy rainbow. We began working our war downstream toward the spot where Collin and Lori were fishing. We caught several trout along the way.
“When we caught up with them, Chris had noted a large number of big trout keying in on a discharge pipe. Jake was eager to try his luck. There were plenty of trout and enough room for both of them to fish near to each other. They both caught a few trophy trout.
“About that time the creek got very murky. The hatchery personnel were cleaning the raceways and this caused the hatchery discharge to muddy up and contained a lot of food (to include some dead fingerling trout). I have encountered this before and knew that it would trigger a feeding frenzy. Luckily both boys had white mop patterns on which emulated the dead trout fingerlings.
“Suddenly we were in the middle of a feeding frenzy and we had the most effective fly for the situation. We began catching one big trout after another. Lori and I were both in the stream netting trout. Chris was busy taking pictures of the bigger trout. At one time we had a trophy brown in one net and a trophy rainbow in another. Over an hour and a half we landed over thirty trophy trout. I have been a guide on Dry Run Creek for thirty one years and Lori guided there for eighteen years. We have never seen as productive as a day as this. The water cleared and the feeding frenzy stopped.
“We were worn out. We stopped for lunch. Lori had a hair appointment and headed out. Chris wanted to stop by Twin Rivers Fly Shop in Norfork to get some flies and supplies for the next day, when he would be fishing the boys alone. We figured the rest of the day would be slow. As I saw his car leave the parking lot, I noticed that the water was off color again and the feeding frenzy was back on. I was by myself.
“For the next forty five minutes we landed over twenty trophy trout. I was so busy netting fish we only took photos of the two biggest trout. I tried to light a cigar for thirty minutes but every time I pulled out my cigar lighter one of the boys hooked another trophy. Finally Chris arrived and immediately waded into the fray. We had another forty five minutes of the frenzy before we could relax. We stayed on stream until 4 p.m. Chris and I were done but the boys still wanted to fish. He promised to bring them back the next day and they reluctantly agreed to quit.
“Don’t let off-color water on Dry Run Creek scare you. It is a great time to fish.

Buffalo National River/Crooked Creek

(updated 3-18-2020) 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.