Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

April 22, 2020

More reports and other videos are on the Cotter Trout Dock Youtube Channel Page.
Below is the Arkansas Game and Fish Fishing Report April 22, 2020.

White River

(updated 4-22-2020) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said, “April showers have filled our lakes, not quite to the brim but enough so that Southwestern Power Administration and the Army Corps of Engineers have been working hard to lessen the stain on the dams and keeping downstream conditions under control by opening five to seven power generators daily for the last week and probably into the next few weeks. Bull Shoals Lake is 24 feet above the desired power pool level and just 12 feet below the top of flood pool, so it's a good thing they are releasing nearly 17,000 cfs today. In my experience, the last two weeks of April and first couple of weeks of May bring the most rain, so we won't complain about high water in the river. The guides always remind me: "Fish love water. The more water the better," and the guys continue to do a really great job of helping folks catch them. This week we pulled in rainbow after rainbow with floating pink mousetails (artificial worms), and Rooster Tails with black and yellow skirts, gold blades, 1/4 ounce to 3/8 ounce. It never hurts to have a rod rigged with your favorite Power Bait hue (garlic flavor works nice, too) and some shrimp toppers to coax the more reluctant ones out of hiding. Jig fishing with white or orange/black Zig Jigs or a standard white maribou jig has offered a lot of fun and success, too. We brought a beauty of a rainbow to the boat for pictures (22 inches, 6 pounds) a few days back with a nice little red-fin river minnow. The browns are turning out in numbers for good sized sculpins drifted deep on a number 2 bronze Aberdeen hook. Cabin fever is best cured by a trip to the river and a
creel of rainbows for dinner. Come find yours!

(updated 4-22-2020) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) said the river has a green and mossy look. The river level is still high; they say 5-6 generators have been running at the dam recently. The trout bite has been poor. “No one is fishing, but we do have two reservations for this weekend so hopefully it starts to pick up more,” they say.

(updated 4-15-2020) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said that during the past week they had two rain events (combined for a little less than 2 inches), cooler temperatures and heavy winds (to include wind advisories). The lake level at Bull Shoals rose 0.3 foot to rest at 22.7 feet above seasonal power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 13.3 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock fell 2.1 feet to rest at 3.3 feet above seasonal power pool and 12.7 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake rose 0.1 foot to rest at 8.4 feet above seasonal power pool and 1.2 feet below the top of flood pool. The White had heavy generation no wadable water. Norfork Lake fell 0.9 foot to rest at 16.4 feet above seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 9.8 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork tailwater had heavy flows and no wadable water.
The Army Corps of Engineers has opened the spillway gates on Table Rock, Bull Shoals and Norfork dams in an effort to lower the water level on these lakes quicker.
The White has fished well. The hot 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 deep-water worm with a weighted egg suspended below it).
Norfork Lake fell 0.9 foot to rest at 16.4 feet above seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 9.8 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork tailwater had heavy flows and no wadable water.
The Army Corps of Engineers has opened the spillway gates on Table Rock, Bull Shoals and Norfork dams in an effort to lower the water level on these lakes quicker.
John also said, “Last week I had one of my regular clients cancel his scheduled guide trip due to fear of the coronavirus (his wife would not let him come). Based on what is happening in our country it was the best thing to do. I can honestly say that I was a bit concerned about the trip. I am 73 years old and am in the group of people most at peril with the disease.
“This has been a common occurrence over the past few weeks as I have had almost all of my trips this month canceled. When I talk to other guides (carefully maintaining a social distance of at least 6 feet), they all tell me they are in the same boat. I still have a few trips scheduled for May that I fully expect to lose any day. To make things tougher, Gov. Hutchison has closed the state to temporary visitors from other states. Anybody that would want to fish here now has nowhere to stay. I do not disagree with his decision.
“Guides are in financial trouble. If we don’t work, we don’t eat. We are all independent contractors, not employees. We work for ourselves. If we do a guide trip for a lodge, trout dock or fly shop, they take a percentage of the fee but do not provide any benefits. We are not provided health insurance, retirement or sick pay. If we do not have any trips, we cannot draw unemployment. It is our responsibility to pay for our health insurance, retirement and plan for hard times. Some do this better than others.
“I see a radical change in our business. I do not see a return to normal for a long time. The coronavirus will have to run its course so that our citizens can move freely.
I am fortunate. I am a conservative, retired CPA who was raised by parents that survived the Great Depression and World War II. I have been taught to live a simple life and save money for hard times. I live in a small house, drive a used 21-year-old Suburban and work out of a used 15-year-old Supreme with a 15 hp motor.
“The reality of the situation is that we are not alone. Everyone that I know is feeling pain. I know a lot of people that have lost their jobs. Local businesses are closed or offering very limited services. There is no rainbow in sight. I can only recommend that we all hunker down and survive this plague and be ready to get back to work on the other side.
“We are all in this together. I look forward to fishing with my friends and clients again.”

Bull Shoals Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 683.35 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl).

(updated 4-22-2020) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock reports Wednesday that there is limited access to ramps and parking, so call first. Fish are in all phases of the spawn. Look for flat pockets halfway back to the backs of coves. Beat the bank, fish the conditions. High water is making it great for the spawn. It’s a little tougher for the anglers. Gravel banks and boat ramps, old roads are good places to drag baits. Google Earth maps or a good memory is important right now on Bull Shoals, he said. The water is clear and the surface temperature is 62 degrees. Lake level is 25 feet above normal.
For black bass, spinnerbaits are working. Also, go with a swimbait or jerkbait on shad balls. A spinnerbait or a chatterbait on windy banks with stain will work. Senkos, jigs, Beaver, weightless worms, topwater frogs, Zara Spooks and lots of other baits are working, Del says, if you get around the fish. Check out Del’s YouTube page (Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock) for more information and tips on catching the fish in Bull Shoals Lake.

Norfork Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 569.20 feet msl (normal conservation pool: Sept.-April, 552.00 feet msl; April-Sept., 555.75 feet msl).

(updated 4-15-2020) Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters said fishing for Norfork Lake stripers, bass and crappie continues to improve. The crappie has moved off the banks due to the cold weather but are being caught over the deep brush piles. Slow-trolling small crank baits in 20-30 feet of water near the shore will produce. Another method is to dip a minnow in debris along a deep shoreline. This coming week will slow down the spawn as we are expected to have cold nights and rain for a few days. Once we start having some warm nights and south winds we will see the spawn for crappies, bass and shad. That will be a great time to be on the water as the fish will be very active chasing bait food in the buck brush.
The best striper bite this past week was the late afternoon. With the full moon the stripers feed at night so very early mornings and later evenings usually produce the best. My son, Sean, fished several evenings and had some great success. He fished Crystal Cove above Blue Lady Resort and caught several good size stripers with the biggest being 32 pounds, which was released. Sean was using 10-inch gizzard shad. This time of year the stripers want the really big baits. As the saying goes “big baits big fish”. Now that the full moon is over, you should resume our normal spring pattern, fishing the main lake points early and later in the morning if you have a west or south wind. I usually fish Big Creek from Wood's Point up to 1C early then move to the windy banks later in the morning. My best baits are 5-to 8-inch gizzard shad. I use long lines and planer boards to cover a large area of water. Another trick is to fish the deep-water buffs but keep your baits shallow; the stripers love cruising those areas feeding on threadfin shad.

(updated 4-15-2020) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said Norfork Lake fishing has been good over the last couple of weeks and will continue to get better and better as the weather and the lake stabilizes. Crappie and bass fishing have been the best bite with the striped bass bite not far behind.
He says, “There have been two different methods that I and others have been using to catch crappie. Trolling small crankbaits, such as the Berkley Flicker Minnow size 7, that dive 10 to 15 feet have been working very well. I have been slow-trolling these baits at 1.2 mph. Colors have varied, purple has been working the best as of late, but the firetiger and shad color patterns have also been doing well. Best areas have been part way back in creeks and coves, especially if there is a lot of sunken brush in 10 to 30 feet of water. The crappie are schooling and moving between brush piles. I have mainly been staying in 18 to 30 feet of water and am working the whole area. The other method of fishing for crappie is to vertical jig a small jig over brush that is in 20 to 30 feet of water. The crappie have been suspended above the brush about 15 feet down. There is actually a third method. Crappie are still spawning and will be for some time. They will be up in shallow water, so casting a jig into shallow water or live bait on a slip float will catch you some fish. This last method is the toughest as there is a lot of sunken brush along the shore line so they could be spawning anywhere.
“Bass fishing has also been very good. Largemouth and spotted bass are up in the sunken brush from the shoreline out to 20 feet of water. Top water baits, swimbaits, spinners and crank baits are all working at times. Keep your bait at the top of the brush and the bass will come out and ambush it. Main lake points on both the shallow and deep side are holding fish. If you want to get into some topwater action head back into creeks and coves and find some bait. The bass are coming up and feeding at sunrise and then again at sunset. They move a little deeper after the sun comes up.
“The striped bass bite has had its ups and downs with the ever-changing weather patterns and lake level changes. At this time this species is feeding early in the morning on some of the main lake points in the sunken buck brush. Live bait is working the best, but casting out swimbaits or suspending jerkbaits are catching a few. They will be up in very shallow water feeding out to 30 feet of water. I used live bait with no weights the other day. I was letting the baits swim free just outside of the brush. The fish were cruising and attacking the bait right on the surface. Don’t hesitate to check out coves and creeks where the wind is blowing directly in. Many times in this situation the wind will blow in the bait and the stripers will follow. I found fish in the back of one cove in 20 to 30 feet of water. This species is continually, looking for their next meal. Find lots of bait and the stripers will be nearby.
Over the last week the lake had dropped slowly about a foot, but with the rains the other day it is slowly rising again. The lake currently sits at 570.45 feet MSL. The lake surface temperature is hovering around 60 degrees plus or minus a degree or two. The weather is going to change for the better and is warming up again. The lake is slightly stained to clear. “Happy fishing and see you on the lake.”

Norfork Tailwater

(updated 4-15-2020) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake fell 0.9 foot to rest at 16.4 feet above seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 9.8 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork tailwater had heavy flows and no wadable water.
The Army Corps of Engineers has opened the spillway gates on Table Rock, Bull Shoals and Norfork dams in an effort to lower the water level on these lakes quicker.
The Norfork 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 due to flooding. 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 (size 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 very well. With the coronavirus there is little pressure. 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

NOTE: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, at the urging of Gov. Asa Hutchinson, has closed access to the Buffalo National River for the time being due to the coronavirus pandemic.

(updated 4-15-2020) 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.