Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

May 13, 2020

More reports and other videos are on the Cotter Trout Dock Youtube Channel Page.
Below is the Arkansas Game and Fish Fishing Report May 13, 2020.

White River

(updated 5-13-2020) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said water releases from Bull Shoals Dam into the tailwater have been moderate over the past week. While not providing for substantial wade fishing, the current is less swift and some banks and a few gravel bars are more accessible for angling from the shore. Those golden rainbows (stocked from Norfork access to Bull Shoals Lake State Park two weeks ago) are making their appearance pretty clear and are snapping up the Red Wigglers by the dozen. They have some size and heft to them, too, so you'll know you've got a bite when they hit. Bank anglers have also found a lot of success in these waters jigging bronze-colored spoons with a light rainbow pattern – these active rainbows were even chomping on white crappie jigs. Rapala Count Downs are making a real splash both from the shore and casting from a drifting jon boat. Keep to the brown-
and tan-colored baits for now (brown trout No. 5, gold/black No. 5 or No. 7); save the silver flashy stick baits for later in the month when the water is sure to be deeper and swifter.
No surprise here: The browns have been nibbling on sculpins, and will continue to remain near the bottom and center of the stream during these spring rain events we're still experiencing. The weathermen promise warmer temperatures beginning Thursday, so pack some sunscreen when you're headed to the river.
They add, “Remember: Keep your baits and line free from exposure to that sunscreen since fish do not like it; sunscreen can sabotage your fishing day. Social distancing rules still apply for anglers, but as you've heard from me before: Those rules don't apply to you and your catch!”

(updated 5-13-2020) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) said anglers caught some rainbows last weekend. The water there is still down, but not a lot of people are fishing for them to really tell how the fishing is.

(updated 5-13-2020) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said that it has for a couple of months that he has been unable to have out-of-state anglers “and Lori and I have missed it. Here in Baxter County (that includes Mountain Home and Cotter), we have been very safe with only five cases of Covid-19, all of whom have fully recovered. The trout are still here and the weather is nice. It is a good time to visit.”
Leading up to last weekend, John says that during the previous week, they had several rain events (combined for about 1.5 inches), cooler temperatures and heavy winds (to include wind advisories). The lake level at Bull Shoals rose more than 3 feet to rest at 19.1 tenth feet above seasonal power pool of 661.14 feet msl. This is 9.8 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock fell 1.4 feet to rest at 0.6 foot above seasonal power pool and 14.1 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake rose 0.8 foot to rest at 9.2 feet above seasonal power pool and 0.4 foot below the top of flood pool. The White River had heavy generation and no wadable water. Norfork Lake fell 0.1 foot to rest at 14.2 feet above seasonal power pool of 555.9 feet msl and 9.9 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 Beaver 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).
John also said, “Last Saturday (May 2) was a chance for my wife, Lori, and I to go fishing. We have been stuck at home like everyone else. We have been spending most of our time working in the yard. We put in a garden, extended our side patio and put in some new plantings. It is looking good but we were ready for something that was a bit more fun.
“I checked the generation schedule and noted that they were scheduled to run about 6,500 cfs, or the equivalent of two full generators. This is a perfect level for easy fishing from the boat. I also checked the weather report and saw that we would have a cool start with a gentle warming. The winds were to be light and variable and there was to be plenty of sun. It all looked good to me. I discussed the conditions with Lori and she was all in.
“As is my habit, I left the house about 7:30 a.m. and launched my boat. I put a couple of fly rods in the boat that were still rigged from my last trip. I had a size 14 pheasant tail nymph with a size 18 ruby midge and an AB split shot. I adjusted the strike indicator, so that it was 7 feet from the strike indicator to the bottom fly.
“I caught a nice trout on the third cast. By the time Lori arrived, I had landed eight rainbows. Lori had stayed home to feed and walk our beloved Labrador retrievers, Tilley and Ghillie. Before she left the house, she also quickly used our weed eater on the grass that grows under my boat that I cannot reach with my lawn mower.
“Lori was soon on the scoreboard when she caught a nice one in front of the ramp. We continued fishing for a few hours and by 11:00 a.m. we had landed around 30 trout. Most were small.
“About that time I hooked an 11-inch stocker and didn’t think much about it. I was standing and had a good view of the trout as it struggled in. I noticed another fish near it. It was a big fish. It was apparent to me that a large brown trout was stalking my fish. How big was the brown? It was big enough to swallow the small rainbow whole. I had told Lori what was happening and she also saw the take.
“She dropped her rod, grabbed her boat net and rushed to my side. We were both stoked and relished the struggle. As the fish inched toward the boat, she leaned forward to net it. As luck would have it the hook slipped from the little rainbow’s mouth. The brown leisurely swam away.
“I had wanted to land the brown but I was not really that disappointed. It was something I had never personally encountered and was truly fascinating to watch. I stopped fishing. There was nothing that would top that. We did another pass and Lori landed another trout. We headed home and, to make it a perfect day, she picked up a couple of pork shoulder sandwiches at KT’s Barbeque on the way home. Life is good!”

Bull Shoals Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 686.14 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 659.00 feet msl).

(updated 4-29-2020) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said the lake is murky. Surface water temperature is 60 degrees (as of Tuesday afternoon) and the lake is 24 feet above normal conservation pool. Crappie reports are fair. Crappie are shallow and spawning, he said, and subsequently hard to find right now. Black bass are all at different stages of the spring – some are post-spawn, he said, others are spawning and some are pre-spawn. Your best bet is to fish them with Senkos, floating worms and 2.8 swimbaits. No reports on bream or catfish, Del says. Walleye are good. “People are starting to catch walleye pretty well,” he offers. Visit 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 570.62 feet msl (normal conservation pool: Sept.-April, 552.00 feet msl; April-Sept., 555.75 feet msl).

(updated 5-13-2020) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said Norfork Lake fishing has been good over the last several weeks and should remain the same if not better for the foreseeable future. “It is really hard to say what the best bite is at this time because all species seem to be biting very good most days,” he said. “As is normal for this time of year the best bite is typically at sunrise and then again at sunset. This is not to say there will not be a good bite during the middle part of the day. I guess you just need to spend the whole day on the lake fishing.”
The crappie bite continues to be good and there are still several different fishing methods to catch them, he said. “I have been trolling the Berkley Flicker Minnow, size 7 and 9. Colors vary by day, but I have had success with the following; slick pearl silver, racy shad, slick firetiger and slick alewife. The crappie that I have been finding are back in coves and the fish are on brush or near the brush suspended 15-25 feet down. The brush can be in 20-40 feet of water, as long as the top of the brush comes up to 15-20 feet of water. I troll at about 1.2 mph. You can also vertical-jig for them with a small 1/8- to ¼-ounce spoon or a small curly or twister tail grub. Also try tipping the grub with a small minnow to get more bites, most times. The third method is to cast out the grub past the brush, let it sink, then retrieve it slowly over the brush. The hardest part about casting is getting the bait at the right depth and keeping it there.”
The bite for largemouth bass has also been very good. A 5- to 6-inch swimbait with a ½-ounce jighead has been working well for Lou when the fish are out a little deeper chasing shad. If you find them close to shore, downsize the swimbait to a 3.5-inch and use only a 1/8- to ¼-ounce jighead. Flukes and suspending jerkbaits are also working well for the shallow fish. At sunrise and sunset, keep your eyes open and look for topwater action. They can be close to shore or out in deeper water, but typically close to a point with sunken brush. Spinnerbaits are also working, especially if there is some wind. Fish the point that the wind is blowing into.
Striped and hybrid bass fishing has also been good, but has been inconsistent – no different than our ever-changing weather. The weather really makes fishing for striped bass interesting. You first need to find the bait and the stripers will typically be nearby. There has been some good topwater action for striped/hybrid bass early in the morning that has lasted until the sun rises above the tree line. If it is cloudy the action can last longer. You can also find topwater action at sunset, but this bite typically does not last long, as they go down as it gets darker out. “I have been finding fish out in 90 feet of water on a main lake bluff. There are good points at each end of each of the bluffs, which have lots of sunken brush. The fish seem to move back and forth along the bluff feeding on shad. Zara Spooks and my larger swimbait has been working great. You will also find striped bass in shallow water next to sunken brush, as long as the brush is holding bait. Striped bass seem to be all over the lake. They have been caught back in the major creeks, as well as on main lake points at both ends of the lake.”
The surface water temperature is falling slightly and is in the low to mid-60s. The lake is fairly stable, but is rising slightly with the rain they have been having over the last couple of days. The current lake level is 570.20 feet msl. The lake is clear with some slight stained water in different areas. “Happy fishing and see you on the lake.”

(updated 4-29-2020) Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters said, “I was wrong last week when I said this past week would see lots of fish activity on Norfork Lake. The warm weather promised never materialized. Instead we had rain almost every day with some heavy downpours. There was some shad spawning in Big Creek last Wednesday afternoon (April 22). I was crappie fishing with no luck because the crappie are still off the banks. My son was catching shad and found threadfin spawning in a debris slick on a bluff wall. I assumed that was happening all over the lake until Sean told me the main lake was only 60 degrees. Sean had several good days fishing the main lake points near the dam, but the weather kept changing the pattern. One day stripers were active on the main lake and then the next day they were way up the creek. Nothing is consistent right now. Once we see consistent warm nights and south winds, the whole lake will see topwater bites and lots of feeding activity.
“The stripers should begin to feed on the main lake points and near mid-creek bluffs and on the flats up the creeks. Some good places to try this time of year are: Cranfield Island, Crystal Cove, Koso Point, Dam Cove, Big and Brush creeks, Woods Point, Diamond Bay, Thumb Point and School Bus Point.”

Norfork Tailwater

(updated 5-13-2020) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said that last week, leading up to last Friday, Norfork Lake fell 0.1 foot to rest at 14.2 feet above seasonal power pool of 555.9 feet msl and 9.9 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork tailwater 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 (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 (sizes 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 pandemic there has been little pressure. 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 and Norfork Rivers and Dry Run Creek are infected with didymo, an invasive alga. 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

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 5-13-2020) 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. John’s favorite fly here 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.