Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

August 12, 2020

More reports and other videos are on the Cotter Trout Dock Youtube Channel Page.
Below is the Arkansas Game and Fish Fishing Report August 12, 2020.

White River

(updated 8-12-2020) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said, “Last week's rain lowered the air temperature a little and offered an extra advantage to the anglers: Overcast skies provide the best time for pulling in a brown or two. Bull Shoals Lake level is gradually dropping – current lake elevation is 684 feet msl, about 23 feet from desired power pool – and releases have remained at an average of 13,000 cfs, about four units. Anglers are regularly pulling in 12- to 13-inch rainbows, making for great action and wonderful memories, often using a bubblegum pink XFactor scented egg, with or without a morsel of shrimp added to the mix. Some of the guides say you can't beat the real thing: Soft-shell live crawdads are their favorite bait for the early morning hours.
“With the river still at consistent mid-level flows, smaller gold or silver/blue spoons have been doing well off the riverbank. Jig fishing in the deeper holes has also been very popular with olive or orange/brown jigs pulling in the trout. Come on over and bask in a little of the great outdoors. There's no greater Great Outdoors than here in the Arkansas Ozarks.”

(updated 8-12-2020) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) says the water is still running, and they expect that to be the case until October. Rainbows are getting pretty big, they say; some 30-60 fish that were caught by one group were over 14 inches (of course, only one over 14 inches can be kept per angler, so those fish are still out there). Most people are drift-fishing, but the fly-fishing isn’t too bad, they say. Clarity for the river is “really good,” and the level is high with eight generators running round-the-clock from Bull Shoals Dam.

(updated 8-12-2020) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said that during the past week they had a few minor rain events (combined for about a quarter of an inch), warm temperatures and moderate winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals fell 0.9 foot to rest at 24.4 feet above seasonal power pool of 661 feet msl. This is 9.6 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock fell 1.3 feet to rest at 0.6 foot above seasonal power pool and 13.4 feet above the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell 0.4 foot to rest at 3.9 feet above seasonal power pool and 4.7 feet below the top of flood pool. The White saw moderate generation in the morning and heavy generation in the afternoon. There was no wadable water. Norfork Lake fell 1.1 feet to rest at 13.4 feet above seasonal power pool of 555.75 feet msl and 10.8 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork had low flows overnight and heavy flows during the day. Most of the lakes in the White River system are still near the top of flood pool. Expect heavy generation and no wadable water into the fall.
John says, “The grass hopper bite is upon us. Use a shorter leader and bang the bank. My favorite fly is a western pink lady size 8. Add a dropper (size 14 pheasant tail nymph) to increase your catch.”
He adds, the White has fished well. “The lower flows we have had in the morning have been extremely productive. The hot spot has been Rim Shoals.” 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 San Juan worm with a girdle bug suspended below it.)
John has more on the girdle bug. “One of the things I do when I am at the ramp preparing my boat to launch is to talk to the other guides going through the same ritual. The first thing I ask is what their hot fly is. I do this for two reasons: First I want to know what is working for them. It may be a fly that I have never heard of or an old standard. If it is the same fly that I am using, it lends confidence to my own selection. If it is a different fly than I am using, I will try it later in the day if my choice is not working. Second, I need this information for my weekly fishing report.
“For the past few months on this never-ending high water, I have been talking to guides that have been using girdle bugs. I had fished them out west but never had much luck with them. I decided to give them a chance and experimented with them on Dry Run Creek. I had immediate success and added them to my Dry Run creek fly box. I also gave my wife, Lori, a few to fish with. She has had similar success.
“A girdle bug is basically a Woolly Bugger with a rubber tail and rubber legs but no marabou tail or hackle. It reminds me of a Bream Killer. I tie mine with a copper bead, variegated chenille (black/tan) and barred round rubber (copper and brown). It is a pretty easy tie. The trick is to get the rubber on straight.
“Lori and I had a guide trip last week with Tom and Katrina, a nice couple from northern Georgia. I started off with my old standard, egg patterns suspended below red San Juan worms (spaghetti and meat balls). It was not working. I remember talking to a guide at the ramp about fishing girdle bugs. I changed one of them over and it quickly produced trout. We changed the other angler over and both began doing well.
“The problem was that the girdle bug was a bottom grabber. It was heavily weighted on a large hook with a big gap. It seemed to look for something to imbed itself into besides big fish. Over the course of a half day I lost a dozen flies. At the end of the day I was completely out of girdle bugs.
“On one occasion, Katrina told me she was hung up. While she let out line I quickly started my motor and headed upstream. As we went up to back the hook out, she wound in her line. When we reached the hang-up, she tugged and tugged but could not free it. I reached down and grabbed the line and began bringing it in hand over hand. I felt some resistance. When I got to the leader I looked down and saw a fat 21-inch rainbow on the end of the line. About this time it freed itself and swam off. That was the best hang-up ever.
“As I write this I am surrounded by my fly-tying gear and the materials necessary to tie them. When I first went to tie them I thought it would be an easy job. I have a huge inventory of tying material in my house and surely had the stuff to tie this simple fly. I was wrong. I have been back to the fly shop twice to get the right chenille and rubber legs and can now begin to tie. I have a guide trip tomorrow and better get to tying.
“The trick to catching fish is the have the right fly. Right now that is the girdle bug.”

Bull Shoals Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 684.09 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 661.20 feet msl). Table Rock Lake above Bull Shoals on Wednesday was at 916.84 feet msl (normal conservation pool is 917.00 feet msl).

(updated 8-12-2020) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock reports that the Army Corps of Engineers continues to allow limiting access to ramps and parking; customers/boaters/anglers should call first, especially on weekends. Del says the bass bite has changed a little. The Corps is pumping water out of the lake, and the water being 25 feet high this past week has fish moving out on the points, and there are baitfish suspended deep off the points. Del says that if it’s hot, go deep. If it’s cloudy and windy, go shallow. Use topwater baits in the mornings. Berkley Wake Bait, poppers, a Whopper Plopper, buzzbait or chatterbaits are best for powerfishing shallow if it’s cloudy or stormy. Target shallow flats close to old creek channels with shad.
During the day, smallies and spotted bass (Kentucky bass) are stacked out on main and secondary points, sunken islands, humps, channel swing bluffs and bluff ends. With shad present, fish position will change depending on sun, wind, current, clouds, etc. Still a lot of places for them to hide with high water, so keep it moving. Use a big worm in sunken trees, near ledges, or a half-ounce jig in green pumpkin orange or green pumpkin blue in 18-28 feet of water. Smallmouth bass are at gravel banks, boat ramps and old roads. Drag baits like the Ned rig, Hula Grubs, tubes, the Lil’ McMinnow, and fish a drop-shot suspenders off bluff points, main lake points and hump islands at 26-32 feet depth.
Lake clarity is dingy to clear, while the surface water temperature is 85 degrees. Lake level is 25 feet high and falling. Visit Del’s YouTube page (Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock) for video with more information and tips on fishing Bull Shoals Lake.

Norfork Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at 568.19 feet msl (normal conservation pool: Sept.-April, 552.00 feet msl; April-Sept., 555.95 feet msl).

(updated 8-5-2020) Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters said, “Norfork Lake continues to frustrate me. One day you can catch your limit in minutes, then you only catch one or two stripers. After a couple of days of catching only a few fish, Tuesday was the exception – the stripers and hybrids went crazy in Hand Cove area. Acres of hybrids and stripers were feeding from 20-40 feet and it only took 20 minutes to catch a limit. What's crazy is the first fish we caught were in 70 feet of water and we caught it at 60 feet. Right now you have to fish all the water columns within a four-hour trip.
“Today I left the dock at 4:30 a.m. and had poles in the water by 4:45 a.m. We fished for almost an hour and were on hundreds of stripers but did not get a bite. I moved to my second spot and found hundreds of hybrids feeding at 30 feet. We caught one quickly but we spent over an hour following the school but only caught a short striper. They would not bite. Some of the problems are all the short storms and fronts and the full moon. Stripers are like deer – they will feed all night on a full moon. We caught a nice striper, and at 8:30 a.m. at our fourth spot, again we were all over the stripers but we could not get them to hit. If we did not have the hot weather it probably would be better to fish in the afternoon.”
Tom says the thermocline is at 25 feet and they are seeing stripers at all water columns. “Some of this to feed on crawdads and the other is to find better oxygen. You will see a lot more of this as we move into August,” he said.

Norfork Tailwater

(updated 8-12-2020) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake fell 1.1 feet to rest at 13.4 feet above seasonal power pool of 555.75 feet msl and 10.8 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork had low flows overnight and heavy flows during the day. Most of the lakes in the White River system are still near the top of flood pool. Expect heavy generation and no wadable water into the fall.
The Norfork is fishing well. Navigate this stream with caution as things have changed a bit during flooding of the past two years. 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 an egg pattern 18 inches below a cerise San Juan worm. The fishing is better in the morning.
Dry Run Creek is fishing well. With summer here there is a lot of pressure. Fish early or late to avoid the crowds. The Norfork National Fish Hatchery is closed so there are no open restrooms there. 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 River, Norfork tailwater 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

(updated 8-12-2020) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said the Buffalo National River and Crooked Creek are low and clear. 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.