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Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

September 30, 2020

More reports and other videos are on the Cotter Trout Dock Youtube Channel Page.
Below is the Arkansas Game and Fish Fishing Report September 30, 2020.

White River

(updated 9-30-2020) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said they’re starting to see some nip in the air – autumn's finally popping out. Cool mornings, warm days, perfect weather for float fishing on the White for trout. The rainbow catch has been fabulous; they're snapping up the shrimp and worm combo. Good sizes among the catch, too; there were several rainbows measured at 16 inches or above. “We are seeing a few grasshoppers out there now, so the hopper patterns and baits should lure some trout to the anglers. Come out and spend some time with us on the river – you won't regret it.”

(updated 9-30-2020) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) says fishing is great this week for rainbows, while browns are slowing down a little. River clarity is “really good,” they report. River level is normal, as the Army Corps of Engineers has been running eight generators round-the-clock. Overall trout bite is excellent.

(updated 9-30-2020) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service said Monday that over the past week they had one rain event dropping about a half-inch in Cotter, cooler temperatures and moderate winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals fell 3.3 feet to rest at 8 feet above seasonal power pool of 661 feet msl. This is 26 feet below the top of the flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock fell 0.4 foot to rest at 1.9 feet below seasonal power pool and 15.9 feet above the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell 0.3 foot to rest at 1.9 feet below seasonal power pool and 9.5 feet below the top of the flood pool. The White River below Bull Shoals Dam had heavy generation and no wadable water. Norfork Lake fell 1.8 feet to rest at 3.9 feet above seasonal power pool of 555.75 feet msl and 20.3 feet below the top of the flood pool. The Norfork Dam tailwater had wadable water at night. Bull Shoals and Norfork lakes are dropping at an increased rate and consistent wadable water could be three weeks away.
The grasshopper bite is upon us, John says. Use a shorter leader and bang the bank. John’s favorite fly is a western pink lady size 8. Add a dropper (size 14 pheasant tail nymph) to increase your catch.
The White has fished well. The hot spot has been Rim Shoals. The hot flies were olive Woolly Buggers (sizes 8, 10), Y2Ks (sizes 14, 12), prince nymphs (sizes 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).
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.

John also mentioned dealing with high levels of water we’ve had recently and fishing in them: “It seems like we have had high water forever. For the last couple of years we have relentlessly had high water with the exception of a few brief periods of limited water releases to provide relief from severe flooding downstream. Throughout this period my fellow guides and I have guided clients and caught fish.

“It has not been an easy process. To get to the trout on the bottom of deep water requires the use of heavily weighted flies and large amounts of additional weight. In addition you are required to use long leaders to allow the flies to sink to the bottom. This combination of large heavy flies, additional weight and long leaders is difficult to cast. The heavy flies and weight require a more vigorous line pick up.
“The combination of long leader and heavy flies requires casting a big loop to keep the loop from casting. Timing of the cast is critical. If you rush the back cast, you can produce a tailing loop. This rig can easily tangle. If your line is tangled, you can’t catch fish.
“While an experienced fly-fisher can competently handle this rig, first-timers can struggle. When I have a first-timer I begin the day with a casting lesson. To make the casting lesson more realistic, I add a couple of heavy split shots to the leader on the student’s rod.
“Last week I had a client that had never cast a fly rod. She was accompanied by her boyfriend, a previous client. I gave her a casting lesson and all went well. I thought she was a natural.
“We began fishing. There was a heavy fog and it was a cool start. The river was high, about 12,000 cfs, or the equivalent of about four full generators. The fishing was slow but the casting went well. There were no tangles. The wind picked up a bit.
“About this time, she made an errant cast that caught me in the nose. I always take pains to protect myself from this situation. I dress carefully. I have on deck shoes and socks, long pants and a long sleeve shirt. I also wear sun gloves and a broad brimmed hat. The only vulnerable spot is my face below my polarized sunglasses, and this is where I was hooked. I always bend down the barbs of all hooks used to limit the damage to a simple puncture wound.
“My client was very concerned that she had severely wounded me. I reassured her and pulled the barbless hook from my nose. The problem was that, though I had experienced no pain, I was bleeding like a stuck hog. It looked way worse than it was. It took several minutes to quit bleeding.
“She was so upset that she quit fishing because she feared that she would hook me again. I tried to explain that I was not hurt and this was a normal part of my day as a fly-fishing guide. I wanted her to continue fishing, but she would have none of it. I was disappointed and felt responsible.
“Sometimes things happen out there that we cannot control. Luckily I had pinched down the barb.”


Bull Shoals Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reported the lake’s elevation at 668.13 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 661.00 feet msl).

(updated 9-30-2020) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock reports that even though Bull Shoals Lake has dropped considerably since the summer, there is still limited access to the ramps. He says the pattern is “September junk fishing right now.” The Army Corps of Engineers has been pumping the water out, which has some of the fish moving out on the points, and there’s baitfish suspended deep off the points. Target 10-15 feet depth in the early morning, then 22-28 feet with a drop-shot later in the day. “Find the bait, find the fish,” Del says. If it’s hot, go deep. If it’s cloudy and windy, go shallow. He’s been getting up early for the topwater bite with poppers, and Berkley Wake Bait has been good. Try Whopper Plopper, a buzzbait or chatterbait for power fishing “shallow” if it’s cloudy or stormy. Target shallow flats close to old creek channels with runoff. Work major creeks halfway back and out to the main channel. As the sun comes up, change tactics. Smallies and Kentucky bass (spots) are stacked out oblong main and secondary points, sunken islands, humps, channel swings, bluffs and bluff ends, but are closer to main lake points in 26-32 feet. With shad present, fish position will change depending on sun, wind, current, clouds, etc. The shad are moving and so are the fish. Try a half-ounce jig in green pumpkin orange or green pumpkin blue. Smallmouth are on gravel banks. Del notes that at least the big crowds are thinning on the lake, making angling better.

He says the clarity there is dingy to clear and the surface temperature is 75 degrees. At his last check, the lake was 9 feet high and falling.

Norfork Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reported the lake’s elevation at 559.03 feet msl (normal conservation pool: Sept.-April, 552.00 feet msl; April-Sept. 555.75 feet msl).


(updated 9-23-2020) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said the bite for all species on Norfork Lake is getting better and better. September fishing can have its challenges due to the changing water temperatures, changing lake levels, and frontal systems, but all species are biting. “Not necessarily every day,” he says, “but I believe they call that fishing. The striped bass bite is getting pretty good. Crappie are moving back to the brush, so at least you know where to find them. The walleye bite has been good, but it does take some work to locate them. The bass bite is almost always good whether you like to catch them in shallow or in deep water.”

He says striped Bass fishing has really improved over the last week in various parts of the lake. “I have found two different patterns for this species, but time of the day may have something to do with it. Early in the morning, occasionally starting before sunrise, I have found stripers on large flats feeding heavily on shad. They can be anywhere from 20 feet of water out to 40 feet towards the bottom. They are starting to school and when you find that large school of fish it is a fantastic bite. Other times the fish are scattered out and it takes a little bit more effort to catch them. The early morning bite seems to last no later than 8 a.m. or so. This morning after the bite slowed on the flat where I was fishing, I decided to check out a different type of area for the striped bass. I have caught fish out in deep water along a bluff wall in past years, and this year appears to be the same. I was in 120-150 feet of water and the fish were suspended down 35-40 feet deep. I found a large school of feeding fish once in this area, but most of the time I was marking one to three fish at a time.

“I have been using several different methods to catch striped bass. I have been slow trolling a Berkley Flicker Minnow, size 7 and 9, with a 1-ounce snap on weight about 50 feet behind the bait with another 50 feet of line out. (This method is mainly for the flats.) I am also starting to vertical jig with a ¾-ounce spoon more often than I troll. I have jigged up stripers in both of these areas. The hardest part about fishing for suspended fish with a spoon is getting it down to the right depth. If you have a fish finder that picks your spoon up, this makes it simple, but if it does not, you need to either count down your bait, my rod and bait takes 8 seconds to get down to 40 feet, or drop it to the bottom and count the cranks up until you get to the desired depth. The stripers will continue to move around and as the water cools and the lake turns over the fish will be in many different types of area.

“Crappie fishing has been good, but has had its ups and downs, I believe due to the various frontal systems that have gone through our area. The best areas have been brush piles that are in 20-30 feet of water. The fish will either be suspended on the top of the brush or buried inside of it. Small jigging spoons or small plastics with a twister tail or a paddle tail are working great. Live minnows either on their own or tipped on a plastic jig will also work well. I have found crappie on both main lake brush, as well as, brush back in a creek.

“Walleye fishing has slowed a little, but we are still picking up some nice ones, along with a lot of shorts. Early in the morning and prior to sunrise they are being caught on long rocky points that jet out into the lake. They have typically been on the sides anywhere from 16 feet deep, down to 32 feet deep. During the day and late afternoon, they seem to be in 25-34 feet of water. Crawler harnesses with a bottom bouncer or trolling with a minnow style crankbaits are both working. Drop-shot rigs should also work with either a nightcrawler or large minnow. As the water cools, they will move up tight onto the shoreline and casting for them will start to work better, especially early and late in the day.

“Bass fishing has been good and they are being found in many different areas. Casting topwater baits, spinners and buzzbaits are working for the very shallow fish, especially where there is lots of brush still under water. There will be many shorts in shallow water, but there will also be a few lunkers. Jigs and worms are also working along the bluffs and out in 15-30 feet of water. Vertical-jigging spoons will pick up some nice fish. Work the deeper water, as well as, jigging near or on brush. Several days ago, I was trolling my Flicker Minnow out in 80 feet of water and picked up some really nice largemouth that were suspended down 25 feet. Bass are on main lake points, as well as, back in the creeks.”

Norfork Lake level is falling and currently sits at 561.18 feet msl. The lake surface temperature Tuesday morning was in the high 70s, Lou said. The main lake and creeks are stained but should start to clear as the lake continues to cool. “Happy fishing and see you on the lake.”

(updated 9-30-2020) Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters had no new report.


Norfork Tailwater


(updated 9-30-2020) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Monday that Norfork Lake fell 1.8 feet to rest at 3.9 feet above seasonal power pool of 555.75 feet msl and 20.3 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork Dam tailwater had wadable water at night. Bull Shoals and Norfork lakes are dropping at an increased rate and consistent wadable water could be three weeks away.
The Norfork is fishing well. Navigate this stream with caution as things have changed a bit from flooding over the past couple of 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. Expect less pressure during the week with school back in session. The Norfork National Fish Hatchery is open but the restrooms are still closed. 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 9-30-2020) 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 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.