Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

October 14, 2020

More reports and other videos are on the Cotter Trout Dock Youtube Channel Page.
Below is the Arkansas Game and Fish Fishing Report October 14, 2020.

White River

(updated 10-7-2020) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said, "Traffic on the river has slowed some, but the rainbow catch has not. The water has been in the 70s, and that's hot for this time of year. The temperature is beginning to some down; it's been mid-40sin the morning. There's been a good number of golden trout sighted this season. THey're growing. starting to get pretty big. It's always fun to spot one and more fun to catch. The Bluf Fox Vibrax has been a favorite for catching trout this past week. Small pieces of shrimp and/or a nice sculpin placed near a calm resting spot will often prove successful. Water levels have remained fairly consistent -- no traumatic extremes -- at about 13,000 cfs.
"The shorted days have kicked off the annual spawn of the brown trout. They are moving home, too, so watch as they move closer to their spawning beds. It will take a lot of time and varying baits to catch their attention at this time, so remain patient, stay on the river and keep it fun."

(updated 10-14-2020) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) says fishing this week mirrors last week. It’s still “absolutely great,” they report. Anglers are catching a lot of rainbow trout by drift-fishing. They’re also catching some browns drift-fishing primarily with crankbaits, with some also using jibs. Clarity is “really good,” they report. River level is normal, with seven generators running at the dam.

(updated 10-14-2020) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service said this weekend that over the past week they have had no measurable rain, cooler temperatures and moderate winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals fell 3.1 feet to rest at 4.2 feet above seasonal power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 31.8 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock fell 0.2 foot to rest at 3 feet below seasonal power pool and 17 feet above the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell 0.4 foot to rest at 0.5 foot below seasonal power pool and 10.1 feet below the top of flood pool. The White River below Bull Shoals Dam had heavy generation and no wadable water. Norfork Lake fell 1.9 feet to rest at 2.2 feet above seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 24 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork tailwater had wadable water at night and high water all day. Bull Shoals and Norfork lakes are dropping at an increased rate and wadable water could be three weeks away.
“The grasshopper 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,” John says.
Fishing the White has been inconsistent, he says, good one day and tough the next. The hot spot 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 cerise San Juan worm with a girdle bug suspended below it).

Bull Shoals Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reported the lake’s elevation at 664.63 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 661.02 feet msl). The reported lake elevation at Table Rock Lake was 914.03 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 917.00 feet msl).

(updated 10-14-2020) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock says the lake is dingy to clear with a surface water temperature of 70 degrees. Water level, so high throughout the year, is now only 2 feet above normal at last check. “Ramps are open!” he says. The Army Corps of Engineers has been pumping the water out of the lake. There are baitfish suspended throughout the lake. Start in the back third of a major creek. Some of the shad balls are getting bigger but suspended over the old creek channels. Topwater is good; poppers and wake baits are good as well. Try Whopper Plopper or buzzbait, and if they miss try throwing a popper until bite stops, then go with spinnerbait, chatterbait and square bill for powerfishing “shallow” if it’s cloudy or stormy. Target shallow flats close to old creek channels with runoff. As the sun comes up, change tactics and move out. Smallies and Kentuckiy bass are stacked out on main and secondary points, pockets, channel swings, bluffs and bluff ends, but are closer to main lake points with wind. With shad present, fish position will change depending on the sun, wind, current, clouds, etc. The shad are moving and so are the fish. Also try a half-ounce jig in green pumpkin orange or green pumpkin blue orange. Smallmouth bass are on gravel banks.

Norfork Lake

As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reported the lake’s elevation at 554.81 feet msl (normal conservation pool: Sept.-April, 552.00 feet msl; April-Sept. 555.75 feet msl).

(updated 10-14-2020) Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters says, “The Norfork Lake water cools down and stripers get active, then we keep getting warm afternoons and the water warms up and the bite slows down. This past week I fished both Arkansas and Missouri waters and caught stripers on both sides of the state line. The best bite is above Point 10 in 14 feet of water, but only if it's a sunny day. Cloudy days with an east wind have the least productive bite.
“I also fished Bennett's Bayou and caught small stripers but there is plenty of bait around and it only takes the water to get into the high 60s and we will see a good bite.
“The walleye are biting on crankbaits trolled on long flats above Cranfield Marina. The hybrids, stripers. and whites are schooling in the evening in Bennett's Bayou, and some topwater action is happening early morning and late afternoon on the flats all around the lake. The same is happening in Brushy Creek in the south end of Norfork Lake. As the shad begin to move from the shallows and school you will see lots of action in the next several weeks.”

(updated 10-7-2020) Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said Norfork Lake fishing in October can be lots of fun, but also can be inconsistent. There are many changes going on in the lake, which affect the movement of the predator fish and bait. The water temperature starts to cool and the main thing is that the lake turns over. The lake is in the process of turning over, but it has been very gradual. The thermocline has dropped to somewhere between 50-60 feet and will continue to fall until the lake totally flips.
There has been a really good bite for bass. Largemouth and spotted bass can be found all over the lake. If you like topwater fishing, throw your favorite topwater bait onto points where you can see sunken brush still out in the water. The fish are inside of it and will come up and slam the bait. Spinnerbait, lipless crankbaits, regular diving crankbaits and jigs are all working in different areas. The bass are also on the bluffs, especially on points of large coves or small cuts in the bluff wall. Smallmouth bass are starting to show up as well. Keep your eyes open for topwater action. The bass will chase shad out in open water just about anywhere, but especially on the large flats.
Crappie fishing is also picking up nicely. This species has been moving back to the brush and they can be found at varying depths. Brush in 15 feet of water out to brush in 35 feet of water may be holding crappie. Small spoons, small twister tail or paddle tail grubs and live minnows on a slip float are all working. The fish can be at any depth over the brush from 7 feet down to the bottom. The depth of the fish will vary depending on the time of day.
White bass have finally come out of the depths of the lake and are showing up in different locations. Lou says, “Last evening, I was checking out a large flat outside of a cove and starting to hear what I thought was surface-feeding fish. I could not see any, so I started to head toward the sound. I finally saw white water on the other side of the lake along a long deep bluff line. There were schools of whites feeding heavily. They didn’t stay up long, and kept moving around. I stopped the boat in an area where I had seen the fish come up and waited. It was not long before they came up again and again. I had my half-ounce Kastmaster tied on and started to cast. I worked the bait in a jerk, stop and reel motion and kept it close to the surface and they loved it. From about 5:45 p.m. until 6:45 p.m. they were active. When it started to get dark, the topwater in this deep-water area stopped. I heard some activity on the shallow side of the lake and headed that way. I found hybrids and whites feeding heavily in very shallow water, 5 feet or less. The hybrids were coming completely out of the water at least a foot above the surface; it was amazing to see and very fun to catch. Topwater baits such as a Zara Spook would have worked great, but I can cast a Kastmaster farther.
“Striped bass fishing has been very inconsistent. I have found them off a large flat in the mid-lake area, as well as out in very deep water. On the flat the fish were in 45-55 feet of water suspended to the bottom, and in the deep water they have been suspended 35-60 feet down in 100-plus feet of water. I have caught fish in this area by vertical jigging a ¾-to-1-ounce spoon. Live bait may work better. As the lake continues to cool and the turnover completes, this species will become very active and start to feed very heavily.”
The surface lake temperature has ranged 69-73 degrees depending on location and time of day. The lake is still falling about 3 to 4 inches per day and currently sits at 557.05 feet msl. The water is stained, but does start to clear more as you head south. “I forecast a great fall fishing season, so get ready to have some fun. Happy fishing and see you on the lake.”

Norfork Tailwater

(updated 10-14-2020) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake fell 1.9 feet to rest at 2.2 feet above seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 24 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork tailwater had wadable water at night and high water all day. Bull Shoals and Norfork lakes are dropping at an increased rate and wadable water could be three weeks away.
“The grasshopper 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,” John says.
The Norfork is fishing well. Navigate this stream with caution as things have changed a bit during flooding over 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. There is less pressure with school back in session, expect less pressure during the week. Brown trout have begun moving into the creek. 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), mop flies and egg patterns.
Remember that the White and North Fork rivers and Dry Run Creek are infected with didymo, an invasive alga. Be sure and 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 says, “(Saturday) I was guiding on Dry Run Creek. My client was a close relative of the two boys I had guided the previous Saturday. He is 14 years old and had never fly-fished before. He was a perfect candidate. He did not have any bad habits from previous instruction and he carefully listened when I gave him pointers.
He landed his first trout on his third cast. It was a small rainbow. But he carefully reeled it in and took his time. Five minutes later, he hooked a fat 24-inch male brown trout. I knew this would be a challenge. I generally prefer that my young clients fight and land a few smaller fish before hooking up a trophy.
“I calmly instructed him what to do. He had been fishing a short line and when he set the hook it eliminated all slack. I told him not to grab the fly line or hold the handle of the fly reel so that the trout could run if he wanted to. If the fish swam closer to us, I had him carefully crank in line. At my insistence, he fought the brown on the reel.
"I had him lift the rod and make sure that the rod was bent at all times to ensure that he had constant pressure on the fish. This is important because we were using barbless hooks and any slack in the line would allow the trout to spit the hook. The trout took several long runs but eventually surrendered to the net. We stopped and took some photos and then gently released the big brown.
“At the same time there was another lad fishing near us. He had fly-fished before. He was hooking trout and landing the smaller ones. Every time he hooked a large trout he lost them during the fight. I immediately knew what was happening. He was fishing a longer line and was holding excess line. When he hooked a trout, he attempted to land the trout by stripping it in. This is my pet peeve.
“When you tightly hold the line, the trout cannot run and struggles in place, often allowing him to slip the hook. An experienced angler can allow the line to slip in his fingers when the fish runs. This is not as effective as fighting the trout on the reel. With a reel, you use the drag on the reel to wear a big trout down so that you can control and eventually net him.
“Later in the day, his dad asked why his son was not landing the bigger fish. I explained that he was stripping fish and not fighting them on the reel. He said that the lad did not know how to fight them on the reel. That is one of the first things that I teach new fly-fishers. I have them fight all fish on the reel. I suggested that he teach him how to do it. I volunteered to help him.
“The key to landing big trout is to fight them on the reel.”

Buffalo National River/Crooked Creek
(updated 10-14-2020) 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.