Cotter Trout Dock Sign

Cotter Trout Dock Weekly Fishing Report

October 21, 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 21, 2020.

White River

(updated 10-21-2020) Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said Bull Shoals Lake has reached the established goal of 659 feet msl elevation and a change has been seen in the water flow pattern on the river. Consistent high water over the last few months provided some exceptional catches, and consistent low water will do the same. “During the past week, however, since power pool was reached, we saw changes in releases throughout the day from low to high, creating challenges for anglers. With the morning water level at a single unit or just above, you'll need to leave the bigger baits in your tackle box and pull out the trusty spoons: gold or copper/bronze Colorados and hammered red-and-gold spoons. You might try a Vibrax Blue Fox in the afternoon when the river rises (the pink or chartreuse bells are proving seductive to the rainbows).”
Consistent water level patterns will allow the trout to settle down into some normal feeding habits; early morning and early evening may be the best times for easy catches. The trout and the guides are already adjusting to the lower depth but continual, often sudden changes to the water level may require frequent, sometimes sudden changes in bait/fly requirements. Keeps you alert and involved.
“Come on over. Fall colors are popping up all around us and we've been treated to some perfect autumn days.”

(updated 10-21-2020) Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) says most anglers this week have been drift-fishing. The fishing has been “pretty good,” they report, but things are changing while the water goes up and down. The clarity is “really good” as of early afternoon Tuesday. The river level at that time was low, and the Corps of Engineers have turned off the generation regularly. Anglers will find the trout bite good.

(updated 10-21-2020) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service said that over the past week they had no measurable rain, cooler temperatures and heavy winds (to include wind advisories). The lake level at Bull Shoals fell 4.3 feet to rest at 0.1 foot below seasonal power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 36.1 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock remained steady at 3 feet below seasonal power pool and 17 feet above the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell 0.6 foot to rest at 1.1 feet below seasonal power pool and 10.7 feet below the top of flood pool. The White River had heavy generation and no wadable water. Norfork Lake fell 2.1 feet to rest at 0.1 foot above seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 26.1 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork Dam tailwater had wadable water at night and high water all day.
All of the lakes in the White River system are now below or at power pool. Anglers should expect consistent wadable water.
John says, “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.”
The White has been good. 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 size eight girdle bug suspended below it).
John also said, “Last week I guided a group of fly-fishers from St. Louis. Steve, Al, Mike and Joe are avid fly-fishers and fly-tyers. They are all retired and are actively involved with the fly-fishing club in St. Louis. They always attend the Sowbug Roundup and the Fly Fishing Fair and usually stay for a week at each event to get in some fishing. I have known them for a long time and have guided several of them in years past.
“Since they usually come here for the Sowbug Roundup of the Fly Fishing Fair, the cancellation of these events this year due to the coronavirus has kept them at home. They wanted to come here to do some fishing. They usually float the river in small pontoon boats. Due to the neverending high water, they thought that they would do better by hiring guides and contacted me and asked me to guide them and contact another guide so that they could all fish. I quickly agreed and contacted my fellow guide, Danny Barker, to join me. He accepted. We agreed to guide them for three days and change out the anglers in our boats every day so that all of the anglers got to fish with both of us and they all got to fish with their entire group.
“On the first day, I had Joe and Al and we fished Rim Shoals. It was a cool start (38 degrees). I had on heavy wool socks, long pants, down jacket, fingerless wool gloves and a warm hat. I had rigged the rods with 4X tippet, large girdle bugs (size 8) below cerise San Juan worms (size 10) and a heavy AAA split shot. The strike indicator was set about 9 feet above the bottom fly.
We were drifting through my favorite sections and had caught a few trout when Joe got a strong take. His rod was severely bent and the fish was hugging the bottom and taking line at will. This was the same rod that I always use with my clients on Dry Run Creek. It is a 5 weight 9 foot TFO rod with an Orvis Battenkill reel. This reel has a stout disc drag. It has landed a lot of big trout. With 4X tippet and a big fly, I thought we had a good chance to land this trout.
“This first thing that I did was pull the chain I was dragging. I did not want the trout to get tangled in it. Joe did a masterful job. He took his time and slowly worked the trout in. I finally got a good look at it and quickly realized that it was a huge brown. He finally got it close enough for me to net it. I breathed a sigh of relief when I lifted the net and the big brown is in it. It was a stout 26-inch male brown trout with a big kype and a large girth. With Joe being 82 years of age and with over 60 years of fly-fishing, this marked the largest trout he had ever landed.
“We went to take a photo and he resisted. Al pulled out his camera and we convinced him to pose. It was a stellar moment.
“Joe showed us how to do it!”

Bull Shoals Lake
As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reported the lake’s elevation at 658.38 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 661.00 feet msl). The reported lake elevation at Table Rock Lake was 913.95 feet msl (normal conservation pool: 917.00 feet msl).

(updated 10-21-2020) Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock says the Army Corps of Engineers has been slightly slowing the generation and the shad are getting balled up more. There is baitfish pushing toward the backs of creeks. “I have been doing better toward the back of creeks, and some of the shad balls are getting bigger but suspended over the old creek channels,” he says. The topwater response has slowed drastically. Try spinnerbaits, chatterbaits or square-bill cranks for powerfishing “shallow” if there are bushes with deeper water close and shad, if it’s cloudy or stormy. Target shallow flats close to old creek channels with runoff. As the sun comes up, change tactics and slow down. Focus on pockets, channel swings, transitions with wind. Brushpiles are getting good if there’s shad present. The fish position will change depending on sun, wind, current, clouds, etc. Keep it moving. The jig bite is picking up. Try a half-ounce jig in green pumpkin orange, or green pumpkin blue, or a green pumpkin orange shaky head. Lake conditions have the clarity ranging dingy to clear and the surface temperature is 69 degrees. Lake level is finally normal.

Norfork Lake
As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reported the lake’s elevation at 553.61 feet msl (normal conservation pool: Sept.-April, 552.00 feet msl; April-Sept. 555.75 feet msl).

(updated 10-21-2020) Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters says this past week they saw a major cool down of Norfork Lake. This week, with the predicted rain, anglers on Norfork should see a push up the creeks by the stripers to find schooling bait and cold water. “I fished both Bennett's Bayou and above the Missouri line. Both places are holding fish, but only Missouri has the most consistent bite. I usually start off above Point 10 in 11 feet of water at first light and wait until the school comes sometime between 6:3-7:30 a.m.. This week when it did we hooked three and landed them all at the same time. By 7:30 I moved out to deeper water and fished that until 9 a.m. Then I moved down below Point 10 and fished the deeper channel waters. The trollers are having great success in the shallow water trolling small crankbaits. I saw two boats catch their limit of stripers in less than two hours. I'm still using big gizzard shad up to 8 inches. It seems the bigger baits are working the best, but the trollers are using small baits but trolling fast.
“Bennett's Bayou has a similar pattern. I start off at the cow pasture point in 12 feet of water and fish the area until the sun comes up. I then move off into deeper waters and fished the channel edge. The stripers are not very active there, but as the water cools down it will be a major spot to fish. I have seen a few trollers and some fish are being caught around 10 a.m., but not many yet. The evenings are still the best time to fish the bayou right now.
The walleye are being caught on crankbaits trolled on long flats above Cranfield Marina. Crappie is a strong bite right now on 30 feet brushpiles, with small spoons, jigs and minnows being your best baits. Detailed maps of the new brushpiles are available at various locations around the lake.

(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 10-21-2020) John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake fell 2.1 feet to rest at 0.1 foot above seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 26.1 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork Dam tailwater had wadable water at night and high water all day.
All of the lakes in the White River system are now below or at power pool. Anglers should expect consistent wadable water.
John says, “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.”
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 underway; 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. 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 10-21-2020) 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