The fish are still biting in Arkansas
Get outside during coronavirus pandemic and do a
Everything, it seems, is shut down for the COVID19 crisis, but the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission is still keeping tabs on the fishing arounf the state.
Here is what’s happening this week in North Arkansas:
• Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) said the brown trout bite has been great in this low water with its slight murky tinge. The desired gauge level at Newport changed this past week so Josh Harper and dad Dave enjoy some time on the White River fishing for trout. the Army Corps of Engineers and the Southwestern Power Administration have decreased generation amounts to as low as minimum flow, although most days they still see a hefty rise in the river level by mid-afternoon. “We're seeing more action with sculpins after a couple of weeks of inattention on the part of healthy browns, but don't leave the minnows at home yet. The low water has even fooled the browns and bigger rainbows into snatching at Sunrise PowerBait combined with shrimp.
“The low water has also forced the rainbows into just their favorite holes, and once you find them the catch is rapid, one after the other. Worms, both live and artificial, have been popular as well as yellow and orange PowerBait (mixed together they look a lot like the Sunrise-colored egg.) “Wading opportunities abound and bank fishing is a whole lot more productive. Zebra midges have proven successful and peach egg patterns are also doing well. Try throwing a large brown, flashy streamer and see what bites.
“With all that's going on around us, the place to be is the great outdoors!
Come to Cotter and the White River for fresh air and for the robust trout catch.”
In the included photo, Josh Harper and dad Dave enjoying doubling on some brown trout on the White.
• Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) says the river level remains high, but the Corps of Engineers has stopped running water. Trout catches have been good. They report some nice browns caught over the weekend in the 17- to 23-pound range, using minnows.
Also, nice-size rainbows were caught over the weekend on PowerBait and Power Worms.
• John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-4352169) said that during the past week they have had several rain events bringing about 3 inches to the area, along with cool temperatures and moderate winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals rose 9.8 feet to rest at 11.4 feet above seasonal power pool of 659 feet msl. This is 24.6 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock 7.3 feet to rest at 8.6 feet above seasonal power pool and 6.4 feet below the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake rose 2.9 feet to rest at 8.7 feet above seasonal power pool and 0.9 foot below the top of flood pool. The White had heavy generation with a small bit of wadable water.
The Army Corps of Engineers has opened the spillway gates on Beaver and Table Rock dams in an effort to lower the water level on these lakes quicker. The White has fished well. The hot has been Rim Shoals. 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 high water San Juan worm with an egg pattern suspended below it). Use long leaders and plenty of lead to get your flies down.
Remember that the White River, Norfork tailwater 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.
Bull Shoals Lake
• Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock said the clarity is dingy to clear.
The lake is 12 feet high and rising. Surface temperature is 51 degrees. Del suggests that in these conditions, target the channel swing transitions toward spawning pockets. He heard no reports on bream.
Crappie are fair. They are at a depth of 15-20 feet on gravel points close to or on the bottom. Success can be had using a Ned rig, shaky head rig or Carolina rig.
Look in those rocky point areas and by steep banks.
Black bass are fair. If you’re around shad and it’s windy, a crankbait is good.
Otherwise, go with jerkbaits and jigs on points 10-25 feet down, and also use swimbaits. Focus on the shallow flats. No reports on catfish. White bass reports are good. White bass are moving up.
Walleye are being caught close to dusk using jerkbaits. View Del’s YouTube videos (Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock) for the latest in what’s biting and what Del is using,.
• Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters said, “I did not do much fishing this past week due to the weatherman saying we would have rain all day when I had trips scheduled, so we canceled and, guess what? No rain. We did get a lot of rain, but most of it was at night. The lake is 12 feet over pool and it looks like it will keep going up. We did try and fish Friday morning but the lake rose 3 feet overnight and the debris line in Bennett's was a mile long.
“They are catching stripers along the bluff walls in front of Fouts marina and on the flat heading towards 6B. The water was warm Friday, so we decided to catch some shad. We moved to the back of the left arm of Bennett's and found crappie and shad in 2 feet of water. The water was muddy and the temperature was 58 degrees.
With the influx of new water the temperature will fall, but the dirty water holds the temperature better, so once this cold front passes we should expect some great action on the flats for stripers. The crappie are moving up and you should expect to catch a limit fishing the new brushline as the water rises.
“Keep fishing the creeks for crappie, don't be afraid to go way back into shallow water. We were baiting on Friday and the water was 58 degrees and found crappie in 2 feet of water.
Once we start getting some warm nights the crappie will move back and start feeding again. Minnows, jigs and small spoons are catching limits of crappie.
The best three creeks right now are Big Creek, Bennett's Bayou and Pigeon Creek.”
• Lou Gabric at Hummingbird Hideaway Resort said, “Norfork Lake fishing has been good for most species over the last week. The weather has been fairly stable with cool mornings and warmer afternoons, but the lake level changes has affected the fish most, in my opinion. The Corps of Engineers has opened up a flood gate to evacuate some excess water from Norfork Lake. Our lake is dropping roughly 6 inches a day. What I have noticed is that a lot of the baitfish are moving out of the backs of the creeks and into the main lake or other coves that are close to the deep river channel. This has mainly affected the striped bass in the lake, but will also affect where the largemouth will start to feed.
“The last several days I have been fishing back in a major creek in 15-40 feet of water. Each day I have noticed fewer baitfish in the area. When I moved out towards the mouth of the creek, I found more bait, but they have moved into coves and sometimes all the way to the back of the cove. When I find a large concentration of bait, I have found many largemouth and a few spotted bass feeding heavily.
Yesterday in two different coves, in roughly 15-20 feet of water there were many largemouth feeding close to the surface, as well as right on the bank.
Small swimbaits and crankbaits are both working, as are jigs worked along the bottom, from 5 feet of water out to 20 feet. I have also gotten into some good topwater action for largemouth. This action has only occurred when there is a lot of bait in the area. Topwater action can occur any time of day, so keep your eyes open.
“Hybrid and striped bass are continually moving around in search of their food source. The common saying ‘when you find the bait, the stripers will be nearby’ held true most of the time in recent days.
The striped bass are feeding in very shallow water in the early morning and also in the latter part of the afternoon. Start looking at the shallow side of the lake for this species. They are on points with brush and cover. This is normal for springtime fishing, but it is happening a little earlier than usual. The other type of areas where stripers are showing up is in the backs of coves, but only if the bait has moved in. I have been trolling Berkley Flicker Minnows, size 7 and 9. The 7 dives about 15 feet and the 9 dives about 20 feet. Yesterday afternoon a few of our guests found stripers right on the bank, on a long shallow point. They were casting a swimbait up in 5 feet of water and retrieving slowing and getting hammered, almost as soon as the bait hit the water. With these shallow-feeding fish, I would have to say that the stripers are continuing to feed after sunset, so if you have interest in some exciting fishing, start slowrolling a suspending jerkbait on shallow points after dark. Cast your bait as close to the shoreline as possible, then retrieve to the boat very, very slowly.
I like to keep the bait on the surface or close to it.
Some other fishermen like to jerk it once to get the bait down a couple of feet, then start the retrieval. Try both and see what the fish want.
“Like Hummingbird Hideaway Resort’s Facebook page for frequent fishing report updates. Our fishing derby for Hummingbird Hideaway Resort guests has also started, so if you like a little friendly fishing competition and a chance to win some cash or free stays for your big catch, give us a call at 870-492-5113. Our derby runs for throughout the year.
“Norfork Lake is dropping about 6 inches per day with both generators and a flood gate partially open.
The current level is 556.04 feet msl. The surface water temperature was 49-52 degrees. The lake is clearing, but still stained. If you head upriver and up in the Bennett’s area, the water is still brown from the heavy northern rain a week ago.
Happy fishing and see you on the lake.”
• John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake rose 9.8 feet to rest at 13.2 feet above seasonal power pool of 553.75 feet msl and 14.1 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork 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.
John said, “Perhaps the best kept secret in Arkansas is Dry Run Creek. It is located, on the edge of the Norfork National Fish Hatchery, which sits below Norfork Dam, in north-central Arkansas near the town of Norfork. It is a small stream that receives the water discharge from the hatchery that provides the perfect conditions for trout to exist; consistent flows of cool, clean, highly oxygenated water. It has been a catch-and-release stream for over 30 years and is limited to children under 16 years of age and mobility- impaired adults (this requires a mobilityimpaired permit from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission).
“A few years ago local conservation groups like Trout Unlimited, the Friends of the Hatchery and others raised about a quarter-million dollars to enhance the fish-holding ability of the stream. These improvements were designed by Dave Whitlock. Due to its catchand- release regulations and near-perfect water conditions, this stream has a large trout population that includes substantial numbers of trophy fish. Some of these trout are as big as your leg. When I guide there I expect my clients to catch at least one trophy.
“If you have children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews, this is the ultimate place to introduce them to fly-fishing. They will get lots of opportunities to hook, fight and land good trout. If you don’t get around as well as you used to or have parents, relatives or old fishing buddies in the same boat, this is the best place for them to relive to good old days when they were able to wade on a great trout stream.
Buffalo National River & Crooked Creek
• 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. The smallmouths will begin picking up as the water warms. John’s favorite fly is a Clouser minnow.
Carefully check the water level before entering Crooked Creek or the Buffalo River.