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North Arkansas fishing well despite rains

North Arkansas fishing well despite rains

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White River hot, Norfork Lake cools in this week’s fishing reports

Arkansas Wildlife Editor

White River — Cotter Trout Dock (870-435-6525) reported, “The White River watershed has seen some rain this week, usually not as much as predicted in the Cotter area and mostly much appreciated. River clarity has remained very good and trout catching has been phenomenal. Releases from Bull Shoals Dam have decreased due to the hurricane rains to the south and east of us; this morning sees the lowest generated amount (minimum flow) in several months, but I don't expect the wade-able levels to be maintained for long.

“Favored bait for a great catch has been fresh softshell crawdads, little bits of meat on the barb of the hook, placed mid-depth, will add to your creel.

“It's late summer, so expect hopper season to spring in on us soon; pull out your hopper flies and make your way to the river. September fishing always seems more laid-back and relaxed than any other month of the year to me. The rush to get a day or two of angling in before school starts is behind us, winter holiday stress is still a ways off – just a nice peaceful time to cast a line and wait for the tug. Hope to see you soon.” Sportsman’s White River Resort (870-453-2424) reports that the Army Corps of Engineers have “turned the river off. Bull Shoals Dam is empty until Thursday. No one is fishing.” The clarity is termed “really good.” River level is low (downstream at Newport the gauge is over 12 feet. Just a half generator has been running.

John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said that during the past week (before the latest lines of rains this week) they had about an inch of rain, hot temperatures and moderate winds. The lake level at Bull Shoals fell 1.8 feet to rest at 17.3 feet above seasonal power pool of 661 feet msl. This is 16.7 feet below the top of flood pool. Upstream, Table Rock fell 0.7 foot to rest at 1 foot below seasonal power pool and 15 feet above the top of flood pool. Beaver Lake fell 0.3 foot to rest at 1.2 feet above seasonal power pool and 7.4 feet below the top of flood pool. The White had moderate generation in the morning and heavy generation in the afternoon. There were 3 hours of wadable water. Norfork Lake fell 1.1 feet to rest at 8.7 feet above seasonal power pool of 555.75 feet msl and 15.5 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork tailwater had low flows overnight and heavy flows during the day. Most of the lakes are still near the top of flood pool. Expect heavy generation and no wadable water into the fall.

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 such as a size 14 pheasant tail nymph to increase your catch.”

He says the White has fished well. “The lower

Continued on Page 14

Photos courtesy of AGFC FISHING REPORTS (cont.)

flows we have had in the morning have been extremely productive. The hot spot 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). Doublefly nymph rigs have been very effective (John’s current favorite combination is a cerise San Juan worm with a peach suspended below it).

John adds about kayaking on these waters, “I would like to preface this by noting that my wife, Lori, and I are both enthusiastic kayakers. We have floated the White River, Norfork tailwater, Spring and Buffalo rivers, Crooked Creek, the North Fork of the White and the Big Piney. Along the way we have learned a few things about etiquette.

“I always say that stream etiquette begins and ends at the ramp. The ramp is a busy place. There are many users and it is important that it remain free so that everyone can access it.

When I am fishing from my White River jon boat I totally prepare it for fishing before I drive down the ramp and quickly launch my boat. My total time on the ramp is 2 minutes. I do pretty much the same when Lori and I are kayaking.

We pull our boats off the trailer and carry them to the bank to the side of the ramp. We gather our gear (paddles, PFDs, etc.) and place it in the boat. We then move our kayaks to the ramp and launch. Our total time on the ramp is 2 minutes.

“My usual experience is to observe kayakers driving down the ramp and unloading their boats. They then proceed to load their gear.

This can take up to 20 minutes, leaving the ramp unusable to any other users. The commercial outfitters with over a dozen boats can take longer.

“Recently Lori and I were guiding a couple and we were coming in after a busy morning on the river.

As we arrived at the ramp, we noticed four kayaks on the ramp making it unusable to us. It was time to go home. We called out to the kayakers who were having lunch to move their boats so that we could put our boat on the trailer and leave. They ignored us and Lori and I had to move their kayaks so that we could use the ramp. My client said that I was a better man than he was because he said that he would have cursed them.

Before I left the access, I did go over and explain that the ramp should be kept clear so that others could use it.

“There are kayakers that set the standard of etiquette for the rest of us. I first met the Whoyakers a few years ago. I was guiding near Rim Shoals. It was just about quitting time when I noticed a dozen kayaks heading for the ramp. I thought to myself that I would never get out of there. As I arrived at the ramp a few minutes later, I was impressed to see that all of the kayaks had been moved out of the way and the ramp was free for me to use. The Whoyakers are a local group of lady kayakers. I know several members. They are serious about kayaking and are respectful of others. We should all be more like them.”

— Del Colvin at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock says the bite is changing a little every day.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is pumping water out of Bull Shoals Lake, and this has the fishing moving out on the points. There is also baitfish suspended deep off the points. Del says anglers should target fish at 10-15 feet deep dearly, then switch to 20-28 feet later in the day. If it’s hot, go deep, he says. If it’s cloudy and windy, go shallow. Throw topwater baits in the mornings. Berkley Wake Bait, poppers, a Whopper Plopper, buzzbait or chatterbaits are best for power fishing 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 halfounce jig in green pumpkin orange or green pumpkin blue in 20-25 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 remains dingy to clear depending on location, while the surface water temperature is 85 degrees. Lake level is just over 20 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.

— Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters said, “Each year that we have high water we experience a low oxygen level during late August. This is due to the lake level being lowered. As the lake is lowered, the oxygen is being depleted. Stripers need 5 parts per million to be active, and as the oxygen begins to decline and the water warms up, the stripers begin to stress and move deeper in the lake to find more oxygen. By the end of August the oxygen is less than 1 percent and the stripers will begin to become dormant. This will last into the first part of September, then they begin to move up the creeks.

“This year we have seen an early start to their inactivity. This past week on Wednesday I caught five stripers; Thursday we boated six; and on Friday zero FISHING REPORTS (cont.)

(the average is two or less).

The stripers will move deep and quit eating to reduce the need for oxygen. Live bait and spooning has been the less productive catching stripers. Some are being caught trolling, but it's not worth the money to fish the lower end of Norfork until later in September. The stripers will move to Robinson Point and up Big Creek as the oxygen returns.

“But it's not all bad news.

The walleye bite is very strong right now. They are being caught using bottom bouncers and nightcrawlers in 22-28 feet of water off the flat points like Thumb Point and Skunked Islands.

I did a test run going up the lake past the state line and found schools of legal but small stripers that were feeding heavy during the early morning. The waters up there are shallow and will begin to cool down much faster than the main lake. Once it hits 80 degrees a major striper push will occur and you will see lots of action.

“Until sometime in late October, if you want to fish with us expect that we will be fishing above the state line, which requires both Arkansas and Missouri fishing licenses. If you're a resident of either state you can purchase a (WRL) White River Border License that allows you to fish in either state. It’s $10 and good for a year.”

• Norfork Tailwater — John Berry of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter (870-435-2169) said Norfork Lake fell 1.1 feet to rest at 8.7 feet above seasonal power pool of 555.75 feet msl and 15.5 feet below the top of flood pool. The Norfork tailwater had low flows overnight and heavy flows during the day. Most of the lakes are still near the top of flood pool. Expect heavy generation and no wadable water into the fall.

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 such as a 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 from flooding over the last 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 school starting, expect less pressure during the week. On weekends, you should fish early or late to avoid the crowds.

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.

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.

— 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.

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