Not Quite a Complete Shutdown
Tailwaters offering some opportunity, even in the snow
Arkansas Wildlife Editor This has been a great time to catch brown trout in the tailwaters of Bull Shoals Dam. Jessie Valleroyi (right) is yet another angler in recent weeks who was fishing out of Cotter Trout Dock, bundled up, and caught nice-sized brown trout. While the heavy snow and single-digit temperatures kept most people indoors, those brave enough to get out in recent days were catching fish, as the water releases from the dam for needed power generation to serve the region — same is true below Greers Ferry Dam with the rainbow trout, we're told — make for the kind of water the trout just love.
Speaking of the Little Red below Greers Ferry Dam, guide Greg Seaton says he's only seen on person fishing in recent days, his neighbor. The neighbor did catch a rainbow, though.
Meanwhile, the snowdrifts of this week reportedly cover many lakes right now, if they're not iced over like a lot of Millwood Lake (see photo below).
Access to boat ramps is next to impossible until it warms up. When it does, though, the fish should be hungry for your bait.
Though we only were able to track down a fraction of the usual weekly reports this week, there are some revealing spots; and, just before the big snow and ice hit, Charles Abernathy was finding crappie in DeGray Lake (read some of his tips in this week's report). Also, Horseshoe Lake oxbow in northeast Arkansas is regularly requested as a site for a regular report, and we welcome guide Kent Williams of Oxbow Guide Service (870-278-7978), who will regularly file from that lake. Check out his first report from there in this week's report.
Also, Cotter Trout Dock's report has some great tips for catching those browns, if you're bold enough to get out. Be safe and stay warm until all this passes. The spring spawn is around the corner, and as guide Tommy Cauley at Greers Ferry Lake notes, it's liable to come fast and furious.
Southwest Arkansas Fishing Reports
Millwood Lake — As of Thursday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation was 260.61 feet msl (normal pool: 259.20 feet msl).
Mike Siefert at Millwood Lake Guide Service said Thursday that Millwood Lake is frozen over — not completely, but partially.
Ice has formed around the lake perimeter from shoreline to approximately 200-500 feet out from the shoreline. North and east shore are most impacted.
Boat ramps are totally frozen/iced/snowed in at least 15-20 inches deep.
'Obviously, we have not been on the water this week at all.' The lake is about 16 inches above normal conservation pool with discharge around 4,000 cfs. 'No report, that is all.
Hoping for better weather next week,' he said.
In the meantime, here is how things were with various species just before the winter came in with full force, from Mike's report last week:
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Millwood State Park has been open for campers. See the COVID-19 related information, and camping reservation requirements at https://www.arkansasstatep arks.com/parks/millwood-state
• Largemouth bass: Bass have been slow with the current conditions and cold fronts.High bluebird days with bright skies have been best on 5-9 foot deep flats near vertical structure nearby. Over the past several weeks, Bass have been suspending near these flats with stumps, on vertical drops into 16-20 feet structure. When the feed bag light bulb turns on, last week it was decent action for a couple hours on squarebills, BLL MR-6 Crankbaits in Millwood Magic, Ghost Craw, or Rayburn Red Craw.
Custom chatterbaits in Fire Craw, Texas Craw, or firetiger will draw a few reaction bites. Brazalo Spinnerbaits in Spot Remover, and heavy thumping 1-Knocker Rat-L-Traps with a very slow and deep retrieve picked up a few 2-4 pound Largemouths last week.Most Bass we are finding continue randomly roaming shallow on full sun and bright skies into the 6-10 foot depths of flats adjacent to deeper drops into 9-15 feet depth ranges.The best 3-4 hours is during the heat of the day, best on bright, sunny, clear days when water temps will rise a few degrees after lunch.Little John cranks, have been getting slow responses over the past week.Anywhere a creek channel runs into the deeper creek bends or vertical structure and drops into the oxbows, where stumps and creek mouths drop, have held some decent sized bass over the past few weeks.The best time of the day is during warmest period of the day from 12pm-3pm, albeit slow and methodical.
Swim jigs with a Bang Die Dapper, and vertical jigging Cordell or Kastmaster spoons, got a few reaction bites last week, vertical suspended Bass from 10-15 feet on ledges or deep creek, outside bends, with stumps present.
• White bass: Large schools of Whites were located on the main lake over the past few days, and are holding in deep holes along Little River and Saline River intersections, in open water near standing timber, from 20-35 feet of depth.
Vertical jigging spoons caught a few hammer White Bass last weekend, along Little River and Saline River cutoff boat lane, between 1-3 mile marker on Little River.Chrome/Blue, Chrome/Chartreuse, and Leadhead spoons, hammered Cordell Slabs with bucktails got the best response from the Guys we talked to.Several Whites in the 3lb class were hardcharging
spoons near any remaining standing timber/ stumps out in front of the dam 1-3 miles from the dam where Little and Saline Rivers junction.We have yet to locate, with any consistency, any large schools of Whites running in Little or Saline Rivers as of this point for their annual spawning runs.Once the water temps climb out of the 40º range overnight and into the mid 50º range all day and overnight hours, we are expecting the White Bass Run to fire up in short order.
• Crappie: Have been slow and scattered with current weather and lake conditions.
• Catfish: Channel cats and blues in Little River have been fair on trotlines and in the oxbows on limblines using Punch Bait and chicken livers/hearts.
Sportsman’s One Stop in El Dorado (870-863-7248) had no report. Visit www.littlemissouriflyfishing. com for a daily update on fishing conditions.
As of Thursday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at Narrows Dam was 539.88 feet msl (full pool: 548.00 feet msl). Ice, snow and frigid temperatures were keeping even the hardcore anglers away.
— As of Thursday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation was 402.63 feet msl (full pool: 408.00 feet msl).
Local angler Charles Abernathy says, “This information was taken the day before our big snow hit. I wish I had a snow plow, I would clear a ramp off for us to continue fishing. Water was around 42-43 up around Shouse Ford and still had some good color to it (dirty water is the perfect condition for sniping single crappie out in open water). The clearer water down in the main lake was colder than that.
Point Cedar creek channel runs up through the Shouse Ford area toward the boat ramp. There is a good amount of schooled fish (crappie/hybrids) along this channel. The bigger fish were singled out in open water. These singles were the ones I was targeting.
Targeting these singles allowed for bigger fish and also helped ensure I was staying out of the hybrids (I don’t have anything against hybrids, I just like to fish for crappie).
“There is some structure along this channel that can be targeted, but for the most part the open water opportunities produced more gain. Use your map to see where this channel goes. It’s a very easy task if your electronics mapping has this channel marked.
Stay on top of it in your boat and use your side scan to take inventory along the way. You’ll find them. I had a good amount of fish in just a couple hours targeting singles. I was using
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an old faithful for muddy water (black/chartreuse Slab Slanger paired with orange head), although I don’t think it would have mattered. My opinion is size/profile seems to be more important. That section of water through there, once you get inside, is probably 35 feet or less.
Fish were using the entire column of water. I’m not a spider-rigger, but it seemed like a good location to do some of that.”
Hint: I have noticed several deep water locations midlake have been vacated.
Now, I could say they started heading up a creek prestaging, but I couldn’t tell you that for sure. It is early and it’s still dang cold, but the days are starting to get longer and that plays a part, too. The move could have been due to the food moving. Who knows for sure?
Crappie have been known to move in the winter, and nine times out of 10 it’s because the food shifted.
But, regardless … the following is likely true: Most everyone’s favorite time to fish will be here before you know it. You can learn so much fishing in the winter.
It’s common knowledge that crappie will use these channels to travel regardless of the reason. Pick any major creek channel on this lake and follow it in looking at side scan. As with everything, some are better than others, but you will find crappie. The knowledge that you obtain in the winter will make you a very successful crappie fisherman in the spring. It will change you from a spot fisher to a pattern fisher. Remember … someone can always beat you to your spot, and spots can dry up. Learn how to pattern these crappie and your success rate will be more consistent.
“There are a lot of successful fishermen on this lake and there is certainly more than one way to skin a cat (or catch a crappie). I get quite a few emails and I enjoy reading/responding to every one of them.
Thank you so much for reading these and thanks to everyone for letting me know. As always, feel free to reach out at c.abernathy32@ gmail.com for more info. Good luck out there and be safe and be nice and try to remain humble. Those big crappie always have an ace or two up their sleeve at some point. Hope to see you on the water.”
As of Thursday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation was 437.55 feet msl (full pool: 437.00 feet msl). Surface was frozen several feet from the shore. No reports on fishing. Curtis Willingham of River Rat Bait (870-231-3831) had no new reports due to the weather.