February 22, 2020 (by Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters)
March on Norfork Lake is a great time for spring fishing. Here in the Ozarks our spring begins with the southerly winds which arrive in late February. The water warms fast and the stripers, crappie, bass and walleye all start their spawning migration. Once the water stays in the fifties the shad will move into the creeks to begin their spawn which triggers the fish to move up from the deep water and start heavy spring feeding. The major creek arms on Norfork are Pigeon, Bennett’s Bayou, Big Creek, and Brushy Creek. Float and Panther Creek will hold fish but they are short and the fish move in and out too fast to stay consistent. The major fishing patterns for Norfork are:
Stripers: I present the gizzard and threadfin shad using long lines with no weight, planner boards, and floats. Most of the lines will have no weight or just a split shot. I look for the most stained water in 30’ or less. This water will be the warmest and probably blowing to the north shores as the southern winds will warm that water faster. The great thing about March fishing is you can catch stripers every part of the day and night. The night bite begins again when the south winds warm the north shores. The main lures are Smithwick Rouges that are thrown parallel to the bank and reeled very slowly. The best bite is the first 3 hours after dark. Some of the biggest fish of the spring is caught at night.
Crappie: The crappie are in the final stage of their pre-spawn. Large schools are roaming the main channel and flats and in all the major creek arms. Depending on how fast the lake warms you can expect to catch crappies in stained shallow water and on the flats. The best technique is spider rigging, slow trolling with minnows and jigs. If the bite is slow move up to the stained shallows and probe the brush piles. Remember to look for the stain water with brush you will catch the most crappies there if they have moved off the flat.
Bass: March is one of my favorite times of year for bass. They are moving up to feed before their spawning cycle and can be caught on many different types of baits. My personal preference are spinner baits either chartreuse and white during the day or if its low light a black skirt with 1” or 3” black curly tail. Really if you’re into bass fishing you will be able to catch bass on any presentation. Look for the warmest stain water or find a creek arm where the wind has been pounding the shore you will find bass ready to take your lure.
Walleye: The walleye will be in their full spawning cycle in March. The best place to catch them using live bait is from Calamity Beach to the U.S.160 bridge. They will move into the shallows to spawn and slide back to the holes during the day. There are long stain water flats which hold the fish plus some deep holes from Bryant Creek up to the Udall boat ramp. The best bait is night crawlers on worm harnesses slow trolled using your trolling motor. Another great method is night fishing using rogues. You may catch a striper but if you target the pea gravel banks you should zero in on the walleye. Remember to reel slowly and keep changing your colors until you can find what they want.
March can be a fun month to catch fish but you should be prepared to have lots of wind, rain and cold weather mixed in with those sunny days. Tom & Sean Reynolds fish Lake Norfork and they guide out of Tracy Ferry Marina; you can reach him at www.stroutfitters.com, 870-421-1541 or on Facebook.
Dally's Fly Fishing Report (by Steve Dally)
Fishing report for the nearby rivers for our trout enthusiasts (since Mockingbird is the closest lake resort to the rivers!)
Now conditions are starting to stabilize: flows are settling into a very manageable pattern of 10,000-16,000 cfs, and tributaries are rapidly falling and clearing. Weather looks favorable for a brown trout bite heading towards the weekend, with cloudy skies Thursday and Friday, partially sunny Saturday and Sunday. Early next week it’s going to get clear and cold, so make sure you’re prepared with quality thermal gear. Wade fishermen can find solace on the North Fork in the afternoons, which are getting longer every week. Flows are down to minimum starting about 1pm, and easy access can be had at Quarry Park and Ackerman. Use an egg or worm pattern as an attractor, and add a Root Beer midge, Psycho midge, DW Whitetail midge, or Hunchback scud.
(by Tom Reynolds of STR Outfitters)
The stripers in Norfork Lake are now in their summer pattern. We have been catching fish from 30' to 60' in large schools in the channels near bluff walls. The best bait has been mid-size gizzard shad 4 to 7 inches on a down line set just above the fish. The lake water temperature is 80 degrees. The thermocline is around 20' and the water below is very murky it will stay that way until the lake returns to its normal pool. Fishing has been good! Limits are being caught each day.
My normal fishing pole routine is 2 float rods and 5 down rods. Currently, I'm fishing the main lake from Thumb Point to Hand Cove and the Dam Area. This pattern should hold true well into September. The walleye have moved to their summer pattern. They will be feeding in the 28' to 32' range. The best bite is usually from 8 to 11 am. Try long line trolling crankbaits and bottom bouncers set just off the bottom running spinners with night crawlers.
(by Tom Reynolds)
The Norfork Lake spring bite looks like it's going to wait until late March, based on the forecast. In spite of the weather, the spring fishing has started. The water temperature is around 45 degrees but will warm up on the sunny days. On several occasions, I have found water temps in the 52-degree range and caught gizzard and threadfin shad. The backs of most creeks was the warmest, but now the lake is being lowered due to the run up of over 10' above pool, and the creeks will clear up. Stripers, hybrids, and whites were being caught around 6B in Bennett's Bayou before the run up. Now they have moved out to deeper water around Fout's Marina and Crystal Cove. The best bite was from mid-morning until late afternoon. Shad, shiners, spoons, and umbrella rigs have been catching all of the species.
Threadfin shad are holding in most marinas right now and, if you have a cast net, you can catch them before light most days. My brother came down for the weekend so I took him fishing Friday afternoon and fished the 6A area. He caught his limit in 2 hours using gizzard shad. On Saturday, I caught some threadfin to go along with the gizzards I had and we started fishing around 9 am. It took over and hour to catch the first one, we then missed 2 and by noon only had 1 on the stringer. I could not get a bite on the threadfin and was running out of them. I rigged up 2 free lines with only a split shot and went shallow. We had been catching the fish in 45 to 60' of water but the bite quit. I moved closer to shore in less than 30' of water and caught a big hybrid and the biggest striper of the trip. It was getting cold, so we quit; but my brother caught his limit 2 days in a row. Not bad for not fishing since the beginning of February!
The stripers will move up the channel towards Fout's and the big flat towards Bennett's as the warmer weather begins. Once the south winds stay consistent, start fishing the northern bays and banks. The night bite will start soon; make sure you fish the northern banks, as they warm the fastest in the spring. These same patterns will happen in all the creeks on Norfork Lake.
40 degrees and raining, wind 4 mph
Current lake water temperature = approx 46 degrees
Fishing is "pretty good." The white bass bite has been "better-than-pretty-good." Try hitting the flats in 40-50 feet of water. Striped bass and hybrids -- jig with a spoon. Stripers -- 40-50' deep flats/outside deep channels...use umbrella rig trolling or spoon jigging. Large-mouth bass has been "very good." They're 30-40' down to the bottom. In brush. Try deep diving crank baits. Crappie bite has been "alright." 30' of water, in brush piles, best result using crappie minnows.
Lake level is 556.03 and rising, with more rain in the forecast.
P.S. The combined daily limit for largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass is six. Largemouth and smallmouth bass must be at least 15 inches long to keep, and spotted bass must be at least 12 inches. There is no closed season for bass fishing on Norfork Lake, but bass caught from spawning beds in spring should be immediately released to allow them to complete their reproductive cycle.
Lake Temp of 38-42 degrees: Bass will be 20-35 feet, shallower (10-15 feet) if murky. Target points, channel drops and ledges. Bass may suspend near drop-offs in 7-10 feet of water. Best fishing approach: Fish slowly with a 3/4 oz jig & pig making repeated casts to cover, or tight line a leadhead grub or spoon.
Lake Temp of 42-44 degrees: Some bass will move up to the breakline and sit or suspend near cover. This initial movement is typically only a few feet shallower -- if bass were at 30 feet, try 25 feet. Best fishing approach: Stay with the jig & pig or grub in the same spots. If bottom bumping doesn't work, try swimming the lure just off the bottom.
Lake Temp 44-48 degrees: More bass will move to the first breakline. Around 46 degrees, a few big females may begin staying on objects along migration routes leading to shallow spawning areas. Best fishing approach: Work a jig progressively shallower on steep points until you contact fish. Try jigs and suspending jerk baits around isolated stumps and creek channels, accessing shallower bays.
Lake Temp 48-55 degrees: Many bass are staging now on drops adjacent to spawning areas and isolated cover along migration routes. A few big bass may spawn around 55 degrees. Best fishing approach: Use more active lures as water warms -- big bladed spinner baits and small crank baits in murky water, suspending jerk baits in clear water. Scan shallow bays for early spawners, and use floating worms and tube baits if you see any.