Here we are another week deeper into February, and another change in conditions has occurred on the White. For most of the past week we’ve been seeing stable 17,000cfs which was yielding dependable indicator fishing with shad and worm patterns, and a few streamer bites on Sluggos, Twerking Minnows, and Modern Deceivers. As of today, we’re now seeing 17,000cfs turbine release combined with 3,000cfs spillgate release for a total release of a little over 20,000cfs on the White, and two units on the Norfork.
That is a whole lot of super cold water pouring out of Bull Shoals Lake, carrying with it dead and dying baitfish, mostly shad. The trout and the anglers in the tailwater respond to this cold weather baitfish kill quickly and decisively. Trout feast on easy protein when a fresh load of shad enters the river, gaining much needed calories to stay energetic in the cold water and regain weight shed during the spawn. Word spreads fast when the bite is on, and the first mile of the tailwater – the catch and release area – receives heavy fishing pressure instantly and constantly for most of the season. The trout learn to adapt to the pressure however, especially after being caught and released a few times. They get smarter, and the anglers have to get sneakier to continue having success.
The cold weather baitfish kill is not limited to the first mile of the tailwater, however, and the trout further downriver don’t get quite the same intensity of fishing pressure to educate them. Trout will respond to white fleshy flies in the winter time, wether fished on the strip or the dead drift, throughout the length of the tailwater fishery. Every tributary that enters the river is another potential source of dead or dying baitfish – stunned or killed by falling water temperatures in cold weather.
If you haven’t prepared your baitfish box yet for late winter fishing on the White and Norfork, you’re late. AR Beadheads, Meat Whistles, Puff Daddies, Sparkle Minnows, Wiggle Minnows, white Wooly Buggers, Bunny Strips, packages of white and gray marabou, craft fur, bucktail: these are all items that are going to sell quickly over the next few days. Larger white streamers (Viking Midge, Circus Peanut, Sex Dungeon, Kill Whitey) will also take fish over the next few weeks. Some local favorites like the Sluggo and Twerking Minnow in olive/white or gray/white will also continue to produce through the baitfish kill season.