Posted by Phil Lilley on December 4th, 2016
Jigfest is an annual fishing event attended by Ozarkangler Forum members on the White River. We generally pick on of the first couple of weekends in December and meet at Riley’s Station at Buffalo City, Ar. on the White River.
This year we picked the first weekend. There were about 14 in attendance including several local guys who live close to the river. The furthest was from Iowa, Eric, who also owns a house on the White.
Some of us arrived on Thursday to take advantage of a day of fishing. Duane and I met Hamilton (Ham) at the Buffalo City Access and he “guided” us to some of his favorite river spots. We caught a lot of trout!
Duane broke the 20-inch mark, fishing below the mouth of the Buffalo River. He caught it on an 1/8th ounce sculpin/ginger jig.
Ham, DD and myself boated about 90 trout, fishing below and above the Buffalo Access. Jig colors: white/gray, white, brown, black/olive, ginger/sculpin and olive/ginger and double brown.
Friday, Duane and I took forum member @GrizWilson (Les) fishing with us. We put in below the Norfork Dam about 8 a.m. and yes it was chilly! And foggy. They were running 28 megawatts which is about a half unit (they have 2 units total). They were supposed to run it till 10 a.m. so we have a couple of hours to fish.
I am not real acquainted with this tailwater. I’ve been on it several times but the nature of tailwaters is such that they act very differently depending on generation plus things move and change over time (channel, shoals, big rocks) so if you don’t fish that water more than once a year, you’re basically starting over every time you go. That’s where we were Friday.
Duane’s boat is a Tracker inboard jet. It will get up and go and it doesn’t need much water to do it but it sits down in the water further than other river boats like jon boats with jet motors so we had to watch what we were doing. With the generation they were running, we were able to get up to the line below the dam alright and drift all the way down to the top of the trophy area (a little more than a half mile I think) but we really had to watch the water level… if the level started to drop, we had to immediately head back to the ramp. When they shut the water off on the Norfork Tailwater, the water drops out super fast. You can get stranded very, very easily, especially in a boat like Duane’s.
We threw mostly 1/8th ounce jigs, mostly dark. Les did throw a chartruse and caught a few but mostly we threw black, sculpin/ginger, brown/orange and brown jigs.
Above the ramp, we caught two non-coldwater fish, a walleye and a smallmouth. Both were nice sized fish and fought hard. Les caught the smalley and I caught the walley. They were both released although the walleye caught a ride to Riley’s before being relocated to the White River there. In other words, we didn’t feel like cleaning it so we released it.
We also caught several cutthroat trout which was fun.
I caught one nice rainbow, just short of 19 inches.
We noticed a narrow wet water line on the bank about a quarter till ten so we raced up to the boat ramp and sat there staring at the water line on the bank for a minute. We debated whether to take a chance and make another float since the water didn’t seem to be dropping but we decided to error on the side of caution… we pulled out and headed to Rim Shoals.
We put in at Rim Shoals Access shortly after noon, after a trip to Wal Mart in Mountain Home. We hit Duane’s trolling motor on a shoal and busted the prop. A two-bladed prop doesn’t well with only only blade… trends to rattle profusely.
With plenty of water arriving from Bull Shoals dam, we were able to easily boat up past the first shoal and all shoals between Rim and the new Highway 62 bridge past Cotter. We’d stopped a couple times to look at the water because the hard influx of new current had broken a lot of debry (leaves, moss, algae) lose and the water was unfishable. We boated above it and started fishing above the bridge.
We weren’t able to copy our fishing success from the morning or the day before. Catching was slow but we caught a few. We fished all the way down past Cotter where we noticed the current was starting to slow down and water was dropping out.
From Roundhouse Shoal down river, catching picked up. We found pods of fish against the Cotter bank side, mainly rainbows averaging about 11 inches. We’d catch one about 13 inches every once in a while.
Duane did find one nice trout along that bank – this brown came out of the wood after his jig.
The bite actually got better and better. Then we found the mother lode.
There’s a coontail moss bed about a mile above the shoal above Rim Shoals on the Cotter bank side in front of some houses. It extends almost half way across the river and has about 12 to 24 inches of water over it. Trout were hovering over the moss bed, surfacing and taking small midges. We threw 1/16th ounce jigs over the beds and nailed these trout, almost on every cast. Again, nothing big but once in a while we’d get something a little bigger. Duane did spot some nice browns sitting in holes in the moss though but they weren’t interested in our small jigs.
We finished on the opposite bank through the shoals and stopped at the top of Rim’s trophy area. We did catch some browns in the wood on that bank, small ones.
Some pictures from @littleredfisherman and @zigjigman’s day on the river.
Browns were caught on a crank bait, not jigs.
Back at the lodge, we ate. Not sure which was better, the fishing or the food. Company was pretty good too.
What’s left of Rick’s mushrooms…
Fried catfish and walleye.
Last morning for us, Saturday. Duane and I drove over to the Norfork Tailwater just to see that they weren’t running water like they said they would. We couldn’t navigate any water there in DD’s boat so we turned around and drove back to the Buffalo/White access and put in there.
Overcast but little wind, it did started misting a little while we fished. Boated up to the first shoal and started there. Use an 1/8th ounce jig in the fast, deeper spots and a 3/32nd ounce jig in the slower water. Sculpin/ginger was the best. Caught rainbows between 10 and 12 inches all the way to the ramp and beyond. It’s crazy how many trout are in there but nothing of any size. DD did get one rainbow about 18 inches and we did see what we thought was a nice brown in the wood along the bank. Rainbows were really pretty though.
Went on down below the lower shoat past Riley’s. Caught this brown in the skinny fast water above their dock. Caught larger trout in that faster water at Riley’s and down to where the water gets too shallow to boat.
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