Those of us fortunate enough to live here in Missouri have so much great fishing for so many exciting species. Our choices are so numerous, in fact, that budgeting our precious time to enjoy it all can be a real problem. To help you get started, here’s a list of many possible solutions for each month’s fishing adventures.
Rainbow Trout – White Ribbon Streams
The special regulations governing trout fishing on the nine streams or portions of streams set aside as White Ribbon Trout Areas were deliberately designed to appeal to the broadest possible spectrum of anglers.
All of them receive periodic stockings of sufficient numbers of rainbow trout to provide a year-round opportunity for anglers of varying skill levels to enjoy not just trout fishing, but also trout catching. Moreover, hungry anglers can keep four rainbows with no size restriction. A 15-inch minimum length limit does apply to brown trout, and there’s a daily creel limit of four in seven of the nine areas.
All trout fishing is limited to catch-and-release from Nov. 1 to February 28 in Newton County’s Hickory Creek and in Pulaski County’s Stone Mill Spring.
Whenever anglers can keep trout, they can use all types of artificial lures and both natural and commercial baits. Conversely, if trout fishing is restricted to catch-and-release, only artificial lures and flies are legal.
Walleyes – Powersite Dam Tailrace
If you’ve dreamed about catching a new state-record walleye, February is the month, and the first few miles below Powersite Dam is the place. In fact, the current state record, a 21-pound, 1-ounce monster, was caught there in 1988.
The first hint that the water flowing over Powersite Dam from Lake Taneycomo is beginning to warm triggers an upstream walleye migration from an amazingly long stretch of the White River arm of Bull Shoals Lake. The dam effectively frustrates further movement and, thus, concentrates a lot of walleyes in a very small area. That’s good news for anglers.
Boats give anglers an undeniable edge. For one thing, fishing from a boat gives anglers access to the tailrace and river/lake downstream from it from bank to bank and from end to end. Possibly even more important, its possible to fish vertically with jigs and spoons while drifting downstream with the current, a deadly technique indeed.
That said, fishing from the bank on the Forsythe side of the river can be very productive. Bring rod-and-reel combos capable of making casts that would make a saltwater surf fisherman proud.
White Bass – Kings River
The spring white bass run up the Kings River out of Table Rock Lake became famous less than a decade after the lake began to fill. Not much has changed. Admittedly, the run is better some years than others — they always were — but, even on an “off” year, the Kings River ranks among the very best white bass fisheries in the Midwest.
There’s seldom a need to choose any lure other than a 1/8- or 1/4-ounce leadhead jig tipped with a 3-inch white, yellow or chartreuse curlytail grub. If that approach sounds a little too “one-method-Pete” for your tastes, small crankbaits and 1/4-ounce in-line spinnerbaits are consistent producers.
Paddlefish – Osage River
Paddlefish — including some very big ones — are pulled from the Osage River everywhere from where it joins the Missouri River to the Kansas state line. Even so, snaggers have a far better chance of beating the inherently long odds associated with this sport in some areas than they do in others. Traditionally, more paddlefish are wrestled from the first 25 miles of river east of the US 65 highway bridge than anywhere else, because that is where most of the catchable paddlefish — and, therefore, most paddlefish snaggers — spend most of the March 15 to April 30 open season. The second best, but still very productive, stretch of the Osage River lies between the mouth of the Sac River and Taberville. Third in production but first in the hearts of snaggers who work from shore is the Bagnell Dam tailrace.
Only the November firearms deer season generates more excitement up and down the Osage basin than paddlefish season. Motel rooms in river towns are booked months in advance, boat ramp parking lots are jammed far beyond capacity, and waiting for a table is the norm even at the most out-of-the-way café.
Obviously, you shouldn’t expect to have the river to yourself. If you do, you’re snagging in the wrong place. Sophisticated electronics can help locate paddlefish, but the surest way to find them is to look for a concentration of boats.
Channel Cats – Tributary Streams
Most of the year a fierce, albeit usually friendly, debate about whether the channel cat should rank first, second or third in popularity rages among Missouri anglers. Black bass and crappie advocates can raise some valid points, to be sure, but when May “frog strangler” rains send torrents of muddy water rushing down the tributary streams that feed the state’s large reservoirs, the case for giving the gold medal to Mr. Whiskers becomes all but overwhelming.
Channel cats got their name because they seek out the currents provided by channels. Now imagine what happens when a significant percentage of the channel cats that normally call one of the state’s large reservoirs home move into the confines of the streams that feed it. If you imagined wild and crazy action, you’ve got the idea.
Since the channel cats are on the move, catfishermen who prefer the traditional fish-from-the-bank approach can settle into one time-honored spot and stay there all day. The action will ebb and flow to be sure, but baits won’t remain undisturbed for long.
That said, fishing from a boat is more comfortable and greatly increases the amount of bait and tackle each angler can bring along. Then too, the mobility afforded by fishing from boats allows catfishermen to follow the moving schools of fish from resting area to resting area.
Smallmouths – Ozark Streams
Just one day fishing for smallmouths in a clear, gravel-bottomed Ozark stream will trigger a lifelong siren’s song in the heart of anyone who tries it. For better or worse, the same thing could be said of anyone who spends a day or a weekend floating down that same stream in a beve
Happily, there are easy steps a peace-loving bass angler can take to make sharing the stream with “recreational floaters” significantly more pleasant. For example, very few recreational floaters are early risers, so float fishermen who launch at first light can count on having the stream to themselves, at least for awhile. Anglers who prefer to wade can avoid the crowds altogether by fishing upstream from an access site in the morning and downstream from it in the evening.
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