Missouri's Hottest Summer Fishing

They don't call the hottest days of August "Dog Days" for nothing! Forget that Dog Star business. These long, miserable, sultry weeks make any type of physical activity so difficult that even the dogs lay on the porch in the shade all day. Dogs move during the coolest periods of the day during the hottest months of the year.

Fish do the same and so should fishermen.

Picking the right places to fish at the right times can put you into some of the hottest fishing of the month — and without being out in the peak of the blistering heat!

HUZZAH CREEK

In the heat of late summer, my favorite Missouri fishing places include several spring-fed Ozark streams. Huzzah Creek, in Crawford County, less than an hour from St. Louis, is my favorite fishing grounds at that time of year.

The Huzzah is a small, relatively short stream. From the highest practical put-in point in late summer at Huzzah Valley Resort, just east of Steelville on Highway 8, to its junction with the Meramec River is only six miles. However, that short stretch of water is packed with smallmouth bass and offers some of the hottest August smallmouth action you will find in the state.

The key to August success on the Huzzah is to put in well before daylight, before the huge float and party crowd wakes up. Beginning my trips early, I seldom see a floater before 11 a.m., by which time I am ready to finish my trip by watching the sights as they float by.

The Huzzah flows steadily, with lots of tight turns and eddies. Floating with a partner is the best way to go. One handles the canoe while the other fishes, and then they trade out. Stopping at long runs or pools and wading allows both anglers to cast, and it allows for working holes thoroughly.

I carry four rods when floating the Huzzah in August. I rig one with a Sammy, one with a fluke, one with a spinnerbait, and one with a 2-inch Yum Camo, (blue/black, red-fleck) Crawbaby. Trim the skirt on your spinnerbaits to just behind the hook. Use chartreuse or chartreuse and white.

You can't go wrong floating and fishing the Huzzah in July and August. For fishing info, call Huzzah Valley Resort at (573) 786-8412.

MONTAUK STATE PARK

The headwaters of the nationally famous Current River begin in Montauk State Park, southwest of Salem and 1 1/2 hours from St. Louis. Five springs bubble up inside park boundaries. I can think of no better place to be on a hot summer day than at the cold, clear waters of the spring branch at Montauk. Waders are a must, for early mornings in cold water can be very cool, even in late summer.

Montauk is divided into three zones to give different types of trout fishermen elbowroom. Each zone is clearly marked and anglers must obey the posted regulations for each zone. The zones consist of a flies-only area, an artificial and natural baits area, and a catch-and-release area.

The spring branch at Montuak is usually low and very clear in the summer. The lighter the line, the more strikes you will entice. Two-pound mono is standard, but I have known guys to use nylon sewing thread, which is about 3/4-pound test. Tiny jigs, 1/80- and 1/64-ounce are a good bet. Colors used are widely varied, but you can't go wrong with brown, black, olive-green or white. Watch what the locals use to home in on the best baits at the time. Small Rooster Tails are hot baits.

Fly-fishing is very popular at Montauk and for good reason. Fly-fishermen should bring every box of flies they own. We all like to play with our flies. I've caught Montauk rainbows on just about every imaginable pattern. However, we all have our favorites.

For August, I like the Golden Drake in the cream variant, Blue-winged Olive, tan Elk-hair Caddis, beadhead nymphs in Elk-hair Caddis and Prince nymphs and small Woolly Buggers. Google "Missouri Fly Hatch Chart" and you will find the bug hatches for the entire year. For info on water and fishing conditions, call the park office at (573) 548-2201.

MARK TWAIN LAKE

The lake's namesake once said, "There is no use in walking five miles to fish when you can depend on being just as unsuccessful near home."

Stay near home if you want, but Mark Twain Lake makes for thousands of happy catfishermen every year. The 18,000-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reservoir is the largest in north Missouri.

Many catfish chasers describe the trotlining at Mark Twin as being awesome. More than a decade ago, many of our family members gathered at Mark Twain for a mini family reunion. The guys set several lines just before dark. Most were placed near the backs of coves about 2 feet deep in standing timber. We baited the lines, stretched between two trees, with hotdogs and worms. Our minimal efforts brought bountiful rewards. Our lines did not produce any monster fish, although a couple of droplines had been broken. That spurned lots of camp talk about the big ones that got away. However, we still had more channel cats in the 3- to 6-pound range than we could eat in one family sitting.

Drop into one of several bait shops around the lake and you will see many photos of big cats, up to 50-pounds, hanging on the boards. Mark Twain Lake has a healthy catfish fishery, and August nights are a good time to get in on the hot action.

Locals like to set their trotlines in the backs of coves in about 3 feet of water for channels and in about 8 feet for flatheads. Cut leeches, worms and hotdogs are top baits for channel cats. Try live baits for flatheads. Goldfish, bluegills or green sunfish 3 to 6 inches long are the top ticket for catching flatheads. Channels, standing timber or logpiles are great places to make sets for flatheads.

For information about Mark Twain Lake, call the Corps of Engineers office at (573) 735-4097, or check out the weekly statewide online fishing report.

LAKE OF THE OZARKS

LOZ, as it is referred to by those in the know, is one of the best bass fisheries in the nation. That's according to MDC fisheries management biologist Greg Stoner. "LOZ is a rich environment where bass grow quickly and annual hatches of forage fish and bass remain steady," he said.

Jack Uax, of Jack's Guide Service, loves summertime bass fishing at LOZ "You need to pay attention to two distinct patterns in the summer," he began. "Bass here relate heavily to current. From the first of June to about July 20, bass school up on the long sloping points. I use Shakyheads and jigs primarily and can pick up fish in the 3- to 5-pound range every day, with an occasional 6-pounder."

The pattern changes dramatically toward the end of July. "When they stop running water and the current reduces, bass begin heading to the brushpiles," Uax explained. "There are lots of brushpiles in the lake. I work them carefully with a Texas-rigged 10-inch Power Bait worm in green pumpkin or blue/black. I use a 1/2- or 3/4-ounce weight to get the worm down quickly."

When the temperatures soar, Uax looks for a secondary summer pattern. "When it gets really hot, I look to the corners of docks. I look for a little wind hitting the corners of docks, working shad, or something that is different. Once I find the pattern on a dock, I fish the others the same way."

Uax says that most of the bass suspend at about 2 feet. "An accurate, quiet cast is a must to catch these fish. If you spook one, you spook them all on the dock corners." Wacky-rigged stick worms are his go-to bait under those conditions. He lets the rig sink and then pops it several times, and then allows it to sink again. The Frenzy crankbait is another favorite.

Uax says once you catch two or three fish off of a dock, it is time to move on to the next one. "These are average-sized fish, but are terrific when you want to put someone on some hot fishing action."

To book a trip with Jack Uax, call (573) 434-2570, or email jack@fishinglakeoftheOzarks.com.

TRUMAN LAKE

Located in west-central Missouri, Truman is a sprawling Corps of Engineers lake only an hour from Kansas City. July and August are the perfect times to head to Truman for the hottest hybrid bass fishing of the year.

"I had the best hybrid bass fishing of my life in August of 2010," said Jack Vanderpool, a longtime guide on Truman Lake. "The weather patterns were really tough last year. We got pounded with monsoon style rains, high water levels and had a shortage of useable-sized shad for bait. I simply could not find shad in the 3- to 6-inch range. I caught shad below the dam and hauled them to the lake. The fish certainly responded to those size shad."

Vanderpool prefers breezy days in August for his trips. He likes to fish a couple of days before a major weather change when the wind is clipping along at 10 to 20 miles per hour. That helps cool a body on a hot summer day, too!

Flats with nearby deep water are the places to check for August hybrids, according to Vanderpool. "Last August I consistently found hybrids on flats in 27 feet of water. They normally suspended at 17 feet. A much deeper channel always was nearby."

In August hybrids seldom move more than an eighth of a mile from their favorite flats. Vanderpool marked all of his favorite spots on his GPS and was set for the season.

"I returned to the same flats repeatedly and caught fish every trip," he said. "On four trips last season, we caught over 50 hybrids. We released all of them. A new GPS-controlled trolling motor helped keep my boat in the right spot."

Vanderpool uses top-of-the-line equipment, including Okuma reels with line counters and Ande pink, 30-pound line. Pink goes invisible in the water. A 1-ounce egg sinker on top of a barrel swivel sits above an 18-inch leader and a 5/0 Gamakatsu hook.

Hybrids are also known as wipers. That's because they have wiped out more than one fisherman's gear. Bring your best gear, a jug of sweet tea and a straw hat to enjoy what may be the hottest fishing action in Missouri in August.

To book a trip with Jack Vanderpool, call (660) 229-2295 or email him at jackvanderpool@gmail.com.

BULL SHOALS LAKE

Located in the south-central part of the state, Bull Shoals straddles the Missouri/Arkansas line. A border lakes permit allows anglers to fish either side of the line without worries of drifting to one side or the other.

Consisting of 45,000 acres, Bull Shoals is an outdoorsman's paradise. Hundreds of miles of shoreline are dotted with coves and facilities. The lake itself contains very little vegetation. Therefore, both smallmouth and largemouth fishermen find themselves fishing deep, rocky structures or the many deadfalls from the heavily forested shoreline. Boat docks and other structures offer fish shade, and cover as well.

July and August are prime times to fish for bass after the sun goes down behind the hills surrounding the lake. Water and air temperatures cool slightly. Bass will come to the shallows from deepwater areas looking for an easy meal. Noisy topwater baits will take both largemouth and smallmouth bass. Black spinnerbaits are highly productive.

In daylight hours, plan on fishing offshore around humps or rock structures. A Texas-rigged French Fry in Cotton Candy color can work miracles on smallmouths. Use a long rod and sweep your rod tip up to 6 feet and let the bait settle to the bottom for several seconds. Hold on for the strike as you begin the next sweep.

For water and fishing information, call Pontiac Lodge at 1-800-633-7920, or email pontiaclodgeinc@centurytel.net.

MINGO NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE

Located in southeast Missouri near the town of Puxico, Mingo consists of more than 20,000 acres of cypress swamps, a mere remnant of the once 2.5 million acres that lay in the rich Mississippi River Delta. Mingo is a true wilderness area with some unique fishing opportunities, even in the heat of summer.

Here you will find twisting streams coursing through stands of Bald cypress and tupelo. With a canoe paddle in hand anglers may enter a world that few choose to explore. However, the rewards can be extraordinary in terms of fish caught and sights seen.

A light fly rod and a handful of poppers are all that is needed to get you into world-class bluegill fishing. And the possibility of catching bass is good, too. Bigger lures will stir bass, chain pickerel, gar and dogfish to strike. Live baits, such as worms may bring any of a dozen species to hand. A real bonus is to catch a "flyer" a small bluegill-looking fish that is native to the swamps.

The interior of the swamp will be hot and steamy in August, so go prepared. I've seen the bluegill action there hot, hot, hot! For information about planning a trip, call the headquarters at (573) 222-3589.

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There you have it. For the hottest fishing action during the late summer, visit any of these areas. You can sit under the air conditioner the rest of the summer!

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