On tap: 12 months of rod-bending, reel-squealing action -- so it's time for Missouri anglers to hit the water. Where will you set a hook in 2008? (February 2008).
Can one be proud of a state's angling opportunities? My emphatic answer is yes. I'm proud of Missouri's fine year-round fishing. In truth, Missouri supports some of the best freshwater angling anywhere in the country.
I'm also proud of having played a small part in developing Missouri's current fisheries management program as one of the Missouri Department of Conservation's fisheries biologists prior to my retirement. Join me now as we travel through the coming year, visiting those special fishing locations where anglers can expect tight lines in 2008.
Crappie All Winter Long
The key to catching winter crappie is locating where they hang out. One great Missouri hotspot for winter crappie is the warm water arm of Thomas Hill Reservoir in Randolph County. Thomas Hill is a water supply reservoir for a power plant.
When the main lake freezes, the plant's warm water discharge keeps the discharge bay ice-free and attracts large crappie. Successful anglers fish 1/16- and 1/32-ounce jigs tipped with small plastic curlytail grubs or live bait. Minnows are popular; however, this past year, Berkley's new Gulp Minnow proved very successful instead of live bait.
Other Options: Winter bass anglers often miss opportunities for black bass in Table Rock Lake in southwest Missouri. Both largemouth and smallmouth bass can be found readily, holding over deep, rocky points and rocky bottoms, feeding on crayfish and shad. The key to catching winter bass is slowing your presentation and allowing feeding bass to pick up your jig as it bounces along the bottom and climbs over rocks. Once you feel a fish pick up your jig, allow a little slack, then set the hook.
Ice-anglers target large bluegills, bass, and crappie in north Missouri ponds, community lakes and watershed lakes using small 1/80-ounce jigs tipped with small, live grubs, mousies, mealworms or minnows. For safety, anglers need at least 4 inches of ice.
Winter Trout In The Ozarks
Missouri anglers have the opportunity to participate in some of the best trout fishing of the year -- with no crowds. Missouri's winter weather usually breaks in February, providing warm, sunny days and allowing anglers to visit any of Missouri's four trout parks for some of the best catch-and-release trout fishing of the winter season. These parks include Montauk State Park, Bennett Spring State Park, Roaring River State Park and Maramec Spring State Park.
The Missouri Department of Conservation usually stocks the trout parks heavily for the final weeks of the winter catch-and-release season.
Winter trout park anglers must use artificial lures or flies. For the best success, go small: 1/80-ounce Marabou jigs, small spinners or small flies that imitate midge larvae or small caddis flies.
In addition to Missouri's trout parks, the Current River downstream from Montauk State Park to the Cedar Grove Access and the North Fork of White River from Rainbow or Double Springs downstream to the Dawt Mill Access provides outstanding brown and rainbow trout fishing in February.
Anglers fishing the Current River must use artificial lures or flies and are limited to one 18-inch trout each day. This Red Ribbon trout fishery has exploded over the past 10 years as the brown trout population responded to special management regulations. Arguably, it is Missouri best brown trout fishery.
The North Fork of the White River in the Blue Ribbon section supports Missouri's best wild rainbow trout fishery and has good numbers of large brown trout. Anglers must use artificial lures and flies only and harvest only one 18-inch or larger trout per day. Access this section from the Kelly Shoal Access east of the Crossroads of state routes 181 and H, or by fishing upstream from Blair Bridge.
Other Options: Crappie in Lake of the Ozarks and Stockton Lake can be caught around hard cover such as bridge pilings, sunken timber and rocky points. Tailwaters trout fishing in Lake Taneycomo heats up in February as mature rainbows migrate to the headwaters to spawn.
Missouri Trout Parks
March heralds the traditional opening of Missouri's nationally-known catch-and-keep trout park fisheries. How can any red-blooded Missouri trout angler pass up fishing the trout park opener? It is a time to renew old acquaintances, shake out the cobwebs of winter, and catch a few trout. The MDC stocks the parks with rainbows -- including a few lunkers -- and browns to satisfy needs of all anglers. If you don't enjoy crowds, fish after opening day, and you can have the trout parks to yourself.
My favorite is Montauk State Park. It has the longest spring branch of the four trout parks and a catch-and-release area with some outstanding and challenging fly-fishing for large rainbows and browns.
Successful anglers think small: Small lures; small flies; small natural baits and hooks; and small-diameter monofilament line.
Early in the day, use small, dark-colored flies, fished near the surface. Later, as the trout numbers decrease, add a small split-shot and fish deeper, near the bottom. Natural bait anglers prefer corn or flavored trout baits including Zekes and Berkley's Powerbaits. Spin-fishermen use small 1/80-ounce and smaller jigs tipped with brown, green or black marabou, or small rooster tails, Mepps or Panther Martin spinners.
Other Options: Missouri's paddlefish snagging season opens March 15. The best snagging is in the Osage River just downstream from Harry S. Truman Dam and downstream from Bagnell Dam; the headwaters of Harry S. Truman Reservoir, also known as Truman Lake; and in the James River arm of Table Rock Lake. Walleye fishing heats up in Bull Shoals Lake downstream from Powersite Dam and up Swan Creek arm as walleyes move upstream to spawn.
Crappie In South And
Central Missouri Lakes
Crappie spawn in southern Missouri lakes beginning in April. The spawn begins in Table Rock, Stockton and Bull Shoals lakes, then expands north later in the month to Lake of the Ozarks, Truman Lake, Stockton Lake and smaller community lakes
and watershed lakes of central Missouri.
Crappie school at the mouths of coves, with males moving onto the banks to build nests as water temperatures warm; females school in open water, then move in waves to the nests to deposit eggs. Nest depth depends on water clarity -- the clearer the water, the deeper crappie will spawn. Locate males guarding nests, then turn and fish in the open water at the same depth for the large, schooling females waiting to spawn.
Other Options: Fish farm ponds, community lakes or watershed lakes in north and central Missouri for bass spawning in warm, shallow coves, crappie in open water and pre-spawn bluegills in shallow, warm coves. Fish Missouri's Ozark streams for pre-spawn rock bass and smallmouth bass. For rock bass, fish minnows and jigs around woody debris and large boulders. For pre-spawn smallies, fish deep runs near the heads and tails of deep pools
Ozark Streams' Smallmouth Bass
Smallmouth bass spawning in south-flowing Ozark streams and rivers peaks in May as males build nests in shallow, quiet water usually near the heads or tails of pools. If you love to catch lots of large smallmouth bass, this is the time to float and fish Missouri's traditional smallmouth bass streams such as Gasconade River from Riddle Bridge Access to Jerome, and the Big Piney River from U.S. Route 63 downstream to the Spring Creek eddy. Both streams have special smallmouth management sections. Other streams with great smallmouth fishing include Meramec River, Osage Fork of the Gasconade, Eleven Point River upstream from Greer Spring, Jacks Fork River, and the Niangua River upstream from Bennett Spring.
Smallmouth bass anglers must release all bass they catch until the harvest season opens.
Other Options: Bluegill fishing in ponds, community lakes, conservation lakes, and watershed lakes moves from "great" in April to "outstanding" in May, as large male bluegills build nests in the shallows. All you need are small flies, worms, crickets or artificial lures. Sauger and walleye fishing heats up in the five Lock and Dam tailwaters along the Mississippi River in northeast Missouri.
Lake Of The Ozarks Bass Fishing
Year in and year out, Lake of the Ozarks produces more trophy largemouth bass and spotted bass than any other Missouri Lake, and June is the peak month. Post-spawn bass feed voraciously to restore energy levels used during spawning. Though the action is strong regardless of where you fish, check out the Niangua Arm. It clears quickly, and buzzbaits and crankbaits work well there in June.
Other Options: In June, flathead, blue and channel catfish are likely to bite in Truman Lake and in the Truman Dam tailwaters. Bluegills will be spawning in north Missouri ponds and lakes, and largemouth bass will move to shad schools in Table Rock, Stockton, and Pomme de Terre lakes.
Bluegills And Catfish
July is the time to move away from Missouri's large lakes in favor of the numerous community and conservation area lakes scattered across the state. Here you'll find angling opportunities for bass, bluegills and crappie, in addition to channel and blue catfish. For starters, check out Little Dixie Lake, Smithville Lake, Hunnewell Lake, Binder Lake and Henry Sever Lake. In Little Dixie Lake, anglers have caught cats exceeding 50 pounds.
Other Options: Fish the Missouri River from Kansas City to Hermann. This river is quietly becoming one of the nation's best trophy catfish fisheries. Anglers catch large flatheads and blues, along with numerous channel catfish from this great river each year. Check your fishing regulations, as the MDC is considering several special catfish management options for areas within this section of river.
Ozark Streams' Smallmouth Bass
The dog days of summer bring some of the year's best smallmouth bass angling. The key to catching August smallies in Missouri streams is to fish early and late in the day when light levels are low and stream disturbance from recreational floaters is minimal. Fish plastic baits on jigs around large boulders and under drowned timber in the pools or noisy surface baits after dark. Check out special smallmouth management sections on the Big Piney River, Big River, Osage Fork of the Gasconade River and the Jacks Fork River.
Other Options: Don't miss the trout fishing offered by Lake Taneycomo. If you're interested in harvesting trout, fish from Fall Creek downstream to the U.S. Route 65 bridge. This section is stocked regularly and reaps the benefits from the upstream special management area as large rainbows move out of the zone. For large rainbow and brown trout, fish the special management zone from Table Rock Dam downstream to Fall Creek. The lower lake also has some great largemouth bass fishing near the Powersite Dam.
Muskies In Hazel Creek
And Pomme De Terre Lakes
Several Missouri lakes support some of the best muskie
fishing in the nation, with catch rates higher than most traditional muskie fisheries in Wisconsin or Minnesota. As water temperatures cool in September, muskie feeding increases in Pomme de Terre Lake, Hazel Creek Lake, Fellows Lake, Henry Sever Lake and Lake 35 in the August A. Busch Memorial Conservation Area. Muskies are ambush predators, holding in cover, waiting to ambush shad, carp, sunfish or any prey that swims by. Fish large 8- to 10-inch crankbaits or large spinnerbaits around brushpiles.
Other Options: Take advantage of the catfish in Truman Lake and smallmouth bass in Table Rock Lake. Truman Lake catfish anglers, using cut shad, catch large flatheads and blue catfish at night. Fish on the bottom, over 9- to 10-foot-deep flats, drifting with the wind or anchored using slip sinkers.
Table Rock Lake supports a growing population of large, 20-inch-plus smallmouth bass. Fish along the south edge of Table Rock Lake, west of the state Route 13 bridge using jigs rigged with curlytail grubs.
Lake Taneycomo Brown Trout
Lake Taneycomo supports Missouri's largest brown trout population. MDC fisheries biologists sampling the lake have handled brown trout larger than the current 40-pound, 4-ounce world-record brown caught in Arkansas. In October, mature browns migrate to the upper end to spawn, creating one of the largest concentrations of big browns in the Midwest. They are accessible for wading anglers in the upper end near Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery and for boated anglers in the five-mile special management zone. Anglers catch the largest browns at night fishing large streamers, spinners or crankbaits with rattles.
Other Options: Brown trout also spawn in the upper Current River from Montauk State Park downstream to the Cedar Grove Access; Meramec River from Maramec Spring downstream to the Scotts Ford Access; and the North Fork of the White River from Rainbow or Double Springs downstream to Dawt Mill.
Catch-And-Release Trout Fishing
Missouri's four trout parks reopen for catch-and-release trout fishing in November. The MDC stocks the parks heavily with respectable rainbows and a few lunker browns and rainbows. Catch rates commonly exceed 10 trout per hour, and some anglers report 100-trout days. Newly stocked trout are extremely easy to catch, as they adjust to natural food found in the spring branches. Small flies and spinners are very effective.
Other Options: Try crappie fishing in Stockton Lake around bridge pilings; bass fishing in Lake of the Ozarks over sunken cedar trees and under shad schools; and smallmouth bass angling in Ozark stream pools influenced by springs.
Southern Lakes' Slab Crappie
As the water hardens in north Missouri, crappie fishing in Stockton, Pomme de Terre, Table Rock, and Lake of the Ozarks picks up for hardy anglers who are willing to brave the cold. Fish around hard cover such as cedar trees or bridge pilings using live minnows or small jigs tipped with minnows.
Other Options: Ice-fishing for bluegills, bass, and crappie in north Missouri ponds and small lakes is a good option during this time of year. Sauger fishing in the Mississippi River Lock and Dam tailwaters is also a well-placed bet.
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Enjoy Missouri's great fishing in 2008. MDC biologists predict great angling this year in all of Missouri's lakes, streams, and ponds. Let us know where you've had success.
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