- Bass, Crappie, Trout Turning On
- Guides and Resort Owners Report GOOD Catches
- High Water Offers Some Silver Lining
By Brent Frazee
April showers brought more than May flowers in the Ozarks. They brought near-record flooding and a mess that residents are still trying to clean up.
That’s the bad news.
There’s also plenty of good news.
Though reservoirs such as Truman, Table Rock and Taneycomo are still high, guides and resort owners report that the fishing has been surprisingly good. If anything, they say, the floods may have helped the fishing.
And then there’s the long-term outlook. Fisheries biologists with the Missouri Department of Conservation say that high-water springs usually result in boom year-classes of fish because of the added cover in which fry can hide from predators.
“We’re certainly not minimizing the hardships the high water has brought for many residents,” said Brian Canaday, chief of fisheries for the Missouri Department of Conservation. “But some of our largest year-classes of fish have come in these flood years. So this wasn’t a bad thing as far as the fish were concerned.”
At Table Rock Lake, a 43,100-acre reservoir near Branson, Mo., the water level reached almost the top of flood pool in late April after almost 10 1/2 inches of rain in a three-day period. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been releasing water ever since.
It is now down to 11 feet above normal and some boat ramps are still hard to access. But those who have been able to get on the lake have found good bass fishing.
Buster Loving, a longtime guide on Table Rock, has guided his customers to some impressive catches throughout May.
“The bass were in the process of spawning when the high water hit, and they didn’t move,” Loving said. “For the most part, they stayed where they had fanned out their nests.
“I’m fishing the old banks. Those places might have been in 10 to 12 feet before, and they went to 25 to 30 feet after the water came up. But the fish have still been there.”
Loving remembers years when the high water hit before the spawn and the bass would pioneer into newly flooded cover.
“I won back to back tournaments one year when the lake was flooded,” Loving said. “The fish were in flooded campgrounds, around buildings and lantern holders and in green yards.
“But I haven’t seen that as much this spring.”
The huge releases from Table Rock into Lake Taneycomo caused some nervous times for resort owners, residents and fishermen for a time. But now that release rates have slowed to a fishable rate, trout fishermen are finding excellent fishing. They’re even catching some fish not normally found in the nationally known trout lake that were flushed out of Table Rock.
“I’ve never seen so many smallmouth bass caught,” said Phil Lilley, who owns Lilley’s Landing Resort and Marina in Branson, Mo. “And the trout fishing from the dam to the Lookout area has been really good.”
“We’re seeing lots of 20-inch rainbows and more browns than normal, too.”
Lilley isn’t surprised. Every time high water hits at Taneycomo, an abundance of shad is flushed from Table Rock into Taneycomo and it sets off a feeding spree among the trout.
White jigs, shad flies, drift rigs and spoons have been the most effective lures.
The fishing has also been good at Truman Lake, the 55,600-acre reservoir in west-central Missouri that was hit hard by flooding. As of May 18, the water level was still 20 feet above normal pool, but guides such as Jeff Faulkenberry are still helping their clients catch limits of crappies.
“The crappie spawn was about over when the water came up,” said Faulkenberry, who runs the Endless Season Guide Service. “The fish just followed the water into the new cover.
“You have to move around to find them; they’re not bunched up in one place. But if you stay on the move and fish the green bushes, you can catch a limit. The key is finding the schools of shad and fry.”
The biggest problem at Truman? Access. With the lake still high, some of the boat ramps are inaccessible.
But a few are open and others will be as the water continues to fall. Go to the website http://www.nwk.usace.army.mil/Locations/District-Lakes/Harry-S-Truman-Lake/Daily-Lake-Info-2/ for up-to-date information on facilities.