Archive for bass fishing rivers creeks

Have Fun In the Sun Floating The James

By John Neporadny Jr

 

Fishing the James River

When the summertime heat and recreational boat traffic slows down the fishing action on Missouri’s Table Rock Lake, bass anglers can seek a quiet refuge on one of the reservoir’s major tributaries.

While the James arm of Table Rock is well known for its bass fishery, the riverine section is almost ignored as a float-fishing destination. Pete Wenners, a Table Rock Lake guide from Galena, MO, takes advantage of the solitude of the river during the summer when the lake gets too busy. On some days the guide has the river to himself and on other trips he might see only one or two other boats floating the James. Despite the summertime heat, the daytime fishing remains good on the river because the current keeps the water cooler than the lake.

Depending on the lake level, Wenners floats the river from the middle of June to August. “I try to go before the river gets too low so we don’t have to do much paddling,” he admits.

The current during this time usually flows about 1 ½ to 2 miles per hour, so Wenners tries to float 10 or 11 miles in a day. “That gives us some time to stop at some holes,” he says.  “A lot of times we carry an anchor and if we get to a deep hole that looks pretty good will drop the anchor or we’ll pull up on the bank and fish it.”

Wenners usually begins his float at the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) access at Hooten Town and takes out at the MDC H.L Kerr access at Horse Creek. However if the river has enough current, he continues his float down to Galena. The five-mile stretch from Horse Creek to Galena has good holes with grass for fishing, but Wenners warns that you might have to paddle a lot if the current is slow.

Flat-bottom johnboats powered by trolling motors or small outboards can be used for the river, but Wenners believes it’s easier to float the river with a canoe. You can put in a canoe at public accesses available throughout this stretch of the river.

The river produces plenty of action for bass and sunfish. “You’d be surprised at what you catch,” says Wenners.  “Normally we go after smallmouth but we’ll catch Kentuckies, crappies and largemouth.” He estimates smallmouth make up about 75 percent of his catch with spotted bass the next most frequently caught species.

On a normal day, Wenners catches 40 to 50 fish. “In that 40 or 50 you can have anywhere from five to as many as 15 legal size  (15-inch) bass,” he says. The local guide has taken several smallies in the 3-pound range and his biggest James River smallmouth weighed about 3 ½ pounds.

Riffles next to deep holes are key spots to catch smallmouth. “Usually we get a lot of fish in the fast water right in the bends,” says Wenners. “If there is any kind of wood or rocks or any kind of break in the water where it chokes down there are usually one or two fish.”

The fish remain shallow on the river throughout the day. Wenners usually finds them about 3 to 4 feet deep in the grass or logjams and about 5 to 6 feet deep on the backsides of riffles.

The confluence of the James and Crane Creek is another ideal spot to try. “The water drops about 5 to 8 degrees coming out of Crane Creek,” says Wenners. The deep hole at the confluence of the two streams has produced big smallmouth for Wenners.

Down-sizing lures is a key to catching bass on the river.  Wenners likes to work a white or chartreuse-and-white 3/16-ounce  spinnerbait with gold and nickel blades next to the grass or in the current next to a log or rock.  The grass is also key cover for Wenners to run a white or white-and-chartreuse 3/16-ounce buzz bait.

“They’ll bite that spinnerbait or buzz bait at high noon even if there’s not a cloud in the sky,” he says. “Sometimes it seems like they bite better late in the day.”

When he approaches logjams, Wenners flips a brown or black 3/16-ounce jig tipped with a brown or black Zoom Critter Craw. The little jig or a Texas-rigged Critter Craw (1/8-ounce worm weight) tricks both bass and goggle-eye.  Another productive flipping lure for Wenners is a green pumpkin or watermelon 4-inch Zoom finesse worm Texas-rigged with a 1/8-ounce worm weight.  The local angler prefers 10-pound test line with bait-cast tackle for flipping his lightweight lures and cranking spinnerbaits and buzz baits.

Two crankbaits that produce a variety of species for Wenners are Rapala Risto Raps and Storm Lures Wee Warts in crawfish (brown or green and orange) hues. He cranks these lures with a 6 ½-foot spinning rod and spinning reel filled with 6- or 8-pound test line.

The James River proves its excellent bass fishing extends beyond its impounded section of Table Rock Lake. The river itself is ideal for bass anglers wanting to avoid the summertime crowds and catch fish even in the heat of the day.

For information on shows, lodging and attractions in the Table Rock Lake or Lake Taneycomo area or to receive a free vacation guide, call the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-877-BRANSON or visit the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce & CVB web site at www.explorebranson.com.

Copies of John Neporadny’s book, “THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing Guide” are available by calling 573/365-4296 or visiting the web site www.jnoutdoors.com.

Fishing the Courtois Creek

By Marc Rogers

 

Fishing the Courtois Creek

The middle of March is the beginning of some of the best smallmouth bass fishing Missouri has to offer on the often overlooked Courtois creek. Several outfitters service the Courtois Creek (commonly pronounced “Codeaway”) and some of the best areas to fish are between the access at Berryman Road and the confluence of the Courtois and Huzzah Creeks.

The Courtois Creek is floatable above the Berryman access but not a lot of water is available during the dry seasons. I have floated from Brazil access to Berryman in one day in January several years ago. It is a long float for this time of year due to limited daylight hours and my partner and I did finish the last mile in the dark. If you float during the cold season, you must be prepared for the conditions. In case you get wet, a dry change of clothes and the ability to build a fire are essential.

Through trial and error, I have found the best float fishing on the Courtois Creek is from the Berryman access to Bass River Resort.  If you rent a canoe from the resort, they will take you to Berryman and you can float back to your vehicle parked at the resort. This float is approximately 11 miles of stream but if you would like a shorter trip they is another access they will put in that is approximately 6 miles of stream. The shorter trip access is called Blunt Road Access – sometimes called Misty Valley due to an old outfitter that is no longer in business here.

From Berryman Road Access to the confluence of Huzzah Creek there are miles of clear water filled with Smallmouth Bass, Goggle-eye, Largemouth Bass and Spotted bass that do not receive a lot of fishing pressure. The best time to fish this water is during the spring and fall – before and after the traditional float trip season.  The Courtois Creek receives a lot of float trip traffic and the waterway can get crowded on the weekends. If you do fish the creek in the summer months try to do so during the middle of the week for less traffic.

The water flow in the creek is gentle and suitable for most people regardless of experience in operating a canoe. As the creek meanders through the valley there are a few places along the way that can be tricky to navigate. A couple of sharp turns and narrow passages create some faster moving water but still things a novice can handle. The beauty of this area is the water is clear and only is stained during rainy conditions. There majority of the stream is not much deeper that five feet with a several deep holes along the way.

Recommended fishing tackle for an outing on this stream is light to medium action rod and reels. Rod length is best at no greater than six feet due to tight cover requiring short casts. My choice is a five and one half foot pistol grip casting rod with a high-speed reel. In addition, I do carry a medium action-spinning outfit for ease of casting lighter offerings.

When floating a stream always keep your rods stored inside and below the top of your watercraft. Many times, you will travel under low-lying overhead cover that can snag your rods and pull them from the canoe or boat. If not pulled from the boat, rods may hit the occupants when the pull loose from the snag or hit an occupant.

A small tackle box filled with soft-plastic lures, weedless jigs, spinnerbaits, topwater (including buzzbaits) and shallow-running crankbaits complete the ideal lure assortment for a day-long outing on the Courtois Creek. Buzzbaits and spinnerbaits with a chartreuse skirt are very effective on smallmouth bass. The other lures are best in natural colors with jigs and soft-plastics in green pumpkin and crawfish. My choice for topwater and crankbaits is natural shad colors.

Soft-plastic lures presented with a football shaky head offer anglers a snag resistant, very effective lure. The screw lock keeper holds plastic lures securely to the head as well as covering the hook point creating a weedless offering. Football shaped jig heads reduce the chance of your lure to become wedged in the rock bottom of the stream. Most soft plastic lures work well on this type of jig head but the stream bass generally prefer a crawfish imitator in natural colors. The football jig head also helps keep a crawfish lure in a “pinchers up” position; this is the defensive position of a crawfish. Bottom bouncing lures are effective any time of year and water temperature.

Buzzbaits and spinnerbaits are good choices from mid-spring until late fall.  Chartreuse skirts are always my color choice with nickle, willowleaf blades. Chartreuse, it seems, attracts violent stirkes from smallmouth bass. Willowleaf spinnerbaits blades create less lift when retreived and lift is something not necessary in these shallow water streams.

Topwater poppers and chuggers in natural color patterns generate intense stirkes from all three species of bass during the warmer seasons. Your assortment of these lures should include the Storm Chug-Bug, Storm Baby Chug-Bug and the Rebel Pop-R in shad color patterns.

Shallow running crankbaits can be effective at times but are more difficult to present in the smaller streams. If used, I suggest it done so in the deeper and slower moving waters. Deep water is relative to the surrounding water and 5 feet is deep in the Courtois Creek. A shad imitating crankbait running 1-2 feet below the surface will entice bass to come up from deeper water to attack the offering.

After you set out on your fishing adventure floating a small stream remember to let the fish tell you what they want that day. Use this as a guide for lure choices but do not be afraid to experiment with other lures and presentations. The bass in the Courtois Creek are generally willing to entertain you all day, but I have had days when it seems nothing could make them bite.

Fall Stream Fishing

By Marc Rogers

 

Fall Stream Fishing for Bass

Fall is just around the corner and many sportsmen will be putting away their rod and reel and getting out their hunting equipment. However, for those of us that are avid anglers the fall season can pay big dividends.

Sure, you have heard it all before. “Some of the best fishing is in the fall.”  The lakes and reservoirs play host to the bass chasing schools of bait fish to put on weight before the up coming winter months.  Some say the bass are easy to catch in the fall.  I don’t think they are ever easy, some days are just more productive than others.

While most anglers are fishing these “big waters” this fall, I can be found chasing Smallmouth Bass in the Ozark streams. If you have ever considered stream fishing you too should give it a try this fall.  You can enjoy the same benefits as on the lakes and reservoirs but this kind of fishing requires no expensive equipment or boat.

All you need is a rod and reel, a small box of lures and the energy to walk several miles of stream.  Most of my wading is done with old tennis shoes and shorts, but if the water is too cold I opt for waders instead. Waders can extend your stream fishing season late into the year. However, if walking is not your idea of fun, there are alternatives. There are many canoe rental outfitters that offer numerous different float trips and are willing to give information about fishing as well.

There are many choices when it comes to streams. Many of the larger ones are clearly indicated on state road maps and are used by float trip outfitters. These are easy to find and do have some great fishing.  When fishing these larger streams I suggest you do so on a weekday. But if your only opportunity is on weekends ask the canoe outfitter to take you to areas that receive less pressure from recreational floaters. Also, don’t rule out using the same accesses the outfitters use but wade the stream instead of floating it.

My personal choice for stream fishing is to fish the ones that are not on any map. Yes, these tiny streams do hold some good fish. I have caught Smallmouth in the four-pound class in these tiny creeks and have friends who have caught both Smallmouth and Largemouth that exceeded five pounds. You can gain access to these creeks from state highway bridges, but most run through private land and I suggest you get permission from the landowner before setting out on your journey.

The most productive areas in streams are the deep holes created by fallen trees and their root wads.  Fish these areas very thoroughly because they have everything a bass needs for survival. Remember, deep water is relative to the water around it. In a stream deep water may be only a few feet deep.

As for equipment I keep it as simple as possible. I use one medium-action casting outfit most of the time. However, if you are more comfortable with spinning or spin-cast equipment it is what you should use. I like the casting outfit because a high-speed reel allows me to work a variety of fast moving baits.

In my small strap on tackle box I keep several different lures. Included in this box are small soft plastic crawfish and worms. A few crawfish crankbaits and floating minnow imitators are a must. Also, don’t forget a top water prop bait; I prefer the Devil’s Horse. I saved the best for last; spinnerbaits in the one-quarter and three-eighths ounce size and buzzbaits in the one eighths and one-quarter ounce size are my personal favorite.  As you can tell from my lure selection I don’t use tiny baits. I find by using larger lures I tend to catch larger (keeper size) fish than when using ultra light lures.

Now that you have an idea about the possibilities of stream fishing, you owe it to yourself to experience stream fishing in the fall. Whether wading or floating you will find the un-crowded streams very peaceful and may have several miles of stream all to yourself.

Fishing The Bourbeuse River in East-Central Missouri

By Marc Rogers

 

Fishing The Bourbeuse River

The Bourbeuse River is located in East Central Missouri and flows through five counties.It is a low land river with gravel and sand bottom. This river is one of two tributaries to the Meramec River; the other is the Big River.

The Bourbeuse River starts in Phelps County and flows 147 miles to the mouth at Moselle, Missouri where it drains into the Meramec River. There are only 53 miles between the source and the mouth if flown in an aircraft. The river has a large watershed area of over 800 square miles and can become quite muddy during moderate to heavy rains. Bourbeuse means “muddy” in French and it is quite obvious how it got its name during rainy seasons.

There are not many public accesses to the river as it meanders through mostly private land. The Missouri Department of Conservation has established a few public accesses along the way and a few have concrete boat ramps.There are few boat and canoe rental businesses that service the Bourbeuse River so the traffic on the river is light even during the busy float trip season. Light traffic almost always gives way to better fishing conditions.

I have personally fished the Bourbeuse River from the State Highway 19 Bridge north of Cuba, Missouri all the way to the mouth at Moselle, Missouri. The best fishing I have found is about two miles downstream from the Highway 19 Bridge. However, the access to the river can be challenging as a boat or canoe must be dragged up and down steep embankments to launch.

The easiest access to fish this river is near the town of Union, Missouri. There is a stretch of water that is approximately 11 miles long and has a concrete boat ramp at the put-in and the take-out sites. The launch site is a Missouri Department of Conservation property called Mayer’s Landing. There is ample parking and a one-lane concrete boat ramp. The area is located off Highway UU a few miles Northwest of Union, Missouri.The take-out site is located in the town of Union about 100 yards up-stream from the Highway 50 Bridge. This access is also owned by the Missouri Department of Conservation and features a concrete boat ramp.

It is easiest to take your own watercraft on these excursions but it does require two vehicles, as the anglers will need a ride back to the put-in location once the float is over. A canoe is sufficient for this outing but a small flat-bottom boat is more stable for the novice and creates less a chance of turning over.

The Bourbeuse is a river that flows slowly as it meanders along its path. I recommend taking an electric motor for use in the long slow-water pools you will encounter.A boat equipped with a jet-drive outboard can be used in this river but it should be a small craft as there are still places it may have to be moved by pushing. Floating, I have found, is still the best way to approach this water.

There is one boat and canoe rental business that services this area. It is called Don’s Bait and Canoe Rental and located in St. Clair, Missouri.They do a great job with put-in and take-out on a timely schedule. I have used them several years ago and was very pleased with the service provided.

The best approach to fishing this river is with small lures and a medium action rod and reel set-up. I recommend taking a minimum of three rods with one being a medium-action spinning outfit.The spinning outfit is capable of casting some lures that many anglers are not proficient enough to cast with a casting – level wind – reel. The reason for three rod and reels is that equipment can break down or become damaged and floating the river without the ability to fish due to not having enough gear makes for a long day.

A small tackle box with an assortment of small shallow to medium depth crankbaits, ¼ ounce spinnerbaits and buzzbaits is ideal. Include some small soft plastic crawdad imitator with stand up jig heads as well as a few finesse jigs in ¼ ounce weights. Small tackle will catch big bass and the Bourbeuse holds Largemouth, Smallmouth and Spotted Bass that will test your medium action tackle.It is not uncommon to catch bass from the river in the 3 – 4 pound class and I have heard of bass bigger than five pounds taken from the same waters.

Your crankbait selection should include the Rapala Fat Rap (FR5) in crawdad color. This has proven to be the most effective crankbait for me in this river. Gene Larew Salt Craws and Baby Salt Craws in natural colors as well as the Zoom Critter Craw will take bass from the bottom of the deeper holes. You should also try the Gambler Crawdaddy used with the ¼ ounce Giggy Head. Buzzbaits with chartreuse and white skirts create explosive strikes from both Largemouth and Smallmouth when they are chasing baitfish. Also, spinnerbaits should have nickel or gold willow leaf and Colorado blades in tandem with chartreuse and white skirts.

During the dry seasons the Bourbeuse River generally has water that is green in color with visibility of approximately three feet. However, during periods of rain this river becomes very muddy due to the vast low-lying watershed area and visibility is near zero. Many times just hours after a hard rain the river will begin to rise quickly as the muddy runoff pours in. Just a few days of dry weather will allow the Bourbeuse to recede and clear as it is quick to recover from heavy rainfall.

For more information on public access to the Bourbeuse River and all of the streams in Missouri consult a paperback publication from the Missouri Department of Conservation called “A Paddler’s Guide To Missouri”.It is available for $6.00 online at http://MDC.MO.Gov.
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Bass Fishing Rivers and Creeks

By Marc Rogers

 

Bass Fishing in Moving Water

Anglers that regularly fish in bodies of water lacking in current often struggle when fishing in rivers and creeks. Rivers and creeks have constant current flow and create a continuously changing environment for the fish that inhabit them. Seasonal rains raise the water level and the rising water washes in new cover while moving existing cover. In addition, high water levels cause channels to change often filling in deep-water areas with gravel and mud while creating new deep-water areas behind recently added cover like boulders and downed trees.

Most often the bigger fish in rivers and creeks will reside in the deep holes. However, at times the larger bass will frequent shallow areas to feed. Most often fish hold near the beginning of the deeper areas where water leaving the shallow areas supply them with an abundance of food. Baitfish and crayfish will be washed into the deeper water and become easy prey for feeding bass. Another advantage for feeding bass holding in these transition areas is they do not have to fight the faster current in the shallow water.

Turns in the streams produce two types of areas in close proximity to each other. The inside of a turn generally form shallow water areas while the outside turn will create an area of deeper water. The water flowing against the outside stream bank washes out the bottom composition and deposits trees and root wads. Outside turns are ideal for bass to take up residence because of the addition of cover they have to hide in create current breaks.  Boulders also act as current breaks in the deep water areas and allow bass to position behind them staying out of the current and within easy striking distance of prey being washed past their position. The shallow areas located on the inside turns is where the food sources originate.

Current breaks can be found throughout rivers and creeks. Any large object will cause an eddy current to form on the back side of it. Eddy currents are small areas where the water travels over the top of an object and actually flows upstream after passing over the top of these objects. Even in shallow water bass can be found positioned on the backside of objects that form eddy currents.

Larger rivers often have sloughs and backwater areas that hold fish as long as water depths are sustained by the river. Most often largemouth bass prefer these areas but smallmouth bass do reside in both sloughs and backwater environments. Many times anglers not comfortable with fishing in current will choose these areas of non-moving water because the waters are similar to reservoirs. At times the non-current areas can be productive but anglers are missing a great opportunity if they ignore the main channels of rivers and creeks.

When streams narrow they form chutes which cause water to flow faster. Chutes generally form directly downstream from slower moving, deep-water, and end in another deep-water area. Chutes concentrate prey entering the next deep-water area and are prime feeding spots for bass. Baitfish and crayfish that venture to close to the end of a deep pool are often washed through the chute.

Bass spend most of their lives facing upstream for two reasons. First, it makes holding in one position possible while fighting the current. Second, they are in position to catch prey as it flow past them. Most of the time prey is brought to the bass with the current. Bass seldom chase prey in a river or creek unless they reside in the slower moving areas like sloughs and backwater. They learn quickly to use the current to their advantage instead of spending a lifetime fighting it.

When fishing rivers and creeks the most successful anglers use lures that match the available food sources. Small crayfish colored crankbaits are ideal because they dig into the gravel on the bottom imitating a crayfish. Small spinnerbaits in shad colors are good at matching the look and movement of baitfish. Grubs also match the swimming action of baitfish. Soft-plastic crayfish imitators are productive when presented in the slower moving water or allowed to wash into the deeper holes on a semi-tight line. Little action needs to be added by anglers because the current moves the bait in a more natural fashion the trying to add action using rod movement.

Topwater action is best early and late in the day. However, many streams are not extremely deep and many do not have water of ten-feet deep. Always consider topwater lures because there is nothing like a stream smallmouth bass exploding through the surface in pursuit of a lure.

Regardless of the lures chosen anglers are advised to downsize lures. Rivers and creeks have an abundance of smaller bass that prefer a smaller lure. In addition, most of the available prey is smaller than the shad and crayfish that live in reservoirs.

Anglers choosing to use live bait are far better off obtaining it from the stream they are going to fish. The bass are already accustomed to the bait. Bait taken from the stream also has a fear of being eaten and is livelier on a hook. In addition, bait that escapes can breed causing an issue of introducing non-native species into the stream.

Rivers and creeks can be a challenge for anglers who spend most of their fishing time in reservoirs, lakes and ponds. However, simply paying attention to what the current is telling about the environment below the surface will pay big dividends to anglers willing to learn.