By Marc Rogers
Fishing Mark Twain Lake
Nestled in the rolling hills of Northeast Missouri is a treasure for anyone who enjoys spending time outdoors. Mark Twain Lake is approximately 25 miles south of the historic Hannibal Missouri. The lake contains approximately 18, 000 surface acres of water that is held behind the Clarence Cannon Dam. The dam was completed in the 1983 and includes two hydroelectric turbines capable of producing enough electricity to supply a town of 20,000 people.
During the construction of the lake the Army Corp of Engineers left generous amounts of standing timber behind. Most of the coves and tributaries contain standing timber. Many areas have so much timber that boat navigation can be difficult for the inexperienced anglers on the lake. The main lake which is the Salt River channel has been cleared of most obstruction making navigation easy.
There are two full service marinas on the lake offering boat and slip rental, supplies and restaurants. Black Jack Marina is located near the dam and is conveniently located near campgrounds, motel lodging, gas stations and a four lane public boat ramp with ample parking. The boat ramp facilities include a fish cleaning station as well. Indian Creek Marina is located in the middle lake region and offers the same facilities. Both of these marinas are very hospitable when doing business with the lake visitors.
Mark Twain Landing located in Monroe City (just off State Highway J on Landing Lane) offers entertainment for all lake area visitors. The Mark Twain Landing offers a variety of lodging including RV and tent camping, cabins, cottages and motel rooms. In addition, they have go-carts, bumper boats, play ground equipment, fishing pond, swimming pool, game room, both indoor and outdoor theaters, laundry facilities, a camp store filled with supplies and a water park.
Mark Twain Lake is best known for its crappie fishing but has good populations of catfish, bass, and sunfish. In addition, there is a limited number of walleye that call the lake home as well. There are many bass and crappie tournaments held on the lake each year. Many times the winning weights of the bass tournaments are 5-fish limits that weigh up to 20 pounds. Bass are taken using traditional techniques that are common to most impoundments in the Ozarks Region Lakes located to its south.
When fishing Mark Twain Lake, anglers should keep in mind the spring spawning season comes later than on Ozarks lakes. Due to the northern Missouri location its surface does freeze over in harsh winters. Anglers wanting to plan a trip to the lake for the spawn should look to early May for the best conditions. Bass generally begin the spawn when the surface temperatures reach the low 60-degree mark. Water temperature is the key factor and there are many websites that keep the updated water temperatures posted. South Fork Resort has a great blog/message board where the resort owners and users post updated conditions of the lake and surrounding areas.
Spring bass anglers should use both shallow and deep water techniques. All bass do not spawn at the same time and many times some are still in deeper water preparing to move to the shallow banks while others are fanning beds to entice the females to deposit their eggs. The key for bass anglers is to experiment with many techniques until the bass indicate what they prefer.
Slowly dragging a football jig on the secondary points is often productive during pre-spawn conditions. Those same jigs are also productive on the shallow banks if the bass have moved into the shallows to prepare beds. Crankbaits are good search baits for bass during any conditions. However, anglers alternating between deep and shallow running crankbaits can quickly determine thethat depth the bass are holding during the spring and slow down using other techniques when necessary.
During windy conditions spinnerbaits are quite effective in catching bass on Mark Twain Lake. They too are good search baits because they allow anglers to cover a lot of water when presenting them. Shad patterns are ideal but water color should dictate spinnerbait color choices and firetiger patterns are ideal for dingy to muddy water conditions.
Anglers on Mark Twain Lake during the summer should generally concentrate on deeper water. While there are always some bass in the shallows willing to bite the bass positioned in deep water posses a more consistent behavior and are not affected as drastically by changing weather patterns. Deep water techniques producing consistent results include dragging a jig, Texas rigged soft plastic and a Carolina rig. Water clarity should dictate the lure color choice with darker colors in dirty water and lighter and natural color patterns in clear water. Main lake points near the plentiful wood cover are ideal area to start looking for the deep water bass. Points that are close to bluff wall ends are also good areas to fish slow and methodically.
Fall comes sooner in Northeast Missouri than in the Southern Ozark region. Late September is when anglers should start looking for bass to be chasing shad on Mark Twain Lake. The feeding frenzy starts as the bass prepare for a long winter when the forage dwindles. Bass anglers should watch for schools of shad near the surface being chased by the feeding bass. Topwater presentations are both productive and fun during this time of year.
If topwater lures and not creating opportunities for bass anglers, lipless crankbaits retrieved under the schools of shad can be productive. Varied retrieves from fast moving to slowly falling lipless crankbaits will all produce but many times the bigger fish will be taken with the slower retrieves. Anglers should allow the lures mimic an injured shad that is easily taken by the bass. The bigger bass, many times, are positioned just below the smaller feeding fish taking advantage of the shad injured by the school of smaller, more aggressive fish.
Regardless of which season anglers choose to visit Mark Twain Lake there are plenty of opportunities for bass anglers. The lake is in a location very different from many other lakes in Missouri. Mark Twain Lake can get busy at times but does not receive the pressure like Lake of the Ozarks and Table Rock Lake. In addition, the lake is located approximately two hours north of the St. Louis area and can be an easy one day trip for those residing in the St. Louis area. Those wishing to stay in the area should call ahead for reservations because during the summer lodging can be hard to find.