Lake of the Ozarks is a great fishery
Known as one of the Midwest’s most popular vacation spots, Lake of the Ozarks also has a reputation of being one of the best fishing lakes in the country.
Although younger reservoirs appeal to an angler’s eye with flooded timber and undeveloped shorelines, the Lake of the Ozarks entices fishermen with its hidden charms. This 54,000-acre lake lost most of its natural cover when the standing timber was cleared before the lake was formed. New cover has developed over the years as dock owners and anglers have planted brush piles throughout the impoundment. Other fish-holding structure includes steep bluffs, creek channels, humps, and points. Docks provide plenty of shelter for a variety of fish, while lay-downs and log jams are the primary cover for bass, crappie and catfish in the undeveloped sections of the lake.
The various arms of the lake offer diverse water clarity and structure so anglers can catch fish on a wide range of tactics. The Osage arm runs 98 miles from Bagnell Dam to Truman Dam and changes drastically from one end to the other. The North Shore section close on the lower end contains some of the deepest and clearest water on the lake, while the upper Osage near Warsaw narrows until it turns riverine in appearance with the water remaining stained to murky most of the time. The winding Niangua arm resembles a large river more than a reservoir since it has few major coves and a narrow main channel for most of its length.
The 10-mile Gravois arm is one of the oldest developed sections of the lake so its shoreline is dotted with boat docks. Fed by the gin-clear waters of the Gravois, Little Gravois, Spring Branch, Soap, Indian and Mill creeks, this arm usually remains one of the clearest sections of the lake throughout the year. The Grand Glaize arm runs about 16 miles from its confluence with the Osage arm to the swinging bridges area where the Glaize narrows down to a stream.
If variety is indeed the spice of life, then Lake of the Ozarks spices anglers’ lives with its smorgasbord of fishing opportunities. The lake rates as one of the best reservoirs in Missouri for catching a variety of game fish. Largemouth bass and crappie are the most sought-after fish at the lake, but catfish, white bass, walleye and sunfish also offer plenty of action throughout the year.
The Missouri Department of Conservation’s 9-inch minimum length limit on crappie has helped keep crappie fishing consistently good throughout the year. Limits of keeper-size crappie can be taken in the shallows from March through May and again in October through early December. The key to catching crappie the rest of the year is to find some of the hundreds of brush piles sunken at various depths throughout the lake.
The lake is also loaded with keeper-size bass thanks to the Missouri Department of Conservation’s 15-inch minimum length regulation on black bass. Renowned for its bass fishing, Lake of the Ozarks draws numerous tournaments ranging in size from 10-boat bass club events to 150-boat national circuit contests, which are held each weekend just about year-round. With this sort of attention, the lake receives plenty of fishing pressure, yet still yields heavyweight stringers of bass to tournament competitors.
White bass are another popular catch in the spring and the fall. Local anglers head for the riffles in the major creeks and tributaries to catch spawning whites in April and May. In the fall, they target wind-blown points and pockets to track down white bass chasing baitfish.
Lake of the Ozarks catfish are an obliging sort. They will eat just about anything you put on a hook and can be taken on a variety of methods throughout the warmer months. The three most popular species to catch at the lake are channel, blue (or white cats as the local anglers call them) and flathead catfish. The lake has a reputation for yielding big blue cats each year and has also produced a former state record flathead catfish, a 66-pounder caught by Howard Brownfield in 1987.
Three state record fish have come from the Lake of the Ozarks. Gene Snelling caught a state record muskellunge (41 pounds, 2 ounces) in 1981; Allen Schweiss landed a 36-pound, 12-ounce smallmouth buffalo in 1986; and Ronald Wagner made the record book in 1980 with a 40-pound, 8-ounce freshwater drum.
Several marinas and resorts rent boat to visiting anglers who don’t own one and want to venture out on the water. Newcomers to the lake also can have a rewarding day on the water by hiring a Coast-Guard licensed guide.
Customers at the various lake resorts on the lake can enjoy catching crappie, bass bluegill and catfish from the docks that the resort owners enhance by sinking brush piles in multiple locations.
For information on lodging and other facilities at the Lake of the Ozarks or to receive a free vacation guide, call the Lake of the Ozarks Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-800-FUN-LAKE or visit the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitors Bureau web site at funlake.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.