Of course we have to talk fishing. The Branson area lakes--Table Rock
, Lake Taneycomo
, and Bull Shoals
--are known worldwide for some of the world's most exciting freshwater sport fishing.
Fishing has evolved from the bamboo-pole, little-bit-of-line, cork float, sinker and hook days (although some people still like it that way) into a science. We can't give you all the tricks, tactics, and tips on modern fishing that you'll get from good Ozarks guides and plain old Missouri fishermen. We can, however, give you a good overview of the Ozarks fishing scene.
The 43,000-acre blue waters of Table Rock Lake
are alive with hard-fighting black bass--largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and Kentucky bass. You'll also find rock bass and white bass, crappie, sunfish, catfish, walleye, and a most fascinating creature, the paddlefish.
, judged by many to be the king of freshwater gamefish, is the dominant Table Rock species. Voracious feeders, largemouth go for large insects, crawdads, smaller fish, and about anything moving they can swallow. Natural baits and artificial lures, including crankbaits, spinnerbaits, jigs, and spoons all produce big catches. Largemouth are fished best near shore in stiller waters when spawing in mid-April to late May or early June. In summer they move deeper to heavy underwater cover.
and Kentucky bass
are highly active fighters. In spring they stay near underwater cover along shore and go for natural baits, crank baits, spinnerbaits and jigs. In summer they take to deeper waters and bite best on spoons, jigs, grubs and worms. Largemouth, Kentucky and smallmouth bass all move back to shallow waters in fall, where they continue to afford exciting fishing.
school to spawn in early spring, moving up into the lake's tributaries near brush and timber. They go hungrily for natural baits, crankbaits, jigs, and spoons. In summer they school near the lake surface in search of minnows and shade and in fall drop to deeper water above submerged timber.
, on the of the most delicious panfish going, group for spring spawning around mid-April to June and nest near cover in coves with stiller waters. At this time they go especially for minnows, grubs, and jigs. In summer they move into deeper waters and can be fished very effectively at night under lights with live baits. In fall they seek dropoffs and good cover in coves and tributaries. Slow trolling with minnows, small plugs, spoons, and streamers is highly effective. Use light tackle for the best sport.
, another delicious fish, concentrate in tributary streams and rivers when spawning in spring. A nocturnal fish, in the lake they run deep and move into the shallows at night for heavy feeding. Trolling with live baits, plugs, spoons, and jigs is very effective.
provide fun fishing in Table Rock all year long with a wide range of natural and prepared baits and lures. Tackle should be sturdy enough to land the big cats (and they do get big in Table Rock). For sunfish (including red-ear and bluegill) use mainly live baits, light tackle, and always small hooks.
The fossil remains of Paddlefish
or spoonbill, date back some 65 million years. Only two species exist now, one you'll see in Table Rock (and throughout the Mississippi Valley), the other in the Yangtze Valley of China.
Paddle fish reach seven feet and 160 pounds, one of the largest fish in North America. Feeding only on microorganisms (plankton), they do not take bait or lures, but are caught only be grabbing or snagging. The best way is the reel in from the bank or troll a weighted line with one or two tremble hooks, and to use enough jerking motion to snag the fish on contact. Most paddlefish are caught when grouped during spring spawning Afterward, trolling the open lake for isolated fish makes a catch unlikely.
The overfishing of sturgeon near the turn of the 20th century made paddlefish a major commercial source of meat and "caviar." Commercial fishermen, some using nets almost two miles long, harvested 2 1/2 million pounds in 1899. The annual commercial harvest in recent years has run below 5,000 pounds. Missouri allows a short paddlefish season from March 15 to April 30. The fish remain an attraction all year long, however, as they often can be seen breaking totally free of the lake surface.
, 22 miles long but only 1730 acres in area, is really a slender, slow moving river-lake. (In fact, it flows right through downtown Branson). Fed by the cold deep waters freed by Table Rock Dam, Taneycomo supports an abundance of brown trout and rainbow trout stocked by the Missouri Department of Convervation. (You can visit the Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery and Visitors Center to see how the fish are raised, pick up some information, and feed the fish yourself, a reat treat especially for small children.)
are a major challenge to even the most serious angler. Though highly aggressive and voracious feeders, browns are extremely shy. Except for spawning time in the fall, fishing is best after the Table Rock Dam lights come on, a sign to fishermen of enough dark that the fish won't spook so easily.
Brown trout go for many natural and prepared baits, spinners, flies, spoons, and fly and spinner combinations. Because the brown is harder to catch and the minimum legal length is 20 inches, chances for landing trophy-size fish are excellent.
flourish in the cold waters of the Taneycomo, growing rapidly and many reaching trophy size. Rainbows are very aggressive sight feeders and eagerly take the same baits and lures as brown trout.
Taneycomo fishing isn't limited to trout but also contains largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, Kentucky bass, crappie, and sunfish. Fish for these, however, in the warmer shallows at the lower end of the lake.
Missouri Department of Conservation
Missouri Department of Conservation Weekly Fishing Report