Articles by John Neporadny Jr. - August
Lake of the Ozarks is fishing jewel
By John Neporadny Jr.
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 maximum
depth of the lake is around 100 feet.
Summer pool elevation for the lake is 660 feet
above sea level, but winter draw down usually drops the lake level to around 652
to 654. Siltation causes the upper end of the lake to remain turbid most of the
time, while the lower end of the lake contains clear water. The lake bottom
consists primarily of rock, gravel and sand, except in some of the coves, creeks
and rivers where siltation has taken place.
Situated in the Osage River basin, the Lake of
the Ozarks is fed by two major rivers: the Osage and Niangua. Other main
tributaries flowing into the reservoir include the Little Niangua River, Linn,
Grand Glaize, Gravois and Little Gravois creeks. The lake is also fed by
approximately 1,000 springs and the largest, HaHa Tonka Spring, delivers about
48 million gallons of water a day into the Niangua arm. The Osage arm of the
lake runs 92 miles from Bagnell Dam to Truman Dam and the overall shoreline
length of the lake is more than 1,150 miles.
The lake is conveniently located in central
Missouri, about 175 miles from St. Louis and 165 miles from Kansas City. Many
amenities for anglers are available at the lake including more than 100 marinas
or marina-related services, over 100 restaurants with more than 40 waterfront
establishments, along with numerous campgrounds, resorts, hotels and
Lake of the Ozarks came into existence through
the Great Osage River Project during the Great Depression. Union Electric, now
AmerenUE, started construction on the dam on Aug. 6, 1929 and the lake opened to
the public on May 30, 1931. At that time, the Lake of the Ozarks was the largest
man-made lake in the world.
Although it has lost its distinction as the
largest impoundment in the world, Lake of the Ozarks remains the largest private
reservoir in the state and a top destination for anglers throughout the Midwest.
At first glance, the lake resembles a pleasure
boating paradise more than a productive fishery. Sprawling condominiums and
lavish homes blanket the shoreline. Countless docks harbor offshore racing
boats, jet skis, runabouts and yachts.
But looks can be deceiving. Under the water’s
surface lurk massive populations of game fish, including largemouth and spotted
bass, black and white crappie, white bass, hybrid white bass/stripers, bluegill,
walleye, and channel, flathead and blue catfish.
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
Heavy boat traffic on the lake during the summer
limits most of the major tournament circuits to holding events on the lake in
the spring and fall. One local tournament competitor believes this works to the
advantage of out-of-town anglers. “Lake of the Ozarks is unique in the fact
that in tournaments it is hard to have a local advantage because of the time of
the year events are held here,” claims Roger Fitzpatrick, a two-time Wal-Mart
Bass Fishing League All-American qualifier from Eldon, Mo. “Tournaments are
usually during times of the year when the fish are shallow to where anyone can
catch them. There are usually not held here in July where a guy can catch them
30 feet deep on a hump somewhere. So it’s hard to take advantage of those
really good spots on this lake that hold fish in the summertime because there
are no major tournaments then.”
The lake also consistently produces some of the
best crappie fishing in the state each spring and fall. Limits of keeper-size
crappie (9 inches or longer) 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.
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
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 www.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.