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Expert Articles by John Neporadny Jr. - May 2007

Bank Fishing At Lake of the Ozarks.

by John Neporadny Jr.

Fishing from a boat allows you to cover a lot more of Lake of the Ozarks' 1,150 miles of shoreline but you can also find some good areas to fish from the bank.

THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing GuideWhen conducting seminars on fishing Lake of the Ozarks for my guide service, I was frequently asked if the lake has any good bank-fishing places. While most of the property around the lake is privately owned, there are still some public areas available which offer good fishing during certain times of the year for anglers who can't afford to buy or rent a boat or hire a guide.

The most convenient area to fish if you don't have access to a boat is the dock of the resort or condominium where you're staying. The owners or caretakers of the property cater to their fishing guests by sinking brush piles near the docks and baiting the area with alfalfa or hay to attract minnows and baitfish, which draws in the gamefish. These docks offer good fishing year-round for bass, crappie, catfish, bluegill and carp. During the spring, you can catch spawning crappie and bass in the shallows behind or along the sides of the docks. These fish also migrate to the shallow brush and behind the docks in the fall. During summer, you can catch bass and crappie from the deeper brush piles off the end of the docks. Working a plastic worm through brush piles 15 to 20 feet deep around the resort docks at night offers bank anglers their best chance to catch a big bass during the summer. Crappie can also be taken from the brush piles under the dock lights at night. Tight-lining a variety of baits off these docks produces plenty of channel catfish both during the day and at night. If you want to have some fun fighting a big fish, drop a doughball in front of any carp you see cruising the shallows.

The lake also has numerous acres of public land, although a long walk might be required to reach the best bank-fishing spots. Most of the lake's public land is in the Lake of the Ozarks State Park. This area offers plenty of bank fishing opportunities, but you'll probably have to do some hiking to avoid the crowds. You can catch bass and crappie in the coves during the spring, especially in the shallow brush piles and lay-down logs along pea gravel banks.

Catfish can also be taken from these same areas when the fish move into the shallows to spawn in June. During the rest of the summer, your best bet is to find areas close to deep water, such as along bluffs or main lake dropoffs. Bluff pockets are ideal spots for bank anglers to catch bass, crappie and catfish in the summertime.

HaHa Tonka State Park is another public area where you can catch a variety of fish from the bank. In early spring, largemouth bass, white bass, hybrid-striped bass and walleye congregate in the pool where the HaHa Tonka spring waters flow into the lake. The water next to the walking trail along the south bank of HaHa Tonka Cove has brush piles and milfoil weeds, which hold plenty of bass and crappie in the spring.

Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) access areas usually hold bass year-round, especially in the rock rip rap next to the boat ramps and around the courtesy docks. Sunken brush piles in these areas also offer good crappie fishing in the spring when the fish move shallow to spawn. Some of these areas also have docks set up for handicapped anglers, which are loaded with sunken brush. MDC access sites providing some bank fishing opportunities include the Gravois Mills Access off State Highway 5 in Gravois Mills, Coffman Beach Public Access on Lake RoadY-20 near Rocky Mount, the Shawnee Bend Access off State Route TT near Sunrise Beach, and the Larry Gale Access off Lake Road AA--101D near Roach.

Creeks flowing into the Lake of the Ozarks can also be good areas to catch fish without a boat, especially in the springtime when white bass make spawning runs up the streams. Before I started guiding, I would wade the creeks and catch limits of white bass and some hefty hybrids during the spawning runs in late April and early May. Access to these streams is usually along a county road or state highway. Some of the better spots to wade for spawning white bass in the springtime are the Gravois and Little Gravois creeks, the swinging bridges area on the Grand Glaize Creek and the State Route J bridge area on the Little Niangua River.

The best year-round spot to catch fish from the bank is the spillway below Bagnell Dam. American Legion Post 229 owns the land on the south spillway bank and charges a fee to fish there, while the AmerenUE power company owns the north bank where fishing is free. Fishing is allowed the full length of the spillway, except in the area above the orange restriction line close to the dam. In the early spring, you can catch walleye when these tasty fish make a spawning run into the tailrace area. White bass and hybrids also migrate to the dam to spawn later in the spring. Crappie remain in the rock riprap all year, but the best seasons to catch them are spring and fall. Catfishing is good in the area throughout the warm months. The best action for most species usually occurs when water is being released from the dam. Call the AmerenUE lake level information number (365-9205) to find out which days the dam will be releasing water.

You can catch fish at Lake of the Ozarks without leaving the bank if you try these areas the next time you visit the lake. For information on lodging and other facilities at the Lake of the Ozarks or to receive a free 152-page 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.

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