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THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing GuideExpert Articles by John Neporadny Jr. - August 2008

Dog Days Lake of the Ozarks Crappie Fishing

by John Neporadny Jr.

When the summer sun scorches the skin and sweat pours from the body, fishing may give way to water skiing and swimming. But driven anglers, disregarding the relentless Missouri heat, still can take plenty of crappie during the steamy days of August on Lake of the Ozarks. Mark Dahl, a former part-time guide and owner of Dahl's Mini Mart bait-and-tackle shop in Gravois Mills, Mo., relies on electronics to locate crappie on this highland lake devoid of natural cover.

The timber was removed from Lake of the Ozarks before the reservoir was filled. Manmade structures, such as sunken brush piles and cedar trees, serve as fish attractors in this lake. Anglers need a topographic map and some type of depth finder to locate the hidden fish-holding structures.

"I tell guys that when they find a spot on the locator, take out the map and write it down," Dahl says. "Even if it's not exact, knowing that they found some beds at 15 to 20 feet, should help them locate the structure again."

The best locations for finding summertime crappie beds include channel bends, creek channels or points. "The best bet for someone fishing the lake for the first time is to go into a cove or along the main channel and look for boat docks with lights and rod holders," Dahl says. "Those docks usually have sunken brush piles under them."

The depth of the fish varies depending on water temperature and the amount of sunlight. "The fish don't go much deeper than 20 to 25 feet," Dahl says. "There are times early and late when they're up as shallow as 4 to 6 feet." Bright, sunny days and climbing water temperatures drive the fish deeper.

Dahl uses a paper graph recorder and marker buoys when searching for crappie. Idling along the lake, he waits for small, sharp hooks (indicating crappie) to appear on the recorder. When the graph records a mass of crappie, Dahl drops a buoy and shuts off the motor. He lets the boat drift until he reaches the end of the school, then he drops a second marker.

Using his trolling motor, or drifting as slowly as possible, Dahl drops a jig straight down into the school of crappie. "And if that doesn't turn them on for a feeding frenzy, I'll try a jig and a minnow," Dahl says.

The hue of the jig depends on water depth and clairty, but Dahl usually uses fluorescent-colored jigs. He fishes the jig, or a jig tipped with a minnow on 4-pound test line with ultralight spinning tackle. The light line lets the jig drop faster to avoid smaller fish. Dahl sometimes fishes along the bottom to catch larger crappie. "Sometimes you'll pull them up and you'll see silt on their bottom fins," he says.

If you can tolerate Missouri's sauna-like summers, you, too, can catch enough crappie for a sizzling summertime fish fry.

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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