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THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing GuideExpert Articles by John Neporadny Jr. - November 2009

Tracking Fall Crappie Migration Route at the Lake of the Ozarks

by John Neporadny Jr.

Lake of the Ozarks crappie make a brief run for the shallows when the air cools and the leaves signal the end of summer by changing from green to brilliant colors. Similar to the spring migration to the shallows, the autumn run triggers some of the best action of the year if you can follow the crappie's fall transition route.

Some of the same techniques that worked in the spring also will take fall crappie. Unlike the spring spawning run though, the crappie's fall move to the shallows receives less fishing pressure. By this time many anglers have put away their rods and reels and are concentrating on the good hunting the lake area also offers.

During the early fall, Lake of the Ozarks crappie move from their deep-water summertime haunts on the main channel into the coves and bays. As the water temperature continues to cool, the fish move close to the bank where they might stay for a week or two depending on the weather. By late fall, the fish start moving back to the main channel where they bunch up in large schools for the winter.

You can start tracking the fall crappie migration when the water temperature dips into the low 70s or upper 60s. The best targets for early fall will be deeper brush piles near the mouths of coves. You can catch these fish by casting a minnow hooked on a 1/16-ounce plastic skirted tube jig to the brush or vertical jigging the lure in the cover. A 1/16-ounce jig in various colors and 4-pound test line will work for all Lake of the Ozarks' fall crappie techniques. In clear water, try jigs with white, clear tails and sparkle hues; the best dirty water choices include blacks, red and chartreuse.

The fall turnover usually triggers a massive exodus of fish from the main channel to the coves. Shad move into the coves a couple of weeks after the turnover. Crappie follow, setting up ambush points in brush piles near docks along creek channels or secondary points. The most productive brush piles are located in water 10 to 15 feet deep. Depending on the weather, the crappie will either suspend above the cover or burrow into the brush. Docks that have fish-cleaning tables, benches and chairs, rod holders and minnow buckets are prime spots to search for sunken brush.

When approaching a dock, fire off a couple of long casts to catch any fish hanging near the top of the brush. Let the lure sink and occasionally impart some action to your jig by twitching your rod tip. Keep your boat a safe distance from the dock as long as you keep catching fish. When the action slows, move closer and present your jig vertically into the brush for crappie buried in the cover.

On windy days, crappie tend to suspend over the brush or even under the floating foam of the docks, waiting for the wave action to push shad near the cover. You can catch these suspended fish by placing a jig 6 feet below a cork and twitching this combination over the brush or next to the dock's foam. Pitching a 1/64-ounce jig next to the foam also takes plenty of crappie on windy days. When the light jig falls, the wave action pushes it under the dock foam and into the crappie's strike zone.

Crappie move into any available cover 6 to 8 feet deep--and sometimes as shallow as 3 to 4 feet--when the water temperature dips into the low 60s and upper 50s on Lake of the Ozarks. A combination of tactics guarantees non-stop action. You can catch the first two or three fish with a jig-and-cork, then take off the cork and start casting to the same spot and work your jig a little deeper.

Weather determines how long the fish stay shallow during this time. If it's a 65-degree day with sunshine, the fish will be right up in the shallows. The colder the weather, the deeper the crappie move until they settle back into the deep brush piles.

Once the water temperature drops below 45 degrees, crappie vacate the shallows and move toward the main channel following the same route they took into the coves. You can continue to work a jig around docks along deeper structure, such as creek channel bends, until the fish have migrated to their wintertime sanctuaries (brush piles 15 to 20 feet deep on the main lake or in a creek channel).

Take advantage of the fall crappie migration at the Lake of the Ozarks this year and fill your livewell with some tasty slabs.

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.

Join and Follow John's Blog at http://jnfishing.blogspot.com/

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