Articles by John Neporadny Jr. - November
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
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/