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THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing GuideExpert Articles by John Neporadny Jr. - January 2011

Winter Spots to Catch Lake of the Ozarks Crappie

by John Neporadny Jr.

Biting winds numb the fingers and toes and the frosty air constantly ices up rod tips.

Yes, winter weather can be pretty darn harsh on anglers, but there is a bright side to this gloomy scenario. The good news is crappie at Lake of the Ozarks still bite despite the cold and can be taken even in the bitterest weather if you know where to find them.

Crappie tend to bunch up during this season, so you can fill your stringer and make the cold tolerable if you find their wintertime haunts. So bundle up in layers of warm clothing and head for one of these two winter crappie hot spots.

Private Boat Docks

Boathouses provide plenty of shelter for crappie during the winter. On Lake of the Ozarks, crappie suspend under the floating docks or burrow into the sunken brush piles placed strategically under the docks. Crappie also seek shelter next to the posts of some floating docks or suspend on the supporting steel cables of marina docks. So when the cold water makes a crappie lethargic, the panfish uses the cover of a dock to ambush any baitfish that wanders into its lair.

Deep water is the key to finding the most productive docks. Key on docks located along drop-offs, creek and river channel banks, bluff-ends and steep- sloping points. The best docks at Lake of the Ozarks usually sit over depths of at least 20 feet.

Fishing from the dock is the easiest and most comfortable way to try this winter spotóif you can gain permission from the dock owner. This opportunity allows you to fish brush piles in the back of dock wells and other spots inaccessible to anglers fishing from a boat.

When fishing from a boat, try the deep water along the sides and in front of a dock. Telltale signs on the dock indicating sunken brush include rod holders, chairs, lights hanging over the water and storage sheds, which also serve as excellent wind breaks while fishing on the boathouse.

A vertical presentation with jigs or minnows works best when crappie hold tight to the brush. Try casting a jig and counting it down to various depths when the fish are suspended under the docks. A minnow or jig set below a bobber also takes crappie seeking the warmth of a dockís floating foam on sunny winter days.

Heated Docks

The most comfortable way to catch cold-weather crappie is from an enclosed heated boathouse. Some resorts on Lake of the Ozarks cater to their wintertime customers by providing enclosed docks furnished with rocking chairs, toaster ovens, coffee makers, televisions and wood-burning stoves.

The weather outside might be frightful, but inside some of these docks it's a balmy 70 to 80 degrees. The warmth and shelter from the wind provided by these fishing houses makes it much easier to detect the light strikes of wintertime crappie.

These floating structures are usually sitting over deep water (20 to 30 feet). Inside the docks are large wells filled with brush sunken on the lakeís bottom or hanging on wires at various depths. Some resorts also bait the wells with hay bales, dog food or oatmeal to attract minnows and shad.

Casting in the well is impractical, so pick a spot and drop your jig or minnow straight down. Look for any cables hanging in the water, which indicates a brush pile tied to it.

Target bottom-hugging fish by letting your bait fall to the lakeís floor and then cranking the reel handle once. If this fails to produce, slowly reel up or stitch the line in your hand. When a strike occurs, keep track of the depth so you can present your bait at the exact location with your next offering. If the dock isnít crowded, move around the well to fish different sections of brush.

For information on lodging and heated docks at the Lake of the Ozarks or to receive a free 162-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 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.

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