Articles by John Neporadny Jr. - December
Fishing the Bagnell Dam Spillway
By John Neporadny Jr.
The Bagnell Dam spillway below Lake of the
Ozarks harbors a variety of fish throughout the year and offers plenty of
angling opportunities for anglers in a boat or on the bank.
Bank fishing is permitted on both sides of the
spillway. The banks on both sides of the tailrace are open to the public, but
anglers pay a nominal fee to fish the south shore, which is privately owned. An
access area maintained by the Missouri Department of Conservation is available
at the dam for anglers who want to fish the tailrace from a boat. Fishing is
prohibited in the marked restricted zone within 225 feet below Bagnell Dam.
Spring is the prime season to fish below the
dam since walleye, white bass, hybrid stripers, catfish and paddlefish
congregate at various times to spawn in the spillway. However fish can be caught
year-round from the river as long as some current exists. Since fishing is
usually best during periods of water flow from the dam, anglers should call the
AmerenUE lake level information telephone number (573) 365-9205 for updates on
the spillway’s discharge rates.
Here’s a look at how to catch crappie, white
bass and catfish lurking below Bagnell Dam.
Fishing is slow for whites in the spillway
during the winter but the action picks up in March when some males move up into
the tailrace to begin the spawning run. However the peak of the spawning run is
usually from the first week of April to mid-May when massive schools of white
bass congregate in the spillway.
Areas where water is being released from the
turbines hold the greatest concentrations of whites, discloses Rich Duncan, a
long-time Osage River fisherman and former owner of Riverview Campground. The
most productive lures for fishing the spillway include crankbaits, such as Shad
Raps and Rat-L-Traps in shad patterns or 3-inch Sassy Shads in blue-and-white or
argent-and-white color combinations. The size of the Sassy Shad jigheads varies
depending on the water conditions. When all eight generators are running,
anglers use 3/8- to 1/ 2-ounce jigs on 10- to 15-pound line. If the spillway has
minimal or no flow, whites can be taken on Tiny Torpedoes and Zara Spook Puppies
or Zara Spook Juniors.
Fishing before sunrise is the best time to
catch spillway whites in the summer. Duncan suggests throwing 1/8-ounce white
marabou jigs into the current. A few whites can be taken on jigs or Sassy Shads
in the fall, but the fishing is usually slow due to minimal water discharges
Guiding kept him pretty busy on the lake, but
Keith Enloe still found some time for catching blue and channel catfish below
the dam. Catfish in the 3- to 5-pound range are common catches in the river and
tailrace area. “I’ve had times where I’ve caught nothing less than 10
pounds and I’ve caught them as big as 30 or 40 pounds,” claims Enloe.
The former guide catches some catfish in the
winter in channel swings cluttered with piles of brush. He uses shad guts for
bait all year long.
His catfish rig consists of a main line of 25-
to 30-pound test line and a heavy-duty three-way swivel with an 18-inch leader
for the bottom-bouncing sinker ranging in size from 3/ 4 to 2 ounces. Also
attached to the rig is another leader line of about 1 foot for a 2/0 or 3/0
baitholder hook. “That hook has barbs up on the shank that holds the shad guts
which you wind on the hook, then put the gizzard on the hook last and it should
stay on there,” recommends Enloe.
Enloe fishes the same rig in the spring but
drifts the bait along the bottom of shoots, which are washed-out areas created
by the heavy flow from the flood gates. He fishes either the shoots from the dam
to the boat ramp or a channel shoot that runs from the boat ramp to the Highway
The best action occurs during periods of medium
to high generation and the river level is steady or on the rise. “If it’s
falling they don’t bite very well,” says Enloe. “You catch the majority of
blues in May and June if they run the water pretty hard.”
During summer, Enloe heads back to the channel
drops and fishes the front of the brush again. He also tries some of the dikes
and levies farther down river if there is minimal water flow from the dam.
Tight-lining in the brush also produces catfish
in the fall for Enloe if the river runs slow. However if rains create heavy
flow, he resorts to bouncing shad guts along the bottom again.
When AmerenUE starts dropping the lake for
winter drawdown, fishing can be good for crappie below the dam.
Enloe recommends trying the north bank where
the water eddies into the first pocket below the dam. “The crappie will stack
up in there especially if they are running water,” he says. The local expert
opts for a tandem rig of a 1/32- and 1/8-ounce jig in pearl-and-white or
pearl-and-chartreuse. He ties the jigs on 4- or 8-pound test depending on speed
of the flow.
The local angler relies on a slow presentation
for his jig fishing. “I’ll throw out there and count to about 10 and then I’ll
start barely turning the reel handle just enough to where I can feel the lure
hitting the rocks,” he says.
Spring fishing can also be good on the AmerenUE
side with the tandem jigs or on the American Legion side by fishing with a
bobber and jig or minnow around the iron dikes.
If some water is running from the dam during
the summer or fall, Enloe catches crappie from the stretch of river between the
launch ramp and the Highway 54 Bridge. He targets the tops of trees at depths of
8 to 10 feet deep and uses a bobber and jig tipped with a minnow or a minnow
attached to a number 6 or 8 Aberdeen hook.
information on lodging and other facilities 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.