Articles by John Neporadny Jr. - April
April Is Prime Time For Lake of the Ozarks
by John Neporadny Jr.
Dogwood trees blooming in April usually signals
the prime time of the crappie spawn at the Lake of the Ozarks.
The diverse waters of Lake of the Ozarks nearly
guarantees you can find crappie spawning somewhere in this impoundment during
April. By fishing the different arms of the lake throughout April you can
continue to catch spawning crappie for more than a month. Most crappie on this
lake begin spawning when the water temperature climbs into the 60-degree range,
but you can also catch lots of fish in the pre-spawn stage. During this time,
the water temperature is in the 50-degree range and the crappie are staging in
brush piles at depths of 8 to 10 feet.
In early April, the first areas crappie attempt
to spawn are in the upper ends of tributaries and major feeder creeks such as
the upper Osage, Niangua and Little Niangua rivers or the Grand Glaize and
Gravois creeks. These riverine sections of the lake contain shallow, off-color
water which warms quicker than the deep, clearer water on the main lake.
Sometimes crappie in these sections start spawning one to two weeks earlier than
their counterparts on the main channel. The last spawners on the Lake of the
Ozarks can be found usually during May in the main lake pockets near Bagnell
The ideal spots to find spawning crappie are
pea-gravel banks in coves, but I have also taken them along rock ledges in
main-lake pockets or cuts in bluff walls. Locating deep water nearby is the key
to finding the best spawning banks for crappie. Even though the fish spawn in
less than 2 feet of water on the flat, gravel banks. they still prefer areas
near deeper structure, such as spots where the bottom contour drops 10 to 15
feet deep into a ravine or creek channel. The depth crappie spawn depends on
water clarity. In the stained to murky waters of the upper Osage and some of the
feeder creeks, crappie spawn as shallow as 1 1/2 feet, but the fish in the
clearer waters of the dam area and lower Gravois build nests as deep as 6 feet.
logs and sunken brush piles are prime cover for spawning crappie, but anything
that sticks up off the bottom holds fish. I have even caught them around a
submerged patio chair that had fallen off a dock. Concrete pilings and metal
posts on dock walkways are also favorite nesting areas for crappie.
A variety of lures catch crappie during the
spawn, but the bait that produces best for me is the plastic tube jig. The best
skirt colors for fishing the clearer sections of the lake include
purple-and-white, black-and-chartreuse, red-and-chartreuse, hot pink,
red-and-white or yellow-and-white. My favorite hues for stained to murky water
include chartreuse, blue-and-clear or white-and-chartreuse. I prefer throwing
these lures on an ultra-light spinning rod and a spinning reel filled with
4-pound test green monofilament for fishing in clear water or 6-pound clear line
for dirtier water.
When crappie have moved into the shallows, I
attach the plastic tube body to a 1/32-ounce jighead. This lightweight jighead
allows the lure to fall slowly and stay off the bottom, which is a key to
catching crappie in shallow water.
Once I've located a good spawning bank, I cast
to any visible cover and retrieve the jig in a slow and steady fashion. Watch
for any slight twitch in your line during the retrieve, because this signals a
crappie bite. Water clarity determines how far you need to cast to the shallow
cover. If you're fishing the clear waters on the North Shore and in the Gravois,
you need to make longer casts to prevent spooking crappie in the shallows. In
the off-color water in the mid-lake area, you can make short pitches to the
cover without spooking crappie on the beds. One of the most effective techniques
for inactive crappie during this time is a "dead-fall" retrieve. After
pitching to a target, I let the lure fall back towards the boat on a tight line
without imparting any action to the jig. Crappie usually hit the jig as it falls
down through the cover. In addition to watching my line as the jig falls, I also
wrap my index finger around the monofilament which helps me feel the light tap
of a crappie hitting the lure.
When I guided, I found the easiest way for my
clients to catch spawning crappie was to set them up with a jig-and-bobber rig.
Attaching a small bobber above the jig prevents the lure from falling to the
bottom and constantly keeps it in the crappie's strike zone while working the
lure in the shallows. The bobber also makes it easier to detect a strike, which
is indicated by the cork diving under the water or popping up and turning on its
side. In off-color water I usually set the bobber about 12 to 18 inches above
the lure, but will move it up the line 2 to 3 feet when fishing in clearer
water. This technique requires a simple retrieve of twitching the rod tip to
make the bobber
roll in the water. The rolling action moves the jig just enough to attract a
crappie's attention. When a strike occurs, set the hook harder than usual,
because the bobber has a tendency to absorb some of the force from your
hook-set, which results in lost fish.
If a cold front has swept through the area and
dropped the water temperature 4 or 5 degrees, I pull off the bank and look for
brush piles 8 to 10 feet in front of the spawning area. The crappie usually pull
back into the deeper cover where they suspend over the brush or burrow down into
the wood. I switch to 1/16-ounce jigheads during these conditions an either cast
to the brush for suspending crappie or present my jig vertically when the fish
are holding tight to the cover.
If you visit Lake of the Ozarks in April and
see the dogwood trees blooming, you know it's time to go fishing because the
crappie are spawning.
For 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.