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THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing GuideExpert Articles by John Neporadny Jr. - October 2013

Cold Front Cover for Lake of the Ozarks Crappie

by John Neporadny Jr.

The huge crappie tilted slightly to the side and leaned against the glass as if it were ill. Even though the fish was in the controlled environment of an aquarium it was still feeling the effects of the passage of a cold front outside.

Watching that crappie in the aquarium at a Missouri Department of Conservation office exemplifies what happens to crappie when a cold front hits the Lake of the Ozarks area and the barometer bottoms out. Even when the water is warm in late summer and early fall, crappie still turn lethargic for a brief time after a cold front. When this weather front occurs, Lake of the Ozarks crappie seek places to rest until the barometric pressure raises enough to activate the fish again.

Here’s a look at some types of cover crappie lean on after the passage of a cold front in the fall.

Lay-down Trees

A tree blown down into the water becomes a crappie condominium during a cold front if it sits in a good location. “Most lay-downs are pretty good size trees so there’s lots of room for fish in there,” says Guy Winters, a crappie seminar lecturer. The Camdenton, MO, angler looks for lay-downs close to breaklines that drop off into depths of 12 to 18 feet.

During autumn, Winters usually fishes 14 to 15 feet deep, but he believes the low pressure of the cold front causes the fish to drop down another couple of feet. A lay-down that extends straight down into deeper water becomes ideal during a cold front because it allows the crappie to move down the water column while still holding tight to the cover. “They need some pretty good cover to lean up against to hold them upright, especially if it is a pretty severe change,” suggests Winters.

The panfish expert drops a Laker Curlybug plastic grub or Laker Nailer plastic tube on a 1/16 or 1/8-ounce jighead straight down into the cover. He vertically jigs the trees’ trunk first because he believes it holds the biggest fish and then he works his lure around the larger branches.

Brush Piles

The tangled limbs of these manmade fish attractors offer plenty of shelter for crappie affected by a cold front. The most productive brush piles usually rise several feet off the bottom, which permits crappie to hold at various depths in the cover.

I key on the outer part of the brush pile first by casting or vertical jigging a plastic tube. If this fails to produce, I position my boat over the brush and lower the tube bait straight down into the cover and let it sit in the limbs.

Boat Docks

There are thousands of these boat shelters to fish for cold-front crappie on Lake of the Ozarks. A boat dock offers crappie some excellent hiding places such as in boat hoists, under metal cross bars and in sunken brush piles. The best docks are usually owned by anglers, which you can find by looking for certain telltale signs: floodlights on the docks pointed directly into the water, rod holders attached to the railings or planks, fish cleaning stations and fish baskets or minnow buckets tied to the dock posts.

When bluebird skies arrive after the passage of a front, I pitch plastic tubes attached to 1/8- or 1/16-ounce jigheads to the shadiest parts of the dock. The fish usually hold in the ironworks of boat hoists from 4 to 8 feet deep inside the dock wells or burrow down into the brush 15 to 20 feet deep on the sides of the dock. If the fish seem to prefer a slow-falling presentation, I switch to a 1/16-ounce doll fly and tip it with a minnow to enhance the lure.

Crappie need something to lean on when the barometer drops and the fish become lethargic. So if a cold front slows the fishing at Lake of the Ozarks, you can still catch crappie if you find the right cover.

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.

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