Articles by John Neporadny Jr. - December
Lake of the Ozarks’ Niangua arm popular
spot for crappie anglers
By John Neporadny Jr.
It’s farther away from the popular tournament
site at Lake of the Ozarks State Park PB2 access so the Niangua arm seems to
experience less fishing pressure from bass anglers. However, the arm receives
plenty of traffic—especially in the spring--from crappie anglers, who launch
their boats at the Larry R. Gale Conservation Access.
The winding Niangua arm resembles a large river
more than a reservoir since it has few major coves and a narrow main channel for
most of its length. No major creeks run into the Niangua, but it is fed by
another large tributary, the Little Niangua River.
Guy Winters lives on the Niangua arm and has
fished for crappie on Lake of the Ozarks for more than 20 years. He also has
conducted seminars on crappie fishing at boat shows throughout the Midwest.
Vertical jigging the brush piles and big rocks
along the bluffs and channel breaks is Winters’ best tactic for catching
wintertime crappie on the Niangua. The fish will move up to 15 feet deep if the
barometer has been steady, but will drop to the bottom 18 to 25 feet if the
weather turns nasty. Winters relies on Laker Nailer tubes and Curlybugs
(red-and-white or smoke-and-pearl) attached to 4-pound test line.
During the prespawn stage (55- to 60-degree
water) crappie move up to brush piles 10 to 12 feet deep and progressively move
shallower as the water continues to warm. Winters targets the north banks, which
warm up quicker, and looks for chunk rocks. He switches to a 1/16-ounce jighead
and Curlybug that he retrieves at a slow pace. If the water is muddy, Winters
opts for a chartreuse or chartreuse-and-pearl Curlybug, but if the water is
clear, he selects the smoke-and-pearl model.
“The Niangua is a shallower arm of the lake
so consequentially it warms up quicker and cools down quicker and the timing is
different there,” suggests Winters. “The fish will spawn earlier because the
water warms up faster, and they will move toward deep water earlier in the fall
of the year than they do the rest of the lake.”
The spawn on this arm usually occurs the last
week of April or the first week of May when the water temperature is 64 to 65
degrees. Winters uses a 1/16-ounce Curlybug and 8-pound test line so the lure
will fall slowly in the shallows. Some fish will stay in the brush piles 10 feet
deep while others move 4 to 5 feet deep or as shallow as 18 inches if the water
is dingy. “The lake has been clearing up over the years so you might have to
fish in 6 to 8 feet of water,” advises Winters.
After the spawn, Winters follows crappie along
the same migration route the fish used during the prespawn. If the wind is
blowing he can catch crappie all day on a Curlybug and 6-pound line, but on
sunny calm days, the best action is early in the morning and late evening.
Catching crappie can be tough during the
summer; so Winters suggests fishing off of docks with lights at night. The best
docks sit over a least 20 feet of water and have plenty of brush underneath. A
light shining into the water attracts baitfish and crappie.
“The bigger fish are on the outer perimeter
of the light almost in the shade of it,” discloses Winters. “There is also a
bottom perimeter of light because it only penetrates so deep. You catch a lot of
little fish in the light but a lot of times I use an 1/8-ounce jighead to get it
down through the smaller fish and work the outer perimeter to catch bigger
crappie.” His favorite jig colors for night fishing include chartreuse,
black-and-chartreuse or shad patterns.
A fall feeding binge usually occurs for about
two weeks when the fish move as shallow as 3 feet. This feeding spree can run
any time from October to December depending on the weather. A drop in the water
temperature into the low 50s triggers this action, and it usually ends when the
water dips below 42 degrees. Winters catches these active fish on the same lures
he uses in the springtime.
“The fall fishing is the best on the Niangua,”
hints Winters. “There is less competition then, and you are going to catch
bigger fish than you do during the spawn because the females feed more in the
fall than they do in the spring.”
For information on lodging and other
facilities at the Lake of the Ozarks or to receive a free 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.