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THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing GuideExpert Articles by John Neporadny Jr. - February 2018

Catching Crappie on Lake of the Ozarks’ North Shore

By John Neporadny Jr.

Some of the deepest and clearest water on the Lake of the Ozarks can be found on the North Shore section that stretches from Bagnell Dam to the mouth of the Gravois at about the six mile mark.

The North Shore features five long coves on the north side that warm up quickly to produce some of the earliest crappie action in the spring. Secondary and main lake points are the key structures to fish most of the year on this arm.

The deep waters of the North Shore annually yield some of the biggest crappie taken from the lake especially in the early spring.

Bruce Gier, a former guide and owner of Gier’s Bass Pro Shop in Eldon, MO, has caught tons of crappie from the North Shore section throughout the years. Main channel brush piles and the brush tied to condominium docks are Gier’s favorite targets for catching wintertime crappie on the North Shore. Vertical fishing with a 1/16-ounce jig over depths of 30 feet or more is the best way to catch crappie suspending over the brush or holding tight to the cover.

In the early spring, the biggest crappie move to the banks even when the water temperature is in the low 40s. “Find a brush pile you can barely see under the water and throw a cork and jig to it,” advises Gier. “You can slaughter the crappie then.”

Heading half to three quarters of the way back into the long coves, Gier looks for banks receiving the most sunlight. The local angler concentrates on pockets protected from the wind in coves with flat banks that contain plenty of brush piles and docks. His favorite coves include Lick Branch, Jackson Branch, Jennings Branch and Birdsong Hollow.

The fish congregate in brush piles 8 to 10 feet deep with the top of the cover reaching within 4 to 5 feet of the surface. Gier casts over the brush with a 1/16-ounce jig (white, clear and sparkle hues in clear water and black or red-and-chartreuse in dirty water) set 4 to 5 feet below a cork on 6-pound test line.

The fish are sluggish this time of year, so the bobber keeps the jig in the crappie’s strike zone longer. A steady, twitching retrieve works best for this tactic.

This technique works until late March and then the fish move to the bank to spawn throughout April. Gier targets the same pea gravel flats then, but pitches behind docks where the fish spawn as shallow as 2 feet deep in the clear water. Gier catches these nesting fish on plastic tubes attached to a 1/16-ounce horsehead jig. A variety of colors will catch spawning crappie including smoke, white-and-clear, purple-and-white or yellow-and-white.

During the summer, crappie seek brush piles close to points on the main lake. Gier suggests concentrating on brush 15 to 30 feet deep and vertical fishing a jig tipped with a minnow. The local angler advises starting at daylight and if you hit the right brush piles, you can be cleaning a limit of crappie by 9:30 a.m.

The fall crappie migration begins when the water temperature dips into the low 70s or upper 60s. Gier keys on brush piles 10 to 15 feet deep at the mouths of the coves in early autumn where he casts a 1/16-ounce jig tipped with a minnow to the brush or vertical jigs over the cover.

The fall turnover usually triggers a massive migration of crappie from the main lake to the coves. Crappie move into the brush piles 10 to 15 feet deep near docks along the creek channels or on secondary points. Gier casts or fishes vertically with a 1/16-ounce jig tied to 4-pound test line for fish suspended in the brush or burrowed down in the cover.

As the water temperature drops into the low 60s and upper 50s, some crappie move into any available cover 6 to 8 feet deep and sometimes as shallow as 3 to 4 feet. A combination of tactics guarantees non-stop action for Gier. “I’ll catch the first two or three fish with a jig-and-cork, then I’ll take off the cork and start casting to the same spot and work a little deeper,” he says.

Once the water temperature drops below 45 degrees, North Shore crappie vacate the shallows and move toward the main channel until they eventually reach their wintertime sanctuaries.

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.

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