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Fishing Tips

Jig Fishing . . . with visuals (during generation)

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Jig Fishing

Fishing with a marabou jig is easy. There, I said it. You may think it looks hard but it isn’t. Read more »

2013 Fall Fishing Forecast

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In considering what our fall fishing season might look like here on Lake Taneycomo, I look at a couple of things.  First is the water levels of the lakes above our lake on Table Rock and Beaver lakes.  With the recent rains and more forecasted, we should expect heavy flows for at least through the first part of September.  But as we know, the clouds can dry up tomorrow and not rain again until Christmas… you never know.

When most anglers think of the fall season on our lake, they think of our brown trout spawning run.  We start seeing a few browns move up above Fall Creek and the trophy area as early as the first of September, but the main run doesn’t take place until later in October and into November.  I was just told Sunday of a big brown  pushing 30 pounds sighted in the Fall Creek area.

We’ve seen a very big increase in the number of brown trout caught in the lake this summer.  The Missouri Department of Conservation increased the number of browns stocked in Lake Taneycomo a few years back, and we’re starting to see the fruit of that increase.

The fall brown trout season has not been too spectacular really since the 1980′s and 1990′s when we’d see numerous browns caught in the 25-to 30-inch range.  I don’t think anyone has come up with a good reason for their  decrease, but the good news is that trend is starting to change.

Another favorite on our trout waters is dry fly fishing.  August kicks off hopper season on all of our tailwaters, including Beaver and Bull Shoals tailwaters as well as the Norfork, all three in Arkansas.  But Taneycomo holds its own when it comes to fly fishing with topwater flies like stimulators, hoppers, beetles, ants and parachutes.

There’s nothing like executing a good fly cast close to cover and seeing a big trout nose out of the water to slurp a hopper off the surface.  And most of the trout we catch on hoppers are bigger fish for some reason.  My personal best is a 23-inch brown caught a couple of summers ago on Taneycomo, but I’ve caught numerous 20-inch-plus browns on hoppers on the White River below Bull Shoals Dam.

There really isn’t anything like fishing late in summer or in autumn when the leaves are changing. The mornings dawn crisp and cold, and the bite of winter seems to be anticipated in the air.  It makes venturing out on the water all the more sweeter.  Hope you can join us!

Fishing Lake Taneycomo

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Lake Taneycomo
has many characteristics.  She was created a river, but men made her a lake, building a dam at her head — Table Rock — and a dam at her tail — Powersite.  Both dams use water to power turbins, creating electricity. Thus Taney can still flow like a river with strong current cutting channels and piling up gravel bars in her upper end. But she also can sit still like a lake with a little current felt at the headwater.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages the dam facility. It throws the switches. The Southwest Power Administration coordinates and brokers the power generated by a grid of dams and coal burning plants in several midwestern states. These agencies together consider three major priorities when managing water:

1. Flood Control
2. Power Demand
3. Recreation (boating and fishing)

And in that order are they ranked.

Schedules?  When are “they” going to run water?  Southwest Power Administration has a link posted each day on their site that will give us a generation schedule for the following day but this schedule isn’t 100% acurate. They could change it as any time. You can also look at the pattern.  Look at the lake levels- Table Rock and Beaver.  If the lakes are high (above power pool levels) and we’re in a rainy season with rain in the forecast, you can bet they will run water.  If it’s real hot or real cold, there’s a good chance they will run water.  But. . . . there’s more electricity used during weekdays than on weekends, so there may be less generation during the weekends than weekdays, sometimes. Monday and Fridays carry the hardest flows, as a rule.

Click HERE for SPA’s Generation Schedule.

When operating a boat on this lake when the Corps is running water, you must give the current proper respect. When drifting, be aware of obstacles next to shore such as over-hanging and fallen trees and flooded islands with trees. Do not tie up to anything in fast, moving water or use an anchor in moving water at all!  Every year, boats are pulled under while dragging anchors in current to keep their boats straight. An anchor hangs up on the bottom, pulling the boat under the surface of the water at the point where the anchor rope is attached. The boat fills with water so fast that often the operator doesn’t have time to cut the anchor rope.

Don’t use anchors in moving water!

Shallow gravel bars can make Lake Taneycomo rough on motor propellers. When the water is off, when no water is passing though the generators, the lake stabilizes at a normal level. If this level seems low, it is. Upstream from Branson there are several bad spots. Gravel bars just below Cooper Creek, at Short Creek and Fall Creek to mention a few.  Above Fall Creek, it just gets shallow!!  The closer to the dam you travel, the shallower it gets. When boating, you must be aware of these places or you will hit bottom and damage your motor.

Click HERE for Lake Taneycomo MAPS.

Four main ingredients are needed for a successful trout fishing trip:

1.  Two- to four-pound line is a must when using almost any kind of trout bait or lures.  There are a few exceptions.  Bigger crank baits like Rapalas and Rogues and larger spoons and spinners require heavier line such as six- or eight-pound test.  The line should be green or clear, not incandescent or blue.  Monofilament is good.  Fluorocarbon is ok.  Braided line, I wouldn’t recommend (personal preference).

2.  A good ultra-light/medium light rod and spin reel is the best.  The rod should be five- to seven-foot long with medium to light action.  The reel needs to be one that holds plenty of line with a good drag system.

3.  Small weights, hooks or lures are important. Hook size is very important. Trout, especially rainbows, have small, soft mouths. Numbers 6, 8 and 10 are good sizes for any type of bait used. Short, bronze hooks are recommended. Weights should only be heavy enough for successful casting. You won’t be able to feel the trout bite if there’s too much weight.

4. Patience and a scensitive touch complete the presentation. Trout typically don’t strike hard. They tend to pick at their food like a little kid eating spinach. I’ve witnessed rainbows taking a piece of worm in their mouths only to blow them out. Or they will take the tip of the worm and shake their head violently, tearing it off the hook. Are they smart? It seems so. But don’t give them too much credit. Generally they are easy to catch.

Bait Fishing with no Water Running

There are several techniques to catch trout. One of the most popular and easiest is bait fishing. When the water is not moving, sit in one spot, whether on the bank, on a dock or in a boat. Throw your bait out, let it sink to the bottom, and leave it there, drawing in slack line after the bait hits the bottom. Either hold the rod or set it down until the line moves or the rod tip jerks. Set the hook sharply, then reel. Don’t get into a hurry — enjoy the fight. That’s what it’s all about. It’s a good idea to have a net handy. Trout mouths are soft, and the hook will tear out right at the edge of your reach. When fishing from a boat, the technique is basically the same. Anchor in a good spot, throw out your line and let the bait settle to the bottom. Wait for the strike and set the hook. 

Bait Fishing During Generation (moving water)

From the dock or bank, throw upstream using a little more weight. Let the bait sink and bump along the gravel bottom. Trout stay close to the bottom, looking for food drifting by. The strike will feel different than the bumping, like a pull and bump. Set the hook sharply –harder than still fishing because there will be more slack in your line from the current. One thing to remember: The harder the water is running, the more weight you will need to get to the bottom, but too much weight will cause you to hang up more often. When drifting in your boat, position yourself sideways in the current. This allows everyone in the boat to fish directly behind the boat and causes fewer tangles.  A drift rig is a pre-made rig with about 36 inches of four-pound line. A hook is tied to one end and a weight tied to the other. A loop is then tied towards the sinker side of the middle. This is where the line from your rod and reel is attached, usually by a snap swivel. Drag the bait along the bottom as before. The strike will feel the same but a little different than the bumping with a bump-pull-soft bump. It does take time and a little experience to feel the difference in a bite and the bottom. 

Live Bait Choices

Years ago, the old standby baits were salmon eggs, marshmallows and Velvetta cheese you rolled into balls.  Now the premier choice is a patented, scented bait called Power Bait or Gulp.  The bait comes in several different forms and many bright colors. They’re fished in different ways. Eggs are used when drifting or sitting dead in the water. Nuggets and dough-type bait are generally used when the water is off. Power Bait either floats off the bottom, making it easier for the trout to see and take, or some don’t float, usually used when drifting. It can be used with other baits, either as an attractant or to float the baits off the bottom. Salmon eggs are still a good bait but are just not used as much.  There are basically two kinds of eggs, dry pack and oil pack. Dry-pack eggs aren’t packed with anything but the egg itself. Dry eggs are used when still fishing. Oil-pack eggs are packed in oil, either scented or unscented. They are generally larger and softer, and used for drifting. Oil-pack eggs come in several colors and in different scents; anise scent is one of the most popular. Night crawlers are an excellent bait and still fun for kids of all ages. Use a #6 hook and a split-shot, pinching the shot about 18 inches above the hook. Use half a worm, hook it once or twice in the “collar,” and let the worm hang off both sides to make it look natural. Don’t worry about hiding the hook. It doesn’t seem to make any difference to the trout. Inject the worm with air using a blow bottle. This makes the worm float off the bottom, again exposing the worm more quickly than if it were lying on the bottom. When drifting or sitting still, let the trout take the worm. Give it some slack, letting the trout tighten the line. Set the hook sharply and reel. 

Minnows are other live bait used in the winter, spring and early summer months. Small forage fish are a big part of a trout’s diet in Lake Taneycomo .  In the winter and/or spring, thread-finned shad sometimes flow from Table Rock Lake into Taneycomo and are gulped up by waiting trout. Minnows are a good substitute for shad and usually catch a little nicer trout. Brown trout also tend to target minnows more than any other bait. Use a small hook, about an #8 or #10 and either a drift rig or just a hook and split shot. Hook the minnow in both lips or through the eyes. Let the minnow bump the bottom or use it under a float four- to five-feet deep. When the minnow is taken, give some line by dropping the rod tip toward the fish. Let the trout gulp the minnow well into its mouth before setting the hook. Remember, the hook is in the head of the minnow and the trout will take the minnow usually tail first.

Besides drifting, fishing minnows in eddies, areas where water forms a pocket behind trees or a point in the bank, can be fruitful. You need to tie off above the eddy and let the minnow dangle downstream in the slack water. It’s imperative to let the trout take it before setting the hook, or you’ll lose the bait and miss the fish.  When anchoring or tying off, ALWAYS tie off from the very front of the boat — and even then, use caution. Don’t anchor in swift current. Anchor in the eddy where the water is slow. Anchoring in swift current can cause the boat to be pulled under in just a moment’s notice. Several people have drowned in Lake Taneycomo because an anchor was used unwisely, swamping the boat. If you’re unsure of this technique, don’t do it.

Artificial Lure Choices

Jigs used to intimidate me! To look at a jig and think you could really catch a fish with one was pretty unbelievable, at least it was to me. The first time I used a marabou jig (a feather or doll jig) was the first summer we moved to Branson in 1983. A fellow from Georgia showed me how to work a small 1/32-ounce, brown jig off the bluff bank across the lake from our resort, and we caught lots of rainbows. It really was simple. Let the jig sink while paying close attention to the feel of the line, watching the line and rod tip. Lift the rod tip fairly sharply using your wrist, make a couple of turns on the reel and let the jig settle again. The deeper the water you’re fishing, the longer you let the jig sink. Here’s the tricky part. A trout will take the jig on the drop 90 percent of the time. It will feel like a tap — sometimes sharp, sometimes light — or the line will go slack slightly before hitting the bottom. Sometimes when you begin to jig or lift the rod tip, the trout is right there — Oh! Set the hook!!! Tip: If the trout are biting “short” or not getting the jig all the way into their mouths, tear the tail of the jig off bit by bit with your fingers until they start taking the hook.  Don’t cut the feathers with scissors; the straight cut won’t look natural.

When the water is running, go to a heavier jig — 1/16, 3/32, 1/8, 1/4-ounce. Trout will usually hold near the bottom when there is current but will come all the way to the surface for food. For the best results, drop your bait to the bottom and keep it there as long as possible. Working a jig off the bottom can be harder in moving water than in still water because you are dealing with current and turbulence that turns and twists your line. That’s the reason for the heavier jig. You’ll keep a straighter line from the tip of your rod to the jig, thus a better feel for the strike with heavier jigs.

“Jig-and-float” is a fun way to catch trout. Using two- to four-pound line, run a carrot float up your line and fish the jig at four- to seven-feet deep, depending on the condition you’re fishing. Tie a small jig on the end. There are some pretty small jigs out there, such as Turner micro jigs, made as low as 1/256 of an ounce. But the common weights we carry are 1/125. 1/50 and 1/132 ounce. Common colors are white, brown, olive, pink, ginger, sculpin (olive drab) and black, as well as combinations of colors — black/yellow, orange/brown, gray/red, sculpin/ginger, red/white and sculpin with an orange head. You might have to pinch on a small split-shot just below the float if you’re having trouble casting. Place the shot up against the float to avoid tangling.

There aren’t any bad areas on Lake Taneycomo to use this technique. The ideal area is from the Branson bridges to Table Rock Dam. Above Short Creek, look for the edge of the channel and fish the drop-off. This should be located close to the middle of the lake. If the jig drags the bottom, move the float down. Movement is important — it make the jigs appear alive. Wind creates a chop on the surface of the water, which in turn, bobs the float and moves the jig.  If the water is smooth as glass, twitch the floats every 5 to 10 seconds. The strike can be subtle or obvious, but mostly subtle. It can be very hard to see when the water is choppy. That’s why you have to pay close attention to the float and watch for it to tip up or dive down. Set the hook hard and fast. Keep up with your line slack. You can’t set the hook when you have too much slack between your rod tip and the float.

With the water running this technique is also good. Depth of water increases with water flow, so the depth you fish the jig will change. Fish as deep as your equipment will allow. The longer the rod the deeper or more line you can throw; it takes a long rod to set the hook on this deeper rig.

Small spoons are another way to fool trout. Little Cleos, Kastmasters, Buoant Spoons, Super Dupers, Spin-A-Lures and Krocodile are just a few of the brand names used for trout. Spoons can be used either in still or moving water. When there is no generation, small spoons thrown over gravel bars and retrieved slowly lure many trout. Working a spoon slowly in deep water pools is another good technique. When the water is moving, let the spoon settle near the bottom and jerk it up, letting it flutter back towards the bottom. The trout will strike as it falls.  I’ve even found that you can drift Kastmasters on the bottom during generation and surprisingly, they don’t hang up very much. Best area to do this is from the dam down to Fall Creek (trophy area).

Spinners, such as Rooster Tails, Mepps and Panther Martins are great lures for trout. Retrieve a light spinner steadily through shallow water when water is off, especially when you see trout “nipping” the surface. Work eddies, where the current swirls behind objects in the water’s path, with spinners, jerking and letting the spinner move in the swell.

Then there are the always faithful crank baits such as Rapala, Husky Jerk, Rouge, Flatfish and Blue Fox. In still water, work a flatfish in shallow water where trout are feeding. In the morning and evenings when light is low, throw a floating Rapala in fairly deep to deep, channel water, retrieve it quickly to drop it down, and then jerk it as you retrieve.  Try this—after getting it down, stop it dead, jerk it and retrieve and stop again. Both rainbows and browns will follow the bait and either hit it when it stops or just follow it all the way to the boat without striking but 9 of 10 times, they’ll strike it when it’s dead in the water.  This technique works best when using suspending baits. Work bluff banks and especially around underwater trees and other structure—browns hide during the day and come out at night generally.  Colors- silver, gold, rainbow styles and bright, shiny colors. Don’t be shy on size—go big.  Seven to 13 inch baits so exceptionally well on all size trout.  Just be sure to use heavy enough tackle to throw such big baits.  Line size isn’t as important when throwing such big baits.