In a typical year Memorial Day starts the boating season, but spring came to the lake early this year. Fortunately, the lake is full and most of the shoreline debris has cleared. Water temperature is a little warmer than normal for this time of year so anglers should find fish in their early summer pattern. Using common-sense boating safety, anglers can catch species like crappie, catfish and white bass. Crappie should be moving to deep brush while catfish are in the coves so both of these species should be out of the high traffic areas.
In a typical year Memorial Day starts the boating season, but spring came to the lake early this year. Fortunately, the lake is full and most of the shoreline debris has cleared. Water temperature is a little warmer than normal for this time of year so anglers should find fish in their early summer pattern.
Using common-sense boating safety, anglers can catch species like crappie, catfish and white bass. Crappie should be moving to deep brush while catfish are in the coves so both of these species should be out of the high traffic areas.
White bass are a different issue, expect to find them on main lake points and flats, or suspended in front of those structures. Consider limiting the pursuit of 'whites' to early and late in the day when fewer people are boating.
For white and hybrid striped bass, anglers should try fishing windblown points and flat areas near points or channel swings, concentrating on early morning and late evening. Watch for surface activity that indicates bass feeding on shad and mark their location well because they only feed on top for a minute or two.
Several techniques work well for surface feeding whites, noisy topwater lures like Rebel Pop R's produce well. Some anglers tie a small jig 18 inches behind the popper, using the popper as an attractor and the jig as the actual lure. Another productive method is to cast brightly colored spoons into the melee, and retrieve them with a pump and reel motion. Chrome colored original spoons from Dixie Jet Lures and their new silver colored Slab Spoon, plus the nickel colored Bass Pro Shops' XPS Tungsten Jigging Spoon are all good choices.
When the whites retreat to deep water, use your graph to position the boat over the fish and vertically jig the above-mentioned spoons. The Dixie Jet Spoon falls slower and wobbles more, presenting a slightly more injured minnow look than traditional jigging spoons.
Largemouth bass are on main lake points and very susceptible to topwater lures at dawn and dusk. Try Bass Pro Shops' Buzz Master, Heddon's Zara Spook, or Rebel's Pop R.
After dawn and before twilight, try crankbaits like Bomber's Fat Free Shad Jr., Norman's Deep Little 'N, Rapala's DT10, and Strike King's Series 5 (HC5). Cast and retrieve across the point where possible which keeps the lure in the strike zone longer than casting toward the shoreline.
Good news for the catfish and crappie anglers, you should concentrate on the quieter, modest sized coves where the water is at least 25 feet deep. Catfish have been biting nightcrawlers, chicken liver, and shad sides aggressively for a few weeks. Some anglers have reported catching good fish on popular prepared baits like Jeno's.
Try drifting coves with a rod and reel baited with shad sides, night crawlers or prepared bait early and late in the day. Watch the depthfinder for fish hugging the bottom in 16 to 20 feet of water and concentrate on those areas.
Anglers using jug lines should follow the same advice but set their hook depths not more than two feet above the bottom and then monitor the jug's drift carefully, resetting the depth as required. Most fish should be in the range of 8 to 12 feet deep early and late, then 16 to 20 feet deep during the day.
Crappies spawned early this year, with much of the spawn completed by Easter weekend. It was an excellent 'season' for anglers, producing good numbers of female fish 12 to 14 inches long, then in typical manner the catch switched to smaller males.
Look for crappies to be scattered now, with fish suspended along channel bluffs, near submerged humps, under marina docks, and others relating to submerged brush in 10 to 16 feet of water.
It is hard to find better bait than live, medium-sized minnows fished under a slip bobber, especially over submerged brush or in the wells of marina docks. Flashy jigs like Blakemore's Road Runner or, during bluebird days, more subtle jigs like the Slab Hunter are good choices for anglers not wanting to deal with live bait.
When the bite is slow Berkley Crappie Nibbles can tempt a few extra fish - chartreuse sparkle seems to work well, depending on water color.
A word about boating safety during the summer season - other than boating sober, one of the smartest things a boater can do is wear a life jacket. On a recent Coast Guard survey, 25 percent of the boats involved in a fatal boating accident did not have enough life jackets on board, and over 80 percent of those who drown were not wearing a life jacket.
If you need to borrow a life jacket, from infant through youth size, contact Charles Meyer at TowBoat US in Lake Ozark at 573-216-4701, who is a loaner participant through BoatU.S.
Good fishing and safe boating.