A ceremony on May 5, 1866, honored local veterans who had fought in the Civil War. Businesses closed and residents flew flags at half-staff. By the end of the 19th century, May 30 was the designated Memorial Day, also known as Decoration Day, and the Army and Navy adopted regulations for proper observance at their facilities.
After World War I, that day expanded to include those who died in all American wars. In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday with the last Monday of May as its observation day.
In the lake area, it is a time of remembrance and a time to welcome the start of summer’s boating and fishing season.
Anglers need to cope with watersports traffic by changing their location, presentation, and expectations. Added to that, scattered thunderstorms are in the forecast with the possibility of wind and lightning.
Lake of the Ozarks has 57,000 acres with 1,200 miles of shoreline and there are 24 hours in a day, so there should be room and time for everyone’s enjoyment. It is a matter of anglers, skiers, and pleasure boaters using the lake in noncompetitive ways and times.
Right now, catfish and bluegill are among the hottest action on the lake. Since many consider them excellent table fare, it is a good idea to try these piscatorial palate pleasers.
Anglers are having good luck using juglines baited with nightcrawlers, shrimp, hotdogs, or ‘perch’. Try drifting coves at dawn and dusk with juglines. Shorebound anglers, especially those below the dam, should try rods and reels baited with smelly dip bait, nightcrawlers, or cut shad.
Some crappies are relating to brush that is 12 to 16-feet deep but others are in very shallow water for their last attempt at spawning during the full moon. Minnows tipped with a Berkley Crappie Nibble under a small balsa slip-float work well for these depths. The slip float allows you to change depths quickly and cast easily. Use just enough splitshot weight near the hook to make the float stand upright.
Small jigs like Blakemore’s Road Runner also work well at night around docks with lights.
White and hybrid bass feed aggressively during the very early morning hours but they are scattered. If you find whites, catching a limit will not be a problem. During periods of heavy generation, current curls around main lake points causing whites to be active and feed on young-of-the-year shad.
Noisy surface baits like Rebel’s Pop-R, crankbaits like Norman’s Deep Little N, or spoons like the Dixie Jet are excellent choices for actively feeding and suspended fish.
Black bass anglers should consider fishing very early in the morning when the lake is like a private fishing hole. The more adventurous might try fishing at night when the bass are shallow, spawning, or feeding on bluegill and minnows around docks.
Fishing docks at night takes some patience, skill, courtesy, and courage. Move the boat slowly and quietly to avoid bumping into docks and cables, a sure way to alert bass of your presence.
Try an Eakins’ jig or soft plastics like a watermelon red/black Yamamoto Senko, a red shad Berkley 10-inch Power Worm, or a Zoom Brush Hog in red shad color. Fish the Senko weightless, the other fake critters work well Texas-rigged with a 3/16 to 3/8-ounce bullet-style lead sinker. Pitch or flip these baits behind docks and into submerged brush and set the hook when you feel the slightest tap.
Anglers casting a Bomber Switchback Shad, a Norman Deep Little N, or a Rapala DT10 on main lake points may be surprised by hooking and landing a tasty walleye.
If all else fails and you get bored, do not underestimate the entertainment value of bluegill. They suspend around docks and are especially fond of small baits like nightcrawler pieces or Berkley’s Gulp 1-inch Cricket. Fish these baits on a small long-shanked hook under a slip bobber. The Gulp Cricket is biodegradable and they eliminate messy fingers created by the real thing.
Also, check the “Best Fishing Times” in this section of the newspaper for the times fish are most active and be alert for fish chasing shad or bluegill during those hours.
A word of caution, nighttime anglers should observe the night speed limit, make sure their boat’s lights are in good working order, and ensure all of the appropriate safety equipment is aboard and in good working order.
Above all, please wear Coast Guard approved life jacket at all times. Of the more than 700 people that drown in waters of the United States each year, over 70 percent would have survived had they been wearing a life jacket.
This weekend will be one of the lake’s busiest, but by using good judgment and working around other watersports activities, anglers can enjoy their piscatorial pursuits in relative peace and safety.