Late March and early April is a good time to catch walleye and white bass
March and April are months when anglers have a chance to catch walleye and white bass moving to spawning areas. Spring’s warming water temperatures put fish on the move. Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) biologists have some tips for anglers seeking to catch walleye and white bass making spring runs in the northwest and Kansas City regions.
Walleye spawn earlier than most sport fish. But they are not necessarily easy to catch. They traditionally moved up rivers to rocky areas to spawn. In lakes without rocky rivers, they will move near dams with rock rip rap or on to rocky points. They’re not interested in feeding during runs, making them harder to catch. But if one takes a lure, it might be a trophy-sized walleye.
“Smithville Lake and Mozingo Lake dams will be the highlight in late March and early April for walleye,” said Tory Mason, MDC fisheries management biologist. “Fishing is best at night using shallow running crankbaits or twitch baits to entice a reaction strike, since most fish on the dam aren’t there to eat.”
Smithville Lake is north of Kansas City and Mozingo Lake is east of Maryville. Parks at the lakes offer public boat or shore access. Harrison County Lake near Bethany also offers some walleye fishing.
“The best opportunities for anglers to catch a walleye this time of year is to target them after dark when these fish move into the shallows to spawn,” said Eric Dennis, MDC fisheries management biologist. “Females will come in lay their eggs and leave the area within a few days, while the males will hang out for a couple of weeks for the opportunity to spawn.”
Longview Lake and Lake Jacomo in the eastern Kansas City metro area also have walleye spawning runs near the dams, said Jake Allman, MDC fisheries management biologist. Walleye runs also occur near the Stockton Lake dam in Cedar County. Feeder streams into Truman Lake in west central Missouri have some walleye runs, but they occur mostly near private land and fishing access is limited.
Anglers should check fishing regulations in the Wildlife Code of Missouri for the waters they plan to fish. Some known walleye spawning areas may be closed to fishing during the spring to protect the spawning run, especially in streams. Any walleye foul hooked or not legally hooked in the mouth must be turned loose.
White bass are a hard-fighting fish that are also aggressive feeders during their spring spawning run. Given the right water temperatures, they will run up the Little Platte River that feeds Smithville Lake. Anglers catch them on jigs or minnows. Other lakes have white bass, too.
“As soon as the walleye are finished, white bass will be stacked heavily on the dam at Lake Jacomo,” Allman said. “This usually occurs the second week of April.”
White bass spawn in large numbers. When anglers find them, the fishing action can be fast and exciting.
“A lot of the larger creeks that flow into Truman Lake have white bass runs in the spring,” said Chris Brooke, MDC fisheries management biologist. “By boat, you may need to push up the creeks as far as you can to get to the fish when they’re running good. There’s also some potential to catch white bass by fishing places along the Corps of Engineers public lands where the creeks come into the lake.”
Anglers can find places to go fishing and check regulations using MDC’s free MO fishing app, https://short.mdc.mo.gov/ZJZ. A wide variety of information about fishing in Missouri is available on the web at https://short.mdc.mo.gov/ZS4.