Our generation schedule has settled down so that one can almost predict what will run on any given day, except weekends. During the week we’re seeing no generation in the mornings with water coming on about 1-2 p.m. and running until about 7 p.m.. And operators are running about 11,000 cubic feet per second of flow, which is between three and four units. On weekends, it’s different every day, and the schedule posted by the Southwest Power Administration online isn’t always right.
For the past two to three years, we’ve seen constant flow in the late summer and fall months of about 3,500 c.f.s. of flow 24/7. The oxygen levels coming from Table Rock Lake have dropped to less than 1 parts per million, which is lethal to almost any fish and bug in the lake. Of course, that’s at 130 feet deep on Table Rock. But the temperature is holding at about 54-55 degrees (F), which is pretty good. But this year, so far, the U..S. Corps of Army Engineers is choosing to shut the turbines down for almost 20 hours a day. Then while they are generating, they inject liquid oxygen into the turbines adding much needed O2 to our lake water.
You can see the correlation between the two.
The Missouri Clean Water Act states that the minimum dissolved oxygen level required is 6 p.p.m while the federal act requires only 4 p.p.m.. The Corps, as a federal agency, abides by its own rules even though in the state of Missouri. That’s means the Corps only has to keep the D.O. levels in the water entering Lake Taneycomo above 4 p.p.m., which really is the minimum quality to keep fish lively and productive.
Fishing-wise, when our D.O. levels are at 4 p.p.m., we notice that the trout we hook and fight are sometimes sluggish and don’t fight very hard. They also have a hard time “catching their breath” after a fight. This is why, if it’s your intent to release your catch, the way you handle caught fish will dictate whether your fish will survive after release.
Here are some things to think about when handling big trout:
- Get the fish in the net as quickly as possible. Long, drawn-out fights will kill a big trout, just like other species of fish like stripers.
- After netting the fish, keep it in the water. Remove the hook while it is still in the water and only lift the fish out of the water to take a pic. You can even measure it in the water if you have a cloth tape but if you do not, keep the fish in the net while measuring it if possible.
- Hold the fish in the net underwater and work with it if necessary, moving it back and forth to force water through its gills. Make sure it is strong enough to at least swim out of the net before releasing. If a fish is released and it falls to the bottom on its side, silt will cover its gills and it will die.
- When taking a photo try to hold the fish over a net at all times, so if the fish drops, it won’t hit the boat’s hard surface. If it’s a bigger trout, hold it horizontal, not vertical. There have been studies on bass that show holding a big bass vertically puts undue pressure on its organs and can cause damage. I have, to this point, not found any studies on trout.
- Bogas and Fish Grips – Used on smaller trout (<18 inches) are probably okay if applied correctly to the fish’s jaw, but using a grip on a trophy trout may cause serious damage to it. The clip should be applied to the lower jaw inside the mouth and NOT back by the gills. If a fish flops while the clip is applied through the gill plate, the clip will hit the gills and cause damage and bleeding. I’ve seen many pictures of trout on Facebook with the clips through the gills and blood running down the sides of the fish. That fish is dead. If it’s being kept, that’s fine. If a big trout is clipped in the lower jaw and it bolts, the action of the heavy fish will cause the clip to cut all the way through the outer jaw. This will impede the fish’s ability to eat and eventually the fish will die a slow death. I’ve broken the lower jaw of two big rainbows while fishing in Alaska using a boga. . . believe me, it’s not an experience you want to have.
- Keep in mind, a fish’s gills are exposed to air when held out of the water. During extreme hot and cold weather, the air can cause damage to the gills in a very short period of time, even seconds. In the case of extreme cold weather, the gills could actually flash freeze, killing the fish immediately. I’ve seen it happen unfortunately.
This fall, with our brown trout starting to move up lake already, we’re expecting a banner year of catching trophy browns and rainbows. If we want to see this continue, we need to take care of these fish.
The number of trophy trout (20-inches and longer) caught and released is amazing this summer so far. And everyone is enjoying catching them — fly fishermen and spin fishermen — on lures, live bait and flies.
Bait fishing below Fall Creek –
Night crawlers are still the number one live bait of choice. A lot of our guides are going to two-pound line, especially after the sun rises bright over the water. Inject air in the worm using a hypodermic needle to float it off the bottom for a quicker bite. The Short Creek area seems to be the best spot, especially for catching big rainbows and browns.
If you’re releasing any fish caught using bait, chances are the fish will swallow the bait. Don’t try to dig out the hook since this will definitely kill the fish. Just cut the line and let the fish go. It has a much better chance surviving than digging the hook out.
Power Baits aren’t performing that well. Salmon eggs are doing better but still not as good as worms.
The Berkley’s Pink Worm under a float is still doing pretty well early in the morning. Seek out shade below high bluffs and fish the worm any where from four- to eight-feet deep. And definitely use two-pound line because our water is very clear right now.
Try the same application but use a micro jig under a float and two-pound line. We still carry the Turner Micro Jig in olive and black. We also carry the PJ’s marabou jig in 1/50th- and 1/125th-ounce in a lot of colors. Dark colors are doing the best — olive, brown, black and sculpin.
Seek out the chop. If you see an area on the lake where the breeze is kicking up and causing a riffle on the surface, go there and fish, especially if you’re fishing something under a float.
Fly Fishing –
With long periods of no generation, there are a lot of great fly fishing opportunities available on Taneycomo, almost too many to mention in my report. But I will only cover fly fishing out of a boat and not wading below the dam simply because I have not done that yet this year (wade below the dam.)
When there’s no generation, there is no advantage taking a boat up past Lookout Island. Plus, it’s so shallow at and above the island that it’s extremely difficult getting a boat past it. So we fish primarily from Lookout down lake.
Fishing what we call “flat water” early in the morning, we’ll use Zebra Midges under a float. We are using 7x fluorocarbon tippet because our water is very clear and our fish are pretty wise. The distance between the first fly and the float depends on the depth of water. Generally, if you’re fishing four-to nine- feet deep, set the float at four to five feet.
We’re using several kinds of Zebra Midges, mainly in 16’s and 18’s. Good colors are red, black, brown and olive. We also use a primrose and pearl that’s pretty popular, especially in bright, daylight hours. And the beads do seem to make a difference. We’ve been using darker colors like black and black nickle.
You can try a double fly rig, but I’ve shied away from them because I have a great deal of trouble unhooking trout and getting the second hook tangled up with me and/or the fish. It’s not worth the trouble. But if you want to, tie them about 12 inches apart.
The Mega Worm is still tearing up the bigger trout. Good colors are white, chartreuse and peach. We carry two weights in the Mega’s — 1/80th and 1/100th ounce. Again, use 7x fluorocarbon tippet and set the worm about the same distance as the Zebra to the float. I usually fish it in the channel closer to the bluff side.
The scud is doing okay but not as good as it did a few weeks ago which is a mystery. But you can fish it close or on the bottom using 7x fluorocarbon tippet. l
If we ever get some wind, stripping small woolies, pine squirrels, cracklebacks and soft hackles should work really well. Look for the chop on the surface. Use 6x tippet, either mono or fluorocarbon.
I’ve had mixed success using terrestrials so far this summer. When they work, it’s a blast! Hoppers have worked along the bluff bank during generation and when it’s off, but you’ll make a lot of casts for just a few bites. Black beetles and ants are working, too, but the hopper is getting the most attention for me. Use 5x mono tippet for the ants and beetles and 3x for the bigger hoppers.
Someone asked about the style hook to tie scuds on. We normally use TMC 2487 or 2457 for the curved look and 3769 for the resting look. Also the 200R for the swimming look works, too. I don’t think you could go wrong no matter what you use. Finding the size and color they want at any given time is the trick.
We hit a lull in our jig fishing efforts for most of the month of August. It was depressing. But this past week, our trout have become interested again. We’re catching fish like we normally do on our jigs.
In the mornings when the water is off, we’re throwing 1/16th-ounce in the deeper water (more than seven feet) and 1/32nd-ounce on the shallow flats, both using two-pound test. When the water starts, we’re going to 1/8th-ounce jigs using four-pound line.
White jigs are working during heavy generation up close to the dam but not so well farther down lake past Lookout. Black is working early in the mornings along with sculpin/ginger. During the day when the sun is up on the water, ginger is working well. Early, the fish are closer to the surface so work the smaller jig accordingly.