February 25 fishing report

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last report.  At the beginning of last week, water and fishing conditions had not changed at all, so there was no need to update it.  But a big change happened midweek — the dam operators decided to shut the spill gates off plus a turbine. That left only two units, or about 6,800 cubic feet of water, running from Table Rock Dam.  This is has been the flow ever since.

About the same time, operators shut down Beaver Dam’s gates and started regulating the flow from Beaver.  Its level is still 8.5 feet over the seasonal power pool, but that’s where they’ve held it for a month now. 

Table Rock’s lake level sits at 915.7 feet, just a tad over its season pool, which is 915 feet.

Bull Shoals Lake, on the other hand, is dropping a whopping six-inches-plus per day.  Its level right this minute is 666.45 feet, 7.45 feet over its seasonal power pool.  More than 24,000 cubic feet per second of water is being released through turbines and gates there.  My guess is that officials aim to release as much water as possible now because very soon the lower White and Mississippi Rivers will be inundated by recent flood waters in the state of Mississippi.

Yesterday’s rain dumped a couple of inches in an area north of Joplin, while most of the White River basin received less than a half inch.  This amount will not affect any lake levels here, and the forecast is for very little rain in the next seven days.  This will allow our lakes to be drawn down even more to make room for spring rains, which are just around the calendar!

What all this means for our lake — Lake Taneycomo — is that we should see slow flows and even a chance of zero generation at times during the day or night.  But that remains to be seen.

Phil Lilley

Lake Taneycomo’s trout fishery is in great shape after more than 12 months of constant generation.  Our rainbows and browns are very healthy, sporting fantastic growth rates because of an abundance of food available.  Our freshwater shrimp, sculpins, creek chubs and other minnows thrive in current much better than they do in still water.  Now that we’re seeing less generation, our midge hatches should increase.  We’re already starting to see that happen.

We held our fourth trout tournament of the year Saturday, the Vince Elfrink Memorial.  Like a lot of our contests, we host some really good trout anglers, some who have fished Lake Taneycomo for over 40 years.  Surprisingly, the overall weights were lower than the last tournament, but most contestants said they caught big numbers of small rainbows. 

I had reported last week that thousands of rainbow trout were stocked from the Neosho Federal Hatchery, which typically are smaller than our state-raised fish.  These Neosho rainbows seem to be very aggressive, and if that’s the case, they will beat the bigger rainbows to the bait or lure.  That’s my theory.  We do have to “thin through” small ones to get to the big ones right now.

With the slower current, we are changing a few of our spools from four-to two-pound line, not because the water is getting clear (it’s not a sight thing), but because we’re wanting to throw smaller lures.

When there’s less generation, slow currents, there’s less churning and swirling, especially from Trout Hollow to the dam.  The current is gentle, allowing a smaller lure to drop without having to fight its way down. 

When you’re throwing a jig from a boat drifting down a bank, you want that jig to drop pretty fast because the boat will move you out of that strike zone pretty quickly.  So we use a heavier jig to drop through all the currents in the water column.  If you’re throwing a light, 1/32nd-ounce jig in that situation, the jig really won’t sink and, at times, would be lifted up by the swirling currents.

Now that we’re seeing slow, gentle currents, a small 1/32nd-ounce jig will fall nicely, and can be worked in deep water, if that’s where the fish are.  And, of course, we’d rather use two-pound line when throwing small jigs simply because we can cast them further!

Here’s One Cast from Sunday, February 23rd where Duane and I are fishing six to eight feet of water using small jigs.  Duane is using a 1/16th-ounce, and I am using a 1/32nd-ounce jig.  Although I’m fishing four- to five-feet down, and Duane is fishing closer to the bottom in eight-feet of water, we’re both finding plenty of bites.

With the current slower, you’re going to change your 1/4th-ounce weights for a smaller 1/8th-ounce, in most cases.   That’s if you’re drifting bait or flies or lures on the bottom.  If you’re fishing down by Monkey Island or lower in the lake, you might have to go even lighter.  Just keep trying different weights to find the right one.  You want to get to the bottom, but you don’t want to drag to the point of losing a lot of hooks.  You want enough to just tick the bottom.

Minnows and night crawlers are going to catch bigger trout below Fall Creek, if you’re using live bait.  The Berkley Pink Worm will catch almost anything.  If you’re drifting it, hook it wacky style.  The water is slow enough to fish it under a float six- to eight- feet deep, too.

If you’re throwing jigs, throw the size your tackle allows.  In other words, if you have two-pound line, you’re going to be able to throw small 1/32nd-ounce jigs along with bigger jigs but if you’re using four-pound line, you’ll have to stay with 1/16th-ounce and bigger. 

I had several fishermen tell me they did best on white jigs over the weekend while others said the Tri-Sculpin Olive, Dark did the best for them.  With the sun coming out more often, I’d try black and black combos.

Our trout have moved off the banks with the water slowing down.  You’ll find them mid-lake now; before  the water was down, you’d find them closer to the banks in eddies.

Drifting scuds and San Juan worms on the bottom should be good, too, although after some time we might be using smaller versions of these flies.  With the higher water, we were using #12 scuds and big, poufy worms. Now as trout will get a better look at these flies as we drift them a little slower, we’ll drop to #14 or #16 scuds and a medium or micro San Juan worm.  Colors:  Gray and olive for the scuds, and cerise, pink, brown and red on the worms.

Regardless of what you want to try, our fishing forecast looks incredibly rosy heading into March and we’re all excited!!  Come see us if you can!

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