I usually start my fishing reports, talking about generation and fishing conditions. This dictates how we are fishing, which is most important. But I need to report on how catching has been this past month. And to be honest, there have been a lot of anglers who have been pretty frustrated with catching trout.
Now we’ve seen some great quality rainbows and browns caught, but that’s really not the problem. It’s numbers . . . we’re not seeing big numbers of fish caught. And I think there’s a couple of reasons why this is the case.
First, there’s fewer rainbows stocked in our lake. The Missouri Department of Conservation changed their stocking numbers a couple of years ago to hopefully increase the size of our trout. Less little fish, more food, more big trout. And it’s worked tremendously!
We’ve seen more 16-inch-plus rainbows caught this year than any other year I’ve been on the lake — nearing 39 years. But it comes with a price. Fewer smaller rainbows.
I think the other factor is that the mature trout are smart . . . and growing smarter. They know what real, natural food is, and they seem to know what the fake stuff is, generally speaking. That’s why we’re seeing more big trout being caught on jerk baits and scud flies. They eat a lot of scuds and sow bugs, midges and forage fish — minnows and sculpins. And the bigger trout, especially browns, eat small rainbows when they graduate to big-boy status.
The number of rainbows that will be stocked in February will increase from January, which is great news. And our trout that are here will get even bigger . . . more good news. But you might have to work at catching them a little harder than in years past. Little things make a difference.
The generation pattern this month has held up fairly consistently for Lake Taneycomo. We’re seeing pretty hard flows starting at daylight and running until about 11 a.m., then no generation until about 4 to 6 p.m.. Then we have had more hard flows for a few hours. There have been deviations in the amount of water releases and the duration, but the one thing that’s been steady is no generation every afternoon.
The different flows give anglers various fishing opportunities, whether you’re fishing from a boat, wading below the dam or fishing off of a dock.
In the mornings, when operators are running anywhere from two to four units, a jerk bait worked along the bluff banks as well as the middle of the lake, has been good for catching good-sized trout, including browns lately. The best setup is a 5’6″ to 6′ medium-action rod with eight-pound line. Use jerk baits that suspend and dive about five-to nine-feet deep.
Drag jerk baits on the bottom, especially when the water is running more than three units. Use an Ozark Drift Rig and the appropriate bell weight to tick the bottom. We carry some cheap, small jerk baits that float, shallow divers. ( I say cheap because you’ll lose a fair share of them to snags.) Remove the front set of treble hooks to help keep them from getting snagged.
Marabou jigs have been working fairly well. White has been good in the trophy area, as well as black and olive. Brown and sculpin are working better below Fall Creek, working the middle of the lake more than the sides. We’re using four-pound line when throwing the heavier jigs (1/8, 3/32nd) and two-pound line when working the smaller jigs (1/16, 1/32nd).
If two units or less are running, either fly or spin fishing, fishing a scud under an indicator has been pretty successful, both above and below Fall Creek. Use a double scud rig or a scud/egg or scud/zebra midge combo, but adjust the float to where the bottom fly is very close to the bottom. You may have to use a weighted, beaded scud or a split shot to keep the flies close to the bottom. We fish this from the middle of the lake to over to the shallow side.
Dragging bait below Fall Creek has been fairly effective lately, especially using night crawlers or minnows. Gulp PowerEggs in white or chartreuse have been working down closer to the Branson Landing early in the mornings. If not too much water is running, anchoring on the inside bends close to the bank and tight lining with minnows or worms is productive.
When the water is off in the afternoons, the mentioned bait is working below Fall Creek, especially night crawlers.
If there’s a chop on the water, jig-and-float using a brown or olive jig three- to six-feet deep is working. Best areas are above our resort, Short Creek area and up close to Fall Creek. Also try pink or black/yellow 1/50th-ounce and smaller jigs. use two-pound line or 6x tippet for best results.
Fly fishing has been a lot of fun with the water off in the afternoons. And I’ve been doing the best using zebra midges under an indicator in all conditions. Red, black or rusty #14 midges under a float anywhere from 12 inches to four-feet deep and using 6x or 7x tippet. There’s really no bad place to use these flies, especially if you see trout working the surface. But I’ve been fishing just below Fall Creek as well as in the Narrows area, fishing out of my boat.