With the lakes above us approaching the “9’s”, we all below Table Rock Dam on Lake Taneycomo are breathing a sign of relief at the end of yet another high water event. Beaver has dropped about 18 inches from its crest of 1,130.5 feet to 1,129, and Table Rock is right at 919 feet. Both lakes continue to move water over their spill gates and through their turbines — Beaver at more than 8,000 cubic feet per second, and Table Rock at 21,800. But I expect we should see a reduction of flow very shortly.
This has been a very different high water event. Why? Spill gates have never been used during the months of either October or November when dissolved oxygen levels are an issue for our tail water. It’s one thing to release water through the turbines where liquid oxygen can be added to keep O2 levels at safe levels, but when rainfall in the upper basin warrants bigger releases, things can get real dicey for our lake.
The U.S. Corps of Army Engineers was forced to release water from the spill gates a few weeks ago for the first time October, and luckily the water released was cool enough not to harm our cold water trout. We’ve had three big rains; the last one dumped 3-5 inches of rain on Beaver Lake and the rest of the upper White River basin, causing pretty big releases from both dams. At the same time, the Corps has taken a couple of turbines at Table Rock Dam offline for service, so spill gate releases were increased to make up for turbine release. Again, Table Rock’s water temperature had dropped to the low 60’s, so this release didn’t bother the trout.
As these releases continued, and we fished in the high flows, I expected to see threadfin shad coming over the upper gates. It’s almost a given to expect some awesome fishing opportunities when the gates are open, but again, they’ve never been opened this time of year. They were opened once in September 2009, and that release killed a lot of trout, main our brown trout, because the water was very warm — in the 80’s.
So, no shad appeared last week. Fishing was just okay. It took me several days of frustrating fishing to figure out why shad weren’t coming over the spill gates. It was because the thermocline was above the gate level. Water below the thermocline is basically void of oxygen, so there was no living thing below it. It wasn’t until Saturday, when the lake started to mix, and the thermocline started to dissolve, that fish were able to swim down to that level of the spill gates and be transported to Taneycomo. Yes, we saw a few shad and other fish come over last week but just a few, in spurts. But now that Table Rock has started to mix and that good, cold water is starting to sink, we should see a steady diet of bait fish flow in to Taneycomo for the duration of the spill.
As seen in this One Cast video, white jigs and the Bomber Fat-Free Fingerling crank bait was working Monday afternoon/evening. And I know a nickle or white spoon will also catch fish. A medium size white marabou jig under a float with either a fly rod or spin cast rig will work, too, and I don’t think you’ll have to set your float at 20 feet deep, which is a real pain to manage. Those fish will be coming off the bottom for a white morsel of fish — actually they’ll even take them off the surface.
These reports are always hard to write, especially when I know there will be changes to flow and conditions days, or even hours after I post them. Such is the case today. So I’m going to keep adding to this report in the comment section and try to keep everyone up on these changes and how they will affect fishing conditions. But one thing is for sure — we’re in for some great trout fishing through the holiday season!