For this October, we’re met with a “new normal” here on Lake Taneycomo. The minimum flow we enjoyed for most of two months ceased — replaced by no flow. Yes, officials shut everything down on Wednesday, Sept. 28, and it’s been off in the mornings and part of the afternoon ever since. When the water is running, it’s anywhere from one to two units. I believe this pattern will continue well into the fall.
Conditions play such a big part of fishing, especially with no water moving. I’m talking about wind . . . chop. If it’s dead still out, it could be tough fishing.
If you’re using bait, you have a chance of having a good trip, but the wind does help even when using bait.
It’s that time of year when our water quality starts to wane. You could call it a natural tailwater occurrence, when the water down deep in Table Rock Lake loses its oxygen content. It’s call stratification, when the lake forms layers due to the density of water varying in temperature. In Table Rock where we get (130 feet deep), the temperatures are colder and denser but the dissolved oxygen content drops to basically zero. That’s where the Corps comes in and injects liquid oxygen into the turbines when they are running bringing the dissolved oxygen (D.O.) up to at least 4 parts per million (p.p.m.). Subsequently, when no water is running, no oxygen is being added. But there are more ways oxygen is added to lake water such as wind, sunlight and in Taney’s case the hatchery outlets.
When fishing the upper part of Taneycomo, keep in mind our trout may struggle with low oxygen. So if you’re especially a catch-and-release angler, pay close attention to how you handle and treat a caught fish.
1. Keep it in the water except to remove the hook and take a quick photo (if warranted.)
2. Pay attention to how long you fight a bigger trout. You can literally fight a fish to death in low D.O. conditions. You should consider using heavier tippet, sacrificing more takes.
3. Do not transport a trophy fish. Again, keep it in the net in the water at all times except to get a quick picture. I have taken a fish to shallow water (along the bank) and gotten out of the boat in the water to take a picture of a big trout — sacrificing dry clothes and shoes for the survival of the fish.
4. Keep you fingers out of the gills.
It is incredible how many trophy trout are living in Lake Taneycomo right now. Anyone, amateur or experienced, has a chance to catch one on any given trip. Have a plan if you’re planning on releasing a trophy. Catch-and-release IS the reason we have such a great fishery.
Those who know me know I love to fly fish. That’s my favorite way to fish next to throwing a marabou jig. Low water is the best water condition for fly fishing, so I’ll go over a few things that will work this fall.
I will not cover the wading area below the dam. I rarely go up there and fish mainly because of the crowds. I can jump in a boat and run to great fly fishing areas on the lake and not be bothered by people standing too close to me while fishing. Boat traffic . . . well that is a thing. But I can usually avoid a lot of that, too.
With the water off, there are a few places where you will find some flow. Those are at Lookout Island, the Narrows and a little at the mouth of Fall Creek. These are necks in the lake where the lake becomes narrower, shallower or both. These are great places to fly fish.
Trout like current, even if it’s just a little bit. It moves food, and they like food moving around, especially towards them. You can use this to your advantage.
The main food base here is scuds (freshwater shrimp), sow bugs, aquatic worms, midge flies (larva and adults), snails, sculpins and, I would add, crawfish, small trout and other forage fish. I would also count the grasshoppers, ants, beetles and bag worms that fall from trees.
So conditions for fly fishing, now that the water is off most of the time, should be off-the-chart wonderful this fall season. We’ve had real good midge hatches, so zebra midges (#14 – #18 red, black, green, brown) fished under an indicator, thread midges (#18 – #22 green, black, red), stripping soft hackles, cracklebacks (#14 – #18 yellow, black, green, red) should be fished about anywhere trout are actively feeding.
An angler at Lookout told me he caught three rainbows longer than 20 inches Thursday (9/29), stripping a green, flash crackleback. He was wading around Lookout Island.
I’ve got a couple of reports on scuds, both are a little different. One person said he’s had to go to small scuds — #18’s and #20’s –to get bit, but another said he really catching fish on #12’s. Could they both be right? Of course. The big scud guy is an accomplished Taneycomo anglers of 50 years and fishes gray or brown, weighted scuds. He fishes them under a float and deep enough to get to the bottom. He adds weight if the water is running. The small scud guy fishes a weightless scud under a float and adds enough weight to get close to the bottom, too, no matter whether the water is running or not. Both, I believe, use 6x fluorocarbon tippet.
Captain Jeremy Rasnick reported he’s catching fish on a jig-and-float rig using a black 1/125th-ounce black PJ’s jig. He’s fishing it four- to six-feet deep, mainly above and below the Narrows, but that setup should catch trout about anywhere. Look for the chop on the water for best results, no matter where you’re fishing a jig and float. Remember to try other colors, too — black/yellow is always a great color. Brown, olive and, of course, pink are good colors, too.
I’ve had a few reports of good fish caught throwing jigs lately. One group this week caught three trophy rainbows, including a 25-inch beauty in the Short Creek to Trout Hollow area. I sadly didn’t learn the color of the jig used.
Night crawlers are doing well, but with the water off you really need to inflate them so they float off the bottom. When the water is running, it doesn’t make much of a difference, but with no current, the worm will just sink into the rocks and hide itself. Best to keep it up and in the trout’s face.