Thursday, May 16, 2019

Crappie in Bunches


        It might be the most unnatural and ugliest water I have ever fished for crappie, but it is no doubt as good a place to catch crappie as I have ever seen.  The lower part of Lake of the Ozarks is packed with million dollar structures and perhaps enough boat docks for everyone who lives within ten miles of the water, and that is a lot of structures on the shore and over the water.  But I think that the water between and around those docks has as many crappie as you’ll find anywhere in the state.

         It is a mystery perhaps, and perhaps not.  I will guarantee you this… there are more lures cast in these waters by crappie fishermen than anywhere you will ever fish for crappie.  The cables which hold those docks in place hold as many crappie jigs, underwater and above, as some tackle stores.  If you go around looking for lost jigs you will have enough to fish with for who knows how long.

         I was there fishing with Mike Dyer, who lives out in the woods twenty miles away from the crowd.  He fishes for crappie a lot, right there in the shadow of the most development you will ever find on a lake.  It wasn’t a great day for fishing, a cold front was passing through, and the temperature was about 50 degrees with a heavy layer of gray clouds, and more wind than you would want when casting 1/8 ounce jigs.  The water was pretty murky, downright muddy in some areas.

        Crappie were not yet spawning, but they were thinking about it, and feeding voraciously. We caught dozens of them, most only nine-or ten-inches long, but legal.  Every now and then we would hook a twelve- to thirteen-inch crappie, and that amazes me.  How in the world, with the fishing pressure that place receives, does a crappie reach twelve inches?

         About half the time we would catch and release both black and white crappie that were from five- to eight-inches long.  That variety in size bodes well for the future of crappie fishing there, meaning that two- to four-year old fish are plentiful and in the next couple of years there will be plenty of nine- to ten-inchers that most fishermen keep and eat.

         I think crappie fishing would be more enjoyable there if the length limit was moved from nine to ten inches, but if that were to happen, the thousands of dock owners and home-owners that are there might revolt.

         Mike doesn’t fish in the weekend crowds, but that day in mid-week, possibly because of the weather, there weren’t many fishermen out there.  We went from dock to dock, fishing around them and between them, and hauled in our limits of crappie between 10 and 4 o’clock.  If you counted the ones we kept and those we threw back we likely caught a hundred between us, and Mike doesn’t keep one if it isn’t well above that nine-inch mark.  He knows what he is doing, often bending his rod tip nearly double and holding the jig in his right hand, then releasing it so that it flips well into a dock slip or well past and beneath the cables that are everywhere.
         The crappie were found almost everywhere from three feet of water to ten feet of water, bunches of them.  Occasionally we would hook a big bluegill too.

         With all that development, there has always been the question of water quality, especially with coli form bacteria.  But polluted water doesn’t always hurt crappie meat unless it is a type of chemical pollution.  Water you wouldn’t want your kids to swim in isn’t necessarily going to taint crappie and bass.

         There is no doubt that hundreds and hundreds of boat docks have helped the crappie on lake of the Ozarks because most of them have some cedar tree structure put there around and beneath the docks by owners who like the idea of catching fish beneath their docks. Just the docks themselves are attractions for fish.  When the sun gets high and hot in July and August, the shady water beneath a dock, if it is deep enough, attracts fish-food and crappie.

         Mike says that he will fish for crappie there for the next couple of weeks, but he won’t be found there after the Memorial Day weekend.  The giant boats and on the water parties found from Memorial Day through the summer create giant waves and danger for small boat fishermen.  But it is likely that next fall the crappie fishing there will be great.

         A caution to all fishermen.  If you are coming in off the water, or even hauling your boat home and have fish in a cooler or live well, you must have the fish you have caught marked.  You can easily do it with a small pair of scissors.  Three fishermen? One fisherman does nothing to his fish, another marks his fish by clipping the top of the tail fin, while the third marks his by clipping the corner off the bottom of the tail fin.  Do this as the fish are caught.  The agents of the Missouri Department of Conservation, waiting in MDC vehicles at boat ramps have found this to be an easy way to write citations with very little work in the field or on the water.  Don’t be a victim of such a senseless rule.  Even if you only have four or five fish in a live well, and there are two or three fishermen, they can and do write tickets that will cost all of you a hundred dollars or more if each fish is the same and YOU CANNOT PROVE WHICH IS YOURS!

         Write to me at box 22, bolivar, mo 65613 or email You can call our office at 417-777-5227.