If your vacation luggage always includes a tackle box, Central Missouri's Lake of the Ozarks is the perfect year-round destination for you. The Lake includes 54,000 acres of fish-filled water and is fed by several rivers and their tributaries - the Osage River, the Big and Little Niangua arms, Gravois Arm and Grand Glaize Arm - so there is plenty of fishing fun for everyone.
Crappie, bass and catfish are the most common catches, but other species, like walleye and bluegill, await anglers as well. Fishing is fun at the Lake for both serious sport fishers and casual enthusiasts of all age and skill levels. "If you're interested in catching your daily limits of large and small mouth bass, white bass, crappie and catfish, the beautiful Lake of the Ozarks provides a wonderful opportunity to accomplish that. Some of our family's fondest memories were created with one-on-one time fishing with our children," Jim Divincen, administrator for the Lake of the Ozarks Tri-County Lodging Association, said.
Anytime is a great time for crappie fishing at the Lake of the Ozarks. Spring means spawning in the shallows at the Lake and nearly everyone can cast a minnow and bobber into the water and catch fish. In the summer, you'll have to fish in deeper waters or try night fishing for the best success. Dock fishing is great in fall, when crappie like to stay in tighter schools near the structures. Don't put away the tackle in the winter, either, as a number of the Lake area's smaller family-owned resorts offer heated fishing docks, perfect for catching crappie when the weather turns cooler.
If bass are your target, the Lake of the Ozarks has plenty of largemouth, white and spotted, all of which can be caught year-round. In spring and fall, the Missouri Department of Conservation suggests the use of topwater baits, plastic worms, jigs, crankbaits and spinnerbaits. Winter is an excellent time to catch bass by slowly fishing jerkbaits off points or pea gravel banks.
Spring and fall bass and crappie tournaments offer big purses, making a fun day on the water very profitable, as well. "We know about catching big fish in Central Missouri. We're blessed to have one of the top fisheries in the entire country here at the Lake of the Ozarks, hosting more than 500 fishing tournaments annually, primarily in the spring and fall," Divincen said. "We're also home to three of the BassMaster Classic Winners, Denny Brauer, the first ever fisherman to be featured on the Wheaties Box, and father and son winners Guido and Dion Hibdon."
Channel, blue and flathead catfish all can be found at the Lake of the Ozarks. The best months for catching channel catfish are April through September, according to the Department of Conservation, though blue catfish remain active later into the fall and can be caught year-round. Blue catfish tend toward the open water, so fishing in the mouths of coves and deep flats brings the best success. To catch channel catfish, keep bait on or near the bottom and stay near the shoreline. Use live bait and stay near large boulders or woody cover to land flathead catfish.
The Lake of the Ozarks has made a point of providing top-notch services for anglers for decades. Public launching sites are available in the Lake area's two state parks - Lake of the Ozarks State Park and Ha Ha Tonka State Park - as well as at full-service marinas and resorts around the Lake. Many of the same marinas and resorts offer boat rentals.
Fishing guides make for a relaxing and effortless fishing experience. With one call, you can book these professionals, who will take you to the Lake's fishing "hot spots," and will also provide the boat and all the equipment needed for the excursion.
Fishing licenses are required for most anglers in Missouri. For more information, or to apply online, visit the Missouri Department of Conservation at www.mdc.mo.gov/permits.
Whether you're fishing with your buddies or your family, your time off the water can be as enjoyable as the time you spend fishing. The Lake of the Ozarks has activities and events for every age and interest. To learn more about these, plus dining and accommodations options, call the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitor Bureau (CVB) at1-800-FUN-LAKE, or visit the CVB's award-winning website at www.FunLake.com.