Lake Taneycomo

Winter tactics on Taneycomo

Posted by Phil Lilley on January 21st, 2012
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The MDC reports stocking 46,800 rainbows in the month of January, 39,100 in February. All stockings are spread throughout the month.

January usually is a cold month here in the Ozarks, but the last few years have been marked by only short cold spells. Temperature doesn’t affect our trout as much as warm-water species, but it does affect generation – which does affect fishing. I’m a huge proponent of running water. Insects are healthier in moving water and that’s my main reason for liking it. We haven’t had a winter season when we’ve had good generation for years because of low rainfall lake levels.

The quality of water is at the top of the scale, high in dissolved oxygen, but it will be colored from the December turn over on Table Rock, stained with silt, which lasts until spring.

Saying all that sets up the rest of my report:

Cold weather, adequate lake levels and generation — that’s what’d I call normal January fishing conditions. By boat, drift. It’s easy and fun regardless of whether you use live bait, lures or even flies. Bounce something off the bottom using a drift rig or just a split shot, whatever you like better… just so it’s on the bottom. Drop or cast a jig, eighth-ounce if the water is really moving and less if it’s not. Work it up and down, quickly or slowly, snap it or lift it; try it all and see what the trout like at the time. And try different colors such as sculpin, black, white, brown, olive, pink, and purple. Mix the sculpin colors with peach and ginger and don’t forget the orange heads. Throw stick baits around structure for browns when the water runs. Work them in a stop-and-go pattern, aggressively and slowly.

Keep an ear out for shad runs. Thread-fin shad get too close to the outflow at Table Rock Dam and get sucked through the turbines into Taneycomo, causing a feeding frenzy. Trout gorge themselves on the easy bites of shad, and we fishermen can cash in on the run. White jigs, spoons and small crank baits are the best bets.

Drifting Gulp Power Eggs or night crawlers on the bottom from Fall Creek down is an all time favorite for most anglers. The key is not to use too much weight, or too little. Just because the drift rig comes with a ¼-ounce weight doesn’t mean it’s the perfect weight for the flow. Add a split shot if you’re not sinking the bait or go to a smaller weight if you’re bouncing too hard and snagging up a lot. Stay away from the banks, especially the bluff bank where downed trees will get you every time. Use long, sensitive rods for the best feel. Keep the rod high in the air and watch the tip for the small bump-and-hold you’re looking for.

Casting spoons and spinners to rainbows that are high in the water column can be a lot of fun. Don’t overlook the shallow side of the lake. In this shallow water trout will pick up a spoon much quicker than in the deeper channel side of the lake.

Midge hatches are in abundance during the winter, unlike most times of the year.  But it does seem that hatches occur every morning and evening in the summer.  They also hatch when the lake is on the drop–when the generators are shut down and the lake starts to drop out.  Zebra midges are the best thing to use for trout when there’s a midge hatch.  We use a variety of colors and styles in sizes from #14 to #18.  Red, black, green, copper, gold, rusty and primrose & pearl only to name a few.  Trout are normally cruising the surface of the water looking for either the emergers or dries.  Set a small indicator 12 inches from the fly and cast to actively midging trout.

Soft hackles and cracklebacks are also fun and effective to use.  Strip them erratically on the surface.  Best to use these when the surface is broken and choppy.

Most of our rainbows are in spawning mode in the winter.  So egg flies are very effective when fly fishing or spin fishing.  Drift them on the bottom when the water is running using a drift rig when using spinning gear and under an indicator when the water is off and using a fly rod.

Article partially taken from the article called “Seasons on Lake Taneycomo”, by Phil Lilley

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