Posted by Phil Lilley on October 2nd, 2014
Generation patterns have remained the same for well over a month here on Lake Taneycomo, even though typically this time of year a restriction is usually put on the U.S. Corps of Army Engineers as how much water can be run through Table Rock Dam. The water has been off most mornings, coming on about 1 p.m., building to four units by 4 p.m. and gradually dropping to zero units by 9 p.m.
Most tailwaters experience seasonal drops in dissolved oxygen in the fall months because of the depth of the lakes above the dams. Liquid oxygen is injected into the turbines as the water is run through to boost the O2 levels. Even then O2 levels can be dangerously low for fish in the tailwater, so restrictions on flow are made.
One thing that can make a big difference in retaining O2 in water is water temperature. Our water temperature is normally in the low to mid 50’s in September and October, but right now it’s 48 degrees. This helps O2 levels and keeps our trout from stressing in current and when being fought by an angler. This could be a big reason why dam operators are still running up to 200 megawatts so late in the season.
I have noticed when fishing and fighting trout in Lake Taneycomo that they are fighting just as hard as they fight in the winter and spring when O2 levels are at their highest. This is particularly good news for the big brown trout making their way up to our headwaters to spawn. Bigger fish need more O2 to live and if they’re hooked, fighting hard to free themselves off light line can be a death sentence in warm, low O2 water.
There’s a little color starting to show up on the bluff . . .
The best fishing lately has been early in the morning before the sun gets up over the bluffs, from 7 a.m. until 8:30 a.m.. It’s also been good after generation starts in the afternoon remaining profitable until dark. Mornings have been pretty still, no wind. When there’s no wind and the surface in glassy, fish don’t tend to bite well.
It’s been best to use either bait on the bottom or a lure under a float. Live bait bests: Night crawlers or Berkley’s Powerbait. Minnows are not attracting trout well right now. Anchor well off the channel and fish where the water drops from shallow to deep. Using four-pound line is fine right now since our water isn’t as clear as it was this summer. Inject air in the crawler, making it float off the bottom, or add a Gulp egg above the crawler to do that same.
Suspend a Trout Magnet or Miracle fly under a float from four- to eight-feet deep and fish the deeper water from Lilleys’ Landing down to the city bridges. Also try a jig and float, same depth, using a 1/100th-ounce ginger, brown/orange, brown/orange head or white jig.
If fly fishing, fish a #14 red or P&P Zebra Midge under a float either 12 inches (if trout are rising) to fie- to six-feet deep. You may want to drop to two-pound or 6x tippet when using small flies.
Our guides are fishing either in the trophy area below Lookout or staying below Fall Creek and fishing down to Cooper Creek. They’re fishing the Trout Magnet when fishing below us and a variety of small flies and jigs under a float if fishing in the trophy area. Pink or pink/white is still the TM of choice.
As far as flies and jigs, they use lots of different kinds, colors and sizes. The key here — they change lures often. One jig may work to catch a couple of trout, then nothing. That’s when to change. Don’t keep throwing the same lure over and over again thinking the trout will wise up and hit it. Show them something new, and chances are, they’ll take interest.
When the wind kicks up, that’s the best time slip on a float and tie on a jig, even in the middle of the day with a high, bright sun. The chop on the water acts as shade for the fish and they tend to rise in the water column looking for food blown in to the lake by the wind. Also try a dry fly along the banks. The breeze will blow grasshoppers and other insects out of the trees. Good dry flies to use would be ants, beetles, hoppers, Stimulators, Elk Hair Caddis and a fly called the Big Ugly.
Also when it’s choppy, strip a wooly bugger, soft hackle or crackleback, especially if you see rising trout. We haven’t had a lot of good midge hatches this summer, but when we have, the trout are keying in on them. Fish a Zebra Midge under a palsa float 12 inches below the surface around midging trout, too.
Keying in on brown trout moving up the lake to spawn is always a question we get this time of year. When the water is running, especially on cloudy days or late in the day, throw stick baits and work the lake from the Landing all the way up to the dam. Not all the browns will spawn at the same time. This period is spread out over a six-week period from the first of October through mid-November. Brown trout will be in different stages in different parts of the lake.
Leon Johnson with a pretty nice brown caught last week close to outlet #2.
Brown trout are typically aggressive feeders and will chase lures like stick baits. Guide Bill Babler says to use a Lucky Craft Point #78 in Brown Trout or a Luck-E-Strike RC STX in either the 3.75- or 4.5-inch deadly black illusion or the secret night color. Both these baits are suspending and work best when retrieved hard and fast with long pauses between jerks, as when fishing for bass.
Trout Magnet makes a good, affordable crank bait that works well. There’s a 3.5- and a 2.5-inch bait in either brown or rainbow trout. And of course there’s always the old standby — the Rapala. Bill recommends using the floating series in gold or rainbow, picking the F-5 or F-7 in size.
Anglers target browns, and rainbows, at two of the hatchery outlets below the dam, especially when there’s generation. Trout bunch up in the flow of the outlets in the fall because the water coming from the hatchery is rich with oxygen. Most fishermen are using flies such as San Juan worms, scuds, woolly buggers and streamers.
Night fishing in the fall for big browns is very popular below the dam when the water isn’t running. Try stripping medium to large streamers from the cable below the dam clear down to Lookout, all accessible by bank. Be sure to be familiar with the lake before wading in. Know where there’s deep water and big rocks since both can cause a wade fisherman problems.
Good streamers are pine squirrels, leaches, PMS, sculpins, and woolly buggers, as well as big articulated flies.
I drove to the dam last night for some night fishing. I pulled into the parking lot at outlet #2 at 11 p.m. to find only four vehicles. The moon was in the Waxing Gibbous phase (half) and starting to drop behind the bluff to the south of the lake and there was a light fog on the water — the combination lit up the whole lake.
I waded in just above outlet #2 and started casting. I started with a #8 blood-red beaded leach, casting almost straight out and letting the current swing the fly downstream. If the lake is drained totally out from the previous generation, there should be a slow current in this section of the lake. I caught a brown right off the bat and missed several other strikes before breaking off on a bigger fish.
I tied on a ginger PMS and on the first 10 casts I caught three rainbows and another brown while missing another three strikes. Then it went dead for a while. I kept moving around to cover more water, walking out, then down, then back, moving about 10 feet each time. I varied by retrieve — the most effective was a slow, long strip pausing 3-4 seconds between strips. They seemed to like it just swinging in the current. The strikes were sharp and fast, most times setting the hook themselves on the strike. I broke off on one strike it was so hard.
I ended up moving down past the outlet for a short time before calling it quits. Caught one more brown on an olive PMS.
Dress warm, even on a warm night. The water is cold and so is the fog.
Remember, brown trout have to be 20 inches or longer to keep and you’re allowed one brown per day. If you’re thinking about getting a trophy mounted for the home, consider having a replica made. They are basically the same price now, they look the same as a skin mount — most times better — and a replica will last much longer than a skin mount because the skin mount will break down. The biggest and best reason to choose a replica is that the trout returns alive to the lake to be caught again as an even bigger trophy!!
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