Lake Taneycomo

Lilleys’ Lake Taneycomo fishing report

Posted by Phil Lilley on November 12th, 2014
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Fall Taneycomo Lookout

Yes, it’s cold here on Lake Taneycomo this morning. The Ozarks isn’t sheltered from the cold arctic air that blew in last night across the Midwest. While warmwater fish like bass and crappie might become dormant as it gets cooler, trout thrive on cold. It’s just hard on us anglers, right?!

In my last fishing report, I made a bold prediction: I’m sure at some time they’ll release a little water from Table Rock, but until winter and cold temps set in, it will only be a small amount, I’d say.  The very next day, Table Rock water poured through several turbines into Taneycomo and ran every day, all day, for the next five days.  The U.S. Corps of Army Engineers read my report and thought it’d be funny to make a liar out of me!  Sometimes that thought runs through my mind although I know the Corps doesn’t even know my reports exist . . .

Our lake is still running about 48-49 degrees which is great for the trout.  Normally our water rises into the mid 50’s in the fall.  They still are biting aggressively and fighting hard despite the fall season when oxygen levels usually drop and our trout can become sluggish.  It’s been a nice change.  Clint Hale, Shepherd of the Hills hatchery manager, told me that the D.O. (dissolved oxygen) levels in the water coming into the hatchery directly from Table Rock were 1.7 ppm (parts per million) Tuesday.  Normally these levels drop well below 1 ppm.  This means the Corps is still needing to inject liquid oxygen into the water entering their turbines to boost DO levels to at least 4 ppm  — so that our fish in upper Taneycomo have enough O2 to breath.

FYI – EPA requirement for dissolved oxygen is 6 ppm, while the Corps is allowed to only bring up their levels to 4 ppm for tailwaters.  When Table Rock Lake turns over later in December, our DO levels will rise to 7 ppm and will continue to rise to 10 or 11 ppm later in the winter.

Here we go with another prediction:  I think we will see moderate flows while our temperatures remain on the cool side.  The Corps seems to like to run one-half to two full units all day.  This might become the norm with a few days thrown in with no generation.

Taneycomo in the Fall

There seems to be a good number of trout in the upper lake right now.  People have been catching rainbows off our dock fairly consistently, most days.  There are some periods that our trout just don’t seem in the mood to eat anything,though.  No matter what you throw at them, they just pick at their food.  On these days, most likely, you’ll see absolutely no wind and no movement of water.

While working our dock, Ryan and Duane have been sending people out with garlic-scented Powerbait and night crawlers. They seem to be the best bait choices right now.  Drifting, or anchoring if the water isn’t running, between Short and Fall Creeks, has been the hot area for a while.  Drift down the middle and stay away from the bluff side because of underwater trees and snags.  Anchor on the shallow side and throw to the middle.  This will help boat traffic, too.

Rainbows are still taking Trout Magnets and marabou jigs under a float pretty well.  I’ve been using 1/125th or 1/50th ounce brown, sculpin, sculpin/orange or olive, most with orange heads under a float four- to six-feet deep depending on the depth of water.  Seek out broken water or water that’s being blown — a chop on the surface — for best results.  Pink or pink/white are best TM colors.

I  fished a few times this past week when the water was running.  I threw marabou jigs by boat, drifting from the cable below the dam most of the way down to the mouth of Fall Creek.

I did the best on white 1/8th-ounce jigs, working them off the bottom.  Caught a few on sculpin jigs, too, but the nicer rainbows came on white.  I’m a little surprised to do so well on white this time of year.  Our trout key in on white in the winter and spring when they see threadfin shad come through the dam from Table Rock.  They haven’t seen shad in months, but they’re still liking our white lures.

I’m also using scuds and Zebra Midges when the water is either off or running with slight generation.  I’ll sometimes use a Zebra Midge in tandem with a small marabou jig and do really well, adding about 18 inches of tippet and a #14 or #16 red, black, rusty or P&P Zebra below the jig.  When our lake was drawn down to low levels last week, rainbows were crowding the shallow edges of the lake above Fall Creek, feeding on the bugs that had to move with the dropping water.  I still fish these edges and find good rainbows feeding in less than a foot of water.  I’ve been using a #12 gray scud on a 200R hook which is longer than most scuds you’ll see tied on 2487 hooks.  They seem to like this longer-bodied scud.

Johnson Trout

I fished with my friend John Johnson from Kingfisher, Oklahoma, on Monday morning.  We boated up almost to Lookout and started fishing a jig and float using the 1/50th- and 1/125th-ounce jigs I mentioned earlier.  There was a little chop on the water, so the fish were active.  We hooked up regularly, catching mostly rainbows in the 11- to 14-inch range.  We were fishing anywhere from four- to six-feet deep in the channel.

We moved down lake gradually, picking up fish here and there, then the wind strangely stopped.  With the cold front moving in and 25-mph winds predicted, we thought it would only get stronger.  Fishing died, so we started switching flies but very few worked.

Then it started.

All of a sudden we heard something like a jet plane coming over the bluff.  The trees started to sing before we felt a breath of wind.  Then leaves started to swirl around our heads, circling but not landing.  It was a good five minutes before the wind shifted down to the water level, but when it did, we had chop!  Too much chop!!

We “drifted” down through the Narrows with no water running, not able to do much with our presentation.  I tried to fish the shallow east bank with scuds, but it was tough with the wind.  At the end of the point we saw rainbows all over the shallow flat there running around, frantically eating everything that moved.  So I backed the boat up in the shallow water (less than a foot) with the big motor raised, then lowered it in the gravel, anchoring us in place.  No way a regular anchor was going to hold us in the “gale.”

We threw scuds at the bows, and they ate them as fast as they hit the water.  Both sides of the flat held feeding trout.  Caught some real nice rainbows, colorful and fat as ticks.

Lilley Trout

I wanted to show John some different techniques, so I tied a soft hackle, then a wooly bugger and finally a crackleback on his line.  He promptly caught rainbows on all three!  He had to get accustomed to the hard strikes — to just lift the rod instead of setting it.  He broke off several flies before getting the hang of it.

I talked to some guys in the shop later that day, and they said they had trouble catching fish up there in the wind.  They were not fly fishers and were throwing spinners.  I suggested they try the flies we used — wooly bugger, soft hackle, crackleback– and place a large float four feet from the fly and cast it out in fairly shallow water like that we were in and strip the line as if using a fly rod.  All the float does is take the fly out.  Some people use clear bobbers for this, but especially in windy conditions, the trout won’t care either way.

Nov 9 night 2

I fished Monday night with a good friend, Leonard Keeney from here in town, up below the dam fly fishing.  Leonard has guided many fly fishermen at night but has had some back issues that has kept him from fishing much.  So last night was special for both of us.  Here’s his report:

Its been a long time since I got to see the moon rise on the water.  Last night was awesome!  Got to the water about 8:15 and it started just below outlet 2. At first it was slow with a few bumps and no hook ups.

Headed up to the flats. and it was on fire!  First, second, third, and fourth were all hook ups with beautiful rainbows 15-17ers. They still love that olive Hibernator!  Switched to a black Hibernator and WHAM… they liked that one, too.

Amazing with the moon on the water as it was for them to want the dark colors.  No I didn’t forget the brown…. picked up a couple more on it, too.  Continued on for a bit and switched to …. OH YES… the PMS.  Caught some really nice rainbows and some that looked like they were full of eggs.

Ended up leaving by about 10:30 .. probably somewhere around 15-20 fish.

Nov 9 night 1

Leonard and I started fishing just below outlet #2.  There’s a bit more current there than up above outlet #2 so I like it there.  We picked up a few but wasn’t too happy with the action.  There was a gentleman fishing in outlet #2 and I helped him land a nice 23 inch brown.  Unfortunately it was hooked in the dorsal fin.

Leonard wanted to walk up to outlet #1 area and fish up there so we left.  This area is deeper with not as much current.  As Leonard mentioned, the moon rose directly down lake from us, so the reflection was bright on the surface on the water.

My fishing buddy hooked up first, and second and so on . . .  so I tied on what he had, and I started stripping as he was stripping and I couldn’t keep up with his numbers.

There were three different strips that worked for me — dead drift (what little it did drift), strip five to seven very quick and very short strips with a long pause between and one long, steady pull with a twitch at the end, then pause.

The trout fishing forecast looks good heading into Thanksgiving time ahead.  The hatchery at Shepherd should be stocking more rainbows between now and then, so it should be even better than is it now!  Just hope the snow holds off!!

Here’s a video I did last week, wading and fishing along the bank below the dam while the water was running.  There was only about a half unit running, or about 25 megawatts.  I walked in just above the Missouri Department of Conservation boat ramp.

I was using the scuds I mentioned earlier — the #12 Peppy scuds tied on the #12 200R hook.  The palsa indicator set about four- to five-feet deep with a small split shot between the float and first fly to get the line down quickly.  I used either a #16 black soft hackle or a smaller scud as a second fly, 18 inches below the first fly.  I also tried using a small egg fly above the scud once but didn’t catching anything on the egg.

There are some very nice trout in this area, and they’re not very far off the bank.  If the water isn’t running more than one unit, you can wade this bank easily.

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