Missouri: A Great March Option

By Ted Peck - March 1, 2009
My Dad was a wealth of homilies and old guy sayings which still whisper in my ear, even though he's been gone for almost 20 years now. One which comes to mind almost every day is "the best way to get two rods tangled is to get them within 10 feet of each other".

Others don't come to mind so often but are equally profound. "In March you can gain a week on spring for every hundred miles traveled south." Dad didn't much care for winter. He used to spend this dreary month somewhere in Arkansas, Texas or Missouri. Wanderlust for green grass, tee shirts and the year's first sunburn pulls me away from home every year about this time.

Interstate highways have added Florida, Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana to my own March Migration list. With so much water and so little time you can only do justice to fishing in two or three states in any given year. Missouri was on the 2009 target list.

My nephew Darrin Marcure came along on the most recent adventure. He expressed a strong desire to stay gainfully employed, so we didn't get a chance to chase muskies on Lake Pomme de Terre. But walleyes on Stockton Lake and crappies on Truman Lake both received a fair dose of Yankee education.

These three waters and sprawling Lake of the Ozarks are all reservoirs on the Osage River system managed by the US Army Corps of Engineers. You can be on any of them in an easy day's drive down the superslab. All four of these lakes also offer outstanding bass fishing. Truman is also known for hybrid stripers. For my nickel these critters have the strongest pound-for-pound pull of any freshwater fish.

Like many government projects it shouldn't surprise you to find out these lakes all flow bass-ackwards. Dams are generally at the north end with water flowing east. This can throw a curve ball to those of us with a north-south orientation and good understanding of the two rules of plumbing. But quick reference to a topographical map and common sense regarding spring fish migration patterns will likely put a quick bend in your fishin' pole. Couple this thought with cut-offs and a tee shirt. Are you ready for a road trip?

The Osage River is a good place to begin planning. Tailwaters below the massive dams are good places to find hybrids, walleyes, catfish and the occasional muskie this time of year.

Tailwaters below the Truman Lake dam are easiest to fish. Just pick a spot along the rip-rapped shoreline and pitch a jig/twister combination. White, yellow, chartreuse and orange are good color choices.

Tailwaters directly below the Stockton dam provide a unique experience. It's a good 50 feet from the retaining wall to the water. Local anglers lower a basket with shopping cart dimensions into the water to "net" walleyes up to 10 pounds. They will gladly help you bring your fish in.

It is much easier to chase walleyes up in the lake or below the lowhead dam which spans a small feeder stream north of Warsaw at the little hamlet of Caplinger Mills.

We found out about Caplinger Mills from one of the local anglers. Missouri folks are friendly. Bag limits are liberal. A non-resident fishing license is just $7 per day.

Hiring a guide is a good idea if it's your first time on this water. Marty Thompson is the best walleye guide on Stockton. You can reach Thompson at 417-424-BASS or on the web at www.fishstockton.com. We stayed at Cedar Oak Lodge on Stockton Lake. The phone number is 417-276-3193.

Reel and Trigger Resort was an outstanding billet for the Truman Lake campaign. The phone number here is 660-438-2580. The website is www.reelandtrigger.com. Norm Trautman has been guiding Truman longer than anyone else. Remember Virgil Ward? Norm and Virgil used to be fishin' buddies. You can reach Norm through the folks at Reel and Trigger.

Like most government undertakings Stockton and Truman are not small lakes. Stockton covers 24,900 acres. Truman is twice that big. Pomme de Terre is a more manageable 7,800 acres. You have plenty of time to cast every inch of this shoreline before muskie season opens in Wisconsin the first Saturday in May.

Food is a big part of the southern road trip experience. Sweet tea, biscuits and gravy and pit barbecue are three things Yankees will never get right. Conversely, most folks down there don't know how to use a snow shovel.

Author Ted Peck
Ted Peck
Cap'n Ted Peck has over 30 yrs. guiding experience, specializing in multi-species fishing on Pool 9-10 of the Mississippi from Genoa, Wi. to Prairie du Chien. Cap'n Ted is a pro staffer for Lund, Northland Tackle, MinnKota, Bill Lewis Lures, Evinrude, Uncle Josh, HT Enterprises and Custom Jigs & Spins. When not guiding Cap'n Ted communicates the outdoors experience via newspapers, magazines, TV, radio and through seminars. This work has taken him all over the midwest, Canada and beyond... but he always returns to the upper Mississippi which he considers the most diverse fishery in North America. Click here for more info on Ted's guide service. Cap'n Ted's new book Mississippi Musings with the Old Guide is a personal account of his long career as a professional fishing guide on Old Man River.