The annual winter draw down of water levels at Lake of the Ozarks can be rather unsettling for both crappies and crappie anglers. Every year AmerenMO draws down the reservoir’s water level either the winter in preparation for the flood season. The lowering of the lake level provides room for the impoundment to hold runoff produced by winter or spring storms. The draw down process becomes a hassle for crappies when the dropping water level pushes the fish out of shallow feeding zones to deeper structure. Good cover for crappies becomes scarce as the lower lake level makes many of the fish attractors too shallow and unsuitable for winter sanctuaries. The crappie migration early in the draw down process and the scarcity of cover late in the draw down creates problems for crappie anglers trying to locate the fish. Then the fishing really gets tough at the end of the draw down when the impoundment is at its lowest level and the water is at its coldest point. Bluffs provide the depth crappie seek whenever the dam authority drops the lake down to winter pool. “Whenever they pull the water down it kind of scares the fish to be in shallow water so during draw-down time steep banks or bluff areas tend to be where the fish migrate to,” says Lake of the Ozarks guide Terry Blankenship. “Not only that but if it is on a channel with current it will bring the fish some bait to the rocks or brush or whatever holds the crappie.” Blankenship targets bluffs both on the main lake and in the larger coves. “The creeks are good too if you have a pretty large creek cove,” he says. “Most of those will have a bluff line somewhere which will be good because it creates that quick deep structure that will hold crappies all winter long.” Certain spots on bluffs produce better for Blankenship when Lake of the Ozarks is at winter pool. “If it is real deep water I look for a rock slide or a cut or indentation into the bluff line,” he says. The local guide claims rock slides make the bluff a less vertical structure that provides better shelter for crappies than a sheer bluff wall. Once he finds crappies along the bluffs with his Humminbird 360 imaging system, Blankenship either casts jigs or presents the lures vertically along the structure. “In the winter as the water gets colder the vertical fishing gets better and better because you just have to present that bait really slow,” Blankenship says. “It has to be a slow presentation because they are not going to chase it.” By the end of January, Lake of the Ozarks is at its lowest and coldest point. Blankenship notices the crappie fishing really gets tough then because the fish tend to suspend along the bluffs. “You have to do some serious vertical fishing and sometimes deadsticking it is by far the best technique because they just don’t seem to be very active at that time,” he says. “They are still adjusting to all of the conditions.” Relying on his Humminbird 360 unit allows Blankenship to stay on top of the suspended fish and keep his lure in the strike zone longer. Blankenship’s favorite lures for bluff crappies are Bobby Garland Baby Shads and 2- or 3-inch Slab Slay’Rs attached to 1/16-ounce jigheads. He prefers the 3-inch Slab Slay’R in the dead of winter because the shad are larger then. His favored lure colors are blue ice for clear water, bayou booger for clear and dirty water and tadpole, which resembles a minnow hue. For information on lodging and other facilities at the Lake of the Ozarks or to receive a free vacation guide, call the Lake of the Ozarks Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-800-FUN-LAKE or visit the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitors Bureau web site at funlake.com. For copies of John Neporadny’s THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing Guide call 573/365-4296 or visit www.jnoutdoors.com.
Draw Down on Lake of the Ozarks Winter Crappies
Submitted By: John Neporadny