Stockton Lake is a 24,900-acre U. S. Army Corps of Engineers reservoir located in Cedar, Dade and Polk counties in southwestern Missouri. Overall fishing prospects for sport fish species will be good this year and crappie fishing has the potential to be excellent. Gizzard shad production has been exceptional the past few years and has kept sport fish growing at a good pace.
The biggest change at Stockton for 2014 will be the improvement of crappie fishing. After somewhat of a down year for crappie, anglers have much to look forward to in 2014. The 2011 white crappie year class is a large one. Trapnetting data from 2012 and 2013 show it to be the largest year class since the early 1990s. Individuals from this 2011 year class started to reach 10 inches in the fall of 2013 and will be in the 10 to 11.5 inch range in the spring of 2014. Crappies are often caught using small jigs or minnows around brush structure. The Corps of Engineers and the Missouri Department of Conservation have created and replenished a large number of fish attractors at Stockton Lake the past two years. Angling success has been good on these structures throughout the spring, summer and fall months. A map of attractor locations and GPS points can be found at http://mdc.mo.gov/node/10182. About half of the attractors are marked with signs on the lake shore. For those without GPS technology, attractors can be found using a sonar fish finder in 20 feet of water (at lake water elevation of 867) just in front of signs.
Largemouth bass are the most numerous black bass species in Stockton Lake, especially in the upper portions of the lake. Spotted bass and smallmouth bass are present throughout the lake, but make up larger percentages of the population in the lower portion of the lake. Largemouth angling was excellent last year and will continue to be good. Recent largemouth bass spring electrofishing catch rates have been some of the highest ever observed at Stockton. Additionally, the percentage of sampled largemouth over 12 inches in length have been some of the highest ever observed. These numbers can be attributed to large year classes of largemouth spawned in the high waters of 2008 and 2009.
Walleye anglers should expect good walleye fishing in 2013. Many people are surprised to find out that walleyes are stocked in Stockton Lake at 1-2 inches in size and typically grow to 15 inches in two years. In 2012 the Stockton Lake walleye stocking regime was changed from a biennial (every other year) stocking to an annual stocking. Past creel surveys and angler comments have suggested up and down walleye harvest opportunities due to the biennial stocking. Walleyes stocked in 2012 will be in the 14-16 inch range in spring of 2014. Walleyes stocked in 2013 will offer catch and release opportunities. Techniques used for walleye angling depend upon the time of year and confidence anglers have with different methods. In the spring and fall, walleye are often found along the dam, in coves, and in more shallow water. During the summer season, it is key to fish for walleyes at or around the depth of the thermocline. Walleye are most often caught using night crawlers or minnows bounced along the bottom in 15 to 20 feet of water during early and mid-summer. Trolling deep-running or suspending crankbaits or casting these baits along the shoreline and windswept main lake points can be equally effective at certain times of the year. Be sure to use good release practices on sub-legal fish, which will increase the chances of the fish’s survival.
2013 was another good year for white bass on Stockton Lake. The recent run of good to excellent white bass fishing the last four years is a result of good spawning conditions in 2007-2010. While white bass fishing in 2014 should be good, some anglers might catch fewer white bass as the large year classes from 2007-2010 reach the end of their life. Most white bass do not live past four years of age. The best white bass fishing usually occurs near or in the lake’s tributary streams from mid-March to the end of April. During July and August anglers can often find white bass chasing schools of shad in the early morning and late evening hours on the main lake open water areas. In the fall, angling efforts should be concentrated on windy main lake points or banks. Small crankbaits, rooster tails, topwater lures, and white jigs are good choices for catching white bass. Both flathead and channel catfish are present in the lake and at times will provide good fishing. The upper half of the lake or large coves will usually provide the best channel catfish angling opportunities. Mid-May to mid-June, just before the spawning season, is usually the best time to fish for catfish. Trotlines or jug lines baited with live baits are the method of choice for most flathead anglers. Bluegill can provide some enjoyable fishing and tasty meals when fishing Stockton Lake. Good numbers of 6 to 8 inch bluegills are available. Bluegill fishing is usually best during the summer months using small portions of nightcrawlers or crickets around structure in 10 to 20 feet of water.