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. Crappie and white bass fishing both have 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. Water quality conditions during the summer of 2014 limited the catch of many summer anglers which should mean more keeper-sized fish available in 2015. Additionally, spring spawning conditions were excellent in 2014 and likely produced good year classes of sport fish species.
Crappie trapnetting data from 2013 and 2014 show that the white crappie year class spawned in 2011 is a large one. In fact, the year class is the eighth largest we have ever sampled and the largest since 1992. Due to the slow summer fishing season of 2014, a comparatively large percentage of these 2011 crappie escaped being harvested. Thus, anglers are likely to find good numbers of white crappie greater than 11" in the spring of 2015. Additionally, a strong 2012 year class will be in the 10 to 11-inch range in the spring of 2015. 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 in the recent past. 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 mdc.mo.gov. 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 bass electrofishing catch rates on both the Little and Big Sac arms of the lake are coming down from all-time highs observed in 2012. However, 2014 catch rates were still above the long-term average and suggest good recruitment the last few years. Individuals remaining from the extremely large year classes of 2008 and 2009 will offer good opportunity for trophy experiences in 2015 and beyond.
Walleye anglers should expect good walleye fishing in 2015. 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. Thus, walleye have been stocked in each of the last three years. Walleyes stocked in 2013 will be in the 14-16 inch range in spring of 2015. Walleyes stocked in 2014 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 often caught using night crawlers or minnows bounced along the bottom in 15 to 20 feet of water during 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.
White bass fishing in 2015 should continue to be good, as large year classes of white bass were produced in both 2013 and 2014. Most white bass do not live past five years of age. Spring white bass spawning runs occur 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 main lake open water areas. In the fall, angling efforts should be concentrated on windy main lake points or banks. Shallow crankbaits, rooster tails, swimbaits, 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 15 to 20 feet deep. The many bridge pillars throughout the lake are a great place to escape the summer sun and get into some good bluegill fishing.