Fishing for black bass should be good in 2016. Electrofishing surveys conducted in the spring of 2015 revealed a very high number of largemouth bass in the 14-16 inch range present as a result of high water levels in 2011. These fish should exceed the legal size limit of 15 inches in 2016. A quality population of spotted bass in the 13-15 inch range exists as well with numerous spotted bass larger than 15 inches present. Nine percent of spotted bass sampled in the spring of 2015 were greater than or equal to 15 inches. Largemouth and spotted bass comprise the majority of the black bass population in the river arms, while smallmouth bass comprise a substantial segment of the black bass population in the main lake from the Highway 86 bridge to Campbell Point. Anglers need to fish a variety of water depths and types to find bass. Outside of the spring spawning period and in the fall, bass are often found in deeper, offshore water. Extended main lake points, humps, and bluffs are productive areas. Jigs, spoons, and drop-shot rigs are effective during summer months in the 10-25 foot range or deeper, depending upon the depth of the thermocline. Largemouth and smallmouth bass can typically be caught fishing on the bottom while spotted bass are commonly found suspended over deep water following schools of baitfish. Good electronics can greatly increase your chances of finding suspended schools of spotted bass.
Crappie fishing should be fair in 2016 and best in the James, Kings, and Long Creek arms. A large year class of black crappie was produced in 2011 and these fish will exceed the legal size limit of 10 inches in 2016 with several larger fish present. The number of black crappie greater than or equal to 12 inch was 20 percent in spring 2015 electrofishing surveys. A fair population of white crappie is present as well. The best fishing will be in the spring and fall during which small plastic jigs and minnows are very effective for catching crappie around woody structure and the numerous brush piles throughout the lake. Crappie fishing is also fair during the winter months and they can be caught fishing around deeper brush piles and under docks that extend over deep water.
White bass fishing should be fair in 2016. Fish sampling surveys conducted in the James River Arm the early spring of 2015 revealed a good number of white bass in the 12-14 inch range. The best opportunity to catch white bass will be when the fish move up into tributary streams to spawn in late March and early April. Anglers willing to troll or fish jigging spoons can also catch white bass during the summer months. Gravel flats 25-50 feet deep are the best areas to troll or spoon for white bass, but be on the lookout for surface activity.
Walleye fishing opportunities have improved in recent years. Areas around the dam, the Kings River Arm, and the James River Arm all provide good spring walleye fishing. A fair number of walleye are also present in the White River Arm and can be caught throughout the year by trolling deep points and channel swings. The Missouri Department of Conservation stocked surplus walleye in the James River Arm in 2010, 2013, and 2014. In addition, supplemental walleye stockings in the Arkansas portions of the Long Creek (Cricket Creek) Arm from 2011-2015 should continue to enhance walleye fishing opportunities. Fish sampling surveys in early spring 2015 indicated a quality number of walleye in the 14-16 inch range in the James River Arm resulting from stockings in 2013. These fish should reach the legal size limit of 18 inches in 2016. Fifteen percent of the walleye sampled in the James River Arm were greater than or equal to 20 inches in the spring of 2015. Surveys also indicated a quality population of walleye in the Kings River Arm where 33 percent of the walleye sampled in 2015 were greater than or equal to 20 inches and eight percent were greater than or equal to 25 inches. Walleye can be caught along with white bass in the upper reaches of the James, Kings, and Long Creek arms in late March through early April when they move up the tributaries to spawn. Walleye can also be caught fishing near the dam during this same timeframe.
For experienced bluegill anglers, Table Rock Lake can provide quality fishing. Good numbers of quality sized fish in the 7-9 inch range exist. The best time to catch bluegill is late May through early July. Look for gravel areas, points, and pockets in 10-20 feet of water. Fish on the bottom with live crickets or worms with light tackle.
Goggle-eye are present in good numbers and can reach large sizes (greater than 10 inches) in Table Rock Lake. They can often be caught in the same areas as smallmouth bass around larger rock structures but in shallower water (less than 20 feet). Brush piles in the main lake areas also congregate good numbers of goggle-eye.
Both channel and flathead catfish are present in the lake in good numbers, but receive very little fishing pressure, especially in the main lake. Channel catfish are more prevalent in the river arms, while flathead catfish are more common in the clearer sections of the main lake. During surveys conducted in June of 2015, 32 percent of the flathead catfish collected in the Long Creek Arm were greater than or equal to 20 inches and seven percent were greater than or equal to 28 inches. While fewer flathead catfish were collected in the James River Arm than in the Long Creek Arm, 63 percent of the fish in the James River Arm were greater than or equal to 20 inches. Both prepared and live baits are effective when using setlines, jug lines, or rod and reel, especially in late spring and early summer.
Snagging for paddlefish should be good in 2016. Paddlefish concentrate each spring in the upper reaches of the James River Arm above Cape Fair. Good numbers of legal-sized paddlefish (greater than or equal to34 inches) were collected during netting surveys in the winter of 2014-2015. If the James River rises enough to stimulate a spawning run, paddlefish will migrate upstream to spawn. The extent and duration of these migrations are dependent upon river flows and water temperatures, but can extend as far upstream as Lake Springfield Dam. Paddlefish greater than or equal to 34 inches can be legally harvested from March 15 through April 30 and the limit is two paddlefish per day. Because paddlefish feed on zooplankton, the best way to catch them is by snagging them with large treble hooks. Looks for schools of paddlefish in the lake channel using a depth finder and cast to them or troll over the school with a boat while snagging. A project to help determine the number of paddlefish harvested each year began in 2015. Many paddlefish will be tagged with metal jaw bands prior to the 2016 snagging season and anglers are encouraged to report tagged paddlefish they catch to the Missouri Department of Conservation. Tag returns will be entered into a drawing for a cash reward at the end of the 2016 snagging season. Anglers should not remove tags from sublegal fish (less than 34 inches) but are encouraged to report the number to the Conservation Department.
A six year habitat project in Table Rock Lake was completed in 2013. Over 1,400 fish habitat structures including brush piles, stump fields, and rock piles were added to the lake and an interactive fish habitat map of these structures is available on the MDC public website at http://egis.mdc.mo.gov/fishattractorstablerocklake/.