Fishing for black bass should be good in 2018. Largemouth bass are very abundant throughout the lake as a result of good recruitment during the past few years of high water levels, but many will still be sublegal during 2018. The majority of largemouth bass sampled in the spring of 2017 ranged from 10”-13”. This abundant year class of largemouth bass produced in 2015 will likely comprise the majority of anglers’ catches in 2018 and should reach 15” by the spring of 2019. The percentage of largemouth bass greater than or equal to 15” was just 14 percent throughout the reservoir during the spring 2017 electrofishing surveys, but should continue to improve as these young bass continue to grow. Electrofishing surveys conducted in the spring of 2017 revealed an abundance of spotted bass in the 10”-13” range as well, with three percent of the spotted bass captured in the spring surveys exceeding the minimum length limit of 15”. These fish should reach the legal-size limit of 15” by 2020. 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 2018 and best in the James, Kings, and Long Creek arms. Both black and white crappie are present in the lake, but black crappie are becoming increasingly more abundant. Crappie numbers are relatively low compared to the previous few years, but quality sized crappie are still present. In spring 2017 electrofishing surveys, 78 percent of the black crappie sampled were greater than 10” and 32 percent were greater than 12”. The percentage of white crappie greater than 10” was 92 percent and 27 percent were greater than 12”. White crappie tend to be more abundant further up in the river arms while black crappie comprise the majority of the population in the clearer sections of the lake. The best crappie 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 at best in 2017. The best opportunity to catch white bass will be when the fish move far up into tributary streams to spawn in March. Anglers willing to troll or fish jigging spoons can also catch white bass during the summer months. Gravel flats 25’ to 50’ deep are the best areas to troll or spoon for white bass. Trolling can also be effective in February and early March when these fish begin to move up the river arms. As water temperatures warm, the white bass will move further up the river into shallower water, but will congregate in deeper holes in the channel up the river arms of the lake before moving up.
Walleye fishing opportunities have improved in recent years. Areas around the dam, the Kings River Arm, the James River Arm, and the White River Arm can all provide good spring walleye fishing. Walleye typically move up the river arms to spawn around the first part of March and are often caught in the same areas as spawning white bass. Walleye can be caught throughout the year by trolling deep points and channel swings in the main lake. Anglers reported catching numerous legal size (greater than or equal to 18”) walleye in these areas throughout the summer of 2017. The Missouri Department of Conservation stocked surplus walleye in the James River Arm in 2013, 2014, and 2016. 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 2017 indicated a quality number of walleye in the 18”-23” range in the James River Arm resulting from stockings in 2013. In addition, 58 percent of the walleye sampled in the James River Arm were greater than or equal to 20" in the spring of 2017. Similar numbers and sizes of walleye were sampled in the Kings River in the spring of 2017 as well. Numerous walleye were collected during electrofishing samples up the White River Arm in March of 2017. Nearly all of the walleye sampled in this area were greater than 15”, 44 percent were greater than 20”, and 4 percent were greater than 25.” Two walleye over 30 inches were sampled in this area as well, indicating that a very high quality population of walleye exists in the White River Arm.
For experienced bluegill anglers, Table Rock Lake can provide quality fishing. Good numbers of quality sized fish in the 7"- 9" 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”) 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 also present in the lake in good numbers, but receive relatively 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. 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 2017. Paddlefish concentrate each spring in the upper reaches of the James River Arm above Cape Fair. Early in the snagging season, most paddlefish are caught between Virgin Bluff and Point 15. As water temperatures warm, the paddlefish will move farther up the James River Arm. 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. Good numbers of legal-sized paddlefish (greater than or equal to 34”) were collected during netting surveys in the winter of 2016-2017. Paddlefish 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. Look 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 have been tagged with metal jaw bands 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 2017 snagging season. Anglers should not remove tags from sublegal fish (less than 34") but are encouraged to report the tag number to the Conservation Department.
An extensive six-year habitat project was completed in Table Rock Lake in 2013. Over 1,400 fish habitat structures including brushpiles, 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://huntfish.mdc.mo.gov/fishing/where-fish. These structures can also be found using the MO Fishing App, available to download for free on a smartphone.