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Al Agnew

Catching fish close to accesses?

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The thread on the Meramec forum got me to thinking...conventional wisdom has it that the farther you get from an access, the better the fishing should be.  There are definitely reasons for this.  If it's a nice, deep pool at the access, the bank fishermen pound it unmercifully, and even if they might be fishing for catfish, if they catch a legal smallmouth they'll probably keep it.  Also, on rivers that are gigged a lot, the gigging is easiest and done the most close to the access.  Certainly, too, wading anglers will be limited in how far they get from the access, unless they are guys like me that just HAVE to hike three or four miles and back when I'm wading.

But, I've caught a lot of fish, and some big ones, very close to popular accesses.

Big River, St. Francois State Park.  There used to be a certain rock, at the tail end of a deep pool, just above one of the more popular places to get to the water, that produced three 20 inch plus smallmouth from me.  I haven't caught a big one there for a long time, and the rock is in shallower water than it used to be, but for a long time it was a magic spot.  I've also hooked some pretty big fish at other spots within the park.

Back in the days when the Blackwell bridge on Big River was used all the time both as a canoe access and by bank fishermen, I caught more than one 19-20 inch fish right there at the bridge.  And the first really big fish I ever caught at night was in the long pool below the bridge.

People have always put boats in at the county park access on the river at Desloge and fished the long pools upstream, but one time I caught 6 bass from 16 to 20 inches in a single afternoon there.

I watched CWC catch a 20 incher right under the Highway 47 bridge on Mineral Fork one time, and I caught an 18 incher in that pool on another trip that year.

I once hooked (and lost) two really big smallies right in the middle of the Bass campground on Courtois Creek.

I used to catch big fish regularly right under rope swings, for some strange reason.

There are certain conditions, which I won't go into here because I'd just as soon keep them less known, where big fish will be around accesses for specific reasons.  But the examples I gave were not those types of conditions.  The big ones were there simply because it was decent habitat and somehow they'd escaped being caught by a catch and kill angler.  So don't overlook places close to accesses!

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I have four examples that come to mind, both on the Jacks Fork. 

The first is the biggest smallmouth of my life. A 19" pig that I caught on the first cast at the first hole below Alley Spring. 

The other example has happened more than once...at least three specific times I can remember, I have caught the biggest fish of the float (out of 4 people who fish hard) on the last cast right above the takeout at Two Rivers. One time, no kidding, the cast was maybe 20 feet from where we landed the canoe. The other two were a bit further away where someone probably couldn't wade because of the water depth. 

Third example was on the Elk River. We were camping right on the river just yards from a very popular takeout. There is an awesome looking hole...without getting into detail...it's the kind where, had it been in a more secluded location, you tell yourself that if you don't catch a fish, you're doing something wrong. It is a spot that can be easily fished by boat, wading or from shore. Well, I make a perfect first cast and hook a monster. I could tell right away. A few seconds later, he jumps and gives me a phenomenal view of what would definitely be the biggest smallie of my life, and then throws the hook. I left him alone and went back the next day to try again. Made the same cast with the same lure and hooked him again. He did the same jump and through the dang hook again. I waited a bit (being the last night) and made another cast. Hooked into another very nice, but noticeably smaller ~15-16" smallie and actually landed him. 

Last example was a wade fishing trip at Round Spring. I hooked a monster smallmouth...19-20". Got him all the way back to me, I reached down to lip him and the line broke because I was too lazy to re-tie even though I knew it had some abrasions. 

 

I'd say that out of all the biggest smallmouth (17"+) that I have had runs in with (caught or lost). A solid 25%, maybe more, have come at or very near an access. 

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Well, there is the releasing of river tourney fish at certain accesses, but that's only on jet boat rivers.

As you said about giggers, they usually stay close to the ramps for safe running at night. They will most defiantly  kill a ton of bass every year if the access is within a half mile of good winter habitat.

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The biggest one I've caught (19) lives just a couple hundred yards from a public river access. It was the best hole I found all day. Saw the same thing on Milford Lake (KS) this weekend. I didn't have to go 10 yards from the boat ramp before my sonar lit up.  I stayed within a few hundred yards and did just fine. Seems counterintuitive to me.  Nonetheless, the search for a remote honey hole that you can (try to) keep to yourself is half the fun!

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Lots of boat ramps will have a deep hole downstream of the ramp that can get overlooked. 

Several years ago I went down to the Current river and was running later than I wanted. I got to one of the popular access points at 7 am. A couple of guys had camped at that access. The one guy was ready to get fishing but the other guy was still in their tent. He was taking his time to get ready. I was able to get my waders on and got my gear together, and. I waded across the river while that one guy was still in the tent. I usually don't fish the pool at this access but went ahead and cast my stickbait by a exposed rootwad and hooked up. This brown trout leapt several times and each time landed like a brick. By the time I landed this 19-20 inch trout both guys were standing on the bank watching me.  I have never caught another brown trout in that pool and very few rainbows. I also will never know what those guys talked about after I released that fish. I'm sure maybe a couple of digs about sleeping in or not getting ready sooner.

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13 minutes ago, Greasy B said:

The biggest Smallmouth I've seen caught on Meramec was across from the Sappington bridge ramp. 

On a white Senko 😂

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Brown Trout (1) - Current River - 06Aug16.JPG

Last August I fished the lower Current with Ham. After that trip I stayed in Licking to fish the upper Current for trout. On the way from Eminence to Licking I ran through a major rainstorm. The next morning the water was running a little high and had some color to it. I had planned on fishing one of the lower access points but ended up at Baptist. I just dropped down from the parking lot and caught this 13-14" brown on my first cast. I was within sight of the outhouse. A couple of guys that were setting out canoes came over as I was fighting the fish. they kept saying that this was a German speckled trout. I have heard them called German browns and brook trout be referred as speckled (or specks) trout. Never heard the German speckled before. I caught another smaller brown and missed a much larger fish that flashed at my bait.

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There's several spots on the Finley and James like that.  There's a place in the park at Ozark that I caught my first Bass after getting the damnable cast off my leg this summer where I parked, hobbled over and made one cast - boom - 3 pound Largemouth. Sometimes even places that get pounded hard there's a some hidden cover or not-so-obvious hole that the fish like.

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