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  • Phil Lilley

    Generation has been very constant and consistent the past couple of weeks. Operators at the dam have run 40 megawatts most of each day with the exception of a blast of water in the mornings of about two units. Forty megawatts is a little less than one full unit; the lake level is about 704.5 feet. It really is a nice flow of water, allowing you to boat to the cable at the dam if you know where you're going! And it's a perfect flow for drifting down here out of the trophy area.
    There have been some changes to the upper lake due to the heavy flows back in early January. There's some new root wads dotting the lake in the stretch from Short to Fall Creek -- one right in the middle of the lake. There's also some new trees on the inside bend in the same stretch. No changes at the mouth of Fall Creek that I can tell yet. The water is still too turbid to see the bottom. The channel is still on the far side of the lake away from the marina.
    Above Fall Creek is still a mystery, too. The gravel bar coming off the island on the left, just up from Fall Creek, has changed some. There's some deep holes there that weren't there before. The Narrows has taken on a whole new look with the lower bank washed out and more trees laying long-wise in the channel. There is at least one deep hole with a steep drop-off off the shallow flat, and the channel may be deeper in some places. The lake from there to Lookout seems to be the same, but we won't know until the water is shut completely down and we can see the bottom.
    The next change up lake is the cut above Trophy Run, where the lake's channel shoots up the right side to the clay bank hole below the boat ramp. The channel is much more defined and is very close to the right or NE bank now. Plus it looks to be much deeper.

    Rebar chute and hole is still a mystery, too. I tried to look at it yesterday, idling up through the area in my boat. I could not find any kind of channel or deep run, only very shallow, flat gravel. There may be a chute or deep channel running straight up lake just off the island. If this is the new channel, rebar will look totally different.
    Fishing! Fishing is still very, very good. There seems to be an abundance of trout in the lake, and they are very healthy from all the food they got during the high water. We had some of the best bags of fish weighed in at last Saturday's private trout tournament that we've seen in many years and fishing continues to be good this week, too.
    Our water color is still kind of chalky in color, but visibility is still about five-feet deep. I think that hurts the jig fisherman because of the limited sight of the fish in the water, but it doesn't hurt the use of scented baits or live baits, like Berkley products and night crawlers.

    Drifting bait from Fall Creek down has been very good, but you have to watch how much weight you use. I'd only use a #7 split shot or may be a 1/8-ounce bell weight at the most because the water is so slow. Stay in the middle of the lake, too, because of the wood along the sides. The best color of PowerBait has been white and orange.
    There's been a lot of people trolling and finding browns and rainbows down lake from the Branson Landing. They are trolling Shad Raps mainly, but other smaller trolling baits will do.
    In the trophy area, throwing an 1/8-ounce jig and working the middle of the lake has been the best. I've been faring better in the middle compared to working the sides, I think because the fish aren't holding in slower water. The water is slow enough that they can hold anywhere and be good. White still is a good color, but it's cooled off a bit. Dark colors have come on strong -- black, olive, sculpin and brown with highlights of ginger and orange.

    Dan Boone, Stillwater, OK. caught and released this 25-inch brown this morning while fishing in the trophy area on Lake Taneycomo. He caught it on a white, 1/8-ounce jig, in very tough, windy conditions.
    I've tried drifting scuds and have not done well, but I wouldn't cross them off your list. Egg flies, as well as San Juan worms, should be good to drag on the bottom, too.
    I've also done well fishing a 1/32-ounce jig under a float from 7 to 10 feet under an indicator. The best color has been an orange-headed sculpin/ginger jig. The trophy area isn't the only place this will work. Fish it below Fall Creek in the middle to the inside bend.

  • Bill Babler
    There are a dozen names for it and some of them are not flattering.  Alabama Rig A-Rig, Umbrella Rig, Mob Rig, School Rig or just plain old Stupid Rig.  Thing about it is what ever you call it or how ever you feel about it, this fishing method is legal, deadly effective and here to stay.
    In the Fall of 2012 this rig started showing it's "Ugly Face" to some and "Oh My Gosh Good" to others.  The first one I happen to see was being used by Pete Wenners and Chris Tetrick.  They had started using this Andy Poss fishing method after seeing it win multiple tournaments in the Eastern US.  Now the fishing method that Andy started in 2009 is wide spread throughout the entire country and at least 20 different bait manufactures make and market variation of the Umbrella rig.

    As late Winter and early Spring of 2013 rolled around, A-rig fishing as it is known for short started catching huge strings of bass on all of our White River lakes Chain.  It was fueled by producing huge stringers of bass that had not been caught here since the fish kills of the early 90's.  It has become a staple here to this day.   What we thought at first to be a passing fad now is a very important tool in catching large stringers of bass in very cold and cool water months of the year, by simulating small schools of either threadfin or gizzard shad.
    Most Alabama Rigs are constructed of a 5 arm, wire rig, similar to the spokes on an umbrella.  There are umbrella rigs constructed with as many as 20 arms that hold various baits and teasers.  You are only limited to your imagine when it comes to attractants.  Each state has its own regulations on the rig, concerning how many "Hot Baits" or hooked baits you can have on the rig.  In Missouri we are limited to only 3 hooked or Hot Baits. If we are fishing in our Sister water in Arkansas we are not limited to 3.
    The next question is how in the world with only 3 hot hooks on a multiple baited lure can you select the proper one that the fish will hit.  Most Alabama Rigs are built with an extended middle arm.  This allows one single hot bait to trail the school or mob.  Fish also approach the school most often from the bottom, so wise A-Rig fishermen rig the two bottom arms and the middle extended arm to present the best opportunity for hook ups.  The remainder of the baits are teasers and should be presented in a way to make it look as if they are tightly schooled.  The bass will most often take the trailing bait or lower extended baits that are not tight to the teaser baits that are in the mob.  At times I even further extend the hot middle bait with a 3" eagle claw wire leader.  It works to perfection and I rarely get non-hook up bites.
    Baits and teasers can be anything from willow leaf spinner blades to a variety of soft plastics.  Combinations are countless.  With over 50 manufactures making soft plastic grubs, curly tail minnows, and boot tail shad imitations.

    Ok, you have now got your 5 arm rig and your soft plastic Yum-Yums, what hooks are you going to use if the baits are not hooked already and how ya gonna rig it?  When I first started I used Storm Wild Eye Shad.  This is a fantastic small swimbait.  It swims perfectly, comes in a variety of sizes and is nicely weighted with a super heavy hook.  It's best feature and maybe its biggest draw back is the heavy Gamakatsu hook.  With prices on the A-Rigs running from the 9 to 29 dollar range, you want to get as many of these bad boys back as possible when they reach out a grab some underwater something.  And they will.  Lots of fishermen have varied the hook strength to match the line strength that they are throwing the rig on.  Enough line strength to slightly bend the hook without causing it to break the line that is attached to the expensive A-Rig.

    When you do hang up, try not and set the hook, just let it come snug and run your boat around behind the snag and try and pull it loose from the rear.  This is the best method.
    For me,  I use pretty heavy line.  What say you, you are already dragging wire thru the water, might as well put lite  rope on it to get it back when that old underwater oak branch tries to snatch it from you.  Personally I now use a hook created by Table Rock Bait Co.  ie Chompers.  It is a jig head hook especially designed for the Alabama Rig.  Put a drop of gel super glue on the hook and slide the soft plastic of your choice and your nearly ready to start flinging.   That being said, how in the name of Virgil Ward do I attach the teaser baits to this apparatus.  It can be done several ways.  We all started using a very small hooked jig head, say 1/16th. to 1/8 and simply snipping the hook off at the bend.  That gave us the structure to attach the bait and maintain it in a very nice smimming mode.  Since we have had time to experiment, most good A-Riggers use a small screw attachment called a Hitchhiker.  They can be bought online or at most stores including WalMart.  You simply screw the Hitchhiker into the head of the teaser bait and then put the snap of the hiker into the swivel of the A-Rig arm
    Now, I have my line, my umbrella, and my baits all set up.  How do I get this monster in the drink and get it back?  When this deal first started most of us tried to just use a heavy jig rod and a reel that would spool enough big line to get it out there a reasonable distance. This seemed to work somewhat OK until you engaged the reel as the spare tire of a bait was still sailing thru the air.  Most often you just got a clank and a clink and that was pretty much all your regular bait caster wanted of that deal.  There have been a score of improvements in this field also.  The best A-Riggers of 2 yrs. ago were using a Shimano Curado 300e as the reel.  Still hard to beat, but this is heavy.  The reel is also a full hand full for a big guy.  For me at 5'9" I"m not that big I was having trouble with my Curados with not only the weight at 10.8 oz. but the size fitting my hand.  They also carry a very hefty price of $249.95.  The drag is more than solid at 15 pound, so this is the classic reel to handle a 3 plus oz. bait like the rig. It only comes in a gear ratio of 6.4 to1 which is satisfactory, but there are better options now.
    Lew's features a reel called the Super Duty that was designed with the A-Rig in mind.  It is Super tough with Brass gearing a heavy 14 pound star drag and is lite weight of 7.8 oz.  This reel is offered in gear ratios of 5.4 to 1 to 8.1 to 1.  It is a low profile soft sided palm size reel that fits the hand much better than the bulkier Curado.  Paired with the New for 2016 Falcon Cara Super Duty 7'6" casting rod you have a multipurpose outfit that fishes either an A-Rig or the new hit of the month sensation the Whopper Plooper.  Just bite off the rig and tie on the Plop and your ready to go. Lew's has the Super Duty regular price for $179.99, but I am seeing it offered on Optic's Planet for $142.00 to $148.99.  A full hundred bucks less than the curado and a very nice lighter weight option.  The Cara Super Duty weighs 2.1 oz. on a split grip frame so you have a outfit that you can throw perhaps a little longer at a total weight of 9.8 oz. making rod and reel lighter than the curado.
    Not bad at all for this type of a very heavy preforming outfit.

    We are completely set up and ready to let it fly now, but where do we do the flinging.  The A-Rig can be fished just about anywhere that the fish are.  It can be fished this time of the year to suspending fish on bluffends and cove mouths and channel swings just over tree tops.  As the water warms it can be fished to staging fish and fish that are rising in the water column.  I fish it in very similar locations that I would fish a suspending stick bait, as water temperatures rise.
    Late Summer and early Fall this bait will again excel as a wonderful dock bait.  When shad are schooling and chasing in the backs of the pockets, it is simply deadly around dock corners.
    The best method I have found is to fish the bait with a slow pulling method, letting the bait sink to the desired level on the cast and then retrieving it by pulling the bait thru the water and picking up the slack with the reel.  This method will allow the bait to stall or flutter as it is retrieved.  On the strike, and they can be violent, instead of jerking the rod, just continue to reel picking up the pace or draw the rod back as you would by sweeping it as the hook set on a carolina rig.

    How ever you feel about it, the A-Rig is here to stay.  Get geared up properly and see how some of our local fishermen are winding in once unthought of tournament weights.  Now is the time for the Rig, so get your umbrella up and get after it.

  • Ned Kehde
    Stacey King of Reeds Spring, Missouri, began competing on the Walmart FLW Tour at Lake Travis, Texas, on Feb. 12, 2007, and at that event, he won $12,000. Since that day, he has competed in 70 FLW tournaments, including four of the prestigious Forrest Wood Cup events, and won $427,000.

    Read more: http://www.in-fisherman.com/bass/the-life-and-times-of-stacey-king-1986-t0-2016/#ixzz3xWnc3zlt

  • Phil Lilley
    We are a couple of weeks beyond the winter flood, and all of us are breathing a little easier.  The U.S. Corps of Army Engineers has been releasing 20,000 cubic feet per second since early January, moving all this flood water through our lake system.  The word is that operators will continue this flow until Table Rock Lake is down to 920 feet, which may happen as early as next week.
    The Corps has managed our lakes in a way that kept a lot of us from being totally submerged by flood waters.  Did you know the water entering Table Rock Lake reached an estimated 300,000 c.f.s.? That was a record.  At the same time, only 72,000 c.f.s. of water was being released, which did flood many roads and houses for a few days, including our lower three units, 19-21.  But can you imagine three times that amount running over Branson?  Our dam system kept all that water back until it was safe to release it.
    (Thanks to an amazing army of volunteers, we were able to move out all the furnishings.  New drywall is going up this week and carpet next week, so the affected units will be hosting guests again for the Masters Tournament. We so appreciate all the prayers and calls of concern from so many.)
    Just a couple of days into our highest release (72,000 c.f.s.), our lake water turned off-color.  This was from the "flash flood" water entering Table Rock, bringing muddy water into the main lake and through the dam.  The same thing happened with the 2011 high water, but this time the water was much more dirty.  When we started fishing, it was tough, not because of the fast current but because of the muddy water.
    This week our water cleared up considerably.  It's not the clear water we associate with Lake Taneycomo, but visibility is such that the fish can now see four to five feet ahead.  I'd call this water clarity "ideal for fishing."
    One bonus from our flood waters from Table Rock Lake is the steady flow of threadfin shad -- which our trout absolutely love.  Most of the shad we're seeing are about an inch long, the perfect size for even smaller trout.
    We live for shad runs on Lake Taneycomo and for good reason.  Our trout get a big growth boost -- you can see how fat they are!  Plus they really go nuts on anything that looks like a shad for weeks after the shad stop running.  It's some fun fishing.
    Fishing with so much water running sounds pretty intimidating, but a lot of people have been fishing slower water from below Cooper Creek all the way down to past Branson Landing.  And the best part has been the number of  really nice, big trout caught down there, both browns and rainbows.
    Drifting is the technique.  Use enough weight to tick the bottom.  This is very important.  Stay in the middle of the lake and away from the sides.  There are more trees washed into the lake and they line the sides.
    Use a drift rig and at least a 1/4-ounce bell weight with four-pound line.  Drag a shad fly, egg fly or San Juan worm if you're fishing above Fall Creek in the trophy area.  Also, we've been seeing trout, mainly between Fall and Short Creek, full of freshwater shrimp -- so drift a scud.  I'd use a #12 gray scud.
    If you're fishing from Cooper Creek down, drift with minnows, night crawlers or Gulp Powerbait, white or orange.  I'd also use a shad fly here.  Some guys this weekend have been using raw shrimp and catching fish.  I think they look like shad . . . maybe.
    All boat ramps are clear.  The public fishing dock at Cooper Creek is still not accessible because of high water.

  • Phil Lilley
    It's been an interesting 30 days here on our tailwater. News of the trouble on Lake Taneycomo  in November reached most local newspapers.  But about as soon as the news was really spreading, the situation righted itself and tragedy was adverted.  The water quality from Table Rock had deteriorated so badly that trout started dying both in the tailwater and in the Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery.  But a welcome cold snap flipped Table Rock's water over at the dam, sending good, oxygenated water to the bottom.  Our water here on Taneycomo is excellent now and will stay that way through the summer.
    Generation has been consistent the past couple of weeks.  The pattern has been two units running 24/7.  We've had a couple of good, soaking rains that bumped up lake levels above us, but that has only has prolonged the current water flows, not increased them.  As soon as Table Rock's level drops to or below 915 feet, we may see less generation  -- or maybe no generation for periods of time.
    I'd almost call Taneycomo's trout fishing excellent right now.  I don't use that word to describe fishing (catching) very often because it implies that everyone can catch fish if they try.  But if you drift using a drift rig and a 3/8-ounce bell weight,  topping your hook either with half a night crawler or a Power Bait egg, and drift from Fall Creek to the Landing, you'll catch a trout,  probably  several trout.

    The Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery has stocked more rainbows than staff had scheduled  for these winter months because of the poor water quality back in November, so there are more fish in the lake than normal for December, translating to a plethora of trout to be caught.  But as I said in my last fishing report, please do not take advantage of this abundance of trout.  If you're keeping fish, please obey the law and keep your daily limit of four trout and your possession limit of eight -- and that's all.  And be mindful how you handle trout when you release caught fish.  Cut the line if the hook is buried.  Hooks are cheap!
    I've already given you the best way to catch trout right now.  Dock fishing is just okay at present,  but night crawlers are the best bait.  If you're interested in catching bigger trout, throw a crank bait.  Stick baits such as Rapalas, Rogues and all the other baits you'd throw for bass will work.  I'd throw medium to large baits, too, not the small ones.
    Fly fishing has been tough mainly because of the turbidity of the water.  When Table Rock turns over, we get a lot of brown sediment in our water, but it will clear up in January.  If you're fly fishing and using flies under a float deep, I'd try larger flies such as a #10 scud, egg flies or San Juan Worms in big, bright colors.  I've drifted these flies using a drift rig in the trophy area lately but really haven't done that well.  It really is better fishing below Fall Creek right now.

  • Phil Lilley
    Bill and I just got home from our White River trip. Yes, we came home early because Bill has a guide trip in the morning.  But we fished all day yesterday and this morning.
    We started at the Norfork Tailwater ramp at 8 am.  We met Brad Smith, fishing guide for that area.  Brad helped us the past couple of years at our Healing Waters event and invited us to fish.

    We launched and headed to the dam.  They were running water, lake level at 378.5 feet.  I was throwing a 3/32nd oz sculpin jig and Bill had an egg fly/San Juan Worm combo under a float 8 feet deep.  I caught a couple small rainbows right off the bat.  Bill - nothing.
    The water was brown like Taney's was a few weeks ago.   We floated on down with some success.  We drifted down to McClelland's and boated back up.  Caught a crappie at the line and another small rainbow.  We drifted down past the handicap access this time before deciding to calling it.  Caught a few small rainbows but it just wasn't worth staying.  We thought the White would produce better so pulled out and headed to Norfork.
    We stopped and grabbed a bite to eat at Heidi's Ugly Cakes & Sandwich Shops.  Nice place, good food and great gal - Heidi!  Definitely a place to visit if you're in the area.
    Headed to Rim Shoals on the White.  Water was cleaner and better color.  We started at the ramp and drifted down throwing 3/2nd oz jigs.  Colors used:  sculpin/ginger, brown/orange. ginger and white.  Caught fish on most colors but they were scattered.  We drifted down to the mouth of Crooked Creek and boated back up.  This time we drifted a new route and off the point of an island on a gravel drop, I saw a rainbow swipe my jig.  Cool!!  It was a nice one.  But Bill hooked one at the same time and Brad went to help him net his fish.  When he turned and saw what I had he exclaimed, "That a nice rainbow for the White!"

    It was broad and colored like a male rainbow getting close to spawn.  Measured 18-inches according to my Photarium.
    We ended the day with maybe 24 trout between us, including a pretty cutthroat Bill caught.  Great day, good company on an awesome river!
    Back at the lodge, guys started coming in from fishing and arriving for the weekend's trip.  We stayed at Riley's Station outside Buffalo City on the White.  We ate, watched a great football game and sent to bed.

    This morning, Bill and I headed to Wildcat Shoals access to meet Brad.  We put the boat in at 9 am and yes it was still chilly!  The breeze was moving the fog up river again but the sun quickly warmed everything up.
    We both threw a jig this time and we switched to a heavier weight because the water was running much harder than yesterday.  There was quite a bit of debry in the river too - weeds, leaves and sticks washed in the lake from the edges and rising water.  We drifted down and worked the bank and caught a few trout - one real pretty 13 inch brown came it.
    We headed back up and past Wildcat, on to the Narrows and tried our luck up there.  Bill put on his float and fly jig.  Neither of us had another bite.
    We packed up at noon and headed back.  Don't know why the trout were as fussy as they were... but that's fishing.  I bet the guys tear them up tomorrow!

  • John Neporadny Jr.
    When the holiday season arrives at Lake of the Ozarks, even the fish get in on the holiday feasting.  Some of the best fishing of the year occurs on this Missouri reservoir during November and December as largemouth and spotted bass, crappie and white bass feast on forage in preparation for winter.  As the water cools down, the fish become more active and move shallower. Recreational boat traffic has diminished and fishing pressure is minimal since many anglers have turned to hunting during the late fall/early winter period. 
    The crappie are schooled a lot during those months so I have a tendency when it gets cooler to keep fishing shallower and shallower,î says Coast-Guard licensed guide Terry Blankenship. ìNormally the crappie during this time are very aggressive and it seems to be an excellent time to catch big numbers of fish. Typically you can catch more fish out of a spot more than any other time of the year.
    During November Blankenship relies on a 1/16-ounce jig for a faster descent rate when he is shooting the lure to docks or casting to brush piles. When the water temperature drops into the low 40s in December he switches to a 1/32-ounce jig for a slower fall and tries more vertical jigging then.  Blankenship matches his jighead with a Bobby Garland Baby Shad or a 3-inch Slab Slayer in blue ice, electric chicken or bayou booger hues. 
    A spinnerbait and buzz bait are Blankenshipís top lure choices for bass in November when the fish are feasting on shad in the coves.  He runs the buzz bait or wakes the spinnerbait over big rocks along the flats of the larger creek coves. As the water temperature continues to cool down during November, Blankenship starts to target brush piles at depths of 10 to 18 feet and slow rolls a 3/8-ounce spinnerbait (double willowleaf blades with white-and-chartreuse skirt) through the cover.   
    When the water temperature drops below 45 degrees in December, Blankenship keys on steeper banks and cuts in the coves close to the main channel.  He catches both bass and crappie on this structure by slowly twitching a suspending stickbait that has a tint of blue, purple or chartreuse on the lure. It seems like blue is an excellent color to have available for both bass and crappie on this lake, Blankenship says.
    White bass gang up on wind-blown points along the main lake throughout November.  One of my favorite tactics for catching whites in the shallows then is to continually jerk a 4-inch Rebel Minnow (black back/chrome sides). The stickbait also triggers vicious strikes from heavyweight hybrid stripers lurking in the shallows.  
    Popping a topwater chugger and jig combination usually produces better numbers of white bass for me along the gravel points.  I remove the front hook of the chugger to prevent line fouling and then tie about a 2-foot trailer line on the rear hook.  I complete the rig by tying a white 1/16-ounce marabou jig on the trailer line. 
    The white bass action usually ends by the beginning of December when the water cools into the low 50s and the fish move out to school in deeper water. 

  • Phil Lilley
    Oh how things change quickly on our tailwater fishery.  Two weeks ago, our trout just below the dam were fighting for their lives.  Water quality was lethal for many reasons.  I believe we've covered all  the "why."  (See my November 24th report for an explanation. )  But cold, windy weather last week has changed that, partially turning Table Rock over and sending good, oxygenated-water through the turbines and into our lake.
    Our weather during this Thanksgiving break was as crummy as expected with cold, rainy days and nights. The front still hasn't completely moved out.  Six inches of rain fell, and now our lakes are on the rise, again.  Table Rock is jumping up and expected to go past 918 feet Tuesday.  The U.S. Corps of Army Engineers experimented Monday with various flows through the turbines to see how much water could be run while keeping the dissolved oxygen levels above four parts per million.  The magic generation was 199 megawatts, lake level 710.34 feet, about 3.5 turbines, with a DO level at 4.34 p.p.m..  We will see this flow until Table Rock's level reaches 915 feet.
    During the time when the hatchery was having trouble with the water,  staff moved some of their trout to other hatcheries while other fish were stocked in to Lake Taneycomo ahead of schedule.  Needless to say, we have a lot of trout in the lake right now.  These fish were stocked below Branson but have moved up lake and are being caught all through the upper lake.
    Even though it was rainy and cold, I took my six-year-old grandson fishing Friday and Saturday.  We drifted from above the resort down to about Cooper Creek and caught quite a few rainbows on a pink Berkley Power Egg.  That's right -- one egg on a #10 hook, 1/4-ounce bell weight tied on a drift rig.  Jeriah caught his limit of four rainbows all by himself.
    Those who did get out and fish this last week, saw fish come in consistently.
    Monday afternoon I fished the entire lake from our place to Table Rock Dam.  Drifting and throwing white and sculpin-colored 1/8th-ounce jigs, I caught four rainbows (two on each color) in different places, all above Fall Creek.  I also drifted a #12 gray scud on the bottom and caught two more rainbows in the Narrows area above Fall Creek.  Then I drifted a pink Power Egg on a drift rig below Fall Creek and caught three rainbows and a nice rock.  I was most proud of the rock. 
    My December forecast is bright with lots of trout in the lake and good prospects to see lots of running water for at least the first half of the month.  Water quality is getting better every day.  Monday afternoon when I was on the lake, there was a huge midge hatch.  I had not seen that in weeks.  After such a arduous fall season, we're all ready for our winter trout months -- the best fishing of the year!

  • Al Agnew

    Big River: Sections

    By Al Agnew, in Big River,

    The following is a breakdown of each of those four sections of the Big River (Missouri), giving a description of each stretch, its gradient, the usable river gauge, navigability by paddle craft and boat at various flows, and accesses. The mileages of each access from the uppermost access of each section is given as well.
    Cedar Creek to St. Francois Park
    Cedar Creek, which drains part of historic Bellview Valley in the heart of the St. Francois Mountains, is almost as large as Big River where the two come together. Just below the confluence, there is an old gravel pit on the river that is wide and mostly shallow, and being exposed to the sun, results in considerable warming of the river below in the summer. Just below it, the river encounters the last of the granitic outcrops of the St. Francois Mountain region in what is almost a shut-in, with huge granite boulders in the middle of a big pool. From there the river is characterized by a series of rather large pools separated by riffles and short runs. By mid-summer floating this upper end is a matter of walking the riffles in order to fish the pools. There is also a long section of very shallow water with exposed bedrock at the site of another old gravel mining operation.
    The river above the Leadwood Access has a typical Ozark headwater stream fishery, with smallmouth, largemouth, and goggle-eye. There are also some huge carp in the big pools, and suckers are abundant. The low water bridge at the Leadwood Access forms the final barrier to spotted bass spread, and there are few spotted bass above it, while below it they have become common. Below the Leadwood Access, the river begins to show the effects of erosion from lead mine tailings as it enters the Old Lead Belt. For the next 2.5 miles it retains good habitat, with nice, deep pools, even though the mine waste, which consists of fine gray gravel, is evident on the gravel bars. But when it reaches the next access, it begins a four mile loop around a big bend, where the entire inside of the bend was covered with mine waste that continually eroded into the river for many years—along with trash from the county landfill that was once located there as well. Starting at that bend, the river's channel has been largely clogged with mine waste, filling in pools and smothering the crevices within natural gravel and rock rubble that form living space for bottom organisms. The impaired river continues all the way through the rest of this stretch. For two decades or more the area has been a federal Superfund site as attempts are made to stabilize the tailings, and the work is now winding down, but the effects will probably last for many more years.
    This section is pretty in places as it winds through a shallow valley lined with low bluffs that gradually get taller as you go downstream until they tower more than 100 feet over the river as you near St. Francois Park. But it flows through the highly developed area of the Old Lead Belt, and homes and cabins line the river banks in many areas. The stretch from the Desloge area to St. Francois Park also appears to be suffering from inadequate sewage treatment, or perhaps the interaction of treated sewage with the lead tailings, because by late summer there will be huge mats of odorous, sludgy, almost black algae that form on the bottom and then float to the surface to pile up against obstructions in great slimy masses. So far nothing seems to be happening to remedy this situation.
    One other note: Beginning at the Leadwood Access, there are health advisories on the suckers, redhorse, and sunfish, due to contamination with lead and other heavy metals.
    Gradient: 4.3 feet per mile.
    USGS river gauge: Big River Near Irondale, located at the U Hwy. Bridge outside Irondale. There is now a gauge near Bonne Terre that will be useful in coming years, but it hasn't been in the system long enough yet to show the flow in cubic feet per second, or to correlate levels in feet with various water conditions. As such correlation becomes possible, this information will be revised to reflect that gauge.
    Normal flow for December through February: 75-125 cfs.
    Normal flow for March through May: 100-175 cfs.
    Normal flow for June through November: 12-50 cfs.
    Low flows range from 5-10 cfs.
    Highest flows likely to be fishable range from 300-400 cfs.
    Under 20 cfs—nearly all riffles will require walking in the upper sections. Below Leadwood, some riffles will require walking and you will scrape bottom in most riffles.
    20-40 cfs—Some riffles will still require walking, very few will float a canoe without scraping bottom.
    40-80 cfs—upper sections will still be shallow enough to scrape bottom, but lower sections will be low but floatable with occasional scraping.
    80-150 cfs—easily floatable and fishable.
    150-250 cfs—high but probably still fishable.
    250-400 cfs—very high, possibly muddy, very difficult to fish from a moving watercraft.
    Over 400 cfs—too high.
    This section is not considered jetboatable due to narrow twisting channels and frequent obstructions, even when there is enough water.
    Accesses and mileages:
    Hwy. M bridge (on Cedar Creek a few hundred feet upstream from its confluence with Big River)--0.0
    Hwy. U bridge—3.0
    County Road 511 bridge—8.6
    Leadwood MDC Access—15.7
    St. Francois County access (locally called “Bone Hole”)—18.8
    Hawthorn Road bridge (poor access)--23.1
    State Street bridge—24.1
    St. Francois State Park, upper access—33.6
    St. Francois Park, lower access—35.0

    St. Francois Park to the mouth of the Mineral Fork
    St. Francois State Park makes a good base of operations for floating both upstream and downstream. While the river upstream is rather highly impaired from the mine waste and overfertilization, it begins to recover as you go downstream. The pools get deeper and the algal blooms decrease. By this point it is also a little larger, though it will still become too low for easy floating by late summer most years. It is a pretty stretch, with occasional high bluffs and some nice gravel bars, and it has very little development, just long stretches of farmland and wooded hills. And it simply looks fishy, with a lot of water willow beds, woody cover, and rocky pools.
    The access is rather poor throughout this stretch, which decreases the number of people using it. While there is a small canoe rental operation at the Highway 67 bridge, it is not popular with the rental hordes, and you can sometimes have it to yourself even on summer weekends.
    Spotted bass now probably outnumber smallies in this stretch, where they were totally absent no more than fifteen years ago. Catfishing is good. The water is normally rather murky, with visibility no more than four feet and often three feet or a little less, although it gets much clearer in the autumn.
    Washington State Park, near the downstream end of this stretch, is popular not only for swimming and fishing in the river but for hiking trails and especially for the best example of native American petroglyphs in Missouri.
    Gradient: 3.3 feet per mile.
    USGS river gauge: The “Big River Below Bonne Terre” gauge, located at the Highway E bridge north of Bonne Terre, has not been in operation long enough to correlate various water levels on the gauge to actual conditions. The “Near Irondale” gauge is probably the most usable one at this point, but there are several good sized tributaries between it and the beginning of this stretch, so water conditions at Irondale may not be the same as conditions on this section. Gauges farther downstream are below the mouth of the Mineral Fork, so they are not very useful, either. The Irondale gauge will be used in the information below, but understand that it may not reflect actual conditions on this stretch.
    Normal flow for December through February: 75-125 cfs.
    Normal flow for March through May: 100-175 cfs.
    Normal flow for June through November: 12-50 cfs.
    Low flows range from 5-10 cfs.
    Highest flows likely to be fishable range from 300-400 cfs.
    Under 10 cfs—low but floatable, though one will scrape bottom in wider riffles and a few might have to be walked.
    10-50 cfs—floatable,with occasional scraping.
    50-100 cfs—easily floatable.
    100-200 cfs—high but easily floatable, fishing may be difficult due to stronger currents.
    200-400 cfs—very high, possibly muddy, fishing difficult.
    Over 400 cfs—too high.
    Most of this stretch is not jetboatable due to narrow, twisting riffles and obstructions. If the Irondale gauge reads over 200 cfs you may be able to take a jetboat upstream from the Washington Park Access at Hwy. 21 if you are very experienced, but you may encounter dangerous obstructions. A few people run short sections from private accesses at flows much less than 200 cfs, but it is not recommended.
    Accesses and mileages:
    St. Francois State Park, lower access—0.0
    Berry Road, just below Hwy. 67 (private access)--1.4
    Cole's Landing at the end of Dickenson Road (private, fee access, and sometimes difficult to find the owner)--11.1
    Blackwell Bridge on Upper Blackwell Road (parking almost non-existent)--14.8
    Washington State Park boat ramp off Hwy. 21—19.6
    Washington State Park picnic grounds (last access before the Mineral Fork)--22.6
    Mammoth MDC Access (1.5 miles below the Mineral Fork)—25.9
    Mouth of Mineral Fork to Morse Mill
    The Mineral Fork, the largest tributary to Big River and big enough to furnish some floating itself, adds a considerable amount of water to the river, making it floatable year-round and jetboatable at least part of the year. Other than volume, however, the river changes very little. It remains a murky, fertile stream with good looking habitat. Development is not too intrusive and it is still a pretty stream, though far from spectacular.
    Not far below the Mineral Fork, the stretch from the Mammoth Bridge MDC Access to the Browns Ford Access was one of the original three Smallmouth Special Management Areas. The protection of smallies in this section allowed them to barely hold their own against the encroachment of non-native spotted bass, and there is still a significant population of smallmouth in this stretch, though spotted bass probably outnumber the smallies. Catfishing is excellent.
    Gradient: 2.3 feet per mile.
    USGS river gauge: Big River Near Richwoods, at the Hwy. H bridge west of De Soto. This gauge is in the middle of this section, and is very reliable.
    Normal flow for December through February: 300-500 cfs.
    Normal flow for March through May: 500-700 cfs.
    Normal flow for June through November: 125-350 cfs.
    Low flows range from 60-100 cfs.
    Highest flows likely to be fishable range from 800-1200 cfs.
    Under 100 cfs—low but floatable, possibly with scraping bottom in wider riffles.
    100-200 cfs—easily floatable; jetboating marginal, with possibility of boat and motor damage.
    200-400 cfs—easily floatable, a little low for really easy jetboating but experienced boaters should have little problem.
    400-800 cfs—high but floatable and jetboatable.
    800-1200 cfs—very high, strong currents may be dangerous for the inexperienced, fishing difficult from moving craft, may be muddy.
    Over 1200 cfs—too high.
    Accesses and mileages:
    Mammoth MDC Access—0.0
    Merrill Horse MDC Access—5.4
    Brown's Ford Access—10.7
    Morse Mill Access—29.1
    Morse Mill to the Meramec
    The Morse Mill dam is the first of three old mill dams on the lower river, and the mill pond above it is the beginning of significant changes to the river, both man-made and natural. From there on, the river becomes very slow and begins to dig into its alluvial banks. One will still encounter some high, wooded bluffs, but for the most part the river flows through wide bottomlands. Development, much of it haphazard and ramshackle, lines the banks, and trash dumps are not unusual.
    This stretch once held a good smallmouth population, but now smallies are nearly non-existent except for a few small, specific areas where there is faster water. Spotted bass fishing, however, can be excellent. Walleye are occasionally caught, especially below the old mill dams in the spring, and catfish are abundant. This section is little floated; most fishing is done by people who put in small boats and fish short sections. Jetboating is possible, but the river gets too low by late summer and the mill dams limit running the river to the stretches in between them.
    Gradient: 1.7 feet per mile.
    USGS river gauge: Big River Near Byrnesville, at bridge on lower Byrnesville Road. This gauge is in the middle of this stretch and is very reliable.
    Normal flow for December through February: 320-600 cfs.
    Normal flow for March through May: 650-900 cfs.
    Normal flow for June through November: 150-450 cfs.
    Low flows range from 70-200 cfs.
    Highest flows likely to be fishable range from 900-1600 cfs.
    Under 100 cfs—floatable some scraping bottom likely.
    100-300 cfs—low but floatable, jetboating possible but difficult.
    300-600 cfs—easily floatable, jetboating easy for the experienced.
    600-900 cfs—floatable and jetboatable, strong currents.
    900-1200 cfs—high but usually still fishable.
    1200-1600 cfs—very high, may be muddy, possibly dangerous for both floating and jetboating. Warning—the mill dam areas will be especially dangerous.
    Over 1600 cfs—too high.
    Accesses and mileages:
    Morse Mill Access—0.0
    Cedar Hill Access—10.8
    Rockford Beach Park—20.8
    Times Beach MDC Access on the Meramec, 3 miles below the mouth of Big River—33.8

  • Al Agnew

    Big River

    By Al Agnew, in Big River,

    The largest tributary of the Meramec River, Big River begins with water running off the north side of a ridge topped by State Highway 32. It almost immediately begins to have permanent flow, however small, and is dammed on the upper end by the U.S. Forest Service's Council Bluff Lake, a beautiful, clear, timber-lined reservoir nestled among high wooded hills. In this upper portion the watershed is within the igneous rock of the St. Francois Mountains, the oldest outcrops in the Ozarks and the geologic center of the Ozark uplift.

    Although there is an MDC access where Highway 21 crosses the river south of Potosi, the river there is still wading water only. It first becomes marginally floatable a few miles downstream, where Cedar Creek enters and adds some flow. From there it flows for nearly 124 miles northward to enter the Meramec. The river in that long reach may be the most abused stream in the Ozarks, suffering from the effects of vast amounts of old lead mine waste as well as some of the ills of suburban civilization as it flows through what is known as the Old Lead Belt, once the largest lead producing area in the nation. Below there it flows through a barite (tiff) mining region and has suffered fish kills in the past from barite mine waste. And in its lower reaches it is lined with homes, cabins, and camping trailers along with their often inadequate septic systems and trash dumps. Yet the river has always had the reputation of good fishing. It is a slow river that has never been popular with the canoe rental crowds, and is served by only a couple of small rental businesses. There are two major state parks along the river and a few private campgrounds, but most river users are local people. Access to the river is poor in many sections.

    Big River has only one major tributary, the Mineral Fork, but many smaller streams gradually add to its flow, along with a few springs, and in the old lead mining district there are a number of rusting “drill pipes,” connected to the now flooded underground mines, which are gushing water into the river. While the river does not dramatically change character at any one point, St. Francois State Park makes a convenient place to divide the upper reaches from the “upper middle” river, the Mineral Fork adds considerable water and is the spot at which the river becomes truly big enough for easy floating and some jetboat use, and Morse Mill divides the still pastoral and scenic “lower middle” from the highly developed lower reaches.
    Special Bass Management Areas:

    Description of River Sections (Link)

    River Levels

    Missouri D.N.R. Big Creek Fact Sheet
    Fishing Regulations
    Missouri Code of Regulations; 3 CSR 10-6.505 Black Bass, 1 (C)  On the Meramec, Big, and Bourbeuse rivers and their tributaries, the daily and possession limit for black bass is twelve (12) in the aggregate and may include no more than six (6) largemouth bass and smallmouth bass in the aggregate, except that the daily limit may include no more than one (1) smallmouth bass on the Big River from Leadwood Access to its confluence with the Meramec River, the Meramec River from Scotts Ford to the railroad crossing at Bird’s Nest, and Mineral Fork from the Highway F bridge (Washington County) to its confluence with the Big River.  Otherwise:
    Bass, black (largemouth), smallmouth and spotted bass (kentuckies)- 12-inches length limit, 6 daily, 12 possession.
    Statewide season on bass in rivers and streams is open from the 4th Saturday of May till the last day in February annually.
    White bass, striper, hybrid bass- 15 total daily (only 4- 18 inches or longer can be kept in a daily limit), 30 possession.
    Rock bass (goggleye) - no length limit, 15 daily, 30 possession.
    Crappie, white or black - no length limit, 30 daily, 60 possession.
    Bluegill - no limit
    Catfish - no length limit, 10 daily (only 5 can be flatheads in a daily limit), 20 possession.
    Walleye - 18 inch minimum length, 4 daily, 8 possession.
    Fishing Licenses -
    Residents - those fishing of the ages of 16 and older and 65 are required to have on their person a valid Missouri fishing license. Those 65 and older do not need a fishing license.
    Proof of residency - Valid Missouri Drivers License.
    Non-residents - those fishing of the ages of 16 and older are required to have on their person a valid Missouri fishing license. 
    Costs -
    Resident - $12 annual
    Non-resident - $42
    Daily - $7
    Trout Stamp - $7
    Buy Missouri Fishing Licenses Online!
    Report Violations - Poachers
    In cooperation with the Missouri Department of Conservation, Operation Game Theft works to stop the illegal taking of fish and wildlife that includes trophy animals and rare and endangered species.
    Missouri Wildlife Code

  • Phil Lilley
    Knowing where public access to Missouri's rivers are is important when planning a floating or fishing trip.  And knowing the distances between these accesses is also important.  Here are a list of Missouri Department of Conservation's public accesses.  Please use the river map provided to see how to get to these accesses.
    Area Name Acres of Public Land Frontage Miles Allenton Access 7.88 0.50 Blue Spring Creek Access     Campbell Bridge Access 10.0   Catawissa Access     Chouteau Claim Access 15.11 0.50 Flamm City Access 20.44 0.50 Highway 8 Access     Redhorse Access 47.33 0.25 Riverview Access 15.15 0.10 Sand Ford Access 32.65 0.25 Sappington Bridge Access 10.0   Scotts Ford Access 17.81 0.30 Scotia Bridge Access     Short Bend Access 74.63   Times Beach Access 0.96 0.25 Valley Park Access 5.00  


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