Missouri learned a long time ago to manage Ozark smallmouth bass in lakes and reservoirs by setting strict limits on what fish could be harvested so that the smallmouth population can grow and prosper.
Ozark smallmouth bass
Rivers and streams in the Ozarks haven’t gotten the same level of protection but where these restrictions have been implemented, the smallmouth fishing is excellent.
Ron Kruger, a fishing guide from southeast Missouri, reports he and his clients are catching large smallmouth bass in the lower Current and Black rivers. He believes mature smallmouth spend the winter in Clearwater reservoir, then move back into the Black River as they seek spawning areas. In the lower Current River, smallmouth increased feeding prior to their spawning in April and May. And the annual flotilla of canoes and floaters has not yet started.
Males seek stream areas to construct nests and attract females to spawn. Nests are usually established off the main current in eddies at the head or tail end of large pools off to the side. As water warms, males fan out circular nests. Nests are very visible, a circular light-colored area on the bottom of the river, usually have a mature male smallmouth holding over the nest or nearby.
Other Ozark streams to check out in your discovery of prespawn smallmouth fishing: The Big Piney River, the Big River, the Jacks Fork River and the Gasconade River within the established special smallmouth management areas. The last two rivers are managed with an 18-inch, one smallmouth regulation.
I’d also add the James River upstream from Table Rock Lake to the mix. This year, many north- and east-flowing Ozark streams have received a large amount of rain and are high and dingy. Once we enter a dry period, they’ll clear up and fishing will explode.
The Ozarks are well known nationally for the clear running streams and great recreation, fishing and tourism, with Branson, Missouri, being a big attraction to the area.
Missouri Ozark rivers include the Gasconade, Big Piney and the Niangua River in the north central region. The Meramec River and its tributaries Huzzah and Courtois Creeks are found in the northeastern Ozarks. The Black and St. Francis Rivers mark the eastern crescent of the Ozarks. The James, Spring and North Fork Rivers are in south central Missouri. Forming the West central border of the Ozarks from Missouri through Kansas and into Oklahoma are Spring River and its tributary Center Creek. Grand Falls, Missouri’s largest natural waterfall, a chert outcropping, includes bluffs and glades on Shoal Creek south of Joplin. All these river systems see heavy recreational use in season, including the Elk River in Southwest Missouri and its tributary Big Sugar Creek. Original source
When thinking about pursuing smallmouths in the Ozark rivers and streams, choose traditional offerings, depending on the time of year. Grubs, spinnerbaits, buzz baits, wacky rigged worms are all good choices.
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