Wednesday, March 10, 2010

March madness for Walleye

March is the month for anticipation; the signs of spring with warmer temperatures producing crocus, jonquils and swollen buds on the trees waiting for the right time to flower. On a warm March day, the peepers can be heard announcing their time to reproduce and the arrival of spring. The fish become more active with a feeding frenzy before their spawn. I have for several years looked for walleye in the tail waters of Bull shoals or known as “The Pot Hole” in March. My late friend and fishing buddy Paul Henry taught me how and when to fish this water. He had more of a passion for white bass but was more than satisfied to find a walleye at the end of his tippet. Walleye are a predatory fish with well-developed eyes. They have the ability to readjust their vision quicker after dark and see movement in the water at night. There are only a few months out of the year to catch these fish on a fly rod with March and April my time to target these fish.

3/9/10: Jim Ludden picked me up at noon and we drove to Ozark to commute with Russ Doughtry. This was my first trip with Russ, who is a member of both fly fishing clubs in Springfield , a Vietnam Veteran and a proud Grandfather. This was Russ’s second trip to the Pot Hole and he was willing to hang out with Jim and me to fish. We spent the first hour talking and practicing with a spey rod. The wind was out of the south with a strong breeze going down stream. This particular wind direction allowed us only to practice the double spey cast on the right bank. Russ was happy to get some hands on practice with the spey rod. He hopes to find a blank to build his own rod some time soon.

Rain with possible thunder storms was predicted for this day, it turned out to be comfortable with mostly cloudy skies. We fished the right bank for several hours with a five blue-gills released. We made a move and fished near Swan Creek where Jim caught a rainbow. Later, that evening we moved to the left bank below the dam. There was some generation from the power house with some eddy currents flowing towards the rock pile. We managed to hook and landed a 24-inch walleye after sunset. It was quickly dispatched, filleted and served as dinner that night.

The Pot hole has not changed much over the year; it is my intention to fish there this weekend hoping to find another walleye.

March 14: Sunday was the first day of daylight savings time with spring one week away. I returned to the Bull Shoals fishing the Pot Hole area hoping to find some cooperative fish. It was late afternoon, an overcast day with some water coming through the powerhouse. The water was cool and for the most part clear. I started on the right bank. My first catch of the day was a 12-inch trout on a bunny strip. It was quickly returned to the water. There seem to be a number of trout working the surface; I am not sure why there are so many trout? Maybe with the high water of the past two years have pushed the trout over the dam? The MDC does not routinely stock the Pot Hole, and they have repeated this statement when asked. Due impart the tail water of Bull Shoals experiences extreme high water temperatures in the summer. It is considered a waste to stock the Pot Hole area, but over the years we usually find a few trout taking our flies.

It was dusk; I had changed my fly to a buck-tail streamer targeting walleye. Near the three trees, a walleye of eighteen inches was hooked, dispatched and placed in a cooler. I continued to work the same area without any other strikes. It was after dusk and decided to move to the left bank. On my drive to the other side, saw ten deer in the road and on the edge of the road near Silver Creek. I moved to the left bank above the walleye hole. I managed a sucker that caught a hook in his left fin. He was returned to the water. I fished unto the night and called it at 9 PM. My casting started to deteriorate; the break offs were more frequent and I decided it was enough. It was satisfying to have another walleye for a meal.

March 18 (Thursday): There was a break in the weather. The sky was clear, temperatures in the sixties. There was some cold and clear water coming through the powerhouse. A number of bank fishermen on both sides of the Pot Hole. (Possible clue fishing had been good). I did not see any one with a fish on while I sat for the first hour on the tailgate of my truck watching the water, the activities of birds and movement of cars coming and going. It was almost 4:30 PM; I took the kayak off the rack and placed it near the water’s edge. I considered hitting a few areas down current. With my waders on, I walked straight out into the area above the three trees. After navigating some deep troughs found a strip a wash that allowed for knee deep wading that was mid-lake and fifty yards in length. At the end of the run found some nice trout one over sixteen inches and well feed. It was good to tag a few trout even with a #4 streamer.

Many of the fishermen left the area near the dam, so I fished the edge from the power house back to the area above the three trees were I found a few more trout. As evening approached, I changed flies for walleye; large buck-tail streamers. I fished the basins and a few slow eddies. I did not find a walleye this evening. It had been dark for a few hours, without a strike, broke off to a snag, back stiff and decided to called it a night. The clock in the truck said it was after 10 PM, not great catching but the fishing was good.

March 26 (Friday): There has been about five inches of precipitation in the past week with numerous flooding warnings issued for southwest Missouri the past two days. The streams were too high for me to fish so I packed the kayak and looked at the Pot Hole. The lake level last week, the last time I fished was 452 ft, about normal with clear water. Today, the lake level was 458 ft with water flowing over Power Site Dam.

Here is a video of Power Site Dam:

There is too much water to wade, so the kayak came in handy. I paddle to several areas and fished in spots that were successful for Sean and me last year. I did catch a few white bass all over 14-inches and one walleye measuring 21-inches. I fished until 9 PM. On my way home I drove through Shadow Rock Park and saw several fishing carrying large stringers of fish out of Swan Creek. I may consider fishing Swan Creek tomorrow night.

March 27 (Saturday): The weatherman predicted possible thunderstorms later in the day. I left Springfield at 2 PM with a bright sun and a few clouds in the sky. There were a few boats in Swan Creek and numerous cars parked in Shadow Rock Park when I passed by on my way to the right bank. The water level in Bull Shoals remained high and at the same level as the previous day. I talked with a fellow walking back from the powerhouse before getting into the water. He had to walk the high bank to keep his feet dry. He was throwing spinners and roster tails with little success. He showed interest to fly-fishing and mentioned he had seen me fishing on several occasions and was curious. I showed him my flies and gave him several to try. I took the kayak off the truck and pulled on my waders. The sky was getting overcastted with a threat of rain to the south and west. The wind was blowing 20-30 MPR from the south. The skies darken and a few cloud to cloud lightening streaks, indicating my time on the water near trees was probably a bad idea. I banked the kayak and walked back to the truck. The wind started to blow forty MPR plus blowing limbs down and the rain started. I sat in the truck for thirty minutes waiting the storm out. The storm moved on and I walked back to the kayak.

I started at over the area fished earlier and found a few white bass, at sunset, hooked and saved a 21-inch walleye. I continued to find white bass. I caught and released twenty-one, all over fourteen inches and most were sows. It was near 8 PM, a boat had just passed by and I hooked another walleye measuring 23-inches and decided to call it a night.

Several hours sitting in the kayak can be tiresome. All of the fish were caught on one single fly without a change or breaking off. I consider this day of fishing an A+ outing.

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