Monday, February 4, 2013

February: Final Days fishing catch & Release at MO State Parks

February 3, 2013: A month ago, Dr Bill Taylor, Rod Pennington and I made plans to fish Bennett Spring S.P. on Super Bowl Sunday. We were hoping people would stay home and provide us with solitude and quiet water at the park. There were approximately two-dozen fishermen in zone 1 when we drove in, with the water near the dam open for us to fish. The day was sunny, with temperatures in the low fifties, a light wind blowing upstream. For me, it was too nice of a day to catch many trout. The surprising event of the day was the number of mayflies hatching. They were seen on the water surface at noon and continued to blow out into the open water for two hours. The trout were taking the naturals without hesitation. I saw one trout take five naturals before taking my imitation. The trout were jumping out of water when the dun finally took off. 

Rod and I both agreed at times 75-100 mayflies would be out in front of us as trout took nourishment. We did pick off a few trout with all of us having a good time. I finished the day at 3:55 PM with a last cast last trout with an eagle passing overhead to find a sycamore tree up stream to perch. 

It seems, if care is taken with your presentation and you avoid scaring the trout, even on a sunny day the dry fly will provide excellent game, taking trout from surface. It will keep you on edge with each fly passing over a trout lie. One more weekend before the end of the catch and release season. The weather is predicted to be mild… hope to see you on the water.

Feb 11, 2013: This was the last day to fish the winter catch and release season at Missouri state parks. The public will be waiting for March 1, 2013 to fish the regular season. I will be many miles to the south fishing Bull Shoals in the months to come.

Rod and Keith were in the water when I passed through the park at 11 AM. I drove to Reading’s Fly shop to see Charlie. I needed a tip top for a rod wrapping project and some barbless hooks. I made it back to the park at noon. Keith and Rod walked up from the dam. They had some lunch and we had a short visit. There were five other fishermen in the water fishing the water from the handicap access to the dam. I started in the slough water taking a few rainbows with many more trout rushing up to the fly only to refuse it. Rod and I both commented on the finicky trout, pushing the fly with their nose.

Stonefly hatch at Bennett Spring S.P.
The mayfly hatch was good in numbers with the mayflies getting off the water quickly. I tried to get some more photos of them but they were too fast and hard to catch by hand. The surprise of the day was half-dozen adult stoneflies on the water. On the water, the stoneflies fluttered about making a good target for trout. The midges came on at 3 PM.

 It was not a great day to catch fish, but the opportunity to fish will linger until next year for the return of the catch and release season.

Feb 18, 2013: I made my first trip of the year to Bull Shoals Lake and looked at the waters below power site dam (Pot Hole). The lake level was 648.0 ft., (last year Feb 16, 2012 is was 654 ft.). The distance from a place I usually park on the east side is normally next to the water’s edge, now its 75 paces to the water. This is not the lowest I’ve seen the Pot Hole, I recall 2002 a few feet lower. So, I am out looking to find, places fish will gather in the months to come and will be fishing the area from the dam to Swan Creek.

Lake Level 648 ft.
I left Springfield after lunch and on the road before 2 PM. I drove through several lines of thunderstorms before reaching the Pot Hole. It rained for another thirty minutes while I set up my rod, slipped into neoprene waders and a rain jacket. My rod had a slow sink tip, which was too much for the shallow conditions and found the bottom several times with my fly. I fished the east side for a few hours. There was a fellow on the west side catching small white bass with a spinner (three). There were a few fishermen near the dam.

The vultures sitting in one of the three trees
I looked Silver Creek over but did not take time to fish it. It a near sunset and I walked the beach near the old boat dock. It was 15 paces to the water’s edge with a firm shoreline. I did miss a small line bass as I lifted the fly. I checked another area after dark. It was 7 PM when I walked along the bank of Swan Creek in shadow Rock Park. The lights from the park made seeing possible with no fish movement. I waded under the bridge and walked the gravel bar and fished my way to Bull Shoals, again no activity. I did not hear a horn but noticed a current on the surface and left the gravel bar. I decided to finish the evening on the west side in the Pot Hole.

Seventy-five paces from the truck to the waters edge
The generation of water came on after 8 PM, without a current fishing can be tough. I did not see shad activity, a few trout breaking the top water. When I arrived, there were no other fishermen; a few cars drove in after thirty minutes. I was able to wade beyond the rocks near shore and was able to go to the middle of the Pot Hole; problem the water is too shallow to hold fish. There may be runs of fish l in March, but I doubt enough baitfish to keep fish in the area. There is a possibility fish are holding in front of the rock pile. I decided at 9:30 PM to call it a night of fishing. I did not catch any fish, but did have the opportunity to survey the waters. As winter passes, spring with warm the water to invite fish to the waters near the rivers, creeks and Tail waters of Bull Shoals.

Feb 24, 2013: I made another evening trip to Bull Shoals on a day with cool temperatures, clear sky and light breeze. There were a number of fishermen in the Pot Hole with some generation through the power house. I started my day of fishing downstream from the Pot Hole and hooked two trout; one was 15-inches in length. I saw almost no surface activity and assume very few shad. I water temperature was probably less than 40 degrees by feel. I could see snow from last week’s storm in north protected pockets around rocks and trees. Later, I moved farther down to a washout with a gravel point and managed a 11-inch line bass. There were four fishermen on the other side and figured they possibly had luck fishing there days past.  It was after sunset and I moved to the mouth of Swan Creek to fish the protruding gravel to Bull Shoals. Again, there was very little surface activity with one large splash after dark. The moon was waning one day passed full and it was bright enough to tie on flies after breaking off. I managed to tie six more flies for the night without a flashlight, with the illumination of the moon. It was 8 PM, and I finished the evening on the west side of the Pot Hole working the fly towards the dam. The generation was greater and there was an eddy to fish hoping a walleye would move in to take my fly. The was not the cased but the lake level did hit 452 ft, four feet higher than last week. If the rain continues and the lake continues to come up, the fish will come with productive days in the near future.


  1. Hey Kim! Good report, I noted a few mayflys coming off on the river Sunday(feb.17) but mostly Caddis. I was amazed that I saw no fish rising to many caddis skirting across the water.

  2. Did you see the stones flies? I was able to get a photo of one... saw a half dozen the last day of catch and release.