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An Angler's Guide to Mark Twain Lake

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Published on: Jun. 2, 2004

Last revision: Nov. 16, 2010

when I may not get more than five or six," he said, "but I always catch fish when I go to Mark Twain."

He says he catches a lot of smaller crappie, but usually doesn't keep any fish under 10 inches in the spring and summer, and nothing under 11 inches in the fall.

"I do my best in the fall," he said. "The fish are a lot bigger and there's a lot more of them. I tell everybody the crappie are spending the summer fattening up so I can catch them in the fall."

In the spring, Withrow tries the banks first. If he doesn't find fish, he moves out, fishing the flooded timber in the coves. Most of the time in summer he fishes about 6 feet down, and sometimes as shallow as 4 feet. Later in the summer, he'll look for dropoffs, roadbeds and old fencerows, but he still doesn't fish very deep. Only in the fall does he find crappie much deeper than 12 feet.

"Crappie really are warm water fish," Withrow said. "Sometimes you'll catch one in the summer and put your hands on it, and it'll feel like it's already been cooked."

He usually fishes with jigs with either a minnow, Crappie Nibble or tube bait attached. His favorite tube color on Mark Twain is a blue body with a white tail.

"In the spring, people catch a lot of crappie and catfish off the banks, but you really need a boat to fish the lake well," Withrow said. "The best way to learn to fish the lake is to watch other people and talk to other people. Find out what they are catching and where."

Brad Stamp, a Corps of Engineers park ranger who works out of Mark Twain Lake's management office, also keeps tabs on the crappie. His strategy is to throw unbaited, 1/16-ounce, weedless jigs with tubes into heavy cover. He, too, favors a tube with a blue body and a white tail, but when the water is murky, he will try red and chartreuse or black and chartreuse tubes.

Like many Mark Twain Lake anglers, Stamp looks for the clearest water. "Some mud doesn't matter," Stamp said, "but when the water gets like chocolate milk it can be unfishable."

Stamp said fish locations are always changing because of the fluctuating water level.

"Just because you caught fish in one place

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