No Doubting Thomas
we’re not going to have the numbers of large fish that we had this year. But, that could change,” he said. “There are a lot of small shad there, and the crappie at Thomas Hill grow very quickly. There’s a bunch of fish that are ready to jump over that 9-inch length.”
Bass anglers consider Thomas Hill a “numbers lake,” which suggests that the fish don’t run large. Anderson said that in recent lake surveys, two of every 10 bass sampled exceeded the legal limit of 15 inches.
Channel catfish also run small. Anderson believes there are just too many of them. Flathead fishing, on the other hand, is very good, especially in the summer when anglers bait trotlines with goldfish.
The lake also contains drum, carp, buffalo and bluegill. Although most anglers at Thomas Hill don’t target these species, catching them while fishing for hybrids, crappie or largemouth bass makes a day more interesting.
“All in all, Thomas Hill is a great resource,” Anderson said. “I encourage anybody in the doldrums of winter with cabin fever to put on a good set of warm clothes and get out on that warm-water arm. You don’t have to go out very far. You can be fishing within 100 feet of the ramp, or you can just fish for crappie from shore.”
Thomas Hill Practicalities
- Winter fishing, even in warm water can be dangerous. Wear your life jacket. Even if you don’t have an emergency, it can help keep you warm.
- Boat ramps at Thomas Hill can be tricky in cold weather. Runoff from boat trailers ices up the ramp, making it too slippery to launch a boat. Check for traction before launching or retrieving boats. People who fish Thomas Hill regularly have learned to bring salt or sand for use on icy ramps.
- Signs on shore mark brush piles placed by the Conservation Department. Lake Manager Mike Anderson has updated the map of Thomas Hill brush piles, including their GPS coordinates. For a copy, write to the Northeast Regional Office, Thomas Hill Map, 2500 S. Halliburton, Kirksville, MO 63501.
- If not quickly released, hybrids die soon after being caught. Handle fish carefully and try to keep the time they have to spend out of the water to a minimum. Bring a net to help you bring them aboard or to hold them in the water while you remove hooks.
- Hybrids also won’t survive long on a stringer or in a livewell. Put the hybrids you plan to keep on ice to maintain the flavor and firmness of their flesh. After filleting hybrids, remove all reddish meat from the centerline and from beneath the skin.
- Be careful handling hybrids. Their sharp gill plates can flare out and inflict a nasty cut.