Why Go to Wappapello?
increase the amount of prey in the lake (see “Applied Shadology”).
Before they are about a year old and 6 inches long, crappies don’t eat shad. Instead, they feed on invertebrates. Until they start feeding on fish, crappie in most Missouri reservoirs grow at about the same rate. Then, their growth rate begins to vary, depending in large part on the availability of shad of the proper size (usually less than one-third of their body length).
From 1987 to 1995, Conservation Department Resource Scientist Paul Michaletz studied shad dynamics in Missouri reservoirs. He found that prolonging the spawning period for gizzard shad makes more small shad available to crappies and other fish during their critical growing time.
Mark Boone, the fisheries management biologist in charge of the Wappapello fishery, said he took what Michaletz learned about how to manage shad and applied it to Wappapello.
“In the past when the water would rise in the spring,” Boone said, “the lake Corps of Engineers would lower it about a half a foot a day, leaving a lot of shad eggs high and dry.”
He said the Conservation Department and the Corps now regularly consult about lake levels, especially in the spring.
“They do a fantastic job,” Boone said, “Unless the lake gets too high, they try to hold it steady or drop it very, very slowly so that the shad eggs have a chance to hatch.”
Boone said as soon as they started getting more consistent and longer lasting shad spawns at Wappapello crappie started growing faster. The lake also began to shed its reputation as a “stunted bass” lake.
“It used to be, you didn’t see a whole lot of bass over 12 inches,” Boone said. “Once we started getting these better shad spawns, those 10- to 12-inch fish didn’t stop or slow down. They just kept growing.”
Boone said that some question whether research is valuable. “Well, the research that Paul Michaletz did was beneficial,” he said. “Because of it, we have much better growth for bass and white crappie, and a better population of both.”
Gracey said the Corps is also teaming with the Lake Wappapello Bassmasters fishing club to try to reintroduce vegetation into the lake.
“The old timers say that at one time Wappapello was a highly vegetated lake,” Gracey said. “It had what they call ‘the moss,’ and yancopin (American lotus), and spatterdock in some areas.”
According to Gracey, spring floods and low