Annual Prospects Report
It’s looking like 2023 will be another great year for fishing on Truman Lake. The year class of fish spawned in 2019 during the high water year is still having a sizeable impact on the fisheries.
Crappie fishing should be good across the entire lake in 2023. The flood in 2019 led to a large spawning class and an increased abundance of short crappie over the last few years. Across most of the lake the catch rates of crappie in our fall sample looked to be trending back towards the long-term average, but with a few more 10-11” crappie and a few less crappie under 9” than “normal”. The Big Tebo area is an exception, as there are still large numbers of black crappie in the 7-8” range. There are good numbers of large crappie in the Big Tebo area, but you may have to weed through more small fish than in other parts of the lake. The Pomme de Terre and Tebo Arms as well as the lower lake tend to have clearer water and as a result have a higher percentage of black crappie. The upper portions of the South Grand and Osage Arms tend to have murkier water and can be almost entirely white crappie. In general, the upper portions of the lake have larger crappie and the lower portions of the lake tend to have more crappie.
The spawn is one of the best times to catch fish from the bank and a boat isn't necessary to get in on excellent fishing. Spawning areas usually have flatter slopes and gravel banks. Fish will move to the bank early and late in the day early in the spawn during the spawn. Spawning fish can be found earliest at the upper ends of the lake in the major tributaries and the spawn will progress toward the dam as water on the lower lake warms. The land surrounding most of Truman Lake is public land owned by the Corps of Engineers. This gives anglers ample opportunity to fish from the bank. A good map with county roads and lake depths is a great tool to have. Spawning fish can be caught vertical jigging from the bank or casting and retrieving a jig fished about 12-18 inches below a float. In the summertime, you can find crappie on timbered flats near channels or along timbered bluffs. Vertical jigging sometimes works well for these fish, but as jig fishing becomes less productive, minnows will work best. Fall is a time of transition with fish moving from summer to winter patterns. Fish can be targeted on timber near creek channels or bluffs. Winter crappie fishing on Truman is some of the best fishing to be had. If there is open water, you can catch crappie. Fish gather in large schools in the winter and once you locate a school, fishing can be on fire. Traditional spots are timber along steep points and bluffs and shallower water upstream on major tributaries. On the lower lake, fish the bluffs and timbered points. In the mid-lake area, fish standing timber and brush piles near creek channels.
One of the best and most commonly overlooked patterns on Truman is fishing shallow water. During the heat of the summer and cold of winter, try fishing in water 8 feet deep or shallower. Some of the best winter time crappie fishing can be found in shallow water in the upper reaches of main lake tributaries. Areas to try on the South Grand Arm are Cooper Creek, Deepwater Creek, Pretty Bob Creek, Hay Creek, and Big and Little Otter creeks. Winter time fishing is good on Tebo Creek upstream of Windsor Crossing. On the Osage try Briley Creek, Big and Little Muddy creeks, Wright Creek, and Hogles Creek. It can also be very productive up the major tributaries as crappie follow the shad. Look for brush in and along the channel.
Beginning in 2009, the MDC placed numerous large cedar brush piles in Truman Lake. A map of these locations is available by visiting the following web link: https://short.mdc.mo.gov/ZJL. Fish attractors have been added to both deep and shallow water. Bass and crappie anglers have reported good success from fish attractors.
Fishing for blue catfish, channel catfish, and flathead catfish should continue to be good across the entire lake. Truman has an abundant population of small blue catfish (under 26”; https://short.mdc.mo.gov/4Gb). Anglers are encouraged to harvest the small blue catfish they catch. The number of fish in and above the slot-length limit has steadily increased in recent years and will likely continue to increase. Blue catfish tend to school by size, keep moving and try new spots to maximize your chances to find a spot with larger fish. Blues can be caught on flats throughout much of the year. Concentrate along channel brakes during the fall and deep holes and bends in channels in winter. Don’t underestimate fishing opportunities for blues in the winter months, anglers have some of the most consistent blue catfish bites during the coldest months of the year. Blue catfish can be caught on rod and reel anchored or drifting cut shad. Anchoring up and fishing is often best in the cold winter months while drifting is more successful when the water is warm in the summer months. Blues can also be caught effectively drifting or anchoring jug lines baited with cut shad on flats and channel ledges. During periods of high water, channels and blues will forage in the newly flooded vegetation. Channel catfish can be targeted on the flats with worms or prepared baits. Channel catfish will move to rip rap near roads and bridges to spawn in May and early June. Truman is home to some large flatheads. Prime locations are the upper portions of the Grand and Osage arms and the Tebo Arm. For flatheads, fish with live green sunfish or goldfish near old fencerows, timbered flats and main lake points with timber near the channel. Set lines should be set fairly shallow during summer months when the thermocline is present. Rod and reel anglers have good luck targeting flatheads in the spring on the Osage and South Grand rivers and Deepwater Creek.
White bass and hybrid striped bass fishing should be excellent in 2023. The recent good year classes of white bass continue to show themselves with larger white bass becoming more abundant, particularly as the 2019-year class continues to grow. Truman has received several good stockings of hybrids since 2019 and those classes are starting to produce some nice fish. There should be good numbers of fish over 20”.
In April and May, and sometimes as early as March, white bass can be caught making their spawning runs up the major tributaries like the Pomme de Terre, Osage, Sac, South Grand, and Tebo arms. Other minor tributaries to the Osage also support good white bass fishing during these times. To name a few; Weaubleau and Bear Creeks, though there are numerous other small tributaries where this occurs. Rooster tails and lipless crankbaits resembling shad work well during this period. Summertime will find white bass and hybrids associated with mid and lower lake humps and points. Drifting live shad over these areas is one of the best ways to catch hybrids. Trolling crankbaits or jigging spoons over humps can also works well. White bass and hybrids can be caught on or near the surface in summer and early fall chasing schools of shad. Good topwater choices are spooks, pop-Rs, and similar style baits. Periods of water release from the dam create current within the lake, making locating schools of white bass and hybrids predictable. Whites and hybrids will be on points or humps with current flowing over them. Points on the lower Osage and Grand arms, areas near KK Island and the mouth of the Pomme de Terre Arm, and the weir in front of the dam, are all traditional locations that annually produce good catches of white bass and hybrids. White bass and hybrids will move into shallow water along windblown points during the fall. Target these fish with white rooster tails, spoons or imitation shad baits. White bass and hybrids will move up major creeks in the winter following shad to warmer water.
Walleye fishing on Truman Lake is generally tough, but a couple good classes of fish have led to better than normal walleye fishing. A good spawn in 2019 produced a large class of walleye with a lot of those fish now exceeding 20”. These fish will provide above average fishing opportunities for the next few years. The best arms are typically the Pomme de Terre, Upper Osage, and Sac River but there are a few walleye encountered across the entire lake. Walleye make early spring runs up tributaries and concentrate in pools just below riffles. Summertime fish can be caught on gravel points using crankbaits, or slow trolling night crawlers, jigs tipped with minnows, or crankbaits over humps and long gravel points. Jigging spoons also work well. Main lake points on the lower Grand and Osage arms, the area around the mouth of the Pomme de Terre Arm and KK Island, and the lower lake near the dam, are good locations to try. Mid-summer walleye can also be targeted on the lakes many humps. Humps that come up from 15 to 5 feet on flats near the river channel can hold good numbers of walleye. These fish can be targeted by trolling crankbaits or using jigging spoons tipped with minnows or night crawlers.
The paddlefish snagging season is March 15 through April 30. Snagging should be good for legal fish (greater-than 34 inches in length) in the upper Osage from below the Talley Bend area to above the Taberville Access with many fish greater than 45 pounds. As the water warms in the spring, paddlefish move upstream to spawn. Start snagging lower in the lake around Talley Bend and below at the beginning of the season and move upstream with the fish for the latter parts of snagging season as water temperatures and flows increase. The paddlefish population is maintained through annual stockings by the MDC. Snaggers need to remember that once they have a daily limit of two paddlefish, they are prohibited from continuing to snag, snare, or grab that day. Remember to use proper handling techniques when releasing sublegal fish back to the water to ensure their survival. Gaffs should not be used to land fish smaller than 34 inches. Paddlefish can be landed with large dip nets or ring poles, like those used to catch live animals.
The largemouth bass fishing may be tough on Truman Lake in 2023. Anglers reported catching decent numbers of 14-15” fish in 2022, but large fish were tough to come by. If you catch a good day, you can still get into good bass fishing but there’s likely to be more tough days in between than you may have on some of the other large reservoirs in the state. Spotted bass numbers have been down the last few years. Spotted bass are most abundant in clearer, rockier areas found on the lower lake. Largemouth bass can be caught in a wide variety of habitats throughout the lake. Some of the best locations to catch bass are the lower half of the South Grand Arm, from upstream of Bucksaw down. Another area to fish is the Osage Arm between Talley Bend and Berry Bend downstream to the dam. The Pomme de Terre Arm and areas on the Tebo Arm also hold good bass. Another good place to find fish is in shallower brush piles placed by MDC. Late winter/early spring try suspending jerkbaits on main lake or secondary points. Spring will usually find fish moving into warmer water creeks, the backs of coves, and cove pockets. Try spinnerbaits or jigs for these fish. During rising or high water, look for fish in the newly flooded cover. Fish around green flooded vegetation and don't overlook piles of driftwood in pockets. During periods when water is being released from the dam, fish areas where current develops. This concentrates baitfish and bass. The downstream side of points and humps are good places to start. During the summer months, bass can be caught early and late in the day on buzzbaits and other topwater baits. Topwater baits can be a good choice throughout the day during the fall. As the sun gets higher, switch to a large worm or jig. When the water cools in fall, bass will begin migrating to the backs of coves and into creeks following the shad. Spinnerbaits and crankbaits are good choices during this time of year and bass can be caught in shallow water, 2-4 feet, feeding on shad. Some of the best spots to look for bass are on shallow structure near deeper water and also look for old creek channels with trees. Shad and bluegill are the primary bass food source, so baits with silver and white or sunfish patterns work well.