Too many fish and not enough time

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An angler drops another bluegill in the basket during an outing in May.

An angler drops another bluegill in the basket during an outing in May.

May is the month fishermen dream about all year long. The action heats up across the state as many fish species begin their annual spawn. As an angler not intensely focused on catching a certain species, choosing what to fish for on any given day in May is tougher for me than choosing just one thing off an all you can eat seafood buffet.

All across Missouri; lakes, reservoirs, ponds, rivers and creeks offer anglers a plethora of opportunity. Whether you fish from a boat or the bank, there are many places for you to go. Here are a few of my top picks for fishing in May.

Thomas Hill Reservoir – Wipers

Lurking in the depths of Thomas Hill are some of the hardest fighting predator fish known to freshwater. Hybrid striped bass, or “wipers,” fight like a freight train. They are the result of a genetic cross between striped bass and white bass. Wipers are aggressive carnivores, feeding heavily on baitfish, especially shad. The typical Thomas Hill wiper falls in the 5 to 10 pound range. Larger fish over 10 pounds are not uncommon.

Wipers stack up around the warm-water discharge. You’ll also find them along the southeastern shore. There are plenty of bank fishing opportunities open to the public. Anglers with a boat can find wipers in open water.

Finger Lakes State Park – Bluegill

Whether you call them strip pits, lakes or ponds, the waters of Finger Lakes State Park are worth a visit if you like loading up on big bluegill in the spring. Located just a few miles north of Columbia on Highway 63, Finger Lakes is an easily accessible and is an outstanding fishery.

There are many different methods of fishing for bluegills at Finger Lakes State Park, but bobber fishing with live bait for bluegill is my favorite. The big bluegill population is healthy, meaning anglers are often successful when trying to catch these popular panfish. Worms, minnows and crickets are some of the more popular boats anglers find success with.

Big Piney River – Smallmouth Bass

The Big Piney River is an action packed stretch of water. It’s home to a number of fish species, but smallmouth bass are the reason to visit. Tactics for fishing Big Piney smallmouth vary by angler. You can catch them on spinners, crankbaits, topwater and jigs. You can wade from public access points, but this is a float-fishing river. Fly fishing is another great way to fish the river. The stretch from Boiling Spring to Slabtown is my favorite to float and fish.

Lake Taneycomo – Trout

You can float, wade or fish from the shore on Lake Taneycomo. For fishing the lake, booking a guide is worth the money if you are determined to take a limit home with you. Taking your own boat is also an option, but understand how water levels fluctuate with different releases from the dam. Fishing for trout is great from the dam down to Lilleys’ Landing Resort. Fly fishermen often find the most success wading near the dam.

Pomme de Terre Lake – Muskie

Missouri’s best-known and most-productive muskie water is located in the southeast portion of the state. Although a number of other lakes and rivers hold and produce muskie, Pomme de Terre is the must fish muskie lake of our state. It boasts astonishing muskie densities.

 Muskies are known as “the fish of 10,000 casts.” If you want the reward and excitement of landing one of these solitary predators, you are going to have to work for one. I can’t tell you specifically how, where and when to go catch one. Muskies roam. You’re going to have to cast a lot, try a lot of different patterns, fish different structures, different depths, multiple days, and maybe, just maybe, it’ll all come together for you and across your arms will be draped a fish longer than your leg.

See you down the trail…

Brandon Butler


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