STORIES THE VIEW UPSTREAM By: Keith 'Catfish' Sutton, WorldFishingNetwork.com Truman Lake Crappie Fishing Improving Anglers will be happy to hear Truman Lake crappie are rebounding; most catches will likely be small fish but there should be plenty to take home for the frying pan Biologists with the Missouri Department of Conservation are predicting a good year for crappie anglers wanting to catch lots of eating-size panfish. (Keith Sutton photo) On my last visit to Truman Lake in Missouri, a summer trip in 2014, I had the opportunity to fish with some of the country’s top crappie pros. Among them were veteran Illinois crappie guide Kyle Schoenherr; Missouri father-and-son crappie pros Travis and Charlie Bunting; and Missouri anglers Kevin Jones and Jon Gillotte, who often compete as a team on the Crappie Masters tournament trail. Fishing was tough, even for these Truman Lake regulars. We managed to land a few slabs, but doing so required hours on the water, fishing every hotspot these guys knew. All complained that the typically great fishing on this 55,600-acre Corps of Engineers impoundment between Clinton and Warsaw was less than favorable during our visit. Last year brought improvement but only during the spawning season in April and early May. Fishing through the summer and fall proved to be tough once again. No doubt, Truman’s many crappie fans will be happy to hear 2017 is shaping up to be a much better year. Most of the fish anglers will catch are likely to small, but there should be plenty to take home for the frying pan. “The early results from our fall 2016 samples show fishing should be looking up,” the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) says in its annual prospects report. “Fall sampling has shown that the high water in the spring of 2015 has resulted in nearly record numbers of year-and-a-half-old crappie. These fish were averaging about 7 1/2 inches in the fall of 2016, but with the good growth we typically see with Truman crappie, they should be legal to keep during 2017. Though the overall number of large crappie may be slightly down, the number of legal crappie (9 inches) should be above average.” The places where Truman crappie spawn typically have flatter slopes and finer gravel than other areas. Fish will move to the bank early and late in the day early in the spawn and can be found throughout the day in shallow water as the spawn peaks. 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 spawn is one of the best times to catch fish from the bank and a boat isn't necessary to get on excellent fishing,” the MDC reports. “The land surrounding Truman is public land owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This gives anglers the opportunity to walk to the lake around the entire shore. A good map with county roads and lake depths is a great tool to have.” Vertical jig fishing or fishing with a minnow works well for suspended fish associated with cover. Spawning fish can be caught vertical jigging from the bank or casting and retrieving a jig fished about 12 to 18 inches below a bobber. As spring progresses to summer, crappie in the lake move from shallow shoreline cover to 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. Fish a minnow on a #1 gold hook with a split shot on your line above. Traditional hotspots include timber along steep points and bluffs, and shallower water upstream on major tributaries. On the lower lake, successful crappie anglers often fish bluffs and timbered points. In the mid-lake area, fish standing timber and brush piles near creek channels are the ticket to success. Some of the best hot-weather fishing is around the numerous fish attractors placed in the lake by the Missouri Dept. of Conservation (MDC). Created from bundled cedar trees, these attractors draw shad and other baitfish, which in turn attract slab crappie that are suckers for a properly presented minnow or jig. If you install MDC’s Find Mo Fish app (https://mdc.mo.gov/contact-engage/mobile-apps/mo-fishing) on your phone, you can use the geo-location feature to guide your boat right to these attractors and start fishing. Newer attractors placed near the Osage Bluff and Fairfield public use areas in 2015 were especially hot last season, according to local anglers. A great source of Truman Lake information is the Clinton, Mo. Chamber of Commerce website, www.clintonmo.com, where you’ll find an excellent lake map and a guide to local attractions and accommodations. Bucksaw Resort and Marina near Clinton provides a great home base for visiting anglers, with a 40-room lodge, cabins, RV hook-ups and restaurant. They also provide reasonably priced guided fishing packages and up-to-date fishing reports. Visit www.bucksaw.com for more info.