Scott Pauley, a professional fisherman and the Missouri Division of Tourism’s fishing and outdoors expert, says it’s a great time to get out to Missouri’s rivers, lakes and streams for a great fishing experience.
We asked Pauley a few questions about early spring fishing in Missouri, in anticipation of some warmer days ahead.
MDT: Temperatures are fluctuating around Missouri; we had a couple of 80-degree days last week, and then snow and wintry weather later in the week. In these “unstable” temperatures, what makes for a successful day of fishing?
Pauley: The air temperatures don’t affect the fish too much this time of year, the water temperature is more critical. The fish are used to the routine cold fronts we get this time of year; what is probably more important is the increased length of daylight. When the water temperatures are below 50 degrees, I am looking for the clearest water I can find. Fish don’t like cold, muddy water. If I can find some current, the current will position the fish, causing them to face into the current and look for objects that break the current. This makes fish locations easier to predict and target.
MDT: Where are some good spots to fish right now?
Pauley: All of our clear water lakes are excellent fishing this time of year. The fish are in a pre-spawn pattern. Their movements are dictated by food source and the natural urge to spawn. The fish are moving toward the spawning locations, but are not there yet. Fish use creek channels just like we use roadways. So, you follow the creek channels to areas where there are spawning banks nearby. The fish will position or “stage” adjacent to the spawning areas. So, I am looking for places where there is deeper water close to shallow water, and places where there is a firm pea gravel bottom with a few big rocks mixed in; (this gives) the fish a sense of security from predators after making their beds.
MDT: Is there a certain type of fish that’s more active this time of year than others; meaning, is there a type of fish folks are more likely to have success catching?
Pauley: Bass and Crappie are the most sought after this time of year in the lakes, and rainbow trout in the rivers and streams.
MDT: What tips do you offer for “cloudy day” fishing? And what about “sunny day” fishing?
Pauley: On sunny days, the water will be warming and the fish will get more active as the day warms. The fish are most active on cloudy days as the low light makes them feel more secure to roam. On sunny days, I normally fish jigs on the bottom, as the fish will often be feeding on crayfish. On the cloudy days, the fish tend to suspend more and may be suspended somewhere in the water column and are often looking up toward the sky. So, I use crank baits and spinner baits that imitate a shad forage fish. Once the water temp gets closer to 60 degrees, the fish will come up and hit a top-water lure.
MDT: Where will we find you fishing these days?
Pauley: Because of tournaments, I am usually fishing the big lakes this time of year, but the smaller bodies of water will warm up faster because they are shallower. So, especially after a long warming period, the little lakes and ponds will be most active.