Outdoors in the ‘Heart of the Ozarks’

“Hey, I think I just hooked my first–ever walleye,” said an excited Eddy Stahowiak, representative of Al’s Goldfish Lure Co.

“No way, this water is way too cold,” I countered.

“I think Eddy is right,” said Brian Thompson (Captain B’s Guide Service).

Soon, Thompson slipped his net under the fish, and a cool five-pound walleye came aboard. I am still confused; the water temperature is normally less than 50 degrees where we were fishing, only a few hundred yards below the Table Rock Dam.

“Because of the heavy rains, the Corps of Engineers have opened four floodgates so the warmer surface water from Table Rock Lake is mixing with the heavy current from the generators at the base of the dam. Walleye often move up the lake under these circumstances,” said Thompson. It finally made sense. After all, Table Rock has a fair population of walleye, and some could easily come over the dam to live downstream in Taneycomo.

A few minutes later, Jason Houser (Jason Houser Outdoors) hooked and landed a beautifully colored sauger. This lake was providing surprises, including rainbow and brown trout.

When we launched Thompson’s boat, there was an element of apprehension on my part. I had never fished Lake Taneycomo when it was this high, with a current this strong. However, Thompson was optimistic. His group the previous day had done well fishing sculpin colored jigs, in the trophy area below the dam.

Shortly into our fishing experience, Stahowiak tied on a brightly colored Al’s Goldfish jig. My thought was, “What’s he thinking?” A few minutes later Stahowiak landed a gorgeous brown trout, then a rainbow, then another. His Goldfish jig was keeping up with our sculpin imitations. In fact, he caught his walleye on the same copper colored jig.

The strategy was to motor up as far as was legal, and then drift downstream casting to the current edge near shore. Our group was so successful that two wading anglers stopped fishing to watch. In his sportsmanlike approach, Thompson asked several times if we were in their way or imposing on their water. Another example of his courtesy was how he slowed to a no-wake speed when boating around other anglers’ drifts.

Our day on the water was amazing, the fish were eager and our guide was careful, courteous, knowledgeable and a great host.

Built in 1913 for power generation, Lake Taneycomo is about 40 miles south of Springfield, with some of its shoreline being Branson’s lakefront. It is about 23 miles long, running from the base of Table Rock’s dam to the Powersite Dam south of Forsyth. Its tailwaters form the headwaters of Bull Shoals Lake.

The Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) Shepard of the Hills Fish Hatchery annually hatches and raises 350,000 to 400,000 pounds of trout, with about 80 percent of those fish going directly into Lake Taneycomo.

There are special regulations pertaining to size and bait/lures—anglers can find them online. Along with a valid fishing license, trout anglers need a special permit to fish the lake’s rainbows and browns. These can be found online as well.

I had not fished Lake Taneycomo or trekked the Arkansas woods for years, so when the opportunity came to spend some time enjoying the ‘heart of the Ozarks’ I counted down the days.

While in the Springfield/Branson area, Houser and I spent a rainy morning in Arkansas with Emily Wilson from 37 N Expeditions, Springfield. Founded by Cristina Bustamante, 37 N (North) introduces people to outdoor adventures. Aimed at the novice, guided trips in Southwest Missouri and Northwest Arkansas are geared to a wide variety of outdoor activities.

We toured representative areas of Northwest Arkansas near the Buffalo National River where clients might go on field trips. Sadly, rain prevented us from experiencing activities other than short hikes. However, rain did not dampen our spirits or the beauty of Arkansas’ streams and bluffs.

For more information about 37 N Expeditions, see the internet at 37northexpeditions.com.

Visitors planning to fish or hike in the Springfield or Branson areas should check out other “Heart of the Ozarks” activities. There are caves to explore, rivers to float, museums to tour, sporting clays, nightly entertainment and superb restaurants.