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by John Neporadny
You can beat the heat and summertime crowds by fishing at night on the Lake of the Ozarks. When the moon shines and the water calms down, the fishing action picks up for bass, crappie and catfish.
Some fish can be taken during the day, but night fishing offers a cooler alternative and the fish seem to feed more after dark. From mid-June to the latter part of July, nocturnal trips for bass are productive on the Big and Little Niangua arms where the fisih hold in brush piles around docks.
In the Little Niangua, flipping behind docks in coves also takes bass at night. Fish lights on the back of a dock are good attractants for bass, especially if there is a brush pile within 5 feet of it because the light brings the bugs in, which brings the baitfish and big bass in. During the last part of July and in August, concentrate on brush piles on the Osage arm around the Lodge of the Four Seasons.
Bass seem to prefer main lake structure later in the summer. Points can be ideal spots to check at night becasue the fish move out to deep, cooler water during the day, but after midnight when the water starts to cool down they will come up on the shelves.
Water color has little effect on night fishing since bass can be taken in clear or off-color conditions. The key is to find brush piles either on the main lake or other areas that have deep water nearby. Any brush pile sitting in 5 feet of water or deeper will hold bass at night.
The depth of the fish varies throughout the night as they come up to feed at certain times. Start your evening fishing the brush piles 5 to 10 feet deep and when the fish stop biting in the brush, move up shallower in search of bass roaming and feeding behind the docks. As morning approaches, move back to the brush piles.
Picking the best time after dark to catch bass can be difficult because the action can be non-stop some nights or there will be lulls between bites other nights. If there's a full moon, the fish might bite all night. Other times the fish bite during periods such as 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. or daylight to 8 am.
Magnum-size plastic worms (10 or 11 inches) and jigs are excellent night-time lures. Plastic worms in darker hues, such as black, blue fleck, June bug and red shad, work well along with a brown or black 3/8-ounce jig with a rattle and some type of pork chunk or double-tail plastic grub trailer in a bluegill color. Retrieve the worm and the jig in the same fashion. Let the lure fall into the brush and crawl it through the limbs.
Sometimes the fish suspend around the brush piles, so you should lift the worm up over the brush and then let it drop down into it, then lift it out of the brush again and let it drop back to get the fish that are suspended around the brush.
Another technique also produces at night for bass. Try a 3/8-ounce black spinnerbait with a silver willowleaf blade and a black twin-tail trailer, which shoudl be slow rolled over the chunk rocks.
Nights are also a prime time to drift for catfish. When the wind calms in the evening, head for a the back of a cove and rig your rods with shad and frozen shrimp. Spend the rest of the evening and into the early morning drifting the cove for catfish.
If you don't have a boat, resort docks also provide good night action for a variety of fish. Most of the resorts have sunken brush piles around the docks, which become havens for bass and crappie. Bass can be taken from the brush on plastic worms or jigs. The best crappie action occurs in the brush piles located under lights that shine directly into the water. The lights set off a chain reaction as microorganisms are attracted to the lit area, followed by baitfish and then crappie.
Minnows, jigs or a jig tipped with a minnow catch crappie under the lights. Some crappie anglers also get in on a bonus catch when a school of white bass move under the lights to feed on shad. Tight-lining off the docks with live bait or stink baits is an effective way to take catfish at night.
As the temperatures rise, take the day off and try some fishing under the stars at the beautiful Lake of the Ozarks this summer. For information on lodging and other facilities at the Lake of the Ozarks or to receive a free 152-page vacation guide, call the Lake of the Ozarks Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-800-FUN-LAKE or visit the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitors Bureau web site at funlake.com.
Copies of John Neporadny's book, "THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing Guide" are available by calling 573/365-4296 or visiting the web site www.jnoutdoors.com.