LAKE OF THE OZARKS, MO – Known as the “Best Recreational Lake in the Nation,” Central Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks offers many ways for visitors to enjoy themselves. One of the most popular forms of recreation at this “Fun Lake” is prowling the waters casting for big fish. Having earned the reputation of being one of the best fisheries in the nation, thousands of anglers return to the Lake of the Ozarks time and time again to fill their stringers or catch the fish of a lifetime.
According to Scott Pauley, longtime professional bass angler and Outdoor Ambassador for the Missouri Division of Tourism, the Lake of the Ozarks promises great fishing, no matter your quarry, year after year.
Pauley has been fishing the Lake of the Ozarks for over 36 years and has won numerous bass tournaments on this Lake.
“It’s no joke that the Lake of the Ozarks is one of the best fisheries in the country,” Pauley says. “Bass, crappie, catfish – you name it – there’s a healthy population at the Lake. People ask me all the time which lake is my favorite to fish, and the Lake of the Ozarks is right up there. It’s always fantastic.”
Pauley attributes this to healthy fish and good habitat. “One of the reasons the Lake of the Ozarks is so good and so consistent is that the water levels are almost always stable and because of that, the Lake gets good fish spawns every year. Other lakes are a lot more sporadic. Add to that the fact that there are about 60,000 boat docks around the Lake that provide good shade and cover, you also have great habitat. Good habitat and good spawns mean good fishing year after year and you just don’t get that at other lakes,” Pauley concludes.
This man-made fish haven covers over 54,000 acres with over 64 billion gallons of fish-filled water supplied by five tributaries, all enclosed within 1,150 miles of meandering shoreline. To put that in perspective, that’s more shoreline than the entire Pacific coast of the state of California.
The most prevalent species at the Lake include largemouth and spotted bass; white bass; black and white crappie; hybrid white bass/stripers; bluegill; walleye; and channel, flathead and blue catfish, as well as paddlefish. But, arguably the most sought after are crappie and bass.
The Lake hosts over 500 professional and amateur fishing tournaments each year, the most popular being the semi-annual spring and fall Big Bass Bash tournaments, which typically pay out an incredible cash prize of over $100,000 to the amateur that reels in the biggest fish.
For visiting anglers, there are many resources available that provide current information on the best fishing locations, patterns, bait and more. A great online resource is www.BassingBob.com, where you can get current reports on water conditions and tips from local pros. In print, there’s the Lake of the Ozarks Fishing News, available for free at most bait shops and grocery stores around the Lake area.
A proven recipe for success when fishing at the Lake of the Ozarks is to hire a certified fishing guide. Local guides know the waters better than almost anyone and make for a relaxing and effortless fishing experience. These professionals will take you to the Lake’s fishing “hot spots,” and will also provide the boat and all the equipment needed for the excursion. All you have to do is show up and your guide will take care of the rest.
“A big lake like this can be intimidating for some people,” says Ed Franko, owner of Big Ed’s Guide Service in Lake Ozark. “Professional fishing guides make it easy and they maximize the quality of time a person spends on the water. Most of us are out on the Lake 250-plus days a year, so we know where the fish are and what they’re biting. We also have some of the best equipment and a wealth of knowledge to ensure that people have a great experience here at the Lake of the Ozarks. Because, when you get down to it, it’s all about the experience and a good guide can be the difference between a great fishing trip or an extremely frustrating one.”
For a complete listing of Coast Guard-certified fishing guides in the area, visit www.FunLake.com.
While anglers spend most of their time fishing at the Lake, at some point they will need to sleep. Many Lake of the Ozarks resorts provide top-notch accommodations and services for visiting anglers. Fishing docks, submerged crappie beds, cleaning stations, boat slips and boat trailer parking are available at many Lake-area resorts.
Fishing is big business at the Lake, according to the founder and former chairman of the Lake of the Ozarks Tri-County Lodging Association’s fishing committee, Michael Spriggs, who co-owns Point Randall Resort in Lake Ozark with his wife, Paulette.
Spriggs says that within the last 20 years, the popularity of bass fishing tournaments has grown exponentially at the Lake and that means huge things for the local resorts and the Lake area, in general.
“During the slower shoulder seasons of the past, Point Randall would host maybe three tournaments during a whole season,” Spriggs says. “Now, we host three tournaments per weekend. Fishing is booming and you’ll see thousands of anglers out on the water across the Lake during any given tournament weekend. We also have anglers that come to stay with us to fish a tournament and then come back with their families and start a new tradition of staying at the Lake. I’ve heard that other resorts similar to Point Randall have experienced the same phenomenon, and that’s fantastic.”
In addition to offering accommodations and amenities, many Lake-area resorts and full-service marinas offer boat launch sites and fishing and pontoon rentals for those that do not have their own boat. Public boat launch sites are available in the Lake of the Ozarks’ two state parks – Lake of the Ozarks State Park and Ha Ha Tonka State Park.
Valid Missouri fishing licenses are required for resident anglers age 16 to 64 years and required for anglers 16 and up if they are visiting from out-of-state. Licenses can be purchased at many Lake-area resorts, convenience stores and bait shops. For more information, including all rules and regulations, or to purchase a fishing license online, visit the Missouri Department of Conservation at mdc.mo.gov/permits/fishing-permits.
When not out on the water, there is plenty of fun and entertainment to be had at the “Best Recreational Lake in the Nation.” With over 200 restaurants and bars, there is no shortage of options when it comes to dining and nightlife. Most of the Lake’s attractions are open year around and the Lake’s entertainment calendar is packed full of fun events and festivities that the entire family can enjoy.
Those looking to spend some time fishing the Lake of the Ozarks have a variety of options to choose from when it comes to comfortable accommodations for overnight stays. There are full-service large-scale resorts and smaller family-owned and operated resorts as well as charming bed and breakfasts, rustic cabins and quaint cottages. In addition, there is no shortage of fully furnished vacation rental homes and condominiums. There also is a selection of familiar hotels and motels at the Lake of the Ozarks. For those who prefer sleeping under the stars, there are spacious campgrounds and RV parks interspersed throughout the area.
The “Best Recreational Lake in the Nation” brings in anglers, families, friends, business and meeting travelers and everyone in between for year around activities and fun. To learn more about all the events, attractions, activities, and available dining and lodging options, visit www.FunLake.com. Or, call the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitor Bureau at 1-800-FUN-LAKE (386-5253).