Fishing Guide says Winter Fish Kill Could Help Lake Fishing

Related Story

OSAGE BEACH - The unusually cold winter this year killed large amounts of fish in the Lake of the Ozarks, but a fishing guide said he thinks the loss will make game fishing better this year.

Greg Stoner is a fisheries management biologist and said this is only the second time he's seen winter completely freeze the lake.

"To this extent I've only ever seen the lake frozen this hard one other time and I've been here since 1991," Stoner said. "We get ice on the lake every year, but for it to be frozen solid essentially from Bagnell Dam to Truman Dam is pretty unusual."

Now that the lake has started to thaw out, residents are noticing the toll it took on fish living in the lake.

"When the lake did thaw out and people starting seeing dead fish, there was some alarm and we received about a dozen calls here," Stoner said.

Stoner said the majority of the fish killed were a small type fish called gizzard shad. He said the shad were killed in the cold water because they are fragile fish with fewer fat reserves than larger fish and had less to feed on.

"If you have a very hard winter and there's ice on the lake, microscopic animals and plants in the water start to decline and that's what these little shad feed on," Stoner said.

However, Stoner said the massive amount of shad lost this winter shouldn't affect other fish in the lake.

"Game fish such as crappie and bass that rely on those small shad for food may have somewhat of a shortage of fish, but we don't expect any die offs of them," Stoner said. "If anything their growth rates might be a little bit slower than normal."

Stoner said the massive amounts of dead fish are hurting fishermen right now because the game fish have plenty to eat.

"Right now it's hurting fishermen because all those fish out there have a lot to eat," Stoner said. "The fish don't have to chase food down very hard and if a crappie has a lot of shad at his disposal, he's not going to take a second look at a lure."

Ed Franko is a fishing guide and owner of Big Ed's Guide Service. He has lived at the lake since 1999 full time and fishes over 300 day a year. He said he thinks the shad kill will ultimately make game fishing better this year.

"I think we're going to see the best big bass fishing this lake has seen in a long time this year," Franko said.

Franko said the over population of shad last year made fishing for bass and other game fish hard.

"Last year was one of the toughest years I've had in the fall fishing because we had so many shad that you had to be really skilled to get them to eat," Franko said.

He said the loss of shad will make other fish more likely to bite at fishermen's bait.

"I think it's a plus because its going to reduce the amount of food that there is to eat and make the fish a little more hungry," Franko said. "It will make the fish want to eat some of the fishing lures fishermen throw out."

Franko said he thinks fishermen will start to notice the better fishing as soon as water temperatures rise.