Fishing poles are lazily dipped over the sides of boats, painting radiating rings on the surface of the sparkling water.
A gentle breeze stirs the air causing shallow waves to ripple across the still water. This is the tranquil scene found at area lakes.
“This is a great time of year for fishing,” said Craig Gemming, a fisheries managing biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation. “With the cooler water temperatures, the fish are beginning to feed more actively.”
Those looking to enjoy the open water and the variety of fish offered in mid-Missouri have several places where they can enjoy this pastime. These spots include Little Dixie Lake, Rocky Fork Conservation Area, Thomas Hill Lake, The Lake of the Ozarks and the Missouri River.
Little Dixie Lake is in Millersburg and is 205 acres. The lake is home to bluegill, crappie, largemouth bass, catfish and red ear sunfish.
“The best fishing is red ear sunfish in the spring,” said Chris Newbold, a wildlife biologist for the MDC. “Channel and blue catfish are readily available from spring to fall, and bass can be fished caught all year long.”
Newbold says the Department of Conservation urges people to take the younger fish to even out the population in the lake.
Thomas Hill Reservoir is another popular fishing spot. The reservoir is in Macon and Randolph counties 16 miles southwest of Macon. The area around the lake is 4,950 acres.
Thomas Hill Reservoir is filled with crappie, large mouth and hybrid strip bass and flathead catfish.
The hybrid stripped bass is a unique attraction of the lake. They feed in the warm water section and can be found all year.
“People really enjoy fishing for hybrid stripes because they fight and hit really hard,” said Mike Anderson, fisheries management biologist for the MDC’s northeast region.
Thomas Hill Lake Reservoir has a warm water or brush water arm; this is an area of the lake that is warm throughout the year.
“The lake was built as a cooling place for an electric generator,” Anderson said. “There is a canal which discharges warm water into [this] area of the lake, and there is a marked difference between the temperature in that part of the lake versus the more northern sections.”
Thomas Hill Lake Reservoir is also a popular place for hunting and camping.
The 52 acres of Rocky Fork Lakes, near the Finger Lakes State Park five miles north of Columbia on Highway 63, are a prime spot for catching largemouth bass and channel catfish. The lake also has bluegill and crappie.
“We haven’t seen a lot of crappie this year, but there has been a large number of bass and catfish caught,” Gemming said.
One of mid-Missouri’s number one vacation spots also is a great place to fish.
The Lake of the Ozarks is known for its fish, including largemouth bass, crappie, catfish, white bass and stripers. Fishing season is open all year. The lake also offers a variety of attractions, including camping, dining, water sports and more.
The Missouri River is perfect for anglers wanting to focus on fishing for catfish. There are several spots along the Missouri River for fishing, but anglers need to be aware of the type of fish they catch.
According to Brian McKeage, fisheries management assistant for the MDC’s central region, it is illegal to catch and carry two types of the sturgeon species. The pallid and the lake sturgeon are restricted.
Both fish are listed as endangered in Missouri and the lake sturgeon is threatened in the United States. Most of the fishing spots in the area have signs indicating the fish and warning against carrying them.
The pallid sturgeon is light in color with a smooth belly. Its two outer barbeles, or whiskers, are longer and set farther away from the face than the inner set.
There is a legal type of sturgeon that closely resembles the pallid sturgeon, the shovel nose sturgeon. The shovel nose sturgeon has the same coloring as the pallid, but all its barbeles are the same length.
The lake sturgeon is a dark reddish brown color with black spots.
Punishment for violation ranges from fines to barring of fishing and hunting privileges.
“The information is out there,” McKeage said. “People just have to adhere to the postings.”