Mar 11, 2001
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Wet spring had its highs and lows

By Tim Renken Of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch


The boaters and anglers of this area will long remember the spring of 2002. They will remember it as the spring in which three of the area's most popular lakes, Carlyle, Clearwater and Wappapello, were effectively closed because of high water during the Memorial Day weekend.

They will remember it as the spring in which other popular reservoirs remained open but were bloated caricatures of their selves. Truman Reservoir at one point was 17 feet above normal. Mark Twain was 26 feet, Carlyle was 15 feet, Stockton 14 feet and Bull Shoals 32 feet above seasonal normal.

Clearwater Reservoir was an incredible 69 feet and nearby Wappapello 34 feet above their summer pool levels.

At all of these places during the recent holiday many launch ramps and parking lots were unusable. Many campsites and even whole campgrounds were flooded. Marinas were isolated and some were closed. Virtually none of the beaches in this area was usable.

None of those memories will be pleasant for boaters and anglers and they will be absolutely painful to the many business people who depend on the revenue from what usually is the season's busiest water recreation weekend. But a silver lining surrounds the clouds of this rainy spring.

The spawn of game fish like bass, crappie, sunfish, channel cat, etc., probably has been phenomenal.

High water usually benefits spawning fish. And if the water remains high for weeks or months after the spawn, survival of young fish is enhanced by the presence of all of the new flooded cover.

Most flood years are followed by years of good fishing. That certainly was true after 1993 and 1998. The degree of fishing improvement depends on what the populations were like before the floods, of course.

This year Mark Twain Lake's crappie should benefit greatly because the spawn of 2001 was poor. On Bull Shoals all of the gamefish will likely benefit because that reservoir had gone a number of years without good game fish production.

Only Lake of the Ozarks wasn't unusually high during the recent wet spell. The spawn there this spring may have been only average, but that will be good enough following excellent production in 2001.

Greg Stoner, fish biologist at the lake for the Missouri Department of Conservation, said that fall 2001 fish surveys showed what could be the best crappie reproduction in a decade and the highest number of young largemouth bass ever recorded.

The excellent production, Stoner said, resulted from a combination of factors. It came during a period in which bass anglers were unhappy with the number of large bass in the lake. Many of them blamed the largemouth bass virus (LMBV). Stoner said he doubts that LMBV was involved and noted that spring sampling had found good numbers of big largemouth.
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